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His Sombre Rivals
by E. P. Roe
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Grace stood at the intersection with hands clasped in the deepest anxiety; but Graham smiled reassuringly, as he said, "Isn't this an heroic style of returning from the wars? Not quite like Walter Scott's knights; but we've fallen on prosaic times. Don't look so worried. I assure you I'm not seriously hurt."

"Mrs. Mayburn," said Hilland, excitedly, "let us take him to our cottage. We can all take better care of him there."

"Oh, do! please do!" echoed Grace. "You are alone; and Warren and I could do so much—"

"No," said the old lady quietly and decisively; for the moment the proposition was broached Graham's eyes had sought hers in imperative warning. "You both can help me as far as it is needful."

Grace detected the glance and noted the result, but Hilland began impetuously: "Oh, come, dear Mrs. Mayburn, I insist upon it. Graham is making light of it; but I'm sure he'll need more care than you realize—"

"Hilland, I know the friendship that prompts your wish," interrupted Graham, "but my aunt is right. I shall do better in my own room. I need rest more than anything else. You and your wife can do all you wish for me. Indeed, I shall visit you to-morrow and fight the battle over again with the major. Please take me to my room at once," he added in a low tone. "I'm awfully tired."

"Come, Mr. Hilland," said Mrs. Mayburn, in a tone almost authoritative; and she led the way decisively.

Hilland yielded, and in a few moments Graham was in his own room, and after taking a little stimulant, explained.

"My horse was shot and fell on me. I am more bruised, scratched and used up, than hurt;" and so it proved, though his escape had evidently been almost miraculous. One leg and foot had been badly crushed. There were two flesh wounds in his arm; and several bullets had cut his clothing, in some places drawing blood. All over his clothes, from head to foot, were traces of Virginia soil; and he had the general appearance of a man who had passed through a desperate melee.

"I tried to repair damages in Washington," he said, "but the confusion was so dire I had to choose between a hospital and home; and as I had some symptoms of fever last night, I determined to push on till under the wing of my good old aunty and your fraternal care. Indeed, I think I was half delirious when I took the train last evening; but it was only from fatigue, lack of sleep, and perhaps loss of blood. Now, please leave me to aunty's care to-night, and I will tell you all about it to-morrow."

Hilland was accordingly constrained to yield to his friend's wishes. He brought the best surgeon in town, however, and gave directions that, after he had dressed Graham's wounds, he should spend the night in Mrs. Mayburn's parlor, and report to him if there was any change for the worse. Fortunately, there was no occasion for his solicitude. Graham slept with scarcely a break till late the next morning; and his pulse became so quiet that when he waked with a good appetite the physician pronounced all danger passed.

In the evening he was bent on visiting the major. He knew they were all eager for his story, and, calculating upon the veteran's influence in restraining Hilland from hasty action, he resolved that his old and invalid friend should hear it with the first. From the character of Hilland he knew the danger to be apprehended was that he would throw himself into the struggle in some way that would paralyze, or at the least curtail, his efficiency. Both his aunt and the physician, who underrated the recuperative power of Graham's fine physical condition, urged quiet until the following day; but he assured them he would suffer more from restlessness than from a moderate degree of effort. He also explained to his aunt that he wished to talk with Hilland, and, if possible, in the presence of his wife and the major.

"Then they must come here," said the old lady, resolutely.

With this compromise he had to be content; and Hilland, who had been coming and going, readily agreed to fetch the major.



CHAPTER XX

TWO BATTLES

In less than an hour Graham was in the parlor, looking, it is true, somewhat battered, but cheerful and resolute. His friends found him installed in a great armchair, with his bruised foot on a cushion, his arm in a sling, and a few pieces of court-plaster distributed rather promiscuously over his face and head. He greeted Hilland and his wife so heartily, and assured the major so genially that he should now divide with him his honors as a veteran, that they were reassured, and the rather tragic mood in which they had started on the visit was dispelled.

"I must admit, though," he added to his old friend, who was also made comfortable in his chair, which Hilland had brought over, "that in my fall on the field of glory I made a sorry figure. I was held down by my horse and trampled on as if I had been a part of the 'sacred soil.'"

"'Field of glory,' indeed!" exclaimed Hilland, contemptuously.

"I did not know that you had become a soldier," said Grace, with surprise.

"I was about as much of a soldier as the majority, from the generals down," was the laughing reply.

"I don't see how you could have been a worse one, if you had tried," was his friend's rejoinder. "I may do no better; but I should be less than a man if I did not make an effort to wipe out the disgrace as soon as possible. No reflection on you, Graham. Your wounds exonerate you; and I know you did not get them in running away."

"Yes, I did—two of them, at least—these in my arm. As to 'wiping out this disgrace as soon as possible,' I think that is a very secondary matter."

"Well! I don't understand it at all," was Hilland's almost savage answer. "But I can tell you from the start you need not enter on your old prudent counsels that I should serve the government as a stay-at- home quartermaster and general supply agent. In my opinion, what the government needs is men—men who at least won't run away. I now have Grace's permission to go—dear, brave girl!—and go I shall. To stay at home because I am rich seems to me the very snobbishness of wealth; and the kind of work I have been doing graybeards can do just as well, and better."

Graham turned a grave look of inquiry upon the wife. She answered it by saying with a pallid face: "I had better perish a thousand times than destroy Warren's self-respect."

"What right have you to preach caution," continued Hilland, "when you went far enough to be struck by half a dozen bullets?"

"The right of a retreat which scarcely slackened until I was under my aunt's roof."

"Come, Graham, you are tantalizing us," said Hilland, impatiently. "There, forgive me, old fellow. I fear you are still a little out of your head," he added, with a slight return of his old good-humor. "Do give us, then, if you can, some account of your impetuous advance on Washington, instead of Richmond."

"Yes, Mr. Graham," added the major, "if you are able to give me some reason for not blushing that I am a Northern man, I shall be glad to hear it."

"Mrs. Hilland," said Graham, with a smiling glance at the young wife's troubled face, "you have the advantage of us all. You can proudly say, 'I'm a Southerner.' Hilland and I are nothing but 'low-down Yankees.' Come, good friends, I have seen enough tragedy of late; and if, I have to describe a little to-night, let us look at matters philosophically. If I received some hard knocks from your kin, Mrs. Hilland—"

"Don't say 'Mrs. Hilland,'" interrupted his friend. "As I've told you before, my wife is 'Grace' to you."

"So be it then. The hard knocks from your kin have materially added to my small stock of sense; and I think the entire North will be wiser as well as sadder before many days pass. We have been taught that taking Richmond and marching through the South will be no holiday picnic. Major St. John has been right from the start. We must encounter brave, determined men; and, whatever may be true of the leaders, the people are as sincere in their patriotism as we are. They don't even dream that they are fighting in a bad cause. The majority will stand up for it as stoutly and conscientiously as your husband for ours. Have I not done justice to your kin, Grace?"

"Yes," she replied, with a faint smile.

"Then forgive me if I say that until four o'clock last Sunday afternoon, and in a fair, stand-up fight between a Northern mob and a Southern mob, we whipped them."

"But I thought the men of the North prided themselves on their 'staying power.'"

"They had no 'staying power' when they found fresh regiments and batteries pouring in on their flank and rear. I believe that retreat was then the proper thing. The wild panic that ensued resulted naturally from the condition of the men and officers, and especially from the presence of a lot of nondescript people that came to see the thing as a spectacle, a sort of gladiatorial combat, upon which they could look at a safe distance. Two most excellent results have been attained: I don't believe we shall ever send out another mob of soldiers; and I am sure that a mob of men and women from Washington will never follow it to see the fun."

"I wish Beauregard had corralled them all—the mob of sight-seers, I mean," growled the major. "I must say, Mr. Graham, that the hard knocks you and others have received may result in infinite good. I think I take your meaning, and that we shall agree very nearly before you are through. You know that I was ever bitterly opposed to the mad 'On to Richmond' cry; and now the cursed insanity of the thing is clearly proved."

"I agree with you that it was all wrong—that it involved risks that never should have been taken at this stage of the war; and I am told that General Scott and other veteran officers disapproved of the measure. Nevertheless, it came wonderfully near being successful. We should have gained the battle if the attack had been made earlier, or if that old muff, Patterson, had done his duty."

"If you are not too tired, give us the whole movement, just as you saw it," said Hilland, his eyes glowing with excitement.

"Oh, I feel well enough for another retreat tonight. My trouble was chiefly fatigue and lack of sleep."

"Because you make light of wounds, we do not," said Grace.

"Hilland knows that the loss of a little blood as pale and watery as mine would be of small account," was Graham's laughing response.

"Well, to begin at the beginning, I followed Patterson till convinced that his chief impulse was to get away from the enemy. I then hastened to Washington only to learn that McDowell had already had a heavy skirmish which was not particularly to our advantage. This was Saturday morning, and the impression was that a general engagement would be fought almost immediately. The fact that our army had met little opposition thus far created a false confidence. I did not care to risk my pet horse, Mayburn. You must know, aunty, I've rechristened Firebrand in your honor," said Graham. "I tried to get another mount, but could not obtain one for love or money. Every beast and conveyance in the city seemed already engaged for the coming spectacle. The majority of these civilians did not leave till early on Sunday morning, but I had plenty of company on Saturday, when with my good horse I went in a rather leisurely way to Centerville; for as a correspondent I had fairly accurate information of what was taking place, and had heard that there would be no battle that day.

"I reached Centerville in the evening, and soon learned that the forward movement would take place in the night. Having put my horse in thorough condition for the morrow, and made an enormous supper through the hospitality of some staff-officers, I sought a quiet knoll on which to sleep in soldier fashion under the sky, but found the scene too novel and beautiful for such prosaic oblivion. I was on the highest ground I could find, and beneath and on either side of me were the camp-fires of an army. Around the nearest of these could be seen the forms of the soldiers in every picturesque attitude; some still cooking and making their rude suppers, others executing double- shuffles like war-dances, more discussing earnestly and excitedly the prospects of the coming day, and not a few looking pensively into the flames as if they saw pictures of the homes and friends they might never see again. In the main, however, animation and jollity prevailed; and from far and near came the sound of song, and laughter, and chaffing. Far down the long slope toward the dark, wooded valley of Bull Run, the light of the fires shaded off into such obscurity as the full moon permitted, while beyond the stream in the far distance a long, irregular line of luminous haze marked the encampments of the enemy.

"As the night advanced the army grew quiet; near and distant sounds died away; the canvas tents were like mounds of snow; and by the flickering, dying flames were multitudes of quiet forms. At midnight few scenes could be more calm and beautiful, so tenderly did the light of the moon soften and etherealize everything. Even the parked artillery lost much of its grim aspect, and all nature seemed to breathe peace and rest.

"It was rumored that McDowell wished to make part of the march in the evening, and it would have been well if he had done so. A little past midnight a general stir and bustle ran through the sleeping army. Figures were seen moving hurriedly, men forming into lines, and there was a general commotion. But there was no promptness of action. The soldiers stood around, sat down, and at last lay on their arms and slept again. Mounting my horse, with saddle-bags well stuffed with such rations as I could obtain, I sought the centres of information. It appeared that the division under General Tyler was slow in starting, and blocked the march of the Second and the Third Division. As I picked my way around, only a horse's sagacity kept me from crushing some sleeping fellow's leg or arm, for a horse won't step on a man unless excited.

"Well, Tyler's men got out of the way at last in a haphazard fashion, and the Second and Third Divisions were also steadily moving, but hours behind time. Such marching! It reminded one of countrymen streaming along a road to a Fourth of July celebration.

"My main policy was to keep near the commander-in-chief, for thus I hoped to obtain from the staff some idea of the plan of battle and where its brunt would fall. I confess that I was disgusted at first, for the general was said to be ill, and he followed his columns in a carriage. It seemed an odd way of leading an army. But he came out all right; and he did his duty as a soldier and a general, although every one is cursing him to-day. He was the first man on the real battlefield, and by no means the first to leave it.

"Of course I came and went along the line of march, or of straggling rather, as I pleased; but I kept my eye on the general and his staff. I soon observed that he decided to make his headquarters at the point where a road leading from the great Warrenton Turnpike passed to the north through what is known as the 'Big Woods.' Tyler's command continued westward down the turnpike to what is known as the Stone Bridge, a single substantial arch at which the enemy were said to be in force. It now became clear that the first fighting would be there, and that it was McDowell's plan to send his main force under Hunter and Heintzelman further north through the woods to cross at some point above. I therefore followed Tyler's column, as that must soon become engaged.

"The movements had all been so mortally slow that any chance for surprise was lost. As we approached the bridge it was as lovely a summer morning as you would wish to see. I had ridden ahead with the scouts. Thrushes, robins, and other birds were singing in the trees. Startled rabbits, and a mother-bird with a brood of quails, scurried across the road, and all seemed as still and peaceful as any Sunday that had ever dawned on the scene. It was hard to persuade one's self that in front and rear were the forces of deadly war.

"We soon reached an eminence from which we saw what dispelled at once the illusion of sylvan solitude. The sun had been shining an hour or two, and the bridge before us and the road beyond were defended by abatis and other obstructions. On the further bank a line of infantry was in full view with batteries in position prepared to receive us. I confess it sent a thrill through every nerve when I first saw the ranks of the foe we must encounter in no mere pageant of war.

"In a few moments our forces came up, and at first one brigade deployed on the left and another on the right of the pike. At last I witnessed a scene that had the aspect of war. A great thirty-pound Parrot gun unlimbered in the centre of the pike, and looked like a surly mastiff. In a moment an officer, who understood his business, sighted it. There was a flash, bright even in the July sunlight, a grand report awakening the first echoes of a battle whose thunder was heard even in Washington; and a second later we saw the shell explode directly over the line of Confederate infantry. Their ranks broke and melted away as if by magic."

"Good shot, well aimed. Oh heavens! what would I not give to be thirty years younger! Go on, Graham, go on;" for the young man had stopped to take a sip of wine.

"Yes, Graham," cried Hilland, springing to his feet; "what next?"

"I fear we are doing Mr. Graham much wrong," Grace interrupted. "He must be going far beyond his strength."

The young man had addressed his words almost solely to the major, not only out of courtesy, but also for a reason that Grace partially surmised. He now turned and smiled into her flushed, troubled face, and said, "I fear you find these details of war dull and wearisome."

"On the contrary, you are so vivid a raconteur that I fear Warren will start for the front before you are through."

"When I am through you will think differently."

"But you are going beyond your strength."

"I assure you I am not; though I thank you for your thoughtfulness. I never felt better in my life; and it gives me a kind of pleasure to make you all realize things as I saw them."

"And it gives us great pleasure to listen," cried Hilland. "Even Mrs. Mayburn there is knitting as if her needles were bayonets; and Grace has the flush of a soldier's daughter on her cheeks."

"Oh, stop your chatter, and let Graham go on," said the major—"that is, if it's prudent for him," he added from a severe sense of duty. "What followed that blessed shell?"

"A lame and impotent conclusion in the form of many other shells that evoked no reply; and beyond his feeble demonstration Tyler did nothing. It seemed to me that a determined dash at the bridge would have carried it. I was fretting and fuming about when a staff-officer gave me a hint that nothing was to be done at present—that it was all only a feint, and that the columns that had gone northward through the woods would begin the real work. His words were scarcely spoken before I was making my way to the rear. I soon reached McDowell's carriage at the intersection of the roads, and found it empty. Learning that the general, in his impatience, had taken horse and galloped off to see what had become of his tardy commanders, I followed at full speed.

"It was a wild, rough road, scarcely more than a lane through the woods; but Mayburn was equal to it, and like a bird carried me through its gloomy shades, where I observed not a few skulkers cowering in the brush as I sped by. I overtook Heintzelman's command as it was crossing the run at Sudley's Ford; and such a scene of confusion I hope never to witness again. The men were emptying their canteens and refilling them, laving their hands and faces, and refreshing themselves generally. It was really quite a picnic. Officers were storming and ordering 'the boys'—and boys they seemed, indeed—to move on; and by dint of much profanity, and the pressure of those following, regiment after regiment at last straggled up the further bank, went into brigade formation, and shambled forward."

"The cursed mob!" muttered the major.

"Well, poor fellows! they soon won my respect; and yet, as I saw them then, stopping to pick blackberries along the road, I did feel like riding them down. I suppose my horse and I lowered the stream somewhat as we drank, for the day had grown sultry and the sun's rays intensely hot. Then I hastened on to find the general. It seemed as if we should never get out of the woods, as if the army had lost itself in an interminable forest. Wild birds and game fled before us; and I heard one soldier call out to another that it was 'a regular Virginia coon- hunt.' As I reached the head of the column the timber grew thinner, and I was told that McDowell was reconnoitring in advance. Galloping out into the open fields, I saw him far beyond me, already the target of Rebel bullets. His staff and a company of cavalry were with him; and as I approached he seemed rapidly taking in the topographical features of the field. Having apparently satisfied himself, he galloped to the rear; and at the same time Hunter's troops came pouring out of the woods.

"There was now a prospect of warm work and plenty of it. For the life of me I can't tell you how the battle began. Our men came forward in an irregular manner, rushing onward impetuously, halting unnecessarily, with no master mind directing. It seemed at first as if the mere momentum of the march carried us under the enemy's fire; and then there was foolish delay. By the aid of my powerful glass I was convinced that we might have walked right over the first thin Rebel line on the ridge nearest us.

"The artillery exchanged shots awhile. Regiments under the command of General Burnside deployed in the fields to the left of the road down which we had come; skirmishers were thrown out rapidly and began their irregular firing at an absurd distance from the enemy. There was hesitancy, delay; and the awkwardness of troops unaccustomed to act together in large bodies was enhanced by the excitement inseparable from their first experience of real war.

"In spite of all this the battlefield began to present grand and inspiring effects. The troops were debouching rapidly from the woods, their bayonets gleaming here and there through the dust raised by their hurrying feet, and burning in serried lines when they were ranged under the cloudless sun. In every movement made by every soldier the metal points in his accoutrements flashed and scintillated. Again there was something very spirited in the appearance of a battery rushed into position at a gallop—the almost instantaneous unlimbering, the caissons moving to the rear, and the guns at the same moment thundering their defiance, while the smoke, lifting slowly on the heavy air, rises and blends with that of the other side, and hangs like a pall to leeward of the field. The grandest thing of all, however, was the change in the men. The uncouth, coarsely jesting, blackberry-picking fellows that lagged and straggled to the battle became soldiers in their instincts and rising excitement and courage, if not in machine-like discipline and coolness. As I rode here and there I could see that they were erect, eager, and that their eyes began to glow like coals from their dusty, sunburned visages. If there were occasional evidences of fear, there were more of resolution and desire for the fray.

"The aspect of affairs on the ridge, where the enemy awaited us, did not grow encouraging. With my glass I could see re-inforcements coming up rapidly during our delay. New guns were seeking position, which was scarcely taken before there was a puff of smoke and their iron message. Heavens! what a vicious sound those shells had! something between a whiz and a shriek. Even the horses would cringe and shudder when one passed over them, and the men would duck their heads, though the missile was thirty feet in the air. I suppose there was some awfully wild firing on both sides; but I saw several of our men carried to the rear. But all this detail is an old, old story to you, Major."

"Yes, an old story, but one that can never lose its fierce charm. I see it all as you describe it. Go on, and omit nothing you can remember of the scene. Mrs. Mayburn looks as grim as one of your cannon; and Grace, my child, you won't flinch, will you?"

"No, papa."

"That's my brave wife's child. She often said, 'Tell me all. I wish to know just what you have passed through.'"

A brief glance assured Graham that her father's spirit was then supreme, and that she looked with woman's admiration on a scene replete with the manhood woman most admires.

"I cannot describe to you the battle, as such," continued Graham. "I can only outline faintly the picture I saw dimly through dust and smoke from my own standpoint. Being under no one's orders, I could go where I pleased, and I tried to find the vital points. Of course, there was much heavy fighting that I saw nothing of, movements unknown to me or caught but imperfectly. During the preliminary conflict I remained on the right of Burnside's command near the Sudley Road by which our army had reached the field.

"When at last his troops began to press forward, their advance was decided and courageous; but the enemy held their own stubbornly. The fighting was severe and deadly, for we were now within easy musket range. At one time I trembled for Burnside's lines, and I saw one of his aides gallop furiously to the rear for help. It came almost immediately in the form of a fine body of regulars under Major Sykes; and our wavering lines were rendered firm and more aggressive than ever. At the same time it was evident that our forces were going into action off to the right of the Sudley Road, and that another battery had opened on the enemy. I afterward learned that they were Rickett's guns. Under this increasing and relentless pressure the enemy's lines were seen to waver. Wild cheers went up from our ranks; and such is the power of the human voice—the echo direct from the heart—that these shouts rose above the roar of the cannon, the crash of musketry, and thrilled every nerve and fibre. Onward pressed our men; the Rebel lines yielded, broke, and our foes retreated down the hill, but at a dogged, stubborn pace, fighting as they went. Seeing the direction they were taking, I dashed into the Sudley Road near which I had kept as the centre of operations. At the intersection of this road with the Warrenton Turnpike was a stone house, and behind this the enemy rallied as if determined to retreat no further. I had scarcely observed this fact when I saw a body of men forming in the road just above me. In a few moments they were in motion. On they came, a resistless human torrent with a roar of hoarse shouts and cries. I was carried along with them; but before we reached the stone house the enemy broke and fled, and the whole Rebel line was swept back half a mile or more.

"Thus you see that in the first severe conflict of the day, and when pitted against numbers comparatively equal, we won a decided victory."

Both the major and Hilland drew a long breath of relief; and the former said: "I have been hasty and unjust in my censure. If that raw militia could be made to fight at all, it can in time be made to fight well. Mr. Graham, you have deeply gratified an old soldier to-night by describing scenes that carry me back to the grand era of my life. I believe I was born to be a soldier; and my old campaigns stand out in memory like sun-lighted mountain-tops. Forgive such high-flown talk—I know it's not like me—but I've had to-night some of my old battle excitement. I never thought to feel it again. We'll hear the rest of your story to-morrow. I outrank you all, by age at least; and I now order 'taps.'"

Graham was not sorry, for in strong reaction a sudden sense of almost mortal weakness overcame him. Even the presence of Grace, for whose sake, after all, he had unconsciously told his story, could not sustain him any longer, and he sank back looking very white.

"You have overexerted yourself," she said gently, coming, to his side. "You should have stopped when I cautioned you; or rather, we should have been more thoughtful."

"Perhaps I have overrated my strength—it's a fault of mine," was his smiling reply, "I shall be perfectly well after a night's rest."

He had looked up at her as he spoke; and in that moment of weakness there was a wistful, hungry look in his eyes that smote her heart.

A shallow, silly woman, or an intensely selfish one, would have exulted. Here was a man, cool, strong, and masterful among other men— a man who had gone to the other side of the globe to escape her power —one who within the last few days had witnessed a battle with the quiet poise that enabled him to study it as an artist or a tactician; and yet he could not keep his eyes from betraying the truth that there was something within his heart stronger than himself.

Did Grace Hilland lay this flattering unction to her soul? No. She went away inexpressibly sad. She felt that two battle scenes had been presented to her mind; and the conflict that had been waged silently, patiently, and unceasingly in a strong man's soul had to her the higher elements of heroism. It was another of those wretched problems offered by this imperfect world for which there seems no remedy.

When Hilland hastened over to see his friend and add a few hearty words to those he had already spoken, he was told that he was sleeping.

CHAPTER XXI

THE LOGIC OF EVENTS

Graham was right in his prediction that another night's rest would carry him far on the road to recovery; and he insisted, when Hilland called in the morning, that the major should remain in his accustomed chair at home, and listen to the remainder of the story. "My habit of life is so active," he said, "that a little change will do me good;" and so it was arranged. By leaning on Hilland's shoulder he was able to limp the short distance between the cottages; and he found that Grace had made every arrangement for his comfort on the piazza, where the major welcomed him with almost the eagerness of a child for whom an absorbing story is to be continued.

"You can't know how you interested us all last night," Grace began. "I never knew papa to be more gratified; and as for Warren, he could not sleep for excitement. Where did you learn to tell stories?"

"I was said to be very good at fiction when a boy, especially when I got into scrapes. But you can't expect in this garish light any such effects as I may have created last evening. It requires the mysterious power of night and other conditions to secure a glamour; and so you must look for the baldest prose to-day."

"Indeed, Graham, we scarcely know what to expect from you any more," Hilland remarked. "From being a quiet cynic philosopher, content to delve in old libraries like the typical bookworm, you become an indefatigable sportsman, horse-tamer, explorer of the remote parts of the earth, and last, and strangest, a newspaper correspondent who doesn't know that the place to see and write about battles is several miles in the rear. What will you do next?"

"My future will be redeemed from the faintest trace of eccentricity. I shall do what about a million other Americans will do eventually—go into the army."

"Ah! now you talk sense, and I am with you. I shall be ready to go as soon as you are well enough."

"I doubt it."

"I don't."

"Grace, what do you say to all this?" turning a troubled look upon the wife.

"I foresee that, like my mother, I am to be the wife of a soldier," she replied with a smile, while tears stood in her eyes. "I did not marry Warren to destroy his sense of manhood."

"You see, Graham, how it is. You also perceive what a knight I must be to be worthy of the lady I leave in bower."

"Yes; I see it all too well. But I must misquote Shakespeare to you, and 'charge you to stand on the order of your going;' and I think the rest of my story will prove that I have good reason for the charge."

"I should have been sorry," said the major, "to have had Grace marry a man who would consult only ease and safety in times like these. It will be awfully hard to have him go. But the time may soon come when it would be harder for Grace to have him stay; that is, if she is like her mother. But what's the use of looking at the gloomy side? I've been through a dozen battles; and here I am to plague the world yet. But now for the story. You left off, Mr. Graham, at the rout of the first Rebel line of battle."

"And this had not been attained," resumed Graham, "without serious loss to our side. Colonel Hunter, who commanded the Second Division, you remember, was so severely wounded by a shell that he had to leave the field early in the action. Colonel Slocum of one of the Rhode Island regiments was mortally wounded; and his major had his leg crushed by a cannon ball which at the same time killed his horse. Many others were wounded and must have had a hard time of it, poor fellows, that hot day. As for the dead that strewed the ground—their troubles were over."

"But not the troubles of those that loved them," said Grace, bitterly.

Graham turned hastily away. When a moment later he resumed his narrative, she noticed that his eyes were moist and his tones husky.

"Our heaviest loss was in the demoralization of some of the regiments engaged. They appeared to have so little cohesion that one feared all the time that they might crumble away into mere human atoms.

"The affair continually took on a larger aspect, as more troops became engaged. We had driven the Confederates down a gentle slope, across a small stream called Young's Branch, and up a hill beyond and to the south. This position was higher and stronger than any they had yet occupied. On the crest of the hill were two houses; and the enemy could be seen forming a line extending from one to the other. They were evidently receiving re-enforcements rapidly. I could see gray columns hastening forward and deploying; and I've no doubt that many of the fugitives were rallied beyond this line. Meanwhile, I was informed that Tyler's Division, left in the morning at Stone Bridge, had crossed the Run, in obedience to McDowell's orders, and were on the field at the left of our line. Such, as far as I could judge, was the position of affairs between twelve and one, although I can give you only my impressions. It appeared to me that our men were fighting well, gradually and steadily advancing, and closing in upon the enemy. Still, I cannot help feeling that if we had followed up our success by the determined charge of one brigade that would hold together, the hill might have been swept, and victory made certain.

"I had taken my position near Rickett's and Griffin's batteries on the right of our line, and decided to follow them up, not only because they were doing splendid work, but also for the reason that they would naturally be given commanding positions at vital points. By about two o'clock we had occupied the Warrenton Turnpike; and we justly felt that much had been gained. The Confederate lines between the two houses on the hill had given way; and from the sounds we heard, they must have been driven back also by a charge on our extreme left. Indeed, there was scarcely anything to be seen of the foe that thus far had been not only seen but felt.

"From a height near the batteries where I stood, the problem appeared somewhat clear to me. We had driven the enemy up and over a hill of considerable altitude, and across an uneven plateau, and they were undoubtedly in the woods beyond, a splendid position which commanded the entire open space over which we must advance to reach them. They were in cover; we should be in full view in all efforts to dislodge them. Their very reverses had secured for them a position worth half a dozen regiments; and I trembled as I thought of our raw militia advancing under conditions that would try the courage of veterans. You remember that if Washington, in the Revolution, could get his new recruits behind a rail-fence, they thought they were safe.

"Well, there was no help for it. The hill and plateau must be crossed under a pointblank fire, in order to reach the enemy, and that, too, by men who had been under arms since midnight, and the majority wearied by a long march under a blazing sun.

"About half-past two, when the assault began, a strange and ominous quiet rested on the field. As I have said, the enemy had disappeared. The men scarcely knew what to think of it; and in some a false confidence, speedily dispelled, was begotten. Rickett's battery was moved down across the valley to the top of a hill just beyond the residence owned and occupied by a Mrs. Henry. I followed and entered the house, already shattered by shot and shell, curious to know whether it was occupied, and by whom. Pitiful to relate, I found that Mrs. Henry was a widow and a helpless invalid. The poor woman was in mortal terror; and it was my hope to return and carry her to some place of safety, but the swift and deadly tide of war gave me no chance. [Footnote: Mrs. Henry, although confined to her bed, was wounded two or three times, and died soon afterward.]

"Ricketts' battery had scarcely unlimbered before death was busy among his cannoneers and even his horses. The enemy had the cover not only of the woods, but of a second growth of pines, which fringed them and completely concealed the Rebel sharpshooters. When a man fell, nothing could be seen but a puff of smoke. These little jets and wreaths of smoke half encircled us, and made but a phantom-like target for our people; and I think it speaks well for officers and men that they not only did their duty, but that Griffin's battery also came up, and that both batteries held their own against a terrific pointblank fire from the Rebel cannon, which certainly exceeded ours in number. The range was exceedingly short, and a more terrific artillery duel it would be hard to imagine. At the same time the more deadly little puffs of smoke continued; and men in every attitude of duty would suddenly throw up their hands and fall. The batteries had no business to be so exposed, and their supports were of no real service.

"I can give you an idea of what occurred at this point only; but, from the sounds I heard, there was very heavy fighting elsewhere, which I fear, however, was too spasmodic and ill-directed to accomplish the required ends. A heavy, persistent, concentrated attack, a swift push with the bayonet through the low pines and woods, would have saved the day. Perhaps our troops were not equal to it; and yet, poor fellows, they did braver things that were utterly useless.

"I still believe, however, all might have gone well, had it not been for a horrible mistake. I was not very far from Captain Griffin, and was watching his cool, effective superintendence of his guns, when suddenly I noticed a regiment in full view on our right advancing toward us. Griffin caught sight of it at the same moment, and seemed amazed. Were they Confederates or National? was the question to be decided instantly. They might be his own support. Doubtful and yet exceedingly apprehensive, he ordered his guns to be loaded with canister and trained upon this dubious force that had come into view like an apparition; but he still hesitated, restrained, doubtless, by the fearful thought of annihilating a Union regiment.

"'Captain,' said Major Barry, chief of artillery, 'they are your battery support.'

"'They are Confederates.' Griffin replied, intensely excited. 'As certain as the world, they are Confederates.'

"'No,' was the answer, 'I know they are your battery support.'

"I had ridden up within ear-shot, and levelled my glass upon them. 'Don't fire,' cried Griffin, and he spurred forward to satisfy himself.

"At the same moment the regiment, now within short range, by a sudden instantaneous act levelled their muskets at us. I saw we were doomed, and yet by some instinct tightened my rein while I dug my spurs into my horse. He reared instantly. I saw a line of fire, and then poor Mayburn fell upon me, quivered, and was dead. The body of a man broke my fall in such a way that I was not hurt. Indeed, at the moment I was chiefly conscious of intense anger and disgust. If Griffin had followed his instinct and destroyed that regiment, as he could have done by one discharge, the result of the whole battle might have been different. As it was, both his and Rickett's batteries were practically annihilated." [Footnote: Since the above was written Colonel Hasbrouck has given me an account of this crisis in the battle. He was sufficiently near to hear the conversation found in the text, and to enable me to supplement it by fuller details. Captain Griffin emphatically declared that no Union regiment could possibly come from that quarter, adding, "They are dressed in gray."

Major Barry with equal emphasis asserted that they were National troops, and unfortunately we had regiments in gray uniforms. Seeing that Captain Griffin was not convinced, he said peremptorily, "I command you not to fire on that regiment."

Of course this direct order ended the controversy, and Captain Griffin directed that his guns be shifted again toward the main body of the enemy, while he rode forward a little space to reconnoitre.

During all this fatal delay the Confederate regiment was approaching, marching by the flank, and so passed at one time within pointblank range of the guns that would scarcely have left a man upon his feet. The nature of their advance was foolhardy in the extreme, and at the time that Captain Griffin wished to fire they were practically helpless. A Virginia worm-fence was in their path, and so frightened, nervous, and excited were they that, instead of tearing it down, they began clambering over it until by weight and numbers it was trampled under foot.

They approached so near that the order to "fire low" was distinctly heard by our men as the Confederates went into battle-line formation.

The scene following their volley almost defies description. The horses attached to caissons not only tore down and through the ascending National battle-line, but Colonel—then Lieutenant—Hasbrouck saw several teams dash over the knoll toward the Confederate regiment, that opened ranks to let them pass. So novel were the scenes of war at that time that the Confederates were as much astonished as the members of the batteries left alive, and at first did not advance, although it was evident that there were, at the moment, none to oppose them. The storm of Rebel bullets had ranged so low that Lieutenant Hasbrouck and Captain Griffin owed their safety to the fact that they were mounted. The horses of both officers were wounded. On the way down the northern slope of the hill, with the few Union survivors, Captain Griffin met Major Barry, and in his intense anger and grief reproached him bitterly. The latter gloomily admitted that he had been mistaken.

Captain Ricketts was wounded, and the battle subsequently surged back and forth over his prostrate form, but eventually he was sent as a captive to Richmond.]

The major uttered an imprecation.

"I was pinned to the ground by the weight of my horse, but not so closely but that I could look around. The carnage had been frightful. But few were on their feet, and they in rapid motion to the rear. The horses left alive rushed down the hill with the caissons, spreading dismay, confusion, and disorder through the ascending line of battle. Our supporting regiment in the rear, that had been lying on their arms, sprang to their feet and stood like men paralyzed with horror; meanwhile, the Rebel regiment, re-enforced, was advancing rapidly on the disabled guns—their defenders lay beneath and around them—firing as they came. Our support gave them one ineffectual volley, then turned and fled."

Again the major relieved his mind in his characteristic way.

"But you, Alford?" cried Grace, leaning forward with clasped hands, while his aunt came and buried her face upon his shoulder. "Are you keeping your promise to live?" she whispered.

"Am I not here safe and sound?" he replied, cheerily. "Nothing much happened to me, Grace. When I saw the enemy was near, I merely doubled myself up under my horse, and was nothing to them but a dead Yankee. I was only somewhat trodden upon, as I told you, when the Confederates tried to turn the guns against our forces.

"I fear I am doing a wrong to the ladies by going into these sanguinary details."

"No," said the major, emphatically; "Mrs. Mayburn would have been a general had she been a man; and Grace has heard about battles all her life. It's a great deal better to understand from the start what this war means."

"I especially wished Hilland to hear the details of this battle as far as I saw them, for I think they contain lessons that may be of great service to him. That he would engage in the war was a foregone conclusion from the first; and with his means and ability he may take a very important part in it. But of this later.

"As I told you, I made the rather close acquaintance of your kin, Grace, and can testify that the 'fa' of their feet' was not 'fairy- like.' Before they could accomplish their purpose of turning the guns on our lines, I heard the rushing tramp of a multitude, with defiant shouts and yells. Rebels fell around me. The living left the guns, sought to form a line, but suddenly gave way in dire confusion, and fled to the cover from which they came. A moment later a body of our men surged like an advancing wave over the spot they had occupied.

"Now was my chance; and I reached up and seized the hand of a tall, burly Irishman. "What the divil du ye want?" he cried, and in his mad excitement was about to thrust me through for a Confederate.

"'Halt!' I thundered. The familiar word of command restrained him long enough for me to secure his attention. 'Would you kill a Union man?'"

"'Is it Union ye are? What yez doin' here, thin, widut a uniform?'

"I showed him my badge of correspondent, and explained briefly.

"Strange as it may seem to you, he uttered a loud, jolly laugh. 'Faix, an' it's a writer ye are. Ye'll be apt to git some memmyrandums the day that ye'll carry about wid ye till ye die, and that may be in about a minnit. I'll shtop long enough to give yez a lift, or yez hoss, rather;' and he seized poor Mayburn by the head. His excitement seemed to give him the strength of a giant, for in a moment I was released and stood erect.

"'Give me a musket,' I cried, 'and I'll stand by you.'

"'Bedad, hilp yersilf,' he replied, pushing forward. 'There's plenty o' fellers lyin' aroun' that has no use for them;' and he was lost in the confused advance.

"All this took place in less time than it takes to describe it, for events at that juncture were almost as swift as bullets. Lame as I was, I hobbled around briskly, and soon secured a good musket with a supply of cartridges. As with the rest, my blood was up—don't smile, Hilland: I had been pretty cool until the murderous discharge that killed my horse—and I was soon in the front line, firing with the rest.

"Excited as I was, I saw that our position was desperate, for a heavy force of Confederates was swarming toward us. I looked around and saw that part of our men were trying to drag off the guns. This seemed the more important work; and discretion also whispered that with my bruised foot I should be captured in five minutes unless I was further to the rear. So I took a pull at a gun; but we had made little progress before there was another great surging wave from the other direction, and our forces were swept down the hill again, I along with the rest. The confusion was fearful; the regiments with which I had been acting went all to pieces, and had no more organization than if they had been mixed up by a whirlwind.

"I was becoming too lame to walk, and found myself in a serious dilemma." "Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Hilland. "It was just becoming serious, eh?"

"Well, I didn't realize my lameness before; and as retreat was soon to be order of the day, there was little prospect of my doing my share. As I was trying to extricate myself from the shattered regiments, I saw a riderless horse plunging toward me. To seize his bridle and climb into the saddle was the work of a moment; and I felt that, unlike McDowell, I was still master of the situation. Working my out of the press and to our right, I saw that another charge for the guns by fresh troops was in progress. It seemed successful at first. The guns were retaken, but soon the same old story was repeated, and a corresponding rush from the other side swept our men back.

"Would you believe it, this capture and recapture occurred several times. A single regiment even would dash forward, and actually drive the Rebels back, only to lose a few moments later what they had gained. Never was there braver fighting, never worse tactics. The repeated successes of small bodies of troops proved that a compact battle line could have swept the ridge, and not only retaken the guns, but made them effective in the conflict. As it was, the two sides worried and tore each other like great dogs, governed merely by the impulse and instinct of fight. The batteries were the bone between them.

"This senseless, wasteful struggle could not go on forever. That it lasted as long as it did speaks volumes in favor of the material of which our future soldiers are to be made. As I rode slowly from the line and scene of actual battle, of which I had had enough, I became disheartened. We had men in plenty—there were thousands on every side—but in what condition! There was no appearance of fear among the men I saw at about four P.M. (I can only guess the time, for my watch had stopped), but abundant evidence of false confidence and still more of the indifference of men who feel they have done all that should be required of them and are utterly fagged out. Multitudes, both officers and privates, were lying and lounging around waiting for their comrades to finish the ball.

"For instance, I would ask a man to what regiment he belonged, and he would tell me.

"'Where is it?'

"'Hanged if I know. Saw a lot of the boys awhile ago.'

"Said an officer in answer to my inquiries, 'No; I don't know where the colonel is, and I don't care. After one of our charges we all adjourned like a town meeting. I'm played out; have been on my feet since one o'clock last night.'

"These instances were characteristic of the state of affairs in certain parts of the field that I visited. Plucky or conscientious fellows would join their comrades in the fight without caring what regiment they acted with; but the majority of the great disorganized mass did what they pleased, after the manner of a country fair, crowding in all instances around places where water could be obtained. Great numbers had thrown away their canteens and provisions, as too heavy to carry in the heat, or as impediments in action. Officers and men were mixed up promiscuously, hobnobbing and chaffing in a languid way, and talking over their experiences, as if they were neighbors at home. The most wonderful part of it all was that they had no sense of their danger and of the destruction they were inviting by their unsoldierly course.

"I tried to impress these dangers on one or two, but the reply was, 'Oh, hang it! The Rebs are as badly used up as we are. Don't you see things are growing more quiet? Give us a rest!'

"By this time I had worked my way well to my right, and was on a little eminence watching our line advance, wondering at the spirit with which the fight was still maintained. Indeed, I grew hopeful once more as I saw the good work that the regiments still intact were doing. There was much truth in the remark that the Rebels were used up also, unless they had reserves of which we knew nothing. At that time we had no idea that we had been fighting, not only Beauregard, but also Johnson from the Shenandoah.

"My hope was exceedingly intensified by the appearance of a long line of troops emerging from the woods on our flank and rear, for I never dreamed that they could be other than our own re-enforcements. Suddenly I caught sight of a flag which I had learned to know too well. The line halted a moment, muskets were levelled, and I found myself in a perfect storm of bullets. I assure you I made a rapid change of base, for when our line turned I should be between two fires. As it was, I was cut twice in this arm while galloping away. In a few moments a battery also opened upon our flank; and it became as certain as day that a large Confederate force from some quarter had been hurled upon the flank and rear of our exhausted forces. The belief that Johnson's army had arrived spread like wildfire. How absurd and crude it all seems now! We had been fighting Johnson from the first.

"All aggressive action on our part now ceased; and as if governed by one common impulse, the army began its retreat.

"Try to realize it. Our retirement was not ordered. There were thousands to whom no order could be given unless with a voice like a thunder peal. Indeed, one may say, the order was given by the thunder of that battery on our flank. It was heard throughout the field; and the army, acting as individuals or in detachments, decided to leave. To show how utterly bereft of guidance, control, and judgment were our forces, I have merely to say that each man started back by exactly the same route he had come, just as a horse would do, while right before them was the Warrenton Pike, a good, straight road direct to Centerville, which was distant but little over four miles.

"This disorganized, exhausted mob was as truly in just the fatal condition for the awful contagion we call 'panic' as it would have been from improper food and other causes, for some other epidemic. The Greeks, who always had a reason for everything, ascribed the nameless dread, the sudden and unaccountable fear, which bereaves men of manhood and reason, to the presence of a god. It is simply a latent human weakness, which certain conditions rarely fail to develop. They were all present at the close of that fatal day. I tell you frankly that I felt something of it myself, and at a time, too, when I knew I was not in the least immediate danger. To counteract it I turned and rode deliberately toward the enemy, and the emotion passed. I half believe, however, that if I had yielded, it would have carried me away like an attack of the plague. The moral of it all is, that the conditions of the disease should be guarded against.

"When it became evident that the army was uncontrollable and was leaving the field, I pressed my way to the vicinity of McDowell to see what he would do. What could he do? I never saw a man so overwhelmed with astonishment and anger. Almost to the last I believe he expected to win the day. He and his officers commanded, stormed, entreated. He might as well have tried to stop Niagara above the falls as that human tide. He sent orders in all directions for a general concentration at Centerville, and then with certain of his staff galloped away. I tried to follow, but was prevented by the interposing crowd.

"I then joined a detachment of regulars and marines, who marched quietly in prompt obedience of orders; and we made our way through the disorder like a steamer through the surging waves. All the treatises on discipline that were ever written would not have been so convincing as that little oasis of organization. They marched very slowly, and often halted to cover the retreat.

"I had now seen enough on the further bank of Bull Run, and resolved to push ahead as fast as my horse would walk to the eastern side. Moreover, my leg and wounds were becoming painful, and I was exceedingly weary. I naturally followed the route taken by Tyler's command in coming upon and returning from the field, and crossed Bull Run some distance above the Stone Bridge. The way was so impeded by fugitives that my progress was slow, but when I at last reached the Warrenton Turnpike and proceeded toward a wretched little stream called Cub Run, I witnessed a scene that beggars description.

"Throughout the entire day, and especially in the afternoon, vehicles of every description—supply wagons, ambulances, and the carriages of civilians—had been congregating in the Pike vicinity of Stone Bridge. When the news of the defeat reached this point, and the roar of cannon and musketry began to approach instead of recede, a general movement toward Centerville began. This soon degenerated into the wildest panic, and the road was speedily choked by storming, cursing, terror- stricken men, who in their furious haste, defeated their own efforts to escape. It was pitiful, it was shameful, to see ambulances full of the wounded shoved to one side and left by the cowardly thieves who had galloped away on the horses. It was one long scene of wreck and ruin, through which pressed a struggling, sweating, cursing throng. Horses with their traces cut, and carrying two and even three men, were urged on and over everybody that could not get out of the way. Everything was abandoned that would impede progress, and arms and property of all kinds were left as a rich harvest for the pursuing Confederates. Their cavalry, hovering near, like hawks eager for the prey, made dashes here and there, as opportunity offered.

"I picked my way through the woods rather than take my chances in the road, and so my progress was slow. To make matters tenfold worse, I found when I reached the road leading to the north through the 'Big Woods' that the head of the column that had come all the way around by Sudley's Ford, the route of the morning march, was mingling with the masses already thronging the Pike. The confusion, the selfish, remorseless scramble to get ahead, seemed as horrible as it could be; but imagine the condition of affairs when on reaching the vicinity of Cub Run we found that a Rebel battery had opened upon the bridge, our only visible means of crossing. A few moments later, from a little eminence, I saw a shot take effect on a team of horses; and a heavy caisson was overturned directly in the centre of the bridge, barring all advance, while the mass of soldiers, civilians, and nondescript army followers, thus detained under fire, became perfectly wild with terror. The caisson was soon removed, and the throng rushed on.

"I had become so heart-sick, disgusted, and weary of the whole thing, that my one impulse was to reach Centerville, where I supposed we should make a stand. As I was on the north side of the Pike, I skirted up the stream with a number of others until we found a place where we could scramble across, and soon after we passed within a brigade of our troops that were thrown across the road to check the probable pursuit of the enemy.

"On reaching Centerville, we found everything in the direst confusion. Colonel Miles, who commanded the reserves at that point, was unfit for the position, and had given orders that had imperilled the entire army. It was said that the troops which had come around by Sudley's ford had lost all their guns at Cub Run; and the fugitives arriving were demoralized to the last degree. Indeed, a large part of the army, without waiting for orders or paying heed to any one, continued their flight toward Washington. Holding the bridle of my horse, I lay down near headquarters to rest and to learn what would be done. A council of war was held, and as the result we were soon on the retreat again. The retreat, or panic-stricken flight rather, had, in fact, never ceased on the part of most of those who had been in the main battle. That they could keep up this desperate tramp was a remarkable example of human endurance when sustained by excitement, fear, or any strong emotion. The men who marched or fled on Sunday night had already been on their feet twenty-four hours, and the greater part of them had experienced the terrific strain of actual battle.

"My story has already been much too long. From the daily journals you have learned pretty accurately what occurred after we reached Centerville. Richardson's and Blenker's brigades made a quiet and orderly retreat when all danger to the main body was over. The sick and wounded were left behind with spoils enough to equip a good-sized Confederate army. I followed the headquarters escort, and eventually made my way into Washington in the drenching rain of Monday, and found the city crowded with fugitives to whom the loyal people were extending unbounded hospitality. I felt ill and feverish, and yielded to the impulse to reach home; and I never acted more wisely.

"Now you have the history of my first battle; and may I never see one like it again. And yet I believe the battle of Bull Run will become one of the most interesting studies of American history and character. On our side it was not directed by generals, according to the rules of war. It was fought by Northern men after their own fashion and according to their native genius; and I shall ever maintain that it was fought far better than could have been expected of militia who knew less of the practical science of war than of the philosophy of Plato.

"The moral of my story, Hilland, scarcely needs pointing; and it applies to us both. When we go, let us go as soldiers; and if we have only a corporal's command, let us lead soldiers. The grand Northern onset of which you have dreamed so long has been made. You have seen the result. You have the means and ability to equip and command a regiment. Infuse into it your own spirit; and at the same time make it a machine that will hold together as long as you have a man left."

"Graham," said Hilland, slowly and deliberately, "there is no resisting the logic of events. You have convinced me of my error, and I shall follow your advice."

"And, Grace," concluded Graham, "believe me, by so doing he adds tenfold to his chances of living to a good old age."

"Yes," she said, looking at him gratefully through tear-dimmed eyes. "You have convinced me of that also."

"Instead of rushing off to some out-of-the-way place or camp, he must spend months in recruiting and drilling his men; and you can be with him."

"Oh, Alford!" she exclaimed, "is that the heavenly logic of your long, terrible story?"

"It's the rational logic; you could not expect any other kind from me."

"Well, Graham," ejaculated the major, with a long sigh of relief, "I wouldn't have missed your account of the battle for a year's pay. And mark my words, young men, you may not live to see it, or I either, but the North will win in this fight. That's the fact that I'm convinced of in spite of the panic."

"The fact that I'm convinced of," said Mrs. Mayburn brusquely, mopping her eyes meanwhile, "is that Alford needs rest. I'm going to take him home at once." And the young man seconded her in spite of all protestations.

"Dear, vigilant old aunty," said Graham, when they were alone, "you know when I have reached the limit of endurance."

"Ah! Alford, Alford," moaned the poor woman, "I fear you are seeking death in this war."

He looked at her tenderly for a moment, and then said, "Hereafter I will try to take no greater risks than a soldier's duties require."



CHAPTER XXII

SELF-SENTENCED

Days, weeks, and months with their changes came and went. Hilland, with characteristic promptness, carried out his friend's suggestion; and through his own means and personal efforts, in great measure, recruited and equipped a regiment of cavalry. He was eager that his friend should take a command in it; but Graham firmly refused.

"Our relations are too intimate for discipline," he said. "We might be placed in situations wherein our friendship would embarrass us."

Grace surmised that he had another reason; for, as time passed, she saw less and less of him. He had promptly obtained a lieutenancy in a regiment that was being recruited at Washington; and by the time her husband's regiment reached that city, the more disciplined organization to which Graham was attached was ordered out on the Virginia picket line beyond Arlington Heights.

Hilland, with characteristic modesty, would not take the colonelcy of the regiment that he chiefly had raised; but secured for the place a fine officer of the regular army, and contented himself with a captaincy. "Efficiency of the service is what I am aiming at," he said. "I would much rather rise by merit from the ranks than command a brigade by favor."

Unlike many men of wealth, he had a noble repugnance to taking any public advantage of it; and the numerous officers of the time that had obtained their positions by influence were his detestation.

Graham's predictions in regard to Grace were fulfilled. For long months she saw her husband almost daily, and, had it not been for the cloud that hung over the future, it would have been one of the happiest periods of her life. She saw Hilland engaged in tasks that brought him a deep and growing satisfaction. She saw her father in his very element. There were no more days of dulness and weariness for him. The daily journals teemed with subjects of interest, and with their aid he planned innumerable campaigns. Military men were coming and going, and with these young officers the veteran was an oracle. He gave Hilland much shrewd advice; and even when it was not good, it was listened to with deference, and so the result was just as agreeable to the major.

What sweeter joy is there for the aged than to sit in the seat of judgment and counsel, and feel that the world would go awry were it not for the guidance and aid of their experience! Alas for the poor old major, and those like him! The world does not grow old as they do. It only changes and becomes more vast and complicated. What was wisest and best in their day becomes often as antiquated as the culverin that once defended castellated ramparts.

Happily the major had as yet no suspicion of this; and when he and Grace accompanied Hilland and his regiment to Washington, the measure of his content was full. There he could daily meet other veterans of the regular service; and in listening to their talk, one might imagine that McClellan had only to attend their sittings to learn how to subdue the rebellion within a few months. These veterans were not bitter partisans. General Robert E. Lee was "Bob Lee" to them; and the other chiefs of the Confederacy were spoken of by some familiar sobriquet, acquired in many instances when boys at West Point. They would have fought these old friends and acquaintances to the bitter end, according to the tactics of the old school; but after the battle, those that survived would have hobnobbed together over a bottle of wine as sociably as if they had been companions in arms.

Mrs. Mayburn accompanied the major's party to Washington, for, as she said, she was "hungry for a sight of her boy." As often as his duties permitted, Graham rode in from the front to see her. But it began to be noticed that after these visits he ever sought some perilous duty on the picket line, or engaged in some dash at the enemy or guerillas in the vicinity. He could not visit his aunt without seeing Grace, whose tones were now so gentle when she spoke to him, and so full of her heart's deep gratitude, that a renewal of his old fierce fever of unrest was the result. He was already gaining a reputation for extreme daring, combined with unusual coolness and vigilance; and before the campaign of '62 opened he had been promoted to a first lieutenancy.

Time passed; the angry torrent of the war broadened and deepened. Men and measures that had stood out like landmarks were engulfed and forgotten.

It goes without saying that the friends did their duty in camp and field. There were no more panics. The great organizer, McClellan, had made soldiers of the vast army; and had he been retained in the service as the creator of armies for other men to lead, his labors would have been invaluable.

At last, to the deep satisfaction of Graham and Hilland, their regiments were brigaded together, and they frequently met. It was then near the close of the active operations of '62, and the friends now ranked as Captain Graham and Major Hilland. Notwithstanding the reverses suffered by the Union arms, the young men's confidence was unabated as to the final issue. Hilland had passed through several severe conflicts, and his name had been mentioned by reason of his gallantry. Grace began to feel that fate could never be so cruel as to destroy her very life in his life. She saw that her father exulted more over her husband's soldierly qualities than in all his wealth; and although they spent the summer season as usual at the seaside with Mrs. Mayburn, the hearts of all three were following two regiments through the forests and fields of Virginia. Half a score of journals were daily searched for items concerning them, and the arrival of the mails was the event of the day.

There came a letter in the autumn which filled the heart of Grace with immeasurable joy and very, very deep sadness. Mrs. Mayburn was stricken to the heart, and would not be comforted, while the old major swore and blessed God by turns.

The cause was this. The brigade with which the friends were connected was sent on a reconnaissance, and they felt the enemy strongly before retiring, which at last they were compelled to do precipitately. It so happened that Hilland commanded the rear-guard. In an advance he ever led; on a retreat he was apt to keep well to the rear. In the present instance the pursuit had been prompt and determined, and he had been compelled to make more than one repelling charge to prevent the retiring column from being pressed too hard. His command had thus lost heavily, and at last overwhelming numbers drove them back at a gallop.

Graham, in the rear of the main column, which had just crossed a small wooden bridge over a wide ditch or little run through the fields, saw the headlong retreat of Hilland's men, and he instantly deployed his company that he might check the close pursuit by a volley. As the Union troopers neared the bridge it was evidently a race for life and liberty, for they were outnumbered ten to one. In a few moments they began to pour over, but Hilland did not lead. They were nearly all across, but their commander was not among them; and Graham was wild with anxiety as he sat on his horse at the right of his line waiting to give the order to fire. Suddenly, in the failing light of the evening, he saw Hilland with his right arm hanging helpless, spurring a horse badly blown; while gaining fast upon him were four savage- looking Confederates, their sabres emitting a steely, deadly sheen, and uplifted to strike the moment they could reach him.

With the rapidity of light, Graham's eye measured the distance between his friend and the bridge, and his instantaneous conviction was that Hilland was doomed, for he could not order a volley without killing him almost to a certainty. At that supreme crisis, the suggestion passed through his mind like a lurid flash, "In a few moments Hilland will be dead, and Grace may yet be mine."

Then, like an avenging demon, the thought confronted him. He saw it in its true aspect, and in an outburst of self-accusing fury he passed the death sentence on himself. Snatching out the long, straight sword he carried, he struck with the spur the noble horse he bestrode, gave him the rein, and made straight for the deep, wide ditch. There was no time to go around by the bridge, which was still impeded by the last of the fugitives.

His men held their breath as they saw his purpose. The feat seemed impossible; but as his steed cleared the chasm by a magnificent bound, a loud cheer rang down the line. The next moment Hilland, who had mentally said farewell to his wife, saw Graham passing him like a thunderbolt. There was an immediate clash of steel, and then the foremost pursuer was down, cleft to the jaw. The next shared the same fate; for Graham, in what he deemed his death struggle, had almost ceased to be human. His spirit, stung to a fury that it had never known and would never know again, blazed in his eyes and flashed in the lightning play of his sword. The two others pursuers reined up their steeds and sought to attack him on either side. He threw his own horse back almost upon his haunches, and was on his guard, meaning to strike home the moment the fence of his opponents permitted. At this instant, however, there were a dozen shots from the swarming Rebels, that were almost upon him, and he and his horse were seen to fall to the ground. Meantime Hilland had instinctively tried to rein in his horse, that he might return to the help of his friend, although from his wound he could render no aid. Some of his own men who had crossed the bridge, and in a sense of safety had regained their wits, saw his purpose, and dashing back, they formed a body-guard around him, and dragged his horse swiftly beyond the line of battle.

A yell of anger accompanied by a volley came from Graham's men that he had left in line, and a dozen Confederate saddles were emptied; but their return fire was so deadly, and their numbers were so overwhelming, that the officer next in command ordered retreat at a gallop. Hilland, in his anguish, would not have left his friend had not his men grasped his rein and carried him off almost by force. Meanwhile the darkness set in so rapidly that the pursuit soon slackened and ceased.

During the remainder of the ride back to their camp, which was reached late at night, the ardent-natured Hilland was almost demented. He wept, raved, and swore. He called himself an accursed coward, that he had left the friend who had saved his life. His broken arm was as nothing to him, and eventually the regimental surgeon had to administer strong opiates to quiet him.

When late the next day he awoke, it all came back to him with a dully heavy ache at heart. Nothing could be done. His mind, now restored to its balance, recognized the fact. The brigade was under orders to move to another point, and he was disabled and compelled to take a leave of absence until fit for duty. The inexorable mechanism of military life moves on, without the slightest regard for the individual; and Graham's act was only one of the many heroic deeds of the war, some seen and more unnoted.



CHAPTER XXIII

AN EARLY DREAM FULFILLED

A few days later Grace welcomed her husband with a long, close embrace, but with streaming eyes; while he bowed his head upon her shoulder and groaned in the bitterness of his spirit.

"Next to losing you, Grace," he said, "this is the heaviest blow I could receive; and to think that he gave his life for me! How can I ever face Mrs. Mayburn?"

But his wife comforted him as only she knew how to soothe and bless; and Mrs. Mayburn saw that he was as sincere a mourner as herself. Moreover they would not despair of Graham, for although he had been seen to fall, he might only have been wounded and made a prisoner. Thus the bitterness of their grief was mitigated by hope.

This hope was fulfilled in a most unexpected way, by a cheerful letter from Graham himself; and the explanation of this fact requires that the story should return to him.

He thought that the sentence of death which he had passed upon himself had been carried into effect. He had felt himself falling, and then there had been sudden darkness. Like a dim taper flickering in the night, the spark of life began to kindle again. At first he was conscious of but one truth-that he was not dead. Where he now was, in this world or some other, what he now was, he did not know; but the essential ego, Alford Graham, had not ceased to exist. The fact filled him with a dull, wondering awe. Memory slowly revived, and its last impression was that he was to die and had died, and yet he was not dead.

As a man's characteristic traits will first assert themselves, he lay still and feebly tried to comprehend it all. Suddenly a strange, horrid sound smote upon his senses and froze his blood with dread. It must be life after death, for only his mind appeared to have any existence. He could not move. Again the unearthly sound, which could not be a human shriek, was repeated; and by half-involuntary and desperate effort he started up and looked around. The scene at first was obscure, confused, and awful. His eye could not explain it, and he instinctively stretched out his hands; and through the sense of touch all that had happened came back to his confused brain. He first felt of himself, passed his hand over his forehead, his body, his limbs: he certainly was in the flesh, and that to his awakening intelligence meant much, since it accorded with his belief that life and the body were inseparable. Then he felt around him in the darkness, and his hands touched the grassy field. This fact righted him speedily. As in the old fable, when he touched the earth he was strong. He next noted that his head rested on a smooth rock that rose but little above the plain, and that he must have fallen upon it. He sat up and looked around; and as the brain gradually resumed its action after its terrible shock, the situation became intelligible. The awful sounds that he had heard came from a wounded horse that was struggling feebly in the light of the rising moon, now in her last quarter. He was upon the scene of last evening's conflict, and the obscure objects that lay about him were the bodies of the dead. Yes, there before him were the two men he had killed; and their presence brought such a strong sense of repugnance and horror that he sprang to his feet and recoiled away.

He looked around. There was not a living object in sight except the dying horse. The night wind moaned about him, and soughed and sighed as if it were a living creature mourning over the scene.

It became clear to him that he had been left as dead. Yes, and he had been robbed, too; for he shivered, and found that his coat and vest were gone, also his hat, his money, his watch, and his boots. He walked unsteadily to the little bridge, and where he had left his line of faithful men, all was dark and silent. With a great throb of joy he remembered that Hilland must have sped across that bridge to safety, while he had expiated his evil thought.

He then returned and circled around the place. He was evidently alone; but the surmise occurred to him that the Confederates would return in the morning to bury their dead, and if he would escape he must act promptly. And yet he could not travel in his present condition. He must at least have hat, coat, and boots. His only resource was to take them from the dead; but the thought of doing so was horrible to him. Reason about it as he might, he drew near their silent forms with an uncontrollable repugnance. He almost gave up his purpose, and took a few hasty steps away, but a thorn pierced his foot and taught him his folly. Then his imperious will asserted itself, and with an imprecation on his weakness he returned to the nearest silent form, and took from it a limp felt hat, a coat, and a pair of boots, all much the worse for wear; and having arrayed himself in these, started on the trail of the Union force.

He had not gone over a mile when, on surmounting an eminence, he saw by dying fires in a grove beneath him that he was near the bivouac of a body of soldiers. He hardly hoped they could be a detachment of Union men; and yet the thought that it was possible led him to approach stealthily within earshot. At last he heard one patrol speak to another in unmistakable Southern accent, and he found that the enemy was in his path.

Silently as a ghost he stole away, and sought to make a wide detour to the left, but soon lost himself hopelessly in a thick wood. At last, wearied beyond mortal endurance, he crawled into what seemed the obscurest place he could find, and lay down and slept.

The sun was above the horizon when he awoke, stiff, sore, and hungry, but refreshed, rested. A red squirrel was barking at him derisively from a bough near, but no other evidences of life were to be seen. Sitting up, he tried to collect his thoughts and decide upon his course. It at once occurred to him that he would be missed, and that pursuit might be made with hounds. At once he sprang to his feet and made his way toward a valley, which he hoped would be drained by a running stream. The welcome sound of water soon guided him, and pushing through the underbrush he drank long and deeply, bathed the ugly bruise on his head, and then waded up the current.

He had not gone much over half a mile before he saw through an opening a negro gazing wonderingly at him. "Come here, my good fellow," he cried.

The man approached slowly, cautiously.

"I won't hurt you," Graham resumed; "indeed you can see that I'm in your power. Won't you help me?"

"Dunno, mas'r," was the non-committal reply.

"Are you in favor of Lincoln's men or the Confederates?" "Dunno, mas'r. It 'pends."

"It depends upon what?"

"On whedder you'se a Linkum man or 'Federate."

"Well, then, here's the truth. The Lincoln men are your best friends, if you've sense enough to know it; and I'm one of them. I was in the fight off there yesterday, and am trying to escape."

"Oh golly! I'se sense enough;" and the genial gleam of the man's ivory was an omen of good to Graham. "But," queried the negro, "how you wear 'Federate coat and hat?"

"Because I was left for dead, and mine were stolen. I had to wear something. The Confederates don't wear blue trousers like these."

"Dat's so; an' I knows yer by yer talk and look. I knows a 'Federate well as I does a coon. But dese yere's mighty ticklish times; an' a nigger hab no show ef he's foun' meddlin'. What's yer gwine ter do?"

"Perhaps you can advise me. I'm afraid they'll put hounds on my trail"

"Dat dey will, if dey misses yer."

"Well, that's the reason I'm here in the stream. But I can't keep this up long. I'm tired and hungry. I've heard that you people befriended Lincoln's men. We are going to win, and now's the time for you to make friends with those who will soon own this country."

"Ob corse, you'se a-gwine ter win. Linkum is de Moses we're all a- lookin' ter. At all our meetin's we'se a-prayin' for him and to him. He's de Lord's right han' to lead we alls out ob bondage."

"Well, I swear to you I'm one of his men."

"I knows you is, and I'se a-gwine to help you, houn's or no houn's. Keep up de run a right smart ways, and you'se'll come ter a big flat stun'. Stan' dar in de water, an I'll be dar wid help." And the man disappeared in a long swinging run,

Graham did as he was directed, and finally reached a flat rock, from which through the thick bordering growth something like a path led away. He waited until his patience was wellnigh exhausted, and then heard far back upon his trail the faint bay of a hound. He was about to push his way on up the stream, when there was a sound of hasty steps, and his late acquaintance with another stalwart fellow appeared.

"Dere's no time ter lose, mas'r. Stan' whar you is," and in a moment he splashed in beside him. "Now get on my back. Jake dar will spell me when I wants him; fer yer feet mustn't touch de groun';" and away they went up the obscure path.

This was a familiar mode of locomotion to Graham, for he had been carried thus by the hour over the mountain passes of Asia. They had not gone far before they met two or three colored women with a basket of clothes.

"Dat's right," said Graham's conveyance; "wash away right smart, and dunno nothin'. Yer see," he continued, "dis yer is Sunday, and we'se not in de fields, an de women folks can help us;" and Graham though that the old superstition of a Sabbath has served him well for once.

They soon left the path and entered some very heavy timber, through an opening of which he saw the negro quarters and plantation dwellings in the distance.

At last they stopped before an immense tree. Some brush was pushed aside, revealing an aperture through which Graham was directed to crawl, and he found himself within a heart of oak.

"Dar's room enough in dar ter sit down," said his sable friend. "An' you'se 'll find a jug ob milk an' a pone ob corn meal. Luck ter yer. Don't git lonesome like and come out. We'se a-gwine ter look ater yer;" and the opening was hidden by brush again, and Graham was left alone.

From a small aperture above his head a pencil of sunlight traversed the gloom, to which his eyes soon grew accustomed, and he saw a rude seat and the food mentioned. By extending his feet slightly through the opening by which he had entered, he found the seat really comfortable; and the coarse fare was ambrosial to his ravenous appetite. Indeed, he began to enjoy the adventure. His place of concealment was so unexpected and ingenious that it gave him a sense of security. He had ever had a great love for trees, and now it seemed as if one had opened its very heart to hide him.

Then his hosts and defenders interested him exceedingly. By reason of residence in New England and his life abroad, he was not familiar with the negro, especially his Southern type. Their innocent guile and preposterous religious belief amused him. He both smiled and wondered at their faith in "Linkum," whom at that time he regarded as a long headed, uncouth Western politician, who had done not a little mischief of interfering with the army.

"It is ever so with all kinds of superstition and sentimental belief," he soliloquized. "Some conception of the mind is embodied, or some object is idealized and magnified until the original is lost sight of, and men come to worship a mere fancy of their own. Then some mind, stronger and more imaginative than the average, gives shape and form to this confused image; and so there grows in time a belief, a theology, or rather a mythology. To think that this Lincoln, whom I've seen in attitudes anything but divine, and telling broad, coarse stories—to think that he should be a demigod, antitype of the venerated Hebrew! In truth it leads one to suspect, according to analogy, that Moses was a money-making Jew, and his effort to lead his people to Palestine an extensive land speculation."

Graham lived to see the day when he acknowledged that the poor negroes of the most remote plantations had a truer conception of the grand proportions of Lincoln's character at that time than the majority of his most cultivated countrymen.

His abstract speculations were speedily brought to a close by the nearer baying of hounds as they surmounted an eminence over which lay his trail. On came the hunt, with its echoes rising and falling with the wind or the inequalities of the ground, until it burst deep- mouthed and hoarse over the brow of the hill that sloped to the stream. Then there were confused sounds, both of the dogs and of men's voices, which gradually approached until there was a pause, caused undoubtedly by a colloquy with Aunt Sheba and her associate washerwomen. It did not last very long; and then, to Graham's dismay, the threatening sounds were renewed, and seemed coming directly toward him. He soon gave up all hope, and felt that he had merely to congratulate himself that, from the nature of his hiding-place, he could not be torn by the dogs, when he perceived that the hunt was coming no nearer—in brief, that it was passing. He then understood that his refuge must be near the bed of the stream, from which his pursuers were seeking on either side his diverging trail. This fact relieved him at once, and quietly he listened to the sounds, dying away as they had come.

As the sun rose higher the ray of light sloped downward until it disappeared; and in the profound gloom and quiet he fell asleep. He was awaked by hearing a voice call, "Mas'r."

Looking down, he saw that the brush had been removed, and that the opening was partially obstructed by a goblin-like head with little horns rising all over it.

"Mas'r," said the apparition, "Aunt Sheba sends you dis, and sez de Lord be wid you."

"Thanks for Aunt Sheba, and you, too, whatever you are," cried Graham; and to gratify his curiosity he sprang down on his knees and peered out in time to see a little negro girl replacing the brush, while what he had mistaken for horns was evidently the child's manner of wearing her hair. He then gave his attention to the material portion of Aunt Sheba's offering, and found a rude sort of platter, or low basket, made of corn husks, and in this another jug of milk, corn bread, and a delicious broiled chicken done to that turn of perfection of which only the colored aunties of the South are capable.

"Well!" ejaculated Graham. "From this day I'm an abolitionist, a Republican of the blackest dye." A little later he added, "Any race that can produce a woman capable of such cookery as this has a future before it."

Indeed, the whole affair was taking such an agreeable turn that he was inclined to be jocular.

After another long sleep in the afternoon, he was much refreshed, and eager to rejoin his command. But Issachar, or Iss, as his associates called him, the negro who had befriended him in the first instance, came and explained that the whole country was full of Confederates; and that it might be several days before it would be safe to seek the Union lines.

"We'se all lookin' out fer yer, mas'r," he continued; "you won't want for nothin'. An' we won't kep yer in dis woodchuck hole arter nine ob de ev'nin'. Don't try ter come out. I'm lookin' t'oder way while I'se a-talkin. Mean niggers an' 'Federates may be spyin' aroun'. But I reckon not; I'se laid in de woods all day, a-watchin'.

"Now I tell yer what 'tis, mas'r, I'se made up my mine to put out ob heah. I'se gwine ter jine de Linkum men fust chance I gits. An' if yer'll wait an' trus' me, I'll take yer slick and clean; fer I know dis yer country and ebery hole whar ter hide well as a fox. If I gits safe ter de Linkum folks, yer'll say a good word fer Iss, I reckon."

"Indeed, I will. If you wish, I'll take you into my own service, and pay you good wages."

"Done, by golly; and when dey cotch us, dey'll cotch a weasel asleep."

"But haven't you a wife and children?"

"Oh, yah. I'se got a wife, an' I'se got a lot ob chillen somewhar in de 'Fed'racy; but I'll come wid you uns bime by, an' gedder up all I can fine. I'se 'll come 'long in de shank ob de ev'nin', mas'r, and guv yer a shakedown in my cabin, an' I'll watch while yer sleeps. Den I'll bring yer back heah befo' light in de mawnin'."

The presence of Confederate forces required these precautions for several days, and Iss won Graham's whole heart by his unwearied patience and vigilance. But the young man soon prevailed on the faithful fellow to sleep nights while he watched; for after the long inaction of the day he was almost wild for exercise. Cautious Iss would have been nearly crazed with anxiety had he known of the reconnaissances in which his charge indulged while he slept. Graham succeeded in making himself fully master of the disposition of the Rebel forces in the vicinity, and eventually learned that the greater part of them had been withdrawn. When he had communicated this intelligence to Iss, they prepared to start for the Union lines on the following night, which proved dark and stormy.

Iss, prudent man, kept the secret of his flight from even his wife, and satisfied his marital compunctions by chucking her under the chin and calling her "honey" once or twice while she got supper for him. At eight in the evening he summoned Graham from his hiding-place, and led him, with almost the unerring instinct of some wild creature of the night, due northeast, the direction in which the Union forces were said to be at that time. It was a long, desolate tramp, and the dawn found them drenched and weary. But the glorious sun rose warm and bright, and in a hidden glade of the forest they dried their clothes, rested, and refreshed themselves. After a long sleep in a dense thicket they were ready to resume their journey at nightfall. Iss proved an invaluable guide, for, concealing Graham, he would steal away, communicate with the negroes, and bring fresh provisions.

On the second night he learned that there was a Union force not very far distant to the north of their line of march. Graham had good cause to wonder at the sort of freemasonry that existed among the negroes, and the facility with which they obtained and transmitted secret intelligence. Still more had he reason to bless their almost universal fidelity to the Union cause.

Another negro joined them as guide, and in the gray of the morning they approached the Union pickets. Graham deemed it wise to wait till they could advance openly and boldly; and by nine o'clock he was received with acclamations by his own regiment as one risen from the dead.

After congratulations and brief explanations were over, his first task was to despatch the two brief letters mentioned, to his aunt and Hilland, in time to catch the daily mail that left their advanced position. Then he saw his brigade commander, and made it clear to him that with a force of about two regiments he could strike a heavy blow against the Confederates whom he had been reconnoitring; and he offered to act as guide. His proposition was accepted, and the attacking force started that very night. By forced marches they succeeded in surprising the Confederate encampment and in capturing a large number of prisoners. Iss also surprised his wife and Aunt Sheba even more profoundly, and before their exclamations ceased he had bundled them and their meagre belongings into a mule cart, with such of the "chillen" as had been left to him, and was following triumphantly in the wake of the victorious Union column; and not a few of their sable companions kept them company.

The whole affair was regarded as one of the most brilliant episodes of the campaign and Graham received much credit, not only in the official reports, but in the press. Indeed, the latter, although with no aid from the chief actor, obtained an outline of the whole story, from the rescue of his friend to his guidance of the successful expedition, and it was repeated with many variations and exaggerations. He cared little for these brief echoes of fame; but the letters of his aunt, Hilland, and even the old major, were valued indeed, while a note from the grateful wife became his treasure of treasures.

They had returned some time before to the St. John cottage, and she had at last written him a letter "straight from her heart," on the quaint secretary in the library, as he had dreamed possible on the first evening of their acquaintance.



CHAPTER XXIV

UNCHRONICLED CONFLICTS

Graham's friends were eager that he should obtain leave of absence, but he said, "No, not until some time in the winter."

His aunt understood him sufficiently well not to urge the matter, and it may be added that Grace did also.

Hilland's arm healed rapidly, and happy as he was in his home life at the cottage he soon began to chafe under inaction. Before very long it became evident that the major had not wholly outlived his influence at Washington, for there came an order assigning Major Hilland to duty in that city; and thither, accompanied by Grace and her father, he soon repaired. The arrangement proved very agreeable to Hilland during the period when his regiment could engage in little service beyond that of dreary picket duty. He could make his labors far more useful to the government in the city, and could also enjoy domestic life with his idolized wife. Mrs. Mayburn promised to join them after the holidays, and the reason for her delay was soon made evident.

One chilly, stormy evening, when nature was in a most uncomfortable mood, a card was brought to the door of Hilland's rooms at their inn just as he, with his wife and the major, was sitting down to one of those exquisite little dinners which only Grace knew how to order. Hilland glanced at the card, and gave such a shout that the waiter nearly fell over backward.

"Where is the gentleman? Take me to him on the double-quick. It's Graham. Hurrah! I'll order another dinner!" and he vanished, chasing the man downstairs and into the waiting-room, as if he were a detachment of Confederate cavalry. The decorous people in the hotel parlor were astounded as Hilland nearly ran over the breathless waiter at the door, dashed in like a whirlwind, and carried off his friend, laughing, chaffing, and embracing him all the way up the stairs. It was the old, wild exuberancy of his college days, only intensified by the deepest and most grateful emotion.

Grace stood within her door blushing, smiling, and with tears of feeling in her lovely eyes.

"Here he is," cried Hilland—"the very god of war. Give him his reward, Grace—a kiss that he will feel to the soles of his boots."

But she needed no prompting, for instead of taking Graham's proffered hand, she put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him again and again, exclaiming, "You saved Warren's life; you virtually gave yours for his; and in saving him you saved me. May God bless you every hour you live!"

"Grace," he said, gravely and gently, looking down into her swimming eyes and retaining her hands in a strong, warm clasp, "I am repaid a thousand-fold. I think this is the happiest moment of my life;" and then he turned to the major, who was scarcely less demonstrative in his way than Hilland had been.

"By Jove!" cried the veteran, "the war is going to be the making of you young fellows. Why, Graham, you no more look like the young man that played whist with me years since than I do. You have grown broad- shouldered and distingue, and you have the true military air in spite of that quiet civilian's dress."

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