J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

. (page 17 of 29)
Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 17 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the other ladies in the house, quinine, percussion
caps, and other small but valuable articles. Each
new day increased their store from the secret agents
who were found and organized by Kendal La Scheme.
No underground railroad was ever more successful,
or transportation more safe.

He had formed a band of complotters on the basis
of Alexander the Great. A mule loaded with — not
gold, but cotton, entered, and was stabled in the patri-
otic city of New York. Secretly, by marks known
to the initiated, articles of necessity had been con-
cealed in barrels and boxes, shipped to various locali-
ties, from whence, by re-shipment, they found their
way to Memphis. This was a commissariat from
which the South was to obtain supplies, and the
rebel army indispensable medicines, percussion caps,
boots and shoes, and even clothing.

Every day, males on the outer line of brotherhood,

passed into the hands of females, sworn only by their

deadly hatred of the Yankees, over the counter, small

parcels which were deftly hidden in their morning

18



Digitized



by Google



274 COTTON STEALING.

purchases. Leette Ledonc was placed here to super-
intend their passage through the lines.

By her first move, she obtained a guard. Of
course, no bulky articles could pass either way; but
at this time, as always, medicine was in great demand
both for the country and the army. At this time,
aided by the winter, holding Grant in check at Me-
ridian, — all along the course of the Yazoo from Old
river near Vicksburg, past the batteries at Haine's
Bluffs to Yazoo City and thence to Gen. Pemberton's
head-quarters, medicine was more necessary to the
comfort and life of the army than powder or boots
and shoes.

Leette's second move was a pleasant one to her. —
She had determined to wound and vex the Yankee
girl, to make her jealous, if no more ; if possible, to
destroy mutual confidence, break her heart. To that
end the smiles of a coquette were lavished : La
Scheme's lessons in will power, the animal electricity^
which every strong will can exert, coupled with tempt-
ing female display, was thrown around the Adjutant
General who was fool enough to believe himself the
fascinator, who had no more principle than to go
willingly into the meshes of the human spider.

" Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not
in the way of evil. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn
from it and pass away. The lips of a strange woman
drop as a honeycomb and her mouth is smoother than
oil. But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a
two-edged sword.**

The soldier who can forget himself, his honor, his



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEALING. 275

country, and speculate in cotton, finds it easy to vio-
late the plighted troth of his youth and tread upon
the heart he has taught to trust in him. Charlie Har-
done never dreamed where his steps would lead when
he, (crafty Leette) boasting of his horse, was led to
challenge her to try speed with the fleet racer Janie.

She accomplished another result. She brought La
Scheme back. This was their conversation : —

" Have you forgotten ? *'

" What have I to forget ? "

" Yourself and your country. The sale of cotton,
whereby you provide sinews of war. You have taken
up a low-lived Yankee hireling."

" What right have you to be jealous ? You, who
have a wife in every place."

" Then you listen to every idle rumor."

" Call you idle rumor the true words of one sworn
Jto communicate your own commands? Ordered to
speak this word to madden me."

" You deceived ! Leette Ledonc ! You ! I thought
you knew me better. Woman, why cannot you raise
your thoughts higher ! Are you, too, caught by the
chaff which blinds common birds ? "

" Kendal La Scheme, do not imagine you have
power longer to deceive me. I am free. One bond
remains between us, and one only — I obey while you
remain faithful to our country. All other links that
held me are broken. Master in the art of deception,
thou art deceived."

" Then, at length, we know each other. I have
not worked in vain, since, by breaking your woman-



Digitized



by Google



276 COTTON STBALINO.

thought of love, I have made an army for my
country."

"Beware of my vengeance. When you marry
other than myself, as you have sworn, I will enter
your house and destroy your peace. Her you
falsely call wife shall wish herself in hell rather
than have crossed the path of Leette Ledonc."

" I laugh at your threats. I fear not. The day
will never come. Do not you who follow the beck
and nod of this false abolitionist perceive no cause of
fear ? Already you are markfed."

"Ha! ha! How much quinine have you given
me? Where is it now? When my friends are mis-
led, well may I fear no detection from an enemy. I
rode him a race. I led him beyond the lines. They
did not challenge me. Oh, no ! The Adjutant Gren-
eral needed no pass. His company was beyond sus-
picion. I took out more at one time than you got
out in a week ; won the race with Janie, who came
back much lighter than she went."

" But you were thrown ?"

"You are well informed. I thrown? Janie
throw me ! What penetration ! Yes, I was thrown,
and when thrown was rescued by a woman, who has
sent the contraband of war to a man who loves and
would die for me."

"Not James Manet ; he is dead."

" Ah ! you believed that. Master, mind you are
not the equal of Leette. He is not dead. I am glad
you are jealous of him. He is alive, if he loves me.
Such love is priceless. I never would have given



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STBALING. 277

Allie Sandison to Lieut. Hardone. She has a heart.
I'll trample on it. You ordered me to marry a Yan-
kee, and kill him. I may obey. You promised to
be mine when he was dead. Dare to violate your
word! Contraband to a corporal in the federal
army ! You are blind ! You command me to spec-
ulate in cotton, — ^you, an old speculator, who have
made a million dollars. Oh! Kendal La Scheme,
you never will deceive Leette again. I am speculat-
ing. I have ordered ten bales of cotton, delivered,
and I already have the price in my possession.'*

Then La Scheme took Leette down. " Leette you
are a jewel — a priceless jewel. Your name shall
have a place in history, when we are free from war
and possess our independence. You are better than
I ever expected, than I ever imagined. I have only
one fault to find. You did not make it absolutely
necessary for the boat which gets your cotton to
carry supplies to the plantation."

" Did you know it ?"

" Of course I knew. The money came from San-
dison's bank. The General is a party to the trans-
action, and asked my advice before engaging. I
approved and urged, because you have been stripped
of all your property. Well done. I was only try-
^& y<>u. The test is eminently satisfactory. Go on
as now. A rich reward awaits, whether you crave
the destruction of your enemies, the success of your
friends, or your own aggrandizement. There are two
things, now, of prime importance, and you have bet-
ter opportunities than I. To your consummate tact



Digitized



by Google



278 COTTON STEALING.

they are entrusted. I cannot be more than assistant,
until the moment for assistant to be chief. The first
is to get from the Adjutant the news of this expedi-
tion to Vicksburg. The second, to sell those thous-
and bales of Confederate States cotton. Are we
friends, Leette?"

La Scheme offered his hand. She took the hand,
and called herself a fool when he had gone.



Digitized by VjOOQIC



CHAPTER XXIV.

Two minds conflict. The strength of two inde-
pendent creations, endowed with infinity, eternity,
and personality, meet in antagonism on equal
ground, with like determination and energy. Death
only can end their strife, if neither will yield. Will
they fight after death ? Endless Avar is hell. There
is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. Can the
souls of men and women, who hate the people of the
North, ever dwell in unity again ? La Scheme — a
politician, a mere self man — can accommodate him-
self to any change. Can a woman — who, from the
almost impossibility of being a soldier, is unable to
inhale the actual, real, absolute experience of a cam-
paign ; made up of thought-lightnings, will-electrici-
ties, eternity-anxieties, huge foreshadowings of
impending destruction ; of watch in battle, in thun-
der and rain; without fire, shivering; in camp,
starving ; in the smoke near burnished steel — can
a woman, with the soul of a man, make up her mind
to yield and accept peace from the hand against whom
she has rebelled?



Digitized



by Google



280 COTTON STEALING.

Lectte Ledonc had come to no such pass. Hate
was furious when within the mind. But new emotions
expelled those equally strong, and she was a mirror
when with Alice Sandison, whose society she court-
ed. Why ? This was the reason. From her a cas-
ual remark opened a shutter in the Adjutant General's
office. Another from Lina*s father put her face
against the window. CharKe Hardone threw it open.
General Solenter by an inadvertent admission, invited
her in, and the combination of all these varied no-
things were clear as her eye behind the Adjutant
Generars shoulder reading the official order from the
Commander-in-chief.

Leette was a mirror in which Allie Sandison saw a
friend, because for the moment, pure thoughts and
good intentions were reflected. Allie Sandison, pos-
itive in her character as Leette Ledonc in hers. Allie
the woman, no longer Lina the girl. Character de-
veloped, mind mature, will, strong with the immobility
of educated principles.

I reiriember standing nearly two-third** of a whole
forenoon on the paved levee in front of Memphis,
Tennessee, while a captain who had oversight of all
the steamboats, as a deputy Provost Marshal, most
earnestly deplored the demoralizing influence of the
war on soldier's wives, on young females who came
into the lines .searching for wounded brothers and
friends. Official duty put him on guard where he
must watch closely every man and woman who came
into or went out of our army lines, a scrutiny which



Digitized



by Google



. COTTON STBALINa. 281

palliated no hypocritic sanctity and excused no pitiful
evasion ; where he saw so painful sights as made him
declare that purity was exceptional. Traveling wives
of soldier and officer, nurses in hospital too came
within his observation condemned; and he asked
with the earnestness of a grey haired man : — " What
is the country coming to ? '*

Allie Sandison, in the "midst of such corruption,
was no negative. The Almighty God of virtue made
her spotless ; every one seeing, felt her purity.
Many, females in particular, often deplore their
small opportunity of usefulness. Why were they not
men ? Why did not Providence make them saviours
of their country ? Allie Sandison, — ^unconscious of
doing anything, AlUe Sandison, — living a pure wo-
man, where men were distrusting themselves, dis-
trusting God, distrusting all men, all women, losing
faith in all their former conceptions of possible virtue
and holiness — where man's own birth was branded in
common oaths as doomed offspring of contempt —
Allie Sandison, a living refutation of that idea born
in the border thought-land of perdition — ^AUie San-
dison, any woman, every woman, who so lives as to
impress cotemporaneous minds with the truth of
angelhood and purity ; white-robed in words, white-
robed in thought, white-robed in action, — ^has ful-
filled one great mission of hfe. That woman who, in
this war, has come in contact with the army, and
maintained a spotless Christian character, may thank
God for the opportunity of vindicating the honor of
womanhood.



Digitized



by Google



282 COTTOK STEALUnG.

This was the Allie Sandison, who, thinking no
evil, also sought the society of Leette Ledonc. To
the pure, all things are pure. The angel fallen can
assume the semblance of light. Addison says hy-
pocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Leette
Ledonc thought neither of the Bible nor of Addison.
While Allie sought to win a mistaken love, to show
her Southern sister's professed Union heart tinctur-
ed with bitterness, that a true Union woman had no
hate, no ill-will, no animosity, Leette, conscious how
poorly she concealed her mind, professed to love the
kind spirit, and sought to hide every part of herself
which had an evil countersign. There were mutual
attractions as well as repulsions. As a hoyden girl
calls her gentle mate to the seat on the extreme end
of the board, whose center is balanced on a fence be-
tween, so Leette played with Allie, designing when
she was well up in the air to let her fall.

James Manet was a link between. No true wo-
man can ever hear of a man's generous love unmoved.
When she cannot love back, she respects — ogives that
love next to love, pity. Thinking him dead, she,
regardless of consequences, chose language which
his heart would have thrilled to hear ; which made
Leette jealous and revengeful. Her big heart, long-
ing for love, unsatisfied; avenging her wrongs on
one engaged to another. What did the rebel care
for Charlie Hardone, that she strove to win him from
his allegiance ? Why did she begrudge the affection
she knew James Manet gave without reserve, without
hoping for return ? It was useless to her who loved



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEALING. 288

and hated La Scheme. But while with AUie, her
face was unsullied by a frown, or tossing on the leaves
of emotion to indicate a tempest breaking on the
strong branches of the trees of passion ; her black
eje was a perfect foil, telling no tales. Her cheek
had ever a smile ; her lip, bound by the will to please,
found no trouble to obey the impulse of good nature.
Besides, respect paid involuntary tribute to inno-
cence, good intentions and love, so far as to call
forth an aspiration. Oh ! I wish you were a rebel !
But being a Yankee, no matter how great the attrac-
tion, she must hate.

Leette was a mirror, where Sandison saw a mere
scheming, worldly-wise woman, who was smart even
to surprise him by her sharpness ; who had no con-
science in a bargain ; who asked, demanded as a
right, what would have sent a man to the guard-
house and military prison for suggesting.

Leette was not a mirror to Charlie Hardone, in
that a mirror reflects. She gave him pictures ; but
not those his imagination would have seen; since
he had broadly put his foot on the slope of destruc-
tion and walked backwards. He was between two
angels — above was his affianced, calling him up-
wards; behind was Leette, calling him down. His
face turned over his shoulder — backwards, where
enough was exposed to tempt him to turn his back
on truth, purity, and love. In fact, Allie loved him
too well.

Around the head-quarters of many Western gen-
erals [the East I know nothing of. It claims virtue.



Digitized



by Google



284 COTTON 8TBALIN0.

I tell what I have seen, and I have seen no great
pretensions to immaculate purity among people of
the West] are numbers of fast men, whose interests
lead them to fawn upon those in power ; who lie on
the ground to be trod on ; who laugh and truckle ;
do any mean act to gain their ends. These men
pander to vice ; are ever ready with a cigar, a treat
— ^whether a single drink, a plate of oysters, a cham-
pagne supper, or a gallon of whisky. They tell
barn-yard stories, sing fancy songs, and are '^ Hale
fellows well met,*' without a shame.

Allie loved Charlie with eyes wide open to see the
gulf which threatened to overwhelm her future. A
Christian, knowing he had tdken a Christian's vows,
she did her duty and plead earnestly. With an ap-
petite for vice, the apple he had before him was too
tempting. Charlie Hardone entered her presence
degraded, and was a whited sepulchre.

General Solenter was a Hardone, with more style.
A leg of butchered sheep is no more, whether simply
boiled in a common pot or prepared moiUon a la
Francais. Necessity compels common men to keep
others at a distance ; else, contempt would sink them
deep as their desert. The less absolute merit — the
more style, the more pretension. Leette Ledonc was
a mirror to his weakness, and with him assumed hau-
teur — ^put on more style than the Empress Eugenie,
the pride of Napoleon and pet of France.

These reflections of her mind-mirror were varied
by the appearance of others — La Scheme, guerillas,
rebels. Each moment had full possession ; exclusive



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEALING. 285

— 80 that Leette had as many personalities as came
for reflection. Behind which her own proper identi-
ty lay hidden ; a reality at midnight, when curtains
vainly barred out mosquitoes ; but thought, too busy
with its own pain, was unconscious of any live being
save Leette Ledonc.



Digitized



by Google



CHAPTER XXV.

One thousand bales of cotton at the time I am now
fixing as the date of this transaction, would sell in
Memphis for upwards of three hundred thousand
dollars.

Three hundred thousand dollars ! — is worth a risk.
There wa« no risk in this case. One hundred thous-
and dollars paid to Leette would put the cotton on the
bank ready for shipment ; with not merely a pledge
from guerillas not to bum, but a detachment to pro-
tect it. More of this hereafter.

I was in Chicago four years after the first nomina-
tion of Abraham Lincoln, when that party which
was stigmatized as Copperhead met in the mammoth
amphitheatre to nominate a candidate who should
combine all the elements of antagonism in existence
at the North to crush out the policy of emancipation,
of Unionism embodied in Abraham Lincoln. What
element united those antagonisms, fused them in har-
mony over the watchword peace f The old Simon-
pure pro-slavery democrat who voted for Brecken-



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEALING. 287

ridge ; his deadly enemy the banking-protection-pub-
lic -improvement-fossil-old-line- Whig ; and that anom-
aly the radical black stripe aboKtlon Fremontist ; in-
dividuals blaming Fremont as they also blamed Lincoln
for what was not done ; under valuing what had been
done ; uniting with that very large class of luke-warm
patriots ; men of strong party prejudices unable to
reconcile support of the Union, since support of the
Union contains death to slavery, with their life-long
support to that institution. Timber, out of which
circumstances wielded by traitors, can mould treason.
God knov s, it is his law, though men ignore its truth,
that seed sown will germinate. Dragon's teeth sown
will grow into fighting men ; and his Providence has
thwarted the energetic plans which would have nipped
off the parent stock, only to spread deeper and wider
at the root, and multiply indefinitely the evil to be
more securely developed in coming time. Slavery is
the evil. Slavery is the curse of free government. —
Black slavery is the positive, white slavery the com-
parative and caste the superlative degree of wrong.
While the lower is tolerated small progress can be
made in agieliorating the condition of our own kith
and kin, in elevating the only absolute and imperish-
able ground of distinction between man and man,
namely, truth, virtue, holiness, and knowledge. Had
the rebellion been squelched, — slavery remaining, the
result would have been valueless.

Had the grand principles of anti-slavery been
choked down the unwilling minds of men, the steady
progress of conviction would not have been. Such



Digitized



by Google



288 COTTON STEALING.

thoughts as influenced Gen. Fremont in his proclam-
ation were impossible, at the time. The time was,
and Gen. Fremont was the man, to enunciate the
principle. Abraham Lincoln was the man in the
right place, to say, as he did say : '' Wait, the princi-
ple is correct. Hold, practical emancipation is not
yet possible. You have advanced a new idea — a cor-
rect idea. I will not trouble, only suspend its execu-
tion, until public opinion has come up, embraced its
truth, and men are not only practically convinced,
but are its earnest advocates.*' The mill of events
grinds slowly. Those minds which grasp the future
are too apt to be impatient — to get angry with the
plodding mass, who cannot see, cannot comprehend,
the true logic of events. These stubborn, blind men
have not received mental illumination ; but daylight
is approaching, when all shall see. The expense is
awful. Life, limb, happiness — ^all that man or wo-
man holds dear ; new conscriptions, new outlays of
public money, new taxes, new duties — because the
opposition, in self-will, refuse to recognize the pro-
gress of human events. Do not become impatient.
The responsibility is not yours. In theycreation of
the earth from chaos, cycles of years seemed use-
lessly wasted while fire cooled into solid rock, while
vegetation and animal life went to decay — forming
solid masses of carbon, sufficient to supply a purer
atmosphere, a more delicate vegetation, a more ex-
alted animal life, until time shall end. The moral
universe may be in a similar transition period ; and
the convulsions of human struggle, epochs in the pro-



Digitized



by Google



COTTON- STEALING. 289

grees of soul life, onward and upward. They who
comprehend — who desire to urge onward the move-
ment — should not grow impatient, since the Creator,
whose work they are, in whose plan they act, gov-
erns the progress — wisely choosing his instruments
— justly perfecting his designs. Have faith. Trust
God, who doeth all things well. When God has
done with a man, he drops from public observation.
Do not resist God.

* All these contradictory elements, which were meet-
ing in harmony, burying the hatchet and affiUiating in
political brotherhood, were unable to defeat the des-
tiny of the age ; for slavery is barbarism and State
sovereignty conflicting with National Union is des-
truction. Their rallying cry, Peace ! Peace ! at any
price, even to, dismemberment of the Union and ab-
rogation of the Constitution by the seceeding States.
Let them go if they wish, Peace ! Peace ! This cry
was made more loud by the proceeds of cotton,
smuggled through the lines ; cotton which some of
our own oflicers in the field assisted to pass the lines.
They were paid for the permits to get it out. Their
honest (?) devotion to their country threw every ob-
stacle in the way of open, free trade, and their pub-
Uc record is beyond impeachment, yet they them-
selves took bribes, opened side doors by which the
enemy went out and in loaded with money to out-
flank, to battle in their rear against their fathers and
mothers, sisters and children; by which they bought
that political element, always for sale, and attempted
to ruin the country. Thank God they failed!
19



Digitized



by Google



290 OOTTON STEALING.

The poor soldier must fight, shed his blood — die.
His family must meet the treasonable laugh, the con-
temptuous pity of the copperheads; because the
national officer was so covetous, so vile, so degraded,
as to traffic in cotton.

Many a quiet looker-on in that misguided, ambig-
uous conglomeration of political pudding-stone,
[there were diamonds, there was fine gold. How
can a diamond shine without its glorious setting?
How can gold be known when mixed with mud ?] kne#
that Southern cotton, transmuted into English gold
or Northern greenbacks, paid the passage of mem-
bers of secret organizations to the scene of political
conflict ; armed them with pistols, and furnished them
with powder and ball.

This is a long way from Leette Ledonc. Nor does
any woman appear in this chapter, dedicated to none
but Union men — supporters of the Administration
and Federal officers. Again I disavow any intention
of stigmatizing any particular man ; nor the army
or navy as men, or as a class of men. I point out
no individual. If the pen draws true portraits, it
shall not have, like the earliest attempts at art, the
words, "this is a cow," to distinguish the features
of brigadier from colonel, or major of the gold leaf
from him of the two silver stars. The act and its
consequences are wrong. Whoever has been guilty
deserves condemnation. Let conscience stand ac-
cuser. Let truth, set home by conscience, be judge.
Let a calm, unprejudiced public try every officer who
comes home from the cotton regions enriched by the



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STBALING. 291

war beyond the just savings of his army pay. If
there is guilt, let the penalty rest only on the crimi-
nal. There is but one way to reach the wrong-doer,



Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 17 of 29)