J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

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^' I caimot hope as you do, mother, that I shall see
the end of the war. I feel a presentiment of defeat
and death. I cannot survive defeat. If 1 die, you
can tell Allie that I loved her, for now she is firee I
do not think it will be wrong, but not without. You
understand, mother, not without.

" Good-bye, dear mother. Love to Jeanie, Allie,
to father and all.

<<From your afiectionate son,

James."



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CHAPTER XLI.

Perhaps no greater proof of the ability of La
Scheme can be given, than his power to keep in one
dwelling several females whom he had taught to love
him. This would have been impossible without the
great underlying principle of self-sacrifice, to which
he appealed as a last resort. With this principle,
with his secret oaths and his acute perception of the
treatment each different woman-nature demanded,
he was able to harmonize and produce an apparent
impossibility. Besides this, he possessed a remark-
able power of systematizing all business ; and he gave
each person a particular sphere, a particular suite of
rooms, a particular circle in which to operate ; so that
all were occupied in minding their own business, were
waited on in their own apartments, and only met in
the common parlors when policy or impulse prompted
them. The war against the Union was a common
bond of sympathy ; their mutual oaths a common
bond of union, and in those oaths there was an obli-
gation to deceive their enemy, which united them
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450 COTTON STEALING.

most strongly by one common obligation of deceit
They had their antagonisms, — had tlieir jealousy, —
their hatred ; but stronger than anger, than hate,
than jealousy, was the oath to treat an enemy as a
friend, when that enemy was a friend of the Southern
Confederacy.

The lady of the house was Madame Hardone. Her
sphere demanded more intellect, — the nearest ap-
proach to a man. Leette was the man-woman of the
estabUshment — one who dared say what no other fe-
male in the house would speak,— one who dared do
what none other would attempt,— one who feared the
opposite sex by neither day or night, and would jostle
her path through a crowd of men as fearlessly, more
fearlessly, than a man, because she was a fearless
woman — such an one as brave men respect.

The lady of the parlors was the pianist of Mem-
phis : more choice in her manners, more delicate in
her allusions, more equable in her temper, more
guarded in her language, — impressing her guests
with respect for a lady. Upon her fell the reponsi-
bility of doing what impulsive Leette left undone —
a sort of binder up of broken heads, soother ot
wounded feelings. She pervaded the parlors with a
quiet watchfulness, which prevented intrusion or ob-
servation of what might else have seemed suspicious.
Of all others, she was one to be a spy, embodying
the idea of vigilence ; and La Scheme knew whom
he had chosen when he asked her to stand guard on
the evening General Scienter was to be won over to
a Red River expedition.



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COTTON STEALING. 451

Her observation was not confined to the parlors
It included the whole house, which had been so ar-
ranged that every outside door communicated with
an ante-room, by means of speaking tubes, through
which every arrival was communicated to her, the
moment the ring or knock was answered at the door.
This ante-ft)om was the first reception room, and
opened with large folding doors, (run upon wheels
into the partitions,) upon the great parlors where
each guest was lost among the fashionable pyramids
of lace, velvet, silk, from which, as Venus from the
sea, beauty, adorned with sparkling gems, arose to
swell, dazzle and charm the vision of those so favor-
ed as to find entrance here.

The whole of the long evening had passed safely
and quickly " as a marriage bell." The exit of the
principle personages had been accomplished without
observation, and the guests were taking their depar-
ture, when the watchful sentinel at the door spoke a
name in her ear which made her start — ^it was Charles
Hardone, Adjutant General. The master of the
house had come. What should she do ? How could she
prevent a scandalous scene in the presence of the
guests ? If La Scheme were only here ! But he
was there also. What should she do ?

The Adjutant General, dusty from his long ride
in the cars, was shown, by her direction, into the
library. Then a servant was summoned to show him
a room, and, in want of something better, her own
was put at his service. On his part, this whole af-
fair was a mystification, which he could not under-



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452 COTTON STEALING.

stand. Why did not Leette receive hjm? From
her letters, she seemed a loving, waiting wife, [he
had not been taught how young an animal he was —
his eyes would soon be open,] but here was a party,
at which she should certainly be mistress ; where she
ought to be doing the honors, and yet she had not
come to meet him, only sent a servant and her com-
pliments. "Well," he thought, "perhaps she is un-
able to leave her guests ; I will go down."

When he entered the room, a lady he recognized as
a Memphis acquaintance, received him, and intro-
duced him immediately to a lady with whom she left
him and returned to other duties. Charlie, looking
everywhere, saw no Leette : as soon as politeness
permitted, asking for his wife, learned that Greneral
Scienter had been there, and that was all. This lady
had been instructed to be ignorant, and refer the
Adjutant to the other, who kept busy to avoid him.
But Charlie began to grow wrathy : he had not been
in the army and captured Vicksburg to be flanked in
his own house. He went to this lady and demanded
an explanation, which now she found impossible to
avert. She informed him Madame Hardone had
retired, and counseled him to wait until morning.
But with an oath he demanded her room, and went
there. She, anticipating trouble, by the front stairs,
sought the library and the private room, where she
hoped to find La Scheme.

Charlie was lighted by a servant, who guided him
by the private way. Charlie did not wait for cere-
mony, but opened, went in, and closed the door. The



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COTTON STEALING. 453

room was only dimly lighted, and he was unable at
first to distinguish objects.

Just at this moment the gas, without hands, burn-
ed brightly! La Scheme had been warned and turn-
ed it on ; then General Solenter caught sight of the
man whom he recognized with these words, " The Ad-
jutant, by Gr— d !'* Leette started, and both con-
fronted him, when Hardone exclaimed,

" Solenter ! what do you in my wife's apartments ?
Draw and defend yourself!'*

Before he could reply, Leette had drawn from her
pocket the same pistol she had surrendered to the
Corporal, returned at her request by the Adjutant's
order, stepped before the General, and pointing it at
her husband, said :

"General Solenter is my guest, partaker of your
hospitaUty. I shall not permit him -to be insulted in
my house, even by the man who has a right to call me
wife. General, will you step into the library and tell
Mr. La Scheme not to return. I have something to
say to this man alone. "

The General was only too glad to go away. Leette,
gazing directly at Hardone over the bright barrel of
her four shooter, as long as it was pointed at him,
dropped her hand to her side, when his Henry's Re-
peater was turned upon her, curling her Up in con-
tempt as she said :

" A braver man than you dare to be, taught me
not to be afraid of death. Oh, now, put down your
six-shooter ; it wouldn't sound well to have it said
you shot your wife." Then, when he returned the



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454 COTTON STBALING.

weapon to his belt, she put her's too out of sight.
She pointed him towards the chair in which La Scheme
had been sitting, herself standing by her seat, with a
look which seemed to inquire, " Well, General, what
have you to say ?**

Hardone commenced, " This is a pretty welcome
to give a man in his own house !" She interrupted,

'* General, no curtain lectures. Perhaps you are
ignorant with whom you have to deal. My little
friend I showed you a moment ago ought to have con-
vinced you of the value of anything in that line. But
you do not know me. I must teach you never to
trifle with Leette Ledonc. Oh, you thought you was
doing a fine thing when you disowned your marriage
to me among the boys in the army. Do not deny or
shake your head. I have the authority of a better
man than you, General Solenter. Oh, now, do not
get wrathy. He is not dead yet. Monsieur Inno-
cence, who married a wife for the sake of her cotton,
her slaves, her plantations, jilting and killing a wo-
man you did love, you to assume to put on airs ! —
with me ! No! No ! ! Try that on some one else.**

"' What did you marry me for?"

" To save my 'life. And I can be grateful for a
favor. Do you think the way to win my love is to
distrust, disgrace and dishonor me, because you find
a gentleman alone in my boudoir ? I who have rode
alone through the Southern Army ! You have made
a fool of yourself, and insulted your wife by a base
suspicion, which does credit to a knowledge of human
nature, learned among females with whom I do not
associate."



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COTTON STEALING. 455

" I beg your pardon. Perhaps I was too hasty."

" You need not beg. That is no winning game
with me. I would have you know I put a value on
you of dollars and cents, just such as you put on me.**

" But La Scheme, said you loved me. **

" Bah ! You are not such a fool ! Come, Charlie,
dont make me think you were soft enough to believe
that!**

" But the quinine !**

" Oh, yes, you sold yourself cheap that time, — for
two kisses. It was contraband of war, and you knew
and were paid for it as you have been often since. Do
not try any patriotic dodges on me. They will not
win. I know you, dollars and cents. You shall have
your full share.**

" That is all very well. But you are my wife, and
having sold myself as you suggest, I too, have a share
in the transaction, and as purchaser, have rights in
Madame Leette Hardone which I shall assert and main-
tain.*'

" Don*t be too suie of it ! Don*t be too sure of it !
Your experience has been limited. I advise you to
make as few experiments as possible at my expense.
You are matched by no Northern dough-faced girl,
but a Southern fire-eater, who will never forgive an
injury or fail to revenge an affront. Now let us un-
derstand each other. It is to my advantage to appear
your wife ; you shall lose nothing by seeming my
husband. Oh, I do not care particularly as long
as there is no absolute antagonism between us, what
you may do, where you may stay, — in a word, I con-



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466 COTTON STBALINa.

cede what I know you will take, full license without
a question. But I demand similar rights and priv-
ileges, no espionage, no jealousy, perfect freedom for
myself, as full as if I were again Leette Ledonc and
not Madame Hardone."

**I shall not give it."

" 1 shall take it without the gift ; and I advise you
never to interfere, for I shall always carry my little
friend, and give you fair warning. Leette Ledonc
never fired at a man without killing him."

"That is cool."

" Why should I be hot ? This explanation must
come, sooner or later. It is not for your interest to
become angry with me. More than one marriage
has been for convenience ; and as for love, you believe
in it no more than I do. Let us talk business. I
have invested your funds and made twenty thousand
dollars for you. I have been able to pay the expen-
ses of this establishment on a single speculation. Sit
down like a reasonable being and let us make a bar-
gain. How much will you take to let me alone V*

The Adjutant sat down. But their conversation
was interrupted, as will be explained in the next
chapter.



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CHAPTER XLH.

When General Scienter came into La Scheme's
room, the door of the library was open, and the
piano sending out its loud tones. Paying no atten-
tion to music, he came to La Scheme, saying —

" The mischief is to pay now.'*

"What is it?" asked La Scheme, as if ignorant
of anything unusual.

" The Adjutant General came in and imagined I
was intruding on his rights. Why didn't you tell
me?"

" Why should I tell you ? I saw your own order,
in your hand writing, endorsing the marriage. It is
too late to plead ignorance."

" Well, what shall I do ? I cannot aflFord to break
with Charlie. He knows too many of my secrets."

" Did Madame Hardone speak to you of the Red
River expedition?"

" Yes."

" Then I can put you right with him. We will
anticipate his action. I will go and explain the cir-



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458 COTTON STEALING.

cumstances, by taking him in as partner and planning
the details of the expedition. What do you say ?"

" Go on. Get me out of the affair if vou can. I
know your ability, and consent to follow your lead.
Whatever you say I will assent to. Can we manage
Leette ?"

" No. Leette is beyond management. There is
only one way to lead a woman. Make her think she
drives the team. We will try. Come, — now is the
best time to do what must be done.''

Entering the room, they found the happy pair
vis-a-^ia. La Scheme instantly went to Charlie,
saying —

" I am glad to see you, Adjutant General. You
could not have arrived more opportunely. The Gen-
eral on the one part, and your wife, representing
the Confederacy, on the other, have just agreed to
work out an expedition up the Red River, which
shall make every qflScer engaged independently rich.
Li a word, the Confederacy will sell out the whole
country, and you have come in time to share the
work and reap the profits. I am glad to see you,
sir, very glad to see you. General, sit down."

This was said pointing the General to the seat by
Madame Hardone. Leette moved and the General
took the seat.

" The General tells me you seemed excited. I do
not wonder : it was a mere accident, for I had just
left them to make a little memorandum of agreement
which I will read to you. By the way, I think this
matter ought to be settled at once, both to satisfy you



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COTTON STBALINe. 459

and set the General in a true light, as well as remove
any wrong impressions which may rest in your mind
concerning your wife. Excuse me, General, won't
you ask the lady Who is playing on the piano, in the
library, to step in.**

The General went out, as requested. La Scheme
had two objects ; one to defend Leette, the other to
secure an additional witness to the agreement. Be-
sides this he wished to afford Leette a clue to his in-
tentions, that she might not mar the success of his
plot.

" Madame Hardone, the General told me you did
not wish our immediate return, — desiring a private
interview with your husband. He also tells me that
you had settled the terms, as far as they can now be,
in accordance with the suggestions we have received
from the South. But I decided that it was more
important for me to see the Adjutant General and
enlist him in this business, and if that could once
be done, for you and him to go immediately South.
He can complete all the arrangements in the Federal
lines without suspicion ; while she will take all cor-
respondence, and act with the confederates, on the
other side."

The General here entered with the lady on his
arm, and La Scheme, turning to her, said :

" Lucille, how long had I and the General been
gone when the Adjutant came ?*'

"But a moment.'*

" Did you know of the proposed Red River expe-
dition, and that there were arrangements to be made
to-night r' ^



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460 COTION STBALma.

"Yes. I suppose you desired not to be interrupted,
and therefore interposed all the delay I could. I
beff the pardon of the Adjutant, for I was not aware
that he was to be a party concerned."

" Now, General Hardone, you see what we have
been doing, and can explain all which seems dark to
you."

" Mr. La Scheme," said Leette, " you need make
no explanations. There is no necessity for explana-
tions. I am offended that you imagine them neces-
sary. Gentlemen, my husband and myself are on
no such terms as to require your good offices. Be
pleased to attend to business."

" Certainly," said La Scheme. " You know, Ad-
jutant, there are a million bales of cotton up the Bed
River and its tributaries. These can all be gotten
out by stationing a force at Shrevesport. Now, a
proposition has come to me, agreeing to sell all this
cotton, on satisfactory terms, to be decided here
after. And, if the Government is so disposed, all the
fortified places, and their heavy ordnance and am-
munition, will be delivered, with little or no loss of
life, in consideration of a definite sum, — absolutely
nothing compared with the expenditure the Govern-
ment will be obliged to make if they fight it out. —
The sum suggested is one and one half millions of
dollars in greenbacks. All Confederate States Cot-
ton to be paid for at the rate of fifteen cents per
pound, one half payable in greenbacks, balance in
supplies, while the people are to have the privilege
of making their own contracts as they best can.



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COTTON STEALING. 461

"These are the terms in general, and General
Scienter has taken upon himself the labor of sug-
gesting and starting the expedition. Is it not so,
General V

"Well — I — think," the General spoke with hesi-
tation. La Scheme immediately appealed to Leette,
saying,—

" This was the substance of your conversation with
the General, I believe?"

" Yes. You remember. General, what you said of
the cotton up there, — ^how the oflScers were very anx-
ious to move the army up the Red River ; and you
remember that you told me it would be the most pop-
ular expedition^ among the o£Bcers, that could be un-
dertaken?"

" Now, Madame Hardone speaks, I do remember.
But I think it will be hard to get the necessary orders
from Washington. I do not know how the subject
can be broached there without suspicion."

" There is money enough to be made in Red River
cotton to buy a dozen Washingtons if they were
twice full of speculators. There will be no difficulty
after it once is started and the right men are within
the ring. You know who they are. That Senator
and Representative of yours can help do the busi-
ness in the Departments. Shall I read the agreement?' '

" No," said Hardone. " The less we hear of agree-
ments the better. This, like all our cotton transac-
tions, must be strictly confidential. Agreements would
sound well printed and published I I shall put my
name to no paper."



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462 COTTON STBALING.

^^ The Adjutant speaks solid sense, as he always
does. I should have been in many a tight place if he
had not kept me off from paper/*

" General, there must be something to prove to the
authorities that the agreement will be kept/*

" They must trust to our honor from the word 'go/
There can be nothing else/*

"How shall we divide the labor?*' asked Leette.

La Scheme answered, " The General must do the
work in Washington. He knows the ropes. The Ad-
jutant must lay the track in Mississippi.*'

"And what will you do ?'* asked General Scienter.

" Make myself generally useful.**

" Where do you put me?" asked Leette.

" With your husband, on the Mississippi. That
reminds me of the necessity for haste. Some one
ought to go down and communicate progress immedi-
ately, to start to-morrow morning.*'

" I will go,** said Leette.

" Without plan, project or details?" asked General
Scienter.

" You must not attempt to form any plan, or an-
ticipate any details. Your first idea should be to
suggest the expedition, and get the right man, an
unscrupulous politician, appointed to lead it. Details
will follow naturally."

" General, you are the man to take charge."

" Not me. Adjutant. That would not do.**

" Well you would be if I had the appointing power/'

" Gentlemen, the hour is early, and time presses*
You will only have a few hours to sleep before Change.



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COTTON STEALING. 468

This thing, if undertaken, must be made to succeed.
What say you, shall we try ?"

"I say Yes," replied Hardone. "My voice is Yes,'*
said his wife. " I am afraid to say Yes, though I
would like a hand in," said General Scienter.

Then La Scheme taking up the subject, said, "The
expedition is decided. Each of us is supreme in our
own place, and we all work to one end, — the expedi-
tion. Lucille, will you prepare me a room ? Gene-
ral, I will not see you leave us to-night. We will
need to talk this over before we separate, especially
if the Adjutant and his wife go down to New Orleans
to-morrow. It is late now and he is tired. We will
leave him."

This was the signal for departure. Lucille left first,
Scienter followed. Would he remain alone with that
amiable couple? Not he. La Scheme followed and
closed the door. When once in the library, La Scheme
addressed the General.

" You have made a narrow escape. It was all I
could do while you was gone to calm the Adjutant.
You were uneasy under his eyes all the evening, and
I was compelled to make up many things to protect
you. I prevaricated most egregiously when I pro-
fessed to have received any proposition, but I know
the sale can be brought about. There is only one
thing now to be done. You must put a bold face on
the whole matter and commence work. Assistance
will come of itself, as soon as the oflScials know there
is any money in it. Of one thing you must be very
careful, not to permit Hardone to get the better of



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464 COTTON STBALINa.

ft

you. ff ever a man wanted to kill another, he was
one this evening. I have laid his saspicions. The only
way to keep them down is to get him off to Vicksburg
and New Orleans, while you work at Washington. —
When you join your command, the music will be in
your hands.*'

La Scheme showed him a room, and left him, — join-
ing Lucille, he said :

" Lucille, nothing in the world could be better. We
shall have a Red River expedition. Our cotton will
be sold. I will get our twenty millions, control the
next Presidential election, choose a peace President,
and our country shall be free. Then, hurrah for Lady
Lucille, and the noble lord Kendal La Scheme, Duke
of Mississippi !''



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^



CHAPTER XLIIL

No one knows the author of the Red River expedi*
tion. It has no father. It ought not to have any
honorable origin. In lieu of any other, Cotton Steal-
ing offers the explanation of the preceding chapter,
which may or may not be eminently satisfactory.

Every one engaged in that expedition remembers
how easily Fort De Russy was taken, and Alexandria
captured. They will remember the universal stam-
pede of government and every other team after cotton,
so that even the gunboat boys were on special ser-
vice, until very shortly piles of cotton bales lay on
the banks of Red River, and the army and navy seem-
ed a giant thief stealing cotton. They will remem-
ber how as tho expedition proceeded towards Shreve-
port, a holocaust of burning cotton preceded, and how
at last when that long train of cavalry went in advance
of the main army — the wagon train loaded with stores,
the quarter master's train, the ammunition train, the
paymaster's train, were all thrown in advance of the
infantry ; and they will remember how when we were
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466 COTTON STEALING.

attacked, and our troops were defeated, that train,
those stores, those supplies, those quartermaster and
paymaster chests, were captured. Every one engaged
in this expedition will remember this, and they will
now look back upon it as some dream of romance,
which Congressional Investigating Committees, and
army court martials have proved a mere figment of the
brain for vhich no one is responsible.

But there is one poor private who has a realizing
sense of the expedition, and a positive belief as to
the originators, the policy, object, and cause of the
failure of the expedition.

Corporal Manet was in the fighting corps of the old
war-dog, A. J. Smith, and when the routed corps,
which had been only brought into action by brigades
and divisions, been whipped in detail, ran to the rear
in unavoidable confusion, he was in the front with
other good and true men prepared to receive the



Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 27 of 29)