This, for the moment, was a sulphurous crater, the fire-belching demons, invisible in the smoke. Through the glass Jack could see the lines clearly—or the smoke arising above them. The enemy had been pushed back nearly two miles since he had left Colonel Sherman a few rods above the stone bridge. The Union force, as marked by the veil of smoke, curved, about the foemen, a vast crescent, seven miles or more from tip to tip. The bodies opposing were scattered like a gigantic staircase, with the angles of the steps confronting each other step by step. But now the Union ranks at Jack's feet rush forward; a group of riders are coming to the tree, and Jack descends hastily to meet the general. He is again disappointed. It is not McDowell. At a loss what to do, he salutes one of the officers and states his case, recognizing, as he turns, General Franklin.
"I don't see that you can do better than remain where you are, or, still better, push to the brow of that hill yonder and act as a picket. In case you see any force approaching from this side, which is not likely, give warning. Our cavalry ought to be here, but it isn't. If you are called to account when the battle is done, give me as your authority. I take it your brigade will be around here pretty soon, if they make as rapid work all the way as they have made since eleven o'clock. If the cavalry come, you can report to the nearest officer for assignment."
THE LEGIONS OF VARUS.
The two free lances set out now, relieved of all responsibility, and determined to watch the open fields and woods to see that this part of the field was not surprised. The hill to which the general had directed them was farther from the battle than they had yet been, but the work going on to the northeast showed that this would soon be the western edge of the combat if Sherman continued advancing. They are soon on the hill, and Jack posts himself in a tree with his glass. There is a lull in the quarter they have just quit. The smoke rolls away, and now he can see streams of gray-coats hurrying to the edge of the plateau, where, two hours before, he had encountered Porter's brigade. Can it be possible that Porter's troops do not see these on-rushing hordes? They are moving on the right point of the crescent, and unless the Union commander is alert they will break in on the back of the point; for Jack, without knowing it, was virtually in the rebel lines—that is, he was nearer the rebel left flank, the foot of the long, bow-shaped staircase, than he was to the tip of the Union crescent.
But no! The Stars and Stripes fly forward; they are on the very crest whence the defiant guns spat upon them. But now the smoke covers everything. Then there is a calm. The ground is clear again. The gray masses are pouring up to the crest in still greater numbers; a large body of them march down the hill in the rear of the Union line concealed by the woods; they march right up to the ranks where the red-barred flag is flying! What can it mean? Neither side fires. There must surely be some mistake. Hark! now the blue line discovers—too late—that the mass is the enemy, and half the line withers in the point-blank discharge. They are swept from the ground. Jack is trembling—demoniac. The gray mass springs forward; they have seized the guns—four of them—and turn them upon the disappearing blue. Then a hoarse shout of delirious triumph. The guns are lost; the day is lost, for now there are no blue-coats in sight. But no! A still wilder shout—electrifying, stentorian—comes across the plateau. The blue mass reappears; they come with a wild rush in well-ordered array; they are the regulars, Jack can tell by their movements. It must be the famous Rickett's battery he saw at Centreville in the morning. In five minutes the tale was retold, and the guns, snatched from the worsted gray-coats, are safe in the hands of their masters. Again the smoke obscures the picture; again it clears away, and now the gray are in greater force than before, and the horseless batteries are again the prize of this rapacious grapple. Swarming in from three sides, the gray again hold the contested pieces. The blue vanish into the thick bushes. Another irruption, another pall of smoke, and Jack's heart bounds in exultant joy, for he sees the New York flag in the van. Sherman has reached the point of dispute. But alas! the guns are run back, and as the gray lines sway rearward in billowy, regular measure, they retain the Titanically contested trophies.
The sun is now far beyond the meridian. The Union lines are closing up compactly. One more such grapple as the last and the broad plateau where the rebel artillery is massed, pointing westward, northward, eastward, will be won. But a palsy seems to have settled on the lines of blue. They are motionless, while their adversaries are hurrying men from some secret place, where they seem to be inexhaustible. The whole battle is now within the compass of a mile. But where can these hordes come from? Surely, General McDowell has never been mad enough to leave them disengaged along the fords! No; they do not come from that direction. They come at the very center of the rebel rear. Can it be that troops are arriving from Richmond? The Southern lines are longer than the Northern, but they have been since the first moment Jack got a glimpse of them. He could see, too, that they were thinner: that on the spur of the plateau in front of the massed rebel artillery a single brigade was holding the Union mass at bay. He can almost hear the rebel commands as the re-enforcements pour in. But now the thunder breaks out anew, rolls in vengeful fury around the western and northern base of the plateau. The gray lines stagger; the falling men block the steps of the living. Surely now McDowell is going to do or die. Yes. The iron game goes on; the blue lines jostle and crush forward. They are at the last wall of resistance. But what is the sound at his very feet? As Jack looks down in the narrow way between the hill he is on and the plateau on the very edge of the Union line—in fact, behind it now, for it has moved forward since he took post—a rushing mass of gray-clad soldiery is moving forward on the dead run. In one instant the head of the column is where General Franklin rode but an hour or two before. He looks for Barney. He can see him nowhere. He climbs down in haste and discovers his comrade soundly sleeping against the base of the tree.
"Barney, the army is ruined!"
"Is the battle over?"
"Oh, no, no, but it will be in a moment. Hark, hear that!"
A roar of musketry—it seemed at their very feet. Then an outbreak of yells, so sharp, so piercing, so devilish the sound, that the marrow froze in their veins, arose, as if from the whole thicket about them.
"Is it too late to warn General Franklin?" Barney asked, trembling.
"Ah, Barney, we are as bad as traitors; we ought to have seen these rebels before they got near. If we had done our duty this would never have happened. Perhaps it is not too late to get back. Let me go up and see where we can find a way without running into the enemy."
Reaching his perch again, Jack cast his despairing eyes toward the fatal hill. It was now clear of smoke, and there wasn't a regiment left on it. His heart leaped for an instant, the next it was lead, for the ranks that had disappeared were down on the brow of the hill—in the valley— rushing forward, unresisted, the red and blue of the Union, mixed with the stars and bars of the rebellion; but, worse than all, the ranks of gray were sweeping in overwhelming masses quite behind the lines of blue, cutting them down as a scythe when near the end of the furrow. To the eastward Sherman still clung desperately to the crests he had won, but Jack saw with agony that, slipping between him and the river, a great wedge of gray was hurrying forward. His last despairing glance caught a body of jet black horses galloping wildly into the dispersing ranks of blue. He came down from the tree limp, nerveless, unmanned.
"Well?" Barney asked.
"It's all over—we are ruined!"
"The army, you mean?"
"Ah, yes! the army and we too."
"But what's going to become of us?"
"I don't much care what becomes of us—at least I don't care what becomes of me!"
"But if we don't get back to our regiment, they'll think we're deserters."
"Good God, yes! I forgot that; I think I can find the way back. But we'll have to be careful, the enemy are all around us. I can hear them plainly, very near. Follow me, and don't speak above a whisper."
Then, with swift movement, always as near the thick bushes as they could push, they fled faster and faster, as fear fell more and more heavily upon their quickened fancies. The thought of the repute of deserters lent them endurance, or they must have broken down before the weary shiftings of that dreadful flight. They are now near the spot where they had met Porter's pickets in the morning. The sounds of battle had died out at intervals, renewed now and again by an outcry of cheers, a quick fusillade, then more cheers, and then an ominous silence. But now there is a continuous roll of musketry near the knoll, back of the Warrenton road. The two wanderers, breathless, with torn uniforms, swollen faces, halt, gasping, to take their bearings. They can see the turnpike far beyond the stone bridge half-way to Centreville: they see crowds fleeing in zigzag lines over the open fields, see horses plunging wildly, laden down by two and even three men on their backs; they see vehicles overturned at the roadside, whence the horses have been cut or killed by the rebel shells; they see an army, in every sense a mob, swarming behind the deserted rebel forts; they see orderly ranks of shining black horses this side the stone bridge charging the fleeing lines of blue; they see shells whirling like huge blackbirds in the sky, suddenly falling among the skurrying thousands; they see a shell finally burst on the bridge, shiver a caisson to fragments, and then all sign of organized flight comes to an end.
But near them, meanwhile, a sullen fire replies with desperate promptitude to the rebel shots.
"If we can get over to the men fighting at the edge of the woods, we may be killed or captured, but we won't be disgraced!" Jack cries.
Again they make a wide circuit through the woods, and now the firing is near at hand, coming slowly toward them. They have only to wait and they will be among the forlorn hope. Ah, with what fervent joy Jack marks the Union banner, flapping its twin streamers among the hurtling pines! They are near it; they are under it! Their own guns are no longer available; hundreds are lying at hand; they seize them. The line is firing in retreat. It is a sadly depleted battalion of Keyes's regulars, steadfast, imperturbable, devoted. A handful of them has been forgotten or misdirected. The rebels, uncertain whether it was not a trap to snare them, move with caution, while far to the left a turning column is hurrying to hem the Union group in on every side. There are hardly three hundred blue-coats in the mass, but their volleys are so swift, so regular, so steady, that they make the impression of a thousand. The enemy felt sure, as was afterward learned, that there was at least a regiment.
A young captain, soiled, ragged, his sleeves hanging in ribbons, the whole skirt of his coat gone, moves alertly, composedly in the center, seizing a gun when one comes handy on the ground, where there are plenty scattered.
"Steady, men, steady! We shall be at the water's edge, soon, and then we can give them hell!"
Never music sounded sweeter in Jack's car than that jaunty epithet "hell"! How inspiring! How little of the ordinary association the word brought up! Now they were traversing slowly the very ground Jack and his comrades had flown over in the morning. Still firing—still working with all his heart in the deadly play, Jack sidles to the officer and cries out:
"Captain, I know a ford that will take us across above the stone bridge. We discovered it this morning. Shall I guide that way?"
"Guide if you can; but fire like seven devils, above all!" the captain cried, seizing two or three pouches lying in a mass and emptying the cartridges into his pockets.
"There, keep to the left sharp, and we shall come to a deep gully where the water is only knee-deep," Jack cries, also replenishing his cartridge-box, which had shrunk under the rapid work of the last half-hour.
"What regiment are you, sergeant?" the captain cries, looking for a moment at the tattered recruit.
"Caribees of New York, Sherman's brigade."
"And how came you off here? Your brigade was near the right of the line at the stone budge." The captain asked this with a shade of suspicion in his voice.
Jack explained his mission, and the officer, who had been dealing out the timely windfall of ammunition, nodded.
"Poor Hunter was shot early in the advance. It would have been victory to our flag if the poor old follow had been wounded before the action began. He lost three hours in the attack, and gave the rebels a chance to come up from Winchester."
Now Jack understood the mysterious legions that seemed to spring from the earth. They were Johnston's army from the Shenandoah.
"Keep up heart, men: Burnside and Schenck are near us somewhere. They are in reserve, and they'll give these devils a warm welcome, if they push far enough after us."
Then the steady volleys grew swifter, if that were possible, the enemy moving steadily after the slowly retiring group. But now there is a clear field to cross, so wide that the smallness of the force must be detected. The captain halts the line, takes his bearings, divides the little army into two bodies, orders one to move at a double-quick directly across the open; the rest are stretched out as skirmishers. He retires with the first squad across the field, directing the skirmishers to hold the ground until they hear three musket-shots from the wood behind. The rebels can now be seen closing in very near. But the skirmish-line, spreading over a wider front, evidently perplexes them, and they halt. The three shots are presently heard, then the skirmish-line flees in groups across the bare downs, the vociferating yells of the gray-coats fairly drowning the hideous clamor of the muskets.
"Ah! we're saved," a lieutenant cries, waving his cap like a madman. "Look! there are men in the wood yonder, to our right; they are coming this way!"
Jack turned, he was near the captain; and he marked, with deadly panic, a look of despair settle down on the heroic, handsome face. What could it mean? Didn't he believe that there were men there? Jack handed him his own glass—the captain had none.
"By Heaven, our flag! But what troops can they be in that quarter? They must be surrounded, like ourselves.—Sergeant, can you undertake a dangerous duty?"
"With all my heart," Jack cried, heartily.
"What's your name and company?"
"John Sprague, Caribees, Company K."
"Slip around the edge of the skirt of bushes. You'll be within an arm's length of the enemy all the way. Reach the place where we saw those men a moment since. When you get there, if they are friendly, fire a shot. Here, take this pistol. Fire that; I shall recognize it from the musketry. If they are the enemy, fire all the barrels as fast as you can and retreat. You run great danger; you can only by a miracle escape capture; but it is our only resource for the next charge. We must surrender or die," he added, looking wofully at the meager remnant of his company. Before the words had fairly ended, Jack is off like a shot, forgetting Barney, forgetting everything but the extrication of this grand young Roman. As he skurried along, sometimes on hands and knees, he blames himself for not learning the captain's name. He feels sure that a day will come when the world will know and admire it. He has gained the other corner, and in a moment he will be in the thick copse where the Union flag had been seen, but as he makes a dash through a clump of laurel he is confronted by two men, muskets in hand.
"A Yank, by the Lord! Surrender, you damned mudsill!"
For answer Jack raised the pistol in his hand and fired. The man fell, with a frightful yell. The other leveled his musket fairly in Jack's face; but before he could pull the trigger a report at his ear deafened Jack, and the second man staggered against the tree.
"Ah, ha! me boy, the rear rank did the best work there," Barney cried, as Jack turned to see whence the timely aid had come, "A day after the fair's better than the fair itself, if the rain has kept the girls away," and Barney laughed good-humoredly.
"Well, 'pon my soul, Barney, it's a shameful thing to say, but all thought of you had gone from my mind. I should not have let you come if you had proposed it, but now we're in for it. Ah—!"
As he spoke the Union flag he had seen came forward, but it was in the hands of a rebel bearer, and was upside down in mockery. The sight was enough. He fired the shots as agreed upon, firing two at the group marching heedlessly forward, as the skirmish-line was far ahead, or they supposed it was, for the two men disabled by Jack and Barney were the advance, as it was not supposed that any but stragglers were near at hand, and the company were returning to their regiment. In an instant a fierce volley is returned, and Barney, who is fairly in the bush behind a huge tree, hears a low groan. He looks where Jack had been and sees him lying on the ground, stifling an agonized cry by holding his left arm over his mouth. Barney might have escaped, at least he might have delayed capture, but coming from behind the tree, he holds up his hands, and flinging himself on the ground beside his comrade takes his head upon his knee and awaits the worst.
There were not so many millions of Americans in 1861 as there are to-day. But they were more American then than they are now. That is, the Old World had not sent the millions to our shores that now people the waste places of the West. It was not until after the civil war that those prodigious hosts came—enough to make the populace of such empires as fill the largest space in history. That part of the land that loved the flag cherished it with a fervor deeper than the half-alien race that first flung it to the breeze under Washington. They loved the republic with something of that passionate idolatry that made the Greek's ideal joy—death for the fatherland; some of that burning zeal and godlike pride that made the earlier Roman esteem his citizenship more precious than a foreign crown. But until the battle on that awful 21st of July proved the war real—with the added horror of civil hate—Secretary Seward's epigram of ninety days clung fast in the public mind.
Up to Bull Run there was a vague feeling that our army, in proper time, would march down upon the rebels like the hosts of Joshua, and scatter them and the rebellion to uttermost destruction in one action. It was upon this assumption that the journals of the North satirized, abused, vilified Scott, and clamored day by day for an "advance upon Richmond." The damnation of public clamor, and not the incompetency of the general, set the inchoate armies of Scott upon that fatal adventure. But that humiliating, incredible, and for years misunderstood Sunday, on the plateaus of Manassas, where, after all, blundering and imbecility brought disaster, but not shame, upon the devoted soldiery, aroused the sense of the North to the reality of war, as the overthrow at Jemmapes in 1793 convinced the Prussian oligarchy that the republic in France was a fact.
It was a dreadful Monday in the North when the first hideous bulletins were sent broadcast through the cities and carried by couriers into every hamlet. For hours—sickening hours—it was not believed. We have awakened many a morning since 1861 to hear of thrones overturned, armies vanquished, dynasties obliterated; to hear of great men gone by sudden and cruel death: but the anger and despair when Booth's cruel work was known; the shuddering horror over Garfield's taking off; the amazement when the hand of Nihilism laid an emperor dead; the overthrow of Austria in a single day; the extinction of the Bonapartes—these things were heard and digested with something like repose compared to the bewildering outbreak that met the destruction of our army at Manassas.
It was not the dazed, panic-stricken, panic anguish that followed Fredericksburg or the second Bull Run. It was not the indignant, fretful wrath that rebuked official culpability for the destruction of the grand campaign on the Peninsula. It was a startled, incredulous, angry amazement, in which blame afterward visited upon generals or Cabinet, was humbly taken on the people's shoulders and echoed in a moaning mea culpa. For days all the people were close kin. In the streets strangers talked to strangers; the pulpit echoed the inextinguishable wrath of the streets; the journals, for a moment restrained into solemnity, echoed for once the real voice of an elevated humanity and not the drivel of partisanship nor the ulterior purposes of wealth and sham. Even schoolboys, arrested in the merry-making of youth, looked in wonder at the sudden reversal of conditions. Boys well remember in the school that Monday, when the northern heavens were hung in black and grief wrung its crystal tresses in the air, the master began the work of the day with a brief, pathetic review of the public agony, and dismissed the classes that he was too agitated to instruct. There were no games on the greensward, no swimming in the river, no excursion to the Malvern cherry groves. The streets were filled with blank faces and whispering crowds unable to endure the restraint of routine or the ordinary callings of life. Parties were obliterated, or rather from the flux of this white heat, came out in solidified unity that compact of parties which for four years breathed the breath of the nation's life, spoke the purposes of the republic, and amid stupendous reverses and triumphs held the public conscience clear in its sublime duty. The woes of bereavement were not wide-spread; the killed at Manassas were hardly more than we read of now in a disaster at sea or a catastrophe in the mines. The whole army engaged hardly outnumbered the slaughtered at Antietam, Gettysburg, or Burnside's butchery at St. Mary's Hill.
Hence the marvel of the instant fusion, the swift resolve of the Northern mind. The battle was the sudden grapple of aggressive weakness—catching the half-contemptuous strong man unaware and rolling him in the dust. Brought to earth by this unlooked-for blow, the North arose with renewed force and the deathless determination that could have but one issue. The people, when the benumbing force of the surprise was mastered, flew together with one mind, one voice, one impulse. The churches, the public halls, the street corners, moving trains, and rushing steamers, were such hustings as the Athenian improvised in the porticoes, when her orators inflamed the heart of Greece to repel the barbarians, to die with Leonidas in the gorges of the Thermopylae.
Ah, what an imposing spectacle it was! The blood of wrath leaped fiercely in the chilled veins of age; the ardor of youth became the delirium of the Crusaders, the lofty zeal of the Puritans, the chivalrous daring of Rupert's troopers, and the Dutch devotees of Orange. A half-million men had been called out; a million were waiting in passionate eagerness within a month; two hundred and fifty millions of money had been voted—ten times that amount was offered in a day. Every interest in life became suddenly centered in one duty—war. It touched the heart of the whole people, and for the time they arose, purified, contrite, as the armies of Moses under the chastening of the rod.
In Acredale there were sore hearts as the dreadful news became more and more definite. For days the death lists were mere guess-work; but when the routed forces returned to their camps in Washington the awful gaps in the ranks were ascertained with certainty. The Caribees were nearly obliterated. Of the thousand men and over who had marched from Meridian Hill only four hundred were found ten days after the battle. Elisha Boone had hurried at once to Washington, charged by all the fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters of the regiment to make swift report of the absent darlings. Kate was besieged in the grand house with tearful watchers, waiting in agonizing impatience for the fatal finality. Olympia, to spare her mother the distress of the vague responses her telegrams brought from Washington, spent most of the time at the Boones', where, thanks to the father's high standing with the Administration, the earliest, most accurate information came. Finally he wrote. He had seen Nick Marsh, who gave the first coherent narrative of Jack, Barney, and Dick Perley. They had been seen—the first two in the last desperate conflict. An officer (the hero whom Jack had so much admired, and who turned out to be Gouverneur K. Warren) had escaped from the forlorn hope left to dispute the rebel charge upon the flying columns. He gave particulars that pointed with heart-breaking certainty to the death of the two boys. Young Perley had been lost sight of since noon of the battle. He had followed the path taken by Jack and his comrades across the flank of the enemy. He had been seen at Heintzelman's headquarters, but after that no one could trace him. Wesley, too, had been left near the stone bridge with a ball in either his arm or thigh, the informant was not quite sure which, as he fell in a charge of the line. Boone telegraphed to Kate that he was going through the lines with a flag of truce so soon as the affair could be regulated, and proffered his best offices for the Acredale victims.
Everything had been prepared by Olympia and her mother for an instant departure so soon as positive information came. With them Marcia Perley went, trembling and tearful, and Telemachus Twigg, to extricate his son from danger, for it was uncertain what his status was in the forces. Kate, too, joined the melancholy pilgrimage that set out one morning followed to the station by weeping kinsmen imploring the good offices of these ambassadors of woe. The sleeping-car gave the miserable company seclusion, if not rest. They were not the only ones in quest of the missing, for as yet there was no certainty as to the fate of those left on the field of battle. Later reports had been more encouraging, for hundreds who were set down as prisoners or missing began to be heard from as far northward as the Maryland line. In the station at Washington Boone met his daughter. Twigg hurried to him and asked:
"Any further news, Mr. Boone? We're all here—about half Acredale."
"Yes, I see; but there is no more news of the Caribees. We learn that the wounded have been sent to Richmond, and I shall set out for there to-morrow."
Mrs. Sprague, with Olympia and Merry, drove to the house of a friend she had known years before, whose husband was a Senator. The Boones—or rather Kate—bade them a cordial adieu as they drove off to the National Hotel.
Then the most trying part of the quest began. The War Department was besieged with applicants, mostly women. Orders had been issued to forbid all crossing the lines, and the despairing kinsfolk of the lost were in a panic of impatient terror. In vain Olympia called upon eminent Senators who had been friends of her father; in vain she invoked the aid of the Secretary of State, who had been the family's guest at Acredale. Once she penetrated, by the aid of strong letters, to the Secretary of War. He was surrounded by a hurried throng of orderlies, officers, and clerks, and even after she had been admitted to his office Olympia was left unnoticed on a settee, waiting some sign to approach the dreaded presence. His imperious and abrupt manner, his alternation of deferential concern for some and disdainful impatience for others, gave her small hope that he would heed her prayer. She waited hours, sitting in the crowded room, ill from the oppressive air, the fixed stare of the officers, and the sobbing of others like herself waiting a word with the autocrat. At length, late in the afternoon, when the crowd had quite gone, she heard the Secretary say in an undertone:
"Send an orderly to those women and see what they want."
Each of the waiting women handed credentials to the young man, and each in turn arose trembling and stood before the decisive official at the great, paper-strewn desk. There was no attempt to soften the refusal, as he turned curtly from the pleaders; and Olympia, shrinking from the ordeal, was about to step out of the room, when a tall, care-worn man shambled in, glancing pityingly at her as she arose, half trembling, recognizing the President.
She stepped in front of him in a desperate impulse, and, throwing up her veil, cried piteously:
"O Mr. Lincoln, you are a father, you have a tender heart; you will listen to the bereaved!" He stopped, looking at her kindly, and put his left arm wearily on the desk by his side.
"Yes, my poor girl, I am a father and have a heart; the more's the pity, for just now something else is needed in its place. I suppose your father is over yonder," and he nodded toward the Virginia shore.
"O Mr. Lincoln, my father is farther away than that. My father was Senator Sprague—you served with him in Congress—I—I—thought that perhaps you might take pity on his widow, his daughter, his son, if the poor boy is still living, and—and—"
"Send you across the lines?"
"Oh, if God would put it in your heart!"
"It's in my heart fast enough, my poor child, but—"
"Impossible, Mr. President! The enemy, as it is, can open a Sabine campaign on us, and tie our hands by stretching Northern women out in a line of battle between the ranks!"
It was the weary, discouraging voice of the Secretary, imperiously implying that the Executive must not interpose weakness and mercy where Draconian rigor sat enthroned. The President smiled sadly.
"Ah, Mr. Secretary, a sister—a mother—give a great deal for the country. We can not err much in granting their prayer. Make out an order—for whom?"
Olympia, speechless with gratitude reverence could hardly articulate:
"My mother, myself, and Miss Marcia Perley."
"Her boy is not of age, and ran away to join my brother's company." She had a woman's presence of mind to answer with this diplomatic evasion.
"I'm afraid you will only add to your distress, my poor child; but you shall go." He inclined his head benignantly and passed into the inner sanctuary behind the rail, when Olympia heard the Secretary say, grimly:
"I shall take measures to stop this sort of thing, Mr. President. Hereafter you shall only come to this department at certain hours. At all other times the doors shall be guarded."
A gray-haired man in undress uniform presently appeared, and as he handed Olympia the large official envelope he said, respectfully:
"You never heard of me, Miss Sprague? Many years ago the Senator, your father, did a kind turn for my brother—an employe in the Treasury. If I can be of any aid to you in this painful business, pray give me a chance to show a kindness to the family of a great and good man. My name is Charles Bevan, and it is signed to one of the papers in this letter."
Within an hour all was ready, but they could not set out until the next morning, when, by eight o'clock, the three ladies were en route. There was a large company with them, all under a flag of truce. They passed through the long lines of soldiery that lay intrenched on the Virginia side of the Potomac, and pushed on to Annandale, where the rebel outpost received them. Olympia's eyes dwelt on the wide-stretching lands of pine and oak, remembering the pictures Jack had given in his letters of this very same route. But there were few signs of war. The cleared places lay red and baking under the hot August sun; the trees seemed crisp and sapless.
At Fairfax Court-House, where the first signs of real warlike tenure were seen, the visitors were taken into a low frame house, and each in turn asked to explain the objects of her mission. Then the hospital reports were searched. In half a dozen or more instances the sad-eyed mothers were thrown into tremulous hope by the tidings of their darlings' whereabouts. But for Olympia and Aunt Merry there was no clew. No such names as Sprague or Perley were recorded in the fateful pages of the hospital corps. But there were several badly wounded in the hospital at Manassas, where fuller particulars were accessible.
They were conducted very politely by a young lieutenant in a shabby gray uniform to an ambulance and driven four miles southward to Fairfax Station on the railway, when, after despairing hours of waiting, they were taken by train to Manassas. An orderly accompanied them, and as the train passed beyond Union Mills, where the Bull Run River runs along the railway a mile or more before crossing under it, the young soldier pointed out the distant plateau, near the famous stone bridge, and, when the train crossed the river, the high bluffs, a half-mile to the northward, where the action had begun at Blackburn's Ford. He was very respectful and gentle in alluding to the battle, and said, ingenuously, pointing to the plateau jutting out from the Bull Run Mountains:
"At two o'clock on Sunday we would have cried quits to McDowell to hold his ground and let us alone. But just as we were on our heel to turn, Joe Johnston came piling in here, right where you see that gully yonder, with ten thousand fresh men, and in twenty minutes we were three to one, and then your folks had the worst of it. President Davis got off the train at the junction yonder, and as he rode across this field, where we are now, the woods yonder were full of our men, flying from the Henry House Hill, where Sherman had cut General Bee's brigade to pieces and was routing Jackson—'Stonewall,' we call him now, because General Bonham, when he brought up the reserves, shouted, 'See, there, where Jackson stands like a stone wall!' He's a college professor and very pious; he makes his men pray before fighting, and has 'meetings' in the commissary tent twice a week."
"Did Mr. Davis join in the battle?" Olympia asked, more to seem interested in the garrulous warrior's narrative than because she really had her mind on the story.
"Oh, dear, no. Old Johnston had finished the job before the President (Olympia noticed that all Southerners dwelt upon this title with complacent insistence) could reach the field. He was barely in time to see the cavalry of 'Jeb' Stuart charge the regulars on the Warrenton road."
The train came to a halt, and the young man said, cheerfully:
"Here we are. The hospital's still right smart over yonder in the trees."
"But you will go with us, will you not?" Olympia asked in alarm, for it was wearing toward night.
"Oh, yes; I'm detailed to remain with you until you have found out about your kinsfolk."
In the mellow sunset the three women followed the orderly across the fields strewed with armaments, supplies, and the rough depot paraphernalia of an army at rest. The hospital consisted of a large tent for the slightly hurt, and a few old buildings and a barn for the more serious cases. The search was futile. There were two or three of the Caribees in the place, but they knew nothing of their missing comrades. Indeed, Jack's detail by Colonel Sherman had effectually cut off all trace of his movements after the battle began.
Mrs. Sprague's tears were falling softly as the orderly led them to the surgeon's office. They were there shown the records of all who had been buried on the field. Many, he informed them, sympathetically, had been buried where they fell, in great ditches dug by the sappers. In every case the garments had been stripped from the bodies before burial, so that there was absolutely no means of identification. Most of the wounded had, however, been sent to Richmond with the prisoners. "It would not do," he added, kindly, "to give up all hope of the lost ones, until they had seen the roster of the prisoners and the wounded in the Richmond prisons and hospitals."
Quarters were given to them in a tent put at their disposal by the surgeons, and in the long, wakeful hours of the night Olympia heard the guard pacing monotonously before the door. The music of the bugles aroused them at sunrise—a wan, haggard group, sad-eyed and silent. The girl made desperate efforts to cheer the wretched mother, and even privily took Merry to task for giving way before what was as yet but a shadow. 'Twould be time enough for tears when they found evidence that the stout, vigorous boys had been killed. As they finished the very plain breakfast of half-baked bread, pea-coffee, and eggs, bought by the orderly at an exorbitant rate, he said, good-naturedly:
"The train don't come till about ten o'clock. If you'd like to see the battle-field, I can get the ambulance and take you over."
Olympia eagerly assented—anything was preferable to this mute misery of her mother and Merry's sepulchral struggles to be conversational and tearless. They drove through bewildering numbers of tents, most of them, Olympia's sharp eyes noted, marked "U.S.A.," and she reflected, almost angrily, that the chief part of war, after all, was pillage. The men looked shabby, and the uniforms were as varied as a carnival, though by no means so gay. Whenever they crossed a stream, which was not seldom, groups of men were standing in the water to their middle, washing their clothing, very much as Olympia had seen the washer-women on the Continent, in Europe. They were very merry, even boisterous in this unaccustomed work, responding to rough jests by resounding slashes of the tightly wrung garments upon the heads or backs of the unwary wags.
"Why, there must be a million men here," Merry cried, as the tents stretched for miles, as far as she could see.
"No; not quite a million, I reckon," the orderly said, proudly; "but we shall have a million when we march on Washington."
"March on Washington!" Merry gasped, as though it was an official order she had just heard promulgated. "But—but we aren't ready yet. We—" Then she halted in dismay. Was she giving information to the enemy? Would they instantly make use of it? Ah! she must, at any cost, undo this fatal treason, big with disaster to the republic. "I mean we are not ready yet to put our many million men on the march."
The orderly laughed. "I reckon your many million will be ready as soon as our one million. You know we have a big country to cover with them. You folks have only Washington to guard and Richmond to take. We have the Mississippi and fifteen hundred miles of coast to guard. Now, this corner is Newmarket, where Johnston waited for his troops on Sunday and led them right along the road we are on—to the pine wood yonder—just north of us. We won't go through there, because we ain't making a flank movement," and he laughed pleasantly. They drove on at a rapid rate as they came upon the southern shelf of the Manassas plateau.
"This," the orderly said, pointing to a small stone building in a bare and ragged waste of trees, shrubs, and ruined implements of war, "is the Henry House—what is left of it—the key of our position when Jackson formed his stone wall facing toward the northwest, over there where your folks very cleverly flanked us and waited an hour or two, Heaven only knows what for, unless it was to give us time to bring up our re-enforcements. Your officers lay the blame on Burnside and Hunter, who, they declare, just sat still half the day, while Sherman got in behind us and would have captured every man Jack of our fellows, if Johnston hadn't come up, where I showed you, in the very nick of time."
The women were looking eagerly at the field of death. It was still as on the day of the battle, save that instead of the thousands of beating hearts, the flaunting flags, and roaring guns, there were countless ridges torn in the sod, as if a plow had run through at random, limbs and trees torn down and whirled across each other, broken wheels, musket stocks and barrels, twisted and sticking, gaunt and eloquent, in the tough, grassy fiber of the earth.
"In this circle of a mile and a half fifty thousand men pelted each other from two o'clock that Sunday morning until four in the afternoon. Up to two o'clock we were on the defensive. We were driven from the broad, smooth road yonder that you see cutting through the trees, northward a mile from here. Jackson alone made a stand; if it hadn't been for him we should have been prisoners in Washington now, I reckon. You see those men at work? They are picking up lead. We reckon that it takes a ton of lead to kill a man."
"A ton of lead?" Olympia repeated.
"Yes. You wouldn't believe that thousands of men can stand in front of each other a whole day and pour lead into each other's faces, and not one in fifty is hit?"
"Ah!" Olympia commented, thinking that, after all, Jack might not have been hit.
"These are the trenches of the dead. Our dead are not here. They were all taken and sent to friends. There are five hundred of your dead here and near the stone bridge yonder. We lost three hundred killed in the fight."
"And are there no other marks than this plain board?" Olympia pointed to a rough pine plank, sticking loosely in the ground, with the words painted in lampblack: "85 Yanks. By the Hospital Corps, Bee's Brigade."
"That's all. They were all stripped—no means of identifying them. The sun was very hot; the rain next day made the bodies rot, and the men had to just shovel them in—" "Oh, oh! don't, pray don't!" Olympia cried, as her mother tottered against the ambulance.
"I ask your pardon, ladies; I forgot that these are not things for ladies to hear." He spoke in sincere contrition.
To relieve him Olympia smiled sadly, saying, "Won't you take us back, please?"
The ambulance drove on into the Warrenton pike, and, if Olympia had known it, within a stone's-throw of Jack's last effort, where the cavalry picket came upon him. It was noon when they reached the station. The orderly returned the ambulance to the hospital, brought down the luggage, and the three women made a luncheon of fruit and dry bread, declining the orderly's invitation to eat at the hospital. The train came on three hours late. It was filled with military men, most of them officers; but so soon as the orderly entered the rear coach, ushering in his charges, two or three young men with official insignia on their collars arose with alacrity and begged the ladies to take the vacant places. At Bristow Station many of the officers got out and a number of civilians entered from the coach ahead and took their places. Mrs. Sprague, worn out by the fatigue of the journey and the strain upon her mind, quite broke down in the hot, ill-ventilated car. There was no water to be had, and Olympia turned inquiringly to the person opposite her, asking:
"Could we possibly get any water—my mother is very much overcome?"
"Certainly, madam. There must be plenty of canteens on the train. I will bring you some in a moment."
An officer who had been sharing the seat with Merry arose on hearing this and said, kindly:
"Madam, if you will make use of your seat as a couch, perhaps your mother will feel more comfortable reclining. I will get a seat elsewhere."
Olympia was too much distressed to think of acknowledging this courteous action, but Merry spoke up timidly:
"We are most grateful to you, sir."
"Oh, don't mention it. Are you going far?" "Yes, we're going to Richmond, to—to find our boys, lost in the battle two weeks ago."
"Oh, you're from the North." He was a young man, perhaps thirty, evidently proud of his unsoiled uniform and the glittering insignia of rank on the sleeve and collar.
"Yes, sir; we're from Acredale, near Warchester," Merry said, as though Acredale must be known even in this remote place, and that the knowing of it would bring a certain consideration to the travelers.
"Oh, yes, Warchester. I fell in with an officer from there after the battle, a Captain Boone. Do you know him?"
"Oh, dear me, yes. He is from Acredale. He is captain of Company K of the Caribee Regiment—"
"Caribee? Why, yes. I remember that name. We got their flags and sent them to Richmond; we—"
"And, oh, sir, did you take the prisoners? I mean the Caribees—were there many? Oh, dear sir, it is among them our boys were; they were mere boys."
"Yes, ma'am, there were a good smart lot of them, and as you say all very young. Boone himself can't be twenty-five."
"And are they treated well? Do they have care? Of course you did not ask any of their names?" Merry asked eagerly, comforted to be able to talk with some one who knew of the Caribees, for heretofore, of the scores they had questioned, no one had ever heard of the regiment.
"Oh, as to that, ma'am, you know a soldier's life is hard, and a prisoner's is a good deal harder. Most of your men are in Castle Thunder—a large tobacco warehouse." He hesitated, and looked furtively at Olympia administering water to her mother. "Perhaps," he said, heartily, "if you would put a drop of whisky in the cup it would brace up your mother's nerves. We find it a good friend down here, when it isn't an enemy," he added, smiling as Olympia looked at the proffered flask hesitatingly.
"I assure you, madam," (Southerners, in the old time at least, imitated the pleasant continental custom of addressing all women by this comprehensive term), "you will be the better for a sip yourself. It was upon that we did most of our fighting the other day, and it is a mighty good brace-up, I assure you."
But Olympia shook her head, smiling. Her mother had taken a fair dose, and was, as she owned, greatly benefited by it. The young man sat on the arm of the opposite seat, anxious to continue the conversation, but divided in mind. Merry was trying to hide her tears, and kept her head obstinately toward the window. Olympia, with her mother's head pillowed on her lap, strove to fan a current of air into circulation. She gave the young man a reassuring glance, and he resumed his seat in front of her, beside the distracted Merry.
"You are from Richmond?" Olympia asked as he sat puzzling for a pretext to renew the talk with her.
"Oh, no; I am from Wilmington, but I have kinsfolk in Richmond, I am on General Beauregard's staff. My name is Ballman—Captain Ballman."
She vaguely remembered that Vincent Atterbury was on staff duty. Perhaps this young man knew him.
"Do you know a Mr. Atterbury in—in your army?" she asked, blushing foolishly.
"Atterbury—Atterbury—why, yes! I know there is such a man. He is in General Jackson's forces—whether on the staff or not I can't say. Stay. I saw his name in The Whig this very day." He took out the paper and glanced down the columns. "Ah, yes; is this the man?" And he read: "Major Vincent Atterbury, whose wounds were at first pronounced serious, is now at his mother's country-house on the river. He is doing excellently, and all fears have been removed."
"Yes, that is he. We know him quite well." And she turned her head window-ward, with a feeling of confidence in the mission, heretofore so blank and wild. Vincent would aid them. He could bring official intervention to bear, without which Jack might, even though alive and well, be hidden from them. She whispered this confidence to her mother as the train jolted along noisily over the rough road, and, a good deal inspired by it, Mrs. Sprague began to take something like interest in the melancholy country that flew past the window, as if seeking a place to hide its bareness in the blue line of uplands that marked the receding mountain spurs.
The captain was much more potential in providing a supper at the evening station than the orderly, who was looked upon with some suspicion when he told the story of his proteges. The zeal of the new Confederates did not extend to aiding the enemy, even though weak women and within the Confederate lines. It was nearly morning when the train finally drew up in the Richmond station, and the captain, with many protestations of being at their service, gave them his army address, and, relinquishing them to the orderly, withdrew. It had been decided that the party should not attempt to find quarters in the hotels, which their escort declared were crowded by the government and the thousands of curious flocking to the city since the battle.
He could, however, he thought, get them plain accommodations with an aunt, who lived a little from the center of the town. They were forced to walk thither, no conveyance being obtainable. After a long delay they were admitted, the widow explaining that she had been a good deal troubled by marauding volunteers. The orderly explained the situation to his kinswoman, and without parley the three ladies were shown into two plain rooms adjoining. They were very prim and clean; the morning air came through the open windows, bearing an almost stupefying odor. It may have been the narcotic influence of the flowers that brought sleep to the three women, for in ten minutes they were at rest as tranquilly as if in the security of Acredale.
A COMEDY OF TERRORS.
When Jack, the day after the battle, found himself able to take account of what was going on, he closed his eyes again with a deep groan, believing in a vague glimpse of peaceful rest that his last confused sensation was real—that he was dead. But there were no airy aids of languorous ease to perpetuate or encourage this delusion. Sharp pains racked his head; his right arm burned and twinged as though he had thrust it into pricking flames. Loud voices about, but invisible to him, were swearing and gibing. He was lying on his back, his head on a line with his body. A regular movement, broken by joltings that sent torturing darts through his whole frame, told him without much conjecture that he was in an ambulance. The accent of the voices outside told him that it was a rebel ambulance and not a Northern one he was in. He tried to raise his head to see his companions, but he might as well have been nailed to the cross, so far as pain and helplessness went. Then he lost the thread of his thought. He heard, in a vague, far-off voice, men talking:
"We'll catch old Abe on our next trip ef we go on like this—eh, Ben?"
"I reckon. I'm jess going to take a furlough now. Hain't seen my girl fo' foah months."
"How much did you pick up?"
"I've got five gold watches and right smart o' shinplasters, I don't reckon they'll pass in our parts, but I'm going to trade 'em off with some of these wounded chaps. They'll give gold for 'em fast enough."
"I got a heap of gold watches, jackknives, and sech. I don't know what in the land to do with 'em. Suppose we can sell 'em in Richmond?"
"Yes—but how are we going to get to Richmond? We're ordered to dump these Yanks at Newmarket and go back. Ef we don't get to Richmond, our watches ain't worth a red cent. Jess like's not old Bory'll issue an order to turn everything in. I'm blamed if I will!"
"Look yere, Ben, do you see that road off there to the right?"
"Yes, I do, but I don't see that it's different from any other road."
"Don't you? Well, honey, it's mitey sight different from all the roads you ever saw. It takes you where you don't want to go."
"What do you mean, Bob?"
"I jess mean that ar road goes to Newmarket, where these Yanks are ordered, but we've lost it and we shall come out in about an hour and a half at the junction, whar th' train goes on to Richmond. See?"
"Bob Purvis, you are a general, suah," and then there followed low, rollicking laughter, mingled with a gurgling as of a liquid swallowed from a flask. "But how'll we manage at the junction? We can't go right on the cars? There is some hocus-pocus about everything you do in the army."
"Oh, jess you keep your eye on your dad, and you'll see things you never saw afore. The minit them cavalry sneaks left us back thar, I made up my mind I'd skip Newmarket. They've gone back to pick up more loot. No one at the junction knows what our orders was. Besides, it'll be dark when we get thar. The trains'll be full of our wounded. We'll slip these Yanks in as if under orders. No one will know but we're hospital guards on a detail for the wounded. When it is found out we shall be in Richmond, and, if the provost folk get hold of me afore I've been home and planted my haul, then I'm a Yank."
"By mitey, Ben, you are a general, suah." Then suppressed laughter and the gurgling of the flowing enlivener. Jack blissfully fell into dreams, wherein home things and warlike doings mingled in grotesque medley. Relapses into consciousness followed at he knew not what intervals thereafter. He was conscious of cruel torment and a clumsy transfer into another vehicle, confused sounds of groans, curses, waving lights, and the hissing of escaping steam almost in his very ears. Then the anguish of thundering wheels, until his cracked brain reeled and he was mercifully unconscious. How long? His eyes opened on a clean white wall, flowers hung from the windows in plumy festoons, birds sang in the yellow dazzling sunlight. What could it mean? Was he at home? Surely there was nothing of war in these comfortable surroundings. His left arm was free, there was no one lying near to impede its movement. So it wasn't a hospital. He took vague note of all this before he tried to lift his arm. He raised his hand to rub his eyes and to assure himself that it was not a cruel delusion. When he took it away, a kind face—the face of a woman—was bending over him.
"You are feeling better, aren't you, lieutenant?"
"Lieutenant"? Why did she call him lieutenant? Had he been promoted on the battle-field? Was he in the Union lines? Oh, yes; else he would have been in a hospital, with moaning men all about him. He tried to speak. The woman put her finger to her lips, warningly.
"The doctor says you must not speak or be spoken to until you get strong."
Days passed. He couldn't tell how many, for he lay, long hours at a time, unconscious, the mental faculties mercifully dead while the wounded ligatures knit themselves anew. His right arm had been cut by a saber-stroke, and a pistol-ball had entered above the shoulder-blade. Prompt attention would have given him recovery in a few days, but the twenty-four hours in a cart and the cars made his condition, for a time, serious.
But now he is visibly stronger, and his nurse brings people into the room to see him. They look at him with wonder and admiration, while the good lady is all in a flutter of delight. He hears himself spoken of always as the "lieutenant," and hesitates to ask an explanation. The physician comes but seldom, the lady explaining that all the doctors in town are busy in the hospitals. The truth flashed upon him one morning, when his hostess came bursting in to say:
"The provost guard has come to take your name. I don't know it, for when you were brought here my son only heard you called lieutenant."
"My name is John Sprague"—Jack lifted himself to his elbow in excitement and disregard of everything—"and my regiment is the—ah!" He fell back, and the frightened dame hurried to him as she saw his changed look and deadly pallor.
"Oh, how careless of me; how unthinking! There, lie perfectly still. I will send the guard away and come back."
She was gone before he could recover his speech or enough coherence to say what was in his mind. She informed the orderly that the ailing man was John Sprague, a lieutenant in the First Virginia Volunteers, for that was the regiment the hospital guards had named, when, on the night of the arrival, the eager citizens swarmed at the station to take the wounded to their homes, the hospitals being sadly unready. Jack instantly suspected the situation, the conversation in the ambulance coming back to him now distinctly. What should he do? He was in honor bound to undeceive the kind-hearted and unwitting accomplice of the fraud practiced on herself as well as on him. She came in presently with an officer. Jack was not familiar with the rebel insignia, and could not discover his rank or service, but he expected to hear himself denounced as a spy or anything odious.
"Our surgeon has been sent to Manassas, and Dr. Van Ness is come to take care of you in his place," the matron said, as Jack stared silent and quavering at the new-comer. That gentleman examined the patient, shook his head dubiously and declared high fever at work, and ordered absolute quiet for at least twenty-four hours, when, if he could, he would return. "Continue the prescriptions you have now, Mrs. Raines. All he needs is quiet. The hospital steward will come to dress his wounds as usual."
Mrs. Raines came in with tea and toast in the evening, and as she spread the napkin on the bed she prattled cheerily.
"I'm so happy to-night. I've just received a letter from my son. He's at Manassas. He's been promoted to lieutenant from sergeant. It was read at the head of the regiment—for gallant service at the Henry House, where he captured part of a company of Yankees with a squad of cavalry. He's only twenty-two, and if he lives he may be a general—if those cowardly Yankees will only fight long enough. But I'm afraid they won't. The Whig says this morning that that beast Lincoln has to keep himself guarded by a regiment of negroes, as the Northern people want to kill him. I hope they won't, for if they did then they might put some one in his place that has some sense, and then the war would come to an end and we should be cheated in a settlement, for the Yankees are sharper than our big-hearted, generous men. No, sir, no; you mustn't talk. I've promised to keep you quiet, so lie still. I'll read The Whig to you."
She ran over the meager dispatches made up of hearsay and speculation—how the North had fallen into a rage with the Washington authorities; how Lincoln's life wasn't safe; how the Cabinet had all resigned; how the Democrats had arisen in Congress and in the State Legislatures and demanded negotiations with "President Davis"; how England was drawing up a treaty with the new Confederacy. Then she turned to the local page. She ran over a dozen paragraphs recounting the deeds of well-known Richmond heroes, but these made no impression upon the listener, until she read:
"Major Vincent Atterbury, whose gallantry at the battle of the 21st Richmond is a subject of pride to his friends, was transferred to his country home, on the James, yesterday. He is still very low, but the surgeons declare that home quiet and careful nursing will restore him to his duties in time for the autumn campaign—if the Yankees do not surrender before that time."
Jack's eyes were so bright when Mrs. Raines looked at him, as she lowered the sheet, that she arose, exclaiming quickly:
"There, I have brought the fever back! Your eyes are glittering and your cheeks are flushed. No, do not speak."
She moved precipitately from the room, and Jack sank back with a groan. His danger, if not his difficulties, might be overcome now. He would write to Mrs. Atterbury, and through Vincent arrange for an exchange. But a still deeper trouble had been on his mind. Where were Barney and Nick, and, worse than all, young Dick Perley? If any mishap had befallen that boy, he would shrink from returning to Acredale. And his mother, what must her state of mind be? How many days had passed since the battle? He had no means of knowing. Ah, yes! The paper was there on the stand, where Mrs. Raines had thrown it. He raised himself slowly and seized it. Heavens! Saturday, August 4th? Two weeks since that fatal Sunday! And his mother? Oh, he must find means to write, to telegraph. "Mrs. Raines," he called, hoarsely, "Mrs. Raines!" She came running to his side in alarm.
"Oh, what has happened? You are worse!"
"I am very comfortable; but, my kind friend, I must—I must let my mother know that I am alive; she will think me dead."
"That's what I meant to ask you—just as soon as you seemed able to talk. I would have gladly sent her word and invited her to come here, but I didn't know the name nor the address. You didn't have a stitch of clothes when you came except your underwear; the rest had been taken off, the men said, because they were soiled and bloody, and there wasn't a clew of any sort to your identity, except that you were a lieutenant in a Virginia regiment. I thought we should find out when the provost came, but they have sent to Manassas, and no answer has come back yet."
"The men who brought me here deceived you, Mrs. Raines. I do not belong to a Virginia regiment; I belong to a New York regiment, and I am a—a—Union soldier."
"Great Father! A Yankee?" The poor woman sank on the nearest chair, as some one who has been nursing a patient that suddenly turns out to have small-pox or leprosy.
"Yes, Mrs. Raines: if you prefer that name, I'm a Yankee—but we call only New-Englanders Yankees." He waited for her to speak, but as she sat dumb, helpless, overcome, he continued: "I tried to explain the mistake before, but your kindness cut me off. I can only say that, though you have given me a mother's care and a Christian's consideration under a misunderstanding, I trust you will not blame me for willful deception nor regret the goodness you have shown the stranger in your hands."
"And those men that brought you here—were they Yankees, too?" she asked, her mind dwelling, womanlike, on the least essential factor of the problem in order to keep the grievous fact as far away as possible.
"Oh, no! they were your own people. There was no collusion, I assure you." Jack almost laughed now, as the dialogue in the ambulance recurred to him, and the adroit use the men had made of their unconscious charges to secure a furlough. "No; I was more amazed than I can say when I came to myself in this charming chamber—a paradise it seemed to me, a home paradise—when your kind face bent over my pillow."
"It's a cruel disappointment," she said, rising and holding the back of the chair as she tilted it toward the bed. "We were so proud of you—so proud to have any one that had fought for our dear State in our own house to nurse, to bring back to life. Every one on the street has some one from the battle, and oh, what will be said of us when people know that we—we—" But here the cruelty of the conclusion came too sharply to her mind, and she walked to the window, sobbing softly.
"I can understand, believe me, Mrs. Raines, and I am going to propose a means to you whereby I shall be taken from here, and your neighbors shall never know that you entertained an enemy unawares, though God knows I don't see why we should be enemies when the battle is over. If your son were in my condition I should think very hard of my mother if she were not to him what you have been to me."
"But I can't believe you're a Yankee; you were so gentle, so patient in all the dreadful times when the surgeon was cutting and hacking. Oh, I can't believe it! Oh, please say you are joking—that you wanted to give me a fright. And you have a mother?" She came over near the bed again and stood looking at him dismally, half in doubt, half in perplexed wonder; for Yankee, in her mind, suggested some such monster as the Greeks conjured when the Goths poured into the peninsula, maiming the men and debauching the women. "I said Sprague wasn't a Virginia name," she murmered, plaintively, in a last desperate attempt to fortify herself against the worst; "but there's no telling what names are in Virginia now, since Norfolk has grown so big and folks come in that way from all over the world."
Jack could scarcely keep a serious face, as this humorous lament displayed the pride of the Dominion and the unconscious Boeotianism of the provincial.
"Now, Mrs. Raines, here is what I propose: Major Atterbury, of whom you read to me, is my nearest friend. We have been college comrades; he has passed weeks at my home, and I have been asked to his, and meant to come this autumn vacation, if the war had not broken out. I will write to his mother, and she will have me removed to her house, and it need never be known that you gave aid and comfort to the enemy."
"But the Atterburys will never receive you. They were the first to favor secession, when all the rest of us opposed it. To tell you the truth, Mr. Sprague, it is partly because we were abused a good deal for holding back when the secession excitement was first started, that I am so—so anxious about the story getting out that we entertained a Yankee prisoner. My husband is in the service of the government in Norfolk, and my son is in the army. But you know what neighborhood gossip is."
So, after a friendly talk in which the poor lady cried a great deal and besought Jack's good-will for her darling William, if ever he were luckless enough to be captured, the note was written and dispatched to the Atterburys, whose city house was near the capital square. The messenger returned a half-hour later, reporting the family out of town; that they had taken the major to their country-place near Williamsburg, on the banks of the James. The messenger had given the letter to the housekeeper, who said that it would go out an hour later with the mail sent daily to the family.
"Williamsburg is two hours' ride on the train," Mrs. Raines explained, "and we sha'n't hear from them until to-morrow."
Jack said nothing; his mind was on his mother and the misery she must be enduring. He turned restlessly on his pillow that night, and woke feverish in the morning. Mrs. Raines now took as much pains to keep people who called from seeing her hero as she had before put herself out to display the invalid. Even the doctor, calling about nine o'clock, was sent away on some pretext, and the poor lady waited with an anxiety, almost as poignant as Jack's own, for the response to his note. About noon it came. Mrs. Raines went to the door herself, not daring to trust the colored girl, who had lavished untold pains on Jack's linen and the manual part of his care. Jack heard low voices in the hallway, then on the stairs, and he knew some one had come.
"Here is Miss Atterbury sent to fetch you, lieutenant," Mrs. Raines said, now very much relieved, and impressed, too, by the powerful friends her dangerous protege was able to summon so promptly by a line.
"You are Rosalind?" Jack said, smiling at a pair of the brownest and most bewitching eyes fixed soberly on him. "I should have known you if I had met you in the street, although you were a small girl when I saw you last."
"You needn't take much credit for that, sir, since Vincent probably had my portrait in all his coat-pockets and his room frescoed with them—it's a trick of his. So you needn't pretend that it was family likeness—I know better. Vincent has all the good looks of the family, and I have all the good qualities."
"That's why you've come to console the afflicted?"
"Yes, duty—you know how disagreeable that is. Vincent declared he would come himself, if I didn't, and mamma wouldn't hear of your being moved by servants alone, so I am here. But I give you fair warning that I am a rebel of the most ferocious sort. You shall ride under the 'bonnie blue flag' to Rosedale, and you shall salute our flag every morning when it is hoisted."
"I am the most docile of men and the easiest of invalids. I will ride under Captain Kidd's flag and salute the standard of the Grand Turk, to be near Vincent just now."
When Rosalind's colored aids had placed him in the big family carriage, and he had bidden Mrs. Raines farewell, the young lady resumed: "Ah, I know you! Vincent has told me about your Yankee ways. Not another word, sir. I'll act as guide, and tell you all we see of note as we go on. There where your eyes are resting now is the Confederate Hall of Independence; that modest house on the corner is President Davis's. We are going to build him another by and by—after we capture Washington and get our belongings—no—no—you needn't speak. I know what you want to say. That's Washington's monument, and there is our dear old Jefferson. Doesn't it quicken even your slow Yankee blood to pass the walls that heard Jefferson at his greatest, that held Patrick Henry, that covered Washington? Ah! if you Northern Pharisees were not money-grubbers and souless to everything but the almighty dollar, you would join hands with us in creating our new Confederacy. Yes, sir, you're my prisoner. We shall see that one Yankee is kept out of mischief—if the war lasts—which is not likely, as your folks are quite cowed by the victory at Bull Run. Wasn't it a splendid fight? I shall never forgive Vin for not letting me know it was coming off. Vin, you know, is on General Early's staff. He knew two days before that there was to be a fight, for he started from Winchester to keep the railway clear and lead the troops to the Henry House when they got off the cars. He was in the thickest of the fight, near Professor Jackson—Stonewall, they call him now. He—Vin—had three horses killed, and was made a major on the field by General Joe Johnston. What?——"
"Please let the carriage stop a moment. I want to absorb that lovely view."
He pointed to the James, debouching from the hills over which the carriage was slowly rolling. The afternoon sun was behind them; but far, far to the eastward the noble river wound through masses of dark, deep green until it was lost in a glow of shimmering mirage in the low horizon.
"Isn't it lovely? We shall have a nobler capital city than Washington, with its horrid red streets, its wilderness of bare squares, its interminable distances—"
"Carcassonne," Jack murmured.
"An exquisite bit of verse and a touching story. I——"
"There, there—stop. You are talking again. You shall read the poem to me—that is, if it isn't a glorification of the North."
"No; Carcassonne was a city of the South."
"Really—you must not talk. I'm not going to open my lips again until we get to the boat."
She settled back in her place and took out a book, looking over the top at him from time to time. The motion of the vehicle, the warmth of the day, and the odorous breath of flowers and shrubs gradually dulled his mischievous spirits, and he slept tranquilly until the carriage drew up at the wharf at Harrison's Landing, whence, taken on a primitive ferry, they in an hour or more arrived at a long wooden pier extending into the river. It was nearly six o'clock when the carriage entered a solemn aisle of pines ending in a labyrinth of oleanders and the tropic-like plants of the South. Then an old-fashioned porticoed mansion came into view, and on signal from the driver a posse of colored servants came trooping out noisily to carry the invalid in. Mrs. Atterbury was on the veranda, and stepped down to the carriage to welcome the guest. She greeted him with the affectionate cordiality of a mother, and asked:
"How have you borne the fatigue? I hope Rosa hasn't let you talk?"
"If I may speak now it will be to bear testimony that I have been made a mummy since noon. I haven't been permitted to ask the local habitation or name of the scenic delights that have made the journey a panorama of beauty and my guide a tyrant, to whom, by comparison, Caligula was a tender master!"
"Since you slept most of the way you must have dreamed the beauty, as you certainly have invented the tyrant," Rosa retorted, as the brawny servants lifted Jack bodily and carried him up the three steps and into the sitting-room.
"Your quarters are next to my son's, if you think you can endure the constant outbreaks of that locality. We are with him in all but his sleeping hours, so you will do well to reflect before you decide."
"Oh, I shall insist on being near Vincent. He's too badly hurt to overcome me in case we are tempted to fight our battles over again."
"But he has allies here, sir, and you must remember that you are a prisoner of war," Rosa cried from the landing above, en route to minister to her hero before the Yankee invaded him. Vincent was propped up in the bed with a mass of pillows, and the two friends embraced in college-boy fashion, too much moved for a moment to begin the flood of questions each was eager to ask and answer.
"Before I say a word of anything else, Vint, I want you to do me a great service. It is two weeks since the battle. I am sure my mother can not have any certain information about me. Can you manage any way to get a letter or telegram sent her?"
"Of course I can. Nothing easier. Write your telegram. I will send it under cover to General Early. He will forward it by flag of truce to Washington, and it will be sent North from there."
But Jack's letter was never sent, for when the post came from Richmond the next day, Vincent read in the morning paper a surprising personal item:
"'Among the distinguished arrivals in the city within the week, we have just learned of the presence of Mrs. Sprague, wife of the famous Senator, a contemporary with Clay and Webster. Mrs. Sprague has come to Richmond in search of her son, who was captured or killed on the field near the Henry House. She comes with her daughter under a safeguard from General Johnston, who knew the family when he was at West Point. Mrs. Sprague is stopping with Mrs. Bevan, on Vernon Street, and is under the escort of Private William Bevan of the general headquarters.'"
UNDER TWO FLAGS.
That modest paragraph in the morning paper wrought amazing results in the fortunes of many of the people we are interested in. A regiment of cavalry encamped near the outskirts of the city on the line of the Virginia Central had broken camp early in the morning to march northward. One company detailed to bring up the rear was still loitering near the station when the newspapers were thrown off the train and eagerly seized by the men, who bestrewed themselves in groups to hear the news read aloud.
"Here, you Towhead, you're company clerk; you read so that we can all hear."
In response to this a stripling, in the most extraordinary costume, came out from the impedimenta of the company with a springy step and consequential air. You wouldn't have recognized the scapegrace, Dick Perley, in the carnival figure that came forward, for his curling blond hair was closely cropped, his face was smeared with the soilure of pots and pans, and it was evident that the eager warrior had exchanged the weapons of war for the utensils of the company kitchen. He read in a high, clear treble the telegraphic dispatches, the sanguinary editorial ratiocinations, Orphic in their prophetic sententiousness, and then turned to the local columns.
Any one listening to the lad would never have suspected that he was not a Southron. He prolonged the a's and o's, as the Southern trick is, and imitated to such perfection the pleasant localisms of Virginian pronunciation, that keener critics of speech and accent than these galliard troops would have been deceived. But suddenly his voice breaks, he falls into the clear, distinct enunciation of New York—the only speech in the Union that betrays no sign of locality. He is reading the lines about the distinguished arrivals. Fortunately at the instant there is a blast from the bugles—"Fall in!"—and the men rush to their horses. In twenty minutes the company is clattering out on the Mechanicsville road, and at noon, when the squadron halted for dinner, the company cook had to rely on the clumsy ministrations of his colored aides. "Towhead" had disappeared.
Olympia, after a night of anguish, began the new day with a heavy burden on her mind. Mrs. Sprague was delirious. The physician summoned during the night shook his head gravely. She was suffering from overexertion, heat, and anxiety. He was unable to do more than mitigate her sufferings. He recommended country air and absolute repose. Merry, too, though holding up bravely, gave signs of breaking down. The two women—Olympia and Merry—under the escort of young Bevan, had gone through the prisons, the dreadful Castle Winder, and through the hospitals, with hope dying at every new disappointment. They came across many of the Caribees, and saw a member of Congress, caught on the battle-field, who knew the regiment well.
Jack had been traced to Porter's lines, then far to the left, where Nick had been told to wait. Nick was among the sweltering mass at Castle Winder, but he could trace the missing no farther. He told of Jack's persistent valor to the last, and the dreadful moment, when he, Jack, had been separated. Dick he had not seen at all. Olympia made intercession for Nick's release, but was informed that nothing could be done until a cartel of exchange had been arranged. The Yankee authorities had in the first five months of the war refused to make any arrangement, while the Union forces were capturing the Confederate armies in West Virginia and Missouri. Now that the Confederates held an equal number, they were going to retaliate upon the overconfident North. Olympia placed five hundred dollars at Nick's disposal in the hands of the commandant to supply the lad with better food than the commissary furnished, and, promising him strenuous aid so soon as she got back to Washington, she resumed the quest for the lost. She had written out an advertisement, to be inserted in all the city papers, and was to visit the offices herself with young Bevan that evening. She had her bonnet on, and was charging Merry how to minister to the ailing mother, when the hostess knocked at the door. "A lady is in the parlor who says she must see Mrs. Sprague immediately." Olympia followed Mrs. Bevan down tremblingly, far from any anticipation of what was in store for her; rather in the belief that it was some wretched mother from Acredale who had learned of their presence and hoped to get aid for an imprisoned son, husband, or brother. But when she saw the kind, matronly face of Mrs. Raines beaming with the delight of bearing good news, she sank into a chair, saying faintly:
"Did you wish to see me, Mrs.—Mrs.—"
"You are not Mrs. Sprague?"
"No; my mother is very ill. I am Mrs. Sprague's daughter. Can I—"
"Well, Miss Sprague, I think I can cure your mother. I—"
She arose and walked mysteriously to the door and looked into the hallway.
"I know what the disease is your mother is suffering from."
She couldn't resist prolonging the consequence of her mission. All women have the dramatic instinct. All love to intensify the unexpected. But Olympia's listless manner and touching desolation spurred her on. She put her fingers to her lips warningly, and coming quite near her whispered, as she had seen people do on the stage:
"Don't make any disturbance; don't faint. Your brother is alive and well! There, there—I told you."
Olympia was hugging the astonished woman, who glanced in terror over her shoulder to see that feminine curiosity was not dangerously alert. "You will ruin me," she whispered, "if you don't be calm." Then Olympia suddenly recovered herself, sobbing behind her handkerchief. "He has been at my house two weeks. He left yesterday and is now with Major Atterbury's family on the James River, near Williamsburg. Miss Atterbury came herself to take him there yesterday morning. I saw your name in The Examiner only an hour ago, and I came at once to relieve the distress I knew you must be suffering."
Then the kind soul told the story, charging the sister never to reveal the facts. She withdrew very happy and contented, for Olympia had said many tender things; she almost felt that she had done the Confederacy a great service, to have laid so many people under an obligation that might in the future result in something remarkable for the cause.
Olympia's purpose of breaking the news gradually to the invalid was frustrated by her tell-tale eyes and buoyant movements.
"O Olympia, you have seen John!" she screamed, starting up—"where is he? Oh, where is he? I know you have seen him!" And then there were subdued laughter and tears, and mamma instantly declared her intention of flying to the hero. But there was considerable diplomacy still requisite. Mrs. Raines must not be compromised, and young Bevan must get transportation for them to the Atterburys. It was past noon when the carriage came for them. Olympia had come down-stairs to give Mrs. Bevan final instruction regarding letters and luggage, when a resounding knock came upon the door. Mrs. Bevan opened it herself, and Olympia, standing in the hall, heard a well-known voice, quick, eager, joyous:
"Is Mrs. Sprague, here?"
"O Richard," Olympia cried, rushing at him—"ah, you darling boy!—Aunt Merry—Aunt Merry! Come—come quick! He is here." But Aunt Merry at the head of the stairs had heard the voice, and Dick, tearing himself ungallantly from the embrace of beauty, was up the stairs in four leaps and in the arms of the fainting spinster.
"It is Miss Perley's nephew," Olympia said, joyously, to the amazed lady of the house, who stood speechless. "We had given up all hope of seeing him, as his name was not on our army list. He ran away to be with my brother, and we felt like murderers, as you may imagine, and are almost as much relieved to find him as our own flesh and blood."
The subsequent conversation between the matron and the young girl seemed to put the mistress of the house in excellent humor, and when the carriage drove off she kissed all the ladies quite as rapturously as if she had never vowed undying hatred and vengeance upon the Yankee people. In the carriage the prodigal Dick rattled off the story of his adventures. He had come to Company K after Jack had been sent out on the skirmish-line. He had followed in wild despair the direction pointed out to him. He had lost his way until he met Colonel Sherman's orderlies. They had told him where the company was halted on the banks of the stream.
When he reached the place indicated he learned of Jack's detail to the extreme right of the army. He dared not set out openly to follow. He ran back in the bushes, out of sight, and then by a detour struck the stream far above to the right. The volleys away to the west guided him, and he tore forward, bruising his flesh and tearing his raiment to tatters. The stream seemed too deep to cross, for a mile or more, but finally, finding that the firing seemed to go swiftly to the southward, he plunged in. The banks on the other side were rugged and precipitous, and he was obliged to push on in the morass that the stream wound through. But nature gave out, and on a sunny slope he sat down to rest. He soon fell into a sound sleep, and when he woke there was noise of men laughing and shouting about him. He started to his feet.
"Hello! buster," a voice said near him. "What are you doin' away from yer mammy? Beckon she'll think the Yanks have got you if you ain't home for bedtime."
The man who said this was lying peacefully under a laurel-bush. Others were sprawled about, feasting on the spoil of Union haversacks.
"I knew then that I was in a rebel camp," Dick continued, "but I wasn't afraid, because my clothes were not military; and, even if they had been, they were so torn and muddy, no one would have thought of them as a uniform. But, for that matter, a good many of the rebels had blue trousers; and, as for regimentals, there really were none, as we have them. I made believe that I lived in the neighborhood, imitated the Southern twang, and was set to work right away helping the company cook. The firing was still going on very near us, to the south, west, and east. But the men didn't seem to mind it much. In about a half-hour there was a sudden move.
"A volley was poured into us from the east, and in an instant all the graybacks were in commotion. I heard the officers shout: 'We are surrounded! Die at your post, men!' But the men didn't want to die at their posts, or anywhere else, but made off like frightened rabbits. In a few minutes we were all marching between two lines of Richardson's Union brigade. I had no trouble in stepping out, and then I pushed on in Jack's direction. But I could not find him when I got to Hunter's headquarters. An orderly remembered seeing him, or rather seeing the men that brought the good news that Sherman was on the rebel side of the stone bridge early in the battle. There I found an orderly of Franklin's, who had seen two men I described, sent off to the right to picket, until the cavalry could be sent there. I came upon Nick Marsh near the general's headquarters, and he told me the direction the others had gone, but urged me to remain with him—as Jack would surely be back there, horsemen having ridden out in that direction to relieve him. I don't know how far I went, but it must have been a mile.
"There I had to lie in the bushes, for two columns of troops were coming and going, the flying fellows that Sherman had routed near the stone bridge and the re-enforcements that were tearing up from the Manassas Railway. The men coming were laughing and singing as they ran. The men flying were silent, and seemed too frightened to notice the forces coming to their support. I broke out of the bushes and ran toward the line of thick trees that seemed to mark the course of the river. As I came out on a deep sandy road I ran right into troops, halting. There were great cheering and hurrah; then a cavalcade of civilians came through the rushing ranks at a gallop. 'Hurrah for President Davis! Hip, hip, hurrah!' I saw him. He was riding a splendid gray horse, and as the men broke into shouts he raised his hat and bowed right and left. He was stopped for a few minutes just in front of where I stood, or, rather, I ran to where he halted. There were long trains of wounded filing down the road, and men without guns, knapsacks, or side-arms, breaking through the bushes on all sides.
"'They've routed us, Mr. President,' a wounded officer cried, as the stretcher upon which he was lying passed near Jeff Davis.
"'What part of the field are you from?' Davis asked, huskily.
"'Bartow's brigade, stone bridge. They've captured all our guns, and are pouring down on the fords. You will be in danger Mr. President, if you continue northward a hundred yards.'
"Sure enough, there was a mighty cheer, hardly a half-mile to the north of us, and clouds of dust arose in the air. Davis watched the movement through his glass, and, turning to a horseman at his side, cried, exultantly:
"'The breeze is from the northwest; that dust is going toward the Warrenton Pike. Johnston has got up in time; we've won the day!'
"With this he put spurs to his horse, and the squadron halted on the road set off at a wild gallop. The words of the President were repeated from man to man, and then a mighty shout broke out. It seemed to clip the leaves from the trees, as I saw them cut, an hour or two before, by the swarming volleys of musketry. A horseman suddenly broke from a path just behind where I was.
"'Is President Davis here?' he asked, riding close to me, but not halting.
"'He has just ridden off yonder.' I pointed toward the cloud of dust east and north of us.
"'Split your throats, boys! General Beauregard has just sent me to the President to welcome him with the news that the Yankees are licked and flying in all directions! Not a man of them can escape. General Longstreet is on their rear at Centreville.'
"There were deafening, crazy shouts; hats, canteens, even muskets, were flung in the air, and the wounded, lying on the ground, were struck by some of these things as they fell, in a cloud, about them. The shouts grew louder and louder, they rose and fell, far, far away right and left. Everybody embraced everybody else. Men who had been limping and despondent before broke into wild dances of joy. Everybody wanted to go toward the field of battle now, but a provost guard filed down the road presently, and in a few minutes I saw a sight that made tears of rage and shame blind me. Whole regiments of blue-coats came at a quick-step through the dusty roadway, the rebel guards prodding them brutally with their bayonets. The fellows near me, who had been running from the fight, set up insulting cheers and cat-calls.
"'Did you'ns leave a lock of your hair with old Mas'r Lincoln?'
"'Come down to Dixie to marry niggers, have ye?' and scores of taunts more insulting and obscene. Our men never answered. They were worn and dusty. They had no weapons, of course, for the first thing the rebels did was to search every man, take his money, watch, studs, even his coat and shoes, when they were better than their own. Hundreds of our men were in their stocking-feet, or, rather, in their bare feet, as they tramped wearily through the burning sand and twisted roots. I heard one of the rebels near me, an officer, say that the prisoners were all going to the junction to take the cars. President Davis had ordered that they should be marched through the streets of Richmond to show the people of the capital the extent of the victory. Then the thought flashed into my head that if our army had been captured, my best chance of finding Jack would be to follow to Richmond and watch the blue-coats. I easily slipped among the prisoners, came to the city and saw every man that went to Castle Winder. But no one that I knew was among them, and I made up my mind that Jack had escaped. I saw Wesley Boone's father and sister at the Spottswood House yesterday, but I was too late to catch them, and, when I asked the clerk at the desk, be said they had taken quarters in the town—he didn't know where."
"That's a fact," Olympia exclaimed; "they left Washington before us. I wonder if they found Wesley?"
"I don't know," Dick continued, "The officers were brought in a gang by themselves, and I didn't see them. Well, I hung about the town, visiting all the places I thought it likely Jack might be, and then I joined a cavalry company that belonged to Early's brigade, at Manassas. I was going there with them this morning to get back to our lines and find Jack, when I saw the paragraph in The Examiner, telling of your coming and whereabouts."
"What an intrepid young brave you are, Dick!" Olympia cried, as the artless narrative came to an end.
"What a cruel boy, to leave his family and—and—run into such dreadful danger!" Merry expostulated.
"What a devoted boy, to risk his life and liberty for our poor Jack!" Mrs. Sprague said, bending forward to stroke the tow-head. The carriage passed down the same road that Jack had gone the day before, whistling sarcasms at his keeper. At Harrison's Landing there was a delay of several hours, and the impatient party wandered on the shores of the majestic James—glittering, like a sylvan lake, in its rich border of woodland. The sun was too hot to permit of the excursion Dick suggested, and late in the afternoon the wheezy ferry carried them down the lake-like stream. On every hand there were signs of peace—not a fort, not a breastwork gave token that this was in a few months to be the shambles of mighty armies, the anchorage of that new wonder, the iron battle-ship; the scene of McClellan's miraculous victory at Malvern, of Grant's slaughtering grapplings with rebellion at bay, of Butler's comic joustings, and the last desperate onslaughts of Hancock's legions. The air, tempered by the faint flavor of salt in the water, filled the travelers with an intoxicating vigor, lent strength to their jaded forces, which, while tense with expectation, could not wholly resist the delicious aroma, the lovely outlines of primeval forest, the melody of strange birds, startled along the shore by the wheezy puffing of the ferry. There were cries of admiring delight as the carriage ran from the long wooden pier into the dim arcade of sycamore and pine, through which the road wound, all the way to Rosedale. Then they emerged into a gentle, rolling, upland, where cultivated fields spread far into the horizon, and in the distance a dense grove, which proved to be the park about the house. The coming of the carriage was a signal to a swarm of small black urchins to scramble, grinning and delighted, to the wide lawn. There was no need to sound the great knocker; no need to explain, when Rosalind, hurrying to the door, saw Olympia emerging from the vehicle. They had not seen each other in four years, but they were in each other's arms—laughing, sobbing—exclaiming:
"How did you know? When did you come?"
"Jack, Jack! Where is he? How is he?"
"Jack's able to eat," Rosa cried, darting down to embrace Mrs. Sprague, and starting with a little cry of wonder as Aunt Merry exclaimed, timidly:
"We're all here. You've captured the best part of Acredale, though you haven't got Washington yet."
"Why, how delightful! We shall think it is Acredale," Rosa cried, welcoming the blushing lady. "And—I should say, if he were not so much like—like 'we uns,' that this was my old friend, the naughty Richard," she said, welcoming the blushing youth cordially. (Dick avowed afterward, in confidence to Jack, that she would have kissed him if he hadn't held back, remembering his unkempt condition.) Mamma and Olympia were shown up to the door of Jack's room, where Rosalind very discreetly left them, to introduce the other guests to Mrs. Atterbury, attracted to the place by the unwonted sounds. When presently the visitors were shown into Vincent's room, Jack called out to them to come and see valor conquered by love; and, when they entered, mamma was brushing her eyes furtively, while she still held Jack's unwounded hand under the counterpane. Master Dick excited the maternal alarm by throwing himself rapturously on the wounded hero and giving him the kiss he had denied Rosalind. Indeed, he showered kisses on the abashed hero, whose eyes were suspiciously sparkling at the evidence of the boy's delight. He established himself in Jack's room, and no urging, prayer, or reproof could induce him to quit his hero's sight.