Joseph A. Altsheler.

The Shades of the Wilderness A Story of Lee's Great Stand online

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the two young officers, chipping together, bought for Mrs. Lanham a
little watch which had just come through the blockade from England.

Thus their days lengthened in Richmond, and, despite the shadow of the
spy and his doings which was over Harry, they were still very pleasant.
The members of the Mosaic Club, although older men, made much of them,
and Harry and Dalton, being youths of sprighty wit, were able to hold
their own in such company. The time had now passed into August, and
they sat one afternoon in the lobby of the big hotel with their new
friends. Richmond without was quiet and blazing in the sun. Harry had
received a second letter from his father from an unnamed point in
Georgia. It did not contain much news, but it was full of
cheerfulness, and it intimated in more than one place that Bragg's army
was going to strike a great blow.

All eyes were turned toward the West. The opinion had been spreading
in the Confederacy that the chief danger was on that line. It seemed
that the Army of Northern Virginia could take care of anything to the
north and east, but in the south and west affairs did not go well.

"It's a pity that General Bragg is President Davis' brother-in-law,"
said Randolph.

"Why?" asked Daniel.

"Then he wouldn't be in command of our Western Army."

"Bragg's a fighter, though."

"But not a reaper."

"What do you mean?"

"He wins the victory, but lets the enemy take it."

"It may be so. But to come closer home, what about the Yankee spy in
Richmond? It's an established fact that a man of most uncommon daring
and skill is here."

"No doubt of it, what's the latest from him?"

"The house of William Curtis was entered last night and robbed."

"Robbed of what?"

"Papers. The man never takes any valuables."

"But Curtis is not in the government!"

"No, but he carries on a lot of blockade running, chiefly through
Norfolk and Wilmington. I think the papers related to several blockade
running vessels coming out from England, and of course the Yankee
blockading ships will be ready for them. There's not a trace of the
man who took them."

"Something is deucedly sinister about it," said Bagby. "It seems to be
the work of one man, and he must have a hiding place in Richmond, but
we can't find it. Kenton, you and Dalton are army officers, supposedly
of intelligence. Now, why don't you find this mysterious terror? Ah,
will you excuse me for a minute! I see Miss Carden leaving the counter
with her basket, and there is no other seamstress in Richmond who can
put the ruffles on a man's finest shirt as she can. She's been doing
work for me for some time."

He arose, and, leaving them, bowed very politely to the seamstress. Her
face, although thin and lined, was that of an educated woman of strong
character. Harry thought it probable that she was a lady in the
conventional meaning of the word. Many a woman of breeding and culture
was now compelled to earn her own living in the South. She and Bagby
exchanged only a few words, he returning to his chair, and she leaving
the hotel at a side door, walking with dignity.

"I've seen Miss Carden three times before, once on the train, once at
this hotel and once at Mr. Curtis's house; can you tell me anything
about her?" said Harry.

"It's an ordinary tale," replied Bagby. "I think she lived well up the
valley and her house being destroyed in some raid of the Federal troops
she came down to the capital to earn a living. She's been doing work
for me and others I know for a year past, and I know she's not been out
of Richmond in that time."

The talk changed now to the books that had come through from Europe in
the blockade runners. There was a new novel by Dickens and another by
Thackeray, new at least to the South, and the members of the Mosaic
Club were soon deep in criticism and defense.

Harry strolled away after a while. He did not tell his
friends - nothing was to be gained by telling them - that he was
absolutely sure of the identity of the spy, that it was Shepard. The
question of identity did not matter if they caught him, and his old
feeling that it was a duel between Shepard and himself returned. He
believed that the duty to catch the man had been laid upon him.

He began to haunt Richmond at all hours of the night. More than once
he had to give explanations to watchmen about public buildings, but he
clung to the task that he had imposed upon himself. He explained to
Dalton and the Virginian found no fault except for Harry's loss of time
that might be devoted to amusement. Harry sometimes rebuked himself
for his own persistency, but Bagby's taunt had stung a little, and he
felt that it applied more to himself than to Dalton. He knew Shepard
and he knew something of his ways. Moreover, his was the blood of the
greatest of all trailers, and it was incumbent upon him to find the
spy. Yet he was trailing in a city and not in a forest. In spite of
everything he clung to his work.

On a later night about one o'clock in the morning he was near the
building that housed army headquarters, and he noticed a figure come
from some bushes near it. He instantly stepped back into the shadow
and saw a man glance up and down the street, probably to see if it was
clear. It was a night to favor the spy, dark, with heavy clouds and
gusts of rain.

The figure, evidently satisfied that no one was watching, walked
briskly down the street, and Harry's heart beat hard against his side.
He knew that it was Shepard, the king of spies, against whom he had
matched himself. He could not mistake, despite the darkness, his
figure, his walk and the swing of his powerful shoulders.

His impulse was to cry for help, to shout that the spy was here, but at
the first sound of his voice Shepard would at once dart into the
shrubbery, and escape through the alleys of Richmond. No, his old
feeling that it was a duel between Shepard and himself was right, and
so they must fight it out.

Shepard walked swiftly toward the narrower and more obscure streets,
and Harry followed at equal speed. The night grew darker and the rain,
instead of coming in gusts, now fell steadily. Twice Shepard stopped
and looked back. But on each occasion Harry flattened himself against
a plank fence and he did not believe the spy had seen him.

Then Shepard went faster and his pursuer had difficulty in keeping him
in view. He went through an alley, turned into a street, and Harry ran
in order not to lose sight of him.

The alley came into the street at a right angle, and, when Harry turned
the corner, a heavy, dark figure thrust itself into his path.

"Shepard!" he cried.

"Yes!" said the man, "and I hate to do this, but I must."

His heavy fist shot out and caught his pursuer on the jaw. Harry saw
stars in constellations, then floated away into blackness, and, when he
came out of it, found himself lying on a bed in a small room. His jaw
was bandaged and very sore, but otherwise he felt all right. A candle
was burning on a table near him and an unshuttered window on the other
side of the room told him that it was still night and raining.

Harry looked leisurely about the room, into which he had been wafted on
the magic carpet of the Arabian genii, so far as he knew. It was small
and without splendor and he knew at once from the character of its
belongings that it was a woman's room.

He sat up. His head throbbed, but touching it cautiously he knew that
he had sustained no serious injury. But he felt chagrin, and a lot of
it. Shepard had known that he was following him and had laid a trap,
into which he had walked without hesitation. The man, however, had
spared his life, although he could have killed him as easily as he had
stunned him. Then he laughed bitterly at himself. A duel between them,
he had called it! Shepard wouldn't regard it as much of a duel.

His head became so dizzy that he lay down again rather abruptly and
began to wonder. What was he doing in a woman's room, and who was the
woman and how had he got there? This would be a great joke for Dalton
and St. Clair and Happy Tom.

He was fully dressed, except for his boots, and he saw them standing on
the floor against the wall. He surveyed once more the immaculate
neatness of the room. It was certainly a woman's, and most likely that
of an old maid. He sat up again, but his head throbbed so fearfully
that he was compelled to lie down quickly. Shepard had certainly put a
lot in that right hand punch of his and he had obtained a considerable
percentage of revenge for his defeat in the river.

Then Harry forgot his pain in the intensity of his curiosity. He had
sustained a certain temporary numbing of the faculties from the blow
and his fancy, though vivid now, was vague. He was not at all sure
that he was still in Richmond. The window still showed that it was
night, and the rain was pouring so hard that he could hear it beating
against the walls. At all events, he thought whimsically, he had
secured shelter, though at an uncommon high price.

He heard a creak, and a door at the end of the room opened, revealing
the figure and the strong, haggard features of Henrietta Carden.
Evidently she had taken off a hood and cloak in an outer room, as there
were rain drops on her hair and her shoes were wet.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Kenton?" she asked.

"Full of aches and wonder."

"Both will pass."

She smiled, and, although she was not young, Harry thought her
distinctly handsome, when she smiled.

"I seem to have driven you out of your room and to have taken your bed
from you, Miss Carden," he said, "but I assure you it was
unintentional. I ran against something pretty hard, and since then I
haven't been exactly responsible for what I was doing."

She smiled again, and this time Harry found the smile positively
winning.

"I'm responsible for your being here," she said.

Then she went back to the door and said to some one waiting in the
outer room:

"You can come in, Lieutenant Dalton. He's all right except for his
headache, and an extraordinary spell of curiosity."

Dalton stalked solemnly in, and regarded Harry with a stern and
reproving eye.

"You're a fine fellow," he said. "A lady finds you dripping blood from
the chin, and out of your head, wandering about the street in the
darkness and rain. Fortunately she knows who you are, takes you into
her own house, gives you an opiate or some kind of a drug, binds up
your jaw where some man good and true has hit you with all his goodness
and truth, and then goes for me, your guardian, who should never have
let you out of his sight. I was awakened out of a sound sleep in our
very comfortable room at the Lanham house, and I've come here through a
pouring rain with Miss Carden to see you."

"I do seem to be the original trouble maker," said Harry. "How did you
happen to find me, Miss Carden?"

"I was sitting at my window, working very late on a dress that Mrs.
Curtis wants to-morrow. It was not raining hard then, and I could see
very well outside. I saw a dark shadow in the street at the mouth of
the alley. I saw that it was the figure of a man staggering very much.
I ran out and found that it was you, Lieutenant Kenton. You were
bleeding at the chin, where apparently some one had struck you very
hard, and you were so thoroughly dazed that you did not know where you
were or who you were."

"Yes, he hit me very hard, just as you supposed, Miss Carden," said
Harry, feeling gently his sore and swollen chin.

"I half led and half dragged you into my house - there was nowhere else
I could take you - and, as you were sinking into a stupor, I managed to
make you lie down on my bed. I bound up your wound, while you were
unconscious, and then I went for Lieutenant Dalton."

"And she saved your life, too, you young wanderer. No doubt of that,"
said Dalton reprovingly. "This is what you get for roaming away from
my care. Lucky you were that an angel like Miss Carden saved you from
dying of exposure. If I didn't know you so well, Harry, I should say
that you had been in some drunken row."

"Oh, no! not that!" exclaimed Miss Carden. "There was no odor of
liquor on his breath."

"I was merely joking, Miss Carden," said Dalton. "Old Harry here is
one of the best of boys, and I'm grateful to you for saving him and
coming to me. If there is any way we can repay you we'll do it."

"I don't want any repayment. We must all help in these times."

"But we won't forget it. We can't. How are you feeling, Harry?"

"My head doesn't throb so hard. The jarred works inside are gradually
getting into place, and I think that in a half-hour I can walk again,
that is, resting upon that stout right arm of yours, George."

"Then we'll go. I've brought an extra coat that will protect you from
the rain."

"You are welcome to stay here!" exclaimed Miss Carden. "Perhaps you'd
be wiser to do so."

"We thank you for such generous hospitality," said Dalton gallantly,
"but it will be best for many reasons that we go back to Mrs. Lanham's
as soon as we can. But first can we ask one favor of you, Miss Carden?"

"Of course."

"That you say nothing of Mr. Kenton's accident. Remember that he was
on military duty and that in the darkness and rain he fell, striking
upon his jaw."

"I'll remember it. Our first impression that he had been struck by
somebody was a mistake, of course. You can depend upon me, both of
you. Neither of you was ever in my house. The incident never occurred."

"But we're just as grateful to you as if it had happened."

A half-hour later they left the cottage, Miss Carden holding open the
door a little to watch them until they were out of sight. But Harry
had recovered his strength and he was able to walk without Dalton's
assistance, although the Virginian kept close by his side in case of
necessity.

"Harry," said Dalton, when they were nearly to the Lanham house, "are
you willing to tell what happened?"

"As nearly as I know. I got upon the trail of that spy who has been
infesting Richmond. I knew at the time that it couldn't have been any
one else. I followed him up an alley, but he waited for me at the
turn, and before I could defend myself he let loose with his right.
When I came drifting back into the world I was lying upon the bed in
Miss Carden's cottage."

"He showed you some consideration. He might have quietly put you out
of the way with a knife."

"Shepard and I don't care to kill each other. Each wants to defeat the
other's plans. It's got to be a sort of duel between us."

"So I see, and he has scored latest."

"But not last."

"We'd better stick to the tale about the fall. Such a thing could
happen to anybody in these dark streets. But that Miss Carden is a
fine woman. She showed true human sympathy, and what's more, she gave
help."

"She's all that," agreed Harry heartily.

They had their own keys to the Lanham house and slipped in without
awakening anybody. Their explanations the next day were received
without question and in another day Harry's jaw was no longer sore,
though his spirit was. Yet the taking of important documents ceased
suddenly, and Harry was quite sure that his encounter with Shepard had
at least caused him to leave the city.




CHAPTER XII

IN WINTER QUARTERS


Harry was sent a few days later with dispatches from the president to
General Lee, who was still in his camp beside the Opequan. Dalton was
held in the capital for further messages, but Harry was not sorry to
make the journey alone. The stay in Richmond had been very pleasant.
The spirits of youth, confined, had overflowed, but he was beginning to
feel a reaction. One must return soon to the battlefield. This was
merely a lull in the storm which would sweep with greater fury than
ever. The North, encouraged by Gettysburg and Vicksburg, was gathering
vast masses which would soon be hurled upon the South, and Harry knew
how thin the lines there were becoming.

He thought, too, of Shepard, who was the latest to score in their duel,
and he believed that this man had already sent to the Northern leaders
information beyond value. Harry felt that he must strive in some
manner to make the score even.

It was late in the summer when he rejoined the Army of Northern
Virginia and delivered the letters to the commander-in-chief, who sat
in the shade of a large tree. Harry observed him closely. He seemed a
little grayer than before the Battle of Gettysburg, but his manner was
as confident as ever. He filled to both eye and mind the measure of a
great general. After asking Harry many questions he dismissed him for a
while, to play, so he said.

The young Kentuckian at once, and, as a matter of course, sought the
Invincibles. St. Clair and Langdon hailed him with shouts of joy, but
to his great surprise, Colonel Leonidas Talbot and Lieutenant-Colonel
Hector St. Hilaire were not playing chess.

"We were getting on with the game last night, Harry," explained Colonel
Talbot, "but we came to a point where we were about to develop heat
over a projected move. Then, in order to avoid such a lamentable
occurrence, we decided to postpone further play until to-night. But we
find you looking uncommonly well, Harry. The flesh pots of Egypt have
agreed with you."

"I had a good time in Richmond, sir, a fine one," replied Harry. "The
people there have certainly been kind to me, as they are to all the
officers of the Army of Northern Virginia."

"What have you done with the grave Dalton, who was your comrade on your
journey to the capital?"

"They've kept him there for the present. They think he's stronger
proof against the luxuries and temptations of a city than I am."

"Youth is youth, and I'm glad that you've had this little fling, Harry.
Perhaps you'll have another, as I think you'll be sent back to Richmond
very soon."

"What has been going on here, Colonel?"

"Very little. Nothing, in fact, of any importance. When we crossed
the swollen Potomac, although threatened by an enemy superior to us in
numbers, I felt that we would not be pushed. General Meade has been
deliberate, extremely deliberate in his offensive movements. Up North
they call Gettysburg a great victory, but we're resting here calmly and
peacefully. Hector and I and our young friends have found rural peace
and ease among these Virginia hills and valleys. You, of course, found
Richmond very gay and bright?"

"Very gay and bright, Colonel, and full of handsome ladies."

Colonel Talbot sighed and Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire sighed
also.

"Hector and I should have been there," said Colonel Talbot. "Although
we've never married, we have a tremendous admiration for the ladies,
and in our best uniforms we're not wholly unpopular among them, eh,
Hector?"

"Not by any means, Leonidas. We're not as young as Harry here, but I
know that you're a fine figure of a man, and you know that I am.
Moreover, our experience of the dangerous sex is so much greater than
that of mere boys like Harry and Arthur and Tom here, that we know how
to make ourselves much more welcome. You talk to them about frivolous
things, mere chit chat, while we explain grave and important matters to
them."

"Are you sure, sir," asked St. Clair, "that the ladies don't really
prefer chit chat?"

"I was not speaking of little girls. I was alluding to those ornaments
of their sex who have arrived at years of discretion. Ah, if Leonidas
and I were only a while in Richmond! It would be the next best thing
to being in Charleston."

"Maybe the Invincibles will be sent there for a while."

"Perhaps. I don't foresee any great activity here in the autumn. How
do they regard the Army of Northern Virginia in Richmond now, Harry?"

"With supreme confidence."

The talk soon drifted to the people whom Harry had met at the capital,
and then he told of his adventure with Shepard, the spy.

"He seems to be a most daring man," said Talbot; "not a mere ordinary
spy, but a man of a higher type. I think he's likely to do us great
harm. But the woman, Miss Carden, was surely kind to you. If she
hadn't found you wandering around in the rain you'd have doubtless
dropped down and died. God bless the ladies."

"And so say we all of us," said Harry.

He returned to Richmond in a few days, bearing more dispatches, and to
his great delight all that was left of the Invincibles arrived a week
later to recuperate and see a little of the world. St. Clair and Happy
Tom plunged at once and with all the ardor of youth into the gayeties
of social life, and the two colonels followed them at a more dignified
but none the less earnest pace. All four appeared in fine new
uniforms, for which they had saved their money, and they were
conspicuous upon every occasion.

Harry was again at the Curtis house, and although it was not a great
ball this time the assemblage was numerous, including all his friends.
The two colonels had become especial favorites everywhere, and they
were telling stories of the old South, which Harry had divined was
passing; passing whether the South won or not.

Although there had been much light talk through the evening and an
abundance of real gayety, nearly every member of the company,
nevertheless, had serious moments. The news from Tennessee and Georgia
was heavy with import. It was vague in some particulars, but it was
definite enough in others to tell that the armies of Rosecrans and
Bragg were approaching each other. All eyes turned to the West. A
great battle could not be long delayed, and a powerful division of the
Army of Northern Virginia under Longstreet had been sent to help Bragg.

Harry found himself late at night once more in that very room in which
the map had disappeared so mysteriously. The two colonels, St. Clair
and Langdon, and one or two others had drifted in, and the older men
were smoking. Inevitably they talked of the battle which they foresaw
with such certainty, and Harry's anxiety about it was increased,
because he knew his father would be there on one side, and the cousin,
for whom he cared so much, would be on the other.

"If only General Lee were in command there," said Colonel Talbot, "we
might reckon upon a great and decisive victory."

"But Bragg is a good general," said Lieutenant-Colonel St. Hilaire.

"It's not enough to be merely a good general. He must have the soul of
fire that Lee has, and that Jackson had. Bragg is the Southern
McClellan. He is brave enough personally, but he always overrates the
strength of the enemy, and, if he is victorious on the field, he does
not reap the fruits of victory."

"Where were the armies when we last heard from them?" asked a captain.

"Bragg was turning north to attack Rosecrans, who stood somewhere
between him and Chattanooga."

"I'm glad that it's Rosecrans and not Grant who commands the Northern
army there," said Harry.

"Why?" asked Colonel Talbot.

"I've studied the manner in which he took Vicksburg, and I've heard
about him from my father, and others. He won't be whipped. He isn't
like the other Northern generals. He hangs on, whatever happens. I
heard some one quoting him as saying that no matter how badly his army
was suffering in battle, the army of the other fellow might be
suffering worse. It seems to me that a general who is able to think
that way is very dangerous."

"And so he is, Harry," said Colonel Talbot. "I, too, am glad that it's
Rosecrans and not Grant. If there's any news of a battle, we're not in
a bad place to hear it. It's said that Mr. Curtis always knows as soon
as our government what's happened."

The talk drifted on to another subject and then a hum came from the
larger room. A murmur only, but it struck such an intense and earnest
note that Harry was convinced.

"It's news of battle! I know it!" he exclaimed.

They sprang to their feet and hurried into the ballroom. William
Curtis, his habitual calm broken, was standing upon a chair and all the
people had gathered in front of him. A piece of paper, evidently a
telegram, was clutched in his hand.

"Friends," he said in a strained, but exultant voice, "a great battle
has been fought near Chattanooga on a little river called the
Chickamauga, and we have won a magnificent victory."

A mighty cheer came from the crowd.

"The army of Rosecrans, attacked with sudden and invincible force by
Bragg, has been shattered and driven into Chattanooga."

Another cheer burst forth.

"No part of the Union army was able to hold fast, save one wing under
Thomas."

A third mighty cheer arose, but this time Harry did not join in it. He


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Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Shades of the Wilderness A Story of Lee's Great Stand → online text (page 14 of 21)