Clarence by Bret Harte
As Clarence Brant, President of the Robles Land Company, and husband
of the rich widow of John Peyton, of the Robles Ranche, mingled with the
outgoing audience of the Cosmopolitan Theatre, at San Francisco, he
elicited the usual smiling nods and recognition due to his good looks and
good fortune. But as he hurriedly slipped through the still lingering
winter's rain into the smart coupe that was awaiting him, and gave the
order "Home," the word struck him with a peculiarly ironical
significance. His home was a handsome one, and lacked nothing in
appointment and comfort, but he had gone to the theatre to evade its
hollow loneliness. Nor was it because his wife was not there, for he had
a miserable consciousness that her temporary absence had nothing to do
with his homelessness. The distraction of the theatre over, that dull,
vague, but aching sense of loneliness which was daily growing upon him
returned with greater vigor.
He leaned back in the coupe and gloomily reflected.
He had been married scarcely a year, yet even in the illusions of the
honeymoon the woman, older than himself, and the widow of his old patron,
had half unconsciously reasserted herself, and slipped back into the
domination of her old position. It was at first pleasant
enough,—this half-maternal protectorate which is apt to mingle even
with the affections of younger women,—and Clarence, in his easy,
half-feminine intuition of the sex, yielded, as the strong are apt to
yield, through the very consciousness of their own superiority. But this
is a quality the weaker are not apt to recognize, and the woman who has
once tasted equal power with her husband not only does not easily
relegate it, but even makes its continuance a test of the affections. The
usual triumphant feminine conclusion, "Then you no longer love me," had
in Clarence's brief experience gone even further and reached its
inscrutable climax, "Then I no longer love you," although shown only in a
momentary hardening of the eye and voice. And added to this was his
sudden, but confused remembrance that he had seen that eye and heard that
voice in marital altercation during Judge Peyton's life, and that he
himself, her boy partisan, had sympathized with her. Yet, strange to say,
this had given him more pain than her occasional other reversions to the
past—to her old suspicious of him when he was a youthful protege of
her husband and a presumed suitor of her adopted daughter Susy. High
natures are more apt to forgive wrong done to themselves than any
abstract injustice. And her capricious tyranny over her dependents and
servants, or an unreasoning enmity to a neighbor or friend, outraged his
finer sense more than her own misconception of himself. Nor did he dream
that this was a thing most women seldom understand, or, understanding,
The coupe rattled over the stones or swirled through the muddy pools
of the main thoroughfares. Newspaper and telegraphic offices were still
brilliantly lit, and crowds were gathered among the bulletin boards. He
knew that news had arrived from Washington that evening of the first
active outbreaks of secession, and that the city was breathless with
excitement. Had he not just come from the theatre, where certain
insignificant allusions in the play had been suddenly caught up and
cheered or hissed by hitherto unknown partisans, to the dumb astonishment
of a majority of the audience comfortably settled to money-getting and
their own affairs alone? Had he not applauded, albeit half-scornfully,
the pretty actress— his old playmate Susy—who had audaciously
and all incongruously waved the American flag in their faces? Yes! he had
known it; had lived for the last few weeks in an atmosphere electrically
surcharged with it—and yet it had chiefly affected him in his
personal homelessness. For his wife was a Southerner, a born slaveholder,
and a secessionist, whose noted prejudices to the North had even outrun
her late husband's politics. At first the piquancy and recklessness of
her opinionative speech amused him as part of her characteristic flavor,
or as a lingering youthfulness which the maturer intellect always
pardons. He had never taken her politics seriously—why should he?
With her head on his shoulder he had listened to her extravagant
diatribes against the North. He had forgiven her outrageous indictment of
his caste and his associates for the sake of the imperious but handsome
lips that uttered it. But when he was compelled to listen to her words
echoed and repeated by her friends and family; when he found that with
the clannishness of her race she had drawn closer to them in this
controversy,—that she depended upon them for her intelligence and
information rather than upon him,—he had awakened to the reality of
his situation. He had borne the allusions of her brother, whose old scorn
for his dependent childhood had been embittered by his sister's marriage
and was now scarcely concealed. Yet, while he had never altered his own
political faith and social creed in this antagonistic atmosphere, he had
often wondered, with his old conscientiousness and characteristic
self-abnegation, whether his own political convictions were not merely a
revulsion from his domestic tyranny and alien surroundings.
In the midst of this gloomy retrospect the coupe stopped with a jerk
before his own house. The door was quickly opened by a servant, who
appeared to be awaiting him.
"Some one to see you in the library, sir," said the man, "and"—
He hesitated and looked towards the coupe.
"Well?" said Clarence impatiently.
"He said, sir, as how you were not to send away the carriage."
"Indeed, and who is it?" demanded Clarence sharply.
"Mr. Hooker. He said I was to say Jim Hooker."
The momentary annoyance in Clarence's face changed to a look of
"He said he knew you were at the theatre, and he would wait until you
came home," continued the man, dubiously watching his master's face. "He
don't know you've come in, sir, and—and I can easily get rid of
"No matter now. I'll see him, and," added Clarence, with a faint
smile, "let the carriage wait."
Yet, as he turned towards the library he was by no means certain that
an interview with the old associate of his boyhood under Judge Peyton's
guardianship would divert his mind. Yet he let no trace of his doubts nor
of his past gloom show in his face as he entered the room.
Mr. Hooker was apparently examining the elegant furniture and
luxurious accommodation with his usual resentful enviousness. Clarence
had got a "soft thing." That it was more or less the result of his
"artfulness," and that he was unduly "puffed up" by it, was, in Hooker's
characteristic reasoning, equally clear. As his host smilingly advanced
with outstretched hand, Mr. Hooker's efforts to assume a proper
abstraction of manner and contemptuous indifference to Clarence's
surroundings which should wound his vanity ended in his lolling back at
full length in the chair with his eyes on the ceiling. But, remembering
suddenly that he was really the bearer of a message to Clarence, it
struck him that his supine position was, from a theatrical view-point,
infelicitous. In his experiences of the stage he had never delivered a
message in that way. He rose awkwardly to his feet.
"It was so good of you to wait," said Clarence courteously.
"Saw you in the theatre," said Hooker brusquely. "Third row in
parquet. Susy said it was you, and had suthin' to say to you. Suthin' you
ought to know," he continued, with a slight return of his old mystery of
manner which Clarence so well remembered. "You saw HER—she fetched
the house with that flag business, eh? She knows which way the cat is
going to jump, you bet. I tell you, for all the blowing of these
secessionists, the Union's goin' to pay! Yes, sir!" He stopped, glanced
round the handsome room, and added darkly, "Mebbee better than this."
With the memory of Hooker's characteristic fondness for mystery still
in his mind, Clarence overlooked the innuendo, and said
"Why didn't you bring Mrs. Hooker here? I should have been honored
with her company."
Mr. Hooker frowned slightly at this seeming levity.
"Never goes out after a performance. Nervous exhaustion. Left her at
our rooms in Market Street. We can drive there in ten minutes. That's why
I asked to have the carriage wait."
Clarence hesitated. Without caring in the least to renew the
acquaintance of his old playmate and sweetheart, a meeting that night in
some vague way suggested to him a providential diversion. Nor was he
deceived by any gravity in the message. With his remembrance of Susy's
theatrical tendencies, he was quite prepared for any capricious futile
"You are sure we will not disturb her?" he said politely.
Clarence led the way to the carriage. If Mr. Hooker expected him
during the journey to try to divine the purport of Susy's message he was
disappointed. His companion did not allude to it. Possibly looking upon
it as a combined theatrical performance, Clarence preferred to wait for
Susy as the better actor. The carriage rolled rapidly through the now
deserted streets, and at last, under the directions of Mr. Hooker, who
was leaning half out of the window, it drew up at a middle-class
restaurant, above whose still lit and steaming windows were some
ostentatiously public apartments, accessible from a side entrance. As
they ascended the staircase together, it became evident that Mr. Hooker
was scarcely more at his ease in the character of host than he had been
as guest. He stared gloomily at a descending visitor, grunted audibly at
a waiter in the passage, and stopped before a door, where a recently
deposited tray displayed the half-eaten carcase of a fowl, an empty
champagne bottle, two half-filled glasses, and a faded bouquet. The whole
passage was redolent with a singular blending of damp cooking, stale
cigarette smoke, and patchouli.
Putting the tray aside with his foot, Mr. Hooker opened the door
hesitatingly and peered into the room, muttered a few indistinct words,
which were followed by a rapid rustling of skirts, and then, with his
hand still on the door-knob, turning to Clarence, who had discreetly
halted on the threshold, flung the door open theatrically and bade him
"She is somewhere in the suite," he added, with a large wave of the
hand towards a door that was still oscillating. "Be here in a minit."
Clarence took in the apartment with a quiet glance. Its furniture had
the frayed and discolored splendors of a public parlor which had been
privately used and maltreated; there were stains in the large medallioned
carpet; the gilded veneer had been chipped from a heavy centre table,
showing the rough, white deal beneath, which gave it the appearance of a
stage "property;" the walls, paneled with gilt-framed mirrors, reflected
every domestic detail or private relaxation with shameless publicity. A
damp waterproof, shawl, and open newspaper were lying across the once
brilliant sofa; a powder-puff, a plate of fruit, and a play-book were on
the centre table, and on the marble-topped sideboard was Mr. Hooker's
second-best hat, with a soiled collar, evidently but lately exchanged for
the one he had on, peeping over its brim. The whole apartment seemed to
mingle the furtive disclosures of the dressing- room with the open
ostentations of the stage, with even a slight suggestion of the
auditorium in a few scattered programmes on the floor and chairs.
The inner door opened again with a slight theatrical start, and Susy,
in an elaborate dressing-gown, moved languidly into the room. She
apparently had not had time to change her underskirt, for there was the
dust of the stage on its delicate lace edging, as she threw herself into
an armchair and crossed her pretty slippered feet before her. Her face
was pale, its pallor incautiously increased by powder; and as Clarence
looked at its still youthful, charming outline, he was not perhaps sorry
that the exquisite pink and white skin beneath, which he had once kissed,
was hidden from that awakened recollection. Yet there was little trace of
the girlish Susy in the pretty, but prematurely jaded, actress before
him, and he felt momentarily relieved. It was her youth and freshness
appealing to his own youth and imagination that he had loved—not
HER. Yet as she greeted him with a slight exaggeration of glance, voice,
and manner, he remembered that even as a girl she was an actress.
Nothing of this, however, was in his voice and manner as he gently
thanked her for the opportunity of meeting her again. And he was frank,
for the diversion he had expected he had found; he even was conscious of
thinking more kindly of his wife who had supplanted her.
"I told Jim he must fetch you if he had to carry you," she said,
striking the palm of her hand with her fan, and glancing at her husband.
"I reckon he guessed WHY, though I didn't tell him—I don't tell Jim
Here Jim rose, and looking at his watch, "guessed he'd run over to the
Lick House and get some cigars." If he was acting upon some hint from his
wife, his simulation was so badly done that Clarence felt his first sense
of uneasiness. But as Hooker closed the door awkwardly and
unostentatiously behind him, Clarence smilingly said he had waited to
hear the message from her own lips.
"Jim only knows what he's heard outside: the talk of men, you
know,—and he hears a good deal of that—more, perhaps, than
YOU do. It was that which put me up to finding out the truth. And I
didn't rest till I did. I'm not to be fooled, Clarence,—you don't
mind my calling you Clarence now we're both married and done for,—
and I'm not the kind to be fooled by anybody from the Cow counties—
and that's the Robles Ranche. I'm a Southern woman myself from Missouri,
but I'm for the Union first, last, and all the time, and I call myself a
match for any lazy, dawdling, lash-swinging slaveholder and
slaveholderess—whether they're mixed blood, Heaven only knows, or
what—or their friends or relations, or the dirty half-Spanish
grandees and their mixed half-nigger peons who truckle to them. You
His blood had stirred quickly at the mention of the Robles Ranche, but
the rest of Susy's speech was too much in the vein of her old
extravagance to touch him seriously. He found himself only considering
how strange it was that the old petulance and impulsiveness of her
girlhood were actually bringing back with them her pink cheeks and
"You surely didn't ask Jim to bring me here," he said smilingly, "to
tell me that Mrs. Peyton"—he corrected himself hastily as a
malicious sparkle came into Susy's blue eyes—"that my wife was a
Southern woman, and probably sympathized with her class? Well, I don't
know that I should blame her for that any more than she should blame me
for being a Northern man and a Unionist."
"And she doesn't blame you?" asked Susy sneeringly.
The color came slightly to Clarence's cheek, but before he could reply
the actress added,—
"No, she prefers to use you!"
"I don't think I understand you," said Clarence, rising coldly.
"No, you don't understand HER!" retorted Susy sharply. "Look here,
Clarence Brant, you're right; I didn't ask you here to tell you—
what you and everybody knows—that your wife is a Southerner. I
didn't ask you here to tell you what everybody suspects—that she
turns you round her little finger. But I did ask you here to tell you
what nobody, not even you, suspects—but what I know!—and that
is that she's a TRAITOR—and more, a SPY!—and that I've only
got to say the word, or send that man Jim to say the word, to have her
dragged out of her Copperhead den at Robles Ranche and shut up in Fort
Alcatraz this very night!"
Still with the pink glowing in her rounding cheek, and eyes snapping
like splintered sapphires, she rose to her feet, with her pretty
shoulders lifted, her small hands and white teeth both tightly clenched,
and took a step towards him. Even in her attitude there was a
reminiscence of her willful childhood, although still blended with the
provincial actress whom he had seen on the stage only an hour ago.
Thoroughly alarmed at her threat, in his efforts to conceal his feelings
he was not above a weak retaliation. Stepping back, he affected to regard
her with a critical admiration that was only half simulated, and said
with a smile,—
"Very well done—but you have forgotten the flag."
She did not flinch. Rather accepting the sarcasm as a tribute to her
art, she went on with increasing exaggeration: "No, it is YOU who have
forgotten the flag—forgotten your country, your people, your
manhood—everything for that high-toned, double-dyed old spy and
traitress! For while you are standing here, your wife is gathering under
her roof at Robles a gang of spies and traitors like
herself—secession leaders and their bloated, drunken 'chivalry'!
Yes, you may smile your superior smile, but I tell you, Clarence Brant,
that with all your smartness and book learning you know no more of what
goes on around you than a child. But others do! This conspiracy is known
to the government, the Federal officers have been warned; General Sumner
has been sent out here— and his first act was to change the command
at Fort Alcatraz, and send your wife's Southern friend—Captain
Pinckney—to the right about! Yes— everything is known but ONE
thing, and that is WHERE and HOW this precious crew meet! That I alone
know, and that I've told you!"
"And I suppose," said Clarence, with an unchanged smile, "that this
valuable information came from your husband—my old friend, Jim
"No," she answered sharply, "it comes from Cencho—one of your
own peons—who is more true to you and the old Rancho than YOU have
ever been. He saw what was going on, and came to me, to warn you!"
"But why not to me directly?" asked Clarence, with affected
"Ask him!" she said viciously. "Perhaps he didn't want to warn the
master against the mistress. Perhaps he thought WE are still friends.
Perhaps"—she hesitated with a lower voice and a forced
smile—"perhaps he used to see us together in the old times."
"Very likely," said Clarence quietly. "And for the sake of those old
times, Susy," he went on, with a singular gentleness that was quite
distinct from his paling face and set eyes, "I am going to forget all
that you have just said of me and mine, in all the old willfulness and
impatience that I see you still keep—with all your old prettiness."
He took his hat from the table and gravely held out his hand.
She was frightened for a moment with his impassive abstraction. In the
old days she had known it—had believed it was his dogged
"obstinacy"—but she knew the hopelessness of opposing it. Yet with
feminine persistency she again threw herself against it, as against a
"You don't believe me! Well, go and see for yourself. They are at
Robles NOW. If you catch the early morning stage at Santa Clara you will
come upon them before they disperse. Dare you try it?"
"Whatever I do," he returned smilingly, "I shall always be grateful to
you for giving me this opportunity of seeing you again AS YOU WERE. Make
my excuses to your husband. Good-night."
But he had already closed the door behind him. His face did not relax
its expression nor change as he looked again at the tray with its broken
viands before the door, the worn, stained hall carpet, or the waiter who
shuffled past him. He was apparently as critically conscious of them and
of the close odors of the hall, and the atmosphere of listless decay and
faded extravagance around him, as before the interview. But if the woman
he had just parted from had watched him she would have supposed he still
utterly disbelieved her story. Yet he was conscious that all that he saw
was a part of his degradation, for he had believed every word she had
uttered. Through all her extravagance, envy, and revengefulness he saw
the central truth—that he had been deceived—not by his wife,
but by himself! He had suspected all this before. This was what had been
really troubling him—this was what he had put aside, rather than
his faith, not in her, but in his ideal. He remembered letters that had
passed between her and Captain Pinckney—letters that she had openly
sent to notorious Southern leaders; her nervous anxiety to remain at the
Rancho; the innuendoes and significant glances of friends which he had
put aside—as he had this woman's message! Susy had told him nothing
new of his wife—but the truth of HIMSELF! And the revelation came
from people who he was conscious were the inferiors of himself and his
wife. To an independent, proud, and self-made man it was the culminating
In the same abstracted voice he told the coachman to drive home. The
return seemed interminable—though he never shifted his position.
Yet when he drew up at his own door and looked at his watch he found he
had been absent only half an hour. Only half an hour! As he entered the
house he turned with the same abstraction towards a mirror in the hall,
as if he expected to see some outward and visible change in himself in
that time. Dismissing his servants to bed, he went into his
dressing-room, completely changed his attire, put on a pair of long
riding-boots, and throwing a serape over his shoulders, paused a moment,
took a pair of small "Derringer" pistols from a box, put them in his
pockets, and then slipped cautiously down the staircase. A lack of
confidence in his own domestics had invaded him for the first time. The
lights were out. He silently opened the door and was in the street.
He walked hastily a few squares to a livery stable whose proprietor he
knew. His first inquiry was for one "Redskin," a particular horse; the
second for its proprietor. Happily both were in. The proprietor asked no
question of a customer of Clarence's condition. The horse, half Spanish,
powerful and irascible, was quickly saddled. As Clarence mounted, the man
in an impulse of sociability said,—
"Saw you at the theatre to-night, sir."
"Ah," returned Clarence, quietly gathering up the reins.
"Rather a smart trick of that woman with the flag," he went on
tentatively. Then, with a possible doubt of his customer's politics, he
added with a forced smile, "I reckon it's all party fuss, though; there
ain't any real danger."
But fast as Clarence might ride the words lingered in his ears. He saw
through the man's hesitation; he, too, had probably heard that Clarence
Brant weakly sympathized with his wife's sentiments, and dared not speak
fully. And he understood the cowardly suggestion that there was "no real
danger." It had been Clarence's one fallacy. He had believed the public
excitement was only a temporary outbreak of partisan feeling, soon to
subside. Even now he was conscious that he was less doubtful of the
integrity of the Union than of his own household. It was not the devotion
of the patriot, but the indignation of an outraged husband, that was
spurring him on.
He knew that if he reached Woodville by five o'clock he could get
ferried across the bay at the Embarcadero, and catch the down coach to
Fair Plains, whence he could ride to the Rancho. As the coach did not
connect directly with San Francisco, the chance of his surprising them
was greater. Once clear of the city outskirts, he bullied Redskin into
irascible speed, and plunged into the rainy darkness of the highroad. The
way was familiar. For a while he was content to feel the buffeting,
caused by his rapid pace, of wind and rain against his depressed head and
shoulders in a sheer brutal sense of opposition and power, or to relieve
his pent-up excitement by dashing through overflowed gullies in the road
or across the quaggy, sodden edges of meadowland, until he had controlled
Redskin's rebellious extravagance into a long steady stride. Then he
raised his head and straightened himself on the saddle, to think. But to
no purpose. He had no plan; everything would depend upon the situation;
the thought of forestalling any action of the conspirators, by warning or
calling in the aid of the authorities, for an instant crossed his mind,
but was as instantly dismissed. He had but an instinct—to see with
his own eyes what his reason told him was true. Day was breaking through
drifting scud and pewter-colored clouds as he reached Woodville ferry,
checkered with splashes of the soil and the spume of his horse, from
whose neck and flanks the sweat rolled like lather. Yet he was not
conscious how intent had been his purpose until he felt a sudden
instinctive shock on seeing that the ferryboat was gone. For an instant
his wonderful self-possession abandoned him; he could only gaze vacantly
at the leaden-colored bay, without a thought or expedient. But in another
moment he saw that the boat was returning from the distance. Had he lost
his only chance? He glanced hurriedly at his watch; he had come more
quickly than he imagined; there would still be time. He beckoned
impatiently to the ferryman; the boat—a ship's pinnace, with two
men in it—crept in with exasperating slowness. At last the two
rowers suddenly leaped ashore.
"Ye might have come before, with the other passenger. We don't reckon
to run lightnin' trips on this ferry."
But Clarence was himself again. "Twenty dollars for two more oars in
that boat," he said quietly, "and fifty if you get me over in time to
catch the down stage."
The man glanced at Clarence's eyes. "Run up and rouse out Jake and
Sam," he said to the other boatman; then more leisurely, gazing at his
customer's travel-stained equipment, he said, "There must have been a
heap o' passengers got left by last night's boat. You're the second man
that took this route in a hurry."
At any other time the coincidence might have struck Clarence. But he
only answered curtly, "Unless we are under way in ten minutes you will
find I am NOT the second man, and that our bargain's off."
But here two men emerged from the shanty beside the ferryhouse, and
tumbled sleepily into the boat. Clarence seized an extra pair of sculls
that were standing against the shed, and threw them into the stern. "I
don't mind taking a hand myself for exercise," he said quietly.
The ferryman glanced again at Clarence's travel-worn figure and
determined eyes with mingled approval and surprise. He lingered a moment
with his oars lifted, looking at his passenger. "It ain't no business o'
mine, young man," he said deliberately, "but I reckon you understand me
when I say that I've just taken another man over there."
"I do," said Clarence impatiently.
"And you still want to go?"
"Certainly," replied Clarence, with a cold stare, taking up his
The man shrugged his shoulders, bent himself for the stroke, and the
boat sprung forward. The others rowed strongly and rapidly, the tough
ashen blades springing like steel from the water, the heavy boat seeming
to leap in successive bounds until they were fairly beyond the curving
inshore current and clearing the placid, misty surface of the bay.
Clarence did not speak, but bent abstractedly over his oar; the ferryman
and his crew rowed in equal panting silence; a few startled ducks whirred
before them, but dropped again to rest. In half an hour they were at the
Embarcadero. The time was fairly up. Clarence's eyes were eagerly bent
for the first appearance of the stage-coach around the little promontory;
the ferryman was as eagerly scanning the bare, empty street of the still
"I don't see him anywhere," said the ferryman with a glance, half of
astonishment and half of curiosity, at his solitary passenger.
"See whom?" asked Clarence carelessly, as he handed the man his
"The other man I ferried over to catch the stage. He must have gone on
without waiting. You're in luck, young fellow!"
"I don't understand you," said Clarence impatiently. "What has your
previous passenger to do with me?"
"Well, I reckon you know best. He's the kind of man, gin'rally
speaking, that other men, in a pow'ful hurry, don't care to meet—
and, az a rule, don't FOLLER arter. It's gin'rally the other way."
"What do you mean?" inquired Clarence sternly. "Of whom are you
"The Chief of Police of San Francisco!"
The laugh that instinctively broke from Clarence's lips was so sincere
and unaffected that the man was disconcerted, and at last joined in it, a
little shamefacedly. The grotesque blunder of being taken as a fugitive
from justice relieved Clarence's mind from its acute tension,—he
was momentarily diverted,—and it was not until the boatman had
departed, and he was again alone, that it seemed to have any collateral
significance. Then an uneasy recollection of Susy's threat that she had
the power to put his wife in Fort Alcatraz came across him. Could she
have already warned the municipal authorities and this man? But he
quickly remembered that any action from such a warning could only have
been taken by the United States Marshal, and not by a civic official, and
dismissed the idea.
Nevertheless, when the stage with its half-spent lamps still burning
dimly against the morning light swept round the curve and rolled heavily
up to the rude shanty which served as coach-office, he became watchful. A
single yawning individual in its doorway received a few letters and
parcels, but Clarence was evidently the ONLY waiting passenger. Any hope
that he might have entertained that his mysterious predecessor would
emerge from some seclusion at that moment was disappointed. As he entered
the coach he made a rapid survey of his fellow-travelers, but satisfied
himself that the stranger was not among them. They were mainly small
traders or farmers, a miner or two, and apparently a Spanish-American of
better degree and personality. Possibly the circumstance that men of this
class usually preferred to travel on horseback and were rarely seen in
public conveyances attracted his attention, and their eyes met more than
once in mutual curiosity. Presently Clarence addressed a remark to the
stranger in Spanish; he replied fluently and courteously, but at the next
stopping-place he asked a question of the expressman in an unmistakable
Missouri accent. Clarence's curiosity was satisfied; he was evidently one
of those early American settlers who had been so long domiciled in
Southern California as to adopt the speech as well as the habiliments of
The conversation fell upon the political news of the previous night,
or rather seemed to be lazily continued from some previous, more excited
discussion, in which one of the contestants—a red- bearded
miner—had subsided into an occasional growl of surly dissent. It
struck Clarence that the Missourian had been an amused auditor and even,
judging from a twinkle in his eye, a mischievous instigator of the
controversy. He was not surprised, therefore, when the man turned to him
with a certain courtesy and said,—
"And what, sir, is the political feeling in YOUR district?"
But Clarence was in no mood to be drawn out, and replied, almost
curtly, that as he had come only from San Francisco, they were probably
as well informed on that subject as himself. A quick and searching glance
from the stranger's eye made him regret his answer, but in the silence
that ensued the red-bearded miner, evidently still rankling at heart, saw
his opportunity. Slapping his huge hands on his knees, and leaning far
forward until he seemed to plunge his flaming beard, like a firebrand,
into the controversy, he said grimly,—
"Well, I kin tell you, gen'l'men, THIS. It ain't goin' to be no matter
wot's the POLITICAL FEELING here or thar—it ain't goin' to be no
matter wot's the State's rights and wot's Fed'ral rights—it ain't
goin' to be no question whether the gov'ment's got the right to relieve
its own soldiers that those Secesh is besieging in Fort Sumter or whether
they haven't—but the first gun that's fired at the flag blows the
chains off every d—n nigger south of Mason and Dixon's line! You
hear me! I'm shoutin'! And whether you call yourselves 'Secesh' or
'Union' or 'Copperhead' or 'Peace men,' you've got to face it!"
There was an angry start in one or two of the seats; one man caught at
the swinging side-strap and half rose, a husky voice began, "It's a
d——d"—and then all as suddenly subsided. Every eye was
turned to an insignificant figure in the back seat. It was a woman,
holding a child on her lap, and gazing out of the window with her sex's
profound unconcern in politics. Clarence understood the rude chivalry of
the road well enough to comprehend that this unconscious but omnipotent
figure had more than once that day controlled the passions of the
disputants. They dropped back weakly to their seats, and their mutterings
rolled off in the rattle of the wheels. Clarence glanced at the
Missourian; he was regarding the red-bearded miner with a singular
The rain had ceased, but the afternoon shadows were deepening when
they at last reached Fair Plains, where Clarence expected to take horse
to the Rancho. He was astonished, however, to learn that all the horses
in the stable were engaged, but remembering that some of his own stock
were in pasturage with a tenant at Fair Plains, and that he should
probably have a better selection, he turned his steps thither. Passing
out of the stable-yard he recognized the Missourian's voice in whispered
conversation with the proprietor, but the two men withdrew into the
shadow as he approached. An ill- defined uneasiness came over him; he
knew the proprietor, who also seemed to know the Missourian, and this
evident avoidance of him was significant. Perhaps his reputation as a
doubtful Unionist had preceded him, but this would not account for their
conduct in a district so strongly Southern in sympathy as Fair Plains.
More impressed by the occurrence than he cared to admit, when at last,
after some delay, he had secured his horse, and was once more in the
saddle, he kept a sharp lookout for his quondam companion. But here
another circumstance added to his suspicions: there was a main road
leading to Santa Inez, the next town, and the Rancho, and this Clarence
had purposely taken in order to watch the Missourian; but there was also
a cutoff directly to the Rancho, known only to the habitues of the
Rancho. After a few moments' rapid riding on a mustang much superior to
any in the hotel stables, he was satisfied that the stranger must have
taken the cut-off. Putting spurs to his horse he trusted still to precede
him to the Rancho—if that were his destination.
As he dashed along the familiar road, by a strange perversity of
fancy, instead of thinking of his purpose, he found himself recalling the
first time he had ridden that way in the flush of his youth and
hopefulness. The girl-sweetheart he was then going to rejoin was now the
wife of another; the woman who had been her guardian was now his own
wife. He had accepted without a pang the young girl's dereliction, but it
was through her revelation that he was now about to confront the
dereliction of his own wife. And this was the reward of his youthful
trust and loyalty! A bitter laugh broke from his lips. It was part of his
still youthful self- delusion that he believed himself wiser and stronger
It was quite dark when he reached the upper field or first terrace of
the Rancho. He could see the white walls of the casa rising dimly out of
the green sea of early wild grasses, like a phantom island. It was here
that the cut-off joined the main road—now the only one that led to
the casa. He was satisfied that no one could have preceded him from Fair
Plains; but it was true that he must take precautions against his own
discovery. Dismounting near a clump of willows, he unsaddled and
unbridled his horse, and with a cut of the riata over its haunches sent
it flying across the field in the direction of a band of feeding
mustangs, which it presently joined. Then, keeping well in the shadow of
a belt of shrub-oaks, he skirted the long lesser terraces of the casa,
intending to approach the house by way of the old garden and corral. A
drizzling rain, occasionally driven by the wind into long, misty,
curtain-like waves, obscured the prospect and favored his design. He
reached the low adobe wall of the corral in safety; looking over he could
detect, in spite of the darkness, that a number of the horses were of
alien brands, and even recognized one or two from the Santa Inez
district. The vague outline of buggies and carryalls filled the long shed
beside the stables. There WAS company at the casa—so far Susy was
Nevertheless, lingering still by the wall of the old garden for the
deepening of night, his nervous feverishness was again invaded and
benumbed by sullen memories. There was the opening left by the old grille
in the wall, behind which Mrs. Peyton stood on the morning when he
thought he was leaving the ranch forever; where he had first clasped her
in his arms, and stayed. A turn of the head, a moment's indecision, a
single glance of a languorous eye, had brought this culmination. And now
he stood again before that ruined grille, his house and lands, even his
NAME, misused by a mad, scheming enthusiast, and himself a creeping spy
of his own dishonor! He turned with a bitter smile again to the garden. A
few dark red Castilian roses still leaned forward and swayed in the wind
with dripping leaves. It was here that the first morning of his arrival
he had kissed Susy; the perfume and color of her pink skin came back to
him with a sudden shock as he stood there; he caught at a flower, drew it
towards him, inhaled its odor in a long breath that left him faint and
leaning against the wall. Then again he smiled, but this time more
wickedly—in what he believed his cynicism had sprung up the first
instinct of revenge!
It was now dark enough for him to venture across the carriage road and
make his way to the rear of the house. His first characteristic instinct
had been to enter openly at his own front gate, but the terrible
temptation to overhear and watch the conspiracy unobserved— that
fascination common to deceived humanity to witness its own
shame—had now grown upon him. He knew that a word or gesture of
explanation, apology, appeal, or even terror from his wife would check
his rage and weaken his purpose. His perfect knowledge of the house and
the security of its inmates would enable him from some obscure landing or
gallery to participate in any secret conclave they might hold in the
patio—the only place suitable for so numerous a rendezvous. The
absence of light in the few external windows pointed to this central
gathering. And he had already conceived his plan of entrance.
Gaining the rear wall of the casa he began cautiously to skirt its
brambly base until he had reached a long, oven-like window half
obliterated by a monstrous passion vine. It was the window of what had
once been Mrs. Peyton's boudoir; the window by which he had once forced
an entrance to the house when it was in the hands of squatters, the
window from which Susy had signaled her Spanish lover, the window whose
grating had broken the neck of Judge Peyton's presumed assassin. But
these recollections no longer delayed him; the moment for action had
arrived. He knew that since the tragedy the boudoir had been dismantled
and shunned; the servants believed it to be haunted by the assassin's
ghost. With the aid of the passion vine the ingress was easy; the
interior window was open; the rustle of dead leaves on the bare floor as
he entered, and the whir of a frightened bird by his ear, told the story
of its desolation and the source of the strange noises that had been
heard there. The door leading to the corridor was lightly bolted, merely
to keep it from rattling in the wind. Slipping the bolt with the blade of
his pocket-knife he peered into the dark passage. The light streaming
under a door to the left, and the sound of voices, convinced him that his
conjecture was right, and the meeting was gathered on the broad balconies
around the patio. He knew that a narrow gallery, faced with Venetian
blinds to exclude the sun, looked down upon them. He managed to gain it
without discovery; luckily the blinds were still down; between their
slats, himself invisible, he could hear and see everything that
Yet even at this supreme moment the first thing that struck him was
the almost ludicrous contrast between the appearance of the meeting and
its tremendous object. Whether he was influenced by any previous boyish
conception of a clouded and gloomy conspiracy he did not know, but he was
for an instant almost disconcerted by the apparent levity and festivity
of the conclave. Decanters and glasses stood on small tables before them;
nearly all were drinking and smoking. They comprised fifteen or twenty
men, some of whose faces were familiar to him elsewhere as Southern
politicians; a few, he was shocked to see, were well-known Northern
Democrats. Occupying a characteristically central position was the famous
Colonel Starbottle, of Virginia. Jaunty and youthful-looking in his
mask-like, beardless face, expansive and dignified in his middle-aged
port and carriage, he alone retained some of the importance—albeit
slightly theatrical and affected—of the occasion. Clarence in his
first hurried glance had not observed his wife, and for a moment had felt
relieved; but as Colonel Starbottle arose at that moment, and with a
studiously chivalrous and courtly manner turned to his right, he saw that
she was sitting at the further end of the balcony, and that a man whom he
recognized as Captain Pinckney was standing beside her. The blood quickly
tightened around his heart, but left him cold and observant.
"It was seldom, indeed," remarked Colonel Starbottle, placing his fat
fingers in the frill of his shirt front, "that a movement like this was
graced with the actual presence of a lofty, inspiring, yet delicate
spirit—a Boadicea—indeed, he might say a Joan of Arc—in
the person of their charming hostess, Mrs. Brant. Not only were they
favored by her social and hospitable ministration, but by her active and
enthusiastic cooperation in the glorious work they had in hand. It was
through her correspondence and earnest advocacy that they were to be
favored to-night with the aid and counsel of one of the most
distinguished and powerful men in the Southern district of California,
Judge Beeswinger, of Los Angeles. He had not the honor of that
gentleman's personal acquaintance; he believed he was not far wrong in
saying that this was also the misfortune of every gentleman present; but
the name itself was a tower of strength. He would go further, and say
that Mrs. Brant herself was personally unacquainted with him, but it was
through the fervor, poetry, grace, and genius of her correspondence with
that gentleman that they were to have the honor of his presence that very
evening. It was understood that advices had been received of his
departure, and that he might be expected at Robles at any moment."
"But what proof have we of Judge Beeswinger's soundness?" said a lazy
Southern voice at the conclusion of Colonel Starbottle's periods. "Nobody
here seems to know him by sight: is it not risky to admit a man to our
meeting whom we are unable to identify?"
"I reckon nobody but a fool or some prying mudsill of a Yankee would
trust his skin here," returned another; "and if he did we'd know what to
do with him."
But Clarence's attention was riveted on his wife, and the significant
speech passed him as unheeded as had the colonel's rhetoric. She was
looking very handsome and slightly flushed, with a proud light in her
eyes that he had never seen before. Absorbed in the discussion, she
seemed to be paying little attention to Captain Pinckney as she rose
suddenly to her feet.
"Judge Beeswinger will be attended here by Mr. MacNiel, of the Fair
Plains Hotel, who will vouch for him and introduce him," she said in a
clear voice, which rang with an imperiousness that Clarence well
remembered. "The judge was to arrive by the coach from Martinez to Fair
Plains, and is due now."
"Is there no GENTLEMAN to introduce him? Must we take him on the word
of a common trader—by Jove! a whiskey-seller?" continued the
previous voice sneeringly.
"On the word of a lady, Mr. Brooks," said Captain Pinckney, with a
slight gesture towards Mrs. Brant—"who answers for both."
Clarence had started slightly at his wife's voice and the information
it conveyed. His fellow-passenger, and the confidant of MacNiel, was the
man they were expecting! If they had recognized him, Clarence, would they
not warn the company of his proximity? He held his breath as the sound of
voices came from the outer gate of the courtyard. Mrs. Brant rose; at the
same moment the gate swung open, and a man entered. It WAS the
He turned with old-fashioned courtesy to the single woman standing on
"My fair correspondent, I believe! I am Judge Beeswinger. Your agent,
MacNiel, passed me through your guards at the gate, but I did not deem it
advisable to bring him into this assembly of gentlemen without your
further consideration. I trust I was right."
The quiet dignity and self-possession, the quaint, old-fashioned
colonial precision of speech, modified by a soft Virginian intonation,
and, above all, some singular individuality of the man himself, produced
a profound sensation, and seemed to suddenly give the gathering an
impressiveness it had lacked before. For an instant Clarence forgot
himself and his personal wrongs in the shock of indignation he felt at
this potent addition to the ranks of his enemies. He saw his wife's eyes
sparkle with pride over her acquisition, and noticed that Pinckney cast a
disturbed glance at the newcomer.
The stranger ascended the few steps to the balcony and took Mrs.
Brant's hand with profound courtesy. "Introduce me to my
colleagues—distinctly and separately. It behooves a man at such a
moment to know to whom he entrusts his life and honor, and the life and
honor of his cause."
It was evidently no mere formal courtesy to the stranger. As he
stepped forward along the balcony, and under Mrs. Brant's graceful
guidance was introduced to each of the members, he not only listened with
scrupulous care and attention to the name and profession of each man, but
bent upon him a clear, searching glance that seemed to photograph him in
his memory. With two exceptions. He passed Colonel Starbottle's expanding
shirt frill with a bow of elaborate precision, and said, "Colonel
Starbottle's fame requires neither introduction nor explanation." He
stopped before Captain Pinckney and paused.
"An officer of the United States army, I believe, sir?"
"Educated at West Point, I think, by the government, to whom you have
taken the oath of allegiance?"
"Very good, sir," said the stranger, turning away.
"You have forgotten one other fact, sir," said Pinckney, with a
slightly supercilious air.
"Indeed! What is it?"
"I am, first of all, a native of the State of South Carolina!"
A murmur of applause and approval ran round the balcony. Captain
Pinckney smiled and exchanged glances with Mrs. Brant, but the stranger
quietly returned to the central table beside Colonel Starbottle. "I am
not only an unexpected delegate to this august assembly, gentlemen," he
began gravely, "but I am the bearer of perhaps equally unexpected news.
By my position in the Southern district I am in possession of dispatches
received only this morning by pony express. Fort Sumter has been
besieged. The United States flag, carrying relief to the beleaguered
garrison, has been fired upon by the State of South Carolina."
A burst of almost hysteric applause and enthusiasm broke from the
assembly, and made the dim, vault-like passages and corridors of the casa
ring. Cheer after cheer went up to the veiled gallery and the misty sky
beyond. Men mounted on the tables and waved their hands frantically, and
in the midst of this bewildering turbulence of sound and motion Clarence
saw his wife mounted on a chair, with burning cheeks and flashing eyes,
waving her handkerchief like an inspired priestess. Only the stranger,
still standing beside Colonel Starbottle, remained unmoved and impassive.
Then, with an imperative gesture, he demanded a sudden silence.
"Convincing and unanimous as this demonstration is, gentlemen," he
began quietly, "it is my duty, nevertheless, to ask you if you have
seriously considered the meaning of the news I have brought. It is my
duty to tell you that it means civil war. It means the clash of arms
between two sections of a mighty country; it means the disruption of
friends, the breaking of family ties, the separation of fathers and sons,
of brothers and sisters—even, perhaps, to the disseverment of
husband and wife!"
"It means the sovereignty of the South—and the breaking of a
covenant with lowborn traders and abolitionists," said Captain
"If there are any gentlemen present," continued the stranger, without
heeding the interruption, "who have pledged this State to the support of
the South in this emergency, or to the establishment of a Pacific
republic in aid and sympathy with it, whose names are on this
paper"—he lifted a sheet of paper lying before Colonel
Starbottle—"but who now feel that the gravity of the news demands a
more serious consideration of the purpose, they are at liberty to
withdraw from the meeting, giving their honor, as Southern gentlemen, to
keep the secret intact."
"Not if I know it," interrupted a stalwart Kentuckian, as he rose to
his feet and strode down the steps to the patio. "For," he added, placing
his back against the gateway, "I'll shoot the first coward that backs out
A roar of laughter and approval followed, but was silenced again by
the quiet, unimpassioned voice of the stranger. "If, on the other hand,"
he went on calmly, "you all feel that this news is the fitting
culmination and consecration of the hopes, wishes, and plans of this
meeting, you will assert it again, over your own signatures, to Colonel
Starbottle at this table."
When the Kentuckian had risen, Clarence had started from his
concealment; when he now saw the eager figures pressing forward to the
table he hesitated no longer. Slipping along the passage, he reached the
staircase which led to the corridor in the rear of the balcony.
Descending this rapidly, he not only came upon the backs of the excited
crowd around the table, but even elbowed one of the conspirators aside
without being noticed. His wife, who had risen from her chair at the end
of the balcony, was already moving towards the table. With a quick
movement he seized her wrist, and threw her back in the chair again. A
cry broke from her lips as she recognized him, but still holding her
wrist, he stepped quickly between her and the astonished crowd. There was
a moment of silence, then the cry of "Spy!" and "Seize him!" rose
quickly, but above all the voice and figure of the Missourian was heard
commanding them to stand back. Turning to Clarence, he said
"I should know your face, sir. Who are you?"
"The husband of this woman and the master of this house," said
Clarence as quietly, but in a voice he hardly recognized as his own.
"Stand aside from her, then—unless you are hoping that her
danger may protect YOU!" said the Kentuckian, significantly drawing his
But Mrs. Brant sprang suddenly to her feet beside Clarence.
"We are neither of us cowards, Mr. Brooks—though he speaks the
truth—and—more shame to me"—she added, with a look of
savage scorn at Clarence—"IS MY HUSBAND!"
"What is your purpose in coming here?" continued Judge Beeswinger,
with his eyes fixed on Clarence.
"I have given you all the information," said Clarence quietly, "that
is necessary to make you, as a gentleman, leave this house at
once—and that is my purpose. It is all the information you will get
from me as long as you and your friends insult my roof with your
uninvited presence. What I may have to say to you and each of you
hereafter—what I may choose to demand of you, according to your own
code of honor,"—he fixed his eyes on Captain Pinckney's,— "is
another question, and one not usually discussed before a lady."
"Pardon me. A moment—a single moment."
It was the voice of Colonel Starbottle; it was the frilled shirt
front, the lightly buttoned blue coat with its expanding lapels, like
bursting petals, and the smiling mask of that gentleman rising above the
table and bowing to Clarence Brant and his wife with infinite courtesy.
"The—er—humiliating situation in which we find ourselves,
gentlemen,—the reluctant witnesses of—er—what we trust
is only a temporary disagreement between our charming hostess and
the—er—gentleman whom she recognized under the highest title
to our consideration,—is distressing to us all, and would seem to
amply justify that gentleman's claims to a personal satisfaction, which I
know we would all delight to give. But that situation rests upon the
supposition that our gathering here was of a purely social or festive
nature! It may be," continued the colonel with a blandly reflective air,
"that the spectacle of these decanters and glasses, and the nectar
furnished us by our Hebe-like hostess" (he lifted a glass of whiskey and
water to his lips while he bowed to Mrs. Brant gracefully), "has led the
gentleman to such a deduction. But when I suggest to him that our meeting
was of a business, or private nature, it strikes me that the question of
intrusion may be fairly divided between him and ourselves. We may be even
justified, in view of that privacy, in asking him if
his—er—entrance to this house was—er—coincident
with his appearance among us."
"With my front door in possession of strangers," said Clarence, more
in reply to a sudden contemptuous glance from his wife than Starbottle's
insinuation, "I entered the house through the window."
"Of my boudoir, where another intruder once broke his neck,"
interrupted his wife with a mocking laugh.
"Where I once helped this lady to regain possession of her house when
it was held by another party of illegal trespassers, who, however, were
content to call themselves 'jumpers,' and did not claim the privacy of
"Do you mean to imply, sir," began Colonel Starbottle haughtily,
"I mean to imply, sir," said Clarence with quiet scorn, "that I have
neither the wish to know nor the slightest concern in any purpose that
brought you here, and that when you quit the house you take your secrets
and your privacy with you intact, without let or hindrance from me."
"Do you mean to say, Mr. Brant," said Judge Beeswinger, suppressing
the angry interruption of his fellows with a dominant wave of his hand,
as he fixed his eyes on Clarence keenly, "that you have no sympathy with
your wife's political sentiments?"
"I have already given you the information necessary to make you quit
this house, and that is all you have a right to know," returned Clarence
with folded arms.
"But I can answer for him," said Mrs. Brant, rising, with a quivering
voice and curling lip. "There IS no sympathy between us. We are as far
apart as the poles. We have nothing in common but this house and his
"But you are husband and wife, bound together by a sacred
"A compact!" echoed Mrs. Brant, with a bitter laugh. "Yes, the compact
that binds South Carolina to the nigger-worshipping Massachusetts. The
compact that links together white and black, the gentleman and the
trader, the planter and the poor white—the compact of those UNITED
States. Bah! THAT has been broken, and so can this."
Clarence's face paled. But before he could speak there was a rapid
clattering at the gate and a dismounted vaquero entered excitedly.
Turning to Mrs. Brant he said hurriedly, "Mother of God! the casa is
surrounded by a rabble of mounted men, and there is one among them even
now who demands admittance in the name of the Law."
"This is your work," said Brooks, facing Clarence furiously. "You have
brought them with you, but, by God, they shall not save you!" He would
have clutched Clarence, but the powerful arm of Judge Beeswinger
intervened. Nevertheless, he still struggled to reach Clarence, appealing
to the others: "Are you fools to stand there and let him triumph! Don't
you see the cowardly Yankee trick he's played upon us?"
"He has not," said Mrs. Brant haughtily. "I have no reason to love him
or his friends; but I know he does not lie."
"Gentlemen!—gentlemen!" implored Colonel Starbottle with beaming
and unctuous persuasion, "may I—er—remark—that all this
is far from the question? Are we to be alarmed because an unknown rabble,
no matter whence they come, demand entrance here in the name of the Law?
I am not aware of any law of the State of California that we are
infringing. By all means admit them."
The gate was thrown open. A single thick-set man, apparently unarmed
and dressed like an ordinary traveler, followed by half a dozen other
equally unpretentious-looking men, entered. The leader turned to the
"I am the Chief of Police of San Francisco. I have warrants for the
arrest of Colonel Culpepper Starbottle, Joshua Brooks, Captain Pinckney,
Clarence Brant and Alice his wife, and others charged with inciting to
riot and unlawful practice calculated to disturb the peace of the State
of California and its relations with the Federal government," said the
leader, in a dry official voice.
Clarence started. In spite of its monotonous utterance it was the
voice of the red-bearded controversialist of the stage-coach. But where
were his characteristic beard and hair? Involuntarily Clarence glanced at
Judge Beeswinger; that gentleman was quietly regarding the stranger with
an impassive face that betrayed no recognition whatever.
"But the city of San Francisco has no jurisdiction here," said Colonel
Starbottle, turning a bland smile towards his fellow- members. "I
am—er—sorry to inform you that you are simply trespassing,
"I am here also as deputy sheriff," returned the stranger coolly. "We
were unable to locate the precise place of this meeting, although we knew
of its existence. I was sworn in this morning at Santa Inez by the judge
of this district, and these gentlemen with me are my posse."
There was a quick movement of resistance by the members, which was,
however, again waived blandly aside by Colonel Starbottle. Leaning
forward in a slightly forensic attitude, with his fingers on the table
and a shirt frill that seemed to have become of itself erectile, he said,
with pained but polite precision, "I grieve to have to state, sir, that
even that position is utterly untenable here. I am a lawyer myself, as my
friend here, Judge Beeswinger— eh? I beg your pardon!"
The officer of the law had momentarily started, with his eyes fixed on
Judge Beeswinger, who, however, seemed to be quietly writing at the
"As Judge Beeswinger," continued Colonel Starbottle, "will probably
tell you and as a jurist himself, he will also probably agree with me
when I also inform you that, as the United States government is an
aggrieved party, it is a matter for the Federal courts to prosecute, and
that the only officer we can recognize is the United States Marshal for
the district. When I add that the marshal, Colonel Crackenthorpe, is one
of my oldest friends, and an active sympathizer with the South in the
present struggle, you will understand that any action from him in this
matter is exceedingly improbable."
The general murmur of laughter, relief, and approval was broken by the
quiet voice of Judge Beeswinger.
"Let me see your warrant, Mr. Deputy Sheriff."
The officer approached him with a slightly perplexed and constrained
air, and exhibited the paper. Judge Beeswinger handed it back to him.
"Colonel Starbottle is quite right in his contention," he said quietly;
"the only officer that this assembly can recognize is the United States
Marshal or his legal deputy. But Colonel Starbottle is wrong in his
supposition that Colonel Crackenthorpe still retains the functions of
that office. He was removed by the President of the United States, and
his successor was appointed and sworn in by the Federal judge early this
morning." He paused, and folding up the paper on which he had been
writing, placed it in the hands of the deputy. "And this," he continued
in the same even voice, "constitutes you his deputy, and will enable you
to carry out your duty in coming here."
"What the devil does this mean, sir? Who are you?" gasped Colonel
Starbottle, recoiling suddenly from the man at his side.
"I am the new United States Marshal for the Southern District of
Unsuspected and astounding as the revelation was to Clarence, its
strange reception by the conspirators seemed to him as astounding. He had
started forward, half expecting that the complacent and self-confessed
spy would be immolated by his infuriated dupes. But to his surprise the
shock seemed to have changed their natures, and given them the dignity
they had lacked. The excitability, irritation, and recklessness which had
previously characterized them had disappeared. The deputy and his posse,
who had advanced to the assistance of their revealed chief, met with no
resistance. They had evidently, as if with one accord, drawn away from
Judge Beeswinger, leaving a cleared space around him, and regarded their
captors with sullen contemptuous silence. It was only broken by Colonel
"Your duty commands you, sir, to use all possible diligence in
bringing us before the Federal judge of this district—unless your
master in Washington has violated the Constitution so far as to remove
"I understand you perfectly," returned Judge Beeswinger, with
unchanged composure; "and as you know that Judge Wilson unfortunately
cannot be removed except through a regular course of impeachment, I
suppose you may still count upon his Southern sympathies to befriend you.
With that I have nothing to do; my duty is complete when my deputy has
brought you before him and I have stated the circumstances of the
"I congratulate you, sir," said Captain Pinckney, with an ironical
salute, "on your prompt reward for your treachery to the South, and your
equally prompt adoption of the peculiar tactics of your friends in the
way in which you have entered this house."
"I am sorry I cannot congratulate YOU, sir," returned Judge Beeswinger
gravely, on breaking your oath to the government which has educated and
supported you and given you the epaulettes you disgrace. Nor shall I
discuss 'treachery' with the man who has not only violated the trust of
his country, but even the integrity of his friend's household. It is for
that reason that I withhold the action of this warrant in so far as it
affects the persons of the master and mistress of this home. I am
satisfied that Mr. Brant has been as ignorant of what has been done here
as I am that his wife has been only the foolish dupe of a double
The words broke simultaneously from the lips of Clarence and Captain
Pinckney. They stood staring at each other—the one pale, the other
crimson—as Mrs. Brant, apparently oblivious of the significance of
their united adjuration, turned to Judge Beeswinger in the fury of her
still stifled rage and mortification.
"Keep your mercy for your fellow-spy," she said, with a contemptuous
gesture towards her husband; "I go with these gentlemen!"
"You will not," said Clarence quietly, "until I have said a word to
you alone." He laid his hand firmly upon her wrist.
The deputy and his prisoners filed slowly out of the courtyard
together, the latter courteously saluting Mrs. Brant as they passed, but
turning from Judge Beeswinger in contemptuous silence. The judge followed
them to the gate, but there he paused. Turning to Mrs. Brant, who was
still half struggling in the strong grip of her husband, he
"Any compunction I may have had in misleading you by accepting your
invitation here I dismissed after I had entered this house. And I trust,"
he added, turning to Clarence sternly, "I leave you the master of
As the gate closed behind him, Clarence locked it. When his wife
turned upon him angrily, he said quietly,—
"I have no intention of restraining your liberty a moment after our
interview is over, but until then I do not intend to be disturbed."
She threw herself disdainfully back in her chair, her hands clasped in
her lap in half-contemptuous resignation, with her eyes upon her long
slim arched feet crossed before her. Even in her attitude there was
something of her old fascination which, however, now seemed to sting
Clarence to the quick.
"I have nothing to say to you in regard to what has just passed in
this house, except that as long as I remain even nominally its master it
shall not be repeated. Although I shall no longer attempt to influence or
control your political sympathies, I shall not allow you to indulge them
where in any way they seem to imply my sanction. But so little do I
oppose your liberty, that you are free to rejoin your political
companions whenever you choose to do so on your own responsibility. But I
must first know from your own lips whether your sympathies are purely
political—or a name for something else?"
She had alternately flushed and paled, although still keeping her
scornful attitude as he went on, but there was no mistaking the
genuineness of her vague wonderment at his concluding words.
"I don't understand you," she said, lifting her eyes to his in a
moment of cold curiosity. "What do you mean?"
"What do I mean? What did Judge Beeswinger mean when he called Captain
Pinckney a double traitor?" he said roughly.
She sprang to her feet with flashing eyes. "And you—YOU! dare to
repeat the cowardly lie of a confessed spy. This, then, is what you
wished to tell me—this the insult for which you have kept me here;
because you are incapable of understanding unselfish patriotism or
devotion—even to your own cause—you dare to judge me by your
own base, Yankee-trading standards. Yes, it is worthy of you!" She walked
rapidly up and down, and then suddenly faced him. "I understand it all; I
appreciate your magnanimity now. You are willing I should join the
company of these chivalrous gentlemen in order to give color to your
calumnies! Say at once that it was you who put up this spy to correspond
with me—to come here—in order to entrap me. Yes entrap
me—I—who a moment ago stood up for you before these
gentlemen, and said you could not lie. Bah!"
Struck only by the wild extravagance of her speech and temper,
Clarence did not know that when women are most illogical they are apt to
be most sincere, and from a man's standpoint her unreasoning deductions
appeared to him only as an affectation to gain time for thought, or a
theatrical display, like Susy's. And he was turning half contemptuously
away, when she again faced him with flashing eyes.
"Well, hear me! I accept; I leave here at once, to join my own people,
my own friends—those who understand me—put what construction
on it that you choose. Do your worst; you cannot do more to separate us
than you have done just now."
She left him, and ran up the steps with a singular return of her old
occasional nymph-like nimbleness—the movement of a woman who had
never borne children—and a swish of her long skirts that he
remembered for many a day after, as she disappeared in the corridor. He
remained looking after her—indignant, outraged, and unconvinced.
There was a rattling at the gate.
He remembered he had locked it. He opened it to the flushed pink
cheeks and dancing eyes of Susy. The rain was still dripping from her wet
cloak as she swung it from her shoulders.
"I know it all!—all that's happened," she burst out with half-
girlish exuberance and half the actress's declamation. "We met them all
in the road—posse and prisoners. Chief Thompson knew me and told me
all. And so you've done it—and you're master in your old house
again. Clarence, old boy! Jim said you wouldn't do it— said you'd
weaken on account of her! But I said 'No.' I knew you better, old
Clarence, and I saw it in your face, for all your stiffness! ha! But for
all that I was mighty nervous and uneasy, and I just made Jim send an
excuse to the theatre and we rushed it down here! Lordy! but it looks
natural to see the old house again! And she—you packed her off with
the others—didn't you? Tell me, Clarence," in her old appealing
voice, "you shook her, too!"
Dazed and astounded, and yet experiencing a vague sense of relief with
something like his old tenderness towards the willful woman before him,
he had silently regarded her until her allusion to his wife recalled him
"Hush!" he said quickly, with a glance towards the corridor.
"Ah!" said Susy, with a malicious smile, "then that's why Captain
Pinckney was lingering in the rear with the deputy."
"Silence!" repeated Clarence sternly. "Go in there," pointing to the
garden room below the balcony, "and wait there with your husband."
He half led, half pushed her into the room which had been his business
office, and returned to the patio. A hesitating voice from the balcony
It was his wife's voice, but modified and gentler—more like her
voice as he had first heard it, or as if it had been chastened by some
reminiscence of those days. It was his wife's face, too, that looked down
on his—paler than he had seen it since he entered the house. She
was shawled and hooded, carrying a traveling-bag in her hand.
"I am going, Clarence," she said, pausing before him, with gentle
gravity, "but not in anger. I even ask you to forgive me for the foolish
words that I think your still more foolish accusation"—she smiled
faintly—"dragged from me. I am going because I know that I have
brought—and that while I am here I shall always be bringing—
upon you the imputation and even the responsibility of my own faith!
While I am proud to own it,—and if needs be suffer for it,—I
have no right to ruin your prospects, or even make you the victim of the
slurs that others may cast upon me. Let us part as
friends—separated only by our different political faiths, but
keeping all other faiths together—until God shall settle the right
of this struggle. Perhaps it may be soon—I sometimes think it may
be years of agony for all; but until then, good-by."
She had slowly descended the steps to the patio, looking handsomer
than he had ever seen her, and as if sustained and upheld by the
enthusiasm of her cause. Her hand was outstretched towards his— his
heart beat violently—in another moment he might have forgotten all
and clasped her to his breast. Suddenly she stopped, her outstretched arm
stiffened, her finger pointed to the chair on which Susy's cloak was
"What's that?" she said in a sharp, high, metallic voice. "Who is
"Susy," said Clarence.
She cast a scathing glance round the patio, and then settled her
piercing eyes on Clarence with a bitter smile.
Clarence felt the blood rush to his face as he stammered, "She knew
what was happening here, and came to give you warning."
"Stop!" said Clarence, with a white face. "She came to tell me that
Captain Pinckney was still lingering for you in the road."
He threw open the gate to let her pass. As she swept out she lifted
her hand. As he closed the gate there were the white marks of her four
fingers on his cheek.
For once Susy had not exaggerated. Captain Pinckney WAS lingering,
with the deputy who had charge of him, on the trail near the casa. It had
already been pretty well understood by both captives and captors that the
arrest was simply a legal demonstration; that the sympathizing Federal
judge would undoubtedly order the discharge of the prisoners on their own
recognizances, and it was probable that the deputy saw no harm in
granting Pinckney's request—which was virtually only a delay in his
liberation. It was also possible that Pinckney had worked upon the
chivalrous sympathies of the man by professing his disinclination to
leave their devoted colleague, Mrs. Brant, at the mercy of her
antagonistic and cold-blooded husband at such a crisis, and it is to be
feared also that Clarence, as a reputed lukewarm partisan, excited no
personal sympathy, even from his own party. Howbeit, the deputy agreed to
delay Pinckney's journey for a parting interview with his fair
How far this expressed the real sentiments of Captain Pinckney was
never known. Whether his political association with Mrs. Brant had
developed into a warmer solicitude, understood or ignored by her,—
what were his hopes and aspirations regarding her future,—were by
the course of fate never disclosed. A man of easy ethics, but rigid
artificialities of honor, flattered and pampered by class prejudice, a
so-called "man of the world," with no experience beyond his own limited
circle, yet brave and devoted to that, it were well perhaps to leave this
last act of his inefficient life as it was accepted by the deputy.
Dismounting he approached the house from the garden. He was already
familiar with the low arched doorway which led to the business room, and
from which he could gain admittance to the patio, but it so chanced that
he entered the dark passage at the moment that Clarence had thrust Susy
into the business room, and heard its door shut sharply. For an instant
he believed that Mrs. Brant had taken refuge there, but as he cautiously
moved forward he heard her voice in the patio beyond. Its accents struck
him as pleading; an intense curiosity drew him further along the passage.
Suddenly her voice seemed to change to angry denunciation, and the word
"Liar" rang upon his ears. It was followed by his own name uttered
sardonically by Clarence, the swift rustle of a skirt, the clash of the
gate, and then—forgetting everything, he burst into the patio.
Clarence was just turning from the gate with the marks of his wife's
hand still red on his white cheek. He saw Captain Pinckney's eyes upon
it, and the faint, half-malicious, half- hysteric smile upon his lips.
But without a start or gesture of surprise he locked the gate, and
turning to him, said with frigid significance,—
"I thank you for returning so promptly, and for recognizing the only
thing I now require at your hand."
But Captain Pinckney had recovered his supercilious ease with the
"You seem to have had something already from another's hand, sir, but
I am at your service," he said lightly.
"You will consider that I have accepted it from you," said Clarence,
drawing closer to him with a rigid face. "I suppose it will not be
necessary for me to return it—to make you understand me."
"Go on," said Pinckney, flushing slightly. "Make your terms; I am
"But I'm not," said the unexpected voice of the deputy at the grille
of the gateway. "Excuse my interfering, gentlemen, but this sort o' thing
ain't down in my schedule. I've let this gentleman," pointing to Captain
Pinckney, "off for a minit to say 'good-by' to a lady, who I reckon has
just ridden off in her buggy with her servant without saying by your
leave, but I didn't calkelate to let him inter another business, which,
like as not, may prevent me from delivering his body safe and sound into
court. You hear me!" As Clarence opened the gate he added, "I don't want
ter spoil sport between gents, but it's got to come in after I've done my
"I'll meet you, sir, anywhere, and with what weapons you choose," said
Pinckney, turning angrily upon Clarence, "as soon as this farce—for
which you and your friends are responsible—is over." He was furious
at the intimation that Mrs. Brant had escaped him.
A different thought was in the husband's mind. "But what assurance
have I that you are going on with the deputy?" he said with purposely
"My word, sir," said Captain Pinckney sharply.
"And if that ain't enuff, there's mine!" said the deputy. "For if this
gentleman swerves to the right or left betwixt this and Santa Inez, I'll
blow a hole through him myself. And that," he added deprecatingly, "is
saying a good deal for a man who doesn't want to spoil sport, and for the
matter of that is willing to stand by and see fair play done at Santa
Inez any time to-morrow before breakfast."
"Then I can count on you," said Clarence, with a sudden impulse
extending his hand.
The man hesitated a moment and then grasped it.
"Well, I wasn't expecting that," he said slowly; "but you look as if
you meant business, and if you ain't got anybody else to see you through,
I'm thar! I suppose this gentleman will have his friends."
"I shall be there at six with my seconds," said Pinckney curtly. "Lead
The gate closed behind them. Clarence stood looking around the empty
patio and the silent house, from which it was now plain that the servants
had been withdrawn to insure the secrecy of the conspiracy. Cool and
collected as he knew he was, he remained for a moment in hesitation. Then
the sound of voices came to his ear from the garden room, the light
frivolity of Susy's laugh and Hooker's huskier accents. He had forgotten
they were there—he had forgotten their existence!
Trusting still to his calmness, he called to Hooker in his usual
voice. That gentleman appeared with a face which his attempts to make
unconcerned and impassive had, however, only deepened into funereal
"I have something to attend to," said Clarence, with a faint smile,
"and I must ask you and Susy to excuse me for a little while. She knows
the house perfectly, and will call the servants from the annex to provide
you both with refreshment until I join you a little later." Satisfied
from Hooker's manner that they knew nothing of his later interview with
Pinckney, he turned away and ascended to his own room.
There he threw himself into an armchair by the dim light of a single
candle as if to reflect. But he was conscious, even then, of his own
calmness and want of excitement, and that no reflection was necessary.
What he had done and what he intended to do was quite clear, there was no
alternative suggested or to be even sought after. He had that sense of
relief which comes with the climax of all great struggles, even of
He had never known before how hopeless and continuous had been that
struggle until now it was over. He had no fear of tomorrow, he would meet
it as he had to-day, with the same singular consciousness of being equal
to the occasion. There was even no necessity of preparation for it; his
will, leaving his fortune to his wife,— which seemed a slight thing
now in this greater separation,—was already in his safe in San
Francisco, his pistols were in the next room. He was even slightly
disturbed by his own insensibility, and passed into his wife's bedroom
partly in the hope of disturbing his serenity by some memento of their
past. There was no disorder of flight—everything was in its place,
except the drawer of her desk, which was still open, as if she had taken
something from it as an afterthought. There were letters and papers
there, some of his own and some in Captain Pinckney's handwriting. It did
not occur to him to look at them—even to justify himself, or excuse
her. He knew that his hatred of Captain Pinckney was not so much that he
believed him her lover, as his sudden conviction that she was like him!
He was the male of her species—a being antagonistic to himself,
whom he could fight, and crush, and revenge himself upon. But most of all
he loathed his past, not on account of her, but of his own weakness that
had made him her dupe and a misunderstood man to his friends. He had been
derelict of duty in his unselfish devotion to her; he had stifled his
ambition, and underrated his own possibilities. No wonder that others had
accepted him at his own valuation. Clarence Brant was a modest man, but
the egotism of modesty is more fatal than that of pretension, for it has
the haunting consciousness of superior virtue.
He re-entered his own room and again threw himself into his chair. His
calm was being succeeded by a physical weariness; he remembered he had
not slept the night before, and he ought to take some rest to be fresh in
the early morning. Yet he must also show himself before his self-invited
guests,—Susy and her husband,—or their suspicions would be
aroused. He would try to sleep for a little while in the chair before he
went downstairs again. He closed his eyes oddly enough on a dim dreamy
recollection of Susy in the old days, in the little madrono hollow where
she had once given him a rendezvous. He forgot the maturer and critical
uneasiness with which he had then received her coquettish and willful
advances, which he now knew was the effect of the growing dominance of
Mrs. Peyton over him, and remembered only her bright, youthful eyes, and
the kisses he had pressed upon her soft fragrant cheek. The faintness he
had felt when waiting in the old rose garden, a few hours ago, seemed to
steal on him once more, and to lapse into a pleasant drowsiness. He even
seemed again to inhale the perfume of the roses.
He started. He had been sleeping, but the voice sounded strangely
A light, girlish laugh followed. He sprang to his feet. It was Susy
standing beside him—and Susy even as she looked in the old
For with a flash of her old audacity, aided by her familiar knowledge
of the house and the bunch of household keys she had found, which dangled
from her girdle, as in the old fashion, she had disinterred one of her
old frocks from a closet, slipped it on, and unloosening her brown hair
had let it fall in rippling waves down her back. It was Susy in her old
girlishness, with the instinct of the grown actress in the arrangement of
her short skirt over her pretty ankles and the half-conscious pose she
"Poor dear old Clarence," she said, with dancing eyes; "I might have
won a dozen pairs of gloves from you while you slept there. But you're
tired, dear old boy, and you've had a hard time of it. No matter; you've
shown yourself a man at last, and I'm proud of you."
Half ashamed of the pleasure he felt even in his embarrassment,
Clarence stammered, "But this change—this dress."
Susy clapped her hands like a child. "I knew it would surprise you!
It's an old frock I wore the year I went away with auntie. I knew where
it was hidden, and fished it out again with these keys, Clarence; it
seemed so like old times. Lord! when I was with the old servants again,
and you didn't come down, I just felt as if I'd never been away, and I
just rampaged free. It seemed to me, don't you know, not as if I'd just
come, but as if I'd always been right here, and it was you who'd just
come. Don't you understand! Just as you came when me and Mary Rogers were
here; don't you remember her, Clarence, and how she used to do
'gooseberry' for us? Well, just like that. So I said to Jim, 'I don't
know you any more— get!' and I just slipped on this frock and
ordered Manuela around as I used to do—and she in fits of laughter;
I reckon, Clarence, she hasn't laughed as much since I left. And then I
thought of you—perhaps worried and flustered as yet over things,
and the change, and I just slipped into the kitchen and I told old fat
Conchita to make some of these tortillas you know,—with sugar and
cinnamon sprinkled on top,—and I tied on an apron and brought 'em
up to you on a tray with a glass of that old Catalan wine you used to
like. Then I sorter felt frightened when I got here, and I didn't hear
any noise, and I put the tray down in the hall and peeped in and found
you asleep. Sit still, I'll fetch em."
She tripped out into the passage, returning with the tray, which she
put on the table beside Clarence, and then standing back a little and
with her hands tucked soubrette fashion in the tiny pockets of her apron,
gazed at him with a mischievous smile.
It was impossible not to smile back as he nibbled the crisp Mexican
cake and drank the old mission wine. And Susy's tongue trilled an
accompaniment to his thanks.
"Lord! it seems so nice to be here—just you and me,
Clarence—like in the old days—with nobody naggin' and
swoopin' round after you. Don't be greedy, Clarence, but give me a cake."
She took one and finished the dregs of his glass.
Then sitting on the arm of his chair, she darted a violet ray of half
reproach and half mischievousness into his amused and retrospective eyes.
"There used to be room for two in that chair, Klarns."
The use of the old childish diminutive for his name seemed to him
natural as her familiarity, and he moved a little sideways to make room
for her with an instinct of pleasure, but the same sense of
irresponsibility that had characterized his reflections. Nevertheless, he
looked critically into the mischievous eyes, and said quietly,—
"Where is your husband?"
There was no trace of embarrassment, apology, or even of consciousness
in her pretty face as she replied, passing her hand lightly through his
"Oh, Jim? I've packed him off!"
"Packed him off!" echoed Clarence, slightly astonished.
"Yes, to Fair Plains, full tilt after your wife's buggy. You see,
Clarence, after the old cat—that's your wife, please—left, I
wanted to make sure she had gone, and wasn't hangin' round to lead you
off again with your leg tied to her apron string like a chicken's! No! I
said to Jim, 'Just you ride after her until you see she's safe and sound
in the down coach from Fair Plains without her knowin' it, and if she's
inclined to hang back or wobble any, you post back here and let me know!'
I told him I would stay and look after you to see you didn't bolt too!"
She laughed, and then added, "But I didn't think I should fall into the
old ways so soon, and have such a nice time. Did you, Clarence?"
She looked so irresponsible, sitting there with her face near his, and
so childishly, or perhaps thoughtlessly, happy, that he could only admire
her levity, and even the slight shock that her flippant allusion to his
wife had given him seemed to him only a weakness of his own. After all,
was not hers the true philosophy? Why should not these bright eyes see
things more clearly than his own? Nevertheless, with his eyes still fixed
upon them, he continued,—
"And Jim was willing to go?"
She stopped, with her fingers still lifting a lock of his hair. "Why,
yes, you silly—why shouldn't he? I'd like to see him refuse. Why,
Lord! Jim will do anything I ask him." She put down the lock of hair, and
suddenly looking full into his eyes, said, "That's just the difference
between him and me, and you and—that woman!"
"Then you love him!"
"About as much as you love her," she said, with an unaffected laugh;
"only he don't wind me around his finger."
No doubt she was right for all her thoughtlessness, and yet he was
going to fight about that woman to-morrow! No—he forgot; he was
going to fight Captain Pinckney because he was like her!
Susy had put her finger on the crease between his brows which this
supposition had made, and tried to rub it out.
"You know it as well as I do, Clarence," she said, with a pretty
wrinkling of her own brows, which was her nearest approach to
thoughtfulness. "You know you never really liked her, only you thought
her ways were grander and more proper than mine, and you know you were
always a little bit of a snob and a prig too—dear boy. And Mrs.
Peyton was—bless my soul!—a Benham and a planter's daughter,
and I—I was only a picked-up orphan! That's where Jim is better
than you—now sit still, goosey!—even if I don't like him as
much. Oh, I know what you're always thinking, you're thinking we're both
exaggerated and theatrical, ain't you? But don't you think it's a heap
better to be exaggerated and theatrical about things that are just
sentimental and romantic than to be so awfully possessed and overcome
about things that are only real? There, you needn't stare at me so! It's
true. You've had your fill of grandeur and propriety, and—here you
are. And," she added with a little chuckle, as she tucked up her feet and
leaned a little closer to him, "here's ME."
He did not speak, but his arm quite unconsciously passed round her
"You see, Clarence," she went on with equal unconsciousness of the
act, "you ought never to have let me go—never! You ought to have
kept me here—or run away with me. And you oughtn't to have tried to
make me proper. And you oughtn't to have driven me to flirt with that
horrid Spaniard, and you oughtn't to have been so horribly cold and
severe when I did. And you oughtn't to have made me take up with Jim, who
was the only one who thought me his equal. I might have been very silly
and capricious; I might have been very vain, but my vanity isn't a bit
worse than your pride; my love of praise and applause in the theatre
isn't a bit more horrid than your fears of what people might think of you
or me. That's gospel truth, isn't it, Clarence? Tell me! Don't look that
way and this— look at ME! I ain't poisonous, Clarence. Why, one of
your cheeks is redder than the other, Clarence; that's the one that's
turned from me. Come," she went on, taking the lapels of his coat between
her hands and half shaking him, half drawing him nearer her bright face.
"Tell me—isn't it true?"
"I was thinking of you just now when I fell asleep, Susy," he said. He
did not know why he said it; he had not intended to tell her, he had only
meant to avoid a direct answer to her question; yet even now he went on.
"And I thought of you when I was out there in the rose garden waiting to
come in here."
"You did?" she said, drawing in her breath. A wave of delicate pink
color came up to her very eyes, it seemed to him as quickly and as
innocently as when she was a girl. "And what DID you think, Klarns," she
half whispered—"tell me."
He did not speak, but answered her blue eyes and then her lips, as her
arms slipped quite naturally around his neck.
. . . . . .
The dawn was breaking as Clarence and Jim Hooker emerged together from
the gate of the casa. Mr. Hooker looked sleepy. He had found, after his
return from Fair Plains, that his host had an early engagement at Santa
Inez, and he had insisted upon rising to see him off. It was with
difficulty, indeed, that Clarence could prevent his accompanying him.
Clarence had not revealed to Susy the night before the real object of his
journey, nor did Hooker evidently suspect it, yet when the former had
mounted his horse, he hesitated for an instant, extending his hand.
"If I should happen to be detained," he began with a half smile.
But Jim was struggling with a yawn. "That's all right—don't mind
us," he said, stretching his arms. Clarence's hesitating hand dropped to
his side, and with a light reckless laugh and a half sense of
providential relief he galloped away.
What happened immediately thereafter during his solitary ride to Santa
Inez, looking back upon it in after years, seemed but a confused
recollection, more like a dream. The long stretches of vague distance,
gradually opening clearer with the rising sun in an unclouded sky; the
meeting with a few early or belated travelers and his unconscious
avoidance of them, as if they might know of his object; the black shadows
of foreshortened cattle rising before him on the plain and arousing the
same uneasy sensation of their being waylaying men; the wondering
recognition of houses and landmarks he had long been familiar with; his
purposeless attempts to recall the circumstances in which he had known
them—all these were like a dream. So, too, were the recollections
of the night before, the episode with Susy, already mingled and blended
with the memory of their previous past; his futile attempts to look
forward to the future, always, however, abandoned with relief at the
thought that the next few hours might make them unnecessary. So also was
the sudden realization that Santa Inez was before him, when he had
thought he was not yet halfway there, and as he dismounted before the
Court House his singular feeling—followed, however, by no fear or
distress—was that he had come so early to the rendezvous that he
was not yet quite prepared for it.
This same sense of unreality pervaded his meeting with the deputy
sheriff, at the news that the Federal judge had, as was expected,
dismissed the prisoners on their own recognizances, and that Captain
Pinckney was at the hotel at breakfast. In the like abstracted manner he
replied to the one or two questions of the deputy, exhibited the pistols
he had brought with him, and finally accompanied him to a little meadow
hidden by trees, below the hotel, where the other principal and his
seconds were awaiting them. And here he awoke—clear-eyed, keen,
forceful, and intense!
So stimulated were his faculties that his sense of hearing in its
acuteness took in every word of the conversation between the seconds, a
few paces distant. He heard his adversary's seconds say carelessly to the
deputy sheriff, "I presume this is a case where there will be no apology
or mediation," and the deputy's reply, "I reckon my man means business,
but he seems a little queer." He heard the other second laugh, and say
lightly, "They're apt to be so when it's their first time out," followed
by the more anxious aside of the other second as the deputy turned
away,—"Yes, but by G-d I don't like his looks!" His sense of sight
was also so acute that having lost the choice of position, when the coin
was tossed, and being turned with his face to the sun, even through the
glare he saw, with unerring distinctness of outline, the black-coated
figure of his opponent moved into range—saw the perfect outline of
his features, and how the easy, supercilious smile, as he threw away his
cigar, appeared to drop out of his face with a kind of vacant awe as he
faced him. He felt his nerves become as steel as the counting began, and
at the word "three," knew he had fired by the recoil of the pistol in his
leveled hand, simultaneously with its utterance. And at the same moment,
still standing like a rock, he saw his adversary miserably collapse, his
legs grotesquely curving inwards under him,—without even the
dignity of death in his fall,—and so sink helplessly like a felled
bull to the ground. Still erect, and lowering only the muzzle of his
pistol, as a thin feather of smoke curled up its shining side, he saw the
doctor and seconds run quickly to the heap, try to lift its limp
impotence into shape, and let it drop again with the words, "Right
through the forehead, by G-d!"
"You've done for him," said the deputy, turning to Clarence with a
singular look of curiosity, "and I reckon you had better get out of this
mighty quick. They didn't expect it; they're just ragin'; they may round
on you—and"—he added, more slowly, "they seem to have just
found out who you are."
Even while he was speaking, Clarence, with his quickened ear, heard
the words, "One of Hamilton Brant's pups" "Just like his father," from
the group around the dead man. He did not hesitate, but walked coolly
towards them. Yet a certain fierce pride—which he had never known
before—stirred in his veins as their voices hushed and they half
recoiled before him.
"Am I to understand from my second, gentlemen," he said, looking round
the group, "that you are not satisfied?"
"The fight was square enough," said Pinckney's second in some
embarrassment, "but I reckon that he," pointing to the dead man, "did not
know who you were."
"Do you mean that he did not know that I was the son of a man
proficient in the use of arms?"
"I reckon that's about it," returned the second, glancing at the
"I am glad to say, sir, that I have a better opinion of his courage,"
said Clarence, lifting his hat to the dead body as he turned away.
Yet he was conscious of no remorse, concern, or even pity in his act.
Perhaps this was visible in his face, for the group appeared awed by this
perfection of the duelist's coolness, and even returned his formal
parting salutation with a vague and timid respect. He thanked the deputy,
regained the hotel, saddled his horse and galloped away.
But not towards the Rancho. Now that he could think of his future,
that had no place in his reflections; even the episode of Susy was
forgotten in the new and strange conception of himself and his
irresponsibility which had come upon him with the killing of Pinckney and
the words of his second. It was his dead father who had stiffened his arm
and directed the fatal shot! It was hereditary influences—which
others had been so quick to recognize— that had brought about this
completing climax of his trouble. How else could he account for it that
he—a conscientious, peaceful, sensitive man, tender and forgiving
as he had believed himself to be—could now feel so little sorrow or
compunction for his culminating act? He had read of successful duelists
who were haunted by remorse for their first victim; who retained a
terrible consciousness of the appearance of the dead man; he had no such
feeling; he had only a grim contentment in the wiped-out inefficient
life, and contempt for the limp and helpless body. He suddenly recalled
his callousness as a boy when face to face with the victims of the Indian
massacre, his sense of fastidious superciliousness in the discovery of
the body of Susy's mother!— surely it was the cold blood of his
father influencing him ever thus. What had he to do with affection, with
domestic happiness, with the ordinary ambitions of man's life—whose
blood was frozen at its source! Yet even with this very thought came once
more the old inconsistent tenderness he had as a boy lavished upon the
almost unknown and fugitive father who had forsaken his childish
companionship, and remembered him only by secret gifts. He remembered how
he had worshiped him even while the pious padres at San Jose were
endeavoring to eliminate this terrible poison from his blood and combat
his hereditary instinct in his conflicts with his school-fellows. And it
was a part of this inconsistency that, riding away from the scene of his
first bloodshed, his eyes were dimmed with moisture, not for his victim,
but for the one being who he believed had impelled him to the act.
This and more was in his mind during his long ride to Fair Plains, his
journey by coach to the Embarcadero, his midnight passage across the dark
waters of the bay, and his re-entrance to San Francisco, but what should
be his future was still unsettled.
As he wound round the crest of Russian Hill and looked down again upon
the awakened city, he was startled to see that it was fluttering and
streaming with bunting. From every public building and hotel, from the
roofs of private houses, and even the windows of lonely dwellings,
flapped and waved the striped and starry banner. The steady breath of the
sea carried it out from masts and yards of ships at their wharves, from
the battlements of the forts Alcatraz and Yerba Bueno. He remembered that
the ferryman had told him that the news from Fort Sumter had swept the
city with a revulsion of patriotic sentiment, and that there was no doubt
that the State was saved to the Union. He looked down upon it with
haggard, bewildered eyes, and then a strange gasp and fullness of the
throat! For afar a solitary bugle had blown the "reveille" at Fort
Night at last, and the stir and tumult of a great fight over. Even the
excitement that had swept this portion of the battlefield—only a
small section of a vaster area of struggle—into which a brigade had
marched, held its own, been beaten back, recovered its ground, and
pursuing, had passed out of it forever, leaving only its dead behind, and
knowing nothing more of that struggle than its own impact and
momentum—even this wild excitement had long since evaporated with
the stinging smoke of gunpowder, the acrid smell of burning rags from the
clothing of a dead soldier fired by a bursting shell, or the heated reek
of sweat and leather. A cool breath that seemed to bring back once more
the odor of the upturned earthworks along the now dumb line of battle
began to move from the suggestive darkness beyond.
But into that awful penetralia of death and silence there was no
invasion—there had been no retreat. A few of the wounded had been
brought out, under fire, but the others had been left with the dead for
the morning light and succor. For it was known that in that horrible
obscurity, riderless horses, frantic with the smell of blood, galloped
wildly here and there, or, maddened by wounds, plunged furiously at the
intruder; that the wounded soldier, still armed, could not always
distinguish friend from foe or from the ghouls of camp followers who
stripped the dead in the darkness and struggled with the dying. A shot or
two heard somewhere in that obscurity counted as nothing with the long
fusillade that had swept it in the daytime; the passing of a single life,
more or less, amounted to little in the long roll-call of the day's
But with the first beams of the morning sun—and the slowly
moving "relief detail" from the camp—came a weird half-resurrection
of that ghastly field. Then it was that the long rays of sunlight,
streaming away a mile beyond the battle line, pointed out the first
harvest of the dead where the reserves had been posted. There they lay in
heaps and piles, killed by solid shot or bursting shells that had leaped
the battle line to plunge into the waiting ranks beyond. As the sun
lifted higher its beams fell within the range of musketry fire, where the
dead lay thicker,—even as they had fallen when killed
outright,—with arms extended and feet at all angles to the field.
As it touched these dead upturned faces, strangely enough it brought out
no expression of pain or anguish— but rather as if death had
arrested them only in surprise and awe. It revealed on the lips of those
who had been mortally wounded and had turned upon their side the relief
which death had brought their suffering, sometimes shown in a faint
smile. Mounting higher, it glanced upon the actual battle line, curiously
curving for the shelter of walls, fences, and breastworks, and here the
dead lay, even as when they lay and fired, their faces prone in the grass
but their muskets still resting across the breastworks. Exposed to grape
and canister from the battery on the ridge, death had come to them
mercifully also—through the head and throat. And now the whole
field lay bare in the sunlight, broken with grotesque shadows cast from
sitting, crouching, half-recumbent but always rigid figures, which might
have been effigies on their own monuments. One half-kneeling soldier,
with head bowed between his stiffened hands, might have stood for a
carven figure of Grief at the feet of his dead comrade. A captain, shot
through the brain in the act of mounting a wall, lay sideways half across
it, his lips parted with a word of command; his sword still pointing over
the barrier the way that they should go.
But it was not until the sun had mounted higher that it struck the
central horror of the field and seemed to linger there in dazzling
persistence, now and then returning to it in startling flashes that it
might be seen of men and those who brought succor. A tiny brook had run
obliquely near the battle line. It was here that, the night before the
battle, friend and foe had filled their canteens side by side with
soldierly recklessness—or perhaps a higher instinct—purposely
ignoring each other's presence; it was here that the wounded had
afterwards crept, crawled, and dragged themselves, here they had pushed,
wrangled, striven, and fought for a draught of that precious fluid which
assuaged the thirst of their wounds—or happily put them out of
their misery forever; here overborne, crushed, suffocated by numbers,
pouring their own blood into the flood, and tumbling after it with their
helpless bodies, they dammed the stream, until recoiling, red and angry,
it had burst its banks and overflowed the cotton-field in a broad pool
that now sparkled in the sunlight. But below this human dam—a mile
away—where the brook still crept sluggishly, the ambulance horses
sniffed and started from it.
The detail moved on slowly, doing their work expeditiously, and
apparently callously, but really only with that mechanical movement that
saves emotion. Only once they were moved to an outbreak of
indignation,—the discovery of the body of an officer whose pockets
were turned inside out, but whose hand was still tightly grasped on his
buttoned waistcoat, as if resisting the outrage that had been done while
still in life. As the men disengaged the stiffened hand something slipped
from the waistcoat to the ground. The corporal picked it up and handed it
to his officer. It was a sealed packet. The officer received it with the
carelessness which long experience of these pathetic missives from the
dying to their living relations had induced, and dropped it in the pocket
of his tunic, with the half-dozen others that he had picked up that
morning, and moved on with the detail. A little further on they halted,
in the attitude of attention, as a mounted officer appeared, riding
slowly down the line.
There was something more than the habitual respect of their superior
in their faces as he came forward. For it was the general who had
commanded the brigade the day before,—the man who had leaped with
one bound into the foremost rank of military leaders. It was his
invincible spirit that had led the advance, held back defeat against
overwhelming numbers, sustained the rally, impressed his subordinate
officers with his own undeviating purpose, and even infused them with an
almost superstitious belief in his destiny of success. It was this man
who had done what it was deemed impossible to do,—what even at the
time it was thought unwise and unstrategic to do,—who had held a
weak position, of apparently no importance, under the mandate of an
incomprehensible order from his superior, which at best asked only for a
sacrifice and was rewarded with a victory. He had decimated his brigade,
but the wounded and dying had cheered him as he passed, and the survivors
had pursued the enemy until the bugle called them back. For such a record
he looked still too young and scholarly, albeit his handsome face was
dark and energetic, and his manner taciturn.
His quick eye had already caught sight of the rifled body of the
officer, and contracted. As the captain of the detail saluted him he said
"I thought the orders were to fire upon any one desecrating the
"They are, General; but the hyenas don't give us a chance. That's all
yonder poor fellow saved from their claws," replied the officer, as he
held up the sealed packet. "It has no address."
The general took it, examined the envelope, thrust it into his belt,
"I will take charge of it."
The sound of horses' hoofs came from the rocky roadside beyond the
brook. Both men turned. A number of field officers were approaching.
"The division staff," said the captain, in a lower voice, falling
They came slowly forward, a central figure on a gray horse leading
here—as in history. A short, thick-set man with a grizzled beard
closely cropped around an inscrutable mouth, and the serious formality of
a respectable country deacon in his aspect, which even the major-generals
blazon on the shoulder-strap of his loose tunic on his soldierly seat in
the saddle could not entirely obliterate. He had evidently perceived the
general of brigade, and quickened his horse as the latter drew up. The
staff followed more leisurely, but still with some curiosity, to witness
the meeting of the first general of the army with the youngest. The
division general saluted, but almost instantly withdrew his leathern
gauntlet, and offered his bared hand to the brigadier. The words of
heroes are scant. The drawn-up detail, the waiting staff listened. This
was all they heard:—
"Halleck tells me you're from California?"
"Ah! I lived there, too, in the early days."
"Wonderful country. Developed greatly since my time, I suppose?"
"Great resources; finest wheat-growing country in the world, sir. You
don't happen to know what the actual crop was this year?"
"Hardly, General! but something enormous."
"Yes, I have always said it would be. Have a cigar?"
He handed his cigar-case to the brigadier. Then he took one himself,
lighted it at the smouldering end of the one he had taken from his mouth,
was about to throw the stump carelessly down, but, suddenly recollecting
himself, leaned over his horse, and dropped it carefully a few inches
away from the face of a dead soldier. Then, straightening himself in the
saddle, he shoved his horse against the brigadier, moving him a little
further on, while a slight movement of his hand kept the staff from
"A heavy loss here!"
"I'm afraid so, General."
"It couldn't be helped. We had to rush in your brigade to gain time,
and occupy the enemy, until we could change front."
The young general looked at the shrewd, cold eyes of his chief.
"Change front?" he echoed.
"Yes. Before a gun was fired, we discovered that the enemy was in
complete possession of all our plans, and knew every detail of our
forward movement. All had to be changed."
The younger man now instantly understood the incomprehensible order of
the day before.
The general of division continued, with his first touch of official
"You understand, therefore, General Brant, that in the face of this
extraordinary treachery, the utmost vigilance is required, and a complete
surveillance of your camp followers and civilians, to detect the actual
spy within our lines, or the traitor we are harboring, who has become
possessed of this information. You will overhaul your brigade, and weed
out all suspects, and in the position which you are to take to-morrow,
and the plantation you will occupy, you will see that your private
quarters, as well as your lines, are cleared of all but those you can
He reined in his horse, again extended his hand, saluted, and rejoined
Brigadier-General Clarence Brant remained for a moment with his head
bent in thoughtful contemplation of the coolness of his veteran chief
under this exciting disclosure, and the strategy with which he had
frustrated the traitor's success. Then his eye caught the sealed packet
in his belt. He mechanically drew it out, and broke the seal. The
envelope was filled with papers and memorandums. But as he looked at them
his face darkened and his brow knit. He glanced quickly around him. The
staff had trotted away; the captain and his detail were continuing their
work at a little distance. He took a long breath, for he was holding in
his hand a tracing of their camp, even of the position he was to occupy
tomorrow, and a detailed account of the movements, plans, and force of
the whole division as had been arranged in council of war the day before
the battle! But there was no indication of the writer or his
He thrust the papers hurriedly back into the envelope, but placed it,
this time, in his breast. He galloped towards the captain.
"Let me see again the officer from whom you took that packet!"
The captain led him to where the body lay, with others, extended more
decently on the grass awaiting removal. General Brant with difficulty
repressed an ejaculation.
"Why, it's one of our own men," he said quickly.
"Yes, General. They say it's Lieutenant Wainwright, a regular, of the
paymaster general's department."
"Then what was he doing here?" asked General Brant sternly.
"I can't make out, sir, unless he went into the last advance as a
volunteer. Wanted to see the fight, I suppose. He was a dashing fellow, a
West Pointer,—and a Southerner, too,—a Virginian."
"A Southerner!" echoed Brant quickly.
"Search him again," said Brant quietly. He had recovered his usual
coolness, and as the captain again examined the body, he took out his
tablets and wrote a few lines. It was an order to search the quarters of
Lieutenant Wainwright and bring all papers, letters, and documents to
him. He then beckoned one of the detail towards him. "Take that to the
provost marshal at once. Well, Captain," he added calmly, as the officer
again approached him, "what do you find?"
"Only this, sir," returned the captain, with a half smile, producing a
small photograph. "I suppose it was overlooked, too."
He handed it to Brant.
There was a sudden fixing of his commanding officer's eyes, but his
face did not otherwise change.
"It's the usual find, General. Always a photograph! But this time a
"Very," said Clarence Brant quietly. It was the portrait of his own
Nevertheless, so complete was his control of voice and manner that, as
he rode on to his quarters, no one would have dreamed that General Brant
had just looked upon the likeness of the wife from whom he had parted in
anger four years ago. Still less would they have suspected the strange
fear that came upon him that in some way she was connected with the
treachery he had just discovered. He had heard from her only once, and
then through her late husband's lawyer, in regard to her Californian
property, and believed that she had gone to her relations in Alabama,
where she had identified herself with the Southern cause, even to the
sacrifice of her private fortune. He had heard her name mentioned in the
Southern press as a fascinating society leader, and even coadjutrix of
Southern politicians,—but he had no reason to believe that she had
taken so active or so desperate a part in the struggle. He tried to think
that his uneasiness sprang from his recollection of the previous
treachery of Captain Pinckney, and the part that she had played in the
Californian conspiracy, although he had long since acquitted her of the
betrayal of any nearer trust. But there was a fateful similarity in the
two cases. There was no doubt that this Lieutenant Wainwright was a
traitor in the camp,—that he had succumbed to the usual sophistry
of his class in regard to his superior allegiance to his native State.
But was there the inducement of another emotion, or was the photograph
only the souvenir of a fascinating priestess of rebellion, whom the dead
man had met? There was perhaps less of feeling than scorn in the first
suggestion, but he was nevertheless relieved when the provost marshal
found no other incriminating papers in Wainwright's effects. Nor did he
reveal to the division general the finding of the photograph. It was
sufficient to disclose the work of the traitor without adding what might
be a clue to his wife's participation in it, near or remote. There was
risk enough in the former course,—which his duty made imperative.
He hardly dared to think of the past day's slaughter, which—there
was no doubt now— had been due to the previous work of the spy, and
how his brigade had been selected—by the irony of Fate—to
suffer for and yet retrieve it. If she had had a hand in this wicked
plot, ought he to spare her? Or was his destiny and hers to be thus
monstrously linked together?
Luckily, however, the expiation of the chief offender and the timely
discovery of his papers enabled the division commander to keep the affair
discreetly silent, and to enjoin equal secrecy on the part of Brant. The
latter, however, did not relax his vigilance, and after the advance the
next day he made a minute inspection of the ground he was to occupy, its
approaches and connections with the outlying country, and the rebel
lines; increased the stringency of picket and sentry regulations, and
exercised a rigid surveillance of non-combatants and civilians within the
lines, even to the lowest canteener or camp follower. Then he turned his
attention to the house he was to occupy as his headquarters.
It was a fine specimen of the old colonial planter's house, with its
broad veranda, its great detached offices and negro quarters, and had,
thus far, escaped the ravages and billeting of the war. It had been
occupied by its owner up to a few days before the engagement, and so
great had been the confidence of the enemy in their success that it had
been used as the Confederate headquarters on the morning of the decisive
battle. Jasmine and rose, unstained by the sulphur of gunpowder, twined
around its ruined columns and half hid the recessed windows; the careless
flower garden was still in its unkempt and unplucked luxuriance; the
courtyard before the stables alone showed marks of the late military
occupancy, and was pulverized by the uneasy horse-hoofs of the waiting
staff. But the mingled impress of barbaric prodigality with patriarchal
simplicity was still there in the domestic arrangements of a race who
lived on half equal familiarity with strangers and their own
The negro servants still remained, with a certain cat-like fidelity to
the place, and adapted themselves to the Northern invaders with a
childlike enjoyment of the novelty of change. Brant, nevertheless, looked
them over with an experienced eye, and satisfied himself of their
trustworthiness; there was the usual number of "boys," gray-haired and
grizzled in body service, and the "mammys" and "aunties" of the kitchen.
There were two or three rooms in the wing which still contained private
articles, pictures and souvenirs of the family, and a "young lady's"
boudoir, which Brant, with characteristic delicacy, kept carefully
isolated and intact from his military household, and accessible only to
the family servants. The room he had selected for himself was nearest
it,—a small, plainly furnished apartment, with an almost conventual
simplicity in its cold, white walls and draperies, and the narrow,
nun-like bed. It struck him that it might have belonged to some prim
elder daughter or maiden aunt, who had acted as housekeeper, as it
commanded the wing and servants' offices, with easy access to the central
There followed a week of inactivity in which Brant felt a singular
resemblance in this Southern mansion to the old casa at Robles. The
afternoon shadows of the deep verandas recalled the old monastic gloom of
the Spanish house, which even the presence of a lounging officer or
waiting orderly could not entirely dissipate, and the scent of the rose
and jasmine from his windows overcame him with sad memories. He began to
chafe under this inaction, and long again for the excitement of the march
and bivouac, in which, for the past four years, he had buried his
He was sitting one afternoon alone before his reports and dispatches,
when this influence seemed so strong that he half impulsively laid them
aside to indulge in along reverie. He was recalling his last day at
Robles, the early morning duel with Pinckney, the return to San
Francisco, and the sudden resolution which sent him that day across the
continent to offer his services to the Government. He remembered his
delay in the Western town, where a volunteer regiment was being
recruited, his entrance into it as a private, his rapid selection,
through the force of his sheer devotion and intelligent concentration, to
the captaincy of his company; his swift promotion on hard-fought fields
to the head of the regiment, and the singular success that had followed
his resistless energy, which left him no time to think of anything but
his duty. The sudden intrusion of his wife upon his career now, even in
this accidental and perhaps innocent way, had seriously unsettled
The shadows were growing heavier and deeper, it lacked only a few
moments of the sunset bugle, when he was recalled to himself by that
singular instinctive consciousness, common to humanity, of being intently
looked at. He turned quickly,—the door behind him closed softly. He
rose and slipped into the hall. The tall figure of a woman was going down
the passage. She was erect and graceful; but, as she turned towards the
door leading to the offices, he distinctly saw the gaudily turbaned head
and black silhouette of a negress. Nevertheless, he halted a moment at
the door of the next room.
"See who that woman is who has just passed, Mr. Martin. She doesn't
seem to belong to the house."
The young officer rose, put on his cap, and departed. In a few moments
"Was she tall, sir, of a good figure, and very straight?"
"She is a servant of our neighbors, the Manlys, who occasionally
visits the servants here. A mulatto, I think."
Brant reflected. Many of the mulattoes and negresses were of good
figure, and the habit of carrying burdens on their heads gave them a
singularly erect carriage.
The lieutenant looked at his chief.
"Have you any orders to give concerning her, General?"
"No," said Brant, after a moment's pause, and turned away.
The officer smiled. It seemed a good story to tell at mess of this
human weakness of his handsome, reserved, and ascetic-looking leader.
A few mornings afterwards Brant was interrupted over his reports by
the almost abrupt entrance of the officer of the day. His face was
flushed, and it was evident that only the presence of his superior
restrained his excitement. He held a paper in his hand.
"A lady presents this order and pass from Washington, countersigned by
the division general."
"Yes, sir, she is dressed as such. But she has not only declined the
most ordinary civilities and courtesies we have offered her, but she has
insulted Mr. Martin and myself grossly, and demands to be shown to
Brant took the paper. It was a special order from the President,
passing Miss Matilda Faulkner through the Federal lines to visit her
uncle's home, known as "Gray Oaks," now held and occupied as the
headquarters of Brant's Brigade, in order to arrange for the preservation
and disposal of certain family effects and private property that still
remained there, or to take and carry away such property; and invoking all
necessary aid and assistance from the United States forces in such
occupancy. It was countersigned by the division commander. It was
perfectly regular and of undoubted authenticity. He had heard of passes
of this kind,—the terror of the army,—issued in Washington
under some strange controlling influence and against military protest;
but he did not let his subordinate see the uneasiness with which it
"Show her in," he said quietly.
But she had already entered, brushing scornfully past the officer, and
drawing her skirt aside, as if contaminated: a very pretty Southern girl,
scornful and red-lipped, clad in a gray riding- habit, and still carrying
her riding-whip clenched ominously in her slim, gauntleted hand!
"You have my permit in your hand," she said brusquely, hardly raising
her eyes to Brant. "I suppose it's all straight enough,— and even
if it isn't, I don't reckon to be kept waiting with those hirelings."
"Your 'permit' is 'straight' enough, Miss Faulkner," said Brant,
slowly reading her name from the document before him. "But, as it does
not seem to include permission to insult my officers, you will perhaps
allow them first to retire."
He made a sign to the officer, who passed out of the door.
As it closed, he went on, in a gentle but coldly unimpassioned
"I perceive you are a Southern lady, and therefore I need not remind
you that it is not considered good form to treat even the slaves of those
one does not like uncivilly, and I must, therefore, ask you to keep your
active animosity for myself."
The young girl lifted her eyes. She had evidently not expected to meet
a man so young, so handsome, so refined, and so coldly invincible in
manner. Still less was she prepared for that kind of antagonism. In
keeping up her preconcerted attitude towards the "Northern hireling," she
had been met with official brusqueness, contemptuous silence, or
aggrieved indignation,—but nothing so exasperating as this. She
even fancied that this elegant but sardonic-looking soldier was mocking
her. She bit her red lip, but, with a scornful gesture of her
"I reckon that your knowledge of Southern ladies is, for certain
reasons, not very extensive."
"Pardon me; I have had the honor of marrying one."
Apparently more exasperated than before, she turned upon him
"You say my pass is all right. Then I presume I may attend to the
business that brought me here."
"Certainly; but you will forgive me if I imagined that an expression
of contempt for your hosts was a part of it."
He rang a bell on the table. It was responded to by an orderly.
"Send all the household servants here."
The room was presently filled with the dusky faces of the negro
retainers. Here and there was the gleaming of white teeth, but a majority
of the assembly wore the true negro serious acceptance of the importance
of "an occasion." One or two even affected an official and soldierly
bearing. And, as he fully expected, there were several glances of
significant recognition of the stranger.
"You will give," said Brant sternly, "every aid and attention to the
wants of this young lady, who is here to represent the interests of your
old master. As she will be entirely dependent upon you in all things
connected with her visit here, see to it that she does not have to
complain to me of any inattention,—or be obliged to ask for other
As Miss Faulkner, albeit a trifle paler in the cheek, but as scornful
as ever, was about to follow the servants from the room, Brant stopped
her, with a coldly courteous gesture.
"You will understand, therefore, Miss Faulkner, that you have your
wish, and that you will not be exposed to any contact with the members of
my military family, nor they with you."
"Am I then to be a prisoner in this house—and under a free pass
of your—President?" she said indignantly.
"By no means! You are free to come and go, and see whom you please. I
have no power to control your actions. But I have the power to control
She swept furiously from the room.
"That is quite enough to fill her with a desire to flirt with every
man here," said Brant to himself, with a faint smile; "but I fancy they
have had a taste enough of her quality."
Nevertheless he sat down and wrote a few lines to the division
commander, pointing out that he had already placed the owner's private
property under strict surveillance, that it was cared for and perfectly
preserved by the household servants, and that the pass was evidently
obtained as a subterfuge.
To this he received a formal reply, regretting that the authorities at
Washington still found it necessary to put this kind of risk and burden
on the army in the field, but that the order emanated from the highest
authority, and must be strictly obeyed. At the bottom of the page was a
characteristic line in pencil in the general's own hand—"Not the
kind that is dangerous."
A flush mounted Brant's cheeks, as if it contained not only a hidden,
but a personal significance. He had thought of his own wife!
Singularly enough, a day or two later, at dinner, the conversation
turned upon the intense sectional feeling of Southern women, probably
induced by their late experiences. Brant, at the head of the table, in
his habitual abstraction, was scarcely following the somewhat excited
diction of Colonel Strangeways, one of his staff.
"No, sir," reiterated that indignant warrior, "take my word for it! A
Southern woman isn't to be trusted on this point, whether as a sister,
sweetheart, or wife. And when she is trusted, she's bound to get the
better of the man in any of those relations!"
The dead silence that followed, the ominous joggle of a glass at the
speaker's elbow, the quick, sympathetic glance that Brant instinctively
felt was directed at his own face, and the abrupt change of subject,
could not but arrest his attention, even if he had overlooked the speech.
His face, however, betrayed nothing. It had never, however, occurred to
him before that his family affairs might be known—neither had he
ever thought of keeping them a secret. It seemed so purely a personal and
private misfortune, that he had never dreamed of its having any public
interest. And even now he was a little ashamed of what he believed was
his sensitiveness to mere conventional criticism, which, with the
instinct of a proud man, he had despised.
He was not far wrong in his sardonic intuition of the effect of his
prohibition upon Miss Faulkner's feelings. Certainly that young lady,
when not engaged in her mysterious occupation of arranging her uncle's
effects, occasionally was seen in the garden, and in the woods beyond.
Although her presence was the signal for the "oblique" of any lounging
"shoulder strap," or the vacant "front" of a posted sentry, she seemed to
regard their occasional proximity with less active disfavor. Once, when
she had mounted the wall to gather a magnolia blossom, the chair by which
she had ascended rolled over, leaving her on the wall. At a signal from
the guard- room, two sappers and miners appeared carrying a
scaling-ladder, which they placed silently against the wall, and as
silently withdrew. On another occasion, the same spirited young lady,
whom Brant was satisfied would have probably imperiled her life under
fire in devotion to her cause, was brought ignominiously to bay in the
field by that most appalling of domestic animals, the wandering and
untrammeled cow! Brant could not help smiling as he heard the quick,
harsh call to "Turn out, guard," saw the men march stolidly with fixed
bayonets to the vicinity of the affrighted animal, who fled, leaving the
fair stranger to walk shamefacedly to the house. He was surprised,
however, that she should have halted before his door, and with tremulous
"I thank you, sir, for your chivalrousness in turning a defenseless
woman into ridicule."
"I regret, Miss Faulkner," began Brant gravely, "that you should
believe that I am able to control the advances of farmyard cattle as
easily as"— But he stopped, as he saw that the angry flash of her
blue eyes, as she darted past him, was set in tears. A little remorseful
on the following day, he added a word to his ordinary cap-lifting when
she went by, but she retained a reproachful silence. Later in the day, he
received from her servant a respectful request for an interview, and was
relieved to find that she entered his presence with no trace of her
former aggression, but rather with the resignation of a deeply injured,
yet not entirely unforgiving, woman.
"I thought," she began coldly, "that I ought to inform you that I
would probably be able to conclude my business here by the day after
to-morrow, and that you would then be relieved of my presence. I am
aware—indeed," she added, bitterly, "I could scarcely help
perceiving, that it has been an exceedingly irksome one."
"I trust," began Brant coldly, "that no gentleman of my command
She interrupted him quickly, with a return of her former manner, and a
passionate sweep of the hand.
"Do you suppose for a moment that I am speaking—that I am even
thinking—of them? What are they to me?"
"Thank you. I am glad to know that they are nothing; and that I may
now trust that you have consulted my wishes, and have reserved your
animosity solely for me," returned Brant quietly. "That being so, I see
no reason for your hurrying your departure in the least."
She rose instantly.
"I have," she said slowly, controlling herself with a slight effort,
"found some one who will take my duty off my hands. She is a servant of
one of your neighbors,—who is an old friend of my uncle's. The
woman is familiar with the house, and our private property. I will give
her full instructions to act for me, and even an authorization in
writing, if you prefer it. She is already in the habit of coming here;
but her visits will give you very little trouble. And, as she is a slave,
or, as you call it, I believe, a chattel, she will be already quite
accustomed to the treatment which her class are in the habit of receiving
from Northern hands."
Without waiting to perceive the effect of her Parthian shot, she swept
proudly out of the room.
"I wonder what she means," mused Brant, as her quick step died away in
the passage. "One thing is certain,—a woman like that is altogether
too impulsive for a spy."
Later, in the twilight, he saw her walking in the garden. There was a
figure at her side. A little curious, he examined it more closely from
his window. It was already familiar to him,—the erect, shapely form
of his neighbor's servant. A thoughtful look passed over his face as he
muttered,—"So this is to be her deputy."
Called to a general council of officers at divisional headquarters the
next day, Brant had little time for further speculation regarding his
strange guest, but a remark from the division commander, that he
preferred to commit the general plan of a movement then under discussion
to their memories rather than to written orders in the ordinary routine,
seemed to show that his chief still suspected the existence of a spy. He,
therefore, told him of his late interview with Miss Faulkner, and her
probable withdrawal in favor of a mulatto neighbor. The division
commander received the information with indifference.
"They're much too clever to employ a hussy like that, who shows her
hand at every turn, either as a spy or a messenger of spies,—and
the mulattoes are too stupid, to say nothing of their probable fidelity
to us. No, General, if we are watched, it is by an eagle, and not a
mocking-bird. Miss Faulkner has nothing worse about her than her tongue;
and there isn't the nigger blood in the whole South that would risk a
noose for her, or for any of their masters or mistresses!"
It was, therefore, perhaps, with some mitigation of his usual critical
severity that he saw her walking before him alone in the lane as he rode
home to quarters. She was apparently lost in a half-impatient, half-moody
reverie, which even the trotting hoof- beats of his own and his orderly's
horse had not disturbed. From time to time she struck the myrtle hedge
beside her with the head of a large flower which hung by its stalk from
her listless hands, or held it to her face as if to inhale its perfume.
Dismissing his orderly by a side path, he rode gently forward, but, to
his surprise, without turning, or seeming to be aware of his presence,
she quickened her pace, and even appeared to look from side to side for
some avenue of escape. If only to mend matters, he was obliged to ride
quickly forward to her side, where he threw himself from his horse, flung
the reins on his arm, and began to walk beside her. She at first turned a
slightly flushed cheek away from him, and then looked up with a purely
simulated start of surprise.
"I am afraid," he said gently, "that I am the first to break my own
orders in regard to any intrusion on your privacy. But I wanted to ask
you if I could give you any aid whatever in the change you think of
He was quite sincere,—had been touched by her manifest
disturbance, and, despite his masculine relentlessness of criticism, he
had an intuition of feminine suffering that was in itself feminine.
"Meaning, that you are in a hurry to get rid of me," she said curtly,
without raising her eyes.
"Meaning that I only wish to expedite a business which I think is
unpleasant to you, but which I believe you have undertaken from unselfish
The scant expression of a reserved nature is sometimes more attractive
to women than the most fluent vivacity. Possibly there was also a
melancholy grace in this sardonic soldier's manner that affected her, for
she looked up, and said impulsively,—
"You think so?"
But he met her eager eyes with some surprise.
"I certainly do," he replied more coldly. "I can imagine your feelings
on finding your uncle's home in the possession of your enemies, and your
presence under the family roof only a sufferance. I can hardly believe it
a pleasure to you, or a task you would have accepted for yourself
"But," she said, turning towards him wickedly, "what if I did it only
to excite my revenge; what if I knew it would give me courage to incite
my people to carry war into your own homes; to make you of the North feel
as I feel, and taste our bitterness?"
"I could easily understand that, too," he returned, with listless
coldness, "although I don't admit that revenge is an unmixed pleasure,
even to a woman."
"A woman!" she repeated indignantly. "There is no sex in a war like
"You are spoiling your flower," he said quietly. "It is very pretty,
and a native one, too; not an invader, or even transplanted. May I look
She hesitated, half recoiling for an instant, and her hand trembled.
Then, suddenly and abruptly she said, with a hysteric little laugh, "Take
it, then," and almost thrust it in his hand.
It certainly was a pretty flower, not unlike a lily in appearance,
with a bell-like cup and long anthers covered with a fine pollen, like
red dust. As he lifted it to his face, to inhale its perfume, she uttered
a slight cry, and snatched it from his hand.
"There!" she said, with the same nervous laugh. "I knew you would; I
ought to have warned you. The pollen comes off so easily, and leaves a
stain. And you've got some on your cheek. Look!" she continued, taking
her handkerchief from her pocket and wiping his cheek; "see there!" The
delicate cambric showed a blood-red streak.
"It grows in a swamp," she continued, in the same excited strain; "we
call it dragon's teeth,—like the kind that was sown in the story,
you know. We children used to find it, and then paint our faces and lips
with it. We called it our rouge. I was almost tempted to try it again
when I found it just now. It took me back so to the old times."
Following her odd manner rather than her words, as she turned her face
towards him suddenly, Brant was inclined to think that she had tried it
already, so scarlet was her cheek. But it presently paled again under his
"You must miss the old times," he said calmly. "I am afraid you found
very little of them left, except in these flowers."
"And hardly these," she said bitterly. "Your troops had found a way
through the marsh, and had trampled down the bushes."
Brant's brow clouded. He remembered that the brook, which had run red
during the fight, had lost itself in this marsh. It did not increase his
liking for this beautiful but blindly vicious animal at his side, and
even his momentary pity for her was fading fast. She was incorrigible.
They walked on for a few moments in silence.
"You said," she began at last, in a gentler and even hesitating voice,
"that your wife was a Southern woman."
He checked an irritated start with difficulty.
"I believe I did," he said coldly, as if he regretted it.
"And of course you taught her YOUR gospel,—the gospel according
to St. Lincoln. Oh, I know," she went on hurriedly, as if conscious of
his irritation and seeking to allay it. "She was a woman and loved you,
and thought with your thoughts and saw only with your eyes. Yes, that's
the way with us,—I suppose we all do it!" she added bitterly.
"She had her own opinions," said Brant briefly, as he recovered
Nevertheless, his manner so decidedly closed all further discussion
that there was nothing left for the young girl but silence. But it was
broken by her in a few moments in her old contemptuous voice and
"Pray don't trouble yourself to accompany me any further, General
Brant. Unless, of course, you are afraid I may come across some of
your—your soldiers. I promise you I won't eat them."
"I am afraid you must suffer my company a little longer, Miss
Faulkner, on account of those same soldiers," returned Brant gravely.
"You may not know that this road, in which I find you, takes you through
a cordon of pickets. If you were alone you would be stopped, questioned,
and, failing to give the password, you would be detained, sent to the
guard-house, and"—he stopped, and fixed his eyes on her keenly as
he added, "and searched."
"You would not dare to search a woman!" she said indignantly, although
her flush gave way to a slight pallor.
"You said just now that there should be no sex in a war like this,"
returned Brant carelessly, but without abating his scrutinizing gaze.
"Then it IS war?" she said quickly, with a white, significant
His look of scrutiny turned to one of puzzled wonder. But at the same
moment there was the flash of a bayonet in the hedge, a voice called
"Halt!" and a soldier stepped into the road.
General Brant advanced, met the salute of the picket with a few formal
words, and then turned towards his fair companion, as another soldier and
a sergeant joined the group.
"Miss Faulkner is new to the camp, took the wrong turning, and was
unwittingly leaving the lines when I joined her." He fixed his eyes
intently on her now colorless face, but she did not return his look. "You
will show her the shortest way to quarters," he continued, to the
sergeant, "and should she at any time again lose her way, you will again
conduct her home,—but without detaining or reporting her."
He lifted his cap, remounted his horse, and rode away, as the young
girl, with a proud, indifferent step, moved down the road with the
sergeant. A mounted officer passed him and saluted,—it was one of
his own staff. From some strange instinct, he knew that he had witnessed
the scene, and from some equally strange intuition he was annoyed by it.
But he continued his way, visiting one or two outposts, and returned by a
long detour to his quarters. As he stepped upon the veranda he saw Miss
Faulkner at the bottom of the garden talking with some one across the
hedge. By the aid of his glass he could recognize the shapely figure of
the mulatto woman which he had seen before. But by its aid he also
discovered that she was carrying a flower exactly like the one which Miss
Faulkner still held in her hand. Had she been with Miss Faulkner in the
lane, and if so, why had she disappeared when he came up? Impelled by
something stronger than mere curiosity, he walked quickly down the
garden, but she evidently had noticed him, for she as quickly
disappeared. Not caring to meet Miss Faulkner again, he retraced his
steps, resolving that he would, on the first opportunity, personally
examine and interrogate this new visitor. For if she were to take Miss
Faulkner's place in a subordinate capacity, this precaution was clearly
within his rights.
He re-entered his room and seated himself at his desk before the
dispatches, orders, and reports awaiting him. He found himself, however,
working half mechanically, and recurring to his late interview with Miss
Faulkner in the lane. If she had any inclination to act the spy, or to
use her position here as a means of communicating with the enemy's lines,
he thought he had thoroughly frightened her. Nevertheless, now, for the
first time, he was inclined to accept his chief's opinion of her. She was
not only too clumsy and inexperienced, but she totally lacked the self-
restraint of a spy. Her nervous agitation in the lane was due to
something more disturbing than his mere possible intrusion upon her
confidences with the mulatto. The significance of her question, "Then it
IS war?" was at best a threat, and that implied hesitation. He recalled
her strange allusion to his wife; was it merely the outcome of his own
foolish confession on their first interview, or was it a concealed
ironical taunt? Being satisfied, however, that she was not likely to
imperil his public duty in any way, he was angry with himself for
speculating further. But, although he still felt towards her the same
antagonism she had at first provoked, he was conscious that she was
beginning to exercise a strange fascination over him.
Dismissing her at last with an effort, he finished his work and then
rose, and unlocking a closet, took out a small dispatch-box, to which he
intended to intrust a few more important orders and memoranda. As he
opened it with a key on his watch-chain, he was struck with a faint
perfume that seemed to come from it,—a perfume that he remembered.
Was it the smell of the flower that Miss Faulkner carried, or the scent
of the handkerchief with which she had wiped his cheek, or a mingling of
both? Or was he under some spell to think of that wretched girl, and her
witch-like flower? He leaned over the box and suddenly started. Upon the
outer covering of a dispatch was a singular blood-red streak! He examined
it closely,—it was the powdery stain of the lily
pollen,—exactly as he had seen it on her handkerchief.
There could be no mistake. He passed his finger over the stain; he
could still feel the slippery, infinitesimal powder of the pollen. It was
not there when he had closed the box that morning; it was impossible that
it should be there unless the box had been opened in his absence. He
re-examined the contents of the box; the papers were all there. More than
that, they were papers of no importance except to him personally;
contained no plans nor key to any military secret; he had been far too
wise to intrust any to the accidents of this alien house. The prying
intruder, whoever it was, had gained nothing! But there was unmistakably
the attempt! And the existence of a would-be spy within the purlieus of
the house was equally clear.
He called an officer from the next room.
"Has any one been here since my absence?"
"Has any one passed through the hall?"
He had fully anticipated the answer, as the subaltern replied, "Only
the women servants."
He re-entered the room. Closing the door, he again carefully examined
the box, his table, the papers upon it, the chair before it, and even the
Chinese matting on the floor, for any further indication of the pollen.
It hardly seemed possible that any one could have entered the room with
the flower in their hand without scattering some of the tell-tale dust
elsewhere; it was too large a flower to be worn on the breast or in the
hair. Again, no one would have dared to linger there long enough to have
made an examination of the box, with an officer in the next room, and the
sergeant passing. The box had been removed, and the examination made
An idea seized him. Miss Faulkner was still absent, the mulatto had
apparently gone home. He quickly mounted the staircase, but instead of
entering his room, turned suddenly aside into the wing which had been
reserved. The first door yielded as he turned its knob gently and entered
a room which he at once recognized as the "young lady's boudoir." But the
dusty and draped furniture had been rearranged and uncovered, and the
apartment bore every sign of present use. Yet, although there was
unmistakable evidence of its being used by a person of taste and
refinement, he was surprised to see that the garments hanging in an open
press were such as were used by negro servants, and that a gaudy
handkerchief such as housemaids used for turbans was lying on the pretty
silk coverlet. He did not linger over these details, but cast a rapid
glance round the room. Then his eyes became fixed on a fanciful
writing-desk, which stood by the window. For, in a handsome vase placed
on its level top, and drooping on a portfolio below, hung a cluster of
the very flowers that Miss Faulkner had carried!
It seemed plain to Brant that the dispatch-box had been conveyed here
and opened for security on this desk, and in the hurry of examining the
papers the flower had been jostled and the fallen grains of pollen
overlooked by the spy. There were one or two freckles of red on the desk,
which made this accident appear the more probable. But he was equally
struck by another circumstance. The desk stood immediately before the
window. As he glanced mechanically from it, he was surprised to see that
it commanded an extensive view of the slope below the eminence on which
the house stood, even beyond his furthest line of pickets. The vase of
flowers, each of which was nearly as large as a magnolia blossom, and
striking in color, occupied a central position before it, and no doubt
could be quite distinctly seen from a distance. From this circumstance he
could not resist the strong impression that this fateful and
extraordinary blossom, carried by Miss Faulkner and the mulatto, and so
strikingly "in evidence" at the window, was in some way a signal. Obeying
an impulse which he was conscious had a half superstitious foundation, he
carefully lifted the vase from its position before the window, and placed
it on a side table. Then he cautiously slipped from the room.
But he could not easily shake off the perplexity which the occurrence
had caused, although he was satisfied that it was fraught with no
military or strategic danger to his command, and that the unknown spy had
obtained no information whatever. Yet he was forced to admit to himself
that he was more concerned in his attempts to justify the conduct of Miss
Faulkner with this later revelation. It was quite possible that the
dispatch-box had been purloined by some one else during her absence from
the house, as the presence of the mulatto servant in his room would have
been less suspicious than hers. There was really little evidence to
connect Miss Faulkner with the actual outrage,—rather might not the
real spy have taken advantage of her visit here, to throw suspicion upon
her? He remembered her singular manner,—the strange inconsistency
with which she had forced this flower upon him. She would hardly have
done so had she been conscious of its having so serious an import. Yet,
what was the secret of her manifest agitation? A sudden inspiration
flashed across his mind; a smile came upon his lips. She was in love! The
enemy's line contained some sighing Strephon of a young subaltern with
whom she was in communication, and for whom she had undertaken this
quest. The flower was their language of correspondence, no doubt. It
explained also the young girl's animosity against the younger
officers,—his adversaries; against himself,—their commander.
He had previously wondered why, if she were indeed a spy, she had not
chosen, upon some equally specious order from Washington, the
headquarters of the division commander, whose secrets were more valuable.
This was explained by the fact that she was nearer the lines and her
lover in her present abode. He had no idea that he was making excuses for
her,—he believed himself only just. The recollection of what she
had said of the power of love, albeit it had hurt him cruelly at the
time, was now clearer to him, and even seemed to mitigate her offense.
She would be here but a day or two longer; he could afford to wait
without interrogating her.
But as to the real intruder, spy or thief,—that was another
affair, and quickly settled. He gave an order to the officer of the day
peremptorily forbidding the entrance of alien servants or slaves within
the precincts of the headquarters. Any one thus trespassing was to be
brought before him. The officer looked surprised, he even fancied
disappointed. The graces of the mulatto woman's figure had evidently not
been thrown away upon his subalterns.
An hour or two later, when he was mounting his horse for a round of
inspection, he was surprised to see Miss Faulkner, accompanied by the
mulatto woman, running hurriedly to the house. He had forgotten his late
order until he saw the latter halted by the sentries, but the young girl
came flying on, regardless of her companion. Her skirt was held in one
hand, her straw hat had fallen back in her flight, and was caught only by
a ribbon around her swelling throat, and her loosened hair lay in a black
rippled loop on one shoulder. For an instant Brant thought that she was
seeking him in indignation at his order, but a second look at her set
face, eager eyes, and parted scarlet lips, showed him that she had not
even noticed him in the concentration of her purpose. She swept by him
into the hall, he heard the swish of her skirt and rapid feet on the
stairs,—she was gone. What had happened, or was this another of her
But he was called to himself by the apparition of a corporal standing
before him, with the mulatto woman,—the first capture under his
order. She was tall, well-formed, but unmistakably showing the negro
type, even in her small features. Her black eyes were excited, but
unintelligent; her manner dogged, but with the obstinacy of
half-conscious stupidity. Brant felt not only disappointed, but had a
singular impression that she was not the same woman that he had first
seen. Yet there was the tall, graceful figure, the dark profile, and the
turbaned head that he had once followed down the passage by his room.
Her story was as stupidly simple. She had known "Missy" from a chile!
She had just traipsed over to see her that afternoon; they were walking
together when the sojers stopped her. She had never been stopped before,
even by "the patter rollers."* Her old massa (Manly) had gib leaf to go
see Miss Tilly, and hadn't said nuffin about no "orders."
* i. e., patrols,—a civic home-guard in the South that kept
surveillance of slaves.
More annoyed than he cared to confess, Brant briefly dismissed her
with a warning. As he cantered down the slope the view of the distant
pickets recalled the window in the wing, and he turned in his saddle to
look at it. There it was—the largest and most dominant window in
that part of the building—and within it, a distinct and vivid
object almost filling the opening, was the vase of flowers, which he had
a few hours ago removed, RESTORED TO ITS ORIGINAL POSITION! He smiled.
The hurried entrance and consternation of Miss Faulkner were now fully
explained. He had interrupted some impassioned message, perhaps even
countermanded some affectionate rendezvous beyond the lines. And it
seemed to settle the fact that it was she who had done the signaling! But
would not this also make her cognizant of the taking of the dispatch-box?
He reflected, however, that the room was apparently occupied by the
mulatto woman—he remembered the calico dresses and turban on the
bed—and it was possible that Miss Faulkner had only visited it for
the purpose of signaling to her lover. Although this circumstance did not
tend to make his mind easier, it was, however, presently diverted by a
new arrival and a strange recognition.
As he rode through the camp a group of officers congregated before a
large mess tent appeared to be highly amused by the conversation—
half monologue and half harangue of a singular-looking individual who
stood in the centre. He wore a "slouch" hat, to the band of which he had
imparted a military air by the addition of a gold cord, but the brim was
caught up at the side in a peculiarly theatrical and highly artificial
fashion. A heavy cavalry sabre depended from a broad-buckled belt under
his black frock coat, with the addition of two revolvers—minus
their holsters—stuck on either side of the buckle, after the style
of a stage smuggler. A pair of long enameled leather riding boots, with
the tops turned deeply over, as if they had once done duty for the
representative of a cavalier, completed his extraordinary equipment. The
group were so absorbed in him that they did not perceive the approach of
their chief and his orderly; and Brant, with a sign to the latter, halted
only a few paces from this central figure. His speech was a singular
mingling of high-flown and exalted epithets, with inexact pronunciation
and occasional lapses of Western slang.
"Well, I ain't purtendin' to any stratutegical smartness, and I didn't
gradooate at West Point as one of those Apocryphal Engineers; I don't do
much talking about 'flank' movements or 'recognizances in force' or
'Ekellon skirmishing,' but when it comes down to square Ingin fightin', I
reckon I kin have my say. There are men who don't know the Army
Contractor," he added darkly, "who mebbe have heard of 'Red Jim.' I don't
mention names, gentlemen, but only the other day a man that you all know
says to me, 'If I only knew what you do about scoutin' I wouldn't be
wanting for information as I do.' I ain't goin' to say who it was, or
break any confidences between gentlemen by saying how many stars he had
on his shoulder strap; but he was a man who knew what he was saying. And
I say agin, gentlemen, that the curse of the Northern Army is the want of
proper scoutin'. What was it caused Bull's Run?—Want o' scoutin'.
What was it rolled up Pope?—Want o' scoutin'. What caused the
slaughter at the Wilderness?—Want o' scoutin'—Ingin scoutin'!
Why, only the other day, gentlemen, I was approached to know what I'd
take to organize a scoutin' force. And what did I say?—'No,
General; it ain't because I represent one of the largest Army Beef
Contracts in this country,' says I. 'It ain't because I belong, so to
speak, to the "Sinews of War;" but because I'd want about ten thousand
trained Ingins from the Reservations!' And the regular West Point,
high-toned, scientific inkybus that weighs so heavily on our army don't
see it—and won't have it! Then Sherman, he sez to me"—
But here a roar of laughter interrupted him, and in the cross fire of
sarcastic interrogations that began Brant saw, with relief, a chance of
escape. For in the voice, manner, and, above all, the characteristic
temperament of the stranger, he had recognized his old playmate and the
husband of Susy,—the redoubtable Jim Hooker! There was no mistaking
that gloomy audacity; that mysterious significance; that magnificent
lying. But even at that moment Clarence Brant's heart had gone out, with
all his old loyalty of feeling, towards his old companion. He knew that a
public recognition of him then and there would plunge Hooker into
confusion; he felt keenly the ironical plaudits and laughter of his
officers over the manifest weakness and vanity of the ex-teamster,
ex-rancher, ex-actor, and husband of his old girl sweetheart, and would
have spared him the knowledge that he had overheard it. Turning hastily
to the orderly, he bade him bring the stranger to his headquarters, and
rode away unperceived.
He had heard enough, however, to account for his presence there, and
the singular chance that had brought them again together. He was
evidently one of those large civil contractors of supplies whom the
Government was obliged to employ, who visited the camp half officially,
and whom the army alternately depended upon and abused. Brant had dealt
with his underlings in the Commissariat, and even now remembered that he
had heard he was coming, but had overlooked the significance of his name.
But how he came to leave his theatrical profession, how he had attained a
position which implied a command of considerable capital—for many
of the contractors had already amassed large fortunes—and what had
become of Susy and her ambitions in this radical change of circumstances,
were things still to be learned. In his own changed conditions he had
seldom thought of her; it was with a strange feeling of irritation and
half responsibility that he now recalled their last interview and the
emotion to which he had yielded.
He had not long to wait. He had scarcely regained the quarters at his
own private office before he heard the step of the orderly upon the
veranda and the trailing clank of Hooker's sabre. He did not know,
however, that Hooker, without recognizing his name, had received the
message as a personal tribute, and had left his sarcastic companions
triumphantly, with the air of going to a confidential interview, to which
his well-known military criticism had entitled him. It was with a bearing
of gloomy importance and his characteristic, sullen, sidelong glance that
he entered the apartment and did not look up until Brant had signaled the
orderly to withdraw, and closed the door behind him. And then he
recognized his old boyish companion—the preferred favorite of
For a moment he gasped with astonishment. For a moment gloomy
incredulity, suspicion, delight, pride, admiration, even affection,
struggled for mastery in his sullen, staring eyes and open, twitching
mouth. For here was Clarence Brant, handsomer than ever, more superior
than ever, in the majesty of uniform and authority which fitted
him—the younger man—by reason of his four years of active
service, with the careless ease and bearing of the veteran! Here was the
hero whose name was already so famous that the mere coincidence of it
with that of the modest civilian he had known would have struck him as
preposterous. Yet here he was—supreme, and
dazzling—surrounded by the pomp and circumstance of war—into
whose reserved presence he, Jim Hooker, had been ushered with the
formality of challenge, saluting, and presented bayonets!
Luckily, Brant had taken advantage of his first gratified ejaculation
to shake him warmly by the hand, and then, with both hands laid
familiarly on his shoulder, force him down into a chair. Luckily, for by
that time Jim Hooker had, with characteristic gloominess, found time to
taste the pangs of envy—an envy the more keen since, in spite of
his success as a peaceful contractor, he had always secretly longed for
military display and distinction. He looked at the man who had achieved
it, as he firmly believed, by sheer luck and accident, and his eyes
darkened. Then, with characteristic weakness and vanity, he began to
resist his first impressions of Clarence's superiority, and to air his
own importance. He leaned heavily back in the chair in which he had been
thus genially forced, drew off his gauntlet and attempted to thrust it
through his belt, as he had seen Brant do, but failed on account of his
pistols already occupying that position, dropped it, got his sword
between his legs in attempting to pick it up, and then leaned back again,
with half-closed eyes serenely indifferent of his old companion's smiling
"I reckon," he began slowly, with a slightly patronizing air, "that
we'd have met, sooner or later, at Washington, or at Grant's
headquarters, for Hooker, Meacham Co. go everywhere, and are about as
well known as major-generals, to say nothin'," he went on, with a
sidelong glance at Brant's shoulder-straps, "of brigadiers; and it's
rather strange—only, of course, you're kind of fresh in the
service—that you ain't heard of me afore."
"But I'm very glad to hear of you now, Jim," said Brant, smiling, "and
from your own lips—which I am also delighted to find," he added
mischievously, "are still as frankly communicative on that topic as of
old. But I congratulate you, old fellow, on your good fortune. When did
you leave the stage?"
Mr. Hooker frowned slightly.
"I never was really on the stage, you know," he said, waving his hand
with assumed negligence. "Only went on to please my wife. Mrs. Hooker
wouldn't act with vulgar professionals, don't you see! I was really
manager most of the time, and lessee of the theatre. Went East when the
war broke out, to offer my sword and knowledge of Ingin fightin' to Uncle
Sam! Drifted into a big pork contract at St. Louis, with Fremont. Been at
it ever since. Offered a commission in the reg'lar service lots o' times.
"Why?" asked Brant demurely.
"Too much West Point starch around to suit ME," returned Hooker
darkly. "And too many spies!"
"Spies?" echoed Brant abstractedly, with a momentary reminiscence of
"Yes, spies," continued Hooker, with dogged mystery. "One half of
Washington is watching t'other half, and, from the President's wife down,
most of the women are secesh!"
Brant suddenly fixed his keen eyes on his guest. But the next moment
he reflected that this was only Jim Hooker's usual speech, and possessed
no ulterior significance. He smiled again, and said, more
"And how is Mrs. Hooker?"
Mr. Hooker fixed his eyes on the ceiling, rose, and pretended to look
out of the window; then, taking his seat again by the table, as if
fronting an imaginary audience, and pulling slowly at his gauntlets after
the usual theatrical indication of perfect sangfroid, said,—
"There ain't any!"
"Good heavens!" said Brant, with genuine emotion. "I beg your pardon.
"Mrs. Hooker and me are divorced," continued Hooker, slightly changing
his attitude, and leaning heavily on his sabre, with his eyes still on
his fanciful audience. "There was, you understand"— lightly tossing
his gauntlet aside—"incompatibility of temper—
He uttered a low, bitter, scornful laugh, which, however, produced the
distinct impression in Brant's mind that up to that moment he had never
had the slightest feeling in the matter whatever.
"You seemed to be on such good terms with each other!" murmured Brant
"Seemed!" said Hooker bitterly, glancing sardonically at an ideal
second row in the pit before him, "yes—seemed! There were other
differences, social and political. You understand that; you have
suffered, too." He reached out his hand and pressed Brant's, in heavy
effusiveness. "But," he continued haughtily, lightly tossing his glove
again, "we are also men of the world; we let that pass."
And it was possible that he found the strain of his present attitude
too great, for he changed to an easier position.
"But," said Brant curiously, "I always thought that Mrs. Hooker was
intensely Union and Northern?"
"Put on!" said Hooker, in his natural voice.
"But you remember the incident of the flag?" persisted Brant.
"Mrs. Hooker was always an actress," said Hooker significantly. "But,"
he added cheerfully, "Mrs. Hooker is now the wife of Senator Boompointer,
one of the wealthiest and most powerful Republicans in
Washington—carries the patronage of the whole West in his vest
"Yet, if she is not a Republican, why did she"—began Brant.
"For a purpose," replied Hooker darkly. "But," he added again, with
greater cheerfulness, "she belongs to the very elite of Washington
society. Goes to all the foreign ambassadors' balls, and is a power at
the White House. Her picture is in all the first-class illustrated
The singular but unmistakable pride of the man in the importance of
the wife from whom he was divorced, and for whom he did not care, would
have offended Brant's delicacy, or at least have excited his ridicule,
but for the reason that he was more deeply stung by Hooker's allusion to
his own wife and his degrading similitude of their two conditions. But he
dismissed the former as part of Hooker's invincible and still boyish
extravagance, and the latter as part of his equally characteristic
assumption. Perhaps he was conscious, too, notwithstanding the lapse of
years and the condonation of separation and forgetfulness, that he
deserved little delicacy from the hands of Susy's husband. Nevertheless,
he dreaded to hear him speak again of her; and the fear was realized in a
"Does she know you are here?"
"Who?" said Brant curtly.
"Your wife. That is—I reckon she's your wife still, eh?"
"Yes; but I do not know what she knows," returned Brant quietly. He
had regained his self-composure.
"Susy,—Mrs. Senator Boompointer, that is,"—said Hooker,
with an apparent dignity in his late wife's new title, "allowed that
she'd gone abroad on a secret mission from the Southern Confederacy to
them crowned heads over there. She was good at ropin' men in, you know.
Anyhow, Susy, afore she was Mrs. Boompointer, was dead set on findin' out
where she was, but never could. She seemed to drop out of sight a year
ago. Some said one thing, and some said another. But you can bet your
bottom dollar that Mrs. Senator Boompointer, who knows how to pull all
the wires in Washington, will know, if any one does."
"But is Mrs. Boompointer really disaffected, and a Southern
sympathizer?" said Brant, "or is it only caprice or fashion?"
While speaking he had risen, with a half-abstracted face, and had gone
to the window, where he stood in a listening attitude. Presently he
opened the window, and stepped outside. Hooker wonderingly followed him.
One or two officers had already stepped out of their rooms, and were
standing upon the veranda; another had halted in the path. Then one
quickly re-entered the house, reappeared with his cap and sword in his
hand, and ran lightly toward the guard-house. A slight crackling noise
seemed to come from beyond the garden wall.
"What's up?" said Hooker, with staring eyes.
The crackling suddenly became a long rattle. Brant re-entered the
room, and picked up his hat.
"You'll excuse me for a few moments."
A faint sound, soft yet full, and not unlike a bursting bubble, made
the house appear to leap elastically, like the rebound of a rubber
"What's that?" gasped Hooker.
"Cannon, out of range!"
In another instant bugles were ringing through the camp, with the
hurrying hoofs of mounted officers and the trampling of forming men. The
house itself was almost deserted. Although the single cannon-shot had
been enough to show that it was no mere skirmishing of pickets, Brant
still did not believe in any serious attack of the enemy. His position,
as in the previous engagement, had no strategic importance to them; they
were no doubt only making a feint against it to conceal some advance upon
the centre of the army two miles away. Satisfied that he was in easy
supporting distance of his division commander, he extended his line along
the ridge, ready to fall back in that direction, while retarding their
advance and masking the position of his own chief. He gave a few orders
necessary to the probable abandonment of the house, and then returned to
it. Shot and shell were already dropping in the field below. A thin ridge
of blue haze showed the line of skirmish fire. A small conical, white
cloud, like a bursting cotton-pod, revealed an open battery in the
willow-fringed meadow. Yet the pastoral peacefulness of the house was
unchanged. The afternoon sun lay softly on its deep verandas; the pot
pourri incense of fallen rose- leaves haunted it still.
He entered his room through the French window on the veranda, when the
door leading from the passage was suddenly flung open, and Miss Faulkner
swept quickly inside, closed the door behind her, and leaned back against
it, panting and breathless.
Clarence was startled, and for a moment ashamed. He had suddenly
realized that in the excitement he had entirely forgotten her and the
dangers to which she might be exposed. She had probably heard the firing,
her womanly fears had been awakened; she had come to him for protection.
But as he turned towards her with a reassuring smile, he was shocked to
see that her agitation and pallor were far beyond any physical cause. She
motioned him desperately to shut the window by which he had entered, and
said, with white lips,—
"I must speak with you alone!"
"Certainly. But there is no immediate danger to you even
here—and I can soon put you beyond the reach of any possible
"Harm—to me! God! if it were only that!"
He stared at her uneasily.
"Listen," she said gaspingly, "listen to me! Then hate, despise
me—kill me if you will. For you are betrayed and ruined—cut
off and surrounded! It has been helped on by me, but I swear to you the
blow did not come from MY hand. I would have saved you. God only knows
how it happened—it was Fate!"
In an instant Brant saw the whole truth instinctively and clearly. But
with the revelation came the usual calmness and perfect self- possession
which never yet had failed him in any emergency. With the sound of the
increasing cannonade and its shifting position made clearer to his ears,
the view of his whole threatened position spread out like a map before
his eyes, the swift calculation of the time his men could hold the ridge
in his mind—even a hurried estimate of the precious moments he
could give to the wretched woman before him—he even then, gravely
and gently, led her to a chair and said in a calm voice,—
"That is not enough! Speak slowly, plainly. I must know everything.
How and in what way have you betrayed me?"
She looked at him imploringly—reassured, yet awed by his
"You won't believe me; you cannot believe me! for I do not even know.
I have taken and exchanged letters—whose contents I never
saw—between the Confederates and a spy who comes to this house, but
who is far away by this time. I did it because I thought you hated and
despised me because I thought it was my duty to help my
cause—because you said it was 'war' between us—but I never
spied on you. I swear it."
"Then how do you know of this attack?" he said calmly.
She brightened, half timidly, half hopefully.
"There is a window in the wing of this house that overlooks the slope
near the Confederate lines. There was a signal placed in it— not by
me—but I know it meant that as long as it was there the plot,
whatever it was, was not ripe, and that no attack would be made on you as
long as it was visible. That much I know,—that much the spy had to
tell me, for we both had to guard that room in turns. I wanted to keep
this dreadful thing off—until"—her voice trembled, "until,"
she added hurriedly, seeing his calm eyes were reading her very soul,
"until I went away—and for that purpose I withheld some of the
letters that were given me. But this morning, while I was away from the
house, I looked back and saw that the signal was no longer there. Some
one had changed it. I ran back, but I was too late—God help
me!—as you see."
The truth flashed upon Brant. It was his own hand that had
precipitated the attack. But a larger truth came to him now, like a
dazzling inspiration. If he had thus precipitated the attack before they
were ready, there was a chance that it was imperfect, and there was still
hope. But there was no trace of this visible in his face as he fixed his
eyes calmly on hers, although his pulses were halting in expectancy as he
"Then the spy had suspected you, and changed it."
"Oh, no," she said eagerly, "for the spy was with me and was
frightened too. We both ran back together—you remember—she
was stopped by the patrol!"
She checked herself suddenly, but too late. Her cheeks blazed, her
head sank, with the foolish identification of the spy into which her
eagerness had betrayed her.
But Brant appeared not to notice it. He was, in fact, puzzling his
brain to conceive what information the stupid mulatto woman could have
obtained here. His strength, his position was no secret to the
enemy—there was nothing to gain from him. She must have been, like
the trembling, eager woman before him, a mere tool of others.
"Did this woman live here?" he said.
"No," she said. "She lived with the Manlys, but had friends whom she
visited at your general's headquarters."
With difficulty Brant suppressed a start. It was clear to him now. The
information had been obtained at the division headquarters, and passed
through his camp as being nearest the Confederate lines. But what was the
information—and what movement had he precipitated? It was clear
that this woman did not know. He looked at her keenly. A sudden explosion
shook the house,—a drift of smoke passed the window,—a shell
had burst in the garden.
She had been gazing at him despairingly, wistfully—but did not
blanch or start.
An idea took possession of him. He approached her, and took her cold
hand. A half-smile parted her pale lips.
"You have courage—you have devotion," he said gravely. "I
believe you regret the step you have taken. If you could undo what you
have done, even at peril to yourself, dare you do it?"
"Yes," she said breathlessly.
"You are known to the enemy. If I am surrounded, you could pass
through their lines unquestioned?"
"Yes," she said eagerly.
"A note from me would pass you again through the pickets of our
headquarters. But you would bear a note to the general that no eyes but
his must see. It would not implicate you or yours; would only be a word
"And you," she said quickly, "would be saved! They would come to your
assistance! You would not then be taken?"
He smiled gently.
He sat down and wrote hurriedly.
"This," he said, handing her a slip of paper, "is a pass. You will use
it beyond your own lines. This note," he continued, handing her a sealed
envelope, "is for the general. No one else must see it or know of
it—not even your lover, should you meet him!"
"My lover!" she said indignantly, with a flash of her old savagery;
"what do you mean? I have no lover!"
Brant glanced at her flushed face.
"I thought," he said quietly, "that there was some one you cared for
in yonder lines—some one you wrote to. It would have been an
He stopped, as her face paled again, and her hands dropped heavily at
"Good God!—you thought that, too! You thought that I would
sacrifice you for another man!"
"Pardon me," said Brant quickly. "I was foolish. But whether your
lover is a man or a cause, you have shown a woman's devotion. And, in
repairing your fault, you are showing more than a woman's courage
To his surprise, the color had again mounted her pretty cheeks, and
even a flash of mischief shone in her blue eyes.
"It would have been an excuse," she murmured, "yes—to save a
man, surely!" Then she said quickly, "I will go. At once! I am
"One moment," he said gravely. "Although this pass and an escort
insure your probable safe conduct, this is 'war' and danger! You are
still a spy! Are you ready to go?"
"I am," she said proudly, tossing back a braid of her fallen hair. Yet
a moment after she hesitated. Then she said, in a lower voice, "Are you
ready to forgive?"
"In either case," he said, touched by her manner; "and God speed
He extended his hand, and left a slight pressure on her cold fingers.
But they slipped quickly from his grasp, and she turned away with a
He stepped to the door. One or two aides-de-camp, withheld by his
order against intrusion, were waiting eagerly with reports. The horse of
a mounted field officer was pawing the garden turf. The officers stared
at the young girl.
"Take Miss Faulkner, with a flag, to some safe point of the enemy's
line. She is a non-combatant of their own, and will receive their
He had scarcely exchanged a dozen words with the aides-de-camp before
the field officer hurriedly entered. Taking Brant aside, he said
"Pardon me, General; but there is a strong feeling among the men that
this attack is the result of some information obtained by the enemy. You
must know that the woman you have just given a safeguard to is suspected,
and the men are indignant."
"The more reason why she should be conveyed beyond any consequences of
their folly, Major," said Brant frigidly, "and I look to you for her safe
convoy. There is nothing in this attack to show that the enemy has
received any information regarding us. But I would suggest that it would
be better to see that my orders are carried out regarding the slaves and
non-combatants who are passing our lines from divisional headquarters,
where valuable information may be obtained, than in the surveillance of a
testy and outspoken girl."
An angry flush crossed the major's cheek as he saluted and fell back,
and Brant turned to the aide-de-camp. The news was grave. The column of
the enemy was moving against the ridge—it was no longer possible to
hold it—and the brigade was cut off from its communication with the
divisional headquarters, although as yet no combined movement was made
against it. Brant's secret fears that it was an intended impact against
the centre were confirmed. Would his communication to the divisional
commander pass through the attacking column in time?
Yet one thing puzzled him. The enemy, after forcing his flank, had
shown no disposition, even with their overwhelming force, to turn aside
and crush him. He could easily have fallen back, when it was possible to
hold the ridge no longer, without pursuit. His other flank and rear were
not threatened, as they might have been, by the division of so large an
attacking column, which was moving steadily on towards the ridge. It was
this fact that seemed to show a failure or imperfection in the enemy's
plan. It was possible that his precipitation of the attack by the changed
signal had been the cause of it. Doubtless some provision had been made
to attack him in flank and rear, but in the unexpected hurry of the onset
it had to be abandoned. He could still save himself, as his officers
knew; but his conviction that he might yet be able to support his
divisional commander by holding his position doggedly, but coolly
awaiting his opportunity, was strong. More than that, it was his
temperament and instinct.
Harrying them in flank and rear, contesting the ground inch by inch,
and holding his own against the artillery sent to dislodge him, or the
outriding cavalry that, circling round, swept through his open ranks, he
saw his files melt away beside this steady current without flinching.
Yet all along the fateful ridge—now obscured and confused with
thin crossing smoke-drifts from file-firing, like partly rubbed-out
slate-pencil marks; or else, when cleared of those drifts, presenting
only an indistinguishable map of zigzag lines of straggling wagons and
horses, unintelligible to any eye but his— the singular magnetism
of the chief was felt everywhere: whether it was shown in the quick
closing in of resistance to some sharper onset of the enemy or the more
dogged stand of inaction under fire, his power was always dominant. A
word or two of comprehensive direction sent through an aide-de-camp, or
the sudden relief of his dark, watchful, composed face uplifted above a
line of bayonets, never failed in their magic. Like all born leaders, he
seemed in these emergencies to hold a charmed life—infecting his
followers with a like disbelief in death; men dropped to right and left
of him with serene assurance in their ghastly faces or a cry of life and
confidence in their last gasp. Stragglers fell in and closed up under his
passing glance; a hopeless, inextricable wrangle around an overturned
caisson, at a turn of the road, resolved itself into an orderly, quiet,
deliberate clearing away of the impediment before the significant waiting
of that dark, silent horseman.
Yet under this imperturbable mask he was keenly conscious of
everything; in that apparent concentration there was a sharpening of all
his senses and his impressibility: he saw the first trace of doubt or
alarm in the face of a subaltern to whom he was giving an order; the
first touch of sluggishness in a re-forming line; the more significant
clumsiness of a living evolution that he knew was clogged by the dead
bodies of comrades; the ominous silence of a breastwork; the awful
inertia of some rigidly kneeling files beyond, which still kept their
form but never would move again; the melting away of skirmish points; the
sudden gaps here and there; the sickening incurving of what a moment
before had been a straight line—all these he saw in all their fatal
significance. But even at this moment, coming upon a hasty barricade of
overset commissary wagons, he stopped to glance at a familiar figure he
had seen but an hour ago, who now seemed to be commanding a group of
collected stragglers and camp followers. Mounted on a wheel, with a
revolver in each hand and a bowie knife between his
teeth—theatrical even in his paroxysm of undoubted
courage—glared Jim Hooker. And Clarence Brant, with the whole
responsibility of the field on his shoulders, even at that desperate
moment, found himself recalling a vivid picture of the actor Hooker
personating the character of "Red Dick" in "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower,"
as he had seen him in a California theatre five years before.
It wanted still an hour of the darkness that would probably close the
fight of that day. Could he hold out, keeping his offensive position so
long? A hasty council with his officers showed him that the weakness of
their position had already infected them. They reminded him that his line
of retreat was still open—that in the course of the night the
enemy, although still pressing towards the division centre, might yet
turn and outflank him—or that their strangely delayed supports
might come up before morning. Brant's glass, however, remained fixed on
the main column, still pursuing its way along the ridge. It struck him
suddenly, however, that the steady current had stopped, spread out along
the crest on both sides, and was now at right angles with its previous
course. There had been a check! The next moment the thunder of guns along
the whole horizon, and the rising cloud of smoke, revealed a line of
battle. The division centre was engaged. The opportunity he had longed
for had come—the desperate chance to throw himself on their rear
and cut his way through to the division—but it had come too late!
He looked at his shattered ranks—scarce a regiment remained. Even
as a demonstration, the attack would fail against the enemy's superior
numbers. Nothing clearly was left to him now but to remain where he
was—within supporting distance, and await the issue of the fight
beyond. He was putting up his glass, when the dull boom of cannon in the
extreme western limit of the horizon attracted his attention. By the
still gleaming sky he could see a long gray line stealing up from the
valley from the distant rear of the headquarters to join the main column.
They were the missing supports! His heart leaped. He held the key of the
mystery now. The one imperfect detail of the enemy's plan was before him.
The supports, coming later from the west, had only seen the second signal
from the window—when Miss Faulkner had replaced the vase—and
had avoided his position. It was impossible to limit the effect of this
blunder. If the young girl who had thus saved him had reached the
division commander with his message in time, he might be forewarned, and
even profit by it. His own position would be less precarious, as the
enemy, already engaged in front, would be unable to recover their
position in the rear and correct the blunder. The bulk of their column
had already streamed past him. If defeated, there was always the danger
that it might be rolled back upon him—but he conjectured that the
division commander would attempt to prevent the junction of the supports
with the main column by breaking between them, crowding them from the
ridge, and joining him. As the last stragglers of the rear guard swept
by, Brant's bugles were already recalling the skirmishers. He redoubled
his pickets, and resolved to wait and watch.
And there was the more painful duty of looking after the wounded and
the dead. The larger rooms of the headquarters had already been used as a
hospital. Passing from cot to cot, recognizing in the faces now drawn
with agony, or staring in vacant unconsciousness, the features that he
had seen only a few hours before flushed with enthusiasm and excitement,
something of his old doubting, questioning nature returned. Was there no
way but this? How far was HE—moving among them unscathed and
And if not he—who then? His mind went back bitterly to the old
days of the conspiracy—to the inception of that struggle which was
bearing such ghastly fruit. He thought of his traitorous wife, until he
felt his cheeks tingle, and he was fain to avert his eyes from those of
his prostrate comrades, in a strange fear that, with the clairvoyance of
dying men, they should read his secret.
It was past midnight when, without undressing, he threw himself upon
his bed in the little convent-like cell to snatch a few moments of sleep.
Its spotless, peaceful walls and draperies affected him strangely, as if
he had brought into its immaculate serenity the sanguine stain of war. He
was awakened suddenly from a deep slumber by an indefinite sense of
alarm. His first thought was that he had been summoned to repel an
attack. He sat up and listened; everything was silent except the measured
tread of the sentry on the gravel walk below. But the door was open. He
sprang to his feet and slipped into the gallery in time to see the tall
figure of a woman glide before the last moonlit window at its farthest
end. He could not see her face—but the characteristic turbaned head
of the negro race was plainly visible.
He did not care to follow her or even to alarm the guard. If it were
the spy or one of her emissaries, she was powerless now to do any harm,
and under his late orders and the rigorous vigilance of his sentinels she
could not leave the lines—or, indeed, the house. She probably knew
this as well as he did; it was, therefore, no doubt only an accidental
intrusion of one of the servants. He re-entered the room, and stood for a
few moments by the window, looking over the moonlit ridge. The sounds of
distant cannon had long since ceased. Wide awake, and refreshed by the
keen morning air, which alone of all created things seemed to have shaken
the burden of the dreadful yesterday from its dewy wings, he turned away
and lit a candle on the table. As he was rebuckling his sword belt he saw
a piece of paper lying on the foot of the bed from which he had just
risen. Taking it to the candle, he read in a roughly scrawled hand:
"You are asleep when you should be on the march. You have no time to
lose. Before daybreak the supports of the column you have been foolishly
resisting will be upon you.—From one who would save YOU, but hates
A smile of scorn passed his lips. The handwriting was unknown and
evidently disguised. The purport of the message had not alarmed him; but
suddenly a suspicion flashed upon him—that it came from Miss
Faulkner! She had failed in her attempt to pass through the enemy's
lines—or she had never tried to. She had deceived him—or had
thought better of her chivalrous impulse, and now sought to mitigate her
second treachery by this second warning. And he had let her messenger
He hurriedly descended the stairs. The sound of voices was approaching
him. He halted, and recognized the faces of the brigade surgeon and one
of his aides-de-camp.
"We were hesitating whether to disturb you, general, but it may be an
affair of some importance. Under your orders a negro woman was just now
challenged stealing out of the lines. Attempting to escape, she was
chased, there was a struggle and scramble over the wall, and she fell,
striking her head. She was brought into the guardhouse unconscious."
"Very good. I will see her," said Brant, with a feeling of relief.
"One moment, general. We thought you would perhaps prefer to see her
alone," said the surgeon, "for when I endeavored to bring her to, and was
sponging her face and head to discover her injuries, her color came off!
She was a white woman—stained and disguised as a mulatto."
For an instant Brant's heart sank. It was Miss Faulkner.
"Did you recognize her?" he said, glancing from the one to the other.
"Have you seen her here before?"
"No, sir," replied the aide-de-camp. "But she seemed to be quite a
superior woman—a lady, I should say."
Brant breathed more freely.
"Where is she now?" he asked.
"In the guardhouse. We thought it better not to bring her into
hospital, among the men, until we had your orders."
"You have done well," returned Brant gravely. "And you will keep this
to yourselves for the present; but see that she is brought here quietly
and with as little publicity as possible. Put her in my room above, which
I give up to her and any necessary attendant. But you will look carefully
after her, doctor,"—he turned to the surgeon,—"and when she
recovers consciousness let me know."
He moved away. Although attaching little importance to the mysterious
message, whether sent by Miss Faulkner or emanating from the stranger
herself, which, he reasoned, was based only upon a knowledge of the
original plan of attack, he nevertheless quickly dispatched a small
scouting party in the direction from which the attack might come, with
orders to fall back and report at once. With a certain half irony of
recollection he had selected Jim Hooker to accompany the party as a
volunteer. This done, he returned to the gallery. The surgeon met him at
"The indications of concussion are passing away," he said, "but she
seems to be suffering from the exhaustion following some great nervous
excitement. You may go in—she may rally from it at any moment."
With the artificial step and mysterious hush of the ordinary visitor
to a sick bed, Brant entered the room. But some instinct greater than
this common expression of humanity held him suddenly in awe. The room
seemed no longer his—it had slipped back into that austere
conventual privacy which had first impressed him. Yet he hesitated;
another strange suggestion—it seemed almost a vague
recollection—overcame him like some lingering perfume, far off and
pathetic, in its dying familiarity. He turned his eyes almost timidly
towards the bed. The coverlet was drawn up near the throat of the figure
to replace the striped cotton gown stained with blood and dust, which had
been hurriedly torn off and thrown on a chair. The pale face, cleansed of
blood and disguising color, the long hair, still damp from the surgeon's
sponge, lay rigidly back on the pillow. Suddenly this man of steady nerve
uttered a faint cry, and, with a face as white as the upturned one before
him, fell on his knees beside the bed. For the face that lay there was
Yes, hers! But the beautiful hair that she had gloried in—the
hair that in his youth he had thought had once fallen like a benediction
on his shoulder—was streaked with gray along the blue- veined
hollows of the temples; the orbits of those clear eyes, beneath their
delicately arched brows, were ringed with days of suffering; only the
clear-cut profile, even to the delicate imperiousness of lips and
nostril, was still there in all its beauty. The coverlet had slipped from
her shoulder; its familiar cold contour startled him. He remembered how,
in their early married days, he had felt the sanctity of that Diana-like
revelation, and the still nymph-like austerity which clung to this
strange, childless woman. He even fancied that he breathed again the
subtle characteristic perfume of the laces, embroideries, and delicate
enwrappings in her chamber at Robles. Perhaps it was the intensity of his
gaze—perhaps it was the magnetism of his presence—but her
lips parted with a half sigh, half moan. Her head, although her eyes were
still closed, turned on the pillow instinctively towards him. He rose
from his knees. Her eyes opened slowly. As the first glare of wonderment
cleared from them, they met him—in the old antagonism of spirit.
Yet her first gesture was a pathetic feminine movement with both hands to
arrange her straggling hair. It brought her white fingers, cleaned of
their disguising stains, as a sudden revelation to her of what had
happened; she instantly slipped them back under the coverlet again. Brant
did not speak, but with folded arms stood gazing upon her. And it was her
voice that first broke the silence.
"You have recognized me? Well, I suppose you know all," she said, with
a weak half-defiance.
He bowed his head. He felt as yet he could not trust his voice, and
envied her her own.
"I may sit up, mayn't I?" She managed, by sheer force of will, to
struggle to a sitting posture. Then, as the coverlet slipped from the
bare shoulder, she said, as she drew it, with a shiver of disgust, around
"I forgot that you strip women, you Northern soldiers! But I forgot,
too," she added, with a sarcastic smile, "that you are also my husband,
and I am in your room."
The contemptuous significance of her speech dispelled the last
lingering remnant of Brant's dream. In a voice as dry as her own, he
"I am afraid you will now have to remember only that I am a Northern
general, and you a Southern spy."
"So be it," she said gravely. Then impulsively, "But I have not spied
Yet, the next moment, she bit her lips as if the expression had
unwittingly escaped her; and with a reckless shrug of her shoulders she
lay back on her pillow.
"It matters not," said Brant coldly. "You have used this house and
those within it to forward your designs. It is not your fault that you
found nothing in the dispatch-box you opened."
She stared at him quickly; then shrugged her shoulders again.
"I might have known she was false to me," she said bitterly, "and that
you would wheedle her soul away as you have others. Well, she betrayed
me! For what?"
A flush passed over Brant's face. But with an effort he contained
"It was the flower that betrayed you! The flower whose red dust fell
in the box when you opened it on the desk by the window in yonder
room—the flower that stood in the window as a signal—the
flower I myself removed, and so spoiled the miserable plot that your
A look of mingled terror and awe came into her face.
"YOU changed the signal!" she repeated dazedly; then, in a lower
voice, "that accounts for it all!" But the next moment she turned again
fiercely upon him. "And you mean to tell me that she didn't help
you—that she didn't sell me—your wife—to you
for—for what was it? A look—a kiss!"
"I mean to say that she did not know the signal was changed, and that
she herself restored it to its place. It is no fault of hers nor yours
that I am not here a prisoner."
She passed her thin hand dazedly across her forehead.
"I see," she muttered. Then again bursting out passionately, she
said—"Fool! you never would have been touched! Do you think that
Lee would have gone for you, with higher game in your division commander?
No! Those supports were a feint to draw him to your assistance while our
main column broke his centre. Yes, you may stare at me, Clarence Brant.
You are a good lawyer—they say a dashing fighter, too. I never
thought you a coward, even in your irresolution; but you are fighting
with men drilled in the art of war and strategy when you were a boy
outcast on the plains." She stopped, closed her eyes, and then added,
wearily—"But that was yesterday—to-day, who knows? All may be
changed. The supports may still attack you. That was why I stopped to
write you that note an hour ago, when I believed I should be leaving here
for ever. Yes, I did it!" she went on, with half-wearied, half-dogged
determination. "You may as well know all. I had arranged to fly. Your
pickets were to be drawn by friends of mine, who were waiting for me
beyond your lines. Well, I lingered here when I saw you
arrive—lingered to write you that note. And—I was too
But Brant had been watching her varying expression, her kindling eye,
her strange masculine grasp of military knowledge, her soldierly
phraseology, all so new to her, that he scarcely heeded the feminine
ending of her speech. It seemed to him no longer the Diana of his
youthful fancy, but some Pallas Athene, who now looked up at him from the
pillow. He had never before fully believed in her unselfish devotion to
the cause until now, when it seemed to have almost unsexed her. In his
wildest comprehension of her he had never dreamed her a Joan of Arc, and
yet hers was the face which might have confronted him, exalted and
inspired, on the battlefield itself. He recalled himself with an
"I thank you for your would-be warning," he said more gently, if not
so tenderly, "and God knows I wish your flight had been successful. But
even your warning is unnecessary, for the supports had already come up;
they had followed the second signal, and diverged to engage our division
on the left, leaving me alone. And their ruse of drawing our commander to
assist me would not have been successful, as I had suspected it, and sent
a message to him that I wanted no help."
It was the truth; it was the sole purport of the note he had sent
through Miss Faulkner. He would not have disclosed his sacrifice; but so
great was the strange domination of this woman still over him, that he
felt compelled to assert his superiority. She fixed her eyes upon
"And Miss Faulkner took your message?" she said slowly. "Don't deny
it! No one else could have passed through our lines; and you gave her a
safe conduct through yours. Yes, I might have known it. And this was the
creature they sent me for an ally and confidant!"
For an instant Brant felt the sting of this enforced contrast between
the two women. But he only said,—
"You forget that I did not know you were the spy, nor do I believe
that she suspected you were my wife."
"Why should she?" she said almost fiercely. "I am known among these
people only by the name of Benham—-my maiden name. Yes!— you
can take me out, and shoot me under that name, without disgracing yours.
Nobody will know that the Southern spy was the wife of the Northern
general! You see, I have thought even of that!"
"And thinking of that," said Brant slowly, "you have put
yourself— I will not say in my power, for you are in the power of
any man in this camp who may know you, or even hear you speak. Well, let
us understand each other plainly. I do not know how great a sacrifice
your devotion to your cause demands of you; I do know what it seems to
demand of me. Hear me, then! I will do my best to protect you, and get
you safely away from here; but, failing that, I tell you plainly that I
shall blow out your brains and my own together."
She knew that he would do it. Yet her eyes suddenly beamed with a new
and awakening light; she put back her hair again, and half raised herself
upon the pillow, to gaze at his dark, set face.
"And as I shall let no other life but ours be periled in this affair,"
he went on quietly, "and will accompany you myself in some disguise
beyond the lines, we will together take the risks—or the bullets of
the sentries that may save us both all further trouble. An hour or two
more will settle that. Until then your weak condition will excuse you
from any disturbance or intrusion here. The mulatto woman you have
sometimes personated may be still in this house; I will appoint her to
attend you. I suppose you can trust her, for you must personate her
again, and escape in her clothes, while she takes your place in this room
as my prisoner."
Her voice had changed suddenly; it was no longer bitter and
stridulous, but low and thrilling as he had heard her call to him that
night in the patio of Robles. He turned quickly. She was leaning from the
bed—her thin, white hands stretched appealingly towards him.
"Let us go together, Clarence," she said eagerly. "Let us leave this
horrible place—these wicked, cruel people—forever. Come with
me! Come with me to my people—to my own faith—to my own
house—which shall be yours! Come with me to defend it with your
good sword, Clarence, against those vile invaders with whom you have
nothing in common, and who are the dirt under your feet. Yes, yes! I know
it!—I have done you wrong—I have lied to you when I spoke
against your skill and power. You are a hero—a born leader of men!
I know it! Have I not heard it from the men who have fought against you,
and yet admired and understood you, ay, better than your
own?—gallant men, Clarence, soldiers bred who did not know what you
were to me nor how proud I was of you even while I hated you? Come with
me! Think what we would do together—with one faith—one
cause—one ambition! Think, Clarence, there is no limit you might
not attain! We are no niggards of our rewards and honors—we have no
hireling votes to truckle to—we know our friends! Even
I—Clarence—I"—there was a strange pathos in the sudden
humility that seemed to overcome her—"I have had my reward and
known my power. I have been sent abroad, in the confidence of the
highest—to the highest. Don't turn from me. I am offering you no
bribe, Clarence, only your deserts. Come with me. Leave these curs
behind, and live the hero that you are!"
He turned his blazing eyes upon her.
"If you were a man"—he began passionately, then stopped.
"No! I am only a woman and must fight in a woman's way," she
interrupted bitterly. "Yes! I intreat, I implore, I wheedle, I flatter, I
fawn, I lie! I creep where you stand upright, and pass through doors to
which you would not bow. You wear your blazon of honor on your shoulder;
I hide mine in a slave's gown. And yet I have worked and striven and
suffered! Listen, Clarence," her voice again sank to its appealing
minor,—"I know what you men call 'honor,' that which makes you
cling to a merely spoken word, or an empty oath. Well, let that pass! I
am weary; I have done my share of this work, you have done yours. Let us
both fly; let us leave the fight to those who shall come after us, and
let us go together to some distant land where the sounds of these guns or
the blood of our brothers no longer cry out to us for vengeance! There
are those living here—I have met them, Clarence," she went on
hurriedly, "who think it wrong to lift up fratricidal hands in the
struggle, yet who cannot live under the Northern yoke. They are," her
voice hesitated, "good men and women—they are respected—they
"Recreants and slaves, before whom you, spy as you are—stand a
queen!" broke in Brant, passionately. He stopped and turned towards the
window. After a pause he came back again towards the bed—paused
again and then said in a lower voice—"Four years ago, Alice, in the
patio of our house at Robles, I might have listened to this proposal,
and—I tremble to think—I might have accepted it! I loved you;
I was as weak, as selfish, as unreflecting, my life was as
purposeless—but for you—as the creatures you speak of. But
give me now, at least, the credit of a devotion to my cause equal to your
own—a credit which I have never denied you! For the night that you
left me, I awoke to a sense of my own worthlessness and
degradation—perhaps I have even to thank you for that
awakening—and I realized the bitter truth. But that night I found
my true vocation—my purpose, my manhood"—
A bitter laugh came from the pillow on which she had languidly thrown
"I believe I left you with Mrs. Hooker—spare me the
The blood rushed to Brant's face and then receded as suddenly.
"You left me with Captain Pinckney, who had tempted you, and whom I
killed!" he said furiously.
They were both staring savagely at each other. Suddenly he said,
"Hush!" and sprang towards the door, as the sound of hurried footsteps
echoed along the passage. But he was too late; it was thrown open to the
officer of the guard, who appeared, standing on the threshold.
"Two Confederate officers arrested hovering around our pickets. They
demand to see you."
Before Brant could interpose, two men in riding cloaks of Confederate
gray stepped into the room with a jaunty and self- confident air.
"Not DEMAND, general," said the foremost, a tall, distinguished-
looking man, lifting his hand with a graceful deprecating air. "In fact,
too sorry to bother you with an affair of no importance except to
ourselves. A bit of after-dinner bravado brought us in contact with your
pickets, and, of course, we had to take the consequences. Served us
right, and we were lucky not to have got a bullet through us. Gad! I'm
afraid my men would have been less discreet! I am Colonel Lagrange, of
the 5th Tennessee; my young friend here is Captain Faulkner, of the 1st
Kentucky. Some excuse for a youngster like him—none for me!
He stopped, for his eyes suddenly fell upon the bed and its occupant.
Both he and his companion started. But to the natural, unaffected dismay
of a gentleman who had unwittingly intruded upon a lady's bedchamber,
Brant's quick eye saw a more disastrous concern superadded. Colonel
Lagrange was quick to recover himself, as they both removed their
"A thousand pardons," he said, hurriedly stepping backwards to the
door. "But I hardly need say to a fellow-officer, general, that we had no
idea of making so gross an intrusion! We heard some cock- and-bull story
of your being occupied—cross-questioning an escaped or escaping
nigger—or we should never have forced ourselves upon you."
Brant glanced quickly at his wife. Her face had apparently become
rigid on the entrance of the two men; her eyes were coldly fixed upon the
ceiling. He bowed formally, and, with a wave of his hand towards the
"I will hear your story below, gentleman."
He followed them from the room, stopped to quietly turn the key in the
lock, and then motioned them to precede him down the staircase.
Not a word was exchanged till they had reached the lower landing and
Brant's private room. Dismissing his subaltern and orderly with a sign,
Brant turned towards his prisoners. The jaunty ease, but not the
self-possession, had gone from Lagrange's face; the eyes of Captain
Faulkner were fixed on his older companion with a half-humorous look of
"I am afraid I can only repeat, general, that our foolhardy freak has
put us in collision with your sentries," said Lagrange, with a slight
hauteur, that replaced his former jauntiness; "and we were very properly
made prisoners. If you will accept my parole, I have no doubt our
commander will proceed to exchange a couple of gallant fellows of yours,
whom I have had the honor of meeting within our own lines, and whom you
must miss probably more than I fear our superiors miss us."
"Whatever brought you here, gentlemen," said Brant drily, "I am glad,
for your sakes, that you are in uniform, although it does not,
unfortunately, relieve me of an unpleasant duty."
"I don't think I understand you," returned Lagrange, coldly.
"If you had not been in uniform, you would probably have been shot
down as spies, without the trouble of capture," said Brant quietly.
"Do you mean to imply, sir"—began Lagrange sternly.
"I mean to say that the existence of a Confederate spy between this
camp and the division headquarters is sufficiently well known to us to
justify the strongest action."
"And pray, how can that affect us?" said Lagrange haughtily.
"I need not inform so old a soldier as Colonel Lagrange that the
aiding, abetting, and even receiving information from a spy or traitor
within one's lines is an equally dangerous service."
"Perhaps you would like to satisfy yourself, General," said Colonel
Lagrange, with an ironical laugh. "Pray do not hesitate on account of our
uniform. Search us if you like."
"Not on entering my lines, Colonel," replied Brant, with quiet
Lagrange's cheek flushed. But he recovered himself quickly, and with a
formal bow said,—
"You will, then, perhaps, let us know your pleasure?"
"My DUTY, Colonel, is to keep you both close prisoners here until I
have an opportunity to forward you to the division commander, with a
report of the circumstances of your arrest. That I propose to do. How
soon I may have that opportunity, or if I am ever to have it," continued
Brant, fixing his clear eyes significantly on Lagrange, "depends upon the
chances of war, which you probably understand as well as I do."
"We should never think of making any calculation on the action of an
officer of such infinite resources as General Brant," said Lagrange
"You will, no doubt, have an opportunity of stating your own case to
the division commander," continued Brant, with an unmoved face. "And," he
continued, turning for the first time to Captain Faulkner, "when you tell
the commander what I believe to be the fact—from your name and
resemblance—that you are a relation of the young lady who for the
last three weeks has been an inmate of this house under a pass from
Washington, you will, I have no doubt, favorably explain your own
propinquity to my lines."
"My sister Tilly!" said the young officer impulsively. "But she is no
longer here. She passed through the lines back to Washington yesterday.
No," he added, with a light laugh, "I'm afraid that excuse won't count
A sudden frown upon the face of the elder officer, added to the
perfect ingenuousness of Faulkner's speech, satisfied Brant that he had
not only elicited the truth, but that Miss Faulkner had been successful.
But he was sincere in his suggestion that her relationship to the young
officer would incline the division commander to look leniently upon his
fault, for he was conscious of a singular satisfaction in thus being able
to serve her. Of the real object of the two men before him he had no
doubt. They were "the friends" of his wife, who were waiting for her
outside the lines! Chance alone had saved her from being arrested with
them, with the consequent exposure of her treachery before his own men,
who, as yet, had no proof of her guilt, nor any suspicion of her actual
identity. Meanwhile his own chance of conveying her with safety beyond
his lines was not affected by the incident; the prisoners dare not reveal
what they knew of her, and it was with a grim triumph that he thought of
compassing her escape without their aid. Nothing of this, however, was
visible in his face, which the younger man watched with a kind of boyish
curiosity, while Colonel Lagrange regarded the ceiling with a politely
repressed yawn. "I regret," concluded Brant, as he summoned the officer
of the guard, "that I shall have to deprive you of each other's company
during the time you are here; but I shall see that you, separately, want
for nothing in your confinement."
"If this is with a view to separate interrogatory, general, I can
retire now," said Lagrange, rising, with ironical politeness.
"I believe I have all the information I require," returned Brant, with
undisturbed composure. Giving the necessary orders to his subaltern, he
acknowledged with equal calm the formal salutes of the two prisoners as
they were led away, and returned quickly to his bedroom above. He paused
instinctively for a moment before the closed door, and listened. There
was no sound from within. He unlocked the door, and opened it.
So quiet was the interior that for an instant, without glancing at the
bed, he cast a quick look at the window, which, till then, he had
forgotten, and which he remembered gave upon the veranda roof. But it was
still closed, and as he approached the bed, he saw his wife still lying
there, in the attitude in which he had left her. But her eyes were
ringed, and slightly filmed, as if with recent tears.
It was perhaps this circumstance that softened his voice, still harsh
with command, as he said,—
"I suppose you knew those two men?"
"And that I have put it out of their power to help you?"
There was something so strangely submissive in her voice that he again
looked suspiciously at her. But he was shocked to see that she was quite
pale now, and that the fire had gone out of her dark eyes.
"Then I may tell you what is my plan to save you. But, first, you must
find this mulatto woman who has acted as your double."
"She is here."
"How do you know it?" he asked, in quick suspicion.
"She was not to leave this place until she knew I was safe within our
lines. I have some friends who are faithful to me." After a pause she
added, "She has been here already."
He looked at her, startled. "Impossible—I"—
"You locked the door. Yes! but she has a second key. And even if she
had not, there is another entrance from that closet. You do not know this
house: you have been here two weeks; I spent two years of my life, as a
girl, in this room."
An indescribable sensation came over him; he remembered how he had
felt when he first occupied it; this was followed by a keen sense of
shame on reflecting that he had been, ever since, but a helpless puppet
in the power of his enemies, and that she could have escaped if she
would, even now.
"Perhaps," he said grimly, "you have already arranged your plans?"
She looked at him with a singular reproachfulness even in her
"I have only told her to be ready to change clothes with me and help
me color my face and hands at the time appointed. I have left the rest to
"Then this is my plan. I have changed only a detail. You and she must
both leave this house at the same time, by different exits, but one of
them must be private—and unknown to my men. Do you know of such a
"Yes," she said, "in the rear of the negro quarters."
"Good," he replied, "that will be your way out. She will leave here,
publicly, through the parade, armed with a pass from me. She will be
overhauled and challenged by the first sentry near the guardhouse, below
the wall. She will be subjected to some delay and scrutiny, which she
will, however, be able to pass better than you would. This will create
the momentary diversion that we require. In the mean time, you will have
left the house by the rear, and you will then keep in the shadow of the
hedge until you can drop down along the Run, where it empties into the
swamp. That," he continued, fixing his keen eyes upon her, "is the one
weak point in the position of this place that is neither overlooked nor
defended. But perhaps," he added again grimly, "you already know it."
"It is the marsh where the flowers grow, near the path where you met
Miss Faulkner. I had crossed the marsh to give her a letter," she said
A bitter smile came over Brant's face, but passed as quickly.
"Enough," he said quietly, "I will meet you beside the Run, and cross
the marsh with you until you are within hailing distance of your lines. I
will be in plain clothes, Alice," he went on slowly, "for it will not be
the commander of this force who accompanies you, but your husband, and,
without disgracing his uniform, he will drop to your level; for the
instant he passes his own lines, in disguise, he will become, like you, a
spy, and amenable to its penalties."
Her eyes seemed suddenly to leap up to his with that strange look of
awakening and enthusiasm which he had noted before. And in its complete
prepossession of all her instincts she rose from the bed, unheeding her
bared arms and shoulders and loosened hair, and stood upright before him.
For an instant husband and wife regarded each other as unreservedly as in
their own chamber at Robles.
"When shall I go?"
He glanced through the window already growing lighter with the coming
dawn. The relief would pass in a few moments; the time seemed
"At once," he said. "I will send Rose to you."
But his wife had already passed into the closet, and was tapping upon
some inner door. He heard the sound of hinges turning and the rustling of
garments. She reappeared, holding the curtains of the closet together
with her hand, and said,—
"Go! When she comes to your office for the pass, you will know that I
He turned away.
"Stop!" she said faintly.
He turned back. Her expression had again changed. Her face was deadly
pale; a strange tremor seemed to have taken possession of her. Her hands
dropped from the curtain. Her beautiful arms moved slightly forward; it
seemed to him that she would in the next moment have extended them
towards him. But even then she said hurriedly, "Go! Go!" and slipped
again behind the curtains.
He quickly descended the stairs as the sound of trampling feet on the
road, and the hurried word of command, announced the return of the
scouting party. The officer had little report to make beyond the fact
that a morning mist, creeping along the valley, prevented any further
observation, and bade fair to interrupt their own communications with the
camp. Everything was quiet in the west, although the enemy's lines along
the ridge seemed to have receded.
Brant had listened impatiently, for a new idea had seized him. Hooker
was of the party, and was the one man in whom he could partly confide,
and obtain a disguise. He at once made his way to the commissary
wagons—one of which he knew Hooker used as a tent. Hastily telling
him that he wished to visit the pickets without recognition, he induced
him to lend him his slouched hat and frock coat, leaving with him his own
distinguishing tunic, hat, and sword. He resisted the belt and pistols
which Hooker would have forced upon him. As he left the wagon he was
amusedly conscious that his old companion was characteristically
examining the garments he had left behind with mingled admiration and
envy. But he did not know, as he slipped out of the camp, that Mr. Hooker
was quietly trying them on, before a broken mirror in the wagon-head!
The gray light of that summer morning was already so strong that, to
avoid detection, he quickly dropped into the shadow of the gully that
sloped towards the Run. The hot mist which the scouts had seen was now
lying like a tranquil sea between him and the pickets of the enemy's
rear-guard, which it seemed to submerge, and was clinging in moist
tenuous swathes—like drawn-out cotton wool— along the ridge,
half obliterating its face. From the valley in the rear it was already
stealing in a thin white line up the slope like the advance of a ghostly
column, with a stealthiness that, in spite of himself, touched him with
superstitious significance. A warm perfume, languid and
treacherous—as from the swamp magnolia— seemed to rise from
the half-hidden marsh. An ominous silence, that appeared to be a part of
this veiling of all things under the clear opal-tinted sky above, was so
little like the hush of rest and peace, that he half-yearned for the
outburst of musketry and tumult of attack that might dispel it. All that
he had ever heard or dreamed of the insidious South, with its languid
subtleties of climate and of race, seemed to encompass him here.
But the next moment he saw the figure he was waiting for stealing
towards him from the shadow of the gulley beneath the negro quarters.
Even in that uncertain light there was no mistaking the tall figure,
the gaudily striped clinging gown and turbaned head. And then a strange
revulsion of feeling, quite characteristic of the emotional side of his
singular temperament, overcame him. He was taking leave of his
wife—the dream of his youth—perhaps forever! It should be no
parting in anger as at Robles; it should be with a tenderness that would
blot out their past in their separate memories—God knows! it might
even be that a parting at that moment was a joining of them in eternity.
In his momentary exaltation it even struck him that it was a duty, no
less sacred, no less unselfish than the one to which he had devoted his
life. The light was growing stronger; he could hear voices in the nearest
picket line, and the sound of a cough in the invading mist. He made a
hurried sign to the on-coming figure to follow him, ran ahead, and halted
at last in the cover of a hackmatack bush. Still gazing forward over the
marsh, he stealthily held out his hand behind him as the rustling skirt
came nearer. At last his hand was touched— but even at that touch
he started and turned quickly.
It was not his wife, but Rose!—her mulatto double! Her face was
rigid with fright, her beady eyes staring in their china sockets, her
white teeth chattering. Yet she would have spoken.
"Hush!" he said, clutching her hand, in a fierce whisper. "Not a
She was holding something white in her fingers; he snatched it
quickly. It was a note from his wife—not in the disguised hand of
her first warning, but in one that he remembered as if it were a voice
from their past.
"Forgive me for disobeying you to save you from capture, disgrace, or
death—which would have come to you where you were going! I have
taken Rose's pass. You need not fear that your honor will suffer by it,
for if I am stopped I shall confess that I took it from her. Think no
more of me, Clarence, but only of yourself. You are in danger."
He crushed the letter in his hand.
"Tell me," he said in a fierce whisper, seizing her arm, "and speak
low. When did you leave her?"
"Sho'ly just now!" gasped the frightened woman.
He flung her aside. There might be still time to overtake and save her
before she reached the picket lines. He ran up the gully, and out on to
the slope towards the first guard-post. But a familiar challenge reached
his ear, and his heart stopped beating.
"Who goes there?"
There was a pause, a rattle of arms voices—another
pause—and Brant stood breathlessly listening. Then the voice rose
again slowly and clearly: "Pass the mulatto woman!"
Thank God! she was saved! But the thought had scarcely crossed his
mind before it seemed to him that a blinding crackle of sparks burst out
along the whole slope below the wall, a characteristic yell which he knew
too well rang in his ears, and an undulating line of dusty figures came
leaping like gray wolves out of the mist upon his pickets. He heard the
shouts of his men falling back as they fired; the harsh commands of a few
officers hurrying to their posts, and knew that he had been hopelessly
surprised and surrounded!
He ran forward among his disorganized men. To his consternation no one
seemed to heed him! Then the remembrance of his disguise flashed upon
him. But he had only time to throw away his hat and snatch a sword from a
falling lieutenant, before a scorching flash seemed to pass before his
eyes and burn through his hair, and he dropped like a log beside his
. . . . . .
An aching under the bandage around his head where a spent bullet had
grazed his scalp, and the sound of impossible voices in his ears were all
he knew as he struggled slowly back to consciousness again. Even then it
still seemed a delusion,—for he was lying on a cot in his own
hospital, yet with officers of the division staff around him, and the
division commander himself standing by his side, and regarding him with
an air of grave but not unkindly concern. But the wounded man felt
instinctively that it was not the effect of his physical condition, and a
sense of shame came suddenly over him, which was not dissipated by his
superior's words. For, motioning the others aside, the major-general
leaned over his cot, and said,—
"Until a few moments ago, the report was that you had been captured in
the first rush of the rear-guard which we were rolling up for your
attack, and when you were picked up, just now, in plain clothes on the
slope, you were not recognized. The one thing seemed to be as improbable
as the other," he added significantly.
The miserable truth flashed across Brant's mind. Hooker must have been
captured in his clothes—perhaps in some extravagant sally—
and had not been recognized in the confusion by his own officers.
Nevertheless, he raised his eyes to his superior.
"You got my note?"
The general's brow darkened.
"Yes," he said slowly, "but finding you thus unprepared—I had
been thinking just now that you had been deceived by that woman—or
by others—and that it was a clumsy forgery." He stopped, and seeing
the hopeless bewilderment in the face of the wounded man, added more
kindly: "But we will not talk of that in your present condition. The
doctor says a few hours will put you straight again. Get strong, for I
want you to lose no time—for your own sake—to report yourself
"Report myself—at Washington!" repeated Brant slowly.
"That was last night's order," said the commander, with military
curtness. Then he burst out: "I don't understand it, Brant! I believe you
have been misunderstood, misrepresented, perhaps maligned and I shall
make it MY business to see the thing through— but those are the
Department orders. And for the present—I am sorry to say you are
relieved of your command."
He turned away, and Brant closed his eyes. With them it seemed to him
that he closed his career. No one would ever understand his
explanation—even had he been tempted to give one, and he knew he
never would. Everything was over now! Even this wretched bullet had not
struck him fairly, and culminated his fate as it might! For an instant,
he recalled his wife's last offer to fly with him beyond the
seas—beyond this cruel injustice—but even as he recalled it,
he knew that flight meant the worst of all—a half- confession! But
she had escaped! Thank God for that! Again and again in his hopeless
perplexity this comfort returned to him,—he had saved her; he had
done his duty. And harping upon this in his strange fatalism, it at last
seemed to him that this was for what he had lived—for what he had
suffered—for what he had fitly ended his career. Perhaps it was
left for him now to pass his remaining years in forgotten
exile—even as his father had—his father!—his breath
came quickly at the thought—God knows! perhaps as wrongfully
accused! It may have been a Providence that she had borne him no child,
to whom this dreadful heritage could be again transmitted.
There was something of this strange and fateful resignation in his
face, a few hours later, when he was able to be helped again into the
saddle. But he could see in the eyes of the few comrades who
commiseratingly took leave of him, a vague, half-repressed awe of some
indefinite weakness in the man, that mingled with their heartfelt parting
with a gallant soldier. Yet even this touched him no longer. He cast a
glance at the house and the room where he had parted from her, at the
slope from which she had passed—and rode away.
And then, as his figure disappeared down the road, the restrained
commentary of wonder, surmise, and criticism broke out:—
"It must have been something mighty bad, for the old man, who swears
by him, looked rather troubled. And it was deuced queer, you know, this
changing clothes with somebody, just before this surprise!"
"Nonsense! It's something away back of that! Didn't you hear the old
man say that the orders for him to report himself came from Washington
LAST NIGHT? No!"—the speaker lowered his voice— "Strangeways
says that he had regularly sold himself out to one of them
d——d secesh woman spies! It's the old Marc Antony business
"Now I think of it," said a younger subaltern, "he did seem mightily
taken with one of those quadroons or mulattoes he issued orders against.
I suppose that was a blind for us! I remember the first day he saw her;
he was regularly keen to know all about her."
Major Curtis gave a short laugh.
"That mulatto, Martin, was a white woman, burnt-corked! She was trying
to get through the lines last night, and fell off a wall or got a knock
on the head from a sentry's carbine. When she was brought in, Doctor
Simmons set to washing the blood off her face; the cork came off and the
whole thing came out. Brant hushed it up—and the woman,
too—in his own quarters! It's supposed now that she got away
somehow in the rush!"
"It goes further back than that, gentlemen," said the adjutant
authoritatively. "They say his wife was a howling secessionist, four
years ago, in California, was mixed up in a conspiracy, and he had to
leave on account of it. Look how thick he and that Miss Faulkner became,
before he helped HER off!"
"That's your jealousy, Tommy; she knew he was, by all odds, the
biggest man here, and a good deal more, too, and you had no show!"
In the laugh that followed, it would seem that Brant's eulogy had been
spoken and forgotten. But as Lieutenant Martin was turning away, a
lingering corporal touched his cap.
"You were speaking of those prowling mulattoes, sir. You know the
general passed one out this morning."
"So I have heard."
"I reckon she didn't get very far. It was just at the time that we
were driven in by their first fire, and I think she got her share of it,
too. Do you mind walking this way, sir!"
The lieutenant did not mind, although he rather languidly followed.
When they had reached the top of the gully, the corporal pointed to what
seemed to be a bit of striped calico hanging on a thorn bush in the
"That's her," said the corporal. "I know the dress; I was on guard
when she was passed. The searchers, who were picking up our men, haven't
got to her yet; but she ain't moved or stirred these two hours. Would you
like to go down and see her?"
The lieutenant hesitated. He was young, and slightly fastidious as to
unnecessary unpleasantness. He believed he would wait until the searchers
brought her up, when the corporal might call him.
The mist came up gloriously from the swamp like a golden halo. And as
Clarence Brant, already forgotten, rode moodily through it towards
Washington, hugging to his heart the solitary comfort of his great
sacrifice, his wife, Alice Brant, for whom he had made it, was lying in
the ravine, dead and uncared for. Perhaps it was part of the
inconsistency of her sex that she was pierced with the bullets of those
she had loved, and was wearing the garments of the race that she had
It was sunset of a hot day at Washington. Even at that hour the broad
avenues, which diverged from the Capitol like the rays of another sun,
were fierce and glittering. The sterile distances between glowed more
cruelly than ever, and pedestrians, keeping in the scant shade, hesitated
on the curbstones before plunging into the Sahara-like waste of
crossings. The city seemed deserted. Even that vast army of contractors,
speculators, place-hunters, and lobbyists, which hung on the heels of the
other army, and had turned this pacific camp of the nation into a
battlefield of ignoble conflict and contention—more disastrous than
the one to the South—had slunk into their holes in hotel back
bedrooms, in shady barrooms, or in the negro quarters of Georgetown, as
if the majestic, white-robed Goddess enthroned upon the dome of the
Capitol had at last descended among them and was smiting to right and
left with the flat and flash of her insufferable sword.
Into this stifling atmosphere of greed and corruption Clarence Brant
stepped from the shadow of the War Department. For the last three weeks
he had haunted its ante-rooms and audience-chambers, in the vain hope of
righting himself before his superiors, who were content, without
formulating charges against him, to keep him in this disgrace of inaction
and the anxiety of suspense. Unable to ascertain the details of the
accusation, and conscious of his own secret, he was debarred the last
resort of demanding a court- martial, which he knew could only exonerate
him by the exposure of the guilt of his wife, whom he still hoped had
safely escaped. His division commander, in active operations in the
field, had no time to help him at Washington. Elbowed aside by greedy
contractors, forestalled by selfish politicians, and disdaining the
ordinary method of influence, he had no friend to turn to. In his few
years of campaigning he had lost his instinct of diplomacy, without
acquiring a soldier's bluntness.
The nearly level rays of the sun forced him at last to turn aside into
one of the openings of a large building—a famous caravansary of
that hotel-haunted capital, and he presently found himself in the
luxurious bar-room, fragrant with mint, and cool with ice-slabs piled
symmetrically on its marble counters. A few groups of men were seeking
coolness at small tables with glasses before them and palm-leaf fans in
their hands, but a larger and noisier assemblage was collected before the
bar, where a man, collarless and in his shirt-sleeves, with his back to
the counter, was pretentiously addressing them. Brant, who had moodily
dropped into a chair in the corner, after ordering a cooling drink as an
excuse for his temporary refuge from the stifling street, half-regretted
his enforced participation in their conviviality. But a sudden lowering
of the speaker's voice into a note of gloomy significance seemed familiar
to him. He glanced at him quickly, from the shadow of his corner. He was
not mistaken—it was Jim Hooker!
For the first time in his life, Brant wished to evade him. In the days
of his own prosperity his heart had always gone out towards this old
companion of his boyhood; in his present humiliation his presence jarred
upon him. He would have slipped away, but to do so he would have had to
pass before the counter again, and Hooker, with the self-consciousness of
a story-teller, had an eye on his audience. Brant, with a palm-leaf fan
before his face, was obliged to listen.
"Yes, gentlemen," said Hooker, examining his glass dramatically, "when
a man's been cooped up in a Rebel prison, with a death line before him
that he's obliged to cross every time he wants a square drink, it seems
sort of like a dream of his boyhood to be standin' here comf'ble before
his liquor, alongside o' white men once more. And when he knows he's bin
put to all that trouble jest to save the reputation of another man, and
the secrets of a few high and mighty ones, it's almost enough to make his
liquor go agin him." He stopped theatrically, seemed to choke emotionally
over his brandy squash, but with a pause of dramatic determination
finally dashed it down. "No, gentlemen," he continued gloomily, "I don't
say what I'm back in Washington FOR—I don't say what I've been
sayin' to myself when I've bin picking the weevils outer my biscuits in
Libby Prison—but ef you don't see some pretty big men in the War
Department obliged to climb down in the next few days, my name ain't Jim
Hooker, of Hooker, Meacham Co., Army Beef Contractors, and the man who
saved the fight at Gray Oaks!"
The smile of satisfaction that went around his audience—an
audience quick to seize the weakness of any performance—might have
startled a vanity less oblivious than Hooker's; but it only aroused
Brant's indignation and pity, and made his position still more
intolerable. But Hooker, scornfully expectorating a thin stream of
tobacco juice against the spittoon, remained for an instant gloomily
"Tell us about the fight again," said a smiling auditor.
Hooker looked around the room with a certain dark suspiciousness, and
then, in an affected lower voice, which his theatrical experience made
perfectly audible, went on:—
"It ain't much to speak of, and if it wasn't for the principle of the
thing, I wouldn't be talking. A man who's seen Injin fightin' don't go
much on this here West Point fightin' by rule-of-three— but that
ain't here or there! Well, I'd bin out a-scoutin'—just to help the
boys along, and I was sittin' in my wagon about daybreak, when along
comes a brigadier-general, and he looks into the wagon flap. I oughter to
tell you first, gentlemen, that every minit he was expecting an
attack—but he didn't let on a hint of it to me. 'How are you, Jim?'
said he. 'How are you, general?' said I. 'Would you mind lendin' me your
coat and hat?' says he. 'I've got a little game here with our pickets,
and I don't want to be recognized.' 'Anything to oblige, general,' said
I, and with that I strips off my coat and hat, and he peels and puts them
on. 'Nearly the same figure, Jim,' he says, lookin' at me, 'suppose you
try on my things and see.' With that he hands me his coat—full
uniform, by G-d!—with the little gold cords and laces and the
epaulettes with a star, and I puts it on—quite innocent-like. And
then he says, handin' me his sword and belt, 'Same inches round the
waist, I reckon,' and I puts that on too. 'You may as well keep 'em on
till I come back,' says he, 'for it's mighty damp and malarious at this
time around the swamp.' And with that he lights out. Well, gentlemen, I
hadn't sat there five minutes before Bang! bang! rattle! rattle! kershiz!
and I hears a yell. I steps out of the wagon; everything's quite dark,
but the rattle goes on. Then along trots an orderly, leadin' a horse.
'Mount, general,' he says, 'we're attacked—the rear-guard's on
He paused, looked round his audience, and then in a lower voice, said
"I ain't a fool, an' in that minute a man's brain works at high
pressure, and I saw it all! I saw the little game of the brigadier to
skunk away in my clothes and leave me to be captured in his. But I ain't
a dog neither, and I mounted that horse, gentlemen, and lit out to where
the men were formin'! I didn't dare to speak, lest they should know me,
but I waved my sword, and by G-d! they followed me! And the next minit we
was in the thick of it. I had my hat as full of holes as that ice
strainer; I had a dozen bullets through my coat, the fringe of my
epaulettes was shot away, but I kept the boys at their work—and we
stopped 'em! Stopped 'em, gentlemen, until we heard the bugles of the
rest of our division, that all this time had been rolling that blasted
rear-guard over on us! And it saved the fight; but the next minute the
Johnny Rebs made a last dash and cut me off—and there I
was—by G-d, a prisoner! Me that had saved the fight!"
A ripple of ironical applause went round as Hooker gloomily drained
his glass, and then held up his hand in scornful deprecation.
"I said I was a prisoner, gentlemen," he went on bitterly; "but that
ain't all! I asked to see Johnston, told him what I had done, and
demanded to be exchanged for a general officer. He said, 'You be
d——d.' I then sent word to the division commander-in-chief,
and told him how I had saved Gray Oaks when his brigadier ran away, and
he said, 'You be d——d.' I've bin 'You be d——d'
from the lowest non-com. to the commander-in-chief, and when I was at
last exchanged, I was exchanged, gentlemen, for two mules and a broken
wagon. But I'm here, gentlemen—as I was thar!"
"Why don't you see the President about it?" asked a bystander, in
Mr. Hooker stared contemptuously at the suggestion, and expectorated
his scornful dissent.
"Not much!" he said. "But I'm going to see the man that carries him
and his Cabinet in his breeches-pocket—Senator Boompointer."
"Boompointer's a big man," continued his auditor doubtfully. "Do you
"Know him?" Mr. Hooker laughed a bitter, sardonic laugh. "Well,
gentlemen, I ain't the kind o' man to go in for family influence; but,"
he added, with gloomy elevation, "considering he's an intimate relation
of mine, BY MARRIAGE, I should say I did."
Brant heard no more; the facing around of his old companion towards
the bar gave him that opportunity of escaping he had been waiting for.
The defection of Hooker and his peculiar inventions were too
characteristic of him to excite surprise, and, although they no longer
awakened his good-humored tolerance, they were powerless to affect him in
his greater trouble. Only one thing he learned—that Hooker knew
nothing of his wife being in camp as a spy—the incident would have
been too tempting to have escaped his dramatic embellishment. And the
allusion to Senator Boompointer, monstrous as it seemed in Hooker's
mouth, gave him a grim temptation. He had heard of Boompointer's
wonderful power; he believed that Susy would and could help
him—Clarence—whether she did or did not help Hooker. But the
next moment he dismissed the idea, with a flushing cheek. How low had he
already sunk, even to think of it!
It had been once or twice in his mind to seek the President, and,
under a promise of secrecy, reveal a part of his story. He had heard many
anecdotes of his goodness of heart and generous tolerance of all things,
but with this was joined—so said contemporaneous history—a
flippancy of speech and a brutality of directness from which Clarence's
sensibility shrank. Would he see anything in his wife but a common spy on
his army; would he see anything in him but the weak victim, like many
others, of a scheming woman? Stories current in camp and Congress of the
way that this grim humorist had, with an apposite anecdote or a rugged
illustration, brushed away the most delicate sentiment or the subtlest
poetry, even as he had exposed the sham of Puritanic morality or of
Epicurean ethics. Brant had even solicited an audience, but had retired
awkwardly, and with his confidence unspoken, before the dark, humorous
eyes, that seemed almost too tolerant of his grievance. He had been to
levees, and his heart had sunk equally before the vulgar crowd, who
seemed to regard this man as their own buffoon, and the pompousness of
position, learning and dignity, which he seemed to delight to shake and
One afternoon, a few days later, in sheer listlessness of purpose, he
found himself again at the White House. The President was giving audience
to a deputation of fanatics, who, with a pathetic simplicity almost equal
to his own pathetic tolerance, were urging upon this ruler of millions
the policy of an insignificant score, and Brant listened to his patient,
practical response of facts and logic, clothed in simple but sinewy
English, up to the inevitable climax of humorous illustration, which the
young brigadier could now see was necessary to relieve the grimness of
his refusal. For the first time Brant felt the courage to address him,
and resolved to wait until the deputation retired. As they left the
gallery he lingered in the ante-room for the President to appear. But, as
he did not come, afraid of losing his chances, he returned to the
gallery. Alone in his privacy and shadow, the man he had just left was
standing by a column, in motionless abstraction, looking over the distant
garden. But the kindly, humorous face was almost tragic with an intensity
of weariness! Every line of those strong, rustic features was relaxed
under a burden which even the long, lank, angular figure—overgrown
and unfinished as his own West— seemed to be distorted in its
efforts to adjust itself to; while the dark, deep-set eyes were
abstracted with the vague prescience of the prophet and the martyr.
Shocked at that sudden change, Brant felt his cheek burn with shame. And
he was about to break upon that wearied man's unbending; he was about to
add his petty burden to the shoulders of this Western Atlas. He drew back
silently, and descended the stairs.
But before he had left the house, while mingling with the crowd in one
of the larger rooms, he saw the President reappear beside an important,
prosperous-looking figure, on whom the kindly giant was now smiling with
humorous toleration. He noticed the divided attention of the crowd; the
name of Senator Boompointer was upon every lip; he was nearly face to
face with that famous dispenser of place and preferment—this second
husband of Susy! An indescribable feeling—half cynical, half
fateful—came over him. He would not have been surprised to see Jim
Hooker join the throng, which now seemed to him to even dwarf the lonely
central figure that had so lately touched him! He wanted to escape it
But his fate brought him to the entrance at the same moment that
Boompointer was leaving it, and that distinguished man brushed hastily by
him as a gorgeous carriage, drawn by two spirited horses, and driven by a
resplendent negro coachman, dashed up. It was the Boompointer
A fashionably-dressed, pretty woman, who, in style, bearing, opulent
contentment, and ingenuous self-consciousness, was in perfect keeping
with the slight ostentation of the equipage, was its only occupant. As
Boompointer stepped into the vehicle, her blue eyes fell for an instant
on Brant. A happy, childlike pink flush came into her cheeks, and a
violet ray of recognition and mischief darted from her eyes to his. For
it was Susy.
When Brant returned to his hotel there was an augmented respect in the
voice of the clerk as he handed him a note with the remark that it had
been left by Senator Boompointer's coachman. He had no difficulty in
recognizing Susy's peculiarly Brobdingnagian school- girl hand.
"Kla'uns, I call it real mean! I believe you just HOPED I wouldn't
know you. If you're a bit like your old self you'll come right off
here—this very night! I've got a big party on—but we can talk
somewhere between the acts! Haven't I growed? Tell me! And my! what a
gloomy swell the young brigadier is! The carriage will come for
you—so you have no excuse."
The effect of this childish note upon Brant was strangely out of
proportion to its triviality. But then it was Susy's very
triviality—so expressive of her characteristic
irresponsibility— which had always affected him at such moments.
Again, as at Robles, he felt it react against his own ethics. Was she not
right in her delightful materialism? Was she not happier than if she had
been consistently true to Mrs. Peyton, to the convent, to the episode of
her theatrical career, to Jim Hooker—even to himself? And did he
conscientiously believe that Hooker or himself had suffered from her
inconsistency? No! From all that he had heard, she was a suitable
helpmate to the senator, in her social attractiveness, her charming
ostentations, her engaging vanity that disarmed suspicion, and her lack
of responsibility even in her partisanship. Nobody ever dared to hold the
senator responsible for her promises, even while enjoying the fellowship
of both, and it is said that the worthy man singularly profited by it.
Looking upon the invitation as a possible distraction to his gloomy
thoughts, Brant resolved to go.
The moon was high as the carriage whirled him out of the still
stifling avenues towards the Soldiers' Home—a sylvan suburb
frequented by cabinet ministers and the President—where the good
Senator had "decreed," like Kubla Khan, "a stately pleasure dome," to
entertain his friends and partisans. As they approached the house, the
trembling light like fireflies through the leaves, the warm silence
broken only by a military band playing a drowsy waltz on the veranda, and
the heavy odors of jessamine in the air, thrilled Brant with a sense of
shame as he thought of his old comrades in the field. But this was
presently dissipated by the uniforms that met him in the hall, with the
presence of some of his distinguished superiors. At the head of the
stairs, with a circling background of the shining crosses and ribbons of
the diplomatic corps, stood Susy—her bare arms and neck glittering
with diamonds, her face radiant with childlike vivacity. A significant
pressure of her little glove as he made his bow seemed to be his only
welcome, but a moment later she caught his arm. "You've yet to know HIM,"
she said in a half whisper; "he thinks a good deal of himself—just
like Jim. But he makes others believe it, and that's where poor Jim
slipped up." She paused before the man thus characteristically disposed
of, and presented Brant. It was the man he had seen
before—material, capable, dogmatic. A glance from his shrewd
eyes—accustomed to the weighing of men's weaknesses and
ambitions—and a few hurried phrases, apparently satisfied him that
Brant was not just then important or available to him, and the two men, a
moment later, drifted easily apart. Brant sauntered listlessly through
the crowded rooms, half remorsefully conscious that he had taken some
irrevocable step, and none the less assured by the presence of two or
three reporters and correspondents who were dogging his steps, or the
glance of two or three pretty women whose curiosity had evidently been
aroused by the singular abstraction of this handsome, distinguished, but
sardonic-looking officer. But the next moment he was genuinely moved.
A tall young woman had just glided into the centre of the room with an
indolent yet supple gracefulness that seemed familiar to him. A change in
her position suddenly revealed her face. It was Miss Faulkner. Previously
he had known her only in the riding habit of Confederate gray which she
had at first affected, or in the light muslin morning dress she had worn
at Gray Oaks. It seemed to him, to-night, that the studied elegance of
her full dress became her still more; that the pretty willfulness of her
chin and shoulders was chastened and modified by the pearls round her
fair throat. Suddenly their eyes met; her face paled visibly; he fancied
that she almost leaned against her companion for support; then she met
his glance again with a face into which the color had as suddenly rushed,
but with eyes that seemed to be appealing to him even to the point of
pain and fright. Brant was not conceited; he could see that the girl's
agitation was not the effect of any mere personal influence in his
recognition, but of something else. He turned hastily away; when he
looked around again she was gone.
Nevertheless he felt filled with a vague irritation. Did she think him
such a fool as to imperil her safety by openly recognizing her without
her consent? Did she think that he would dare to presume upon the service
she had done him? Or, more outrageous thought, had she heard of his
disgrace, known its cause, and feared that he would drag her into a
disclosure to save himself? No, no; she could not think that! She had
perhaps regretted what she had done in a freak of girlish chivalry; she
had returned to her old feelings and partisanship; she was only startled
at meeting the single witness of her folly. Well, she need not fear! He
would as studiously avoid her hereafter, and she should know it. And
yet— yes, there was a "yet." For he could not forget—indeed,
in the past three weeks it had been more often before him than he cared
to think—that she was the one human being who had been capable of a
great act of self-sacrifice for him—her enemy, her accuser, the man
who had scarcely treated her civilly. He was ashamed to remember now that
this thought had occurred to him at the bedside of his wife—at the
hour of her escape—even on the fatal slope on which he had been
struck down. And now this fond illusion must go with the rest—the
girl who had served him so loyally was ashamed of it! A bitter smile
crossed his face.
"Well, I don't wonder! Here are all the women asking me who is that
good-looking Mephistopheles, with the burning eyes, who is prowling
around my rooms as if searching for a victim. Why, you're smiling for all
the world like poor Jim when he used to do the Red Avenger."
Susy's voice—and illustration—recalled him to himself.
"Furious I may be," he said with a gentler smile, although his eyes
still glittered, "furious that I have to wait until the one woman I came
to see—the one woman I have not seen for so long, while these
puppets have been nightly dancing before her—can give me a few
moments from them, to talk of the old days."
In his reaction he was quite sincere, although he felt a slight sense
of remorse as he saw the quick, faint color rise, as in those old days,
even through the to-night's powder of her cheek.
"That's like the old Kla'uns," she said, with a slight pressure of his
arm, "but we will not have a chance to speak until later. When they are
nearly all gone, you'll take me to get a little refreshment, and we'll
have a chat in the conservatory. But you must drop that awfully wicked
look and make yourself generally agreeable to those women until
It was, perhaps, part of this reaction which enabled him to obey his
hostess' commands with a certain recklessness that, however, seemed to be
in keeping with the previous Satanic reputation he had all unconsciously
achieved. The women listened to the cynical flippancy of this
good-looking soldier with an undisguised admiration which in turn excited
curiosity and envy from his own sex. He saw the whispered questioning,
the lifted eyebrows, scornful shrugging of shoulders—and knew that
the story of his disgrace was in the air. But I fear this only excited
him to further recklessness and triumph. Once he thought he recognized
Miss Faulkner's figure at a distance, and even fancied that she had been
watching him; but he only redoubled his attentions to the fair woman
beside him, and looked no more.
Yet he was glad when the guests began to drop off, the great rooms
thinned, and Susy, appearing on the arm of her husband, coquettishly
reminded him of his promise.
"For I want to talk to you of old times. General Brant," she went on,
turning explanatorily to Boompointer, "married my adopted mother in
California—at Robles, a dear old place where I spent my earliest
years. So, you see, we are sort of relations by marriage," she added,
with delightful naivete.
Hooker's own vainglorious allusion to his relations to the man before
him flashed across Brant's mind, but it left now only a smile on his
lips. He felt he had already become a part of the irresponsible comedy
played around him. Why should he resist, or examine its ethics too
closely? He offered his arm to Susy as they descended the stairs, but,
instead of pausing in the supper-room, she simply passed through it with
a significant pressure on his arm, and, drawing aside a muslin curtain,
stepped into the moonlit conservatory. Behind the curtain there was a
small rustic settee; without releasing his arm she sat down, so that when
he dropped beside her, their hands met, and mutually clasped.
"Now, Kla'uns," she said, with a slight, comfortable shiver as she
nestled beside him, "it's a little like your chair down at old Robles,
isn't it?—tell me! And to think it's five years ago! But, Kla'uns,
what's the matter? You are changed," she said, looking at his dark face
in the moonlight, "or you have something to tell me."
"And it's something dreadful, I know!" she said, wrinkling her brows
with a pretty terror. "Couldn't you pretend you had told it to me, and
let us go on just the same? Couldn't you, Kla'uns? Tell me!"
"I am afraid I couldn't," he said, with a sad smile.
"Is it about yourself, Kla'uns? You know," she went on with cheerful
rapidity, "I know everything about you—I always did, you
know—and I don't care, and never did care, and it don't, and never
did, make the slightest difference to me. So don't tell it, and waste
"It's not about me, but about my wife!" he said slowly.
Her expression changed slightly
"Oh, her!" she said after a pause. Then, half-resignedly, "Go on,
He began. He had a dozen times rehearsed to himself his miserable
story, always feeling it keenly, and even fearing that he might be
carried away by emotion or morbid sentiment in telling it to another.
But, to his astonishment, he found himself telling it practically,
calmly, almost cynically, to his old playmate, repressing the half
devotion and even tenderness that had governed him, from the time that
his wife, disguised as the mulatto woman, had secretly watched him at his
office, to the hour that he had passed through the lines. He withheld
only the incident of Miss Faulkner's complicity and sacrifice.
"And she got away, after having kicked you out of your place,
Kla'uns?" said Susy, when he had ended.
Clarence stiffened beside her. But he felt he had gone too far to
quarrel with his confidante.
"She went away. I honestly believe we shall never meet again, or I
should not be telling you this!"
"Kla'uns," she said lightly, taking his hand again, "don't you believe
it! She won't let you go. You're one of those men that a woman, when
she's once hooked on to, won't let go of, even when she believes she no
longer loves him, or meets bigger and better men. I reckon it's because
you're so different from other men; maybe there are so many different
things about you to hook on to, and you don't slip off as easily as the
others. Now, if you were like old Peyton, her first husband, or like poor
Jim, or even my Boompointer, you'd be all right! No, my boy, all we can
do is to try to keep her from getting at you here. I reckon she won't
trust herself in Washington again in a hurry."
"But I cannot stay here; my career is in the field."
"Your career is alongside o' me, honey—and Boompointer. But
nearer ME. We'll fix all that. I heard something about your being in
disgrace, but the story was that you were sweet on some secesh girl down
there, and neglected your business, Kla'uns. But, Lordy! to think it was
only your own wife! Never mind; we'll straighten that out. We've had
worse jobs than that on. Why, there was that commissary who was buying up
dead horses at one end of the field, and selling them to the Government
for mess beef at the other; and there was that general who wouldn't make
an attack when it rained; and the other general—you know who I
mean, Kla'uns—who wouldn't invade the State where his sister lived;
but we straightened them out, somehow, and they were a heap worse than
you. We'll get you a position in the war department here, one of the
bureau offices, where you keep your rank and your uniform—you don't
look bad in it, Kla'uns—on better pay. And you'll come and see me,
and we'll talk over old times."
Brant felt his heart turn sick within him. But he was at her mercy
now! He said, with an effort,—
"But I've told you that my career—nay, my LIFE—now is in
"Don't you be a fool, Kla'uns, and leave it there! You have done your
work of fighting—mighty good fighting, too,—and everybody
knows it. You've earned a change. Let others take your place."
He shuddered, as he remembered that his wife had made the same appeal.
Was he a fool then, and these two women—so totally unlike in
everything—right in this?
"Come, Kla'uns," said Susy, relapsing again against his shoulder. "Now
talk to me! You don't say what you think of me, of my home, of my
furniture, of my position—even of him! Tell me!"
"I find you well, prosperous, and happy," he said, with a faint
"Is that all? And how do I look?"
She turned her still youthful, mischievous face towards him in the
moonlight. The witchery of her blue eyes was still there as of old, the
same frank irresponsibility beamed from them; her parted lips seemed to
give him back the breath of his youth. He started, but she did not.
It was her husband's voice.
"I quite forgot," the Senator went on, as he drew the curtain aside,
"that you are engaged with a friend; but Miss Faulkner is waiting to say
good-night, and I volunteered to find you."
"Tell her to wait a moment," said Susy, with an impatience that was as
undisguised as it was without embarrassment or confusion.
But Miss Faulkner, unconsciously following Mr. Boompointer, was
already upon them. For a moment the whole four were silent, although
perfectly composed. Senator Boompointer, unconscious of any infelicity in
his interruption, was calmly waiting. Clarence, opposed suddenly to the
young girl whom he believed was avoiding his recognition, rose, coldly
imperturbable. Miss Faulkner, looking taller and more erect in the long
folds of her satin cloak, neither paled nor blushed, as she regarded Susy
and Brant with a smile of well-bred apology.
"I expect to leave Washington to-morrow, and may not be able to call
again," she said, "or I would not have so particularly pressed a
leave-taking upon you."
"I was talking with my old friend, General Brant," said Susy, more by
way of introduction than apology.
Brant bowed. For an instant the clear eyes of Miss Faulkner slipped
icily across his as she made him an old-fashioned Southern courtesy, and,
taking Susy's arm, she left the room. Brant did not linger, but took
leave of his host almost in the same breath. At the front door a
well-appointed carriage of one of the Legations had just rolled into
waiting. He looked back; he saw Miss Faulkner, erect and looking like a
bride in her gauzy draperies, descending the stairs before the waiting
servants. He felt his heart beat strangely. He hesitated, recalled
himself with an effort, hurriedly stepped from the porch into the path,
as he heard the carriage door close behind him in the distance, and then
felt the dust from her horse's hoofs rise around him as she drove past
him and away.
Although Brant was convinced as soon as he left the house that he
could not accept anything from the Boompointer influence, and that his
interview with Susy was fruitless, he knew that he must temporize. While
he did not believe that his old playmate would willingly betray him, he
was uneasy when he thought of the vanity and impulsiveness which might
compromise him—or of a possible jealousy that might seek revenge.
Yet he had no reason to believe that Susy's nature was jealous, or that
she was likely to have any cause; but the fact remained that Miss
Faulkner's innocent intrusion upon their tete-a-tete affected him more
strongly than anything else in his interview with Susy. Once out of the
atmosphere of that house, it struck him, too, that Miss Faulkner was
almost as much of an alien in it as himself. He wondered what she had
been doing there. Could it be possible that she was obtaining information
for the South? But he rejected the idea as quickly as it had occurred to
him. Perhaps there could be no stronger proof of the unconscious
influence the young girl already had over him.
He remembered the liveries of the diplomatic carriage that had borne
her away, and ascertained without difficulty that her sister had married
one of the foreign ministers, and that she was a guest in his house. But
he was the more astonished to hear that she and her sister were
considered to be Southern Unionists—and were greatly petted in
governmental circles for their sacrificing fidelity to the flag. His
informant, an official in the State Department, added that Miss Matilda
might have been a good deal of a madcap at the outbreak of the
war—for the sisters had a brother in the Confederate
service—but that she had changed greatly, and, indeed, within a
month. "For," he added, "she was at the White House for the first time
last week, and they say the President talked more to her than to any
The indescribable sensation with which this simple information filled
Brant startled him more than the news itself. Hope, joy, fear, distrust,
and despair, alternately distracted him. He recalled Miss Faulkner's
almost agonizing glance of appeal to him in the drawing-room at Susy's,
and it seemed to be equally consistent with the truth of what he had just
heard—or some monstrous treachery and deceit of which she might be
capable. Even now she might be a secret emissary of some spy within the
President's family; she might have been in correspondence with some
traitor in the Boompointer clique, and her imploring glance only the
result of a fear of exposure. Or, again, she might have truly recanted
after her escapade at Gray Oaks, and feared only his recollection of her
as go-between of spies. And yet both of these presumptions were
inconsistent with her conduct in the conservatory. It seemed impossible
that this impulsive woman, capable of doing what he had himself known her
to do, and equally sensitive to the shame or joy of such impulses, should
be the same conventional woman of society who had so coldly recognized
and parted from him.
But this interval of doubt was transitory. The next day he received a
dispatch from the War Department, ordering him to report himself for duty
at once. With a beating heart he hurried to the Secretary. But that
official had merely left a memorandum with his assistant directing
General Brant to accompany some fresh levies to a camp of "organization"
near the front. Brant felt a chill of disappointment. Duties of this kind
had been left to dubious regular army veterans, hurriedly displaced
general officers, and favored detrimentals. But if it was not
restoration, it was no longer inaction, and it was at least a release
It was also evidently the result of some influence—but hardly
that of the Boompointers, for he knew that Susy wished to keep him at the
Capital. Was there another power at work to send him away from
Washington? His previous doubts returned. Nor were they dissipated when
the chief of the bureau placed a letter before him with the remark that
it had been entrusted to him by a lady with the request that it should be
delivered only into his own hands.
"She did not know your hotel address, but ascertained you were to call
here. She said it was of some importance. There is no mystery about it,
General," continued the official with a mischievous glance at Brant's
handsome, perplexed face, "although it's from a very pretty
woman—whom we all know."
"Mrs. Boompointer?" suggested Brant, with affected lightness.
It was a maladroit speech. The official's face darkened.
"We have not yet become a Postal Department for the Boompointers,
General," he said dryly, "however great their influence elsewhere. It was
from rather a different style of woman—Miss Faulkner. You will
receive your papers later at your hotel, and leave to-night."
Brant's unlucky slip was still potent enough to divert the official
attention, or he would have noticed the change in his visitor's face, and
the abruptness of his departure.
Once in the street, Brant tore off the envelope. But beneath it was
another, on which was written in a delicate, refined hand: "Please do not
open this until you reach your destination."
Then she knew he was going! And perhaps this was her influence? All
his suspicions again returned. She knew he was going near the lines, and
his very appointment, through her power, might be a plot to serve her and
the enemy! Was this letter, which she was entrusting to him, the cover of
some missive to her Southern friends which she expected him to
carry—perhaps as a return for her own act of self-sacrifice? Was
this the appeal she had been making to his chivalry, his gratitude, his
honor? The perspiration stood in beads on his forehead. What defect lay
hidden in his nature that seemed to make him an easy victim of these
intriguing women? He had not even the excuse of gallantry; less
susceptible to the potencies of the sex than most men, he was still
compelled to bear that reputation. He remembered his coldness to Miss
Faulkner in the first days of their meeting, and her effect upon his
subalterns. Why had she selected him from among them—when she could
have modeled the others like wax to her purposes? Why? And yet with the
question came a possible answer that he hardly dared to think
of—that in its very vagueness seemed to fill him with a stimulating
thrill and hopefulness. He quickened his pace. He would take the letter,
and yet be master of himself when the time came to open it.
That time came three days later, in his tent at Three Pines Crossing.
As he broke open the envelope, he was relieved to find that it contained
no other inclosure, and seemed intended only for himself. It began
"When you read this, you will understand why I did not speak to you
when we met last night; why I even dreaded that you might speak to me,
knowing, as I did, what I ought to tell you at that place and
moment—something you could only know from me. I did not know you
were in Washington, although I knew you were relieved; I had no way of
seeing you or sending to you before, and I only came to Mrs.
Boompointer's party in the hope of hearing news of you.
"You know that my brother was captured by your pickets in company with
another officer. He thinks you suspected the truth—that he and his
friend were hovering near your lines to effect the escape of the spy. But
he says that, although they failed to help her, she did escape, or was
passed through the lines by your connivance. He says that you seemed to
know her, that from what Rose—the mulatto woman—told him, you
and she were evidently old friends. I would not speak of this, nor
intrude upon your private affairs, only that I think you ought to know
that I had no knowledge of it when I was in your house, but believed her
to be a stranger to you. You gave me no intimation that you knew her, and
I believed that you were frank with me. But I should not speak of this at
all—for I believe that it would have made no difference to me in
repairing the wrong that I thought I had done you—only that, as I
am forced by circumstances to tell you the terrible ending of this story,
you ought to know it all.
"My brother wrote to me that the evening after you left, the burying
party picked up the body of what they believed to be a mulatto woman
lying on the slope. It was not Rose, but the body of the very
woman—the real and only spy—whom you had passed through the
lines. She was accidentally killed by the Confederates in the first
attack upon you, at daybreak. But only my brother and his friend
recognized her through her blackened face and disguise, and on the plea
that she was a servant of one of their friends, they got permission from
the division commander to take her away, and she was buried by her
friends and among her people in the little cemetery of Three Pines
Crossing, not far from where you have gone. My brother thought that I
ought to tell you this: it seems that he and his friend had a strange
sympathy for you in what they appear to know or guess of your relations
with that woman, and I think he was touched by what he thought was your
kindness and chivalry to him on account of his sister. But I do not think
he ever knew, or will know, how great is the task that he has imposed
"You know now, do you not, WHY I did not speak to you when we first
met; it seemed so impossible to do it in an atmosphere and a festivity
that was so incongruous with the dreadful message I was charged with. And
when I had to meet you later—perhaps I may have wronged
you—but it seemed to me that you were so preoccupied and interested
with other things that I might perhaps only be wearying you with
something you cared little for, or perhaps already knew and had quickly
"I had been wanting to say something else to you when I had got rid of
my dreadful message. I do not know if you still care to hear it. But you
were once generous enough to think that I had done you a service in
bringing a letter to your commander. Although I know better than anybody
else the genuine devotion to your duty that made you accept my poor
service, from all that I can hear, you have never had the credit of it.
Will you not try me again? I am more in favor here, and I might yet be
more successful in showing your superiors how true you have been to your
trust, even if you have little faith in your friend, Matilda
For a long time he remained motionless, with the letter in his hand.
Then he arose, ordered his horse, and galloped away.
There was little difficulty in finding the cemetery of Three Pines
Crossing—a hillside slope, hearsed with pine and cypress, and
starred with white crosses, that in the distance looked like flowers.
Still less was there in finding the newer marble shaft among the older
lichen-spotted slabs, which bore the simple words: "Alice Benham,
Martyr." A few Confederate soldiers, under still plainer and newer wooden
headstones, carved only with initials, lay at her feet. Brant sank on his
knees beside the grave, but he was shocked to see that the base of the
marble was stained with the red pollen of the fateful lily, whose
blossoms had been heaped upon her mound, but whose fallen petals lay dark
and sodden in decay.
How long he remained there he did not know. And then a solitary bugle
from the camp seemed to summon him, as it had once before summoned him,
and he went away—as he had gone before—to a separation that
he now knew was for all time.
Then followed a month of superintendence and drill, and the infusing
into the little camp under his instruction the spirit which seemed to be
passing out of his own life forever. Shut in by alien hills on the
borderland of the great struggle, from time to time reports reached him
of the bitter fighting, and almost disastrous successes of his old
division commander. Orders came from Washington to hurry the preparation
of his raw levies to the field, and a faint hope sprang up in his mind.
But following it came another dispatch ordering his return to the
He reached it with neither hope nor fear—so benumbed had become
his spirit under this last trial, and what seemed to be now the mockery
of this last sacrifice to his wife. Though it was no longer a question of
her life and safety, he knew that he could still preserve her memory from
stain by keeping her secret, even though its divulgings might clear his
own. For that reason, he had even hesitated to inform Susy of her death,
in the fear that, in her thoughtless irresponsibility and impulsiveness,
she might be tempted to use it in his favor. He had made his late
appointment a plea for her withholding any present efforts to assist him.
He even avoided the Boompointers' house, in what he believed was partly a
duty to the memory of his wife. But he saw no inconsistency in
occasionally extending his lonely walks to the vicinity of a foreign
Legation, or in being lifted with a certain expectation at the sight of
its liveries on the Avenue. There was a craving for sympathy in his
heart, which Miss Faulkner's letter had awakened.
Meantime, he had reported himself for duty at the War
Department— with little hope, however, in that formality. But he
was surprised the next day when the chief of the bureau informed him that
his claim was before the President.
"I was not aware that I had presented any claim," he said, a little
The bureau chief looked up with some surprise. This quiet, patient,
reserved man had puzzled him once or twice before.
"Perhaps I should say 'case,' General," he said, drily. "But the
personal interest of the highest executive in the land strikes me as
being desirable in anything."
"I only mean that I have obeyed the orders of the department in
reporting myself here, as I have done," said Brant, with less feeling,
but none the less firmness; "and I should imagine it was not the duty of
a soldier to question them. Which I fancy a 'claim' or a 'case' would
He had no idea of taking this attitude before, but the disappointments
of the past month, added to this first official notice of his disgrace,
had brought forward that dogged, reckless, yet half-scornful obstinacy
that was part of his nature.
The official smiled.
"I suppose, then, you are waiting to hear from the President," he said
"I am awaiting orders from the department," returned Brant quietly,
"but whether they originate in the President as commander-in-chief, or
not—it is not for me to inquire."
Even when he reached his hotel this half-savage indifference which had
taken the place of his former incertitude had not changed. It seemed to
him that he had reached the crisis of his life where he was no longer a
free agent, and could wait, superior alike to effort or expectation. And
it was with a merely dispassionate curiosity that he found a note the
next morning from the President's private secretary, informing him that
the President would see him early that day.
A few hours later he was ushered through the public rooms of the White
House to a more secluded part of the household. The messenger stopped
before a modest door and knocked. It was opened by a tall
figure—the President himself. He reached out a long arm to Brant,
who stood hesitatingly on the threshold, grasped his hand, and led him
into the room. It had a single, large, elaborately draped window and a
handsome medallioned carpet, which contrasted with the otherwise almost
appalling simplicity of the furniture. A single plain angular desk, with
a blotting pad and a few sheets of large foolscap upon it, a waste-paper
basket and four plain armchairs, completed the interior with a contrast
as simple and homely as its long-limbed, black-coated occupant. Releasing
the hand of the general to shut a door which opened into another
apartment, the President shoved an armchair towards him and sank somewhat
wearily into another before the desk. But only for a moment; the long
shambling limbs did not seem to adjust themselves easily to the chair;
the high narrow shoulders drooped to find a more comfortable lounging
attitude, shifted from side to side, and the long legs moved dispersedly.
Yet the face that was turned towards Brant was humorous and tranquil.
"I was told I should have to send for you if I wished to see you," he
Already mollified, and perhaps again falling under the previous
influence of this singular man, Brant began somewhat hesitatingly to
But the President checked him gently,—
"You don't understand. It was something new to my experience here to
find an able-bodied American citizen with an honest genuine grievance who
had to have it drawn from him like a decayed tooth. But you have been
here before. I seem to remember your face."
Brant's reserve had gone. He admitted that he had twice sought an
"You dodged the dentist! That was wrong." As Brant made a slight
movement of deprecation the President continued: "I understand! Not from
fear of giving pain to yourself but to others. I don't know that THAT is
right, either. A certain amount of pain must be suffered in this
world—even by one's enemies. Well, I have looked into your case,
General Brant." He took up a piece of paper from his desk, scrawled with
two or three notes in pencil. "I think this is the way it stands. You
were commanding a position at Gray Oaks when information was received by
the department that, either through neglect or complicity, spies were
passing through your lines. There was no attempt to prove your neglect;
your orders, the facts of your personal care and precaution, were all
before the department. But it was also shown that your wife, from whom
you were only temporarily separated, was a notorious secessionist; that,
before the war, you yourself were suspected, and that, therefore, you
were quite capable of evading your own orders, which you may have only
given as a blind. On this information you were relieved by the department
of your command. Later on it was discovered that the spy was none other
than your own wife, disguised as a mulatto; that, after her arrest by
your own soldiers, you connived at her escape—and this was
considered conclusive proof of—well, let us say—your
"But I did not know it was my wife until she was arrested," said Brant
The President knitted his eyebrows humorously.
"Don't let us travel out of the record, General. You're as bad as the
department. The question was one of your personal treachery, but you need
not accept the fact that you were justly removed because your wife was a
spy. Now, General, I am an old lawyer, and I don't mind telling you that
in Illinois we wouldn't hang a yellow dog on that evidence before the
department. But when I was asked to look into the matter by your friends,
I discovered something of more importance to you. I had been trying to
find a scrap of evidence that would justify the presumption that you had
sent information to the enemy. I found that it was based upon the fact of
the enemy being in possession of knowledge at the first battle at Gray
Oaks, which could only have been obtained from our side, and which led to
a Federal disaster; that you, however, retrieved by your gallantry. I
then asked the secretary if he was prepared to show that you had sent the
information with that view, or that you had been overtaken by a tardy
sense of repentance. He preferred to consider my suggestion as humorous.
But the inquiry led to my further discovery that the only treasonable
correspondence actually in evidence was found upon the body of a trusted
Federal officer, and had been forwarded to the division commander. But
there was no record of it in the case."
"Why, I forwarded it myself," said Brant eagerly.
"So the division commander writes," said the President, smiling, "and
he forwarded it to the department. But it was suppressed in some way.
Have you any enemies, General Brant?"
"Not that I know of."
"Then you probably have. You are young and successful. Think of the
hundred other officers who naturally believe themselves better than you
are, and haven't a traitorous wife. Still, the department may have made
an example of you for the benefit of the only man who couldn't profit by
"Might it not have been, sir, that this suppression was for the good
report of the service—as the chief offender was dead?"
"I am glad to hear you say so, General, for it is the argument I have
used successfully in behalf of your wife."
"Then you know it all, sir?" said Brant after a gloomy pause.
"All, I think. Come, General, you seemed just now to be uncertain
about your enemies. Let me assure you, you need not be so in regard to
"I dare to hope I have found one, sir," said Brant with almost boyish
"Oh, not me!" said the President, with a laugh of deprecation. "Some
one much more potent."
"May I know his name, Mr. President?"
"No, for it is a woman. You were nearly ruined by one, General. I
suppose it's quite right that you should be saved by one. And, of course,
"A woman!" echoed Brant.
"Yes; one who was willing to confess herself a worse spy than your
wife—a double traitor—to save you! Upon my word, General, I
don't know if the department was far wrong; a man with such an
alternately unsettling and convincing effect upon a woman's highest
political convictions should be under some restraint. Luckily the
department knows nothing of it."
"Nor would any one else have known from me," said Brant eagerly. "I
trust that she did not think—that you, sir, did not for an instant
believe that I"—
"Oh dear, no! Nobody would have believed you! It was her free
confidence to me. That was what made the affair so difficult to handle.
For even her bringing your dispatch to the division commander looked bad
for you; and you know he even doubted its authenticity."
"Does she—does Miss Faulkner know the spy was my wife?"
The President twisted himself in his chair, so as to regard Brant more
gravely with his deep-set eyes, and then thoughtfully rubbed his leg.
"Don't let us travel out of the record, General," he said after a
pause. But as the color surged into Brant's cheek he raised his eyes to
the ceiling, and said, in half-humorous recollection,—
"No, I think THAT fact was first gathered from your other
friend— Mr. Hooker."
"Hooker!" said Brant, indignantly; "did he come here?"
"Pray don't destroy my faith in Mr. Hooker, General," said the
President, in half-weary, half-humorous deprecation. "Don't tell me that
any of his inventions are TRUE! Leave me at least that magnificent
liar—the one perfectly intelligible witness you have. For from the
time that he first appeared here with a grievance and a claim for a
commission, he has been an unspeakable joy to me and a convincing
testimony to you. Other witnesses have been partisans and prejudiced; Mr.
Hooker was frankly true to himself. How else should I have known of the
care you took to disguise yourself, save the honor of your uniform, and
run the risk of being shot as an unknown spy at your wife's side, except
from his magnificent version of HIS part in it? How else should I have
known the story of your discovery of the Californian conspiracy, except
from his supreme portrayal of it, with himself as the hero? No, you must
not forget to thank Mr. Hooker when you meet him. Miss Faulkner is at
present more accessible; she is calling on some members of my family in
the next room. Shall I leave you with her?"
Brant rose with a pale face and a quickly throbbing heart as the
President, glancing at the clock, untwisted himself from the chair, and
shook himself out full length, and rose gradually to his feet.
"Your wish for active service is granted, General Brant," he said
slowly, "and you will at once rejoin your old division commander, who is
now at the head of the Tenth Army Corps. But," he said, after a
deliberate pause, "there are certain rules and regulations of your
service that even I cannot, with decent respect to your department,
override. You will, therefore, understand that you cannot rejoin the army
in your former position."
The slight flush that came to Brant's cheek quickly passed. And there
was only the unmistakable sparkle of renewed youth in his frank eyes as
"Let me go to the front again, Mr. President, and I care not HOW."
The President smiled, and, laying his heavy hand on Brant's shoulder,
pushed him gently towards the door of the inner room.
"I was only about to say," he added, as he opened the door, "that it
would be necessary for you to rejoin your promoted commander as a
major-general. And," he continued, lifting his voice, as he gently pushed
his guest into the room, "he hasn't even thanked me for it, Miss
The door closed behind him, and he stood for a moment dazed, and still
hearing the distant voice of the President, in the room he had just
quitted, now welcoming a new visitor. But the room before him, opening
into a conservatory, was empty, save for a single figure that turned,
half timidly, half mischievously, towards him. The same quick,
sympathetic glance was in both their faces; the same timid, happy look in
both their eyes. He moved quickly to her side.
"Then you knew that—that—woman was my wife?" he said,
hurriedly, as he grasped her hand.
She cast a half-appealing look at his face—a half-frightened one
around the room and at the open door beyond.
"Let us," she said faintly, "go into the conservatory."
. . . . . .
It is but a few years ago that the veracious chronicler of these pages
moved with a wondering crowd of sightseers in the gardens of the White
House. The war cloud had long since lifted and vanished; the Potomac
flowed peacefully by and on to where once lay the broad plantation of a
great Confederate leader—now a national cemetery that had gathered
the soldier dead of both sections side by side in equal rest and
honor—and the great goddess once more looked down serenely from the
dome of the white Capitol. The chronicler's attention was attracted by an
erect, handsome soldierly-looking man, with a beard and moustache
slightly streaked with gray, pointing out the various objects of interest
to a boy of twelve or fourteen at his side.
"Yes; although, as I told you, this house belongs only to the
President of the United States and his family," said the gentleman,
smilingly, "in that little conservatory I proposed to your mother."
"Oh! Clarence, how can you!" said the lady, reprovingly, "you know it
was LONG after that!"