J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

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without regret. If Jeff. Davis had taken my advice,
not a pound would have been destroyed. I would
have fought, I would have conquered with cotton.
I would have sold the whole crop, taken your green-
backs, and bought gold. With that gold our Confed-
erate scrip should have been redeemed, and kept at
par. Your green-backs would have depreciated to
what our paper now is — a bushel not worth a damn.
You understand me. I would have shipped our cot-
ton to England, using you Northern men as our com-
mission merchants, paying you handsomely for your
trouble. Cotton will bring something in gold. This
we would have received. We have burnt our cotton,



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COTTON STEALING. 85

d^troyed our wealth, and our currency is poor as
hell. Our rulers are beginning to see their mistake,
are about ready to adopt my policy. I will take the
responsibility ; we must have supplies. If you will
bring us them, we will sell you cotton. For the sake
of supplies we will take a portion in green-backs.
We must have supplies. Now you are in the cotton
business, get us supplies; we will not hurt you.
When we have our bellies fully then look out — ^we will
give you good warning."

Without deciding the accuracy of his reasoning, the
correctness of his theory, or its harmony with prin-
ciples of political economy, the honesty of the man
was self-evident : one of those men enthusiastic in
defence of slavery, with the idea of a Southern
Empire big in their imaginations. This man may
be taken as a type of those who saw a future for
themselves in destruction ; men who owe their genius
to American institutions, yet would overthrow the
system which gave them oppportunity to rise ; who
would build up in the New World a monarchial gov-
ernment on a European model, in which they were to
be lords and nobility.

In 1853, this man, whose name I call Eendal La-
Scheme, was a senior in Tale college, rooming with
a Northern class-mate iifhose name was Sandison.
Both were poor and proud, but not equally depend-
ent on their own exertions. Kendal dishonored the
North by boarding with an uncle who had been South
to conduct the mechanical part of his father's boot
and shoe business. That father had married a North-



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TO COTTON STBAUNG.

em school teacher, a shoemaker's sister. When their
property, invested in business, had been lost in a
commercial crisis, which cost the son his father, the
uncle returned North.* Kendal, however, was bred
among slaves, whereby a natural love of power was
constantly cultivated amid the degrading conscious-
ness of pecuniary want.

His mother, proud of her son's blood, which she
flattered herself descended directly from the lofty
mountains of ancient aristocracy, brought from Eng-
land in old colonial times, taught him a corn-cob les-
son of poverty clad in scanty silks, and, at her de-
cease, had perfected him in the art of deception. He
despised the relations whose riches reminded him of
destitution, and resolved to carve out his own for-
tune. Too shrewd to make enemies, he secured every
possible advantage from them before he came north
to his uncle ; then, entering his uncle's family, went
to school with his cousins, and other children, whom
he despised because they were " mud-sills," arrogating
the pretensions of Southern aristocracy and wealth.
His will, cultivated by slavery, tamed by necessity,
was stubborn and implacable, ever accomplishing that
which he undertook, hesitating never, calculating all
chances, and yielding not to successive failures.

Sandison, his room-mate and class-mate, resembled
him in poverty, and approached him in tenacity of
purpose. Both were friends, because neither could
afford to be college enemies. Sandison would do
smaller actions. This, perhaps, may be an error ;
Eendal, being more astute^ could make him seem to



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COTTON STEALING. 3T

do them — ^for neither would hesitate to do wrong if
advantage could thereby be attained; in proof of
which, one instance only need be cited :

Boarding with the mother of the corporal, after the
death of her husband had thrown her on the world
almost alone, Kendal La Scheme, already in debt,
forgot to pay his year's bill — a sort of forgetfulncss
termed swindling, save among honorable men such as
La Scheme, who called it " sharp." The loss brought
Mrs. Manet behmd in her store account. Once be-
hind, the profits of boarding were not large enough
to put her out of debt. Then a strong sense of
honor led the widow to sell her house, land, and fur-
niture, and move to the West, where the pour of mis-
fortune's shower continued, in the removal, by death,
of the brother who invited her to his home. Then,
as a choice of evils, she found a home for herself and
child by marrying a noble man, whose motherless fa-
mily of large and small children appealed most
strongly to her fond, loving heart.

To unfold more clearly the quality of La Scheme's
character, it is necessary to tell how the money to
pay this bill had been provided' by Kendal's uncle,
but, being on a student's extravaganza in the neigh-
borhood of the seminary where Leette was a school-
girl, he (not being allowed admittance within the
walls,) outwitted the teachers, and, in " doing it up
brown, " spent the money, and left nothing but a
promise, which ruined the poor widow.

Thus much for her ; for Kendal's uncle this : the
money which should have paid the college debts was



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88 COTTON BTHALDra.

obtained by note aud mortgage of this uncle's pre-
mises. The same lack of principle refused to pay
again — and thus, uncle and benefactor was sacrificed,
and that, too, without excuse, as more than the
amount was squandered bj Kendal in political cam-
paigns.

In their room together, during senior year, these
two men, talking, asked each other what they would
be—

^' I am going to be a politician, Sandison."

" So am I, La Scheme."

" I shall go South.*'

"IshaUgo West."

" Very well. You will be a Senator, and so will
I. Then, hurrah for the spoils ! My principles are
to get all you can, and keep all you can get."

" Those are mine."

" We will remember this."

"Yes."

" Whenever you have opportunity, play into my
hands ; I will do the same for you. Is it a bar-
gain r

"Yes."

Such was Kendal La Scheme : a crafty man of
the world, despiser of Christianity, hating freedom
and free institutions, because they give the opportu-
nity of competing with himself, looking on power
supreme as deity — ^mind and matter simply slaves —
disciple, yet not a desciple, of Voltaire, because be-
lieving in spiritualism. There was a divinity he
adored, on whose altar love, country, earth, and hea-
yen, were imolated : that god was Self.



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COTTON STBAUNG. 39

During the jears preceding the war, he lent his
utmost endeavor to promote the hostility growing be-
tween the sections, calling upon all his powers, upon
a wonderful memory and clear reasoning mind to
widen the breach beyond the possibility of union.
He staked everything upon the result, and planned
for war long before war was conceivable.

After the war had progressed far enough to cloud
with doubt the expected easy success of the Confed-
eracy : while others were looking only on the hopeful
side, Kendal, alive in every sense, a great deal alive,
gazed steadily at the possibility of failure, and be-
came satisfied that mere success in military affairs
was insuflScient, and that those arts with which poli-
ticians managing a campaign are so familiar, ought
to be put in motion, to weaken the strength of the
National Government at home. lie knew there were
mercenary men, who would gladly form an Opposi-
tion. Like most Southern politicians, he believed
Northern office-holders would take a bribe and sink
below, rather than be poor and go to heaven. Money
was therefore a necessity; men were a necessity;
women, too, were a necessity — ^for women tempt men,
taunt men. Had not the women of the Southern
Confederacy been so fierce, the common sense of the
fighting masses would have abandoned the struggle,
while terms were possible. Kendal was too far-
sighted to overlook any assistant, however mean, to
despise any gift, however small — ^retaining, by a pow-
erful memory, a clear appreciation of every person
he met, and their value, as instruments, in accom-



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40 COTTON STEALING.

plishing his plans — when he arrived at a certain point
he sought Leette.

Mariette Ledonc, called by her slaves " Miss Le-
ette/' is a woman of peculiar fascination and power :
a rebel, unadulterated : a woman of honor, but such
an honor ! a woman who ought to have been a man,
and yet no man can do what she accomplished. What
a soul that woman had ! When a child, she possessed
every element of beauty; the cheek, the forehead, the
dark eyebrow, the penciled lash, the small chin, the
regular, elegant teeth, small mouth, and rosy lips,
superb neck and rounded shoulders, graceful in ges-
ture, graceful in motion. As^a child, Leette was the
admiration of her circle — as a woman, more than the
child promised.

Leette was early left an orphan, under the care of
an uncle whose home was her father's plantation,
where, by the tyranny of a will, the uncle was su-
preme and the mistress subject. Little love was
wasted in the large plantation houses. Money bought ^
what money buys ; affection did not seal the bargain. \

Slaves, obedient as will, brooking no look of opposi-
tion could demand, waited on master and mistress.
Leette was a caged sprite, fluttering within the bars,
and fighting the jailor; hating the ties of blood,
setting guardians, law, and propriety, at defiance.
To free themselves from constant battle, the antago-
nist was sent to school. Here she met the firm,
strong hand of discipline, under which her proud
spirit chafed, yielding, because a choice of evils, re-
venging by a secret hate, which never would forgive
the Yankee teacher for making her " mind."



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COTTON STEALINO. 41

The ingenuity displayed by Leette in violating the
school regulations, and escaping school penalties ; the
tact and energy with which her flirtations were man-
aged — ^her coquetry enticing the brains from love-
sick students, until they were half-crazy at her incon-
stancy, drew the attention of La Scheme as some-
thing worthy of him.

Women were, to him, subjects of psychology. Le-
ette became a victim of psychological investigation.
With similar coolness the tyro in medicine uses the
knife. Studying to know why woman has power
over man, he won the love of dozens for the mere
sake of testing his own relative strength ; deserting
them as soon as satisfied, or permitting the trusting
heart to love on until he got tired. Here was metal
worthy of his steel. He sought an introduction, and
stormed her thought-castle. Pain and suffering were
not regarded by the cold-blooded animalcule who in-
vestigated his own mental states with scientific inter-
est : as a savant may inoculate his body with small-
pox, or other disease, simply to know, by experience,
the peculiar sensations connected therewith, and the
influence of different drugs on the system during the
successive stages of disease, between attack and re-
covery.

Coquette Leette had found her match. To merit
his attention she studied ; he was an honor man :
loved music ; she practiced lessons, as never before ;
to win him — changed from a careless romp to a care*
ful, studious woman.

To him Leette was a plaything, and he threw her



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42 COTTON STEALING.

by when he left college, as a boy a top or marble,
when top or marble-time is done. But when, in the
onward progress of events, he studied the situation,
laid down his position, and shaped his course for fu-
ture aggrandizement, such a woman became a neces-
sity. Then he sought Leette, and a ready welcome
greeted his arrival. There are, in every contest,
blows to take as well as give. Leette had her plans,
and saw Kendal out of her own window. On his
part, he sought to convert a good impression into
abiding love, which he knew to be possible to woman's
heart ; to this end made entrance behind the family
curtain, won every confidence, and stood everyone's
friend ; to Leette offered a deferential homage, which
compounded admiration with delicate worship — a flat-
tery subtle as those fumes which story attributes to
the rose-scented poisons of ancient alchemy. He was
playing for the stake of her love. Where woman
worships she will die. Kendal was alive to fasten
her heart on his life-altar intending to sacrifice it
for his benefit.

In the midst of war, alone, with none to love, what
wonder she yielded! He wooed delicately, wooed
and won the fiery Southern passion, wherein mind,
soul, body, are perfect, because free slaves. Oh!
slavery is but an idea, a word, a name — ^service with-
out a will. When the slave-holder Leette loved, she
became servant. La Scheme' master. It was not
slavery, only love — ^loving service.

Kendal La Scheme infused a willing heart with an
idea of devotion, absolute, because designing to make



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COTTON STEALING. 48

a tool : and perfect mastery could not be obtained
with an imperfect confidence, with a blemish of sus-
picion. A serpent magnetizes a bird. His grasp on
her hand was the soft slime the serpent embrocates
to swallow his victim. He twined serpent-coils
when fondling her head, when patting her cheek, his
finger-fall prickling. Had sensation been fruit, the
apple would have had honey flavor, tinctured with
a citric or tartaric acid, deliriously delicious. La
Scheme did love her, after a fashion. That which
fooled Leette was passion's flame, which in Byronic
natures bums for a thousand, to each new object
sends out a fiery language, ever new and ever thrill-
ing. From a Byron, from a La Scheme, enough to
deceive any woman of mere passion — of more pas-
sion than principle. Yet, even when assured of a
victor's impunity, his cold-blooded calculation, his
deadly hatred of the Yankees, was manifested.

" Your will is mine. You are under my control."

" I am not," she answered.

" We will see," was his reply. He made a motion
for her to take a child's place upon his knee. She
had often been girdled by his arm, her head had lain
on his shoulder, but never this. He fixed his eye
steadily, and looked. She rose to go away ; he put
out his hand and stopped her ; she remained. For
minutes the struggle continued. At length, tired of
resistance, she compromised, saying :

"I will not. I never will:" but sat at his feet.
He put his hand on her head ; she took it off, and re-
tained it. Holding her's, he gently drew it toward



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44 COTTON STEALING.

him, and she followed the hand. Holding her tightly,
.he said, " I do love you, Leette."

In all of their conversation there had been no
waste of words, in soft, mawkish sentiment. La
Scheme knew better. Eyes spoke love; actions
spoke affection ; but the tongue had words of war,
of death against the Yankees, hate against the race
of Northerners. They were ond in the strongest an-
tipathies of the heart, and, by implication, ought to
be united in the gentler and holier emotions. Said
he—

"You have yielded to my will-power. I never
found a woman before who cost effort equal to that I
have expended on you. Experience has now taught
the existance of this magnetical influence, and I de-
sign to inform how it may be of valuable service in
accomplishing our designs against the enemy. No
one can ever conquer your will without your consent.
Men are educated to yield, and, particularly, soldiers
are taught to obey. Possibly you may meet another
person who can master your will. I do not believe
it. I say this to you now, because our mutual wish
is to do all we can against the dyed villains who are
attempting to keep us in the Union against our will.
I have demonstrated will-power by making you obey.
I tell you that you have power, and in this way have
unfolded your greatest strength. You have, natu-
rally, beauty; are fascinating, are accomplished.
Music,' education, cultivated taste, are yours; be-
sides, you know the world. Add to this, money, op-
portunity, and will. Everything is yours, but op-



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COTTON STEALING. 45

portunity and money ; these I will supply. You mu'^t
come in contact with the Federals, and turn the heads
and hearts of their soft young officers. Break them
if you can. Seduce them from their fidelity to home
and family, and damn them in their self-respect. Oh !
it will be glorious ! I think I can see you trample
on their hearts. I wish I had their united souls un-
der my heel ; I would grind out the last drop of blood !
You need never flinch, nor hesitate ; while you have
implicit self-confidence, and exert your strength of
will, you cannot fail to overwhelm the foe who con-
trols your destiny. Will acts most powerfully in si-
ence. This is why I have taught you this lesson in
will-power."

Leette was disappointed. Hungry for love, when
she had made, had acted, a complete gift of herself,
she received husks — ^a " lesson in will-power."



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CHAPTER IV.

The mansion and quarters of Miss Leette were be-
hind the leveCj at such a distance from the river
that they could not easily he seen. The stranger
passing on a steamboat can only discover the deep
foliage of those beautiful evergreen trees, which are
a pride and glory to the south ; which seem so much
more beautiful than the firs and pines of the North,
because their contrast with common vegetation is so
distinctly marked ; because when leaves have fallen
in the Fall, they are so deeply green, so magnificently
in harmony with the sad sombre hue of the bare grey
of twigs, limbs, and tree-tops.

Mr. Ledonc had Uttle taste for gardening. Le-
ette's taste was wild and extravagant. Impulsively
seizing an idea, she carried it to an extreme, after-
wards abandoning it as a child tired of k toy. Her
uncle was practical, caring more for a sweet-potatoe
patch than a garden ; but he was also systematic in
potatoe patch and garden ; consequently the walks
were always neat, and the borders trimmed. Le-
ette's roses, after her first fancy passed, ran wild
in untrimmed luxuriance, and her shrubbery was un-



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COTTON STEALING. 47

tamed as her own character. The neatness of the
practicalist, and the abandon of nature contrasted in
harmony. God's work is always glorious ; and in the
surroundings there was a quaint fantasy which made
Leette proud of her home, which overwhelmed a
stranger with crude sensations of ecstasy, too glori-
ous to explain.

After her return from Yazoo, the exultant spirit
fell, since Kendal, whom she awaited, expected, did
not come- Though he arrived soon after, her spirit
had not entirely recovered its tone, and he felt pressed
to discover the reason, fearing lest he might be losing
his influence. "Leette !" said he. Her reply was
a child's action. In love to him, her woman's heart
was a child's heart, and nestled in its faith in him.
He rested his cheek on her's, and asked,

" Darling, what is the matter ?**

" They told me Generals Van Dom and Price were
to attack Rosecrans, at Corinth, to-day. I believed
we would wipe them out, but my heart does not feel
victory — and you were not here."

" Leette, I am not sanguine of immediate success
in this struggle. We shall conquer in the end. You
will see times darker, by a thousand, than this.
Have you ever been snagged on the river ? Do you
remember the death-stroke that hit your heart-center
when the big cotton-wood tore up the guards, shivered
timbers, and smashed the upper-works — ^the crash
which fell from the broken chimneys and the nervous
throbbings of every fibre of the fast boat? Can
you hear the shrieks of the ladies ; the agonizing cries



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48 COTTON STBALINO.

of children : and the tone of fear, which, coming in
the voice of a strong man, is terribly awful ? I re-
member, and you cannot forget. What a great look
I took into the heart of my Leette ! How brave you
were! I have never forgotten, shall never forget.
Oh, Leette, you are a woman ! What a precious one
you are ! — ^Were you only a man — But a woman like
you can do more than twenty common men. You did
not die ; you were spared, spared to me, spared to our
country, now trodden by the mercenary feet of
Yankee hirelings. Our country has not yet seen its
darkest, but it will not die ; it will live like my own
Leette, to be ;nore beautiful than ever. It shall
yet be free from any contamination with the fana-
tics of New England ; a nation of our own, the
richest, most powerful on the earth.

" But, Leette, we have not struck all the snags, in
our progress toward victory. You cannot but remem-
ber how hard the boatmen worked to save the boat.
How, standing in water up to their necks, they strug-
gled, after the captain had abandoned hope. Do you
remember how we were saved? "

" Yes ; you suggested the plan.*'

" Do not despair of our country, even when our
great and noble President gives up hope ; for, in that
hour, it shall be given to some one, perhaps now un-
known, to suggest the plan that saves us all.

" Oh ! are we in such danger ! "

" I fear it. I hope not."

" We cannot fail. Kendal, dear Kendal, oh, we
cannot fail !"



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COTTON STBAUNO. 49

"I will die first, Leette."

« So will I. When you die, I will not live."

" My own Leetto.**

A woman is a child in the arms of a man. When
hoth are fiery hot with passion, the hearts bum into
each other. When love and hate mingle-— love to
each other, hate inspiring vengeance toward a com-
mon ^lemy ; the antagonism of hate makes the pressure
and word of love-passion more eloquent than tongue
can tell.

^' Leette, I am not satisfied with the present man-
ner of carrying on the war. We are only fighting.
We ought to have war in the North. Where there is
a division of sentiment, a cams belli exists. Men at
the North, party-men, cordially hate each other as
we hate the Yankees. We, our government, ought
to foster that hatred, by fanning to a flame political
difierences. This can be done by a judicious expendi-
ture of money — ^and cotton will bring this money.
We can buy agents and influence on both sides, then
array them against each other ; involve honest, unsus-
picious men, and throw obstacles in the way of gov-
ernment, which will undermine the power of the ad-
ministration, and weaken the hands of its friends.
We can buy those very friends — ^for every Yankee has
his price. The Yankee minister works for money.
His church-member violates his covenant-obligation
for money ; and if wife, pastor, or child, are benefited
thereby, all will, excuse him for the sin against his
government, against his country, against his own
soul. A man may be a hundred-thousand-dollar
4



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60 1^ COTTON STEALING.

rascal, and the whole parish, a whole community, will
sustain him, will raise the loudest clamor when their
friend is exposed. Eyes and conscience are blinded
by the almighty dollar. Newspapers control public
sentiment at the North. Every editor has his price.
We can divide the whole country by a proper appli-
cation of money, to the right men, in the right
place.**

" Kendal, papers do not make public opinion."
" Not make it, Leette, but direct it. Independent
as the American people are in thought, they are the
veriest slaves in the world to a few leading thinkers,
who block out tracks on which they load cars of peo-
ple, who believe themselves running the train — ^while
they are passengers, dead-heads, drawn by another's
steam. Money makes the wheels turn ; let us sell our
cotton, get money, and buy up the papers of the
North.

"The London Times controls the sentiment of
England. Our principles are identical ; and money
controls the Times. Sell our cotton, and we can have
English intervention. France is an empire ; French-
men are the slaves of Napoleon ; we sympathize ; they
love show. Money will control the French people.
Sell our cotton^ and we can have French recognition.
English intervention, and French recognition, will
make Southern independence.

" Do I tire you, Leette ? My own darling ? "
" No. Go on ; show me what I can do.*'
" I have conceived a plan, which I shall attempt to



Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 3 of 29)