J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

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was hesitating between weariness and anger; for
pride rejected the right to dispose of her thus.
■ Nothing in the way or manner of James gave oflfence
— at least she could not torture such a meaning into
it ; yet she would not have yielded had not he taken
her hand. She did not heed hira in the least until
he held her, and then drew her to the support of his
arm. She yielded, too tired to stand alone. The
multitude would not separate from respect, nor cull
their language, nor perfume their breath. She clung
closer, and he took her away.

Excitement! The politicians had wrought upon
the popular mind until a river of excitement — ^what ?



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86 COTTON BTEALINa.

— ^ran through the land. Every heart was charged,
and a telegram was suj£cient to discharge enthusiasm
all over the country ; man, woman and child — ^those
having any claim to humanity — ^felt its power. Why
cannot this mystery of existence be solved ? Is this
identical with the power which James Manet per-
ceived as Alina Sandison leaned on him ! Did he
wish forever ? Not at the moment did James under-
stand the mysterious emotion; memory and study
taught the deep meaning. From that time he knew
himself controlled by an instinct — a passion, which
read the different changes of the word "Alina."

A regular octave of pet names ; Leena the second
in the scale, what the school girls called her. Aleen,
the long call with the rising inflection, when mother
sent word through pantry, bedroom, parlor and shed,
for mj daughter. Een, the abbreviation, which little
baby sister made musical. Ina, the wilful appelation
of a fiery mate, who would not do as did the others.
Ena, the same softened as her sbter spirit, so the
school girls called themselves, was always saying in
her ear, arms twined together as sister-spirits do to
enhance their bliss by the magic of the touch. One
more, the chord of the seventh, AUie, which James
called her that night. Alina Sandison.

Her father was reputed wealthy. So he is ; now
worth no one can tell how much. Cotton. Of that
by and by. He was the most sagacious politician in
that part of the state ; invaluable to his party for
profound skill in defeating a majority. Her mother
— ^it is wonderful how some unimposing men win ele-



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COTTON STBALma. 87

gant wives ! — ^unrested at dawn, worked wearily until
night, sinking to rest like a wet bow-string when
nerve tension was removed.

Alina Sandison. Lina and Allie. Charles Har-
dons loved Lina. James Manet loved Allio. We
call her now Lina; for the one is. She may bo
worthy of the name " Allie *' by and by — worthy the
love which James Manet threw away ; f&r that which
he loved and called "Allie'* was possible, but had
not yet dawned upon the life of Lina Sandison.

Lina's young face was full of possibilities. The
forehead white, high ; so nearly square in front, as to
demand scrutiny to see the curve ; so nearly curved,
as to obliterate the idea of any angle ; the eye-brow
arched, delicate as the penciling of nature upon a
flower. Iler eye full, with plenty of room ; straight
forward in purpose; arch on occasion; gentle, ex-
cept when aroused ; but when quiet, presenting the
slightest shade of hungriness. The cheek was
dainty, like a golden apple stained with crimson ;
not a long care, or hard trouble, had deepened a lino
or toughened a feature. The nose was delicate and
full, which, with a small mouth and chin, completed
an oval of beauty which belonged to Lina Sandison
— ^which Jam.es Manet worshiped, which Charles Har-
done believed the handsomest in the world.

Thus far, Lina's life has been simply a negative.
How long will this continue ? The heart, once
awake, soon finds its polarity. Toward which will
it point, James Manet or Charles Ilardone ?

Between these individuals existed a peculiar affeo-



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88 COTTON STEAMNG.

tion. Charles liked James more, perhaps, because
James loved him. Few young men are found who
possess the versatility, the humor, the geniality of
Charles. Certainly, none in that town, dignified in
our West by the name of city, with its mayor and
common council. The long evenings were short
when he was present ; and James would do his work
and give him evenings that might have been private
property ; would engage to do double duty to release
his mate from the store, that he might be the soul of
many a gathering, of many a sociable, of many a
committee met to plan, decorate, or prepare for vil-
lage tableaus, parties and church festivals. Charles
was the favorite ; could talk, while James could only
work and was dumb. The dumb can think. Such
kindness begets a return ; all the return possible —
often far short of the spirit of the doer; still the
giver — ^it may be well — accepts the return as pure
gold, and treasures dross in a heart where sordid rust
gleams with glory.

James, in the stillness of his thought, watching as
one whose heart-life is at stake, had been slowly,
painfully deciding himself away from the heart of
Lina. She was kind to him, teased himj seemed to
appreciate his attention; yet the something that
would have filled him with happiness never came.
There were times when a thrill would startle ; but
sober thought and careful observation satisfied him
of her greater interest in Charles. Why shouldn't a
young girl, educated at school, singing in the choir,
prefer the smart, talented young man who sang the



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COTTON STBALINO. 89

leading part by her side ? A man almost a poet :
certainly an apt rhymster ; the life of every gather-
ing. Why should she not prefer him to the hard-
working man who sat speechless in a corner ? Yet,
do what he would, reason as he might, James loved
her. Though he never would tell her a word, never
would permit her to imagine his affection, he could
not help loving, and was not sorry. Every true and
pure affection elevates the heart ; nor need the hum-
blest be ashamed of the spontaneous out-goings
toward any one whose beautiful qualities of feature,
mind and heart excite admiration and love.

Of all this Lina Sandison knew no more than the
pleasant realization of attention which flatjiered her
self-love. The girls teazed her ; but no more than a
dozen others. And, when she was invited to the
New Year party, she was only gratified by an atten-
tion others did not receive ; she was very happy be-
cause she was the only one invited by James, and
because Charles Hardone was there.



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CHAPTER Vm.

The soldier of the Union, on his bed of coaU-
leaves, was not conscious of the motive which led
the fair-faced woman to smile on him ; to bestow care
where, perchance, care was useless. Not^o; James
Manet had tenacity of life. Some men lay down —
cases are often seen in hospital. I once saw five
strong Irishmen die in a row ; before the surgeon or
nurse anticipated danger they were dead. Others
came in pruned like a tree ; cut down, hacked, muti-
lated ; sick with fever and dysentery ; at death's
door, with finger on the latch, and yet lived on, re-
covered ; aye, went out and fought again : not only
once, but more. They seem made of maleable iron,
and needed pounding to show their metal.

In such a case, treatment as was Leette*s was in-
vigorating ; she moved the corporal to her mansion.
Resolved to please her lover by winning the Yankee's
love and trampling on his affection, she put him in a
pleasant room. There were no luxuries of a sick
chamber, no tempting delicacies, no store medicine,
but kindness, attention, and the semblance of love.

A woman who loves carries the object in her heart.
When some work, act, or path has been designated



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COTTON STEALINa. 91

for her by him, strength of affection is manifested by
the enthusiasm with which it is followed.

Unconsciously, Leette threw into her kind acts the
love-thought she was wasting on La Scheme, or Ken-
dal, as the heart-tongue called over and over to the
heart-ear a thousand times a day. The outward act
deceived, because the perfect representation of an
inward thought which bore the name of Kendal.
This was more than a prisoner had a right to expect ;
and, as he had no suspicion of evil design, as he saw
the image and superscription — the eagle, stars, stamp
and figure of Liberty — ^he did not imagine the coin
counterfeit. As true and pure a feeling of gratitude
was returned as man can offer to any kind, beautiful
woman.

For a time their intercourse was confined, on her
part, to a " Good morning " ; a " How do yoi\ do to-
day ? " " Can I do anything for you to-day ? " On
his, a smile; "Better'*; "Nothing"; "I thank
you." Simple words, "I thank you." They had
never sounded thus before to Leette.

When very young his mother had taught him:
" James, always thank every one who is kind to you.
Never fail to recognize the slightest act of good-will.
It costs nothing, and every one likes to be apprecia-
ted; to know you appreciate them. Even when
kindness is mistaken, and is really of no service,
recognize the good spirit, and thank the heart for its
good- will." James loved his mother, and, from that
mother's love, a holy radiance shone upon his
" Thank you " which entered the heart of Leette,



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92 COTTON STEALING.

without her suspecting what for a neighbor Kendal
had there.

She did not love the Yankee corporal. Love be-
gets love ; neither loved the other. Leette, seeking
to win love, won gratitude, from which she missed
that something La Scheme had won from her — which
she imagined had been won from him. The true and
false were defining themselves, taught by this task^
whereby she was soon to discover how cheap she had
sold herself ; to know, yet refuse to understand ; to
see, yet refuse to believe ; to be taught by progress-
ing events how unworthy was Kendal, and yet to
cling on his memory still ; to discover how the
prisoner, who, although grateful, would not love —
had, without eflFort, taken captive that pure respect,
which, without passion, is the only basis of abiding
love. The task gradually changed to a pastime, and
Leette carelessly asked :

" Where are you from ? "

"The West."

" I am glad. You Western men are our friends.
We are not fighting you. We hate the Eastern abo-
litionists. The West and South will be friends, and
our country be the same; but we will never unite
again with New England, No wonder you are brave.
I can take care of you more willingly, now I know
you are of our own people.'*

She asks no more questions. He speaks no more,
conscious that the Eastern blood is yet warm in his
own veins, and that no boundless West can change
the heart with its instinct for freedom, which, born in



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COTTON STEALING* 93

the blood is bred in the bone, and will live, either
among the rocks of the hills of the nutmeg state or
the- alluvium of the American bottom.

At another time, Leette, piqued at his* quiet si-
lence, asks :

" Wliat are you thinking about ? "

James answers, " My mother.**

Quickly Leette asks, as if her care and kindness
were called in question, "Are you not at home?
What more can I do ? *'

His reply, following a long breath, is, " Nothing.
I am a prisoner getting well. I have not heard from
home since my brother's death.*'

He becomes silent. She waits for him to tell more ;
but nothing follows, and Leette, believing the cause
of his grief something beyond the loss of a brother,
— ^believing the time for confidence ripe, says :

"James, — I must call you James, — I think you
mean more than mother.**

" Yes '* is his answer. " My brother's wife and
child.**

She waits again for him to speak, knowing that at-
tention and sympathy ask questions more to the point
than ignorant words. He continues :

" What will become of them ? "

This she cannot answer, and holds her tongue
again. What does she care ? Nothing. Nor does
he for what she may think. His thought is inward,
as his next words show :

" I fear lest mother, thinking I am dead, may give
up hope. It may be, Lilly Sue will wish to go. She
loved ufl."



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94 OOTTOW BTEALDTO.

Then came a triumphant thought, flashing im-
agined success through Leette's brain, " Here is the
key to this Yankee heart. Lilly Sue. Who is Lilly
Sue? ** and she asked him.

She is disappointed to hear him answer: " My
sister, dear Lilly.'*

Again, seeking the heart, to which as yet she has
no clue. She inquires.

"For whom do you sigh ? I am jealous of sighs.
They do not come, for sifters as deep as that one.
There is another one."

" No." James no is a lesson in spelling which so
poorly represents the lesson of deceit, that Leette
places him at the foot of the class, by the instantane-
ous exclamation :

" You were disappointed in love ; you know you
were, and enlisted to fight us, because you could not
conquer yourself! "

" No — lady — I am a prisoner, and not at liberty
to discuss these questions. I buried love when my
country was in danger. I volunteered for the nation,
the whole Union. Could you see as I do, you also
would agree with me. I thank you for all your kind-
ness. I wish these cruel diflFerences were adjusted;
we ought to be at peace — but, much as I think of
you, while we are at war we are enemies."

Changing her plan on the instant, she said, " Is
that all ? Now James, I am going to bury the
hatchet for the present. I am a rebel."

" And I a good Union man."

"I like you the better, honest Yank. We will



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COTTON STBALIKa. 96

agree to be foes by and by. Now, and until you are
able to fight, we must be friends. Give me your
hand."

" So be it then,'* and James gave his hand.

Both were pleased. She in finding a foe worthy
of her care, he in freeing his mind and standing in
her presence a friendly foe. This was that anomaly,
an armistice, which neither war nor peace mingled in
friendly grasp hands prepared to slaughter the other.
In such proximity love can, has often burst its bar-
riers and mingled antagonisms in harmony.

" Now, says Leette, holding up her small beautiful
fore-finger and throwing a world of playful, coquet-
ing menace into its prohibitory action, " Remember,
you must not tell me again, you are a prisoner. I
set you free. You cannot escape till you are well.
Do not try. I give you permission to leave me.
Go, crawl through the briar patches ; hobble into the
cane-brake, to starve and feed bears, hogs and tur-
key-buzzards. I shall not seek to find you. Be
contented until you are well, then I promise to with-
draw my parole and make you a prisoner again.*'

The corporal would not give his parole, not to
escape. Leette put it upon him, as no gentleman
could refuse, by confidence in a foe whose life she
was preserving. James acknowledged her courtesy
by a simple, " I thank you," emphasized by the
strongest exclamation point of a great soul — a man's
tear. Leette impulsively exclaimed.

" I like you. I wish you were not a Yank. As
you are, you must be — ^but I will never forgive, if at



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96 COTTON STEALING.

any time you refuso to speak true thoughts, true
words and true feelings. Tell me what you think
about the war. I wish to know about the Northern
people that I may be enlightened as to real differ-
ences between us. You must be frank, so will I, and
if you get angry it will not be my fault ; if I get
angry the blame shall not be yours. Is it a bar-
gain?"

" Yes." Then with his answer came a sudden im-
pulse. She had been by his side, a bee over a flower ;
the bee has a sting, its destiny is honey, but it can
poison. Leettc did not sting yet. ,Her hot South-
ern blo^d fastened a live kiss on his face. Her lips
had no sooner made and taken that sensation, than
the heart telegraphed modesty, which blushed at his
look, and then she bounded away.

In two minutts Leette did not care. This mixture
of recklessness, flashing anger, flashing pride, flashing
love, flashing folly, flashing calmness, disarmed sus-
picion but had a subtle instinct, as the watching cat
perceives the approaching victim, before eyes, ears
or smellers detect its presence.

And the corporal was not long surprised, for he
had seen since the %ar began, such incongruities of
character — actions so contradictory of all his experi-
ence of the possible, that nothing of any nature or
character so ever could surprise or astonish him. He
was thrown off his guard, thus giving Leette an op-
portunity to^gain a clue to the incidents of the next
chapters.



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CHAPTER IX.

Some hearts have an instinct of disappointment.
The sun may be shining, others radiant, yet faint exr
pectations of calamity impregnate their being.

I am analyzing James as he seemed to me ; for he
had not studied his nature sufficient to take a joy,
leaf by leaf, and, from a beautiful rose, make a gen-
eral ruin of calix, pistil, stamen and corolla; noi;wa8
it possible for him to explain the iron stubbornness
that garroted his throat, burned in his eyes and con-
gested his heart, when, day after day, evening mail
and nightly discussion excited intensely his brain.
One fort after another was seized by the rebels. War
is coming. Then the hope entertained by every one,
particularly by his father — ^yet, somehow, he observed
that Mr. Sandison never spoke when the others were
confident — ^that President Lincoln would have wis-
dom to enable him to escape that which seemed so
inevitable ; that hope would throw doubt on his mind.
Yet, after restless thought during the long night,
morning would find him with a tired head, an un-
rested eye, a heavy load all over, and then, when
7



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98 COTTON STEALING.

Lina Sandison came tripping into the store and
lengthened minutes into an hour talking happily with
Charlie, while he waited on all the customers, and
only received a kind " Good morning," the shadows
of thought sank heavier, and he said to himself,
" There will be war. Let it come. I shall go.'*

Charlie Hardone had penetration to discover the
thoughts of James. Perhaps I ought not to use
either penetration or discover : imagine may be cor-
rect ; still imagination, if true, might be called pene-
tration. Charlie wanted the time, and the thought,
a^d the smile, and love to himself, of not Lina alone,
but of every one of his lady friends. His ambition
was gratified, he was perfectly happy when the cen-
ter of their observation. As Lina was the first in
social position, she became first in his catalogue.
Without any serious thoughts he strove to win her,
and parted with so much of himself as was neces-
sary to the object. Here he encountered an obsta-
cle in the wishes of Lina*s mother, who chose James
to care for Lina. Why ? Because she knew too
much? No. James himself knew nothing. Had
he any jealousy ? No ; but he would watch. If
Lina had a fancy for James it would be strange or
he would find a way to put a stopper on that. But
did Lina's mother have any design in the distinction?
This became a study which at length received answer
in the negative. She evidently had no suspicion of
him; but trusted James as the oldest, best known
and safest. While engaged in this investigation the
incident of celebration night occurred. Li a mo-



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COTTON STEALING. 99

ment — ^for James, by gentle but quiet determination,
took Lina. from him — ^there had been an exhibition
of strength of purpose, of power, which surprised,
and angered, and aroused the evil passion, " I will
pay you for this.** Knowing himself, to attribute love
to James was the first impulse ; to suspect Lina, the
second ; to vow to put an end to the same, f^nd in-
gratiate himself, and labor to that end, the next.
Charles Hardone was a natural schemer ; a Yankee
school teacher from the East, who came to thid^est
to make his fortune ; equally ready to teacft Hksic
or day school, or take the charge of a pray et^ Meet-
ing. It demands no little skill to manage, with gen-
eral approbation, the idiosyncrasies of evening meet-
ing, and the whims of A district where the teacher
boards around, and the sensitiveness of a singing
school, with a concert at the end. Before he was
twenty Charlie had done all this, and graduated in a
political campaign, where he beat Mr. Sandison in a
minor election. The sharp old war-horse, taking the
measure of his antagonist, drove him off the track
by hiring him when out of employment. Mr. Sandi-
son justly estimated his clerks,^and to him more than
his wife was James indebted for the preference. Mrs.
Sandison had confidence in her husband's judgment
of men. At one time she asked :

" Shall I ask Charles or James to look after her ? *'

^^ James," was the decided answer.

"But Charles is a church member."

"I know,** said he, " Charles has experienced re-
ligion like a steam-engine ; dashed through the long



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100 COTTON STBALING.

bridge and come out safe on the other side. He is
a Hard-one. James has made no professions ; but he
has an iron will, which has accepted a Saviour from
a consciousness of personal need, and I would trust
him with my soul sooner than any minister I ever
aaw."

Time went on. Charles did his utmost to attract
Lina. Gradually he assumed as a right, the privi-
lege granted James, who retired because Charlie was
always before him, and, some how, Lina seemed
pleased. James inherited from his father a sensitiv-
ness which his mother refined — a retiring demeanor^
never put self forward unless in the path of duty.
EQs love was timid — magnifying its object, and un-
derrating himself. He determined to make one trial
to present to Lina the opportunity of choice, and, in
case of failure, abandon the hope of her love. He
knew when Charlie would go to ask her company to
an evening gathering. He would meet him there
and invite her himself. Should she choose Charhe,
he would accept her decision as final.

These thoughts had worked in James' face ; such
always do. His mother alone observed them, and
that evening she asked his confidence by a look that
was answered thus :

"I am going to call on Allie to-night. CharUe
will be there, and I will know which she likes best.'*

Mother recognized the secret, the confession, the
hope, the fear, and foresaw the end. She could not
speak. To the sad shadow of dread another fear
was added.



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COTTON STEALING. 101

Charlie was already there. Cordial greetings
were given, while he retained his position at the
piano where he had been singing several songs.
James took a seat by Lina, at her invitation, and
this gave him a hope of joy, observed by the watch-
ful pianist, who now felt sure of wounding and pay-
ing for jthe unforgotten. He believed he had power,
will power, and was determined to use it against his
friend, although he little thought of the extent of
the injury. What did he care? Without seeming
to watch, he permitted no movement to escape, and
while singing, comprehended every word spoken.
James waited until he was through, and then said :

" Miss Allie, I came to invite you to attend the
meeting this evening ; but, Charlie, perhaps you
have her engaged already ? "

"No," was his reply, and then he said, "Oh,
Lina, I have never sung you my new song. Come,
I composed it for you."

" When the sun brings with the spring

Flowers bright, flowers gay,
QenUe birds on blitlisome wing

Welcome each new day.
Every bush and every tree.

Every leaf and flower,
Has a voice of melody

Full of wondrous power :
Singing music of its own —

Love's sweet tone, love alone —
Proving that, though time roll by»

Love can never die.



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102 COTTON STBALING.

When the last rays of the san.

Fairy soft, fairy bright,
Kisses darkness with its own

Twinkling, twittering light.
Every breeze and every star,

Every murmuring .rUl,
Purling through the evening air.

Has an angel trill :
Singing music of its own —

Love's sweet tone, love alone —
Proving that, though time roll by.

Love can never die

Youth's bright sun brings with life's mom

Love's bright flowers, love's bright flowers,
And my star of hope is bom,

Shining for thy bowers ;
Every thought and every dream,

Of my life a part,
Flows in one pure crystal stream

Toward thy gentle heart :
Singing music of its own —

Love's sweet to^e, love alone —
Proving that, though time roll by,



Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 6 of 29)