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country life beamed on his handsome countenance
and sparkled in his black eyes. He handed
Bethune a note pencilled on a piece of brown
writing-paper, the kind fashionable in the Con-
federacy. It read:

"DEAR BETHUNE : The bearer of this is Mr. John Oma-
hundro, a good friend of mine. He calls at my request, and
you may depend on him as you would on me. Luck go with

you ! ALBERT R. LAMAR."

While Bethune was reading this short note,
Omahundro, while waiting for an invitation, en-
tered the room, closed the door behind him and,
after bowing to Mr. Billy Sanders, seated himself
in a chair. He was evidently not fond of con-
ventions and formalities.

" I saw the Colonel a little while ago," he said,
after his name and credentials had been given to

144



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

Mr. Sanders, "and he asked me to come up and
have a talk with you. He says you're going into
the North country on account of some business
of a man named Doyle."

"That is what Mr. Doyle thinks," replied
Bethune.

" Oh, I see ! " remarked Omahundro. " Well,
that makes me feel better. I don't know what
you're up to, and I don't want to know ; but I think
I know what this man Doyle is up to, and I'll have
him run to ground long before you get back. I
saw Colonel Lamar just now, and says I, 'Colonel,
who's going to leave this hotel between midnight
and day ? ' The Colonel laughed and said it'd be
so after a while that cold chills would run up and
down his back every time he saw me. ' Who told
you about it ? ' says he. ' Nobody,' says I, ' but I
heard a man drop a mighty loud hint awhile ago.
It's a wonder you didn't hear the echo. I heard
him tell the night clerk to wake him up if the men
in seventy-eight came down any time between
midnight and day. He said they were friends of
his and he wanted to tell 'em good-by, and then
he took the clerk off to one side and the two of
'em jabbered quite a whet together.' 'That was
our friend Doyle,' says the Colonel. 'You've
called the turn, color, and spot,' says I."

" Well, it was mighty funny to see the Colonel
MS



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

roll the end of his cigar in his mouth. Then,
* Come with me/ he says. He went behind the
counter and I followed along. He says to the
clerk, 'Oscar, is Doyle a particular friend of
yours ? ' ' Not as you may say particular,' says
Oscar. 'Well,' says the Colonel, 'the men in
seventy-eight are going away to-night on impor-
tant business. They're not Doyle's friends, and
there's no reason in the world why he should be
roused out of bed when they come down.' Oscar
seemed to be stumped at this, and he looked as if
he was trying to find some way out. So I put in.
Says I, ' If they come down before midnight, you
don't have to roust your friend out, do you ? ' His
face cleared up at this, and he says, ' No, I don't,
for I don't take charge of the desk till midnight.'

" So there you are," Omahundro went on.
" Colonel Lamar has paid your bill. I am going
a piece of the way myself, and I have two extra
horses for Jeb Stuart's use. If you say the word,
I'll give you a lift as far as I am going on horse-
back, and then I'll put you in touch with some of
Mosby's men. But to go with me you must start
now."

Mr. Billy Sanders sighed, turned and looked at
the bed on which he was sitting and patted the
mattress caressingly. " She feels as nice as a fat
gal at camp-meeting," he remarked.

146



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

"You'd better hug the pillow, anyhow," said
Omahundro, laughing. " It'll be some days before
you'll lay your head on as plump a one." This
Mr. Sanders proceeded to do. He took the pillow
in his arms and fondled it as a mother would
fondle a baby, to the great amusement of his com-
panions.

In twenty minutes the party had passed out of
the hotel. On the sidewalk they met Colonel
Lamar, bade him good-by, went to a livery stable
near at hand, and in a very short time were leav-
ing Richmond behind them as they journeyed
toward the front. Two circumstances favoured
them : the weather was very cold for the time of
year, so cold, indeed, that occasionally they dis-
mounted and ran along by the side of their horses
to keep their feet warm, and the concentration
of Federal and Confederate troops was taking the
shape that finally led to the battles of Chancellors-
ville and Fredericksburg. Their course was in a
northwesterly direction after they left the city.

Omahundro parted with Bethune and Mr. San-
ders, after making an arrangement whereby they
were enabled to purchase two horses which had
seen considerable service. In fact, the animals
had been turned out to die, but a thrifty citizen
had picked them up and attended to their wants so
successfully that they showed no evidence of the

147



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

hard times they had when they went with Stuart
around McClellan's army.

Bethune and Sanders made their way to War-
renton, then to Thoroughfare Gap, and thence
into what was known as Mosby's Confederacy ;
then through Ashby's Gap to Berry ville, where
they were fortunate enough to meet up with three
men belonging to Captain McNeill's Rangers, who
had been south with a squad of prisoners. Mc-
Neill's company operated to some extent in Hamp-
shire County, West Virginia, and it was to this
county the three scouts were bound.

Now, Mr. Billy Sanders had from the first
insisted that they should make their way to New
York by the Western route. He had good reason
for this. Some of the Harts who used to live in
Kentucky had moved to Indiana, and just previ-
ous to the war Mr. Sanders had made a visit to
that state. He insisted that the Hoosiers talked
just like the Georgians "onless, maybe, they
talk a leetle more wi' their nose than we-all do."
His programme was to go to Ohio, take an east-
bound train, and make it known to all who were
willing to listen to him that he was going to Wash-
ington with his son (Bethune being the son) who
had been ill treated by his superiors because he
couldn't show the advance guard of the Fourth
Indiana how to wade through a ford on a creek in

148



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

the state of Tennessee without drawing the fire of
Forrest's mounted infantry on the opposite bank,
while all the time the water was running like a
mill sluice with both gates open. Yes, sirs ! And
Mr. Hart (the same being Mr. Billy Sanders's
middle name) was going right to Washington to
lay the case before Aberham Lincoln, who would
straighten out the tangle, not only because he was
a just man, but because the Hart family was as
good as any family in Injianny, or in Kaintuck, for
that matter.

It was a very well-considered programme, and
it was based on the fact that Mr. Sanders had a
secret admiration for Abraham Lincoln. He had
read in the papers about the President's humble
beginnings, how he studied his books by a light-
wood knot fire, and how he had split rails for a
livelihood at one period of his career. A hundred
times he had remarked to thoughtless persons who
were abusing Mr. Lincoln, " He may be wrong in
his idees, but I'll bet you a thrip to a gingercake
that his heart's in the right place." Being a plain,
blunt man, Mr. Sanders made no bones about giv-
ing out this sentiment; it was his boast, indeed,
that he was ready to " hand around " his views in
any company, and those who didn't like 'em could
lump 'em.

Mr. Sanders's programme, to employ his own
149



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

expression, "worked without a bobble." This was
due mainly to the fact that the year 1863 opened
with very gloomy promises for the Union cause.
The people of the North were not only gloomy,
but indignant. Criticism of the administration
was general, and was marked by a fury which no
one but Mr. Lincoln would have been able to
withstand. The cartoonists were especially fierce.
One of the cartoons that caught the eye of Be-
thune as they were journeying by train to the
East was the figure of indignant Columbia point-
ing scornfully at the President and advising him
to go tell his jokes elsewhere than the White
House. The periodical bore a January date, but
some one had torn the page away and tacked it
up in the smoking-car, where it had remained.

The Abolitionists had not been much mollified
by the Emancipation Proclamation, claiming that it
had been delayed too long to produce any favour-
able results on the course of the war. On the
other hand, those who were fighting for the Union
itself, without knowing or caring much about
slavery either as a political or a moral question,
were not at all pleased with what seemed to be
the surrender of Mr. Lincoln to an extreme fac-
tion, and the slave owners in the border states
were denouncing what they described as high-
handed robbery.

150



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

It should be said of Mr. Billy Sanders that his
spirits rose perceptibly whenever there was danger
to be faced, or whenever there was trouble in the
air. He walked into the office of the New
York Hotel, humming his favourite air of " Money
Musk." He had begun to call Bethune " Honey,"
and it was all that the young man could do to
keep his face straight when Mr. Sanders sol-
emnly undertook to play the part of a fond
father.

On their first appearance at the hotel, the clerk
held them in parley a little longer than was neces-
sary. The house was practically full, he said, and
he had nothing but a very ordinary room on the
third floor. If they would wait until after dinner,
perhaps he could accommodate them then. Mr.
Sanders, for his part, said any kind of a room
would suit him, provided he didn't have to roost
on a pole like a chicken, or squat flat on the
ground like a puddle-duck; still, his son had been
sleeping out nights in the war, and he wanted the
best of everything that was to be had not for
himself, mind you, but for his son. Then he
turned to Bethune,

" Honey, didn't you say Mack was stoppin' at
this tavern ? "

" Yes," replied Bethune.

" Well, if we could see Mack, we'd go like we



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

was greased. Do you know Mack? " he asked the
clerk.

" There are so many Macks, you know. Which
Mack do you mean ? "

"A man named McCarthy. We were recom-
mended to him," replied Bethune at a venture.

The clerk drummed carelessly on the counter
while you could count ten. " I know a dozen
McCarthys," he said; "but, anyhow, Mack or
no Mack, I'll assign you to a fairly comfortable
room. It has been spoken for, and you may have
to exchange it for another."

"All right," said Mr. Sanders; "we ain't no-
ways nice 'bout small matters. If there ain't no
bars 'cross the winder an' the key's on the inside,
we'll manage to worry along. Put our names
down, Honey. Some gal might come along an*
see 'em an' want to swap letters."

So Bethune wrote " William Hart, Salem, Indi-
ana," and under it " Francis M. Hart," with ditto
marks under the town and state. " Be shore you
git it right, Honey. I've been so shook up wi' the
kyars, an' the racket, that if a man was to ax me
right sudden what my name is, I'm afeard I couldn't
tell him."

The clerk smiled patronisingly, signalled a porter,
and the two travellers were assigned to a room on
the third floor the very one, by the way, in which

152



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

Colonel Flournoy had his interview with Mr. Bar-
num of the secret service.

"Tell 'em to ring the bell good an' hard
when dinner's ready," said Mr. Sanders to the
porter. "We'll not keep 'em waitin'. What
primpin' I've got to do will be done in short
order."

" Dinner will be ready in half an hour, sir,"
replied the porter, smiling brightly. "The din-
ing room is on the floor below. You walk down
the stairway and turn to the left."

He went out, closing the door gently. " A right
peart chap," remarked Mr. Sanders. Then there
came a quick, firm tap on the inside door. " Come
right in," said Mr. Sanders, heartily. Following
the invitation, a tall man, arrayed in evening dress,
stepped into the room. His face was smooth-
shaven ; his iron-grey hair combed away from his
forehead gave a pleasing softness to features that
would have otherwise been marked by sternness,
especially at this moment when they wore a frown
of irritation or perplexity. Nevertheless, the coun-
tenance of the newcomer was both striking and
attractive.

" Why, howdy ? " said Mr. Sanders. " If I ain't
seed you some'r's, I'm mighty much mistaken.
Wait! don't tell me. I've mighty nigh forgot my
own name, but I ain't forgot your face- Hold on !

'53



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

did you ever so much as hear of a place called
Shady Dale ? "

" In what state, for instance ? "

" Well, in Injianny, for instance."

The newcomer made no reply to the question,
but his countenance cleared up, and a faint smile
hovered about the corners of his mouth. " I heard
a rumour that two gentlemen had been commended
to a man named McCarthy."

" The head waiter of this hotel," explained
Bethune.

" The head waiter of this hotel," assented the
newcomer. " I am the man."

"Well, the gallopin' Jerushy ! " exclaimed Mr.
Sanders. "Why, you look like you jest come
from a ball. Honey," he went on, turning to
Bethune, "don't you mind the time when a
chap come to the Grove in a rig like that and the
boys run him down an' ketch'd him an' rode him
on a rail?"

"Where was that? " inquired Captain McCarthy.

"All in the state of Injianny, close to Salem,"
replied Mr. Sanders. " You can't run me out of
Injianny to save your life."

" Good ! " cried the head waiter. " And now,
who commended you to me ? " he inquired, lower-
ing his voice.

" Albert Lamar," replied Bethune.



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

"A fine man that a fine man!" exclaimed
McCarthy.

It required only a few words to explain their
reasons for seeing the head waiter. Bethune gave
him the despatch which Mr. Doyle had intrusted
to his care.

" This can wait until after dinner," said the head
waiter. " I'll join you here about three o'clock."

" I'm mighty glad to hear you mention dinner,"
remarked Mr. Sanders, gratefully.

" It is ready now," said the other. " Shall I
have it sent to you ? "

"No, no!" protested Mr. Sanders. "I don't
want to be penned up wi' my vittles. When I'm
hongry I want elbow room."

"Very well," assented the head waiter, some-
what dubiously. "You'll have to be careful. This
house is under suspicion ; there are a number of
sharp-eyed Government detectives constantly com-
ing and going. You are sure, before dinner is
over, to fall into conversation with one or more of
them. You'll have to watch your tongues. The
smallest slip will be enough. Should I or the
waiter who has charge of your table change your
glass of water, it will be a warning to be very
guarded. Should the waiter inquire if you would
like a dish of fried spring onions, you will know
that some one within sound of your voice is very



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

dangerous. You may come down when you're
ready."

" Say, Colonel," cried Mr. Sanders, as the head
waiter was entering the adjoining room, " about
them inguns ; I'd like a mess on 'em, whether the
Boogers ketch us or not."

"Very well, sir," replied McCarthy, gravely.
On the other side of the door he paused, glanced
at himself in the mirror, and shook his head doubt-
fully. "The lad is circumspect, but I'm afraid
the old chap is a fool."

In no long time they were in the dining room, and
the head waiter escorted them to the first table on the
left of the entrance, where they would be directly un-
der his observation. It was with some difficulty that
either Bethune or Mr. Sanders recognised in this
obsequious, suave, and smiling head waiter the stern
and stiff person with whom they had just had an in-
terview. There was no other person at the table, but
presently two others came in, one a thin young man
with spectacles, who had the air of a divinity student,
the other a tall man with Burnside whiskers. Mr.
Sanders was sitting at one end of the table next
the wall. Bethune was on his left and the divinity
student was on his right. At the other end of
the table sat a small man with grey mustache and
goatee.

The head waiter came forward with his ready
156



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

napkin, brushed off an imaginary crumb at Mr.
Sanders's elbow, picked up the glass of water, and
substituted for it another glass that sat on the
window ledge.

" Have you given your order, sir ? " he asked.

"I reckon I did," replied Mr. Sanders, "but it's
been so long ago it seems like a dream."

" Would you like a dish of fried onions, sir ?
They are very fresh and tender."

" Would I ? " exclaimed Mr. Sanders. " Well,
I'd thank you might'ly to try me I ain't had a
mess sence I left the neighbourhood of Salem."

The man who had the appearance of a divinity
student leaned back in his chair and balanced his
fork on the forefinger of his left hand. " Salem
Salem," he said ; " pardon me, sir, but where is
Salem?"

"Well, ef they ain't been no harrycane nor
yethquake, Salem is in the state of Injianny."

" Why, certainly to be sure ! What am I
thinking about ? " sighed the stranger.

" Reely, I couldn't tell you," replied Mr. San-
ders.

The other smiled as he wiped his glasses. " Well,
I should have known about Salem, for I went to
college with a relative of mine from that town. In
fact, I think I have a number of relatives in
Salem."

157



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

" What's the name ? " inquired Mr. Sanders, in
his matter-of-fact way.

"Webb."

" When did they move there ? "

" Three or four years ago, I think."

" Sam Webb was the chap you went to college
wi' ? "

"Yes," the other assented.

" What kin was you to him ? "

" Cousin first cousin."

At this Mr. Sanders leaned back in his chair
and laughed until he was red in the face.

" What's the joke ? " inquired the man who
looked like a divinity student.

" Well, if I ain't got old Granny Webb on the
hooks, I don't want a cent ! " exclaimed Mr. San-
ders with a fresh burst of laughter. " Here she's
been tellin' me for long years that there ain't a
runt in the Webb family, on narry side, for gen-
erations, an' I ain't no more'n got to town before
the little fust cousin runs under my hand same as
a tame rat."

The hit was so palpable and so unexpected that
even Bethune joined in the roar that came from
the others around the table. The first cousin
laughed, too, but it was plain to see that he was
more irritated than pleased.

" But don't you fret, my friend. Steve Douglas
158



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

is a runt, but he's a mighty big man, all the same.
I was a Douglas man before the war, but after
Old Abe up'd an' said he was for the Union,
nigger or no nigger, why, then I was a Lincoln
man."

"And yet," said the first cousin, persuasively,
" they say there are a good many Southern sym-
pathisers around and about in places."

"I reckon that's so," said Mr. Sanders. "My
farm has been cleared a good many year, but
hardly a spring passes but what I have to kill a
snake or two."

Bethune noticed that a great change had come
over the head waiter. He was fairly beaming
on the guests as they came and went. In fact,
he was radiant. His eyes sparkled and his whole
manner showed that he was a well-pleased man.
As for Bethune, he was astonished at the ease with
which Mr. Sanders had handled a dangerous adver-
sary. He had known that his companion possessed
a courage that was absolutely invincible, but now
Mr. Sanders was displaying a new and a rarer
quality.

The stranger made no more remarks, but ad-
dressed himself to his dinner and hurried through
it. As he was rising from the table, Mr. Sanders
took his knife from his mouth to say :

" Ef you ever come out to Salem to visit your
'59



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

kin, lope out to my farm. It's about four miles
out on what they call the Kaintucky pike. I'll tell
Granny Webb I seed you; she'll be tickled to
death."

" Why, thank you," replied the stranger. " I
shall certainly call on you should I ever come to
Indiana."

" So do ! " Mr. Sanders rejoined.

Whereupon the spectacled man and his bewhis-
kered companion retired.



II



Later in the afternoon Captain McCarthy went
to the room occupied by Bethune and Mr. Sanders,
and his first words were those of congratulation.
He shook Mr. Sanders by the hand with great
heartiness and regarded him with undisguised ad-
miration. " Do you know what you have done ? "
he cried. " You have thrown a big black bag over
the head of the most capable man in the United
States Secret Service. He is really an expert.
He only comes here occasionally, and he is a
different-looking man every time he comes. The
first time I saw him he had black hair, parted in
the middle, and a beautiful mustache and eye-
glasses. I always have a peculiar feeling when
he comes into the house, and this feeling is espe-

160



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

daily strong when he comes into the dining room,
I believe if he were hid in a closet and I should
chance to pass near it, I'd know he was there. I
know him through all his changes, and it is very for-
tunate that this is so. I invariably make it a point
to let him know that I see through his disguises."

" You do ? " exclaimed Mr. Sanders, surprise in
his voice.

" Yes ; it is calculated either to make him ner-
vous or to give him a certain confidence in me. I
find it is always best to appear to be perfectly
straightforward, as you were at dinner," added
Captain McCarthy, laughing. " Why, I had quite
a confidential chat with the man not half an hour
ago. When he entered the dining room to-day, I
met him at the threshold with, * Ah ! good day, sir,
I'm glad to see you again.' It was a small thing
to say, but it disconcerted him. Otherwise he
would have addressed himself to you" turning
to Bethune "and the consequences might not
have been as pleasant as they were. He would
have irritated you, sir, and I see you have some-
thing of a temper."

Bethune made a wry face. " I wish there was
some sort of patent medicine that would take it
out of me, " he declared.

" Time is the medicine for that time and ex-
perience," remarked Captain McCarthy.

161



ON THE WING OF OCCASIONS

" It ought to 'a' been spanked out of you when
you was a little chap," said Mr. Sanders ; " but so
fur as I know, you never got but one lickin' that
done you any good, an' that was when Nan frailed
you out."

Bethune blushed like a schoolgirl, for the inci-
dent rankled in his memory. The wounds our
pride receives are longer in healing than those of
the flesh. Captain McCarthy could see that the
subject was not a pleasing one to the young man,
and so he did not press Mr. Sanders for the particu-
lars, but addressed himself to more important mat-
ters. First, there was the despatch that Mr. Doyle
had intrusted to Bethune. Captain McCarthy in-
vited the two travellers into another room, reaching
it by means of a series of connecting rooms. Here
they found three or four men busily engaged in
writing at a long table. Only one looked up, and
he (with a " Hello, Cap ! ") went on with his work.
To this man Captain McCarthy handed the des-
patch, remarking, "See what you can make of
that."

The document consisted of about a dozen lines.
In this number of lines there were a number of
words marked out by parallel lines, and other
words crossed out. The clerk glanced at it and
passed it to an older man, with the remark, " It
looks all right to me." The elderly man took it

162



THE KIDNAPPING OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

and immediately began to swell, apparently with
inward rage. " Looks all right, does it ? Why
don't you learn a little sense ? We'll be ruined by
you yet."

"Well, it's out of my line; get the SK code."
Apparently still in a rage, and with much mut-
tering and growling, the elderly man went to a tall
cabinet lined from top to bottom with pigeon-holes.
SK stood for Scratch Code, and this he fished out
from a number of others a thin pamphlet con-
taining a dozen or more pages printed on tissue-
like paper. This queer pamphlet contained some
information that was very interesting to Bethune,
and to Mr. Sanders as well. It assured its readers
that a certain word scratched out with one horizon-
tal line meant one thing, with two parallel lines
another thing, and so on up to five parallel lines.
Then cross-scratching and cross-hatching meant so
many different things, according to the number of
crisses and crosses and scratches and hatches, that
the reader finally stood amazed at the fluency and


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Online LibraryJoel Chandler HarrisOn the wing of occasions → online text (page 8 of 16)