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Edward Payson Roe.

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sufferings ought to soften hearts of flint.

Thus the girl reasoned and wondered. She did not belong to that
class who keep an inventory of all their good traits and rate them
high. Moulded in character by surrounding influences and circumstances,
her natural, unperverted womanhood and her simple faith in God
found unconscious expression in the sweet and gracious acts which
Lane had recognized at their true worth. The most exquisite music
is but a little sound; the loveliest and most fragrant flower is
but organized matter. True, she had been engaged in homely
acts, - blessing her enemies as the Bible commanded and her
woman's heart dictated, - but how were those acts performed? In her
unaffected manner and spirit consisted the charm which won the rough
men's adoration and Lane's homage. That which is simple, sincere,
spontaneous, ever attains results beyond all art and calculation.

"Missy S'wanee" couldn't understand it. She had always thought
of herself as "that child,", that hoyden, that frivolous girl
who couldn't help giggling even at a funeral, and now here comes
a Northern man, defeats and captures her most ardent admirer, and
bows down to her as if she were a saint!

"I wish I were what he thinks me to be," she laughed to herself.
"What kind of girls have they in the North, anyway, that he goes
on so? I declare, I've half a mind to try to be good, just for the
novelty of the thing. But what's the use? It wouldn't last with me
till the dew was off the grass in the morning.

"Heigho! I suppose Major Denham is thinking of me and pining in
prison, and I haven't thought so very much about him. That shows
what kind of an 'angel' I am. Now if there were only a chance of
getting him out by tricking his jailers and pulling the wool over
the eyes of some pompous old official, I'd take as great a risk as
any Southern - 'Reverence,' indeed! Captain Lane must be cured of
his reverence, whatever becomes of his wound."






CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE CURE OF CAPTAIN LANE.





A DAINTIER bouquet than usual was placed on Lane's table next morning,
and the piece of chicken sent to his breakfast was broiled to the
nicest turn of brown. The old colored cook was friendly to the
"Linkum ossifer," and soon discovered that "Missy S'wanee" was not
averse to a little extra painstaking.

After the surgeon had made his morning rounds the young girl
visited the men also. She found them doing well, and left them doing
better; for, in rallying the wounded, good cheer and hopefulness
can scarcely be over-estimated.

As she was returning the surgeon met her, and said, "Captain Lane
is already better for your first visit and impatient for another."

"Then he's both patient and impatient. A very contradictory and
improper condition to remain in. I can read to him at once, after
I have seen if mamma wishes anything."

"Please do; and with your permission I'll take a little walk, for
I, too, am restless from inaction."

"I don't think it's nice for you to read alone with that officer,"
said Roberta.

"I see no impropriety at all," cried Suwanee. "Yours and mamma's
rooms are but a few yards away, and you can listen to all we say
if you wish. If your colonel was sick and wounded at the North
wouldn't you like some woman to cheer him up?"

"No, not if she were as pretty as you are," replied Roberta,
laughing.

"Nonsense," said Suwanee, flushing. "For all I know this captain
is married and at the head of a large family.

"But I'm going to find out," she assured herself. "I shall investigate
this new species of genus homo who imagines me to be a saint. He
wasn't long in proving that Northern men were not what I supposed.
Now I shall give him the harder task of proving me to be an angel;"
and she walked demurely in, leaving the door open for any espionage
that her mother and sister might deem proper.

Lane's face lighted up the moment he saw her, and he said: "You
have robbed this day of its weariness already. I've had agreeable
anticipations thus far, and I'm sure you will again leave pleasant
memories."

"Then you are better?"

"Yes; thanks to you."

"You are given to compliments, as our Southern men are."

"I should be glad to equal them at anything in your estimation. But
come, such honest enemies as we are should be as sincere as friends.
I have meant every word I have said to you. You are harboring me,
an entire stranger, who presented my credentials at first very
rudely. Now you can ask me any questions you choose. You have
proved yourself to be such a genuine lady that I should be glad to
have you think that I am a gentleman by birth and breeding."

"Oh, I was convinced of that before you put your sabre in its
scabbard on the evening of your most unwelcome arrival, when you
spoiled our supper-party. You have since been confirming first
impressions. I must admit, however, that I scarcely 'reverence'
you yet, nor have I detected anything specially 'angelic.'"

"Your failure in these respects will be the least of my troubles.
I do not take back what I have said, however."

"Wait; perhaps you will. You are very slightly acquainted with me,
sir."

"You are much less so with me, and can't imagine what an obstinate
fellow I am."

"Oh, if I have to contend with obstinacy rather than judgment - "

"Please let us have no contentions whatever. I have often found
that your Southern men out-matched me, and not for the world would
I have a dispute with a woman of your mettle. I give you my parole
to do all that you wish, as far as it is within my power, while I
am helpless on your hands."

"And when I have helped to make you well you will go and fight
against the South again?"

"Yes, Miss Barkdale," gravely, "and so would your officers against
the North."

"Oh, I know it. I sha'n't put any poison in your coffee."

"Nor will you ever put poison in any man's life. The most delightful
thing about you, Miss Barkdale," he continued, laughing, "is that
you are so genuinely good and don't know it."

"Whatever happens," she said, almost irritably, "you must be cured
of that impression. I won't be considered 'good' when I'm not.
Little you know about me, indeed! Good heavens, Captain Lane! what
kind of women have you been accustomed to meet in the North? Would
they put strychnine in a wounded Southerner's food, and give him
heavy bread, more fatal than bullets, and read novels while dying
men were at their very doors?"

"Heaven help them! I fear there are many women the world over who
virtually do just those things."

"They are not in the South," she replied, hotly.

"They are evidently not in this house," he replied, smiling. "You
ask what kind of women I am accustomed to meet. I will show you the
shadow of one of my friends;" and he took from under his pillow a
photograph of Marian.

"Oh, isn't she lovely!" exclaimed the girl.

"Yes, she is as beautiful as you are; she is as brave as you are,
and I've seen you cheering on your friends when even in the excitement
of the fight my heart was filled with dread lest you or your mother
or sister might be shot. She is just as ardent for the North as
you are for the South, and her influence has had much place in the
motives of many who are now in the Union army. If wounded Confederates
were about her door you could only equal - you could not surpass - her
in womanly kindness and sympathy. The same would be true of my
mother and sisters, and millions of others. I know what you think
of us at the North, but you will have to revise your opinions some
day."

Her face was flushed, a frown was upon her brow, a doubtful smile
upon her lips, and her whole manner betokened her intense interest.
"You evidently are seeking to revise them," she said, with a short
laugh, "much as you charged our cavalry the other evening. I think
you are a dangerous man to the South, Captain Lane, and I don't
know whether I should let you get well or not."

He reached out his hand and took hers, as he said, laughingly:
"I should trust you just the same, even though Jeff Davis and the
whole Confederate Congress ordered you to make away with me."

"Don't you call our President 'Jeff,'" she snapped, but did not
withdraw her hand.

"I beg your pardon. That was just as rude in me as if you had called
Mr. Lincoln 'Abe.'"

She now burst out laughing. "Heaven knows we do it often enough,"
she said.

"I was aware of that."

"This won't do at all," she resumed. "Your hand is growing a
little feverish, and if my visits do not make you better I shall
not come. I think we have defined our differences sufficiently. You
must not 'reverence' me any more. I couldn't stand that at all. I
will concede at once that you are a gentleman, and that this lovely
girl is my equal; and when our soldiers have whipped your armies,
and we are free, I shall be magnanimous, and invite you to bring
this girl here to visit us on your wedding trip. What is her name?"

"Marian Vosburgh. But I fear she will never take a wedding trip with
me. If she did I would accept your invitation gratefully after we
had convinced the South that one flag must protect us all."

"We won't talk any more about that. Why won't Miss Vosburgh take
a wedding trip with you?"

"For the best of reasons, - she doesn't love me well enough."

"Stupid! Perhaps she loves some one else?"

"No, I don't think so. She is as true a friend as a woman can be
to a man, but there it ends."

"With her."

"Certainly, with her only. She knows that I would do all that a
man can to win her."

"You are frank."

"Why should I not be with one I trust so absolutely? You think us
Northmen cold, underhanded. I do not intend virtually to take my
life back from your hands, and at the same time to keep that life
aloof from you as if you had nothing to do with it. If I survive
the war, whichever way it turns, I shall always cherish your memory
as one of my ideals, and shall feel honored indeed if I can retain
your friendship. To make and keep such friends is to enrich one's
life. Should I see Miss Vosburgh again I shall tell her about you,
just as I have told you about her."

"You were born on the wrong side of the line, Captain Lane. You
are a Southerner at heart."

"Oh, nonsense! Wait till you visit us at the North. You will find
people to your mind on both sides of the line. When my mother and
sisters have learned how you have treated me and my men they will
welcome you with open arms."

She looked at him earnestly a moment, and then said: "You make me
feel as if the North and South did not understand each other." Then
she added, sadly: "The war is not over. Alas! how much may happen
before it is. My gray-haired father and gallant brothers are marching
with Lee, and while I pray for them night and morning, and often
through the day, I fear - I FEAR inexpressibly, - all the more, now
that I have seen Northern soldiers fight. God only knows what is
in store for us all. Do not think that because I seem light-hearted
I am not conscious of living on the eve of a tragedy all the time.
Tears and laughter are near together in my nature. I can't help
it; I was so made."

"Heaven keep you and yours in safety," said Lane, earnestly; and
she saw that his eyes were moist with feeling.

"This won't answer," she again declared, hastily. "We must have no
more such exciting talks. Shall I read to you a little while, or
go at once?"

"Read to me, by all means, if I am not selfishly keeping you too
long. Your talk has done me good rather than harm, for you are so
vital yourself that you seem to give me a part of your life and
strength. I believe I should have died under the old dull monotony."

"I usually read the Bible to your men," she said, half humorously,
half questioningly.

"Read it to me. I like to think we have the same faith. That book
is the pledge that all differences will pass away from the sincere."

He looked at her wonderingly as she read, in her sweet, girlish
voice, the sacred words familiar since his childhood; and when she
rose and said, "This must do for to-day," his face was eloquent
with his gratitude. He again reached out his hand, and said, gently,
"Miss Suwanee, Heaven keep you and yours from all harm."

"Don't talk to me that way," she said, brusquely. "After all, we
are enemies, you know."

"If you can so bless your enemies, what must be the experience of
your friends, one of whom I intend to be?"

"Roberta must read to you, in order to teach you that the South
cannot be taken by storm."

"I should welcome Miss Roberta cordially. We also shall be good
friends some day."

"We must get you well and pack you off North, or there's no telling
what may happen," she said, with a little tragic gesture. "Good-by."

This was the beginning of many talks, though no other was of so
personal a nature. They felt that they understood each other, that
there was no concealment to create distrust. She artlessly and
unconsciously revealed to him her life and its inspirations, and soon
proved that her mind was as active as her hands. She discovered that
Lane had mines of information at command, and she plied him with
questions about the North, Europe, and such parts of the East as
he had visited. Her father's library was well stored with standard
works, and she made him describe the scenes suggested by her
favorite poets. Life was acquiring for her a zest which it had never
possessed before, and one day she said to him, abruptly, "How you
have broadened my horizon!"

He also improved visibly in her vivacious society, and at last
was able to come down to his meals and sit on the piazza. Mrs.
Barkdale's and Roberta's reserve thawed before his genial courtesy,
and all the more readily since a letter had been received from
Colonel Barkdale containing thanks to Lane for the consideration
that had been shown to his family, and assuring his wife that
the Barkdale mansion must not fail in hospitality either to loyal
friends or to worthy foes.

Roberta was won over more completely than she had believed to be
possible. Her proud, high spirit was pleased with the fact that,
while Lane abated not one jot of his well-defined loyalty to the
North and its aims, he also treated her with respect and evident
admiration in her fearless assertion of her views. She also recognized
his admirable tact in preventing their talk from verging towards a
too-earnest discussion of their differences. Suwanee was delighted
as she saw him disarm her relatives, and was the life of their social
hours. She never wearied in delicately chaffing and bewildering
the good-natured but rather matter-of-fact Surgeon McAllister, and
it often cost Lane much effort to keep from exploding in laughter
as he saw the perplexed and worried expression of his friend. But
before the meal was over she would always reassure her slow-witted
guest by some unexpected burst of sunshine, and he afterwards would
remark, in confidence: "I say, Lane, that little 'Missy S'wanee'
out-generals a fellow every time. She attacks rear, flank, and
front, all at once, and then she takes your sword in such a winsome
way that you are rather glad to surrender."

"Take care, McAllister, - take care, or you may surrender more than
your sword."

"I think you are in the greater danger."

"Oh, no, I'm forearmed, and Miss Suwanee and I understand each
other."

But he did not understand her, nor did she comprehend herself. Her
conversation seemed as open, and often as bright as her Southern
sunshine, and his mind was cheered and delighted with it. He did
not disguise his frank, cordial regard for her, even before her
mother and sister, but it was ever blended with such a sincere
respect that she was touched and surprised by it, and they were
reassured. She had told them of the place possessed by Marian in
his thoughts, and this fact, with his manner, promised immunity
from all tendencies towards sentiment. Indeed, that Suwanee should
bestow anything more upon the Northern officer than kindness, a
certain chivalric hospitality, and some admiration, was among the
impossibilities in their minds.

This, at the time, seemed equally true to the young girl herself.
Not in the least was she on her guard. Her keen enjoyment of his
society awakened no suspicions, for she enjoyed everything keenly.
His persistence in treating her, in spite of all her nonsense and
frolicsomeness, as if she were worthy of the deepest respect and
honor which manhood can pay to womanhood, ever remained a bewildering
truth, and touched the deepest chords in her nature. Sometimes
when they sat in the light of the young moon on the veranda she
revealed thoughts which surprised him, and herself even more. It
appeared to her as if a new and deeper life were awakening in her
heart, full of vague beauty and mystery. She almost believed that
she was becoming good, as he imagined. Why otherwise should she
be so strangely happy and spiritually exalted? He was developing
in her a new self-respect. She now knew that he was familiar with
standards of comparison at the North of which she need not be
ashamed. Even her mother and sister had remarked, in effect, "It is
evident that Captain Lane has been accustomed to the best society."
His esteem was not the gaping admiration of a boor to whom she had
been a revelation.

"No," she said, "he is a revelation to me. I thought my little
prejudices were the boundaries of the world. He, who has seen the
world, walks right over my prejudices as if they were nothing, and
makes me feel that I am his friend and equal, because he fancies I
possess a true, noble womanhood; and now I mean to possess it. He
has made his ideal of me seem worthy and beautiful, and it shall
be my life effort to attain it. He doesn't think me a barbarian
because I am a rebel and believe in slavery. He has said that his
mother and sisters would receive me with open arms. It seems to me
that I have grown years older and wiser during the last few weeks."

She did not know that her vivid, tropical nature was responding to
the influence which is mightiest even in colder climes.






CHAPTER XL.

LOVE'S TRIUMPH.





THE month of June was drawing to a close. Captain Lane, his surgeon,
and a little company of wounded men, equally with the Confederates,
were only apparently forgotten. They were all watched, and their
progress towards health was noted. Any attempt at escape would have
been checked at once. The majority of the Federal soldiers could
now walk about slowly, and were gaining rapidly. Although they were
not aware of the fact, the Confederate wounded, who had progressed
equally far in convalescence, were their guards, and the residents
of the neighborhood were allies in watchfulness. The Southerners
were only awaiting the time, near at hand, when they could proceed
to Richmond with their prisoners. This purpose indicated no deep
hostility on the part of the rebels. Companionship in suffering
had banished this feeling. A sergeant among their number had become
their natural leader, and he was in communication with guerilla
officers and other more regular authorities. They had deemed it
best to let events take their course for a time. Lee's northward
advance absorbed general attention, although little as yet was
known about it on that remote plantation. The Union men were being
healed and fed at no cost to the Confederates, and could be taken
away at the time when their removal could be accomplished with the
least trouble.

Lane himself was the chief cause of delay. He was doing well,
but his wound was of a peculiar nature, and any great exertion or
exposure might yet cause fatal results. This fact had become known
to the rebel sergeant, and since the captain was the principal
prize, and they were all very comfortable, he had advised delay.
It had been thought best not to inform the family as to the state
of affairs, lest it should in some way become known to Lane and
the surgeon, and lead to attempted escape. The Barkdales, moreover,
were high-strung people, and might entertain some chivalric ideas
about turning over their guests to captivity.

"They might have a ridiculous woman's notion about the matter,"
said one of these secret advisers.

Lane and McAllister, however, were becoming exceedingly solicitous
concerning the future. The former did not base much hope on Suwanee's
evident expectation that when he was well enough he would go to
his friends as a matter of course. He knew that he and his men were
in the enemy's hands, and that they would naturally be regarded
as captives. He had a horror of going to a Southern prison and of
enduring weeks and perhaps months of useless inactivity. He and
McAllister began to hold whispered consultations. His mind revolted
at the thought of leaving his men, and of departing stealthily from
the family that had been so kind. And yet if they were all taken to
Richmond he would be separated from the men, and could do nothing
for them. Matter-of-fact McAllister had no doubts or scruples.

"Of course we should escape at once if your wound justified the
attempt."

On the 29th of June Lane and the surgeon walked some little
distance from the house, and became satisfied that they were under
the surveillance of the rebel sergeant and his men. This fact so
troubled Lane that Suwanee noticed his abstraction and asked him
in the evening what was worrying him. The moonlight fell full on
her lovely, sympathetic face.

"Miss Suwanee," he said, gravely, "I've been your guest about a
month. Are you not tired of me yet?"

"That's a roundabout way of saying you are tired of us."

"I beg your pardon: it is not. But, in all sincerity, I should be
getting back to duty, were it possible."

"Your wound is not sufficiently healed," she said, earnestly, wondering
at the chill of fear that his words had caused. "The surgeon says
it is not."

"Don't you know?" he whispered.

"Know what?" she almost gasped.

"That I'm a prisoner."

She sprung to her feet and was about to utter some passionate
exclamation; but he said, hastily, "Oh, hush, or I'm lost. I believe
that eyes are upon me all the time."

"Heigho!" she exclaimed, walking to the edge of the veranda, "I
wish I knew what General Lee was doing. We are expecting to hear
of another great battle every day;" and she swept the vicinity with
a seemingly careless glance, detecting a dark outline behind some
shrubbery not far away. Instantly she sprung down the steps and
confronted the rebel sergeant.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, indignantly.

"My duty," was the stolid reply.

"Find duty elsewhere then," she said, haughtily.

The man slunk away, and she returned to Lane, who remarked,
significantly, "Now you understand me."

It was evident that she was deeply excited, and immediately she began
to speak in a voice that trembled with anger and other emotions.
"This is terrible. I had not thought - indeed it cannot be. My father
would not permit it. The laws of war would apply, I suppose, to
your enlisted men, but that you and Surgeon McAllister, who have
been our guests and have sat at our table, should be taken from our
hospitality into captivity is monstrous. In permitting it, I seem
to share in a mean, dishonorable thing."

"How characteristic your words and actions are!" said Lane, gently.
"It would be easy to calculate your orbit. I fear you cannot help
yourself. You forget, too, that I was the means of sending to prison
even your Major Denham."

"Major Denham is nothing - " she began, impetuously, then hesitated,
and he saw the rich color mantling her face even in the moonlight.
After a second or two she added: "Our officers were captured in
fair fight. That is very different from taking a wounded man and
a guest."

"Not a guest in the ordinary sense of the word. You see I can
be fair to your people, unspeakably as I dread captivity. It will
not be so hard for McAllister, for surgeons are not treated like
ordinary prisoners. His remaining, however, was a brave, unselfish
act;" and Lane spoke in tones of deep regret.

"It must not be," she said, sternly.

"Miss Suwanee," - and his voice was scarcely audible, - "do you think
we can be overheard?"

"No," she replied, in like tones. "Roberta and mamma are incapable
of listening."

"I was not thinking of them. I must speak quickly. I don't wish to
involve you, but the surgeon and I must try to escape, for I would
almost rather die than be taken prisoner. Deep as is my longing
for liberty I could not leave you without a word, and my trust in
the chivalric feeling that you have just evinced is so deep as to
convince me that I can speak to you safely. I shall not tell you



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 27 of 37)