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The Purchase Price by Emerson Hough

Part 1 out of 6

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E-text prepared by Al Haines





54-40 OR FIGHT










"Madam, you are charming! You have not slept, and yet you smile.
No man could ask a better prisoner."

She turned to him, smiling faintly.

"I thank you. At least we have had breakfast, and for such mercy I
am grateful to my jailer. I admit I was famished. What now?"

With just the turn of a shoulder she indicated the water front,
where, at the end of the dock on which they stood, lay the good
ship, _Mount Vernon_, river packet, the black smoke already pouring
from her stacks. In turn he smiled and also shrugged a shoulder.

"Let us not ask! My dear lady, I could journey on for ever with
one so young and pleasant as yourself. I will give you my promise
in exchange for your parole."

Now her gesture was more positive, her glance flashed more keenly
at him. "Do not be too rash," she answered. "My parole runs only
while we travel together privately. As soon as we reach coach or
boat, matters will change. I reserve the right of any prisoner to
secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I shall
endeavor, believe me--and in my own way."

He frowned as she presently went on to make herself yet more clear.
"It was well enough when we traveled in our own private express,
from Washington here to Pittsburgh for then there was no chance for
escape. I gave my parole, because it pleased you and did not
jeopardize myself. Here my jailer may perhaps have some trouble
with me."

"You speak with the courage and fervor of the true leader of a
cause. Madam," he rejoined, now smiling. "What evil days are
these on which I have fallen--I, a mere soldier obeying orders!
Not that I have found the orders unpleasant; but it is not fair of
you to bring against mankind double weapons! Such is not the usage
of civilized warfare. Dangerous enough you are as woman alone,
without bringing to your aid those gifts of mind suited to problems
which men have been accustomed to arrogate to themselves."

"Arrogate is quite the right word. It is especially fit for a

This time the shaft went home. The florid countenance of young
Captain Carlisle flushed yet ruddier beneath its tan. His lips set
still more tightly under the scant reddish mustache. With a
gesture of impatience he lifted his military hat and passed a hand
over the auburn hair which flamed above his white forehead. His
slim figure stiffened even as his face became more stern. Clad in
the full regimentals of his rank, he made a not unmanly figure as
he stood there, though hardly taller than this splendid woman whom
he addressed--a woman somewhat reserved, mocking, enigmatic; but,
as he had said, charming. That last word of description had been
easy for any man who had seen her, with her long-lashed dark eyes,
her clear cheek just touched with color, her heavy dark hair
impossible to conceal even under its engulfing bonnet, her wholly
exquisite and adequate figure equally unbanished even by the trying
costume of the day. She stood erect, easy, young, strong, fit to
live; and that nature had given her confidence in herself was
evidenced now in the carriage of head and body as she walked to and
fro, pausing to turn now and then, impatient, uneasy, like some
caged creature, as lithe, as beautiful, as dangerous and as
puzzling in the matter of future conduct. Even as he removed his
cap, Carlisle turned to her, a man's admiration in his eyes, a
gentleman's trouble also there.

[Illustration: Carlisle turned, a man's admiration in his eyes]

"My dear Countess St. Auban," said he, more formally, "I wish that
you might never use that word with me again,--jailer! I am only
doing my duty as a soldier. The army has offered to it all sorts
of unpleasant tasks. They selected me as agent for your
disappearance because I am an army officer. I had no option, I
must obey. In my profession there is not enough fighting, and too
much civilian work, police work, constable work, detective work.
There are fools often for officers, and over them politicians who
are worse fools, sometimes. Well, then, why blame a simple fellow
like me for doing what is given him to do? I have not liked the
duty, no matter how much I have enjoyed the experience. Now, with
puzzles ended and difficulties beginning, you threaten to make my
unhappy lot still harder!"

"Why did you bring me here?"

"That I do not know. I could not answer you even did I know."

"And why did I come?" she mused, half to herself.

"Nor can I say that. Needs must when the devil drives; and His
Majesty surely was on the box and using his whip-hand, two days
ago, back in Washington. Your own sense of fairness will admit as
much as that."

She threw back her head like a restless horse, blooded, mettlesome,
and resumed her pacing up and down, her hands now clasped behind
her back.

"When I left the carriage with my maid Jeanne, there," she resumed
at length; "when I passed through that dark train shed at midnight,
I felt that something was wrong. When the door of the railway
coach was opened I felt that conviction grow. When you met me--the
first time I ever saw you, sir,--I felt my heart turn cold."


"And when the door of the coach closed on myself and my maid,--when
we rolled on away from the city, in spite of all I could do or
say--, why, then, sir, you were my jailer. Have matters changed
since then?"

"Madam, from the first you were splendid! You showed pure courage.
'I am a prisoner!' you cried at first--not more than that. But you
said it like a lady, a noblewoman. I admired you then because you
faced me--whom you had never seen before--with no more fear than
had I been a private and you my commanding officer."

"Fear wins nothing."

"Precisely. Then let us not fear what the future may have for us.
I have no directions beyond this point,--Pittsburg. I was to take
boat here, that was all. I was to convey you out into the West,
somewhere, anywhere, no one was to know where. And someway,
anyway, my instructions were, I was to lose you--to lose you.
Madam, in plain point of fact. And now, at the very time I am
indiscreet enough to tell you this much, you make my cheerful task
the more difficult by saying that you must be regarded only as a
prisoner of war!"

Serene, smiling, enigmatic, she faced him with no fear whatever
showing in her dark eyes. The clear light of the bright autumn
morning had no terrors for youth and health like hers. She put
back a truant curl from her forehead where it had sought egress to
the world, and looked him full in the face now, drawing a deep
breath which caused the round of her bosom to lift the lace at her
throat. Then, woman-like, she did the unlocked for, and laughed at
him, a low, full ripple of wholesome laughter, which evoked again a
wave of color to his sensitive face. Josephine St. Auban was a
prisoner,--a prisoner of state, in fact, and such by orders not
understood by herself, although, as she knew very well, a prisoner
without due process of law. Save for this tearful maid who stood
yonder, she was alone, friendless. Her escape, her safety even,
lay in her own hands. Yet, even now, learning for the first time
this much definitely regarding the mysterious journey into which
she had been entrapped--even now, a prisoner held fast in some
stern and mysterious grasp whose reason and whose nature she could
not know--she laughed, when she should have wept!

"My instructions were to take you out beyond this point," went on
Carlisle; "and then I was to lose you, as I have said. I have had
no definite instructions as to how that should be done, my dear
Countess." His eyes twinkled as he stiffened to his full height
and almost met the level of her own glance.

"The agent who conveyed my orders to me--he comes from Kentucky,
you see--said to me that while I could not bow-string you, it would
be quite proper to put you in a sack and throw you overboard.
'Only,' said he to me, 'be careful that this sack be tightly tied;
and be sure to drop her only where the water is deepest. And for
God's sake, my dear young man,' he said to me, 'be sure that you do
not drop her anywhere along the coast of my own state of Kentucky;
for if you do, she will untie the sack and swim ashore into my
constituency, where I have trouble enough without the Countess St.
Auban, active abolitionist, to increase it. Trouble '--said he to
me--'thy name is Josephine St. Auban!'

"My dear lady, to that last, I agree. But, there you have my
orders. You are, as may be seen, close to the throne, so far as we
have thrones in this country."

"Then I am safe until we get below the Kentucky shore?" she queried

"I beg you not to feel disturbed,--" he began.

"Will you set me down at Louisville?"

"Madam, I can not."

"You have not been hampered with extraordinary orders. You have
just said, the carte blanche is in your hands."

"I have no stricter orders at any time than those I take from my
own conscience, Madam. I must act for your own good as well as for
that of others."

Her lip curled now. "Then not even this country is free! Even
here there are secret tribunals. Even here there are hired bravos."

"Ah, Madam, please, not that! I beg of you--"

"Excellently kind of you all, to care so tenderly for me--and
yourselves! I, only a woman, living openly, with ill will for
none, paying ray own way, violating no law of the land--"

"Your words are very bitter, Madam."

"The more bitter because they are true. You will release me then
at Cairo, below?"

"I can not promise, Madam. You would be back in Washington by the
first boats and trains."

"So, the plot runs yet further? Perhaps you do not stop this side
the outer ways of the Mississippi? Say, St. Louis, New Orleans?"

"Perhaps even beyond those points," he rejoined grimly. "I make no
promises, since you yourself make none."

"What are your plans, out there, beyond?"

"You ask it frankly, and with equal frankness I say I do not know.
Indeed, I am not fully advised in all this matter. It was
imperative to get you out of Washington, and if so, it is equally
imperative to keep you out of Washington. At least for a time I am
obliged to construe my carte blanche in that way, my dear lady.
And as I say, my conscience is my strictest officer."

"Yes," she said, studying his face calmly with her steady dark eyes.

It was a face sensitive, although bony and lined; stern, though its
owner still was young. She noticed the reddish hair and beard, the
florid skin, the blue eye set deep--a fighting eye, yet that of a

"You are a fanatic," she said.

"That is true. You, yourself, are of my own kind. You would kill
me without tremor, if you had orders, and I--"

"You would do as much!"

"You are of my kind, Madam. Yes; we both take orders from our own
souls. And that we think alike in many ways I am already sure."

"None the less--"

"None the less, I can not agree to set you down at Cairo, or at any
intermediate point. I will only give my promise in return for your
own parole. That, I would take as quickly as though it were the
word of any officer; but you do not give it."

"No, I do not. I am my own mistress. I am going to escape as soon
as I can."

He touched his cap in salute. "Very well, then. I flattered
myself we had done well together thus far--you have made it easy.
But now--no, no, I will not say it. I would rather see you defiant
than to have you weaken. I love courage, and you have it. That
will carry you through. It will keep you clean and safe as well."

Her face clouded for the first time.

"I have not dared to think of that," she said. "So long as we came
in the special train, with none to molest or make me afraid--afraid
with that fear which a woman must always have--we did well enough,
as I have said; but now, here in the open, in public, before the
eyes of all, who am I, and who are you to me? I am not your

"Scarcely, at twenty three or four." He pursed a judicial lip.

"Nor your sister?"


[Illustration: The _Mount Vernon_]

"Nor your wife?"

"No." He flushed here, although he answered simply.

"Nor your assistant in any way?"

His face lighted suddenly.

"Why not?" said he. "Can't you be my amanuensis,--that sort of
thing, you see? Come, we must think of this. This is where my
conscience hurts me--I can't bear to have _my_ duty hurt _you_.
That, my dear Countess, cuts me to the quick. You will believe
that, won't you?"

"Yes, I believe that. Jeanne," she motioned to her maid who stood
apart all this time, "my wrap, please. I find the air cool. When
the body is weak or worn, my dear sir, the mind is not at its best;
and I shall need all my wits."

"But you do not regard me as your enemy?"

"I am forced to do so. Personally, I thank you; professionally, I
must fight you. Socially, I must be--what did you say,--your
amanuensis? So! We are engaged in a great work, a treatise on our
river fortifications, perhaps? But since when did army officers
afford the luxury of amanuenses in this simple republic? Does your
Vehmgerichte pay such extraordinary expenses? Does your carte
blanche run so far as that also?"

"You must not use such terms regarding the government of this
country," he protested. "Our administration does not suit me, but
it has pleased a majority of our people, else it would not be in
power, and it is no Vehmgerichte, The law of self preservation
obtains in this country as with all nations, even in Europe. But
we have planned no confiscation of your property, nor threatened
any forfeiture of your life."

"No, you have only taken away that which is dearer than anything
else, that which your government guarantees to every human being in
this country--liberty!"

"And even that unconstitutional point shall remain such no longer
than I can help, Madam. Do not make our journey longer by leaving
it more difficult. God knows, I am beset enough even as it is now.
But be sure our Vehmgerichte, as you are pleased to call it, shall
never, at least while I am its agent, condemn you to any situation
unsuited to a gentlewoman. A very high compliment has been paid
you in holding you dangerous because of your personal charm. It is
true, Madam, that is why you were put out of Washington--because
you were dangerous. They thought you could get the ear of any
man--make him divulge secrets which he ought to keep--if you just
asked him to do it--for the sake of Josephine St. Auban!" He
jerked out his sentences, as though habitual reticence and lack of
acquaintance with women left it difficult for him to speak, even
thus boldly.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" She clapped her hands together,

"Before now, women less beautiful than you have robbed men of their
reason, have led them to do things fatal as open treason to their
country. These men were older than you or I. Perhaps, as you
will agree, they were better able to weigh the consequences. You
are younger than they, younger than I, myself; but you are
charming--and you are young. Call it cruel of me, if you like, to
take you by the hand and lead you gently away from that sort of
danger for just a few days. Call me jailer, if you like. None the
less it is my duty, and I shall call it in part a kindness to you
to take you away from scenes which might on both sides be
dangerous. Some of the oldest and best minds of this country have

"At least those minds were shrewd in choosing their agent," she
rejoined. "Yes; you are fanatic, that is plain. You will obey
orders. And you have not been much used to women. That makes it
harder for me. Or easier!" She smiled at him again, very blithe
for a prisoner.

"It ought to have been held down to that," he began disconsolately,
"I should have been all along professional only. It began well
when you gave me your parole, so that I need not sit nodding and
blinking, over against you also nodding and blinking all night
long. Had you been silly, as many women would have been, you could
not this morning be so fresh and brilliant--even though you tell me
you have not slept, which seems to me incredible. I myself slept
like a boy, confident in your word. Now, you have banished sleep!
Nodding and blinking, I must henceforth watch you, nodding--and
blinking, unhappy, uncomfortable; whereas, were it in my power, I
would never have you know the first atom of discomfort."

"There, there! I am but an amanuensis, my dear Captain Carlisle."

He colored almost painfully, but showed his own courage. "I only
admire the wisdom of the Vehmgerichte. They knew you were
dangerous, and I know it. I have no hope, should I become too much
oppressed by lack of sleep, except to follow instructions, and cast
you overboard somewhere below Kentucky!"

"You ask me not to attempt any escape?"


"Why, I would agree to as much as that. It is, as you say, a
matter of indifference to me whether I leave the boat at Cairo or
at some point farther westward. Of course I would return to
Washington as soon as I escaped from bondage."

"Excellent, Madam! Now, please add that you will not attempt to
communicate with any person on the boat or on shore."

"No; that I will not agree to as a condition."

"Then still you leave it very hard for me."

She only smiled at him again, her slow, deliberate smile; yet there
was in it no trace of hardness or sarcasm. Keen as her mind
assuredly was, as she smiled she seemed even younger, perhaps four
or five and twenty at most. With those little dimples now rippling
frankly into view at the corners of her mouth, she was almost
girlish in her expression, although the dark eyes above,
long-lashed, eloquent, able to speak a thousand tongues into shame,
showed better than the small curving lips the well-poised woman of
the world.

Captain Edward Carlisle, soldier as he was, martinet as he was,
felt a curious sensation of helplessness seize upon him as he met
her, steady gaze, her alluring smile; he could not tell what this
prisoner might do. He cursed the fate which had assigned such a
duty, cursed especially that fate which forced a gallant soldier to
meet so superb a woman as this under handicap so hard. For almost
the first time since they had met they were upon the point of
awkwardness. Light speech failed them for the moment, the gravity
of the situation began to come home to both of them. Indeed, who
were they? What were they to the public under whose notice they
might fall--indeed, must fall? There was no concealing face and
figure of a woman such as this; no, not in any corner of the world,
though she were shrouded in oriental veil. Nay, were she indeed
tied in a sack and flung into the sea, yet would she arise to make
trouble for mankind until her allotted task should be complete!
How could they two answer any question which might arise regarding
their errand, or regarding their relations as they stood, here at
the gateway of the remoter country into which they were departing?
How far must their journey together continue? What would be said
regarding them?

Carlisle found it impossible to answer such questions. She herself
only made the situation the more difficult with her high-headed
defiance of him.

Hesitating, the young officer turned his gaze over the wide dock,
now covered with hurrying figures, with massed traffic, with the
confusion preceding the departure of a river boat. Teams
thundered, carts trundled here and there, shoutings of many minor
captains arose. Those who were to take passage on the packet
hurried forward, to the gangway, so occupied in their own affairs
as to have small time to examine their neighbors. The very
confusion for the time seemed to afford safety. Carlisle was upon
the point of drawing a long breath of relief; but even as he turned
to ask his companion to accompany him aboard the boat he caught
sight of an approaching figure which he seemed to recognize. He
would have turned away, but the keen-witted woman at his side
followed his gaze and paused. There approached these two now, hat
in hand, a gentleman who evidently intended to claim acquaintance.

This new-comer was a man who in any company would have seemed
striking. In complexion fair, and with blue or gray eyes, he was
tall as any Viking, as broad in the shoulder. He was smooth-faced,
and his fresh skin and well-developed figure bespoke the man in
good physical condition through active exercise, yet well content
with the world's apportionment. His limbs were long, his hands
bony and strong. His air, of self-confident assurance, seemed that
of a man well used to having his own way. His forehead was high
and somewhat rugged. Indeed, all his features were in large mold,
like the man himself, as though he had come from a day when skin
garments made the proper garb of men. As though to keep up this
air of an older age, his long fair hair was cut almost square, low
down on the neck, as though he were some Frank fresh from the
ancient forests. Over the forehead also this square cut was
affected, so that, as he stood, large and confident, not quite
_outre_, scarce eccentric, certainly distinguished in appearance,
he had a half-savage look, as though ignorant or scornful of the
tenderer ways of civilization. A leader this man might be, a poor
follower always.

Yet the first words he uttered showed the voice and diction of a
gentleman. "My dear Captain," he began, extending his hand as he
approached, "I am indeed charmed! What a delight to see you again
in our part of the world! I must claim the pleasure of having met
you once--two years ago, in St. Louis. Are you again on your way
to the frontiers?"

The tone of inquiry in his voice was just short of curious, indeed
might have been called expectant. His gaze, admiring yet polite,
had not wholly lost opportunity to list the attractions of this
lady, whose name had not yet been given him.

The gentleman accosted declined to be thus definite; adding only,
after the usual felicitations, "Yes, we are going down the river a
little way on the Vernon here."

"For some distance?"

"For quite a distance."

"At least, this is not your first journey down our river?"

"I wish it might be the last. The railway is opening up a new
world to us. The stage-coach is a thing of the past."

"I wish it might be, for me!" rejoined the stranger.
"Unfortunately, I am obliged to go West from here over the National
Road, to look at some lands I own out in Indiana. I very much

There was by this time yet more expectancy in his voice. He still
bowed, with respectful glances bent upon the lady. No presentation
came, although in the easy habit of the place and time, such
courtesy might perhaps have been expected. Why this stiffness
among fellow travelers on a little river packet?

[Illustration: He still bowed, with respectful glances.]

The tall man was not without a certain grave audacity. A look of
amusement came to his face as he gazed at the features of the
other, now obviously agitated, and not a little flushed.

"I had not known that your sister--" he began. His hand thus
forced, the other was obliged to reply: "No, the daughter of an old
friend of mine, you see--we are _en voyage_ together for the
western country. It has simply been my fortune to travel in
company with the lady. I present you, my dear sir, to Miss Barren.
My dear Miss Barren, this is State Senator Warville Dunwody, of
Missouri. We are of opposite camps in politics."

The tall man bowed still more deeply. Meantime, Josephine St.
Auban in her own way had taken inventory of the new-comer. Her
companion hastily sought to hold matters as they were.

"My dear Senator Dunwody," he said, "we were just passing down to
the boat to see that the luggage is aboard. With you, I regret
very much that your journey takes you from us."

The sudden consternation which sat upon Dunwody's face was almost
amusing. He was very willing to prolong this conversation. Into
his soul there had flashed the swift conviction that never in his
life had he seen a woman so beautiful as this. Yet all he could do
was to smile and bow adieu.

"A fine man, that Dunwody, yonder," commented the young captain, as
they parted, and as he turned to his prisoner. "We'll see him on
in Washington some day. He is strengthening his forces now against
Mr. Benton out there. A strong man--a strong one; and a heedless."

"Of what party is he?" she inquired, as though casually.

"What a man's party is in these days," was his answer, "is
something hard to say. A man like Dunwody is pretty much his own
party, although the Bentonites call him a 'soft Democrat.' Hardly
soft he seems, when he gets in action at the state capital of
Missouri yonder. Certainly Dunwody is for war and tumult. None of
this late weak-kneed compromise for him! To have his own way--that
is Dunwody's creed of life. I thank God he is not going with us
now. He might want his own way with you, from the fashion of his
glances. Did you see? My word!" Young Carlisle fumed a shade
more than might have seemed necessary for military reasons.

Josephine St. Auban turned upon him with her slow smile, composedly
looking at him from between her long, dark lashes.

"Why do you say that?" she inquired.

"Because it is the truth. I don't want him about."

"Then you will be disappointed."

"Why do you say that? Did you not hear him say that he was going
West by coach from here?"

"You did not give him time. He is not going West by coach."

"What do you mean?"

"He will be with us on the boat!"



When Captain Edward Carlisle made casual reference to the
"weak-kneed compromise," he simply voiced a personal opinion on a
theme which was in the mind of every American, and one regarded
with as many minds as there were men. That political measure of
the day was hated by some, admired by others. This man condemned
it, that cried aloud its righteousness and infallibility; one
argued for it shrewdly, another declaimed against it loudly. It
was alike blessed and condemned. The southern states argued over
it, many of the northern states raged at it. It ruined many
political fortunes and made yet other fortunes. That year was a
threshold-time in our history, nor did any see what lay beyond the

If there existed then a day when great men and great measures were
to be born, certainly there lay ready a stage fit for any mighty
drama--indeed, commanding it. It was a young world withal, indeed
a world not even yet explored, far less exploited, so far as were
concerned those vast questions which, in its dumb and blind way,
humanity both sides of the sea then was beginning to take up.
America scarce more than a half century ago was for the most part a
land of query, rather than of hope.

Not even in their query were the newer lands of our country then
alike. We lay in a vast chance-medley, and never had any country
greater need for care and caution in its councils. By the grace of
the immortal gods we had had given into our hands an enormous area
of the earth's richest inheritance, to have and to hold, if that
might be; but as yet we were not one nation. We had no united
thought, no common belief as to what was national wisdom. For
three quarters of a century this country had grown; for half a
century it had been divided, one section fighting against another
in all but arms. We spoke of America even then as a land of the
free, but it was not free; nor on the other hand was it wholly
slave. Never in the history of the world has there been so great a
land, nor one of so diverse systems of government.

Before these travelers, for instance, who paused here at the head
of the Ohio River, there lay the ancient dividing line between the
South and the North. To the northwest, between the Great Lakes and
the Ohio, swept a vast land which, since the days of the old
Northwest Ordinance of 1787, had by _national_ enactment been
decreed for ever free. Part of this had the second time been
declared free, by _state_ law also. To the eastward of this lay
certain states where slavery had been forbidden by the laws of the
several states, though not by that of the nation. Again, far out
to the West, beyond the great waterway on one of whose arms our
travelers now stood, lay the vast provinces bought from Napoleon;
and of these, all lying north of that compromise line of thirty-six
degrees, thirty minutes, agreed upon in 1820, had been declared for
ever free by _national_ law. Yet beyond this, in the extreme
northwest, lay Oregon, fought through as free soil by virtue of the
old Northwest Ordinance, the sleeping dog of slavery being evaded
and left to lie when the question of Oregon came up. Along the
Pacific, and south of Oregon, lay the new empire of California,
bitterly contended over by both sections, but by her own
self-elected _state_ law declared for ever free soil. Minnesota
and the Dakotas were still unorganized, so there the sleeping dog
might lie, of course.

To the south of that river on which our voyagers presently were to
take ship, lay a section comprising the southern states, in extent
far larger than all the northern states, and much stronger in
legislative total power in the national halls of Congress. Here
slavery was maintained by laws of the _states_ themselves. The
great realm of Texas, long coveted by the South, now was joined to
the ranks of the slave-holding states, by virtue of a war of
somewhat doubtful justice though of undoubted success. Above
Texas, and below the line of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes,
lay a portion of what was known as the Indian country, where in
1820 there had been made no _prohibition_ of slavery by the
_national_ government.

Above the line of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, there thrust
up a portion of Texas which had no law at all, nor had it any until
a very recent day, being known under the title of "No Man's Land."
Yet on to the westward, toward free California, lay a vast but
supposedly valueless region where cotton surely would not grow,
that rich country now known as Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New
Mexico. This region, late gained by war from Mexico, soon to be
increased by purchase from Mexico on the South, was still of
indeterminate status, slavery not being prohibited but permitted,
by _federal_ action, although most of this territory had been free
soil under the old laws of Mexico. Moreover, as though
sardonically to complicate all these much-mingled matters, there
thrust up to the northward, out of the permitted slavery region of
the South, the state of Missouri, quite above the fateful line of
thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, where slavery was permitted
both by _federal_ and _state_ enactment.

Men spoke even then, openly or secretly, of disunion; but in full
truth, there had as yet been no actual union. In such confusion,
what man could call unwise a halting-time, a compromise? A country
of tenures so mixed, of theories so diverse, could scarcely have
been called a land of common government. It arrogated to itself,
over all its dominion, the title of a free republic, yet by its own
mutual covenant of national law, any owner of slaves in the
southern states might pursue what he called his property across the
dividing line, and invoke, in any northern state, the support of
the state or national officers to assist him in taking back his
slaves. As a republic we called ourselves even then old and
stable. Yet was ever any country riper for misrule than ours?
Forgetting now what is buried, the old arguments all forgot, that
most bloody and most lamentable war all forgot, could any mind, any
imagination, depict a situation more rife with tumult, more ripe
for war than this? And was it not perforce an issue, of compromise
or war; of compromise, or a union never to be consummated?

Yet into this heterogeneous region, from all Europe, itself
convulsed with revolution, Europe just beginning to awaken to the
doctrine of the rights of humanity, there pressed westward ever
increasing thousands of new inhabitants--in that current year over
a third of a million, the largest immigration thus far known. Most
of these immigrants settled in the free country of the North, and
as the railways were now so hurriedly crowding westward, it was to
be seen that the ancient strife between North and South must grow
and not lessen, for these new-comers were bitterly opposed to
slavery. Swiftly the idea national was growing. The idea
democratic, the idea of an actual self-government--what, now, was
to be its history?

North of the fated compromise line, west of the admitted slave
state of Missouri, lay other rich lands ripe for the plow, ready
for Americans who had never paid more than a dollar an acre for
land, or for aliens who had never been able to own any land at all.
Kansas and Nebraska, names conceived but not yet born,--what would
they be? Would the compromise of this last summer of 1850 hold the
balances of power even? Could it save this republic, still young
and needy, for yet a time in the cause of peace and growth? Many
devoutly hoped it. Many devoutly espoused the cause of compromise
merely for the sake of gaining time. As neither of the great
political parties of the day filled its ranks from either section,
so in both sections there were many who espoused, as many who
denied, the right of men to own slaves. We speak of slavery as the
one great question of that day. It was not and never has been the
greatest. The question of democracy--that was even then, and it is
now, the greatest question.

Here on the deck of the steamer at the little city of Pittsburg,
then gateway of the West, there appeared men of purposes and
beliefs as mixed as this mixed country from which they came. Some
were pushing out into what now is known as Kansas, others going to
take up lands in Missouri. Some were to pass south to the slave
country, others north to the free lands; men of all sorts and
conditions, many men, of many minds, that was true, and all
hurrying into new lands, new problems, new dangers, new remedies.
It was a great and splendid day, a great and vital time, that
threshold-time, when our western traffic increased so rapidly and
assuredly that steamers scarcely could be built rapidly enough to
accommodate it, and the young rails leaped westward at a speed
before then unknown in the world.

Carried somehow, somewhither, for some reason, on these surging
floods, were these travelers, of errand not wholly obvious to their
fellows, yet of such sort as to call into query alike the nature of
their errand and their own relations. It is easily earned
repetition to state that Josephine St. Auban's was a presence not
to be concealed. Even such a boat as the Mount Vernon offered a
total deck space so cramped as to leave secrecy or privacy well out
of the question, even had the motley and democratic assemblage of
passengers been disposed to accord either. Yet there was something
in the appearance of this young woman and her companion which
caused all the heterogeneous groups of humanity to make way for
them, as presently they approached the gang-plank.

Apparently they were not unexpected. The ship's clerks readily led
the way to apartments which had been secured in advance. Having
seen to the luggage of his charges, whom he disposed in a good
double state-room, the leader of the party repaired to his own
quarters. Tarrying no longer than to see his own luggage safe
aboard, he commanded one of the men to fetch him to the office of
the captain.

The latter gentleman, busy and important, dropped much of his
official way when he found whom he was accosting. "This is quite
unexpected, sir," he began, removing his cap and bowing.

"Captain Rogers," began the other, "you have been advised to some
extent of my plans by telegram from Washington."

The captain hesitated. "Is this with the lady's consent? I must
consider the question of damages."

"There will be no damages. Your owners will be quite safe, and so
will you."

"Are there any charges of any kind against----?"

"That is not for you to ask. She is under my care, and must not
disembark until I say the word. You will kindly give her a place
at my table. There must be no idle curiosity to annoy her. But
tell me, when shall we reach the mouth of the river? Is it not
possible to save some time by avoiding some of the smaller stops?"

"But our freight, our passengers--" The captain passed a hand
across his brow, much perplexed. The other showed a sudden

"My errand demands secrecy and speed alike. There must be no
communication between this boat and the shore, so far as this young
lady is concerned. Meantime, if all is ready, it would please me
mightily if we could start."

The captain pulled a bell rope. "Tell the mate to cast off," he
said, to the man who answered. An instant later the hoarse boom of
the boat's whistles roared out their warning. There came a crush
of late-comers at the gangway. Shouts arose; deck hands scrambled
with the last packages of freight; but presently the staging was
shipped and all the lines cast free. Churning the stained waters
into foam with her great paddles, the _Mount Vernon_ swung slowly
out into the narrow stream.

[Illustration: The Captain pulled a bell rope.]

"Now, Captain Rogers," went on Captain Carlisle, tersely, "tell, me
who's aboard;" and presently he began to ponder the names which, in
loose fashion, the clerk assembled from his memory and his personal

"Hm, Hm!" commented the listener, "very few whom I know. Judge
Clayton from the other side, below Cairo. State Senator Jones,
from Belmont--"

"You know Mr. Jones? Old 'Decline and Fall' Jones? He never reads
any book excepting Gibbon's _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_.
Always declines a drink when offered, but he's sure to fall a
moment later!" Thus the smiling clerk.

"Well, I may see Mr. Jones, possibly Judge Clayton. There's no one
else." He seemed not dissatisfied.

Alas! for human calculations and for human hopes! Even as he left
the captain's room to ascend the stair, he met face to face the
very man whose presence he least desired.

"Dunwody!" he exclaimed.

The gentleman thus addressed extended a hand. "I see you are safe
aboard. Myself, too, I am very glad."

"I thought you said you were going--"

"I was, but I changed my mind at the last moment. It is far more
comfortable going down by boat than it is by stage. Then, the
thought of the pleasure of your society on the journey--" He was
smiling, rather maliciously.

"Yes, yes, of course!" somewhat dismally.

"But now, to be frank with you, you don't seem altogether happy.
Why do you want to be rid of me? What harm have I done?" smiled

"Oh, my dear sir!"

"May not one change his mind if he likes?"

"My dear sir, there is no argument about that."

"Certainly not! The only argument is on the previous
question--When are you going to introduce me as you should, to that
extremely beautiful young lady who is with you?"

"Good God, my very dear sir!"

"You are not 'my dear sir' at all, so long as you try to hoodwink
me," persisted Dunwody, still smiling. "Come, now, what are you
doing here, west bound with a young and charming person who is not
your wife, widow, mother, daughter, _fiancee_ or sister--who is

"That will do, if you please!" Carlisle's hot temper named into his
freckled face.

"Why so touchy?"

"It is within a man's rights to choose his own company and his own
ways. I am not accountable, except as I choose."

The other man was studying him closely, noting his flush, his
irritation, his uneasiness. "But what I am saying now is that it
is cruel, unusual, inhuman and unconstitutional to be so selfish
about it. Come, I shall only relent when you have shown yourself
more kind. For instance, in the matter of her table in the

"The lady has expressed a desire to remain quite alone, my dear
sir. I must bow to her will. It is her privilege to come and go
as she likes."

"She may come and go as she likes?" queried Dunwody, still smiling.
There was a look on his face which caused Carlisle suddenly to turn
and examine him sharply.


"Without your consent, even?"

"Absolutely so."

"Then why should she have sent me this little message?" demanded
Dunwody suddenly. He presented a folded bit of paper, snapping it
on the back with a finger.

A still deeper flush spread over the young officer's telltale face.
He opened and read: "If you care to aid a woman who is in trouble,
come to me at room 19 when you can."

"When did you receive this?" he demanded. "By God!" he added, to
himself, "she did it, too!"

"Within the moment. Her maid brought it."

"You didn't have this before you came on board--but of course, that
wasn't possible."

Dunwody looked at him keenly. "You have just heard me," he said.
"No, I don't deny there are some things here which I can't
understand. You are covering up something, my dear Captain, of
course, but just what I do not know. Your station in life, your
presence in this country, so far from home!--" He smiled now in a
way which his antagonist considered sinister. Yet what defense
could be made without exposing secrets which were not his to

"Come," went on Dunwody, "let's be frank about it. You may trust
me, of course. But--neither sister, wife, nor servant--could you
blame any man, especially any man who had a direct message like
this, for wanting, or, say, even demanding a meeting? Haven't I
the right? Come, now!"

Carlisle made no immediate answer, and was about to turn on his
heel, finding it hard to restrain himself. He paused, however.

"Very good, then. To show how little you know me, and how much you
wrong both this lady and myself, you shall meet her, as you say.
Not that you have earned the right."



The _Mount Vernon_, favored by a good stage of water, soon cleared
the narrow Monongahela channel, passed the confluence, and headed
down under full steam, all things promising well for a speedy and
pleasant run. The sky was blue and cloudless, and the air fresh
with the tang of coming autumn. Especially beautiful were the
shores which they now were skirting. The hues of autumn had been
shaken down over mile after mile of wide forest which appeared in a
panorama of russet and gold and red, to grow the more resplendent
when they should arrive opposite the high bluffs which line the
stream almost to the town of Wheeling.

Below these upper reaches, then the least settled and wildest
portion of the country along the Ohio, the river flattened and
widened, the current becoming more gentle, and the shores, though
not yet wholly cleared of their forests, presenting here and there
scenes of rural rather than of savage beauty. Civilization had not
as yet taken full hold along this rich valley. The old town of
Marietta, the cities of Louisville and Cincinnati, the villages
huddled at mouths of such rivers as came down from the Virginia
hills, or the larger settlements marking points near the
debouchments of slower streams like the Muskingum and Wabash, which
crossed the flatter lands beyond, made the chief points of traffic
and of interest in those days of west bound travel.

On the upper deck or along the rails of the lower deck, many
passengers were gazing out at the varying pictures of the passing
shores. Not so the young officer, erstwhile accosted as jailer of
a woman, later hinted to be something else than jailer. With eyes
cast down, he spent most of his time pacing up and down alone. Yet
it was not an irresolute soul which reposed beneath the half-frigid
exterior. He presently arrived upon a plan of action.

The public, too, had its rights, he concluded, and the woman as a
woman had her rights also to her good fame. He must not harm her
name. Best then, to disarm suspicion by playing the game wholly in
the open. The midday meal now being announced by loud proclamation
of the boat's gong, he turned, and soon rapped at the door of room

Jeanne, the tearful but faithful maid who shared her mistress'
fortunes, by this time had done what she could to mend her lady's
appearance. The traces of travel had been quite removed, by virtue
of the contents of such valises as they had with them. Good health
and youth, as well as good courage, fought for Josephine St. Auban,
as well as good sense and a philosophy of travel learned by
experiences in other lands. If indeed she had not slept, at least
her face did not betray that fact. Her color was good, her eye was
clear. Her dark hair, brushed low over the temples in the fashion
of the day, was fresh and glossy. Moreover, her habiliments were
such as to cause most of the feminine occupants of the boat to make
careful note, when she had accepted Carlisle's escort and entered
the dining-room. She walked with calmness to the table reserved
for her, and with inclination of the head thanked him as he
arranged her chair for her. Thus in a way the gauntlet was by both
thrown down to all present.

Most of those present without hesitation showed their interest.
The hum of the dingy tables slackened and ceased. A score of women
frowned at a score of men whose glances wandered undutifully. Who
was she, and what? That question certainly passed in the minds of
most in the crowded little room. Meantime, Josephine St. Auban's
own eyes were not unregardful.

"I see that my guess was quite correct," she said at length,
smiling full at her guardian.

At once he caught her thought. "Oh, about Mr. Dunwody," he
assented, assuming a carelessness which she read through at once.
"Yes, I met him--a while ago. He told me he had suddenly decided
to change his plans and take the Vernon down the river, instead of
going by stage. Very natural of him, too, I should say. I would
be much distressed to think of myself traveling by coach, even in
weather pleasant as this. He has keen eyes, though, has he not?"
he added resentfully.

"That is to say--"

"So hard hit that he threatens a duel or worse if I do not at once
further his desire to pursue his acquaintance. It's not myself
he's so eager to meet. He has no love for me, that's sure, long

"Indeed?" She kept her eyes fixed on her plate. If a slight flush
tinged her cheek it scarce was visible. "Is that all?" she asked
at length.

"Madam, you yourself could best answer your own question." He
looked at her keenly, not showing his case; not telling her that
Dunwody had shown him her hasty note. Not the flicker of an
eyelash betrayed her own thought. Surely, she had courage.
Surely, she meant trouble.

"How delightful!" she resumed at length calmly. "Not that I weary
of your company, sir; but I told you my parole was ended when we
reached the boat. Suppose, now, I should stand up here and cry out
that I am being restrained of my liberty. What would be the

"I should be hung at the yard-arm instantly! I should be lynched.
Dunwody would come in the lead, crashing over the tables. I fear
Dunwody, even bearing a rope, as we used to say--in Virgil, was it?"

"Admirable! Now, since that is true, suppose you and I make some
sort of terms! I'm tired of being jailed, even in a traveling
jail. I told you fairly I should try to escape; and so I shall."

He needed no second look to catch the resolution in her glance.
"Our game is somewhat desperate, Madam, I admit," said he, "I
scarcely know whether you are in my hands or I in yours. As I have
already given you consideration, let us hope you will do as much
for me, remembering at least the delicacy of my position. I'm
under orders; and I'm responsible for you."

"Yes?" she rejoined. "Now, as to what I suggest, it is this: You
shall leave the boat at Louisville or Cincinnati. Your errand is
already sufficiently well done. You have got me out of Washington.
Suppose we set Cincinnati as the last point of our common journey?"

"But what then for you. Madam?"

"As to that, I can not tell. Why should you care? Do not be
concerned over details. You have brought me into this situation.
I must escape from it in my own way."

"You sting me deeply. I've had to do this, just as an executioner
may have to cut off a head; but a thousand times I ask your pardon.
A thousand times you, yourself, have made me ashamed. Come, when
we part, shall it not be as friends? You have won my respect, my
admiration. I wish I were entitled to your own. You've been
perfect. You've been splendid."

"Look," she said, without raising her eyelids.

He turned. Dunwody was making his way toward them among the tables.

"My dear Senator," said Carlisle, choking down his wrath as the
Missourian reached them and bowed his salutations, "I have the
greatest pleasure in the world in keeping my promise to you. I am
delighted to have you join our little party at this time. You
remember the Countess--I would say, Miss Barren?"

"I have not so soon forgotten," answered Dunwody. His commanding
eyes still sought her face. Beyond a slight bow and one upward
glance, she did not display interest; yet in truth a sudden shiver
of apprehension came into her heart. This was a different sort of
man she now must endeavor to handle. What was it that his straight
glance meant?

It was a singular situation in which these three found themselves.
That she had asked the aid of this new-comer was a fact known to
all three of them. Yet of the three, none knew precisely the
extent of the others' knowledge. Dunwody at least was polite, if
insistent, in his wish to learn more of this mysterious young woman
who had appealed to him for aid, yet who now made no further sign.
Who was she? What _sort_ was she? he demanded of himself. God! if
she was one sort. And why should she _not_ be that sort? Did not
the River carry many sorts? Was not the army ever gallant? What
officer ever hesitated in case of a fair damsel? And what fair
damsel was not fair game in the open contest among men--that old,
old, oldest and keenest of all contests since this hoary world

"I am sure the fatigue of the journey across the mountains must
have left you quite weary," he ventured, addressing her. "There's
only the choice of sleeping, or of hanging over the deck rail and
looking at these hills." He waved a hand toward a window, whence
might be seen the near-by shores.

Josephine St. Auban showed no sign of perturbation as she answered:
"Not so weary as busy. The duties of an amanuensis leave one small
time for recreation." Her face was demureness itself.

[Illustration: Josephine showed no sign of perturbation.]

The situation assumed swift complications. Carlisle caught his
cue, with alertness fairly to be called brilliant. "Yes," said he,
"the young lady is of foreign education and family, and is most
skilful in these respects. I should find it difficult to carry
forward my literary work without her able assistance. It is a boon
which even few public men have shared with myself. You know, I am
in the West in view of certain writings." He virtuously sat erect,
with a fine air, presently pushing back his chair.

Dunwody looked from one to the other in perplexity. He had
expected to find a woman claiming his aid, or rather his
acquaintance under excuse of a plea for aid. He found both these
apparently in league against him, and one of these apparently after
all not what he had thought! His face flushed. Meantime Josephine
St. Auban arose, bowed, and left them.

When the two men found themselves alone, Dunwody, for a time lost
in moody silence, at length broke out into a peal of laughter.
"Well, human nature is human nature, I suppose. I make no comment,
further than to say that I consider all the lady's fears were
groundless. She has been well treated. There was no need to call
for _my_ aid. The army is hard to defeat, Captain, and always was!"

"I had not myself regarded any officer in the light of an oppressor
of the distressed amanuensis," he went on. "But come now, who is
she? You started to call her 'Countess.' Since when have
countesses gone into secretarying? Tut! Tut! and again, my dear
man, Tut!"

"Sir," replied Carlisle, "I recall that when I was a youth, some of
us, members of the Sabbath-school class, occasionally would ask our
teacher a question on the Scriptures which he could not answer. In
that case he always said, 'My dear young friends, there are some
things which are not for man to know.'"

"I accept my temporary defeat," said Dunwody slowly. "We'll see.
But come, now, Captain, time is passing and the tables are yearning
for trouble. The army is distinguished not alone in love.
Draw-poker hath its victories, not less than war. I told Jones and
Judge Clayton and one or two others that I was pining for a little
game of draw. What do you say? Should not all lesser questions be
placed in abeyance?"

"That," said the other, "comes to me at the present moment in the
nature of an excellent compromise measure. I am agreed!"

Fencing thus, neither sure of his adversary, they now made their
way to one of the larger saloons, which ordinarily was devoted to
those who preferred to smoke, mayhap to chew, perhaps even to do
worse; for the door leading to the bar-room of the boat was near at
hand. A darky boy stood grinning, arranging a table, offering
cards and tobacco in a tempting tray. The two drew up leisurely to
the table, and presently were joined by the gentlemen whom Dunwody
had mentioned. For the time, then, as two of the four reflected,
there was a truce, a compromise.



They made a group not uninteresting as they gathered about the
table in the deck saloon. The youngest of the four received the
deference generally accorded the uniform he wore, and returned the
regard due age and station in the civilian world. For the moment
rid of one annoying question, he was quite his better self, and
added his quota in the preliminary badinage of the game. Across
the table from him sat Judge Henry Clayton of New Madrid, a tall
and slender gentleman with silky white mustaches and imperial,
gentle of speech, kindly of countenance, and with soft, white
hands, whose long fingers now idly raised and let fall some of the
parti-colored tokens of the game.

[Illustration: They made a group not uninteresting.]

At Clayton's side, Dunwody, younger, larger and more powerful, made
something of a contrast. Both these gentlemen had removed their
coats and hung them across the backs of chairs, evidently intending
a serious session. In this procedure the last of the party now
followed suit,--the Honorable William Jones, state senator from
Belmont, Missouri. Seating himself, the latter now in turn began
shuffling a pack between fingers short, puffy, freckled and
experienced. His stooped shoulders thrust forward a beardless
round face, whose permanently arched eyebrows seemed to ask a
continuous question, his short, dark hair receded from a high
forehead, and a thick mid-body betokened alike middle age and easy
living. A planter of the back country, and a politician, his
capital was a certain native shrewdness and little else. Of
course, in company such as this, and at such a day, the
conversation must drift toward the ever fruitful topic of slavery.

"No, sir," began the Honorable William Jones, indulging himself in
the luxury of tobacco as he addressed his companions, "there ain't
no doubt about it. Us Southerners orto take all that new country
west of the Missoury, clean acrost to the Pacific."

The older gentleman smiled at him. "You forget California," said
he. "She is already in, and free by her own vote."

"An' a crime aginst the natural rights of the South! Sir, the
institution of slavery is as old as history. It is as old as the
first settlement of agricultural man upon one piece of ground.
It's as old as the idea of sovereignty itself."

Dunwody gave a sly wink at his neighbor, Judge Clayton. The latter
sank back in his chair resigned. Indeed, he proceeded to
precipitate what he knew was to come.

"Sir, England herself," he assented gravely, "is the oldest of
slavers. The Saxons, of whom we speak as the fathers of freedom,
were the worst slave masters in the world--they sold their very kin
into slavery at times."

The Honorable William Jones was impatient of interruption. "Comin'
to our own side of the sea, gentlemen, what do we find? New
England foremost in the slave trade! New York, ownin' onct more
slaves than Virginny ever did! Georgia was fo'ced to take on slave
labor, although she had tried to do without it. _Every_ race,
_every_ nation, sirs, has accepted the theory of slave labor. What
says Mr. Gibbon in his great work--in his remarkable work, his
treasure house of learnin'--_The Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire_--if I had my copy here I could put my finger on to the very
place where he says it, sirs. Why, sirs, in the _Decline and
Fall_--I could show you the very line and chapter if I had my copy
here--but it's up in my room--I could show you the very chapter on
slavery, by the Lord Harry! sir, where Mr. Foote, of the state of
Mississippi, in his last speech down in that country, sirs,--"

"Now, now, Jones," Dunwody raised a restraining hand at length,
"just sit down. Don't go get your copy of the _Decline and Fall_.
We're willing to take some of that for granted. Let's get at the
pleasant task of taking away all the money of this Free Soil
gentleman from the North. _Non_ politics, _non_ religion, _sed_
poker! That's why we're here."

The Honorable William Jones, his eloquence thus dammed up, seemed
to experience a sudden restriction of the throat, and coughed once
or twice. "I will go against the said poker just onct," said he;
"but, ahem!"

"I would suggest," said Dunwody, "that before we tempt the gods of
fortune we should first pour a libation for their favor. What do
you say, sir?" He turned to Jones and winked at Clayton.

"No, no, no, sir! No, I thank you just as much, but I never drink
more than onct in a day. At home it varies. On some days I like
my liquor in the mornin', some days just before bedtime, especially
if there is any malary about, as there is in most of my
country--indeed, I think there is some malary in these Ohio bottoms
up here."

"That fact is beyond dispute," ventured Judge Clayton gravely. "In
short, I myself feel in danger as we pass through these heavy

"Quite so," assented the Honorable William Jones. "Sometimes I
take a drink in the mornin' before breakfast, especially if there
is malary around, as I said; sometimes before dinner, but only one;
or, sometimes right after dinner, like now. Difference among men,
ain't there? Some say it's wrong to drink before breakfast.
Others say one drink then goes farther'n six later in the day. For
me, now, only one drink a day. Unless--that is, of course--unless
there is some very special occasion, such as--"

"Such as that offered by this most malarious country," ventured the
judge gravely.

"Well, yes, since you mention it, on such an occasion as this. But
Tom--" turning to the colored boy, "Make it very light; ver-r-ry
light. Hold on thah, you rascal, not too light!"

The Honorable William Jones set an example in which he was joined
temperately by the judge, the others contenting themselves in
completing their arrangements for the game. The tokens were
distributed, and in accordance with the custom of the time, the
table soon was fairly well covered with money of divers sorts, gold
coin, a lesser amount of silver, bills issued by many and divers
banks in this or that portion of the country.

Silence fell when the game really began. The Honorable William
Jones at first ever and anon threatened to erupt into Roman facts
and figures, but chilly glances made his answer. Half an hour, and
the passing of time was forgot.

At first the cards ran rather severely against the judge, and
rather in favor of the historian, who played "the said poker" with
such thoroughness that presently there appeared before him a ragged
pile of currency and coin. Dunwody and Carlisle were losers, but
finally Dunwody began to edge in upon the accumulated winnings of
his neighbor on the right. An hour passed, two hours, more. The
boat plowed on down-stream. Presently the colored boy began to
light lamps. There came to the faces of all the tense look, the
drawn and lined visage which is concomitant to play for
considerable stakes. A frown came on the florid countenance of the
young officer. The pile of tokens and currency before him lessened
steadily. At last, in fact, he began to show uneasiness. He
thrust a hand into a pocket where supplies seemed to have grown
scarce. There is small mercy in a game of poker hard played, but
at least one of his opponents caught some such signal of distress.
Dunwody looked up from his own last hand.

"Don't leave us just yet, friend," he said. "You may draw on me
for all you like, if you care to continue. We shall see that you
get a ticket back home. No man can ask more than that!"

"I have a thousand acres of cotton land 'n a hunnerd niggers
waitin' for me to git home," said the Honorable William Jones, "an'
by hockey, I raise the ante to twenty dollars right hyer! Are you
all comin' in?"

"I have at least that much left in my locker," answered Judge
Clayton. "What do you say to doubling that?"

"Suit me," said Dunwody briefly; they nodded assent all around, but
the younger man ventured:

"Suppose I sit with you for one jack-pot, gentlemen. The hour is
growing late for me, and I must plead other duties. When a man is
both busy and broke, it is time for him to consider."

"No, no," expostulated the Honorable William Jones, who long since
had forgotten his rule regarding one drink a day. "No, no, not
broke, and not busy! Not at all!"

"I don't know," said Dunwody. "Suppose we make it one more
jack-pot all around?" They agreed to this. It was Judge Clayton's

"Gimme at least three," began the senator from Belmont, puckering
out his lips in discontent.

"Three good ones," consented the judge. "How many for the rest of

Dunwody shook his head. "I'll stand as it is, please."

The judge quietly discarded two cards, Carlisle having done the
same. The betting now went about with more than one increase from
the Honorable William Jones, whose eyes apparently were seeing
large. At last the "call" came from Carlisle, who smilingly moved
the bulk of his remaining fortune toward the center of the table.
Thereupon, with a bland and sane smile, the Honorable William Jones
shook his head and folded his cards together. The judge displayed
queens and tens, the gentleman opposite queens and deuces. Dunwody
laid down his own hand, which showed aces and fours. They all

"Gentlemen, you all deserve to win," said Dunwody. "I feel like a

"I have a thousand acres of niggers 'n four hunnerd cotton lands,"
remarked the Honorable William Jones, amiably, "says you can't do
it again. I can prove it from Mr. Gibbon's _'Cline 'n Fall_."

Judge Clayton rose, laughing, slapping Dunwody on the shoulder and
giving an arm to Mr. Jones, whom he assisted to his room.



Dunwody remained seated at the table, carelessly shuffling the
cards between his fingers. Once in a while he cast an amused
glance toward Carlisle, and at last remarked, as though continuing
an arrested thought:

"Amanuensis, is she?" He chuckled. The other ventured no reply.

"My dear sir, at your age, I congratulate you! The choice of an
amanuensis is one very important for a public man, not less so, I
imagine, for a military man. Consider the need--"

"I think that will do, my dear Dunwody," rejoined Carlisle at
length, the hot blood in his face. "Frankly, this conversation is
unwelcome to me."

"I'll tell you what I'll do with you," exclaimed the Missourian
suddenly. "I'll bet you every cent in this pile of my winnings
here that that young lady isn't your amanuensis, and never has
been. I'll bet its like that she is no relative of yours. I'll
bet it all over again that she is the most beautiful woman that
ever set foot on a boat on this river, or ever set foot on any
land. Moreover, I'll bet again--"

"You might win a certain share of these wagers," smiled the young
officer, willing to pass by a possible argument. "Moreover, I am
quite willing to discuss arrangements for changing the term of
servitude of this young lady. I've been doing a little thinking
about one or two matters since this morning."


"Quite right. I wouldn't care to restrain her in any way, if she
cared to travel in other company. Our work is well advanced toward
completion, as it is."

"Yet you came here with her? Then what--?"

"Never mind what the relation may have been, my dear fellow. It
irks me now. Especially does this sort of conversation irk me,
because it is not fair to the young lady herself."

Dunwody drew in his breath with a strong sigh. He sat up straight
in his chair, then rested an arm on the table, as he leaned forward
toward the other. "A young lady has had a poor protector who would
not protect her name. Of course!"

"In any case," smiled Carlisle, forcing the frown away from his
face, "my fortunes need mending now. Do you think I could continue
a journey down the river in company so strong at cards as yours?
At a later time, if you like, I will endeavor to get my revenge."

"Suppose you have it now," said Dunwody calmly. "Haven't you just
heard me say I haven't the means?"

"You have as much as I have."

"Tut! tut! I don't borrow to play cards."

"You do not need to borrow. I say, your stake equals mine, and we
will play at evens, too. Come, deal one hand, poker between two,
and to the hilt."

The other man looked at him and gazed at the heaped pile of coins
and notes which lay before him. He himself was no pale-blooded
opponent, nor usually disposed to slight the opportunities of the
game. "I don't understand," said he finally. "Certainly I am not
willing to pledge my land and 'niggers,' like our friend from
Belmont here. Perhaps my fall has been hard enough not to tempt me
to go on with my sort of luck. Suppose I decline!"

"You don't understand me," said Dunwody, looking him fair in the
face. "I said that your stake can easily be equal with this on the
table. I'll play you just two out of three jack-pots between the
two of us. You see my stake."

"But mine?"

"You can make it even by writing one name--and correctly--here on a
piece of paper. Full value--yes, ten times as much as mine! You
are giving odds, man!"

"I don't understand you."

"You don't want to understand me. Come, now. You, as an army man,
ought to know something of the history of poker in these United
States. Listen, my friend. Do you recall a certain game played by
a man higher in authority--younger than he is to-day--a game played
upon a snowbound train in the North country? Do you remember what
the stakes were--then? Do you recall that that man later became a
president of the United States? Come. There is fine precedent for
our little enterprise."

The swift flush on the face of the other man made his answer.
Dunwody went on mercilessly:

"He played then much as you do now. There was against him then, as
there is now against you, a man who admired not so much just one
woman in all the world as, let us say, one particular woman then
and there present. Perhaps you remember his name--Mr. Parish--later
ennobled by the German government and long known as a land baron in
New York. Come! Think of it! Picture that snowbound train, that
great citizen, and Parish, playing and playing, until at last it
came to the question of a woman--not so beautiful as this one here,
but in her own way shrewd, _the same sort of woman_, I might
say--mysterious, beautiful, and--no, don't protest, and I'll not
describe. You remember very well her name. It was pleasant
property not so long ago for everybody. They played for the _love_,
not for the hand, of that woman. Parish won her. Do you remember

The younger man sat looking at him silently, his face now grown
quite pale. "I am unwilling, sir, to allow any man to mention such
details regarding the past life of my commander-in-chief, a
president of the United States. It is not seemly. My profession
should free me, by its very nature, from conversation such as this.
My errand should free me. My place as a gentleman should free me,
and her, from such discussion. It must, it shall, sir!"

"Forgive me," said Dunwody, coloring. "Your rebuke is just. I ask
your pardon freely; but remember, what I say here is between us
two, and no one else. Why deny yourself the luxury of remembering
such a game as that? It was a man's game, and well worth the
playing. Your former head of the army, at least, lost; and he
paid. The other won. All Ogdensburg can tell you about that
to-day. They lived there--together--Parish and the woman, till he
went abroad. Yes, and she was a prisoner there not simply for a
short time; she lived and died there. Whatever Parish did, whoever
he was, he never loved any other woman as he did that one. And by
the Lord! when it comes to that, no other woman in that town ever
was loved more than she by everybody. Odd creatures, women, eh?
Who can find them out? Who can weigh them, who can plumb their
souls? But, my God! who can do without them?"

Carlisle made no answer, and Dunwody went on. "She had political
intrigues back of her, just as this woman here has, for all I know.
But one lost in that game, and the other, won. I've often wondered
about that particular game of cards, my friend,--whether after all
she loved the man who won her, right or wrong,--what became of
her,--who she was? But now, tell me, was not our drunken friend
right? Has human nature changed since Rome? And has not the
conqueror always ruled? Have not the _spolia opima_, the rarest
prizes, always been his?"

Carlisle only sat silent, looking at him, pale now, and rigid. He
still made no comment.

"So now I say," went on Dunwody, "here is that same situation,
twice in one lifetime! It's ominous, for somebody. There is
trouble in the air, for some or all of us. But I say I offer you
fair play, even, man to man. I ask no questions. I will not take
any answers, any more than those two would have allowed any, that
day on the train there, when they played, ten years or more ago.
That was a foreign woman. So is this, I think. She is the most
beautiful woman I have ever seen. I have looked her in the face.
I shall never see such another face again. Man, I'm mad over her.
And you've just said you'd loose your hold on her, whatever it
is--for her sake. By God! once my hold was on her, she never
should get away--again."

"What do you propose?" asked the other hoarsely.

"I propose only to offer you that same game over again!" replied
Dunwody. "Man, what an uncanny thing this is! But, remember one
thing,--no matter what comes, I shall never mention our meeting
here. I am not your keeper."

"Sir," broke out the other, "you embarrass me unspeakably. You do
not know the circumstances. I can not tell--"

"Pardon me, I make no taunts, and I have said I tell no tales. But
my word of honor, man,--I will play you,--two out of three, to
see--who takes her." His voice was low, tense, savage.

The younger man sat back in his chair. One knowing his tempestuous
nature might have expected anger, consternation, resentment, to
remain on his face. On the contrary, a sudden light seemed to come
into his countenance. Suddenly he stifled a smile! He passed a
hand across his brow, as though to assure himself. It was not so
much confidence or resolution as half deliberation which shone in
his eye as he cast a glance upon the heap of money on the opposite
side of the table. Yet no sordid thought, no avarice was in his
gaze. It was the look of the fanatic, the knight errant, resolved
upon deed of risk or sacrifice for sake of a woman's wish; but with
it was the amusement of a man who foresaw that difficulties lay
ahead of him who essayed the role of jailer to Josephine, Countess
St. Auban. What now passed across his countenance, little by
little, therefore, was relief, relaxation from a strain, a solution
of some doubtful problem. In brief, there seemed offered to him
now the opportunity to terminate an errand which suddenly had grown
distasteful to him and dangerous both to him and to his charge. At
one stroke he might secure for himself riddance of the company of
an embarrassing companion who already had served notice of her
intention to desert him; and might also keep silent this man, whom
she had asked for aid. As for him, she would take his measure
quickly enough if he presumed in any way. Would not the purpose of
his journey have been accomplished, might not he himself return to
his work, would not each of these three have been served to his or
her own liking, should now the suggestion of this eager man be
accepted? If he won at the cards, why then--if he lost--but that
he resolved not to do! The greatest misfortune possible, to his
perplexed soul, was that the cards should not be against him. As
he reflected upon these things, he hesitated. It was but to gain

"Senator Dunwody," said he, at length, "you and I are from
different parts of the country--from two different worlds, you
might say. You believe in slavery and the extension of it--I
believe in just the reverse. I would sacrifice my professional
future, if need were, in that belief." The other nodded, but his
eyes did not waver.

"Very good! Now, I want to say to you this much. The young lady
who has been with me is dangerous. She is an abolitionist of the
strictest sect. She is very likely an European revolutionist,
among other things. She is dangerous as such. I think I can say
this much, and break no pledge of confidence."

"That isn't how she is dangerous to me. But is that the crime for
which you transport her for life?" smiled the other. His shot came
so close that his companion raised a hand.

"I don't deny, don't explain, don't argue," he retorted curtly. "I
only say that I shall be willing to part with her services and turn
her over to your own care, if you _both_ so like. We know she has
appealed to you for aid. My own errand, if you please, is near to
its close. It has been--"

"Cut the cards, man!" cried the Missourian. It was lucky that he
interrupted. He was just in time to prevent the other from making
the mistake of saying what was the truth--that he was in any case
about to leave the young lady to her own devices, and by her own
request. The game which he most valued now was not on the table
before him. He was playing it in his own mind. In short, duty or
no duty, he was resolved to end the role of jailer and prisoner,
for sake of the prisoner herself. Let others attempt the
unpleasant task if they liked. Let others condemn if they liked.
He, Carlisle, could be jailer no longer. Yet he deliberated well
the risk he ran.

"It would be ruin to me if this were known, Senator Dunwody, and of
that you are perfectly aware."'

"I know that as well as you, but there can be honor even in
politics, war, or--love. I have given you my word. Deal!"

"You are impatient. You rejoice as a strong man to run a race, my
dear sir."

"I _do_ run a race. I _am_ strong. Play! It is in the cards that
I must win."

"But if you should lose?"

"I shall not lose!"

His insistence, his confidence, almost caused the older man to
laugh. "No, my friend," said he to himself, "you shall not lose!"
But what he said aloud was, "You must not be excited, Dunwody. You
may need all your nerve. I thought you cooler in times of stress."

"You don't know me. I don't know myself. Perhaps it is ice in
your blood--I don't know,--it's fire in mine."

"Very well,--I hope you like the cards I have given you." But
there was no ice in the red flush on Carlisle's sanguine face,

"Give me four more," cried the Missourian, flinging down his own
cards with hands that trembled.

"Quite right, sir, you shall have them. But how you tremble! I
wouldn't have so poor a nerve as yours for all the money in the
world, my dear Senator. You act as though there were four hundred
acres of niggers at stake, as Mr. Jones would say!"

"Go on! You don't know what there is at stake."

"So, now. You have your four cards. For myself--though you are so
excited you wouldn't notice it if I did not call your attention to
it--I take but three. You are an infant, man. See that you be not
delivered into the hands of the enemy."

They looked now each into his renewed hand of five cards. Dunwody
swept a stack of money toward the center of the table. "A thousand
dollars against one look from her eye!"

"My dear sir," rejoined the other calmly, "you are raised to the
extent of two glances--one from each eye."

"Another thousand for the touch of her glove."

"I come back. You shall have a pair."

"A thousand more to hear the sound of her step--another thousand
for one smile!"

Carlisle's voice trembled, but he forced himself under control.
"My dear sir, you shall have all you wish! I am sure if she could
see you now she herself would be disposed to smile. You do not yet
understand that woman. But now, suppose that the betting has gone
far enough? What cards have you? For myself, I discover that I
have drawn four kings. I trust that you have four aces of your

There was sincerity in this wish, but Dunwody answered gloomily:
"You gave me three tens and a pair of fives, with what I held. You
have won the first round."

He dashed a hand, and cleared the square of matted hair from his
forehead, which now was beaded. Red, florid, full-blooded, balked
in his eagerness, he looked as savage as some denizen of the
ancient forest, in pursuit as reckless, as ill-suited with

"My deal," said he, at length, in a voice half a growl. And later,
"How many?"

"I shall, if you please, require but one card," was the quiet
answer. Dunwody himself required two. They sat narrowly eying
each other, although there was in this close duel small advantage
for either except in the run of the cards themselves.

"It is perhaps needless for us to waste time, since I can not
divide my stakes," smiled the younger gentleman.

Again with a half growl, Dunwody threw down his cards, face upward.
His teeth were clenched, all his muscles set, all his attitude
strained, tense.

"You have won, my dear Senator! I failed to improve my four cards,
which, it is true, were of one color, but which I regret to say
still remain of the one color and of no better company!"

"It is even!" exclaimed Dunwody. "Come!"

The cards went around once more, and once more the officer asked
for a single card. Once again he lost.

Dunwody drew back with a deep sigh. "Look!" he said, "of my three
cards, two were what I wanted--aces, aces, man!--four of them! By
every token, I have won. It's fate!"

The face of his opponent was a study. His eyebrows went up in
pleasant expostulation at the other's eagerness. "So, then," said
he, "I suppose I must pay my stake, much to my regret. Ah! how
fortune has run against me to-day. And so, here it is,--I write
her name for you once more--this time her real name, so far as any
in America know it--thus,--Josephine, Countess St. Auban, of
France, of Hungary, of America, abolitionist, visionary, firebrand.
There, then,--though I think you will find the matter of taking
possession somewhat difficult to compass--so far as I am concerned,
she is, with all my heart, yours to have and to hold, _if you can_!
My duty to her is over. Yours begins, I hope!"

Dunwody found no speech. He was pale, and breathing fast.

Gravity increased in the other's demeanor. His face now looked
drawn, weary. "I beg, my dear sir," he said, "nay, I entreat and
command you, to make all gentle and kind use of this which the gods
have given you. I confess nothing whatever, except that I am
hungry and tired to extinction. I congratulate the winner, and
consider myself fortunate to be allowed to go in peace to my own
place--penniless, it is true, but at least with a conscience quite
clear." The frown on his face, the troubled gaze of his eyes,
belied his last words. "It's no part of my conscience to coerce a
woman," he added defiantly. "I can't do it--not any longer."

"It is well to be a cheerful loser," returned Dunwody, at last. "I
couldn't blame any man for being coerced by--her! I admit that I
am. But after this, what will be your plans?"

"I purpose leaving the boat at the first suitable stop, not farther
down than Louisville, at least. Perhaps Cincinnati would be yet
better. By the fortunes of war you will, therefore, stand in my
stead. I've changed my mind, suddenly. I told the young lady that
we would continue on together, even beyond Cairo. But now--well,
to the victor, as Mr. Marcy has said, belong the spoils. Only,
there are some titles which may not be negotiated. A quitclaim is
by no means a warranty. You'll discover that." He smiled grimly.

The other made no answer. He only stood to his full height and
stretched out his great arms. He seemed a figure come down
unchanged from some savage day.



Alone in her state-room all these hours, Josephine St. Auban had
abundant time to reflect upon the singular nature of her situation.
At first, and very naturally, she was disposed to seek the
protection of the boat's officers, but a second thought convinced
her of the unwisdom of that course. As to this stranger, this
stalwart man of the West, she had appealed to him and he had made
no sign. She had no friend, no counselor. A feeling of
inefficiency, of smallness and helplessness, swept over her. For
the first time in her life she found herself hard and fast in the
grasp of events over which she had absolutely no control. She was
prisoner to her own good fame. She dared not declare herself. She
dared not cry out for help. None would believe her story. She
herself did not fully understand all the circumstances connected
with her unlawful banishment from the capital of the proudest and
freest republic of the world.

[Illustration: Josephine St. Auban had abundant time to reflect]

It was while still in this frame of mind that, on the day
following, there came to her a messenger bearing the card of
Warville Dunwody. She gazed at it for some moments undecided,
debating. She tried to reason. Had she trusted rather to woman's
vaticination, matters had been better for her. What she actually
did was to summon Jeanne to complete some hurried toilet
preparations. Then she set out to meet the sender of the card.

There was no occupant of the saloon excepting one, who rose as she
entered, hesitating. On the instant a sudden change swept over
Dunwody's face. Was it at first assuredness it had borne? "I am
glad that you have thus honored me," he said simply.

"It is much pleasanter to move about as one may," she answered.
"But where is our friend, Captain Carlisle, this morning? Is he
ill, or simply unmindful of one so unimportant as myself? I have
not heard from him."

"He left the boat last night," answered Dunwody gravely, his eyes
fixed on her face.

"Left the boat--he is gone? Why, he sent me no word, and I
thought--at least, he said--"

"He has, Madam, like Cataline, evaded, broken forth, absconded.
But as to leaving word for you, he was not quite so heartless as
all that. I have a message for you."

With a word craving permission she opened the message. It was

"You will be glad to know that so far as your late
jailer is concerned, your captivity is at an end. I am
leaving the boat at the next stop, and since that falls in
the night-time, I will not disturb you. Senator
Dunwody has kindly consented to act as your guardian in
my stead, and from your message to him, I judge that
in any case you would prefer his care to mine."

"My dear Countess, they are not merely idle words
when I say to you that you have won my respect and
admiration. Be on your guard, and allow me to
advise you in the interest of yourself and others to

No reasons were urged, no apologies offered. Obviously, the
signature was in such circumstances better omitted.

The effect of this note, strange to say, was to fill its recipient not
with satisfaction, not even with surprise, but with sudden horror.
She felt abandoned, forsaken, not pausing to reflect that now she had
only what she had demanded of her late companion,--guardian, she now
hastily called him, and not jailer. Unconsciously she half-arose,
would have left the room. Her soul was filled with an instinctive,
unformulated dread.

As to Dunwody himself, ruthless and arrogant as was his nature, he
bore no trace of imperiousness now. The silent lips and high color
of the face before him he did not interpret to mean terror, but
contempt. In the fortunes of chance he had won her. In the game
of war she was his prisoner. Yet no ancient warrior of old, rude,
armored, beweaponed, unrelenting, ever stood more abashed before
some high-headed woman captive. He had won--what? Nothing, as he
knew very well, beyond the opportunity to fight further for her,
and under a far harder handicap, a handicap which he had foolishly
imposed on himself. This woman, seen face to face, yes, she was
beautiful, desirable, covetable. But she was not the sort of woman
he had supposed her. It was Carlisle, after all, who had won in
the game!

For two moments he debated many things in his mind. Did not women
of old sometimes relent? He asked himself over and over again the
same questions, pleaded to himself the same arguments. After all,
he reasoned, this was only a woman. Eventually she must yield to
one sort of treatment or the other. He had not reflected that,
though the ages in some ways have stood still, in others they have
gone forward. In bodily presence woman has not much changed, this
age with that. The canons of art remain the same, the ideals of art
are the same. These and those lines, gracious, compelling,--this
and that color, enchanting, alluring, so much white flesh, thus much
crown of tresses--they have for ages served to rob men of reason.
They have not changed. What this man could not realize was that
there may be changes not of color and of curve.

Not so long as all this they gazed at each other, measured, took
ground, gaging each the adversary opposite.

"Do not go!" he almost commanded. She was half way to the door.

"Why not, sir?" She wheeled on him fiercely.

"Because,--at least, you would not be so cruel--"

"I thank you, but I am leaving the boat at the first opportunity.
It is impossible for us to continue an acquaintance formed thus

"On the contrary, my dear!" The ring in his voice terrified her,
but his terms angered her yet more.

"I do not in the least understand you, sir! I am accustomed to do
quite as I like. And you may address me as the Countess St. Auban."

"Why should we talk of this?" he retorted. "Why talk to me of
countesses? To me you are something better as you stand,--the most
beautiful girl, the most splendid human being, I ever saw in all my
life. If you are doing quite as you like, why should you ask me to
come to your aid? And why will you not now accept my aid when it
is offered? The relations under which you have been traveling with
this other gentleman were not quite clear to me, but such as they

"Do you lack courage, sir, to say that he has quit-claimed me to
you? Am I still a prisoner? Are you to be my new jailer? By what
right, then?"

Dunwody had not gathered all the story of this woman and her
earlier guardian; more than she herself could guess what had been
Carlisle's motive or plan in leaving her to her own devices. That
she was the victim simply of a daring kidnapping could, not have
occurred to him. What then did she mean by talking of prisoners?

"After all, you were not that amanuensis which you yourself claimed
to be?"

"I was not. Of course I was not. I am the Countess St. Auban. It
is not necessary for me to serve any man, in my capacity."

"Why, then, did you say you were?"

"Because I thought I was still to be in that gentleman's charge. I
did not know he was about to desert me. I preferred his company to

"He has only given you your own wish--I hope it is still your wish.
I hope it is not 'worse.'"

"I beg you to forget that little note from me. I was only
frightened at the thought of a long journey which I did not know
then might end so soon. I only fancied I was in need of help."

"Tell me one thing," he began irrelevantly. "You are countess, as
you say. Who is your husband, and where is he?"

"You have no right to ask. I must leave you now. Ah! If indeed I
had a protector here--some man of that country where men fight--"

"I have said that you shall not leave."

"But this passes belief. It is insult, it is simple outrage! I am
alone--I come to you asking protection in the name of a man's
chivalry,--an American's. This is what I receive! You declare
yourself to be my new jailer. What is being done with me? I never
saw Captain Carlisle until three days ago. And you have met me
once, before this moment! And you are a Southerner; and, they tell

"That once was enough."

"Your pardon, sir! Which way does the conversation tend?"

"To one end only," he resumed sullenly, desperately. "You shall
not leave. If you did, I should only follow you."

"How excellent, to be taken by one brigand, handed over to another
brigand, and threatened with perpetual attendance of the latter!
Oh, excellent indeed! Admirable country!"

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