Part 3 out of 6
wonderful power of hearing, inherited and cultivated, which gave him an
advantage over his opponents.
He heard the wounded man groan ever so lightly, and then the other
whisper to him, "Are you much hurt, Bill?" The reply came in a moment:
"My right shoulder is put out for the time, and I can't help you now."
Presently he heard the slight sound of the other crawling toward him.
Evidently this Haskell was a fearless fellow, bound to get him, and he
called from the shadow in which he lay.
"You'd better stop, Haskell! I've got the best pair of ears in all this
region, and I hear you coming! Crawl another step and you meet a bullet!
But I want to tell you first that your interesting brother John is all
right. I didn't kill him. I merely robbed him."
"Robbed him of what?"
"Oh, of several things."
"They don't concern you, Haskell. These are matters somewhat above you."
"They are, are they? Well, maybe they are, but I'm going to see that you
don't get away with the proceeds of your robbery."
Harry didn't like his tone. It was fierce and resolute, and he realized
once more that he had a man of quality before him. If Haskell had
behaved properly he would have withdrawn with his wounded comrade.
But then he was an obstinate Yankee.
He raised up ever so little and glanced across the intervening space,
seeing the muzzle of a rifle not many yards away. There could be no
doubt that Haskell was watchful and would continue watching. He drew
his head back again and said:
"Let's call it a draw. You go back to your army, Mr. Haskell, and I'll
go back to mine."
"Couldn't think of it. As a matter of fact, I'm with my army now;
that is, I'm in its lines, while you can't reach yours. All I've got to
do is to hold you here, and in the course of time some of our people will
come along and take you."
"Do you think I'm worth so much trouble?"
"In a way it's a sort of personal affair with me. You admit having
robbed my brother, and I feel that I must avenge him. He has been acting
as a dispatch rider, and I can make a pretty shrewd guess about what you
took from him. So I think I'll stay here."
Harry blamed himself bitterly for his careless and unfortunate
expressions. He did not fear the result of a duel with this man, being
the master of woodcraft that he was, but he was losing time, valuable
time, time more precious than gold and diamonds, time heavy with the
fate of armies and a nation. He grew furiously angry at everything, and
angriest at Haskell.
"Mr. Haskell," he called, "I'm getting tired of your society, and I make
you a polite request to go away."
"Oh, no, you're not tired. You merely think you are, and I couldn't
consider conceding to your request. It's for your good more than mine.
My society is elevating to any Johnny Reb."
"Then I warn you that I may have to hurt you."
"How about getting hurt yourself?"
Harry was silent. His acute ears brought him the sound of Haskell moving
a little in his own particular hollow. The lonesome owl hooted twice
more, but there was no sound to betoken the approach of Union troops in
the forest. The duel of weapons and wits would have to be fought out
alone by Haskell and himself.
He went over everything again and again and he concluded that he must
rely upon his superior keenness of ear. He could hear Haskell, but
Haskell could not hear him, and there was Providence once more taking him
into favor. Summer clouds began to drift before the moon, and many of
the stars were veiled. It was possible that Haskell's eyes also were not
as keen as his own.
When the darkness increased, he began to crawl from the little shallow.
Despite extreme precautions he made a slight noise. A pistol flashed and
a bullet passed over him. It made his muscles quiver, but he called in a
"Why did you do such a foolish thing as that? You wasted a perfectly
"Weren't you trying to escape? I thought I heard a movement in the
"Wasn't thinking of such a thing. I'm just waiting here to see what
you'll do. Why don't you come on and attack?"
"I'm satisfied with things as they are. I'll hold you until morning and
then our men will be sure to come and pick you up."
"Maybe it will be our men who will come and pick you up."
"Oh, no; they're too busy leaving Gettysburg behind 'em."
Harry nevertheless had succeeded in leaving the shallow and was now lying
on its farther bank. Then he resumed the task of crawling forward on his
face, and without making any noise, one of the most difficult feats that
a human being is ever called upon to do.
At the end of a dozen feet, he paused both to rest and to listen.
His acute ears told him that Haskell had not moved from his own place,
and his eyes showed him that the darkness was increasing. Those
wonderful, kindly clouds were thickening before the moon, and the stars
in troops were going out of sight.
But he did not relax his caution. He knew that he could not afford to
make any sound that would arouse the suspicions of Haskell, and it was
a quarter of an hour before he felt himself absolutely safe. Then he
passed around a big tree and arose behind its trunk, appreciating what a
tremendous luxury it was to be a man and to stand upon one's own feet.
He had triumphed again! The stars surely were with him. They might play
little tricks upon him now and then to tantalize him, but in the more
important matters they were on his side. He stretched himself again and
again to relieve the terrible stiffness caused by such long and painful
crawling, and then, unable to resist an exultant impulse, he called
There was a startled exclamation and a bullet fired at random cut the
leaves twenty yards away. Harry, making no reply, fled swiftly through
the forest toward the valley where the rebel raiders rode.
IN THE WAGON
He ran at first, reckless of impediments, and there was a sound of
crashing as he sped through the bushes. He was not in the least afraid
of Haskell. He had his rifle and pistols and in the woods he was
infinitely the superior. He did not even believe that Haskell would
pursue, but he wanted to get far beyond any possible Federal sentinels
as soon as possible.
After a flight of a few hundred yards he slackened speed, and began to go
silently. The old instincts and skill of the forester returned to him.
He knew that he was safe from immediate pursuit and now he would approach
his own lines carefully. He was grateful for the chance or series of
chances that always took him toward Lee. It seemed now that his enemies
had merely succeeded in driving him at an increased pace in the way he
wanted to go.
He was descending a slope, thickly clothed with undergrowth. A few
hundred yards farther his knees suddenly crumpled under him and he sank
down, seized at the same time with a fit of nervous trembling. He had
passed through so many ordeals that strong and seasoned as he was and
high though his spirits, the collapse came all at once. He knew what was
the matter and, quietly stretching himself out, he lay still that the
spell might pass.
The lonesome owl, probably the same one that he had heard earlier,
began to hoot, and now it was near by. Harry thought he could make out
its dim figure on a branch and he was sure that the red eyes, closed by
day, were watching him, doubtless with a certain contempt at his weakness.
"Old man, if you had been chased by the fowler as often as I have,"
were the words behind his teeth, addressed to the dim and fluffy figure,
"you wouldn't be sitting up there so calm and cocky. Your tired head
would sink down between your legs, your feathers would be wet with
perspiration and you'd be so tired you'd hardly be able to hang on to
Came again the lonesome hoot of the owl, spreading like a sinister omen
through the forest. It made Harry angry, and, raising himself up a
little, he shook his fist again at the figure on the branch, now growing
clearer in outline.
"'Bird or devil?'" he quoted.
The owl hooted once more, the strange ominous cry carrying far in the
silence of the night.
"Devil it is," said Harry, "and quoth your evil majesty 'never more.'
I won't be scared by a big owl playing the part of the raven. It's not
'nevermore' with me. I've many a good day ahead and don't you dare tell
me I haven't."
Came the solemn and changeless hoot of the owl in reply.
Harry's exertions and excitement had brought too much blood to his head
and he was seeing red. He raised himself upon his elbows and stared
at the owl which stared back from red rimmed eyes, cold, emotionless,
implacable. He had been terribly shaken, and now a superstitious fright
overcame him. The raven and the albatross were in his mind and he
murmured under his breath passages from their ominous poems. The scholar
had his raven, the mariner had his albatross and now he alone in the
forest had his owl, to his mind the most terrible bird of the three.
Came again that solemn and warning cry, the most depressing of all in the
wilderness, while the changeless and sinister eyes stared steadily at
him. Then Harry remembered that he had a rifle, and he sat up. He would
slay this winged monster. There was light enough for him to draw a bead,
and he was too good a marksman to miss.
He dropped the muzzle of the rifle in a sudden access of fear as he
remembered the albatross. A shiver ran through every nerve and muscle,
and so heavily was he oppressed that he felt as if he had just escaped
committing murder. He rubbed his hand across his damp forehead and the
act brought him out of that dim world in which he had been living for the
last ten or fifteen minutes.
"Bird of whatever omen you may be, I'll not shoot you. That's certain,"
he said, "but I'll leave you to your melancholy predictions just as soon
as I can."
He stood up somewhat unsteadily, and renewed the descent of the slope.
Near its foot he came to a brook and bathing his face plentifully in the
cool water he felt wonderfully refreshed. All his strength was flowing
Then he entered the valley, pressing straight toward the west, and soon
heard the tread of horses. He knew that they must be the cavalry of his
own army, but he withdrew into the bushes until he was assured. A dozen
men riding slowly and warily came into view, and though the moonlight was
wan he recognized them at once. When they were opposite him he stepped
from his ambush and said:
"A happy night to you, Colonel Talbot."
Colonel Leonidas Talbot was a brave man, but seldom in his life had he
been so shaken.
"Good God, Hector!" he cried. "It's Harry Kenton's ghost!"
Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire turned pale.
"I don't believe in ghosts, Leonidas," he said, "but this one certainly
looks like that of Harry Kenton."
"Colonel Talbot," called Harry, "I'm not a ghost. I'm the real Harry
Kenton, hunting for our army."
"Pale but substantial," said St. Clair, who rode just behind the two
colonels. "He's our old Harry himself, and I'd know him anywhere."
"No ghost at all and the Yankee bullets can't make him one," said Happy
A weakness seized Harry and a blackness came before his eyes. When he
recovered St. Clair was holding him up, and Colonel Talbot was trying to
pour strong waters down his throat.
"How long have I been this way?" he asked anxiously.
"About sixty seconds," replied Colonel Talbot, "but what difference does
"Because I'm in a big hurry to get to General Lee! Oh! Colonel!
Colonel! You must speed me on my way! I've got a message from Colonel
Sherburne to General Lee that means everything, and on the road I
captured another from General Meade to General Pleasanton. Put me on a
horse, won't you, and gallop me to the commander-in-chief!"
"Are you strong enough to ride alone?"
"I'm strong enough to do anything now."
"Then up with you! Here, on Carter's horse! Carter can ride behind
Hubbell! St. Clair, you and Langdon ride on either side of him! You
should reach the commander-in-chief in three-quarters of an hour, Harry!"
"And there is no Yankee cavalry in between?"
"No, they're thick on the slopes above us! You knew that, but here
you're inside our own lines. Judging by your looks you've had quite a
time, Harry. Now hurry on with him, boys!"
"So I have had, Colonel, but the appearance of you, Lieutenant-Colonel
St. Hilaire and the boys was like a light from Heaven. Good-by!"
"Good-by!" the two colonels called back, but their voices were already
dying in the distance as Harry and his comrades were now riding rapidly
down the valley, knee to knee, because St. Clair and Langdon meant to
keep very close to him. They saw that he was a little unsteady, and that
his eyes were unnaturally bright. They knew, too, that if he said he
had great news for General Lee he told the truth, and they meant that he
should get there with it in the least time possible.
The valley opened out before them, broadening considerably as they
advanced. The night was far gone, there was not much moonlight, but
their eyes had grown used to the dark, and they could see well. They
passed sentinels and small detachments of cavalry, to whom St. Clair and
Langdon gave the quick password. They saw fields of wheat stubble and
pastures and crossed two brooks. The curiosity of Langdon and St. Clair
was overwhelming but they restrained it for a long time. They could tell
by his appearance that he had passed through unimaginable hardships,
but they were loath to ask questions.
An owl on their right hooted, and both of them saw Harry shiver.
"What makes an owl's cry disturb you so, Harry?" asked Langdon.
"Because one of them tried to put the hoodoo on me as they say down in
your country, Happy. I was lying back there in the forest on the hill
and the biggest and reddest-eyed owl that was ever born sat on a bough
over head, and kept telling me that I was finished, right at the end
of my rope. But he was a liar, because here I am, with you fellows
on either side of me, inside our lines and riding to the camp of the
"I think you're a bit shaky, Harry," said St. Clair, "and I don't wonder
at it. If I had been through all I think you've been through I'd tumble
off that horse into the road and die."
"Has any messenger come from Colonel Sherburne at the river to General
"Not that I've heard of. No, I'm sure that none's come," replied
"Then I'll get to him first. Don't think, Arthur, it's just a foolish
ambition of mine to lead, but the sooner some one reaches the general the
"We'll see that you're first old man," said Langdon. "It's not more than
a half-hour now."
But Harry reeled in his saddle. The singular weakness that he had felt
a while back returned, and the road grew dark before him. With a mighty
effort he steadied himself in the saddle and St. Clair heard him say in a
fierce undertone: "I will go through with it!" St. Clair looked across
at Langdon and the signaling look of Happy Tom replied. They drew in
just a little closer. Now and then they talked to him sharply and
briskly, rousing him again and again from the lethargy into which he was
"Look! In the woods over there, Harry!" exclaimed St. Clair. "See the
men stretched asleep on the grass! They're the survivors of Pickett's
brigades that charged at Gettysburg."
"And I was there!" said Harry. "I saw the greatest charge ever made in
the history of the world!"
He reeled a little toward St. Clair, who caught him by the shoulder and
straightened him in the saddle.
"Of course you had a pleasant, easy ride from the Potomac," said Happy
Tom, "but I don't understand how as good a horseman as you lost your
horse. I suppose he ran away while you were picking berries by the
"Me pick berries by the roadside, while I'm on such a mission!" exclaimed
Harry indignantly, rousing himself up until his eyes flashed, which was
just what Happy wished. "I didn't see any berries! Besides I didn't
start on a horse. I left in a boat."
"A boat? Now, Harry, I know you've turned romancer. I guess your mystic
troubles with the owl--if you really saw an owl--have been a sort of spur
to your fancy."
"Do you mean to say, Tom Langdon, that I didn't see an owl and talk with
him? I tell you I did, and his conversation was a lot more intelligent
than yours, even if it was unpleasant."
"Of course it was," said St. Clair. "Happy's chief joy in life is
talking. You know how he chatters away, Harry. He hates to sleep,
because then he loses good time that he might use in talk. I'll wager
you anything against anything, Harry, that when the Angel Gabriel blows
his horn Happy will rise out of his grave, shaking his shroud and furious
with anger. He'll hold up the whole resurrection while he argues with
Gabriel that he blew his horn either too late or too early, or that it
was a mighty poor sort of a horn anyhow."
"I may do all that, Harry," said Happy, "but Arthur is sure to be the one
who will raise the trouble about the shroud. You know how finicky he
is about his clothes. He'll find fault with the quality of his shroud,
and he'll say that it's cut either too short or too long. Then he'll
insist, while all the billions wait, on draping the shroud in the finest
Greek or Roman toga style, before he marches up to his place on the
golden cloud and receives his harp."
"That'll be old Arthur, sure," he said. Then his head drooped again.
Fatigue was overpowering him. St. Clair and Langdon put a hand on either
shoulder and held him erect, but Harry was so far sunk in lethargy that
he was not conscious of their grasp. Men looked curiously at the three
young officers riding rapidly forward, the one in the center apparently
held on his horse by the other two.
St. Clair took prompt measures.
"Harry Kenton!" he called sharply.
"Do you know what they do with a sentinel caught asleep?"
"They shoot him!"
"What of a messenger, bearing great news who has ridden two or three days
and nights through a thousand dangers, and then becomes unconscious in
his saddle within five hundred yards of his journey's end?"
"The stake wouldn't be too good for him," replied Harry as with a mighty
effort he shook himself, both body and mind. Once more his eyes cleared
and once more he sat erect in his saddle without help.
"I won't fail, Arthur," he said. "Show the way."
"There's a big tree by the roadside almost straight ahead," said
St. Clair. "General Lee is asleep under that, but he'll be as wide awake
as any man can be a half-minute after you arrive."
They sprang from their horses, St. Clair spoke quickly with a watching
officer who went at once to awaken Lee. Harry dimly saw the form of the
general who was sleeping on a blanket, spread over small boughs. Near
him a man in brilliant uniform was walking softly back and forth, and now
and then impatiently striking the tops of his high yellow-topped boots
with a little riding whip. Harry knew at once that it was Stuart,
but the cavalry leader had not yet noticed him.
Harry saw the officer bend over the commander-in-chief, who rose in an
instant to his feet. He was fully dressed and he showed gray in the
dusky light, but he seemed as ever calm and grave. Harry felt instantly
the same swell of courage that the presence of Jackson had always brought
to him. It was Lee, the indomitable, the man of genius, who could not
be beaten. He heard him say to the officer who had awakened him, "Bring
him immediately!" and he stepped forward, strengthening himself anew and
filled with pride that he should be the first to arrive, as he felt that
he certainly now was.
"Lieutenant Kenton!" said Lee.
"Yes, sir," said Harry, lifting his cap.
"You were sent with Colonel Sherburne to see about the fords of the
"I was, sir."
"And he has sent you back with the report?"
"He has, sir. He did not give me any written report for fear that I
might be captured. He did me the honor to say that my verbal message
would be believed."
"It will. I know you, as I do the other members of my staff. Proceed."
"The Potomac is in great flood, sir, and the bridge is destroyed.
It can't be crossed until it runs down to its normal depth."
Harry saw other generals of high rank drawing near. One he recognized as
Longstreet. They were all silent and eager.
"Colonel Sherburne ordered me to say to you, sir," continued Harry,
"that the best fords would be between Williamsport and Hagerstown when
the river ran down."
"When did you leave him?"
"Nearly two days ago, sir."
"You have made good speed through a country swarming with our enemy.
You are entitled to rest."
"It's not all, sir?"
"On my way I captured a messenger with a letter from General Meade to
General Pleasanton. I have the message, sir."
He brought forth the paper from his blouse and extended it to General Lee,
who took it eagerly. Some one held up a torch and he read it aloud to
"And so Meade means to trap me," he said, "by coming down on our flank!"
"Since the river is unfordable he'll have plenty of time to attack us
there," said Longstreet.
"But will he dare to attack?" said Stuart defiantly. "He was able to
hold his own in defense at Gettysburg, but it's another thing to take the
offensive. We hear that General Meade is cautious and that he makes many
complaints to his government. A complainer is not the kind of man who
can destroy the Army of Northern Virginia."
"Sometimes it's well to be cautious, General," said Lee.
Then he turned to Harry and said:
"Again I commend you."
Harry saluted proudly, and then fell unconscious at the feet of General
When the young staff officer awoke, he was lying in a wagon which was
moving slowly, with many jolts over a very rough road. It was perhaps
one of these jolts that awoke him, because his eyes still felt very heavy
with sleep. His position was comfortable as he lay on a heap of blankets,
and the sides of the wagon looked familiar. Moreover the broad back of
the driver was not that of a stranger. Moving his head into a higher
place on the blankets he called.
"Hey you, Dick Jones, where are you taking me?"
Jones turned his rubicund and kindly face.
"Don't it beat all how things come about?" he said. "This wagon wasn't
built for passengers, but I have you once and then I have you twice,
sleepin' like a prince on them blankets. I guess if the road wasn't so
rough you'd have slept all the way to Virginia. But I'm proud to have
you as a passenger. They say you've been coverin' yourself with glory.
I don't know about that, but I never before saw a man who was so all
fired tuckered out."
"Where did you find me?"
"I didn't exactly find you myself. They say you saluted General Lee so
deep and so strong that you just fell down at his feet an' didn't move,
as if you intended to stay there forever. But four of your friends
brought you to my wagon feet foremost, with orders from General Lee if
I didn't treat you right that I'd get a thousand lashes, be tarred an'
feathered, an' hung an' shot an' burned, an' then be buried alive.
For all of which there was no need, as I'm your friend and would treat
you right anyway."
"I know you would," laughed Harry. "You can't afford to lose your best
passenger. How long have I been sleeping in this rough train of yours?"
"Since about three o'clock in the morning."
"And what time might it be now."
"Well it might be ten o'clock in the morning or it might be noon, but it
"Well, then, what time is it?"
"It's about six o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Kenton, and I judge that
you've slept nigh on to fifteen hours, which is mighty good for a man who
was as tired as you was."
"And what has the army been doing while I slept?"
"Oh, it's been marchin' an' marchin' an' marchin'. Can't you hear the
wagons an' the cannons clinkin' an' clankin'? An' the hoofs of the
horses beatin' in the road? An the feet of forty or fifty thousand men
comin' down ker-plunk! ker-plunk! an' all them thousands talkin' off an'
on? Yes, we're still marchin', Mr. Kenton, but we're retreatin' with all
our teeth showin' an' our claws out, sharpened specially. Most of the
boys don't care if Meade would attack us. They'd be glad of the chance
to get even for Gettysburg."
There was a beat of hoofs and St. Clair rode up by the side of the wagon.
"All right again, Harry?" he said cheerfully. "I'm mighty glad of it.
Other messengers have got through from Sherburne, confirming what you
said, but you were the first to arrive and the army already was on the
march because of the news you brought. Dalton arrived about noon,
dead beat. Happy is coming with a horse for you, and you can rejoin the
"Before I leave I'll have to thank Mr. Jones once more," said Harry.
"He runs the best passenger service that I know."
"Welcome to it any time, either you or your friend," said Jones, saluting
with his whip.
Harry left the wagon at midnight and overtook the staff, an orderly
providing him with a good horse. Dalton, who had also been sleeping in
a wagon, came an hour or two later, and the two, as became modest young
officers, rode in the rear of the group that surrounded General Lee.
Although the darkness had come fully, the Army of Northern Virginia had
not yet stopped. The infantry flanked by cavalry, and, having no fear
of the enemy, marched steadily on. Harry closely observed General Lee,
and although he was well into his fifties he could discern no weakness,
either physical or mental, in the man who had directed the fortunes of
the South in the terrific and unsuccessful three days at Gettysburg and
who had now led his army for nearly a week in a retreat, threatened,
at any moment, with an attack by a veteran force superior in numbers.
All the other generals looked worn and weary, but he alone sat erect,
his hair and beard trimmed neatly, his grave eye showing no sign of
He seemed once more to Harry--youth is a hero-worshiper--omniscient and
omnipotent. The invasion of the North had failed, and there had been a
terrible loss of good men, officers and soldiers, but, with Lee standing
on the defensive at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia, in
Virginia, the South would be invincible. He had always won there,
and he always would win there.
Harry sighed, nevertheless. He had two heroes, but one of them was gone.
He thought again if only Stonewall Jackson had been at Gettysburg.
Lee's terrible striking arm would have smitten with the hammer of Thor.
He would have pushed home the attack on the first day, when the Union
vanguard was defeated and demoralized. He would have crushed the enemy
on the second day, leaving no need for that fatal and terrific charge of
Pickett on the third day.
"You reached the general first," said Dalton, "but I tried my best to
"But I started first, George, old fellow. That gave me the advantage
"It's fine of you to say it. The army has quickened its pace since we
came. A part of it, at least, ought to arrive at the river to-morrow,
though their cavalry are skirmishing continually on our flanks. Don't
you hear the rifles?"
Harry heard them far away to right and left, like the faint buzzing of
wasps, but he had heard the same sound so much that it made no impression
"Let 'em buzz," he said. "They're too distant to reach any of us,
and the Army of Northern Virginia is passing on."
Those were precious hours. Harry knew much, but he did not divine the
full depths of the suspense, suffered by the people beyond the veil that
clothed the two armies. Lincoln had been continually urging Meade to
pursue and destroy his opponent, and Meade, knowing how formidable Lee
was, and how it had been a matter of touch and go at Gettysburg, pursued,
but not with all the ardor of one sure of triumph. Yet the man at the
White House hoped continually for victory, and the Southern people feared
that his hopes would come true.
It became sure the next day that they would reach the Potomac before
Meade could attack them in flank, but the scouts brought word that the
Potomac was still a deep and swollen river, impossible to be crossed
unless they could rebuild the bridges.
Finally the whole army came against the Potomac and it seemed to Harry
that its yellow flood had not diminished one particle since he left.
But Lee acted with energy. Men were set to work at once building a new
bridge near Falling Waters, parts of the ruined pontoon bridges were
recovered, and new boats were built in haste. But while the workmen
toiled the army went into strong positions along the river between
Williamsport and Hagerstown.
Harry found himself with all of his friends again, and he was proud of
the army's defiant attitude. Meade and the Army of the Potomac were
not far away, it was said, but the youthful veterans of the South were
entirely willing to fight again. The older men, however, knew their
danger. The disproportion of forces would be much greater than at
Gettysburg, and even if they fought a successful defensive action with
their back to the river the Army of the Potomac could bide its time and
await reinforcements. The North would pour forth its numbers without
Harry rode to Sherburne with a message of congratulation from General Lee,
who told him that he had selected the possible crossing well, and that
he had shown great skill and valor in holding it until the army came up.
Sherburne's flush of pride showed under his deep tan.
"I did my best," he said to Harry, who knew the contents of the letter,
"and that's all any of us can do."
"But General Lee has a way of inspiring us to do our best."
"It's so, and it's one of the reasons why he's such a great general.
Watch those bridge builders work, Harry! They're certainly putting their
souls and strength into it."
"And they have need to do so. The scouts say that the Army of the
Potomac will be before us to-morrow. Don't you think the river has
fallen somewhat, Colonel?"
"A little but look at those clouds over there, Harry. As surely as we
sit here it's going to rain. The rivers were low that we might cross
them on our march into the North, just smoothing our way to Gettysburg,
and now that Gettysburg has happened they're high so we can't get back
to the South. It looks as if luck were against us."
"But luck has a habit of changing."
Harry rode back to headquarters, whence he was sent with another dispatch,
to Colonel Talbot, whom he found posted well in advance with the
"This note," said the colonel, "bids us to watch thoroughly. General
Meade and his army are expected on our front in the morning, and there
must be no chance for a surprise in the night, say a dash by their
cavalry which would cut up our rear guard or vanguard--upon my soul I
don't know which to call it. Harry, as you can see by the note itself,
you're to remain with us until about midnight, and then make a full
report of all that you and I and the rest of us may have observed upon
this portion of the front or rear, whichever it may be. Meanwhile we
share with you our humble rations."
Harry was pleased. He was always glad when chance or purpose brought him
again into the company of the Invincibles. St. Clair and Langdon were
his oldest comrades of the war, and they were like brothers to him.
His affection for the two colonels was genuine and deep. If the two lads
were like brothers to him, the colonels were like uncles.
"Is the Northern vanguard anywhere near?" asked Harry.
"Skirmishing is going on only four or five miles away," replied Colonel
Leonidas Talbot. "It is likely that the sharp shooters will be picking
off one another all through the night, but it will not disturb us.
That is a great curse of war. It hardens one so for the time being.
I'm a soldier, and I've been one all my life, and I suppose soldiers are
necessary, but I can't get over this feeling. Isn't it the same way with
"Exactly the same, Leonidas," replied Lieutenant-Colonel Hector
St. Hilaire. "You and I fought together in Mexico, Leonidas, then on the
plains, and now in this gigantic struggle, but under whatever guise and,
wherever it may be, I find its visage always hideous. I don't think we
soldiers are to blame. We don't make the wars although we have to fight
"Increasing years, Hector, have not dimmed those perceptive faculties of
yours, which I may justly call brilliant."
"Thanks, Leonidas, you and I have always had a proper conception of the
worth of each other."
"If you will pardon me for speaking, sir," said St. Clair, "there is one
man I'd like to find, when this war is over."
"'What is the appearance of this man, Arthur?" asked Colonel Talbot.
"I don't know exactly how he looks, sir, though I've heard of him often,
and I shall certainly know him when I meet him. You understand, sir,
that, while I've not seen him, he has very remarkable characteristics of
"And what may those be, Arthur? Are they so salient that you would
recognize them at once?"
"Certainly, sir. He has an uncommonly loud voice, which he uses nearly
all the time and without restraint. Words fairly pour from his tongue.
Facts he scorns. He soars aloft on the wings of fancy. Many people who
have listened to him have felt persuaded by his talk, but he is perhaps
not so popular now."
"An extraordinary person, Arthur. But why are you so anxious to find
"Because I wish, sir, to lay upon him the hands of violence. I would
thrash him and beat him until he yelled for mercy, and then I would
thrash him and beat him again. I should want the original pair of
seven-leagued boots, not that I might make such fast time, but that I
might kick him at a single kick from one county to another, and back,
and then over and over past counting. I'd duck him in a river until he
gasped for breath, I'd drag him naked through a briar patch, and then
I'd tar and feather him, and ride him on a rail."
"Heavens, Arthur! I didn't dream that your nature contained so much
cruelty! Who is this person over whose torture you would gloat like a
"It is the man who first said that one Southerner could whip five
"Arthur," said Colonel Talbot, "your anger is just and becomes you.
When the war is over, if we all are spared we'll form a group and hunt
this fellow until we find him. And then, please God, if the gallows of
Haman is still in existence, we'll hang him on it with promptness and
dispatch. I believe in the due and orderly process of the law, but in
this case lynching is not only justifiable, but it's an honor to the
"Well spoken, Leonidas! Well spoken!" said Lieutenant-Colonel Hector
St. Hilaire. "I'm glad that Arthur mentioned the matter, and we'll bear
it in mind. You can count upon me."
"And here is coffee," said Happy Tom. "I made this myself, the camp cook
liking me and giving me a chance. I'd really be a wonderful cook if I
had the proper training, and I may come to it, if we lose the war.
Still, the chance even then is slight, because my father, when red war
showed its edge over the horizon, put all his money in the best British
securities. So we could do no more than lose the plantation."
"Happy," said Colonel Talbot, gravely rebuking, "I am surprised at your
father. I thought he was a patriot."
"He is, sir, but he's a financier first, and I may be thankful for it
some day. I'll venture the prediction right now that if we lose this war
not a single Confederate bill will be in the possession of Thomas Langdon,
Sr. Others may have bales of it, worth less per pound than cotton,
but not your humble servant's father, who, I sometimes think, has lots
more sense than your humble servant's father's son."
Colonel Leonidas Talbot shook his head slowly.
"Finance is a mystery to me," he said. "In the dear old South that
I have always known, the law, the army and the church were and are
considered the high callings. To speak in fine, rounded periods was
considered the great gift. In my young days, Harry, I went with my
father by stage coach to your own State, Kentucky, to hear that sublime
orator, the great Henry Clay."
"What was he speaking about, sir?" asked Harry.
"I don't remember. That's not important. But surely he was the noblest
orator God ever created in His likeness. His words flowing like music
and to be heard by everybody, even those farthest from the speaker,
made my pulse beat hard, and the blood leap in my veins. I was heart and
soul for his cause, whatever it was, and, yet I fear me, though I do not
wish to hurt your feelings, Harry, that the state to which he was such
ornament, has not gone for the South with the whole spirit that she
should have shown. She has not even seceded. I fear sometimes that you
Kentuckians are not altogether Southern. You border upon the North,
and stretching as you do a long distance from east to west and a
comparatively short distance from north to south, you thus face three
Northern States across the Ohio--Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and the
pull of three against one is strong. You see your position, don't you?
Three Yankee states facing you from the north and only one Southern state,
Tennessee, lying across your whole southern border, that is three against
one. I fear that these odds have had their effect, because if Kentucky
had sent all of her troops to the South, instead of two-thirds of them
to the North, the war would have been won by us ere this."
"I admit it," said Harry regretfully. "My own cousin, who was more like
a brother to me, is fighting on the other side. Kentucky troops on the
Union side have kept us from winning great victories, and many of the
Union generals are Kentuckians. I grieve over it, sir, as much as you
"But you and your people should not take too much blame to yourselves,
Harry," said Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire, who had a very soft
heart. "Think of the many influences to which you were exposed daily.
Think of those three Yankee states sitting there on the other side of
the Ohio--Ohio, Indiana and Illinois--and staring at you so long and so
steadily that, in a way, they exerted a certain hypnotic force upon you.
No, my boy, don't feel badly about it, because the fault, in a way,
is not so much yours as it is that of your neighbors."
"At any rate," said Happy Tom, with his customary boldness and frankness,
"we're bound to admit that the Yankees beat us at making money."
"Which may be more to our credit than theirs," said Colonel Talbot,
with dignity. "I have found it more conducive to integrity and a lofty
mind to serve as an officer at a modest salary in the army rather than
to gain riches in trade."
"But somebody has to pay the army, sir."
"Thomas, I regret to tell you that inquiry can be pushed to the point of
vulgarity. I have been content with things as they were, and so should
you be. Ah, there are our brave boys singing that noble battle song of
the South! Listen how it swells! It shows a spirit unconquerable!"
Along the great battle front swelled the mighty chorus:
"Come brothers! Rally for the right!
The bravest of the brave
Sends forth her ringing battle cry
Beside the Atlantic wave!
She leads the way in honor's path;
Come brothers, near and far,
Come rally round the bonnie blue flag
That bears a single star."
"A fine song! A fine song most truly," said Colonel Talbot. "It
heartens one gloriously!"
But Harry, usually so quick to respond, strangely enough felt depression.
He felt suddenly in all its truth that they had not only failed in their
invasion, but the escape of the army was yet a matter of great doubt.
The mood was only momentary, however, and he joined with all his heart as
the mighty chorus rolled out another verse:
"Now Georgia marches to the front
And beside her come
Her sisters by the Mexique sea
With pealing trump and drum,
Till answering back from hill and glen
The rallying cry afar,
A Nation hoists the bonnie blue flag
That bears a single star!"
They sang it all through, and over again, and then, after a little
silence, came the notes of a trumpet from a far-distant point. It was
played by powerful lungs and the wind was blowing their way but they
heard it distinctly. It was a quaint syncopated tune, but not one of the
Invincibles had any doubt that it came from some daring detachment of the
Union Army. The notes with their odd lilt seemed to swell through the
forest, but it was strange to both of the colonels.
"Do any of you know it?" asked Colonel Talbot.
All shook their heads except Harry.
"What is it, Harry?" asked Talbot.
"It's a famous poem, sir, the music of which has not often been heard,
but I can translate from music into words the verse that has just been
"In their ragged regimentals
Stood the old Continentals
When the grenadiers were lunging
And like hail fell the plunging
When the files of the isles
From the smoky night encampment
Bore the banner of the rampant
And grummer, grummer,
Rolled the roll of the drummer,
Through the morn!"
The bugler played on. It was the same tune, curious, syncopated and
piercing the night shrilly. Whole brigades of the South stood in silence
"What do you think is its meaning?" asked Lieutenant-Colonel St. Hilaire.
"It's in answer to our song and at the same time a reproach," replied
Harry, who had jumped at once to the right conclusion. "The bugler
intends to remind us that the old Continentals who stood so well were
from both North and South, and perhaps he means, too, that we should
stand together again instead of fighting each other."
"Then let the North give up at once," snapped Colonel Talbot.
"But in the trumpeter's opinion that means we should be apart forever."
"Then let him play on to ears that will not heed."
But the bugler was riding away. The music came faintly, and then died in
one last sighing note. It left Harry grave and troubled, and he began
to ask himself new questions. If the South succeeded in forcing a
separation, what then? But the talk of his comrades drove the thought
from his mind. Colonel Talbot sent St. Clair, Langdon and a small party
of horsemen forward to see what the close approach of the daring bugler
meant. Harry went with them.
Scouts in the brushwood quickly told them that a troop of Union cavalry
had appeared in a meadow some distance ahead of them, and that it was one
of their number who had played the song on the bugle. Should they stalk
the detachment and open fire? St. Clair, who was in command, shook his
"It would mean nothing now," he said, and rode on with his men, knowing
that the watchful Southern sharpshooters were on their flanks. It was
night now, and a bright moon was coming out, enabling them to use their
glasses with effect.
"There they are!" exclaimed Harry, pointing to the strip of forest on the
far side of the opening, "and there is the bugler, too."
He was studying the party intently. The brilliant moonlight, and the
strength of his glasses made everything sharp and clear and his gaze
concentrated upon the bugler. He knew that man, his powerful chest and
shoulders, and the well-shaped head on its strong neck. Nor did he deny
to himself that he had a feeling of gladness when he recognized him.
"It's none other," he said aloud.
"None other what?" asked St. Clair.
"Our warning bugler was Shepard, the Union spy. I can make him out
clearly on his horse with his bugle in his hand. You'll remember my
telling you how I had that fight with him in the river."
"And perhaps it would have been better for us all if you had finished him
"I couldn't have done it, Arthur, nor could you, if you had been in my
"No, I suppose not, but these Yankees are coming up pretty close.
It's sure proof that Meade's whole army will be here in the morning,
and the bridge won't be built."
"It may be built, but, if Meade chooses a battle, a battle there will be.
Heavy forces must be very near. You can see them now signaling to one
another from hill to hill."
"So I do, and this is as far as we ought to go. A hundred yards or
two farther and we'll be in the territory of the enemy's sharpshooters
instead of our own."
They remained for a while among some bushes, and secured positive
knowledge that the bulk of the Army of the Potomac was drawing near.
Toward midnight Harry returned to his commander-in-chief and found him
awake and in consultation with his generals, under some trees near the
Potomac. Longstreet, Rhodes, Pickett, Early, Anderson, Pender and a
dozen others were there, all of them scarred and tanned by battle,
and most of them bearing wounds.
Harry stood back, hesitating to invade this circle, even when he came
with dispatches, but the commander-in-chief, catching sight of him,
beckoned. Then, taking off his cap, he walked forward and presented a
note from Colonel Talbot. It was brief, stating that the enemy was near,
and Lee read it aloud to his council.
"And what were your own observations, Lieutenant Kenton?" asked the
"As well as I could judge, sir, the enemy will appear on our whole front
soon after daybreak."
"And will be in great enough force to defeat us."
"Not while you lead us, sir."
"A courtier! truly a courtier!" exclaimed Stuart, smoothing the great
feather of his gorgeous hat, which lay upon his knee.
"It may have had that look," he said, "but I meant my words."
"Don't tease the lad," said the crippled Ewell. "I knew him well on
Jackson's staff, and he was one of our bravest and best."
"A jest only," said Stuart. "Don't I know him as well as you, Ewell?
The first time I saw him he was riding alone among many dangers to bring
relief to a beleaguered force of ours."
"And you furnished that relief, sir," said Harry.
"Well, so I did, but it was my luck, not merit."
"Be assured that you have no better friend than General Stuart," said
General Lee, smiling. "You have done your duty well, Lieutenant Kenton,
and as these have been arduous days for you you may withdraw, and join
your young comrades of the staff."
Harry saluted and retired. Before he was out of ear shot the generals
resumed their eager talk, but they knew, even as Harry himself, that
there was but one thing to do, stand with their backs to the river and
fight, if Meade chose to offer battle.
He slept heavily, and when he awoke the next day Dalton, who was up
before him, informed him that the Northern army was at hand. Snatching
breakfast, he and Dalton, riding close behind the commander-in-chief,
advanced a little distance and standing upon a knoll surveyed the
thrilling spectacle before them. Far along the front stretched the Army
of the Potomac, horse, foot and guns, come up with its enemy again.
Harry was sure that Meade was there, and with him Hancock and Buford and
Warren and all the other valiant leaders whom they had met at Gettysburg.
It was nine days since the close of the great battle, and doubtless the
North had poured forward many reinforcements, while the South had none
Harry appreciated the full danger of their situation, with the larger
army in front of them, and the deep and swollen torrent of the Potomac
behind them. But he did not believe that Meade would attack. Lee had
lost at Gettysburg, but in losing he had inflicted such losses upon his
opponent, that most generals would hesitate to force another battle.
The one who would not have hesitated was consolidating his great triumph
at Vicksburg. Harry often thought afterward what would have happened had
Grant faced Lee that day on the wrong side of the Potomac.
His opinion that Meade would not attack came from a feeling that might
have been called atmospheric, an atmosphere created by the lack of
initiative on the Union side, no clouds of skirmishers, no attacks of
cavalry, very little rifle firing of any kind, merely generals and
soldiers looking at one another. Harry saw, too, that his own opinion
was that of his superior officer. Watching the commander-in-chief
intently he saw a trace of satisfaction in the blue eyes. Presently
all of them rode back.
Thus that day passed and then another wore on. Harry and Dalton had
little to do. The whole Army of Northern Virginia was in position,
defiant, challenging even, and the Army of the Potomac made no movement
forward. Harry watched the strange spectacle with an excitement that he
did not allow to appear on his face. It was like many of those periods
in the great battles in which he had taken a part, when the combat died,
though the lull was merely the omen of a struggle, soon to come more
frightful than ever.
But here the struggle did not come. The hours of the afternoon fell
peacefully away, and the general and soldiers still looked at one another.
"They're working on the bridge like mad," said Dalton, who had been away
with a message, "and it will surely be ready in the morning. Besides,
the Potomac is falling fast. You can already see the muddy lines that
it's leaving on its banks."
"And Meade's chance is slipping, slipping away!" said Harry exultingly.
"In three hours it will be sunset. They can't attack in the night and
to-morrow we'll be gone. Meade has delayed like McClellan at Antietam,
and, doubtless as McClellan did, he thinks our army much larger than it
"It's so," said Dalton. "We're to be delivered, and we're to be
delivered without a battle, a battle that we could ill afford, even if
we won it."
Both were in a state of intense anxiety and they looked many times at the
sun and their watches. Then they searched the hostile army with their
glasses. But nothing of moment was stirring there. Lower and lower sank
the sun, and a great thrill ran through the Army of Northern Virginia.
In both armies the soldiers were intelligent men--not mere creatures
of drill--who thought for themselves, and while those in the Army of
Northern Virginia were ready, even eager to fight if it were pushed upon
them, they knew the great danger of their position. Now the word ran
along the whole line that if they fought at all it would be on their side
of the river.
Harry and Dalton did not sleep that night. They could not have done
so had the chance been offered. They like others rode all through the
darkness carrying messages to the different commands, insuring exact
cooperation. As the hours of the night passed the aspect of everything
grew better. The river had fallen so fast that it would be fordable
But after midnight the clouds gathered, thunder crashed, lightning played
and the violent rain of a summer storm enveloped them again. Harry
viewed it at first with dismay, and then he found consolation. The
darkness and the storm would cover their retreat, as it had covered the
retreat of their enemy, Hooker, after Chancellorsville.
Harry and Dalton rode close behind Lee, who sat erect on his white horse,
supervising the first movement of troops over the new and shaking bridge.
Harry noted with amazement that despite his enormous exertions, physical
and mental, and an intense anxiety, continuous for many days, he did not
yet show signs of fatigue. Word had come that a part of the army was
already fording the river, near Williamsport, but this bridge near
Falling Waters was the most important point. General Lee and his staff
sat there on their horses a long time, while the rain beat unheeded upon
Few scenes are engraved more vividly upon the mind of Harry Kenton than
those dusky hours before the dawn, the flashes of lightning, the almost
incessant rumble of thunder, the turbid and yellow river across which
stretched the bridge, a mere black thread in the darkness, swaying and
dipping and rising and creaking as horse and foot, and batteries and
ammunition wagons passed upon it.
There were torches, but they flared and smoked in the rain and cast a
light so weak and fitful that Harry could not see the farther shore.
The Army of Northern Virginia marched out upon a shaking bridge and
disappeared in the black gulf beyond. Only the lack of an alarm coming
back showed that it was reaching the farther shore.
"Dawn will soon be here," said Dalton.
"So it will," said Harry, "and most of the troops are across. Ah,
there go the Invincibles! Look how they ride!"
Colonel Leonidas Talbot and Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire at the
head of their scanty band were just passing. They took off their hats,
and swept a low bow to the great chief who sat silently on his white
horse within a few yards of them. Then, side by side, they rode upon the
shaking bridge, followed by Langdon, St. Clair and their brave comrades,
and disappeared, where the bridge disappeared, in the rain and mist.
"Brave men!" murmured Lee.
Harry, always watching his commander-in-chief, saw now for the first time
signs of fatigue and nervousness. The tremendous strain was wearing him
down. But while the rain still poured and ran in streams from his gray
hair and gray beard, the rear guard of the Army of Northern Virginia
passed upon the bridge, and Stuart, all his plumes bedraggled, rode up to
his chief, a smoking cup of coffee in his hand.
"Drink this, General, won't you?" he said.
He seized it, drank all of the coffee eagerly, and then handing back the
"I never before in my life drank anything that refreshed me so much."
Then he, with his staff, Stuart and some other generals rode over the
bridge, disappearing in their turn into the darkness and mist that had
swallowed up the others, but emerging, as the others had done, into the
safety of the Southern shore.
Meade and his generals had held a council the night before but nearly all
the officers advised against attack. This night he made up his mind to
move against Lee anyhow, and was ready at dawn, only to find the whole
Southern army gone.
Harry, when the dawn had fully come, was sent farther away toward the
ford to see if the remainder of the troops had passed, and, when he
returned with the welcome news, the rain had ceased to fall. The
army was rapidly drying itself in the brilliant sunshine, and marched
leisurely on. He felt an immense relief. He knew that a great crisis
had been passed, and, if the Northern armies ever reached Richmond,
it would be a long and sanguinary road. Meade might get across and
attack, but his advantage was gone.
The same spirit of relief pervaded the ranks, and the men sang their
battle songs. There had been some fighting at one or two of the fords,
but it did not amount to much, and no enemy hung on their rear. But no
stop was made by the staff until noon, when a fire was made and food was
cooked. Then Harry was notified that he and Dalton were to start that
night with dispatches for Richmond. They were to ride through dangerous
country, until they reached a point on the railroad, wholly within the
Southern lines, when they would take a train for the Confederate capital.
They were glad to go. They felt sure that no great battles would be
fought while they were gone. Neither army seemed to be in a mood for
further fighting just yet, and they longed for a sight of the little city
that was the heart of the Confederacy. They were tired of the rifle and
march, of cannon and battles. They wished to be a while where civilized
life went on, to hear the bells of churches and to see the faces of women.
It seemed to them both that they had lived almost all their lives in war.
Even Jeb Stuart's ball, stopped by the opening guns of a great battle,
was far, far away, and to Harry, it was at least a century since he had
closed his Tacitus in the Pendleton Academy, and put it away in his desk.
That old Roman had written something of battles, but they were no such
struggles as Chancellorsville and Gettysburg had been. The legions,
he admitted in his youthful pride, could fight well, but they never could
have beaten Yank or Reb.
He and Dalton slept through the afternoon and directly after dark,
well equipped and well-armed, they made their start into the South.
But in going they did not neglect to pass the camp of the Invincibles
who were now in the apex of the army farthest south. They had found an
unusually comfortable place on a grassy plot beside a fine, cool spring,
and most of them were lying down. But Colonel Talbot and Lieutenant-
Colonel Hector St. Hilaire sat on empty kegs, with a board on an empty
box between them. The great game which ran along with the war had been
renewed. St. Clair and Langdon sat on the grass beside them, watching
The two colonels looked up at the sound of hoofs and paused a moment.
"I'm getting his king into a close corner, Harry," said Colonel Talbot,
"and he'll need a lot of time for thinking. Where are you two going,
or perhaps I shouldn't ask you such a question?"
"There's no secret about it," replied Harry. "We're going to Richmond
"He was incorrect in saying that he was getting my king into a close
corner, as I'll presently show him," said Lieutenant-Colonel St. Hilaire;
"but you boys are lucky. I suppose you'll stay a while in the capital.
You'll sleep in white beds, you'll eat at tables, with tablecloths on
'em. You'll hear the soft voices of the women and girls of the South,
God bless 'em!"
"And if you went on to Charleston you'd find just as fine women there,"
said Colonel Leonidas Talbot.
He sighed and a shade of sadness crossed his face. Harry heard and saw
and understood. He remembered a night long, long ago in that heat of
rebellion, when he had looked down from the window of his room, and,
in the dark, had seen two figures, a man and a woman, upon a piazza,
Colonel Talbot and Madame Delaunay, talking softly together. He had felt
then that he was touching almost unconsciously upon the thread of an old
romance. A thread slender and delicate, but yet strong enough in its
very tenderness and delicacy to hold them both. The perfume of the
flowers and of the old romance that night in the town so far away came
back. He was moved, and when his eyes met Colonel Talbot's some kind
of an understanding passed between them.
"The good are never rewarded," said Happy Tom.
"How so?" asked Harry.
"Because the proof of it sits on his horse here before us. Why should a
man like George Dalton be sent to Richmond? A sour Puritan who does not
know how to enjoy a dance or anything else, who looks upon the beautiful
face of a girl as a sin and an abomination, who thinks to be ugly is to
be good, who is by temperament and education unfit to enjoy anything,
while Thomas Langdon, who by the same measurements is fit to enjoy
everything, is left here to hold back the Army of the Potomac. It's
undoubtedly a tribute to my valor, but I don't like it."
"Thomas," said Colonel Leonidas Talbot, gravely, "you're entirely too
severe with our worthy young friend, Dalton. The bubbles of pleasure
always lie beneath austere and solemn exteriors like his, seeking to
break a way to the surface. The longer the process is delayed the more
numerous the bubbles are and the greater they expand. If scandalous
reports concerning a certain young man in Richmond should reach us here
in the North, relating his unparalleled exploits in the giddier circles
of our gay capital, I should know without the telling that it was our
prim young George Dalton."
"You never spoke truer words, Leonidas," said Lieutenant-Colonel Hector
St. Hilaire. "A little judicious gallantry in youth is good for any one.
It keeps the temperature from going too high. I recall now the case of
Auguste Champigny, who owned an estate in Louisiana, near the Louisiana
estate of the St. Hilaires, and the estates of those cousins of mine whom
I visited, as I told you once.
"But pardon me. I digress, and to digress is to grow old, so I will not
digress, but remain young, in heart at least. I go back now. I was
speaking of Auguste Champigny, who in youth thought only of making money
and of making his plantation, already great, many times greater. The
blood in his veins was old at twenty-two. He did not love the vices that
the world calls such. But yet there were times, I knew, when he would
have longed to go with the young, because youth cannot be crushed
wholly at twenty-two. There was no escape of the spirits, no wholesome
blood-letting, so to speak, and that which was within him became corrupt.
He acquired riches and more riches, and land and more land, and at fifty
he went to New Orleans, and sought the places where pleasures abound.
But his true blossoming time had passed. The blood in his veins now
became poison. He did the things that twenty should do, and left undone
the things that fifty should do. Ah! Harry, one of the saddest things
in life is the dissipated boy of fifty! He should have come with us when
the first blood of youth was upon him. He could have found time then for
play as well as work. He could have rowed with us in the slender boats
on the river and bayous with Mimi and Rosalie and Marianne and all those
other bright and happy ones. He could have danced, too. It was no
strain, we never danced longer than two days and two nights without
stopping, and the festivals, the gay fete days, not more than one a week!
But it was not Auguste's way. A man when he should have been a boy,
and then, alas! a boy when he should have been a man!"
"You speak true words, Hector," said Colonel Leonidas Talbot, "though at
times you seem to me to be rather sentimental. Youth is youth and it has
the pleasures of youth. It is not fitting that a man should be a boy,
but middle-age has pleasures of its own and they are more solid, perhaps
more satisfying than those of youth. I can't conceive of twenty getting
the pleasure out of the noble game of chess that we do. The most
brilliant of your young French Creole dancers never felt the thrill that
I feel when the last move is made and I beat you."
"Then if you expect to experience that thrill, Leonidas, continue the
pursuit of my king, from which you expect so much, and see what will
happen to you."
Colonel Talbot looked keenly at the board, and alarm appeared on his
face. He made a rapid retreat with one of his pieces, and Harry and
Dalton, knowing that it was time for them to go, reached down from their
saddles, shook hands with both, then with St. Clair and Happy Tom,
and were soon beyond the bounds of the camp.
They rode on for many hours in silence. They were in a friendly land now,
but they knew that it was well to be careful, as Federal scouts and
cavalry nevertheless might be encountered at any moment. Two or three
times they turned aside from the road to let detachments of horsemen
pass. They could not tell in the dark and from their hiding places to
which army they belonged, and they were not willing to take the delay
necessary to find out. They merely let them ride by and resumed their
own place on the road.
Harry told Dalton many more details of his perilous journey from the
river to the camp of the commander-in-chief, and he spoke particularly
"Although he's a spy," he said, "I feel that the word scarcely fits him,
he's so much greater than the ordinary spy. That man is worth more than
a brigade of veterans to the North. He's as brave as a lion, and his
craft and cunning are almost superhuman."
He did not tell that he might easily have put Shepard forever out of the
way, but that his heart had failed him. Yet he did not feel remorse nor
any sense of treachery to his cause. He would do the same were the same
chance to come again. But it seemed to him now that a duel had begun
between Shepard and himself. They had been drifting into it, either
through chance or fate, for a long time. He knew that he had a most
formidable antagonist, but he felt a certain elation in matching himself
against one so strong.
They rode all night and the next day across the strip of Maryland into
Virginia and once more were among their own people, their undoubted own.
They were now entering the Valley of Virginia where the great Jackson had
leaped into fame, and both Harry and Dalton felt their hearts warm at the
greetings they received. Both armies had marched over the valley again
and again. It was torn and scarred by battle, and it was destined to
be torn and scarred many times more, but its loyalty to the South stood
every test. This too was the region in which many of the great Virginia
leaders were born, and it rejoiced in the valor of its sons.
Food and refreshment were offered everywhere to the two young horsemen,
and the women and the old men--not many young men were left--wanted to
hear of Gettysburg. They would not accept it as a defeat. It was merely
a delay, they said. General Lee would march North once more next year.
Harry knew in his heart that the South would never invade again, that
the war would be for her henceforth a purely defensive one, but he said
nothing. He could not discourage people who were so sanguine.
Every foot of the way now brought back memories of Jackson. He saw many
familiar places, fields of battle, sites of camps, lines of advance or
retreat, and his heart grew sad within him, because one whom he admired
so much, and for whom he had such a strong affection, was gone forever,
gone when he was needed most. He saw again with all the vividness of
reality that terrible night at Chancellorsville, when the wounded Jackson
lay in the road, his young officers covering his body with their own to
protect him from the shells.
When they reached the strip of railroad entering Richmond they left their
horses to be sent later, and each took a full seat in the short train,
where he could loosen his belt, and stretch his limbs. It was a crude
coach, by the standards of to-day, but it was a luxury then. Harry
and Dalton enjoyed it, after so much riding horseback, and watched the
pleasant landscape, brown now from the July sun, flow past.
Their coach did not contain many passengers, several wounded officers
going to Richmond on furlough, some countrymen, carrying provisions to
the capital for sale, and a small, thin, elderly woman in a black dress,
to whom Harry assigned the part of an old maid. He noticed that her
features were fine and she had the appearance of one who had suffered.
When they reached Richmond and their passes were examined, he hastened
to carry her bag for her and to help her off the train. She thanked him
with a smile that made her almost handsome, and quickly disappeared in
the streets of the city.
"A nice looking old maid," he said to Dalton.
"How do you know she's an old maid?"
"I don't know. I suppose it's a certain primness of manner."
"You can't judge by appearances. Like as not she's been married thirty
years, and it's possible that she may have a family of at least twelve
"At any rate, we'll never know. But it's good, George, to be here in
Richmond again. It's actually a luxury to see streets and shop windows,
and people in civilian clothing, going about their business."
"Looks the same way to me, Harry, but we can't delay. We must be off to
the President, with the dispatches from the Army of Northern Virginia."
But they did not hurry greatly. They were young and it had been a long
time since they had been in a city of forty thousand inhabitants, where
the shop windows were brilliant to them and nobody on the streets was
shooting at anybody else. It was late July, the great heats were gone
for the time at least, and they were brisk and elated. They paused a
little while in Capitol Square, and looked at the Bell Tower, rising
like a spire, from the crest of which alarms were rung, then at the fine
structure of St. Paul's Church. They intended to go into the State
House now used as the Confederate Capitol, but that must wait until they
reported to President Davis.
They arrived at the modest building called the White House of the
Confederacy, and, after a short wait in the anteroom, they were received
by the President. They saw a tall, rather spare man, dressed in a suit
of home-knit gray. He received them without either warmth or coldness.
Harry, although it was not the first time he had seen him, looked at him
with intense curiosity. Davis, like Lincoln, was born in his own State,
Kentucky, but like most other Kentuckians, he did not feel any enthusiasm
over the President of the Confederacy. There was no magnetism. He felt
the presence of intellect, but there was no inspiration in that arid
A man of Oriental features was sitting near with a great bunch of papers
in his hand. Mr. Davis did not introduce Harry and Dalton to him,
and he remained silent while the President was asking questions of the
messengers. But Harry watched him when he had a chance, interested
strongly in that shrewd, able, Eastern face, the descendant of an
immemorial and intellectual race, the man who while Secretary of State
was trying also to help carry the tremendous burden of Confederate
finance. What was he thinking, as Harry and Dalton answered the
President's questions about the Army of Northern Virginia?
"You say that you left immediately after our army crossed the Potomac?"
asked the President.
"Yes, sir," replied Harry. "General Meade could have attacked, but he
remained nearly two days on our front without attempting to do so."
A thin gray smile flitted over the face of the President of the
"General Meade was not beaten at Gettysburg, but I fancy he remembered it
Harry glanced at Benjamin, but his Oriental face was inscrutable.
The lad wondered what was lurking at the back of that strong brain.
He was shrewd enough himself to know that it was not always the generals
on the battlefield who best understood the condition of a state at war,
and often the man who held the purse was the one who measured it best of
all. But Benjamin never said a word, nor did the expression of his face
change a particle.
"The Army of Northern Virginia is safe," said the President, "and it will
be able to repel all invasion of Virginia. General Lee gives especial
mention of both of you in his letters, and you are not to return to him
at once. You are to remain here a while on furlough, and if you will go
to General Winder he will assign you to quarters."
Both Harry and Dalton were delighted, and, although thanks were really
due to General Lee, they thanked the President, who smiled dryly.
Then they saluted and withdrew, the President and the Secretary of State
going at once into earnest consultation over the papers Mr. Benjamin had
Harry felt that he had left an atmosphere of depression and said so,
when they were outside in the bright sunshine.
"If you were trying to carry as much as Mr. Davis is carrying you'd be
depressed too," said Dalton.
"Maybe so, but let's forget it. We've got nothing to do for a few days
but enjoy ourselves. General Winder is to give us quarters, but we're
not to be under his command. What say you to a little trip through the
Congress had adjourned for the day, but they went through the building,
admiring particularly the Houdon Washington, and then strolled again
through the streets, which were so interesting and novel to them.
Richmond was never gayer and brighter. They were sure that the hated
Yankees could never come. For more than two years the Army of Northern
Virginia had been an insuperable bar to their advance, and it would
Harry suddenly lifted his cap as some one passed swiftly, and Dalton
glancing backward saw a small vanishing figure.
"Who was it?" he asked.
"The thin little old maid in black whom we saw on the train. She may
have nodded to me when I bowed, but it was such a little nod that I'm not
"I rather like your being polite to an insignificant old maid, Harry.
I'd expect you, as a matter of course, to be polite to a young and pretty
girl, overpolite probably."
"That'll do, George Dalton. I like you best when you're preaching least.
Come, let's go into the hotel and hear what they're talking about."
After the custom of the times a large crowd was gathered in the spacious
lobby of Richmond's chief hotel. Among them were the local celebrities
in other things than war, Daniel, Bagby, Pegram, Randolph, and a
half-dozen more, musicians, artists, poets, orators and wits. People
were quite democratic, and Harry and Dalton were free to draw their
chairs near the edge of the group and listen. Pegram, the humorist,
gave them a glance of approval, when he noticed their uniforms, the deep
tan of their faces, their honest eyes and their compact, strong figures.
Harry soon learned that a large number of English and French newspapers
had been brought by a blockade runner to Wilmington, North Carolina,
and had just reached the capital, the news of which these men were
discussing with eagerness.
"We learn that the sympathies of both the French and English governments
are still with us," said Randolph.
"But these papers were all printed before the news of Vicksburg and
Gettysburg had crossed the Atlantic," said Daniel.
"England is for us," said Pegram, "only because she likes us little and
the North less. The French Imperialists, too, hate republics, and are in
for anything that will damage them. When we beat off the North, until
she's had enough, and set up our own free and independent republic,
we'll have both England and France annoying us, and demanding favors,
because they were for us in the war. Sympathy is something, but it
doesn't win any battles."
"A nation has no real friend except itself," said Bagby. "Whatever the
South gets she'll have to get with her own good right arm."
"I can predict the first great measure to be put through by the Southern
Government after the war."
"What will it be?"
"The abolition of slavery."
"Why, that's one of the things we're fighting to maintain!"
"Exactly so. You're willing to throw away a thing of your own accord,
when you're not willing to throw it away because another orders you to do
so. Wars are due chiefly to our misunderstanding of human nature."
Then Pegram turned suddenly to Harry. "You're from the field?" he said.
"From the Army of Northern Virginia?"
"Yes," replied Harry. "My name is Kenton and I'm a lieutenant on the
staff of General Lee. My friend is George Dalton, also of the commander-
"Are you from Kentucky?" asked Daniel curiously.
"Yes, from a little town called Pendleton."
"Then I fancy that I've met a relative of yours. I returned recently
from a small town in North Georgia, the name of which I may not give,
owing to military reasons, necessary at the present time, and I met while
I was there a splendid tall man of middle years, Colonel George Kenton
"That's my father!" said Harry eagerly. "How was he?"
"I thought he must be your father. The resemblance, you know. I should
say that if all men were as healthy as he looked there would be no
doctors in the world. He has a fine regiment and he'll be in the battle
that's breeding down there. Grant has taken Vicksburg, as we all know,
but a powerful army of ours is left in that region. It has to be dealt
with before we lose the West."
"And it will fight like the Army of Northern Virginia," said Harry.
"I know the men of the West. The Yankees win there most of the time,
because we have our great generals in the East and they have theirs in
"I've had that thought myself," said Bagby. "We've had men of genius
to lead us in the East, but we don't seem to produce them in the West.
People are always quoting Napoleon's saying that men are nothing, a man
is everything, which I never believed before, but which I'm beginning to
Then the talk veered away from battle and back to social, literary and
artistic affairs, to all of which Harry and Dalton listened eagerly.
Both had minds that responded to the more delicate things of life,
and they were glad to hear something besides war discussed. It was
hard for them to think that everything was going on as usual in Europe,
that new books and operas and songs were being written, and that men
and women were going about their daily affairs in peace. Yet both were
destined to live to see the case reversed, the people of the States
setting the world an example in moderation and restraint, while the
governments of Europe were deluging that continent with blood.
"If this war should result in our defeat," said Bagby, "we won't get
a fair trial before the world for two or three generations, and maybe
"Why?" asked Dalton.
"Because we're not a writing people. Oh, yes, there's Poe, I know,
the nation's greatest literary genius, but even Europe honored him before
the South did. We've devoted our industry and talents to politics,
oratory and war. We don't write books, and we don't have any newspapers
that amount to much. Why, as sure as I'm sitting here, the moment this
war is over New England and New York and Pennsylvania, particularly New
England, will begin to pour out books, telling how the wicked Southerners
brought on the war, what a cruel and low people we are, the way in which
we taught our boys, when they were strong enough, how to beat slaves to
death, and the whole world will believe them. Maybe the next generation
of Southerners will believe them too."
"Why?" asked Harry.
"Why? Why? Because we don't have any writers, and won't have any for a
long time! The writer has not been honored among us. Any fellow with
a roaring voice who can get up on the stump and tell his audience that
they're the bravest and best and smartest people on earth is the man for
them. You know that old story of Andy Jackson. Somebody taunted him
with being an uneducated man, so at the close of his next speech he
thundered out: _E pluribus unum! Multum in parvo! Sic semper tyrannis!_
So it was all over. Old Andy to that audience, and all the others that
heard of it, was the greatest Latin scholar in the world."
"But that may apply to the North, too," objected Harry.
"So it would. Nevertheless they'll write this war, and they'll get their
side of it fastened on the world before our people begin to write."
"But if we win we won't care," said Randolph. "Success speaks for
itself. You can squirm and twist all you please, and make all the
excuses for it that you can think up, but there stands success glaring
contemptuously at you. You're like a little boy shooting arrows at the
Thus the conversation ran on. Both Harry and Dalton were glad to be
in the company of these men, and to feel that there was something in
the world besides war. All the multifarious interests of peace and
civilization suddenly came crowding back upon them. Harry remembered
Pendleton with its rolling hills, green fields, and clear streams,
and Dalton remembered his own home, much like it, in the Valley of
Virginia, not so far away.
"Do you remain long in Richmond?" asked Randolph.
"A week at least," replied Harry.
"Then you ought to see a little of social life. Mrs. John Curtis,
a leading hostess, gives a reception and a dance to-morrow night.
I can easily procure invitations for both of you, and I know that she
would be glad to have two young officers freshly arrived from our
glorious Army of Northern Virginia."
"But our clothes!" said Dalton. "We have only a change of uniform apiece,
and they're not fresh by any means."
All the men laughed.
"You don't think that Richmond is indulging in gorgeous apparel do you?"
said Daniel. "We never manufactured much ourselves, and since all the
rest of the world is cut off from us where are the clothes to come from
even for the women? Brush up your uniforms all you can and you'll be
more than welcome. Two gallant young officers from the Army of Northern
Virginia! Why, you'll be two Othellos, though white, of course."
Harry glanced at Dalton, and Dalton glanced at Harry. Each saw that the
other wanted to go, and Daniel, watching them, smiled.
"I see that you'll come," he said, "and so it's settled. Have you
"Not yet," replied Harry, "but we'll see about it this afternoon."
"I'll have the invitations sent to you here at this hotel. All of us
will be there, and we'll see that you two meet everybody."
Both thanked him profusely. They were about to go, thinking it time to
report to General Winder, when Harry noticed a thin woman in a black
dress, carrying a large basket, and just leaving the hotel desk. He
caught a glimpse of her face and he knew that it was the old maid of the
train. Then something else was impressed upon his mind, something which
he had not noticed at their first meeting, but which came to him at their
second. He had seen a face like hers before, but the resemblance was
so faint and fleeting that he could not place it, strive as he would.
But he was sure that it was there.
"Who is that woman?" he asked.
Daniel shook his head and so did Randolph, but Bagby spoke up.
"Her name is Henrietta Carden," he said, "and she's a seamstress.
I've seen her coming to the hotel often before, bringing new clothes to
the women guests, or taking away old ones to be repaired. I believe that
the ladies account her most skillful. It's likely that she'll be at
the Curtis house, in a surgical capacity, to-morrow night, as a quick
repairer of damaged garments, those fine linen and silk and lace affairs
that we don't know anything about. Mrs. Curtis relies greatly upon her
and I ought to tell you, young gentlemen, that Mr. Curtis is a most
successful blockade runner, though he takes no personal risk himself.
The Curtis house is perhaps the most sumptuous in Richmond. You'll see
no signs of poverty there, though, as I told you, officers in old and
faded clothes are welcome."
Harry saw Henrietta Carden carrying the large basket of clothes, go out
at a side door, and he felt as if a black shadow like a menace had passed
across the floor. But it was only for an instant. He dismissed it
promptly, as one of those thoughts that come out of nothing, like idle
puffs of summer air. He and Dalton bade a brief farewell to their new
friends and left for the headquarters of General Winder. An elderly and
childless couple named Lanham had volunteered to take two officers in
their house near Capitol Square, and there Harry and Dalton were sent.
They could not have found a better place. Mr. and Mrs. Lanham were quiet
people, who gave them an excellent room and a fine supper. Mrs. Lanham
showed a motherly solicitude, and when she heard that they were going to
the Curtis ball on the following night she demanded that their spare and
best uniforms be turned over to her.
"I can make them look fresh," she insisted, "and your appearance must be
the finest possible. No, don't refuse again. It's a pleasure to me to
do it. When I look at you two, so young and strong and so honest in
manner and speech, I wish that I had sons too, and then again I'm glad I
"Why not, Mrs. Lanham?" asked Harry.
"Because I'd be in deadly fear lest I lose them. They'd go to the war--
I couldn't help it--and they'd surely be killed."
"We won't grieve over losing what we've never had," smiled Mr. Lanham.
Harry and Dalton did their best to answer all the questions of their
hosts, who they knew would take no pay. The interest of both Mr. and
Mrs. Lanham was increased when they found that their young guests were on
the staff of General Lee and before that had been on the staff of the
great Stonewall Jackson. These two names were mighty in the South,
untouched by any kind of malice or envy, and with legends to cluster
around them as the years passed.
"And you really saw Stonewall Jackson every day!" said Mrs. Lanham.
"You rode with him, talked with him, and went into battle with him?"
"I was in all his campaigns, Mrs. Lanham," replied Harry, modestly,
but not without pride. "I was with him in every battle, even to the last,
Chancellorsville. I was one of those who sheltered him from the shells,
when he was shot by our own men. Alas! what an awful mistake. I--"
He stopped suddenly. He had choked with emotion, and the tears came into
his eyes. Mrs. Lanham saw, and, understanding, she quickly changed the
subject to Lee. They talked a while after supper, called dinner now,
and then they went up to their room on the second floor.
It was a handsome room, containing good furniture, including two single
beds. Their baggage had preceded them and everything was in order.
Two large windows, open to admit the fresh air, looked out over Richmond.
On a table stood a pitcher of ice water and glasses.
"Our lot has certainly been cast in a pleasant place," said Dalton,
taking a chair by one of the windows.
"You're right," said Harry, sitting in the chair by the other window.
"The Lanhams are fine people, and it's a good house. This is luxury,
isn't it, George, old man?"
"The real article. We seem to be having luck all around. And we're
going to a big ball to-morrow night, too. Who'd have thought such a
thing possible a week ago?"
"And we've made friends who'll see that we're not neglected."
"It's an absolute fact that we've become the favorite children of
"No earthly doubt of it."
Then ensued a silence, broken at length by a scraping sound as each moved
his chair a little nearer to the window.
"Close, George," said Harry at length.
"Yes, a bit hard to breathe."
"When fellows get used to a thing it's hard to change."
"Fine room, though, and those are splendid beds."
"Great on a winter night."
"You've noticed how the commander-in-chief himself seldom sleeps under a
tent, but takes his blankets to the open?"
"Wonder how an Indian who has roamed the forest all his life feels when
he's shut up between four walls for the first time."
"Fancy it's like a prison cell to him."
"Think so too. But the Lanhams are fine people and they're doing their
best for us."
"Do you think they'd be offended if I were to take my blankets, and sleep
on the grass in the back yard?"
"Of course they would. You mustn't think of such a thing. After this
war is over you've got to emerge slowly from barbarism. Do you remember
whether at supper we cut our food with our knives and lifted it to our
mouths with forks, or just tore and lifted with our fingers?"
"We used knife and fork, each in its proper place. I happened to think
of it and watched myself. You, I suppose, did it through the force of an
ancient habit, recalled by civilized surroundings."
"I'm glad you remember about it. Now I'm going to bed, and maybe I'll
sleep. I suppose there's no hope of seeing the stars through the roof."
"None on earth! But my bed is fine and soft. We'd be all right if
we could only lift the roof off the house. I'd like to hear the wind
rubbing the boughs together."
"Stop it! You make me homesick! We've got no right to be pining for
blankets and the open, when these good people are doing so much for us!"
Each stretched himself upon his bed, and closed his eyes. They had not
been jesting altogether. So long a life in the open made summer skies
at night welcome, and roofs and walls almost took from them the power of
But the feeling wore away after a while and amid pleasurable thoughts of
the coming ball both fell asleep.
THE MISSING PAPER
Harry and Dalton did not awake until late the next morning and they found
they had not suffered at all from sleeping between four walls and under a
roof. Their lungs were full of fresh air, and youth with all its joyous
irresponsibility had come back. Harry sprang out of bed.
"Up! up! old boy!" Harry cried to Dalton. "Don't you hear the bugles
calling? not to battle but to pleasure! There is no enemy in our front!
We don't have to cross a river with an overwhelming army pressing down
upon us! We don't have to ride before the dawn on a scout which may
lead us into a thicket full of hostile riflemen. We're in a city, boy,
and our business now is beauty and pleasure!"
"Harry," said Dalton, "you ought to go far."
"Why, George? What induces you to assume the role of a prophet
"Because you're so full of life. You're so keen about everything.
You must have a heart and lungs of extra steam power."
"But I notice you don't say anything about brain power. Maybe you think
it's the quiet, rather silent fellows like yourself, George, who have an
excess of that."
"None of your irony. Am I not looking forward to this ball as much as
you are? I was a boy when I entered the war, Harry, but two years of
fighting day and night age one terribly. I feel as if I could patronize
any woman under twenty-five, and treat her as quite a simple young thing."
"Try it, George, and see what happens to you."
"Oh, no! I merely said I felt that way. I've too much sense to put it
"Do you know, George, that when this war is over it will be really time
for us to be thinking about girls. We'll be quite old enough. They say
that many of the Yankee maidens in Philadelphia and New York are fine
for looks. I wonder if they'll cast a favoring eye on young Southern
officers as our conquering armies go marching down their streets!"
"It's too remote. Don't think about it, Harry. Richmond will do us for
"But you can let a fellow project his mind into the future."
"Not so far that we'll be marching as conquerors through Philadelphia and
New York. Let's deal with realities."
"I've always thought there was something of the Yankee about you, George,
not in political principles--I never question your devotion to the cause--
but in calculating, weighing everything and deciding in favor of the one
that weighs an ounce the most."
"Are you about through dressing? You've taken a minute longer than the
There was a knock at the door, and, when Dalton opened it a few inches,
a black head announced through the crack that breakfast was ready.
"See what a disgrace you're bringing upon us," said Dalton. "Delaying
everything. Mrs. Lanham will say that we're two impostors, that such
malingerers cannot possibly belong to the Army of Northern Virginia."
"Lead on," said Harry. "I'm ready, and I'm hungry as every soldier in
the Southern army always is."
They had a warm greeting from their hospitable hosts, followed by an
abundant breakfast. Then at Mrs. Lanham's earnest solicitation they
turned over their dress uniforms to her to be repaired and pressed.
Then they went out into the streets again, and spent the whole day
rambling about, enjoying everything with the keen and intense delight
that can come only to the young, and after long abstinence. Richmond was
not depressed. Far from it. There had been a wonderful transformation
since those dark days when the army of McClellan was near enough to see
the spires of its churches. The flood of battle had rolled far away
since then, and it had never come back. It could never come back.
It was true that the Army of Northern Virginia had failed at Gettysburg,
but it was returning to the South unassailed, and was ready to repeat its
former splendid achievements.
Harry went to the post office, and found there, to his great surprise
and delight, a letter from his father, written three or four days after
My dear son: [he wrote]
The news has just come to us that the Army of Northern Virginia, while
performing prodigies of valor, has failed to carry all the Northern
positions at Gettysburg. Only complete success could warrant a further
advance. I assume therefore that General Lee is retreating and I assume
also that you, Harry, my beloved son, are alive, that you came unharmed
out of that terrible battle. It does not seem possible to me that it
could be otherwise. I cannot conceive of you fallen. It may be that
it's because you are my son. The sons of others may fall, but not mine,
just as we know that all others are doomed to die, but get into the habit
of thinking ourselves immortal. So, I address this letter to you in the
full belief that it will reach you somewhere, and that you will read it.
You know, of course, of our great loss at Vicksburg. It is disastrous
but not irreparable. We still have a powerful army in the West, hardy,
indomitable, one with which the enemy will have to reckon. As for myself
I have been spared in many battles and I am well. It seems the sport of
chance that you and I, while fighting on the same side, should have been
separated in this war, you in the East and I in the West. But it has
been done by One who knows best, and after all I am glad that you have
been in such close contact with two of the greatest and highest-minded
soldiers of the ages, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. I do not
think of them merely as soldiers, but as knights and champions with
flaming swords. One of them, alas! is gone, but we have the other,
and if man can conquer he will. Here in the West we repose our faith in
Lee, as surely as do you in the East, you who see his face and hear his
voice every day.
I have had two or three letters from Pendleton. That part of the State
is for the present outside the area of conflict, though I hear that the
guerilla bands to the east in the mountains still vex and annoy, and
that Skelly is growing bolder. I foresee the time when we shall have to
reckon with this man, who is a mere brigand.
I hear that the prospects for fruit in our orchards were never finer.
You will remember how you prowled in them when you were a little boy,
Harry, and what a pirate you were among the apples and peaches and pears
and good things that grew on tree and bush and briar in that beautiful
old commonwealth of ours. I often upbraided you then, but I should like
to see you now, far out on a bough as of old, reaching for a big yellow
pear, or a red, red bunch of cherries! Alas! there are many lads who
will never return, who will never see the pear trees and the cherry trees
again, but I repeat I cannot feel that you will be among them. Who would
ever have dreamed when this war began that it could go so far? More than
two years of fierce and deadly battles and I can see no end. A deadlock