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Young Captain Jack - The Son of a Soldier
by Horatio Alger and Arthur M. Winfield
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"Look to the boat, I am going after him!" cried our hero suddenly, and leaping to the bow, he dove into the bay after the sinking young man.



He had been afraid of bringing the craft closer and hitting St. John. Now he struck out boldly, and then made a second dive, coming up close to the spendthrift's side.

St. John wished to cry out, but the words would not come. Espying Jack, he grabbed for the lad and clutched him around the throat.

"Don't hold on so tight!" cried Jack in alarm. "I will save you. Take hold of my shoulder."

But St. John was too excited to be reasoned with, and instead of letting up, he clung closer than ever, so that soon both were in peril of going down.

"Let up, I say!" repeated Jack, and then, drawing up one knee, he literally forced the young man from him. Then, as St. John turned partly around, he caught him under the arms and began to tread water.

By this time Marion was at the oars, her temporary fear vanishing with the thought that not only St. John, but also Jack, was in peril. With caution she brought the rowboat closer.

"Catch hold there," said Jack, and seeing the boat, St. John made a wild clutch for the gunwale, nearly upsetting the craft.

"Don't—you'll have me in the water next!" screamed Marion. Then Jack steadied the boat, and St. John scrambled in over the stern, to fall on the bottom all but exhausted, and so frightened that he could not utter a word. Jack followed on board.

"Oh, St. John, what a narrow escape!" gasped Marion, after Jack was safe. "I thought you would surely be drowned!"

For the moment St. John did not speak. He sat up, panting heavily.

"The race is off," said Jack. "Shall I go after your boat, St. John?"

"I don't care," growled the spendthrift, at last. "Where is she?"

"Caught between the rocks."

"Let Old Ben get the boat," put in Marion. "Both of you had better get home with your wet clothing."

"I'm all right," answered the spendthrift coolly.

"St. John, Jack saved your life."

"Oh, I would have been all right—although, to be sure, my boat was wrecked."

"Why, what would you have done?" asked Marion, in astonishment.

"I would have swam to shore, or else crawled on the rocks and signaled Old Ben to come out after me," answered St. John.

He never thought to thank Jack, and this made Marion very indignant.

"Jack did a great deal for you, St. John," she exclaimed. "And he won the race, too," she added, and would say no more.

Without loss of time Jack rowed the boat back to the landing and St. John leaped out. He wished to assist his cousin, but she gave her hand to Jack. Then the three walked toward the plantation in almost utter silence.



CHAPTER XIII.

DR. MACKEY TELLS HIS STORY.

Left to herself, Mrs. Ruthven grew restless and began to walk around the garden, examining the flower beds and the shrubbery.

She did not like what St. John had had to say concerning Marion. While she did not exactly fear the young man, yet she had heard several reports which were not to his credit.

"They say he gambles on horse races," she thought. "And I have heard that the plantation is heavily mortgaged. Perhaps he wishes to marry Marion only for the money she may bring him. And then it is not right for him to remain around here when other men are at the front, serving their country's flag."

She remained in the garden for some time, and was on the point of moving for the house when she saw Old Ben approaching with Dr. Mackey.

"A stranger—and dressed in the uniform of a Confederate," she said, half aloud. "What can he wish here?"

"Good-afternoon, missus," said Old Ben, removing his hat. "Here am a gen'man as wishes to see yo'," and he bowed low.

"To see me?" said Mrs. Ruthven.

"Yes, madam," replied the doctor. "Permit me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Mackey, a surgeon attached to the Fifth Virginia regiment," and he bowed gravely.

"I am happy to make the acquaintance of an officer in our army, sir," replied Mrs. Ruthven, and held out her hand.

"I understand the late Colonel Ruthven was also of our army, and died at a gallant charge on the field of Gettysburg," continued the doctor, as he shook hands.

"You have been correctly informed, doctor."

"De doctor brings most important information, missus," put in old Ben, who was almost exploding to tell what he knew.

"Is that so?" cried Mrs. Ruthven. "What is it?"

"I came to speak to you about yonder wreck on Hemlock Bluff rocks," said the surgeon. "The sight of that wreck has taken me back to the affairs of about eleven years ago."

"So you were—you knew of it at that time, sir?"

"Yes, I was one of the passengers on the ship, madam."

"A passenger! I thought all of the passengers were drowned,—I mean all but those who came ashore here."

"I was not drowned. I was swept overboard before our ship came into the bay, and clung to a spar for hours, until the storm abated. Then a ship bound for Cuba came along and took me on board and carried me to Havana. The shock and the exposure were too much for me, and when I recovered physically the authorities at the hospital adjudged me insane, and I was placed in an asylum for years. Slowly my reason returned to me, and at last I left the island of Cuba and came to the Southern States. This was shortly after the war had broken out, and, knowing nothing else to do, I offered my services to General Lee, and was accepted and placed in the hospital corps."

"But why did you not come here before?"

"I could not tell exactly where the ship had stranded, and did not hear of the wreck on Hemlock Bluff rocks until about three weeks ago. Then I determined to make an investigation. I have now visited the wreck and have learned positively that it is that of the ship upon which myself, my wife, and our little son took passage."

"Yourself, your wife, and your little son," repeated Mrs. Ruthven, and then of a sudden her breast began to heave. "Your wife and son were with you?"

"Yes, madam."

"Wha—what was your little son's name?" she faltered, hardly able to go on.

"Jack."

"By golly, he must be our Jack's fadder!" burst out Old Ben. "Now don't dat beat de nation!"

"Jack! No! no! You—you cannot be our Jack's father!" cried Mrs. Ruthven.

"I understand you are very much attached to the boy," went on Dr. Mackey smoothly. "It is a pity. Yes, he is truly my son."

The tears came into Mrs. Ruthven's eyes, but she hastily brushed them away. "Jack does not look much like you," she declared.

"That is true, but he bears a strong resemblance to my dead brother Walter, and that is what made me certain he is my son. I saw him in town a day or two ago, although he did not see me."

"This is very strange." The lady hardly knew how to go on. The thought that she might have to give up Jack was a bitter one. "Have you spoken to Jack yet?"

"No. Isn't he here?"

"No, he went for a boat race, against his cousin, St. John Ruthven—I mean my nephew," she stammered.

"Do you expect him back soon?"

"I do not believe he will be gone more than an hour or so."

"Then I will wait."

"Of course, Dr. Mackey. Will you come into the house?"

The surgeon was willing, and the lady led the way. But presently she turned back to beckon to Old Ben.

"Go after Jack at once," she said. "Tell him it is important, but do not say anything more to anybody." Ben nodded, and without further delay strode off.

"I have heard something of how the wreck struck here and how my poor wife was cast ashore with Jack in her arms," said the doctor, as he threw himself into an easy-chair. "I should be very much gratified to receive the particulars from your lips. Did my wife have anything to say?"

"Nothing much, sir. She was delirious up to the moment of her death."

"Poor, dear Julia!" murmured the surgeon, and bringing out his handkerchief, he wiped his eyes with much affectation.

"Was her name Julia?" asked Mrs. Ruthven curiously.

"Yes, madam." The doctor looked up suddenly. "What makes you ask?"

"It ran in my mind that before your wife died she murmured something about her name being Laura."

"Poor dear! she was truly out of her mind," replied the surgeon. "But it is not to be wondered at—considering what happened to me." And he proceeded to make use of his handkerchief again.

Mrs. Ruthven sank into a chair and gave herself up to bitter reflection. What if this man should take Jack from her? The plantation would seem very lonely without him.

Voices were now heard in the garden, and looking out of the window the lady of the house saw Jack approaching, accompanied by Marion and Old Ben. St. John had taken himself off, in order to get home and exchange his wet clothing for dry garments.

"Oh, Jack! what does this mean?" cried Mrs. Ruthven when she saw that our hero was dripping wet.

"He saved St. John's life, mamma," exclaimed Marion.

"Saved St. John's life?"

"Yes. St. John's boat struck on the rocks, and he went overboard. The current was strong, and he would have been swept away only Jack leaped overboard and went to his assistance."

"You noble boy!" murmured Mrs. Ruthven, and as he came in, by way of one of the long veranda windows, she caught him by both hands.

"Old Ben said you wished to see me," replied Jack, and then he caught sight of Dr. Mackey and his face fell. "The man I had the row with," he thought.

"Jack, this is Dr. Mackey," said Mrs. Ruthven, in strained tones. "He—he came here to see you." She could get no further.

"To see me? What for?"

"My boy, I am pleased to meet you," said the doctor, rising and extending his hand. And he then added in a lower voice, "How like Walter! How very like Walter!"

"I—I don't understand you," stammered Jack. "What do you want of me?"

"My boy, you are thinking of that encounter we had on the bridge. Let us both forget it. I came here on a most important mission. Jack, I am your father!"

"My father?" And our hero leaped back in astonishment.

"Yes, my son, I am your father." Dr. Mackey caught our hero by the hand. "No doubt the news seems strange to you. Nevertheless, it is true."

Jack hardly heard the latter words, for his head was in a swim. This crafty-looking, overbearing individual his parent? The shock was an awful one. He turned to his foster mother.

"Mother, is this true—is this man my real father?" he cried beseechingly.

"So he claims," returned Mrs. Ruthven.

"My dear, dear son, I trust you do not disbelieve me," said the doctor, in an apparently hurt tone of voice.

"I—I don't know what to say," faltered Jack. "This is so strange—so unexpected. Why didn't you come here before?"

"I have just been telling Mrs. Ruthven my story," and the surgeon repeated what he had said, with several added details. As the man went on our hero's face grew very pale, and he moved slowly towards Mrs. Ruthven and clutched her by the shoulder.

"Mother, I don't want to leave you!" he whispered hoarsely. "I don't like this man, even if he is my father!"

"I do not want you to leave me, Jack," she answered, embracing him in spite of the fact that he was dripping wet. "But if this man is really your father——"

"Make him prove it!"

"You will not take his word?"

"No! no! I do not like his looks. He is the man who met me on the bridge and treated me like a slave."

Marion had listened to the conversation with a look of horror slowly rising on her face. Now she rushed toward Jack.

"Jack, can this be true, and must I give you up?" she sobbed.

"No, I'm not going to give you up, Marion. We have always been brother and sister, and so we shall remain—if you are willing."

"Yes, dear Jack; stay by all means."

By this time Dr. Mackey had arisen to his feet, and now he came up to Jack with a darkening face.

"Did I understand you to say that you wished me to prove I was your father?" he demanded harshly.

"Yes, I do wish you to prove it," answered Jack, with a boldness born of desperation. "And until you prove it I shall remain here—if Mrs. Ruthven will let me."

"By golly, dat's de talk!" came from Old Ben, who was hanging around on the veranda.

"Shut up, you worthless nigger!" cried the doctor, at which Ben disappeared like magic.

"This is a very—ahem—a very strange way to treat a newly found father, Jack."

"I don't acknowledge you as my father."

"Ha! you won't believe me?"

"I will not, sir, and until you prove your claim in court I shall remain with the lady who has been a real mother to me," answered our hero pointedly and firmly.



CHAPTER XIV.

JACK SPEAKS HIS MIND.

A dead silence followed our hero's declaration to remain with Mrs. Ruthven until Dr. Mackey had proved his claim to Jack in a court of law.

"This is a fine way to talk!" ejaculated the surgeon at last. "A fine way, truly!"

"I mean what I say!" declared Jack. "Mother, am I right or wrong?" And he turned pleadingly to Mrs. Ruthven.

"Dr. Mackey will certainly have to establish his claim to you before I give you up, Jack," replied the lady of the plantation quickly. "You see, I have adopted him legally, and he has been as dear to me as though he were my own flesh and blood."

"Well—er—of course, in one way, your decision does you credit, madam," answered the surgeon lamely. "You have done a great deal for the lad, and for that I must be as thankful as he is. When I have proved my claim I will pay you back all the money you have spent upon him."

"I shall not wish a cent, sir."

"Yet I shall insist, madam."

"Are you wealthy?" asked Marion curiously.

"Yes, Miss Ruthven—or I will be as soon as I have proven my identity. As yet I have been able to do but little. Let me add, Mackey is not my real name."

"What is your real name?" questioned Mrs. Ruthven.

"I will reveal that later, when I have taken the proper steps in law to obtain the vast property which is rightfully coming to me. You see, when I disappeared, so to speak, nearly eleven years ago, my property went into the hands of distant relatives, and they hate to give it up, and are just as anxious to prove me an impostor as you seem to be."

"I am not anxious to prove you an impostor, Dr. Mackey; my heart is wrapped up in Jack, that is all. If he is your son, I will rejoice that he will be well off."

"I don't want to be rich; I would rather stay with you," put in our hero quickly, and he meant what he said.

"Your affection for your foster mother does you credit, Jack," said the doctor smoothly.

"She has been the best of mothers to me; so why shouldn't I love her?"

"True, my son, true. But it is strange that you have no warm feeling for me—such as I have for you."

"You are a stranger to me."

"I trust your feeling towards me changes, for I want my only son to love me."

At this Jack was silent, and instead of looking at the man he looked at Mrs. Ruthven and at Marion. Then, unable to control his feelings, he rushed from the room, mounted the stairs, and burst into his own apartment, where he threw himself on the bed, wet as he was, to give himself up to his misery.

"I don't want that man for a father!" he cried, over and over again, half tearfully and with set teeth. "I don't want him! He isn't a bit like anybody I could love! Oh, how I wish I had never set eyes on him!"

"It is a great shock to Jack, and to all of us," was Mrs. Ruthven's comment, after the lad was gone.

"My reception here has been a great shock to me," said the doctor bluntly. "My own son runs away from me."

"He had some trouble with you a couple of weeks ago."

"Pooh, that was nothing! I had almost forgotten it."

"Jack does not forget such things easily. Moreover, he is slow to make friends with anybody."

"He doesn't know the chances he is throwing away. Were it not that he is my son, and my heart goes out toward him, I would never bother him."

"What chances has he?" asked Marion.

"I shall be very rich; and, not only that, our family has a famous name in England, with a title attached. Jack may some day be a nobleman."

"I reckon he'd rather be an American," answered Marion.

"Well, there is no accounting for tastes," said the surgeon dryly. "And you evidently have him well drilled in."

"What actual proofs have you that Jack is your son?" asked Mrs. Ruthven, after a painful pause.

"I have a number of private papers; also the marriage certificate which proves that I married Jack's mother. More than that, I expect soon to meet an old college chum who knows much of the past, and who can testify in my behalf."

"Well, on my own account and on Jack's, I feel that I must make you prove your claim, Dr. Mackey. It will be hard enough to give up the boy when I am assured that he is really your own."

"I will not discuss the situation further," cried the doctor, moving stiffly toward the door. "But unless you wish me to take immediate steps to take Jack from you, you must make me one promise."

"And what is that, sir?"

"That you will not spirit the boy away from this plantation, so that he cannot be brought into court when wanted."

"I will promise that. I do not wish to do anything contrary to law."

"Then that is all for the present, Mrs. Ruthven, and I will bid you good-day."

"When do you expect to come back again?"

"As soon as my duties will permit. The Yankees are pressing us hard, and I cannot neglect my duties as a surgeon in our army."

In a moment more the doctor was gone. Mrs. Ruthven watched him out of sight, then sank in a chair, all but overcome. Old Ben saw her and came up, hat in hand, his honest face full of genuine grief.

"Missus, dis am de worst wot I eber did heah," he said. "De idea, dat dat man wants to take our Jack away! It am dreadful!"

"Yes, Ben; I do not know how I can endure it."

"He don't look like Jack one bit; not one bit, missus!"

"I know it, Ben. He says Jack resembles his brother Walter."

"Maybe he dun nebber had a brudder Walter."

"Evidently you do not believe him?"

"No, I don't."

"Where did you meet him?"

"He cum to de boathouse, and got me to row him ober to de wrack."

"You took him there. What did he want at the wreck?"

"I dunno dat, missus. He tole me to go away fer an hour or so. He went below in de wrack, out ob sight."

"Perhaps he was after something belonging to the past. Did he bring anything away with him?"

"I aint suah about dat, missus. When I rowed him ashore he had a tin box hidden away under his coat, but he might have had dat when I took him ober."

"How large a box?"

"About dis size," and Ben held out his hands.

"He wouldn't be likely to take such a box to the wreck with him. He must have found it on the ship," went on Mrs. Ruthven, with interest.

"Where could he find it, missus? De folks around yeah has tuk everyt'ing off dat wrack long ago."

"Perhaps not. To tell the truth, Ben, I do not like that man's manner at all."

"No more do I, missus. He's got a bad eye, he has," responded the colored man warmly.

"If you see him again, Ben, I wish you would watch him closely."

"I will do it, missus. Yo' can trust Ole Ben."

"You may be able to learn something important."

"If I do, I'll bring de news to yo' directly, missus."

"Perhaps you had better follow him now," went on Mrs. Ruthven suddenly. "If he goes to the battlefield, you can come back."

"I will, missus," and in a moment more Ben was off.

Meanwhile Marion had gone up to Jack's room and knocked on the door. At first there was no answer, and the girl knocked again.

"Who is it?" came in a half-choked voice.

"It is I, Marion. Can't I come in?"

"Yes," answered Jack, and Marion entered the room and sat down beside our hero on the bed.

"Oh, Jack, I'm so sorry for you!" was all she could say.

"Marion, do you honestly think that man is my father?" he questioned anxiously.

"I don't know what to say, Jack. It's all so strange."

"If he was my father it seems to me I ought to feel differently toward him."

"Perhaps it's the shock, Jack."

"No, it isn't. I could never love that man as a son ought to love his father," went on our hero impetuously.

"Hush! you mustn't talk so!"

"I can't help it. I hated that man when we met on the bridge—and—and I hate him still!"

"Oh, Jack!"

"It's true, Marion. I don't see why he wanted to come here. I was happy enough, with you and mother."

"He hasn't taken you away yet, Jack. Mother will make him prove his claim first, never fear. She feels as badly almost as do you."

"To me the whole story sounds unreasonable, Marion. If there is a big fortune in the background, that man may only be scheming to get it."

"But, if that is true, why doesn't he ignore you and keep the money for himself?"

"I don't know—excepting it may be that he wants me in order to make his claim stronger, or something like that. I don't know much about law."

"Neither do I. But if it comes to the worst, mother will get a lawyer and make that man prove everything he says."

The two talked the matter over for a while, and gradually Jack grew calmer. But look at it from every possible light, he could not make himself believe that Dr. Mackey was his father.

Presently Mrs. Ruthven entered the chamber and also sat down to comfort our hero.

"He is certainly a strange man," said she, referring to the surgeon. "He went to the wreck and was aboard alone for some time, so Old Ben tells me."

"What did he do?"

"Ben doesn't know."

"I shall visit the wreck again before long and make a search," said Jack.

The three talked the matter over for several hours, but reached no further conclusions. Jack expected the doctor back the next day, but he did not appear, nor did he show himself for some time to come. In the meantime things of great importance happened.



CHAPTER XV.

CAPTAIN JACK AT THE FRONT.

Two days after the conversation recorded in the last chapter the folks living at the Ruthven plantation were disturbed at daybreak by the distant firing of cannon, which continued for over two hours, gradually drawing closer and closer.

"What can this mean?" asked Mrs. Ruthven, in alarm, as she moved to the window. "Can the Yankees be pressing our army back again?"

"I will take the spyglass and go to the roof," said Jack. "Perhaps I'll be able to see something."

Armed with the glass he made his way to the garret of the plantation home, and then up a ladder leading to a scuttle of the roof. Marion, as anxious as anybody, came after him.

Standing on the roof, Jack adjusted the spyglass and gave a long look in the direction from whence the sounds were proceeding.

"What do you see, Jack?"

"I can see nothing but smoke," he answered. "Some is over at Bannock's woods and the other near Townley church."

"Don't you see any of our soldiers?"

"No. The trees are in the way, and all I can see is a stretch of the bay road. Hark! the cannon are at it again!"

"But the sounds are closer," persisted Marion.

"That is true. They must be—hullo! there come our men, along the bottom of the woods—they are retreating!"

"Do you mean to say they are coming this way, Jack?"

"Yes, Marion. See for yourself!" And he handed the girl the spyglass.

Marion took a long look, and gave a sigh. "You are right, our brave soldiers are suffering another defeat. Perhaps they will come to our plantation!"

"If they do, we ought to do all we can for the wounded," answered Jack quickly.

"To be sure. Oh, see! they are running this way as fast as they can—fully two regiments of them!"

Again Jack took the glass. "Yes, and now I can see the Yankees. My, what a lot of them! At least twice as many men as there are on our side. I really believe they are going to push on to here, Marion!"

At this the girl turned pale. "And if they do?"

"We must defend ourselves as best we can," answered Jack. "Do you know what I am going to do? Call out the Home Guard!"

"But, Jack, you may be shot down?"

"If I am, it will be only at my post of duty, Marion."

So speaking, Jack leaped down the ladder into the garret and ran downstairs. He met Old Ben just coming into the house, accompanied by Darcy Gilbert.

"Darcy! just the fellow I want to see! And Old Ben, too!"

"The Yankees are coming!" answered Darcy.

"I know it, Darcy. I was going to call out the Home Guard."

"Exactly my idea."

"Old Ben can help you get the boys together."

"'Deed I will, Massah Jack, if yo' wants me to," responded the colored man.

Darcy and Ben were soon off and Jack re-entered the house, to be confronted by Mrs. Ruthven.

"What are you up to, Jack?"

"I have called out our Home Guard, mother. The Yankees shall not destroy this plantation or molest you and Marion."

"You must do nothing rash, Jack."

"I will be careful. But this is private property, and you and Marion are ladies, and our enemy must remember this," responded Jack, and ran off to don his uniform and his sword.

Inside of half an hour the members of Jack's company began to appear, until there were nineteen boys assembled. Each had his gun or his pistol fully loaded, and the appearance made by the lads, when drawn up in a line, was quite an imposing one.

"Ise got a pistol," said Old Ben, showing a long, old-fashioned "hoss" pistol on the sly. "If anybody tries to shoot Massah Jack, he will heah from dis darky, suah."

"Thank you, Ben," answered our hero. "You always were true to me. If ever I grow up to be a man and get rich, I shan't forget you," and this made Old Ben grin from ear to ear.

Presently there was a clatter on the road beyond the plantation, and a Confederate battery, drawn by horses covered with foam, swept past.

"The Yanks are coming!" was the cry. "Get indoors and hide your jewelry and silverware!"

"They are coming!" muttered our hero. He called the boys together. "Home Guard, attention!" he cried out. "Line up here. Carry arms! Boys, are you willing to stand by me and help me to keep my mother's house from being ransacked?"

"Yes! yes!" was the ready reply.

"Hurrah for Captain Jack!" put in several of the more enthusiastic ones.

"Thank you, boys. We won't fight unless we have to. But if it comes to that, let everybody give a good account of himself."

"We will! We will!"

Soon another battery swept by the house, the horses almost ready to drop from exhaustion. Marion saw this and whispered to her mother.

"Let me do it, mother," she pleaded.

"If you so much wish it," answered Mrs. Ruthven.

With all speed the girl ran to the barn and brought out her own horse, a beautiful black, and ran him to the road.

"Take my horse and hitch him to yonder cannon!" she cried. "He is fresh—he will help you save the piece!"

"Good fer you, young lady!" shouted one of the cannoneers. "We've got friends yet, it seems!" The horse was taken, and the cannon moved on at a swifter pace than ever.

"That was grand of you, Marion!" cried Jack. He knew just how much she thought of the steed she had sacrificed, her pet saddle horse.

And now came several of the hospital corps, carrying the wounded on stretchers, and also several ambulances. In the meantime the shooting came closer and closer, and several shells sped over the plantation, to burst with a crash in the woods beyond.

"The battle is at hand! God defend us!" murmured Mrs. Ruthven.

Several Confederates with stretchers were crossing the lawn. On the stretchers lay three soldiers, all badly wounded.

"We can't carry them any further, madam," said one of the party. "Will you be kind enough to take them in?"

"Yes, yes!" cried Mrs. Ruthven. "Bring them in at once. We will do our best for them!" And she summoned the servants to prepare cots on the lower floor, since it would have been awkward to take the wounded upstairs.

The stretcher-carriers were followed by others, until six wounded Confederates lay on cots in the sitting room. A young surgeon was at hand, and he went to work without delay, and Mrs. Ruthven and Marion assisted.

And now the army was passing by the plantation, some on foot, some on horseback, and all exhausted, ragged, covered with dust and dirt, and many badly wounded. The shooting of small-arms had ceased, but the distant cannon still kept booming, and occasionally a shell burst in the vicinity. As the last of the Confederates swept by Jack ran down to the roadway.

"The enemy are coming!" he said, after a long look ahead. "They will be here in less than ten minutes."

Soon the trampling of horses' hoofs was heard, and then came the occasional blast of a trumpet. At last a troop of cavalry swept by, paying no attention to the Ruthven homestead.

The cavalry was followed at a distance by a company of rascally looking guerrillas—followers of every army—who fight simply for the sake of looting afterward.

"To the house!" cried the captain of the guerrillas, a man named Sandy Barnes.

"Company, attention!" cried out Jack, and drew up his command across the lawn in front of the homestead.

"Halt!" shouted Captain Barnes. And then he added; "What are you boys doing here?"

"We are the guard of this house," answered Jack, quietly but firmly.

"Guard nothin'! Out of our way!" growled the guerrilla.

"We will not get out of your way, and you will advance at your peril."

"What, will you boys show fight?" queried the guerrilla curiously.

"We will!" came from the boys. "Keep back!"

"This is private property and must be respected," went on Jack. "Besides, the house is now a hospital, for there are six wounded Confederates inside, in charge of a surgeon."

The guerrilla muttered something under his breath.

"Come on, anyhow!" shouted somebody in a rear rank. "It looks like a house worth visitin'!"

"Try to enter the house and we will shoot!" went on Jack, his face growing white.

"Why, youngster, you don't know who you are talking to," growled Barnes.

He stepped forward as if to enter the house by a side door, when Jack ran in front of him and raised his sword.

"Not another step, if you value your life!"

"Out of my way, boy!" And now the guerrilla raised his own sword, while some of his men raised their guns.

It was truly a trying moment, and Marion, at the window, looked on with bated breath. "Oh, if Jack should be killed!" she thought.

But now there came a shout from the road, and there appeared a regiment of regular Federal troops. The guerrillas saw them coming, and gazed anxiously at their leader.

"It's Colonel Stanton's regiment!" muttered a guerrilla lieutenant. "He won't stand no nonsense, cap."

"I know it," growled Barnes. "Right face, forward march!" he shouted, and, as quickly as they had come, the guerrillas left the plantation and took to a side road leading to the distant hills.

But the Federal regiment had seen them, and as the guerrillas ran they received a volley which lay several of them low. They were virtually outlaws, and knew it, and lost no time in getting out of sight.

"Halt!" shouted the Federal colonel as he rode up across the lawn, and one after another the companies behind him stopped in their march. Then the Northerner came closer to Jack and the others of the Home Guard.

"What's the matter here? What does this mean?"

Jack gazed up into the face of the Federal colonel and saw that it was an unusually kindly one. "We are defending this home, sir; that's all. I reckon those fellows who just ran off wanted to ransack it."

"The scoundrels! I've been after them twice before. Was anybody hurt?"

"No, sir."

"You are a young Confederate, I presume?"

"I am the captain of these boys. We call ourselves the Home Guard. We wish to protect our homes, that's all."

At this the face of the colonel broke out into a warm smile.

"You do yourself credit, my lad. You could not do better than protect your homes and your mothers and sisters. Whose place is this?"

"Mrs. Alice Ruthven's."

"Did the Confederate battery just retreat past here?"

"I cannot answer that question, sir."

"Well, it doesn't matter much. We have got them on the run, and that was all we wanted for the present."

"I hope you don't intend to do anything to this place," went on Jack anxiously. "It is private property, and, besides, we have six wounded men here, in charge of a surgeon."

"An officer who is a gentleman always respects private property," was the grave answer. "As long as you do nothing treacherous, you have nothing to fear from me or my men." And so speaking, the colonel rode back to the road.

"A fine-looking man, and a gentleman, if ever there was one," thought Jack. "What a difference between him and that fellow who threatened me with his sword!"

"Will they come back, Jack?" asked Mrs. Ruthven, as she came outside.

"I don't know, mother. But the officer said we had nothing to fear."

"He looked like an honest gentleman."

"So I thought. How are those wounded men making out?"

"One is already dead, poor fellow. But the surgeon has hopes of the others."

"Is Marion helping the doctor?"

"Yes. I want her to come away from the awful sights, but she will not. Jack, she is almost as brave as you are!"

"Pooh! I'm not so brave, mother."

"Yes, you are. Why, that rascal was going to run you through with his sword!"

"Dat he was," put in Old Ben. "But let me tell yo' sumt'ing, missus. I had dat feller covered wid dis hoss-pistol ob mine. If he had tried to slew Jack dat would hab been de end of the rascal, suah pop!"

"Good for you, Ben! Continue to look out for Jack, and I will reward you handsomely," concluded Mrs. Ruthven, and returned to the house.



CHAPTER XVI.

COLONEL STANTON'S VISIT.

The Federal regiment went into camp up the road, but a short distance from the Ruthven home. The coming of the soldiers filled the whole neighborhood with alarm, but it was soon evident that Colonel Stanton was a strict disciplinarian and did not countenance any pilfering, and then the inhabitants became more quiet. In the meanwhile the Confederate troops had departed for parts unknown. But another battle was not far off.

Attached to Colonel Stanton's regiment was a young man named Harry Powell, a surgeon, who was a nephew to Mrs. Ruthven, although the two had not seen each other for years. Powell was a fine fellow, and well liked by all who knew him, the single exception to the case being St. John Ruthven, who was too much of a sneak to admire anybody so free-hearted and manly.

Harry Powell had drifted to the North several years before, and established a practice in Philadelphia. He was thoroughly opposed to slavery, and when the war broke out lost no time in joining the Federal troops, much to the horror of his two aunts and his cousin Marion. As for St. John, that spendthrift said it was "just like Harry, who had no head on his shoulders, anyway."

On the day following the arrival of the Federal troops Old Ben was making his way to his cabin for some things, when he ran across Colonel Stanton on his way to the Ruthven mansion. The colonel was accompanied by Harry Powell, but the young surgeon now wore a heavy mustache, and for the moment the old colored man did not recognize him.

"See here, my man. I want to talk to you," began Colonel Stanton, as he held up his hand for Ben to halt.

"Yes, sah," and Old Ben touched his hat respectfully.

"Did I understand that this is the plantation of Mrs. Alice Ruthven?"

"Yes, sah."

"Why, it's Old Ben!" cried Harry Powell, striding forward. "Don't you remember me, you old rascal?" and he slapped the colored man on the back.

Old Ben stared in astonishment for a moment, and then his ebony face broke out into a broad smile.

"Bless my soul, if it aint Massah Harry Powell!"

"Of course it is, Ben."

"Yo' is so changed I didn't know yo', sah."

"I suppose I am changed, Ben. Is my aunt at home?"

"Yes, sah."

"Good. I want very much to see her."

Old Ben shook his head dubiously.

"Massah Harry, yo' aint gwine an' joined de Yanks, hab yo'?" he questioned.

"Yes, Ben; I am fighting for the old flag."

"Yo' aunt an' Miss Marion will be wery sorry to heah dat, sah."

"I presume so. But that cannot be helped. I did as my heart dictated, Ben. I want to see all colored folks free, as you are."

"Dat would be wery nice certainly, sah, but—but——"

"It was too bad we had to fight, you mean." Harry Powell looked up. "Who is that coming?"

"Dat am Massah Jack, sah?"

"Oh! Why, when I was here before he was nothing but a little shaver." The young surgeon raised his voice. "Hullo, Jack! come here."

Wondering who it was who was calling him so familiarly, Jack came forward. He started back upon seeing Harry Powell, and in a Federal uniform.

"You!" he cried.

"Yes, Jack. Come, won't you shake hands with me?" and the young surgeon smiled good-naturedly.

"Well—that is—I don't like to shake hands with a—a Yankee," stammered Jack.

"Oh, so you object to my uniform?"

"I do, Harry. Why did you join the Yankees?"

"Because I thought it best. If you won't shake hands with me as a Yankee, won't you shake hands as a cousin?"

At this our hero's face relaxed, for he had always liked Harry Powell immensely.

"Yes, I'll do that," he said, and they shook hands warmly.

"And how is your mother these days, Jack?"

"Quite well, but a good deal alarmed."

"She need not be alarmed because of us, Jack. Is that not so, Colonel Stanton?"

The colonel bowed. His manner was so pleasant that Jack felt more drawn to him than ever.

"You are kind," he said. "I thought all Yankees were brutes."

"They are far from that, Jack. But I was going to ask, can I see my aunt?"

"I suppose so. But she'll be hurt to see you in that uniform."

"Never mind, I'll risk that," rejoined Harry Powell.

Old Ben continued on his way, and Jack and the others walked toward the Ruthven plantation. Then our hero ran ahead, to tell Mrs. Ruthven of the visitors.

"A fine, manly young fellow, Powell," remarked Colonel Stanton, when he and the young surgeon were left alone.

"Yes, he has turned out a first-rate lad, colonel."

"I presume, were he older, he would be at the head of a regular Confederate command, instead of being at the head of this boyish Home Guard."

"Undoubtedly, sir. But I am glad he is not in the regular ranks."

"Why?"

"I should hate to fight against him, sir."

"I see. Well, this war has brought brother against brother, and worse. To tell the truth, I heartily wish it was over, myself."

In a few minutes more Mrs. Ruthven appeared, her face full of sorrow. As she approached Harry Powell, the tears stood in her eyes.

"My dear aunt, how glad I am to see you, after this long separation!" cried the young man impulsively.

"Oh, Harry! Harry! How can you come here in that uniform?" she returned.

"Let us speak of that later, Aunt Alice. Allow me to introduce you to my superior, Colonel Stanton."

Mrs. Ruthven looked at the colonel steadily, and he bowed gravely. Each saw that the other was of good blood and breeding. The lady of the plantation dropped her eyes.

"Colonel Stanton, courtesy bids me say you are welcome, but—I beg you to consider that I am a Southern woman," she faltered.

"I hope, Mrs. Ruthven, you will not look upon me as an enemy."

"Are you not in arms against my country?"

"Against your section, yes, but not against your country, madam. I fight under the flag which belongs alike to the South and the North."

At this Mrs. Ruthven shook her head sadly.

"I cannot agree with you, sir. But let that drop. May I ask the news? Have our troops been hopelessly defeated?"

"I cannot answer you, Mrs. Ruthven. Our side has won a battle and the Confederate troops have taken to the mountain side. They may engage us again before long."

"Your troops are encamped but a short distance from here, I believe?"

"It is true."

"Are we to consider ourselves as prisoners of war?"

"By no means, Mrs. Ruthven. I am informed that your house is something of a hospital. Let it remain so."

"Thank you."

"You certainly did not expect ill treatment, did you?" went on the colonel curiously.

"You seem to be a gentleman, I must admit, but I have heard such stories of violence and rapine that I have some reasons to be apprehensive."

"The stories are in most cases baseless and without truth. I hope you are not prejudiced enough to think that Federal officers are destitute of honor and humanity. Every true soldier, no matter under what banner he draws his sword, respects a lady, and would be the last to injure or annoy her."

"I can believe that of you, sir, but you are an exception."

"I cannot accept the compliment. I know many of my brother officers, and I am glad to say that what is true of me is true also of them."

"But your President, Mr. Lincoln, I am told is a cruel monster, intent upon the destruction of the South."

"You are sadly misinformed, Mrs. Ruthven. There never beat a warmer, kinder heart than that of Abraham Lincoln, I know, for I have seen him and spoken with him, and I know that no one sorrows more over the stricken homes and bloodshed of this unhappy strife. He is misjudged now, but posterity will do him justice."

"I cannot believe it. If he deplores the evils of war, why does he not end it at once, and order his hordes of Yankee invaders to throw down their arms?"

"Because the life of the nation is at stake. I do not wish to speak severely of your leaders. They are actuated by a mistaken sense of right. Amid the clash of arms, Reason is silent. We are fighting, not against the South, but for its best good."

"You plead well, Colonel Stanton, but I am not convinced," answered the lady of the house.

At that moment Jack came up again, bringing Marion.

"Marion!" cried Harry Powell, and ran up to her.

"Harry!" she returned, and put out her hand to him.

"Will you shake hands with a Yankee?" he asked. "Jack was rather backward about doing it."

"I am always ready to shake hands with my cousin," she returned, and blushed.

Colonel Stanton was then introduced, and a minute later Harry Powell asked about St. John Ruthven.

"Is he in the ranks, aunt?" he questioned.

"He is not," answered Mrs. Ruthven, and drew down her mouth.

"He cannot leave his mother," put in Marion contemptuously.

"Evidently you think he ought to go?"

"He is a strong, able-bodied man. I would go, were I in his place."

"So would I," put in Jack.

"Then he isn't very patriotic."

"Oh, yes he is—in words," returned Marion. "But in deeds——" She shrugged her pretty shoulders, and that meant a good deal.

Colonel Stanton and Mrs. Ruthven entered the house, followed by Jack, and presently Marion and the young surgeon found themselves alone in the garden.



CHAPTER XVII.

A SCENE IN THE SUMMERHOUSE.

In years gone by Marion and Harry Powell, as little girl and boy, had thought a good deal of each other.

Now, as the pair faced once more, much of the old feelings came back, and pretty Marion found herself blushing deeply, she could not tell exactly why.

She despised Harry's uniform, yet she felt that he looked remarkably handsome in it, and not such an awful bear of a Yankee, after all. The manliness of the young surgeon's superior had likewise made a deep impression upon her.

Before going into the house Mrs. Ruthven had invited the young man to remain to dinner, and he had readily accepted the invitation. But he was by no means anxious to go into the house with the others.

"It is so nice and cool in the garden, Marion," he said. "Let us remain out here for a while, if you have no objections."

"As you will, Harry. But we need not stand. Let us go down to the old summerhouse. Of course you remember that place."

"To be sure, Marion—I remember it only too well. How you used to bring in the flowers and make bouquets and wreaths, and open a flower store and bid me buy——"

"And you wouldn't buy, more than half the time," she laughed. "You always were somewhat contrary, Harry. Is that what made you turn Yankee?"

"I hardly think so. I want to see all the slaves set free."

"Is that all?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"Most Yankees want to see the South broken up and ruined."

"No! no! That is a mistake."

The summerhouse was soon gained, and she sat down, and without ceremony he took a seat on the bench at her side.

"This takes me back ten or fifteen years," he declared, as he looked around at the familiar surroundings. "There are the same old magnolias, with the swing, and the same old rose bush, or new ones just like the old. Marion, you ought to be happy here."

"I was—until the war broke out, and poor papa was killed."

"Yes, that was a shock, and I felt it too, when the news reached me. He was a noble man, Marion."

"So they all say, Harry, but that does not give him back to us. And now another danger threatens us."

"Another danger? You mean the presence of our troops here? Marion, no harm shall come to you, if I can prevent it."

"But I do not mean that. It is concerning Jack."

"What of your brother?"

"Oh, Harry, he is just like a brother to me, and mamma thinks of him as her son! Now a stranger has appeared on the scene, and he wants to take Jack away from us."

"A stranger. Who?"

"A Confederate surgeon named Dr. Mackey. He claims that he is Jack's father."

"But is he?"

"We do not believe that he is. But he says he can prove it."

"This is news certainly, Marion. Will you give me the particulars?"

"I will," and she did so, to which Harry Powell listened with keen interest.

"Humph! And Jack does not like the man?"

"No, he despises him."

"That will make it awkward, if this doctor's story is true."

"He will have to bring strong proofs to make me believe the story, I can tell you that."

"I do not blame you, Marion." The young surgeon mused for a moment. "It runs in my mind that I have heard of this Dr. Mackey before."

"Where?"

"I cannot remember now. But I believe it was while I was practicing in Philadelphia."

"Was he a doctor there?"

"It runs in my mind that he was connected with some bogus medical institute which defrauded people through the mails. But I am not certain."

"If there is truth in this, I wish you would look the matter up, Harry. Mamma will want to know all she can of Dr. Mackey before she gives up Jack to him."

"I will do my best for you, Marion. I love Jack, too—although he was very young when I went away, if you will remember."

"You have been away a long time, Harry," she replied, and drew a long breath.

"That is true, and I realize it now, although I did not before." He gazed steadily into her face and suddenly caught her hand. "Dear cousin, cannot you forgive me for going over to the enemy?" he pleaded.

She flushed up. "I ought not to, Harry, but—but——"

"You will, nevertheless?"

"I—I will think of it," she faltered.

"We were very intimate when I went away. I would not wish that intimacy broken off."

"Were we intimate?" she murmured shyly.

"Yes, indeed. Don't you remember it? You used to sit in my lap."

"How shocking!" she cried. "Are you sure?"

"As if I could forget it."

"You seem to have an awfully good memory for some things," she said slowly.

"I remember something more, Marion. We were like brother and sister in those days, and you used to put your arms around my neck and kiss me."

"I don't believe I ever did anything so dreadful, Harry!"

"I remember it perfectly well."

"Don't you think we had better go into the house now?"

"Don't get angry, Marion. But—but—I always did think a lot of you, and always shall—even if I have turned Yankee."

"Yankee or not, Harry, you will always be very dear to me as my cousin," she returned hastily.

"Speaking of cousins, does St. John come here often?"

"Yes, quite often."

"I suppose he comes to see you?"

"He comes to see mamma and me. He and Jack are not very good friends."

"What, doesn't Jack like him?"

"He considers St. John overbearing, and St. John thinks Jack an intruder, and possibly of low parentage."

"Is St. John married yet?"

"No."

"And he comes here quite often, you say?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps he is going—that is, he would like to marry you, Marion," blurted out Harry Powell.

At this the girl flushed crimson.

"Well—he has spoken something of it," she replied, in a low voice.

"The dickens he has!"

"Cousin Harry!"

"I beg your pardon, Marion, but—but—this is not pleasant news."

"You mustn't get rough, Harry. St. John says there are no true gentlemen among the Yankees. But I think differently—now I have met Colonel Stanton."

"Oh, confound St. John! There are truer gentlemen among my fellow officers than he will ever be." Harry Powell took a turn around the summerhouse. "But I forgot. I ought not to have spoken so of your future husband."

"Who said he was my intended husband?"

"Why, you intimated as much."

"I am sure I did not."

"It is the same thing. You said he had spoken of marriage to you."

"That is a very different matter."

Harry Powell took another turn around the summerhouse. "I suppose you love him, though I don't understand how any girl could love such an insufferable bore."

"Harry, aren't you prejudiced against St. John?"

"Perhaps I am. But seriously, Marion, what can you find to admire in St. John?"

"He is a Ruthven."

"That is true."

"If I married him I would still remain a Ruthven."

"Then why not remain an old maid and likewise a Ruthven? It would be far better, take my word on it."

"Then you don't advise me to marry?"

"I don't advise you to marry St. John."

"Oh!"

"Are you engaged to him?" he asked, coming closer.

"I am not."

"I am glad to hear it."

"Are you married, Cousin Harry?" she asked suddenly.

"Me? No, Marion—not yet."

"I suppose you'll marry some Yankee girl one of these days."

"I don't think so, unless——"

"Unless what?"

"Unless the girl I always did love goes back on me, Marion. Do you think she will go back on me?" and he caught both of her hands in his own.

"Harry, you are a—a—Yankee."

"But that doesn't affect my feelings for you."

"A true Yankee ought not to care for a Southern girl."

"And why not?"

"Well, I don't know exactly. But it doesn't seem right."

"Do you mean to say that a Southern girl ought not to care for the man who is fighting as his conscience dictates?" he demanded, turning a trifle pale.

"No, no, Harry! I honor you for sticking to your principles. But we had better say no more at present on this subject." She glanced down the garden path. "See, St. John is coming. Let go my hands."

He dropped her hands and took a seat on the other side of the summerhouse, and a moment later St. John Ruthven presented himself at the doorway.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MEETING OF THE COUSINS.

St. John had come up the garden path quickly, and had failed to notice Harry Powell, although he had caught sight of a well-known dress which Marion wore.

Now, when he saw the young surgeon, his face fell, for he had calculated upon seeing Marion alone.

"Excuse me, Marion," he said, "I did not know you had company."

"Come in, St. John," replied the girl. "Do you not recognize my visitor? It is Dr. Harry Powell."

"Oh!" St. John was much surprised, and showed it. "How do you do?" he continued stiffly.

"Shake hands. You are cousins," went on Marion, not liking the dark look which had come to St. John's face.

"Excuse me, but I cannot shake hands with one who wears that uniform," returned the spendthrift, drawing back. "I am surprised, Marion, to see you upon such intimate terms with your country's foe."

Marion's face flushed, and she bit her lip. Harry Powell set his teeth and then smiled coldly.

"I perceive you wear no uniform at all, St. John," he remarked pointedly.

"No. My duty to my mother keeps me at home," stammered St. John.

"If all who have mothers were to remain at home we would have few soldiers."

"It is a very great trial to me to have to remain at home," went on the hypocrite smoothly. "Yet, to my notion, a man is far better off at home than to be wearing a Yankee uniform."

"That is for each man to decide for himself."

St. John turned to Marion.

"Does your mother know that Dr. Powell is here?"

"Yes; she has invited him to dine with us."

"To dine with you!" exclaimed the spendthrift.

"Yes, what is wrong about that?" questioned Harry Powell.

"I thought she was a true and loyal Southern woman."

"I do not follow you," answered Harry Powell hotly. "The ties of blood count for something, even in war times."

"They do not count for as much as that—to me," said St. John sourly.

"Then I presume you will not care to stop and dine with us, St. John," put in Marion.

"Thank you, no. I will remain another time—when it is more agreeable, Marion."

So speaking, St. John bowed low to the girl, nodded slightly to the young surgeon, and hurried from the place.

Marion looked at Harry Powell with a face that was crimson.

"Forget the insult, Harry!" she cried.

"It is not your fault, Marion. But what a cad St. John is! I never liked him much. I can easily understand how Jack cannot get along with him."

"I wish he would join the army. It might make a man of him."

"I believe he is too cowardly to don a uniform. But come, let us go into the house, or your mother will wonder what is keeping us."

When they entered the homestead they found Colonel Stanton taking his leave. The colonel was perfectly willing to allow the young surgeon to remain.

"Have a good time, Powell," he said. "And try to convince your worthy relatives that all Yankees are not the monsters they are painted."

"He's a downright good fellow!" cried Jack, when the Federal officer had departed. "I don't wonder that you like him, Harry."

"He is a very nice man," said Marion, and to this Mrs. Ruthven nodded affirmatively.

Dinner was almost ready to be served, and while they were waiting Marion noticed that the young surgeon was studying Jack's face closely.

"What makes you look at Jack so?" she questioned, in a low voice, so that our hero might not hear.

"I was studying his face," was the slow reply.

"Studying his face?"

"Yes. Marion, did you notice how Colonel Stanton looks?"

"I did, although not very closely."

"It seems to me that Jack bears a wonderful resemblance to the colonel."

"Now you speak of it, I must say you are right," answered Marion thoughtfully. And then, after another pause, she continued: "Is the colonel a married man?"

"I hardly think so. I have never heard him speak of a wife or children."

"Then it is likely that he is a bachelor." And there, for the time being, the subject was dropped.

Despite the fact that the house was surrounded by Federal troops and that a portion of the homestead was being used as a hospital, the dinner passed off in a far from unpleasant manner. Mrs. Ruthven was glad to meet her nephew once more, and made him tell the story of his service in detail. Not only the lady of the house, but also Marion and Jack, hung upon the young surgeon's words, and Jack's eyes glistened when he heard about the hard fighting which had been witnessed.

"Oh, how I wish I had been there! I would have helped to beat the Yankee troops back!" he cried.

"You're a born soldier, Jack!" answered Harry Powell. "And I must say I like you the better for it. I can't stand such stay-at-homes as St. John."

"Oh, St. John is a regular—a regular——"

"Hush, Jack!" interrupted Mrs. Ruthven reprovingly. "He says his mother needs him at home."

"And our country needs him at the front," said Marion.

"We don't need cowards," finished Jack. "Harry, you don't have cowards in your ranks, do you?"

"I am afraid all armies have more or less cowards in the ranks," laughed the young surgeon. "Some fellows would never make soldiers if they remained in the service a hundred years. Human nature is human nature the world over, you know."

"I wonder if Dr. Mackey is a brave man," muttered Jack, but nobody paid attention to this question.

The repast over, Harry Powell took his leave, but promised to come again, if possible, before leaving the vicinity. Marion saw him go with genuine regret, and blushed painfully when, on watching him hurry down the road, he suddenly turned and waved his hand toward her.

"Dear, good cousin Harry," she murmured. "How different from St. John!"

Two days passed and nothing of importance occurred to disturb the Ruthven homestead. On the second day St. John called to see Marion, but she excused herself by saying she had a headache, which was true, although the ache was not as severe as it might have been.

As he was leaving the place St. John ran up against Jack, who had been down to the outskirts of the Federal encampment, watching the soldiers drill.

"Hullo, where have you been?" said the spendthrift carelessly.

"Been down watching the Yankees drill," answered Jack.

"It seems to me you take an awful interest in those dirty Yankees," retorted St. John, with a sneer.

"I take an interest in all soldiers."

"Then why don't you join them, and evince your interest in some practical way?"

"I'd join our troops quick enough, if I was older. I'd be ashamed to stay at home and suck my thumb."

Jack looked at St. John steadily as he spoke, and this threw the spendthrift into a rage.

"Do you mean to insult me by that?" he roared.

"If the shoe fits you can wear it."

"I'll knock you down for the insult."

"I don't think you will."

"Why not?"

"Perhaps you are not able, that's why."

"Pooh! Do you think you can stand up against me?"

"Perhaps I can. Don't forget our encounter on the road."

"You took a mean advantage of me. I've a good mind to thrash you right here."

"You may try it on if you wish, St. John," and so speaking Jack began to throw off his coat.

"Will you take back what you said?"

"What did I say?"

"Said I was a coward for not becoming a soldier—or about the same thing."

"I won't take back what I think is true."

"So you dare to say I am a coward?" howled the spendthrift.

"If you want it in plain words, I do dare to say it, and furthermore, it is true, and you know it. Your plea that you must remain at home is all a sham. When the Yankees came this way you were all ready to run for your life at the first sign of real danger. You never thought of your mother at all."

"Ha! who told you that?"

"Never mind; I found it out, and that's enough."

"I—I was suffering from an extremely severe toothache, and hardly knew what I was doing that day."

"I don't believe it."

"You young rascal! you are growing more impudent every day."

"I am not a rascal."

"You are, and an upstart in the bargain. I heard at the village that some Confederate surgeon claims you as his son. Is that true?"

"If it is, it is his business and mine."

"Well, if you are his son, why don't you get out of here?"

"I shall not go as long as Mrs. Ruthven wishes me to remain."

"Does she want you to stay?"

"Yes."

"And Marion wants you to?"

"Yes."

"It is strange. But if I were you I wouldn't stay where I had no right to stay," went on St. John insinuatingly.

"But I have a right here."

"Indeed!"

"Yes. The late Colonel Ruthven adopted me, and I am his son by law."

"Bah! That will count for nothing if this Confederate surgeon can prove you belong to him."

"Well, he'll have to prove it first."

"Of course you won't get out of this nest until you are pushed out," blustered St. John. "It's too much of a soft thing for you. You ought to be made to earn your own living."

This remark made Jack's face grow crimson, and, striding up to St. John, he clenched his fists, at which the young man promptly retreated.

"I am perfectly willing to work whenever called upon to do so," said our hero. "But it is not for you to say what I shall do, remember that. I know why you wish to get me out of here."

"Do you, indeed!"

"I do, indeed, St. John Ruthven. You want to get hold of some of Mrs. Ruthven's property. If I was out of the way, you think she might leave it all to Marion and to you."

"Well, I have more of a right to it than you, if it comes to that."

"But Marion has the best right, and I hope every dollar of it goes to her."

"Well, that aint here or there. Are you going with your father or not?"

"He must prove that he is my father first."

"You won't take his word?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because I do not like the man," and our hero's face filled with sudden bitterness. What if Dr. Mackey should prove to be his parent, after all? How St. John would rejoice in his discomfiture!

"I suppose this Dr. Mackey is a very common sort of man," continued the spendthrift, in an endeavor to add to our hero's misery.

"What do you know about him?"

"Nothing but what I heard at the village."

"Is he down there now?"

"Of course not. He went with our troops."

Jack drew a sigh of relief. It was likely that the doctor would not show himself in the neighborhood for some time to come, probably not until the Federal troops had departed.

"I am going to talk to my aunt of this," said St. John suddenly, and, without another word to Jack, turned his steps toward the plantation home.



CHAPTER XIX.

A SUMMONS FROM THE FRONT.

St. John found his aunt too busy to spend much time talking about Jack's past and Dr. Mackey's claim, and it was not long before he took his departure, feeling that he had gained nothing by this new attack upon our hero's welfare.

"I wish I could get him out of the way," he muttered, as he walked homeward, by a side road, so as to steer clear of the Federal troops. "If only he would join the army, and get shot down."

He entered his home filled with thoughts of Jack and Marion, but all these thoughts were driven to the winds after he had read a communication which had been left for him during his absence.

The communication was one from a well-known Southern leader of the neighborhood, and ran, in part, as follows:

"Many of us think it time to call upon you to take up arms as we have done. With our noble country suffering from the invasion of the enemy, every loyal Southerner is needed at the front. Join our ranks ere it be too late. The muster roll can be signed at Wingate's Hotel, any time to-day or to-night. Do not delay."

As St. John read this communication his face grew ashen. "Called upon to join at last!" he muttered. "What shall I do now? What excuse can I offer for hanging back?"

"What is in your letter, St. John?" asked his mother.

"They want me to join the army—they say every man is needed," he answered, with half a groan.

"To join? When?"

"At once."

"What shall you do?"

"I—I don't know." His legs began to tremble, and he sank heavily on a chair. "I—I am too sick to join the army, mother," he went on, half pleadingly.

Now Mrs. Ruthven did not care to have him leave her, yet she was but human, and it filled her with disgust to have her only offspring such a coward.

"You weren't very sick this morning."

"I know that. But the sun has affected my head. I feel very faint."

"If you don't join the ranks, all of our neighbors will put you down as a coward, St. John."

"They can't want a sick man along," he whined.

"They will say you are shamming."

"But I am not shamming. I feel bad enough to take to my bed this minute."

"Then you had better do it," answered Mrs. Ruthven, with, however, but little sympathy in her voice.

"I will go to bed at once."

"You must not forget that your cousin, Harry Powell, is in the army."

"Yes, on the Yankee side."

"Still he is brave enough to go. Marion may think a good deal of him on that account."

"Well, I would go, for Marion's sake, if I felt at all well," groaned St. John. "But I am in for a regular spell of sickness, I feel certain of it."

"Then go to bed."

"Write Colonel Raymond a note stating that I am in bed, and tell him I would join the ranks if I possibly could," groaned St. John, and then dragged himself upstairs and retired. Here he called for a negro servant and had a man go for a doctor.

Much disgusted, Mrs. Mary Ruthven penned the note, and sent it to town, shielding her son's true character as much as possible.

For the remainder of the day St. John stayed in bed, and whenever a servant came into his room he would groan dismally.

When the doctor arrived he was alarmed, until he made an examination.

"He is shamming," thought the family physician. But as the Ruthvens were among his best customers, he said nothing on this point. He left St. John some soothing medicine and a tonic, and said he would call again the next day.

Instead of using the medicine, the young spendthrift threw it out of the window.

"Don't catch me swallowing that stuff," he chuckled to himself. "I am not altogether such a fool."

Several days passed, and nothing of importance happened to disturb those at either of the Ruthven plantations.

But a surprise was in store for Jack and those with whom he lived.

One of the wounded soldiers stopping at Mrs. Alice Ruthven's home was named George Walden. The poor fellow had been shot in the shoulder, a painful as well as a dangerous wound.

For several days he lay speechless, and during that time the Confederate surgeon and Mrs. Ruthven, as well as Marion, did all they could to ease his suffering.

One day George Walden began to speak to Marion.

"You are very good to me," he said. "You are in reality an angel of mercy."

"I am glad to be able to help you, and thus help the Southern cause," replied Marion. "But you must not speak too much. It may retard your recovery."

"I will not talk much. But you are so kind I must thank you. What is your name?"

"Marion Ruthven."

Then he told her his own, and said he had a sister at home, in Savannah, Ga., and asked Marion to write a letter for him, which she did willingly.

After that Marion and George Walden became quite intimate, and the soldier told much about himself and the battles through which he had passed.

"Some of them are nothing but nightmares," he said. "I never wish to see the like of them again."

"And yet you saw only the fighting, I presume," said Marion. "Think of what those in the hospital corps must behold."

"I was attached to the hospital corps," returned George Walden. "I have helped to carry in hundreds who were wounded."

"If you were in the hospital service, did you ever meet a doctor named Mackey?" questioned Marion, with increased interest.

At this question the brow of the wounded soldier darkened, and he shifted uneasily upon his couch.

"Yes, I know Dr. Mackey well," he said, at last.

"You do!" cried the girl. "And what do you know of him? I would like to know very much."

"Is he your friend?" asked George Walden cautiously.

"No, I cannot say that he is."

"Because, if he is your friend, I would rather not say anything further, Miss Ruthven. I do not wish to hurt your feelings."

"Which means that what you have to say would be of no credit to Dr. Mackey?"

"Exactly."

"I would like to know all about him. I will tell you why. You have noticed Jack, my brother?"

"The lad who helped move me yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Of course—a fine young fellow."

"He is not my real brother. My parents adopted him about ten years ago."

"Indeed."

"Some time ago Dr. Mackey turned up here and claimed Jack as his son."

"Impossible! Why, Dr. Mackey is a bachelor!"

"You are sure of this? He says he was married to Jack's mother, who was shipwrecked on our shore, and who died at this house a few days later."

"I have heard Dr. Mackey declare several times that he was heart-free, that he had never cared for any woman, and consequently had never married."

At this declaration Marion's face lit up.

"I knew it! I knew it!" she cried. "I must tell mamma and Jack at once!"

"Dr. Mackey is a fraud," went on the wounded soldier. "To the best of my knowledge, he comes from Philadelphia, where he used to run a mail-order medical bureau of some sort—something which the Post-office Department stopped as a swindle."

"My cousin thought he came from Philadelphia," said Marion. "But wait until I call my mother and Jack."

Marion ran off without delay, but failed to find either Mrs. Ruthven or our hero, both having gone to town to purchase something at Mr. Blackwood's store.

"Da will be back afore supper time, Miss Marion," said one of the servants, and with this she had to be content.

"My folks have gone away," she said to George Walden. "As soon as they come back I will bring them to you. I hope you can prove your words."

"I am sure I can prove them," answered the wounded soldier.

"Jack does not like this Dr. Mackey in the least, and the idea of being compelled to recognize the man as his father is very repulsive to him."

"I don't blame the boy. For myself, I hate the doctor—he is so rough to the wounded placed in his care. He treated one of my chums worse than a dog, and I came pretty close to having it out with him in consequence."

"He doesn't look like a very tender-hearted man."

"He doesn't know what tenderness is, Miss Ruthven. I would pity your brother if he had to place himself under Dr. Mackey's care."

"We won't give Jack up unless the courts make us. My mother is firm on that point."

"But why does he want the boy?"

"That is the mystery—if Jack is not really his son."

"Perhaps there is a fortune coming to your brother, and the doctor wants to secure it. A man like Dr. Mackey wouldn't do a thing of this sort without an object. I can tell you one thing—the fellow worships money."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because I know that a wounded soldier once told him to be careful and he would give him all the money he had—twelve dollars. The doctor was careful, and took every dollar that was offered."

"But had he a right to take the soldier's money?" asked Marion indignantly.

"Not exactly, but in war times many queer things happen that are never told of at headquarters," answered George Walden.

Here the conversation ceased, for the soldier was quite exhausted. Soon Marion gave him a quieting draught, and then George Walden slept.



CHAPTER XX.

THE STORM OF BATTLE AGAIN.

As related in the last chapter, Mrs. Ruthven and Jack had gone to Oldville to do some necessary trading.

Arriving at the town, they found all in high excitement. The stores were closed, and only the tavern was open, and here were congregated a number of men who had but lately joined the Confederate ranks.

"What is the matter?" asked Mrs. Ruthven of one of the men.

"Another battle is on," was the answer. "We are going to drive the Yanks out of this neighborhood."

"Another battle!" cried Jack. "Where?"

"They are fighting over near Larson's Corners. Can't you hear the shooting?"

"I can hear it now—I didn't hear it before."

"Do you think they will come this way?" questioned Mrs. Ruthven anxiously.

"Aint no telling how matters will turn," answered the man addressed, and then hurried off to join the other newly enlisted soldiers. Soon the soldiers were leaving the town on the double-quick.

Jack watched the departure of the men with interest, and then espied Darcy Gilbert running toward him.

"Hi, Darcy!" he called out. "Where bound?"

"Jack! Just the one I wanted to meet. There's a fight on."

"So I hear. I reckon we had better call out the Home Guard again."

"By all means. The stores want protection, and so do the homesteads," went on Darcy. "Shall I go down the shore road and call up the boys?"

"Yes, and I'll take the Batsford road. If you see Doc Nivers tell him to call up the boys on the mountain road, will you?"

"Yes. What of those at Brackett's plantation?"

"I'll send Hackett or Purroy after them," answered Jack.

The two lads separated, and Jack turned to his foster mother.

"Mother, you heard what was said," he began. "You don't object, do you?"

"No, Jack; do your duty, as a brave boy should. But be careful—I cannot afford to lose you!" and she wiped away the tears which gathered in her eyes.

"You will return home?"

"At once."

"If I were you I'd place Old Ben on guard at the plantation. I don't believe anybody will harm the place, now it is flying a hospital flag. Certainly the troops under Colonel Stanton won't trouble us."

"No; he is a gentleman, and I know I can trust him. Dear Harry! I wish he was not with the Yankee army."

"Well, he is fighting according to the dictates of his conscience, so there is no use in finding fault."

Mrs. Ruthven kissed Jack tenderly and hurried off, and then with all speed our hero set to work to summon together the lads composing the Home Guard.

The task was not difficult, for the firing in the distance—which was gradually coming closer—had aroused everybody. In less than an hour the Home Guard was out in force on the town green, with Jack in command.

"Boys, we may have some hot work to do," said the young captain. "I expect everybody to do his best. I trust there is no coward among us."

"Not a bit of it!" came back in a shout.

"We aint no St. John Ruthvens," whispered one of the young soldiers, but loud enough for a dozen or more to hear.

"That's so," answered another. And then he continued, "What a difference between our Jack and his cowardly cousin!"

"We are here to defend property more than to take part in any battle," said Jack. "Do not let the guerrillas steal, no matter what side they pretend to be on. A thief is a thief, whether he says he is a Confederate or a Yankee."

"That's right!" shouted the old storekeeper, who stood by.

A little while later the firing came closer, and presently up the road a cloud of dust was seen.

"The Yanks are coming!" was the cry, as a horseman dashed up.

"Coming?" repeated several.

"Yes, they are in retreat!"

A wild shout went up—cut short by the sudden belching forth of cannon on the mountain side above the town. A little later some Federal troops swept into view.

"They are coming! Get out of the way!"

Soon the soldiers filled the road and the whole of the green. They had been fighting hard and were almost exhausted. Others followed until the streets of the old town were crowded. Then began a systematic retreat northward.

"We've got the Yanks on the run!" was the cry. "Give it to 'em, boys!"

The rattle of musketry was incessant, and ever and anon came the dull booming of cannon. Soon more Federal troops appeared, and those who had come first moved toward the mountain road.

It was a thrilling scene, and Jack longed to take part. But he realized that just now there was nothing for the Home Guard to do. Had they opened fire, the Federal troops would have annihilated them. Nobody molested the stores or town buildings, although the church was hit by several cannon balls. Gradually the fighting shifted to the mountain side, and then in the direction of the Ruthven plantations.

"They are moving toward St. John's place," remarked Jack, some time later, to Darcy. "We ought to go over to see that no damage is done there."

"St. John ought to take care of the place himself," grumbled Darcy. "He won't join the army or the Home Guard. What does he expect?"

Several sided with Darcy, but Jack shook his head. "I am going over. I would like eight or ten to go with me. The others had better remain around town." And so it was arranged.

The coming of the Federalists to the plantation owned by Mrs. Mary Ruthven filled St. John with supreme terror. Hearing the firing, the young man got up and dressed himself. He was just finishing when his mother appeared.

"St. John, Pompey says the Yankees are coming!" said the mother. "You must arm yourself and try to defend our home."

"The Yan—Yankees!" he said, with chattering teeth. "How—how near are they?"

"They have passed through the town and are all over the mountain side. Come, do not delay. I have given Pompey a gun and old Louis a pistol. Arm yourself and take charge of them. If we do not protect ourselves, we may all be killed."

Shaking so that he could scarcely walk, St. John went below and into the library, where hung a rifle over the chimney piece and also a brace of swords. He got down the rifle and loaded it. Then he strapped the larger of the swords around his waist.

"Now you look quite like a soldier," said his mother encouragingly. "I hope you can shoot straight."

"I—I don't want to kill—kill anybody," he answered. "If I do, the Yankees will be very—very vindictive."

"But you must protect our home!" insisted Mrs. Mary Ruthven. "Come, brace up!"

Still trembling, and with a face as white as chalk, St. John walked to the veranda of the homestead. He gazed down the road and saw a body of soldiers approaching, in a cloud of dust and smoke. Then a cannon boomed out, and a ball hit the corner of the house, sending a shower of splinters in all directions.

"They have struck the house!" shrieked Mrs. Ruthven. "We shall all be murdered!"

"Spare us! spare us!" gasped St. John, as a company of soldiers came up to the mansion on the double-quick. "We have harmed nobody! Spare us!"

"You big calf!" cried one of the soldiers. "We aint going to hurt you. Git up from yer knees!" For St. John had indeed fallen upon his knees in his abject terror.

"Who—who are you?"

"We are Confederates—if you'll only open yer eyes to see. Git up!" And in disgust the Southern soldier pricked St. John's shoulder with his bayonet. The spendthrift let out a yell of fear, rolled over, and dashed into the house, leaving his gun behind him.

"St. John, where are you going?" cried his mother, coming after him.

"Oh, mother, we are lost!" he wailed.

"No, we are not. Go out again, and pick up your gun."

"I—I cannot! They will—will shoot me!" he shivered.

"But they are our own men, St. John. You are perfectly safe with them."

But he would not go, and she left him in the hallway, where he had sunk down on a bench. In one way he was to be pitied, for his fear was beyond his control.

Soon the Confederates left the plantation and the Federalists burst into view. The cannon continued to boom forth, and presently came a cry from the rear of the mansion:

"Fire! fire! The house is on fire!"

The report was true, and as the soldiers left the place up went a large cloud of smoke, followed by the bursting out of flames in several directions. Such was the state of affairs when Jack and his followers reached the roadway in front of the plantation.

"The house is on fire!" ejaculated the young captain. "Come, we must put out the flames."

"But the enemy——" began one of the other boys.

"The Yankees are making for the mountain road and our troops are to the westward. I don't believe either will come this way again. Hurry up, or it will be too late!"

Jack ran up to the house with all speed, to meet Mrs. Mary Ruthven on the veranda.

"The house—it is doomed!" wailed the lady of the plantation.

"Get us all the pails and buckets you have," answered Jack. "And have you a ladder handy?"

"There is a ladder in the stable, Jack. Oh, will you help put it out?"

"We'll do our best. Is St. John at home?"

"Yes," and so speaking, Mrs. Mary Ruthven ran off to arouse her son.

"You must help," she said. "Quick, or we will be homeless."

"But the—the Yankees?" he asked.

"Are gone." She clasped her hands entreatingly. "Oh, St. John, do be a man for once!"

"A man? What do you mean, mother?" he cried, leaping up as soon as he heard that the enemy was gone. "I am not afraid. I—I had a sudden attack of pain around my—my heart, that's all."

"Then, if it is over, save the house," she answered coldly, and ran off to tell the servants about the pails and buckets.



CHAPTER XXI.

A LIVELY FIRE.

In the meantime Jack and several others of the Home Guard had made their way to the barn and brought forth two ladders, a short affair and one which was both long and heavy.

"The short one can be placed on the veranda roof," said the young captain. "The other we can place against the corner, where the fire is burning the strongest."

"Somebody must have gone into the garret to set that fire," said another of the boys. "Where are the water buckets?"

"Here da am, sah," replied one of the negro servants, and handed them over.

"Somebody must keep at the well," said Jack. "Pompey, you know how to use the buckets best. You draw for us."

"Yes, Massah Jack."

"We'll form a line to the cistern, too," went on our hero. "Now then, work lively!"

The boys ran to the places assigned to them, and aided by the colored servants placed the ladders as desired. Soon water was being passed up and dashed upon the burning roof with all possible speed. But the fire was a lively one, and the breeze which was blowing helped it to spread.

"What can I do?" asked St. John, as he stood by, rubbing his hands nervously.

"Go down to the stable and the barns and put out the sparks blowing that way," said Jack.

"Don't you want me here?"

"Yes, if you'll go up to the top of the ladder," answered our hero, knowing full well St. John would do nothing of the sort.

"I—I never could climb a ladder," faltered the young man, and turned toward the stable, where he spent his time in putting out the flying sparks, as Jack had suggested.

It was hot work on the long ladder, and soon Jack was all but exhausted. But he stuck to his post, knowing full well that, if he let up, the fire would soon get the best of them. All of the boys worked like Trojans, and the negro servants helped them as much as possible. Mrs. Ruthven remained in the house, packing up her valuables, so as to be able to leave, should it become necessary to do so.



"More water!" cried Jack. "The fire is eating to the center of the roof! More water!"

"We are bringing it as fast as we can!" panted the boy below him.

"Make the servants form a line to the cistern."

"I will," answered the boy, and soon the water was coming up as rapidly as Jack and the other lad on the roof could handle it.

At last the fire seemed to lose its force, and was extinguished at one corner of the roof. Then all hands turned their attention to the spot over the veranda. Here the flames had eaten under the gutter.

"We must have an ax!" exclaimed Jack, and one was quickly procured from the woodpile.

"Hi! what are you going to do with that?" yelled St. John, as he caught sight of the article.

"Going to chop a hole in the roof," answered our hero.

"How foolish! You'll make the fire worse."

"No, I won't—I know what I am doing, St. John."

"You shan't chop a hole in the roof," insisted the unreasonable young man.

A cry of derision went up from half a dozen of the boys.

"Take a back seat, St. John," advised one. "You are too scared to know what you are saying."

At this the spendthrift's face grew as red as a beet.

"Shut your tongue, Larry Wilson," he retorted. "I say you shan't chop a hole in the roof. It will let the wind get to the flames."

"We want to get the water on the flames," replied Larry.

"And I say you shan't touch the roof with the ax!" screamed St. John. "I command you to stop."

"All right then, we'll stop," said Larry, and Jack said the same. In a moment more they were both on the ground, the other lads with them.

"Fo' de land sake, de house will burn up suah now!" groaned one of the negroes.

"If it does, it will be St. John's fault," answered our hero. He was thoroughly disgusted over the way St. John had acted.

"I'se gwine to tell de missus ob dis!" cried a second negro, and darted away in search of Mrs. Mary Ruthven.

Soon the lady of the house came running out, with a bundle in one hand and a box of jewelry in the other.

"What is this I hear, St. John?" she demanded.

"They want to chop in the roof, mother," he answered.

"We must make a hole, so that we can pour the water on the fire," explained Jack.

"Then go and make the hole," returned Mrs. Ruthven readily. "And please be quick!"

"But, mother——" began St. John.

"St. John, they know more about putting out the fire than you do," was the tart reply of the young man's parent. "Let them do as they wish."

"All right then," growled the unreasonable son. "But if the house burns to the ground it will be their fault."

"It won't burn to the ground," answered Jack, and leaped up the ladder again.

Soon our hero was chopping away at a lively rate. In the meantime the others brought all the water possible to the scene.

When a hole was made in the roof the flames shot skyward for six or eight feet. At this St. John uttered a loud cry, almost of exultation:

"There, what did I tell you? Now the house will be burnt to the ground sure!"

"Lively with that water!" shouted Jack, ignoring him completely. And as the pails and buckets came up in a stream, he dashed the contents where they would do the most good.

It was perilous work, for the smoke rolled all around him, and more than once he was in danger of suffocation. But the water now did much good, and soon the flames began to go down.

"Hurrah! we have the fire under control!" shouted Larry.

It was true, and inside of quarter of an hour the last spark was put out. Then Jack crawled to the ground, almost too weak to stand.

"Is it out?" asked Mrs. Ruthven anxiously.

"Yes," answered our hero.

"Oh, I am so glad!" and she caught Jack warmly by the hand. At heart she was a true woman, and could appreciate what our hero had done for her.

St. John stood by in silence, hardly knowing what to say. At last he shuffled into the house.

"The water has made an awful mess," he declared, later, to his mother. "They needn't have drowned out the whole house like this."

"Don't say another word, St. John," answered his mother severely. "I am thankful the fire is out, even if you are not." And then she turned away to direct the servants in clearing away the muss that had been made.

The tide of battle had swept off in the direction of Jack's home, and anxious to know how Marion and his foster mother were faring, our hero soon after left Mrs. Mary Ruthven's plantation, and with him went Larry Wilson and three others of the Guard.

From a distance came the constant cracking of rifles and the booming of cannon.

"Let us take the short cut," suggested Jack, as he pushed across the fields. "There can be no time to spare."

"It is hard to tell who is winning to-day," returned Larry. "At first I thought the Yankees were in retreat."

"So did I, Larry. Well, we'll know how matters stand by night."

As they came in sight of our hero's home a Federal battery dashed into sight, drawn by horses covered with foam. The battery was followed by a regiment of infantry.

"Colonel Stanton's regiment!" cried Jack.

"They are in retreat!" answered Larry. "Look! our soldiers are coming down the hill after them like mad!"

"There is Colonel Stanton on horseback," went on Jack, straining his eyes. "What a fine figure he cuts!"

"Ba, Jack! how can you say that of a Yankee? I have half a mind to shoot him."

As Larry spoke he raised his gun, but Jack pulled it down.

"Don't, Larry!"

"Why not? We are at war, and he is our enemy."

"I know, but——"

"But what? Are you too tender-hearted to be a real soldier?"

"It isn't that, Larry. Colonel Stanton is such a fine man——"

"Those Yankees killed Colonel Ruthven, don't forget that," went on Larry earnestly. "We ought to bring down every one of them—if we can."

"Perhaps, but I would like to see Colonel Stanton spared—I cannot tell why."

On swept the soldiers, and for the moment the Federals were hidden by the smoke of gun fire. Then, as they reappeared, Jack set up a cry, half of alarm.

"What is it?" queried Larry.

"Colonel Stanton is shot!"

"Shot? You are sure?"

"Yes. See, he has fallen over the neck of his horse and several soldiers are running toward him. How sad! I wonder if he is dead?"

"If he is, it but serves him right, Jack."

"Perhaps; but I hope he isn't dead," answered Jack, with a peculiar look in his anxious face. As the Federal colonel disappeared from view he gave something of a groan, he could not tell why.



CHAPTER XXII.

AFTER THE BATTLE.

The Federal battery had gained a hill behind the Ruthven plantation, and from this point began to fire rapidly at the advancing Confederates.

Shot and shell sped over the homestead, and the inmates were, consequently, much alarmed.

"We will do well if we escape this murderous fire," said Mrs. Alice Ruthven to Marion.

"I wish Jack was here," answered the girl. "Where can he be keeping himself?"

"He remained behind to protect the property in town."

The tide of battle grew fiercer, and presently, just as Marion had gone to the kitchen to get something for the invalid soldiers, a heavy shot passed through the sitting room of the house, tearing down the plaster of two walls and damaging much of the furniture.

Of course all in the mansion were much alarmed. The negroes, especially, were panic-stricken, and ran forth in all directions.

"We is gwine ter be murdered," shrieked one. "Da is gwine ter shoot us all ter pieces!"

"Marion, are you hurt?" came from Mrs. Ruthven, who was in the front hallway at the time.

"No, mother. Were you hit?"

"No, Marion."

"Where did the shot strike?"

"Through the sitting room, I believe."

Both ran to investigate, and in the sitting room a sight met their gaze calculated to stun the stoutest heart.

Plaster and splinters lay in all directions, and the wounded soldiers were crying for aid and for mercy, thinking the enemy close at hand.

Under a mass of wreckage on the floor lay George Walden, senseless, and with the blood flowing from a wound in his temple.

"Oh, Mr. Walden is hurt, mamma!" shrieked Marion, and ran to raise him up.

They carried the wounded soldier to another part of the house and laid him on a fresh cot. Then, while Marion cared for him, Mrs. Ruthven went back to aid the others. In the meantime Old Ben was instructed to hoist the hospital flag to a higher point on the mansion.

The shot appeared to be about the last fired in that vicinity, and soon the shooting came from a distance, as Federals and Confederates withdrew in the direction of the mountains.

"Mother! Marion! are you safe?" It was the cry from Jack as he came up, almost out of breath from running.

"Yes, thank Heaven, we are safe so far," answered Mrs. Ruthven. "Where have you been—at the town?"

"No, I was over to St. John's place," answered our hero, and in a few words told about the fire.

"We, too, have suffered," said Mrs. Ruthven. "A solid shot passed through the sitting room."

"Did it hurt anybody?"

"One of the wounded soldiers was knocked senseless. The others were more frightened than hurt."

"It has been a hot fight all around. And, oh, mother! what do you think? I saw Colonel Stanton shot down!"

"Is that true, Jack?"

"Yes, I saw the whole thing as plain as day. It's too bad. He was such a nice gentleman, even if he was a Yankee."

"You are right. Jack; he was indeed a gentleman. I felt perfectly safe while he was in the vicinity."

It was not long before Jack went upstairs to see how Marion was faring. He found his sister working over George Walden, trying to restore the hurt soldier to his senses.

"He is pretty badly off," said Marion. "I wish we had a doctor."

"Where is that surgeon who was here?"

"Gone to the battlefield."

"I don't know of any doctor to get just now, Marion."

"Then we must do the best we can ourselves. And by the way, Jack, this soldier knows Dr. Mackey."

"What?"

"Yes, and he said that Dr. Mackey is more or less of a fraud, and never was married."

"Oh, Marion! if he could only prove that."

"He thinks he can. He told me that the doctor came from Philadelphia, and Cousin Harry told me the same thing."

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