Part 4 out of 8
challenged her to a jaunt.
"Where shall it be?" she asked, readily, moving toward him. "The garden
of the gods?"
"The garden of the goddesses, you mean, if it is the rose-field."
"That's true; a god's garden would be filled with thorns and warlike
"I don't know; a rose-garden grew the wars of the houses of York and
"Do you remember the scene in Shakespeare where Bolingbroke and Gaunt
pluck the roses?"
"Quite well. There is always something pathetic to me in the fables
historians invent to excuse or palliate, or, perhaps it would be juster
to say, make tolerable, the stained pages of the past. It is brought
doubly nearer and distinct by this miserable war, and the strange fate
that has fallen upon us--to be the guests of a family whose hopes are
fixed upon what would make us miserable if it ever happened."
"It never will. That's the reason I listen with pity to the childish
vauntings of these kind people. They have, you see, no conception of the
Northern people--no idea of the deep-seated purpose that moves the
States as one man to stifle this monstrous attempt."
They walked on in silence a few paces, and Kate continued: "I don't know
how you feel, Mr. Sprague, but I am wretched here. I feel like a
traitor, receiving such kindness, treated with such guileless
confidence, and yet my heart is filled with everything they abhor. It is
not so hard for you, because you and Vincent have been close friends. He
has made your house his home, but I certainly feel that Wesley and I
should go elsewhere, now that he is able to be about."
"Does Wesley feel this--this embarrassment?"
"Passionately. He said, last night, he felt like a sneak. He would fly
in an instant, if he could see any possible way to our lines."
"Pray, Miss Boone, tell him to be very circumspect. I know the Southern
nature. When they give you their heart they give entirely. But the least
sign of--of--distrust will turn them into something worse than
indifference. We may see our way out soon. Caution Wesley against any
act--any act"--he emphasized the words--"that may lead these kind people
to think that he doesn't trust them, or that he would take advantage of
servile insurrection to gain his liberty. Of course, they know that we
are all restive here; that we shall be even more impatient when Vincent
goes--but they could not understand any surreptitious movement on our
part, to enable us to get away."
He hoped that, if she were in Wesley's confidence, she would understand
his meaning. But she gave no sign. She assented with an affirmative
movement of the head, and they walked through the fragrant paths,
plucking a rose now and then that seemed more tempting than its fellows.
At the end of the field of roses a Cherokee hedge grew so thick and high
that it formed a screen and rampart between the house land and a dense
grove of pines which was itself bordered by a stream that here and there
spread out into tiny lakelets. On the larger of these there were rude
"dug-outs," made by the darkies to cut off the long walk from their
quarters to the tobacco and corn fields.
"Was there ever an Eden more perfect than this delicious place?" Kate
cried, as the flaming sun sent banners of gold, mingled in a rainbow
baldric with the blooming parterres of roses.
"I don't know much about Eden, and the little I do know doesn't give me
a sympathetic reminiscence of the place; but I agree with you that
Rosedale is about as near a paradise as one can come to on this earth,"
Jack qualifiedly replied.
"And yet we want to fly from it?"
"Ah, yes; because the tree of our life, the volume of our knowledge, or,
in plain prose, our hearts, are not here, and scenic beauty is a poor
substitute for that. Duty, I am convinced, is the key of the best life.
There are hearts here, noble ones--duties here, inspiring ones. But they
do not satisfy us: they are become a torment to me. I feel like a
soldier brought from duty; a priest fallen into the ways of the flesh."
"Your rhapsodies are like most fine-sounding things, more to the hope
than the heart," Kate murmured, gazing dreamily into the purple mass of
color hovering changefully over the opaque water at their feet. "You
mean they do not reach your heart; that your soul is far away as to what
is here. I think Vincent and Rosa would not agree that life has any more
or narrower limitations here than we recognize at Acredale."
"Let us go on the water." He pulled the rude shallop to her feet and
they got in and went on, Jack not heeding her gibe. "These brackish,
threatening deeps remind me of all sorts of weird and uncanny things;
Stygian pools--Lethe--what not mystic and terrifying. See, the tiny
waves that curl before our boat are like thin ink; a thousand roots and
herbs and who knows what mysterious vegetable mixture colors these dark
deeps? I could fancy myself on an uncanny pilgrimage, seeking some
There was but one oar in the boat, which the negroes used as a scull.
Jack made a poor fist with this, but there was no need of rowing. Kate,
catching a projecting limb from the thick bushes on the margin, sent the
little, wabbling craft onward in noisless, spasmodic plunges. Deep
fringes of wild columbine fell in fluffy sprays from the higher banks as
the boat drifted along the other side. The thickets were musical with
the chattering cat-birds and whip-poor-wills, mingled with a score of
woodland melodists that Jack's limited woodcraft did not enable him to
"Who would think that we are within a half-mile of a completely
appointed country house? We are as isolated here from all vestiges of
civilization as we should be in a Florida everglade," Kate said, as the
little craft swam along in an eddy.
"It seems to me typical of the people--this curiously wild transition
from blooming, well-kept gardens, to such still and solemn nature. The
place might be called primeval: look at those gnarled roots, like
prodigious serpents; see the shining bark of the larch--I think it is
larch--I should call it 'slippery' elm if it were at Acredale; but see
the fantastic effects of the little lances of sunlight breaking through!
Isn't it the realization of all you ever read in 'Uncle Tom' or 'Dred'?"
Kate glanced into the weird deeps of foliage, where a bird, fluttering
on the wing, aroused strange echoes. "Ugh!" she said, in a half-whisper,
"I can imagine it the meeting-place of 'Tam o' Shanter's' eldritches
seeing this--but, all the same, do you know it is fascinating beyond
words to me? Should you mind going in a little farther--I should like
the sensation of awe the place suggests, since there can be no
danger--while you are here?"
He gave her a quick glance, but her eyes were fastened on the dark
"I should be delighted, but I won't insure your gown, nor--nor half
promise that we shall come out alive."
"Oh, as to that, I'll take the risk."
"I don't know the habits of Southern snakes; but if they are as
well-bred as ours, they retire from the ken of wicked men at sundown, so
we needn't fear them, as the sun is too far down for the snake of
tradition to see or molest us."
They stepped out of the boat at a green, sedgy point, extending from a
labyrinth of flowering vines and creepers. Once inside the delicious
odorous screen, they found themselves in an archipelago of green islets,
connected by monster roots or moss-covered trunks that seemed laid by
elfin hands for the penetration of this leafy jungle.
"Yes; I was going to say," Jack continued, "this swift transposition
from the cultivation of civilization to the handiwork of Nature is
whimsically illustrative of the people. Did you ever see or hear or read
of such open-handed, honest-hearted hospitality as theirs; such
refinement of manners; such sincerity in speech and act? Contrast this
with their fairly pagan creed as to the slaves; their intolerance of the
Northern people; their clannish reverence for family."
"But isn't the inequality of the Southern character due to their strange
lack of education? Few of them are cultivated as we understand
education. Do you notice that among the people we met at
Williamsburg--officers as well as civilians--none of them were equal to
even a very limited range of subjects? All who are educated have been in
the North. Ah--good Heavens!"
Kate's exclamation was due to a sudden sinking in the mossy causeway
until she was almost buried in the tall ferns. Jack helped her out,
shivered a moment, doubtingly, as he exclaimed:
"The sun is nearly down now, though the air is transparent, or would be
if we were in the free play of daylight. I think it would be better to
go back." But they made no haste. Such trophies of ferns and lace-like
mosses were not to be plucked in every walk, and they dawdled on and on
skirmishing, with delighted hardihood, against the pitfalls of bog that
covered morass and pitch-black mud. When the impulse finally came to
hasten back, they were somewhat chagrined to discover that they had lost
their own trail. The point where they had quit the stream could not be
found. Clambering plants, burdened with blossoms, fragrant as
honeysuckle, grew all along the bank, and the bush that had attracted
them was no longer a landmark.
"Well," Jack said, confidently, "the sun disappeared over there; that is
southwest. The house is in that direction--northeast. Now, if you will
keep that big sycamore in your eye and follow me, we shall be nearing
the house, as I calculate."
They pushed on in that direction, but had only gone a few yards when the
ground became a perfect quagmire of black loam, that looked like coal
ground to powder, and was thin as mush.
"This is a brilliant stroke on my part, I must say," Jack cried, facing
Kate ruefully. "We must go back and examine the ground, as Indians do,
and find our entrance trail in that way. I will watch the ground and you
keep an eye on the shrubs. Wherever you see havoc among them you may be
sure my manly foot has fallen there."
Suddenly they were conscious of an indescribable change in the place.
Neither knew what it was. It had come on in the excitement of their
march into the morass--or it had come the instant they both became
conscious of it. What was it? Kate turned and looked into Jack's
"I'm blessed if I know what it is, but it seems as if something had
suddenly gone out of the order of things! What is it? Do you feel it; do
you notice it?"
"Feel it--see it--why, it is as palpable, or, rather to speak
accurately, it is as clearly absent as the color from an oil-painting,
leaving mere black and white outlines."
"How besotted I am!" Jack cried; "why, I know. The sun has wholly gone,
and the birds and living things have ceased to sing and move."
"That's it; could you believe that it would make such a change? Why, I
thought, when we came in, the place was a temple of silence, but it was
a mad world compared to this."
"Yes, and we must hurry and get out while we have daylight to help us. I
take it you wouldn't care to swim the lagoon. Let us call it lagoon, for
this place makes the name appropriate."
"Call it whatever you like, but don't ask me to swim it," Kate cried,
"Ah! I have our trail," Jack cries in triumph. "By George, it is wide
enough!" he added, bending over where the thick grasses were crushed and
broken. "See the advantage of large feet. Now, if you had been alone,
'twould have been as hard as to trace a bird's track."
"Is that an implication that I have Chinese feet?"
"No, too literal young woman. It was meant to show you that I am very
much relieved, for, 'pon my soul, I was afraid we were in a very
"And you are now quite sure we are not?"
"Quite sure. Don't you want to take my arm?"
"Oh, no, thank you. I'm not at all tired. I'm used to longer walks than
"Longer, possibly, but not over such trying ground."
"Oh, yes. I've gone with Wesley and his friends to the lakes in the
"Ah! I've never been there. Are they as bad travel as this?"
"Infinitely worse--Why, what was that?"
"It sounded very like the report of a pistol."
Both stopped, Kate coming quite close to the young man, who was bent
over with his hand to his ear, trumpet-fashion.
"Do you--" He made a warning gesture with his hand, and motioned her to
stoop among the ferns. A halloo was heard in the distance; then a
response just ahead of where the two crouched in the breast-high ferns,
through which the path made by their recent footsteps led. When the
echoing halloo died away, a bird in the distance seemed to catch up the
refrain and dwell upon the note with an exquisite, painful melody.
"Why, it's the throat interlude in the Magic Flute! How lovely it is!"
Kate whispered. "If you were my knight, I should put on you the task of
caging that lovely sound for me."
The distant bird-note ceased, and then suddenly, from the bushes just
ahead of them, it was caught up and answered, note for note, in a wild
pibroch strain, harsher but inexpressibly moving. Jack turned to Kate,
his face quite pale, and whispered:
"It in not a bird. They are negroes. I have read of these sounds. They
are marauding slaves, and we must not let them see us. We must get to
those thick clumps of bushes. Do you think you can remain bent until we
reach them? If not, we will rest every few paces."
"Go on. I can try."
The pibroch strains still continued, rising into a mournful wail, then
sinking info the soft cries of the whip-poor-will. In a few minutes the
perplexed fugitives were deep in a clump of wild hawberries, invisible
to any one who should pass. The strains had ceased as suddenly as they
began. Then a faint hallo-o-o sounded, being answered in the bushes, as
it seemed, just in front of where Jack and his companion stood; voices
soon became audible farther along, ten or more paces. Motioning to Kate,
Jack crept along noiselessly, and fancied he could distinguish forms
through the thick screen of bushes. A voice, not a negro's, said:
"I went to the cove for you--what was the matter?"
"I had the devil's work to get through the posts. For some reason or
other they're getting mighty sharp. I must be back before twelve; what's
"Well, the mokes consent to go, but they won't touch the ranch. You'll
have to bring up a few hands; the fewer the better. If them damned
feather-bed sojers wasn't there, we could do the job ourselves."
"When, does the boss get out?"
"Next week. I don't know what day. They'd pay high for him both ways."
"No, we can't nibble there. The cap'n'll pay well. That's square. We
can't afford to try the other now, at any rate. Is the skiff here?"
"Yes; well, get in."
There was a plash and the-receding sound of voices. Jack darted through
the screen of branches, but he could not distinguish the figures, for it
was growing every instant dimmer twilight. He turned to Kate. She was
at his side.
"Who were they--what were they planning? Were they soldiers?" she asked.
"Never mind them now. We must find a way out of this. Our boat can't be
far off. We must follow this line of bushes until we come to the spot we
left. I know I can recognize it, for there was an enormous tree fallen a
few steps from the sedge bank we landed on."
It was a very toilsome journey now, obliged as they were to hug the
obstinate growth of haws, wild alder, and dog roses, which tore flesh
and garments in the hurried flight. They came to the dead tree finally,
and Jack almost shouted in grateful relief:
"You were a true prophet, Miss Boone. You gave utterance to some
Druid-like remarks as we crossed the Stygian pool. The worst your fancy
painted couldn't equal what we've seen and heard."
"I have seen nothing dreadful, and I can't say that I understand very
much of what we heard."
"There is some 'caper' going on to give these cut-throats a chance to
get booty or something of the sort."
"They are probably rebel soldiers planning to sack the commissary."
They were in the boat now, and Jack was sending it forward by lusty
lunges against every protruding object he could get a stroke at; when
these failed he managed to scull after a fashion. They found the
household in consternation when they got back, but Jack gave a
picturesque narrative of their escapade, omitting the encounter with the
negroes which he had charged Kate to say nothing about, as it would only
alarm Mrs. Atterbury. The garments of the explorers told the tale of
their mishaps, and when they had clothed themselves anew supper was
announced. The feast was of the lightest sort: sherbet or tea for those
who liked it; fruit and crackers, honey or marmalade--a triumph in the
cultivation of dyspepsia, Jack said when he first began the eating. But
it was observed that the disease had no terrors for him, for he sat at
the table as long as he could get any one to remain with him, and did
his share in testing all the dishes. He outsat everybody that night
except Dick, who never got tired of any place that brought him near
"I'm going up-stairs in a moment, Towhead. Come up after me."
Dick nodded, a gleam of delightful expectation in his eyes. He was just
in the ardent period when boys love to make mysteries of very ordinary
things, and Jack's _sotto voce_ command was like the hero's voice in the
play, "Meet me by the ruined well when midnight strikes." He followed
Jack up the wide staircase and into his own room, for greater security,
as no one would think of looking for them there.
"Now, tell me all you have found out," Jack commanded as he shut the
door. "Have you been among the darkys?"
"I've found out this much. The old negroes are opposed to going away or
in any shape annoying their masters. The young bucks and the women are
very eager to fly. It seems that some one has spread the story among
them that Lincoln has sent Butler to Fort Monroe to receive all the
negroes on the Peninsula. They have been assured that they are to have
'their freedom, one hundred acres of land, and an ox-team.' Where the
report comes from, I can't find out; but there is some communication
between here and the Union lines, I'm positive."
"Has Wesley been with the negroes again?"
"No. I have kept an eye on him all day."
"Where does he go at night?"
"The doctor has forbidden him to be in the night air for the present."
"Well, you keep an eye on Wesley," and then Jack narrated the strange
scene in the swamp, the mysterious calls, and the conversation.
Dick listened in awe, mingled with rapture. "Oh, why wasn't I there?
Just my blamed luck! I would have followed them, and then we should have
known what they were up to. Did you know that a company of cavalry had
gone into camp just below the grove?"
"This evening. Vincent is down there now."
"Well, you may be sure they suspect something. I wonder if it wouldn't
be better to speak to Vincent?"
"Of course not! What have we to tell him? Simply my suspicions and
Clem's chatter. The little moke may have been lying; I can't see that
any of them do much else."
"The worst of it is, these Southerners are very sensitive about any
allusion to the negroes. They would pooh-pooh anything we might say that
was not backed by proof. It's a mighty uncomfortable fix to be in, Dick,
my boy; though, 'pon my soul, I believe you enjoy it!"
Dick grinned deprecating.
"I think you do, you unfledged Guy Fawkes. I know nothing would give you
greater joy than to put on a mask, grasp a dagger in your hand, and go
to Wesley, crying, 'Villain, your secret or your life!' Dick, you're a
stage hero; you're a thing of sawdust and tinsel. Come to the parlor and
hear Kate play the divine songs of Mendelssohn; perhaps, night-eyed
conspirator, to whirl Polly or Miss Rosa in the delirium of the '_Blaue
But there was neither dance nor music when they reached the
drawing-room. Everybody was there; Vincent had just come, and the first
words Jack and Dick heard glued them to their places.
"Yes, all the negroes on the Lawless', Skinner's, and Lomas's
plantations have gone. Butler has declared them contrabands of war, and
a lot of Yankee speculators have been sneaking through the plantations,
filling their ignorant minds with promises of freedom, a farm, and a
share of their masters' property. Their real purpose is to get the
negroes and hold them until the two governments come to terms, and then
they will get rewards for every nigger they hold. Oh, these Yankees can
see ways of making money through a stone-wall," and Vincent laughed
lightly, as though the incident in no way concerned him. "Captain Cram,
who is in camp just below in the oak clearing, is ordered to scour the
river-bank to the enemy's lines near Hampton, so we need have no fear of
these enterprising apostles of freedom interfering with our niggers."
"I don't think one of them could be induced to leave us if offered all
our farms," Mrs. Atterbury said, a little proudly.
"There isn't one of them that I haven't brought through sickness or
trouble of one sort or another, and there isn't one that wouldn't take
my command before the gold of a stranger."
"I don't know, Mrs. Atterbury," Mrs. Sprague ventured, mildly. "Gold is
a mighty weight in an argument. I have known it to change the
convictions of a lifetime in a moment. I have known it to make a man
renounce his father, dishonor his name, belie his whole life, deny
"When a fortune beyond reasonable dreams was placed upon the head of
Charles Stuart, for whom our ancestors fought and beggared themselves,
his secret was in the keeping of scores of peasants, and the blood-money
lay idle. I could cite hundreds of similar proofs, that gold is not God
everywhere. I mean no offense, but you will agree with me that you
Northern people are given up to the getting and worship of money. It is
not so with us. Perhaps because we have it, and with it something that
makes it secondary--birth. I have no fear of the infidelity of any of my
people. I would as soon doubt Rosa or Vincent us the smallest black on
She spoke with mild, high-bred dignity, not a particle of assertion or
captious intolerance, but as a prelate might assert the majesty of the
word on the altar, neither looking for dissent nor dreaming that the
spirit of it could exist.
"I'm glad to hear your mother express such confidence, Vint," Jack said
as they walked out on the veranda to take a good-night smoke; "but just
let me give you a maxim of my own, the lock's not sure unless the key is
in your pocket."
"Sententious, my boy, but vague. My mother is perfectly right. Our
niggers are fidelity itself. But since we are so near the Butler lines,
where his agents can sneak up on the river and kidnap the new sort of
contraband, I think it better to take some precaution. Hereafter General
Magruder will have a picket post within two miles of us, between here
and the creek, which offers a convenient point for smuggling."
"I am heartily relieved to hear it," Jack cried, giving something too
much fervor to his relief, for Vincent turned and looked at him in
surprise, but it was too dark in the shadow of the clematis to see his
face, and after a silence Vincent said:
"Mamma has told you that the President is coming to Williamsburg to
review Magruder's troops?"
"No; she hadn't mentioned it. Is he?"
"Yes; he will be there Thursday afternoon, and we shall have the ball
the same evening. He will be here with General Lee, his chief of staff,
and remain all night; so that you will be able to say when you go back
North--something that few Yankees will be able to say during the
war--that you have broken bread with the first President of the
"I will strive to bear my honors with humility," Jack said.
"It befits the conquered to be humble."
"If I hadn't come in time, you two would have been in a squabble--own
it!" and Rosa drew a chair between them as a peacemaker.
TREASON AND STRATAGEMS.
Rosedale was, indeed, Eden in the most orthodox sense to the group so
strangely billeted in its lovely tranquillity. No sooner was the anguish
concerning the invalids off Kate's, Olympia's, and Rosa's minds, than
new perplexities beset them. Rosa was barely eighteen, Kate and Olympia
older by three or four years, but the younger girl was in many essential
things quite as mature as her Northern comrades. But Jack could not
comprehend this, and quite innocently did and said things to arouse the
young girl's dreams. I think I have said that Jack was a very comely
fellow? He was big and brawny, and tireless in good-humor, and the
attractive little gallantries that women adore. He looked as
sentimentally sincere, uttering a paradox, as another vowing eternal
fidelity. He gave every woman the impression that his mind was lost
wondering how he should exist until she gave him the right to call her
his own. Though, as a matter of fact, it is the man who is the woman's
own--when the final word comes.
Rosa was not long in discovering Vincent's happy tumult in Olympia's
presence, and she secretly misunderstood Jack the more that he was so
lavish and open in his adulations. If he rode, he exhausted eulogy in
describing her pose, her daring, her skill; if they danced, as they did
nearly every night until poor Merry's fingers ached from drumming the
unholy strains of Faust, Strauss, and what not, in the old-fashioned
waltzes--he pantingly declared that she made the music seem a celestial
choir by her lightness; in long walks in the rose-fields he exhausted a
not very laborious store of botanical conceits, to make her cheeks
resemble the roses. This assurance, this recklessness, this _aplomb_,
quite bewildered the girl, who posed in Richmond for a passed mistress
of flirting. She had, unless rumor was badly at fault, jilted an
appalling list of the striplings who believed that beard-growing and
love-making were conventionally contemporaneous events. But they had
"mooned" about her and made themselves absurd in vain, while this
unconscious Adonis calmly walked, talked, and acted as if she could know
nothing else than love him, and one day she started in delicious misery
to find that she did--that is, she thought she might if--if? But there
her dreams became nebulous--they were rosy in outline, however, and she
was content to rest there.
The morning after the coming of the cavalry-troop, Wesley was discussing
the never-ending theme of how he was going to get home--with Kate busy
arranging the ferns she had brought from the swamp.
"Really, Wesley, just now you ought to be content. There is no
likelihood of any movement; besides, philosophy is as much a merit in a
soldier as valor--it is valor, it is endurance. You complain of your
unhappy fate, housed here with a lot of women and idlers. How would you
bear up in Libby Prison? There are as good men as you there, my dear;
shall I say better or older soldiers, Brutus? You may take your choice,
and 'count on a sister's blind partiality to justify you!'"
"Oh, don't always talk nonsense, Kate. You're worse than Jack Sprague.
He doesn't seem to have a serious thought in his head from daylight
"Perhaps he keeps all his sober thoughts for the night, to give them
"No, but do say what I ought to do."
"You ought to study to make yourself tolerable to your sister, dear, and
agreeable to the other fellows' sisters. I have remarked that the young
man who does that, keeps out of despondency and other uncomfortable
conditions that too much brooding on an empty head brings about."
"I'd like to know what heart I can have to make myself agreeable to
other fellows' sisters when you are always lampooning me; you delight in
making me think I am nobody."
"Don't fear, my dear; if that were my delight I should die an old maid,
never having known delight, for it would need more force than I can
muster to make Wesley Boone, captain U.S.A., anything else than he
is--his father's pride and his sister's joy. No, dear, my delight is to
see you gay and open and frank and manly, self-dependent, grateful for
the consideration shown you, and recognizant of the constant admonition
of your sagacious sister."
"You talk exactly like the woman in George Sand's stupid stories; they
always remind me of men in petticoats."
"That's a weak and strained comparison; not, however, unworthy a
soldier. We always compare, in speech, to strengthen assertion or adorn
it, and when we do we compare what is equivocal or vague, with what is
well known and usual. Now, I do not remember any men in petticoats,
unless you mean the Orientals, who wear a sort of skirt, and the Scots,
who used to wear kilts--but strictly speaking--"
"Do, Kate, for Heaven's sake, be serious for a moment! I have a chance
to escape, no matter how, but I can make my way to our lines without
running any great risk. Now, is it or is it not dishonorable for me
to do it?"
"Seriously, Wesley, just now it would be, while Vincent is here, for he
is in a sense pledged for you to his superior. Further, there is no need
to hurry. You are barely recovered. If you were North you would be in
Acredale; if you were, there is no immediate want of your presence in
the army. The articles we see in the Richmond papers every day, copied
from Northern journals, show that this new general, McClellan, means to
bring a trained, drilled, disciplined army down when he moves. It took
six months to prepare McDowell's useless mass. It will certainly take a
year to put the million men now arming in shape to fight. I may be
wrong, but at the earliest there can be no movement before late in
October. By that time we shall probably have the problem solved by the
Government, and you will go North, having made delightful friends of all
this charming family."
Wesley was even more afraid of Kate's strong sense of honor than of her
biting sarcasm, and he ended the interview without daring to tell her
how far he had compromised himself with the secret agents that were
surrounding the plantation. Dick, running down-stairs in his wake,
encountered Rosa, with her garden hat covering her like the roof of a
disrupted pagoda. She arrested his stride as he was darting toward
"Here--you--Richard, just come and be of some use to me. I'm housekeeper
to-day, and I want to go to the quarters. Come along."
Now Dick had a double grievance against this imperious young person. He
had fallen into the most violent love with her brown eyes and pink
cheeks the moment he saw her; he had assiduously striven both to conceal
and reveal this maddening condition of mind. But he remarked with
ungovernable wrath that, whenever Jack or Wesley came about, the
heartless young jilt, made as if she didn't know him; quite ignored him,
and cared no more for his simple adoration than she did for the frisky
gambols of Pizarro, the mastiff. But she was so adorable; her Southern
accent was so bewitching; she put so much softness in those amusing
idioms "I reckon" and "Seems like," "You others," and the countless
little tricks of the Southern vernacular, that Dick passed sleepless
hours and delicious days dreaming and sighing and groaning and doing all
manner of unreasonable things--that we all do when we meet our first
Rosas and they light the torch for other feet more favored than our own.
So, when Rosa called him to accompany her, Dick took the round basket
she held out to him, and walked sulkily ahead of her, never opening his
mouth. When he had stalked along through the currant bushes, he half
turned his face; she was walking demurely behind him, and he made a
pretext of picking a currant to give her a chance to come abreast. She
did, and passed him trippingly, saying, as she cast a sympathetic side
glance at him:
He stood rooted to the spot with indignant amazement. The heartless
little minx! How dare she talk like that to a soldier?
"Did you call some one, Miss Atterbury?" he said, with chilling dignity.
Usually he called her plain Rosa.
"I thought may be you had the toothache--you kept so quiet."
"No; I haven't got the toothache." Poor Dick! He said, to himself, that
he had much worse. But he wouldn't gratify her with the acknowledgment
of her triumph, and he stalked along with the basket over his head, as
he had often seen the darkeys in the sun. There was a faint little
appealing cry from behind.
"What is it; are you hurt?" he cried, rushing to where Rosa stood,
balanced on one foot.
"There is a crab thorn an inch long in my foot; it's gone through shoe
and all. That wretched Sardanapalus never clears the limbs away when he
cuts the hedge. I'll have him horsewhipped. Oh, dear!"
"Let me hold you while I look for the thorn."
Dick cleverly slipped his arm about her waist and set the basket endwise
for her to sit on. Then kneeling, he picked out the thorn, which was a
great deal less than the dimensions Rosa had described. But he said
nothing to her about picking the torment out and slipping it in his vest
pocket. He held the foot, examining the sole critically. Finally, as she
moved impatiently, he asked:
"Does it hurt yet?"
"Of course it does, you stupid fellow. Do you suppose I would sit here
like a goose on a gridiron and let you hold my foot if it didn't hurt?
Men never have any sense when they ought to."
He affected to examine the sole of the thin leather of the upper still
more minutely. As she gave no sign of ending the comedy, he said:
"I'm sure, Rosa, if it relieves the pain to have me hold your foot, I'll
sit here in the sun all day--if you'll bring the rim of your hat over a
little--but, as for the thorn, it has been out this ten minutes."
She gave him a sudden push and darted away. He followed laughing,
admonishing her against another thorn. But she deigned no answer. Coming
to the bee-hives, she stopped a moment to watch the busy swarm, and Dick
stole up beside her. She turned pettishly, and he said, insinuatingly:
"You know, Dick, you're too trying for anything--holding my foot there
like a ninny in the hot sun. You haven't a thimbleful of sense."
"Well, now we'll test these propositions, as Jack does, by syllogisms.
Let me see. All men are trying. Dick Perley is a man: therefore he
"No; your premise--isn't that what you call it?--is wrong. Dick Perley
is only a boy."
"I'll be nineteen in January next."
"Well, your father was married at nineteen. You've said it yourself,
Rosa, and thought it greatly to his credit--at least Vint does."
"You can't imitate my father in that, at least."
"You could help me, Rosa."
"Would you if you could?"
"On the girl."
"Ah! she's a perfect girl, but she's very young," and Dick eyed Rosa
with ineffable complacency.
"But she's older than she looks."
"That's worse; you'd grow tired of her."
"No, no; I don't mean she's older than she looks; her mind is older than
"Women with minds make troublesome wives. I have refused to let Vincent
marry several of that kind."
"But, my girl hasn't got that kind of mind; it is all sweetness and wit
and gayety and loveliness and--and--"
"Your girl? Who gave her to you?"
"Love gave her to me."
"Oh, well, since love gave her to you, I don't see how I can be of any
service. Down here the mother always gives the girl, unless she have no
mother; then some other kin gives her. But if your girl has all these
qualities you describe, I advise you to get her into your own keeping
just as soon as you can, for that's the sort of girl all the fellows
about here are seeking."
"Very well, I'm ready. Will you help me? It comes back where we
"But you evaded my question."
"What question did I evade? I answered like an encyclopedia!" Dick
cried, immensely satisfied with his own readiness.
"That convicts you; an encyclopedia has nothing about living people."
"Oh, yes; the new ones do." Dick was now very near her as she stood
contemplating the bees, swarming in the comb. "O Rosa--Rosa, you know I
love you, and you know I can never love anybody else. Why will you
pretend not to understand me? I don't want you to marry me now, but by
and by, when I shall have made a name as a soldier, or--or something,"
he added in painful turbulence of joy and fear over the great
words--which he had been racking his small wits to fashion for weeks
past, and, now that they were spoken, were not nearly so impressive as
he had intended they should be.
"My dear Richard, you are a perfect boy--a very delightful boy, too, and
I am extremely fond of you--oh, very, very fond of you--but you really
must not make love to me. It isn't proper," and Rosa glanced into his
eyes with a tender little gleam, that gave more encouragement than
rebuff--for it came into her mind, in a moment, that it was not a time
to hurt the bright, eager love--so winning, if boyish.
"Nonsense, Rosa, it is perfectly proper; everybody makes love to you;
Jack makes love to you, and he is as good as engaged--" But here it
suddenly flashed in Dick's mad head that he was meddling, and he stopped
short. Rosa had turned upon him with a flash of such scorn, such
indignant pain, that he cried:
"No, no; I don't mean that; but you know fellows do make love to you,
and why mayn't I?"
She flirted away from him too angry or mortified to speak. He could not
see her face, for she pulled the ample breadth of the hat-brim down,
which served at once as a veil to shut out her visage and a sweeping
sort of funnel to keep him far from her side, as she tripped
determinedly to the pleasant group of clean, whitewashed cabins, where
the negroes abode. Poor Dick, vexed with himself--angry at her for being
irritated-waited in the hot sun until she had ended her commands, and
when she came out to return he repentantly sidled up, imploring pardon
in every movement. She couldn't resist the big, pleading blue eyes, and
said, quite as if there had been deep discussion on the point:
"I don't think you mean to be a bad boy."
"I'm not a boy, I'm a soldier. It isn't fair in you to call me a boy."
"You're not a girl."
"If I were I wouldn't be so heartless as some I know."
"And if I were a boy I wouldn't be so silly as some I know."
"Yes, I think Southern boys are quite soft."
"Come, sir, my brother _was_ a Southern boy."
"Yes, but he always lived North, and is like us."
"How dare you, sir?"
"Oh, just as easy, I dare do all that becomes a man--who dares do more
is none. You are Rosa, and you are dear--"
"Not to you."
"You cost me enough to be dear and you are lovely enough to be 'Rosa' in
Latin, Rose in English, and sweetheart in any tongue."
"You're much too pert. Boys so glib as you never really love. They think
they do and perhaps they do--just a little."
"Ah! a 'little more than a little,' dear Rosa."
"You're quoting Shakespeare, I suppose you know? I'll quote more: 'A
little more than a little is much too much.'"
"A little less than all is much too little for me. So, Rosa, give all or
"I don't understand you."
"That's proof you love me. Girls never love fellows they understand."
"Prove that I love you."
"Well, you don't hate me. You don't hate Vincent. Therefore you love
him. Ergo, you love me."
"True love is always simple. Here, take this white rose as a sign that
you don't hate me." He plucked a large half-opened bud from a great
sprouting branch and held it toward her.
"But the red rose is my favorite."
"Well, here is a red one. Give me the white. That is my favorite. Now
we've exchanged tokens. The rose always goes before the ring. I'll
"If you were a true lover you would wear my colors."
"These white leaves will grow red resting on my heart."
"When they do I will listen to you."
"Will you, though? It is a promise; when this white rose is red you will
"Oh, yes, I can promise that."
"Dear Rosa!" He was very near her as she disentangled an obtruding vine
from her garments, and before she was aware of his purpose he had
audaciously snatched a kiss from her astonished lips.
"You odious Yankee! I haven't words to express my disgust--abhorrence!"
"Don't try, love needs no words: but I'll tell you; let me put this
white rose to your lips; it will turn red at the touch, and in that way
you can take your kiss back, if you really want it; then there'll be a
fair exchange. I--"
"Hello, there! are you two grafting roses?"
It was Wesley, coming from the lower garden, where the stream was
narrowest beyond the high wall of hedge.
"Oh, no, Mr. Boone; Richard here is studying the color in flowers. He
has a theory that eclipses Goethe's 'Farbenlehre.'"
"Oh, indeed!" Wesley was quite unconscious of what Goethe's doctrine of
colors might be, so he prudently avoided urging fuller particulars
regarding Dick's theory, and said, vaguely;
"You have color enough here to theorize on, I'm sure."
"Yes, we have had very satisfactory experiments," Dick assented naively,
stealing a glance at Rosa.
"But quite inconclusive," she rejoined, moving onward, the two young men
following in the penumbra of her wide hat.
A CAMPAIGN OF PLOTS.
Meanwhile, there were curious events passing and coming to pass on the
seven hills upon which the proud young capital of the proud young
Confederacy stood. Rome, in her most imperial days, never dreamed of the
scenic glories that Richmond, like a spoiled beauty, was hardly
conscious of holding as her dower. Indeed, such is the necromantic
mastery of the passion of the beautiful that, once standing on the
glorious hill, that commands the James for twenty miles--twenty miles of
such varied loveliness of color, configuration, and _mis en scene_, that
the purple distances of Naples seem common to it--standing there, I say,
one day, when the sword had long been rusting in the scabbard, and the
memory of those who raised it in revolt had faded from all minds save
those who wanted office--this historian thought that, had it been his
lot to be born in that lovely spot, he, too, would have fought for State
caprices--just as a gallant man will take up the quarrel of beauty,
right or wrong!
Thoughts of this sort filled Barney Moore's mind too, that delicious
September afternoon as he stood gazing dreamily down the river, toward
that vague morning-land of the sun's rising, where his mind saw the long
lines of blue his eyes ached to rest on. Barney had left the kindly roof
where he had been nursed back to vigor. He had quit it in a fashion that
left a rankling sorrow in his grateful heart. Vincent had represented to
Jack the inconvenience it would be, the peril, rather, for him to assume
the guardianship of so many enemies of the Confederacy. Scores of the
old families of the city were under the ban simply because they had
pleaded for deliberation before deciding on the secession ordinance. The
Atterburys had their enemies too. It was pointed out that Vincent and
Rosa had been educated in the North; that Mrs. Atterbury had spent many
of her recent summers there. Their devotion to the Confederacy must be
shown by deeds. It was true they had given twenty thousand dollars to
the cause, but what was that to threefold millionaires? General Lee,
their kinsman, had shaken his Socratic head solemnly when Rosa, at the
War Department, told him, as an excellent joke, the strange chance that
had brought Vincent's college chum and his family under the kind
Richard Perley was, therefore, deputized to rescue Barney from his false
position and give him a chance for exchange when the time came. He
journeyed up to Richmond, and, one day, laid these facts before Barney,
who instantly saw his friend's dilemma, and at once set about inventing
a _ruse_ that should extricate him, without mortifying the kind people
who had befriended him. When he was able to be about, he feigned a
desire to go to his friends in Arrowfield County, south of the James,
and was bidden hearty Godspeed. Then, with funds supplied by Jack, he
gained admittance to a modest house far out on Main Street, where the
city merges into the country. They were simple people, and his thrilling
tale of being a refugee from Harper's Ferry was plausible enough to be
accepted by more skeptical people than the Gannats.
Day after day Barney skirted furtively about the uncompromising walls of
Libby and Castle Thunder, where once or twice he had gone with his hosts
to make a mental diagram of the place for future use. Little by little
he became familiar with Richmond, which, like a new bride, gave the
visitor welcome to admire her splendid spouse, the Confederate
government. He learned all the plots of the prison, and became the
confidant of Letitia Lanview, known to every exile in Richmond as the
friend of the suffering--St. Veronica she was called--after a poem
dedicated to her by a young Harvard graduate, rescued by her
perseverance from death in Libby Prison. With this lady he drove all
about the environs of Richmond, and several times far out toward the
meditated route of flight, in order that he might be able to lead the
bewildered refugees. He got the whole landscape by heart, and could have
led a battalion over it in the dark. Then he passed days wandering over
the Libby Hill, down in the bed of the "Rockets," as the bed of the
James was known in those days; he learned the ground to the very beat of
the patrols that guarded the wretched prisoners in the towering
shambles. One whole night, too, he spent in marking the course of the
guards as they changed in two-hour reliefs. With his facts well
collected he visited Mrs. Lanview, and at last he was confronted by
Butler's agent. This agent was a middle-aged man, who had evidently once
been very handsome, but dissipation had left pitiable traces upon his
fine features, and his once large, open eyes, that perplexingly
suggested some one Barney tried in vain to recall--vainly? The man
didn't say much in the lady's presence, but when the two were in the
open air, facing toward the center of the town, he divulged a good deal
that surprised Barney.
"You are from Acredale, young man. I lived there when I was younger than
I am now. My name? People call me a good many names. I don't mind at
all, so that I have rum enough and a bed and a bite to eat. No man can
have more than that, my boy. I am plain Dick Jones now. It's an easy
name, and plenty of the same in the land; and if I should die suddenly
there would be lots o' folks to feel sorry, eh? But as you are from
Acredale I don't mind telling you that it is Elisha Boone that foots the
bill. Butler is a friend of Boone's, and he has given me authority to
summon all the troops within reach to my aid. My business is to carry
young Wes Boone to Fort Monroe. Butler doesn't know that. He thinks I am
spying Jeff Davis and piping for the prisoners. He didn't say that he
wanted me to kill Davis, but if we could carry him to Fort Monroe, my
boy, there'd be about a million dollars swag to divide! How does that
"It doesn't strike me at all. I think it is for the interest of the
Union that Davis should be where he is. He is vain, arrogant, silly, and
dull. He will alone wreck the rebel cause if he is given time. There
couldn't be a greater misfortune for the North than to have Davis
displaced by some one of real ability, such as Stephens, Lee, Benjamin,
Mason, Breckenridge, or, in fact, any of the men identified with
"You surprise me, my son. Still, admitting all you say, the men who
should surprise the North some fine morning with a present of Jeff Davis
on their breakfast-plates, wouldn't be without honor, to say nothing of
promotion and profit"
"Oh, if we can carry Jeff off without compromising the safety of the
prisoners, I'll join you heartily. But first of all we must
"Unquestionably; now, here's the programme: Butler's forces will be
within gunshot of Magruder's lines on Warwick Creek Thursday--that's
three days from now. The prisoners will be out of the sewer Wednesday
after midnight. You know the roads eastward. You will lead them to the
swamps near Williamsburg. There we will have boats to take part down the
river; the rest will make through the swamps under my lead. I have been
spying out the land for a week. At a place called Rosedale we pick up
young Boone, who is really the object of my journey. I couldn't find him
for weeks, and inquired of all the prisoners. Mrs. Lanview finally put
me on the track, and I saw Wes Boone as I came up here. He thought the
chances were better with a big party than alone. I saw him again
yesterday, and he told me that Davis and Lee, his chief of staff, were
to be at a party in the Rosedale house on Thursday next. Now, we can
pick up Davis just as well as Boone. There is the whole plan."
"Oh, that's a different matter. Davis will not be near the city, and his
keeping will not add to our danger. I see no reason why we shouldn't
grab him. Heavens, what a sensation it will make! We shall be the wonder
of the North--we shall he like the men that discovered Andre and
Arnold--Paulding and--and"--but here Barney's historical facts came to
an end--"we shall be famous for--forever!"
"For a week, my son; wonders don't live long in these fast days. For a
week the North will glorify us; then, if they find that we voted for
Douglas, as I did, they will say we had some sinister design in bringing
Davis North, and likely send us to Fort Lafayette."
Barney stopped dead; they had come under a gas-lamp between Grace and
Franklin Streets. He looked at the man. He was quite sober. His eyes
answered the young man's indignant protesting glance, openly,
"I should be sorry to think that, Mr. Jones."
"Well, wait. When you get North you will see a mighty change in things.
Sentiment, my boy, follows the main chance. It's money, my boy, money.
Enough money would have made Judas respectable; he was fool enough to
put his price too low."
"Ugh!--you almost make me hate the North! Who can have heart to fight
for such heartless traffickers?"
"The North doesn't ask your heart. It has counted the cost, and finds
that it can pay a million of men thirteen dollars a month for three
years, and still make a good thing out of it--that's about the breadth
of it. Here's an oasis in the desert of darkness. Come and have
But Barney--not caring for a drink, the cynic--gave him his address,
and, dreadfully cast down in spirit, the eager partisan moped up the
long hill homeward. The next day Mrs. Lanview gave him the details of
the meditated escape. There were only sixty or a hundred in position to
avail themselves of the subterranean way that had been toilsomely dug,
by a few devoted spirits, with tools casually dropped among them by the
guileless Veronica during her daily visits. The plotters counted on at
least six hours' start before discovery. The guards were not to be
disturbed, and the evasion would not be known until eight o'clock, when
the miserable breakfast ration was distributed.
Of that amazing-exploit, the digging through twenty solid feet of earth
and stone, I do not propose to tell. It is to be found in the journals
of the day: it is contained in the hundred pathetic narratives of the
men who took part. It has nothing to do with this history beyond the use
made of it to mislead the ingenious Barney, and in the end complicate
the careers of those in whom we are interested. Suffice it, therefore,
to say that in the dim morning mist, as arranged, a shadowy host emerged
on the river-bottom, now dry and footable; that each man, as he crawled
from the pit, was directed into the thick willows bordering the banks;
that when six score or more had clambered out they obeyed a whispered
command, for which Veronica had prepared them, and noiselessly, in
shadowy single file, they followed the bed of the stream, even where the
water flowed deep and dangerous, until they came to the gentle slopes of
Church Hill. Then, under guidance of Barney, those who were wise
followed swiftly down the river-road until daylight, when they hid in
the dim recesses of the white-oak swamps, where they lay concealed many
hours. As night fell they faced hopefully forward down the Williamsburg
road, until a flaming wave in the air admonished them to strike to the
right, and they plunged into the pathless swamps of the Chickahominy.
Here they were secure. No force able to cope with them could enter; no
force at the command of Magruder could surround them. But Barney's
guiding hand was now replaced by another. Jones had appeared, and with
him men bearing Butler's commission. The prisoners of Libby set up a
defiant cheer. They were once more under the flag. Father Abraham was
again their commander.
There were sedate, fatherly men among these rescued bands. There were
men with gray hairs and sober behavior; men who could bow meekly under
the chastening rod; but the antics of the juvenile group, in which we
are mainly interested, were grave and decorous compared with the
abandoned, delirious joy of these grave men as they reached the recesses
of a swamp that denied admission to all save practiced explorers. Why,
here they could subsist for weeks! The rebels might spy them, might
surround them, but they need not starve--the buds were food, the bushes
refreshment, the pellucid pools drink and life. Barney stared in
speechless amazement at the unseemly gambols of the motley mass.
Delirium! it was a mild term for the embracing, the prancing, the
Carmagnole-like ecstasy of the half-clad madmen running amuck in the
almost unendurable joy of liberation. Barney knew that this condition of
things would never do. All who bore commissions in the army were
selected from the men. The highest in rank, who proved to be a colonel,
was invested with the command, Barney serving as adjutant, and Jones as
guide. The rabble, having made a good meal from the spoil of a
sweet-potato patch, pushed forward through the fretwork of fern, rank
morass, and verdure, toward security. But the march was a snail's pace,
as may be imagined. The men, worn to skeletons by months of captivity,
insufficient food, and stinted exercise, were forced to halt often for
rest in such toilsome marching as the half-aquatic surface of the
By Thursday noon they were still far from the river. Foragers were
detailed to procure food, and pending their return the wearied band sank
to the earth to rest. In less than two hours the predatory platoon
returned with a sybaritic store--chickens, young lamb, green corn,
onions. Only the stern command of the colonel suppressed a mighty cheer.
When the march was resumed the colonel led the main column south by
east. Jones, with Barney and a dozen men, struck due east. In answer to
Barney's surprised question, Jones informed him they were to pick up
"Wes" Boone by taking that route. Difficult as the way had been
heretofore, it now became laborious in the extreme for this smaller
band. The bottom was all under water, and before they had proceeded a
mile half the group were drenched. In many cases an imprudent plunger
was compelled to call a halt to rescue his shoes--that is, those who
were lucky enough to have shoes--from the deep mud, hidden by a fair
green surface of moss or tendrils. It was a wondrous journey to Barney,
The pages of Sindbad alone seemed to have a parallel for the awful
mysteries of that long, long flight through jungles of towering timber,
whose leaves and bark were as unfamiliar as Brazilian growth to the
troops of Pizarro or the Congo vegetation to the French pioneer. Jones
and his comrades saw nothing but the hardships of the march and the
delay of the painful _detours_ in the solemn glades. The direction was
kept by compass, many of the men having been supplied with a miniature
instrument by the prudent foresight of Mrs. Lanview, who was niggard of
neither time nor money in the cause she had at heart. In spite of every
effort a march so swift that it would have exhausted cavalry, Jones's
ranks did not reach the rendezvous until midnight. At about that hour
the exhausted fugitives came suddenly upon a wide, open plain, and far
below them, in the valley, a vision of light and life shone through
"There, boys, we're at the end of our first stage. Unless I'm much
mistaken, that bit of merry-making yonder will cost the Confederacy
"But is it certain that Davis is there?" asked the man Jones called
Moon, who seemed to be his intimate.
"Ah, that we will learn so soon as Nasmyd reports. We will give the
signal when we reach that fringe of wood yonder. It's back of the
grounds, separated from them by a hard piece of swamp and water.--Men,
you must follow now in single file, and when we get in the swamp, mind,
a single step out of line will cost you your lives, for, sucked into
that morass, wild horses can't pull you out."
Then, as they plunged anew in the gloomy deeps of swamp and brake, the
friendly lights were lost and the depressed wayfarers struggled on with
something of the feeling of a crew cast away at sea, who, thrown upon
the crest of a rising billow, catch a near glimpse of a great ship,
light and taut, riding serenely havenward to lose it the next in the
dire waste. Presently the melancholy bird-notes that had puzzled Jack in
the same vicinity days before broke out just in front of Barney, who was
clambering along, the third man from the head of the little column.
Again, after a long pause, the sweet, plaintive note was re-echoed from
"Ah, all is well!" he heard Jones ejaculate triumphantly. "We are in
time and we are waited for.--Now, men, put all the heart that's in you
to the next half-hour's work. No danger, but just cool heads and
This good news was conveyed from man to man, and the toilsome movement
briskly accelerated under the inspiring watchword. Shortly afterward the
larger growth--cypress and oak--diminished, as the band straggled into
the open, starry night at the margin of what they could tell was water
by the croaking of frogs and plashing of night birds and reptiles. Then
the train was halted. Jones left Nasmyd in command and plunged into a
thick skirt of bushes. Now Barney, hot and dirty from the march, had
shot ahead when he heard the ripple of the water. He had taken off his
shoes to bathe his blistered and swollen feet, and sat quite still and
restful under the leafy sprays of an odorous bush that even in the dark
he knew to be honeysuckle.
"Well," he heard Jones cry in an exultant whisper, "we've done it. The
woman is a trump. There are a hundred nearly of the prisoners gone to
the boats. Now we are ready for Boone. Is Davis here?"
"Yes; he came over from Williamsburg at eight o'clock; they were
feasting when Clem came away a three or more ago."
"Any cavalry at the house?"
"A squadron; but they are ordered to be in saddle for their quarters at
midnight. There's the bugle for boots and saddles now."
"Yes; by the Eternal, what luck! Davis will sleep there."
"So Clem says; the state chamber has been prepared for him; all the rest
except Lee go back to Williamsburg."
"We couldn't have arranged it better if we had been given the ordering
of it. Are all the boats here?"
"And the negroes--how many have you?"
"I can't say. They've been dropping across in twos and threes since ten
o'clock. The curious thing is that the women are more taken with the
idea of fight than the men. We shall have enough--too many, I fear."
"We'll make them our safety, Jim, my boy; we'll divide them up, and, in
case of pursuit, send them in different directions to confuse
"How many men are you going to take to the house?"
"Six, with you and me. It will be unsafe to take more, as the boats are
small. I will go back and select the men. You get the boats ready."
Barney hurried on his shoes, crawled through the bushes, and was in his
place when Jones presently appeared. The men, dead tired, were disposed
about on the ground asleep, not minding the damp grass or the heavy dew
that made the air fairly misty.
"Wake four of the men," Jones whispered, and when they were aroused he
said to a tall, reeling shadow, idly waiting orders:
"We'll be back in a half-hour, or an hour at the farthest. Let the men
sleep; they need it. Sleep yourself if you want to. Moon or I will come
to rouse you, and we will bring you plenty of bacon and hominy. Have no
fears if you hear movements just beyond you; there are a couple of
contrabands here who go with us. Here's a ration of tobacco for the men
when they wake, and a gallon of whisky, which you must serve out
Revived by this stimulating news quite as much as by the whisky, Barney
and his three comrades followed Jones to the boats. There were four--the
dug-outs we saw Jack manoeuvring in the same waters a few nights before.
A negro sat silent, shadowy in each, and, when Jones gave the word, "Let
drive!" the barks shot through the waters, propelled by the single
scull, as swiftly as an Indian canoe. In a few moments all debarked on
the grassy knoll behind the black line of hedge. Jones made straight for
the high doorway, and inserting a key it was noiselessly opened.
"Men," he whispered, "no names must be used in any case. I'm number one,
Jim here is number two, Moore number three, and so on. Each one remember
his number. Clem will remain here with number six to guard the gate. All
the rest follow me."
Two negroes joined the party that stole forward through the rose-field
to the negro quarters. All was silent. As they reached the great kitchen
behind the house and connected with it by a trellised pavilion, only an
occasional light could be seen in the house. All were apparently there.
The ball had ended. Leaving Barney in charge of the rest, Jones and
Number Two crept along the trellis toward the house and soon disappeared
around the southern corner. Jones presently returned and said,
"The cavalry is gone; we have nothing to fear.--Plato, you go with
Number Two to the stables and bring the horses out; hold six and send
the rest scattering in the fields, so that in case of anybody's being in
the mind to follow hell have to use his legs, and we can beat them at
that game. Where are the ropes?" he asked the black man left in
"In de kitchen, massa."
"Must I go alone, massa?"
"That's a fact.--There, Moore, you go with the boy--don't be a minute."
Barney followed the sable marauder through the grounds to the rear of
the trellis, and crept with him through a window which stood open. The
kitchen was dark, but the negro seemed perfectly familiar with the
place. He made directly for a dark panel in the northern wall, opened a
cupboard-door, knelt down and began to grope among bottles, boxes, and
what not that housewives gather in such receptacles.
"Oh, de lor'! dey ain't no rope! It's done gone!" "Have you a match?"
"No, massa, but dey is some yondah."
The boy crept cautiously in the direction of the passage leading into
the house; he fumbled about, an age, as it seemed to the impatient
Barney, and at last uttered an exclamation:
"No, massa, but Ise suah deys kep dar."
"Take my hand and lead me."
"It's molasses, massa, and Ise all stickem," the voice in the dark
whispered, delightedly, and Barney could see a double row of glistening
white ivory in the dim light that came through the window. He came
nearer the clumsy wight, and saw that it was a pan of batter the cook
had left on the table, probably the morning griddle-cakes. The negro was
a mass of white, pasty glue, and knelt on the floor, licking his hands
"Where are the matches?"
"Under de clock, in a tin safe, massa--right da."
Barney groped angrily about the table, on the clock-shelf, knocking down
a tin dish, that fell with the clatter of a bursting magazine in the
dense stillness of the night. Both drew back in shadow, waiting with
heart-beats that sounded in their ears like tramping horses on thick
sward. The clamor of rushing steeds in the lane suddenly drowned this; a
loud, joyous whinny sounded in the very kitchen it seemed, and there was
a rush houseward past the pantry as of a troop of cavalry. Then a
blood-curdling outcry of voices, then shots. Barney, leaving the negro
writhing in convulsions under the table, darted to the window--to the
rendezvous. It was deserted.
"HE EITHER FEARS HIS FATE TOO MUCH."
When Vincent visited the stables on the morning of that
eagerly-looked-for Thursday, he found three of the horses clammy with
perspiration and giving every sign of having been ridden! The awkward
and evasive answers of the stablemen would not have been enough for any
other than a man preoccupied by love. When Rosa went to the kitchen, if
her head had not been taken up with the love in her heart, she must
certainly have remarked that the stores of food prepared for the
household were curiously diminished and the kitchen girls unwontedly
reserved. Indeed, in any other condition than that in which the family
now found themselves, they must have remarked a singular change in the
black brigade in kitchen and garden. But, preocupied each with a
different interest, as well as the preparation for the President's
_fete_, the Atterburys remarked nothing sinister in the distracted
conduct of their servants, and had only a vague feeling that the great
event had in some sort paralyzed their wonted noisy activities and
repressed their usual chatter. Kate's uneasiness and restless vagaries,
her disjointed talk and half-guilty evasions, would have been remarked
by her prepossessed hosts; while Wesley's shifting and moody silence
would have warned his comrades that he was suffering the pangs of an
evil done or meditated. Precursive signs like these--and much more,
which need not be dwelt on--the kind hosts of Rosedale made no note of.
But when Vincent opened the mail-bag--brought by an orderly from
Williamsburg every morning, the first surprise and shock of the day was
felt--though in varying degrees by all the diverse inmates of the house.
"Hah! glory to the Lord of hosts!" the exultant reader cried, as he
passed to his mother a large official envelope at the breakfast-table.
"I'm ordered to the field." he cried, as Jack looked inquiringly; "I'm
to set out to-night and report for duty with General Johnston to-morrow
at Manassas. No more loitering in my lady's bower; Jack, my boy, the
carpet will be clear for your knightly pranks after to-night."
"If it were Aladdin's magic rug, I should caper nimbly enough. I warrant
"What would you wish--if it were under your feet, with its slaves at
"I should whisk you all off--North--instanter."
"Ingrate!--plunge us into the chilly blasts of the North, in return for
our glorious Southern sun? Fie, Jack! I'm surprised at such selfish
ingratitude. We expected better things of our prisoners," Mrs. Atterbury
murmured, and affected a reproving frown at the culprit, as she handed
her son back the order, with a stilled sigh.
"The sun of the South is not the sun of York to us, you know; all the
clouds that lower on our house are doubly darkened by this Southern sun;
even the warmth of Rosedale hearts can not make up for our eclipsed
Northern star," Jack said, sadly, with a wistful look at the rival
warrior reading with sparkling eyes the instructions accompanying the
order to march.
"Since Vincent is going so far northward, I think it will be a good time
for us to go home," Mrs. Sprague began, tentatively.
"Oh--no--no! Oh, we could never think of such a thing," Rosa
cried--"could we, mamma?"
"Why should you go?" Mrs. Atterbury asked. "Until Jack is exchanged,
you've certainly no duty in the North so important as watching over this
headstrong fellow. We can't think of your going--unless you are weary
"O Mrs. Atterbury, pray don't put it in that way! You know better. Our
visit here has been perfect. But you can understand my anxiety to be at
home; to be where I can aid my son's release. I have been anxious for
some time to broach the subject, but I saw that our going would be a
trouble to you; now, since fortune offers this chance, we must seize
it--that is, those of us who feel it a duty to go"; and she looked
meaningly at Merry and her daughter.
"Nonsense! You are hostages for Vincent, in case he is captured, as long
as you are here; I can't let you go--under the laws of war--I can not.
Can I, Vincent?"
Vincent looked at Jack solemnly, but made no answer.
"Mamma is quite right. While you are with us no harm can come to
Vincent; for, if he should be taken prisoner, we can threaten the Yankee
Government to put you to torture unless he is well treated," Rosa
"We should be far more aid and comfort to Vincent if we were in the
North than we could be here. If he were taken prisoner and wounded, we
could return him the kindness we have received here. In any event, we
could lessen the hardships of prison life."
"Oh, you would have to minister to a mind diseased, if such a fate
should befall me!" Vincent cried, sentimentally; with a glance into
Olympia's eyes, which met his at the moment. Both blushed; and Olympia,
to relieve the embarrassment, said, decisively:
"Mamma is right. Jack must have his family on the ground, to watch over
his interests. I am sure there is some underhand work responsible for
this long delay in his case, for I saw by _The Whig_, last week, that
exchanges of prisoners had been made; I think that--" But, suddenly
remembering the presence of Kate and Wesley, she did not finish the
thought, which implied a belief in the intervention of the elder
Boone--to Jack's detriment. In the end--when the two mothers talked the
matter over--Mrs. Sprague carried the point. She convinced Mrs.
Atterbury that there was danger to Jack in a longer stay of his family
in the Confederate lines. Vague reports had already reached them from
Acredale of the suspicious hostility in which the Democrats were held
after Bull Run. The Northern papers, which came through the lines quite
regularly, left no doubt that Democratic leanings were universally
interpreted in the North as evidences of rebel sympathy, if not
partisanship. Such a charge, as things stood, would be fatal to Jack;
and the mother's duty was plain. She had friends in Washington, once
powerful, who could stand between her son and calumny--perhaps more
serious danger--when she was present in person to explain his conduct.
If she could not at once secure his exchange, she could save him from
compromise in the present inflammable and capricious state of the public
mind. Understanding this, and the enmity of Boone, Mrs. Atterbury not
only made no further objection, but acknowledged the urgent necessity of
the mother's presence in the North. The idle life of Rosedale had grown
unbearably irksome to Merry, too.
"I feel as if I were a rebel," she confided to Mrs. Sprague in the
evening talks, when the piano sounded and the young people were making
the hours pass in gayety. "It's a sin for us to laugh and be contented
here, when our friends are bearing the burdens of war. I shall be
ashamed to show my face in Acredale. Oh, I wish I could carry a musket!"
"You might carry a canteen, my dear. I believe the regiments take out
_vivandieres_--there would be an outlet for your warlike emotions," Mrs.
Sprague said, with the purpose of cheering the unhappy spinster.
"Ah, no; I must not give encouragement to that dreadful Richard. But we
shall go now, thank Heaven, and it will comfort my sisters to have the
boy back on Northern soil, even if he persists in being a soldier."
She had a long talk with Jack on the subject. That tempest-tossed knight
convinced her that it would only incite the boy to more unruliness to
persist in his quitting the army, or to urge him northward now, before
an exchange was properly arranged. Indeed, he was a prisoner--taken in
battle--though his name did not appear on the lists. So Vincent's sudden
going was welcomed as a stroke of good fortune. The Atterburys,
understanding the natural feelings of the family, made only perfunctory
opposition. Olympia and Kate were to remain until their brothers' fates
were decided. Vincent, who had been for weeks wildly impatient to return
to the field, was divided in mind now--by joy and despair. He had put
off and put off a last appeal to Olympia. He had not had an opportunity,
or rather had too much opportunity--and had, from day to day, deferred
the longed-for yet dreaded decision. When ready to speak, prudence
whispered that it would be better to leave the question open until it
should come up of itself. She would learn every day to know him better
in his own home, where all the artificialities of life are stripped from
a man, by the concurrent abrasions of family love and domestic
_devoirs_. She would see that, however unworthy of her love he might
have seemed in the old boyish days at Acredale, now he could be a man
when manliness was demanded; that he could be patient, reticent, humble
in the trials her caprice or coquetry put upon him. She had, it seemed
to him, deepened and broadened the current of his love during these
blissful weeks of waiting. Her very reserve, under the new conditions
surrounding her, had made more luminous the beauty of her heart and
mind. She was no longer the airy, capricious Olympia of his college
days. The pensive gravity of misfortune and premature responsibility had
ennobled and made more tangible the traits that had won him in her
Northern home. She had not avoided him during these weeks of purifying
probation, as he feared she would. Of late--Jack's state being
secure--she had revived much of the old vivacity, and deepened the
thrall that held him.
But now the merry-making season which had opened before them was at an
end. The madrigals that welled up in his soft heart must sing themselves
in the silence of the night, in the camp yonder, with no ears to
comprehend, no heart to melt to them. He should probably not get a
chance to see her again during the conflict. How long? Perhaps a
year--for it would take two campaigns, as the rebel leaders reckoned, to
convince the North that the Confederacy was unconquerable! And what
might not happen during those momentous months? Perhaps Jack's
death?--and then they would be divided as by fire--or, if the conflict
resulted victoriously for the South, as he knew it must, he foresaw that
the soldier of the conquering army would not be received as a wooer in
the family of the defeated. He knew her so well! She would, in the very
pride of outraged patriotism, give her love to one of the defeated,
rather than add to the triumphs of the hated South. She had strong
convictions on the war. She hated slavery, and she could not be made to
see that the South was warring for liberty, not to sustain slavery.
These thoughts ran through Vincent's troubled mind as his mother
directed the preparations for the _fete_ of the President.
Kate, Jack, and Dick were pressed into the service of decorating the
apartments. Olympia left the room with her mother to advise and assist
in making ready for the journey North; and Vincent, aiding his mother
with a sadly divided mind, kept furtive watch on the hallway. She held
him hours in suspense, he thought, almost wrathfully, of deliberate
purpose; for she must have read in his eyes that he wanted to talk with
her. The artless Dick finally gave him a chance.
"I say, Vint, get Polly to show you the roses needed for the tables;
I'll be with you by-and-by to cut the ferns. Do you think you could make
yourself of that much use? You're not worth a straw here"
"Send for Miss Polly and I'll do my best," Vincent said, with a gulp, to
conceal his joy. She appeared presently; and, as they were passing out
of the door, Rosa cried, imperiously:
"Oh, yes, Vint, we need ever so much honeysuckle; you know where it
hangs thickest--in the Owl's Glen. Olympia will like to see that--the
haunt of her favorite bird"; and the busy little maid laughed cheerily,
like a disordered goddess, intoxicated by the exhaling odors of the
"_En route_ for Roumelia, then," Vincent cried in military cadence, as
the florists set out. Roumelia was the name Jack had given the
rose-lands near the stream, in fanciful allusion to the Turkish province
of flowers. Halting at the gardener's cottage, Vincent procured an
immense pair of shears, like a double rapier in size, and, bidding the
man follow to gather the blossoms, he pushed into the blooming vineyard.
"With such an instrument I should say it was the golden fleece you were
after," Olympia cried, as he reached her side, "though I believe Jason
didn't do the shearing."
"No, the powers of air worked for him, and he found his quest ready to
"I'm sure the powers of air have not denied you; look at those radiant
ranks of blossoms bending to be gathered."
"Ah, yes, beauty stoops sometimes to welcome the trembling hand of the
"Your hand is rather unsteady--infirm of purpose; give me the blades."
She took them laughingly, and snipped the green stems rapidly and
"Yes, I believe men are infirm in moral purposes, as compared to women.
It is only in the brutalities of life that men are decisive."
"Do you mean that women approach the trials of life less thinkingly and
act less rationally than men?"
"Yes and no. The daring too much is always before a man; the daring too
little is, I think, the only trouble a woman has."
"Oh, that is a large question, involving too much mental strain in a
garden of roses, where the senses sleep and one is content with mere
breath and the faintest motion."
"There are enough roses; now we will go for the wild smilax and
honeysuckle; perhaps the cool air of the pools will restore your mental
They left the dismembered roses scattered in fragrant heaps on the
shaded path and walked slowly toward the dense hedge.
"What a perfect fortress this green wall makes of the gardens!" Olympia
said, glancing around the great square, where the solid green wall could
be seen running up much higher than their heads.
"Yes, as I said the other day, it would take hard work for an invading
force to get at the house unless traitors within gave up the gates. This
one," he added, unlocking a massive oak door, crossed with thick planks
and studded with iron bolts, "alone admits from the creek and swamp. It
is locked all the time; no one has the key except the gardener, who
delivers it to mamma every night."
"A feudal demesne; it takes one back to the so-called days of chivalry."
"Why do you say 'so-called'? To me they are the delight of the
past--when men went to battle for the smile of the women they loved,
when knights rode the world over in search of adventure, and my lady, in
her donjon, listened with pleasure to the lover's roundelay. Ah, it was
a perfect life, an enchanting time. We are living in a coarse, brutal
age; chivalry was the creed of civilization, the knights the priesthood
of the higher life."
"There's the Southerner through and through in that sentimentality. To
me chivalry means all that is narrow, cruel, and rapacious in man. The
philandering knights were sensual boobies, the simpering dames soulless
wantons. Life meant simply the rule of the strong, the slaughter of the
weak. Servitude was its law and robbery its methods. Have you ever
traveled in out-of-the-way places in Germany, Austria, or Italy?"
"No, I've never been abroad."
"You would know better what I mean if you had seen the monstrous relics
of the age you admire. The few ruled the many; the knights were simply a
brotherhood of blood and rapine; men were slaves, women were worse. The
bravest were as unlettered as your body-servant, the most beautiful
dames as termagant as Penelope the cook. At the table men and women ate
from a common dish, without forks or spoons. Men guzzled gallons of
unfermented wine. A bath was unknown. Cleanliness was as unpracticed as
Islamism in New York. Ugh! anything but chivalry for me."
"But surely the great lords were not what you represent. They were
gentle born, gentle bred. They could not be robbers; they lived from
"They were the 'Knights of St. Nicholas,' which, in the slang of the
middle ages, meant what they call in the West road agents; indeed, plain
highwaymen they were called in England in Bacon's day."
Vincent bent over discomfited, and held the little shallop until Olympia
was seated, and then pushed off into the murky stream.
"Do you see those streamers of loveliness waving welcome to you, fair
damsel--Nature knows its kind?"
"That's one word for me and one for yourself," she cried, seizing the
dainty pink sprays that now trailed over her head and shoulders as the
boat glided along the fringe of hushes supporting the clinging vines.
"Oh, no, Olympia; I can't speak even one word for myself. I have been
trembling to do it this six weeks, but your eye had none of the
invitation these starry blossoms offer us. I am going to say now,
Olympia, what I have to say--for after to-day there will be no chance;
what has been on my mind you have long known. You know that I love you;
how much I love you, how impossible it is to think of life without you,
I dare not venture to say to you, for you distrust our Southern
exaggeration. But I do love you; ah, my God! all the world else--my
mother, my sister, my duty seem nothing compared to the one passionate
hope in my breast. Do you believe me, Olympia--do you doubt me?"
"Far from it, Vincent--dear Vincent--no--no--sit where you are and
listen to me--" She was deeply moved, and the lover in his heart cursed
the luckless veils of blossom that she apparently, without design, drew
before her face. "I do believe all you say; I knew it before you said
it. But you remember we went over this very same ground before. Since
then, it is true, you have been the means of saving us much misery; how
much I hardly dare think of when I look back to that dreadful day, when
mamma lay in the fever of coming disease and the hopelessness of
despair. All I can say, dear, dear Vincent, is what I said before. Wait
until thine and mine are no longer at war. Wait until one flag
"But that can never be!"
"Wait! I have faith that it will be!"
"If one flag should cover us--my flag--would you--would you--?"
"Ah, Vincent! don't ask me; don't force me to say something thing that
will make you unhappy, since I don't know my own mind well enough yet to
answer as you wish me to answer--"
"But you can tell me now whether you love me, or, at least, whether
there is any one you love more?"
"I don't think I love you. I know, however, that I think no more of any
one else than I think of you; pray, let that suffice."
"But how cruel that is, Olympia! It is as much, as to say that you won't
wait and see whether you may meet some one that you can be surer of than
you are of me?"
"I must distress you whatever I say, Vincent! Frankly, I don't think you
can decide just now whether your heart is really engaged. I think you do
not know me as a man should knows the woman he makes his wife. I am
certain I do not know you. If you had been born and bred in the North, I
should have no difficulty in deciding; but your ways are so different
here: women are accorded so much before marriage, and made so little of
a man's life after marriage, that I shrink from a promise which, if
lightly or inconsiderately given, would bring the last misery a woman
"What, Olympia! you think Southern men do not hold marriage to be
"I think that the Southern man has a good deal of the knight you spoke
of in him, and, like the Frenchman, marries inconsiderately, and does
penance in infidelity, at least to the form, if not the fact, of the
"O Olympia! where do you get such repulsive ideas of us; who has been
traducing us to you?"
"I judge from the Southern men I have seen North; pardon me, Vincent, I
do not see how it can be otherwise in a society based upon human
servitude. To live on the labors of a helot people blunts the finer
sensibilities of men and women alike; when you can look unshrinkingly at
the separation of husband and wife on the auction-block, when you can
see innocent children taken from their mothers and sold into eternal
separation, I think it is not unnatural in me to fear that a woman with
my convictions would not be happy mated with a Southerner. All this is
cruel, I fear you will think, but it would be crueller for me to
encourage a love that, under present circumstances, would bring misery
to both of us."
"You are an abolitionist?"
"Yes; every right-thinking person in the North is an abolitionist to
this extent; we want the South to take the remedy into its own hands, to
free its slaves voluntarily; the radical abolitionists prefer a violent
means. That I do not seek or did not; but now, Vincent, it is bound
"And, if it should come, what would you answer to my question?"
"Here is a white rose: I picked it with my hand, and, you see, a drop of
my blood is on it; when you can give me a rose with a drop of your blood
on it as free from taint as the stain mine makes, I shall have an answer
that will not be unworthy your waiting for!"
"Unworthy! I don't understand you. Surely, you don't think me a
"When the time comes that no human being acknowledges your ownership,
perhaps you may receive a voluntary bond-maid, bound to you by stronger
ties than the chattel of the slave."
"But you love me, then, Olympia?"
"I can not love where I do not reverence."
"But it is not my fault that slaves are my inheritance!"
"It will be your fault if they are your support when you are your own
"You love an idea better than you love a man who would die for you!"
"I love manliness and the sense of right, which is called duty, better
than I love a man who is blind to the first impulse of real manhood--"
"Would you ask a Jew to give up his synagogue to gain your hand?"
"The synagogue is the temple of a creed as divine as my own, and the
faith of the man I loved would never swerve me in accepting or
"We of the South believe slavery a divine institution--that is, first
established by the fathers!"
"The tribes in the Fiji Islands believe man-eating an ordinance of the
"Well, this sort of discussion leads to nothing," Vincent said,
ruefully. "The world is well lost for the woman one loves, when I come
to you shorn of my world!"
"Ah! then, Vincent, you will find another!"
He drew her hand from the clinging vines and kissed it.
"I am very happy. I shall lose my world with a very light heart."
"The world is a very tough brier; we sometimes bring it closer, when its
thorns prick us more painfully in the struggles to cast it off."
"Then I'll cut the brambles, and not risk tearing my flesh!"
"That's the soldier's way--the heroic way; but wait for the future; I am
young and you are not old."
Vincent's gayety when they returned to the drawing-room attracted the
observant Dick, and he slyly whispered to the warrior, "Been practicing
the Roman strategy with the Sabines?"
"No, I've been at the Temple of Minerva and taken a pledge to hold my
"Ah! the goddess of the owls; but, as they see light only in darkness, I
fear you groped in blackness."
The whole household were to meet President Davis and his party in
Williamsburg, assist at the review, and get back with the distinguished
guests in time for a state dinner. Merry and Mrs. Sprague were reluctant
to go, but they feared a refusal would be misunderstood. Poor Merry was
very tearful and disconsolate at the thought of leaving Dick, but she
strove heroically to hide her grief when the cavalcade set out, the
elder ladies driving, the young people mounted. The ancient capital of
Virginia was aflame with the new rebel bunting. President Davis, with
Generals Lee and Magruder, were in place on the pretty green before the
old colonial college edifice when the Rosedale people came up. Davis
saluted Mrs. Atterbury with cordial urbanity; but, as the troops were
already in column, there was only time for hasty presentation of the
Jack watched the rather piebald pageant with absorbed interest. The
infantry marched wretchedly. The arms were as varied as the uniforms,
and the artillery seemed a relic of Jackson's time. But the cavalry was
superb. Never had he seen such splendid ranks, such noble horses. At
sight of the tall, elegant figure of the President, the troops broke
into the peculiar shrill cheer that afterward became a sound of wonder,
almost terror, to unaccustomed Northern ears. It was a mingling of the
boyish treble of college cries and the menacing shriek of the wild-cat.
Jack was secretly very much delighted with the review. More than half
the rank and file were mere boys; and he could see that they were
unruly, almost to point-blank disregard of their officers commands, or
the prescriptions of the manual. It would take short work for the
disciplined hosts the new Northern general was training, to sweep such
chaff from the field of war. Vincent saw something of this in his
comrade's eye, and a good deal nettled himself by the slovenly march and
humorous abandon of the men, he said:
"You must remember, Jack, our army is made up of gentlemen's sons; the
gentry of the South are all in arms, and we can't at once reduce them to
the mere machines a more heterogeneous soldiery can be made. The men who
won Manassas passed in review a day or two before the battle, and they
made the same impression upon me--upon Beauregard himself--that I see
these men have made on you. Depend upon it, in a fight they will be good
"Let me have the poor comfort of underrating my enemy, the thing above
all others that a wise man shuns and a fool indulges."
"Oh, on that theory revile them if you like."
"No, indeed; I'm far from reviling them. The cavalry is magnificent. I
don't think we have a regiment in our army that can compare with that
brigade. Who commands it?"
"Jeb Stuart--the Murat of the South," Vincent said, proudly. "I'm going
to tell the President what you said of the brigade; you know he is
passionately fond of the army, and really wanted to be the
commander-in-chief, when they made him President at Montgomery."
At sunset the President and General Lee entered the carriage with Mrs.
Atterbury and Mrs. Sprague, Merry driving in a phaeton with Kate, who
didn't enjoy so long a ride on the horse.
"I'm glad we've got such important hostages as yourself and son," Davis
said gallantly to Mrs. Sprague, as the carriage passed out of the clamor
of acclamation the crowd set up. "I knew the Senator, your husband,
intimately. If he had lived, I doubt whether we should have been driven
out of the Union. He was, in my mind, one of the most prudent statesmen
that came from the North to Congress."
"He certainly never would have consented to break up the Union," Mrs.
Sprague said, in embarrassment.
"Nor should I, madam, if there had been any further security in it. The
truth is, there was nothing left for us but to go out or be kicked out.
The leaders of the Abolition party long ago proclaimed that. However,
war settles all such problems. When it is settled by the sword we shall
Mrs. Atterbury changed the conversation by asking how Mrs. Davis liked
"Oh, she has been treated royally by the people there. I declare
Richmond is as Southern a city as Charleston. I have been agreeably
surprised by the absolute unanimity of gentle and simple in the cause.
My wife receives a clothes-basketful of letters every morning from the
mothers of the Confederacy proffering time, money, and service wherever
she can suggest anything for them to do. I propose later on establishing
an order something like the Golden Fleece, which shall confer a certain
social precedence upon the wearers. I have thousands of letters on the
subject, and as the society of the South is, as a matter of fact, a
society of gentle-folk--for the most part lineally descended from the
nobility of older countries--I think it proper and right that lineage
should have certain acknowledged advantages in the new commonwealth. But
I propose to go further, and institute an order of something like
nobility for women--who have thus far given us great help and
encouragement. Indeed, there are many in the Congress--a dozen Senators
I could name--who think that we ought to make our regime entirely
different from the North, and that we should adopt a monarchical form--"
"I'm sure, I think we should," Mrs. Atterbury exclaimed, delightedly.
"We are really as unlike the Northern people as the French or
"The strongest argument for declaring the Confederacy an empire is the
one that weighed with Napoleon I. We should at one stroke secure the
alliance of all the monarchies. They have never looked with favor on the
experiment of a powerful republic over here, and it is almost certain
they would befriend us for transforming this mighty infant state into an
empire. However, that is for future action. Our agents abroad have sent
us full reports on the matter."
"I doubt the wisdom of ever hinting such a thing," General Lee said,
gravely. "We must show that we are able to act independently in
selecting our form of government. I doubt very much whether the masses
would listen favorably to an empire established by foreign aid."
"Possibly, general, possibly. As I said before, there will be time
enough for that when, like Napoleon, we have made our armies the masters
of this continent. Then, with boundaries embracing Mexico, Canada, and
the Western States--for they can never exist independent of us--we can
choose empire, republic, or a Venetian oligarchy."
As they came in sight of Rosedale, Davis stood up in the carriage to get
a better view of the landscape, which showed swift alternations of dense
thickets and wood and rolling acres of rich crops.
"What a State Virginia is!" he exclaimed with enthusiasm. "It has the
climate and soil to support half of Europe. Mother of Presidents in the
past, it will be the granary and magazine of the Confederacy in ten
years. My own State, Mississippi, is rich in land, but the climate is
hard for the stranger. It enervates the European at first. But we are an
agricultural people, or rather we give our energies to our staple,
cotton; that is to be the chief treasure of the Confederacy."
Dinner was ready for the table when the guests came from their rooms.
Davis excused his lack of ceremonial dress, saying pleasantly:
"I am something of a soldier, you know, and travel with a light train.
Lee, there, has the advantage of me. A soldier's uniform is court
costume the world over."
"But you are the commander-in-chief, Mr. President. Don't you have a
"No. I am commander-in-chief only in law. Congress is really the
commander-in-chief. The man that assumes those duties can attend to them
alone. He is, of course, subject to the executive; but only in general
plans, rarely in details."
Davis was placed at Mrs. Atterbury's right, Mrs. Sprague at her left,
General Lee sat at Vincent's right, _vis-a-vis_ to Jack, who was lost in
prodigious admiration of the Socratic-like chieftain--Lee was as yet
unknown to all but a discriminating few in the Confederacy. He was as
tall as Davis fully six feet--but more rounded and symmetrical. He spoke
with great gravity, but seemed to enjoy the jests that the young people
found opportunities to indulge in, when it was seen that the President
devoted his talk exclusively to the hostess or Mrs. Sprague. Davis was a
good talker, and charmed the company with reminiscences of old times
"I don't remember Lincoln distinctly," he said, concluding a
reminiscence, "but I think he's the man that used to be so popular in
the House cloak-room, telling stories which were said to be
"Mrs. Lincoln is in some sort kin to Mrs. Davis, isn't she?" Mrs.
Atterbury asked. "I have read it somewhere."
"Very distant. Mrs. Lincoln is of the Kentucky Tods, and they were in
some way kin of my wife's family, the Howells. Not enough to put on
mourning, if Mrs. Lincoln should become a widow."
"Is it true, Mr. President, that a society in the North has offered a
million dollars for your capture--abduction? I heard it in Williamsburg,
and saw an allusion to it in _The Examiner_ the other day."
"Oh, I'm sure I can't say. If the offer were authenticated, I should be
tempted to go and get the reward myself. With a million dollars I could
do a good deal more for the cause in the North than I can here, making
brigadiers and settling questions of precedence between Cabinet
ministers, judges, and Senators."
"Mr. President, give me an exchange North, and I will ascertain the
facts in the million-dollar offer and write you faithfully how to set
about getting the money," Jack said, very soberly, from his end of
"Ah! the Yankee spoke there--nothing if not a bargain. Sir, you deserve
your clearance papers, but I'm too good a friend of Mrs. Atterbury and
her daughter to bring about the loss of company that I am sure must be