Part 7 out of 8
"How do you mean?" Vincent said, quickly.
"You are fighting to continue slavery, to extend it; we to abolish it or
limit it. But even I can see that slavery is doomed. No Northern party
would ever venture to give it toleration after this."
"But if we succeed, it will exist in our union at least."
"Ah, Vincent, can't you see that such a people as ours may be checked,
beaten even, but they will never give up the Union? Why, much as I love
Jack, I would never let him leave the colors while there was an army in
the field. Don't you know every Northern mother has the same feeling?"
"And every Southern mother, too."
"Yes, I believe that, but there's this difference: Your Southern mothers
are counting on what doesn't exist--a higher physical courage--a prowess
in battle, I may call it, that you must know the Southern soldier has
not, as distinguished from the Northern. As time goes on and the war
does not end; as our armies become disciplined, the confidence that
supports your side will die, and then the struggle, though it may be
prolonged, will end in our triumph."
"I don't think it. I can't think it. But don't let us talk about it. We,
at least, are as much friends as though Jack and I were under one flag,
and if it depends on me it shall be always so."
"If it depends on us, it shall never be otherwise." She gave the young
man a kind, scrutinizing glance, which made his heart beat joyously and
his handsome cheeks mount color. At Fairfax Court-House they said
farewell, the ladies continuing the journey in an ambulance under
They passed over the long bridge three days after the famous night at
Rosedale, of whose exciting sequel they were profoundly ignorant. In her
husband's time Mrs. Sprague had lived in hotels in the capital, as the
sessions were short; she had never remained in the city when the warm
weather set in, no matter how long the term lasted. But on her arrival
at the old hotel now, she was a good deal disturbed to learn that she
could not be accommodated in her former quarters. The military crowded
not only this but every hotel in the city, and it was only after long
search that a habitable apartment was found in Georgetown. On the whole,
the necessity that drove her thither was not an unmitigated adversity,
for Georgetown then was far more desirable for residence than
Washington. Nothing could be more depressing than the city at that
epoch. Every visible object in the vast circumference of its spreading
limits was then naked unkempt. Even the trees, that ranged themselves
irregularly in the straggling squares and wide street areas, stretched
out a draggled and piebald plumage, as if uncertain whether beauty or
ugliness were their function in the _ensemble_.
The photographic realism of the later newspaper correspondent had not
come into play in these earlier years of the war, and, as a consequence,
the thousands who poured down to the Army of the Potomac beheld the city
with something of the incredulous scorn with which the effeminate
Byzantines regarded the capital of the Goths, when the corrupt
descendant of Constantine made the savage Dacians his allies, rather
than fight them. Patriotism, however, not pride, marked the common mold
of the men of the civil war. It may have been that many an honest
plowman, marching through the muddy quagmires of Pennsylvania Avenue,
bethought himself that such a capital was hardly worth while marching so
far to protect--more emphatically so when the enemy was really to be
found on lines far north of it! Sentiment is the heart and soul of war;
if it were not, there would be no war, for war never gained as much as
it loses; never settled as much as it unsettles; never left victor or
vanquished better when the last gun was fired! In old times the capture
of a nation's capital meant the end of the war, but we have seen
capitals captured and the war not modified a bit by it. Washington was
seized and burned by the British in 1814, and the war went on; Paris was
held by the Germans for half a year, and the war went on.
Our civil war would have been three campaigns shorter--Burnside's,
Hooker's, and the stupid massacre of Pope--to say nothing of the saving
of untold treasure, had the political authorities abandoned a capital
which must be defended for a secure seat like New York or Philadelphia.
The sagacious Lincoln, whose action in army matters was paralyzed by
cliques, in the end saw through sham with an inspired clarity of vision,
and proposed the measure, but the backwoods Mazarin, Seward, prepared
such voluminous "considerations" in opposition that the good-natured
President withdrew his suggestion, and, as a consequence, the dismal
Ilium on the Potomac became the bone of a four years' contention, whose
vicissitudes exceed the incidents of the Iliad. Great armies, created by
an inspired commander, were wasted upon the defense of a capital that no
one would have lamented had it been again burned, and of which to-day
there is scarcely a remnant, save in the public buildings and the
topographical charts. A new race entered the sleepy city. The astute,
far-seeing Yankee divined the possibilities of the future, where the
indolent, sentimental Southerner had never taken thought of a nation's
growth and a people's pride! The thrifty and shifty patriots sent from
the North at once took a stake in the city, and thenceforward there was
growth, if not grace, in the capital.
Lincoln's Washington was to the capital of to-day what the Rome of Numa
was to the imperial city of Augustus. Never, in its best days, more
imposing than a wild Western metropolis of to-day, the sudden inrush of
armies and the wherewithal to supply and house them, soon gave the vast
spaces laid out for the capital the uncouthness and incompleteness of an
exaggerated mining town or series of towns. Contrasted even with its
rival on the James, Washington was raw, chaotic, squalid.
Long tenure of estates and little change in the people had given
Richmond the venerableness we associate with age. Many of her
picturesque seven hills were transformed into blooming fields or
umbrageous groves, under which vast villa-like edifices clustered in
Grecian repose. Save in the bustling main streets none of the edifices
were new or raw, or wholly unlovely in design or fabric. In Washington
nothing of this could be seen. Staring brick walls, buildings of unequal
height and fatiguingly ugly designs, uprose here and there in morasses
of mud that were meant for streets. Disproportionate outline, sharp
conjunctures of affluence and squalor, accented the disheartening
hideousness of the scene.
But upon this uncouth stage a great drama was going on; great figures
were in action; momentous events were hourly taking form and
consequence; men, and women at their best and worst were working out the
awful ends of Fate. In the large mansion yonder, the wisest, greatest,
simplest of mankind--by times Diogenes and Cromwell, Lafayette and
Robespierre was, in jest and joke, mirth and sadness, working out his
own and a people's sublime destiny. It was to this curiously unequal
personage that Mrs. Sprague, after fruitless pleading with her husband's
friends, came finally to secure action on behalf of her son. There was
little of the ceremonial needed to gain access to the Chief Magistrate
which is now the fashion.
She found a care-worn man, deeply harassed, standing in the low-ceiled
room, in which the Cabinet had met a few moments before. A sweet, wan
smile--the instinctive, inborn sensitiveness of a noble nature-flickered
over the rugged lines of the face as the usher, retiring, said:
"Mr. President, this is Mrs. Sprague, whom you ordered to be admitted."
"I am both glad and sorry to meet you, madam. I knew your husband, the
Senator, in other and happier times. I wish that it were in my power to
do for him or his what he was always doing for the unhappy or
"Ah! how kind you are! How--"
She was going to say different from what she expected, but bethought
herself of the ungraciousness of this form, since at that time Mr.
Lincoln was the object of almost universal misreport and caricature.
"How can I say what a mother should say?"
While she spoke he began pacing the apartment, each time, as he came to
the double window near which she sat, peering out with a yearning,
far-away look toward the river and the red lines of the hills beyond it.
Then turning back, he strode the length of the long baize-covered table,
sometimes absently picking up a document, until, facing her again as she
narrated the story of Jack's misfortunes, he would fling it hastily on
the scattered heaps and fix his mild eye upon her.
"I know all this already, dear madam. It has come to me from the boy's
friends, and"--he hesitated a second--"and from his--or from those who
are not his friends."
"Not his friends?" the mother cried, half rising. "Why, Mr. President,
Jack hasn't an enemy in the world!"
"You came through from Richmond last week? Have you heard nothing from
your son since you saw him?"
"Nothing. Oh, is there anything about him?"
"You have not even read the newspapers, I see."
"No, no; I have been so uncertain, so agitated, so constantly in
attendance upon our members, that I have had no time to read or even
talk. But, pray tell me! Your manner indicates that something has
happened. O Mr. President, think of my anxiety! My only son!"
"Ah, Mrs. Sprague! It is I that should be pitied here. You came to me
for comfort. You came in reliance on my power to restore your son, and
I--I have the burden of telling you very grievous news. No, no, your son
is not dead, have no fear of that, if in the end it prove a comfort.
Last night your townsman, Elisha Boone, came to me with his heart-broken
daughter, demanding vengeance for his son's death, whom your boy had
slain the very night you left him on the James. He shot Captain Boone in
the house you visited, and defeated a well-arranged plan to capture the
rebel chief, Davis. Not only this, but he endangered the escape of a
number of sorely-worn prisoners who had succeeded in reaching the
Rosedale place and halted only to make Davis's capture certain."
"My son shot Wesley! oh no, no; it can not be; or, if he did, it was
because his own life was in peril. Ah! no, no, Mr. President, do not
believe this. I know my son. I know the misery he endured in Wesley's
company; endured like a hero; endured like a Sprague. He must have been
in peril of his life."
"Dear madam, I feel for you. I feel with you, but these facts are all in
the possession of the Secretary of War. Mr. Boone will no doubt give you
all the details. If it can be made to seem as you say, have no fear that
I will wink at mere revenge, or make the machinery of justice an
instrument of family feuds. Get your lawyer; have the matter
investigated, and rely upon me for every proper clemency and aid in your
She had arisen long before, and, recognizing this as a dismissal, she
bowed, unable to speak, and, with blinded eyes, staggered toward the two
steps leading upward from the room. She would have fallen had the ready
arm of the President not been near to support her. In the anteroom he
"Captain, send an orderly to accompany this lady to her carriage."
Merry was in the carriage. One glance at Mrs. Sprague's face told that
dire news had been heard. She did not ask a question, but, embracing and
supporting the sobbing mother, awaited patiently for the dreaded
revelation. When at length the miserable story came in gaspings and
sobs, the spinster exhibited an unexpected firmness.
"I don't believe a word of it. If Jack shot Wesley, it was because he
was in some sort of treacherous business. You may depend upon it, that,
when we get the true story, Jack's part will prove him in the right. I
am going this instant to Boone to learn his source of information. He
can have nothing but rumors."
"I will go. It is better for me to see Mr. Boone. He will not venture to
misrepresent to me."
At Willards, where Boone was stopping, the ladies were obliged to wait a
long time, and, in the end, it was Kate who appeared before them in deep
black, with a half-yearning, half-defiant expression in the sadly worn
face. They would never have recognized her, and, as it was, Merry
started with a slight scream as the dark figure stopped before them.
"Papa begs to be excused. He supposes that you want to hear the
particulars of the--the affair at Rosedale, and bids me tell you."
"O Kate, Kate, it is not true! it can not be true. Oh, you who knew Jack
so well, you know that he never could have--have--"
Kate had seized a chair and drawn it before the two who sat on one of
the long sofas that filled without adorning the vast hotel parlor, dim
even at noonday in its semi-subterranean light.
"Yes, Mrs. Sprague, your son shot Wesley deliberately; shot him as
deliberately as if I should draw a pistol and take your life now
"And--and killed him?"
"He never spoke again. He--he--ah! I can not, I can not! We brought him
here. His body is in the cemetery, waiting the military formalities."
"But tell us how it happened, Kate," Merry sobbed, entreatingly. "We
know nothing but what you have told us. Tell us all. It is so startling,
so awful, that we can not comprehend such a thing happening where we
left everybody in the most friendly spirit."
Kate, struggling with her tears, told the story so far as she knew it,
but of course she knew little beyond the mere fact that Wesley had come
to his death in Mrs. Atterbury's room; that Jack stood over him with the
smoking pistol, and owned that he had fired in the darkness. She told
the tale as gently as might be, her own heart secretly pleading for
everything of extenuation that might lessen Jack's guilt, but she had
insensibly taken the darker view her father had instantly adopted, that
Jack's enmity had led him to seize the chance to rid himself of a rival
and enemy under cover of defending the Atterburys. She did not hint this
to the mother, but Merry, knowing Boone, at once saw what the
President's words meant. Boone had charged Jack with deliberate murder.
Dreading the realization of this by Mrs. Sprague at this time, Merry
made a sign to Kate, who, comprehending at once, arose and begged to go
back to her father, who was in need of her.
"Oh, if Olympia were here! she has so much self-control! she would
advise so well what should he done!" the mother moaned, as she passed
down through the long, barrack-like parlor.
"But, dear Mrs. Sprague, Olympia is just where her good sense is most
needed. She is near Jack. He needs comfort and counsel. You can have
your lawyer, and you shall see the case isn't so bad as we have heard.
You must remember that the Boones are not likely to take an impartial
view. It is only human nature that they should think the worst of
the--the death of son and brother. Wait till we hear Jack's story, and
you will see that it puts a different face on the matter."
"But it's Jack's disgrace and death they want. That was what the
President meant. I didn't understand it then: I do understand it now.
They shall not murder him! I shall command him to remain in Richmond. I
shall command him to join Vincent. The North is unworthy of such men as
my son. He is too pure, too innocent, too high-minded to be understood
by the coarse natures that have come to power in the country. I shall
not let this odious Boone destroy him as he ruined your brother."
"O Mrs. Sprague, think what you are saying! Think how fatal such words
would be, if Jack were brought to trial. You see every day in the press
how all are suspected of treason who were Democrats in the old days. I
know very well that you do not mean this. Much as I love Jack, I would
rather see him in his grave with the Union flag over him than in the
rebel lines, a soldier of that bad cause. As to my poor brother, Boone
was only an accident in his ruin. If it had not been Boone, it would
have been some one else. Put the whole matter in the hands of Simon
Brodie. He is almost a Sprague. He will see that the son of his old
patron has justice."
Simon Brodie, of Warchester, was the chief advocate of the three
counties. He had studied law with the late Senator Sprague, and, at his
death, from partner succeeded to his lucrative law practice. He came at
once to Washington at Mrs. Sprague's summons, and set about learning the
status of the case. The affair was no easy matter to trace, but, after
inconceivable delays and persistent misleading, he found that Jack was
in the military archives charged with desertion, murder, and treason:
desertion in quitting his company and regiment without orders, treason
in consorting with armed rebels, and murder in joining with the enemies
of the country to take the life of his commanding officer. Meanwhile,
Mrs. Sprague and Merry had returned to Acredale, and the lawyer sent
letters to Richmond setting forth the case to Jack--letters which, by
some mysterious jugglery, never reached their address, as we have seen.
Nothing could be done until Jack was either exchanged or until his
advocate had made out a documentary case that could be presented to the
military authorities. As he surmised, every one in authority had been
prejudiced against Jack. The Congressman from Warchester dared not work
against Boone, who was potent as a Cabinet minister in the councils of
the Government. One of Senator Sprague's old friends, still in the
Senate, advised Brodie to let Jack remain at Richmond till the peace
came, "for," said he, "no Democrat nor any one identified with that
party can hope for impartial justice here."
"But what am I to do? I can get no assistance here. Every bureau
containing documents bearing on the poor boy's case is either closed to
me, or the officials so hostile that I can not work with or
"You must go about the affair as if it were a State matter. You must go
to McClellan. He is a young man of the most spotless honor, the most
generous sympathies. He is as rigid as a Prussian in discipline, but his
methods are enlightened and above board. He is the only man in authority
that has any real conception of the magnitude of the struggle the North
has entered upon. He is, however, miserably hampered. The new rulers
have come down to Washington very much in the spirit of the Goths when
they captured Rome. Every one is on the make. The contract system is
something beyond the wildest excesses I ever read of in pillage and
chicanery. Shoes by the million have been accepted that melt as soon as
they are wet; garments are stacked mountain-high in the storehouses that
blow into rags so soon as the air goes through them. Food, moldy,
filthy, is accumulated on the wharves of Washington, Baltimore, and
Alexandria that would be forbidden as infectious in any carefully
guarded port in the world. Contracts for vessels have been signed where
steamships are called for, and the contractor sends canal-boats. Lines
of ships are paid for to run to ports not known in navigation; and the
chief men in the great departments share the money with the rings--"
"But why don't you expose it?"
"Expose it? A word in the Senate against these villainies is set down as
disloyalty. All that a rascal needs to gain any scope he pleases, is to
say 'rebel sympathizer,' and Fort Warren or Lafayette is held up as
Among the confidential aides of McClellan Brodie knew intimately a young
officer, the son of a distinguished lady, whose writings delighted
cultivated people fifty years ago. This young man, Captain Churchland,
had often been a guest at the Spragues, and to him Brodie went for
advice. Inheriting a great deal of his mother's intellect, with a droll
sense of humor, not then so well understood as the lighter school of
writers have since made it, Churchland was the delight of the
headquarters. He listened to the melancholy story of Jack's
"It's a bad fix--no mistake," he said, gravely; "but I suggest that your
fiery young friend come home and shoot the father, marry the daughter,
and, as a wife can't testify against the husband, your client
"Ah, captain, it's not a matter for joking. Think of his wretched
"That's just what I do think of--murder's no joke, though it's more of a
fine art than it was when De Quincey wrote. I'm perfectly serious. I
would shoot the scoundrel Boone. Why, do you know the man has cleared a
million dollars on rotten blankets since he came here? McClellan ordered
a report made out showing his rascalities a few weeks ago. It was
disapproved at the War Office, and the condemned blankets have gone to
Halleck's army. Doesn't that deserve shooting? Napoleon directed all the
army contractors to be hanged. I say shoot them. For every one put out
of the way a thousand soldiers' lives will be saved."
"Well, well, let Boone go. It's Sprague I'm interested in."
"So am I. It is Sprague that Boone seems to be interested in, too, for
he has filled the new Secretary with, what he himself would call,
righteous wrath against the poor boy and his friends. But make your mind
easy. The exchange of prisoners will soon begin. Sprague's turn will
come among the first, and then I will keep track of the affair. Beyond
that I can promise nothing. You may be sure, so far as purely military
men have to do with the business, there will be impartial justice. When
the politicians take hold, I can give no assurance."
And with this cold comfort the disheartened lawyer betook himself to
Acredale, where his report, guardedly given, brought no very strong hope
to the anxious mother.
THE WORLD WENT VERY ILL THEN.
Acredale was not the sleepy, sylvan scene we first saw it, when Mrs.
Sprague and Merry drove through the wide main street from the station,
four months after they had quitted it in search of their soldier boys.
The stately elms still arched the highway to Warchester, but here and
there rough gaps were seen in the trim hedge-rows. Staring new edifices
jutted through these breaks upon the grassy walks, and building material
lay heaped in confusion all along the graveled walks. Merry railed at
these evidences of commercial invasion, wondering who had come to the
village to transform it into city hideousness. Mrs. Sprague did not give
much heed to her companion's speculations. Her mind was far away on the
James, wondering where her boy was. It was very hard to settle down to
the commonplaces of home life; but, even in all her distraction, Mrs.
Sprague saw that a change had come upon the people as well as the place.
With the war and its desolating sights fresh in her memory, she saw,
with sorrow and aversion, that social life was gayer than it had ever
been, that the rush for wealth had become a fever, and that the simple
ways and homely joys of the past were now remitted to the very elderly.
The story of Dick's mad pursuit of Jack and the Caribees, after the
disaster at Bull Run, was soon known in every home in the county.
Friends came from far and near to hear the exciting adventure; and the
younger boys, who had been the lad's classmates in the academy, at once
made up a company of youngsters, adorned by the name of the "Perley
Rangers," to be in readiness for the hero's command when he
The feud between the adherents of the houses of Sprague and Boone had
become acrimoniously embittered by the point of view from which each
side saw the conduct of Jack. Among the Boone feudatories he was set
down as a traitor, a spy, a murderer. The first malignant rumors that
reached the village after the battle were still maintained stoutly by
the Boone lictors. Jack had ingloriously shirked his part in the battle
with the Caribees; he had skulked in the bushes until the issue was
decided, and then had followed the sympathies of his secession family;
he had gone to the Atterburys, well known for their hatred to the North.
It was to prove his sincerity in the Southern cause that he had wormed
himself into the confidence of Wesley Boone's comrades, and in order
that he might be chief agent in the frustration of the plan of escape.
He had won high regard in the Confederacy by saving Davis from capture.
He had, with his own hand, shot Wesley Boone when the plan of capture
was on the verge of success. Could anything be clearer than his odious
treason? Hadn't he, of all the unfortunates of the battle, found favor
and luxurious quarters in Richmond? Hadn't he cunningly cajoled the
Boones into the visit to the rebel household, in order to wrest the
secrets of the Union rescue from them? It was in vain that the Perleys
and others set forth the real case. "Very likely, indeed," the Boone
side cried, "that rebels like the Atterburys would receive true
Unionists into their house, and treat them as friends! A real Unionist
would have refused hospitality from the enemies of his country." There
was talk among the more zealous patriots of having the Sprague family
expelled from Acredale. Loyal zealots looked up the law on expatriation
and attainder, and complained bitterly that no applicable provisions
were found in the statutes. Stirring addresses were sent to the member
from Warchester, imploring him to have laws enacted that would enable
the patriots to deal summarily with covert treason. It was true that the
Spragues had contributed many thousand dollars toward the equipment of
the Caribees, had endowed twenty beds in one of the city hospitals for
the wounded--but this was when Jack expected high command in the
regiment. Failing in that ignoble self-seeking, he had gone where his
heart was, while the family, to retain their property, remained among
the loyal, to insult their woe and gloat over their misfortunes.
At a great "war meeting" in the town-hall, over which Boone presided,
one thrilling orator hinted that fire, if not the law, could "relieve a
loyal community of the Copperhead's nest!" "It was an insult, as well as
a menace, to have the patrician palace of disloyalty flaunting its
grandeurs among a people loyal and devoted, whose sons and brothers were
battling for the Union. Every rebel sympathizer driven from the North
would strengthen the Union cause; ashes and salt sowed on the ground
their insolent homes had desecrated, would be a holy reminder to the
loyal, a warning to the secret foes of the Union."
There were loud expressions of approval, and a solemn "Amen" to this
intrepid plan of campaign. Lawyer Brodie, who was present, arose under a
thunder of discordant notes--"Copperhead!" "Traitor!" "Dough-face!" "We
don't want to hear from rebel sympathizers! Out with him!" and other
more opprobrious taunts. Now, Brodie was Boone's counsel, and had been
identified with him in some very difficult litigation. It would not do
to have him discredited. The chairman rapped loudly for order.
"I can vouch, my friends, for Mr. Brodie's patriotism. He is a Democrat,
it is true; but he loves the Union. I know that to be a fact. You can do
the Union no better service than listening to what he has to say."
Brodie, who had held his place, calmly smiled as Boone sat down, and,
surveying the audience from side to side, began:
"Free speech was one of the cries that aroused the North in the late
campaign, I believe in free speech. I have done my share toward securing
it, but I never was refused it before. I look among the men here and see
among you neighbors whom I have known since boyhood, neighbors who have
known me since boyhood, and when I arise here to take a citizen's part,
in a meeting called to aid and comfort the cause of the Union, I am
permitted to speak only by the personal request of one man. If that is
your idea of free speech, if that is your notion of aiding the Union
cause, and strengthening the hands of the Administration, I don't need
to be in the confidence of the rebel authorities to tell you that they
could ask no more powerful allies than you! [Sensation.]
"There are three hundred men in this hall. The light is good, and my
eyesight is not impaired; but I can not see a man among you who was not
a Democrat a year or two ago. There are not fifty men among you that
voted for Abraham Lincoln. [Murmurs.] Are the two hundred and fifty,
then, traitors? Are they rebel sympathizers? Are they Copperheads? One
thousand men marched under the Caribee flag; not a man of them voted for
Lincoln. Are they Copperheads? This township, by its vote at the last
election, was five to one Democratic. Is this a Copperhead community?
Nearly a half million dollars have been subscribed for bounties and war
measures; the tax-payers, almost to a man, are Democrats. Is it
possible, then, that the Copperheads are supplying the money to carry on
the war? You propose to burn the mansion of my old partner, Senator
Sprague! Why? Because his estate has given more to the Union cause than
any other family in the township?"
"The son has gone over to the rebels," a voice cried.
"Thank you. There--I'm glad you have given me the chance to crush that
cowardly calumny--the invention of some envious malefactor. Jack Sprague
has gone over to the rebels, just as Anderson and his men went over at
Sumter; just as fifteen hundred of his comrades went over at Bull Run;
just as some of our sons and brothers here in Acredale went over; just
as my friend, Boone's son, went over--because he was surrounded
"Stop a moment, if you please, friend Brodie; I protest against your
making anything in common between my son and this young man. The matter
is to be investigated, and then we can tell better."
Boone spoke in great excitement, and the audience, now feverishly
wrought up, urged the lawyer to say his say out. He continued in the
trained, impassive tones of the advocate:
"Every one in this room knows the two young men. It would be waste of
time for me to strive to make anything in common between John Sprague
and Wesley Boone. Here, where they both grew up, that is quite
"I--I--referred to their conduct as soldiers," Boone cried, hoarsely.
"My son lost his life in the service of his country. I can't have his
name coupled with a--murderer's--with a traitor's."
"Ah, my friend, when hate draws your portrait it is bound to be black.
When prejudice holds the pen, your virtues stand in the shade of vice. I
will tell John Sprague's story from the day he quit Acredale to the
unhappy hour his comrade was killed in the dark, in the sleeping-room of
the mother and daughter who had nursed him from the very jaws of death.
He was in that house by his father's urgent request, though it would
have needed none to open its doors to any one in want of succor. Nor,"
he added, significantly, "can it be told who killed Wesley Boone until
all the shots fired in Mrs. Atterbury's chamber are accounted for."
Then he narrated rapidly, but tellingly, the substance of what has been
already set down in this history--the facts taken from Jack's letters
and attested by the corroboration of Barney, Dick, and the company's
officers. There was a visible revulsion in the larger part of the
audience as the tale went on; and when the lawyer wound up with the
story of Mrs. Sprague's baffled efforts in Washington to have her boy
brought North, there was an outburst of applause and a faint cheer from
the younger men for "glorious old Jack."
The factions shifted a good deal after this official rendering of the
affair. There was no longer any talk of burning the Sprague property,
and opinion was about evenly divided as to Jack's conduct. December had
come, and the township was busy packing boxes to send to the army. No
news had come North from Richmond. Active movements were looked for
every day, and in the momentous expectation such lesser incidents as
exchange were forgotten or ignored. The daily journals were filled with
details of contemplated expeditions, and one morning Mrs. Sprague read
with beating heart this paragraph in the _Herald_:
"A score or more of the men who escaped from the Richmond prison a few
weeks ago, arrived at Washington to-day from Fort Monroe. The party
endured untold privations in the swamps between Williamsburg and our
line on the Warwick, but all came in safely, except two men who died
from the results of their wounds. The expedition was planned and carried
out by an agent of General Butler, who has been in Virginia since the
unfortunate attempt to rescue Captain Boone of the 'Caribee' regiment.
At the moment the party reached the Union outpost, one of the most
daring of the Union men, Sergeant Jacques of the Caribees, was, it is
thought, mortally wounded."
Merry, too, had seen the story, and came over to show it to Mrs.
"I have seen it, I have seen it. Who of the Caribees can these be? Who
is Jacques? I never heard that name here."
"Ah! he must be one of the town recruits. It's a French name."
"Yes, it is part of a rather famous French name," Mrs. Sprague replied,
half smiling at Merry's innocence. "Something must be done to get into
communication with these escaped men. Some of them must have seen Jack.
If there are Caribees among them, you may be sure they have messages
from our boys. I think I shall set out for Washington, or ask Mr.
Brodie to go."
"That's better. Mr. Brodie can get at the men and you couldn't. I shall
be in a fever until we have heard from them."
Brodie agreed with the ladies when, later, they discussed the matter
with him, and that evening he set out for Washington. Mrs. Sprague at
the tea-table with Merry, who made it a point to give the lonely mother
as much of her time as she could spare, was still pondering the
paragraph when the sound of carriage-wheels came in through the closed
curtains. Then the front door opened without knocking, and there was a
rustle in the hallway, and then, with a simultaneous scream, three
agitated females, to wit, Mrs. Sprague, Merry, and Olympia, in a
"O my child! my child!"
"Dearest, dearest Olympia," Merry splutters, wildly embracing both.
"Oh, how delightful to be here, to see you, mamma as peaceful and serene
as in the old days! I thought I should never get home. I left Richmond
three weeks ago. I was held at Fredericksburg for ten days. Then I had
to turn back when we got to Manassas, through some red tape lacking
there. But here I am. Here I am at home--ugh!--I shall never quit it
"But, my child. Tell us--Jack!"
"Jack? Haven't you heard from him? He escaped three weeks ago. It was he
who got the men out of the prison. Dick was with him. Surely you have
heard of that?" and Olympia sank into the nearest chair, all the gayety
gone from her face, her eyes questioning the two wretched women. Neither
could for the moment control her agitation; neither was capable of
thinking. All that was in their minds was this dire specter of a month's
silence. Alive, Jack or Dick would have found means to relieve
"Surely you heard that a party had escaped from Libby and made their way
to Fort Monroe?" Olympia cried, desperately.
"Fort Monroe?" Mrs. Sprague echoed mechanically. "Yes, ah, yes. Merry,
where's the paper?"
Olympia devoured the meager scrap and then dropped the journal on her
knees. Her mind was in a whirl. In Richmond the escape had been
announced, then the news that the party had been surrounded in the
swamp, then day by day details of the taking of straggling negroes and
one or two soldiers, but no name that even resembled Jack's. The
Atterburys, after the first painful sensation, had given their approval
of Jack's going, and used all means in their power to get such facts as
would comfort Olympia. They assured her that Jack had reached the Union
lines, and then she had set out northward, expecting to find him at home
or in communication with his family. No word from Dick? No word from
Jack? They were dead, and she--she had urged them to the mad adventure!
She had given Jack no peace, had fired Dick to the fatal enterprise. She
dared not look in the tearless eyes of her mother. She dared not face
the ghastly questioning in Merry's meek eye. Brodie had gone down to see
the escaped men. Perhaps he would discover something. This was the small
comfort left the three when, near midnight, they ended the woful
The next day Olympia was visited by a representative of the _Crossbow_,
the chief journal of Warchester, and urged to write a narrative of her
adventures in the rebel capital. Until her friends made her see how much
effect it would have in clearing Jack's reputation she shrank from the
publicity, but with that end in view--Jack's honor--she wrote, and wrote
with strength and clearness, the moving incidents of her brother's
capture, captivity, and escape--or his bold effort to escape. This she
told so simply, so directly, so vividly, that the truth of it at once,
struck the most prejudiced reader, who had no cause to continue in his
prepossession. After the publication in the Warchester paper scores who
had sided with the Boone faction either called or wrote to confess their
error. Even the Acredale _Monitor_, a weekly sheet notoriously in the
interest of Boone, felt constrained to copy parts of the account and
publish with it a shambling retraction of previous criticism, based on
imperfect knowledge, that it had printed concerning Sergeant Sprague.
"Death," it declared, "has obliterated all feeling that existed against
our young townsman, whose conduct, though open to grievous doubt in the
early part of his military career has been amply atoned for in the
intrepid enterprise in which he seems to have lost his life."
A WOMAN'S REASON.
The still, small voice that makes itself a force in the heart, which the
poets call our mentor and the moralists conscience, had been painfully
garrulous in Kate Boone's breast since the angry parting with Jack at
Rosedale. At first, in the wild grief of Wesley's death, she had hugged
hatred of Jack to her heart as a sublime revenge for the murder. But
with the hot partisanship allayed in the long weeks of reflection
preceding the rumor of Jack's own death, she began dimly to admit of
palliation in her lover's fatal act. Her father, the Boone faction, all
who had access to her, held the shooting to be a craftily planned
murder, calculated to bring advantage to the assassin. To check the
sacrilegious love she felt in her heart, she too had been forced to
believe, to admit the worst. But when the image of Jack came to her
mind, as it did day and night, it was as the gay, frank, chivalrous
Hotspur, as unlike a murderer as Golgotha to Hesperides. She had never
dared to confide to her father that vows had been exchanged between,
them--that they were, in fact, affianced lovers. He, never suspecting,
talked with her day after day of the signal vengeance in store for the
miscreant; how he had enlisted the aid of the most powerful in
Washington; how he had instructed the emissaries sent to Richmond to
effect Wesley's release, to direct all their energies to entrapping the
murderer into the ranks of the escaping prisoners.
She had often been startled by her father's far-seeing, malignantly
planned vengeances, and, now that the rumor of Jack's death began to
settle into belief, she was appalled by a sudden sense of complicity in
a murderous plot. Not that she believed her father capable of murder or
its procuration, but, knowing his potency with the authorities, she saw
that there were many ways in which Jack might be sacrificed in the
natural course of military duties. She had heard things of the sort
discussed--how inconvenient men had been sent into pitfalls and never
heard of again.
She began dimly to see that, at worst, Jack's act was not the calculated
murder her father held it to be. In her own tortured mind there had been
at first but one clear process of reasoning. That process, whenever she
began to gather the shreds, had led her mind straight to the conviction
that Jack's shot had been premeditated, that the chance had been
prearranged with the enemies of her brother. At first her only distinct
thought was that the hapless Wesley had been lured to his death. The
hand of the man she loved had sent the fatal shot into the poor boy's
body. Had it been in self-defense--even in the heat of uncontrollable
anger--she could have found mitigation for Jack; but there was neither
the justification of self-defense nor the plausible pretext of anger.
One word of warning, which Jack could have spoken, would have saved
Wesley from the rash, the dastardly attempt upon the Rosedale household.
The plot, in all its details, must have been known to Jack or Dick, else
how explain their presence in the chamber, armed and ready for
It had been a conspiracy of delusive kindness from the day Wesley
entered Rosedale. The frankness and kindliness of the Atterburys had
been assumed to lure him to his fatal adventure. Boone himself believed
that Jack's ignoble ambition and envy had been the main motives in the
murder. To this Kate, from the first, opposed a resolute incredulity.
"You don't know the fellow, I tell you," Boone doggedly argued. "He's as
like his father as two snakes in a hole. Old man Sprague never let a man
stand in his way. Jack's the same. He thought Wes' kept him from the
shoulder-straps, and he got him out of the way. Wasn't he always
snooping 'round in the regiment trying to undermine your brother? Wasn't
he always trying to be popular? Ah, I know the Spragues. But I'll give
them a wrench that'll twist their damned pride out of them. I'll have
that cold-blooded young villain shot in a hollow square, and I'll have
it done in this very district, that the whole county may know the
disgrace of the high and mighty Spragues."
"No, father." Kate had heard all this before, but she, for the first
time, resolved upon setting her father right. "No, Jack hasn't a
particle of the feeling you ascribe to him. I don't think he liked poor
Wesley. They were totally unlike in nature, and I think that Jack felt
deeply that he had been wronged by Wesley's appointment. But it was not
in his nature to seek revenge. He would have fought Wesley openly, but
he would never be one of a gang of murderers. I think I can see how Jack
was led into the part he played. It does not lessen the guilt, but it
relieves him of the odious suspicions I first felt."
Then Boone, in irritable impatience, reminded her of her own earlier
utterances; how from his first coming Wesley had been treated with
studied distrust; how he had been denied the boyish intimacy that
existed between Jack and Dick; how he was insensibly made to feel that
he was in the house under a different cartel from that of Jack and Dick;
that he was a prisoner on parole, and his word was doubted. Nothing
could make him believe, he declared, getting up moodily, but that the
whole lot of them had set out to drive Wesley into a corner and then
kill him, as they had done.
Kate sighed wearily as her father left the room. If she could only be as
well assured as her strong words implied! Ah! if she could fetch back
her lover by getting at the truth, how willingly she would fly to
Rosedale and learn all! But she dared not question, lest questioning
should confirm, where she now at least had the miserable solace of
doubt. Could it be true? Could Jack be the base schemer her father
depicted him? Then her mind ran back to Rosedale. She lived again all
the enchanting days of that earthly paradise. She saw Wesley's furtive
starts, his strange disappearances, his growing melancholy, his moody
reticence when she questioned him. Ah! if he had but confided to her! If
she had but dreamed of the desperate purpose born of the loneliness he
lived in! If Jack had been loyal to him, loyal to her, Wesley would have
been warned that eager eyes were upon him, ready wits reading his
purposes, and revengeful hatred ready to slaughter him.
When the news came that Jack had lost his life in the very enterprise
Wesley had contemplated, Kate collapsed under the shock. Now, when it
was too late, she convinced herself that he was innocent. If she could
have recalled him to life, she cried in self-reproach, she would not ask
whether he was all her first impulse had painted him. She had borne up
with something like composure when Wesley's death came upon her; but
now, tortured by a sense of responsibility in Jack's fate, she gave way
to the grief she had so long repressed. If she had not upbraided him, if
she had not accused him, in so many words, of murder, he would never
have embarked on the mad plot of escape.
She had driven him to his death. She had sat silent while Acredale rang
with calumnies against him. It was not too late yet to make reparation.
She would proclaim publicly that her brother had rashly courted his own
death; that Jack had unknowingly shot him down, as many a man does, in
battle, shoot his best friend. She resolved on the instant to go to the
stricken family and make such expiation there as was in her power. But
was there any certainty that the report of Jack's death was true?
Grievous mistakes of the same sort had been made repeatedly in the
public journals. She was not able to formulate any plan at first. Her
father was more morose than ever. He seemed in his way to deplore the
young man's death, but not in pity, as she soon learned. Death had
robbed him of a cruelly meditated revenge. She wisely made no comment
when this brutal feeling betrayed itself; but for the first time in her
life the girl shuddered at the sight of her father. The vague rumors of
years, that had been whispered about him--rumors which of old had fired
her soul with hot indignation, came back insidiously. She shuddered. Was
she to lose all--brother, lover, father--in this unnatural strife? She
had been so loyal to her father. She had been so proud of him when
others reviled. She had felt so serenely confident of the nobleness of
his heart, the generosity of his impulses. She had always been able to
mold him, as she thought. Could it be possible that he was human to her,
inhuman to the rest of the world? Then her mind, tortured by newly
awakened doubts, ran back over the events leading to the rupture with
the Spragues. She groaned at the retrospect. It was injustice that had
displaced Jack in the command of the company. It was injustice that had
marked her father's conduct in the Perley feud.
Grief is a logician of very direct methods. Its clarifying processes
work like light in darkness. Kate saw the past in her father's conduct
with terrifying vividness. She realized that it was her father's harsh
purpose that had arrayed Acredale against him. It was his pride and
arrogant obstinacy that had brought about the loss of all she loved. The
fates had immolated the helpless; were the fates preparing a still
bitterer expiation? Life had very little left for her now, but she
resolved that she would no longer be isolated by her father's enmities.
The great house had been gloomy enough for father and daughter during
the last miserable months, but he still fled to her for comfort. It was
one evening when he came in, apparently in better spirits than he had
shown since Wesley's death, that she told him what had been filling her
mind since Jack's death.
"O father, I think I see that our lives have been unworthy, if not
altogether wrong. Surely such neighbors as ours could not all take sides
against you, if you were in the right in all the feuds that have divided
us as a family from the people of Acredale."
Then, in an almost imploring tone of reproach, she retraced the harsh
episodes in the father's dealings with the Perleys, with the community,
and, finally, the quarrel with the Spragues, involving in it the lives
of Wesley and Jack. Her voice softened into tremulousness. She arose,
and in her old pleading way pulled the shaggy head down on her breast,
pressing her lips on the high, bare forehead.
"Dear father, all this is unchristian; you have in reality been waging
war against women and children. Jack was a mere boy, Richard is a boy. I
don't go into other enmities, where you have used the enormous power of
wealth to crush the helpless. If you had not alienated the Spragues and
encouraged Wesley in overbearing Jack, my brother would be alive to-day.
My sweetheart--yes, Jack was dearer than all the world to me--he would
not be dead to-day. Ah! father, father, what good comes of anger--what
joy of revenge? You have brought about the death of these two boys. Is
it not time to look at life with a new heart--with clear-seeing eyes?"
Elisha Boone sat quite still. He had listened at first with a flush of
anger, which deepened as the girl pleaded, until it died away and left
his face very pale. He pushed himself away from the clinging figure, as
if the better to see her face. Then his head drooped. He sighed heavily,
rose and without a word left the room. Kate heard him ascending the
stairs, then the sound of his room door softly closing. Had the hateful
fires of vengeance been quenched? It was her father's way, when
resolutely opposed, to quit the scene and without confessing himself in
the wrong, do as Kate urged. The next morning he was gone before she
reached the breakfast-table. There was a note on her plate in his
handwriting. She read with a sinking heart:
"MY DAUGHTER: If what you said last night is true, you
can not be the daughter to me that you have been. I am
going to Washington, and when I come back you will know
that your brother was deliberately murdered, and that his
murderer, even in the grave, is held guilty before all men
of the crime."
The servant confirmed the tidings. Her father had arisen early and
departed on the first train. What could it mean? Had he some evidence
that she had not heard? Had Jack left papers incriminating him? Ah! why
carry the hideous feud further? Why blast the melancholy repose of the
living, by fastening this stain upon the dead? But they could not. She
knew it. She could herself refute any proof brought forward. She would
tell all. She would reveal their tender relationship, and surely then
any one, knowing the young man's nature, would scout the assertion of
his willfully shooting Wesley. But surely Olympia and Mrs. Sprague must
be able to tell, and tell decisively, the circumstances in the tragedy.
She would go to them. She owed this to the living; she owed it still
more imperatively to the dead. She had not seen Olympia since her
return. Mrs. Sprague had been too infirm to see her when she called. But
she would not heed rebuffs now. In such a cause, on such a mission, she
would have stood at the Sprague door a suppliant until even the
obstinacy of her father would have relented. On her way across the
square she saw Merry coming from the post. She turned out of her way,
and hurrying to the near-sighted spinster held out her hand,
"Ah, Miss Merry, I'm so glad to see you! I have been meaning to call on
you ever since I heard of your return, but, what with sorrow and
illness, I have put it off, and now I want you to take me home with you.
Will you not?"
The pleading tone, the caressing clasp of the hand, the sadly changed
face, the somber black weeds, made the voice and figure so much unlike
the old Kate, that Merry stood for an instant confused and blushing as
"Bless me, Miss Kate, I--I--shouldn't have known you. Ah, I am very glad
to see you; sisters will be very glad to see you, too. Do, do come right
along with me. I'm afraid the parlor won't be very sightly, but you
won't mind, will you?"
Kate squeezed the hand still resting in her own, and drawing the long
veil back over face, she walked silently with the puzzled spinster,
unable to broach the theme she had at heart. Merry spared her the
torture of going at it obliquely.
"I have just been at the Spragues. Poor dears, they are in dreadful
distress. Mrs. Sprague is preparing to go in search of the body, but
Olympia won't give in that Jack is killed. She says that if he had been
she certainly would have known it in Richmond, for there are couriers
twice a day from the rebel outposts to the capital; that the Atterburys
had taken special measures to learn the fate of the escaped prisoners;
that, besides this, several young men in Richmond, who knew Jack well,
had been sent down the peninsula with the prisoners, to befriend him in
case he were retaken."
"And Olympia believes that Jack is alive?"
"Where does she think he is?"
"She believes that he is among a squad separated from the rest of the
prisoners, near the Union lines. It was asserted in Richmond that many
had crossed the James River, and were making for the Dismal Swamp, or
into Burnside's lines in North Carolina."
"Dear Miss Merry, I--I--think I won't go in now," Kate said,
tremblingly. "I must see Olympia. Perhaps I can help them in the search
for Jack, and you know there is no time to lose. I shall come and see
you all soon."
She squeezed the astonished Merry's hand, convulsively, and shot off,
leaving the bewildered lady quite speechless, so speechless that, when
she reached the stately presence of Aunt Pliny, she forgot the
commissions she had been sent to execute, and was at once reviled by the
parrot as "a no-account dawdler."
Meanwhile, Kate, with wild, throbbing hope in her heart that kindled
color in her pale cheeks and light in her weary eyes, sped away to the
Spragues. There was no tremor in the hand that raised the dragon-headed
knocker, nor hesitancy in the voice that bade the servant say that "Miss
Boone requested a few moments' conversation with Miss Sprague."
Olympia came presently into the reception-room, and the girls met with a
"Ah, Olympia, I have been made so--so--glad by what Merry tells me!
You--do--not believe that your brother is dead?" Her voice faltered, and
Olympia, gazing at her fixedly, said:
"No, I shall not believe Jack is dead until I see his body. Poor mother,
who believes the worst whenever we are out of her sight, has given up
all but the faintest hope. I shall not. I know Jack so well. I know that
it would take a good deal to kill him, young and strong as he is.
Besides that, I know that the Atterburys would find means to let us
know, if there were any certainty as to his fate. Poor Jack! It would be
an unendurable calamity if he were to die before the monstrous calumnies
that have been published about him are proved lies."
"Dear Olympia, that is one reason of my coming. In my horror at
Rosedale, I, too, believed that John had been in a plot to entrap
Wesley; but I--I--know better now, and I have come to tell you that it
is no less my duty than my right to see that your brother's memory is
made as spotless as his life."
"I knew it; I knew you would, do it; I told Jack so in Richmond, almost
the last words I said before he set out on this miserable adventure. I
told him you were not the girl I took you for if you could believe him
to be such a dastard, when you had time to get over the shock of poor
Wesley's death. You never heard the whole story of that dreadful night.
I must tell it to you--as he would if he were here, and I know you would
believe him." The two girls sat down, hand in hand, and Olympia told
the tale as it has been set down in these pages.
Kate was sobbing when the story ended. She flung her arms about
Olympia's neck, and for a time the two sat silent, tearful.
"Oh, why didn't he tell me this at the time? It was not Jack's bullet
that entered poor Wesley's body. Jack was at his right, at the side of
the bed. Wesley's wound was on the left side, and the shot must have
come from Jones's pistol!"
"I remember that; but Jack's remorse put all thought of everything else
out of my head. I recall, perfectly, that the wound was in Wesley's left
side. Oh, if I could only get that word to Jack! I If--"
"I'll get it to him if he's alive. I, or mine, have been his undoing! I
shall make amends. Ah, Olympia, I--I am ashamed to feel so full of
"It isn't your fault, dear, that you didn't know Jack as we do," Olympia
"What are your plans?" Kate asked, presently.
"Mother insists upon going to the peninsula and examining the ground,
questioning all who took part in the pursuit, and seeing with her own
eyes every wounded man in the neighborhood. I don't know whether we can
get passes, but we shall set out at once and do our best."
"O Olympia. I must--I must go with you! I shall die if I remain here
doing nothing--helpless! Let me go. I can aid you much. I can surely get
all the passports required. I can do many things that you couldn't do,
for my father--"
She stopped and colored. Her father! What was she rashly promising for
him? Dead, he was bent on Jack's dishonor; living, he would never rest
until Jack's life was condemned.
"Ah, yes--that's true. Your father is potent at headquarters. I can
answer for mamma. We shall be delighted and comforted to have you. I
shall need you as much as mamma needs me. We are only waiting for Mr.
Brodie's report. I don't expect much from his researches. It is only a
woman's heart that upholds one in such trials as this search means."
The plans were agreed upon at once and the two girls separated, knit
together by the same bond in more senses than one, for, while Olympia
set out to rescue her brother, she secretly hoped that the search would
bring her near some one else; and so, as soon as Kate had gone, she sat
down and wrote Vincent of Jack's disappearance, asking his aid in
finding such traces as might be in the rebel lines. She merely alluded
to their projected plan, adding, in a postscript, that she would write
him as soon as the party approached the outposts. Kate wrote at once to
her father, at his Washington address, narrating her visit to the
Spragues, telling him of the new hope that had come to her, and
beseeching him to lend his whole heart to the distressed mother and
sister. He should see her in Washington within a few days, and she
counted on his sympathy with her to help to restore the lost son and
brother if alive, to co-operate in giving the body honorable burial if
he were dead. These letters dispatched, the party waited only to hear
from Brodie. He came a day or two later, but he could give them no hope.
He had been repelled from all sources of information, insulted in the
War Office, and denied access to the President. He was convinced that
there were secret influences at work to obscure the true facts in the
case of the escaped prisoners, but what the agencies were he could not
guess. When Olympia told this to Kate, she was surprised at her look
"I know the influences, I think, and I can discover the agencies. Take
comfort. I believe Jack is alive. I promise you that I shall never rest
until he is found, alive or dead."
"O Kate, what an impulsive ally we have gained! I wish Jack could have
heard that speech; it would have put power in his arm, as poor Barney
used to say."
Twenty-four hours later the three women were in Washington, Kate
remaining with her friends, instead of joining her father at Willard's.
A GAME OF CHANCE.
It was the end of January, 1862, when Olympia and her mother found
themselves in Washington for the second time in quest of the missing
soldier. They took lodgings in the same quiet house, not far from
Lafayette Square--Kate with them. Kate counted upon her father's aid,
active or passive; but when her messenger returned from Willard's with
word that Mr. Boone had gone from the hotel several days before, she was
numb with a dreadful foreboding. He was avoiding her deliberately. She
drove at once to the hotel. The clerk summoned to her aid could only
inform her that her father had given up his room and had left the hotel
late at night. She could get no further clew. She telegraphed at once to
Acredale and returned to the Spragues, not daring to breathe her
apprehensions. Yes, her father was plainly keeping away from her. He
meant to persist in his savage vengeance. What had he learned? Was Jack
indeed dead, and was his good name the object of her father's hatred?
Whither should she turn? Why had she not thought of this--her fathers
passivity or even opposition? How could she reveal her terrors to the
mother and sister? How make known to them the unworthy side of her
father's character? If in the morning no telegram came from Acredale, it
would be proof that her father was bent, implacably in his purpose to
undo Jack, living or dead. When she reached the lodging, Olympia was
dressed for the street.
"You are just in time. I have matured my plans. First, we must find out
at the proper quarter the names of all the wounded brought here from
Fort Monroe. Then we must trace the report in the _Herald_ down to its
origin. Then we must visit every hospital in and near Washington to find
out from actual sight of each man whether Jack or Dick, or any one we
know, is in the city. As we go on, we shall learn a good deal which may
modify this plan, or perhaps make the search less difficult."
Olympia said this with composure and a certain confidence in herself
that struck Kate with admiration. She felt ashamed of herself. Here was
Olympia, unconscious of Jack's real peril if living, the menace to his
reputation if dead, planning as composedly as if it were an every-day
thing to have a brother lost in the appalling mazes of war; and she had
been weakly depending upon her father, Jack's most persevering enemy!
She recoiled from herself in a shiver of self-reproach as she said:
"Olympia, you have the good sense of a man in an emergency. I am ashamed
of myself. I, who ought to do the thinking for you, am as helpless as a
kitchen-maid set to playing lady in the parlor. I can at least help you;
I can make my body follow you, if I haven't sense enough to suggest."
"Dear Kate, it isn't sense, or insight, or any fine quality of mind that
is needed here. All I ask is, that you won't get dispirited, or, if you
do, don't let mamma see you are. Poor mamma! She is as easily influenced
as a baby. Jack is her darling, remember. All the world is a small
affair to her compared with our poor boy. I fancy, if we were as much
wrapped up in him as she is, we should make poor pioneers in the
wilderness before us."
But Kate could stand no more of this. With a choking sob she turned and
fled up the stairway, crying as she disappeared: "Wait--wait a moment; I
must get my purse."
When she reappeared, the heavy mourning-veil was drawn down, and
Olympia, with a reassured glance, opened the door.
"You must affect confidence, if you have it not--even gayety. I warn you
not to be shocked at my conduct. I must keep up mamma's spirits, and to
do it I must play indifference or confidence, and you must be careful to
say nothing, to do nothing, to excite her suspicions."
Kate's cab had driven off, and the two girls walked through Lafayette
Square into Pennsylvania Avenue to get another. The wide streets were
filled, as of old, with skurrying orderlies, groups of lounging
officers, and lumbering army wagons. But even the untrained eyes of
Olympia soon took account of the better discipline, the more
businesslike celerity of the men on duty as well as the flying couriers.
The White House was gay with hunting, and salutes from the distant forts
were signalizing the news that had just come of Union successes at Mill
Spring and Roanoke Island. The girls, procuring a hack, were driven to
the provost-general's office. Here, after an interminable delay they
were admitted to the presence of a complacent young coxcomb in spotless
regimentals, who, so soon as he saw Olympia's face and bearing, threw
off the listlessness of routine, and, rising deferentially, asked her
pleasure. She told her story simply, and asked his advice as to the
course to be followed. When the extract from the _Herald_ was shown to
him, he examined an enormous folio, and then rang a bell.
"It is more than likely that these names are wrong. This happens
constantly. The operators are raw and some of them can barely read. The
names are given hurriedly, and if not written plainly they make wretched
work of them. The newspapers make many a fool famous, while neglecting
many a hero who deserves fame, simply through the blundering or
carelessness of the writers or operators. Here is an orderly who will
take you to the surgeon-general. You will find in his books the names of
all the wounded in hospital in the Eastern armies. But if your brother
was wounded or brought in wounded at Fort Monroe, his name will be on
the books of the Army of the Potomac or the Department of Eastern
They were treated with the same deferential gallantry at the
surgeon-general's office; the young doctors, indeed, became almost
obtrusive in their eagerness to spare the young women the drudgery of
scrutinizing the long lists of invalids. But, after two days' careful
search, no names resembling Sprague or Perley could be found.
"I wonder who this can be?" Kate said, returning to an entry made a
month before: "Jones, Warchester; Caribee Regiment."
"I know no one of that name," Olympia said, "but perhaps he might know
something of Jack. Let us go to him. It will do no harm to find out
who he is."
The surgeon's clerk readily gave them Jones's address, reminding them
that the hospital was in Georgetown, and that they would be too late to
obtain entrance to the patient that day. Next morning Mrs. Sprague was
too ill to rise from her bed, and Olympia could not leave her alone.
Kate undertook the investigation into the Jones affair alone. When she
reached the hospital there was some delay before she could see the
personage intrusted with the admission of guests. She was shown into an
office on the ground-floor and given a seat. As she sat, distraught and
eager, she heard her own name in the next room, the door of which
"It's at Boone's risk. He would have him moved, and the surgeon-general
gave him _carte blanche_ with the patient."
"Well, it will cost the man his life. I'll stake my diploma on that.
Why, the journey to Warchester alone is enough to down the most vigorous
Kate trembled. What did this mean? What was she hearing?
Boone--Warchester? Whom had her father been taking from the
hospital--Jack? Her heart gave a wild leap. Yes--Jack. Who else did her
father know in the army? She arose trembling, fainting, but resolute.
She reached the open door, but tried for a moment in vain to ask:
"If you please, tell me, tell me--" But she could say no more. The
occupants of the room, in undress uniform, turned upon her at first in
hostile surprise, but, as she threw her veil farther back in alarm, the
elder of the two said:
"Pray, madam, what is it; are you ill?"
"No; may I sit down, please? Thank you. I am come to, to--" What should
she say? How expose the doubt of her father? How find out for certain
who had been removed to Warchester--abducted was the word her agitated
thoughts shaped. Oh, if Olympia, intrepid, self-possessed, were only
with her!--but no, not Olympia; no one must ever know the unutterable
crime she suspected her father of. She must be brave. She must be
resolute. Oh, where were her arts now, when she most needed them? She
tried to speak. A hoarse gasping came in her throat and died there.
"Ah--ah--some water!--I--I am faint."
In an instant a goblet of cool water was at her lips. She drank slowly,
deliberating all the time to recover her senses; the surgeons--both
young men, mere lads--waiting respectfully, inferring much from the
melancholy robes. The water cooled her head, and she began to be able to
"I have the surgeon-general's permit to visit a patient in your fever
ward--Jones, the name is. Can I see him?"
"Pray, let me see the permit, madam?" He glanced at it, looked
significantly at his comrade, and said:
"This man was removed three days ago."
"Ah!" Kate's veil, by an imperceptible gesture, fell over part of her
face. A great trembling came upon her again. The young surgeons
"Who--who--did--who asked for his removal?"
"A Mr. Boone, also of Warchester."
"Thank you--I am too late--I wanted to--to ask this Mr. Jones some
questions concerning a dear friend in his regiment. But I can write, if
you will kindly give me the address."
"I am very sorry--beyond Warchester we have no record here of his
whereabouts. If he had been officially transferred to another government
hospital, we should have all the facts. But the removal was a personal
favor to Mr. Boone. He is well known both here and in Warchester, and
you can have no difficulty in communicating with him."
"Ah, true; I had forgotten that."
"If we can be of any service to you, Miss Sprague," the young man said,
handing Kate back the permit, made out in Olympia's name, which Kate had
never thought of, "you can always reach us through the surgeon-general's
office." He handed her a card with his own and his comrade's name
Thanking the young man with as much self-possession as she could summon,
Kate reached the carriage in a whirl of wild imaginings, more terrifying
as she strove to reduce them to definite shape. Who was this Jones? Why
remove him to Warchester? If it were not Jack, what interest could her
father have in his removal? But. first, what could she say to Olympia?
She could say she did not know Jones, but Olympia would surely ask what
questions she had put to him. What should she say? That he had been
taken away from the hospital? She knew Olympia well enough to know that
this vague story would only incite her to further inquiry. She would
find out the father's handiwork in the affair, and she, too, would be
set on the rack of suspicion.
When the carriage reached the door, Kate dared not enter. She dismissed
the man and set out toward the green fields below the rounded slope of
Meridian Hill. Here she could breathe freely. "I can think clearly now,"
she panted, with a gush of warm tears. If she could only remain calm,
she could look Into the black abyss with the eye of reason, rather than
terror. Calmness came soothingly as she walked, and she began at the
beginning, weighing probabilities. All seemed dark and hopeless, until
she came back to the record in the surgeon-general's office. Jones, sent
from Hampton Hospital, December 13th. This was about the time Jack had
reached the Union lines. He had left Richmond late in November. All
Brodie's inquiries at Fort Monroe had been fruitless in finding the
whereabouts of the fugitives that came through the lines at that time.
Dick had been one of them. If Jones were not Jack himself, he must have
been one of the group that escaped with Jack. It all led back to the
first frightful conjecture. Her father was abducting a witness who could
divulge Jack's whereabouts, or he was secreting Jack until be could work
him harm. The walk began to revive Kate's courage as well as her
faculties. She must act with energy. The hardest part of the problem was
to get clear of Olympia, for Kate at once made up her mind to quit
Washington that very night for home. She must evade Olympia's inquiries
as best she could, and make some excuse for journeying thither.
When she reached home, fortune had intervened to save her conscience
from the falsehoods she feared she would have to employ. The landlady
met her in the hallway with a white face.
"O Miss Boone, Mrs. Sprague is taken very bad. The doctor's with her
now. I think it is typhoid fever."
Up-stairs misfortune gave her a further release. Olympia came into
Kate's room, agitated and in tears.
"All, Kate, mamma is suffering pitiably. The doctor thinks it is
typhoid, and he ordered me to remain away from her. You must leave the
house. It won't do for all of us to be ill together. I may not be able
to see you for days, until the crisis is past. But you must continue the
search, and you must let me know, from day to day, what you learn. There
are letters for you--I hear mamma. I will be back in a moment."
Kate fairly hated herself for the passing thrill of relief over the
timely illness that had intervened to expedite her mission. She glanced
over the letters. There was one in her father's hand, postmarked
Acredale. It contained no clew to his purposes, but she read
"My daughter: You are doing a foolish thing. The search you propose can
lead to nothing. All that can be done has been done by his friends. They
have found no trace of him. Women can not hope to succeed where so keen
a man as Brodie has failed. I have every confidence that in good time
the matter will be cleared up, but you must remember that the Government
and its agents have all they can do to manage and keep track of the
millions of soldiers in the field, and they can not be expected to take
much interest in the fate of the wounded or dead. Always affectionately.
All doubt of her father's sinister intervention in Jack's disappearance
now took the form of certainty in the girl's mind. When Olympia came
back, a few moments later, Kate said, tenderly:
"I have news from home. I must go back at once. It is less of a grief to
me, since I should be banished from you if I were here. I shall not be
gone long. I shall certainly be back as soon as you can receive me. In
the mean while, don't despair. I have been put on a new trail that I can
not explain to you now. But I can say this much, when you see me again
you shall know whether Jack is alive or dead."
Olympia, who had been so strong, cheery, and masterful when it had been
a question of reassuring her mother, was now the stricken spirit. She
looked at Kate through swimming eyes, and her voice was lost in sobs as
she tried to speak. The girls held each other in a tearful silence,
neither able to say what was in the minds of both. Even the uncertainty
had a sort of solace compared with the dreadful possibility of
"Remember, dear, you have your mother. What is our poor grief to hers;
what is our loss to hers? It ought to comfort you to know that whatever
human thought, courage, love can do to recover Jack, I shall do, just as
you would in my place. I am very strong and resolute now, and I am
filled with hope--so filled that I can not talk to you. I dare not let
you see how much I hope, lest if it be not fulfilled you will hate me
for inspiring you with it."
"I will hope. I do believe you will do better than I should. The loving
are the daring--you will find Jack. I know it."
"Ah, God bless you, Olympia! That removes a curse from me--I--I mean
that fills me with a courage that is not my own, I have learned yours or
stolen it. But you will forgive me, for I mean to use it all in
Olympia smiled sadly, and the two parted. By the night express Kate left
the city, and, the next afternoon, reached Acredale. As she anticipated,
her father was not at home. He had only been an hour or two in the house
since his return. The servants had no idea where he was. His letters
were forwarded to him under cover of his lawyers in Warchester. If, as
she fearfully surmised, her father were engaged in some cruel scheme to
the hurt of Jack, her best way with him would be perfect frankness. She
had never yet failed in swerving him from his most headstrong impulses
when she could talk with him. She must have him now to herself. Her best
plan, therefore, would be to write. Yet she hardly knew how to frame the
note, reflecting bitterly, as she sat twirling her pen, on the monstrous
state of things that made writing to her own father almost a duplicity.
At length she wrote:
"DEAREST PAPA: I am come all the way from Washington, leaving poor Mrs.
Sprague very low with fever, and her daughter tormented and ill with
anxiety. I feel, I know, that you can relieve the distress of this
miserable mother and devoted sister. I must see you. I felt sure of
seeing you in Washington, and you can imagine my surprise and grief when
they told me at the hotel that you had gone. Do come to me, or let me
come to you. Your daughter's place is with you or near you now. We have
only each other in this world; pray, dear father, let nothing come
between us; let nothing make you doubt the constant love of
The note dispatched, she went immediately to the Perleys. Perhaps they
had news that might be of help. No. The three ladies met her with
agitated volubility. Had she heard from their nephew? Had Dick escaped
with Jack? Olympia had assured them that he had quitted Richmond with
her brother. They had written to the Caribee regiment, and received word
that no trace of him could be found. The regiment, or what was left of
it, was home refilling its ranks. The officers, indeed, knew nothing of
such a person as Richard Perley. McGoyle, who was now colonel, did
vaguely recall the lad at Washington, but had no idea what became of
him. Kate found a new grief in the misery of the helpless ladies. But
she could give them no comfort, and returned home to await her father's
coming. In the evening a messenger brought her a note. It was in the
straight, emphatic hand of her father. He wrote:
"DEAR DAUGHTER: I am just now engaged in very important matters that
require me to move about considerably. I shall not be home for some
days. I am glad you have come home. That's the place for you. You had
better let the matter you speak of alone. The mother and sister are
enough in the business. I don't see how it concerns you or me. If the
man is dead it will be known as soon as the commissioners of exchange
hand in their lists. If he is not dead, it is certainly no business of
yours or mine to bring him home. I will write you soon again. Love your
father. Keep the house well till I come."
That was all. More than evasive. Subtly calculated to make her believe
that he had dismissed all thought of Jack and was immersed in his own
affairs. She sat staring and helpless, a cold horror creeping into her
heart and a nameless terror taking outline in her senses. Hideous
alternative. To be coherent she must suspect, nay, accuse, her father of
a dreadful duplicity. He was deceiving her; else why no mention of his
mission to Washington--his abduction of Jones? Jones! Who was he? Oh,
blind and senseless that she had been! Why had she not asked the young
men at Georgetown to describe Jones? That would have revealed all she
needed to know. Was it too late to write them? Yes; but could she throw
suspicion upon her father by writing to strangers, and of necessity
exposing the sinister secrecy of her father's action. But she could
hurry back to Washington, and, without letting the young men know, got a
descriptive list. This she resolved to do. Twenty-four hours later she
was in Washington. The journey was thrown away. The descriptive list had
been sent by the hospital steward with the invalid. He could be found in
the military hospital in Warchester. His name was Leander Elkins. This
was something gained. Two days later she was at the hospital in
Warchester. The steward, Elkins, came to her in the waiting room. He was
a young giant in stature, with light flaxen hair, a merry blue eye, and
so bashful in the presence of a woman that he colored rosily as Kate
asked him if he was the person she had sent for.
"Yes'm. I'm Lee Elkins," he stammered, very much perplexed to find ease
for his large hands and ample feet.
"Are you--is Mr. Jones, who came from the Georgetown Hospital, in your
case?" Kate had thought out her course in advance, and had decided that
the direct way was the best. Unless the man had been charged to conceal
facts, an apparent knowledge of Jones's movements would be the surest
way of eliciting his whereabouts.
"Oh no, miss. Jones wa'nt brought here; he was took to a private place.
I don't rightly know where, but I calculate I ken find eout of ye
want to know."
"Yes, I should like very much to know. I am deeply interested in him,
Did you have charge of him?"
"I can't say I did. I was sent from Washington in the same train, but
the old chap that got Jones removed did all the nussing. I only got a
sight of him as he was lifted into the carriage."
"Should you know him again if you saw him?"
"Think I should. Yes'm, think I should. His head was about as big as a
"He had been wounded?"
"Well, I should say so."
"Have you seen the gentleman that brought him on from Washington
"Not here, mum; I did see him in the street the other day. He was in a
wagon--leastwise, it looked mighty like him."
Kate began to breathe more freely. Her father had, at least, avoided any
collusion with inferiors. His handiwork had been natural, involving no
conspiracy or bribing of menials.
"Do you think you could find out for me where Mr. Jones is?"
"Wall, I reckon it could be done. It may take some days, as I must trust
to the luck of running upon old Dofunny again."
Kate started. "Old Dofunny"--the unsuspecting humorist meant her father
by this jocular _nom de guerre_, and she dared not resent it. How should
she gain her end and yet save herself from the humiliation of seeming to
spy upon her father? It wouldn't do for Elkins to go to him, for he
would at once suspect, inquire, and learn that she had come upon his
tracks. If she could only see him face to face, she would be spared all
this odious complotting. But she dared not reject the means Providence
had put in her hands. And yet, how use them, and avoid throwing
suspicion upon her father in cautioning Elkins not to approach him? She
was not equal to the invention of a plan on the moment, and said in a
doubting, reflective way:
"Never mind. I may be able to learn from some of his friends where he
is. The gentleman you speak of does not live in this city, and you would
hardly be able to find him. If I could, find him I could find
"Ah, yes; jes' so. Wall, I think I can find him in another way. I
remember the carriage that took him from the station, I can find out
from the driver. 'T'wan't no mystery, I reckon."
Kate looked into the innocent blue eyes as the young fellow scratched
his tow head, wondering whether he was as simple-minded as he seemed. He
stood the scrutiny with blushing restiveness, in which there was nothing
of the malign, and she resolved that he was to be trusted.
"Very well," she said, indifferently, "that does seem the shortest way
to find out the poor fellow's whereabouts. Get the facts, and you shall
be well paid for your trouble."
"'Tain't no trouble, miss, if it's a service to you. It would make me
powerful glad to do anything for a comrade or his sister."
Kate smiled at the astute mingling of sly fun and questioning implied in
the gently rising inflection in this query.
"Yes," she said, "you will be relieving the anxious heart of a sister if
you find what I am seeking."
"Nuff said, miss. Just as soon as I get my relief I'm off like a shot.
Where shall you be?"
"Ah, yes; you can come to me at the Alburn House. Here is my card, and
you will doubtless be at some expense. Here is money to pay--spare
The big eyes opened in wonder as Kate handed him three new ten-dollar
greenbacks, just then something of a novelty to soldiers especially, who
got their pay infrequently. It was a bold stroke to intrust her name to
this unconscious agent of her father, for, if he were really playing a
part, his first act would be to reveal her visit and thus set her father
on his guard. But she trusted him implicitly. His wide-open blue eyes,
the artless admiration mingling with his bashful diffidence, all were
proof that he could not be deceiving her. She took rooms at the Alburn
House, which was not the chief hotel, as being better adapted for her
purpose of seclusion. At the big hotel she was known, and if her father
were in town she would be under his espionage without the solace of
writing him. Late in the evening her agent came in radiant. He had
found the man.
"Easy as rolling off a log." The hackman had taken him to the house
where Jones was lying. It was on the outskirts of the city toward
Acredale. He described the house. Kate knew it very well. It was the
property of her father.
"Did you see the patient?"
"No, indeed. You didn't tell me to, and I had nothing, to see him for.
Ef you had told me that you wanted I should see him, I'd have seen him
as easy as greased lightning."
"Thank you. I am relieved of a great burden through your kindness. You
must permit me to give you something to show my gratitude. Here, use
this money for some one who needs it, if you do not need it yourself."
"But I don't need it. Here is what you gave me this morning, 'cept a
half-dollar I spent in treating John. I couldn't think of taking so much
money. It's more'n Uncle Sam allows me for five months' pay."
"No, I shall feel distressed if you do not accept it. You can find use
for it. It will bring you luck, for it is the reward of a very important
service. Perhaps some time we may meet again, and then you shall know
The tow hair stood up in wild dismay, and the blue eyes were perfect
saucepans, as Kate gently forced the money into the big palm.
"Wall, I vum, miss, I feel like I was a-robbing you, but ef yeou deu
want I should take it, why I will, and send it to my old mother, who
will find plenty o' use for it. Good-by, miss. Ef you should want me
again, I'm at the hospital. I shall be mitey tickled to do anything for
yeou or your brother."
TWO BLADES OF THE SAME STEEL.
It was too late to follow up the discovery that night. Kate, after a
feverish rest, set out early in the morning. She went first to Acredale,
where she could get her own equipage and driver. The tenants of the
house did not know her. She rang boldly at the door, and when a maid
answered, quite taken aback by the girlish figure in deep black, Kate
"I want to see the sick man, Mr. Jones."
"Yes'm, come right in. This way, please, ma'am." The girl led the way up
a flight of stairs, but if she had been part of the balustrade Kate
could not have been more immovable. Whom was she about to see? Jack,
wan, emaciated, on the verge of the grave? They had said in Washington
that the journey would kill him; was it to that end her relentless
father had persisted in the removal? Was she about to see the dying
brought to death's door by her own flesh and blood? She reeled against
the stair-post and brought her veil over her face. The girl had turned
above and was waiting in wonder. With a desperate gathering together of
her relaxed forces, she mounted the stairway. In the corridor the girl
turned to a closed doorway and knocked lightly. There was no sound
within; but the door swung open, and Elisha Boone stood on the
threshold. He did not in the dim light observe the figure in black, but,
looking at the maid, said, softly:
"What's wanted, Sarah?"
"A young lady to see Mr. Jones, sir," and, stepping slightly aside for
Kate to enter, the father recognized the visitor.
"You here, Kate? What does this mean?"
With a great throb of joy she flung herself into his arms; too happy,
too relieved to take into consideration the defeat of her purpose
involved in the meeting. For an instant she lost all thought of anything
but that her estranged parent was in her arms, that she would not let
him quit her sight again, that her pleading would keep him from any act
that could cause her or any one else unhappiness.
"Ah, father, I'm so relieved, so glad! I was miserable, and did not know
where you were. I--I will not let you leave me again."
"But my child, you must not be here; this is a house of sickness; there
is dangerous illness here."
"It's no more dangerous for me than for you. I know who is here." She
looked archly at him, as he started in surprise. "I will help nurse Mr.
Jones." She said this with immense knowingness in her manner as she
squeezed the astonished man to her heart. The maid meanwhile had
retreated to a safe distance, where she lurked in covert to make report
of the extraordinary goings on.
"Impossible, Kate; you must not be here. I will not have it; you must
go." His voice grew stern. "You must go, I say, Kate; you must go
down-stairs this instant."
"Come, Boone, I say, this isn't fair; let the lady come in if she wants
to see valor laid low." Boone, who had been insensibly moving Kate from
the open doorway, caught her eye fixed on the room, and looking over his
shoulder at these jocular words he saw Jones leaning against the post, a
wan smile on his face. Boone turned, almost flinging Kate from him, and,
fairly lifting the invalid, carried him back into the room.
"This is madness; you are in no condition to rise. I won't be
responsible for your life if you persist in this course."
"So much trouble off your hands, old man. I'll be more use to you dead
than living. Better let me blow my own flame out. It won't burn long at
best or worst."
In the overwhelming revulsion of feeling brought about by the actual
sight of Jones, Kate stood, interdicted, in the corridor, uncertain what
to do. She heard the man's words and shuddered at the bantering levity
with which he spoke of his own death. Who could it be? It was not Jack,
as she had feared and hoped. But he must know something of Jack. She
must speak with him. How? It would not do to irritate her father. She
caught Boone's almost whispered words:
"I tell you, Jones, you shall be brought about, but you know the danger
of seeing any Acredale people. My daughter knows you--knows the Perleys.
I should think that would be reason enough why you should not be seen
"Oh, I don't mind; the sight of a pretty girl is the best medicine I
know of. I'd risk all Acredale for that."
Kate turned softly and waited at the foot of the stairs for her father.
He came presently, looking worried and embarrassed.
"Now don't go to imagining mysteries here. This is a man who has been on
my hands a good many years. He is an irreclaimable spendthrift. He was
in other days a man of repute and station. I am interested in him,
through old ties, since the days we were boys."
"The carriage is here, papa; won't you come home with me?"
"Yes; you get into the carriage."
He reappeared presently, the face of a strange woman, that Kate had not
seen, peering over his shoulder into the carriage as he came down the
steps. Kate instantly divined that he had been warning the landlady
against admitting strangers to the sick man's room. During the drive
home Kate strove to reassert her old dominion over the moody figure at
her side. It was useless. As the carriage stopped at the door he turned
toward her and said, not unkindly:
"Daughter, there are some things I know better how to manage than you
do. You have been spying on your father. This is another count in the
long score of grudges I owe the Sprague tribe and their scoundrel son.
Understand me clearly, my child; you must not speak of this matter
again. The whole business will soon be at an end; that end is in my
hands, and no power this side the grave can alter a fact in the outcome.
You are very dear to me; you are all I have left in the world; you must
trust me, and you must believe that I am doing everything for the best.
Try to think that the world is not coming to an end because I insist on
having my own way for once."
Nothing but the sense of having giving hostages to good behavior rather
than honor upheld Kate in the line she had marked out for herself. She
was not, in the modern sense of the word, a strong-minded young woman,
this sorely beset champion of the overborne. She hadn't even the
perversity of the sex in love. Chivalrously as she loved the lost
soldier, she loved her father with that old-fashioned veneration which
made her see all that he did with the moral indistinctness, without
which there could not be the perfect filial devotion that makes the
family a union in good report and evil. She had not even that, by no
means repellent, secondary egoism which upholds us in doing ungrateful
things that abstract good may follow. Opposition, which becomes
delightful when we can call it persecution, had no charm for her. If her
father had suddenly adopted the _role_ of the stern parent in novels and
ordered her to her chamber, Kate would have regarded it as a joke, and
felt rather relieved that she could thus escape the pledge given to the
Spragues. But, as it was, she felt morally bound by her promise to
Olympia; and, though she realized dimly that her instrumentality was
slowly involving her father in a coil of unloveliness, she resolutely
braced herself for the worst. In spite of herself she had believed in
conquering her father's severity and changing his mind. She had rescued
him from revenges quite as dear to him as this, at least so far as she
understood it, forgetting that her father believed himself to be
pursuing the deliberate murderer of his son. When we have achieved a
victory over our own less noble impulses and put the sophistries that
misled us behind us, it is impossible to realize that others have not
the same vision, the same mind as our own. Kate had accused Jack of
cold-blooded murder. She had reasoned herself out of that hateful
spirit, and, forgetting that her father had not the vital force of love
to act as a fulcrum, she could not quite comprehend how difficult it was
to shift the wrathful burden in his mind. She had gone too far to recede
now with honor. Olympia had trusted her, had indeed given over into her
hands the active work of finding the strangely lost clew of Jack's
whereabouts. Perhaps for her father's sake it was better that she should
be the instrument. She might be able to dissemble his intervention,
shield him from obloquy--if, as she feared, he was responsible for
She knew her father too well to suppose that he would flinch from any
measure he had proposed to himself. She knew that she need not count any
further upon her accustomed powers of persuasion. His own words were
final on that score. If she could only learn his intentions! If she
could be sure that he was ulteriorly shaping events against Jack--was
acquainted with his whereabouts--she would have known exactly what to
do. But, pilloried in doubt, shackled by the dread of exposing him in
some hateful malevolence which would forever disgrace him in the
community, she hardly dared stir, though she felt that every hour's
delay was a new peril to Jack in some way. The more she thought of the
scene of the morning, the surer she felt that Jones--or Mr. Dick, as her
father sometimes called him--was in some way an instrument in the
paternal scheme. If she could but see Jones ten minutes! Her father, she
well knew, had guarded against that. Whom could she send in her place?
Ah! there was the double check. She couldn't expose her father to a
stranger; yet if her apprehensions were grounded on anything more
substantial than fear, strangers must in time know all. Could Merry be
made use of? No--that would not do. The libertine tone of the invalid,
his impudent allusion to herself, convinced Kate that a man must be her
agent, if any one were to be. But what man did she know? If she sent any
of the servants, her father would recognize them, and the attempt fail.
She had trusted Elkins. He seemed an honest, incurious lad, just the one
to be trusted in the business. She could invent a fable which would
satisfy his ready credulity without compromising her father. It was
plain that he was the only resource. She dressed at once and returned to
the Alburn. Thence she dispatched a note to Elkins, begging him to call
at his earliest leisure. While waiting his return, she wrote a letter to
be handed to Jones. This was a work of no little ingenuity, forced as
she was to avoid all allusion to her father and the scene of the
morning. When completed, this stroke of the conspiracy ran:
"DEAR SIR: A mother and sister who have exhausted all
official sources in vain to get trace of a lost son and brother,
John Sprague of the Caribees, have reason to believe that
you can give them a clew to his whereabouts. Will you
therefore kindly confide in the bearer of this letter, giving
him by word of mouth such facts as will enable John
Sprague's relatives to work intelligently in the search for
him, living or dead?
"Very truly yours,
It was hardly written when Elkins himself appeared, radiant with
satisfaction and blushing like a peony under lamplight.
"Yeour note came just in th' nick o' time. I have leave of absence for
twenty-four hours, and was just goin' inter teown."
"If you can spare me the day, I have a very important matter I think you
can attend to for me. I want you to go to the sick man Jones. You must
see before entering whether he is alone or not. I don't know how you can
find out, but you can invent some way. If you see the man who brought
him from Washington, you are not to enter. But if you find that he is
not in the house, ask boldly for Jones, and when you reach him hand him
this note. He will give you an answer, and you must be careful not to
lose a word, for life depends on the accuracy of your report. I fancy
that your regimentals and hospital badge can gain you admission, if, as
I have reason to believe, there are orders to refuse strangers
admission. I depend on you to overcome any difficulty you may meet. If
you knew how much depends upon it, I'm sure you would not be baffled by
anything less than force."
The big blue eyes were fairly bulging, like two monster morning-glories,
as Elkins, putting the note carefully in his jacket pocket,
"Ef I don't get thet 'ere letter into Jones's hands, you may have me
drummed out o' camp by the mule-drivers."
"I believe you, and trust you. I shall be here to-morrow morning early,
and shall hope to hear something from you. Good-by."
"Good-by, miss. Just you make up your mind I am goin' to do what you
When she reached home she found her father in the library. He looked at
her inquiringly as she came over and kissed him.
"I have been in town all day, and am run out."
"Yes, still plotting."
"You're wasting your time, my dear. You'll know all you care to soon
enough, if you'll just keep quiet."
"Yes; but I can't. I want to know all you know, and I want to know it
"All I know wouldn't be much, according to the Spragues, who gave me my
status in this town, long ago, as an ignoramus."
"Perhaps you were then, papa."
"Yes; I hadn't been schooled fifteen years by my accomplished daughter."
"A lie is truth to those who only tell the truth."
"What does that mean?"
"It's simple enough--a home-made epigram. People who tell nothing but
the truth are easiest made to believe a lie. The Spragues had heard of
you as ignorant, and believed it. You can't blame them for that."
"I don't blame them because it was a lie. I blame them because it was
the truth. I don't care a straw how many lies are told about me--it's
the ill-natured truth I object to."
"I'm afraid that you will have a hard time in life if you like lies
better than the truth."
"I didn't say that."
"Then I don't understand English."
"You don't understand me."
"Ah, yes I do, papa. I do understand you. I know that at this moment you
are doing something that you are ashamed of--something that later you
will bitterly repent. You are carrying on now through pride what you
began in wrath. Stop where you are. The dead can not be avenged. That's
a barbarous code. Remember, in all the petty irritations of the past,
when you have been hurt by your neighbors, you were never so triumphant
as when you surprised those who injured you by a magnanimous return--"
"There, I made an agreement with you that we should not speak of these
things. I mean it. I find that you take advantage of me. I shall be
banished from the house if you do not keep to your bargain."
Kate sighed. She had hoped that the early banter was paving the way for
a reconciliation. She took up some work and tried to busy her hands.
"Suppose you read me something? You haven't read in an age."
"What shall it be?"
"Oh, something from Dickens--anything you like."
"Very well, I shall show you a counterfeit presentment of yourself,"
and, with an arch-smile, she began to read from The Chimes.
He listened soberly until the last page was turned, and then, rising,
"I sha'n't see you for a few days. I wish you would remain at home as
much as possible. Get some of the neighbors' girls to keep you company,
if you're lonesome."
"Oh, I shall not be lonesome. I shall have too much to do--too much to
He laughed. "You are enough like your father, my girl, to pass for him.
Very well, you'll be penitent enough when I come back."
He was gone in the morning, as he had said, and she was free to keep her
appointment with Elkins. He was waiting for her when she readied
"Well?" she cried, breathlessly.
"I saw him."
She seized the blushing lad's two hands. "Ah, you splendid follow! And
"He wrote this note for you," and he handed her an envelope with her own
name written on it in an uneven, uncertain scrawl. She tore it open
"DEAR MADAM: I can not understand why there should
be any difficulty in finding what became of Sprague and his
party. We all reached the lines together, but, as I was hit
by a bullet in the head at the moment of rescue, I knew
nothing of their movements after reaching the Union lines.
I, too, am interested in the young man. I should like to see
you or some of his friends at once, as I suspect foul play of
"Did you get to him without trouble?" Kate asked, keenly, disappointed
by the result of all this strategy.
"I made them believe I was on hospital business. I showed them a large
official envelope, and they let me go up. Jones told me to tell you that
he would see you there in the parlor if you would come; that he is
unable to leave the house, or he would come to see you."
"Can you take me there now?"
"I have four hours of my leave still. It does not expire until two
"Then we will go at once. Will you call a carriage?"
While he was gone, Kate read the note again. She was more puzzled than
ever. The man wrote as if he had no idea that Jack was not easily
traceable, yet all the Spragues' money and influence had been spent in
vain. He expected her. Where could her father be? He wrote as though he
had no idea that he had been virtually a prisoner. When she reached the
house, the servant made no difficulty in admitting her. Elkins remained
outside in the vehicle, with an admonition from Kate to remain unseen
unless she called him. Jones, the shadow of the burly soldier we saw in
the famous escape, was seated in a deep, reclining chair, and, as Kate
entered, rose feebly.
"Pray, don't rise, don't disturb yourself in the least. I will sit here
near you, and we can talk, if it won't make you ill."
"No. It isn't talking that troubles me--but never mind that. Your note
has pulled me down a good deal. I was given to understand that the boys
were home and all right."
"Jack and young Perley."
"Who gave you--who told you that?"
"Your father. He is the only person I have talked with since I got my
Kate drew back with a shuddering horror.
"Are you quite sure, Mr.--Mr. Jones that my father told you that?"
"Perfectly certain. Do you suppose that I would not have taken measures
to find out where my own--I mean where friends were? These boys saved me
from prison once and from a death nearly as dreadful as Libby. Could I
be indifferent to them?"
"But why should papa tell you they were safe, when--when our hearts have
been tortured? Ah! I see. He wanted to spare you the anxiety. Ah! yes.
He knew that you would fret and worry, and that you could not recover
under the strain." Kate's heart swelled with a triumphant revulsion. She
had vilely suspected without cause. She must now do justice. Jones eyed
her pensively, holding his head with both his hands.
"Nothing has been heard of the boys since when?"
"Nothing directly since the escape from Richmond. Miss Sprague brought
that news, and about the same time a paragraph in the _Herald_ announced
that prisoners from Richmond had reached the Union lines on
"When was that?"
"Late in November."
"Yes, I was one of them. I escaped from Richmond. Jack and young Perley
got me out of the tobacco warehouse. We reached the Warrick after a hard
week of marching and hiding, and the boys were alive and well when we
reached the Union outpost. I was last to cross the bridge, and as I
plunged into the thick bushes a bullet struck me, I knew no more until I
found myself here. I had agents at Fort Monroe waiting for me. They
probably forwarded me at once. But I don't understand how there can be