by Gouverneur Morris
"It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee.
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child"—
It was on the way home from Sunday-school that Aladdin had enticed
Margaret to the forbidden river. She was not sure that he knew how to
row, for he was prone to exaggerate his prowess at this and that, and
she went because of the fine defiance of it, and because Aladdin
exercised an irresistible fascination. He it was who could whistle
the most engagingly through his front teeth; and he it was, when sad
dogs of boys of the world were met behind the barn, who could blow the
smoke of the fragrant grapevine through his nose, and swallow the
same without alarm to himself or to his admirers. To be with him was
in itself a soulful wickedness, a delicious and elevating lesson in
corruption. But to be with him when he had done wrong, and was sorry
for it (as always when found out), that was enough to give one visions
of freckled angels, and the sweetness of Paradise in May.
Aladdin brought the skiff into the float, stern first, with a
bump. Pride sat high upon his freckled brow, and he whistled
"I can do it," he said. "Now get in."
Margaret embarked very gingerly and smoothed her dress carefully,
before and after sitting down. It was a white and starchy dress of
price, with little blue ribbons at the throat and wrists—such a dress
as the little girl of a very poor papa will find laid out on the gilt
and brocade chair beside her bed if she goes to sleep and wakes up in
"Only a little way, 'Laddin, please."
The boy made half a dozen circular, jabbing strokes, and the skiff
zigzagged out from the float. It was a fine blue day, cool as a
cucumber, and across the river from the deserted shipyards, where,
upon lofty beamings, stood all sorts of ships in all stages of
composition, the frequent beeches and maples showed pink and red and
yellow against the evergreen pines.
"It's easy 'nough," said Aladdin. And Margaret agreed in her
mind, for it is the splash of deeds rather than the skill or power
which impresses a lady. The little lady sat primly in the stern, her
mitted paws folded; her eyes, innocent and immense, fastened
admiringly upon the rowing boy.
"Only 'bout's far's the cat-boat, 'Laddin, please," she said. "I
oughtn't to of come 't all."
Somehow the cat-boat, anchored fifty yards out and straining back
from her moorings, would not allow herself to be approached. For
although Aladdin maintained a proper direction (at times), the ocean
tide, setting rigidly in and overbearing the current of the river, was
beginning to carry the skiff to some haven where she would not be.
Aladdin saw this and tried to go back, catching many crabs in the
earnestness of his endeavor. Then the little girl, without being
told, perceived that matters were not entirely in the hands of man,
and began to look wistfully from Aladdin to the shore. After a while
he stopped grinning, and then rowing.
"Can't you get back, 'Laddin?" said the little girl.
"No," said the boy, "I can't." He was all angel now, for he was
being visited for wrong.
The little girl's lips trembled and got white.
"I'm awful sorry, Margaret."
"What'll we do, 'Laddin?"
"Just sit still, 'n' whatever happens I'll take care of you,
They were passing the shipyards with a steady sweep, but the
offices were closed, the men at home, and no one saw the distressed
expedition. The last yard of all was conspicuous by a three-master,
finished, painted, sparred, ready for the fragrant bottle to be
cracked on her nose, and the long shivering slide into the river. Then
came a fine square, chimneyed house with sherry-glass-shaped elm-trees
about it. The boy shouted to a man contorted under a load of wood. The
man looked up and grinned vacantly, for he was not even half-witted.
And they were swept on. Presently woods drew between them and the last
traces of habitation,—gorgeous woods with intense splashes of color,
standing upon clean rocks that emphatically divided the water from the
land,—and they scurried into a region as untroubled by man as was
Eden on the first morning. The little boy was not afraid, but so sorry
and ashamed that he could have cried. The little girl, however, was
even deeper down the throat of remorse, for she had sinned three
times on Sunday,—first, she had spoken to the "inventor's boy";
second, she had not "come straight home"; third, she had been seduced
into a forbidden boat,—and there was no balm in Gilead; nor any
forgiveness forever. She pictured her grand, dark father standing like
a biblical allegory of "Hell and Damnation" within the somber leathern
cube of his books, the fiercely white, whalebone cane upon which he
and old brother gout leaned, and the vast gloomy centers at the bases
of which glowed his savage eyes. She thought of the rolling bitter
voice with which she had once heard him stiffen the backs of his
constituents, and she was sore afraid. She did not remember how much
he loved her, or the impotence of his principles where she was
concerned. And she did not recollect, for she had not been old enough
to know, that the great bitter voice, with its heavy, telling sarcasm,
had been lifted for humanity—for more humanity upon earth.
"Oh, 'Laddin," she said suddenly, "I daren't go home now."
"Maybe we can get her in farther up," said Aladdin, "and go home
through the woods. That'll be something, anyhow."
Margaret shuddered. She thought of the thin aunt who gave her
lessons upon the pianoforte—one of the elect, that aunt, who had
never done wrong, and whom any halo would fit; who gave her to
understand that the Almighty would raise Cain with any little girl who
did not practise an hour every day, and pray Him, night and morning,
to help her keep off the black notes when the white notes were
intended. First there would be a reckoning with papa, then one with
Aunt Marion, last with Almighty God, and afterward, horribile dictu,
pitchforks for little Margaret, and a vivid incandescent state to be
maintained through eternity at vast cost of pit-coal to a gentleman
who carried over his arm, so as not to step on it, a long snaky tail
with a point like a harpoon's.
Meanwhile, Aladdin made sundry attempts to get the boat ashore,
and failed signally. The current was as saucy as strong. Now it
swept them into the very shade of the trees, and as hope rose hot in
the boy's heart and he began to stab the water with the oars, sent
them skipping for the midriver. Occasionally a fish jumped to show how
easy it was, and high overhead an eagle passed statelily in the wake
of a cloud. After the eagle came a V of geese flying south, moving
through the treacherous currents and whirlpools of the upper air as
steadily and directly as a train upon its track. It seemed as if
nature had conspired with her children to demonstrate to Margaret and
Aladdin the facility of precise locomotion. The narrow deeps of the
river ended where the shore rolled into a high knob of trees; above
this it spread over the lower land into a great, shallow, swiftly
currented lake, having in its midst a long turtlebacked island of
dense woods and abrupt shores. Two currents met off the knob and
formed in the direction of the island a long curve of spitting white.
Aladdin rowed with great fervor.
"Do it if you can, 'Laddin," said the little girl.
It seemed for one moment as if success were about to crown the
boy's effort, for he brought the boat to an exciting nearness to the
shore; but that was all. The current said: "No, Aladdin, that is not
just the place to land; come with me, and bring the boat and the young
lady." And Aladdin at once went with the current.
"Margaret," he said, "I done my best." He crossed his heart.
"I know you done your best, 'Laddin." Margaret's cheeks were on
the brink of tears. "I know you done it."
They were dancing sportively farther and farther from the shore.
The water broke, now and again, and slapped the boat playfully.
"We 've come 'most three miles," said Aladdin.
"I daren't go back if I could now," said Margaret.
Meanwhile Aladdin scanned the horizon far and wide to see if he
could see anything of Antheus, tossed by the winds, or the Phrygian
triremes, or Capys, or the ships having upon their lofty poops the
arms of Caicus. There was no help in sight. Far and wide was the
bubbling ruffled river, behind the mainland, and ahead the leafy
"What'll your father do, 'Laddin?"
Aladdin merely grinned, less by way of explaining what his father
would do than of expressing to Margaret this: "Have courage; I am
still with you."
"'Laddin, we're not going so fast."
They had run into nominally still water, and the skiff was losing
"Maybe we'd better land on the island," said Aladdin, "if we can,
and wait till the tide turns; won't be long now."
Again he plied the oars, and this time with success. For after a
little they came into the shadow of the island, the keel grunted upon
sand, and they got out. There was a little crescent of white beach,
with an occasional exclamatory green reed sticking from it, and above
was a fine arch of birch and pine. They hauled up the boat as far as
they could, and sat down to wait for the tide to turn. Firm earth, in
spite of her awful spiritual forebodings, put Margaret in a more
cheerful mood. Furthermore, the woods and the general mystery of
islands were as inviting as Punch.
"It's not much fun watching the tide come in," she said after a
Aladdin got up.
"Let's go away," he said, "and come back. It never comes in if
you watch for it to."
Margaret arose, and they went into the woods.
A devil's darning-needle came and buzzed for an instant on the bow
of the skiff. A belated sandpiper flew into the cove, peeped, and
The tide rose a little and said:
"What is this heavy thing upon my back?"
Then it rose a little more.
"Why, it's poor little sister boat stuck in the mud," said the
From far off came joyful crackling of twigs and the sounds of
children at play.
The tide rose a little more and freed an end of the boat.
"That's better," said the boat, "ever so much better. I can
Again the tide raised its broad shoulders a hair's-breadth.
"Great!" said the boat. "Once more, Old Party!"
When the children came back, they found that poor little sister
boat was gone, and in her stead all of their forgotten troubles had
returned and were waiting for them, and looking them in the face.
It is absurdly difficult to get help in this world. If a lady
puts her head out of a window and yells "Police," she is considered
funny, or if a man from the very bottom of his soul calls for help, he
is commonly supposed to be drunk. Thus if, cast away upon an island,
you should wave your handkerchief to people passing in a boat, they
would imagine that you wanted to be friendly, and wave back; or, if
they were New York aldermen out for a day's fishing in the Sound, call
you names. And so it was with Margaret and Aladdin. With shrill
piping voices they called tearfully to a party sailing up the river
from church, waved and waved, were answered in kind, and tasted the
bitterest cup possible to the Crusoed.
Then after much wandering in search of the boat it got to be
hunger-time, and two small stomachs calling lustily for food did not
add to the felicity of the situation.
With hunger-time came dusk, and afterward darkness, blacker than
the tall hat of Margaret's father. For at the last moment nature had
thought better of the fine weather which man had been enjoying for the
past month, and drawn a vast curtain of inkiness over the luminaries
from one horizon even unto the other, and sent a great puff of wet fog
up the valley of the river from the ocean, so that teeth chattered and
the ends of fingers became shriveled and bloodless. And had not
vanity gone out with the entrance of sin, Margaret would have noticed
that her tight little curls were looser and the once stately ostrich
feather upon her Sunday hat, the envy of little girls whom the green
monster possessed, as flabby as a long sermon.
Meanwhile the tide having turned, little sister boat made fine way
of it down the river, and, burrowing in the fog, holding her breath as
it were, and greatly assisted by the tide, slipped past the town
unseen, and put for open sea, where it is to be supposed she enjoyed
herself hugely and, finally, becoming a little skeleton of herself on
unknown shores, was gathered up by somebody who wanted a pretty fire
with green lights in it. The main point is that she went her selfish
way undetected, so that the wide-lanterned search which presently
arose for little Margaret tumbled and stumbled about clueless, and
halted to take drinks, and came back about morning and lay down all
day, and said it never did, which it certainly hadn't. All the to-do
was over Margaret, for Aladdin had not been missed, and, even if he
had, nobody would have looked for him. His father was at home bending
over the model of the wonderful lamp which was to make his fortune,
and over which he had been bending for fifteen rolling years. It had
come to him, at about the time that he fell in love with Aladdin's
mother, that a certain worthless biproduct of something would, if
combined with something else and steeped in water, generate a certain
gas, which, though desperately explosive, would burn with a flame as
white as day. Over the perfection of this invention, with a brief
honeymoon for vacation, he had spent fifteen years, a small
fortune,—till he had nothing left, —the most of his health, and
indeed everything but his conviction that it was a beautiful invention
and sure of success. When Aladdin arrived, he was red and wrinkled,
after the everlasting fashion of the human babe, and had no name, so
because of the wonderful lamp they called him Aladdin. And that
rendered his first school-days wretched and had nothing to do with the
rest of his life, after the everlasting fashion of wonderful names.
Aladdin's mother went out of the world in the very natural act of
ushering his young brother into it, and he remembered her as a thin
person who was not strictly honorable (for, having betrayed him with a
kiss, she punished him for smoking) and had a headache. So there was
nobody to miss Aladdin or to waste the valuable night in looking for
About this time Margaret began to cry and Aladdin to comfort her,
and they stumbled about in the woods trying to find —anything. After
awhile they happened into a grassy glade between two steep rocks, and
there agreeing to rest, scrunched into a depression of the rock on the
right. And Margaret, her nose very red, her hat at an angle, and her
head on Aladdin's shoulder, sobbed herself to sleep. And then,
because being trusted is next to being God, and the most moving and
gentlest condition possible, Aladdin, for the first time, felt the
full measure of his crime in leading Margaret from the straight way
home, and he pressed her close to him and stroked her draggled hair
with his cold little hands and cried. Whenever she moved in sleep,
his heart went out to her, and before the night was old he loved her
Sleep did not come to Aladdin, who had suddenly become a father
and a mother and a nurse and a brother and a lover and a man who must
not be afraid. His coat was wrapped about Margaret, and his arms were
wrapped about his coat, and the body of him shivered against the damp,
cold shirt, which would come open in front because there was a button
gone. The fog came in thicker and colder, and night with her strange
noises moved slower and slower. There was an old loon out on the
river, who would suddenly throw back his head and laugh for no reason
at all. And once a great strange bird went rushing past, squeaking
like a mouse; and once two bright eyes came, flashing out of the night
and swung this way and that like signal-lanterns and disappeared.
Aladdin gave himself up for lost and would have screamed if he had
Presently his throat began to tickle, then the base of his nose,
then the bridge thereof, and then he felt for a handkerchief and found
none. For a little while he maintained the proprieties by a gentle
sniffling, finally by one great agonized snuff. It seemed after that
as if he were to be left in peace. But no. His lips parted, his chin
went up a little, his eyes closed, the tickling gave place to a sudden
imperative ultimatum, and, when all was over, Margaret had waked.
They talked for a long time, for she could not go to sleep again,
and Aladdin told her many things and kept her from crying, but he did
not tell her about the awful bird or the more awful eyes. He told her
about his little brother, and the yellow cat they had, and about the
great city where he had once lived, and why he was called Aladdin.
And when the real began to grow dim, he told her stories out of
strange books that he had read, as he remembered them—first the story
of Aladdin and then others.
"Once," began Aladdin, though his teeth were knocking together and
his arms aching and his nose running—"once there was a man named Ali
Baba, and he had forty thieves—"
Even in the good north country, where the white breath of the
melting icebergs takes turn and turn with diamond nights and days,
people did not remember so thick a fog; nor was there a thicker
recorded in any chapter of tradition. Indeed, if the expression be
endurable, so black was the whiteness that it was difficult to know
when morning came. There was a fresher shiver in the cold, the
sensibility that tree-tops were stirring, a filmy distinction of
objects near at hand, and the possibility that somewhere 'way back in
the east the rosy fingers of dawn were spread upon a clear horizon.
Collisions between ships at sea were reported, and many a good
sailorman went down full fathom five to wait for the whistle of the
The little children on the island roused themselves and groped
about among the chilled, dripping stems of the trees; they had no end
in view, and no place to go, but motion was necessary for the lame
legs and arms. Margaret had caught a frightful cold and Aladdin a
worse, and they were hungrier than should be allowed. Now a jarred
tree rained water down their necks, and now their faces went with a
splash and sting into low-hanging plumes of leaves; often there would
be a slip and a scrambling fall. And by the time Aladdin had done
grimacing over a banged shin, Margaret would have a bruised anklebone
to cry about. The poor little soul was very tired and penitent and
cold and hurt and hungry, and she cried most of the time and was not
to be comforted. But Aladdin bit his lips and held his head up and
said it all would be well sometime. Perhaps, though he still had a
little courage left, Aladdin was the more to be pitied of the two: he
was not only desperately responsible for it all, but full of
imagination and the horrible things he had read. Margaret, like most
women, suffered a little from self-centration, and to her the trunk
of a birch was just a nasty old wet tree, but to Aladdin it was the
clammy limb of one drowned, and drawn from the waters to stand in
eternal unrest. At length the stumbling progress brought them to a
shore of the island: a slippery ledge of rock, past whose feet the
water slipped hurriedly, steaming with fog as if it had been hot, two
big leaning birches, and a ruddy mink that slipped like winking into a
hole. The river, evident for only a few yards, became lost in the
fog, and where they were could only be guessed, and which way the tide
was setting could only be learned by experiment. Aladdin planted a
twig at the precise edge of the water, and they sat down to watch.
Stubbornly and unwillingly the water receded from the twig, and they
knew that the tide was running out.
"That's the way home," said Aladdin. Margaret looked wistfully
down-stream, her eyes as misty as the fog.
"If we had the boat we could go now," said Aladdin.
Then he sat moody, evolving enterprise, and neither spoke for a
"Marg'ret," said Aladdin, at length, "help me find a big log near
"What you going to do, 'Laddin?"
"You 'll see. Help look."
They crept along the edge of the island, now among the
close-growing trees and now on the bare strip between them and the
water, until at length they came upon a big log, lying like some
gnarled amphibian half in the river and half on the dry land.
"Help push," said Aladdin.
They could move it only a little, not enough.
"Wait till I get a lever," said Aladdin. He went, and came back
with a long, stiff little birch, that, growing recklessly in the thin
soil over a rock, had been willing to yield to the persuasion of a
child and come up by the roots. And then, Margaret pushing her best,
and Aladdin prying and grunting, the log was moved to within an ace of
launching. Until now, for she was too young to understand about
daring and unselfishness, Margaret had considered the log-launching as
a game invented by Aladdin to while away the dreary time; but now she
realized, from the look in the pale, set, freckly, almost comical face
of the boy, that deeds more serious were afoot, and when he said,
"Somebody'll pick me up, sure, Marg'ret, and help me come back and get
you," she broke out crying afresh and said, "Don't, 'Laddin!
"Don't cry, Marg'ret," said Aladdin, with a gulp. "I'd do more'n
that for you, and I can swim a little, too—b-better'n I can row."
"Oh, 'Laddin," said Margaret, "it's so cold in the water."
"Shucks!" said Aladdin, whose teeth had been knocking all night.
"She's the stanch little craft" (he had the phrase of a book) "Good
Luck. I'm the captain and you're the builder's daughter"—and so she
was. "Chrissen 'er, Marg'et. Kiss her on the bow an' say she's the
Then Margaret, her hat over one ear, and the draggled ostrich
feather greatly in the way, knelt, and putting her arms about the
shoreward end of the log, kissed it, and said in a drawn little voice
"The Good Luck."
"And now, Margaret," said Aladdin, "you must stay right here' n'
not go 'way from the shore, so's I can find you when I come back. But
don't just sit still all the time,—keep moving, so's not to get any
colder,—'n I'll come back for you sure."
Then, because he felt his courage failing, he said, "Good-by,
Marg'ret," and turning abruptly, waded in to his ankles and bent over
the log to give it that final impetus which was to set it adrift. In
his heart were several things: the desire to make good, fear of the
river, and, poignant and bitter, the feeling that Margaret did not
understand. He was too young to believe that death might really be
near him (almost reckless enough not to care if he had), but keenly
aware that his undertaking was perilous enough to warrant a more
adequate farewell. So he bent bitterly over the log and stiffened his
back for the heave. It must be owned that Aladdin wanted more of a
"'Laddin, I forgot something. Come back."
He came, his white lips drawn into a sort of smile. Then they
kissed each other on the mouth with the loud, innocent kiss of little
children, and after that Aladdin felt that the river was only a river,
the cold only cold, the danger only danger and flowers—more than
He moved the log easily and waded with it into the icy waters,
until his feet were dragged from the bottom, and after one awful
instant of total submersion the stanch little ship Good Luck and
valiant Captain Kissed-by-Margaret were embarked on the voyage
perilous. His left arm over and about the log, his legs kicking
lustily like the legs of a frog, his right hand paddling desperately
for stability, Aladdin disappeared into the fog. After a few minutes
he became so freezing cold that he would have let go and drowned
gladly if it had not been for the wonderful lamp which had been
lighted in his heart.
Margaret, when she saw him borne from her by the irresistible
current, cried out with all the illogic of her womanly little soul,
"Come back, 'Laddin, come back!" and sank sobbing upon the empty
However imminent the peril of the man, it is the better part of
chivalry to remain by the distressed lady, and though impotent to be
of assistance, we must linger near Margaret, and watch her gradually
rise from prone sobbing to a sitting attitude of tears. For a long
time she sat crying on the empty shore, regarding for the most part
black life and not at all the signs of cheerful change which were
becoming evident in the atmosphere about her. The cold breath across
her face and hands and needling through her shivering body, the
increasing sounds of treetops in commotion, the recurring appearance
of branches where before had been only an opaque vault, did little to
inform her that the fog was about to lift. The rising wind merely
made her the more miserable and alone. Nor was it until a disk of
gold smote suddenly on the rock before her that she looked up and
beheld a twinkle of blue sky. The fog puffed across the blue, the
blue looked down again,—a bigger eye than before,—a wisp of fog
filmed it again, and again it gleamed out, ever larger and always
more blue. The good wind living far to the south had heard that in a
few days a little girl was to be alone and comfortless upon a foggy
island, and, hearing, had filled his vast chest with warmth and
sunshine, and puffed out his merry cheeks and blown. The great breath
sent the blue waves thundering upon the coral beaches of Florida, tore
across the forests of palm and set them all waving hilariously, shook
the merry orange-trees till they rattled, whistled through the dismal
swamps of Georgia, swept, calling and shouting to itself, over the
Carolinas, where clouds were hatching in men's minds, banked up the
waters of the Chesapeake so that there was a great high tide and the
ducks were sent scudding to the decoys of the nearest gunner, went
roaring into the oaks and hickories of New York, warmed the veins of
New England fruit-trees, and finally coming to the giant fog, rent it
apart by handfuls as you pluck feathers from a goose, and hurled it
this way and that, until once more the sky and land could look each
other in the face. Then the great wind laughed and ceased. For a
long time Margaret looked down the cleared face of the river, but
there was no trace of Aladdin, and in life but one comfort: the sun
was hot and she was getting warm.
After a time, in the woods directly behind where she sat hoping
and fearing and trying to dry her tears, a gun sounded like an
exclamation of hope. Had Aladdin by any incredible circumstance
returned so soon? Mindful of his warning not to stray from where she
was, Margaret stood up and called in a shrill little voice
"Here I am! Here I am!"
Silence in the woods immediately behind where Margaret stood
hoping and fearing!
"Here I am!" she cried. And it had been piteous to hear, so small
and shrill was the voice.
Presently, though much farther off, sounded the merry yapping bark
of a little dog, and again, but this time like an echo of itself, the
exclamation of hope—hope deferred.
"Here I am! Here—I—am!" called Margaret.
Then there was a long silence—so long that it seemed as if
nothing in the world could have been so long. Margaret sat down
gasping. The sun rose higher, the river ran on, and hope flew away.
And just as hope had gone for good, the merry yapping of the dog
broke out so near that Margaret jumped, and bang went the gun—like a
promise of salvation. Instantly she was on her feet with her shrill,
"Here I am! Here I am!"
And this time came back a lusty young voice crying:
And hard behind the voice leaves shook, and a boy came striding
into the sunlight. In one hand he trailed a gun, and at his heels
trotted a waggish spaniel of immense importance and infinitesimal
size. In his other hand the boy carried by the legs a splendid
cock-grouse, ruffled and hunger-compelling. The boy, perhaps two years
older than Aladdin, was big and strong for his age, and bore his
shining head like a young wood-god.
Margaret ran to him, telling her story as she went, but so
incoherently that when she reached him she had to stop and begin over
"Then Senator St. John is your father?" said the boy at length.
"You know, he's a great friend of my father's. My father's name is
Peter Manners, and he used to be a congressman for New York. Are you
Margaret could only look it.
They sat down, and the boy took wonderful things out of his
wonderful pockets—sandwiches of egg and sandwiches of jam; and
Margaret fell to.
"I live in New York," said the boy, "but I'm staying with my
cousins up the river. They told me there were partridges on this
island, and I rowed down to try and get some, but I missed two." The
boy blushed most becomingly whenever he spoke, and his voice, and the
way he said words, were different from anything Margaret had ever
heard. And she admired him tremendously. And the boy, because she had
spent a night on a desert island, which he never had, admired her in
"Maybe we'll find 'Laddin on the way," said Margaret, cheerfully,
and she looked up with great eyes at her godlike young friend.
Meanwhile to Aladdin and his log divers things had occurred, but
the wonderful lamp, burning low or high at the will of the river, had
not gone out. Sliding through the smoking fog at three miles an hour,
kicking and paddling, all had gone well for a while. Then, for he was
more keen than Margaret to note the fog's promise to lift, at the very
moment when the shores began to appear and mark his course as
favorable, at the very moment when the sun struck one end of the log,
an eddy of the current struck the other, and sent the stanch little
craft Good Luck and her captain by a wide curve back up the river.
The backward journey was slow and tortuous, and twice when the Good
Luck turned turtle, submerging Aladdin, he gave himself up for lost;
but amidships of the island, fairly opposite to the spot where he had
left Margaret, the log was again seized by the right current, and the
voyage recommenced. But the same eddy seized them, and back they
came, with only an arm stiffened by cold between Aladdin and death.
The third descent of the river, however, was more propitious. The
eddy, it is true, made a final snatch, but its fingers were weakened
and its murderous intentions thwarted. They passed by the knob of
trees at the narrowing of the river, and swept grandly toward the
town. Past the first shipyard they tore unnoticed, but at the second
a shouting arose, and a boat was slipped overboard and put after them.
Strong hands dragged Aladdin from the water, and, gulp after gulp,
water gushed from his mouth. Then they rowed him quickly to land, and
the Good Luck, having done her duty, went down the river alone. Years
after, could Aladdin have met with that log, he would have recognized
it like the face of a friend, and would have embraced and kissed it,
painted it white to stave off the decay of old age, and set it
foremost among his Lares and Penates.
For the present he was insensible. They put him naked into
coarse, warm horse-blankets, and laid him before the great fire in
the blacksmith's shop across the road from the shipyard. And at the
same time they sent one flying with a horse and buggy to the house of
Hannibal St. John, for Aladdin had not passed into unconsciousness
without partly completing his mission.
"Margaret—is—up—at—" he said, and darkness came.
At the moment when Aladdin came to, the door of the smithy was
darkened by the tremendous figure of Hannibal St. John. Wrapped in
his long black cloak, fastened at the throat by three links of steel
chain, his face glowering and cavernous, the great man strode like a
controlled storm through the awed underlings and stopped rigid at
"Can the boy speak?" he said.
To Aladdin, looking up, there was neither pity nor mercy apparent
in the senator's face, and a great fear shook him. Would the wrath
"Do you know where my daughter is?"
The great rolling voice nearly broke between the "my" and the
"daughter," and the fear left Aladdin.
"Mister St. John," he said, "she's up at one of the islands. We
went in a boat and couldn't get back. If you'll only get a boat and
some one to row, I can take you right to her." Then Aladdin knew that
he had not said all there was to say. "Mister St. John," said Aladdin,
"I done it all."
Men ran out of the smithy to prepare a boat.
"Who is this boy?" said St. John.
"It's Aladdin O'Brien, the inventor's boy," said the smith.
"Are you strong enough to go with me, O'Brien?" said the senator.
"Yes, sir; I've got to go," said Aladdin. "I said I'd come back
"Give him some whisky," said St. John, in the voice of Jupiter
saying "Poison him," "and wrap him up warm, and bring him along."
They embarked. Aladdin, cuddled in blankets, was laid in the bow,
St. John, not deigning to sit, stood like a black tree-trunk in the
stern, and amidships were four men to row.
A little distance up the river they met a boat coming down. In the
stern sat Margaret, and at the oars her godlike young friend. Just
over the bow appeared the snout and merry eyes of the spaniel, one of
his delightful ears hanging over on each side.
"I am glad to see you alive," said St. John to Margaret when the
boats were within hailing distance, and to her friend he said, "Since
you have brought her so far, be good enough to bring her the rest of
the way." And to his own rowers he said, "Go back." When the boats
came to land at the shipyard, Margaret's father lifted her out and
kissed her once on each cheek. Of the godlike boy he asked his name,
and when he learned that it was Peter Manners and that his father was
Peter Manners, he almost smiled, and he shook the boy's hand.
"I will send word to your cousins up the river that you are with
me," he said, and thus was the invitation extended and accepted.
"O'Brien," said the great man to Aladdin, "when you feel able,
come to my house; I have something to say to you."
Then Senator St. John, and Margaret, and Margaret's godlike young
friend, and the spaniel got into the carriage that was waiting for
them, and drove off. But Margaret turned and waved to Aladdin.
"Good-by, Aladdin!" she called.
They helped Aladdin back to the smithy, for his only covering was
a clumsy blanket; and there he put on his shrunken clothes, which
meanwhile had dried. The kindly men pressed food on him, but he could
not eat. He could only sit blankly by the fire and nurse the numb,
overpowering pain in his heart. Another had succeeded where he had
failed. Even at parting, just now, Margaret's eyes had not been for
him, but for the stranger who had done so easily what he had not been
able to do at all. The voyage down the river had been mere
foolishness without result. He had not rescued his fair lady, but
deserted her upon a desert island. For him no bouquets were flung,
nor was there to be any clapping of hands. After a time he rose like
one dreaming, and went slowly, for he was sick and weak, up to the
great pillared house of Hannibal St. John. The senator in that stern
voice of his had bade him come; nothing could be any worse than it
was. He would go. He knocked, and they showed him into the library.
It was four walls of leather books, an oak table neater than a pin, a
huge chair covered with horsehair much worn, and a blazing fire of
birch logs. Before the fire, one hand thrust into his coat, the
other resting somewhat heavily upon the head of a whalebone cane,
stood the senator. Far off Aladdin heard Margaret's laugh and with it
another young laugh. Then he looked up like a little hunted thing
into the senator's smoldering eyes.
"Sit down in that chair," said the senator, pointing with his cane
to the only chair in the room. His voice had the effect of a strong
muscular compulsion to which men at once yielded. Aladdin sat into the
big chair, his toes swinging just clear of the ground. Then there was
silence. Aladdin broke it.
"Is Margaret all right?" he gulped.
The senator disregarded the question. Having chosen his words, he
"I do not know," he began, "what my daughter was doing in a boat
with you. I do not object to her enjoying the society at proper times
of suitable companions of her own age, but the society of those who
lead her into temptation is not suitable." Aladdin fairly wilted
under the glowering voice. "You will not be allowed to associate with
her any more," said the senator. "I will speak to your father and see
that he forbids it."
Aladdin climbed out of the chair, and stumbled blindly into the
table. He had meant to find the door and go.
"Wait; I have not done," said the senator.
Aladdin turned and faced the enemy who was taking away the joy of
life from him.
"In trying to atone for your fault," said the senator, "by
imperiling your life, you did at once a foolhardy and a fine
thing—one which I will do my best to repay at any time that you may
see fit to call upon me. For the present you may find this of use."
He held forward between his thumb and forefinger a twenty-dollar gold
piece. Aladdin groped for words, and remembered a phrase which he had
heard his own father return to a tormentor. He thrust his red hands
into his tight pockets, and with trembling lips looked up.
"It's a matter of pride," he said, and walked out of the room.
When he had gone the senator took from his pocket a leather purse,
opened it, put back the gold piece, and carefully tied the string.
Then far from any known key or tune the great man whistled a few
notes. Could his constituents have heard, they would have known—and
often had the subject been debated—that Hannibal St. John was human.
Aladdin stood for a while upon the lofty pillared portico of the
senator's house, and with a mist in his eyes looked away and away to
where the cause of all his troubles flowed like a ribbon of silver
through the bright-colored land. Grown men, having, in their whole
lives, suffered less than Aladdin was at that moment suffering, have
considered themselves heartbroken. The little boy shivered and toiled
down the steps, between the tall box hedges lining the path, and out
into the road. A late rose leaning over the garden fence gave up her
leaves in a pink shower as he passed, and at the same instant all the
glass in a window of the house opposite fell out with a smash. These
events seemed perfectly natural to Aladdin, but when people, talking
at the tops of their voices and gesticulating, began to run out of
houses and make down the hill toward the town, he remembered that,
just as the rose-leaves fell and just as the glass came out of the
window-frame, he had been conscious of a distant thudding boom, and a
jarring of the ground under his feet. So he joined in the stream of
his neighbors, and ran with them down the hill to see what had
Aladdin remembered little of that breathless run, and one thing
only stood ever afterward vivid among his recollections. All the
people were headed eagerly in one direction, but at the corner of the
street in which Aladdin lived, an awkish, half-grown girl, her face
contorted with terror, struggled against the tugging of two younger
companions and screamed in a terrible voice:
"I don't wahnt to go! I don't wahnt to go!"
But they dragged her along. That girl had no father, and her
mother walked the streets. She would never have any beauty nor any
grace; she was dirt of the dirt, dirty, but she had a heart of mercy
and could not bear to look upon suffering.
"I don't wahnt to go! I don't wahnt to go!" and now the scream
was a shudder.
Aladdin's street was crowded to suffocation, and the front of the
house where Aladdin lived was blown out, and men with grave faces were
going about among the ruins looking for what was left of Aladdin's
A much littler boy than Aladdin stood in the yard of the house.
In his arms folded high he clutched a yellow cat, who licked his
cheek with her rough tongue. The littler boy kept crying, "'Laddin,
Aladdin took the little boy and the yellow cat all into one
embrace, and people turned away their heads.
In the ensuing two days Aladdin matured enormously, for though a
kind neighbor took him in, together with his brother Jack and the
yellow cat, he had suffered many things and already sniffed the wolf
at the door. The kind neighbor was a widow lady, whose husband, having
been a master carpenter of retentive habits, had left her
independently rich. She owned the white-and-green house in which she
lived, the plot of ground, including a small front and a small back
yard, upon which it stood, and she spent with some splendor a certain
income of three hundred and eighty-two dollars a year. Every picture,
every chair, every mantelpiece in the Widow Brackett's house was
draped with a silk scarf. The parlor lamp had a glass shade upon
which, painted in oils, by hand, were crimson moss-roses and scarlet
poppies. A crushed plush spring rocker had goldenrod painted on back
and seat, while two white-and-gold vases in precise positions on the
mantel were filled with tight round bunches of immortelles, stained
pink. Upon the marble-topped, carved-by-machine-walnut-legged table in
the bay-window were things to be taken up by a visitor and examined. A
white plate with a spreading of foreign postage-stamps, such as any
boy collector has in quantities for exchange, was the first surprise:
you were supposed to discover that the stamps were not real, but
painted on the plate, and exclaim about it. A china basket contained
most edible-looking fruit of the same material, and a huge album, not
to be confounded with the family Bible upon which it rested, was
filled with speaking likenesses of the Widow Brackett's relatives. The
Bible beneath could have told when each was born, when many had died,
and where many were buried. But nobody was ever allowed to look into
the Widow Brackett's Bible for information mundane or spiritual, since
the only result would have been showers of pressed ferns and flowers
upon the carpet, which was not without well-pressed flowers and ferns
of its own.
Very soon after the explosion of the wonderful lamp the Widow
Brackett had taken Aladdin and Jack and the cat into her house and
seen to it that they had a square meal. Early on the second day she
came to the conclusion that if it could in any way be made worth her
while, she would like to keep them until they grew up. And when the
ground upon which Aladdin's father's house had stood was sold at
auction for three hundred and eight dollars, she let it be known that
if she could get that she would board the two little waifs until
Aladdin was old enough to work. The court appointed two guardians.
The guardians consulted for a few minutes over something brown in a
glass, and promptly turned over the three hundred and eight dollars to
the Widow Brackett; and the Widow Brackett almost as promptly made a
few alterations in the up-stairs of her house the better to
accommodate the orphans, tied a dirty white ribbon about the yellow
cat's neck, and bought a derelict piano upon which her heart had been
set for many months. She was no musician, but she loved a tightly
closed piano with a scarf draped over the top, and thought that no
parlor should be without one. Up to middle C, as Aladdin in time
found out, the piano in question was not without musical pretensions,
but above that any chord sounded like a nest of tin plates dropped on
a wooden floor, and the intervals were those of no known scale nor
fragment thereof. But in time he learned to draw pleasant things from
the old piano and to accompany his shrill voice in song. As a matter
of fact, he had no voice and never would have, but almost from the
first he knew how to sing. It so happened that he was drawn to the
piano by a singular thing: a note from his beloved.
It came one morning thumb-marked about the sealing, and covered
with the generous sprawl of her writing. It said:
DEAR ALADDIN: Do not say anything about this because I do not know
if my father would like it but I am so sorry about your father blowing
up and all your troubles and I want you to know how sory I am. I must
stop now because I have to practis.
Your loving friend
MARGARET ST. JOHN.
Aladdin was an exquisite speller, and the first thing he noticed
about the letter was that it contained two words spelled wrong, and
that he loved Margaret the better by two misspelled words, and that he
had a lump in his throat.
He had found the letter by his plate at breakfast, and the eyes of
Mrs. Brackett fastened upon it.
"I don't know who ken have been writin' to you," she said.
"Neither do I," said Aladdin, giving, as is proper, the direct lie
to the remark inquisitive. He had put the letter in his pocket.
"Why don't you open it and see?"
"Time enough after breakfast," he said.
There was a silence.
"Jack's eatin' his breakfast; why ain't you eatin' yours?"
Aladdin fell upon his breakfast for the sake of peace. And Mrs.
Brackett said no more. Some days later, for she was not to be denied
in little matters or great, Mrs. Brackett found where Aladdin had
hidden the letter, took it up, read it, sniffed, and put it back, with
the remark that she never "see such carryin's-on."
Aladdin hid, and read his letter over and over; then an ominous
silence having informed him that Mrs. Brackett had gone abroad, he
stole into the parlor, perched on the piano-stool, and, like a second
Columbus, began to discover things which other people have to be
shown. The joy of his soul had to find expression, as often afterward
the sorrow of it.
That winter Jack entered school in the lowest class, and the two
little boys were to be seen going or coming in close comradeship, fair
weather or foul. The yellow cat had affairs of gallantry, and bore to
the family, at about Christmas-time, five yellow kittens, which nobody
had the heart to drown, and about whose necks, at the age of
eye-opening, the Widow Brackett tied little white ribbons in large
Sometimes Aladdin saw Margaret, but only for a little.
So the years passed, and Aladdin turned his sixteenth year. He was
very tall and very thin, energetic but not strong, very clever, but
with less application than an uncoerced camel. To single him from
other boys, he was full of music and visions. And rhymes were
beginning to ring in his head.
A week came when the rhymes and the music went clean out of his
head, which became as heavy as a scuttle full of coal, and he walked
about heavily like an old man.
One day, during the morning session of school, Aladdin's head got
so heavy that he could hardly see, and he felt hot all over. He spoke
to the teacher and was allowed to go home. Mrs. Brackett, when she saw
him enter the yard, was in great alarm, for she at once supposed that
he had done something awful, which was not out of the question, and
"What have you done?" she said.
"Nothing," said Aladdin. "I think I'm going to be sick."
Mrs. Brackett tossed her hands heavenward.
"What is the matter?" she cried.
"I don't know," said Aladdin. She followed him into the house and
up the stairs, which he climbed heavily.
"Where do you feel bad, 'Laddin O'Brien?" she said sharply.
"It's my head, ma'am," said Aladdin. He went into his room and
lay face down on the bed, having first dropped his schoolbooks on the
floor, and began to talk fluently of kings' daughters and genii and
The Widow Brackett was an active woman of action. Flat-footed and
hatless, but with incredible speed, she dashed down the stairs, out of
the house, and up the street. She returned in five minutes with the
The doctor said, "Fever." It was quite evident that it was fever;
but a doctor's word for it put everything on a comfortable and
"We must get him to bed," said the doctor. He made the attempt
alone, but Aladdin struggled, and the doctor was old. Mrs. Brackett
came to the rescue and, finally, they got Aladdin, no longer violent,
into his bed, while the doctor, in a soft voice, said what maybe it
was and what maybe it wasn't,—he leaned to a bilious fever,—and
prescribed this and that as sovereign in any case. They darkened the
room, and Aladdin was sick with typhoid fever for many weeks. He was
delirious much too much, and Mrs. Brackett got thin with watching.
Occasionally it seemed as if he might possibly live, but oftenest as
if he would surely die.
In his delirium for the most part Aladdin dwelt upon Margaret, so
that his love for her was an old story to Mrs. Brackett. One gay
spring morning, after a terrible night, Aladdin's fever cooled a
little, and he was able to talk in whispers.
"Mrs. Brackett," he said, "Mrs. Brackett."
She came hurriedly to the bed.
"I know you're feelin' better, 'Laddin O'Brien."
He smiled up at her.
"Mrs. Brackett," he said, "I dreamed that Margaret St. John came
here to ask how I was—did she?"
Margaret hadn't. She had not, so hedged was her life, even heard
that Aladdin lay sick.
Mrs. Brackett lied nobly.
"She was here yesterday," she said, "and that anxious to know all
Aladdin looked like one that had found peace.
"Thank you," he said.
Mrs. Brackett raised his head, pillow and all, very gently, and
gave him his medicine.
"How's Jack?" said Aladdin.
"He comes twice every day to ask about you," said Mrs. Brackett.
"He's livin' with my brother-in-law."
"That's good," said Aladdin. He lay back and dozed. After a
while he opened his eyes.
"What is it, deary?" The good woman had been herself on the point
of dozing, but was instantly alert.
"Am I going to die?"
"You goin' to die!" She tried to make her voice indignant, but it
"I want to know."
"He wants to know, good land!" exclaimed Mrs. Brackett.
"If a man's going to die," said Aladdin, aeat-sixteen, "he wants
to know, because he has things that have to be done."
"Doctor said you wasn't to talk much," said Mrs. Brackett.
"If I've got to die," said Aladdin, abruptly, "I've got to see
A woman in a blue wrapper, muddy slippers, her gray hair
disheveled, hatless, her eyes bright and wild, burst suddenly upon
Hannibal St. John where he sat in his library reading in the book
"Senator St. John," she began rapidly, "Aladdin O'Brien's sick in
my house, and the last thing he said was, 'I've got to see Margaret';
and he's dyin' wantin' to see her, and I've come for her, and she's
got to come."
It was a tribute to St. John's genius that in spite of her
incoherent utterance he understood precisely what the woman was
"You say he's dying?" he said.
"Doctor's given up hope. He's had a relapse since this mornin',
and she's got to come right now if she's to see him at all."
The senator hesitated for once.
"It's got nothin' to do with the proprieties," said Mrs. Brackett,
sternly, "nor what he was to her, nor her to him; it's a plain case of
"What is the nature of the sickness?" asked the senator.
"Is it contagious?" asked the senator.
"No, it ain't!" almost shrieked the old lady. "And what if it
"Of course if it were contagious she couldn't go," said the
"It ain't contagious, and, what's more, he once laid down his life
for her on the log, that time."
"If you assure me the fever is not contagious—"
"You'll let her come—"
"It seems nonsense," said the senator. "They are only children,
and I don't want her to get silly ideas."
"Only children!" exclaimed Mrs. Brackett. "Senator, give me the
troubles of the grown-ups, childbirth, and losing the first-born with
none to follow, the losing of husband and mother, and the approach of
old age,—give me them and I'll bear them, but spare me the sorrows
and trials of little children which we grown-ups ain't strong enough
to bear. You can say I said so," she finished defiantly.
The senator bowed in agreement.
"I believe you are right," he said. "I will take you home in my
"Brackett," said she, with pride.
The senator stepped into the hall and raised his voice the least
She answered from several rooms away, and came running. Her hands
were inky, and she held a letter. She was no longer the timid little
girl of the island, for somehow that escapade had emancipated her.
She had waited for a few days in expectation of damnation, but, that
failing to materialize, had turned over a leaf in her character, and
became such a bully at home that the family and servants loved her
more and more from day to day. She was fourteen at this time;
altogether exquisite and charming and wayward.
"Aladdin O'Brien is very sick, daughter," said the senator, "and
we are going to see him."
"And don't tell him that you didn't come to ask after him
yesterday," said Mrs. Brackett, defiantly, "because I said you did.
I had my reasons," she went on, "and you can say I said so."
Margaret ran up-stairs to get her hat. She was almost wild with
excitement and foreboding of she knew not what.
The letter which she had been writing fell from her hand. She
picked it up, looked hastily at the superscription, "Mr. Peter
Manners, Jr.," and tore it into pieces.
There is no doubt that Aladdin's recovery dated from Margaret's
visit. The poor boy was too sick to say what he had planned, but
Margaret sat by his bed for a while and held his hand, and said little
abrupt conventional things that meant much more to them both, and that
was enough. Besides, and under the guns of her father's eyes, just
before she went away she stooped and kissed him on the forehead, and
that was more than enough to make anybody get over anything, Aladdin
thought. So he slept a long cool sleep after Margaret had gone, and
woke free of fever. As he lay gathering strength to sit up in bed,
which treat had been promised him in ten days, Aladdin's mind worked
hard over the future, and what he could machinate in order one day to
be almost worthy to kiss the dust under Margaret's feet. She sent him
flowers twice, but was not allowed to come and see him again.
Aladdin had awful struggles with the boredom of convalescence. He
felt perfectly well, and they wouldn't let him get up and out;
everything forbidden he wanted to eat. And his one solace was the
Brackett library. This was an extraordinary collection of books.
They were seven, and how they got there nobody knows. The most
important in the collection was, in Mrs. Brackett's estimation, an odd
volume of an encyclopedia, bound in tree-calf and labeled,
"Safety-lamps to Stranglers." Next were four fat tomes in the German
language on scientific subjects; these, provided that anybody had ever
wanted to read them, had never succeeded in getting themselves read,
but they had cuts and cuts which were fascinating to surmise about.
The sixth book was the second volume of a romance called "The
Headsman," by "the author of 'The Spy,'" and the seventh was a
back-split edition of Poe's poems.
The second volume of "The Headsman" went like cakes and syrup on a
cold morning, for it was narrative, and then it was laid aside,
because it was dull. The four German books had their cuts almost
examined out of them, and the encyclopedia book, from "Safety-lamps to
Stranglers," practically had its contents torn out and devoured. In
after life Aladdin could always speak with extraordinary fluency,
feeling, and understanding on anything that began with S, such as
Simeon Stylites and Senegambia. But the poems of Poe were what made
his sickness worth while and put the call upon all his after life.
We learn of the critics and professors of English that there are
greater lyric poets than Poe. They will base this on technicalities
and theories of what poetry has been and what poetry ought to be, and
will not take into account the fact that of all of them—Keats,
Shelley, Wordsworth when he is a poet at all, Heine, and the lyric
body of Goethe and the rest—not one in proportion to the mass of his
production so often leaves the ground and spreads wings as Poe,—
If I might dwell
Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than his might swell
From my lyre within the sky,—
and that where they have, they have perhaps risen a little higher,
but never have sung more hauntingly and clear. The wonderful sounds
and the unearthly purity—the purity of a little child that has
died—took Aladdin by the throat and shook up the imagination and
music that had lain dormant within him; his father's bent for
invention clarified into a passion for creation. The first thing he
read was three stanzas on the left-hand page where the book opened to
his uneager hands, and his eyes, expectant of disappointment, —for
up to that time, never having read any, he hated poetry,—fell on one
of the five or six perfect poems in the world:
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore
That gently o'er a perfumed sea
The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.
On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.
Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche! From the regions which
Are holy land.
And he knew that he had read the most exquisite, the most
insouciant, and the most universal account of every man's heart's
desire—Margaret as she would be when she grew tall. He knew little of
the glory that was Greece or the grandeur that was Rome, but whatever
they were, Margaret had all of them, and the hyacinth hair, very thick
and clustery and beautiful, and the naiad airs. Ah, Psyche!
And he read forward and back in the book, and after a little he
knew that he had a soul, and that the only beautiful thing in the
world is beauty, and the only sad thing, and that beauty is truth.
Open at the lines to Helen he laid the book face down upon his
heart, with his hands clasped over it, and shut his eyes.
"Now I know what I've got to do," he said. "Now I know what I've
got to do."
He dreamed away hours until suddenly the need of deeds set him
bolt upright in bed, and he called to Mrs. Brackett to bring him
pencil and paper. From that time on he was seldom without them, and,
by turns reading and writing, entered with hope and fortitude into the
challenging field of literature. And from the first, however ignorant
and unkempt the effort, he wrote a kind of literature, for he buckled
to no work that he knew, and was forever striving after an ideal
(nebulous, indescribable, and far) of his own, and that is literature.
Go to those who have wrought for—forever (without, of course,
knowing it) and those who have wrought earnestly for the day, and
these things you will find made the god in their machine: Raphael's
sonnets and Dante's picture! Aladdin had no message, that he knew of,
for the world, but the call of one of the arts was upon him; and he
knew that willy-nilly he must answer that call as long as eyes could
see, or hands hold pen, or tongue call for pencil and paper, money buy
them, or theft procure them. He set himself stubbornly and
courageously to the bitter-sweet task of learning to write.
"It must be like learning anything else," he said, his eyes on a
sheet of seemingly uncorrectable misbalances, "and just because I'm
rotten at it now doesn't prove that if I practise and practise, and
try and try, and hope and hope, I won't be some good sometime."
He saw very clearly the squat dark tower itself in the midst of
the chin-upon-hand hills, and the world and his friends sitting about
to see him fail. He saw them, and he knew them all, and yet, with
Dauntless the slughorn to his lips he set,
And incidentally, when he got well and returned to school, he
entered on a period of learning his lessons, for he thought that
these might one day be of use to him in his chosen line.
Senator St. John, for he was at heart democratic, and heard little
of Aladdin that was not to Aladdin's credit, derigorized the taboo
which he had once placed on Aladdin's and Margaret's friendship, and
allowed the young man to come occasionally to the house, and
occasionally loaned him books. Margaret was really at the bottom of
this, but she stayed comfortably at the bottom, and teased her father
to do the needful, and he, wrapped up in the great issues which were
threatening to divide the country, complied. In those days the
senator's interests extended far beyond his family, Margaret and the
three powerful sons who were building a reputation for the firm of
John St. John Brothers, lawyers in Portland. He gave Aladdin leave to
come and go, even smiled grimly as he did so, and, except at those
moments when he met him face to face, forgot that Aladdin existed.
Margaret enjoyed Aladdin hugely, and unconsciously sat for the
heroine of every novel he began, and the inspiration of every verse
that he wrote. When Aladdin reached his eighteenth year and Margaret
her sixteenth there was such a delightful and strong friendship
between them that the other young people of the town talked. Margaret
in her heart of hearts was fonder of Aladdin than of anybody
else—when she was with him, or under the immediate influence of
having been with him, for nobody else had such extraordinary ideas, or
such a fund of amusing vitality, or such fascinating moods. Like
every one with a touch of the Celt in him, Aladdin was by turns
gloomiest and most unfortunate of all mortals upon whom the sun
positively would not shine, or the gayest of the gay. From his droll
manner of singing a song, to the seriousness with which he sometimes
bore all the sufferings of all the world, he seemed to her a most
complex and unusual individual. But his spells were of the instant,
and her thoughts were very often on that beautiful young man, Manners,
who, having completed his course at the law school, was coming to
spend a month before he should begin to practise. Since his first
visit years ago, Manners, now a grown man of twenty, had spent much
of many of his vacations with the St. Johns. The senator was obliged,
as well as his limitations would allow, to take the place of a mother
to Margaret, and though it was barely guessable from his words or
actions, he loved Peter Manners like a son, and had resolved, almost
since the beginning, to end by having him for one. And the last time
that Manners had visited them in Washington, St. John had seen to it
that he shook hands with all the great men who were making history.
Once the senator and Margaret had visited the Manners in New York.
That had been a bitter time for Aladdin, for while all the others of
his age were sniffing timidly at love and life, he had found his grand
passion early and stuck to it, and was now blissful with hope and now
acrid with jealousy. Peter Manners he hated with a green and jealous
hatred. And if Peter Manners had any of the baser passions, he
divined this, and hated Aladdin back, but rather contemptuously. They
met occasionally, and the meetings, always in the presence of
Margaret, were never very happy. She was woman enough to rejoice at
being a bone of contention, and angel enough to hate seeing good times
But it was hard on Aladdin. He could go to her house almost when
he liked, and be welcomed by her, but to her father and the rest of
the household he was not especially welcome. They were always polite
to him, and always considerate, and he felt—quite rightly—that he
was merely tolerated, as a more or less presentable acquaintance of
Margaret's. Manners, on the other hand, and it took less intuition to
know it, was not only greatly welcome to Margaret, but to all the
others—from the gardener up to the senator. Manners' distinction of
manner, his wellbred, easy ways, his charmingly enunciative and
gracious voice, together with his naive and simple nature, went far
with people's hearts. Aladdin bitterly conceded every advantage to
his rival except that of mind. To this, for he knew even in his
humble moments that he himself had it, he clung tenaciously. Mrs.
Brackett, with a sneaking admiration for Peter Manners, whom she had
once seen on the street, had Aladdin's interests well in heart, and
the lay of the matter well in hand. She put it like this to a
"I guess' Laddin O'Brien's 'bout smaht enough to go a long ways
further than fine clothes and money and a genealogical past will carry
a body. He writes sometimes six and eight big sides of paper up in a
day, and if he ain't content with that he just tears it up and goes at
it again. There won't be anybody'll go further in this world than
'Laddin O'Brien, and you can say I said so—"
Here under oath of secrecy Mrs. Brackett lowered her voice and
divulged a secret:
"He got a letter this mornin' sayin' that the Portland'spy' is
goin' to print three poems he sent 'em, and enclosin' three dollars
to pay for 'em. I guess beginnin' right now he could go along at that
rate and make mebbe five or six hundred dollars a year. Poetry's
nothin' to him; he can write it faster than you and I can baste."
At the very moment of this adoring act of divulgence Aladdin was
in the parlor, giving his first taste of success a musical soul, and
waiting—waiting—waiting until it should be late enough in the day
for him to climb the hill to the St. Johns' and hand over the Big News
to Margaret. And as he sat before the piano, demipatient and wholly
joyful, his fingers twinkled the yellowed and black keys into fits of
merriment, or, after an abrupt pause, built heap upon heap of bass
chords. Then the mood would change and, to a whanging accompaniment,
he would chant, recitative fashion, the three poems which alone he
The day waned, and it was time to go and tell Margaret. His way
lay past the railway-station, under the "Look out for the locomotive"
sign, across the track, and up the hill. In the air was the
exhilarating evening cool of June, and the fragrance of flowers, which
in the north country, to make up for the shorter tale of their days,
bloom bigger and smell sweeter than any other flowers in the world.
Even in the dirty paved square fronting the station was a smell of
summer and flowers. You could see people's faces lighten and sniff
it, as they got out of the hot, cindery coaches of the five-forty,
which had just rolled in.
The St. Johns' fine pair of bays and their open carriage were
drawn up beside the station. The horses were entering a spirited,
ground-pawing protest against the vicinity of that alway inexplicable
and snorting monster on wheels. On the platform, evidently waiting
for some one to get off the train, stood St. John and Margaret. She
looked much fresher and sweeter than a rose, and Aladdin noted that
she was wearing her hair up for the first time. Her dress was a
floaty white affair with a blue ribbon round it, and her beautiful,
gay young face flushed with excitement and anticipation till it
sparkled. There was a large crowd getting off the train, at that
aggravating rate of progression with which people habitually leave a
crowded public conveyance or a theater, and Margaret and her father
were looking through the windows of the cars to see if they could
catch a glimpse of whom they sought. Suddenly the senator broke into
a smile and waved his cane. The action was so unusual for him that it
looked grotesque. Margaret stood on tiptoe and waved her hand, and a
presentiment came to Aladdin and took away all his joy.
Peter Manners, looking fresh and clean in spite of his long, dusty
ride, got off the train and made a hilarious rush for his friends. He
shook hands with Margaret, then with the senator, and turned again to
Margaret. She was altogether too pretty, and much too glad to see
him. In the excitement of the moment it couldn't be borne, and he
kissed her. Then they both laughed, and the senator laughed, for he
was glad. He put his great hand on Manners' shoulder, and laughing
and talking, the three went to the carriage. Then the senator
remembered that the checks had been forgotten, and against a voluble
protest he secured them from Manners, and went after an expressman.
Having found the expressman—one of his constituents and a power in
the town,—he handed him the checks, a fifty-cent piece, and a
ponderous joke as old as Xerxes, at which the expressman roared.
Manners stood by the carriage and looked at Margaret. "Lord God," he
thought, "it has come at last!" and they grinned at each other.
"Mmm!" said Margaret, who stood for the glory that was Greece and
the grandeur that was Rome. She had not expected to be so glad to see
Meanwhile Aladdin had turned and was going home.
Margaret caught sight of his back, and the pitiful little droop in
the usually erect shoulders, and she divined like a flash, and called
after him. He pretended not to hear and went on. In his pocket was
the editor's letter which he had designed to show her. It had lain
down and died.
"Why does that man hate me so?" said Manners.
A little of the joy of meeting had gone. A cloud passed over the
sun, and the earth was darkened. Many drops of rain began to fall,
each making a distinct splash as it struck. One began to smell the
disturbed dust. But the flowers continued to send up their incense to
heaven, and Manners put his light overcoat about Margaret.
Aladdin had a large acquaintance in the town among all sorts of
men, and, as he went home sorrowfully in the rain, he met a youth,
older than himself, who had an evil notoriety; for being born with
brains, of respectable people, and propitiously launched on the world,
he had begun in his early teens, and in the face of the most
heartrending solicitude, to drink himself to death. The miserable
part of it was that everybody loved him when he was sober, and out of
consideration to his family still asked him to the best that the town
could do in the way of parties and entertainments. He was a
good-looking young man with a big frame and a pale face. His real
name was William Addison Larch, but he was better known as "Beau
Larch." He had a nervous, engaging smile, of which he made frequent
"My word, Aladdin," he said, "you look sick as a dog. Come with
me and take a snifter for it."
Aladdin hesitated a moment. And as soon as he had thoroughly made
up his mind that it was wrong to say so, he said:
"I believe I will." The Celt in him was feeling suicidal. They
went into the ground-floor room of a house where liquor was sold.
"For me, whisky," said Beau Larch.
"The same for me," said Aladdin, with something suspiciously like
a gulp. The first drink which a man takes against his better judgment
is a grisly epoch in his life. Aladdin realized this, and was at once
miserable and willing that it should be so.
"To those that love us!" said Beau Larch.
Aladdin put down his liquor without grimace or gasp.
Beau Larch paid.
In Aladdin's pocket were three dollars, the first mile-post on the
steep road to his ideal. He felt, to be sure that they were there.
"Now you 'll have one with me," he said.
When the sudden rain-storm had rained and thundered and lightened
itself out, they went to another saloon, and from there to the Boat
Club, of which Beau Larch was a member and whither he asked Aladdin to
supper. Fishes and lobsters and clams were the staple articles of
Boat Club suppers, and over savory messes of these, helped down with
much whisky and water, Aladdin and Beau Larch made the evening spin.
Aladdin, talking eagerly and with the naivete of a child, wondered
why he had never liked this man so much before. And Larch told the
somewhat abject story of his life three times with an introduction of
much racy anecdote.
Aladdin's head held surprisingly well. Every now and then he
would hand himself an inward congratulation on the alertness and
clearness of his mind, and think what a fine constitution he must
have. They got to singing after a while, and reciting poems, of which
each knew a quantity by heart. And, oddly enough, Aladdin, though he
had been brought up to speak sound American, developed in his cups,
and afterward clung to, in moments of exhilaration or excitement, an
indescribably faint but perfectly distinct Hibernian accent. It was
the heritage to which he was heir, and made his eager and earnest
rendering of "Annabel Lee" so pathetic that Beau Larch wept, and
knocked a glass off the table. . . .
Men came and sat with them, and Aladdin discovered in himself what
he had hitherto never suspected—the power of becoming heart-to-heart
friends with strangers in two seconds.
Aladdin was never able to remember just how or when or with whom
they left the Boat Club. He only remembered walking and walking and
talking and talking, and finally arguing a knotty question, on which
all defended the same side, and then sitting down on the steps of a
house in a low quarter of the town, and pouring the ramifications of
all his troubles into the thoroughly sympathetic if somewhat
noncomprehending ears of Beau Larch. He talked long and became
drunker as he talked, while Larch became soberer. Then Aladdin
remembered that the door at the top of the steps had opened, and a
frowzy head had been stuck out, and that a brassy voice, with
something at once pathetic and wheedling in it, had said:
"Aren't you coming in, boys?"
Then Aladdin remembered that Beau Larch and he had had angry
words, and that Beau Larch had told him not to make an ass of
himself, and for heaven's sake to go home. To which Aladdin had
retorted that he was old enough to know what was good for him, and
hated the world and didn't give a damn who knew it, and wouldn't go
home. Aladdin could swear that after that he only closed his eyes for
a second to shut out something or other, and that when he opened them,
the reverberation of a door closing was in his ears. But for all that
Beau Larch had gone, and was to be seen neither up the street nor
down. Although his own was past mending, Beau Larch, drunk as he was,
had done a good deed that night, for he had guarded a precious
innocence against the assaults of a drunken little Irish boy who was
feeling down about something—a girl named something or other, Beau
Larch thought, and another boy named something or other. The next day
Beau had forgotten even that much.
Aladdin thought that Larch was hiding in jest. He arose
unsteadily and wandered off in search of him. After a time he found
himself before the door of his own house. There were lights in the
parlor, and Aladdin became almost sober. He realized with a thrill of
stricken conscience that Mrs. Brackett was sitting up for him, and he
was afraid. He tried the front door and found it unlocked. He went
in. On the right, the door leading into the parlor stood open. On
the table burned a lamp. Beside the table in the crushed plush
rocker sat Mrs. Brackett. Her spectacles were pushed high up on her
forehead. Her eyes were closed, and her mouth was slightly open.
From the corners of her eyes red marks ran down her cheeks. Her thin
gray hair was in disarray. In her lap, open, lay her huge family
Bible; a spray of pressed maidenhair fern marked the place.
Aladdin, somewhat sobered by now, and already stung with the
anguish of remorse, tiptoed into the parlor and softly blew out the
light; but the instant before he did so he glanced down at the Bible
in the good lady's lap and saw that she had been reading about the
prodigal son. Great tears ran out of Aladdin's eyes. He went
up-stairs, weeping and on tiptoe, and as he passed the door of his
brother's room he heard a stir within.
"Is that you, 'Laddin?"
"Sssh, darlint," said Aladdin; "you'll wake Mother Brackett."
In his own room there was a lamp burning low, and on his bureau
was a note for him from Margaret:
DEAR ALADDIN: Papa wants you to come up and have supper with us.
Peter Manners is here, and I think it will be fun. Please do come,
and remember a lot of foolish songs to sing. Why wouldn't you speak to
me? It hurts so when you act like that . . . .
Aladdin, kissing the note, went down on his knees and twice began
to pray, "O God—O God!" He could say no more, but all the penitence
and heartburnings of his soul were in his prayer. Later he lay on his
bed staring into a darkness which moved in wheels, and he kept saying
to the darkness:
"Neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee."
Late in the still morning he awoke, grieving and hurt, for he did
not see how he should ever face Mrs. Brackett, or his brother, or
Margaret, or himself, or anybody ever again.
There was in town at this time what passed for a comic-opera
troupe, and Margaret and her father, by way of doing honor to their
guest, invited all the young people to go to the performance and
attend a supper afterward. The party occupied the three foremost rows
in the music-hall, and Aladdin sat next to Margaret, and Manners sat
upon the other side.
The hero of the piece was a jovial big rascal with a spirited
voice, and much byplay which kept his good-natured audience in
titters—from the young gentlemen and little shrieks—from the young
ladies. Mr. Blythoe, the hero, when the curtain had fallen upon what
the management was pleased to call the second act, consented, in
response to continued applause, due to a double back somersault and
two appropriate remarks fired off in midair (this was his great
psychic moment), to make a little speech and sing a song. His speech,
though syntactically erratic, was delivered in a loud, frank way that
won everybody's heart, and in closing he said:
"Three nights ago I met with a young feller in this tow—city
[applause], and when we had taken one together for luck [titters from
the young gentlemen, who wanted one another to know that they knew
what he meant], he made me the loan of the song I'm a-going to sing.
He made up the words and the tune of this song hisself, and he's
right here in this audience." This gave an opportunity for some
buffoonery among the young gentlemen. Mr. Blythoe looked for one
instant straight at Aladdin, and Aladdin went into a cold sweat, for
he began to recollect that somewhere on a certain awful night he had
taken drinks with Mr. Blythoe and had sung him songs. Mr. Blythoe
"This young gentleman said I specially wasn't to mention his name,
and I won't, but I want all you ladies and gentlemen to know that this
here beautiful ballad was composed right here in this tow—city
[applause] by a citizen of this city. And here goes."
Then Mr. Blythoe did a wonderful thing. Much was owing to the
words and air, but a little something to the way in which Mr. Blythoe
sang. He took his audience with the first bar, and had some of them
crying when he was through. And the song should have been silly. It
was about a gay, gay young dog of a crow, that left the flock and went
to a sunny land and lived a mad, mad life; and finally, penitent and
old, came home to the north country and saw his old playmates in the
distance circling about the old pine-tree, but was too weak to reach
them, or to call loud enough for them to hear, and so lay down and
died, died, died. The tune was the sweetest little plaintive wail,
and at the end of each stanza it died, died, till you had to cry.
Mr. Blythoe received tremendous applause, but refused to encore.
He winked to Aladdin and bowed himself off. Then Aladdin executed an
unparalleled blush. He could feel it start in the small of his back
and spread all over him—up under the roots of his hair to the top of
his head. He should have felt proud, instead of which he was suffused
with shame. Margaret caught sight of his face.
"What is it, Aladdin?" she said in a whisper.
"Won't you tell me?"
"It's nothing." He got redder and redder.
With downcast eyes he shook his head. She looked at him dubiously
and a little pathetically for a moment. Then she said, "Silly goose,"
and turned to Manners.
"Poor old crow!" said Manners. "I had one, Margaret, when I was
little; he had his wings clipped and used to follow me like a dog, and
one day he saw some of his old friends out on the salt-marsh, and he
hopped out to talk it over with them, and they set upon him and killed
him. And I couldn't get there quick enough to help him—I beg your
pardon." He picked up a fan and handed it to the girl on his left,
and she, having dropped it on purpose, blushed, thanked him, and
giggled. Manners turned to Margaret again. "Ever since then," he
said, "when I have a gun in my hand and see a crow, I want to kill him
for the sake of the crows that killed mine, and to let him go for the
sake of mine, who was such a nice old fellow. So it's an awful
Aladdin sat and looked straight before him. "Is real fame as
awful as this?" he thought.
Somebody clapped him on the shoulder, and a hearty voice,
something the worse for wear, said loudly in his ear, "Bully,
Aladdin looked up and recognized that bad companion, Beau Larch.
"That's all right," Aladdin tried to say, but Mr. Larch would not
"Wasn't it bully, Margaret?" he said.
"Oh—hallo—hallo, Beau!" said she, starting and turning round and
collecting her wits. "What? Wasn't what bully?"
Aladdin frowned at Larch with all the forbiddingness that he could
muster, but Larch was imperturbable.
"Why, Aladdin's song!" he said. "You know, the one about the old
crow—the one the man just sang."
Here a young lady, over whom Beau Larch was leaning, confided to
her escort in an audible, nervous voice that she knew Beau Larch had
been drinking, but she wouldn't say why she knew —anybody could see
he had; and then she sniffed with her nose by way of indicating that
seeing was not the only or best method of telling.
"You don't mean to say—"said Margaret to Aladdin, and looked him
in the eyes. "Why, Aladdin!" she said. And then:
"Peter—Peter—'Laddin wrote it, he did. Isn't it gr-reat!"
And Peter, rising to the occasion, said, "Bully," and "I thought
it was great," with such absolute frankness and sincerity that
Aladdin's heart almost warmed toward him. It was presently known all
over the house that Aladdin had written the song. And some of the more
clownish of the young people called for Author, Author. Aladdin hung
At supper at the St. Johns' later was a crisp, brisk gentleman
with grayish hair, who talked in a pleasant, dry way. Aladdin
learned that it was Mr. Blankinship, editor and proprietor of the
Portland "Spy." Almost immediately on learning this important item,
he saw Mr. Blankinship exchange a word with Margaret and come toward
"The same that sent us three poems a while ago?"
"And you wrote that song we heard to-night?"
"Yes, sir." Aladdin was now fiery red.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I've just finished school," said Aladdin. "And I don't know what
"Newspaper work appeal to you?"
"Timid as a coot," thought Mr. Blankinship.
"Write easily?" he said. "Fast—short words?"
Aladdin thought a moment. "Yes, sir," he said coolly.
"Less timid than a coot," thought Mr. Blankinship.
"Willing to live in Portland?"
"I'll give you five dollars a week and give you a trial."
"Thank you, sir."
"Can you get moved and start work Monday?"
Mr. Blankinship smiled cheerfully.
"Pretty entertainment, isn't it?"
"Well, O'Brien, see you Monday; hope we get on." Mr. Blankinship
nodded pleasantly and passed up the room to the punch, muttering as he
went, "Writes better than talks—dash of genius—more or less timid
than a coot."
Aladdin went quickly to find Margaret. He traced her to the
pantry, where she was hurrying the servant who had charge of the
ice-cream. Aladdin waited until the servant had gone out with a
"Margaret," he said, "I'm going away to live."
He spoke in the flat, colorless voice with which a little child
announces that it has hurt itself.
"What do you mean, Aladdin?" She changed color slightly.
"Only that I've got to make a living, Margaret, and it's on a
paper, so I ought to be glad."
"Aren't you glad, Aladdin?"
She read in his eyes what was coming.
"Not now, Aladdin," she said.
"Not now—dear Aladdin."
"Then you know?"
"I've always known, Aladdin, and been grateful and that proud."
"Will there never be any chance for me, Margaret?"
"Aladdin, I think I like you better than anybody else in the
"Darling—" he had never supposed that it could be said so easily;
he leaned toward her.
"No," she said suddenly; "I've got to go and see after all those
"Just for the sake of old times, and now, and new times—"
She hesitated, reddened a little, and then, as sweetly and
innocently as a child, put up her lips for him to kiss.
Hannibal St. John's campaign for reelection to the senatorship
was, owing to a grievous error in tact, of doubtful issue. A hue and
cry arose against him among his constituents, and things in general
fell out so unhappily that it looked toward the close of the contest
as if he would be obliged to sit idle and dangle his heels, while the
two halves of the country, pushing against each other, were rising in
the middle like the hinge of a toggle-joint into the most momentous
crisis in the nation's history. It looked as if the strong man, with
his almost blasphemous intolerance of disunion, his columnlike power
of supporting, and his incomparable intellect, was to stand in the
background and watch the nightmare play from afar. He fought for his
place in the forefront of the battle with a great fervor of
bitterness, and the possibility of defeat weighed upon his glowering
soul like a premature day of judgment. He knew himself to be the one
man for the opportunity, and could his true feelings have found
utterance, they would have said, "Damn us everlastingly in hell, but
don't shelve us now!"
Opposed to St. John was a Mr. Bispham, of about quarter his height
intellectually and integrally—a politician, simple, who went to war
for loot. But he was blessed with a tremendous voice and an
inexhaustible store of elemental, fundamental humor, upon the waves of
which the ship bearing his banner floated high. It seemed that
because of one glaring exhibition of tactlessness, and a lack of
humor, a really important, valuable, and honest man was to lose the
chance of serving his country to a designing whipper-snapper, who was
without even the saving grace of violent and virulent prejudices. And
so the world goes. It seemed at one time that St. John's chance was a
ghost of a chance, and his friends, sons, and relatives, toiling
headstrong by night and day, were brought up at the verge of despair.
To make the situation even more difficult, St. John himself was
prostrated with the gout, so that his telling oratory and commanding
personality could not be brought to bear. Margaret was never far
from her father's side, and she worked like a dog for him, writing to
dictation till her hands became almost useless, and when the spasms of
pain were great, leaving her work to kiss his old brow.
It was at this time that people all over the State began to take
up a song with an inimitably catching tune. The words of this song
held up Mr. Bispham in so shrewdly true and farcically humorous a
light that even his own star began to titter and threatened to slip
from its high place in the heavens. The song fell so absolutely on
the head of the nail that Mr. Bispham, when he heard it for the first
time, was convulsed with anger and talked of horse-whips. The second
time he heard it, he drew himself up with dignity and pretended not
to notice, and the third time he broke into a cold sweat, for he began
to be afraid of those words and that tune. At a mass-meeting, while
in the midst of a voluble harangue, somebody in the back of the hall
punctuated—an absurd statement, which otherwise might have passed
unnoticed, by whistling the first bar of the song. Mr. Bispham faced
the tittering like a man, and endeavored to rehabilitate himself. But
his hands had slipped on the handle of the audience, and the forensic
rosin of Demosthenes would not have enabled him to regain his grip.
He was cruelly assured of the fact by the hostile and ready-witted
whistler. Again Mr. Bispham absurded. This time the tune broke out
in all parts of the hall and was itself punctuated by catcalls and
sotto-voce insults delivered with terrific shouts. Mr. Bispham's
speech was hurriedly finished, and the peroration came down as flat
as a skater who tries a grape-vine for the first time. He left the
hall hurriedly, pale and nervous. The tune followed him down the
street and haunted him to his room. The alarming takingness of it had
gotten in at his ear, and as he was savagely undressing he caught
himself in the traitorous act of humming it to himself.
Among others to leave the hall was a tall, slim young man with
freckles across the bridge of his nose and very bright blue eyes. A
party of young men accompanied him, and all were a little noisy, and,
as they made the street, broke lustily into the campaign song. People
said, "That's him," "That's O'Brien," "That's Aladdin O'Brien,"
"That's the man wrote it," and the like. The young men disappeared
down the street singing at the tops of their voices, with
interlardations of turbulent, mocking laughter.
Aladdin's song went all over the North, and his name became known
in the land.
Hannibal St. John was not musical. There were only four tunes,
and three of them were variations of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,"
that he recognized when he heard them. As he lay on his bed of pain,
he heard the shrill whistle of his gardener piping in the garden
below. Unconsciously the senator's well hand marked the time. All
day, as he came and went about his business, the gardener kept
whistling that tune, and the senator heard and reheard ever with
increasing pleasure. And this was an extraordinary thing, for it was
as difficult or nearly so to move Hannibal St. John with music as it
must have been for Orpheus to get himself approached by rocks and
stones and trees, and far more difficult than it ever was for the Pied
Piper to achieve a following of brats and rats.
Margaret had been for a drive with a girl friend. She came home
and to her father's side in great spirits.
"Oh, papa," she cried, "will you do me a favor?"
She read consent.
"Claire has got the wonderfulest song, and I want you to let her
come in and sing it for you."
"A song?" said the senator, doubtfully.
"Papa de-e-ear, please."
He smiled grimly.
"If Claire will not be shocked by my appearance," he said against
"Rubbish," cried Margaret, and flew out of the room.
There were a few preliminary gasps and giggles in the hall, and
the two maidens, as sedate and demure as mice, entered. Claire was a
little party, with vivacious manners and a comical little upturned
"How do you do, senator?" she said. "I'm so sorry you're laid up.
Isn't it lovely out?" She advanced and shook his well hand.
"Won't you take a chair?" said the senator.
"I just ran in for a moment. Margaret and I thought maybe you'd
like to hear the new campaign song that everybody's singing. My
brother brought it up from Portland—" she paused, out of breath.
"It would afford me great pleasure," said the senator.
And forthwith Claire sang in a rollicking voice. The tune was the
same as that which the gardener had been whistling. St. John
recognized it in spite of the difference in the mediums and smiled.
Then he smiled because of the words, and presently he laughed. It
was the first real pleasure he had had in many a day.
"Everybody is wild about it," said Claire, when she had finished.
The senator was shaking with laughter.
"That's good," he said, "that's good."
"Papa," said Margaret, when Claire had gone, "who do you think
wrote that song?"
"I don't know," said the senator. "But it's good."
"Aladdin wrote it," said Margaret.
"Upon my word!" said the senator.
Margaret knelt and threw her arms about her father's neck and
blushed a lovely blush.
"Isn't it splendid?"
There was a ring at the front door, and a telegram was brought in.
"Read it, Peggy," said the senator. He used that name only when
moved about something. The despatch was from the senator's youngest
son, Hannibal, and read:
Do not worry; we are singing Bispham up a tree.
"And Aladdin wrote the song!" cried Margaret. "Aladdin wrote it!"
The senator's face clouded for a moment. He forced the cloud to
"We must thank him," he said. "We must thank him."
Senator St. John was reelected by a small majority. Everybody
admitted that it was due to Aladdin O'Brien's song. It was
impossible to disguise the engaging childishness of the vote.
As he went to his desk in the back room of the Portland "Spy"
offices the morning after the election, Aladdin had an evil headache,
and a subconscious hope that nobody would speak to him suddenly. He
felt that his arms and legs might drop off if anybody did, and he
could have sworn that he saw a gray sparrow with blue eyes run into a
dark corner, and turn into a mouse. But he was quite free from
penitence, as the occasion of this last offense had been joy and
triumph, whereas that of his first had been sorrow. He lighted a bad
cigar, put off his editorial till later, and covered a whole sheet of
paper with pictures like these:
(Transcriber's note: These are simple sketches of birds and
He looked back with a certain smug satisfaction upon a hilarious
evening beginning with a dinner at the club, which some of the older
adherents of St. John had given him in gratitude for the part he had
taken in the campaign. He remembered that he had not given a bad
exhibition, and that noble prophecies had been made of his future by
gentlemen in their cups, and that he himself, when just far enough
gone to be courageous without being silly, had made a snappy little
speech of thanks which had been received with great applause, and
that later he had sung his campaign song and others, and that finally,
in company with an ex-judge, whose hat was also decorated with a
wreath of smilax, he had rolled amiably about the town in a hack,
going from one place where drinks could be gotten to another, and
singing with great fervor and patriotism:
Zhohn Brownzh bozhy liezh a mole-ring in zhe grave.
Aladdin thought over these things with pleasure, for he had fallen
under the dangerous flattery of older men, and with less pleasure of
the editorial which it was his immediate business to write. His
brisk, crisp chief, Mr. Blankinship, came in for a moment, walking
testily and looking like the deuce.
"So you've showed up, Aladdin, have you?" he said. "That's young
blood. If any question of politics—I mean policy —arises, I leave
it absolutely to you. I'm going back to bed. Can't you stop smoking
that rotten cigar?"
Aladdin laughed aloud, and Mr. Blankinship endeavored to smile.
"Somewhere," he said, "in this transcendentally beautiful
continent, Aladdin, there may be some one that feels worse than I do,
but I doubt it." He turned to go.
"Won't Mr. Orde be here either?" said Aladdin.
"No; he's home in bed. You're editor-in-chief and everything else
for the day, see? And I wish I was dead." Mr. Blankinship nodded,
very slightly, for it hurt, and went out.
The misery of others is a great cure: with the first sight of Mr.
Blankinship, Aladdin's headache had gone, and he now pounced upon
fresh paper, got a notion out of the God-knows-where, wrote his
editorial at full speed, and finished it without once removing the
cigar from his mouth.
He had just done when the shrewd, inky little boy, who did
everything about the "Spy" offices which nobody else would do,
entered and said that a gentleman wanted to speak with Mr. O'Brien.
Aladdin had the gentleman shown up, and recognized the oldest of
Hannibal St. John's sons; he knew them well by sight, but it so.
happened that he had never met them. They were the three biggest and
most clean-cut young men in Maine, measuring between six feet three
and four; erect, massive, utterly composed, and, if anything, a little
stronger than so many dray-horses. They were notable shots, great
fishermen, and the whole State was beginning to speculate with
excitement about their respective futures and the present almost
glittering success of the law firm which they composed. The oldest
was the tallest and the strongest. He had been known to break
horseshoes and to tear a silver dollar in two. Iron was as
sealing-wax in his huge hands. His habits were Spartan. The second
son was almost a replica of the first—a little darker and a little
less vivid. The third was like the others; but his face was
handsomer, and not so strong. He was of a more gentle and winning
disposition, for his life was not ignorant of the frailties. The girl
to whom he had been engaged had died, and that had left a kind of
sweetness, almost beseechingness, in his manner, very engaging in so
tall and strong a man.
"Mr. O'Brien?" said John St. John.
Aladdin arose and held out his long, slender hand.
Aladdin had a way of moving which was very individual to himself,
a slight, ever so slight, exaggeration of stride and gesture, a kind
of captivating awkwardness and diffidence that was on the borderland
of grace and assurance. Like all slender people who work much with
their heads, he had a strong grip, but he felt that his hand was as
inconsistent as an eel when St. John's closed over it.
"I came in for a moment," said St. John, "to say that we are all
exceedingly grateful to you. Your song was a great factor in my
father's reelection to the Senate. But we do not hold so much by the
song as by the good will which you showed us in writing it. I want
you to understand and believe that if I can ever be of the slightest
service to you, I will go very far to render it."
"I'm as obliged as I can be," said Aladdin. "It's mighty good of
you to come and talk to me like this, and except for the good will I
have toward all your family, I don't deserve it a bit."
When John St. John had gone, the inky boy came to announce that
another gentleman wished to speak with Mr. O'Brien.
The second gentleman proved to be the second brother, Hamilton St.
"Mr. O'Brien?" said he.
Aladdin shook hands with him.
"I came in for a moment," said Hamilton St. John, "for the
pleasure of telling you how tremendously grateful we all are to you
for your song, which was such a big factor in my father's redirection
to the Senate. But I want to say, too, that we're more grateful for
your good will than for the song, and if I can ever do you a service,
I want you to feel perfectly free to come and ask it of me, whatever
Aladdin could have laughed for joy. Margaret did not seem so far
away as sometimes.
"I'm as obliged as I can be," he said. "It's mighty good of you
to come and talk to me like this, and except for the good will I have
toward all your family, I don't deserve it a bit, but I appreciate it
just the same."
Presently Hamilton St. John departed.
Again the inky boy, and this time grinning.
"There's a gentleman would like to speak with you, sir," he said.
"Show him in," said Aladdin.
Hannibal St. John, Jr., entered.
"O'Brien," he said, "I've often heard my sister Margaret speak
about you, and I've been meaning for ever so long to look you up.
And I wish I'd done it before I had such an awfully good excuse as
that song of yours, because I don't know how to thank you, quite. But
I want you to understand that if at any time—rubbish, you know what I
mean. Come up to the club, and we'll make a drink and talk things
He drew Aladdin's arm into his, and they went out.
Aladdin had never before felt so near Margaret.
He returned to the office in half an hour, happy and a slave.
Hannibal St. John, Jr., had won the heart right out of him in ten
minutes. He sat musing and dreaming. Was he to be one of those
"Gentleman to see you, sir."
"Show him in."
The inky snickered and hurried out. He could be heard saying with
importance, "This way, sir. Look out for that press, sir. It's very
dark in here, sir." And then, like a smart flunky in a house of
condition, he appeared again at the door and announced
"Senator Hannibal St. John."
Aladdin sprang up.
The senator, still suffering from the gout, and leaning heavily on
his whalebone cane, limped majestically in. There was an amiability
on his face, which Aladdin had never seen there before. He placed a
chair for his distinguished guest. The senator removed his high hat
and stood it upon the edge of Aladdin's desk.
"My boy," he said,—the word tingled from Aladdin's ears to his
heart, for it was a word of great approachment and unbending,—"I am
very grateful for your efforts in my behalf. I will place honor where
honor is due, and say that I owe my recent reflection to the United
States Senate not so much to my more experienced political friends as
to you. The present crisis in the affairs of the nation calls for men
of feeling and honor, and not for politicians. I hope that you will
not misconstrue me into a braggart if I say from the bottom of my
heart I believe that, in returning a man of integrity and tradition
to his seat in the Congress of the nation, you have rendered a service
to the nation."
The senator paused, and Aladdin, still standing, waited for him to
"After a week," said the senator, "I shall return to my duties in
Washington. In the meanwhile, Margaret" (he had hitherto always
referred to her before Aladdin as "my daughter") "and I are keeping
open house, and if it will give you pleasure we shall be charmed" (the
word fell from the senator's lips like a complete poem) "to have you
make us a visit. Two of my sons will be at home, and other young
"Indeed, and it will give me pleasure!" cried Aladdin, falling
into the least suspicion of a brogue.
"I will write a line to your chief," continued the senator, "and I
have reason to believe that he will see you excused. We shall expect
you to-morrow by the fourthirty."
"I'm ever so much obliged, sir," said Aladdin.
"My boy," said the senator, gravely, after a full minute's pause,
"we are all concerned in your future, which promises to be a brilliant
one. It rests with you. But, if an old man may be permitted a word
of caution, it would be this: Let your chief recreation lie in your
work; leave the other things. Do I make myself clear enough?"
(Aladdin nodded guiltily.) "Leave the frailties to the dullards of
He rose to go.
"My young friend," said the senator, "you have my best wishes."
Grimacing with the pain in his foot, limping badly, but always
stately and impressive,—almost superimpending,—Hannibal St. John
moved slowly out of the office.
The weather turned suddenly gusty and cold, and that afternoon it
began to snow, and it kept on snowing. All night fine dry flakes fell
in unexampled profusion, and by morning the face of the land was many
inches deep. Nor did the snow then cease. All the morning it
continued to fall with vigor. The train by which Aladdin was to go to
the St. Johns' left at two-thirty, arriving there two hours later; and
it was with numb feet and stinging ears that he entered the car
reserved for smokers, and, bundling in a somewhat threadbare over
coat, endeavored to make himself comfortable for the journey. As the
train creaked and jerked out of the protecting station, the storm
smote upon the windows with a noise like thrown sand, and a back
draft down the chimney of the iron stove in one end of the car sent
out puffs of smutty smoke at whatever points the various castings of
the stove came together with insufficient snugness. There were but
half a dozen people in the whole train.
"Troubles, old man," said Aladdin, for so he was in the habit of
addressing himself at moments of self-communication, "this is going to
be the slowest kind of a trip, but we're going to enjoy every minute
of it, because it's taking us to the place where we would be-God bless
Aladdin took a cigar from his breast pocket.
"Troubles," said he, "may I offer you a smoke? What? Oh, you're
very much obliged and don't mind if you do. There you are, then."
Aladdin sent out a great puff of white smoke; this turned into a blue
wraith, drifted down the aisle, between the seats, gathering momentum
as it went, and finally, with the rapidity of a mint julep mounting a
sucked straw (that isn't split) and spun long and fine, it was drawn
through a puncture of the isinglass in the stove door and went up the
chimney in company with other smoke, and out into the storm. Aladdin,
full of anticipation and glee, smoked away with great spirit.
Presently, for the car was empty but for himself, Aladdin launched
into the rollicking air of "Red Renard"
"Three scarlet huntsmen rode up to White Plains
With a carol of voices and jangle of chains,
For the morning was blue and the morning was fair,
And the word ran, "Red Renard" is waiting us there."
He puffed at his cigar a moment to be sure that its fire should
not flag, and sang on:
"The first scarlet huntsman blew into his horn,
Lirala, Lovely Morning, I'm glad I was born";
The second red huntsman he whistled an air,
And the third sang, "Red Renard" is waiting us there."
"Just such weather as this, Troubles," he said, looking out into
the swirl of snow. "Just the beautifulest kind of cross-country
weather!" He sang on:
Three lovely ladies they met at the meet,
With whips in their hands and with boots on their feet;
And the gentlemen lifted their hats with a cheer,
As the girls said, "Red Renard is waiting you here."
He quickened into the stanza he liked best:
Three scarlet huntsmen rode off by the side
Of three lovely ladies on horses of pride.
Said the first, "Call me Ellen"; the second, "I'm Claire";
Said the third, "I'm Red Renard—so called from my hair."
The train, which had been running more slowly, drew up with a
chug, and some minutes passed before it again gathered itself and
"That's all right," said Aladdin. He was quite warm now, and
Three scarlet huntsmen rode home from White Plains,
With its mud on their boots, and its girls on their brains;
And the first sang of Ellen, the second of Claire,
But the third sang, "Red Renard is waiting back there."
He made a waggish face to finish with:
Three scarlet huntsmen got into frock-coats,
And they pinched their poor feet, and they tortured their
And the first married Ellen, the second wed Claire,
While the third said, "Re Renar izh waishing back zhere."
He assumed the expression for a moment of one astutely drunk.
"A bas!" he said, for this much of the French language was his to
command, and no more. He turned and attempted to look out. He yawned.
Presently he threw away the reeking butt of his cigar, closed his
eyes, and fell asleep.
The water below the veranda was alive with struggling fishes in
high hats and frock-coats. Each fish had a label painted across his
back with his name and address neatly printed on it, and each fish was
struggling to reach a tiny minnow-hook, naked of bait, which dangled
just out of reach above the water. The baitless hook was connected by
a fine line (who ever heard of baiting a line at the wrong end?) with
Margaret's hand. She had on a white dress stamped with big pink
roses, and there was a pale-green ribbon round the middle of it; her
hair was done up for the first time, and she was leaning over the
railing, which was made of safety-lamps and stranglers alternately,
painted light blue, regarding the struggling fishes with a look at
once full of curiosity and pity. Presently one of the fishes' labels
soaked off, and went hurtling out to sea, with the fish weeping
bitterly and following at express speed, until in less than one moment
both label and fish were hull down below the horizon. Then another
label washed off, and then another and another, and fish after fish,
in varying states of distraction, followed after and disappeared,
until all you could see were two, whereof the one was labeled Manners
and the other O'Brien (these continued to fight for the hook), and all
you could hear was Neptune, from down, down, down in the sea, saying
coquettishly to Cleopatra, "I'm Red Renard—so called from my hair."
And then all of a sudden valiant Captain Kissed-by-Margaret went by
on a log writing mottos for the wives of famous men. And then Manners
and O'Brien, struggling desperately to drown each other, sank down,
down, down, and Cleopatra could be heard saying perfectly logically to
Neptune, "You didn't!" And then there was a tremendous shower of
roses, and the dream went out like a candle.
Aladdin opened his eyes and stroked his chin. He was troubled
about the dream. The senator had spoken to him of "others." Could
Peter Manners possibly be there? Was that the especial demolishment
that fate held in store for him? He was very wide awake now.
At times, owing to the opaqueness of the storm, it was impossible
to see out of the car window. But there were moments when a sudden
rush of wind blew a path for the eye, and by such occasional
pictures—little long of the instantaneous—one could follow the
progress of the blizzard. Aladdin saw a huddle of sheep big with snow;
then a man getting into a house by the window; an ancient apple-tree
with a huge limb torn off; two telegraph poles that leaned toward
each other, like one man fixing another's cravat; and he caught
glimpses of wires broken, loosened, snarled, and fuzzy with snow.
Then the train crawled over a remembered trestle, and Aladdin knew
that he was within four miles of his station, and within three of the
St. Johns' house by the best of short cuts across country. He looked
precisely in its direction, and kissed his fingers to Margaret, and
wondered what she was doing. Then there was a rumbling, jumping jar,
and the train stopped. Minute after minute went by. Aladdin waited
impatiently for the train to start. The conductor passed hurriedly
"What's up?" called Aladdin after him.
"Up!" cried the conductor. "We're off the track."
"Can't we go on to-night?"
"Nup!" The conductor passed out of the car and banged the door.
"Got to sit here all night!" said Aladdin. "Not much! Get up,
Troubles! If you don't think I know the way about here, you can stay
by the stove. I'm going to walk."
Aladdin and Troubles rose, buttoned their coat, left the car, and
set out in the direction of the St. Johns'. Aladdin's watch at
starting read five o'clock.
"Our luggage is all checked, Troubles," he said, "and all we've
got to face is the idea of walking three miles through very
disagreeable weather, over a broad path that we know like the palm of
our hand (which we don't know as well as we might), arriving late, wet
to the skin, and without a change of clothes. On the other hand, we
shall deserve a long drink and much sympathy. As for you, Troubles,
you're the best company I know, and all is well."
The first scarlet huntsman blew into his horn,
"Lirala, Lovely Morning, I'm glad I was born."
At first the way, lying through waist-high fir scrub, was pretty
bad underfoot, but beyond was a stretch of fine timber, where the
trees had done much to arrest the snow, and the going was not so
severe. Aladdin calculated that he should make the distance in an
hour and a half; and when the wood ended, he looked at his watch and
found that the first mile, together with only twenty-five minutes, was
"That's the rate of an hour and a quarter, Troubles," he said.
"And that's good time. Are you listening?"
But following the wood was a great open space of country pitched
up from the surrounding levels, and naked to every fury of nature.
Across that upland the wind blew a wicked gale, scarifying the tops
of knolls to the brown, dead grass, and filling the hollows flush with
snow. At times, to keep from being blown over, it was necessary to
lean against the gusts. Aladdin was conscious of not making very
rapid progress, but there was something exhilarating in the wildness,
the bitter cold, and the roar of the wind; it had an effect as of sea
thundering upon beach, great views from mountain-tops, black wild
nights, the coming of thunder and freshness after intense heat, or any
of the thousand and one vaster demonstrations of nature. Now and
again Aladdin sang snatches of song:
A gallant knight
In sunshine and shadow
Singing a song,
In search of El Dorado.
Or from "The Mole of Marimolena"
I was turning fifty-odd when the everlasting God
Smote a path of molten gold across the blue,
Says, "There's many million men would have done the like again,
But you didn't, and, my man, there's hope for you.
"Start sheets and sail for the Mole—
For the old rotten Mole of Marimolena;
There's maybe some one there
That you're longing to treat fair,
On the dismal, woeful Mole of Marimolena."
And other deep-sea chanteys,—the one in which the pirate found
the Lady in the C-a-a-bin and slivered off her head, or back to Red
Renard, or further to his own campaign song, and furthest of all to
the bad, bad young dog of a crow. Then he got quite out of breath,
and pausing for a moment to catch it, noted for the first time the
extreme bitterness of the cold. It stung the face like insects.
"Woof!" he said. "And now for lost time."
Again he stepped out, but with each step the snow became deeper,
and presently he floundered in to his waist. "Must be a ditch!" he
said, turning a little to the right and exclaiming, "Thought so!" as
the wading got shallower. Whereupon he stepped into a deep hole and
fell. After plunging and plowing about, it was brought home to him
that he had lost the path. Even at that the difficulty remained one
of hard walking alone, for he had been familiar with that country
since childhood, and knew the precise direction in which it was
necessary for him to locomote. It was a pity that the only structure
in the vicinity was an ancient and deserted house,—it lay just off
there,—as he should have liked to have warmed himself by a good fire
before going farther. He remembered that there were a partly
preserved stove in the deserted house, broken laths, and naily boards,
and swathes of curious old wall-papers, layer upon layer, which,
dampening and rotting from the wall, hung raggedly down. He had once
explored the house with Margaret, and it seemed almost wise to go to
the place and make a fire. But on account of the delay involved and
the approach of darkness, he discarded the notion, and, a little
impatient at being badly used by a neighborhood he knew so well,
"Troubles," he said, "what sort of a storm is this anyway? Did you
ever see anything quite like it round here? Because I never did. It
must be like those things they have out West, when millions of poor
little baa-sheeps and horses and cattles freeze to death. I'd hate to
be a horse out in this, but I wish I had one. I—"
If, as a child, you have ever slipped, though only an inch, while
climbing over roofs, you will know that sudden, stabbing, sinking
feeling that came to Aladdin and stopped the beating of his heart by
the hairbreadth of a second. He had been proceeding chin on breast,
and head bent against the wind, or he would have seen it before, for
it was a notable landmark in that part of the world, and showed him
that he had been making way, not toward his destination, but toward
He gazed up at the great black blasted pine, its waist the height
of a tall tree, and its two lonely lightning-scathed and white arms
stretched out like a malediction; and for a moment he had to take
himself in hand. After a little he mastered the fear that had seized
"It's only a poor old lonely vegetable out in the cold," he said.
"And it shows us exactly where we are and exactly which way we have
He set himself right, and, with head lowered and hands clenched,
again started on. But he was beginning to be very much bored, and
sensible that his legs were not accustomed to being used so hard.
Furthermore, there was a little difficulty—not by any means an
insurmountable one—in steering straight, because of the constantly
varying point of the compass in which the wind blew. He went on for a
long time . . . .
He began to look for the high ground to decline, as it should,
about now, if it was the high ground he took it for. "I ought to be
getting somewhere," he said.
And, God help him! tired out, half frozen and very foot-sore, he
was getting somewhere, for, glancing up, he again beheld the gigantic
and demoniac shape of the blasted pine.
It is on prairies and among mountains, far from the habitations of
men, that man is most readily terrified before nature, and not on the
three-mile primrose way from a railway accident to a house-party. But
for a moment cold terror struck at Aladdin like a serpent, and the
marrow in his bones froze. Before he could succeed in reducing this
awful feeling to one of acute anxiety alone, he had to talk to himself
and explain things as to a child.
"Then it is true, Troubles, old man," he said, "about a person's
tendency to go to the left. That's interesting, isn't it? But what
do we care? Being gifted with a certain (flighty, it is true)
intelligence, we will simply take pains, and every step pull a little
to the right; and that will make us go straight. Come now-keep
thinking about it-every step!"
As the end of the day approached, a lull came in the gale, and the
snow fell less freely. The consequently widened horizon of vision was
eminently comforting, and Aladdin's unpleasant feeling of anxiety
Suddenly he was aware of a red horse.
It was standing almost leg-clear, in an angle of what seemed a
drifted-over snake-fence. Its ugly, Roman-nosed head was thrown up
and out, as if about to neigh.
"Poor beastie," said Aladdin, after a start. "You must be
direfful cold, but we'll ride you, and that will make you warm, and
us cold, and we'll all get along faster."
Drawing near, he began to gentle the horse and call it pet names.
It was a huge brute, over seventeen hands high, and Aladdin, aided
only by a rickety fence, and a pair of legs that would hardly support
him, was appalled by the idea of having to climb to that lofty
eminence, its back. Without doubt he was dreadfully tired.
"The fence will help, old man" he said. "Here, you, pay attention
and get over." He tried to insinuate himself between the horse and
the fence, but the horse did not seem inclined to move.
"Get over, you!" he said, and gave a shove. The horse moved a
little, very unwillingly. "Farther yet," said Aladdin: "Get over,
you, get over." Again he shoved; this time harder. He slapped the
great shoulder with his open hand. And again the horse moved, but
very slowly. "You're an unwilling brute, aren't you?" he said
For answer the thing tottered, and, to his horror, began to fall,
at first slowly, but ever with accelerating speed, until, in the exact
attitude in which it had stood by the fence,—the great Roman-nosed
head thrown up and out, as if to neigh,—he beheld the horse stretched
before him on the ground, and noted for the first time the awful
death-like glint of the yellow teeth through the parting of the lips.
He went very gravely from that place, for he had been looking upon
death by freezing, and he himself was terribly cold, terribly tired,
and—he admitted it now—completely lost.
But he went on for a long time—four or five hundred years. And it
grew darker and colder.
He began to talk to himself, to try and steady himself, as he had
done ever since childhood at forsaken times.
"Troubles," he said, "You're full of troubles, aren't you, old
man? You always were. But this is the worst. You can't walk very
much farther, can you? I can't. And if you don't get helped by some
one pretty soon, you're going to come to the end of your troubles.
And, Troubles, do you know, I think that's what's going to happen to
you and me, and I want you to stand up to it if it comes [gulp] and
face it like a man. Now let's rest a little, Troubles, will we?"
Troubles and Aladdin rested a little. When the rest was over they
could hardly move, and they began to see the end of a young man that
they had hoped would live a long time and be very happy. They went
"Troubles," said Aladdin, "do you suppose she knows that we are
out here, perhaps dying? We would know if she were, wouldn't we? And
do you think she cares? Liar, you know she cares, and a lot. She
wouldn't be she if she didn't care. But we didn't think that all the
years of waiting and hoping and loving and trying to be something
would end like this, did we, Troubles? We thought that it might end
with the godlike Manners (whom we wouldn't help if he were freezing to
death, would we?), but not like this—O Lord God, not like this! . . .
And we weren't sure it would end with Manners; we were going to fight
it out to a mighty good finish, weren't we, Troubles? But now it's
going to end in a mighty good storm, and you're going to die for all
your troubles, Troubles . . . And I'm talking to you so that we won't
lose our sand, even if we are afraid to die, and there's no one
Though Aladdin stopped making talk in his head, the talk kept
going on by itself; and he suddenly shouted aloud for it to stop.
Then he began to whimper and shiver, for he thought that his mind was
Presently he shook himself.
"Troubles," he said, "we've only a little farther to go—just as
far as our feet will carry us, and no farther. That's the proper way
to finish. And for God's sake keep sane. We won't give her up yet!"
Ten steps and years passed.
"Troubles," said Aladdin, "we're going to call for help, and if it
don't come, which it won't, we're going to try and be calm. It seems
simplest and looks best to be calm."
Aladdin stood there crying aloud for the help of man, but it did
not come. And then he cried for the help of God. And he stood there
waiting—waiting for it to come.
"We must help ourselves, Troubles," he said, with a desperate
effort to be calm. "We've got ten steps left in us. Now, then,
During the taking of those ten steps the snow ceased entirely to
fall, and black night enveloped the earth.
Aladdin was all numb, and he wished to sleep, but he made the ten
steps into eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, before his limbs
refused to act, and he fell forward in the snow. He managed to raise
himself and crawl a little way. He saw a light afar off, and guessing
that it must be an angel, held out his hands to it—and one of them
encountered a something in the dark.
Even through his thick mitten it felt round and smooth and colder
than his fingers, like a ball of ice. Then Aladdin laughed aloud, for
he knew that his last walk upon earth had been in the form of a silly
circle. He had returned to the dead horse, and his gloved hand was
resting upon its frozen eye. He shrieked with laughter and became
heavy with a desire to sleep.
He sank deliciously down, and began to see showers of roses, when
it flashed upon him that this was not sleep, but death.
It was like lifting prodigious dumb-bells to get his eyes to open,
and a return to consciousness was like the stabbing of knives. But he
opened his eyes and roused himself.
"I won't give her up yet," he cried.
And then, by the help of God Almighty, he crawled the whole length
of the horse.
And fell asleep.
It was a miserable, undressed thing wrapped in a horse-blanket and
a buffalo-robe that woke up in front of a red-hot stove and remembered
that it used to be Aladdin O'Brien. It had a dreadful headache, and
could smell whisky and feel warm, and that for a long time was about
all. Then it noticed that the wall opposite was ragged with loosened
wall-paper and in places stripped of plaster, so that the lathing
showed through, and that in its own head—no, in the room beyond the
wall—an impatient stamping noise of iron on wood was occurring at
intervals. Then it managed to turn its head, and it saw a big,
beautiful man sitting on the end of an old soapbox and smoking a pipe.
Then it was seized with a wrenching sickness, and the big man came
quickly and held its head and was very good to it, and it felt better
and went to sleep. After a while it descended into the Red Sea, with
the avowed intention of calling Neptune Red Renard to his face, and
when it got to the bottom, which was of red brick sprinkled with white
door-knobs that people kept diving for, it became frightened and ran
and ran until it came to the bottom of an iceberg, that had roots like
a hyacinth bulb and was looking for a place to plant itself, and it
climbed up to the top of the iceberg, which was all bulrushes, and
said, "I beg your pardon, but I forgot; I must go back and make my
apologies." Then it woke up and spoke in a weak voice.
"Peter Manners," said Aladdin, "come here."
Manners came and sat on the floor beside him.
"Feel better now?" he said.
"Tell me—"said Aladdin.
"Oh, stuff!" said Manners.
"Manners," said Aladdin, "you don't look as if you hated me any
"You sleep," said Manners. "That's what you need."
Aladdin thought for a long time and tried to remember what he
wanted to say, and shutting his eyes, to think better, fell asleep.
For the third time he awoke. Manners was back on the soap-box,
still as a sphinx, and smoking his pipe.
"Please come and talk some more," said Aladdin.
Again Manners came.
"Tell me about it," said Aladdin.
"You be good and go to sleep," said Manners.
"What time is it?"
"No; stars out and warmer."
Aladdin thought a moment.
"Manners," he said, "please talk to me. How did you find me?"
"Simply enough," said Manners. "I took the senator's cutter out
for a little drive, and got lost. Then I heard somebody laughing, and
I stumbled over you and your horse; that's all. How the devil did you
manage to lose your saddle and bridle?"
"It was a dead horse," said Aladdin, and he shivered at the
"Quite so," said Manners.
"It was the funniest thing," said Aladdin, and again he shuddered
with a kind of reminiscent revolt. "I pushed it, and it fell over
frozen to death." He was conscious of talking nonsense.
"Wait a minute, Manners," he said. "I'll be sensible in a
Presently he told Manners about the horse.
"I saw alight just then," he said, "and I thought it was an
"It was I," said Manners, naively.
"Yes, Manners, it was you," said Aladdin.
He thought about an angel turning out to be Manners for a long
time. Then a terrible recollection came to him, and, in a voice
shaking with remorse and self-incrimination, he cried:
"God help me, Manners, I would have let you freeze."
Manners pulled at his pipe.
"Manners," said Aladdin, "it's true I know it's true, because, for
all I knew, I was dying when I said it."
Manners shook his head.
"Oh, no," said Manners.
"Make me think that," said Aladdin, with a quaver. "Please make
me think that if you can, for, God help me, I think I would have let
"When I found you," said Manners, "I—I was sorry that the Lord
hadn't sent somebody else to you, and me to somebody else. That was
because you always hated me with no very good reason, and a man hates
to be hated, and so, to be quite honest, I hated you back."
"Right," said Aladdin, "right."
Light began to come in through the windows, whose broken panes
Manners had stopped with crumpled wall-paper.
"But when I got you here," said Manners, "and began to work over
you, you stopped being Aladdin O'Brien, and were just a man in
"Yes," said Aladdin, "it must be like that. It's got to be like
"At first," said Manners, "I worked because it seemed the proper
thing to do, and then I got interested, and then it became terrible to
think that you might die."
"Yes," said Aladdin. His face was ghastly in the pre-sunrise
"You wouldn't get warm for hours," said Manners, "and I got so
tired that I couldn't rub any more, and so I stripped and got into
the blankets with you, and tried to keep you as warm as I could that
He paused to relight his pipe.
Aladdin stared up at the tattered ceiling with wide, wondering
"When you got warm," said Manners, "I gave you all the rest of the
whisky, and I'm sorry it made you sick, and now you're as fit as a
"Fit-as-a-fiddle," said Aladdin, slowly, as the wonder grew. And
then he began to cry like a little child. Manners waited till he had
done, and then wiped his face for him.
"So you see," said Manners, simply, though with difficulty, —for
he was a man shy, to terror, of discussing his own feelings,—"I can't
help liking you now, and—and I hope you won't feel so hard toward me
"I feel hard toward you!" said Aladdin. "Oh, Manners!" he cried.
"I thought all along that you were just a man that knew about horses
and dogs, but I see, I see; and I'm not going to worship anybody any
more except you and God, I'm not!"
Then he had another great long, hot cry. Manners waited patiently
till it was over.
"Manners," said Aladdin, in a choky, hoarse voice, "I think you're
different from what you used to be. You look as if—as if you 'd got
the love of mankind in you."
Manners did not answer. He appeared to be thinking of something
"Do you think that's it?" cried Aladdin.
Manners did not answer.
"Can't I get it, too?" Aladdin cried. "Have I got to be little
and mean always? So help me, Manners, I don't love any one but you
"You 're not fit to talk," said Manners, with great gentleness.
"You go to sleep." He arose, and going to the door of the house,
opened it a little way and looked out.
"It's warm as toast out, Aladdin," he called. "There's going to
be a big thaw." He closed the door and went into the next room, and
Aladdin could hear him talking to the horse. After a little he came
"Greener says that she never was better stalled," he said.
"Manners," said Aladdin, "have I been raving?"
"Not been riding quite straight," said Manners.
"How soon are we going to start?" said Aladdin.
"We've got to wait till the snow's pretty well melted," said
Manners. "About noon, I think."
Then, because he was very tired and sick and weak, and perhaps a
trifle delirious, Aladdin asked Manners if he would mind holding his
hand. Manners took the hand in his, and a thrill ran up Aladdin's arm
and all over him, till it settled deliciously about his heart, and he
The sun rose, and dazzling beams of light filled the room.
"In this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard
as I did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time
of the fight, he spake like a Dragon; and on the other side, what
sighs and groans burst from Christian's heart. I never saw him all
the while give so much as one pleasant look, till he perceived he had
wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword: then indeed he did smile
and look upward."
Senator St. John, attended by Margaret, her maid, and a physician,
had made the arduous journey from Washington to Portland without too
much fatigue, and it seemed reasonable to suppose that a long rest in
his comfortable house, far from the turmoil of public affairs, would
do much to reinstate his body after the savage attack of gout with
complications to which it had been subjected during six long weeks.
Arrived at Portland, he was driven to the house of his old friend Mr.
Blankinship, and helped to bed. Next morning he was seized with
acute pains in the region of the heart, and though his valiant mind
refused for a single moment to tolerate the thought that the end might
be near, was persuaded to send for his daughter and his sons.
Margaret was in the parlor with Aladdin. It was April, and the
whole land dripped. Through the open window, for the day was warm,
the moisture of the soaked ground and trees was almost audible.
Margaret had much to say to Aladdin, and he to her; they had not met
for several months.
"I want to hear about Peter," said Aladdin—"all about him. He met
you, of course, and got you across the city?"
"Yes, and his father came, too," said Margaret. "Such an old
dear—you never saw him, did you? He's taller than Peter, but much
thinner, and a great aristocrat. He's the only man I ever saw that
has more presence than papa. He looks like a fine old bird, and you
can see his skull very plainly—especially when he laughs, if you know
what I mean. And he's really witty. He knows all about you and
wants you to go and stay with them sometime." Aladdin sighed for the
pure delight of hearing Margaret's voice running on and on. He was
busy looking at her, and did not pay the slightest attention to what
she said. "And the girl came to lunch, Aladdin, and she is so pretty,
but not a bit serene like Peter, and the men are all wild about her,
but she doesn't care that—"
"Doesn't she?" said Aladdin, annoyingly.
"No, she doesn't!" said Margaret, tartly. "She says she's going
to be a horse-breaker or a nurse, and all the while she kept making
eyes at brother John, and he lost his poise entirely and smirked and
blushed, and I shouldn't wonder a bit if he'd made up his mind to
marry her, and if he has he will—"
Aladdin caught at the gist of the last sentence. "Is that all
that's necessary?" he said. "Has a man only got to make up his mind
to marry a certain girl?"
"It's all brother John would have to do," said Margaret,
"Admitting that," said Aladdin, "how about the other men?"
"Why," said Margaret, "I suppose that if a man really and truly
makes up his mind to get the girl he wants, he'll get her."
She looked at him with a grand innocence. Aladdin's heart leaped
"But suppose two men made up their minds," said Aladdin, "to get
the same girl."
"That would just prove the rule," said Margaret, refusing to see
any personal application, "because one of them would get her, and the
other would be the exception."
"Would the one who spoke first have an advantage?" said Aladdin.
"Suppose he'd wanted her ever so long, and had tried to succeed
because of her, and"—he was warming to the subject, which meant much
to him—"had never known that there was any other girl in the world,
and had pinned all his faith and hope on her, would he have any
"I don't know," said Margaret, rather dreamily.
"Because if he would—" Aladdin reached forward and took one of
her hands in his two.
She let it lie there, and for a moment they looked into each
other's eyes. Margaret withdrew her hand.
"I know—I know," she said. "But you mustn't say it, 'Laddin
dear, because—somehow I feel that there are heaps of things to be
considered before either of us ought to think of that. And how can we
be quite sure? Anyway, if it's going to happen—it will happen. And
that's all I'm going to say, 'Laddin."
"Tell me," he said gently, "what the trouble is, dear. Is it
this: do you think you care for me, and aren't sure? Is that it?"
She nodded gravely. Aladdin took a long breath.
"Well," he said finally, "I believe I love you well enough,
Margaret, to hope that you get the man who will make you happiest. I
don't know," he went on rather gloomily, "that I'm exactly calculated
to make anybody happy, but," he concluded, with a quavering smile,
"I'd like to try." They shook hands like the two very old friends they
"We'll always be that, anyway," said Margaret.
"Always," said Aladdin.
"Mademoiselle!" Eugenie opened the parlor door and looked
cautiously in, after the manner of the French domestic.
"What is it?" said Margaret in French.
Aladdin listened with intense admiration, for he did not
understand a word.
"Monsieur does not carry himself so well," said Eugenie, "and he
asks if mademoiselle will have the goodness to mount a moment to his
"I'll go at once." Margaret rose. "Papa's worse," she said to
Aladdin. "Will you wait?"
"I am so sorry," said Aladdin. "No, I can't wait; I have to get
out the paper. I"—he smiled—"am announcing to an eager public what
general, in my expert opinion, is best fitted to command the armies of
the United States."
"Of course there'll be fighting."
"Of course - and in a day or two. Good-by."
"I'll come round later and inquire about your father. Give him my
Margaret ran up-stairs to her father's room. He was in great
pain, but perfectly calm and collected. As Margaret entered, the
doctor went out, and she was alone with her father.
"Are you feeling badly, dear?" she said.
"I am feeling more easy than a moment ago," said the senator.
"Bring a chair over here, Peggy; we must have a little talk."
She brought a little upright chair and sat down facing him, her
right hand nestling over one of his.
"The doctor," said the senator, "considers that my condition is
"I disagree with him. I shall, I believe, live to see the end of
this civil riot, but I cannot be sure. So it behooves me to ask my
dear daughter a question." St. John asked it with eagerness. "Which
is it to be, Peggy?"
She blushed deeply.
"You are interested in Aladdin O'Brien?"
Her head drooped a little.
The senator sighed.
"Thank you, dear," he said. "That is all I wanted to know. I had
hoped that it would be otherwise. Peggy," he said, "I love that other
young man like a son."
"I have always hoped that you would see him as I have seen him. I
would be happy if I thought that I could leave you in such strong
young hands. I trust him absolutely."
"You don't like Aladdin?"
"He is not steady, Margaret." The simple word was pregnant with
meaning as it fell from the senator.
"You don't mean that he—that he's like—"
"Yes, dear; I should not wish my youngest son to marry."
"Poor boy," said Margaret, softly.
"It's the Irish in him," said the senator. "He must do all things
to extremes. There, in a word, lies all his strength and all his
"You would be sorry if I married Aladdin?"
"I should be afraid for your happiness. Do you love him?"
"I am not sure, papa."
"You are fond of Peter, aren't you?"
She leaned forward till her cheek touched his.
"Next to you and 'Laddin."
The senator patted her shoulder, and thus they remained for some
A great shouting arose in the neighborhood.
The senator sat bolt upright in bed. His nostrils began to
quiver. He was like an old war-horse that hears bugles.
"Sumter?" he cried. "Sumter? Do I hear Sumter?"
The shouting became louder.
"Sumter?" he cried. "Have they fired upon Sumter?"
Margaret flew to the window and threw it open. It acted upon the
shouting like the big swell of an organ, and the cries of excitement
filled the room to bursting. South Carolina had clenched her hand and
struck the flag in the face.
The doctor rushed in. He paused flabbergasted at sight of the man
whom he had supposed to be dying.
"Great God, man!" cried the senator, "can't you get my clothes?"
When he was dressed they brought him his whalebone stick.
"Damn it, I can walk!" said he, and he broke the faithful old
thing over a knee that had not been bent for a month.
New fervor of enlistment took place, and among the first to enlist
was Aladdin, and when his regiment met for organization he was
unanimously elected major. He had many friends.
At first he thought that his duty did not lie where his heart lay,
because of his brother Jack, now fourteen, whom he had to support.
And then, the old promises coming to mind, he presented himself one
morning before Senator St. John.
"Senator," he said, "you promised to do me a favor if I should
ever ask it."
The senator thought of Margaret and trembled.
"I have come to ask it."
"I want to enlist, sir, but if I do there's nobody to look after
Again the senator thought of Margaret, and his heart warmed.
"He shall live in my house, sir," said the senator, "as a member
of my family, sir."
"God bless you, sir!" cried Aladdin.
In a state of dancing glee he darted off to the "Spy" office to
see his chief.
Mr. Blankinship was leaning against the post of the street door,
reading his own editorial in the morning issue.
"Hallo, Mr. Blankinship!" cried Aladdin.
"Hallo, Aladdin!" cried Mr. Blankinship, grinning at his favorite.
"Late as usual."
"And for the last time, sir."
"I know of only one good reason for such a statement."
"It's it, sir!"
Mr. Blankinship folded his paper carefully. His eyes were red,
for he had been up late the night before.
"I'd go, too," he said simply, "if it wasn't for the mother."
The firm of John St. John Brothers sat in its office. The head of
the firm was gorgeous in a new uniform; he had hurried up from New
York (where he had been paying vigorous court to Ellen Manners, whom
he had made up his mind to marry) in order, as oldest, biggest, and
strongest, to enlist for the family in one of the home regiments.
There lingered on his lips the thrill of a kiss half stolen, half
yielded, while in his pockets were a number of telegrams since
received, and the usually grave and stern young man was jocular and
bantering. The two younger members of the firm were correspondingly
"For God's sake, clear out of here," said Hamilton. "Your
shingle's down. Bul and I are running this office now."
"Well, it's the chance of your lives, boys," said the frisky
colonel. "I'll have forgotten the law by the time I come back."
"Hope you may choke, John," said Hannibal, sweetly.
"Don't allow smoking in here, do you, boys?" He got no answer.
It was a hard-and-fast rule which he himself had instituted.
"Well, here goes." He lighted a huge cigar and puffed it
insolently about the office. He surveyed himself in the cracked
"Cursed if a uniform isn't becoming to a man!" he said.
"Chicken!" said Hamilton.
"Puppy!" said Hannibal.
"Titmouse!" said Hamilton.
"Ant!" said Hannibal.
John's grin widened.
"Boys," he said, "you've got one swell looker in the family,
anyway, and you ought to be glad of that."
The boys exchanged glances.
Hannibal had upon his desk a pen-wiper which consisted of a small
sponge heavy with the ink of wiped pens. Hamilton had beneath his
desk an odd rubber boot which served him as a scrap-basket. These
ornamental missiles took John St. John in the back of the head at
about the same moment, the weight and impetus of the boot knocking the
cigar clean out of his mouth, so that it dashed itself against the
The gallant colonel turned, still grinning. "Which threw the
boot?" said he.
"I did," said Hamilton.
"Then you get the first licking."
Hamilton met his brother's hostile if grinning advance with the
hardest blow that he could strike him over the left eye. Then they
clenched, and Hannibal joined the fray. The three brothers, roaring
with laughter, proceeded to inflict as much damage to each other and
the office as they jointly could. Over and under they squirmed and
contorted, hitting, tripping, falling and rising. Desks went over,
lawbooks strewed the floor, ink ran, and finally the bust of George
Washington, which had stood over the inner door since the foundation
of the firm, came down with a crash.
By this time the three brothers were helpless with laughter. The
combat ceased, and they sat upon the floor to survey the damage.
"You can't handle the old man yet, boys," said the colonel. His
left eye was closed, and his new uniform looked like the ribbons hung
on a May-pole.
Hamilton was bleeding at the nose. Hannibal's lip was split. The
three looked at each other and shook with laughter.
"I'm inclined to think we've had a healthy bringing-up," said
Hamilton between gasps.
"Better move, colonel," said Hannibal; "you're sitting in a pool
"So I am," said the colonel, as the cold struck through his new
The laughter broke out afresh.
Beau Larch, in the uniform of a private, appeared at the door.
"Take a hand?"
"Thank you, no," said Beau. "I just dropped in to tell you
fellows that we've just had a hell of a licking at Bull Run."
"Us!" said the colonel, rising.
"Us!" said Hamilton. "Licked!"
"Us!" said Hannibal.
"And I've got other news, too," said Beau, bashfully. "If I stop
drinking till my year's up, and don't ever drink any more, Claire says
she'll marry me."
Hannibal was the first to shake his hand.
"Boys," said Beau, "I hope if any of you ever sees me touch a drop
you'll strike me dead."
He went out.
"I'm going to find out about this," said John; "what did he say
the name of the licking was?"
"Bull Run. And I'll come back and tell you."
He was starting to descend the steep stairs to the street, when he
caught the sound of snickers and creeping footsteps behind him. He
turned like a panther, but was not in time. The heavily driven toes of
the right boots of the younger St. Johns lifted him clear of the
stairs, and clean to the bottom of them. There he sat, his uniform a
thing of the past, his left eye blackening and closed, and roars of
laughter shaking him.
But Hamilton and Hannibal put the office more or less to rights,
and sat down gloomily at their respective desks. Up till now they had
faced being left behind, but this licking was too much. Each brooded
over it, while pretending to be up to the ears in work. Hamilton
wrote a letter, sealed it, addressed it, and presently rose.
"Bul," he said, and to Hannibal the whole manoeuver smacked
suspicious, "I'm going to run up and see the old man for a few
"All right," said Hannibal.
Hamilton reached the door and turned.
"By the way," he said, "I left a letter on my desk; wish you'd put
a stamp on it and mail it."
He went out.
Hannibal felt very lonely and fidgety.
"I think I'll just mail that letter and get it off my mind," he
He put on his hat, licked a stamp, and crossed to his brother's
desk. The letter was there, right enough, but it did not require a
stamp, for on it was written but one word, and that word was Hannibal.
Hannibal tore open the envelop and read:
DEAR OLD Bul :I can't stand it any longer, but you'll try and not
be mad with me for running off and leaving you to keep up the old
place alone, and damn it, Bul, two of us ought to go anyway . . . .
The letter ran on for a little in the same strain. Hannibal put
the letter in his pocket, and sat down at his brother's desk.
"It will kill the old man if we all go," he said. "And of all
three I'm the one with the best rights to go and get shot."
He took from somewhere in his clothes a little gold locket, flat
and plain. Each of the St. John boys had carried one since their
mother's death. Facing her picture each had had engraved the motto
which he had chosen for himself to be his watchword in life. In
John's locket was engraved, "In fortis vinces"; in Hamilton's, "Deo
volente"; and in Hannibal's, "Carpe diem." But in Hannibal's locket
there was another picture besides that of his mother. He opened the
locket with his thumb-nails and laid it on the desk before him.
Presently his eyes dimmed, and he looked beyond the locket.
Hamilton St. John's ink-well was a globe of glass, with a hole
like a thimble in the top to contain ink. Hannibal found himself
looking at this, and noting the perfect miniature reproduction of the
big calendar on the wall, as it was refracted by the glass. With his
thoughts far away, his eyes continued to look at the neat little curly
calendar in the ink-well. Presently it seemed to him that it was not
a calendar at all, but just a patch of bright green color—a patch of
bright green that became grass, an acre of it, a ten-acre field, a
great field gay with trampled flowers, rolling hills, woods, meadows,
fences, streams. Then he saw, lying thickly over a fair region,
broken guns, exploded cannons, torn flags, horses and men contorted
and sprung in death; everywhere death and demolition. He wandered
over the field and came presently upon himself, scorched, mangled,
and dead under the wheel of a cannon.
After a little it seemed to him that the field of battle shrank
until it became again the calendar. But there was something odd about
that calendar; the dates were queer. It read July, right enough; but
this was the year 1861, whereas the calendar bore the date 1863. And
why was there a cross to mark the third day of July? Hannibal came to
with a shock; but he could have sworn that he had not been asleep.
"God is very—very good!" he said solemnly.
Then he opened his pen-knife, and scratched a deep line of erasure
through the "Carpe diem" in his locket, and underneath, cutting with
great pains, he inserted a date, "July 3, 1863," and the words "Nunc
dimittis." Below that he cut "Te Deum laudamus."
He looked once more at the picture of his mother and at the
picture that was not of his mother, shut the little gold case, and
put it back in his pocket.
Then he inked on the white inside of a paper-box cover, in large
letters, these words:
This office will not be opened until the end of the war.
That office was never opened again.
The lives of sixty million people had become suddenly full of
drill, organization, uniforms, military music, flags, hatred, love,
and self-sacrifice, and the nations of the Old World stood about,
note-book in hand, like so many medical students at a clinic: could a
heart, cut in two, continue to supply a body with blood after the soul
had been withdrawn? And the nations of the Old World hoped that there
would be enough fresh meat left on the carcass for them to feed on,
when the experiment should be at an end. Mother England was
particularly hungry, and dearly hoped to have the sucking of the eggs
which she herself had laid.
It was a great time for young men, and Margaret shed secret tears
on behalf of five of them. It had fallen upon her to tell the old man
that his three sons had enlisted, and that task had tortured her for
an hour before she had dared go and accomplish it.
"Papa," she said, "Ham has enlisted, and so has Bul."
The senator had not moved a muscle.
"It was only a question of time," he said. "I wish that I had
begotten a dozen others."
He had borrowed her well-marked Bible from old Mrs. Blankinship
and read Isaiah at a gulp. Then he had sought out his boys and
bantered them on their new clothes.
Margaret sat very still for a long time after the interview with
her father. She knew that Bul, whom she loved best of her brothers,
was going to be killed. She had never before seen his face so
serenely happy as when he came to tell her that he had sworn in, nor
had she ever before seen that unexplainable phenomenon, known
variously as fate, doom, numbered, Nemesis, written upon a face. And
there were others who might be taken.
Aladdin came in for a moment to give her the news. He was nervous
with enthusiasm, and had been working like a horse. His regiment was
to leave Friday for the front; he could stay but a minute; he had only
dashed in on his way to drill. Would she care to come? Quite right;
there was nothing much to look at. He talked as cheerfully and as
rapidly as a mountain brook runs. And then he gave his best piece of
news, and looked almost handsome as he gave it.
"Peter's here," he said. "He's outside talking to the senator.
He looks simply stunning, and he's a whole lot of things on a
staff—assistant adjutant-general with the rank of a colonel; and he's
floated up here on a dash against time to say good-by to us."
Aladdin's face puckered.
"You and Peter and I, Margaret," he said, "Lord, what a muddle!"
"I'm terribly blue, old man," said Margaret, "and it hurts to have
you say things like that."
Instantly Aladdin was all concern.
"You know I wouldn't hurt you purposely," he said, "but I'm
terribly blue, too, dear, and one tries to keep up and says asinine
things, and"—he smiled, and his smile was very winning—"is at once
forgiven by an old dear."
She held out her hand and gave his a friendly squeeze.
"You old darling!" he said, and ran out.
She followed him into the hall, and met Manners, who had just
parted from the senator at the front door. His uniform was
"Is it Peter?"
They shook hands.
"Never," she said, "have I seen anything so beautiful!"
Peter blushed (looking even more beautiful, for he hated to be
"Where was 'Laddin going?" he said. "He went by me like a shot
out of a gun, and had only time to pull my hat over my eyes and squeal
"He's very important now," said Margaret, "and wonders how anybody
can want to write things and be a poet or a musician when there are
real things to do in the world."
Peter looked at his watch.
"Isn't that the least bit rude?" said Margaret.
"No," said Peter; "my train back leaves in one hour, and I could
better afford to lose my chances of heaven. I had no business to
come, as it was. But I had to come."
Margaret sighed. She had hoped that it would not happen so soon.
He followed her into the parlor and closed the door behind him.
"First, Margaret," he said, "I'm going to tell you something that
may surprise you a little. It did me; it was so sudden. My sister
Ellen is going to be married."
"Ellen!" exclaimed Margaret. "Why, she always said—" "It's only
been arranged in the last few days," said Peter, "by many telegrams.
I was told to tell you."
"Is he nice?"
"Yes. He's a good chap."
"Well—rather rising than rich."
"Who is it?"
"Your brother John."
"My dear Peter—"
"No—I never did, either!"
"Isn't that splendid!"
Peter pulled a grave face.
"Yes—and no," he said.
"I hope you're not going to be insolent," said Margaret.
"It depends on what you call insolent. My father, you see,
objects very much to having Ellen go out of the family, but he says
that he can learn to bear that if the only other girl in the world
will come into the family."
Manners' voice had become husky toward the last of the sentence,
and perhaps not husky so much as hungry. Margaret knew better than to
say anything of the kind, but she couldn't help looking as innocent as
a child and saying:
"How do I know?" said Peter. "I have come to ask her."
He looked so very strong and manly and frank that Margaret, whose
world had been terribly blue recently, was half tempted to throw
herself into his arms and cry.
"O Peter!" she said pitifully.
He came and sat beside her on the sofa, and drew her close to him.
"My darling," he said brokenly.
A great sense of trust and security stole over Margaret, but she
knew that it was not love. Yet for a moment she hesitated, for she
knew that if she took this man, his arm would always be about her, and
he would always—always—always be good to her. As she sat there, not
trusting herself to speak, she had her first doubt of Aladdin, and she
wondered if he loved her as much—as much as he loved Aladdin. Then
she felt like a traitor.
For a little neither could find any words to say. So still they
sat that Margaret could hear the muffled ticking of Peter's watch. At
length Peter spoke.
"What shall I tell my father?" he said.
"Tell him—" said Margaret, and her voice broke.
"Aren't you sure, darling—is that it?"
She nodded with tears in her eyes.
He took his arm from round her waist, and she felt very lonely.
"But I'm always going to love you," he said.
She felt still more alone.
"Peter," she said, "I can't explain things very well, but I
—I—don't want you to go away feeling as if—"
Manners' eyes lifted up.
"As if it was all over?" he asked eagerly.
"Almost that, Peter," she said. "I—I can't say yes now—but God
knows, Peter, perhaps sometime—I—I can."
She was thinking of the flighty and moody Aladdin, who had loved
her so long, and whom (she suddenly realized in spite of the words
just spoken) she loved back with all her heart and soul.
Honor rose hot in her to give Peter a final answer now and
forever—no. But she looked into his eyes and could not. He looked
at his watch.
"Margaret dear," he said, "I've got to go. Thanks for everything,
and for the hope and all, and—and I may never see you again, but if I
do, will you give me my answer then?"
"I will," said Margaret, "when I see you again."
"May I kiss you, Margaret?" he said.
He kissed her on the cheek, and went away with her tears on his
A newly organized fife-and-drum corps marched by struggling with
"The Girl I Left Behind Me."
In those days the most strangled rendering of that tune would
bring lumps into the throats of those that heard.
Hannible and Hamilton were privates in the nth regiment, Aladdin
was major, and John was colonel. If any of them had the slightest
military knowledge, it was Aladdin. Not in vain had he mastered the
encyclopedia from Safety-lamps to Stranglers. He could explain with
strange words and in long, balanced sentences everything about the
British army that began with an S, except only those things whose
second letter stood farther down in the alphabet than T. But the
elements of knowledge kept dropping in, at first on perfunctory calls,
visitors that disappeared when you turned to speak with them, but that
later came to stay. The four young men were like children with a
"roll-the-seven-number-eight-shot-into-the-middle" puzzle. They could
make a great rattling with the shot, and control their tempers; that
was about all. Later they were to form units in the most efficient
and intelligent large body of men that the world ever saw, with the
possible exception of the armies it was to be pitted against; but
those, it must be owned, were usually smaller, though, in the ability
of their commanders to form concentration, often of three times the
size. They learned that it is cheaper to let a company sleep in tents
upon hard ground of a rainy night than to lodge them in a neighboring
hotel at one's own expense, and that going the rounds in
pitch-darkness grows less thrilling in exact ratio to the number of
times you do it, and finally, even in sight of the enemy's lines,
becomes as boring as waltzing with a girl you don't like. They began
to learn that cleanliness is next to godliness only in times of
peace, and that food is the one god, and the stomach his only prophet.
They learned that the most difficult of all duties is to keep the
face straight when the horse of a brother officer who mounts for the
first time is surprised to vehemence by its first experience with a
Aladdin was absolutely equal to the occasion, and developed an
astonishing talent for play-acting, and, it is to be feared, strutted
a little, both in the bosom of his soul and on the parade-ground. It
was only when he looked at two of the "tall men on the right,"
Hamilton and Hannibal St. John, who had chosen humble parts that they
might serve under their brother, that he felt properly small and
resented himself. Sometimes, too, he searched his past life and could
find in it only one brave deed, his swim down the river, and he
wondered with an awful wonder what he would do when the firing began.
He need not have troubled: he was of too curious and inquiring a
disposition to be afraid of most things. And he was yet to see proved
on many Southern fields that a coward is, if anything, a rarer bird
than a white quail. Only once in action did Aladdin see a man really
show the white feather. The man had gone into the army from a
grocery-store, and was a very thin, small specimen with a very big,
bulbous head; and, like many others of his class, proved to be a
perfect fire-eater in battle, and a regular buzzard to escape fever
and find food. But during the famous seven days before Richmond a
retreat was ordered of a part of the line which the Buzzard helped
compose, and he was confronted by the necessity, for his friends were
hastening him from behind, of crossing a gully by means of a somewhat
slender fallen tree. It was then that Aladdin saw him show fear.
Bullets tore up the bark of the tree, and pine needles, clipped from
the trees overhead, fell in showers. But he did not mind that. It was
the slenderness and instability of the fallen tree that froze the
marrow in his bones: would it bear his one hundred and twenty-four
pounds, or would it precipitate him, an awful drop of ten feet, into
the softest of muds at the bottom of the gully, where a sickeningly
striped but in reality harmless water-snake lay coiled?
Finally, pale and shaking, he ventured on the log, got half-way
across, turned giddy, and fell with such a howl of terror that it was
only equaled in vehemence by the efforts of the snake to get out of
the way. After which the Buzzard picked himself up, scrambled out,
and continued his retreat, scraping his muddied boots among the
fallen leaves as he went. "Some talk of Alexander and some of
Hercules," but it may be that an exceedingly giddy elevation coupled
with a serpent would have made shivering children of both those
heroes. To each his own fear. Margaret's and Aladdin's was the same
they both feared Aladdin.
That afternoon the regiment was to leave for the front, and
Aladdin went to bid Margaret good-by. She and her father were still
staying with the Blankinships.
They had a very satisfactory talk, beginning with the beginning of
things, and going over their long friendship, laughing, remembering,
and regretting. Jack was to live with the St. Johns, and they talked
much of him, and of old Mrs. Brackett, and of affairs at home. Jack
about this time was in the seventh hell of despair, for his extreme
youth had prevented him from bringing to its triumphant conclusion a
pleasant little surprise, consisting of a blue uniform, which he had
planned for himself and others. No love of country stirred the bosom
of the guileless Jack; only hatred of certain books out of which he
was obliged to learn many useless things, such as reading, writing,
spelling, and arithmetic. Besides, word had come to him that
persimmons were to be had for the picking and chickens for the
broiling in that country toward which the troops were heading. And
much also had he heard concerning the beauty of Southern maidens, and
of the striped watermelons in the watermelon-patch. And so he was to
be left behind, and God was not good.
Toward the end their talk got very serious.
"I'm going to turn over a new leaf," said Aladdin, "and be better
things, Margaret, and you must save up a lot of pride to have in me if
I do, and perhaps it will all come right in the end."
"You know how fond I am of you," said Margaret, "and because I am,
and because you're all the big things that are hard to be, I want you
to be all the little things that ought to be so easy to be. That
doesn't seem very plain, but I mean—"
"I know exactly what you mean," said Aladdin. "Don't you suppose
I know myself pretty well by this time, and how far I've got to climb
before I have a ghost of a right to tell you what I tell you every
time I look at you?"
"Margaret," he said, "this time I'm going like an old friend. If I
make good and live steady, as I mean to do, I shall come back like a
lover. Meanwhile you shall think all things over, and if you think
that you can care for me, you shall tell me so when I come back. And
if you conclude that you can't, you shall tell me. I'm not going to
ask you to marry me now, because in no way am I in a position to. But
if I come back and say to you, 'Margaret, I have turned into a man at
last,' you will know that I am telling the truth and am in a position
to ask anything I please. For I shall come back without a cent, but
with a character, and that's everything. I shall not drink any more,
and every night I shall pray to God to help me believe in Him. But,
Margaret, I may not come back at all. If I don't it will be for one
of two reasons. Either I shall fail in becoming worthy to kiss the
dust under your blessed feet, or I shall be killed. In the first
case, I beg that you will pray for me; but in the second I pray that
you will forget all that was bad in me and only remember what was
good. And so, darling—" his voice broke, "because I am a little
afraid of death and terribly afraid of myself—"
She came obediently into his arms, and knew what it was to be
kissed by the man she loved.
"Aladdin," she said, "promise that nothing except—"
"Death?" said Aladdin.
"—that nothing, nothing except death—shall keep you from coming
"If I live," said Aladdin, "I will come back."
Everybody of education knows that Lucy Locket lost her pocket and
that Betty Pringle found it without a penny "in it" (to rhyme with
"found it "), but everybody does not know that the aforementioned Lucy
Locket had a tune composed for her benefit that has thrilled the
hearts of more sons of the young republic when stepping to battle than
any other tune, past, present, or to come. There is a martial vigor
and a tear in "The Girl I Left Behind Me"; some feet cannot help
falling into rhythm when they hear the "British Grenadiers"; North
and South alike are possessed with a do-or-die madness when the wild
notes of "Dixie" rush from the brass; and "John Brown's Body" will
cause the dumb to sing. But it is the farcical little quickstep known
by the ridiculous name of "Yankee Doodle" which the nations would do
well to consider when straining the patience of the peace-loving and
And so they marched down the street to the station, and the tall
men walked on the right and the little men on the left, and the small
boys trotted alongside, and the brand-new flags flung out, and
bouquets were thrown, and there were cheers from the heart up all
along the line. But ever the saucy fifes sang, and the drums gaily
Yankee Doodle came to town
Riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his Hat,
And called it macaroni.
At the station the emotions attendant on departure found but one
voice. The mother said to the son what the sweetheart said to the
lover, and the sister to the brother. Nor was this in any manner
different from what the brother, lover, and son said to the sister,
sweetheart, and mother. It was the last sentence which bleeding
hearts supply to lips at moments of farewell:
"Write to me."
And the supercilious little quickstep went on:
Yankee Doodle came to town
Riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his Hat,
And called it macaroni.
A tongue of land with Richmond (built, like another capital
beginning with R, on many hills) for its major root, and a
fortification vulgarly supposed to be of the gentler sex for its tip,
is formed by the yellow flow of the James and York rivers. To land an
army upon the tip of this tongue, march the length of it and extract
the root, after reducing it to a reminiscence, was the wise plan of
the powers early in the year 1862. To march an army of preponderous
strength through level and fertile country, flanked by friendly
war-ships and backed by unassailable credit; to meet and overcome a
much smaller and far less rich army, intrenched behind earthworks of
doubtful formidableness, and finally to besiege and capture an
isolated city of more historic than strategic advantages, seemed on
the face of it as easy as rolling a barrel downhill or eating when
hungry. But the level, fertile country was discovered to be very
muddy, its supply of rain from heaven unparalleled in nature, its
streams as deadly as arsenic, and its topography utterly different
from that assigned to it in any known geography. Furthermore, in its
woods, and it was nearly all woods, dwelt far more mosquitos than
there are lost souls in Hades, and each mosquito had a hollow spike in
his head through which he not only could but would squirt, with or
without provocation, the triple compound essence of malaria into veins
brought up on oxygen, and on water through which you could see the
pebbles at the bottom. A bosom friend of the mosquito, and some say
his paramour, was little Miss Tick. Of the two she was considerably
the more hellish, and forsook her dwelling-places in the woods for the
warm flesh of soldiers where it is rosiest, next the skin. The body,
arms, and legs of Miss Tick could be scratched to nothing by poisonous
finger-nails, but her detached head was eternal, and through eternity
she bit and gnawed and sometimes laughed in the hollow of her black
soul. For the horses, mules, and cattle there were shrubs which
disagreed with them, and gigantic horse-flies. And for the general at
the head of the vast body of irritation there was an opposing army
whose numbers he overrated, and whose whereabouts he kept discovering
suddenly. It is said that during the Peninsular campaign the
buzzards were so well nourished that they raised a second brood.
While the army was still in the vicinity of Fort Monroe, numbers
of officers secured leave to ride over to Newport News and view the
traces of the recent and celebrated naval fight, which was to relegate
wooden battle-ships to the fireplace. Aladdin was among those to go.
At this time he was in great spirits, for it had been brought home to
him that he was one of the elect, one of those infinitely rare and
godlike creatures whom mosquitos do not bite nor ticks molest. His
nights were as peaceful as the grave, and the poisonous
drinking-waters glanced from his rubber constitution. Besides, he had
forsaken his regimental duties to enjoy a life of constant variety
upon the staff of a general, and had begun to feel at home on
horseback. It was one of those radiant, smiling days, which later on
were to become rarer than charity, and the woods were positively
festive with sunshine. And the temperature was precisely that which
brings to a young man's fancy thoughts of love. So that it was in the
nature of a shock to come suddenly upon the shore and behold for the
first time the finality of war. There was no visible glory about it.
What had happened to the Cumberland and the Congress was
disappointingly like what would happen to two ships destroyed in
shallow water. The masts of the Cumberland, slightly off the vertical
and still rigged, projected for half their length from the yellow
surface of the river. That was all. Some distance to the left and
half submerged was a blackened and charred mass that bore some
resemblance to a ship that had once been proud and tall, and known by
the name of Congress. That was all. Aladdin had hoped that war would
be a little more like the pictures.
As he rode back, pondering, toward the encampment, however, he
came upon something which was truly an earnest of what was to come.
There were so many buzzards perched in the trees of a certain wood
that he turned in to see what they had. He came upon it suddenly,
just beyond a cheerful bush of holly, and the buzzards stepped
reluctantly back until he had looked. It was only a horse. Some of
the buzzards, heavy with food, raised their eyelids heavily and looked
at Aladdin, and then lapsed back into filthy sleep. Others, not yet
satiated, looked upon him querulously, and suggested as much as looks
can suggest that he go, and trouble them no more. Others, the newly
arrived and ravenous, swooped above the trees, so that dark circles
were drawn over the fallen sunlight. Now a buzzard opened and closed
its wings, and now one looked from the horse to Aladdin, and back,
fretfully, to the horse. There seemed to be hundreds of them, dark
and dirty, with raw heads and eyelids. Aladdin sat solemn and
motionless upon his horse, but he could feel the cold sweat of horror
running down his sides from under his arms, and the bristling of his
hair. He wanted to make a great noise, to shout, to do anything, but
he did not dare. It would have been breaking the rules. In that
assembly no sound was allowed, for the meeting was unholy and wicked
and worked with hurried stealth, so that the attention of God should
not be drawn. Aladdin knew that he had no right to be there, that
without knocking he had entered the bedroom of horror and found her
naked in the arms of lust. He turned and rode away shivering and
without looking back. He had not ridden the distance between two
forest trees before the carcass was again black with the descending
birds, and the blood streamed to their bills.
The Peninsular campaign developed four kinds of men: the
survivors, the wounded, the dead, and the missing. When the campaign
was over Aladdin sometimes woke starting in the night to think of
those missing and of what he had seen in the woods.
The tedious locomotion of an army and the incessant reluctance of
the battle to be met will try a sinner; but a scarcity of tobacco and
constantly wet feet will try a saint. Aladdin was somewhat of both.
But in the fidgety gloom which presently settled upon man and beast,
his, great Irish gift of cheerfulness shone like a star. He even gave
up longing for promotion, and strained his mind to the cracking-point
for humorous verses and catching tunes. He went singing up the
Peninsula, and thumped the gay banjo by the camp-fire, and was greatly
beloved by the foot-sore and sick. He had given up worrying about
what he would do in battle, for there were much more important things
to think about.
Battles are to soldiers what Christmas trees are to children: you
must wait, wait, and wait for them, and forever wait; and when they do
come the presents are apt to be a little tawdry. And you are only
envied by the other little children who didn't really see what you
really got. The most comforting man in the army was one minister of
the gospel, and the most annoying was another. The first had the
divine gift of story-telling and laughter, and the second thanked God
because the soldiers had run out of their best friend, tobacco, which
he described through his nose as "filthy weed," "vile narcotic," or
"pernicious hell-plant." And they both served the Lord as hard as
they could—and they both suffered from dysentery.
As the days passed and the temperature of the army rose, and its
digestion became permanently impaired, Aladdin, by giving out, and
constantly, all that was best in himself, became gradually exhausted.
He found himself telling stories as many as three times to the same
man, and he began to steal from the poets and musicians that he knew
in order to keep abreast of his own original powers of production. He
even went so far as to draw inspiration from men of uneven heights
stood in line: he would hum the intervals as scored by their heads on
an imaginary staff and fashion his tune accordingly, but this tended
to a somewhat compressed range and was not always happy in its
results. His efforts, however, were appreciated, and the emaciated
young Irishman became a most exceptional prophet, and received honor
in his own land.
For the rest, being a staff-officer, he was kept busy and rode
hundreds of extra miles through the rain. It was a large army, as
inexperienced as it was large, and it stood in great need of being
kept in contact with itself. If you lived at one end of it and wanted
to know what was going on at the other end, you had to travel about as
far as from New York to New Haven. The army proper, marching by
fours, stretched away through the wet lands for forty miles. A
fly-bitten tail of ambulances and wagons, with six miserable horses
or six perfectly happy mules attached to each, added another twenty
miles. At the not always attained rate of fifteen miles a day the
army could pass a given point in four days. To the gods in Olympus it
would have appeared to have all the characteristic color and shape of
an angleworm, without, however, enjoying that reptile's excellent good
health. If the armies of Washington, Cornwallis, Clive, Pizarro,
Cortes, and Christian de Wet had been added to it, they would have
passed unnoticed in the crowd. And the recurring fear of the general
in command of this army was that the army he sought would prove to be
twice as big. So speculation was active between the York and James
In the minds of the soldiers a thousand years passed, and then
there was a little fight, and they learned that they were soldiers.
And so did the other army. Another thousand years passed, and it
seemed tactful to change bases. Accordingly, that which had been
arduously established on a muddy river called the Chickahominy (and it
was very far from either of those two good things) was forsaken, and
the host began to be moved toward the James. This move would have
been more smoothly accomplished if the enemy had not interfered.
They, however, insisted upon making history, turning a change of base
into a nominal retreat, and begetting in themselves a brass-bound and
untamable spirit which it took vast wealth and several years to
humble. From Gaines's Mill to the awful brow of Malvern Hill there
were thunder and death. Forty thousand men were somewhat needlessly
killed, wounded, or (as one paradoxical account has it) "found
Aladdin missed the fight at Malvern Hill and became wounded in a
non-bellicose fashion. His general desired to make a remark to
another general, and writing it on a piece of thin yellow paper, gave
it to him to deliver. He rode off to the tune of axes,—for a Maine
regiment was putting in an hour in undoing the stately work of a
hundred years,—trotted fifteen miles peacefully enough, delivered his
general's remark, and started back. Then came night and a sticky
mist. Then the impossibility of finding the way. Aladdin rode on and
on, courageously if not wisely, and came in time to the dimly
discernible outbuildings of a Virginia mansion. They stood huddled
dark and wet in the mist, which was turning to rain, and there was no
sign of life in or about them. Aladdin passed them and turned into an
alley of great trees. By looking skyward he could keep to the road
they bounded. As he drew near the mansion itself a great smell of box
and roses filled his nostrils with fragrance. But to him, standing
under the pillared portico and knocking upon the door, came no word of
welcome and no stir of lights. He gave it up in disgust, mounted, and
rode back through the rich mud to the stables. Had he looked over his
shoulder he might have seen a face at one of the windows of the house.
He found a door of one of the stables unlocked, and went in,
leading his horse. Within there was a smell of hay. He closed the
door behind him, unsaddled, and fell to groping about in the dark. He
wanted several armfuls of that hay, and he couldn't find them. The
hay kept calling to his nose, "Here I am, here I am"; but when he got
there, it was hiding somewhere else. It was like a game of
blindman's-buff. Then he heard the munching of his horse and knew
that the sought was found. He moved toward the horse, stepped on a
rotten planking, and fell through the floor. Something caught his
chin violently as he went through, and in a pool of filthy water, one
leg doubled and broken under him, he passed the night as tranquilly as
if he had been dosed with laudanum.
Aladdin came to consciousness in the early morning. He was about
as sick as a man can be this side of actual dissolution, and the pain
in his broken leg was as sharp as a scream. He lay groaning and
doubled in the filthy half-inch of water into which he had fallen.
About him was darkness, but overhead a glimmer of light showed a
jagged and cruel hole in the planking of the stable floor. Very
slowly, for his agony was unspeakable, he came to a realization of
what had happened. He called for help, and his voice was thick and
unresonant, like the voice of a drunken man. His horse heard him and
neighed. Now and again he lapsed into semi-unconsciousness, and time
passed without track. Hours passed, when suddenly the glimmer above
him brightened, and he heard light footsteps and the cackling of hens.
He called for help. Instantly there was silence. It continued a
long time. Then he heard a voice like soft music, and the voice
said, "Who's there?"
A shadow came between him and the light, and a fair face that was
darkened looked down upon him.
"For God's sake take care," he said. "Those boards are rotten."
"You 're a Yankee, aren't you?" said the voice, sweetly.
"Yes," said Aladdin, "and I'm badly hurt."
The voice laughed.
"Hurt, are you?" it said.
"I think I've broken my leg," said Aladdin. "Can you get some one
to help me out of this?"
"Reckon you're all right down there," said the voice.
Aladdin revolved the brutality of it in his mind.
"Do you mean to say that you're not going to help me?" he said.
"Help you? Why should I?"
Aladdin groaned, and could have killed himself for groaning.
"If you don't help me," he said, and his voice broke, for he was
suffering tortures, "I'll die before long."
A perfectly cool and cruel "Well?" came back to him.
"You won't help me?"
Anger surged in his heart, but he spoke with measured sarcasm.
"Then," he said, "will you at least do me the favor of getting
from between me and God's light? If I die, I may go to hell, but I
prefer not to see devils this side of it, thank you."
The girl went away, but presently came back. She lowered
something to him on a string. "I got it out of one of your
holsters," she said.
Aladdin's fingers closed on the butt of a revolver.
"It may save you a certain amount of hunger and pain," she said.
"When you are dead, we will give it to one of our men, and your horse
too. He's a beauty."
"I hope to God he may—" began Aladdin.
"Pretty!" said the girl.
She went away, and he heard her clucking to the chickens. After a
time she came back. Aladdin was waiting with a plan.
"Don't move," he said, "or you'll be shot."
"Rubbish!" said the girl. She leaned casually back from the hole,
and he could hear her moving away and clucking to the chickens. Again
"Thank you for not shooting," she said.
There was no answer.
"Are you dead?" she said.
When he came to, there was a bright light in Aladdin's eyes, for a
lantern swung just to the left of his head.
"I thought you were dead," said the girl, still from her point of
advantage. The lantern's light was in her face, too, and Aladdin saw
that it was beautiful.
"Won't you help me?" he said plaintively.
"Were you ever told that you had nice eyes?" said the girl.
"It bores you to be told that?"
"My dear young lady," said Aladdin, "if you were as kind as you
"How about your horse kicking me to a certain place? That was
what you started to say, you know."
"Lady—lady," said Aladdin, "if you only knew how I'm suffering,
and I'm just an ordinary young man with a sweetheart at home, and I
don't want to die in this hole. And now that I look at you," he said,
"I see that you're not so much a girl as an armful of roses."
"Are you by any chance—Irish?" said the girl, with a laugh.
"Faith and of ahm that," said Aladdin, lapsing into full brogue;
"oi'm a hireling sojer, mahm, and no inimy av yours, mahm."
"What will you do for me if I help you?" said the girl.
"Anything," said Aladdin.
"Will you say 'God save Jefferson Davis, President of the
Confederate States of America,' and sing 'Dixie'—that is, if you can
keep a tune. 'Dixie''s rather hard."
"I'll 'God bless Jefferson Davis and every future President of the
Confederate States, if there are any,' ten million times, if you'll
help me out, and—"
"Will you promise not to fight any more?"
A long silence.
"You needn't do the other things either," said the girl,
presently. Her voice, oddly enough, was husky.
"I thought it would be good to see a Yankee suffer," she said
after a while, "but it isn't."
"If you could let a ladder down," said Aladdin, "I might be able
to get up it."
"I'll get one," said the girl. Then she appeared to reflect.
"No," she said; "we must wait till dark. There are people about, and
they'd kill you. Can you live in that hole till dark?"
"If you could throw down a lot of hay," said Aladdin. "It's very
wet down here and hard."
The girl went, and came with a bundle of hay.
"Look out for the lantern," she called, and threw the hay down to
him. She brought, in all, seven large bundles and was starting for
the eighth, when, by a special act of Providence, the flooring gave
again, and she made an excellent imitation of Aladdin's shute on the
previous evening. By good fortune, however, she landed on the soft
hay and was not hurt beyond a few scratches.
"Did you notice," she said, with a little gasp, "that I didn't
"You aren't hurt, are you?" said Aladdin.
"No," she said; "but—do you realize that we can't get out, now?"
She made a bed of the hay.
"You crawl over on that," she said.
Aladdin bit his lips and groaned as he moved.
"It's really broken, isn't it?" said the girl. Aladdin lay back
"You poor boy," she said.
The girl borrowed Aladdin's pocket-knife and began whittling at a
fragment of board. Then she tore several yards of ruffle from her
white petticoat, cut his trouser leg off below the knee, cut the
lacings of his boot, and bandaged his broken leg to the splint she had
made. All that was against a series of most courteous protests, made
in a tearful voice.
When she had done, Aladdin took her hand in his and kissed the
"They're the smallest sisters of mercy I ever saw," said he. She
made no attempt to withdraw her hand.
"It was stupid of me to fall through," she said.
"Isn't there any possible way of getting out?"
"No; the walls are stone."
"O Lord!" said Aladdin.
"I'm glad I repented before I fell through," said the girl.
"So am I," said Aladdin.
"What were you doing in our stable?" said the girl.
"I got lost, and came in for shelter."
"You came to the house first. I heard you knocking, and saw you
from the window. But I wouldn't let you in, because my father and
brother were away, and besides, I knew you were a Yankee."
"It was too dark to see my uniform."
"I could tell by the way you rode."
"Is it as bad as that?"
"No—but it's different."
The girl laid her hand on Aladdin's forehead.
"You've got fever," she said.
"It doesn't matter," said Aladdin, politely.
"Does your leg hurt awfully?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Did any one ever tell you that you were very civil for a Yankee?"
"It doesn't matter," said Aladdin.
She looked at him shrewdly, and saw that the light of reason had
gone out of his eyes. She wetted her handkerchief with the cold,
filthy water spread over the cellar floor and laid it on his forehead.
Aladdin spoke ramblingly or kept silence. Every now and then the girl
freshened the handkerchief, and presently Aladdin fell into a troubled
When he awoke his mind was quite clear. The lantern still burned,
but faintly, for the air in the cellar was becoming heavy. Beside him
on the straw the girl lay sleeping. And overhead footsteps sounded on
the stable floor. He remembered what the girl had said about the
people who would kill him if they found him, and blew out the lantern.
Then, his hand over her mouth, he waked the girl.
"Don't make a noise," he said. "Listen."
The girl sat up on the straw.
"I'll call," she whispered presently, "and pretend you're not
"But the horse?"
"I'll lie about him."
She raised her voice.
"Who's there?" she called.
"It's I—Calvert. Where are you?"
"Listen," she answered; "I've fallen through the floor into the
cellar. Don't you see where it's broken?"
The footsteps approached.
"You're not hurt, are you?"
"No; but don't come too close, don't try to look down; the floor's
frightfully rickety. Isn't there a ladder there somewhere?"
A man laughed.
"Wait," he said. They heard his footsteps and laughter receding.
Presently the bottom of a ladder appeared through the hole in the
"Look out for your head," said the man.
The girl rose and guided the ladder clear of Aladdin's head.
"What have you done with the Yankee's horse?" she called.
"Where's the Yankee, do you suppose?"
"We think he must have run off into the woods."
"That's what I thought."
The girl began to mount the ladder.
"I'm coming up," she said.
She disappeared, and the ladder was withdrawn.
She came back after a long time, and there were men with her.
"It's all right, Yankee," she called down the hole. "They're your
own men, and I'm the prisoner now."
The ladder reappeared, and two friendly men in blue came down into
"Good God!" they said. "It's Aladdin O'Brien!"
Hannibal St. John and Beau Larch lifted Aladdin tenderly and took
him out of his prison.
Outside, tents were being pitched in the dark, and there was a
sound of axes. Fires glowed here and there through the woods and
over the fields, and troops kept pouring into the plantation. They
laid Aladdin on a heap of hay and went to bring a stretcher. The girl
sat down beside him.
"You'll be all right now," she said.
"Yes," said Aladdin.
"And go home to your sweetheart."
"Yes," said Aladdin, and he thought of the tall violets on the
banks of the Maine brooks, and the freshness of the sea.
"What is her name?" said the girl.
"Margaret," said Aladdin.
"Mine's Ellen," said the girl, and it seemed as if she sighed.
Aladdin took her hand.
"You 've been very good to me," he said, and his voice grew
tender, for she was very beautiful, "and I'll never forget you," he
"Oh, me!" said the girl, and there was a silence between them.
"I tried to help you," said the girl, faintly, "but I wasn't very
good at it."
"You were an angel," said Aladdin.
"I don't suppose we'll ever see each other again, will we?" said
"I don't know," said Aladdin. "Perhaps I'll come back some day."
"It's very silly of me—"said the girl.
"What?" said Aladdin.
He closed his eyes, for he was very weak. It seemed as if a great
sweetness came close to his face, and he could have sworn that
something wet and hot fell lightly on his forehead; but when he opened
his eyes, the girl was sitting aloof, her face in the shadow.
"I dreamed just then," said Aladdin, "that something wonderful
happened to me. Did it?"
"What would you consider wonderful?"
Aladdin laid a finger on his forehead; he drew it away and saw
that the tip was wet.
"I couldn't very well say," he said.
The girl bent over him.
"It nearly happened," she said.
"You are very wonderful and beautiful," said Aladdin.
Her eyes were like stars, and she leaned closer.
"Are you going to go on fighting against my people?" she said.
Roses lay for a moment on his lips.
He made no sign. If she had kissed him again he would have
renounced his birthright and his love.
"God bless and keep you, Yankee," she said.
Tears rushed out of Aladdin's eyes.
"They're coming to take you away," she said. "Good-by."
"Kiss me again," said Aladdin, hoarsely.
She looked at him quietly for some moments.
"And your sweetheart?" she said.
Aladdin covered his face with his arm.
"Poor little traitor," said the girl, sadly. She rose and,
without looking back, moved slowly up the road toward the house.
Nor did Aladdin ever see her again, but in after years the smell
of box or roses would bring into his mind the wonderful face of her,
and the music of her voice.
In the delirium which was upon him all that night, he harped to
the surgeon of Ellen, and in the morning fell asleep.
"Haec olim meminisse juvabit," said the surgeon, as rain-clouded
dawn rose whitely in the east.
Aladdin was jolted miserably down the Peninsula in a white
ambulance, which mules dragged through knee-deep mud and over
flowing, corduroy roads. He had fever in his whole body, anguish in
one leg, and hardly a wish to live. But at Fort Monroe the breezes
came hurrying from the sea, like so many unfailing doctors, and blew
his fever back inland where it belonged. He lay under a live-oak on
the parade ground and once more received the joy of life into his
heart. When he was well enough to limp about, they gave him leave to
go home; and he went down into a ship, and sailed away up the laughing
Chesapeake, and up the broad Potomac to Washington. There he rested
during one night, and in the morning took train for New York. The
train was full of sick and wounded going home, and there was a great
cheerfulness upon them all. Men joined by the brotherhood of common
experience talked loudly, smoked hard, and drank deep. There was
tremendous boasting and the accounting of unrivaled adventures. In
Aladdin's car, however, there was one man who did not join in the
fellowship, for he was too sick. He had been a big man and strong,
but he looked like a ghost made of white gossamer and violet shadows.
His own mother would not have recognized him. He lay back into the
corner of a seat with averted face and closed eyes. The more
decent-minded endeavored, on his account, to impose upon the noisy a
degree of quiet, but their efforts were unavailing. Aladdin, drumming
with his nails upon the windowpane, fell presently into soft song:
Give me three breaths of pleasure
After three deaths of pain,
And make me not remeasure
The ways that were in vain.
Men grew silent and gathered to hear, for Aladdin's fame as a
maker of songs had spread over the whole army, and he was called the
Minstrel Major. He felt his audience and sang louder. The very sick
man turned a little so that he, too, could hear. Only the occasional
striking of a match or the surreptitious drawing of a cork
interrupted. The stately tune moved on:
The first breath shall be laughter,
The second shall be wine;
And there shall follow after
A kiss that shall be mine.
Somehow all the homing hearts were set to beating.
Roses with dewfall laden
One garden grows for me;
I call them kisses, maiden,
And gather them from thee.
The very sick man turned fully, and there was a glad light of
recognition in his eyes.
Give me three kisses only—
Then let the storm break o'er
The vessel beached and lonely
Upon the lonely shore.
If Aladdin's singing ever moved anybody particularly, it was
Aladdin, and that was why it moved other people. He sang on with
tears in his voice
Give me three breaths of pleasure
After three deaths of pain,
And I will no more treasure
The hopes that are in vain.
There was silence for a moment, more engaging than applause, and
then applause. Aladdin was in his element, and he wondered what he
would best sing next if they should ask him to sing again, and this
they immediately did. The train was jolting along between Baltimore
and Philadelphia. There was much beer in the bellies of the sick and
wounded, and much sentiment in their hearts. Aladdin's finger was
always on the pulse of his audience, and he began with relish:
Oh, shut and dark her window is
In the dark house on the hill,
But I have come up through the lilac walk
To the lilt of the whippoorwill,
With the old years tugging at my hands
And my heart which is her heart still.
There was another man in the car whose whole life centered about a
house on a hill with a lilac walk leading up to it. He was the very
sick man, and a shadow of red color came into his cheeks.
They said, "You must come to the house once more,
Ere the tale of your years be done,
You must stand and look up at her window again,
Ere the sands of your life are run,
As the night-time follows the lost daytime,
And the heart goes down with the sun."
There were tears in the very sick man's eyes, for the future was
hidden from him. Aladdin sang on:
Though her window be darkest of every one,
In the dark house on the hill,
Yet I turn to it here from this ruin of grass,
She has leaned on that window's sill,
And dark it is, but there is, there is
An echo of light there still!
There was great applause from the drunk and sentimental. And
Aladdin lowered his eyes until it was over. When he raised them it
was to encounter those of the very sick man. Aladdin sprang to his
feet with a cry and went limping down the aisle.
"Peter," he cried, "by all that's holy!"
All the tenderness of the Celt gushed into Aladdin's heart as he
realized the pitiful condition and shocking emaciation of his friend.
He put his arm gently about him, and thus they sat until the
journey's end. In New York they separated.
Aladdin rested that night and boarded an early morning train for
Boston. He settled himself contentedly behind a newspaper, and fell
to gathering news of the army. But it was difficult to read. A
sentence beginning like this: "Rumors of a savage engagement between
the light horse under" would shape itself like this: "I am going to
see Margaret to-morrow—to-morrow—to-morrow—I am going to see
Margaret to-morrow-tomorrow—and God is good—is good—is good."
Oddly enough, there was another man in the car who was having
precisely the same difficulty in deciphering his newspaper. At about
the same time they both gave up the attempt; and their eyes met. And
they laughed aloud. And presently, seated together, they fell into
good talk, but each refrained pointedly from asking the other where he
With a splendid assumption of innocence, they drove together
across Boston, and remarking nothing on the coincidence, each
distinctly heard the other checking his luggage for Portland, Maine.
Side by side they rolled out of Portland and saw familiar trees
and hills go by. Presently Aladdin chuckled:
"Where are you going, Peter, anyway?" he said.
"Just where you are," said Peter.
Peter," said Aladdin, presently, "it seems to me that for two such
old friends we are lacking in confidence. I know precisely what you
are thinking about, and you know precisely what I am. We mustn't play
the jealous rivals to the last; and to put it plainly, Peter, if God
is going to be good to you instead of me, why, I'm going to try and
thank God just the same. A personal disappointment is a purely
private matter and has no license to upset old ties and affections.
Does it occur to you that we are after the same thing and that one of
us isn't going to get it?"
"We won't let it make any difference," said Peter, stoutly.
"That's just it," said Aladdin. "We mustn't."
"The situation—"Peter began.
"Is none the less difficult, I know. Here we are with a certain
amount of leave to occupy as we each see fit. And, unfortunately,
there's only one thing which seems fit to either of us. And, equally
unfortunately, it's something we can't hold hands and do at the same
time. Shall I go straight from the station to Mrs. Brackett's and
wait until you've had your say, Peter?—not that I want to wait very
long," he added.
"That wouldn't be at all fair," said Peter.
"Do you mind," said Aladdin after a pause, "telling me about what
your chances are?"
Peter reddened uncomfortably.
"I'm afraid they're not very good, 'Laddin," he said. "She —she
said she wasn't sure. And that's a good deal more apt to mean nothing
than everything, but I can't straighten my life out till I'm sure."
"My chances," said Aladdin, critically, "shouldn't by rights be
anywhere near as good as yours, but as long as they remain chances I
feel just the same as you do about yours, and want to get things
straightened out. But if I were any kind of a man, I'd drop it,
because I'm not in her class."
"Nonsense," said Peter.
"No, I'm not," said Aladdin, gloomily. "I know that. But, Peter,
what is a man going to do, a single, solitary, pretty much
good-for-nothing man, with three great bouncing Fates lined up against
Peter laughed his big, frank laugh.
"Shall we chuck the whole thing," said Aladdin, "until it's time
to go back to the army?"
"No," said Peter, "that would be shirking; it's got to be settled
one way or another very quickly." He became grave again.
"I think so, too, Peter," said Aladdin. "And I think that if she
takes one of us it will be a great sorrow for the other."
"And for her," said Peter, quietly.
"Perhaps," said Aladdin, whimsically, "she won't take either of
"That," said Peter, "should be a great sorrow for us both."
"I know," said Aladdin. "Anyway, there's got to be sorrow."
"I think I shall bear it better," said Peter, "if she takes you,
A flash of comparison between his somewhat morbid and warped self
and the bigness and nobility of his friend passed through Aladdin's
mind. He glanced covertly at the strong, emaciated face beside him,
and noted the steadiness and purity of the eyes. A little quixotic
flame, springing like an orchid from nothing, blazed suddenly in his
heart, and for the instant he was the better man of the two.
"I hope she takes you, Peter," he said.
They rolled on through the midsummer woods, heavy with bright
leaves and waist-deep with bracken; little brooks, clean as whistles,
piped away among immaculate stones, and limpid light broken by
delicious shadows fell over all.
"Who shall ask her first?" said Aladdin. Peter smiled. "Shall we
toss for it?" said Aladdin. Peter laughed gaily. "Do you really want
it to be like that?" he said.
"What's the use of our being friends," said Aladdin, "if we are
not going to back each other up in this of all things?"
"Right!" said Peter. "But you ought to have the first show
because you mentioned it first."
"Rubbish!" said Aladdin. "We'll toss, but not now; we'll wait
till we get there."
Peter looked at his watch.
"Nearly in," he said.
"Yes," said Aladdin. "I know by the woods."
"Did you telegraph, by any chance?" said Peter. "Because I
"Nor I," said Aladdin; "I didn't want to be met."
"Nor I," said Peter.
The sick man and the lame man will take hands and hobble up the
hill," said Aladdin. "And whatever happens, they mustn't let anything
make any difference."
"No," said Peter, "they mustn't."
Our veterans walked painfully through the town and up the hill;
nor were they suffered to go in peace, for right and left they were
recognized, and people rushed up to shake them by the hands and ask
news of such an one, and if Peter's bullet was still in him, and if it
was true, which of course they saw it wasn't, that Aladdin had a
wooden leg. Aladdin, it must be owned, enjoyed these demonstrations,
and in spite of his lameness strutted a little. But Peter, white from
the after effects of his wound and weary with the long travel, did
not enjoy them at all. Then the steep pitch of the hill was almost
too much for him, and now and again he was obliged to stop and rest.
The St. Johns' house stood among lilacs and back from the street
by the breadth of a small garden. In the rear were large grounds,
fields, and even woods. The place had two entrances, one immediately
in front of the house for people on foot, and the other, a quarter of
a mile distant, for people driving. This latter, opening from a
joyous country lane of blackberry-vines and goldenrod, passed between
two prodigious round stones, and S-ed into a dark and stately wood.
Trees, standing gladly where God had set them, made a screen,
impenetrable to the eye, between the gateway and the house.
Here Peter and Aladdin halted, while Aladdin sent a coin spinning
into the air.
"Heads!" called Peter.
Aladdin let the piece fall to the ground, and they bent over it
"After you," said Peter, for the coin read, "Tails."
Aladdin picked up the coin, and hurled it far away among the
"That's our joint sacrifice to the gods, Peter," he said.
Peter gave him five cents.
"My share," he said.
"Peter," said Aladdin, "I will ask her the first chance I get, and
if there's nothing in it for me, I will go away and leave the road
clear for you. Come."
"No," said Peter; "you've got your chance now. And here I wait
until you send me news."
"Lord!" said Aladdin, "has it got to be as sudden as this?"
"Let's get it over," said Peter.
"Very good," said Aladdin. "I'll go. But, Peter, whatever
happens, I won't keep you long in suspense."
"Good man," said Peter.
Aladdin turned his face to the house like a man measuring a
distance. He drew a deep breath.
"Well—here goes," he said, and took two steps.
"Wait, 'Laddin," said Peter.
"Can I have your pipe?"
Aladdin turned over his pipe and pouch. "I'm afraid it's a little
bitter," he said.
Again he started up the drive; but Peter ran after him.
"'Laddin," he cried, "wait—I forgot something."
Aladdin came back to meet him.
"Aladdin," said Peter, "I forgot something." He held out his
hand, and Aladdin squeezed it.
"Aladdin," said Peter, "from the bottom of my heart I wish you
When they separated again there were tears in the eyes of both.
Just before the curtain of trees quite closed the view of the
gate, Aladdin turned to look at Peter. Peter sat upon one of the big
stones that marked the entrance, smoking and smoking. He had thrown
aside his hat, and his hair shone in the sun. There was a kind of
wistfulness in his poise, and his calm, pure eyes were lifted toward
the open sky. A great hero-worship surged in Aladdin's heart, and he
thought that there was nothing that he would not do for such a friend.
"He gave you your life once," said a little voice in Aladdin's
heart; "give him his. He is worth a million of you; don't stand in
Aladdin turned and went on, and the well-known house came into
view, but he saw only the splendid, wistful man at the gate, waiting
calmly, as a gentleman should, for life or death, and smoking smoking.
Even as he made his resolve, a lump of self-pity rose in Aladdin's
throat. That was the old Adam in him, the base clay out of which
springs the fair flower of self-sacrifice.
He tried a variety of smiles, for he wished to be easy in the
difficult part which he had so suddenly, and in the face of all the
old years, elected to play. "He must know by the look of me," said
Aladdin, "that I do not love her any more, for, God help me, I can't
He found her on the broad rear veranda of the house. And instead
of going up to her and taking her in his arms,—for he had planned
this meeting often, as the stars could tell, he stood rooted, and
He acted better than he knew, for the great light which had blazed
for one instant in her eyes on first seeing him went out like a
snuffed candle, and he did not see it or know that it had blazed.
Therefore his own cruelty was hidden from him, and his part became
easier to play. They shook hands, and even then, if he had not been
blinded with the egotism of self-sacrifice, he might have seen. That
was his last chance. For Margaret's heart cried to her, "It is over,"
and in believing it, suddenly, and as she thought forever, an older
sweetness came in her face.
"You've changed, Aladdin," she said.
"Yes, I'm thinner, if possible," said Aladdin, "almost willowy.
Do you think it's becoming?"
"I am not sure," said Margaret. "The fact remains that I'm more
than glad to see you."
Aladdin fumbled for speech.
"I'm still a little lame, you see," he said apologetically, and
took several steps to show.
"Very!" said Margaret, in such a voice that Aladdin wondered what
"But it doesn't hurt any more."
"Then that's all right."
"Where's Jack?" he asked at length.
Margaret became very grave.
"I'm afraid we've betrayed our trust, Aladdin," she said. "Because
only yesterday he slipped away and left a little note to say that he
was going to enlist. We're very much distressed about it."
"Perhaps it's better so," said Aladdin, "if he really wanted to
go. Did he leave any address?"
"None whatever; he simply vanished."
"Ungrateful little brute!" said Aladdin. Then he bethought him of
Peter. "I'll come back later, Margaret," he said, "but it behooves me
to go and look up the good Mrs. Brackett."
He hardly knew how he got out of the house. He felt like a
criminal who has been let off by the judge.
The sun was now low, and the shadows long and black. Aladdin
found Peter where he had left him, balancing on the great stone at
the entrance, and sending up clouds of smoke. He rose when he saw
Aladdin, and he looked paler and more worn. "Peter," said Aladdin,
"from the bottom of my heart I wish you luck."
Aladdin had never seen just such a look as came into Peter's eyes;
at once they were full of infinite pity, and at peace with the whole
"Peter," said Aladdin, "give me back my pipe." His voice broke in
spite of himself, for he had given up golden things. "I—" he said,
"I'll wait here a little while, but if—if all goes well, Peter, don't
you bother to come back."
They clasped hands long and in silence. Then Peter turned with a
gulp, and, his weakness a thing of the past, went striding up the
driveway. But Aladdin sat down to wait. And now a great piping of
tree-frogs arose in all that country. Aladdin waited for a long time.
He waited until the day gave way to twilight and the sun went down.
He waited until the twilight turned to dark and the stars came out.
He waited until, after all the years of waiting and longing, his
heart was finally at peace. And then he rose to go.
For Peter had not yet come.
"Where are the tall men that marched on the right,
That marched to the battle so handsome and tall?
They 've been left to mark the places where they saw the
For the fever and the lead took them all, Jenny Orde,
The fever and the lead took them all.
"I found him in the forefront of the battle, Kenny Orde,
With the bullets spitting up the ground around him,
And the sweat was on his brow, and his lips were on his sword,
And his life was going from him when I found him.
"We lowered him to rest, Jenny Orde,
With your picture on his breast, Jenny Orde,
And the rumble of pursuit was the regiment's salute
To the man that loved you best, Jenny Orde."
As a dam breaking gives free passage to the imprisoned waters, and
they rush out victoriously, so Vicksburg, starving and crumbling in
the West, was about to open her gates and set the Father of Waters
free forever. That was where the Union hammer, grasped so firmly by
strong fingers that their knuckles turned white, was striking the
heaviest blows upon the cracking skull of the Confederacy. On the
other hand, Chancellorsville had verged upon disaster, and the powers
of Europe were waiting for one more Confederate victory in order to
declare the blockade of Southern ports at an end, and to float a
Southern loan. That a Confederate victory was to be feared, the
presence in Northern territory of Lee, grasping the handle of a sword,
whose splendid blade was seventy thousand men concentrated, testified.
That Lee had lost the best finger of his right hand at
Chancellorsville was but job's comfort to the threatened government at
Washington. That government was still, after years of stern fighting,
trying generals and finding them wanting. But now the Fates, in
secret conclave, weighed the lots of Union and Disunion; and that of
Disunion, though glittering and brilliant like gold, sank heavily to
the ground, as a great eagle whose wing is broken by the hunter's
bullet comes surely if fiercely down, to be put to death.
Early on the morning of July 1, 1863, Lee found himself in the
neighborhood of a small and obscure town named Gettysburg. A
military invasion is the process of occupying in succession a series
of towns. To occupy Gettysburg, which seemed as possible as eating
breakfast, Lee sent forward a division of a corps, and followed
leisurely with all his forces. But Gettysburg and the ridges to the
west of Gettysburg were already occupied by two brigades of cavalry,
and those, with a cockiness begotten of big lumps of armed friends
approaching from the rear, determined to go on occupying. This, in a
spirit of great courage, with slowly increasing forces, against
rapidly increasing forces, they did, until the brisk and pliant
skirmish which opened the business of the day had grown so in weight
and ferocity that it was evident to the least astute that the decisive
battle of the New World was being fought.
There was a pretty girl in Manchester, Maryland (possibly several,
but one was particularly pretty), and Aladdin, together with several
young officers (nearly all officers were young in that war) of the
Sixth Army Corps, rather flattered himself that he was making an
impression. He was all for making impressions in those days.
Margaret was engaged to marry Peter—and a pretty girl was a pretty
girl. The pretty girl of Manchester had several girls and several
officers to tea on a certain evening, and they remained till midnight,
making a great deal of noise and flirting outrageously in dark
corners. Two of the girls got themselves kissed, and two of the
officers got their ears boxed, and later a glove each to stick in
their hat-bands. At midnight the party broke up with regret, and the
young officers, seeking their quarters, turned in, and were presently
sleeping the sleep of the constant in heart. But Aladdin did not
dream about the pretty girl of Manchester, Maryland. When he could
not help himself—under the disadvantage of sleep, when suddenly
awakened, or when left alone—his mind harped upon Margaret. And
often the chords of the harping were sad chords. But on this
particular night he dreamed well. He dreamed that her little feet did
wrong and fled for safety unto him. What the wrong was he knew in
his dream, but never afterward—only that it was a dreadful,
unforgivable wrong, not to be condoned, even by a lover. But in his
dream Aladdin was more than her lover, and could condone anything. So
he hid her feet in his hands until those who came to arrest them had
passed, and then he waked to find that his hands were empty, and the
delicious dream over. He waked also to find that it was still dark,
and that the Sixth Army Corps was to march to a place called
Taneytown, where General Meade had headquarters. He made ready and
presently was riding by his general at the head of a creaking column,
under the starry sky. In the great hush and cool that is before a
July dawn, God showed himself to the men, and they sang the
"Battle-hymn of the Republic," but it sounded sweetly and yearningly,
as if sung by thousands of lovers:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.
The full sunlight gives man poise and shows him the practical side
of things, but in the early morning and late at night man is seldom
quite rational. He weakly allows himself to dwell upon what was not,
is not, and will not be. And so Aladdin, during the first period of
that march, pretended that Margaret was to be his and that all was
A short distance out of Manchester the column met with orders from
General Meade and was turned westward toward Gettysburg. With the
orders came details of the first day's fight, and Aladdin learned of
the officer bringing them, for he was a Maine man, that Hamilton St.
John was among the dead. Aladdin and the officer talked long of the
poor boy, for both had known him well. They said that he had not been
as brilliant as John, nor as winning as Hannibal, but so honest and
reliable, so friendly and unselfish. They went over his good
qualities again and again, and spoke of his great strength and purity,
and of other things which men hold best in men.
And now they were riding with the sun in their eyes, and white
dust rolled up from the swift feet of horses and men. Wild roses and
new-mown grass filled the air with delightful fragrance, and such
fields as were uncut blazed with daisies and buttercups. Over the
trimmed lawns about homesteads yellow dandelions shone like stars in a
green sky. Men, women, and children left their occupations, and stood
with open mouths and wide eyes to see the soldiers pass. The sun
rose higher and the day became most hot, but steadily, unflinchingly
as the ticking of a clock, the swift, bleeding, valiant feet of the
Sixth Army Corps stepped off the miles. And the men stretched their
ears to hear the mumbled distant thunder of artillery—that voice of
battle which says so much and tells so little to those far off. The
Sixth Corps felt that it was expected to decide a battle upon Northern
soil for the North, and marching in that buoyant hope, left scarcely a
man, broken with fatigue and disappointment, among the wild flowers
by the side of the way.
If you have ever ridden from Cairo to the Pyramids you will
remember that at five miles' distance they look as huge as at a
hundred yards, and that it is not until you actually touch them with
your hand that you even begin to realize how wonderfully huge they
really are. It was so with the thunders of Gettysburg. They sounded
no louder, and they connoted no more to the column now in the
immediate vicinage of the battle, than they had to its far-distant
ears. But presently the column halted behind a circle of hills, and
beheld white smoke pouring heavenward as if a fissure had opened in
the earth and was giving forth steam. And they beheld in the heavens
themselves tiny, fleecy white clouds and motionless rings, and they
knew that shells were bursting and men falling upon the slopes beyond
A frenzy of eagerness seized upon the tired feet, and they pressed
upward, lightly, like dancers' feet. Straps creaked upon straining
breasts, and sweat ran in bubbles. Then the head of the column
reached the ridge of a hill, and its leaders saw through smarting eyes
a great horseshoe of sudden death.
That morning Peter Manners had received a letter, but he had not
had a chance to open and read it. It was a letter that belonged next
to his heart, as he judged by the writing, and next to his heart, in a
secure pocket, he placed it, there to lie and give him strength and
courage for the cruel day's work, and something besides the coming of
night to look forward to. For the rest, he went among the lines, and
smiled like a boy released from school to see how silently and
savagely they fought.
The Sixth Corps rested wherever there was shade along the banks of
Rock Creek, and gathered strength and breath for whatever work should
be assigned to it.
Aladdin, sharing a cherry-pie with a friend, shivered with
excitement, for there was a terrific and ever-increasing discharge of
cannons and muskets on the left, and it seemed that the time to go
forward again and win glory was at hand. Presently one came riding
back from the battle. His face was shining with delight, and, sitting
like a centaur to the fiery plunges of his horse, he swung his hat and
shouted. It was Sedgwick's chief of staff, McMahon, and he brought
glorious news, for he said that the corps was to move toward the heavy
firing, where the fighting was most severe.
Then the whole corps sprang to its feet and went forward, tearing
down the fences in its path and trampling the long grass in the
fields. A mile away the long, flowery slopes ended in a knobbed hill
revealed through smoke. That was Little Round Top, and its possession
meant victory or defeat. The corps was halted and two regiments were
sent forward up the long slope. To them the minutes seemed moments.
They went like a wave over the crest to the right of the hill, and
poured down into the valley beyond. Here the blue flood of men
banked against a stone wall, spreading to right and left, as the
waters of a stream spread the length of a dam. Then they began to
fire dreadfully into the faces of their enemy, and to curse terribly,
as is proper in battle. Bullets stung the long line like wasps, and
men bit the sod.
Aladdin was ordered to ride up Little Round Top for information.
Half-way up he left his horse among the boulders and finished the
laborious ascent on foot. At the summit he came upon a leaderless
battery loading and firing like clockwork, and he saw that the rocks
were strewn with dead men in light-blue Zouave uniforms, who looked as
if they had fallen in a shower from the clouds. Many had their faces
caved in with stones, and terrible rents showed where the bayonet had
been at work, for in this battle men had fought hand to hand like
cave-dwellers. Bullets hit the rocks with. stinging blows, and round
shot screamed in the air. Sometimes a dead man would be lifted from
where he lay and hurled backward, while every instant men cried
hoarsely and joined the dead. In the midst of this thunder and
carnage, Aladdin came suddenly upon Peter, smiling like a favorite at
a dance, and shouted to him. They grinned at each other, and as
Aladdin grinned he looked about to see where he could be of use, and
sprang toward a gun half of whose crew had been blasted to death by a
bursting shell. The sweat ran down his face, and already it was black
with burning powder. The flash of the guns set fire to the clothing
of the dead and wounded who lay in front, and on the recoil the
iron-shod wheels broke the bones of those lying behind. It was
impossible to know how the fight was going. It was only possible to
go on fighting.
There was a voice in front of the battery that kept calling so
terribly for water that it turned cold the stomachs of those that
heard. It came from a Confederate, a general officer, who had been
wounded in the spine. Occasionally it was possible to see him through
the smoke. Sometimes a convulsion seized him, and he beat the ground
with his whole body, as a great fish that has been drawn from the
water beats the deck of a vessel. It was terrible to look at and
hear. Bullets and shot tore the ground about the man and showered him
with dust and stones. Aladdin shook his canteen and heard the swish
of water. It seemed to him, and his knees turned to water at the
thought, that he must go out into that place swept by the fire of both
sides, and give relief to his enemy. He did not want to go, and fear
shook him; but he threw down the rammer which he had been serving, and
drawing breath in long gasps, took a step forward. His resolve came
too late. A blue figure slipped by him and went down the slope at a
run. It was Manners. They saw him kneel by the dying Confederate in
the bright sunlight, and then smoke swept between like a wave of fog.
The red flashes of the guns went crashing into the smoke, and on all
sides men fell. But presently there came a star-shaped explosion in
the midst of the smoke, hurling it back, and they saw Manners again.
He was staggering about with his hands over his eyes, and blood was
running through his fingers. Even as they looked, a shot struck him
in the back, and he came down. They saw his splendid square chest
heaving, and knew that he was not yet dead. Then the smoke closed in,
but this time another figure was hidden by the smoke. For no sooner
did Aladdin see Peter fall than he sprang forward like a hound from
the leash. Aladdin kneeled by Manners, and as he kneeled a bullet
struck his hat from his head, and a round shot, smashing into the
rocky ground a dozen feet away, filled his eyes with dirt and sparks.
There was a pungent smell of brimstone from the furious concussions
of iron against rock. A bullet struck the handle of Aladdin's sword
and broke it. He unstopped his canteen and pressed the nozzle to
Manners' lips. Manners sucked eagerly, like an infant at its mother's
breast. A bullet struck the canteen and dashed it to pieces. The
crashing of the cannon was like close thunder, and the air sang like
the strings of an instrument. But Aladdin, so cool and collected he
was, might have been the target for praises and roses flung by
beauties. He put his lips close to Peter's ear, and spoke loudly, for
the noise of battle was deafening.
"Is it much, darlint?"
Manners turned his bleeding eyes toward Aladdin.
"Go back, you damn little fool!" he said.
"Peter, Peter," said Aladdin, "can't you see?"
"No, I can't. I'm no use now. Go back; go back and give 'em
Aladdin endeavored to raise Peter in his arms, but was not strong
"I can't lift you, I can't lift you," he said.
"You can't," said Peter. "Bless you for coming, and go back."
"Shut up, will you?" cried Aladdin, savagely. "Where are you
"In the back," said Peter, "and I'm done for."
"The hell you are!" said Aladdin. Tears hotter than blood were
running out of his eyes. "What can I do for you, Peter?" he said in a
Manners' blackened fingers fumbled at the buttons of his coat, but
he had not the strength to undo them.
"It's there, 'Laddin," he said.
"What's there?" said Aladdin. He undid the coat with swift,
"Let me hold it in my hands," said Peter.
"Is it this—this letter—this letter from Margaret?" asked
Aladdin, chokingly, for he saw that the letter had not been opened.
A shower of dirt and stones fell upon them, and a shell burst with
a sharp crash above their heads.
"Yes," said Peter. "Give it to me. I can't ever read it now."
"I can read it for you," said Aladdin. He was struggling with a
sob that wanted to tear his throat.
"Will you? Will you?" cried Peter, and he smiled like a beautiful
"Sure I will," said Aladdin.
With the palm of his hand he pressed back the streaming sweat from
his forehead twice and three times. Then, having wiped his hands upon
his knees, he drew the battered fragment of his sword, and using it as
a paper-knife, opened the letter carefully, as a man opens letters
which are not to be destroyed. Then his stomach turned cold and his
tongue grew thick and burred. For the letter which Margaret had
written to her lover was more cruel than the shell which had blinded
his eyes and the bullet which was taking his life.
"'Laddin—" this in a fearful voice.
"Thank God. I thought you'd been hit. Why don't you read?"
Aladdin's eyes, used to reading in blocks of lines rather than a
word at a time, had at one glance taken in the purport of Margaret's
letter, and his wits had gone from him. She called herself every base
and cruel name, and she prayed her lover to forgive her, but she had
never had the right to tell him that she would marry him, for she had
never loved him in that way. She said that, God forgive her, she could
not keep up the false position any longer, and she wished she was
"There's a man at the bottom of this," thought Aladdin. He caught
a glimpse of Peter's poor, bloody face and choked.
"I—it—the sheets are mixed," he said presently. "I'm trying to
find the beginning. There are eight pages," he went on, fighting for
time," and they 're folded all wrong, and they're not numbered or
Peter waited patiently while Aladdin fumbled with the sheets and
tried, to the cracking-point, to master the confusion in his mind.
Suddenly God sent light, and he could have laughed aloud. Not in
vain had he pursued the muse and sought after the true romance in the
far country where she sweeps her skirts beyond the fingers of men.
Not in vain had he rolled the arduous ink-pots and striven manfully
for the right word and the telling phrase. The chance had come, and
the years of preparation had not been thrown away. He knew that he
was going to make good at last. His throat cleared of itself, and
the choking phlegm disappeared as if before a hot flame of joy. His
voice came from between his trembling lips clear as a bell, and the
thunder of battle rolled back from the plain of his consciousness, as,
slowly, tenderly, and helped by God, he began to speak those eight
closely lined pages which she should have written.
"My Heart's Darling—" he began, and there followed a molten
stream of golden and sacred words.
And the very soul of Manners shouted aloud, for the girl was
speaking to him as she had never spoken before.
When the fighting was over for that day, Aladdin wrote as follows
MARGARET DEAR: Peter was shot down to-day, while doing more than
his duty by his enemies and by his country and by himself, which was
always his way. He will not live very long, and you must come to him
if it is in any way possible. His love for you makes other loves seem
very little, and I think it would be better that you should walk the
streets than that you should refuse to come to him now. He had a
letter from you, which God, knowing about, blinded him so that he
could not read it, and he believes that you love him and are faithful
to him. It is very merciful of God to let him believe that. He must
not be undeceived now, and you must come and be lovely to him and
pretend and pretend, and make his dying beautiful. I have the right
to ask this of you, for, next to Peter, I was the one that loved you
most. And when I made you think I didn't I lied. I lied because I
felt that I was not worthy, and I loved you enough to want you to
belong to the best man God ever made, and I loved him too. And that
was why it was. I tell you because I think you must have wondered
about it sometimes. But it was very hard to do, and because I did it,
and because Peter is what he is, you must come to him now. If God
will continue to be merciful, you will get here in time. I hope I may
be on hand to see you, but I do not know. Hamilton is gone, and Peter
is going, and there will be a terrible battle to-morrow, and thousands
of poor lads will lie on this field forever. And here, one way or
another, the war will be decided. I have not the heart to write to
you any more, my darling. You will come to Peter, I know, and all
will be as well as it can be. I pray to God that I too shall live to
see you again, and I ask him to bless you and keep you for ever and
ever. Always I see your dear face before me in the battle, and
sometimes at night God lets me dream of you. I am without dogma,
sweetest of all possible sweethearts, but this creed I say over and
over, and this creed I believe: I believe in one God, Maker of heaven
Angels guard you, darling.
ALADDIN. GETTYSBURG, July 2, 1863.
On the morning of the third day of July, young Hannibal St. John
shaved his face clean and put himself into a new uniform. The old nth
Maine was no longer a regiment, but a name of sufficient glory. On
three occasions it had been shot to pieces, and after the third the
remaining tens were absorbed by other regiments. Hannibal's father
had obtained for him a lieutenancy in the United States artillery,
Beau Larch was second lieutenant in another Maine regiment, and John,
the old and honored colonel of the nth, was now, like Aladdin, serving
on a staff.
The battle began with a movement against Johnson on the
Confederate left, and one against Longstreet on their right.
That against Longstreet became known in history as Farnsworth's
charge, and Aladdin saw it from the signal-station on Little Round
It was a series of blue lines, whose relations to one another
could not be justly estimated, because of the wooded nature of the
ground, which ran out into open places before fences and woods that
spat red fire, and became thinner and of less extension, as if they
had been made of wax and were melting under the blaze of the July sun.
In that charge Farnsworth fell and achieved glory.
Aladdin held a field-glass to his eyes with trembling hands, and
watched the cruel mowing of the blue flowers. Sometimes he recognized
a man that he knew, and saw him die for his country. Three times he
saw John St. John in the forefront of the battle. The first time he
was riding a glorious black horse, of spirit and proportions to
correspond with those of the hero himself. The second time he was on
foot, running forward with a-halt in his stride, hatless, and carrying
a great battle-flag. Upon the top of it gleamed a gold eagle, that
nodded toward the enemy. A dozen blue-coated soldiers, straggling
like the finishers in a long-distance race, followed him with bayonets
fixed. The little loose knot of men ran across a field toward a stone
wall that bounded it upon the other side. Then white smoke burst from
the wall, and they were cut down to the last man. The smoke cleared,
and Aladdin saw John lying above the great flag which he had carried.
A figure in gray leaped the stone wall and ran out to him, stooped,
and seizing the staff of the flag in both hands, braced his hands and
endeavored to draw it from beneath the great body of the hero. But it
would not come, and as he bent closer to obtain a better hold, the
back of a great clenched hand struck him across the jaw, and he fell
like a log. Other men in gray leaped the wall and ran out. The flag
came easily now, for St. John was dead; but so was the gray brother,
for his comrades raised him, and his head hung back over his left
shoulder, and they saw that his neck had been broken like a dry stick.
Aladdin had not been sent to that place to mourn, but to gain
information. Twice and three times he wiped his eyes clear of tears,
and then he swept his faltering glass along the lines of the enemy,
until, ranged in their center, he beheld a great semicircle of a
hundred and more iron and brass cannons, and movements of troops.
Then Aladdin scrambled down from Little Round Top to report what he
had seen in the center of the Confederate lines.
At one o'clock the Confederate batteries, one hundred and fifteen
pieces in all, opened their tremendous fire upon the center of the
Union lines. Eighty cannons roared back at them with defiant thunder,
and the blue sky became hidden by smoke. Among the Union batteries
horses began to run loose, cannons to be splintered like fire-wood,
and caissons to explode. At these moments men, horses, fragments of
men and horses, stones, earth, and things living and things dead were
hurled high into the air with great blasts of flame and smoke, and it
was possible to hear miles of exultant yells from the hills opposite.
But fresh cannon were brought lumbering up at the gallop and rolled
into the places of those dismantled, shot and shell and canister and
powder were rushed forward from the reserve, and the grim, silent
infantry, the great lumbermen of Maine and Vermont, the shrill-voiced
regiments from New York, the shrewd farmers of Ohio and Massachusetts,
the deliberate Pennsylvanians, and the rest, lay closely, wherever
there was shelter, and moistened their lips, and gripped their rifles,
For two hours that terrible cannonading was maintained. The men
who served the guns looked like stokers of ships, for, such was the
heat, many of them, casting away first one piece of clothing and then
another, were half naked, and black sweat glistened in streams on
their chests and backs. As sight-seers crowd in eagerly by one door
of a building where there is an exhibition, and come reluctantly out
by another and go their ways, so the reserves kept pressing to the
front, and the wounded maintained an unceasing reluctant stream to the
A little before three o'clock Hannibal St. John had his right knee
smashed by the exploding of a caisson, and fell behind one of the guns
of his battery. He was so sure that he was to be killed on this day
that it had never occurred to him that he might be trivially wounded
and carried to the rear in safety. An expression of almost comical
chagrin came over his face, for life was nothing to him, and somewhere
far above the smoke a goodly welcome awaited him: that he knew. Men
came with a stretcher to carry him off, but he cursed them roundly
and struggled to his well knee. The cannon behind which he had
fallen was about to be discharged.
"Give 'em hell!" cried Hannibal.
As he spoke, the piece was fired, and leaping back on the recoil,
as a frenzied horse that breaks its halter, one of the wheels struck
him a terrible blow on the body, breaking all the ribs on that side
and killing him instantly. His face wore a glad smile, and afterward,
when Aladdin found him and took the gold locket from his pocket, and
read the inscription written, a great wonder seized men:
July 3, 1863.
Te Deum laudamus.
Thus in one battle fell the three strong hostages which an old man
had given to fortune.
Three o'clock the Union batteries were ordered to be silent, for
it was well known to those in command that presently there would be a
powerful attack by infantry, for which the cannonade was supposed to
have paved the way with death and disorder, and it was necessary that
the pieces should be kept cool in order to be in efficient condition
to grapple with and suppress this attack. Sometimes a regiment, stung
to a frenzy of courage by bullets and the death of comrades, will rise
from its trench without the volition of its officers, and go
frantically forward against overwhelming odds. A different effect of
an almost identical psychological process is patience. Men will
sometimes lie as quietly under a rain of bullets, in order to get in
one effective shot at an enemy, as cattle in the hot months will lie
under a rain of water to get cool. It was so now. The whole Union
army was seized by a kind of bloody deliberation and lay like statues
of men, while, for quarter of an hour more, the Confederates continued
to thunder from their guns. Now and again a man felt lovingly the
long black tube of a cannon to see if its temperature was falling.
Others came hurrying from the rear with relays of powder, shot,
shell, and canister.
It seemed now to the Confederate leaders that the Union batteries
had been silenced, and that the time had come for Pickett, the Ney of
the South, to go forward with all his forces. Only Longstreet
demurred and protested against the charge. When Pickett asked him for
the order to advance he turned away his head sorrowfully and would not
speak. Then Pickett, that great leader of men, who was one half
daring and one half magnetism and all hero, said proudly: "I shall go
forward, sir." And turned to his lovers.
Silence and smoke hung over Gettysburg.
Presently out of the smoke on the Confederate side came three
lines of gray a mile long. Battle-flags nodded at intervals, and
swords blazed in the sun.
Very deliberately and with pains about aiming, the Union batteries
began to hurl solid shot against the gray advance. Soon holes were
bitten here and there, and occasionally a flag went down, to be
instantly snatched up and waved defiantly. When Pickett, Pettigrew,
and the splendid brigade of Cadmus Wilcox had reached the bottom of
the valley, their organization was as unbroken as a parade. But there
shell, instead of round shot, met them, and men tasted death by fives
and tens. But the lines, drawing together, closed the spaces left by
mortality, and the flags began to approach each other. Then the gray
men began to come up the slope, and there were thousands of them. But
shell yielded to canister, and the muskets of the infantry sent out
death in leaden showers, so that the great charge began to melt like
wax over heat, and the flags hung close together like a trophy of
battle in a chapel. But still the gray men came. And now, in a storm
of flame and smoke, they reached the foremost cannons of the Union
line, and planted their flags. So much were they permitted for the
glory of a lost cause. For a little, men killed one another with the
butts of guns, with bayonets, and with stones, and then, as the
overdrip of a wave broken upon an iron coast trickles back through the
stones of the beach to the ocean, so all that was left of Pickett's
great charge trickled back down the slope, driblets of gray, running
blood. For a little while longer the firing continued. Battle-flags
were gathered, and thrown together in sheaves. There was a little
broken cheering, and to all intents and purposes the great war was at
Aladdin, broken with grief and fatigue, went picking his way among
the dead and wounded. He had lost Peter and Hannibal in that battle,
and Hamilton and John were dead; he alone remained, and it was not
just. He felt that the Great Reaper had spared the weed among the
flowers, and he was bitter against the Great Reaper. But there was
one more sorrow reserved for Aladdin, and he was to blaspheme against
the God that made him.
There was still desultory firing from both armies. As when, on
the Fourth of July, you set off a whole bunch of firecrackers, there
is at first a crackling roar, and afterward a little explosion here
and a little explosion there, so Gettysburg must have sounded to the
gods in Olympus. Thunder-clouds begotten of the intense heat rolled
across the heavens from east to west, accentuating the streaming glory
of the setting sun, and now distant thunder rumbled, with a sound as
of artillery crossing a bridge. Drops of rain fell here and there.
Aladdin heard himself called by name, "'Laddin, 'Laddin."
As quickly as the brain is advertised of an insect's sting, so
quickly did Aladdin recognize the voice and know that his brother.
Jack was calling to him. He turned, and saw a little freckled boy,
in a uniform much too big for him, trailing a large musket.
"Jack!" he cried, and rushed toward him with outstretched arms.
"You little beggar, what are you doin' here?"
Jack grinned like one confessing to a successful theft of apples
belonging to a cross farmer. And then God saw fit to take away his
life. He dropped suddenly, and there came a rapid pool of blood where
his face had been. With his arms wrapped about the little figure that
a moment before had been so warlike and gay, Aladdin turned toward the
heavens a face of white flint.
"I believe in one God, Maker of hell!" he cried.
Thunder rumbled and rolled slowly across the battle-field from
east, to west.
"I believe in one God, Maker of hell!" cried Aladdin, "Father of
injustice and doer of hellish deeds! I believe in two damnations, the
damnation of the living and the damnation of the dead."
He turned to the little boy in his arms, and terrible sobs shook
his body, so that it appeared as if he was vomiting. After a while he
turned his convulsed face again to the sky.
"Come down," he cried, "come down, you—"
Far down the hill there was a puff of white smoke, and a merciful
bullet, glancing from a rock, struck Aladdin on the head with
sufficient force to stretch him senseless upon the ground.
When the news of Gettysburg reached the Northern cities, lights
were placed in every window, and horns were blown as at the coming of
a new year. Senator Hannibal St. John had lost his three boys and the
hopes of his old age in that terrible fight, but he caused his
Washington house to be illuminated from basement to garret.
And then he walked out in the streets alone, and the tears ran
down his old cheeks.
There had been a wedding in the hospital tent. Margaret bent over
Peter and kissed him goodby. She was in deep black, and by her side
loomed a great, dark figure, whose eyes were like caverns in the
depths of which burned coals. The great, dark man leaned heavily upon
a stick, and did not seem conscious of what was going on. The
minister who had performed the ceremony stood with averted face.
Every now and then he moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue.
The wounded in neighboring cots turned pitiful eyes upon the girl in
black, for she was most lovely—and very sad. Occasionally a throat
"When you come, darling," said the dying man, "there will be an
end of sorrow."
"There will be an end of sorrow," echoed the girl. She bent
closer to him, and kissed him again.
"It is very wonderful to have been loved," said Peter. Then his
face became still and very beautiful. A smile, innocent like that of
a little child, lingered upon his lips, and his blind eyes closed.
St. John laid his hand upon Margaret's shoulder.
A man, very tall and lean and homely, entered the tent. He was
clad in an exceedingly long and ill-fitting frock-coat. Upon his head
was a high black hat, somewhat the worse for wear. He turned a pair
of very gentle and pitying eyes slowly over those in the tent.
Aladdin, his head almost concealed by bandages, sat suddenly
upright in a neighboring cot. A wild, unreasoning light was in his
eyes, and marking time with his hand, he burst suddenly into the
"Battlehymn of the Republic"
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
He sang on, and the wounded joined him with weak voices:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
The tall man who had entered, to whom every death was nearer than
his own, and to whom the suffering of others was as a crucifixion,
removed the silk hat from his head, and wiped his forehead with a
Margaret knelt by Aladdin and held his unconscious form in her
Outside, the earth was bathing in exquisite sunshine.
It was not long before Aladdin got back the strength of his body,
but the gray bullet which had come in answer to his cry against God,
even as the lightning came to Amyas Leigh, in that romance to which it
is so good to bow, had injured the delicate mechanism of his brain, so
that it seemed as if he would go down to the grave without memory of
things past, or power upon the hour. Indeed, the war ended before the
surgeons spoke of an operation which might restore his mind. He went
under the knife a little child, his head full of pictures, playthings,
and fear of the alphabet; he came forth made over, and turned clear,
wondering eyes to the girl at his side. And he held her hand while
she bridged over the years for him in her sweet voice.
He learned that she had married Peter, making his death peaceful,
and he God-blessed her for so doing, while the tears ran down his
But much of Aladdin that had slept so long was to wake no more.
For it was spring when he woke, and waking, he fell in love with all
One day he sat with Margaret on the porch of a familiar house, and
looked upon a familiar river that flowed silverly beyond the dark
Senator St. John, very old and very moving, came heavily out of
the house, and laid his hands upon the shoulders of Margaret and
Aladdin. It was like a benediction.
"I have been thinking," said the senator, very slowly, and in the
voice of an old man, "that God has left some flowers in my garden."
"Roses?" said Aladdin, and he looked at Margaret.
"Roses perhaps," said the senator, "and withal some bittersweet,
but, better than these, and more, he has left me heart's-ease. This
little flower," continued the senator, "is sown in times of great
doubt and sorrow and trouble, and it will grow only for a good
gardener, one who has learned to bow patiently in all things to God's
will, and to set his feet valiantly against the stony way which God
appoints. I call Margaret 'Heart's-ease,' and I call you, too,
'Heart's-ease,' Aladdin, for you are becoming like a son to me in my
declining years. Consider the river, how it flows," said the old man,
"smoothly to the sea, asking no questions, and making no lamentations
against the length of its days, and receiving cheerfully into the
steadfast current of its going alike the bitter waters and the sweet."
We have forgotten Aladdin's songs and the tunes which he made, for
the people's ear is not tuned to them any more. But that is a little
thing. It is pleasant to think of that night when, the knocking of
his heart against his ribs louder than the knocking of his hand upon
her door, he carried to Margaret's side the wonderful lamp which,
years before, had been lighted within him, and which, burning always,
now high, now low, like the rising and falling tides in the river, had
at length consumed whatever in his nature was little or base, until
there was nothing left save those precious qualities, love and
charity, which fire cannot calcine nor cold freeze. Also it is
pleasant to think that little children came of their love and sang
about their everlasting fire.