Part 3 out of 4
give us trouble. Well, what do you calculate to do?" he added, after a
pause, during which Philip was moody and lost in thought.
Philip rose from his seat and paced the floor uneasily, while Rawbon
filled a glass from a flask of brandy on the table. It was now quite
dark without, and neither of them observed the figure of a woman
crouched on the narrow veranda, her chin resting on the sill of the open
window. At last Philip resumed his seat, and he, too, swallowed a deep
draught from the flask of brandy.
"Tell me what I can count upon?" he asked.
"The same grade you have, and in a crack regiment. It's no use asking
for money. They've none to spare for such as you--now don't look
savage--I mean they won't buy men that hain't seen service, and you
can't expect them to. I told you all about that before, and it's time
you had your mind made up."
"What proofs of good faith can you give me?"
Rawbon thrust his hand into his bosom and drew out a roll of parchment.
"This commission, under Gen. Beauregard's hand, to be approved when you
report yourself at headquarters."
Philip took the document and read it attentively, while Rawbon occupied
himself with filling his pipe from a leathern pouch. The female figure
stepped in at the window, and, gliding noiselessly into the room, seated
herself in a third chair by the table before either of the men became
aware of her presence. They started up with astonishment and
consternation. She did not seem to heed them, but leaning upon the
table, she stretched her hand to the brandy flask and applied it to her
"Who's this?" demanded Rawbon, with his hand upon the hilt of his large
"Curse her! my evil genius," answered Philip, grating his teeth with
anger. It was Moll.
"What's this, Philip!" she said, clutching the parchment which had been
dropped upon the table.
"Leave that," ejaculated her husband, savagely, and darting to take it
But she eluded his grasp, and ran with the document into a corner of the
"Ha! ha! ha! I know what it is," she said, waving it about as a
schoolboy sometimes exultingly exhibits a toy that he has mischievously
snatched from a comrade.
"It's your death-warrant, Philip Searle, if somebody sees it over
yonder. I heard you. I heard you. You're going over to fight for Jeff.
Davis. Well, I don't care, but I'll go with you. Don't come near me.
Don't hurt me, Philip, or I'll scream to the soldier out there."
"I won't hurt you, Moll. Be quiet now, there's a good girl. Come here
and take a sup more of brandy."
"I won't. You want to hurt me. But you can't. I'm a match for you both.
Ha! ha! You don't know how nicely I slipped away from the soldiers when
they, were resting. I went into the thick bushes, right down in the
water, and lay still. I wanted to laugh when I saw them, hunting for me,
and I could almost have touched the young officer if I had wished. But I
lay still as a mouse, and they went off and never found me. Ha! ha! ha!"
"Is she drunk or mad?" asked Rawbon.
"Mad," answered Philip, "but cunning enough to do mischief, if she has a
mind to. Moll, dear, come sit down here and be quiet; come, now."
"Mad? mad?" murmured Moll, catching his word. "No, I'm not mad," she
continued wildly, passing her hands over her brows, "but I saw spirits
just now in the woods, and heard voices, and they've frightened me. The
ghost of the girl that died in the hospital was there. You knew little
blue-eyed Lizzie, Philip. She was cursing me when she died and calling
for her mother. But I don't care. The man paid me well for getting her,
and 'twasn't my fault if she got sick and died. Poor thing! poor thing!
poor little blue-eyed Lizzie! She was innocent enough when she first
came, but she got to be as bad as any--until she got sick and died. Poor
little Lizzie!" And thus murmuring incoherently, the unhappy woman sat
down upon the floor, and bent her head upon her knees.
"Clap that into her mouth," whispered Philip, handing Rawbon his
handkerchief rolled tightly into a ball. "Quietly now, but quick. Look
out now. She's strong as a trooper."
They approached her without noise, but suddenly, and while Philip
grasped her wrists, Rawbon threw back her head, and forcing the jaws
open by a violent pressure of his knuckles against the joint, thrust
the handkerchief between her teeth and bound it tightly there with two
turns of his sash. The shriek was checked upon her lips and changed into
a painful, gurgling groan. The poor creature, with convulsive efforts,
struggled to free her arms from Philip's grasp, but he managed to keep
his hold until Rawbon had secured her wrists with the stout cord that
suspended his canteen. A silk neckerchief was then tightly bound around
her ankles, and Moll, with heaving breast and glaring eyes, lay, moaning
piteously, but speechless and motionless, upon the floor.
"We can leave her there," said Rawbon. "It's not likely any of your men
will come in, until morning at least. Let's be off at once."
Philip snatched up the parchment where it had fallen, and silently
followed his companion.
"We are going beyond the line to look about a bit," he said to the
sergeant on duty, as they passed his post. "Keep all still and quiet
till we return."
"Take some of the boys with you, captain," replied the sergeant. "We're
unpleasant close to those devils, sir."
"It's all right, sergeant. There's no danger," And nodding to Seth, the
two walked leisurely along the road until concealed by the darkness,
when they quickened their pace and pushed boldly toward the Confederate
Half an hour, or less perhaps, after their departure, the sentry, posted
at about a hundred yards from the house, observed an unusual light
gleaming from the windows of the old farm-house. He called the attention
of Lieutenant Williams, who was walking by in conversation with the
sergeant, to the circumstance.
"Is not the captain there?" asked the lieutenant.
"No, sir," replied the sergeant, "he started off to go beyond the line
half an hour ago."
"No, sir; that chap that came in at dusk was with him."
"It's strange he should have gone without speaking to me about it."
"I wanted him to take some of our fellows along, sir, but he didn't care
to. By George! that house is afire, sir. Look there."
While talking, they had been proceeding toward the farm-house, when the
light from the windows brightened suddenly into a broad glare, and
called forth the sergeant's exclamation. Before they reached the
building a jet of flame had leaped from one of the casements, and
continued to whirl like a flaming ribbon in the air. They quickened
their pace to a run, and bursting into the doorway, were driven back by
a dense volume of smoke, that rolled in black masses along the corridor.
They went in again, and the sergeant pushed open the door of the room
where Moll lay bound, but shut it quickly again, as a tongue of flame
lashed itself toward him like an angry snake.
"It's all afire, sir," he said, coughing and spluttering through the
smoke. "Are there any of the captain's traps inside?"
"Nothing at all," replied the lieutenant. "Let's go in, however, and see
what can be done."
They entered, but were driven back by the baffling smoke and the flames
that were now licking all over the dry plastering of the room.
"It's no use," said the lieutenant, when they had gained their breath in
the open air. "There's no water, except in the brook down yonder, and
what the men have in their canteens. The house is like tinder. Let it
go, sergeant; it's not worth saving at the risk of singing your
The men had now come up, and gathered about the officer to receive his
"Let the old shed go, my lads," he said. "It's well enough that some
rebel should give us a bonfire now and then. Only stand out of the
glare, boys, or you may have some of those devils yonder making targets
The men fell back into the shadow, and standing in little groups, or
seated upon the sward, watched the burning house, well pleased to have
some spectacle to relieve the monotony of the night. And they looked
with indolent gratification, passing the light jest and the merry word,
while the red flames kept up their wild sport, and great masses of
rolling vapor upheaved from the crackling roof, and blackened the
midnight sky. None sought to read the mystery of that conflagration. It
was but an old barn gone to ashes a little before its time. Perhaps some
mischievous hand among them had applied the torch for a bit of
deviltry. Perhaps the flames had caught from Rawbon's pipe, which he had
thrown carelessly among a heap of rubbish when startled by Molly's
sudden apparition. Or yet, perhaps, though Heaven forbid it, for the
sake of human nature, the same hand that had struck so nearly fatally
once, had been tempted to complete the work of death in a more terrible
But within those blistering walls, who can tell what ghastly revels the
mad flames were having over their bound and solitary victim! Perhaps, as
she lay there with distended jaws, and eyeballs starting from their
sockets, that brain, amid the visions of its madness, became conscious
of the first kindling of the subtle element that was so soon to clasp
her in its terrible embrace. How dreadful, while the long minutes
dragged, to watch its stealthy progress, and to feel that one little
effort of an unbound hand could avert the danger, and yet to lie there
helpless, motionless, without even the power to give utterance to the
shriek of terror which strained her throat to suffocation. And then, as
the creeping flame became stronger and brighter, and took long and
silent leaps from one object to another, gliding along the lathed, and
papered wall, rolling and curling along the raftered ceiling, would not
the wretched woman, raving already in delirium, behold the spectres that
her madness feared, beckoning to her in the lurid glare, or gliding in
and out among the wild fires that whirled in fantastic gambols around
and overhead! Nearer and nearer yet the rolling flame advances; it
commences to hiss and murmur in its progress; it wreathes itself about
the chairs and tables, and laps up the little pool of brandy spilled
from the forgotten flask; it plays about her feet, and creeps lazily
amid the folds of her gown, yet wet from the brook in which she had
concealed herself that day; it scorches and shrivels up the flesh upon
her limbs, while pendent fiery tongues leap from the burning rafters,
and kiss her cheeks and brows where the black veins swell almost to
bursting; every muscle and nerve of her frame is strained with
convulsive efforts to escape, but the cords only sink into the bloating
flesh, and she lies there crisping like a log, and as powerless to
move. The dense, black smoke hangs over her like a pall, but prostrate
as she is, it cannot sink low enough to suffocate and end her agony. How
the bared bosom heaves! how the tortured limbs writhe, and the
blackening cuticle emits a nauseous steam! The black blood oozing from
her nostrils proclaims how terrible the inward struggle. The whole frame
bends and shrinks, and warps like a fragment of leather thrown into a
furnace--the flame has reached her vitals--at last, by God's mercy, she
At dawn of the morning of the 21st of July, an officer in plain undress
was busily writing at a table in a plainly-furnished apartment of a
farm-house near Manassas. He was of middle age and medium size, with
dark complexion, bold, prominent features, and steady, piercing black
eyes. His manner and the respectful demeanor of several officers in
attendance, rather than any insignia of office which he wore, bespoke
him of high rank; and the earnest attention which he bestowed upon his
labor, together with the numerous orders, written and verbal, which he
delivered at intervals to members of his staff, denoted that an affair
of importance was in hand. Several horses, ready caparisoned, were held
by orderlies at the door-way, and each aid, as he received instructions,
mounted and dashed away at a gallop.
The building was upon a slight elevation of land, and along the plain
beneath could be seen the long rows of tents and the curling smoke of
camp-fires; while the hum of many voices in the distance, with here and
there a bugle-blast and the spirit-stirring roll of drums, denoted the
site of the Confederate army. The reveille had just sounded, and the din
of active preparation could be heard throughout the camp. Regiments were
forming, and troops of horse were marshalling in squadron, while others
were galloping here and there; while, through the ringing of sabres and
the strains of marshal music, the low rumbling of the heavy-wheeled
artillery was the most ominous sound.
An orderly entered the apartment where General Beauregard was writing,
and spoke with one of the members of the staff in waiting.
"What is it, colonel?" asked the general, looking up.
"An officer from the outposts, with two prisoners, general." And he
added something in a lower tone.
"Very opportune," said Beauregard. "Let them come in."
The orderly withdrew and reentered with Captain Weems, followed by
Philip Searle and Rawbon. A glance of recognition passed between the
latter and Beauregard, and Seth, obeying a gesture of the general,
advanced and placed a small package on the table. The general opened it
hastily and glanced over its contents.
"As I thought," he muttered. "You are sure as to the disposition of the
"Quite sure of the main features."
"When did you get in?"
"Only an hour ago. Their vanguard was close behind. Before noon, I think
they will be upon you in three columns from the different roads."
"Very well, you may go now. Come to me in half an hour. I shall have
work for you. Who is that with you?"
"Of whom we spoke?"
The general nodded, and Seth left the apartment. Beauregard for a second
scanned Philip's countenance with a searching glance.
"Approach, sir, if you please. We have little time for words. Have you
information to impart?"
"Nothing beyond what I think you know already. You may expect at every
moment to hear the boom of McDowell's guns."
"On the right?"
"I think the movement will be on your left. Richardson remains on the
southern road, in reserve. Tyler commands the centre. Carlisle, Bicket
and Ayre will give you trouble there with their batteries. Hunter and
Heintzelman, with fourteen thousand, will act upon your left."
"Then we are wrong, Taylor," said Beauregard, turning to an officer at
his side; and rising, the two conversed for a moment in low but earnest
"It is plausible," said Beauregard, at length. "Taylor, ride down to Bee
and see about it. Captain Searle, you will report yourself to Colonel
Hampton at once. He will have orders for you. Captain Weems, you will
please see him provided for. Come, gentlemen, to the field!"
The general and his staff were soon mounted and riding rapidly toward
the masses and long lines of troops that were marshalling on the plain
Beverly stood at the doorway alone with Philip Searle. He was grave and
sad, although the bustle and preparation of an expected battle lent a
lustre to his eye. To his companion he was stern and distant, and they
both walked onward for some moments without a word. At a short distance
from the building, they came upon a black groom holding two saddled
"Mount, sir, if you please," said Beverly, and they rode forward at a
rapid pace. Philip was somewhat surprised to observe that their course
lay away from the camp, and in fact the sounds of military life were
lessening as they went on. They passed the brow of the hill and
descended by a bridle-path into a little valley, thick with shrubbery
and trees. At the gateway of a pleasant looking cottage Beverly drew
"I must ask you to enter here," he said, dismounting. "Within a few
hours we shall both be, probably, in the ranks of battle; but first I
have a duty to perform."
They entered the cottage, within which all was hushed and still; the
sounds of an active household were not heard. They ascended the little
stair, and Beverly pushed gently open the door of an apartment and
motioned to Philip to enter. He paused at first, for as he stood on the
threshold a low sob reached his ear.
"Pass in," said Beverly, in a grave, stern tone. "I have promised that I
would bring you, else, be assured, I would not linger in your presence."
They entered. It was a small, pleasant room, and through the lattice
interwoven with woodbine the rising sun looked in like a friendly
visitor. Upon a bed was stretched the form of a young girl, sleeping or
dead, it would be hard to tell, the features were so placid and
beautiful in repose. One ray of sunlight fell among the tangles of her
golden hair, and glowed like a halo above the marble-white brow. The
long dark lashes rested upon her cheek with a delicate contrast like
that of the velvety moss when it peeps from the new-fallen snow. Her
hands were folded upon her bosom above the white coverlet; they clasped
a lily, that seemed as if sculptured upon a churchyard stone, so white
was the flower, so white the bosom that it pressed. One step nearer
revealed that she was dead; earthly sleep was never so calm and
beautiful. By the bedside Oriana Weems was seated, weeping silently.
She arose when her brother entered, and went to him, putting her hands
about his neck. Beverly tenderly circled his arm about her waist, and
they stood together at the bedside, gazing on all that death had left
upon earth of their young cousin, Miranda.
"She died this morning very soon after you left," said Oriana, "without
pain and I think without sorrow, for she wore that same sweet smile that
you see now frozen upon her lips. Oh, Beverly, I am sorry you brought
_him_ here!" she added, in a lower tone, glancing with a shudder at
Philip Searle, who stood looking with a frown out at the lattice, and
stopping the sunbeam from coming into the room. "It seems," she
continued, "as if his presence brought a curse that would drag upon the
angels' wings that are bearing her to heaven. Though, thank God, she is
beyond his power to harm her now!" and she knelt beside the pillow and
pressed her lips upon the cold, white brow.
"She wished to see him, Oriana, before she died," said Beverly, "and I
promised to bring him; and yet I am glad she passed away before his
coming, for I am sure he could bring no peace with him for the dying,
and his presence now is but an insult to the dead."
When he had spoken, there was silence for a while, which was broken by
the sudden boom of a distant cannon. They all started at the sound, for
it awakened them from mournful memories, to yet perhaps more solemn
thoughts of what was to come before that bright sun should rise upon the
morrow. Beverly turned slowly to where Philip stood, and pointed sternly
at the death-bed.
"You have seen enough, if you have dared to look at all," he said. "I
have not the power, nor the will, to punish. A soldier's death to-day is
what you can best pray for, that you may not live to think of this
hereafter. She sent for you to forgive you, but died and you are
unforgiven. Bad as you are, I pity you that you must go to battle
haunted by the remembrance of this murder that you have done."
Philip half turned with an angry curl upon his lip, as if prepared for
some harsh answer; but he saw the white thin face and folded hands, and
left the room without a word.
"Farewell! dear sister," said Beverly, clasping the weeping girl in his
arms. "I have already overstaid the hour, and must spur hard to be at my
post in time. God bless you! it may be I shall never see you again; if
so, I leave you to God and my country. But I trust all will be well."
"Oh, Beverly! come back to me, my brother; I am alone in the world
without you. I would not have you swerve from your duty, although death
came with it; but yet, remember that I am alone without you, and be not
rash or reckless. I will watch and pray for you beside this death-bed,
Beverly, while you are fighting, and may God be with you."
Beverly summoned an old negress to the room, and consigned his sister to
her care. Descending the stairs rapidly, he leaped upon his horse, and
waving his hand to Philip, who was already mounted, they plunged along
the valley, and ascending the crest of the hill, beheld, while they
still spurred on, the vast army in motion before them, while far off in
the vanward, from time to time, the dull, heavy booming of artillery
told that the work was already begun.
On the evening of the 20th July, Hunter's division, to which Harold Hare
was attached, was bivouacked on the old Braddock Road, about a mile and
a half southeast of Centreville. It was midnight. There was a strange
and solemn hush throughout the camp, broken only by the hail of the
sentinel and the occasional trampling of horses hoofs, as some
aid-de-camp galloped hastily along the line. Some of the troops were
sleeping, dreaming, perhaps, of home, and far away, for the time, from
the thought of the morrow's danger. But most were keeping vigil through
the long hours of darkness, communing with themselves or talking in low
murmurs with some comrade; for each soldier knew that the battle-hour
was at hand. Harold was stretched upon his cloak, striving in vain to
win the boon of an hour's sleep, for he was weary with the toil of the
preceding day; but he could not shut out from his brain the whirl of
excitement and suspense which that night kept so many tired fellows
wakeful when they most needed rest. It was useless to court slumber, on
the eve, perhaps, of his eternal sleep; he arose and walked about into
Standing beside the dying embers of a watchfire, wrapped in his blanket,
and gazing thoughtfully into the little drowsy flames that yet curled
about the blackened fagots, was a tall and manly form, which Harold
recognized as that of his companion in arms, a young lieutenant of his
company. He approached, and placed his hand upon his fellow-soldier's
"What book of fate are you reading in the ashes, Harry?" he asked, in a
pleasant tone, anxious to dispel some portion of his own and his
The soldier turned to him and smiled, but sorrowfully and with effort.
"My own destiny, perhaps," he answered. "Those ashes were glowing once
with light and warmth, and before the dawn they will be cold, as you or
I may be to-morrow, Harold."
"I thought you were too old a soldier to nurse such fancies upon the
eve of battle. I must confess that I, who am a novice in this work, am
as restless and nervous as a woman; but you have been seasoned by a
Mexican campaign, and I came to you expressly to be laughed into
"You must go on till you meet one more lighthearted than myself,"
answered the other, with a sigh. "Ah! Harold, I have none of the old
elasticity about me to-night. I would I were back under my father's
roof, never to hear the roll of the battle-drum again. This is a cruel
"A just one."
"Yes, but cruel. Have you any that you love over yonder, Harold? Any
that are dear to you, and that you must strike at on the morrow?"
"Yes, Harry, that is it. It is, as you say, a cruel war."
"I have a brother there," continued his companion; and he looked sadly
into the gloom, as if he yearned through the darkness and distance to
catch a glimpse of the well-known form. "A brother that, when I last saw
him, was a little rosy-cheeked boy, and used to ride upon my knee. He
is scarce more than a boy now, and yet he will shoulder his musket
to-morrow, and stand in the ranks perhaps to be cut down by the hand
that has caressed him. He was our mother's darling, and it is a mercy
that she is not living to see us armed against each other."
"It is a painful thought," said Harold, "and one that you should dismiss
from contemplation. The chances are thousands to one that you will never
meet in battle."
"I trust the first bullet that will be fired may reach my heart, rather
than that we should. But who can tell? I have a strange, gloomy feeling
upon me; I would say a presentiment, if I were superstitious."
"It is a natural feeling upon the eve of battle. Think no more of it.
Look how prettily the moon is creeping from under the edge of yonder
cloud. We shall have a bright day for the fight, I think."
"Yes, that's a comfort. One fights all the better in the warm sunlight,
as if to show the bright heavens what bloodthirsty devils we can be upon
It was the roll of the drum, startling the stillness of the night; and
presently, the brief, stern orders of the sergeants could be heard
calling the men into the ranks. There is a strange mingled feeling of
awe and excitement in this marshalling of men at night for a dangerous
expedition. The orders are given instinctively in a more subdued and
sterner tone, as if in unison with the solemnity of the hour. The tramp
of marching feet strikes with a more distinct and hollow sound upon the
ear. The dark masses seem to move more compactly, as if each soldier
drew nearer to his comrade for companionship. The very horses, although
alert and eager, seem to forego their prancing, and move with sober
tread. And when the word "forward!" rings along the dark column, and the
long and silent ranks bend and move on as with an electric impulse,
there is a thrill in every vein, and each heart contracts for an
instant, as if the black portals of a terrible destiny were open in the
A half hour of silent hurry and activity passed away, and at last the
whole army was in motion. It was now three o'clock; the moon shone down
upon the serried ranks, gleaming from bayonet and cannon, and
stretching long black shadows athwart the road. From time to time along
the column could be heard the ringing voice of some commander, as he
galloped to the van, cheering his men with some well-timed allusion, or
dispelling the surrounding gloom with a cheerful promise of victory.
Where the wood road branched from the Warrentown turnpike, Gen.
McDowell, standing in his open carriage, looked down upon the passing
columns, and raised his hat, when the excited soldiers cheered as they
hurried on. Here Hunter's column turned to the right, while the main
body moved straight on to the centre. Then all became more silent than
before, and the light jest passing from comrade to comrade was less
frequent, for each one felt that every step onward brought him nearer to
The eastern sky soon paled into a greyish light, and ruddy streaks
pushed out from the horizon. The air breathed fresher and purer than in
the darkness, and the bright sun, with an advance guard of thin, rosy
clouds, shot upward from the horizon in a blaze of splendor. It was the
The boom of a heavy gun is heard from the centre. Carlisle has opened
the ball. The day's work is begun. Another! The echoes spring from the
hillsides all around, like a thousand angry tongues that threaten death.
But on the right, no trace of an enemy is to be seen. Burnside's brigade
was in the van; they reached the ford at Sudley's Springs; a momentary
confusion ensues as the column prepares to cross. Soon the men are
pushing boldly through the shallow stream, but the temptation is too
great for their parched throats; they stoop to drink and to fill their
canteens from the cool wave. But as they look up they see a cloud of
dust rolling up from the plain beyond, and their thirst has passed
away--they know that the foe is there.
An aid comes spurring down the bank, waving his hand and splashing into
"Forward, men! forward!"
Hunter gallops to meet him, with his staff clattering at his horse's
"Break the heads of regiments from the column and push on--push on!"
The field officers dash along the ranks, and the men spring to their
work, as the word of command is echoed from mouth to mouth.
Crossing the stream, their course extended for a mile through a thick
wood, but soon they came to the open country, with undulating fields,
rolling toward a little valley through which a brooklet ran. And beyond
that stream, among the trees and foliage which line its bank and extend
in wooded patches southward, the left wing of the enemy are in battle
From a clump of bushes directly in front, came a puff of white smoke
wreathed with flame; the whir of the hollow ball is heard, and it
ploughs the moist ground a few rods from our advance.
Scarcely had the dull report reverberated, when, in quick succession, a
dozen jets of fire gleamed out, and the shells came plunging into the
ranks. Burnside's brigade was in advance and unsupported, but under the
iron hail the line was formed, and the cry "Forward!" was answered with
a cheer. A long grey line spread out upon the hillside, forming rapidly
from the outskirts of the little wood. It was the Southern infantry,
and soon along their line a deadly fire of musketry was opened.
Meanwhile the heavy firing from the left and further on, announced that
the centre and extreme left were engaged. A detachment of regulars was
sent to Burnside's relief, and held the enemy in check till a portion of
Porter's and Heintzelman's division came up and pressed them back from
The battle was fiercely raging in the centre, where the 69th had led the
van and were charging the murderous batteries with the bayonet. We must
leave their deeds to be traced by the historic pen, and confine our
narrative to the scene in which Harold bore a part. The nearest battery,
supported by Carolinians, had been silenced. The Mississippians had
wavered before successive charges, and an Alabama regiment, after four
times hurling back the serried ranks that dashed against them, had
fallen back, outflanked and terribly cut up. On the left was a
farm-house, situated on an elevated ridge a little back from the road.
Within, while the fiercest battle raged, was its solitary inmate, an
aged and bed-ridden lady, whose paralyzed and helpless form was
stretched upon the bed where for fourscore years she had slept the calm
sleep of a Christian. She had sent her attendants from the dwelling to
seek a place of safety, but would not herself consent to be removed, for
she heard the whisper of the angel of death, and chose to meet, him
there in the house of her childhood. For the possession of the hill on
which the building stood, the opposing hosts were hotly struggling. The
fury of the battle seemed to concentre there, and through the time-worn
walls the shot was plunging, splintering the planks and beams, and
shivering the stone foundation. Sherman's battery came thundering up the
hill upon its last desperate advance. Just as the foaming horses were
wheeled upon its summit, the van of Hampton's legion sprang up the
opposite side, and the crack of a hundred rifles simultaneously sounded.
Down fell the cannoneers beside their guns before those deadly missiles,
and the plunging horses were slaughtered in the traces, or, wounded to
the death, lashed out their iron hoofs among the maimed and writhing
soldiers and into the heaps of dead. The battery was captured, but held
only fop an instant, when two companies of Rhode Islanders, led on by
Harold Hare, charged madly up the hill.
"Save the guns, boys!" he cried, as the gallant fellows bent their heads
low, and sprang up the ascent right in the face of the blazing rifles.
"Fire low! stand firm! drive them back once again, my brave Virginians!"
shouted a young Southern officer, springing to the foremost rank.
The mutual fire was delivered almost at the rifles' muzzles, and the
long sword-bayonets clashed together. Without yielding ground, for a few
terrible seconds they thrust and parried with the clanging steel, while
on either side the dead were stiffening beneath their feet, and the
wounded, with shrieks of agony, were clutching at their limbs. Harold
and the young Southron met; their swords clashed together once in the
smoke and dust, and but once, when each drew back and lowered his
weapon, while all around were striking. Then, amid that terrible
discord, their two left hands were pressed together for an instant, and
a low "God bless you!" came from the lips of both.
"To the right, Beverly, keep you to the right!" said Harold, and he
himself, straight through the hostile ranks, sprang in an opposite
When Harold's party had first charged up the hill, the young lieutenant
with whom he had conversed beside the watch-fire on the previous
evening, was at the head of his platoon, and as the two bodies met, he
sent the last shot from his revolver full in the faces of the foremost
rank. So close were they, that the victim of that shot, struck in the
centre of the forehead, tottered forward, and fell into his arms. There
was a cry of horror that pierced even above the shrieks of the wounded
and the yells of the fierce combatants. One glance at that fair,
youthful face sufficed;--it was his brother--dead in his arms, dead by a
brother's hand. The yellow hair yet curled above the temples, but the
rosy bloom upon the cheek was gone; already the ashen hue of death was
there. There was a small round hole just where the golden locks waved
from the edge of the brow, and from it there slowly welled a single
globule of black gore. It left the face undisfigured--pale, but tranquil
and undistorted as a sleeping child's--not even a clot of blood was
there to mar its beauty. The strong and manly soldier knelt upon the
dust, and holding the dead boy with both arms clasped about his waist,
bent his head low down upon the lifeless bosom, and gasped with an agony
more terrible than that which the death-wound gives.
"Charley! Oh God! Charley! Charley!" was all that came from his white
lips, and he sat there like stone, with the corpse in his arms, still
murmuring "Charley!" unconscious that blades were flashing and bullets
whistling around him. The blood streamed from his wounds, the bayonets
were gleaming round, and once a random shot ploughed into his thigh and
shivered the bone. He only bent a little lower and his voice was
fainter; but still he murmured "Charley! Oh God! Charley," and never
unfolded his arms from its embrace. And there, when the battle was over,
the Southrons found him, dead--with his dead brother in his arms.
At the door-way of the building on the hill, where the aged invalid was
yielding her last breath amid the roar of battle, a wounded officer sat
among the dying and the dead, while the conflict swept a little away
from that quarter of the field. The blood was streaming from the
shattered bosom, and feebly he strove to staunch it with his silken
scarf. He had dragged himself through gore and dust until he reached
that spot, and now, rising again with a convulsive effort, he leaned his
red hands against the wall, and entered over the fragments of the door,
which had been shivered by a shell. With tottering steps he passed along
the hall and up the little stairway, as one who had been familiar with
the place. Before the door of the aged lady's chamber he paused a moment
and listened; all was still there, although the terrible tumult of the
battle was sounding all around. He entered; he advanced to the
bed-side; the dying woman was murmuring a prayer. A random shot had torn
the shrivelled flesh upon her bosom and the white counterpane was
stained with blood. She did not see him--her thoughts were away from
earth, she was already seeking communion with the spirits of the blest.
The soldier knelt by that strange death-bed and leaned his pale brow
upon the pillow.
How strangely the word sounded amid the shouts of combatants and the din
of war. It was like a good angel's voice drowning the discords of hell.
She heard not the cannon's roar, but that one word, scarce louder than
the murmur of a dreaming infant, reached her ear. The palsied head was
turned upon the pillow and the light of life returned to her glazing
"Who speaks?" she gasped, while her thin hands were tremulously clasped
together with emotion.
"'Tis I, mother. Philip, your son."
"Philip, my son!" and the nerveless form, that had scarce moved for
years, was raised upon the bed by the last yearning effort of a mother's
"Is it you, Philip, is it you, indeed? I can scarce see your form, but
surely I have heard the voice of my boy;--my long absent boy. Oh!
Philip! why have I not heard it oftener to comfort my old age?"
"I am dying, mother. I have been a bad son and a guilty man. But I am
dying, mother. Oh! I am punished for my sin! The avenging bullet struck
me down at the gate of the home I had deserted--the home I have made
desolate to you. Mother, I have crawled here to die."
"To die! O God! your hand is cold--or is it but the chill of death upon
my own? Oh! I had thought to have said farewell to earth forever, but
yet let me linger but a little while, O Lord! if but to bless my son."
She sank exhausted upon the pillow, but yet clasped the gory fingers of
the dying man.
"Philip, are you there? Let me hear your voice. I hear strange murmurs
afar off; but not the voice of my son. Are you there, Philip, are you
Philip Searle was crouching lower and lower by the bed-side, and his
forehead, upon which the dews of death were starting, lay languidly
beside the thin, white locks that rested on the pillow.
"Look, mother!" he said, raising his head and glaring into the corner of
the room. "Do you see that form in white?--there--she with the pale
cheeks and golden hair! I saw her once before to-day, when she lay
stretched upon the bed, with a lily in her white fingers. And once again
I saw her in that last desperate charge, when the bullet struck my side.
And now she is there again, pale, motionless, but smiling. Does she
smile in mockery or forgiveness? I could rather bear a frown than that
terrible--that frozen smile. O God! she is coming to me, mother, she is
coming to me--she will lay her cold hand upon me. No--it is not she! it
is Moll--look, mother, it is Moll, all blackened with smoke and seared
with living fire. O God! how terrible! But, mother, I did not do that.
When I saw the flames afar off, I shuddered, for I knew how it must be.
But I did not do it, Moll, by my lost soul, I did not!" He started to
his feet with a convulsive effort. The hot blood spurted from his wound
with the exertion and spattered upon the face and breast of his
mother--but she felt it not, for she was dead. The last glimmering ray
of reason seemed to drive away the phantoms. He turned toward those
sharp and withered features, he saw the fallen jaw and lustreless glazed
eye. A shudder shook his frame at every point, and with a groan of pain
and terror, he fell forward upon the corpse--a corpse himself.
The Federal troops, with successive charges, had now pushed the enemy
from their first position, and the torn battalions were still being
hurled against the batteries that swept their ranks. The excellent
generalship of the Confederate leaders availed itself of the valor and
impetuosity of their assailants to lure them, by consecutive advance and
backward movement, into the deadly range of their well planted guns. It
was then that, far to the right, a heavy column could be seen moving
rapidly in the rear of the contending hosts. Was it a part of Hunter's
division that had turned the enemy's rear? Such was the thought at
first, and with the delusion triumphant cheers rang from the parched
throats of the weary Federals. They were soon to be undeceived. The
stars and bars flaunted amid those advancing ranks, and the constant
yells of the Confederates proclaimed the truth. Johnston was pouring his
fresh troops upon the battle-field. The field was lost, but still was
struggled for in the face of hope. It was now late in the afternoon, and
the soldiers, exhausted with their desperate exertions, fought on,
doggedly, but without that fiery spirit which earlier in the day had
urged them to the cannon's mouth. There was a lull in the storm of
carnage, the brief pause that precedes the last terrific fury of the
tempest. The Confederates were concentrating their energies for a
decisive effort. It came. From the woods that skirted the left centre of
their position, a squadron of horsemen came thundering down upon our
columns. Right down upon Carlisle's battery they rode, slashing the
cannoneers and capturing the guns. Then followed their rushing ranks of
infantry, and full upon our flank swooped down another troop of cavalry,
dashing into the road where the baggage-train had been incautiously
advanced. Our tired and broken regiments were scattered to the right and
left. In vain a few devoted officers spurred among them, and called on
them to rally; they broke from the ranks in every quarter of the field,
and rushed madly up the hillsides and into the shelter of the trees.
The magnificent army that had hailed the rising sun with hopes of
victory was soon pouring along the road in inextricable confusion and
disorderly retreat. Foot soldier and horseman, field-piece and wagon,
caisson and ambulance, teamster and cannoneer, all were mingled together
and rushing backward from the field they had half won, with their backs
to the pursuing foe. That rout has been traced, to our shame, in
history; the pen of the novelist shuns the disgraceful theme.
Harold, although faint with loss of blood, which oozed from a
flesh-wound in his shoulder, was among the gallant few who strove to
stem the ebbing current; struck at last by a spent ball in the temple,
he fell senseless to the ground. He would have been trampled upon and
crushed by the retreating column, had not a friendly hand dragged him
from the road to a little mound over which spread the branches of an
oak. Here he was found an hour afterward by a body of Confederate troops
and lifted into an ambulance with others wounded and bleeding like
While the vehicle, with its melancholy freight, was being slowly
trailed over the scene of the late battle, Harold partially recovered
his benumbed senses. He lay there as in a dream, striving to recall
himself to consciousness of his position. He felt the dull throbbing
pain upon his brow and the stinging sensation in his shoulder, and knew
that he was wounded, but whether dangerously or not he could not judge.
He could feel the trickling of blood from the bosom of a wounded comrade
at his side, and could hear the groans of another whose thigh was
shattered by the fragment of a shell; but the situation brought no
feeling of repugnance, for he was yet half stunned and lay as in a
lethargy, wishing only to drain one draught of water and then to sleep.
The monotonous rumbling of the ambulance wheels sounded distinctly upon
his ear, and he could listen, with a kind of objectless curiosity, to
the casual conversation of the driver, as he exchanged words here and
there with others, who were returning upon the same dismal errand from
the scene of carnage. The shadows of night spread around him, covering
the field of battle like a pall flung in charity by nature over the
corpses of the slain. Then his bewildered fancies darkened with the
surrounding gloom, and he thought that he was coffined and in a hearse,
being dragged to the graveyard to be buried. He put forth his hand to
push the coffin lid, but it fell again with weakness, and when his
fingers came in contact with the splintered bone that protruded from his
neighbor's thigh, and he felt the warm gushing of the blood that welled
with each throb of the hastily bound artery, he puzzled his dreamy
thoughts to know what it might mean. At last all became a blank upon his
brain, and he relapsed once more into unconsciousness.
And so, from dreamy wakefulness to total oblivion he passed to and fro,
without an interval to part the real from the unreal. He was conscious
of being lifted into the arms of men, and being borne along carefully by
strong arms. Whither? It seemed to his dull senses that they were
bearing him into a sepulchre, but he was not terrified, but careless and
resigned; or if he thought of it at all, it was to rejoice that when
laid there, he should be undisturbed. Presently a vague fancy passed
athwart his mind, that perhaps the crawling worms would annoy him, and
he felt uneasy, but yet not afraid. Afterward, there was a sensation of
quiet and relief, and his brain, for a space, was in repose. Then a
bright form bent over him, and he thought it was an angel. He could feel
a soft hand brushing the dampness from his brow, and fingers, whose
light touch soothed him, parting his clotted hair. The features grew
more distinct, and it pleased him to look upon them, although he strove
in vain to fix them in his memory, until a tear-drop fell upon his
cheek, and recalled his wandering senses; then he knew that Oriana was
bending over him and weeping.
He was in the cottage where Beverly had last parted from his sister; not
in the same room, for they feared to place him there, where Miranda was
lying in a shroud, with a coffin by her bed-side, lest the sad spectacle
should disturb him when he woke. But he lay upon a comfortable bed in
another room, and Beverly and Oriana stood beside, while the surgeon
dressed his wounds.
No need to say that Harold was well cared for by his two friendly foes.
Beverly had given his personal parole for his safe keeping, and he was
therefore free from all surveillance or annoyance on that score. His
wounds were not serious, although the contusion on the temple, which,
however, had left the skull uninjured, occasioned some uneasiness at
first. But the third day he was able to leave his bed, and with his arm
in a sling, sat comfortably in an easy-chair, and conversed freely with
his two excellent nurses.
"Did Beverly tell you of Arthur's imprisonment?" he asked of Oriana,
breaking a pause in the general conversation.
"Yes," she answered, looking down, with a scarcely perceptible blush
upon her cheek. "Poor Arthur! Yours is a cruel government, Harold, that
would make traitors of such men. His noble heart would not harbor a
dangerous thought, much less a traitorous design."
"I think with you," said Harold. "There is some strange mistake, which
we must fathom. I received his letter only the day preceding the battle.
Had there been no immediate prospect of an engagement, I would have
asked a furlough, and have answered it in person. I have small reason to
regret my own imprisonment," he added, "my jailers are so kind; yet I do
regret it for his sake."
"You know that we are powerless to help him," said Beverly, "or even to
shorten your captivity, since your government will not exchange with us.
However, you must write, both to Arthur and to Mr. Lincoln, and I will
use my best interest with the general to have your letters sent on with
"I know that you will do all in your power, and I trust that my
representations may avail with the government, for I judge from Arthur's
letter that he is not well, although he makes no complaint. He is but
delicate at the best, and what with the effects of his late injuries, I
fear that the restraint of a prison may go ill with him."
"How unnatural is this strife that makes us sorrow for our foes no less
than for our friends?" said Oriana. "I seem to be living in a strange
clime, and in an age that has passed away. And how long can friendship
endure this fiery ordeal? How many scenes of carnage like this last
terrible one can afflict the land, without wiping away all trace of
brotherhood, and leaving in the void the seed of deadly hate?"
"If this repulse," said Beverly, "which your arms have suffered so early
in the contest, will awaken the North to a sense of the utter futility
of their design of subjugation, the blood that flowed at Manassas will
not have been shed in vain."
"No, not in vain," replied Harold, "but its fruits will be other than
you anticipate. The North will be awakened, but only to gird up its
loins and put forth its giant strength. The shame of that one defeat
will be worth to us hereafter a hundred victories. The North has
been smitten in its sleep; it will arouse from its lethargy like a lion
awakening under the smart of the hunter's spear. Beverly, base no vain
hopes upon the triumph of the hour; it seals your doom, for it serves
but to throw into the scale against you the aroused energies that till
now have been withheld."
"You count upon your resources, Harold, like a purse-proud millionaire,
who boasts his bursting coffers. We depend rather upon our determined
hearts and resolute right hands. Upon our power to endure, greater than
yours to inflict, reverse. Upon our united people, and the spirit that
animates them, which can never be subdued. The naked Britons could
defend their native soil against Caesar's legions, the veterans of a
hundred fights. Shall we do less, who have already tasted the fruits of
liberty so dearly earned? Harold, your people have assumed an impossible
task, and you may as well go cast your treasures into the sea as
squander them in arms to smite your kith and kin. We are Americans, like
yourselves; and when you confess that _you_ can be conquered by invading
armies, then dream of conquering us."
"And we will startle you from your dream with the crack of our Southern
rifles," added Oriana, somewhat maliciously, while Harold smiled at her
"There is a great deal of romance in both your natures," he replied.
"But it is not so good as powder for a fighting medium. The spirit you
boast of will not support you long without the aid of good round
"Thank heaven we have less faith in their efficacy than you Northern
gold-worshippers," observed Oriana, with playful sarcasm. "While our
soldiers have good round corn-cakes, they will ask for no richer metals
than lead and steel. Have you never heard of the regiment of
Mississippians, who, having received their pay in government
certificates, to a man tore up the documents as they took up the line of
march, saying 'we do not fight for money?'"
Harold smiled, thinking perhaps that nothing better could have been done
with the currency in question.
"I think," said Beverly, "you are far out of the way in your estimate of
our resources. The South is strictly an agricultural country, and as
such, best able to support itself under the exhaustion consequent upon a
lengthened warfare, especially as it will remain in the attitude of
resistance to invasion. From the bosom of its prolific soil it can draw
its natural nourishment and retain its vigor throughout any period of
isolation, while you are draining your resources for the means of
providing an active aggressive warfare. The rallying of our white
population to the battle field will not interrupt the course of
agricultural pursuit, while every enlistment in the North will take one
man away from the tillage of the land or from some industrial
"Not so," replied Harold. "Our armies for the most part will be
recruited from the surplus population, and abundant hands will remain
behind for the purposes of industry."
"At first, perhaps. But not after a few more such fields as were fought
on Sunday last. To carry out even a show of your project of subjugation,
you must keep a million of men in the field from year to year. Your
manufacturing interests will be paralyzed, your best customers shut out.
You will be spending enormously and producing little beyond the
necessities of consumption. We, on the contrary, will be producing as
usual, and spending little more than before."
"Can your armies be fed, clothed, and equipped without expense?"
"No. But all our means will be applied to military uses, and our
operations will be necessarily much less expensive than yours. In other
matters, we will forget our habits of extravagance. We will become, by
the law of necessity, economists in place of spendthrifts. We will
gather in rich harvests, but will stint ourselves to the bare
necessities of life, that our troops may be fed and clothed. The money
that our wealthy planters have been in the habit of spending yearly in
Northern cities and watering places, will be circulated at home. Some
fifty millions of Southern dollars, heretofore annually wasted in
fashionable dissipation, will thus be kept in our own pockets and out of
yours. The spendthrift sons of our planters, and their yet more
extravagant daughters, will be found studying economy in the rude school
of the soldier, and plying the needle to supply the soldiers' wants, in
place of drawing upon the paternal estates for frivolous enjoyments. Our
spending population will be on the battle-field, and the laborer will
remain in the cotton and corn-field. There will be suffering and
privation, it is true, but rest assured, Harold, we will bear it all
without a murmur, as our fathers did in the days of '76. And we will
trust to the good old soil we are defending to give us our daily bread."
"Or if it should not," said Oriana, "we can at least claim from it, each
one, a grave, over which the foot of the invader may trample, but not
over our living bodies."
"I have no power to convince you of your error," answered Harold. "Let
us speak of it no more, since it is destined that the sword must decide
between us. Beverly, you promised that I should go visit my wounded
comrades, who have not yet been removed. Shall we go now? I think it
would do me good to breathe the air."
They prepared for the charitable errand, and Oriana went with them, with
a little basket of delicacies for the suffering prisoners.
It was a fair morning in August, the twentieth day after the eventful
21st of July. Beverly was busy with his military duties, and Harold, who
had already fully recovered from his wounds, was enjoying, in company
with Oriana, a pleasant canter over the neighboring country. They came
to where the rolling meadow subsided into a level plain of considerable
extent on either side of the road. At its verge a thick forest formed a
dark background, beyond which the peering summits of green hills showed
that the landscape was rugged and uneven. Oriana slackened her pace, and
pointed out over the broad expanse of level country.
"You see this plain that stretches to our right and left?"
"Of course I do," replied Harold.
"Yes; but I want you to mark it well," she continued, with a significant
glance; "and also that stretch of woodland yonder, beyond which, you
see, the country rises again."
"Yes, a wild country, I should judge, like that to the left, where we
fought your batteries a month ago."
"It is, indeed, a wild country as you say. There are ravines there, and
deep glens, fringed with almost impenetrable shrubbery, and deep down in
these recesses flows many a winding water-course, lined and overarched
with twisted foliage. Are you skillful at threading a woodland
"Yes; my surveying expeditions have schooled me pretty well. Why do you
ask? Do you want me to guide you through the wilderness, in search of a
"Perhaps; women have all manner of caprices, you know. But I want you to
pay attention to those landmarks. Over yonder, there are some nooks that
would do well to hide a runaway. I have explored some of them myself,
for I passed some months here formerly, before the war. Poor Miranda's
family resided once in the little cottage where we are stopping now.
That is why I came from Richmond to spend a few days and be with
Beverly. I little thought that my coming would bring me to Miranda's
death-bed. Look there, now: you have a better view of where the forest
ascends into the hilly ground."
"Why are you so topographical to-day? One would think you were tempting
me to run away," said Harold, smiling, as he followed her pointing
finger with his eyes.
"No; I know you would not do that, because Beverly, you know, has
pledged himself for your safe-keeping."
"Very true; and I am therefore a closer prisoner than if I were loaded
down with chains. When do you return to Richmond?"
"I shall return on the day after to-morrow. Beverly has been charged
with an important service, and will be absent for several weeks. But he
can procure your parole, if you wish, and you can come to the old
"I think I shall not accept parole," replied Harold, thoughtfully. "I
must escape, if possible, for Arthur's sake. Beverly, of course, will
release himself from all obligations about me, before he goes?"
"Yes, to-morrow; but you will be strictly guarded, unless you give
parole. See here, I have a little present for you; it is not very
pretty, but it is useful."
She handed him a small pocket-compass, set in a brass case.
"You can have this too," she added, drawing a small but strong and sharp
poignard from her bosom. "But you must promise me never to use it except
to save your life?"
"I will promise that cheerfully," said Harold, as he received the
"To-morrow we will ride out again. We will have the same horses that
bear us so bravely now. Do you note how strong and well-bred is the
noble animal you ride?"
"Yes," said Harold, patting the glorious arch of his steed's neck. "He's
a fine fellow, and fleet, I warrant."
"Fleet as the winds. There are few in this neighborhood that can match
him. Let us go home now. You need not tell Beverly that I have given you
presents. And be ready to ride to-morrow at four o'clock precisely."
He understood her thoroughly, and they cantered homeward, conversing
upon indifferent subjects and reverting no further to their previous
somewhat enigmatical theme.
On the following afternoon, at four o'clock precisely, the horses were
at the door, and five minutes afterward a mounted officer, followed by
two troopers, galloped up the lane and drew rein at the gateway.
Harold was arranging the girths of Oriana's saddle, and she herself was
standing in her riding-habit beside the porch. The officer, dismounting,
approached her and raised his cap in respectful salute. He was young and
well-looking, evidently one accustomed to polite society.
"Good afternoon, Captain Haralson," said Oriana, with her most gracious
smile. "I am very glad to see you, although, as you bring your military
escort, I presume you come to see Beverly upon business, and not for the
friendly visit you promised me. But Beverly is not here."
"I left him at the camp on duty, Miss Weems," replied the captain. "It
is my misfortune that my own duties have been too strict of late to
permit me the pleasure of my contemplated visit."
"I must bide my time, captain. Let me introduce my friend. Captain Hare,
our prisoner, Mr. Haralson; but I know you will help me to make him
forget it, when I tell you that he was my brother's schoolmate and is
our old and valued friend."
The young officer took Harold frankly by the hand, but he looked grave
and somewhat disconcerted as he answered:
"Captain Hare, as a soldier, will forgive me that my duty compels me to
play a most ungracious part upon our first acquaintance. I have orders
to return with him to headquarters, where I trust his acceptance of
parole will enable me to avail myself of your introduction to show him
what courtesy our camp life admits, in atonement for the execution of my
present unpleasant devoir."
"I shall esteem your acquaintance the more highly," answered Harold,
"that you know so well to blend your soldiership with kindness. I am
entirely at your disposition, sir, having only to apologize to Miss
Weems for the deprivation of her contemplated ride."
"Oh, no, we must not lose our ride," said Oriana. "It is perhaps the
last we shall enjoy together, and such a lovely afternoon. I am sure
that Captain Haralson is too gallant to interrupt our excursion."
She turned to him with an arch smile, but he looked serious as he
"Alas! Miss Weems, our gallantry receives some rude rebuffs in the harsh
school of the soldier. It grieves me to mar your harmless recreation,
but even that mortification I must endure when it comes in the strict
line of my duty."
"But your duty does not forbid you to take a canter with us this
charming afternoon. Now put away that military sternness, which does not
become you at all, and help me to mount my pretty Nelly, who is getting
impatient to be off. And so am I. Come, you will get into camp in due
season, for we will go only as far as the Run, and canter all the way."
She took his arm, and he assisted her to the saddle, won into
acquiescence by her graceful obstinacy, and, in fact, seeing but little
harm the tufted hills rolled into one another like the waves of a
swelling sea, their crests tipped with the slant rays of the descending
sun, and their graceful slopes alternating among purple shadows and
gleams of floating light.
"It is indeed so beautiful," answered Harold, "that I should deem you
might be content to live there as of old, without inviting the terrible
companionship of Mars."
"We do not invite it," said the young captain. "Leave us in peaceful
possession of our own, and no war cries shall echo among those hills. If
Mars has driven his chariot into our homes, he comes at your bidding, an
unwelcome intruder, to be scourged back again."
"At our bidding! No. The first gun that was fired at Sumter summoned
him, and if he should leave his foot-prints deep in your soil, you have
well earned the penalty."
"It will cost you, to inflict it, many such another day's work as that
at Manassas a month ago."
The taunt was spoken hastily, and the young Southron colored as if
ashamed of his discourtesy, and added:
"Forgive me my ungracious speech. It was my first field, sir, and I am
wont to speak of it too boastingly. I shall become more modest, I hope,
when I shall have a better right to be a boaster."
"Oh," replied Harold, "I admit the shame of our discomfiture, and take
it as a good lesson to our negligence and want of purpose. But all that
has passed away. One good whipping has awakened us to an understanding
of the work we have in hand. Henceforth we will apply ourselves to the
task in earnest."
"You think, then, that your government will prosecute the war more
vigorously than before?"
"Undoubtedly. You have heard but the prelude of a gale that shall sweep
every vestige of treason from the land."
"Let it blow on," said the Southron, proudly. "There will be
counter-blasts to meet it. You cannot raise a tempest that will make us
bow our heads."
"Do you not think," interrupted Oriana, "that a large proportion of your
Northern population are ready at least to listen to terms of
"No," replied Harold, firmly. "Or if there be any who entertain such
thoughts, we will make them outcasts among us, and the finger of scorn
will be pointed at them as recreant to their holiest duty."
"That is hardly fair," said Oriana. "Why should you scorn or maltreat
those who honestly believe that the doctrine in support of which so many
are ready to stake their lives and their fortunes, may be worthy of
consideration? Do you believe us all mad and wicked people in the
South--people without hearts, and without brains, incapable of forming
an opinion that is worth an argument? If there are some among you who
think we are acting for the best, and Heaven knows we are acting with
sincerity, you should give them at least a hearing, for the sake of
liberty of conscience. Remember, there are millions of us united in
sentiment in the South, and millions, perhaps, abroad who think with us.
How can you decide by your mere impulses where the right lies?"
"We decide by the promptings of our loyal hearts, and by our reason,
which tells us that secession is treason, and that treason must be
"Heart and brain have been mistaken ere now," returned Oriana. "But if
you are a type of your countrymen, I see that hard blows alone will
teach you that God has given us the right to think for ourselves."
"Do you believe, then," asked Haralson, "that there can be no peace
between us until one side or the other shall be exhausted and subdued?"
"Not so," replied Harold. "I think that when we have retrieved the
disgrace of Bull Run and given you in addition, some wholesome
chastisement, your better judgment will return to you, and you will
accept forgiveness at our hands and return to your allegiance."
"You are mistaken," said the Southron. "Even were we ready to accept
your terms, you would not be ready to grant them. Should the North
succeed in striking some heavy blow at the South, I will tell you what
will happen; your abolitionists will seize the occasion of the peoples'
exultation to push their doctrine to a consummation. Whenever you shall
hear the tocsin of victory sounding in the North, then listen for the
echoing cry of emancipation--for you will hear it. You will see it in
every column of your daily prints; you will hear your statesmen urging
it in your legislative halls, and your cabinet ministers making it their
theme. And, most dangerous of all, you will hear your generals and
colonels, demagogues, at heart, and soldiers only of occasion, preaching
it to their battalions, and making converts of their subordinates by the
mere influences of their rank and calling. And when your military
chieftains harangue their soldiers upon political themes, think not of
our treason as you call it, but look well to the political freedom that
is still your own. With five hundred thousand armed puppets, moving at
the will of a clique of ambitious epauletted politicians and
experimentalists, you may live to witness, whether we be subdued or not,
a _coup d'etat_ for which there is a precedent not far back in the
annals of republics."
"Have you already learned to contemplate the danger that you are
incurring? Do you at last fear the monster that you have nursed and
strengthened in your midst? Well, if your slaves should rise against
you, surely you cannot blame us for the evil of your own creation."
"It is the hope of your abolitionists, not our fear, that I am
rehearsing. Should your armies obtain a foothold on our soil, we know
that you will put knives and guns into the hands of our slaves, and
incite them to emulate the deeds of their race in San Domingo. You will
parcel out our lands and wealth to your victorious soldiery, not so much
as a reward for their past services, but to seal the bond between them
and the government that will seek to rule by their bayonets. You see, we
know the peril and are prepared to meet it. Should you conquer us, at
the same time you would conquer the liberties of the Northern citizen.
You will be at the mercy of the successful general whose triumph may
make him the idol of the armed millions that alone can accomplish our
subjugation. In the South, butchery and rapine by hordes of desperate
negroes--in the North anarchy and political intrigue, to be merged into
dictatorship and the absolutism of military power. Such would be the
results of your triumph and our defeat."
"Those are the visions of a heated brain," said Harold. "I must confess
that your fighting is better than your logic. There is no danger to our
country that the loyalty of its people cannot overcome--as it will your
They had now approached the edge of the plain which Oriana had pointed
out on the preceding day. The sun, which had been tinging the western
sky with gorgeous hues, was peering from among masses of purple and
golden clouds, within an hour's space of the horizon. Captain Haralson,
interested and excited by his disputation, had been riding leisurely
along by the side of his prisoner, taking but little note of the route
or of the lapse of time.
"Cease your unprofitable argument," cried Oriana, "and let us have a
race over this beautiful plain. Look! 'tis as smooth as a race-course,
and I will lay you a wager, Captain Haralson, that my Nelly will lead
you to yonder clump, by a neck."
She touched her horse lightly with the whip, and turned from the road
into the meadows.
"It is late, Miss Weems," said the Southron, "and I must report at
headquarters before sundown. Besides, I am badly mounted, and it would
be but a sorry victory to distance me. I pray you, let us return."
"Nonsense! Nelly is not breathed. I must have one fair run over this
field; and, gentlemen, I challenge you both to outstrip Nelly if you
With a merry shout, she struck the fleet mare smartly on the flank, and
the spirited animal, more at the sound of her voice than aroused by the
whip-lash, stretched forward her neck and sprang over the tufted level.
Harold waved his hand, as if in invitation, to his companion, and was
soon urging his powerful horse in the same direction. Haralson shouted
to them to stop, but they only turned their heads and beckoned to him
gaily, and plunging the spurs into the strong but heavy-hoofed charger
that he rode, he followed them as best he could. He kept close in their
rear very well at first, but he soon observed that he was losing
distance, and that the two swift steeds in front, that had been held in
check a little at the start, were now skimming the smooth meadow at a
"Halt!" he cried, at the top of his lungs; but either they heard it not
or heeded it not, for they still swept on, bending low forward in the
saddle, almost side by side.
A vague suspicion crossed his mind.
Oriana glanced over her shoulder, and could see a sunray gleaming from
something that he held in his right hand. He had drawn a pistol from his
holster. She slackened her pace a little, and allowing Harold to take
the lead, rode on in the line between him and the pursuer. Harold turned
in his saddle. She could hear the tones of his voice rushing past her on
"Come no further with me, lest suspicion attach to yourself. The good
horse will bear me beyond pursuit. Remember, it is for Arthur's sake I
have consented you should make this sacrifice. God bless you! and
A pistol-shot resounded in the air. Oriana knew it was fired but to
intimidate--the distance was too great to give the leaden messenger a
deadlier errand. Yet she drew rein, and waited, breathless with
excitement and swift motion, till Haralson came up. He turned one
reproachful glance upon her as he passed, and spurred on in pursuit.
Harold turned once again, to assure himself that she was unhurt, then
waved his hand, and urging his swift steed to the utmost, sped on toward
the forest which was now close at hand. The two troopers soon came
galloping up to where Oriana still sat motionless upon her saddle,
watching the race with strained eyes and heaving bosom.
"Your prisoner has escaped," she said; "spur on in pursuit."
She knew that it was of no avail, for Harold had already disappeared
among the mazes of the wood, and the sun was just dipping below the
horizon. Darkness would soon shroud the fugitive in its friendly mantle.
She turned Nelly's head homeward, and cantered silently away in the
When Captain Haralson and the two troopers reached the verge of the
forest, they could trace for a short distance the hoof-prints of
Harold's horse, and followed them eagerly among the labyrinthine paths
which the fugitive had made through the tangled shrubbery and among the
briery thickets. But soon the gloom of night closed in upon them in the
depth of the silent wood, and they were left without a sign by which to
direct the pursuit. It was near midnight when they reached the further
edge of the forest, and there, throwing fantastic gleams of red light
among the shadows of the tall trees, they caught sight of what seemed to
be the glimmer of a watchfire. Soon after, the growl of a hound was
heard, followed by a deep-mouthed bay, and approaching cautiously, they
were hailed by the watchful sentinel. It was a Confederate picket,
posted on the outskirt of the forest, and Haralson, making himself
known, rode up to where the party, awakened by their approach, had
roused themselves from their blankets, and were standing with ready
rifles beside the blazing fagots.
Haralson made known his errand to the officer in command, and the
sentries were questioned, but all declared that nothing had disturbed
their watch; if the fugitive had passed their line, he had succeeded in
eluding their vigilance.
"I must send one of my men back to camp to report the escape," said
Haralson, "and will ask you to spare me a couple of your fellows to help
me hunt the Yankee down. Confound him, I deserve to lose my epaulettes
for my folly, but I'll follow him to the Potomac, rather than return to
headquarters without him."
"Who was it?" asked the officer; "was he of rank?"
"A captain, Captain Hare, well named for his fleetness; but he was
mounted superbly, and I suspect the whole thing was cut and dried."
"Hare?" cried a hoarse voice; and the speaker, a tall, lank man, who had
been stretched by the fire, with the head of a large, gaunt bloodhound
in his lap, rose suddenly and stepped forward.
"Harold Hare, by G--d!" he exclaimed; "I know the fellow. Captain, I'm
with you on this hunt, and Bully there, too, who is worth the pair of
us. Hey, Bully?"
The dog stretched himself lazily, and lifted his heavy lip with a grin
above the formidable fangs that glistened in the gleam of the watchfire.
"You may go," said his officer, "but I can't spare another. You three,
with the dog, will be enough. Rawbon's as good a man as you can get,
captain. Set a thief to catch a thief, and a Yankee to outwit a Yankee.
You'd better start at once, unless you need rest or refreshment."
"Nothing," replied Haralson. "Let your man put something into his
haversack. Good night, lieutenant. Come along, boys, and keep your eyes
peeled, for these Yankees are slippery eels, you know."
Seth Rawbon had already bridled his horse that was grazing hard by, and
the party, with the hound close at his master's side, rode forth upon
Harold had perceived the watchfire an hour earlier than his pursuers,
having obtained thus much the advantage of them by the fleetness of his
steed. He moved well off to the right, riding slowly and cautiously,
until another faint glimmer in that direction gave him to understand
that he was about equi-distant between two pickets of the enemy. He
dismounted at the edge of the forest, and securing his steed to the
branch of a tree, crept forward a few paces beyond the shelter of the
wood, and looked about earnestly in the darkness. Nothing could be seen
but the long, straggling line of the forest losing itself in the gloom,
and the black outlines, of the hills before him; but his quick ear
detected the sound of coming hoof and the ringing of steel scabbards. A
patrol was approaching, and fearful that his horse, conscious of the
neighborhood of his kind, might betray his presence with a sign of
recognition, he hurried back, and standing beside the animal, caressed
his glossy neck and won his attention with the low murmurs of his voice.
The good steed remained silent, only pricking up his ears and peering
through the branches as the patrol went clattering by. Harold waited
till the trampling of hoofs died away in the distance, and judging, from
their riding on without a challenge or a pause, that there was no sentry
within hail, he mounted and rode boldly out into the open country. The
stars were mostly obscured by heavy clouds, but here and there was a
patch of clear blue sky, and his eye, practised with many a surveying
night-tramp, discovered at last a twinkling guide by which to shape his
path in a northerly direction. It was a wild, rough country over which
he passed. With slow and careful steps, his sagacious steed moved on,
obedient to the rein, at one time topping the crest of a rugged hill,
and then winding at a snail's pace down the steep declivity, or
following the tortuous course of the streamlet through deep ravines,
whose jagged and bush-clad sides frowned down upon them on either side,
deepening the gloom of night.
So all through the long hours of darkness, Harold toiled on his lonely
way, startled at times by the shriek of the night bird, and listening
intently to catch the sign of danger. At last the dawn, welcome although
it enhanced the chances of detection, blushed faintly through the
clouded eastern sky, and Harold, through the mists of morning, could see
a fair and rolling landscape stretched before him. The sky was overcast,
and presently the heavy drops began to fall. Consulting the little
friendly compass which Oriana had given him, he pushed on briskly,
turning always to the right or left, as the smoke, circling from some
early housewife's kitchen, betrayed the dangerous neighborhood of a
Crossing a rivulet, he dismounted, and filled a small leathern bottle
that he carried with him, his good steed and himself meanwhile
satisfying their thirst from the cool wave. His appetite, freshened by
exercise, caused him to remember a package which Oriana's forethought
had provided for him on the preceding afternoon. He drew it from, his
pocket, and while his steed clipped the tender herbage from the
streamlet's bank, he made an excellent breakfast of the corn bread and
bacon, and other substantial edibles, which his kind friend had
bountifully supplied. Man and horse thus refreshed, he remounted, and
rode forward at a gallant pace, the strong animal he bestrode seeming as
yet to show no signs of fatigue.
The rain was now falling in torrents, a propitious circumstance, since
it lessened the probabilities of his encountering the neighboring
inhabitants, most of whom must have sought shelter from the pelting
storm. He occasionally came up with a trudging negro, sometimes a group
of three or four, who answered timidly whenever he accosted them, and
glanced at him askance, but yet gave the information he requested. Once,
indeed, he could discern a troop of cavalry plashing along at same
distance through the muddy road, but he screened himself in a cornfield,
and was unobserved. His watch had been injured in the battle, and he had
no means, except conjecture, of judging of the hour; but by the flagging
pace of his horse, and his own fatigue, he knew that he must have been
many hours in the saddle. Surely the Potomac must be at hand! Yet there
was no sign of it, and over interminable hill and dale, through
corn-fields, and over patches of woodland and meadow, the weary steed
was urged on, slipping and sliding in the saturated soil. What was that
sound which caused his horse to prick up his ears and quicken his pace
with the instinct of danger? He heard it himself distinctly. It was the
baying of a bloodhound.
"They are on my track!" muttered Harold; "and unless the river is at
hand, I am lost. Forward, sir! forward, good fellow!" he shouted
cheerily to his horse, and the noble animal, snorting and tossing his
silken mane, answered with an effort, and broke into a gallop.
Down one hill into a little valley they pushed on, and up the ascent of
another. They reached the crest, and then, thank Heaven! there was the
broad river, winding through the valley. Dull and leaden hued as it
looked, reflecting the clouded sky, he had never hailed it so joyfully
when sparkling with sunbeams as he did at the close of that weary day.
Yet the danger was not past; up and down the stream he gazed, and far to
the right he could distinguish a group of tents peering from among the
foliage of a grove, and marking the site of a Confederate battery. But
just in front of him was a cheering sight; an armed schooner swung
lazily at anchor in the channel, and the wet bunting that drooped
listlessly over her stern, revealed the stars and stripes.
The full tones of the bloodhound's voice aroused him to the necessity of
action; he turned in the saddle and glanced over the route he had come.
On the crest of the hill beyond that on which he stood, the forms of
three horsemen were outlined against the greyish sky. They distinguished
him at the same moment, for he could hear their shouts of exultation,
borne to him on the humid air.
It was yet a full mile to the river bank, and his horse was almost
broken down with fatigue. Dashing his armed heels against the throbbing
flanks of the jaded animal, he rushed down the hill in a straight line
for the water. The sun was already below the horizon, and darkness was
coming on apace. As he pushed on, the shouts of his pursuers rang louder
upon his ear at every rod; it was evident that they were fresh mounted,
while his own steed was laboring, with a last effort, over the rugged
ground, stumbling among stones, and groaning at intervals with the
severity of exertion. He could hear the trampling behind him, he could
catch the words of triumph that seemed to be shouted almost in his very
ear. A bullet whizzed by him, and then another, and with each report
there came a derisive cheer. But it was now quite dark, and that, with
the rapid motion, rendered him comparatively fearless of being struck.
He spurred on, straining his eyes to see what was before him, for it
seemed that the ground in front became suddenly and curiously lost in
the mist and gloom. Just then, simultaneously with the report of a
pistol, he felt his good steed quiver beneath him; a bullet had reached
his flank, and the poor animal fell upon his knees and rolled over in
the agony of death.
It was well that he had fallen; Harold, thrown forward a few feet,
touched the earth upon the edge of the rocky bank that descended
precipitously a hundred feet or more to the river--a few steps further,
and horse and rider would have plunged over the verge of the bluff.
Harold, though bruised by his fall, was not considerably hurt; without
hesitation, he commenced the hazardous descent, difficult by day, but
perilous and uncertain in the darkness. Clinging to each projecting rock
and feeling cautiously for a foothold among the slippery ledges, he had
accomplished half the distance and could already hear the light plashing
of the wave upon the boulders below. He heard a voice above, shouting:
"Look out for the bluff there, we must be near it!"
The warning came too late. There was a cry of terror--the blended voice
of man and horse, startling the night and causing Harold to crouch with
instinctive horror close to the dripping rock. There was a rush of wind
and the bounding by of a dark whirling body, which rolled over and over,
tearing over the sharp angles of the cliff, and scattering the loose
fragments of stone over him as he clung motionless to his support. Then
there was a dull thump below, and a little afterward a terrible moan,
and then all was still.
Harold continued his descent and reached the base of the bluff in
safety. Through the darkness he could see a dark mass lying like a
shadow among the pointed stones, with the waves of the river rippling
about it. He approached it. There lay the steed gasping in the last
agony, and the rider beneath him, crushed, mangled and dead. He stooped
down by the side of the corpse; it was bent double beneath the quivering
body of the dying horse, in such a manner as must have snapped the spine
in twain. Harold lifted the head, but let it fall again with a shudder,
for his fingers had slipped into the crevice of the cleft skull and were
all smeared with the oozing brain. Yet, despite the obscurity and the
disfigurement, despite the bursting eyeballs and the clenched jaws
through which the blood was trickling, he recognized the features of
No time for contemplation or for revery. There was a scrambling
overhead, with now and then a snarl and an angry growl. And further up,
he heard the sound of voices, labored and suppressed, as of men who were
speaking while toiling at some unwonted exercise. Harold threw off his
coat and boots, and waded out into the river. The dark hull of the
schooner could be seen looming above the gloomy surface of the water,
and he dashed toward it through the deepening wave. There was a splash
behind him and soon he could hear the puffing and short breathing of a
swimming dog. He was then up to his arm-pits in the water, and a few
yards further would bring him off his footing. He determined to wait the
onset there, while he could yet stand firm upon the shelving bottom. He
had not long to wait. The bloodhound made directly for him; he could see
his eyes snapping and glaring like red coals above the black water.
Harold braced himself as well as he could upon the yielding sand, and
held his poignard, Oriana's welcome gift, with a steady grasp. The dog
came so close that his fetid breath played upon Harold's cheek; then he
aimed a swift blow at his neck, but the brute dodged it like a fish.
Harold lost his balance and fell forward into the water, but in falling,
he launched out his left hand and caught the tough loose skin above the
animal's shoulder. He held it with the grasp of a drowning man, and over
and over they rolled in the water, like two sea monsters at their sport.
With all his strength, Harold drew the fierce brute toward him,
circling his neck tightly with his left arm, and pressed the sharp blade
against his throat. The hot blood gushed out over his hand, but he drove
the weapon deeper, slitting the sinewy flesh to the right and left, till
the dog ceased to struggle. Then Harold flung the huge carcass from him,
and struck out, breathless as he was, for the schooner. It was time, for
already his pursuers were upon the bank, aiming their pistol shots at
the black spot which they could just distinguish cleaving through the
water. But a few vigorous strokes carried him beyond their vision and
they ceased firing. Soon he heard the sound of muffled oars and a dark
shape seemed to rise from the water in front of him. The watch on board
the schooner, alarmed by the firing, had sent a boat's crew to
reconnoitre. Harold divined that it was so, and hailing the approaching
boat, was taken in, and ten minutes afterward, stood, exhausted but
safe, upon the schooner's deck.
With the earliest opportunity, Harold proceeded to Washington, and
sought an interview with the President, in relation to Arthur's case.
Mr. Lincoln received him kindly, but could give no information
respecting the arrest or alleged criminality of his friend. "There were
so many and pressing affairs of state that he could find no room for
individual cases in his memory." However, he referred him to the
Secretary of War, with a request that the latter would look into the
matter. By dint of persistent inquiries at various sources, Harold
finally ascertained that the prisoner had a few days previously been
released, upon the assurance of the surgeon at the fort, that his
failing health required his immediate removal. Inquiry had been made
into the circumstances leading to his arrest; made too late, however, to
benefit the victim of a State mistake, whose delicate health had already
been too severely tried by the discomforts attendant upon his
situation. However, enough had been ascertained to leave but little
doubt as to his innocence; and Arthur, with the ghastly signs of a rapid
consumption upon his wan cheek, was dismissed from the portals of a
prison, which had already prepared him for the tomb.
Harold hastened to Vermont, whither he knew the invalid had been
conveyed. It was toward the close of the first autumn day that he
entered the little village, upon whose outskirts was situated the farm
of his dying friend. The air was mild and balmy, but the voices of
nature seemed to him more hushed than usual, as if in mournful unison
with his own sad reveries. He had passed on foot from the village to the
farm-house, and when he opened the little white wicket, and walked along
the gravelled avenue that led to the flower-clad porch, the willows on
either side seemed to droop lower than willows are used to droop, and
the soft September air sighed through the swinging boughs, like the
prelude of a dirge.
Arthur was reclining upon an easy-chair upon the little porch, and
beside him sat a venerable lady, reading from the worn silver-clasped
Bible, which rested on her lap. The lady rose when he approached; and
Arthur, whose gaze had been wandering among the autumn clouds, that
wreathed the points of the far-off mountains, turned his head languidly,
when the footsteps broke his dream.
He did not rise. Alas! he was too weak to do so without the support of
his aged mother's arm, which had so often cradled him in infancy and had
now become the staff of his broken manhood. But a beautiful and happy
smile illumined his pale lips, and spread all over the thin and wasted
features, like sunlight gleaming on the grey surface of a church-yard
stone. He lifted his attenuated hand, and when Harold clasped it, the
fingers were so cold and deathlike that their pressure seemed to close
about his heart, compressing it, and chilling the life current in his
"I knew that you would come, Harold. Although I read that you were
missing at the close of that dreadful battle, something told me that we
should meet again. Whether it was a sick man's fancy, or the foresight
of a parting soul, it is realized, for you are here. And you come not
too soon, Harold," he added, with a pressure of the feeble hand, "for I
am going fast--fast from the discords of earth--fast to the calm and
"Oh, Arthur, how changed you are!" said Harold, who could not keep from
fastening his gaze on the white, sunken cheek and hollow eyes of his
dying comrade. "But you will get better now, will you not--now that you
are home again, and we can nurse you?"
Arthur shook his head with a mournful smile, and the fit of painful
coughing which overtook him answered his friend's vain hope.
"No, Harold, no. All of earth is past to me, even hope. And I am ready,
cheerful even, to go, except for the sake of some loved ones that will
sorrow for me."
He took his mother's hand as he spoke, and looked at her with touching
tenderness, while the poor dame brushed away her tears.
"I have but a brief while to stay behind," she said, "and my sorrow will
be less, to know that you have ever been a good son to me. Oh, Mr. Hare,
he might have lived to comfort me, and close my old eyes in death, if
they had not been so cruel with him, and locked him within prison
walls. He, who never dreamed of wrong, and never injured willingly a
worm in his path."
"Nay, mother, they were not unkind to me in the fort, and did what they
could to make me comfortable. But, Harold, it is wrong. I have thought
of it in the long, weary nights in prison, and I have thought of it when
I knew that death was beckoning me to come and rest from the thoughts of
earth. It is wrong to tamper with the sacred law that shields the
citizen. I believe that many a man within those fortress walls is as
innocent in the eyes of God as those who sent him there. Yet I accuse
none of willful wrong, but only of unconscious error. If the sacrifice
of my poor life could shed one ray upon the darkness, I would rejoice to
be the victim that I am, of a violated right. But all, statesmen, and
chieftains, and humble citizens, are being swept along upon the
whirlwinds of passion; all hearts are ablaze with the fiery magnificence
of war, and none will take warning till the land shall be desolate, and
thousands, stricken in their prime, shall be sleeping--where I shall
soon be--beneath the cold sod. I am weary, mother, and chill. Let us go
They bore him in and helped him to his bed, where he lay pale and
silent, seeming much worse from the fatigue of conversation and the
excitement of his meeting with his old college friend. Mrs. Wayne left
him in charge of Harold, while she went below to prepare what little
nourishment he could take, and to provide refreshment for her guest.
Arthur lay, for a space, with his eyes closed, and apparently in sleep.
But he looked up, at last, and stretched out his hand to Harold, who
pressed the thin fingers, whiter than the coverlet on which they rested.
"Is mother there?"
"No, Arthur," replied Harold. "Shall I call her?"
"No. I thought to have spoken to you, to-morrow, of something that has
been often my theme of thought; but I know not what strange feeling has
crept upon me; and perhaps, Harold--for we know not what the morrow may
bring--perhaps I had better speak now."
"It hurts you, Arthur; you are too weak. Indeed, you must sleep now, and
to-morrow we shall talk."
"No; now, Harold. It will not hurt me, or if it does, it matters little
now. Harold, I would fain that no shadow of unkindness should linger
between us twain when I am gone."
"Why should there, Arthur? You have been my true friend always, and as
such shall I remember you."
"Yet have I wronged you; yet have I caused you much grief and
bitterness, and only your own generous nature preserved us from
estrangement. Harold, have you heard from _her_?"
"I have seen her, Arthur. During my captivity, she was my jailer; in my
sickness, for I was slightly wounded, she was my nurse. I will tell you
all about it to-morrow."
"Yes, to-morrow," replied Arthur, breathing heavily. "To-morrow! the
word sounds meaningless to me, like something whose significance has
left me. Is she well, Harold?"
"I think so, Arthur. As happy as any of us can be, amid severed ties and
"I am glad that she is well. Harold, you will tell her, for I am sure
you will meet again, you will tell her it was my dying wish that you two
should be united. Will you promise, Harold?"
"I will tell her all that you wish, Arthur."
"I seem to feel that I shall be happy in my grave, to know that, she
will be your wife; to know that my guilty love--for I loved her, Harold,
and it _was_ guilt to love--to know that it left no poison behind, that
its shadow has passed away from the path that you must tread."
"Speak not of guilt, my friend. There could live no crime between two
such noble hearts. And had I thought you would have accepted the
sacrifice, I could almost have been happy to have given her to you, so
much was her happiness the aim of my own love."
"Yes, for you have a glorious heart, Harold; and I thank Heaven that she
cannot fail to love you. And you do not think, do you, Harold, that it
would be wrong for you two to speak of me when I am gone? I cannot bear
to think that you should deem it necessary to drive me from your
memories, as one who had stepped in between your hearts. I am sure she
will love you none the less for her remembrance of me, and therefore
sometimes you will talk together of me, will you not?"
"Yes, we will often talk of you, for what dearer theme to both could we
choose; what purer recollections could our memories cherish than of the
friend we both loved so much, and who so well deserved our love?"
"And I am forgiven, Harold?"
"Were there aught to be forgiven, I would forgive; but I have never
harbored in my most secret heart one trace of anger or resentment toward
you. Do not talk more, dear Arthur. To-morrow, perhaps, you will be
stronger, and then we will speak again. Here comes your mother, and she
will scold me for letting you fatigue yourself so much."
"Raise me a little on the pillow, please. I seem to breathe more heavily
to-night. Thank you, I will sleep now. Good night, mother; I will eat
the gruel when I wake. I had rather sleep now. Good night, Harold!"
He fell into a slumber almost immediately, and they would not disturb
him, although his mother had prepared the food he had been used to
"I think he is better to-night. He seems to sleep more tranquilly," said
Mrs. Wayne. "If you will step below, I have got a dish of tea for you,
and some little supper."
Harold went down and refreshed himself at the widow's neat and
hospitable board, and then walked out into the evening, to dissipate, if
possible, the cloud that was lowering about his heart. He paced up and
down the avenue of willows, and though the fresh night air soothed the
fever of his brain, he could not chase away the gloom that weighed upon
his spirit. His mind wandered among mournful memories--the field of
battle, strewn with the dying and the dead; the hospital where brave
suffering men were groaning under the surgeon's knife; the sick chamber,
where his friend was dying.
"And I, too," he thought, "have become the craftsman of Death, training
my arm and intellect to be cunning in the butchery of my fellows!
Wearing the instrument of torture at my side, and using the faculties
God gave me to mutilate His image. Yet, from the pulpit and the
statesman's chair, and far back through ages from the pages of history,
precept and example have sought to record its justification, under the
giant plea of necessity. But is it justified? Has man, in his
enlightenment, sufficiently studied to throw aside the hereditary errors
that come from the past, clothed in barbarous splendors to mislead
thought and dazzle conscience? Oh, for one glimpse of the Eternal Truth!
to teach us how far is delegated to mortal man the right to take away
the life he cannot give. When shall the sword be held accursed? When
shall man cease to meddle with the most awful prerogative of his God?
When shall our right hands be cleansed forever from the stain of blood,
and homicide be no longer a purpose and a glory upon earth? I shudder
when I look up at the beautiful serenity of this autumn sky, and
remember that my deed has loosened an immortal soul from its clay, and
hurled it, unprepared, into its Maker's presence. My conscience would
rebuke my hand, should it willfully shatter the sculptor's marble
wrought into human shape, or deface the artist's ideal pictured upon
canvas, or destroy aught that is beautiful and costly of man's ingenuity
and labor. And yet these I might replace with emptying a purse into the
craftsman's hand. But will my gold recall the vital spark into those
cold forms that, stricken by my steel or bullet, are rotting in their
graves? The masterpiece of God I have destroyed. His image have I
defaced; the wonderful mechanism that He alone can mold, and molded for
His own holy purpose, have I shattered and dismembered; the soul, an
essence of His own eternity, have I chased from its alotted earthly
home, and I rely for my justification upon--what?--the fact that my
victim differed from me in political belief. Must the hand of man be
raised against the workmanship of God because an earthly bond has been
sundered? Our statesmen teach us so, the ministers of our faith
pronounce it just; but, oh God! should it be wrong! When the blood is
hot, when the heart throbs with exaltation, when martial music swells,
and the war-steed prances, and the bayonets gleam in the bright
sunlight--then I think not of the doubt, nor of the long train of
horrors, the tears, the bereavements, the agonies, of which this martial
magnificence is but the vanguard. But now, in the still calmness of the
night, when all around me and above me breathes of the loveliness and
holiness of peace, I fear. I question nature, hushed as she is and
smiling in repose, and her calm beauty tells me that Peace is sacred;
that her Master sanctions no discords among His children. I question my
own conscience, and it tells me that the sword wins not the everlasting
triumph--that the voice of war finds no echo within the gates of
Ill-comforted by his reflections, he returned to the quiet dwelling, and
entered the chamber of his friend.
The sufferer was still sleeping, and Mrs. Wayne was watching by the
bedside. Harold seated himself beside her, and gazed mournfully upon the
pale, still features that already, but for the expression of pain that
lingered there, seemed to have passed from the quiet of sleep to the
deeper calm of death.
"Each moment that I look," said Mrs. Wayne, wiping her tears away, "I
seem to see the grey shadows of the grave stealing over his brow. The
doctor was here a few moments before you came. The minister, too, sat
with him all the morning. I know from their kind warning that I shall
soon be childless. He has but a few hours to be with me. Oh, my son! my
She bent her head upon the pillow, and wept silently in the bitterness
of her heart. Harold forebore to check that holy grief; but when the
old lady, with Christian resignation, had recovered her composure, he
pressed her to seek that repose which her aged frame so much needed.
"I will sit by Arthur while you rest awhile; you have already overtasked
your strength with vigil. I will awake you should there be a change."
She consented to lie upon the sofa, and soon wept herself to sleep, for
she was really quite broken down with watching. Everything was hushed
around, save the monotones of the insects in the fields, and the
breathing of those that slept. If there is an hour when the soul is
lifted above earth and communes with holy things, it is in the stillness
of the country night, when the solitary watcher sits beside the pillow
of a loved one, waiting the coming of the dark angel, whose footsteps
are at the threshold. Harold sat gazing silently at the face of the
invalid; sometimes a feeble smile would struggle with the lines of
suffering upon the pinched and haggard lineaments, and once from the
white lips came the murmur of a name, so low that only the solemn
stillness made the sound palpable--the name of Oriana.
Toward midnight, Arthur's breathing became more difficult and painful,
and his features changed so rapidly that Harold became fearful that the
end was come. With a sigh, he stepped softly to the sofa, and wakened
Mrs. Wayne, taking her gently by the hand which trembled in his grasp.
She knew that she was awakened to a terrible sorrow--that she was about
to bid farewell to the joy of her old age. Arthur opened his eyes, but
the weeping mother turned from them; she could not bear to meet them,
for already the glassy film was veiling the azure depths whose light had
been so often turned to her in tenderness.
"Give me some air, mother. It is so close--I cannot breathe."
They raised him upon the pillow, and his mother supported the languid
head upon her bosom.
"Arthur, my son! are you suffering, my poor boy?"
"Yes. It will pass away. Do not grieve. Kiss me, dear mother."
He was gasping for breath, and his hand was tightly clasped about his
mother's withered palm. She wiped the dampness from his brow, mingling
her tears with the cold dews of death.
"Is Harold there?"
"You will not forget? And you will love and guard her well?"
"Put away the sword, Harold; it is accursed of God. Is not that the
moonlight that streams upon the bed?"
"Yes. Does it disturb you, Arthur?"
"No. Let it come in. Let it all come in; it seems a flood of glory."
His voice grew faint, till they could scarce hear its murmur. His
breathing was less painful, and the old smile began to wreathe about his
lips, smoothing the lines of pain.
"Kiss me, dear mother! You need not hold me. I am well enough--I am
happy, mother. I can sleep now."
He slept no earthly slumber. As the summer air that wafts a rose-leaf
from its stem, gently his last sigh stole upon the stillness of the
night. Harold lifted the lifeless form from the mother's arms, and when
it drooped upon the pillow, he turned away, that the parent might close
the lids of the dead son.