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Who Goes There? by Blackwood Ketcham Benson

Part 2 out of 10

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material, or repeated material, of thought."

"But now let us reverse this supposition: suppose that to-morrow you are
in one of your 'states,' and you hear a discussion and draw a
conclusion; will this conclusion remain with you next week when you have
recovered the chain of your memory?"


"And your mind would hold to its former decision?"

"Oh, no; not necessarily. I mean that my memory would retain the fact
that I had formerly decided the matter."

"And in your recovered state you might reverse a decision made while in
a lapse?"


"But the undoubted truths, or material facts, as some people call them,
would still be undoubted?"


"And objects seen while in a 'state' will be remembered by you when you

"Vividly; if I could draw, I could draw them as well as if they were

"It would not be wrong, then, to say that what you lose in one period
you gain in another? that what you lose in things doubtful you gain in
intensity of fact?"

"Certainly not wrong, though I cannot say that the loss of one causes
the gain of the other."

"That is not important; yet I suspect it is true that your faculty is
quickened in one function, by relaxation in another. You know that the
hearing of the blind is very acute."

"Yes, but I don't see how all this shows my case to be a good thing."

"You can imagine situations in which, hearing is of greater value than


"A blind scout might be more valuable on a dark night than one who could

"Yes, but I cannot see how this affects me; I am neither blind nor deaf,
nor am I a scout."

"But it can be said that a good memory may be of greater value at one
time than another."

"Oh, yes; I suppose so."

"Now," said Dr. Khayme, "I do not wish you to believe for a moment that
there is at present any occasion for you to turn scout; I have merely
instanced a possible case in which hearing is more valuable than sight,
and we have agreed that memory is worth, more at times than at other
times. I should like to relieve you, moreover, of any fears that you,
may have in regard to the continuance of your infirmity--as you insist
on thinking it. Cases like yours always recover."

"Dr. Abbott once told me that my case was not entirely unique," said I;
"but I thought he said it only to comfort me."

"There is nothing new under the sun," said Dr. Khayme; "we have such
cases in the records of more than, one ancient writer. Averroes himself
clearly refers to such a case."

"He must have lived a long time ago," said I, "judging from the sound of
his name; and I doubt that he would have compared well with,
our people."

"But more remarkable things are told by the prophets--even your own
prophets. The mental changes undergone by Saul of Tarsus, by John on
Patmos, by Nabuchodonosor, and by many others, are not less wonderful
than, yours."

"They were miracles," said I.

"What is miracle?" asked the Doctor, but continued without waiting for
me to reply; "more wonderful changes have happened and do happen every
year to men's minds than this which has happened to yours; men lose
their minds utterly for a time, and then recover their faculties
entirely; men lose their identity, so to speak; men can be changed in an
hour, by the use of a drug, into different creatures, if we are to judge
by the record their own consciousness gives them."

"I cannot doubt my own senses," said I; "my changes come upon me without
a drug and in a moment."

"If you will read Sir William Hamilton, you will find authentic records
which will forever relieve you of the belief that your condition is
unparalleled. It may be unique in that phase of it which I hope will
prove valuable; but as to its being the one only case of the general--"

"I do not dispute there having been cases as strange as mine," I
interrupted; "your word for that is enough; but you ought to tell me why
you insist on the possibility of a cure and the usefulness of the
condition at the same time. If the condition may prove useful, why
change it?"

"There are many things in nature," said the Doctor, seriously, "there
are many things in nature which show their greatest worth only at the
moment of their extinction. Your seeming imperfection of memory is, I
repeat, but a relaxation of one of its functions in order that another
function may be strengthened--and all for a purpose."

"What is that purpose?"

"I cannot tell you."

"Why can you not?"

"Because," said he, "the manner in which you will prove the usefulness
of your power is yet to be developed. Generally, I might say, in order
to encourage you, that it will probably be given to you to serve your
country in, a remarkable way; but as to the how and when, you must
leave it to the future to show."

"And you think that such a service will be at the end of my trouble?"

"I think so," said he; "the laws of the mental world, in my judgment,
require that your recovery should follow the period concerning which
your factitious memory is brightest."

"But how can a private soldier serve his country in a remarkable way?" I
said, wondering.

"Wait," said he.

The Doctor filled his pipe and became silent. Lydia was not on duty this
night. She had listened gravely to what had been said. Now she looked up
with a faint smile, which I thought meant that she was willing for me to
talk to her and yet reluctant to be the first to speak, not knowing
whether I had need of silence. I had begun to have a high opinion of
Lydia's character.

"And you went to school in Bombay?"

"Yes, at first."

I was not willing to show a bald curiosity concerning her, and I suppose
my hesitation was expressed in my face, for she presently continued.

"I studied and worked in the British hospital; you must know that I am a
nurse with some training. Father was very willing for me to become a
nurse, for he said that there would be war in America, and that nurses
would be needed."

Then, turning to the Doctor, she said, "Father, Mr. Berwick asked me
to-day when it was that we sailed from Charleston, and I was unable to
tell him."

"The third of September, 1857," said the Doctor.

I remembered that this was my sister's birthday and also the very day on
which I had written to Dr. Khayme that I should not return to
Charleston. The coincidence and its bearing on my affliction disturbed
me so that I could not readily continue my part of the conversation,
and Lydia soon retired.

"Doctor," said I, "to-morrow morning I shall be ready to report to my

"Very well, Jones," he said, "act according to your conscience; I shall
see you frequently. There will be no more battles in this part of the
country for a long time, and it will not be difficult for you to get
leave of absence when you wish to see us. Besides, I am thinking of
moving our camp nearer to you."



"Our fortune on the sea is out of breath.
And sinks most lamentably."--SHAKESPEARE.

The winter brought an almost endless routine of drill, guard, and picket
duty and digging.

The division was on duty near Budd's Ferry. Dr. Khayme's quarters were a
mile to the rear of our left. I was a frequent visitor at his tents.
After Willis's return to duty, which was in November, he and I spent
much of our spare time at the Sanitary camp. It was easy to see what
attracted Jake. It did not seem to me that Dr. Khayme gave much thought
to the sergeant, but Lydia gravely received his adoration silently
offered, and so conducted herself in his presence that I was puzzled
greatly concerning their relations. I frequently wondered why the
sergeant did not confide in me; we had become very intimate, so that in
everything, except his feeling for Miss Khayme, I was Willis's bosom
friend, so to speak; in that matter, however, he chose to ignore me.

One night--it was the night of February 6-7, 1862--I was at the Doctor's
tent. Jake was sergeant of the camp guard and could not be with us. The
Doctor smoked and read, engaging in the conversation, however, at his
pleasure. Lydia seemed graver than usual. I wondered if it could be
because of Willis's absence. It seemed to me impossible that this
dignified woman could entertain a passion for the sergeant, who, while
of course a very manly fellow, and a thorough soldier in his way,
surely was not on a level with Miss Khayme. As for me, ah! well; I knew
and felt keenly that until my peculiar mental phases should leave me
never to return, love and marriage were impossible--so the very truth
was, and always had been, that I had sufficient strength to restrain any
incipient desire, and prudence enough to avoid temptation. My condition
encouraged introspection. I was almost constantly probing my own mind,
and by mere strength of will, which I had long cultivated until--I
suppose there is no immodesty in saying it--I could govern myself, I
drew back from every obstacle which my judgment pronounced
insurmountable. The Doctor had been of the greatest help to me in this
development of the will, and especially in that phase or exercise of it
called self-control; one of his common sayings was, "He who resists the
inevitable increases evil."

Ever since when as a boy I had yielded to his friendly guidance, Dr.
Khayme had evidently felt a sense of proprietorship in respect to me,
and I cherished such relationship; yet there had been many times in our
recent intercourse when I had feared him; so keen was the man's insight.
The power that he exercised over me I submitted to gratefully; I felt
that he was a man well fitted for counselling youth, and I had so many
proofs of his good-will, even of his affection, that I trusted him fully
in regard to myself; yet, with all this, I felt that his great
knowledge, and especially his wonderful alertness of judgment, which
amounted in many cases seemingly to prophetic power almost, were
doubtful quantities in relation to the war. I believed that he was
admitted to high council; I had frequent glimpses of
intimations--seemingly unguarded on his part--that he knew beforehand
circumstances and projects not properly to be spoken of; but somehow,
from a look, or a word, or a movement now and then, I had almost reached
the opinion that Dr. Khayme was absolutely neutral between the
contestants in the war of the rebellion. He never showed anxiety. The
news of the Ball's Bluff disaster, which touched so keenly the heart of
the North, and especially of Massachusetts, gave him no distress, to
judge from his impassive face and his manner; yet it is but just to
repeat that he showed great interest in every event directly relating to
the existence of slavery. He commended the acts of General Butler in
Virginia and General Fremont in Missouri, and hoped that the Southern
leaders would impress all able-bodied slaves into some sort of service,
so that they would become at least morally subject to the act of
Congress, approved August 6, which declared all such persons discharged
from previous servitude. In comparing my own attitude to the war with
the Doctor's, I frequently thought that he cared nothing for the Union,
and I cared everything; that he was concerned only in regard to human
slavery, while I was willing for the States themselves to settle that
matter; for I could see no constitutional power existing in the Congress
or in the President to abolish or even mitigate slavery without the
consent of the party of the first part. I was in the war not on account
of slavery, certainly, but on account of the preservation of the Union;
Dr. Khayme was in the war--so far as he was in it at all--not for the
Union, but for the abolition of slavery.

On this night of February 6, the Doctor smoked and read and occasionally
gave utterance to some thought.

"Jones," said he, "we are going to have news from the West; Grant

"I trust he will have better luck than McDowell had," was my reply.

"He will; I don't know that he is a better general, but he has the help
of the navy."

"But the rebels have their river batteries," said I.

"Yes, and these batteries are costly, and will prove insufficient; if
the North succeeds in this war, and I see no reason to doubt her success
if she will but determine to succeed, it will be through her navy."

I did not say anything to this. The Doctor smoked, Lydia sat looking
dreamily at the door of the stove.

After a while I asked: "Why is it that we do not move? February is a
spring month in the South."

The Doctor replied, "It is winter here, and the roads are bad."

"Is it not winter in Kentucky and Tennessee?"

"Grant has the help of the navy; McClellan will move when he gets the
help of the navy."

"What good can the navy do between Washington and Richmond?"

"The James River flows by Richmond," said the Doctor.

I had already heard some talk of differences between our general and the
President in regard to a removal of the Army of the Potomac to Fortress
Monroe. I asked the Doctor if McClellan would advance on Richmond by the
Peninsular route, as it was called.

"He will if he is allowed to do so," replied the Doctor; "at least," he
added, "that is my opinion; in fact, I am so well convinced of it that I
shall make preparation at once to remove my camp to some good place near
Fort Monroe."

This intention was new to me, and it gave me great distress. What I
should do with myself after the Doctor had gone, I did not know; I
should get along somehow, of course, but I should miss my friends sadly.

"I am very sorry to hear it, Doctor," said I, speaking to him and
looking at Lydia; her face was impervious.

"Oh," said the Doctor, with his rare and peculiar smile, "maybe we can
take you with us; you would only be going ahead of your regiment."

Lydia's face was still inflexible, her eyes on the fire. I wished for a
chance to bring Willis's name to the front, but saw none.

"I don't see how that could be done, Doctor; I confess that I should
like very much, to go with you, but how can I got leave of absence?"

"Where there is a will there is a way."

"Yes, but I have no will; I have only a desire," said I, gloomily.

"Well," said the Doctor, "I have will enough for both of us and to

"You mean to say that you can get me leave of absence?"

"Wait and see. When the time comes, there will be no trouble, unless
things change very greatly meanwhile."

I bade my friends good night and went back to my hut. The weather was
mild. My way was over hills and hollows, making me walk somewhat
carefully; but I did not walk carefully enough--I stumbled and fell, and
bruised my back.

The next day I was on camp guard. The weather was intensely cold. A
bitter wind from the north swept the Maryland hills; snow and rain and
sleet fell, all together. For two hours, alternating with, four hours'
relief, I paced my beat back and forth; at six o'clock, when I was
finally relieved, I was wet to the skin. When I reached my quarters, I
went to bed at once and fell into a half sleep.

Some time in the forenoon I found Dr. Khayme bending over me, with his
hand on my temples.

"You have had too much of it," said he.

I looked up at him and tried to speak, but said nothing. Great pain
followed every breath. My back seemed on fire.

The Doctor wanted to remove me to his own hospital tent, but dreaded
that I was too ill. Yet there was no privacy, the hut being occupied by
four men. Dr. Khayme found means to get rid of all my messmates except
Willis; they were crowded into other quarters. The surgeon of the
Eleventh had given the Doctor free course.

For two weeks Willis nursed me faithfully. Dr. Khayme came every day--on
some days several times. Lydia never came.

One bright day, near the end of February, I was placed in a litter and
borne by four men to the Doctor's hospital tent. My father came. This
was the first time he and Dr. Khayme met. They became greatly attached.

My progress toward health, was now rapid. Willis was with me whenever he
was not on duty. The Doctor's remedies gave way to simple care, in which
Lydia was the chief priest. Lydia would read to me at times--but for
short times, as the Doctor forbade my prolonged attention, I was not
quite sure that Lydia was doing me good; I liked the sound of her voice,
yet when she would cease reading I felt more nervous than before, and I
could not remember what she had read. So far as I could see, there was
no understanding between Lydia and Willis; yet it was very seldom that I
saw them together.

One evening, after the lamps were lighted, my father told us that he
would return home on the next day. "Jones is in good hands," said he,
"and my business demands my care; I shall always have you in
remembrance, Doctor; you have saved my boy."

The Doctor said nothing. I was sitting up in bed, propped with pillows
and blankets.

"The Doctor has always been kind to me, Father," said I; "ever since he
received the letter you wrote him in Charleston, he has been my
best friend."

"The letter I wrote him? I don't remember having written him a letter,"
said my father.

"You have forgotten, Father," said I; "you wrote him a letter in which
you told him that you were sure he could help me. The Doctor gave me the
letter; I have it at home, somewhere."

The Doctor was silent, and the subject was not continued.

Conversation began again, this time concerning the movements and battles
in the West. The Doctor said; "Jones, the news has been kept from you.
On February 6, General Grant captured Fort Henry, which success led ten
days later to the surrender of Buckner's army at Fort Donelson."

"The 6th of February, you say?" I almost cried; "that was the last time
I saw you before I got sick; on that very day you talked about Grant's
coming successes!"

"It did not need any great foresight for that," said the Doctor.

"You said that Grant had the navy to help him, and that he certainly
would not fail."

"And it was the navy that took Fort Henry," said my father.

On the day following that on which my father left us, I was sitting in a
folding chair, trying to read for the first time since my illness began.

Dr. Khayme entered, with a paper in his hand. "We'll go, my boy," said
he; "we'll go at once and avoid the crowd."

"Go where, Doctor?"

"To Fort Monroe," said he.

"Go to Fortress Monroe, and avoid the crowd?"

"Yes, we'll go."

"What are we going there for?"

"Don't you remember that I thought of going there?"

"When was it that you told me, Doctor?"

"On the night before you became ill. I told you that if General
McClellan could have his way, he would transfer the army to Fort Monroe,
and advance on Richmond by the Peninsular route."

"Yes, I begin to remember."

"Well, President Lincoln has yielded to General McClellan's urgent
arguments; the movement will be begun as soon as transportation can be
provided for such an operation; it will take weeks yet."

"And you are going to move down there?"

"Yes, before the army moves; this is your written authority to go with
me; don't you want to go?"

"Yes; that I do," said I.

"The spring is earlier down there by at least two weeks," said the
Doctor; "the change will mean much to you; you will be ready for duty by
the time your regiment comes."

Lydia was not in the tent while this conversation was going on, but she
came in soon afterward, and I was glad to see that she was certainly
pleased with the prospect of moving. Her eyes were brighter. She began
at once to get together some loose things, although we had several days
in which to make our preparations. I could not keep from laughing at
her; at the same time I felt that my amusement was caused by her
willingness to get away for a time from the army, rather than by
anything else.

"So you are in a hurry to get away," I said.

"I shall be glad to get down there," she replied, "and I have the habit
of getting ready gradually when we move. It saves worry and fluster when
the time comes." Her face was very bright.

"That is the longest speech you have made to me in a week," said I.

She turned and looked full at me; then her expression changed to
severity, and she went out.

That night Willis came; before he saw me he had learned that we were to
go; he was very blank.

* * * * *

The 6th of March found us in camp in the Doctor's tents pitched near
Newport News. The weather was mild; the voyage had helped me. I sat
outside in the sunshine, enjoying the south wind. With the help of the
Doctor's arm or of Lydia's--given, I feared, somewhat unwillingly--I
walked a little. These were happy days; I had nothing to do but to
convalesce. The Southern climate has always helped me. I was
recovering fast.

I liked the Doctor more than ever, if possible. Every day we talked of
everything, but especially of philosophy, interesting to both of us,
though of course I could not pretend to keep pace with, his advanced
thought. We talked of the war, its causes, its probable results.

"Jones, it matters not how this war shall end; the Union will be

I had never before heard him make just this declaration, though I had
had intimations that such was his opinion. I was glad to hear this
speech. It seemed to place the Doctor in favour of the North, and I
felt relieved.

"Continue," I begged.

"You know that I have said many times that the war is unnecessary; that
all war is crime."


"Yet you know that I have maintained that slavery also is a crime and
must be suppressed."

"Yes, and I confess that you have seemed inconsistent."

"I know you think the two positions contradictory; but both these views
are sound and true. War is a crime; slavery is a crime: these are two
truths and they cannot clash. I will go farther and say that the North
is right and the South is right."

"Doctor, you are astonishing. You will find it hard to convince me that
both of these statements can be true."

"Well, are you ready to listen?"

"Ready and willing. But why is it that you say both sections are right?
Why do you not prove that they are both wrong? You are speaking of
crime, not virtue."

"Of course they are both wrong in the acts of which we are speaking; but
in regard to the principles upon which they seem to differ, they are
right, and these are what I wish to speak of."

"Well, I listen, Doctor."

"Then first let me say that the world is ruled by a higher power than
General McClellan or Mr. Jefferson Davis."


"The world is ruled by a power that has far-reaching, even eternal,
purpose, and the power is as great as the purpose; the power is

"I follow you."

"This power cannot act contrary to its own purpose, nor can it purpose
what it will not execute."

"Please illustrate, Doctor."

"Suppose God should purpose to make a world, and instead of making a
world should make a comet."

"He would not be God," said I, "unless the comet should happen to be in
a fair way of becoming a world."

"Exactly; to act contrary to His purpose would be caprice or failure."

"Yes; I see, or think I do."

"Not difficult at all; I simply say that war is a crime and slavery a
crime. Two truths cannot clash."

"Then you mean to say that God has proposed to bring slavery into
existence, and war, also?"

"Not at all. What I mean to say in that His purpose overrules and works
beyond both. Man makes slavery, and makes war; God turns them into means
for advancing His cause."

"Perhaps I can understand, Doctor, that what you say is true. But I do
not see how the South can be right."

"What are all those crowds of people doing down on the battery?" asked
Lydia, suddenly.

It was about two o'clock. We had walked slowly toward the beach.

"They are all looking in our direction," said Dr. Khayme; "they see
something that interests them."

Across the water in the southeast could be seen smoke, which the wind
blew toward us. Some officers upon a low sand-hill near us were looking
intently through their field-glasses.

"I'll go and find out," said the Doctor; "stay here till I return."

We saw him reach the hill; one of the officers handed him a glass; he
looked, and came back to us rapidly.

"We are promised a spectacle; I shall run to my tent for a glass," said

"What is it all about, Father?" asked Lydia.

"A Confederate war-vessel," said he, and was gone.

"I hope she will be captured," said I; "and I have no doubt she will."

"You have not read the papers lately," said Lydia.

"No; what do you mean?"

"I mean that there are many rumours of a new and powerful iron steamer
which the Confederates have built at Norfolk," she replied.


"Yes, they say it is iron, or at least that it is protected with iron,
so that it cannot be injured."

"Well, if that is the case, why do we let our wooden ships remain here?"

The Doctor now rejoined us. He handed me a glass. I could see a vessel
off toward Norfolk, seemingly headed in our direction. Lydia took the
glass, and exclaimed, "That must be the _Merrimac!_ what a
strange-looking ship!"

The crowds on the batteries near Newport News and along the shore were
fast increasing. The Doctor said not a word; indeed, throughout the
prodigious scene that followed he was silent, and, to all seeming,

Some ships of-war were at anchor not far from the shore. With the
unaided eye great bustle could be seen on these ships; two of them were
but a very short distance from us.

The smoke in the south came nearer. I had walked and stood until I
needed rest; I sat on the ground.

Now, at our left, toward Fortress Monroe, we could see three ships
moving up toward the two which were near us.

The strange vessel come on; we could see a flag flying. The design of
the flag was two broad red stripes with a white stripe between.

The big ship was nearer; her form was new and strange; a large roof,
with little showing above it. She seemed heading toward Fortress Monroe.

Suddenly she swung round and came slowly on toward our two ships near
Newport News.

The two Federal ships opened their guns upon the rebel craft; the
batteries on shore turned loose on her.

Lydia put her hands to her ears, but soon took them away. She was used
to wounds, but had never before seen battle.

From above--the James River, as I afterward knew--now came down some
smaller rebel ships to engage in the fight, but they were too small to
count for much.

Suddenly the _Merrimac_ fired one gun, still moving on toward our last
ship--the ship at the west; still she moved on, and on, and on, and
struck our ship with her prow, and backed.

The Union ships continued to fire; the batteries and gunboats kept up
their fire.

The big rebel boat turned and made for our second ship, which was now
endeavouring to get away. The _Merrimac_ fired upon her, gun after gun.

Our ship stuck fast, and could not budge, but she continued to fire.

The ship which had been rammed began to lurch and at last she sank, with
her guns firing as she went down.

Lydia's face was the picture of desolation. Her lips parted. The Doctor
observed her, and drew his arm within his own; she sighed heavily, but
did not speak.

The rebel ship stood still and fired many times on our ship aground; and
white flags were at last seen on the Union vessel.

Now the small rebel ships approached the prize, but our shore batteries,
and even our infantry on shore, kept up a rapid fire to prevent the
capture. Soon the small ships steamed away, and the great craft fired
again and again into the surrendered vessel, and set her afire.

Then still another Union ship took part in the contest; she also was
aground, yet she fought the rebel vessels.

The great ship turned again and steamed toward the south until she was
lost in the thickening darkness. Meanwhile, the burning ship was a sheet
of flame; we could see men leap from her deck; boats put off from
the shore.

"The play is over; let's go to supper," said the Doctor.

"I want no food," said I.

"You must not stay in this air; besides, you will feel better when you
have eaten," he replied.

Lydia was silent; her face was wet with tears.

Groups of soldiers stood in our way; some were mad with excitement,
gesticulating and cursing; others were mute and white. I heard one say,
"My God! what will become of the _Minnesota_ to-morrow?"

The Doctor's face was calm, but tense. My heart seemed to have failed.

The burning _Congress_ threw around us a light brighter than the moon;
each of us had two shadows.

We sat down to supper, "Doctor," said I, "how can you be so calm?"

"Why, my boy," he said, "I counted on such, long ago--and worse;
besides, you know that I believe everything will come right."

"What is to prevent the _Merrimac_ from destroying our whole fleet and
then destroying our coast?"

"God!" said Dr. Khayme.

Lydia, kissed him and burst into weeping.

* * * * *

So far as I can remember, I have passed no more anxious night in my life
than the night of the 8th of March, 1862. My health did not permit me to
go out of the tent; but from the gloomy rumours of the camps I knew that
my anxiety was shared by all. Strange, I thought, that my experience in
war should be so peculiarly disastrous. Bull Run had been but the first
horror; here was another and possibly a worse one. The East seemed
propitious to the rebels; Grant alone, of our side, could gain

The burning ship cast a lurid glare over land and sea; dense smoke crept
along the coast; shouts came to my ears--great effort, I knew, was being
made to get the _Minnesota_ off; nobody could have slept that night.

The Doctor made short absences from his camp. At ten o'clock he came in
finally; a smile was on his face. Lydia had heard him, and now came
in also.

"Jones," said he, "what will you give me for good news?"

"Oh, Doctor," said I, "don't tantalize me."

Lydia was watching the Doctor's face.

"Well," said he, "I must make a bargain. If I tell you something to
relieve your fears, will you promise me to go to sleep?"

"Yes; I shall be glad to go to sleep; the quicker the better."

"Well, then, the _Merrimac_ will meet her match if she comes out

"What do you mean, Doctor?"

"I mean that a United States war-vessel, fully equal to the _Merrimac,_
has arrived."

Lydia left the tent.

I almost shouted. I could no more go to sleep than I could fly. I
started to get out of bed. The Doctor put his hand on my head, and
gently pressed me back to my pillow.



"Yet spake yon purple mountain,
Yet said yon ancient wood,
That Night or Day, that Love or Crime,
Lead all souls to the Good."--EMERSON

About two in the morning I was awaked by a noise that seemed to shake
the world. The remainder of the night was full of troubled dreams.

I thought that I saw a battle on a vast plain. Two armies were ranked
against each other and fought and intermingled. The dress of the
soldiers in the one army was like the dress of the soldiers in the other
army, and the flags were alike in colour, so that no soldier could say
which flags were his. The men intermingled and fought, and, not able to
know enemy from friend, slew friend and enemy, and slew until but two
opponents remained; these two shook hands, and laughed, and I saw their
faces; and the face of one was the face of Dr. Khayme, but the face of
the other I did not know.

Now, dreams have always been of but little interest to me. I had dreamed
true dreams at times, but I had dreamed many more that were false. In my
ignorance of the powers and weaknesses of the mind, I had judged that it
would be strange if among a thousand dreams not one should prove true.
So this dream passed for the time from my mind.

We had breakfast early. The Doctor was always calm and grave. Lydia
looked anxious, yet more cheerful. There was little talk; we expected a
trial to our nerves.

After breakfast the Doctor took two camp-stools; Lydia carried one; we
went to a sand-hill near the beach.

To the south of the _Minnesota_ now lay a peculiar vessel. No one had
ever seen anything like her. She seemed nothing but a flat raft with a
big round cistern--such as are seen in the South and West--amidships,
and a very big box or barrel on one end.

The _Merrimac_ was coming; there were crowds of spectators on the
batteries and on the dunes.

The _Monitor_ remained near the _Minnesota_; the _Merrimac_ came on.
From each of the iron ships came great spouts of smoke, from each the
sound of heavy guns. The wind drove away the smoke rapidly; every
manoeuvre could be seen.

The _Merrimac_ looked like a giant by the side of the other, but the
other was quicker.

They fought for hours, the _Merrimac_ slowly moving past the _Monitor_
and firing many guns, the _Monitor_ turning quickly and seeming to fire
but seldom. Sometimes they were so near each other they seemed to touch.

At last they parted; the _Monitor_ steamed toward the shore, and the
great _Merrimac_ headed southward and went away into the distance.

Throughout the whole of this battle there had been silence in our little
group, nor did we hear shout or word near us; feeling was too deep; on
the issue of the contest depended vast results.

When the ships ended their fighting I felt immense relief; I could not
tell whether our side had won, but I know that the _Merrimac_ had hauled
off without accomplishing her purpose; I think that was all that any of
us knew. At any moment I should not have been astonished to see the
_Merrimac_ blow her little antagonist to pieces, or run her down; to my
mind the fight had been very unequal.

"And now," said the Doctor, as he led the way back to his camp, "and now
McClellan's army can come without fear."

"Do you think," I asked, "that the _Merrimac_ is so badly done up that
she will not try it again?"

"Yes," he replied; "we cannot see or tell how badly she is damaged; but
of one thing we may feel sure, that is, that if she could have fought
longer with hope of victory, she would not have retired; her retreat
means that she has renounced her best hope."

The dinner was cheerful. I saw Lydia eat for the first time in nearly
two days. She was still very serious, however. She had become accustomed
in hospital work to some of the results of battle; now she had witnessed
war itself.

After dinner the conversation naturally turned upon the part the navy
would perform in the war. The Doctor said that it was our fleet that
would give us a final preponderance over the South.

"The blockade," said he, "is as nearly effective as such a stupendous
undertaking could well be."

"It seems that the rebels find ways to break it at odd times," said I.

"Yes, to be sure; but it will gradually become more and more
restrictive. The Confederates will be forced at length to depend upon
their own resources, and will be shut out from the world."

"But suppose England or France recognizes the South," said Lydia.

"Neither will do so," replied her father, "England, especially, thinks
clearly and rightly about this war; England cares nothing about states'
rights or the reverse; the heart of England, though, beats true on the
slavery question; England will never recognize the South."

"You believe the war will result in the destruction of slavery?" I

"Of racial slavery, yes; of all slavery, nominally. If I did not believe
that, I should feel no interest in this war."

"But President Lincoln has publicly announced that he has no intention
of interfering with slavery."

"He will be forced to interfere. This war ought to have been avoided;
but now that it exists, it will not end until the peculiar institution
of the South is destroyed. But for the existence of slavery in the
South, England would recognize the South. England has no political love
for the United States, and would not lament greatly the dissolution of
the Union. The North will be compelled to extinguish slavery in order to
prevent England from recognizing the South. The Union cannot now be
preserved except on condition of freeing the slaves; therefore, Jones, I
am willing to compromise with you; I am for saving the Union in order to
destroy slavery, and you may be for the destruction of slavery in order
to save the Union!

"The Union is destroyed if secession succeeds; secession will succeed
unless slavery is abolished; it cannot be abolished by constitutional
means, therefore it will be abolished by usurpation; you see how one
crime always leads to another."

"But," said I, "you assume that the South is fighting for slavery only,
whereas her leaders proclaim loudly that she is fighting for

"She knows that it would be suicidal to confess that she is fighting for
slavery, and she does not confess it even to herself. But when we say
'the South,' let us be sure that we know what we mean. There are two
Souths. One is the slaveholding aristocracy and their slaves; the other
is the common people. There never was a greater absurdity taught than
that which Northern writers and newspapers have spread to the effect
that in the South there is no middle class. The middle class _is_ the
South. This is the South that is right and wholesome and strong. The
North may defeat the aristocracy of the South, and doubtless will defeat
it; but never can she defeat the true South, because the principle for
which the true South fights is the truth--at least the germ of truth if
not the fulness of it.

"The South is right in her grand desire and end; she is wrong in her
present and momentary experiment to attain that end. So also the North
is right in her desire, and wrong in her efforts.

"The true South will not be conquered; the aristocracy only will go
down. Nominally, that is to say in the eyes of unthinking men, the North
will conquer the South; but your existing armies will not do it. The
Northern idea of social freedom, unconscious and undeveloped, must
prevail instead of the Southern idea of individual freedom; but how
prevail? By means of bayonets? No; that war in which ideas prevail is
note fought with force. Artillery accomplishes naught. I can fancy a
battlefield where two great armies are drawn up, and the soldiers on
this side and on that side are uniformed alike and their flags are
alike, but they kill each other till none remains, and nothing is
accomplished except destruction; yet the principle for which each fought
remains, though all are dead."

For a time I was speechless.

At length I asked, "But why do you imagine their uniforms and flags

He replied, "Because flag and uniform are the symbols of their cause,
and the real cause, or end, of both, is identical."

"Doctor," I began; but my fear was great and I said no more.



"Why, then, let's on our way in silent sort."--SHAKESPEARE.

Lydia was kept busy in the hospital; her evenings, however, were spent
with her father.

Before the Army of the Potomac began to arrive, I had recovered all my
old vigour, and had become restless through inaction. Nobody could say
when the Eleventh would come. The troops, as they landed, found roomy
locations for their camps, for the rebels were far off at Yorktown, and
with only flying parties of cavalry patrolling the country up to our
pickets. I had no duty to do; but for the Doctor's company time would
have been heavy on my hands.

About the last of March the army had reached Newport News, but no
Eleventh. What to do with myself? The Doctor would not move his camp
until the eve of battle, and he expressed the opinion that there would
be no general engagement until we advanced much nearer to Richmond.

On the 2d of April, at supper, I told Dr. Khayme that I was willing to
serve in the ranks of any company until the Eleventh should come.

"General McClellan has come, and your regiment will come in a few days,"
he replied; "and I doubt if anybody would want you; the troops now here
are more than are needed, except for future work. Besides, you might do
better. You have good eyes, and a good memory as long as it lasts; you
might make a secret examination of the Confederate lines."

"A what? Oh, you mean by myself?"


"Do you think it practicable?" I asked.

"Should I have suggested it if I do not?"

"Pardon me, Doctor; but you were so sudden."

"Well, think of it," said he.

"Doctor, if you'll put me in the way to do it, I'll try it!" I
exclaimed, for, somehow, such work had always fascinated me. I did not
wish to become a spy, or to act as one for a day even, but I liked the
thought of creeping through woods and swamps and learning the positions
and movements of the enemy. In Charleston, in my school days, and
afterward, I had read Gilmore Simms's scouting stories with, eagerness,
and had worshipped his Witherspoon.

"When will you wish to begin?" asked the Doctor.

"Just as soon as possible; this idleness is wearing; to-day, if

"I cannot let you go before to-morrow," said he; "I must try to send you
off properly."

When Lydia came in that night, and was told of our purposes by the
Doctor, I fancied that she became more serious instantly. But she said
little, and I could only infer that she might be creating in her brain
false dangers for a friend.

By the next afternoon, which, was the 3d of April, everything was ready
for me. The Doctor showed me in his stores-tent a sober suit of gray
clothes, not military clothes, but of a cut that might deceive the eye
at a distance, yet when closer seen would exonerate the wearer from any
suspicion that he was seriously offering himself as a Confederate.

"Now, I had to guess at it," said the Doctor; "but I think it will fit
you well enough."

It did fit well enough; it was loose and comfortable, and, purposely,
had been soiled somewhat after making. The Doctor gave me also a
black felt hat.

"Have you studied the map I gave you?" he asked.

"Yes, I can remember the roads and streams thoroughly," I answered.

"Then do not take it; all you want is a knife and a few trivial things
such as keys in your pocket, so that if you should be searched nothing
can be proved. Leave all your money in bills behind; coin will not be
bad to take; here are a few Confederate notes for you."

"Do I need a pass?"

"Yes; here is a paper that may hang you if you are caught by the
Confederates; use it to go through your lines, and then destroy it; I
want you to get back again. If you should be captured, a pass would
betray you; if your men got you and will not let you go, it will not be
difficult to explain at headquarters."

"I suppose you have already explained at headquarters?"

"Don't ask questions. Now you must sit down and eat; you don't know when
you will get another meal."

At dusk I started. My purpose was to avoid our own pickets and reach
before dawn a point opposite the right of the rebel line, which was
believed to rest on James River, near or at Mulberry Island, or Mulberry
Point; I would then watch for opportunities, and act accordingly, with
the view of following up the rebel line, or as near to it as possible.

I took no gun or anything whatever to burden me. I was soon outside the
guard line of the camp. My way at first was almost due north by the
Young's Mill road. Darkness quickly came, and I was glad of it. The
stars gave me enough light. My road was good, level, sandy--a lane
between two rail fences almost hidden with vines and briers. At my left
and behind me I could hear the roar of the surf.

When I had gone some two miles, I thought I hoard noises ahead, I
stopped, and put my ear to the ground. Cavalry. Were they our men, or
rebels? I did not want to be seen by either. I slipped into a fence
corner. A squad rode by, going toward Hampton, no doubt. I waited until
they had passed out of sight, and then rose to continue my tramp, when
suddenly, before I had made a step, another horseman rode by, following
the others. If he had looked in my direction, he would have seen me; but
he passed on with his head straight to the front. I supposed that this
last man was on duty as the rear of the squad.

Now I tore up my pass into little bits and tossed them away. The party
of cavalry which, had passed me, I believed, were our patrol, and that I
should find no more of our men; so I was now extremely cautious in going
forward, not knowing how soon I might run against some scouting party of
the rebels.

The road soon diverged far from the shore; the ground was sandy and
mostly level; and in many places covered with, a thick, small growth.
The imperfect light gave me no extended vision, but from studying the
map before I had set out I had some idea of the general character of the
country at my right, as well as a pretty accurate notion of the distance
I must make before I should come near to the first rebel post; though,
of course, I could not know that such post had not been abandoned, or
advanced even, within the last few hours.

I went on, then, keeping a sharp lookout to right and left and straight
ahead, and every now and then stopping to listen. My senses were alert;
I thought of nothing but my present purposes; I felt that I was alone
and dependent upon myself, but the feeling was not greatly oppressive.

Having gone some four or five miles, I saw before me a fence running at
a right angle to the road I was on; this fence was not continued to the
left of my road, so I supposed that at this fence was the junction of
the road to Little Bethel, and as I had clearly seen before I started
that at this junction there was danger of finding a rebel outpost, or of
falling upon a rebel scouting party, I now became still more cautious,
moving along half bent on the edge of the road, and at last creeping on
my hands and knees until I reached the junction.

There was nobody in sight. I looked long up the road toward Little
Bethel; I went a hundred yards or so up this road, found nothing, and
returned to the junction; then continued up the road toward Young's
Mill. The ground here I knew must be visited frequently by the rebels,
and my attention became so fixed that I started at the slightest noise.
The sand's crunching under my feet sounded like the puffing of a
locomotive. The wind made a slight rippling with the ends of the tie on
my hat-band, I cut the ends off, to be relieved of the distraction.

I was going at the rate of a mile a day, attending to my rear as well as
to my advance, when I heard, seemingly in the road to Bethel, at my rear
and right, the sound of stamping hoofs. I slunk into a fence corner, and
lay perfectly still, listening with all my ears. The noise increased; it
was clear that horsemen from the Bethel road were coming into the
junction, a hundred yards in my roar.

The noises ceased. The horsemen had come to a halt.

But _had_ they come to a halt? Perhaps they had ridden down the road
toward Newport News.

Five minutes, that seemed an hour, passed; then I heard the hoof-beats
of advancing cavalry, and all at once a man darted into my fence corner
and lay flat and still.

It is said that at some moments of life, and particularly when life is
about to end, as in drowning, a man recalls in an instant all the deeds
of his past. This may or may not be true; but I know, at least, that my
mind had many thoughts in the situation in which I now found myself.

I felt sure that the party advancing on the road behind me were rebels.

They were now but a few yards off.

An instant more, and they would pass me, or else they would discover me.

If I should spring to my feet and run up the road, the horsemen would
ride me down at once.

If I should climb the fence, my form, outlined against the sky, would be
a mark for many carbines.

If I should lie still, they might pass without seeing me.

But what could I expect from my companion?

Who was he? ... Why was he there? ... Had he seen me? ... Had the
rebels, if indeed they were rebels, seen him? ... If so, were they
pursuing him?

But no; they were not pursuing him, for he had come from the direction
of Young's Mill. He would have met the horsemen had he not hidden.

If I could but know that he had seen me, my plan surely would be to lie

Yes, certainly, to lie still ... if these riders were rebels.

But to lie still if my companion was a friend to the rebels? If he was
one of theirs, should I lie still?

No; certainly not, unless I preferred being taken to being shot at.

If the horsemen were Union troops, what then? Why, in that case, my
unknown friend must be a rebel; and if I should decide to let the troops
pass, I should be left unarmed, with a rebel in two feet of me.

Yet, if the cavalry were our men, and the fugitive a rebel, still the
question remained whether he had seen me.

It seemed impossible for him not to see me. Could he think I was a log?
Certainly not; there was no reason for a log to be in such a place;
there were no trees large enough, and near enough to justify the
existence of a log in this place.

All these thoughts, and more also, passed through my mind while the
horsemen moved ten paces; and before they had moved ten paces more, I
had come to a decision.

I had decided to lie still.

There could be but one hope: if I should run, I could not get away. I
would lie still. If the unknown should prove to be a friend, my case
might be better than before; if he should prove to be an enemy, I must
act prudently and try to befool him. I must discover his intentions
before making mine known. He, also, must be in a great quandary.

The horsemen passed. They passed so near that I could have told whether
they were from the North or the South by their voices, but they did
not speak.

There was not enough light for me to see their uniforms, and, indeed, I
did not look at them, but instinctively kept my face to the ground.

The horsemen passed on up the road toward Young's Mill.

Now there was silence. I yet lay motionless. So did my companion. I was
right in one thing; he knew of my presence, else he would now rise and
go his way. He knew of my presence, yet he did not speak; what was the
matter with him?

But why did not I speak? I concluded that he was fearing me, just as I
was fearing him.

But why should he fear me, when, he could not doubt that I was hiding
from the same persons whom he had shunned to meet?

But I was there first; he had not known that I was there; his hiding in
a fence corner was deliberate, in order to escape the observation of the
horsemen; his hiding in this particular fence corner was an accident.

Who is he? What is he thinking about, that he doesn't do something? He
has no reason to fear me.

But fear has no reason. If he is overcome with fear, he dreads
everything. He has not recovered from the fright the horsemen gave him.

But why do I not speak? Am I so overcome with fear that I cannot speak
to a man who flees and hides? I _will_ speak to him--

"Mahsa," said he, humbly, right in my ear.

I sat bolt upright; so did he.

"Speak low," said I; "tell me who you are."

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you; what is your name?"

"My name Nick."

"What are you doing here?"

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you; what are you doing here?"

"I'se des' a-restin', mahsa; I'se mighty tired."

"You are hiding from the soldiers."

"What sojers, mahsa?"

Clearly Nick was no simpleton; he was gaining time; he might not yet
know which side I belonged to. I must end this matter. The night was
cool. I had no blanket or overcoat. While walking I had been warm, but
now I was getting chilly.

Yet, after all, suppose Nick was not a friend. However, such, a
supposition was heterodox; every slave must desire freedom; a slave who
does not wish to be free is an impossibility.

"Who were the soldiers who rode by just now?"

"I dunno, mahsa."

"Then, why did you hide from them?"

"Who, me?"

"Yes; why did you run and hide?"

"De s'caze I dunno who dey is."

This was very simple; but it did not relieve the complication. I must be
the first to declare myself.

"Were they not--" I checked myself in time, I was going to say rebels,
but thought better of it; the word would declare my sympathies. I was
not so ready, after all.

"W'at dat you gwine to say, mahsa?"

Neither was Nick ready to speak first; he was a quick-witted negro.

"I was going to ask if they were Southern soldiers."

"You dunno who dey is, mahsa?"

Yes; Nick was sharp; I must be discreet now, and wary--more so. I knew
that many Confederate officers had favourite slaves as camp servants,
slaves whom they thought so attached to them as to be trustworthy. Who
could know, after all, that there were no exceptions amongst slaves? My
doubts became so keen that I should not have believed Nick on his oath.
He might tell me a lie with the purpose of leading me into a rebel
camp. I must get rid of him somehow.

"Mahsa," said Nick, "is you got any 'bacco?"

"No" said I; then, "yes, I have some smoking tobacco."

"Dat's mighty good hitse'f; won't you please, sa', gimme a little?"

I was not a smoker, but I knew that there was a little loose tobacco in
one of my pockets; how it came to be there I did not know.

"Thankee; mahsa; dis 'bacoo makes me bleeve you is a--" Nick hesitated,

"A what?"

"A good man," said Nick.

"Nick," I said, "I want to go up the road."

"W'at fur you gwine up de road, mahsa?"

"I want to see some people up there."

Nick did not reply. Could he fear that I was wanting to take him into
the Southern lines? It looked so.

The thought almost took away any fear I yet had that he might betray me.
His hesitation was assuring.

I repeated, "I want to see--I mean I want to look at--some people up the

"Dem sojers went up the road des' now, mahsa."

"Do you think they will come back soon?"

"I dunno, mahsa; maybe dey will en' maybe dey won't."

"Didn't you come from up the road?"

"Mahsa, how come you ain't got no gun?"

This threatened to be a home-thrust; but I managed to parry it; and to
give him as good.

"Do Southern officers carry guns?"

"You Southern officer, mahsa?"

"Southern officers carry swords and pistols," said I; "didn't you know
that, Nick?"

"Mahsa," said Nick, very seriously.

"What is it, Nick?"

"Mahsa, fo' God you ain't no Southern officer."

"What makes you think so, Nick?"

"Caze, of you was a Southern officer you wouldn't be a-gwine on lak you
is; you 'ud des' say, 'Nick, you dam black rascal, git back to dem
breswucks on' to dat pick en' to dat spade dam quick, or I'll have you
strung up;' dat's w'at you'd say."

Unless Nick was intentionally fooling me, he was not to be feared. He
was willing for me to believe that he had run away from the

"But suppose I don't care whether you get back or not; there are enough
niggers working on the fortifications without you. I'd like to give you
a job of a different sort," said I, temptingly.

"W'at dat job you talkin' 'bout, mahsa?"

"I want you to obey my orders for one day,"

"W'at I hatto do, mahsa?"

"Go up the road with me," said I.

Nick was silent; my demand did not please him; yet if he wanted to
betray me to the rebels, now was his chance. I interpreted his silence
to mean that he wanted to go down the road, that is to say, that he
wanted, to make his way to the Union army and to freedom. I felt so sure
of this that I should not have been surprised if he had suddenly set out
running down the road; yet I supposed that he was still in doubt of my
character and feared a pistol-shot from me. He was silent so long that I
fully made up my mind that I could trust him a little.

"Nick," said I, "look at my clothes. I am neither a Southern officer nor
a Northern officer. I know what you want: you want to go to Fortress
Monroe. You shall not go unless you serve me first; if you serve me
well, I will help you in return. Go with me for one day, and I'll make
it worth your while."

"W'at you want me to go wid you fer? W'at I hatto do?"

"Guide me," said I; "show me the way to the breastworks; show me how to
see the breastworks and not be seen myself."

"Den w'at you gwine do fer me?"

It amused me to see that Nick had dropped his "mahsa." Did he think it
out of place, now that he knew I was not a Southern soldier?

"Nick, I will give you a dollar for your day's work; then I will give
you a note to a friend of mine, and the note will bring you another
dollar and a chance to make more."

Nick considered. The dollar was tempting; as to the note, the sequel
showed that he did not regard it of any importance, finally, he said
that if I would make it two dollars he would be my man, I felt in my
pockets, and found about four dollars, I thought, and at once closed
the bargain.

"Now; Nick," said I, "here is a dollar; go with me and be faithful, and
I will give you another before dark to-morrow."

"I sho' do it," said Nick, heartily; "now w'at I hatto do?"

"Where is the first Confederate post?"

"You mean dem Southern sojers?"


"You mean dem dat's do fust a-gwine _up_ de road, or dem dat's fust
a-comin' _down_ de road?"

"The nearest to us in this direction," said I, pointing.

"Dey is 'bout half a mile up dis road," said Nick.

"Did you see them?"

"I seed 'em fo' true, but dey didn't see me."

"How did you keep them from seeing you?"

"I tuck to do bushes; ef dey see me, dey string me up."

"How long ago was it since you saw them?"

"Sence sundown," said Nick,

"When did you leave the breastworks?"

"Las' night."

"And you have been a whole day and night getting here?"

"In de daytime I laid up," said Nick; "caze I dunno w'en I might strak
up wid 'em."

"How far have you come in all?"

"'Bout 'leben or ten mile, I reckon. I laid up in de Jim Riber swamp all

"Did you have anything to eat?"

"Yassa; but I ain't got nothin' now no mo'."

"Do you know where we can get anything to eat to-morrow?"

"Dat I don't; how is we a-gwine to hole out widout sum'hm to eat?"

"We must risk it. I hope we shall not suffer."

"Dis country ain't got nothin' in it," said Nick; "de folks is almos'
all done gone to Richmon' er summers[1] en' I don't know w'at we's
a-gwine to do; I don't. I don't know w'at we's a-gwine to do fer sum'hm
to eat. And I don't know w'at I's a-gwine to do fer 'bacco nudda."

[1] Somewhere [Ed.].

"Well, Nick, I can give you a little more tobacco; but I expect you to
find something to eat; if you can find it, I will pay for it."

We were wasting time; I wanted to make a start.

"Now, Nick" said I; "I want to go to Young's Mill, or as near it as I
can get without being seen."

"Dat all you want to do?" asked Nick.

"No; I want to do that first; then I want to see the breastworks. First,
I want to go to Young's Mill."

"W'ich Young's Mill?" asked Nick; "dey is two of 'em."


"Yassa; one Young's Mill is by de chu'ch on de Worrick road; de yudda
one is de ole Young's Mill fudda down on de creek."

"I want the one on the Warwick road," said I.

"Den dat's all right," said Nick; "all you got to do is to keep dis
straight road."

"But we must not show ourselves," said I.

"Don't you fret about dat; I don't want nobody to see me nudda; des'
you follow me."

Nick left the road, I following. We went northeast for half a mile, then
northwest for a mile or more, and found ourselves in the road again.

"Now we's done got aroun' 'em," said Nick; "we's done got aroun' de fust
ones; we's done got aroun' 'em; dis is twicet I's done got aroun' 'em,
'en w'en I come back I's got to git aroun' 'em agin."

"How far is it to Young's Mill, Nick?"

"I 'spec' hit's 'bout fo' mile," said Nick.

We were now within the rebel lines, and my capture might mean death. We
went on, always keeping out of the road. Nick led the way at a rapid and
long stride, and I had difficulty in keeping him in sight. The night was
getting cold, but the walk heated me. Here and there were dense clumps
of small trees; at the little watercourses there was larger growth. The
roar of the sea was heard no longer. It must have been about midnight.

We came upon swampy ground; just beyond it a road crossed ours.

"Stop a little, Nick," said I.

Nick came to a halt, and we talked in low tones; we could see a hundred
yards in every direction.

"Where does that road go?" I asked.

"Dat road," said Nick, pointing to the left; "hit goes to ole Young's

"How far is old Young's Mill?"

"I dunno ezackly; I reckon 'bout fo' mile."

"Where does the right-hand lead?"

"Hit goes to Mis Cheeseman's," said Nick; "en' at Mis Cheeseman's dey is
calvry, on' at ole Young's Mill dey is calvry, but dey is on de yudda
side o' de creek."

"How far is it to Mrs. Cheeseman's?"

"I dunno ezackly; I reckon 'bout fo' mile."

We went on. The ground was again swampy. We came to a road running
almost west; a church stood on the other side of the road.

"Dat's Danby Chu'ch," said Nick, "en' dat road hit goes to Worrick."

"And where does the right-hand lead?"

"Hit goes to Mis Cheeseman's," said Nick.

"And where is Young's Mill?" I asked.

"Hit's right on dis same road we's on, en not fur off, nudda."

We had now almost reached my first objective. I knew that Nick was
telling me the truth, in the main, for the plan of the map was still
before my mind's eye.

"Can we get around Young's Mill without being seen?" I asked.

"Dey's a picket-line dis side," said Nick.

"How far this side?"

"'Bout a quauta' en' a ha'f a quanta.'"

"How near can we get to the picket-line?"

"We kin git mos' up to 'em, caze dey's got de trees cut down."

"The trees cut down in their front?"

"Yassa; dey's got mos' all de trees out down, so dey is."

"And we can get to this edge of the foiled timber?"

"Yassa; we kin git to de falled timba', but we's got to go roun' de

"And if we go around the pond first; we shall then find the

"De picket-line at Young's Mill?"


"Ef we gits roun' de pon', we'll be done got roun' de picket-line, en'
de trees w'at dey cut down, en' Young's Mill, en' all."

"Well, then, Nick, lead the way around the pond, and keep your eyes wide

Nick went forward again, but more slowly for a while; then he turned to
the right, through the woods. We went a long distance and crossed a
creek on a fallen log. I found that this negro could see in the darkness
a great deal better than I could; where I should have groped my way, had
I been alone, he went boldly enough, putting his foot down flat as
though he could see where he was stepping. Nick said that there were no
soldiers in these woods and swamps; they were all on the road and at
Young's Mill, now a mile at our left.

At length we reached the road again. By this time I was very tired; but,
not wanting to confess it, I said to Nick that we should wait by the
side of the road for a while, to see if any soldiers should pass. We sat
in the bushes; soon Nick was on his back, asleep, and I was not sorry to
see him go to sleep so quickly, for I felt sure that he would not have
done so if he had meant to betray me.

I kept awake. Only once did I see anything alarming. A single horseman
came down the road at a leisurely trot, and passed on, his sabre
rattling by his side. When the sound of the horse's hoofs had died away,
I aroused Nick, and we continued west up the road. At last Nick stopped.

"What's the matter now, Nick?" I whispered.

"We's mos' up on dem pickets ag'in," he said.

"Again? Have we gone wrong?"

"We ain't gone wrong--but we's mos' up on dem pickets ag'in," he

"Where are we?"

"We's gittin' mos' to Worrick; ef we gits up to de place, den w'at you
gwine to do?"

"I want to stay there till daylight, so that I can see them and know how
many they are."

"Den w'at you gwine to do?"

"Then I want to follow their line as near as I can, going toward

"Den all I got to say is dat hit's mighty cole to be a-layin' out in de
woods widout no fiah en' widout no kiver en' widout noth'n' to eat."

"That's true, Nick; do you know of any place where we could get an hour
or two of sleep without freezing?"

"Dat's des' w'at I was a-gwine to say; fo' God it was; ef dat's w'at you
gwine to do; come on."

He led the way again, going to the left. We passed through woods, then a
field, and came to a farmhouse,

"Hold on. Nick," said I; "it won't do to go up to that house."

"Dey ain't nobody dah," said Nick; "all done runned off to Richmon' er

The fences were gone, and a general air of desolation marked the place.

Nick went into an outhouse--a stable with a loft--- and climbed up into
the loft. I climbed up after him. There was a little loose hay in the
loft; we speedily stretched ourselves. I made Nick promise to be awake
before sunrise, for I feared the place would be visited by the rebels.



"Thus are poor servitors,
While others sleep upon their quiet beds,
Constrained to watch in darkness, rain, and cold."

When I lay down I was warm from walking, and went to sleep quickly. When
I awoke I was cold; in fact, the cold woke me.

I crept to the door of the stable and looked out; at my left the sky was
reddening. I aroused Nick, who might have slept on for hours had he
been alone.

The sun would soon warm us; but what were we to do for food? Useless to
search the house or kitchen or garden; everything was bare. I asked Nick
if he could manage in any way to get something to eat. He could not; we
must starve unless accident should throw food in our way.

A flock of wild geese, going north, passed high. "Dey'll go a long ways
to-day," said Nick; "ain't got to stop to take on no wood nor no water."

We bent our way toward the Warwick road. At the point where we reached
it, the ground was low and wet, but farther on we could see dryer
ground. We crossed the road and went to the low hills. From a tree I
could see the village of Warwick about a mile or so to the west, with
the road, in places, running east. There seemed to be no movement going
on. Nick was lying on the ground, moody and silent. I had no
more tobacco.

I came down from the tree and told Nick to lead the way through the
woods until we could get near the rebel pickets where their line
crossed the road.

About nine o'clock we were lying in the bushes near the edge of felled
timber, through an opening in which, ran the road at our left. At long
intervals a man would pass across the road where it struck the

Both from the map and from Nick's imperfect delivery of his
topographical knowledge I was convinced that the main rebel line was
behind the Warwick River, and that here was nothing but an outpost; and
I was considering whether it would not be best to turn this position on
the north, reach the river as rapidly as possible, and make for Lee's
Mill, which I understood was the rebel salient, and see what was above
that point, when I heard galloping in the road behind us. Nick had heard
the noise before it reached my ears.

A rebel horseman dashed by; at the picket-line he stopped, and remained
a few moments without dismounting; then went on up the road toward
Warwick Court-House.

At once there was great commotion on the picket-line. We crept up as
near as we dared; men were hurrying about, getting their knapsacks and
falling into ranks. Now came a squadron of cavalry from down the road;
they passed through the picket-line, and were soon lost to sight. Then
the picket marched off up the road. Ten minutes more and half a dozen
cavalrymen came--the rear-guard of all, I was hoping--and passed on.

The picket post now seemed deserted. Partly with the intention of
getting nearer the river, but more, I confess, with the hope of
appeasing hunger, Nick and I now cautiously approached the abandoned
line. We were afraid to show ourselves in the road, so we crawled
through the felled timber.

The camp was entirely deserted. Scattered here and there over the ground
were the remains of straw beds; some brush arbours--improvised
shelters--were standing; we found enough broken pieces of hardtack to
relieve our most pressing want.

I followed the line of felled timber to the north; it ended within two
hundred yards of the road.

"Nick," said I; "what is between us and the river in this direction?"
pointing northwest.

"Noth'n' but woods tell you git down in de bottom," said Nick.

"And the bottom, is it cultivated? Is it a field?"

"Yassa; some of it is, but mos' of it ain't."

"Are there any more soldiers on this side of the river?"

"You mean 'long here?"


"Well, I dunno ezackly; I reckon dey is all gone now; but dey is some
mo' up on dis side, up higher, up on de upper head o' de riber, whah
Lee's Mill is."

"How far is it to Lee's Mill?"

"Hit's mos' fo' mile."

"How deep is the river above Lee's Mill?"

"Riber is deep down below de mill."

"Is the river deep here?" pointing west.

"Yassa; de tide comes up to Lee's Mill."

"Are there no Southern soldiers below Lee's Mill?"

"Dey goes down dat-away sometimes."

"Are there any breastworks below Lee's Mill?"

"Down at de mill de breswucks straks off to de Jim Riber up at de Pint."

"Up at what Point?"

"Up at de Mulberry Pint."

"And right across the river here, there are no breastworks?"

"No, sa'; dey ain't no use to have 'em dah."

Feeling confident that the movements I had seen indicated the withdrawal
of at least some of the rebel outposts to their main line beyond the
Warwick, and that I could easily and alone reach the river and follow
it up--since the rebel line was on its other bank or beyond--I decided
to let Nick go.

"Nick," said I; "I don't believe I shall need you any more now."

"You not a-gwine to gimme dat yudda dolla'?"

"Oh, yes; of course I shall pay you, especially if you will attend
closely to what I tell you; you are to serve me till night, are
you not?"


"Well, I want you to go to the Union army at Newport News for me. Will
you do it?"


"Now, Nick, you must look sharp on the road and not let the rebels catch

"I sho' look sharp," said Nick.

"And look sharp for the Union army, too; I hope you will meet some Union
soldiers; then you will be safe."

"I sho' look sharp," said Nick.

"I want you to carry a note for me to the Union soldiers."


I wrote one word on a scrap of paper that I had picked up in the rebel
camp. I gave the paper to Nick.

"Throw this paper away if you meet any rebels; understand?"


"When you meet Union soldiers, you must give this paper to the captain."


"The captain will ask you what this paper means, and you must tell him
that the Southern soldiers are leaving Warwick Court-House, and that the
paper is to let him know it."

"Yassa; I sho' do it; I won't do noth'n' but look sharp, en' I won't do
noth'n' but give dis paper to de cap'n."

"Then here is your other dollar, Nick. Good-by and good luck to you."

Nick started off at once, and I was alone again.

My next objective was Lee's Mill, which I know was on the Warwick River
some three miles above. Without Nick to help my wits, my cautiousness
increased, although I expected to find no enemy until I was near the
mill. I went first as nearly westward as I could know; my purposes were
to reach the river and roughly ascertain its width and depth; if it
should be, as Nick had declared, unfordable in these parts, its depth
would be sufficient protection to the rebels behind it, and I would
waste no time in examining its course here. Through the undergrowth I
crept, sometimes on my hands and knees, and whenever I saw an opening in
the woods before me, I paused long and looked well before either
crossing or flanking it. After a while I reached heavy timber in the low
ground, which I supposed lay along the river. At my left was a cleared
field, unplanted as yet, and in the middle of the field a dwelling with
outhouses. I approached the house, screening myself behind a rail fence.
The house was deserted. I passed through the yard. There was no sign of
any living thing, except a pig which scampered away with a loud snort of
disapproval. The house was open, but I did not enter it; the windows
were broken, and a mere glance showed me that the place had
been stripped.

Again I plunged into the woods, and went rapidly toward the river, for I
began to fear that I had been rash in coming through the open. Soon I
struck the river, which here bent in a long curve across the line of my
march. The river was wide and deep.

At once I felt confidence in Nick's declarations. There could be little
need for Confederate fortifications upon the other side of this
unfordable stream.

It must have been about noon; I thought I heard firing far to my rear,
and wondered what could be going on back there.

Leaving the river, I directed my steps toward the northeast. So long as
I was in the woods I went as rapidly as I could walk, and the country,
even away from the river, was much wooded. My knowledge of the map
placed Lee's Mill northeast of Warwick, and northeast I went, but for
fully three hours I kept on and found no river again. I felt sure that I
had leaned too far to the east, and was about to turn square to my left
and seek the river, when I saw before me a smaller stream flowing
westward. I did not understand. I knew that I had come a much greater
distance than three miles; I had crossed two large roads running north;
this stream was not down on the map. Suddenly the truth was seen; this
stream was the Warwick itself, and above Lee's Mill; here it was small,
as Nick had intimated.

I turned westward; I had come too far; there must be a great angle in
the river below me, and that angle must be at Lee's Mill.

Not more than a hunched yards down the stream there was a dam, seemingly
a new dam made of logs and earth. At the time I could not understand why
it was there. On the other side of the water, which seemed to be deep,
though narrow; I could hear a drum beating. A road, a narrow country
road, ran seemingly straight into the water. Only a few steps to my left
there was an elbow of the road, I moved to this elbow, keeping in the
bushes, and looked down on the water. There was no sign of a ferry; I
could see the road where it left the water on the other side, and I
could see men passing back and forth across the road some two or three
hundred yards away.

For a long time I racked my brains before I understood the meaning of
this road's going into deep water. What could it mean? Certainly there
was a reason for it, and a strong reason. The ordinary needs of the
country would require a ferry, and there was no ferry. I had looked long
and closely, and was sure there was no ferry, and was almost as sure
that there never had been one. The road before my eyes was untravelled;
the ruts were weeks old, without the sign of a fresh track since the
last rains; the road was not now used, that was a certainty.

When was this road used? ... The whole situation became clear; the road
had been a good road before the rebels came; when they fortified their
lines they rendered the road useless. They destroyed the ford by
building the dam below.

I made my way down the stream, little elated at my solution of what at
first had seemed a mystery, for I felt that Nick would have told me
offhand all about it.

In less than a mile I came to another road running into deep water. Now,
thought I, if my solution is correct, we shall shortly see another dam,
and it was not five minutes before I came in sight of the second dam.

I climbed a tree near by; I could see portions of a line of earthworks
on the other side of the river. The line of works seemed nearly
straight, at least much more nearly so than the river was. To attack the
Confederate lines here would be absurd, unless our troops could first
destroy the dams and find an easy crossing.

By this time the middle of the afternoon had passed, and I was
famishing. I believed it impossible that I should be able to get any
food, and the thought made me still hungrier; yet I cast about me to see
if there was any way to get relief. I blamed myself for not having
brought food from camp. I had made up my mind to remain this night near
the river, as I could not get back to camp, seeing that my work was not
yet done, until the next day; so I must expect many hours of sharp
hunger unless I could find food.

I now felt convinced that on the rebel left there was a continuous line
of works behind the Warwick, from Lee's Mill up to Yorktown, and all I
cared to prove was whether that line had its angle at the former place,
as Nick had declared, and as seemed reasonable to me from every
consideration. I would, then, make my way carefully down the river to
Lee's Mill, and if possible finish my work before sunset; but my hunger
was so great that I thought it advisable to first seek food. So,
deferring my further progress down the stream, I set out in an easterly
direction by the road which had crossed previously above the second dam,
in the hope that this road would lead me to some house where help could
be found, for I was now getting where risks must be run; food was my
first need.

However, I did not expose myself, but kept out of the road, walking
through this woods. My road was soon enlarged by another road joining
it, coming in from the north and seeming well worn from recent use. I
had been walking for nearly a mile when I heard a noise behind
me--clearly the noise of horses coming. I lay flat behind a bush which
grew by a fallen tree. Three horsemen--rebels--passed, going southward.
They passed at a walk, and were talking, but their words could not be
distinguished. The middle man was riding a gray horse.

About half a mile, or perhaps less, farther on, the woods became less
dense, and soon I came to a clearing; in this clearing was what the
Southern people call a settlement, which consisted of a small farmhouse
with, a few necessary outbuildings.

Hitched to the straight rail fence that separated, the house yard from
the road, were three horses, one of them gray, with saddles on their
backs. I was not more than fifty yards distant from the horses, and
could plainly see a holster in front of one of the saddles.

No sound came from the house. I lay down and watched and listened. The
evening was fast drawing on, and there were clouds in the west, but the
sun had not yet gone down, and there would yet be an hour or two of
daylight. I feared that my approach to Lee's Mill must be put off till
the morrow.

A woman came out of the house and drew a bucket of water at the well in
the yard. She then returned into the house, with her pail of water. Now
the sound of men's voices could be heard, and the stamping of heavy
foot within the house; a moment afterward three men came out and
approached the horses.

The woman was standing at the door; one of the men shaded his eyes with
his hand and looked toward the west, where a dazzling cloud-edge barely
hid the sun from view. He was looking directly over my head; dropping
his hand he said, "An hour high, yit." This man was nearer to me than
the others were. I could less distinctly hear the words of the others,
but when this one got near their horses a conversation was held with the
woman standing in the doorway, and the voices on both sides were raised.

"Yes," said one of the men, preparing to mount the gray horse, "yes, I
reckin this is the last time we'll trouble you any more."

"Your room's better'n your company," said the woman, whose words, by
reason of her shrill voice, as well as because she was talking toward
me, were more distinctly heard than the man's.

"Now don't be ungrateful," said the man, who by this time was astride
his horse; "you've not lost anything by me. If the Yanks treat you as
well as us, you may thank your God."

"Self-praise is half scandal," said the woman; "I'm willin' to risk 'em
if God sends 'em."

The man, turning his horse and riding after his two companions, shouted
back: "Hit's not God as is a sendin' 'em; hit's somebody else!"

"You seem to be mighty well acquainted!" fired the woman, as a parting

When the man had overtaken his comrades at the turning of the road, I
had but little reluctance in going into the house. The woman stared at
me. My gray civilian clothes caught her eye; evidently she did not know
what to think of me. She said nothing, and stood her ground in the
middle of the floor.

I first asked for a drink of water; she point to the bucket, in which
there was a common gourd for a dipper. I quenched my thirst; then I
said; "Madam, I will pay you well if you will let me have what cold food
you have in the house."

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