Joel Chandler Harris.

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slapped him on the back, and displayed a familiar-
ity which at any other time Captain Flournoy would
have resented. They told jokes at his expense.

" Did you ever hear what Hunt said to his Brig-
adier when the latter reprimanded him for not
falling back before the rebels at Stony Creek?"
asked one in a loud voice.

" No ! no ! " cried the others ; " let's have it."

" Why," said the first one, drawing himself up,
and screwing a good-humoured countenance into an
appearance of severity, " he asked this question,
' When was a soldier ever censured for standing his
ground ? '"



There were cries of " Good ! " the sound of en-
thusiastic thumping on the table, and other symp-
toms of unusual hilarity that carry their own
explanation with them.

But in the midst of it all, one of Flournoy's
unknown friends gave him to understand that the
officers and detectives of the Secret Service were
stationed in the corridors, and that in all proba-
bility he would be placed under arrest the moment
he left the dining room.

"Well, what is to be will be," remarked the

" McCarthy is coming this way/' said the other,
" and as he's smiling we'll watch his manoeuvres."

In fact, the somewhat stern features of the head
waiter were beaming. He snapped his fingers,
and a waiter stationed himself behind the Captain's
chair. The head waiter snapped his fingers again,
and from the kitchen entry came swarming a
dozen waiters. They moved about from table to
table, crossing and recrossing one another, and
creating quite a stir, though the tables were now
well emptied of guests. From the front of the
dining room this movement must have seemed to
be very like confusion, but to an experienced eye
it was the result of much drilling and practice.
What it lacked was formality.

" There is a towel by your chair, sir," said the


head waiter to Flournoy. "When you stoop to
pick it up, throw it over your left shoulder, turn
your back to the front, allow yoiir head and
shoulders to droop, and then go out into the

There was no difficulty in following these in-
structions. The scheme was simplicity itself, so
transparent, indeed, that even suspicion would
pass it by. Before it was carried out the head
waiter had returned to the front, where he stood
almost immovable until the activity of the waiters
had subsided. In a few minutes the hilarious
guests who had called Flournoy to their table
came out.

" Didn't Hunt say he'd wait for us? " asked one,
as they came out.

" No, confound him ! " replied another loudly.
"He had to go to the telegraph office. He's
nothing but business."

"Pity, too," exclaimed a third; " he'sh fine
feller." His voice was somewhat thick.

On each side of the door two men were stationed.
They made no display of their presence, but stood
in the attitude of men who had met by chance
and who had something interesting to say to one
another. But they narrowly eyed each guest as
he came out. Presently the last one, a stout,
middle-aged gentleman, a well-known habitue* of



the hotel, sauntered forth and took from the long
rack the last hat left, and walked down the corri-
dor to the stairway in the most amiable frame of
mind. He had made a big deal at the gold
exchange. He had bought the metal 'for a rise,
and greenbacks had dropped several cents on the

As he disappeared, the head waiter came to the
entrance and closed one side of the double door.
The four men in the corridor regarded one another
with looks of mingled surprise and dismay. One
of them the man who had sat opposite to Cap-
tain Flournoy at the table beckoned to the head

" Are you closing the dining room ? " he

" Not entirely, sir. We close the doors at four.
It is now three-fifty."

The questioner went to the door and looked in.
The dining room was entirely empty of guests, and
some of the waiters had begun to snip at one
another with their towels.

" What has become of the gentleman who sat at
table with me ? " he asked with some emphasis.
"There were two, sir," replied the head waiter,

"I mean the one who sat opposite."

" Major Hunt ? Why, he joined a party at


another table, but the bottle was moving too fast
to suit his taste, sir. He had been there not more
than ten minutes when he excused himself. I
think he went out before you did, sir."

"That is impossible," exclaimed the man, vigor-

" I am simply giving you my impression, sir,"
rejoined the head waiter, politely.

" Why, I'll swear " the man began excit-
edly. Then, as if remembering himself, he paused
and stared helplessly.

" It seems unnatural, sir, that you shouldn't see
him come out if you were standing here." The
extreme suavity and simplicity of the head waiter
were in perfect keeping with his position. " He
left me a message for his son who is here. Says
he, 'Mack* he always calls me Mack, sir
' Mack/ says he, * when the lad comes in tell him
not to be uneasy if I fail to come in to-night.
Tell him/ says he, 'that I'm engaged on some
important Government business, and tell him to
meet me at the custom-house at ten to-morrow
morning.' It's a pity you didn't make an engage-
ment with him, sir, if you're obliged to see him.
He's a fine man, a fine man."

With that he turned and went into the dining
room. In a few minutes the door was closed and
locked, but the four men in the corridor still stared



at one another. Three of them were amazed, the
fourth seemed to be amused.

"Well, what did I tell you ? " he asked.

" I've made up my mind to arrest the head
waiter," said the one who had questioned McCarthy.

" This isn't Washington," said the amused one.
" Arrest him and in ten minutes you'll have an
Irish riot on your hands in which nobody would
be hurt but ourselves. Our orders are plain on
that score. We can't afford to stir up the popula-
tion. I suggest a cocktail all around. It will give
us strength to admit that we are mere bunglers by
the side of Barnum."

" I believe you," acquiesced another. " He has
been here, got what he came for, and is by this
time on his way to Washington."

It was this belief that shed a faint gleam of
light over a prospect otherwise gloomy.

Meanwhile, when Captain Flournoy went
through the swinging doors of the dining room
and found himself in the entryway leading to the
kitchen, he was in a quandary as to his further
movements. But every step he took seemed to
have been foreseen and provided for. He knew
that he had talked too freely to the guest who
sat at his table, but how could this emergency
have been forestalled ? He had left his hat on
the rack or shelf in the front of the dining room ;



a waiter presented it to him the moment he
slipped into the entryway. He was in doubt what
course to pursue ; an elderly gentleman beckoned to
him with a smile. Following this venerable guide,
Flournoy went down a short flight of stairs and
into an apartment which he recognised as the
drying room of the laundry. Thence he went into
a narrow corridor, ascended three flights of stairs,
and was ushered into the apartment which had
served as a trap for Mr. Barnum, or, as he chose
to call himself, Mr. Amos Barnes.

Some changes had been made. Two hours ago
the room was bare but for a few chairs and a table,
but now there was a bed in the corner, a lounge,
and a comfortable-looking rocker. The table held
pens, ink, and writing-paper, and a brisk fire was
burning in the grate. Everything had a comfort-
able and cosey appearance.

After the strain under which he had been, it
was not difficult for Captain Flournoy to adapt
himself to such circumstances. He drew the
rocker before the fire and gave himself up to
reflections which, whether pleasing or not, were of
a character to engross his mind so completely
that he failed to hear the door swing open.
Presently a hand was laid on his shoulder and he
came back to earth with a start. The head waiter
stood over him smiling.



" Have a chair, my friend," said Flournoy.
"You have placed me under great obligations."

" We have had a very close shave, and that's a
fact," remarked McCarthy, "but you are under
no obligations to me. It's all in the way of duty."
The air, the attitude of an upper servant had
vanished completely, and Flournoy was experi-
enced enough to know that he was talking to a
man of the world capable of commanding men.
" I am a head waiter for precisely the same reason
that you are a "

" Spy ? " suggested Flournoy, as the other hesi-

" No ; there's a flavour to that word that doesn't
suit my taste. Let's call it scout, or inspector, or
better still military attache."

"I am simply a messenger," said Flournoy,

" It is your first experience, I imagine," sug-
gested McCarthy. " You are a soldier, and you
don't relish the undertaking."

"That is the truth," Flournoy assented.

"Well, I was a Captain in the Navy," explained
McCarthy, " and now I am what you see me."

" You are still a Captain of the Navy," said
Flournoy ; " the house is your ship, and the dining
room is your quarter-deck."

McCarthy laughed gleefully. " I have had


the same conceit oh, hundreds of times!" he

They talked a long time, touching on a great
variety of topics, and found themselves in hearty
agreement more often than not. Finally they
drifted back to the matter in hand, and Flournoy
confided to McCarthy that one of the papers with
which he had been intrusted was of so much impor-
tance that he had decided to deliver it in person.

" Should this document reach Richmond by the
first of February," he said, "the Federal Army
will be captured, Washington will fall, and the
war will be over by the first of May."

" Are you sure ? " McCarthy inquired.

" Quite sure," the other assented.

At this McCarthy ceased to ask questions or to
make comments, but sat for a long time gazing in
the fire. Flournoy forbore to interrupt his reflec-
tions, and the most absolute silence reigned in the

Presently McCarthy straightened himself in his
chair. "The documents you left with the com-
mittee this afternoon will reach Richmond in five
days," he remarked somewhat dryly. "They
start at midnight."

This seemed to be so much in the nature of a
suggestion that Flournoy was moved to ask his



" Shall I include this document with the other
papers ? " he inquired earnestly.

McCarthy shook his head slowly and indeci-
sively. "It's a serious question," he said. "Ten
minutes ago, on an impulse, I should have said
send it with the rest by all means by all means ;
but now Do you know," he went on, with
great earnestness, " I am getting to be superstitious
about this war. Look at it for yourself." He
waved his hand as if calling attention to a pano-
rama spread out on the walls of the room. " First,
there is Mr. Lincoln. He went to Washington a
country boor. What is he now ? Why, he
manages the politicians, the officials, the whole
lot, precisely as a chess-player manages his
pieces, and he never makes a mistake. Doesn't
that seem queer ? "

Captain Flour noy, gazing in the glowing grate,
nodded his head. Some such idea had already
crossed his mind.

"Then there's the first Manassas Bull Run,"
McCarthy went on. " Does it seem natural that
a victorious army which had utterly routed its
enemy would fail to pursue the advantage ? Is
it according to human nature ? "

Again Flournoy nodded.

" Finally, take into consideration the case of the
Merrimac" continued McCarthy. "She had



barely begun to perform the work she was cut out
to do when around the corner came the Monitor,
a match and more than a match for her. Does
that look like an accident, or even a coinci-
dence ? "

At this Captain Flournoy turned in his chair
and regarded his companion with a very grave

"Do you know," remarked McCarthy, "that I
had everything arranged to take charge of the
Merrimac? It was a very great disappointment
to me when it was found that she couldn't be
manoeuvred to advantage."

"You think, then, that Providence " Flour-
noy hesitated to speak the words in his mind.

"Judge for yourself. You have the facts. I
could mention other circumstances, but these three
stand out. As an old friend of mine used to say,
they toot out like pot-legs."

" But if you think Providence has a hand in the
matter, why call yourself superstitious ? " Flournoy

" 'Twas a convenient way of introducing what I
had to say," replied McCarthy.

Silence fell on the two for a time. Finally
McCarthy resumed the subject. " You say this
document will enable the Confederates to win the
day and put an end to the war ? "



"I do," Flournoy insisted; "I believe so sin-
cerely. It embodies plans that cannot possibly be
altered because the success of the Federals depends
upon them, and it will enable General Lee and the
Confederate authorities to checkmate every move
made by our enemies on land from now on. Do
you know that in the early spring Grant is to be
given command of all the Federal forces ? That
is the least important information the document
contains.' 1

"A truly comprehensive paper," remarked
McCarthy gravely. " It falls directly in the
category of Lincoln, Manassas, and the Merri-
mac, and we shall see what we shall see."

"You are certain the rest of the papers will
reach Richmond safely ? " Flournoy asked.

" Those you turned over to the committee ? As
certain as that I am sitting here."

" Then let us place this other document with
them," suggested Flournoy.

" If you think it best, certainly," said McCarthy
with alacrity.

Flournoy reflected a moment. " No ; I'll carry
out my first impulse," he declared. He rose and
paced across the room once or twice. Then he
turned suddenly to McCarthy. " Shall we toss
a penny ? " he asked.

"No! no!" cried the other, with a protesting


gesture. "It is folly to match chance against

"Then the matter is settled/' said Flournoy,

" It was settled long ago," McCarthy remarked

The Southern soldier looked hard at his com-
panion, trying to find in his countenance an inter-
pretation of his remark. But McCarthy's face
was almost grim in its impassiveness.

He arose as Flournoy resumed his seat. "You
will have your supper here, and your breakfast
also. To-morrow morning you may be able to
start on your journey. Do you go west or north ?
Ah, west ; but it is a long way round. Did you
ever try the Cumberland route ? Omahundro would
know which is the easiest."

"He advised the western route because I am
familiar with it," explained Flournoy.

McCarthy bowed, and in doing so became the
head waiter again. The deferential smile flickered
about his stern mouth, and then flared up, as it
were, changing all the lines of the face ; and the
straight and stalwart shoulders stooped forward
a little so that humility might seat itself in the

" I must be going about my duties, sir," he said.
"I may call to bid you good night. If I should



not, may your dreams be pleasant." He bowed
himself out, and Flournoy sat wondering at the
fortunes of war and the curious demands of duty
which had made a spy of him and a head waiter
of Lawrence McCarthy. He mused over the
matter until he fell asleep in his chair, where he
nodded comfortably until a waiter touched him
on the arm and informed him his supper was

" Did you think I had company ? " Flournoy
asked. "You've brought enough for Company B
of the Third Georgia."

" Tis a sayin', sir, that travel sharpens the
appetite," said the waiter, smiling brightly. Then,
" The Third Georgia is Colonel Nisbet's ridgment ;
'tis in Ranse Wright's brigade. To be sure, I know
'em well, sir. Should ye be goin' to Augusty, an*
chance to see James Nagle, kindly tell 'im ye've
seen Terence an' he's doin' well. He's me father,
sir, an' he thinks I'm in Elmiry prison."

"How did you get out? Did you take the

" Bless ye, sir, 'twas too strong for me stomach.
I'll never tell ye, sir, whether I escaped by acci-
dent or design. 'Twas this way, sir. I was in
the hospital, sir, an' whin I got stronger, Father
Rafferty, seein' my need of trousers, brought me a
pair of blue ones. The next day he comes in a



barouche along with an officer. He says to me,
' Terence, here's a coat to go with the trousers,'
says he. * Ye see the man drivin' the barouche ? '
says he. ' Well,' says he, ' whin I go inside, he'll
fall down an' have a fit,' says he, ' an' do ye be
ready,' he says, 'to hold the horses whiles I sind
out the doctor,' he says. Well, sir, 'twas like a
theatre advertisement. Down comes the man with
a fit, an' if he had one spasm, he had forty. The
horses were for edging away, sir, but I caught 'em
an' helt 'em. 'Take 'im inside,' says the officer,
' an' 'tend to 'im,' he says, ' an' do ye, me man,' he
says to me, 'get up there an' drive me back to
quarters,' he says. ' How about Father Rafferty ?'
I says. ' Oh, as f er that/ he says, ' he'll be took
with a fever if son Terence turns out to be a driv-
elin' idjut,' he says. I looked at 'im hard, sir, an'
he looked at me. Says he, 'D ye, will ye
drive on ? ' It was Captain McCarthy, sir."

Flournoy laughed, though he would have found
it difficult to explain why. The reason doubtless
was that such boldness and simplicity seemed so
foreign to our complex civilization that they struck
the note of incongruity. "He is a queer man,*' he

"Queer, sir?" said the waiter. "Oh, no, sir;
not queer. He's simple as a little child. He's a
grand man, sir nothin' less than that." There



was no doubt of Terence Nagle's enthusiastic
loyalty to his employer.

Supper was duly despatched, the waiter enliven-
ing the meal with many anecdotes of his own expe-
rience in the Confederate Army and in prison.
Flournoy found that they had many acquaintances
in common, and more than once when Terence
was for returning to the dining room, the guest
found various excuses for detaining him.

But he went at last, after replenishing the fire,
and Captain Flournoy sat long before it, wonder-
ing over the chain of circumstances by which he
had been dragged, rather than led, into his present
position. He took no thought of time, and was
surprised when he heard a clock in a distant room
strike eleven. By the time the sound had died
away a gentle tap at the door attracted his atten-
tion, and, following his invitation, Terence Nagle
came in, bearing a waiter on which was a bowl, a
silver ladle, and three glasses. In another moment
the head waiter came in. He had doffed his even-
ing dress, the badge of his position, and with it
dropped the air and manner he assumed in the
dining room. He was now himself, the educated
Irishman, a fine specimen of a class that can be
matched in few of the nations of the earth.

" Do you know the day ? " he asked when, obey-
ing Flournoy's gesture, he seated himself.



"Yes," replied the Southerner, "it is Christmas

"And hard upon Christmas," said McCarthy.
"I hope that our Lord who is risen will have
mercy upon us all, and help us to carry out all
our plans that are not contrary to His own."

" Amen ! " responded Flournoy. It was like
grace before meat, only simpler and less formal.

" Remembering the day, and the custom we
have at the South," McCarthy explained, " I have
taken the liberty of brewing you a bowl of nog.
'Twill be a reminder of old times, if nothing else."

Flournoy's face brightened. " My friend, you
seem to think of everything," he declared. " The
very flavour of it will carry me straight home."

" 'Twas no thought of mine. I have a little lass
who comes to fetch me my toggery in the after-
noons. I was telling her of the Southern gentle-
man so far from home, and her eyes filled with
tears, and says she, ' Dada, darling, why not make
the gentleman a bowl of nog for his Christmas
gift ? ' It is wonderful how thoughtful the women-
folk are, and how tender-hearted. I'll fill your
glass, sir."

" And yours," insisted Flournoy.

"To be sure," cried McCarthy, "and one for my
lieutenant, Terence Nagle. See the lad blush!
You'd think he was a girl by the way he reddens.



Yet with half a dozen men like him I could meet a
company of regulars."

"He's overdoin' it, sir!" Terence protested;
" he's overdoin' it." The lad was so overcome
he dropped a glass on the floor, but the carpet
saved it.

" Were you ever drunk ? " McCarthy asked,
after they had made away with the nog. The
inquiry was bluntly put, and Flournoy looked
hard at his companion. ,

"Yes; once when I was a youngster of fourteen.
It was at a corn-shucking," he replied.

"Well, recall your feelings and actions if you
can. To-morrow morning you must not only be
drunk you must be very drunk."

" I don't understand," said Flournoy.

" To-morrow morning a cabman will be waiting
for a fare on the other side of the street, opposite
this window. The blinds must be opened early,
but some one will attend to that. If .the sun is
shining, the cabman will take out his watch. The
hour will be anywhere from nine to ten. The sun
will shine on the face of his watch, and the reflec-
tion will be thrown on the wall of your room. If
the sun is obscured, you will hear a policeman's
rattle. Then your spree must begin. And make
it a jolly one. Here is a small pistol loaded with
blank cartridges. Use it at your discretion. At



the head of the stairs you will fall into the arms of
a big policeman, who will be joined by another.
Take no offence if they hustle you. A bruise or
two won't hurt you. It is all for the good of the


" It's our only chance. I can see that you have
a temper ; don't lose it with our friends, the police-
men. They will have a very critical crowd to play
to, and must play as if they meant business. I
must bid you good night."

" One moment," said Flournoy. He drew from
his pocket a five-dollar gold piece and laid it on
the table.

McCarthy drew back, his face flushing. " What
is that for ? " he asked sternly.

" It is a Christmas gift for your daughter."

" For Nora ! " cried the other ; " why, she'll be
the happiest lass in the town ! " His eyes sparkled
and his whole manner changed. " This must be
my real good night," he went on. " I have work
to do and you will need rest." He went out, fol-
lowed by Terence.

Captain Flournoy was up betimes, his plantation
habits following him wherever he went. But he
was not a man on whose hands time hung heavily.
Just now one of his windows commanded a view
of about twenty feet of Broadway, and he watched,



with more interest than usual, the fluctuating stream
of humanity that flowed through it. When he grew
tired of that panorama, he had his own thoughts
for company, and the thoughts that are bred by a
cheerful disposition are the best of companions.
And then he had in his pocket a copy of Virgil.
Under such circumstances only a man with a bad
conscience could be either lonely or gloomy.

Presently his breakfast came, and by the time
Terence had cleared away the fragments nine
o'clock had struck, and the sky, which had been
overcast in the early morning hours, was clear.
At nine, too, a closed cab came leisurely from
the direction of Washington Square and took up
its position in the side street opposite the ladies'
entrance of the hotel. From behind the curtains
Flournoy watched the driver closely, and never
once did the man give so much as a side glance
at the upper windows of the hotel. His curiosity
seemed to be dead. For a while he read a news-
paper, nor did he cease from reading when a man,
passing quickly by, pitched a small valise into the
cab. But presently the paper palled on him, and
he folded it neatly and tucked it away under the
cushion. Then he looked at the sun, and, as if to
verify the time of day, pulled out his watch and
sprung the case open. The reflection from the
crystal, or from the burnished case, flashed through



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Online LibraryJoel Chandler HarrisOn the wing of occasions → online text (page 2 of 16)