Part 5 out of 8
agreeable. Then, too, there's no telling the miracles of conversion that
may be brought about by such ministers as Miss Rosa there."
Rosa blushed, Jack felt foolish, and everybody laughed except Dick, who
looked unutterable things at his adored, and boldly entered the lists
against the great personage by asking, in a quivering treble:
"Doesn't the Bible say that the wife shall cleave to the husband; that
his people shall be her people, his God her God, where he goes
"It is so said in the Bible, sir; but it was a woman that uttered it,
and she was in love. When you know more of the sex, you will understand
that women in love are like poets; they say much that they don't mean,
and more that they don't understand."
"But, Mr. President, what the one woman said in the Bible all women
practice. You never knew a woman that didn't believe her husband's
beliefs, hate his hates, love his loves."
Davis smiled, and his eyes twinkled kindly on his boyish inquisitor.
"I know only one woman. That is as much as a man can speak for. She
doesn't hate my hates, love my loves, or enter unprotestingly into all
my ways. Indeed, I may say that, being a peaceful man, I wanted to
remain in Washington, for I believed that Seward was sincere in pleading
for a compromise; but the woman I speak of had her own opinion convinced
me that she was right, and I came to my own people."
At this moment there was a diversion. A soldier, booted and spurred,
entered the room, walked to the head of the table, and bending
deferentially to the President, said;
"I am ordered to deliver this message wherever you may be found." He
handed Davis a large envelope and retreated respectfully two or three
paces backward. Everybody affected to resume conversation as the
President, breaking the seal, said;
"Pardon me a moment, madam." But he had no sooner ran over the lines
than he turned to the courier, crying, in visible discomfiture:
"When did you leave the war office?"
"At five o'clock, sir."
"General, we must return instantly to Richmond; a hundred or more of the
prisoners have broken out of Libby! It is reported that a column of the
enemy with gunboats have passed up the James.--Madam, this is one of the
exigencies of a time of war. I needn't say to an Atterbury that
everything must give way to public business!" He called Lee aside, spoke
rapidly to him, and the latter, beckoning Vincent, left the room. He
returned in ten minutes, announcing that everything was in readiness to
set out. The carriage with Mrs. Sprague's and Merry's small luggage was
ready when the cavalcade set out, Davis riding with them and the cavalry
company from below, divided into squadrons before and behind the
carriage. It was eleven o'clock as the last dark line of the troop
disappeared. Olympia and Jack stood at the great gate in mournful
silence. The swiftness of the parting had lessened the pain, but their
minds were full of the sorrow that follows the inevitable. Mrs. Sprague
had herself declined to postpone the ordeal when Mrs. Atterbury pointed
out the untimely hour. No, it was better to suffer this slight
inconvenience to have Vincent's protecting presence all the way to the
Union lines; and Jack, acknowledging this, didn't say a word to dissuade
her. Vincent's last act was to call Jack to his room.
"I wanted to tell you, Jack, what a great joy it has been to me--it has
been to all of us--to have you in our home at this trying time. I can
not tell you how much comfort it has been to me now, but some time you
shall know," Vincent stammered, and began to open a drawer in the
bureau. "Here is something I want you to accept as a keepsake from me."
He drew forth a pistol-case and opened it. "It will be a melancholy
pleasure for me to feel, in the dark days to come, that these weapons
may prove your friend in battle, where I must be your enemy."
"By George, they're beauties!" Jack cried, taking the weapons out.
"Yes; they were bought last year, and I have had J.S. cut on one, and
V.A. on the other. I meant them for your Christmas last year, but they
"What a kind fellow you are, Vint! I don't think I ought to take these."
"Why not? I have others! I shall feel easier, knowing that you have
them. You can stow them about you easily, they are so small."
"But it's against the laws of war for a prisoner to be armed."
"That's just the reason I haven't asked you to take them before. You can
leave them here in my room until you are exchanged, and then you can
carry them with impunity."
The household assembled at the gate leading into the roadway as the
cavalcade took up the march. There were sad, sobbing farewells
spoken--the kindly night covering the tears, and the loud neighing of
the horses drowning the sobs.
The Northern group remained in the roadway, straining their eyes to
catch the last glimpse of the wanderers as they disappeared in the misty
foliage, far up the roadway.
The horizon to the zenith was full of shimmering star-points, Olympia,
with Jack, turned slowly toward the house, silent and not wholly sad.
Dick, in a low treble, could be heard just behind them, quoting
melancholy verses to Rosa; and the brother and sister returned slowly up
the dewy, odorous path. At the porch Rosa exclaimed, in surprise:
"I wonder where Pizarro is? I haven't seen him while we have been out.
It can't be possible he has followed Vincent! What shall we do if
"Make Dick take his place. A terrier is sometimes as faithful as a
mastiff," Jack said, quickly.
"Oh! Miss Atterbury wants something with a bite, rather than a bark, and
a terrier wouldn't do," the boy answered.
"I want Pizarro. I shall never sleep a wink all night if he isn't here,"
Rosa said, in consternation; "he is better than a regiment of soldiers,
for he won't let a human being come near the house after the doors are
closed, not even the servants."
An expedition, calling upon Pizarro in many keys, set out and wandered
through the grounds, back to the quarters, to the gates leading to the
rose-fields, to the stable, but Pizarro was not to be found. Lights were
burning in the hall only when the four re-entered, and with a very grave
face Rosa bade the rest good-night.
Rosedale had been a bed of thorns to Wesley Boone since his recovery. He
felt that he was an incongruous visitor among the rest, as a hawk might
feel in a dove-cote. He would have willingly returned to Richmond--even
at the risk of re-entering the prison--if Kate had not been on his
hands. The life of the place, the constant necessity of masking his
aversion to the Spragues, his detestation of Dick, the simple
merry-making and intimate amenities of such close quarters, tasked his
small art of dissimulation beyond even the most practiced powers. The
garment of duplicity was gossamer, he felt, after all, in such
atmosphere of loyalty and trust as surrounded him at Rosedale.
He knew that in the daily attrition and conventional intimacies of the
table, the drawing-room, or the promenade, the cloak covering his
resentful antipathy, his moral perversities, his thinly veiled
impatience, was worn to such thin shreds that eyes keen as Jack's must
see and know him as he was. What was hatefulest and most unendurable of
all was the bondage of truce in which the Atterburys held him. Wesley
was no coward, and he ached to meet Jack face to face, arm to arm, and
settle with that thoughtless insubordinate a rankling list of griefs
heaped up in moments of over-vivacious frankness. He would make Jack
smart for his arrogance, his insolence, his cursed condescension so soon
as they were back among the Caribees.
But meanwhile, here, daily tortured by harmless things--tortured by his
soul's imaginings--Wesley was becoming a burden to Kate, who saw too
plainly that he was in misery, and realized that it was largely through
his own inherent weakness and insincerity. He had all the coarse fiber
of his father without the same force in its texture. With merely
superficial good manners, he was never certain whether the punctilious
niceties observed toward him by the Spragues and Atterburys were not a
species of studied satire. Vincent, who had never shown him the
slightest consideration in Acredale, treated him here with the
chivalrous decorum that the code of the South demanded in those days to
a guest. Wesley ground his teeth under the burden, not quite sure
whether it was mockery or malevolence. He watched with malignant
attentiveness the imperceptible change of tone and manner that marked
the family's treatment of the Spragues. There was none of the grave
ceremoniousness he resented in the Atterburys' behavior with them.
Jack was a hobbledehoy son of the house, almost as much as Vincent.
Kate, too, was, he felt certain, treated with a reserve not shown to
Mrs. Sprague or Merry. Brooding on this, brooding on the unhappiness of
his own disposition, which denied him the privilege of enjoying the best
at the moment, indifferent to what might be behind, Wesley had come to
hate the Atterburys for the burden of an obligation that he could never
lift. He hated Mrs. Atterbury for her high-bred, easy ignoring of all
conditions save those that she exacted. He hated Rosa for her gayety,
her absorption in the young scamp Dick. He hated Vincent because he
seemed to think there was no one in the North but the Spragues worthy of
a moment's consideration. It is in hate as in love--what we seek we
find. Every innocent word and sign that passed in the group, in which he
did not seek to make himself one, Wesley construed as a gird at him or
his family. Constantly on the watch for slights or disparagements, the
most thoughtless acts of the two groups were taken by the tormented
egotist as in some sense a disparagement to his own good repute or his
Nor were the marked affection and confidence shown Kate by everybody in
the house a mitigation of this malign fabric of humiliation. Jack's
fondness for Kate had not escaped the observant eyes of Dick, who had
confided the secret to Rosa, who had likewise unraveled it to mamma,
and, as she kept nothing from Vincent, the Atterburys had that sort of
interest in Kate that intimate spectators always show in love affairs,
where there are no clashing interests involved. It was a moot question,
however, between the three, when, after weeks of observation, Mrs.
Atterbury declared that Jack was not in love with Miss Boone. "He can't
be," she declared. "He doesn't seek her alone; he doesn't make up to her
in the evening. Half the time when they come together it is by Dick's
arrangement. _He_ seems to be in love with Kate."
"How absurd!" Rosa cried, with a laugh; "a boy like him! Why, he would
be in school, if there were no war."
"Well, Rosa, I fancy that Dick hasn't found war very much different from
school, so far. He seems to recite a good deal to the mistress, and
occupies the dunce's block quite regularly," Vincent retorted, with a
provoking significance that set mamma in a brown study and suspended the
comments on Kate's and Jack's probable sentiments.
Mrs. Sprague and Wesley were the only people in the house who had no
suspicion of a deeper feeling than mere passing goodfellowship between
Jack and Kate. Both were blinded by the same confidence. The mother
could never conceive a son of the house of Sprague making such a breach
on the family traditions as a union with a Boone. Wesley could not
conceive a sister of his giving her heart to the son of a family that
had insolently refused to concede social equality to her father.
Something of Wesley's miserable inner unrest could not fail to be
visible to the Atterburys, but the less congenial he became the more
watchfully considerate they made their treatment of him. He was their
guest, with all the sacred rights and immunities that quality implies,
in the exaggerated code of the Southern host. Kate was the single power
that Wesley had bent his headstrong will before, ever since he was a
boy. His father he obeyed, while in his presence, trusting to wheedling
to make his peace in the event of disobedience. But Kate he
She was relentless in her scorn for his meannesses and follies, and,
though he did not always heed her counsels, he proved their justness by
finding his own course wrong. Kate, however, hesitated about
remonstrating with him on his deepening moodiness, for she was not quite
sure whether it was mad jealousy of Dick's favor in Rosa's eyes, or a
secret purpose to attempt to fly from the gentle bondage of Rosedale.
Wesley with Rosa it was remarked by Kate, was, or seemed to be, his
better self, or rather better than the self with which others identified
him. It was, however, she feared, more to torment Dick, than because she
found Wesley to her liking, that the little maid often carried the moody
captain off into the garden, pretending to teach him the varied flora of
that blooming domain. Dick remarked these excursions with growing
impatience, and visited his anger upon Rosa in protests so pungent and
woe-begone that she was forced to own to him that she only pretended an
interest in the captain, so that he might not think he was shut out of
the confidence of the circle.
"And who cares if he does think he is shut out, I should like to know?
He is a sneak, and I don't like to have you talking with him alone,"
Dick cries, quite in the tone of the Benedict who has passed the
marriage-portal and feels safe to make his will known.
"I should like to know what right you have to order what I shall or
shall not do?" Rosa protests, half angry, half laughing. "Why, you talk
like a grown man--like a husband. How dare you?"
Dick pauses confused, and looks guiltily about at this.
"Ah, if you put it that way I have no right except this: My whole heart
is yours. You know that. You may not have given me all yours."
(Protesting shrug from Rosa's shoulders.) "Well, all the same; if my
heart is all your own you have a duty in the case. You ought to spare
your own property from pain." (Rosa laughs softly.) "Of course you are
right. You are always right. How could such a beautiful being be wrong!"
The artful rogue slips his arm about her waist at this, and, after a
feeble struggle, he is permitted to hold this outwork unprotested.
"And, Rosa, if I speak like a man, it is because I am a man. Wasn't it
the part of maids in the old times to inspire the arm of their
sweethearts; to make them constant in danger, brave in battle, and
patient in defeat? Are you less than any of the damsels we read of in
chivalry? Am I not a man when I look in your dear eyes and see nothing
worldlier than love, nothing earthlier than truth there?"
"What a blarney you are! I must really get Vint to send you away, or he
will have a Yankee brother-in-law."
"And the Perleys will have a rebel at the head of the house."
Now, this silly prattle had been carried on in the arbor near the
library, and Wesley, sitting under the curtain, had heard every word of
it. Neither the words nor the unmistakable sounds that lips meeting lips
make, which followed, served to soothe his angry discontent. This was
early on the great Davis gala day, and thereafter he disappeared from
the scene. He made one of the party to Williamsburg, and, though
distraught in the conversation, was keenly alert to all he saw.
Rallied upon his reticence, he had snubbed Kate and turned disdainfully
from Jack's polite proffers to guide him through the review. He had
studied Davis all through the manoeuvres with a furtive, fascinated
attention, which Mrs. Atterbury remarked with complacency, attributing
it to awe. At the dinner-table, seated between Kate and Merry, he had
never taken his eye from the chief of the Confederacy. Twice the
President, courteously addressing him, he had blushed guiltily and
dropped his gaze. Before the dinner was half over he pleaded a severe
headache, and, bidding his hostess good-night, hurried from the room.
The wide hall was deserted; the moon threw broad swaths of light on the
cool matting, and he halted for an instant, breathing rapidly. Something
lying on the rug at the door moved languidly. Wesley, looking carefully
about, moved swiftly to the spot and stopped. Pizarro raised his head,
whining amicably, and, as Wesley bent over to pat him, wagged his tail
with a spasmodic thud against the floor, in sign of goodfellowship.
"Come, Pizarro, come with me," Wesley said, coaxingly. But the dog,
redoubling the tattoo with his tail, remained obstinately at his post.
Wesley stole to the end of the hall and listened, then, hearing the busy
clamor of the servants moving from the kitchen to the dining-room, he
retraced his steps to the stairs, bounded lightly up and in three
minutes reappeared, and, keeping his eyes on the half-closed doors,
slipped softly to Pizarro. The dog sniffed excitedly, and as Wesley took
a thick parcel from his coat-pocket the beast leaped up and attempted
to seize it.
"Follow me, Pizarro, and you shall have it." He held up the packet, a
red, glistening slice of raw beef. The dog whined ecstatically and
Wesley, holding a morsel of it just out of his reach, retreated up the
stairs. Pizarro bounded after him as if construing the by-play into a
challenge, and frisking in all sorts of fantastic shapes to win the
savory prize. The door of Wesley's room was open, and as the dog came
abreast of it he flung a piece into the apartment. Pizarro, lowering his
sniffing nose, looked at the tempting bit sidewise, and then wagging his
tail in modest deprecation of his boldness, made a start inward. It was
swallowed in an instant, and then, as Wesley entered, the door was
closed. Pizarro, by the humility of his manner, the lowered head and
sidelong glance, asked pardon for intruding upon the privacy of a guest,
but argued with his ears and by short yelps, in extenuation, that such a
feast as a bit of meat--after an active day, when the servants had
forgotten to feed him--no dog with a healthy appetite could resist, no
matter how perfect his breeding. He was ready for the larger ration
Wesley held in his hand.
Wesley held the temptation in his hand until he had lured the dog into a
large closet communicating with the bedroom by a locked door. Once in,
the door was shut, and the young man sank on a seat in a thrill of
"That danger's over," he muttered. "Now to see who is in the upper
Perfect silence on the upper floor; only the solemn shadows of the
night, as the moon rises higher and higher, and the plaintive cries of
the night-birds alone betoken life. Through the windows the
white-jacketed house-servants are rushing gayly to and from the
dining-room. All the rooms are dimly lighted. The President's apartment
is fragrant with blossoms, and the lace counterpane turned down.
Retracing his steps, Wesley enters Vincent's room on the corridor with
his own. The candle is burning dimly on the mantel. He seems to know his
whereabouts very well for he makes straight for a bureau between the bed
and the window. He takes from the top drawer a pistol-case, which he has
evidently handled before, as he touches the spring at once. He takes out
one pistol, and, rapidly extracting the loads, puts it back. He has
taken four out of the five barrels of the second when a sound of
footsteps in the hall startles him. He has barely time to replace the
weapons, close the case, put it in the drawer and crawl under the bed,
when Vincent and Jack enter.
His suspense and terror are so overmastering that he can only hear an
occasional word. His own heart-beats sound in his ears like the thumping
of a paddle. Is Vincent going to bed? Are Jack and he going to sit and
smoke, as they often do? No, relief beyond words, they are going out!
Perhaps to Jack's room? They often sit there until very late, and then
Vincent slips in stocking-feet to his own room. But they are gone, and
he must fly. He dares not return to extract the last charge. But one
ball can't do much hurt in the dark, and, if his plans are carried out
with care, there will be no chance for any one to use the weapons on the
rescuing party, even if he were disposed to. In a moment Wesley is back
in his room, marking, with surprise, that there is no sound from Jack's
or Dick's room. But all is well. He is in his own room and secure
He sat down to think. He must keep everything in mind. One whippoorwill
cry from outside would mean that all was well; two that he must hurry to
the rendezvous. It seemed like a dream. Davis, the arch-rebel, the chief
architect of the Confederacy, under the same roof; in an hour, if no
hitch come, the traitor would be bound and flying in trusty Union hands.
And when they got North?--when he, Wesley Boone, handed over to the
authorities in Washington this hateful chief of a hateful cause, what
fame would be his! No one could dispute it. He had informed Butler's
agent; he had watched day and night; had given the Unionists plans of
the grounds; was now periling his own rescue to bring the arch-traitor
to his doom. Ah! what in all history would compare with this glorious
daring? He sat glowing in dreams of such delicious, roseate delight,
that he took no heed of time, and was startled when he heard Dick and
Jack bidding each other good-night. Then in a few minutes be heard
Jack's door open and a tap at Dick's door.
"Come to my room. I want to show you a present I got to-night." Then
silence. Wesley had no watch. The rebels had relieved him of that at
Bull Run. But it must be quite midnight. He opened one of the windows
softly. Oh, the glory of the night, harbinger of his high emprise, his
deathless glory! The wondrous, wondrous stillness of the scene--and to
think that over yonder, in the dark depths of the forest, fifty, perhaps
a hundred, men were waiting for him--for him? Yes, the mighty arms of
the Union were about him; the trump of a fame, such as no song had ever
sung, was poised to blow to the world his daring. Hark! Heavens, yes;
the long, tender plaint of the whippoorwill. Ah! now, now there was no
doubt. In swooning delight he waits. Good Heaven! What's that sound?
Angels and ministers of grace, the dead in wailing woe over the deed
about to be done? Ah! he breathes.
Pizarro has grown tired of imprisonment and has set up an expostulatory
wail, facetiously impatient at first, but now breaking into sharp yelps.
This will never do. He must stop that ear-splitting outcry, or the
househould will be awakened. That sharp-eyed, razor tongued young devil,
Dick, is just across the hall. Wesley opens the closet door, and Pizarro
bounds out, licking his jailer's hands in grateful acknowledgment. He
frisks, appealing to the room door, inviting the further favor of being
permitted to go to his post, his wagging tail explaining how necessary
it is that a dog intrusted with such important duties as the
guardianship of the household can not suffer the casual claims of
friendlessness or the comity of surreptitious feeding to lure him into
infidelity. The tail proving ineffectual in argument, Pizarro
supplemented its eloquence by sharp admonitory yelps, tempered by a
sharp _crescendo_ whining, of which he seemed rather proud as an
"Damn the brute! He will ruin everything. I must kill him." But how? He
had no weapon. He looked about the room in gasping terror--the dog
accepting the move as a sign that the eloquence of the tail argument had
proved overpowering, supplemented this by an explosion of ecstatic yelps
of a deep, bass volume, that murdered the deep silence of the night,
like salvos of pistols. The curtains to the windows were held in place
by stout dimity bands. Whispering soothingly to the dog, Wesley knotted
four of these together, and, making as if to open the door, slipped the
bands like a lasso over the head of the unsuspecting brute. In an
instant his howls were silenced. The dog, with protruding tongue and
eyes--that had the piteous pleading and reproach of the human, looked up
at him, bloodshot and failing. But now the second signal must be near!
He may have missed it in the infernal howling of the brute. Yes, that
was it. He looks out of the window; his room is in view of the covered
way to the kitchen. He sees moving figures; he hears voices. They are
there. He has missed the signal; he must hasten to them. He puts out the
lights and opens the door cautiously. All is invitingly, reassuringly
still. He is at the hall door in a minute, in another he is with the
shadows in the rear of the house.
"Jones, is it you?"
"Ah, captain, we are waiting for ropes to secure the prize."
"There is no time to wait. The dog has made such a noise that I didn't
hear your signal. I saw you from my window. Come, we must not lose a
minute, for I couldn't fasten the brute very well. Davis is here, and we
have only to take him from his room. The cavalry went about eleven; I
heard them march away an hour ago."
"Now, give me the exact situation here, that there may be no surprise.
How many men are we likely to encounter in the event of a fracas?"
"Counting Davis and Lee, four in the house. How near the orderlies and
guards are you know better than I. Besides Davis, there's Jack Sprague,
young Atterbury, and Dick--but he don't count."
"He is not over his wound, and besides he's but a boy. They had two
pistols loaded, but I managed to draw all the charges except one. So
that if Jack and Atterbury should come to the rescue they could do
"They sleep at this end of the house?"
"Yes, and our work is at the other."
"Well, then, in that case I will get ladders I saw near the
carriage-house and put them up to Davis's window as a means of escape in
case these young men get after us before we finish the job. Even with
their unloaded pistols, two full grown men and the boy could
He called Number Two and gave him orders to place a ladder at each of
the two windows of Davis's room, and to have a man at the top of
each--armed. When the men had hurried away, Jones continued:
"Here's a pistol for you. It is a six-shooter bull-dog, and will do sure
work. Now move on to the stairway; others will join us in a moment.
You're sure you know Davis's room? It would be mighty awkward to poke
into any of the others."
"Yes; everybody in the house was taken to see it. It is the old lady's
room, occupied by mother and daughter, generally; but given up to the
President for the night."
They are in the hall, stealing softly over the thick matting; they are
in the broad corridor--running the whole length of the house--Jack's,
Olympiads, Dick's, and Kate's rooms all behind them--southward. Wesley,
with Jones touching his right arm and Number Two at his left, is moving
slowly, silently northward to the left of the stairs.
"Great God! What was that?"
A sound as of a clattering troop of cavalry, the neighing of horses in
the grounds! Wesley halted, trembling, dismayed.
"That's all right," Jones whispered, "I ordered the stables opened so
that the horses wouldn't be handy, if any one should happen to be at
hand who felt like pursuing us, or going for the cavalry."
"It was a mistake; the horses will arouse the house. We must hurry."
In a moment they were before the door of the Davis room. Wesley raised
the latch. It was an old-fashioned fastening. Number Two was directed to
stand at the threshold while Wesley and Jones secured Davis.
Now they are in the room. There is no sound; but from the open window,
looking upon the carriage-road, there is the tramping of horses,
drowning all sounds in the room. They are nearly to the large canopied
bed between the open windows, when Jones, who is nearest, discovers a
startled apparition half rising from the bed. He is discovered by the
figure at the same instant, and a piercing scream, so loud, prolonged,
and ear-splitting that it echoes over the house, ends the wild dream of
the marauders. Wesley reels in panic. But Jones is an old campaigner. If
he can't have victory, there must be no recapture. He rushes at the
white figure, and snatches--Rosa, limp, nerveless, and swooning!
"See who's in the bed!--I'm damned if you haven't brought us to the
wrong room--see, quick!"
But there was no necessity for seeing. Mrs. Atterbury uttered a stifled
cry: "Help! help! murder!"
"You, Boone, know the place; stand by me and I'll see that we are not
nabbed; but you've made a nice mess of the affair."
But the comments of the indignant Jones were suddenly drowned in a
blood-curdling sound in the doorway: the savage, suppressed growl of a
dog, and the responsive imprecations of Number Two. With this came the
apparition of two figures, at sight of which Jones darted to the window,
the two figures, Jack and Dick, following to his right and left.
"Save your powder, whoever you are. Fire at me, and you hit the young
woman. I don't know who she is, but her body is my protection." Saying
this, Jones coolly, determinedly retreated backward to the window; but
Dick, hardly hearing, and certainly not comprehending, had come within
arm's length of the two, somewhat to the left of Jones.
"Don't fear, Rosa," Dick exclaimed, between his teeth. "I can see you.
Ah, ah!" Then four reports, that sounded as one, split the air.
Rosa broke from the thick cloud of smoke as a fifth report rang out, and
a scream of death went up between the bed and the door where Jack stood.
At the instant Dick spoke, Jack, in the doorway, heard an exclamation at
his side. He half turned, and as he did so his eye caught the outlines
of a man, with a shining something raised in the air, coming toward him
from the bedside. He pointed his own pistol at the figure, there were
three simultaneous reports, and the oncoming figure fell with a hoarse
cry of pain. The man at Jack's back now cried:
"Get through the window; they're coming through the house!"
"It's only a dog; come on."
Then there was a sound of flying feet in the wide passage.
"Are you hurt, Rosa? Tell me--did they hit you? Speak, oh, speak!" It
was Dick's voice, in a convulsive sob. Now, the boy again, that
danger was gone.
Jack meanwhile had struck a match, and soon found the candles on the
night-table near the bed. There was, at the same instant, the audible
sound of scurrying along the passage. He ran out. The man assailed by
the dog had reached the head of the stairs. As Jack got half-way down
the corridor, man and dog disappeared over the balustrade. When he
reached the hall the dog was inside, growling furiously, the door was
closed and the man gone. Jack opened the door. Pizarro bounded out, and
Jack followed. The dog stopped a moment, sniffed the ground, and made
for the kitchen. A loud bark, followed by a ferocious growl, and a
scream of mortal pain broke on the air; then a pistol-shot, and a long,
pitiful gasp, and silence.
"Well, that dog won't trouble any one now," Jack heard, and the voice
made his hair rise into bristling quills.
"Barney!" he cried; "Barney Moore, is that you?"
"It is; no one else. If I'm not drunk or dreaming, that's my own Jack.
God be praised!"
"How in Heaven's name did you get here?"
"I might ask you the same question, but you have priority of query, as
they say in court. I came here first to help rescue Captain Wesley
Boone, and second to capture his rebel Excellency Jeff Davis."
"O my God! my God! Barney, Barney, tell me all, and tell me quickly!"
Barney told all he knew, and told it rapidly, Jack catching his arm
almost fiercely, as the miserable truth began to define itself in his
whirling senses. Then the meaning of the two marauders in the ladies'
apartments became plain. Jack and Barney were hurrying toward the
chamber as the latter talked, Jack filled with an awful fear.
THE STORY OF THE NIGHT.
Now, the timely--or untimely--appearance of Jack and Dick in the crisis
of the plot came about in this way: Dick, on returning from Jack's room,
had remarked, with quickening suspicion, a gleam of light under Wesley's
door. Perhaps he is ill, the boy thought, compunctiously; if he were, he
(Dick) ought to offer his services. He started to carry this kind
thought into effect, when he heard suspicious sounds in the room. Some
one was moving. He waited, now in alert anticipation. The plaintive
signal of the whippoorwill--bringing passionate energy to
Wesley--reached Dick's ears; he heard the opening of the window; then
silence. Could Wesley be descending thence to the ground? He blew out
his candle, drew the curtain, and cautiously raised the window. No;
Wesley was not getting out. Then the sound of the Pizarro episode came
dimly through the walls. He thought the dog's expostulatory growls a
voice. There was someone in the room with Wesley. Perhaps it was Kate.
It wouldn't do to act until he was sure that his suspicions were a
certainty. Besides, Jack had warned him not to interfere, with a mere
escape on Wesley's part, unless it seemed to involve depredations upon
the Atterburys. Then he heard the faint sound of the scuffle, when
Wesley throttled the compromising mastiff. Should he slip over and warn
Jack? He was moving toward the door, when, through the stillness of the
night, a sound came up from the direction of the quarters. He ran
lightly to the window again. His eyes, now accustomed to the darkness in
his room, distinguished clearly in the pale starlight. He thrilled with
a sudden sensation of choking. Yonder, stealing houseward from the
rose-gardens, he could plainly discern two--four--six--moving figures.
Heavens, the slaves were out! There was to be a servile uprising. Now he
must go and warn Jack; but he must note first whither the assassins were
directing their attack. Perhaps, with the aid of Jack's pistols, they
could be frightened away by a few shots from the windows. He ran
noiselessly to Jack's room, to his bed, and whispered in his
"Jack, make no noise; dress yourself and come. The negroes are
surrounding the house, and Wesley is in mischief."
Jack was awake and in his clothes in a few seconds. He handed Dick one
of the pistols, and, armed with the other, hastened toward Wesley's
room. The door was open and all was silent. Dick looked in hastily,
marked the open window, and exclaimed:
"He is gone! Come to my room. I know exactly where to locate them from
my window; it is nearer the point they halted at than Wesley's."
Yes; figures were moving swiftly against the trellised walls that led to
the kitchen. They moved, too, with the precision of people thoroughly
acquainted with the place. Then some one appeared swiftly from under the
shadow of the house; then three came toward it and passed under the
veranda near Wesley's window. Jack leaned far out to discover what this
diversion meant. At the same instant the sounding gallopade of hoofs
came from the tranquil roadway leading to the stables. The shrill whinny
of horses broke on the air.
"They are mounted. There are a score of them!" Jack cried, desperately.
"We can at least keep them out of the house."
"We can, if Wesley hasn't opened the doors to them," Dick said,
"That's a fact. But is it sure Wesley is not in his room? Bring matches
and let us examine it."
There was no sign of Wesley in the room. The cool night air poured in
from the open window.
"Draw the curtain before you strike the match," Jack whispered. "We must
not let a light be seen from the outside."
"But the curtains are thin, the light will shine through."
"Sh! Come here. By Heaven, it is Wesley, and he is dead! No--the
devil!--it is Pizarro--dead! Kneel down and strike a match, keeping
between the light and the window. One glance will be enough."
One glimpse revealed the dog with distended tongue and half-glazed eyes,
but still alive. Jack loosed the band from the neck. The dog gave a
convulsive thrill and uttered a plaintive moan.
"Set a basin of water down here. He may recover. Poor fellow! This was a
cruel return for his kindness to Wesley," Jack said, forcing the dog's
nose into the basin. He began to lap the cool water greedily. But now
Dick, in the doorway, littered a cry.
"They are in the house. I hear them moving in the vestibule. Come, for
God's sake, Jack! They are making for Mrs. Atterbury's apartment.
Evidently some one who knows that the family jewels are there, for what
else can they want?"
The dog staggered to his feet as the two stole softly from the room.
They followed with high-wrought, loudly-beating hearts and tingling
nerves. The marauders in front of them moved on like men accustomed to
the house. They made, as the light footfalls indicated, straight for
Mrs. Atterbury's door, which, unlike the others, fronted the length of
the hall in a small vestibule sunk into the lateral wall. The invaders
were thus screened from Jack and Dick when they had turned the corner,
and the latter were forced to move with painful caution to get the
advantage of surprise to offset superior numbers. But now a new peril
menaces them. A shuffling in the long corridor behind them freezes the
current of their blood. They have been caught in a trap. There are two
forces in the house. They both turn and halt, silent and trembling,
against the south wall and wait. The steps still advance, the scraping
of the nailed boots tears the light matting.
"We will wait until the new-comer or new-comers are abreast," Jack
breathes in Dick's ear, "and then fire a volley into them point blank."
At the instant Rosa's shriek, blood-curdling and electric, breaks from
the corner. Dick is over the intervening steps in two mighty bounds,
Jack at his heels and the foe in the rear following. Against the open
window Dick catches the outlines of his darling in the brawny arms of
Tarquin. He has the advantage of the light, and, as the ruffian retreats
to the window, Dick is at his side, and in an instant deals him a
stunning blow on the head. Jack, in the dim light, sees the dark figure
dashing at him with the gleam of steel in his hand. He levels his
weapon, three reports ring out at once, and the miserable Wesley falls
with a dreadful gurgling gasp on the floor.
But there are interlopers in the rear as well! Jack turned to confront
them. He realized vaguely hearing a struggle as he confronted the
robbers. Ah! yes, the dog; the dog has come upon the scene. There is
sound of low, fierce, growling, flying footsteps on the floor, and Jack,
assuring himself by a quick glance that there were no more marauders in
the room, hurried to see that the front door was closed before
re-enforcements could come to the invaders. But Pizarro's lusty growls,
denoting recovered strength, attracted him kitchenward, and he
encountered Barney, and with Barney something of a clew to the hideous
attempt. One prayer was in his heart--one hope--that Wesley had escaped;
but with shuddering horror he hastened with Barney back to the scene of
blood and death. The great candelabra on the mantel had been lighted,
and the room was visible as in daylight. Jack halted, transfixed,
horror-stricken, in the doorway. The women in hastily snatched robes
were all there, and on the floor, wailing over the dead body of Wesley,
Kate sat, prone and disheveled, calling to him to look at her, to speak
to her, as she kissed the cold lips in incredulous despair. She paid no
heed to Mrs. Atterbury, to Olympia, kneeling beside her--all her heart,
all her senses benumbed in the agony of the cruel blow. Jack moved to
the piteous group, and, dropping on his knees, felt the lifeless pulse,
and sank back, pale and shrinking, with the feeling that he was a
murderer. Mrs. Atterbury turned to him, crying convulsively:
"Oh, what does it mean, Mr. Sprague? what does it mean?"
"It is a dreadful game of cross-purposes. These unhappy men believed Mr.
Davis to be in this room when they entered. They meant to capture him
and carry him North."
"Ah, thank God! thank God! who carried our President away in time," and
the matron clasped her hands fervently as she sank in a chair. But the
sight of Kate, woe-begone, feverishly caressing the dead brother,
brought the tenderer instincts back. She rose again, and, clasping her
arms about the poor girl, said pleadingly:
"Let him be carried to his room; you are covered with blood."
"Ah, it is his blood, his innocent blood! Murdered, when he should have
Jack found tongue now. He was hideously calm--the frightful calm of
great-hearted men, who use mirth, levity, and indolency to hide emotion.
"Miss Boone--Kate it was perhaps the shot from my pistol that killed
Wesley. I did it in defense of women in peril, in defense of my own
life. It was an accident in one sense. Had I known the circumstances I
certainly shouldn't have fired, but you must put the blame on me, not
upon this guiltless household."
She looked up at him--looked with a wild, despairing, unbelieving gaze,
pressing the handsome dead face to her bosom, and then, with a wild,
wailing sob, bent her head until the shining dark mass of hair fell like
a funeral veil over her own and the dead face. Rosa, who had disappeared
in the dressing-room, now entered the chamber. Turning from the woful
group on the floor, she glanced hastily about, as if in search of some
one. Her eyes fell upon Dick, dazed and bleeding, on the couch. She ran
to him with a tender cry.
"O Richard! are you hurt? Great heavens! your face is all blood. You are
wounded. O mamma, come--come--Richard is dying!"
The boy tried his best to smile, holding his hand over his left side, as
if stifling pain. He smiled--a bright, contented happy smile--as Rosa
knelt, sobbing, by his side, and, opening his jacket, baring the
blood-stained shirt, plucked a purplish rose from the bleeding bosom.
"The white rose is red now, Rosa."
"Oh, my darling! my darling!" Rosa sobbed; and the boy, smiling in the
joy of it, tried to raise himself to fold her in his arms. But the long
tension had been too much--he fell back unconscious.
Olympia saw that Mrs. Atterbury, the natural head of the house, was
unequal to the dismal burden of control. She took the painful duty of
order upon herself, sent Jack to summon the servants, called Barney to
her aid in removing Dick to his room, and, when the terrified housemaids
came, distributed the rest to the nearest apartments. Morning had dawned
when the work was done, and then Jack set out to investigate the
condition of the quarters. Twenty or more of the negroes had
disappeared. It was easy to trace them to the swamp, but Jack made no
attempt to organize a pursuit. Blood could be traced on the white shell
path leading to the rose-fields, and the pond gate was wide open. He
reported the state of affairs to Mrs. Atterbury. She begged him to take
horse to Williamsburg, bring the surgeon, and deliver a note to the
commanding officer. He returned in two hours with the surgeon, and a
half-hour later a cavalry troop clattered into the grounds.
Dick's wound was first examined. The ball had entered the fleshy part of
his chest, just under the armpit. It was readily extracted, and, if so
much blood had not been lost, the boy would not be in serious danger.
Wesley had died almost instantly. The ball entered his breast just above
the heart. He had passed away painlessly. Jones was shot through the
right shoulder, the ball passing clear across the breast, grazing the
upper ribs, and lodging just above the left lung. He was, by Mrs.
Atterbury's command, removed to the quarters and delivered to the
commander of the cavalry troop as a spy, an inciter of servile
insurrection. By order of the department commander, civilians were
refused all communication with him, as the Davis cabinet meant to make a
stern example so soon as he was able to bear trial. Mrs. Atterbury
announced to Jack and Olympia that so soon as Dick could bear removal
the house would be closed and the family return to Richmond. They heard
this with relief, for the place had become hideous to all now. To Jack
it was a reminder of his misfortune, and to every one of the group it
was associated with crime, treason, and blood. The hardest part of poor
Jack's burden was the seizure of Barney, who was marched off by the
cavalry commander. Vincent gone, Jack had no one to reach the ear of
authority, and he shrank from asking the intervention of the mistress
whose home had been invaded by the guiltless culprit. The case was
stated with all the eloquence Jack was master of to the captain
"You are a soldier, sir," the officer replied. "You know I have no
latitude in the matter. This Moore has no status as a regular prisoner
of war; he is found on the premises of a non-combatant aiding servile
insurrection. Even President Davis himself could not intervene. The
Southern people are deeply agitated by Butler's attempts to arouse the
negroes. We have been weakened, robbed by the abduction of hundreds
right here on the Peninsula. The gang that Moore came here with was led
by this scoundrel Jones, who is Butler's agent. A very vigorous example
must be made of these wretches, or the country-side will be deserted and
the government will be without produce. We must inspire confidence in
the owners of plantations, or the soldiers in the army will have to come
back to guard their homes."
Jack saw the futility of further pleading. The officer was
unquestionably right. Such scenes as Rosedale had witnessed would end in
the desertion of the rural regions of the Confederacy. At Mrs.
Atterbury's urgent intercession Kate was permitted to leave the lines
with her dead. She was conducted to the rebel outposts in the Atterbury
carriage, and under a flag of truce entered the Union lines near
Hampton. Olympia accompanied her in the carriage, Jack riding with the
escort. Kate refused every suggestion to see Jack; refused his own
prayerful message, and sternly, solemnly with her dead passed from the
scene of her sorrows.
Youth and something else stronger than medicine, more tenacious than any
other motive that keeps the life-current brisk and vigorous, made Dick's
recovery swift and sure. Rosa had no torments for him now. The blood-red
rose had proved a magician's amulet to confirm her mind in the sweet
teachings of her heart. But the patrician mother was with difficulty
brought to listen to the tying of this love-knot. She had looked forward
to a grand alliance for the heiress of Rosedale--an alliance that should
bring the family high up in the dominant hierarchy of the South. She
listened silently to the young girl's pleading prattle of the boy's
bravery, his wit, his manliness. She did not say no, but she hoped to
find a way to distract her daughter from a _mesalliance_, which would
not only diminish her child's rank, but compromise the family
politically. Such a sacrifice could not be. Fortunately, both were mere
children, and the knot would unravel itself without perplexities that
maturer love would have involved. So the mother smiled on the happy
girl, kissed Dick tenderly morning and night, for he had been a hero in
their defense, and she was too kindly of heart, too loyal to obligation,
to permit Dick's attitude of suitor to lessen her fondness and
admiration for the bright, handsome lad. Olympia was the confidante of
both the lovers, listened with her usual good-humor to the boy's
raptures and the girl's panegyrics, and soon came to share Jack's high
place in the happy lovers' devotion.
Jack meanwhile sank into incurable gloom. The memory of Kate's mute,
reproachful look, her heart-broken outcry, never quitted him. He woke at
times with the dead eyes of Wesley staring into the night at him, the
convicting gaze of Kate fastened upon him. He must fly, or he must die
in this abhorred, guilt-haunted atmosphere. Olympia saw this, Mrs.
Atterbury saw it, and the first week in November Rosedale was turned
over to the military and the household re-established in the stately
house in the official quarter of Richmond, where the bustle and movement
of new conditions gave Jack's mind another direction, or, rather, took
it from the bitter brooding that threatened madness.
When the sun accepted the wind's challenge to contest for the traveler's
cloak, I dare say all the spectators of the novel highway robbery--the
moon, the stars, the trees, birds and beasts, and others that the fable
does not mention--took odds that the wind would snatch off the
wayfarer's garment in triumph. However, the wind whipped and thrashed
the poor man in vain. The stronger it blew and the more it walloped the
cloak's folds, the tighter and more determinedly the traveler held on to
it, as he plodded wearily over the hillside. But when the sun came
caressingly, inspiring gentle confidence, bathing the body in warm
moisture, the tenacious hold was relaxed, then the disputed coat was
thrown over his arm, and as the vista spread far away in golden light,
the victim cast the garment by the wayside and the sun came off victor.
Youth is despoiled of the garment of grief in this sort. Congenial
warmth, the sunshine of friendliness, soon relax the mantle of woe, and
the path that looks wintry and hard becomes a way of light and gayety.
It was by mingling--at first perfunctorily--in the gayety of the
Confederate capital that Jack lost the melancholy in which the tragedy
at Rosedale had clothed his spirits. At worst, the calamity was over; he
had been a guiltless vengeance in the punishment of Wesley's treason. So
he took bond in hope of better things to come. With a stout heart,
strong limbs, a plowman's appetite, and a natural bent to joyousness, a
youth of twenty-two or three is not apt to mistake his memories for his
hopes and hang the horizon in black when the sun is shining in his eyes!
Richmond, always the center of a fascinating society, was at that time
exuberant in her young metropolitan glories. It was the gayest capital
in the Western hemisphere. To resist its seductions would have tasked
the self-denial of a more constant anchorite than our dashing Jack ever
aspired to be, in the lowest stage of his martial vicissitudes. There
was nothing of the garishness of the parvenu in the capital's display.
The patrician caste ruled in camp and court. The walls that had echoed
to the oratory of Jefferson, Henry, Washington, Randolph, now housed the
young Congress of the new Confederacy. An hundred years of political,
military, legal, and social precedence were the inheritance of the men
chief in the cabinet, the council, and the camp. Stirring traditions
clung about every quarter of the town, now devoted to the offices of
administration, from the Mayo wharves to the lodgings of Washington and
Lafayette. On the stately square yonder, where the musing eye of the
rebel chief might study its history, stood the suggestive mansion where
Burr's treason was brought home to that first great rebel.
Not far distant the disdainful pointed out the tenement where Fremont
had instructed the Richmond youth in far other doctrines than those
which made him the abolitionist choice for President in after-times.
Royalist and republican glories mingled in the reliquary edifices that
met the wondering eyes of the provincial Confederates drawn to the
capital in the generous enthusiasm of that first prodigious achievement
at Bull Run. Here a royal Governor had dwelt, yonder a Bonaparte had
sojourned and beguiled the famous beauties of Powhatan, as the
patriarchs loved to call the city. A Lee was the chief of the military
staff, a Randolph ruled the war office; scions of the Washingtons family
filled a dozen subordinate places; the kin of Patrick Henry revived
their ancestor's glory by as zealous a devotion to the new revolution.
With personages like these in every office the society of the new
capital revived the brilliancy of the French Directory and also the
character of the States-General, while Holland held the Spains at bay.
The blockade had not yet pinched the affluent, nor beggared the
industries of the well-to-do. Always famous for a brilliant bar, a
learned judiciary, and a cultivated taste among its women, Richmond in
1861 was the ideal of a political, military, and social rendezvous of a
The raw legions had been victorious in the first pitched battle of the
war on the plains of Manassas, and what might not be reasonably hoped
from them under the training of such muster-minds as Johnston,
Beauregard, Jackson, and Lee? Wasn't it the common talk among diplomats,
the concurrent opinion of the French and English press, the despairing
admission of the half-hearted and panic-stricken North, that one more
such decisive victory would bring the South peace and independence?
Wasn't it, indeed, well known among the favored juntas that those
sagacious diplomats, Senators Mason and Slidell, had delayed their
journey to Europe in order to aid the President in the treaty of peace
that the victorious legions of Johnston were to exact in Washington?
Jack was amazed and disheartened at what he saw and heard. The activity,
resources, gayety, and confidence of the authorities and people,
recalled to his mind, Oxford, the jocund capital of Charles II and the
royalists, while the Commonwealth leaders were drilling their armies.
But instead of the chaos of rapine, the wanton excesses, the pillage of
churches and colleges that marked the tenure of the miserable Charles,
Richmond was as orderly, serene, the Congress as deliberate, and the
people as content, as the Rome of the conquest of Persia or France after
Jemmapes. The army was hot for battle, and as confident of the result as
the Guard at Austerlitz or McClellan at Malvern. The work done and the
way of its doing showed that the populace, as well as the rulers, were
convinced of the destiny of the city to be henceforth mistress of
herself, the preordained metropolis of half the continent--perhaps the
whole continent--for, would the North be able to resist joining States
with a destiny so glorious--a regal republic where birth and rank were
tacitly enthroned? The city's greatness was taken by the mass, as a
matter of course--like an heir in chancery who has won all but the final
decree in the suit, or like a great nobleman who has come to his
Though it was the first week of November when the Atterburys found home
affairs going on smoothly in the town-house, summer still disputed with
winter the short lovely days of fall, as Jack described the lingering
May-day mildness of this seductive Southern autumn. It was the first
season he had ever spent south of New York, and, like most Americans, he
realized, with wonder, that the wind which brought ice and snow to New
York, visited lower Virginia with only a sharp evening and morning
reminder that summer was gone. The balm and beauty of the climate came
with something of healing to the hurt his heart and hope had suffered at
Rosedale. If anything could have mitigated the pangs of a young warrior
perplexed in love and held in leash in war, it was such an existence as
the Atterburys inveigled him into leading. The part of carpet-knight is
not difficult to learn, and the awkwardness of it is to some extent
atoned for when the service is constrained. At least Jack took this
philosophical view of it, and soon gave himself up to the merry social
life of his surroundings with an animation that led his hosts to hope
that he might be won over to the Confederate cause. Very young men do
not sorrow long or deeply, and Jack was young. He was neither reckless
nor trifling, but I am sure that none of the adulating groups that made
much of the handsome Yankee in Richmond that season would have suspected
that the young man looked in his mirror night and morning, frowned
darkly at the reflected image he saw there, and said, solemnly, "You are
a murderer!" It was by no means a tragic accent in which this thrilling
apostrophe was spoken. It was very much in the tone that a woman employs
when she looks hastily in the mirror and utters a soft "What a fright I
am!" apparently receiving comforting contradiction enough from the
mirror to make the remark worth frequent repetition.
As a matter of fact, however, Jack was not insensible to the awkward
complication of his predicament. Grief as a mantle is difficult to
adjust to the shoulders of the young. It is melted by the ardor of
companionship as swiftly as it is spun by the loom of adversity. His
interest in the strange scenes that the war brought to pass, his
association with people--intimate in a sense with the leading forces of
rebellion, the airs of incipient grandeur, these raw instruments of
government gave themselves--all these things engrossed the observant
faculties of the young man, who looked out upon the serio-comic
harlequinade playing about him as a hostage of the Roundheads might have
taken part in the showy festivities of the Cavaliers, in the years when
the chances of battle had not gone over wholly to the Puritans. Not that
the figure illustrates the contrasting conditions adequately. For, if
the South prided itself at all--and the South did pride itself
vauntingly, clamorously, and incessantly--it made its chief boast the
point that its people were the gentry of the land, and that under the
rebel banner the hosts of chivalry had assembled anew to make all manner
of fine things the rule of life. Jack, writing and talking of his few
months' experience, dwelt with wonder upon the curious ignorance of the
two peoples respecting each other. Mason and Dixon's line separated two
civilizations as markedly unlike as the peoples that confront each other
on either side the Vistula or the Baltic Sea. The hierarchy not only
seemed to love war for war's sake; they possessed that feudal facalty,
so incomprehensible in the middle ages, the power of making those who
suffered most by it believe in it too, and sacrifice themselves for it.
The people--Jack sagaciously remarked, in discussing the topic with
Olympia--seemed made for such a climate, rather than made by it. They
would have been out of place in the bleak autumn blasts, and wan,
colorless seasons of Acredale, where the sun, bleary and dim, furtively
skirted the low horizon from November until April, as if ashamed to be
identified with the glorious courser that rode the radiant summer sky.
Here the sun came up of a morning--a little tardy, 'tis true, but quite
in the manner of the people--warm and engaging, and when he went down in
the afternoon he covered the western sky with a roseate mantle that
fairly kept out the chill of the Northern night. "No wonder," Jack said
to his sister, watching this daily spectacle--"no wonder these people
are warm, impulsive, and even energetic; here is an Italian climate
without the enervating languor of that sensuous sunshine."
The Atterbury house was the gayest in Richmond. Mrs. Atterbury, though
the mother of a son in the army and a daughter with a coterie of her own
in society, insisted on maintaining the leadership she had long held
among the social forces of the capital. "All Richmond," and that meant a
good deal in a city whose women had been adored for beauty and wit on
two continents, received Mrs. Atterbury's bidding to her drawing-room
with proud alacrity. Never had her "teas," her _musicales_, her
receptions, and _fetes_ been merrier or more convivial than during this
memorable autumn that Jack and Olympia passed as prisoners of war. It
was generally believed that the brother and sister were occult agents of
the Federal power, negotiating with the Davis Cabinet, and Jack's
whimsical sobriety of speech and manner, contrasting with his former
high animal spirits, carried out the notion of his being a secret
It was at a reception given to the Cabinet by Mrs. Atterbury that the
rumor of this accredited function came to Jack's ears. "All Richmond"
was among the guests. Olympia, in spite of her abhorrence of the cause,
couldn't resist a glow of sympathetic admiration of the women who, in
dress, in speech, in tact, in all the artifices which make feminine
diplomacy so potent an agency in statecraft, bent every faculty to
inspire confidence in the new Administration. Mrs. Davis herself was not
the least of the factors that made the President's policy the creed of
the land. There was no elaboration of costume--no obtrusive jewels. The
most richly dressed dame in the company was a Madame Gannat, the deity
of the most charming drawing-room at the capital. At her house society
was always sure to meet the European noblemen traveling in the country,
the _quasi_ official agents of France, England, and Austria, accredited
to the new Confederacy, the generals of the Southern armies on leave in
the city, and the political leaders able to snatch an evening's
relaxation. For some reason this potential personage let Olympia and
Jack see that she was deeply interested in them. She took the young
man's arm late in the evening, and whispering, "Find a place where we
can have a little talk," accompanied him to a small apartment joining a
conservatory, where Mrs. Atterbury transacted business with her agents.
"You must take down a book, so that, in case the curious remark us, our
_tete-a-tete_ may not be regarded as conspiracy."
"No one would be apt to associate you with such a thing," Jack said,
"I don't know. Like all conspiracies, this Confederate comedy is
"Comedy, Mrs. Gannat? Why, I never saw people so earnest! I can't
imagine the surroundings of Cromwell more methodic."
"Ah, yes; those who have all to lose by the crash when it comes, are
bending every energy to impress the North that we are all of one mind
down here; we are not. I am talking frankly with you, because my friend
Mrs. Lanview has made me fully acquainted with your circumstances. I
have asked you for a talk here because I dare not have you at my house.
No one suspects my loyalty to this Davis masquerade; but there are many
of us who are doing, and shall do, all the better work for the Union
cause. You are just the man needed for a great work here; you are
believed to be secretly in favor of the Confederate cause--an
ambassador, in short. Now, the special purpose of this talk is this: The
men caught at Rosedale three weeks ago are to be tried before a military
court. If you and this young man Perley could escape before the event,
it would be impossible to convict them. Mrs. Lanview tells me that you
are very closely allied to the younger prisoner, Moore, and that for his
sake you will do all in your power to avoid testifying."
"I will cut out my tongue before a syllable from me shall bring danger
to that noble fellow!"
"Exactly. I expected as much. Now, can you not manage to inspire Perley
with the same sentiment? If you can, we feel confident that the court
will be unable to secure evidence sufficient to convict. I leave the
details to your own ingenuity. Your absence would deprive the
judge-advocate of the vital witnesses, but your refusal to testify would
only bring you into danger, and prolong the proceedings; and with time
we hope to effect an escape. Sh! As I say, Mr. Sprague, the heart of the
South beats with one impulse, the triumph of the noblest inspiration of
a great people."
The warning and sudden change in topic were caused by the apparition of
a dame who came rustling in, a vision of youthful charms and
"Mrs. Didier Rodney--Mr. Sprague," Mrs. Gannat said, cordially. "You are
sent by inspiration, for I am doing my poor best to convince this
obdurate Yankee to turn from evil courses and do a duty by the country
that will in future make his name illustrious."
"And I have no doubt you have shaken his obstinacy, if there be any
left," Mrs. Rodney murmured, studying Jack attentively. "I have just
been dining at the Executive Mansion, and Mr. Davis, hearing your name,
lamented that women were not eligible to office. If they were, he
declared that Mistress Gannat should be appointed ambassadress to
France, and that, within ten days of her reception at the Tuileries,
there would be a treaty of alliance signed between France and the
"I take that as rather an admission of weakness on your President's
part," Jack said, as the lady glanced inquiringly at him, "since it is a
poor cause that requires the strongest advocates."
"Ah! a Southern man would never have said a thing so uncivil as that,"
Mrs. Rodney cried, reproachfully. "You pay Mrs. Gannat a compliment at
the cost of the Confederacy."
"And Mr. Davis paid me a compliment at the expense of the truth, so the
account is squared," the elder lady said, serenely.
"Well, Mr. Davis is here himself by this time, and you shall talk it out
with him," Mrs. Rodney retorted, as a rustle at the door announced
new-comers. A half-dozen ladies came trooping in, among them Mrs. Davis
and several of the Cabinet ladies.
"We heard you were here, Madame Gannat," the President's wife murmured,
graciously. "And since you wouldn't come to us, we have come to you."
Mrs. Gannat arose to receive the great lady, and when she had exchanged
salutations with the rest she presented Jack.
"Ah! the hero of the Rosedale affair," and as Mrs. Davis said this she
looked keenly at the young man. She was, he owned, an extremely graceful
woman, of a mature beauty, admirable manner, and, as she talked, he
remarked keen intelligence, with an occasional evidence of reading, if
not high education. She was dressed in simpler taste than her "court,"
as it was the fashion then to style the Cabinet group. A few jewels were
half hidden in the rare lace that covered her bodice, but she was
ungloved, and in no sense in the full-dress understood in the North, at
a gathering of the sort. The talk became general. Jack, not knowing the
personages, simply listened. There was animated discussion as to whether
Mistress Judge this, and Mistress General that, or Mistress Senator the
other, would be in the capital in time for the opening of the new
Congress in December.
"Mr. Davis is very anxious to have the occasion made a grand one, and I
reckon that every one of account in the Confederacy will he here." Mrs.
Davis said, with conviction.
"The scene will be worthy of a great painting, like the Long Parliament,
or the meeting of the Three Estates, at Versailles," Mrs. Rodney added,
in a glow of anticipation.
This amusing pedantry rather taxed the historical knowledge of most of
the ladies, and to divert the talk Mrs. Monteith, a Cabinet lady, said:
"Who has read the account in the Yankee papers of Lincoln and his wife
at a reception of the diplomatic corps? It is too funny. The Lincoln
woman was a Southerner. She has some good blood, and ought to know
better. She was dressed like a dowdy, and when the ministers bowed she
gave them her hand and said, 'How d'ye do?'"
"It will really be a liberal education, to the North to have a capital
like ours near them, where their public men can learn manners, and where
Northern ladies can see how to conduct themselves in public," Mrs.
Rodney broke in, laughing. "It is not often a great people go to war for
an idea, but we are taking up the gage of battle to teach our
"We taught them how to run at Manassas," Mrs. Starlow, a Senator's dame,
"I'm afraid they have learned the lesson so well that we shall never
teach them how to stand," Mrs. Davis added, gayly.
"Ah! friends, we are teaching each other how to die--let us not forget
that," Mrs. Gannat murmured, gently, and there was a sudden hush in the
exchange of vivacities. Before the strain could he renewed, Mrs.
Atterbury entered hastily, crying:
"The gentlemen are all distracted. We are going to have an old-time
minuet, such as my mother used to dance with Justice Marshall and Tom
Mayo. The President is going to lead with Mistress Wendolph, and all the
rest of you are assigned, by command of the Executive."
"Humph! a military despotism?" asked Mrs. Renfrew, a young bride of the
Executive Mansion, whose husband was confidential adviser of the
President. "I don't think I shall obey. I shall show the honesty of my
rebel blood by selecting my own partner, unless some one asks me
"Shall I go on my knees, Mrs. Renfrew?--I know no humbler attitude,"
Jack said, hastily presenting himself.
"Oh, yes, sir; there is something humbler than the knees."
"Yes? What, pray?"
"Repentance. Deny your name; no longer be a Montague--that is, a Yankee.
Give me the hand of a rebel. Then I shall believe you."
"I am a rebel."
"Ah! you have been converted?"
"I never was perverted."
"You have been with us all the time?"
"I have been here a long time!"
"And you are a rebel. Oh, I must tell Mr. Davis!"
"He knows it, I think."
"Oh, no, he can not; for it was only a few moments since that he said to
Mrs. Atterbury that the son of Senator Sprague, the friend of Calhoun
and the comrade of Hayne, should be in the ranks of the young nobility
upholding our sacred cause."
"I am, however, a rebel--a rebel to all these fascinations I see about
me, a rebel to your beauty, a rebel to all you desire."
"Pah! you odious Yankee; I felt certain that you had not come to your
"I don't think I ever lost them--though I never had enough to make such
a spirit as yours lament their loss." The rest of the ladies had passed
out; and, as this repartee went on. Jack led his petulant companion into
the large drawing-room, where he instantly recognized the President with
Mrs. Wendolph on his arm. He towered above the mass of the dancers,
eying the admiring groups with attentive scrutiny. He was in evening
dress, but, unlike the larger number of the eminent partisans in the
rooms, had no insignia, military or otherwise, to denote exalted rank.
As the President was to lead off, to keep up the character of a court
minuet, the middle of the large room was left uncrowded. The music began
what Jack thought at first was a funeral march, but with the first bars
the tall, slender figure of the President bent almost double, while the
lady seemed fairly seated on the floor, she bent down and back so far.
She had adjusted a prodigious silken train, which swept and swirled in
many bewildering folds as she slowly turned, courtesied, tripped forward
and retreated, with such bending and twisting as would turn a
ballet-master mad with envy. In all the movement of the overture the two
dancers merely touched the tips of each other's fingers, and when the
solemn measure came to a close the President slid across the floor in
one graceful, immense pirouette, handing the lady who confronted him,
bent nearly to the ground, into her seat. There was an outburst of
applause, and then the assembly took places, repeating, in as far as the
mass would permit, the stately evolutions of the leader.
Later, a Virginia reel followed, danced with old-time _verve_, some of
the more accomplished dancers bounding over the floor in pigeon-wings,
such as were cut by the nimble a hundred years ago, when Richmond danced
in honor of Washington and Lafayette. There was no end of drinking among
the men, and as soon as the dancing seemed at its height the matrons
began to gather into groups and send out signals to the younger ladies.
The feast ended in drinking-bouts between dispersed bodies, who seemed
to know the names of all the servants, and ordered as liberally as if in
their own houses. In the _melee_ of separation, Jack felt a hand on
"Remember, every moment is precious. Many lives, perhaps a great
campaign, depend upon your discretion, promptitude, and loyalty. Be
ready when the signal reaches you, and remember you do not know me
beyond the civility of a presentation, and do not like me."
Jack had hardly turned as these words were whispered in his ear, and he
gave the kind lady's hand a warm pressure, as she moved away unremarked
in the throng.
Jack, confiding Mrs. Gannat's disclosures to Olympia, was elated by his
sister's enthusiasm, and was strengthened in his conviction that he was
doing right by her approval.
"But you know, Polly, that--I--I, too, must be of the party? I must fly
to the Union lines."
"Of course you will! I should be ashamed of you were you to let such a
chance pass. It is the only thing to do; it is your duty as a soldier to
be with your flag; any means to get to it is justified. The Atterburys
will feel hurt, perhaps outraged, but I can soon convince them that you
have only done what Vincent would do, and whatever he would do they will
soon see is right for you to do, even though it may bring them into
temporary disgrace with the authorities. Of late I have begun to suspect
that the Atterburys are to blame for your detention."
"What do you mean to blame? Surely they can not hasten the slow business
"No; but I'm convinced that they have given out hopes that you can be
seduced into a soldier of secession. It is common talk in the
drawing-rooms I have visited, where I was not always recognized as your
sister. The silly tale has angered me, but for prudence sake I kept
silent. I have heard in a score of places that the Atterburys were
detaining you until another reverse to the Union arms should convince
you of the uselessness of remaining in the service of the
"O Polly, it must be a joke! They little know me, who could suspect me
of such dishonor! Surely the Atterburys can't think me so base as that.
What have I ever done to justify such a stigma?"
"You wrong them there. They hold that you are wanting in loyalty to our
father's memory in espousing the cause of men who were his enemies--men
who strove to ruin his political life. It is in being a soldier of the
Union that they look upon you as recreant to the traditions of your
family and your party."
"Well, I shall make a hard struggle for escape. If I fail, they will at
least see that I am in earnest--that I put country before family or
party, or anything else that men hold dear. Heavens! to think of being
held in such bondage! I could stand it with more patience if I were in
prison sharing the hard lines of the fellows. But to be here; to be hand
in glove with these boasting, audacious coxcombs, and forced to listen
to their callow banter of us and our army, it makes me feel like a sneak
and a traitor, and I'm glad that I see the end."
"But do you see the end? Prudence is one of the wisest counselors in
war. You are very rash, and you must take all your measures carefully.
It won't do to rush into a trap, as you did at Manassas; and, O Jack,
what is to become of Dick? He is not in the lists. He has no standing
here, and is at the mercy of any one who chooses to accuse him of
being a spy."
"By George, you're right! I hadn't thought of that. He must go with me.
I had thought it better to leave him. He is so happy with Rosa that I
fancied he would remain contentedly until the war ends. But he is in
constant danger. He is forever tantalizing the people that visit the
house, who make slighting allusions to the Northern armies, and very
likely some rebel patriot will take the trouble to inquire about him."
"But even if this were not a peril, he would never consent to remain
here if you were gone. I think he would give up Rosa rather than be
separated from you."
"Yes, the impulsive little beggar, I believe he would," Jack said, his
eyes glistening. "That will compel us to take him into the secret. In
fact, I don't see how it can be managed without him; and then his
testimony would convict the prisoners. I hadn't thought of that. But
now, Polly, about yourself. What's to become of you?"
"I have my plans laid. Mrs. Myrason, the wife of one of Johnston's
generals, is going to the front next week. I shall insist to-night on
accompanying her, as some of our physicians are going to be sent through
the lines at the same time. There is really no reason for my remaining
here, now that you are well. I have already broached the subject to Mrs.
Atterbury, and I shall inform her at once that I am decided. She will
not suspect anything, as she knew I was half-tempted to go North when
mamma went. The important thing for you, now, is to give your whole mind
to the rescue, and have no fears for me. If you can convince Dick to go
with you, all will be well. If he proves obstinate, hand him over to
me." Jack laughed.
"Polly, you should have been the first-born of the house of Sprague; you
have twice the sense that I have."
"It isn't sense that wins in war; it is daring and resolution, and you
have all that."
When Jack had cautiously laid the situation before his young Patroclus,
that precocious warrior at once justified the confidence reposed in him.
"Rosa has promised to marry me as soon as the war is over. She can't
expect me to hang around here like a peg-top on a string. Besides, I
wouldn't stay where you are not, Jacko, even if I lost my sweetheart for
good and all."
There was a piteous quaver in the treble voice, and, forgetting that he
was no longer a school-boy, he brushed his eyes furtively with his
coat-sleeve, as Jack pretended preoccupation with his shoe-string.
"You're a brick, Dick. I think I have confided that to you before--but
you are a brick, made of the best straw in the field of life, and you
shall be a general one of these days--your shrill voice shall let slip
the dogs of war and cry havoc to the enemy. You shall return to
Acredale--proud Acredale--your brows bound with victorious wreaths, and
all the small boys perched on the spreading oaks to salute you."
"I think I have heard something like that before, my blarneying
Plantagenet. You shall be the Percy of the North, and command the great
battle. You shall meet and vanquish fifty Harrys, and cry, 'God for
Union, liberty, and the laws.'"
"Bravo! You know your Shakespeare if you don't know prudence. However,
we're plotters now, and you must take on your wisest humor. You must not
breathe a word to Rosa. Love is a freebooter in confidences. It has no
conscience, as it has no law. It is an immense friction on the sober
relations of life. It is cousin to the god of lies--Mercury. So be
warned that while your heart is Rosa's your reason's your country's,
your friends', and you have a chance now to employ it to the profit of
both! You must be ready to evade Rosa's infinite questioning with
innocent plausibilities, for you must bear in mind that, however much
she may love you, she, like you, loves her cause, her people--more, in
fact, for you have seen that these passionate Southerners have made a
religion of the war, and, like all enthusiasts, they will go any
lengths, deny all ties; glory, faith, in personal sacrifices and
heart-wrenchings, to make the South triumph. So, without being false to
your love, you must deceive, to be true to your country; for to lull
love's suspicions a man must regulate the two currents of his life, the
heart and brain. Keep the heart in check and let the brain rule in such
affairs as we have on hand."
"Phew Jack! you talk like a college professor. You're deeper than a
well; and what was the other thing Mercutio said?"
"Ah! Mercutio said so much that Shakespeare got frightened and let
Tybalt kill him. So beware of saying too much. That's your great danger,
Dick; your tongue is terrible--mostly to your friends."
"Is it, indeed? I have a friend who doesn't think so."
"No, because she considers your tongue part of herself now."
"I don't see why she should; she has enough of her own."
"In wooing-time no woman ever had enough tongue."
"How changed you are from what you were at Acredale, Jack! I never heard
you talk so deep and bookish."
"I had no need at Acredale, Dick. There I was a boy--lived as a boy,
romped as a boy, and loved boyish things. But a man ripens swiftly in
war--you yourself have. You are no longer the mischief-maker and tom-boy
that terrified your family and set the gossips agog in the dear old
village. Mind broadens swiftly in war. That one dreadful day at Bull Run
enlarged my faculties, or trained them rather, as much as a course in
college. Something very serious came into my life that day. It had its
effect on you too. It fairly revolutionized Vint; we may not have
exactly put away boyishness and boyish things--please God, I hope to be
a boy many a year yet--but we have been made to think as men, act as
men, and realize that there are consequences and responsibilities in
life such as we could not have realized in ten years in time of peace."
Dick listened during this solemn comedy of immature doctrinal induction,
his eyes dilating with wonder and admiration. Jack, in the _role_ of
sage, delighted him, and he straightway confided to Rosa that he
couldn't understand how any girl could love another man while Jack was
to be had.
"He's so clever, so brave, so manly. He knows so much, and yet never
takes the trouble to let any one see it. Ah, Rosa, I wish I were
"I think Jack's very nice, but I know somebody that's much nicer," Rosa
replied, busy with a rough material that was plainly intended for the
"Ah! but if you really knew all about Jack, you wouldn't look at anybody
else," Dick cried, pensively, tangling his long legs in the young
"There, you clumsy fellow; you've ruined this seam, and I must get this
work done before noon. We're all going to the provost prison to take
garments to the recruits. You may come if you'll be very good and help
me with these supplies."
"May I? I will sew on the buttons. Oh, you think I can't? Just give me a
needle." And sure enough Dick, gravely arming himself from the store in
Rosa's "catch-all," set to fastening the big buttons as composedly as if
he had been brought up in a tailor's shop. It was in this sartorial
industry that Jack, coming in, presently discovered the pair.
"You've turned Dick into a seamstress, have you, Rosalind? You're an
amazing little magician. Dick's sewing heretofore has been of the common
"No, Mr. Jack, I'm no magician. Dick is a very sensible fellow, and,
like Richelieu in the play, he ekes out the lion's skin with the fox's."
"I didn't come to add to the stores of your wisdom. This is the day set,
as I understand it, for us to go to the prison and relieve the distress
of the victims of war. Do I understand that we, Dick and I, are to go
and have our patriotic hearts torn by the sight of woes that fortune, in
the shape of the Atterburys, keeps us from?"
"Of course you are. We couldn't think of going without you. There, my
work is done. We'll have lunch and then start," Rosa said, rising and
directing Dick to fill the large wicker basket with the garments.
Fashion and idleness make strange pastimes. The recreation to which Jack
and Dick were bidden was a visit to the melancholy shambles where the
heterogeneous mass of unclassified prisoners were detained. It was a
long, gabled building on the brink of the river, from whose low, grated
windows the culprits could catch glimpses of the James, tumbling over
its sedgy, sometimes rocky bed. A few yards from it arose the grim walls
of what had been a tobacco-factory, now the never-to-be forgotten
It was an animated and curious group that made up Jack's party. They
were piloted by a young aide on the staff of General Lee, and, as his
entire mind was engrossed in making his court to Rosa, the pilgrims were
given the widest latitude for investigation. On the lower tier he
pointed out the cells of the Rosedale prisoners, where, as you may
imagine, Jack and Dick, without giving a sign, kept their wits alert.
Jones--the "most desperate of the conspirators against the President,
the special agent of Butler"--was in a cell by himself, constantly
guarded by a sentinel.
"This, Sprague," said the young aide, lowering his voice as he came
abreast of Jones's cell, "is the man the Government has the strongest
proof against. He is proved to have come into our lines from the Warwick
River, to have managed to escape from Castle Thunder, and to have led
the miscreants to Rosedale. Your own and young Perley's testimony after
that will swing him higher than a spy was ever swung before."
These words, begun in a low tone, were made clearer and louder by the
sudden cessation of chatter among the visiting group. Jones, who seemed
to have come to his grating when the suppressed laughter sounded in the
dark corridor, heard every word of the official's speech. He was no
longer the bearded desperado Jack had seen in the _melee_ at
Rosedale--there was a certain distinction in the poise of the head, an
inborn gentility in the impassive contemplation with which he met the
furtive scrutiny of the curious visitors. Jack he eyed with something of
surprise, but when Dick pushed suddenly in front of the timorous group
of young women, he started, changed color, and averted his face; then,
as if suddenly recalling himself, turned and devoured the lad with a
strange, yearning tenderness. Dick met the gaze with his habitual easy
gayety, and, turning to Jack, said, impulsively:
"I should never recognize this man as the bandit who fired the shot that
night--are you really the Jones that choked and wounded me at Rosedale?"
Dick advanced quite close to the wicked as he asked this.
"And who may you be, if I am permitted to ask a question?" the prisoner
replied vaguely, all the time devouring the boy with his dilating eyes.
"I am Richard Perley, of Acredale, a soldier of the Union and a friend
of all who suffer in its cause." Dick murmured the last words so low
that the group of visitors did not catch them, and, adding to them an
emphasis of the eye that the prisoner seemed too agitated to notice, he
continued, as Jack pushed nearer; "This is certainly not the man we saw
at Rosedale. But I have seen you somewhere. Tell me, have I not?"
"I can tell you nothing--I--I" As he said this Jones backed against the
wall. The guard sprang forward in alarm. The women, of course, cried out
in many keys, most of them skurrying away toward the staircase.
"Water!" Jack cried. "Guard, have you no water handy?"
"No, sir; the canteen was broken, and there is none nearer than the
"Run and get some. I will see that the prisoner does not get out. Run!"
The aide had gallantly gone forward in the passage to reassure the
ladies, and Jack, seizing the chance, for which the prisoner seemed to
be prepared, whispered:
"Here is an auger, a chisel, and a knife. Secrete them. Work straight
out under your window. We shall be ready for you by Wednesday night.
Don't fail to give a signal if anything happens that prevents your
cutting through. There is only an old stone wall between you and the
river. You must take precautions against the water, if it is high enough
to reach your cut."
Jones played his part admirably. He remained limp and stolid in the
supporting arms of Jack, while Dick, hovering in the doorway, kept the
prying remnant of the visitors, eager to witness the scene, at a safe
distance. When the water came Jack yielded his place to the guard and
the party moved on.
"Here we have a real Yankee, a regular nutmeg," the young aide cried, as
the party came to a room not far from Jones's. "This youngster was one
of the chief devils in the attack on Rosedale. The judge-advocate has
tried every means to coax a confession from him, but without result. He
is as gay as a bridegroom, and answers all threats with a joke."
"Ah! the old Barney under all," Jack said, half sadly.
"Do you know him, Mr. Sprague?"
"Like a brother. He is from my town."
"Ah, perhaps you can convince him that his best course is open
"No, I fear not. He is very headstrong, and would rather have his joke
on the gibbet than own himself in the wrong."
"But, Mr. Jack, if you should talk to him, show him the wickedness of
conspiring against a peaceful family, inciting a servile race to murder,
I'm sure you could move him, and it would be such a comfort to have the
criminals themselves expose the atrocious plot."
This was said by Miss Delmayne, a niece of Mrs. Gannat. Jack caught her
eye as she spoke, and instantly realized the covert meaning. How stupid
he had been! Of course, Barney must be apprised of the rescue, and what
time more propitious than the present? But, unfortunately, he had not
provided himself with the tools for the emergency. What could be done?
He suddenly remembered a bayonet he had seen near the guard-room. It was
lying unnoticed on the bench.
"I must have a drink before I answer a plea so urgent. Amuse the
prisoner while I slake my thirst."
Barney was lying at the far end of the narrow, boarded cage. He raised
his head as the group halted before his door, but gave no sign of
interest as this dialogue was carried on:
"Prisoner," said the aide, magisterially, "come to the door."
"Jailer, what shall I come to the door for?" Barney mimicked indolently.
"Because I hid you, sir."
"Not a reason in law, sir."
"I'll have the guard haul you here."
"Then he'll have a mighty poor haul, as King James said when he caught
the Orange troopers in the Boyne."
"I'll teach you, sir, to defy a commissioned officer!"
"I've learned that already; but if you're a school-teacher I'll decline
the verb 'will' for you."
"Guard, hustle that beast forward."
"Guard, don't give yourself the trouble." And Barney arose nimbly and
came to the grating. "O captain, dear, why didn't ye tell me there were
ladies here? You could have spared your eloquence and your authority if
you had told me that the star of beauty, the smile of angels, the--"
"Never mind, sir; be respectful, and wait till you're spoken to."
"Then, captain, dear, do you profit by your own advice; let the ladies
talk. I'm all ears, as the rabbit said to the weasel."
But at this interesting point of the combat Jack returned, and,
pushing-to the door, cried, as if in surprise, "Hello, Barney, boy, what
are you doing here?"
"Diverting the ladies, Jack, dear, and giving the captain a chance to
practice command, for fear he'll not get a show in battle." The roar
that saluted this retort subdued the bumptious cavalier, and he affected
deep interest in the whispered questions of one of the young women in
the rear of the group.
"You're the same old Barney. Marc Anthony gave up the world for a kiss,
you'd capitulate a kingdom for a joke," Jack said, striving to catch
Barney's eye and warn him to be prudent.
"Well, Jack, dear, between the joke and the kiss, I think I'd go out of
the world better satisfied with the kiss; at all events, it wouldn't be
dacent to say less with so many red lips forninst me," and Barney winked
untold admiration at the laughing group before him, all plainly
delighted with his conquest of the captain.
"But, Barney, you should be thinking of more serious things."
"Sure I've thought of nothing else for three months. The trees can't go
naked all the year; the brook can't keep ice on it in summer; the swan
sings before it dies; the grasshopper whirrs loudest when its grave is
ready. Why shouldn't I have me joke when I've had nothing but hard
knocks, loneliness, and the company of the prison for half the year?"
"Poor fellow!" Rosa murmured in Dick's ear, who had not trusted himself
in sight of his old comrade. "I don't believe he's a bad man; I don't
believe he came to our house. Oh! pray, Mr. Jack, do talk with him.
Encourage him to be frank, and we will get Mr. Davis to pardon him."
"Pardon, is it, me dear? Sure there's no pardon could be as sweet as
your honest e'en--God be good to ye!--an' if I were Peter after the
third denial of me Maker, your sweet lips would drag the truth from me!
What is it you would have me tell?"
"The captain, here, desires me to talk with you. He thinks that perhaps
I can convince you of the wiser course to follow," Jack said, with a
meaning light in his eye.
"Oh, if that's what's wanted, I will listen to you 'till yer arms give
out, as Judy McMoyne said, when Teddy tould his love, I promise, in
advance, to do what you advise."
"I knew you would," Jack said, approvingly.--"Now, captain, if you can
give me five minutes--"
The captain beckoned the guard, whispered a moment, and then said,
"The guard will stand in the passage until you have finished with the
prisoner. We shall await you in the porch."
"Now, Barney, I must be brief, and you must not lose a syllable I say.
Here, sit on the cot, so that I may slip this bayonet under the blanket.
You can work through this wall with that. You must do it to-night and
to-morrow. Be ready Thursday at daylight. You will be met on the outside
either by Dick or myself. We have the route all arranged, and friends in
many places to lull suspicion."
"But I won't stir a foot without Jones. Do you know who he is?" Barney
whispered, eying Jack curiously.
"No other than that he seems a very desperate devil-may-care fellow. Who
"An agent and crony of Boone's."
"It's a long story I can't tell it now, but if your plan takes him in,
I'm ready, and will be on hand."
"I have seen him, and have given him better tools than I have brought
you for the work."
"That's all right. I ask nothing better than the bayonet. The other
fellows that got out of Libby didn't have nearly so good."
"You know how I am fixed here. I have grown tired of this sort of
hostage life, and I am going North with you. So, Barney, I beg of you to
be careful, for other lives than your own are at stake. I should be
specially hateful to the authorities if I were retaken--for the whole
Southern people clamor to have an example made of the assassins of the
President, as they call you."
"Don't fear, Jack; I'll be quiet as a sucking pig in star light. I'll be
yer shadow and never open me mouth, even if a jug, big as Teddy Fin's
praty-patch, stud furninst me!"
"It isn't your tongue I'm so much afraid of as your propensity to
combat. You must resist that delight of yours--whacking stray heads and
flourishing your big fists."
"My fists, is it? Then I'll engage to keep them still as O'Connell's
legs in Phoenix Square."
"Now, I shall report that you are considering my advice. You must be
very gentle and placating to the guard, and let on that you have
something on your mind."
"Indeed, I needn't let on at all. I have as much on me mind as Biddy
McGinniss had on her back when she carried Mick home from the gallows."
"O Barney, Barney, you would joke if the halter were about your neck!"
"An' why wouldn't I, me bye? What chance would I have if I didn't? I
couldn't joke when I was dead, could I?"
"Well, well, think over what I've said, and remember that penitence half
This was said for the benefit of the guard, who had approached as Jack
arose to take his leave.
ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR.
Opportunity is an instinct to the man who dares. To him the law of the
impossible has no meaning. To him there is no such thing as the
unexpected. What he wants comes to pass, because he can not see danger,
difficulty, nor any of the obstacles that daunt the prudent and the
temporizing. It is, therefore, the impossible that is fulfilled in many
of the crises of life. By the same token it is the foolhardy and
preposterous thing that is most readily done in determinate
conjunctures. We guard against the possible, but we take little note of
the enterprises that involve foolhardiness or desperation. Daring has
safeguards of its own that are understood only when mad ventures have
come to successful issue. Helpless and hopeless as Jack's situation
seemed, the very poverty of his resources, helped the daring scheme of
escape that filled his mind night and day during these apparently
indolent weeks of pleasuring in the ranks of his enemies. Then, too, the
arrogant self-confidence of his captors was an inestimable aid. Military
discipline and provost vigilance were at their slackest stage in the
rebel lines at this triumphant epoch in the fortunes of the Confederacy.
The easily won combat at Bull Run had filled the authorities--as well as
the rank and file--with overweening contempt for the resources of the
North, or the enterprise of its soldiers. It was not until long after
the time I am now writing about, that the prisoners were closely guarded
and access refused to the idle and curious. But, as a matter of fact,
nothing in the fortunes of our friends equals the truth of the thrilling
and desperate chances taken by Northern captives to escape the lingering
death of prison in the South. Since the war, volumes have been written
of personal experience, amply attested, that would in romance receive
the derisive mark of the critics. Danger daily met becomes a commonplace
to men of resolution. Things which appall us when we read them become a
simple part of our purpose when we live in an atmosphere of peril and
put our hope only in ending the ordeal.
The incident I am narrating were the work of many hands. Mrs. Gannat had
from the first given her heart to the Union cause. A woman of high
standing in society, well known throughout the State for her mind, her
manners, and her benevolence, it was not difficult for her, by adroit
management, to aid such prisoners as fell into rebel hands during the
early years of the war. Before Richmond became a mart in the modern
sense, the Gannat mansion, set far back among the trees of a noble
grove, was a shrine to the tradition loving citizens, for, beyond any
Southern city, save perhaps New Orleans, Richmond folk cherished the
memory of aristocratic and semi-regal ancestors. There were those still
living when the war began, who had heard their fathers and mothers talk
of the last royal Governor and the splendid state of the great noblemen
who had flocked to the city of Powhatan when Virginia was the gem of
England's colonial coronet. The patrician caste of the city still held
its own, aided by the helot hand of slavery. Among the most reverently
considered in this sanctified group, Mrs. Gannat was, if not first, the
conceded equal. She was the dowager of the ancient noblesse. The young
Virginian received in her drawing-rooms carried away a distinction which
was recognized throughout the State. The dame admitted to Mrs. Gannat's
semi-literary _levees_ was accepted as all that society demanded of
In other years this great lady had been the admired center of the court
circle in Washington. There she had known very intimately Senator--then
Congressman--Sprague. Jack remembered vaguely the gossip of an
engagement between his father and a famous Southern beauty; and when the
lady in the course of the conspiring said, as they talked, "My son, I
might have been your mother," he knew that this gentle-voiced,
kindly-eyed matron was the woman his father had loved and lost. I don't
propose to rehearse the ingenuities of the complicated plans whereby the
group we are interested in were to be delivered. Mrs. Gannat's perfect
knowledge of the city, her intimacy with the President, Cabinet, and
leading men, her vogue with the officials, all tended to make very
simple and easy that which would seem in the telling hare-brained and
impossible. Jack's unique position, and Dick's attitude of the
half-acknowledged _fiance_ of an Atterbury, broke down bars that even
Mrs. Gannat's far-reaching sagacity might not have been able to cope
with in certainty. The night chosen for the escape was fatefully
propitious. The President was entertaining the newly arrived French
delegate and the ministers Mason and Slidell, just appointed to the
courts of St. James and the Tuileries. Everybody that was anybody was of
the splendid company.
Jack, however, was tortured by a doubt of Dick's constancy when it came
to an abrupt quitting of his sweetheart. Poor lad, he fought the battle
bravely, making no sign; and when Rosa, the picture of demure
loveliness, in her girlish finery, asked him maliciously as the carriage
drove toward the Executive Mansion--
"Don't you feel like a traitor, you sly Yankee?" Dick gave a great groan
"O Rosa, Rosa, I can't go! I do feel like a traitor. I am a traitor."
Jack, luckily, was sitting beside him, and brought his heel down on the
lad's toes with such emphasis that he uttered a cry of pain. Rosa was
all solicitude at this.
"What is it, Richard; have I wounded you? Don't mind my chatter; I only
do it to tease you. He shall be a Yankee; he shall make nutmegs; he
shall abuse the chivalrous South; he shall be what he likes; he sha'n't
be teased--" and she wound her bare arms about his neck, quite
indifferent to the reproving nudges of mamma and the sad mirthfulness
Dick found means in the noise of the chariot, and the crush they
presently came into, for saying something that seemed to lessen the
self-reproachful tone of the penitent, and, when they entered the modest
portals of the presidency, Rosa was radiant and Dick equable, but not in
his usual chattering volubility.
"You are sure you do not repent? You can stay if you choose," Jack said,
as they entered the dressing-room.
"Where you go, I go; what you say is right I know is right, and I will
do it." Dick looked away confusedly as he said this. They were
surrounded by young officers, all of whom the two young men knew.
"Ah, ha, Mr. Perley! I have stolen a march on you; I have secured the
first waltz from Miss Rosa," a young man at the mirror cried, as Dick
adjusted his gloves.
"Then, Captain Warrick, I'm likely to be a wall-flower, for the second,
third, and fourth were promised yesterday."
"Fortunes of war, my dear fellow--fortunes of war. You must lay siege to
"Dick," Jack whispered, "it's an omen. It will give us time to slip out
and change our garments without the danger of excuses, for, though
nothing is suspected, any incautious phrase may destroy us."
"Don't fear for me. I shall be prudent as a confessor. We can't go,
however, just yet. I must have a little talk with Rosa. I may never see
her again. If you were in love and going from the light of her eye,
perhaps never to see her again, you wouldn't be so cool. We must,
anyway, take the ladies to the host and hostess for presentation; then a
few words and I am ready." Dick was trembling visibly and blushing like
a school-girl at first facing a class-day crowd. Jack's heart went out
to the lad, and he thought the chances about even that when the moment
of trial came the boy's resolution would give way. The ladies were
waiting for them when they emerged into the corridors--Rosa began,
prettily, to rally Dick on his tardiness. It took time to thread the
constantly increasing crowd in the hallways, the corridors, and on the
stairs, but they finally reached the group in which Mrs. Davis was
receiving the confused salutations of the throng at the drawing-room
door. As soon as this formality was ended, Rosa whisked Dick in one
direction while Mrs. Atterbury asked Jack to take her to the library.
Here, by a happy chance, she came upon a group of dowagers--friends of
her youth from other towns--brought to the capital by the event, or
their husbands' official duties in the new government. Jack bowed low as
he relinquished the good lady's arm, feeling as if he were embarking on
some odious treason, in view of her persistent and generous treatment of
him and his.
"Now that you are among the friends of your youth, I will leave you; who
knows whether I shall see you again?" he faltered, as she turned an
affectionate glance upon him.
"Oh, you needn't think that you can take _conge_ for good, Jack. I may
want to dance during the night. If I do I shall certainly lay my
commands upon you. You may devote yourself to the young people now, but
I warn you I am not to be thrown over so easily. Besides, I want to
present you to a dozen friends that you have not yet met at my house."
"You will always know where to find me; but I am not so sure that I
shall be as able, as I am willing, to come to you," Jack said, trembling
at the double meaning of his words.
"Oh, I know you're dying to get to the dancers."
"I can go to no one that it will give me more happiness to please than
you. Indeed, I'm going into danger when I quit you. Give me your
blessing, as if it were Vincent going to the wars."
She had turned from the throng of ladies, who were discussing a
political secret, and her eyes melted tenderly as Vincent's name passed
Jack's lips. She touched his bowed head gently, saying:
"Why, how serious you are! One would think beauty a battery, and you on
the way to charge."
"You are right. It is a murderous ambush."
"Well, if you regard it so seriously--God bless you in it."
Her gentle eyes rested tenderly on him; he seized the kind hand, and,
raising it to his lips in the gallant Southern fashion, turned and
hurried away among the guests.
"Ah, Mrs. Atterbury, conquests at your age, from hand to lip, there's
but short interval," and the President held up a warning finger as he
came closer to the lady.
"Oh, no, age makes a long route between hand and lip--thirty years ago
you kissed my hand, and you never reached the lip."
"It wasn't my fault that I didn't."
"Nor your misfortune either," and Mrs. Atterbury glanced archly at her
rival, Mrs. Davis, the mature beauty of the scene.
Dick, meanwhile, not so dexterous in expedients or ready in speech as
his mentor, became wedged in an eddy, just outside the main stream,
pouring drawing-room ward, so that, returning to the spot where they had
separated, Jack did not, for the moment, discover him.
Rosa's gayety and delight deepened the depression that made Dick so
unlike himself. At first, in the exuberance of the scene, the girl did
not heed this. She knew everybody, and, though in daily contact with