The author states in the Appendix "The book which our readers have just completed perusing, is filled with many errors; too many, in fact, for any literary work to contain."
Only the very obvious errors have been corrected.
THE SOLDIER'S WIFE:
A TALE OF THE
SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
BY ALEX. ST. CLAIR ABRAMS.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1864,
BY THE AUTHOR,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Confederate States for the Northern District of Georgia.
COLONEL JOHN H. JOSSEY.
Of Macon, Georgia.
MY DEAR SIR—
Accept from me the dedication of this little work as a token of appreciation for the kind friendship you have ever displayed towards me. Wishing you all the happiness and prosperity that can fall to mortal man, believe me.
The plot of this little work was first thought of by the writer in the month of December, 1862, on hearing the story of a soldier from New Orleans, who arrived from Camp Douglas just in time to see his wife die at Jackson, Mississippi. Although the Press of that city made no notice of it, the case presented itself as a fit subject for a literary work. If the picture drawn in the following pages appears exaggerated to our readers, they will at least recognize the moral it contains as truthful.
Trusting that the public will overlook its many defects, the Author yet hopes there will be found in this little book, matter of sufficient interest to while away the idle hour of the reader.
ATLANTA, April 20th, 1864.
THE SOLDIER'S WIFE.
THE "CRESCENT CITY"—THE HUSBAND'S DEPARTURE.
Kind reader, have you ever been to New Orleans? If not, we will attempt to describe the metropolis of the Confederate States of America.
New Orleans is situated on the Mississippi river, and is built in the shape of a crescent, from which it derives the appellation of "Crescent City." The inhabitants—that is, the educated class—are universally considered as the most refined and aristocratic members of society on the continent. When we say aristocratic, we do not mean a pretension of superiority above others, but that elegance and etiquette which distinguish the parvenu of society, and the vulgar, but wealthy class of citizens with which this country is infested. The ladies of New Orleans are noted for their beauty and refinement, and are certainly, as a general thing, the most accomplished class of females in the South, except the fair reader into whose hands this work may fall.
It was in the month of May, 1861, that our story commences. Secession had been resorted to as the last chance left the South for a preservation of her rights. Fort Sumter, had fallen, and from all parts of the land troops were pouring to meet the threatened invasion of their homes. As history will record, New Orleans was not idle in those days of excitement. Thousands of her sons came forward at the first call, and offered their services for the good of the common cause, and for weeks the city was one scene of excitement from the departure of the different companies to Virginia.
Among the thousands who replied to the first call of their country, was Alfred Wentworth, the confidential clerk of one of the largest commission houses in the city. He was of respectable family, and held a high position in society, both on account of his respectability and the elevated talent he had displayed during his career in the world. He had been married for about five years, and two little children—one a light-eyed girl of four summers, and the other an infant of two years—were the small family with which heaven had blessed him.
After joining a company of infantry, and signing the muster roll, Alfred returned home to his wife and informed her of what he had done, expecting that she would regret it. But the patriotic heart of his wife would not reproach him for having performed his duty; so heaving a sigh as she looked at the child in her arms, and the little girl on her fathers knee, a tear trickled down her flushed cheek as she bade him God-speed. The time that elapsed between his enlistment and departure for the seat of war, was spent by Alfred Wentworth in providing a home for his family, so that in the event of his being killed in battle, they should not want. Purchasing a small residence on Prytania street, he removed his family into it and concluded his business in time for his departure.
The morning of the twenty-second of May broke brightly over the far-famed "Crescent City." Crowds of citizens were seen congregating on Canal street to witness the departure of two more regiments of Orleanians. The two regiments were drawn up in line between Camp and Carondelet streets, and their fine uniforms, glistening muskets and soldierly appearance created a feeling of pride among the people. They were composed principally of Creoles and Americans, proper. The handsome, though dark complexions of the Creoles could be seen lit up with enthusiasm, in conversation with the dark-eyed Creole beauties of the city, while the light-haired and fair-faced sons of the Crescent City were seen mingling among the crowd of anxious relatives who thronged to bid them farewell.
Apart from the mass of volunteers—who had previously stacked their arms—Alfred Wentworth and his wife were bidding that agonizing farewell, which only those who have parted from loved one can feel. His little bright-eyed daughter was clasped in his arms, and every minute he would stoop over his infant and kiss its tiny cheeks. Marks of tears were on the eyelids of his wife, but she strove to hide them, and smiled at every remark made by her daughter. They were alone from the eyes of a curious crowd. Each person present had too much of his own acquaintances to bid farewell, to notice the speechless farewell which the soldier gave his wife. With one arm clasped around her, and the other holding his daughter, Alfred Wentworth gazed long and earnestly at the features of his wife and children, as if to impress the features of those loved ones still firmer in his mind.
"Attention, battalion!" rang along the line in stentorian tones, and the voices of the company officers calling "fall in, boys, fall in!" were heard in the streets. Clasping his wife to his heart, and imprinting a fond, fond kiss of love upon her cheeks, and embracing his children, the soldier took his place in the ranks, and after the necessary commands, the volunteers moved forward. A crowd of their relatives followed them to the depot of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad, and remained until the cars were out of sight. After the troops had entered, and the train was slowly moving off, one of the soldiers jumped from the platform, and, embracing a lady who stood near, exclaimed:
"Farewell, dearest Eva! God bless you and the children—we shall meet again." As soon as he spoke, Alfred Wentworth sprang into the cars again and was soon swiftly borne from the city.
Mrs. Wentworth remained standing where her husband had left her, until the vast crowd had dispersed, and nothing could be seen of the train but a thin wreath of smoke emerging from the tree-tops in the distance. Calling the colored nurse, who had followed with the children, she bade her return home, and accompanied her back to her now lonely residence.
THE WIFE AND CHILDREN—A VISITOR
The weeks passed slowly to Mrs. Wentworth from the departure of her husband; but her consciousness that he was performing his duty to his country, and the letters he wrote from Virginia, cheered her spirits, and, in a measure, made her forget his absence.
She was alone one evening with her children, who had become the sole treasures of her heart, and on whom she lavished every attention possible, when the ringing of the bell notified her of the presence of a visitor. Calling the servant, she bade her admit the person at the door. The negro left the room to do her mistress' bidding, and shortly after, a handsome gentleman of about thirty-five years of age entered.
"Good morning, Mrs. Wentworth," he said, on entering the room. "I trust yourself and children are in good health."
Mrs. Wentworth rose from her chair, and, slightly inclining her head, replied: "To what circumstance am I indebted for the honor of this visit, Mr. Awtry?"
"Nothing very particular, madam," he replied; "but hearing of your husband's departure, I thought I should lake the liberty of paying a visit to an old acquaintance, and of offering my services, if you should ever need them."
"I thank you for your kindness; and should I ever need your services, you may depend upon my availing myself of your offer; although," she added, "I do not think it likely I shall stand in need of any assistance."
"I rejoice to hear it, my dear madam," he replied; "but I trust," he continued, on noticing the look of surprise which covered her features, "that you will not think my offer in the least insulting; for I can assure you, it was only prompted by the most friendly motives, and the recollections of past days."
Mrs. Wentworth made no reply, and he continued: "I hope that, after an absence of five years, the memory of the past has been banished from you. With me things have changed materially. The follies of my youth have, I trust, been expiated, and I am a different man now to what I was when I last saw you."
"Mr. Awtry," replied Mrs. Wentworth, "I feel rather surprised that, after your presence in New Orleans for so many months, you should not have thought proper to renew our acquaintance until after the departure of my husband."
"Pardon me," he quickly answered. "I was introduced to your husband by a mutual friend; and as he never thought proper to extend an invitation to me, I did not think myself authorized to call here. Learning of his departure this morning, and knowing that his circumstances were not of so favorable a character as he could wish, I thought you might pardon my presumption in calling on you when you learned the motive which actuated this visit—believe me, I am sincere; and now," he continued, "will you accept my proffered hand of friendship, and believe that my desire is only to aid the relatives of one of the gallant men who have gone to struggle for their rights?"
Mrs. Wentworth paused a moment before she accepted the extended hand, while her brow appeared clouded. At length, holding out her hand to him, she said:
"I accept your offered friendship, Mr. Awtry, in the same spirit, as I hope, it is given; but, at the same time, trust you shall never be troubled with any importunities from me."
"Thank you—thank you," he replied eagerly; "I shall not prove otherwise than worthy of your friendship. These are your children?" he continued, changing the conversation.
"Yes," she replied, with a look of pride upon her little daughter and the sleeping infant on the sofa; "these are my little family."
Mr. Awtry took the little girl upon his knees and commenced caressing it, and, after remaining for a few moments in unimportant conversation, took his departure with the promise to call at some future time.
As soon as he left Mrs. Wentworth sat down, and resting her hands on the table, spoke to herself on the visit she had received. "What could have induced him to pay me this visit?" she said, musingly; "it is strange—very strange that he should choose this particular time to renew our acquaintance! He spoke honestly, however, and may be sincere in his offers of assistance, should I ever need anything. He is wealthy, and can certainly aid me." She sat there musing, until the little girl, coming up to her, twined her tiny arms round her mother's neck, and asked if it was not time to light the gas.
"Yes, darling," said Mrs. Wentworth, kissing her fondly; "call Betsy and let her get a light."
After the negro had lit the gas, Mrs. Wentworth said to her, "Should that gentleman, who was here to-day, call at any time again, let me know before you admit him."
"Yes, mistis," replied the negro with a curtsey.
MR. HORACE AWTRY.
Mr. Horace Awtry was a native of the State of New York, and was, at the time of writing, about thirty-live years of age. He was a tall and well-formed man, with light hair clustering in curls on a broad and noble looking forehead; his features were well chiselled, and his upper lip was ornamented with a mustache of the same color as his hair. Notwithstanding his handsome features and extravagant display of dress, there was an expression in his dark blue eyes, which, though likely to captivate the young and innocent portion of the fair sex, was not deemed elegant by those who are accustomed to read the features of man. He was very wealthy, but was a perfect type of the roue, although a good education and remarkable control of himself rendered it difficult for his acquaintances to charge him with dissipation, or any conduct unworthy of ft gentleman. As this gentleman will occupy a somewhat conspicuous position in our tale, we deem it necessary to go into these particulars.
Some seven years previous to her marriage, and while yet a child, Mrs. Wentworth, with her father, the only surviving relative she had, spent the summer at Saratoga Springs in the State of New York, and there met Mr. Awtry, who was then a handsome and dashing young man. Struck by her beauty, and various accomplishments, he lost no time in making her acquaintance, and before her departure from the Springs, offered her his hand. To his utter astonishment, the proposal was rejected, with the statement that she was already engaged to a gentleman of New Orleans. This refusal would have satisfied any other person, but Horace Awtry was not a man to yield so easily; he, therefore, followed her to New Orleans on her return, and endeavored, by every means in his power, to supplant Alfred Wentworth in the affections of Eva Seymour—Mrs. Wentworth's maiden name—and in the confidence of her father. Failing in this, and having the mortification of seeing them married, he set to work and succeeded in ruining Mr. Seymour in business, which accounts for the moderate circumstances in which we find Mrs. Wentworth and her husband at the commencement of this book. Worn out by his failure in business and loss of fortune, Mr. Seymour died shortly after his daughter's marriage, without knowing who caused his misfortunes, and Horace Awtry returned to the North. After being absent for several years, he came back to New Orleans some months before the departure of Mrs. Wentworth's husband, but never called upon her until after he had left, when she was surprised at the visit narrated in the foregoing chapter.
This gentleman was seated in the portico of the St. Charles Hotel a few mornings after his visit to Mrs. Wentworth, and by his movements of impatience was evidently awaiting the arrival of some one. At last a young man ran down the steps leading from the apartments, and he rose hurriedly to meet him.
"You are the very man I have been waiting to see," said Horace Awtry; "you must excuse my apparent neglect in not calling on you before."
"Certainly, my dear fellow," replied the gentleman. "I am certain your reasons are good for not attending to your arrangement punctually—by the way," he continued, "who the deuce was that lady I saw you escorting to church last Sunday?"
"An acquaintance of mine that I had not seen for years, until a few days ago chance threw me in her path and I paid her a visit."
"Ha, ha, ha," laughed his companion. "I understand; but who is she, and her name? She is very pretty," he continued, gravely.
"Hush, Charlie!" replied Horace; "come to my room in the St. Louis Hotel, and I will tell you all about it."
"Wait a moment, my friend, and let me get some breakfast," he replied.
"Pooh!" said Horace, "we can have breakfast at Galpin's after I have conversed with you at my room; or," he continued, "I will order a breakfast and champagne to be brought up to my room."
"As you like," said the other, taking a couple of cigars from his pocket and offering one to his companion.
After lighting their cigars, the two men left the hotel, and purchasing the New York Herald and News from the news-dealer below, proceeded to the St. Louis Hotel, where Horace ordered a breakfast and champagne for himself and guest.
Throwing himself on one of the richly-covered couches that ornamented the apartment, Charles Bell—for that was the name of the gentleman—requested his friend to inform him who the lady was that he escorted to church.
"Well, my dear friend," said Horace, "as you appear so desirous to know I will tell you. I met that lady some seven years ago at Saratoga Springs. If she is now beautiful she was ten times so then, and I endeavored to gain her affections. She was, however, engaged to another young man of this city, and on my offering her my hand in marriage, declined it on that ground. I followed her here with the intention of supplanting her lover in her affections, but it was of no avail; they were married, and the only satisfaction I could find was to ruin her father, which I did, and he died shortly after without a dollar to his name."
"So she is married?" interrupted his companion.
"Yes, and has two children," replied Horace.
"Where is her husband?"
"He left for Virginia some time ago, where I sincerely trust he will get a bullet through his heart," was the very charitable rejoinder.
"What! do you desire to marry his widow?" asked his friend.
"No, indeed," he replied; "but you see they are not in very good circumstances, and if he were once dead she would be compelled to work for a living, as they have no relatives in this State, and only a few in Baltimore. To gain my object, I should pretend that I desired to befriend her—send the two children to some nurse, and then have her all to myself. This," continued the villain, "is the object with which I have called upon her"—
"And paid a visit to church for the first time in your life," said Bell, laughing; "but," he resumed, "it is not necessary for you to wish the husband dead—why not proceed to work at once?"
"Well, so I would, but she is so very particular, that on the slightest suspicion she would take the alarm and communicate to her husband the fact of my having renewed my acquaintance with her, which would, perhaps, bring him home on furlough."
"Nonsense," replied his friend, "the secessionists need every man to assist them in driving back McDowell, and there is no chance of any furloughs being granted; besides which, we are on the eve of a great battle, and for any of the men to ask for a furlough would lay him open to the charge of cowardice."
"That may be all true," said Horace, "but I shall not venture on anything more as yet. As far as I have gone, she believes me actuated by no other motives than the remembrance of my former affection for her, and, with that belief, places implicit trust in me."
The conversation was here interrupted by the appearance of two waiters, one carrying a waiter filled with different descriptions of food, and the other a small basket containing six bottles of champagne. After setting them on a table, Horace inquired what the charges were.
"Twelve dollars, sah," was the reply.
Horace took out his pocket book, and throwing the man a twenty dollar gold piece, told him to pay for the breakfast and champagne, and purchase cigars with the remainder.
The negroes having left, Horace Awtry and his friend proceeded to discuss their breakfast and champagne. After eating for a few minutes in silence, Horace suddenly said:
"Charlie, what do you think of this war?"
"My opinion is, that the South has got in a pretty bad dilemma," replied that gentleman.
"That is identically my impression, but for heaven's sake do not let any one hear you say so. The people are half crazed with excitement, and the slightest word in favor of the North may lay you at the mercy of an infuriated mob."
"What do you intend doing, now the ports are blockaded, and no one can leave the country?" asked his friend.
"Why, remain here and pretend all the friendship possible for the South. Maybe I will get a contract or two, which will further the design of covering my opinions on this contest."
"Such was my idea, but I am afraid that the secesh government will issue their cotton bonds until all the gold is driven from the States, and then we will have nothing but their worthless paper money," replied Bell.
"I have thought of that, and made up my mind to convert all the property I have here into gold at once, which will give me between sixty and seventy thousand dollars, and as fast as I make any of the bonds from contracts, I will sell them for whatever gold they will bring."
"That's a capital idea, my dear follow," said Bell, rising from his chair and slapping Awtry on the shoulder; "I think I shall follow your plan."
The cigars having been brought in, after a few minutes of unimportant conversation, Charles Bell left his friend, with the arrangement to meet at the Varieties theatre in the evening, and Horace Awtry, divesting himself of his clothing, retired to sleep until the evening should come.
A POLITIC STROKE—THE TELEGRAPHIC DISPATCH.
June and half of July had sped swiftly away. The great battle, which everybody daily expected, had been fought, and the Yankee army ignominiously defeated. As every one of our readers are well acquainted with this battle, I shall not go into any details; enough; as history will tell, to know that it resulted in a glorious victory to the Confederate army, and covered the gallant Southerners with honor.
On the arrival of dispatches giving an account of this victory, to use a vulgar phrase, New Orleans "ran wild." The excitement and exultation of the people were beyond description, and during the same night that the news was received, one scene of gayety was observed in the city. There was one heart, however, that did not share the joy and merriment so universal among the people. In the privacy of her dwelling, with her two children near by, Mrs. Wentworth spent a night of prayer and anxiety, and next morning rose from her bed with the same feeling of anxiety to know whether her husband had escaped unhurt. At about ten o'clock in the morning, a knock was heard at the door, and soon after Mr. Awtry entered.
"How are you this morning, Mrs. Wentworth?" he said, taking her little daughter in his arms and kissing her; "so we have gained a great victory in Virginia."
"Yes," she replied; "but I do feel so anxious to know if my husband is safe."
"Do not think for a moment otherwise," he answered; "why a soldier's wife should not show half as much solicitude as you do."
"I am, indeed, very desirous of knowing his fate and I am sure the fact of being a soldier's wife does not prevent my feeling a desire to ascertain if he is unhurt, or if he is"—she paused at the thought which seemed so horrid in her imagination, and lowering her face in her hands, burst into tears.
"Mother, what are you crying for?" asked her little daughter, who was sitting on Mr. Awtry's knees.
"My dear madam," said Mr. Awtry, "why do you give way to tears? If you desire," he continued, "I will telegraph to Virginia and learn if your husband is safe."
"Thank you—thank you!" she answered eagerly; "I shall feel deeply obligated if you will."
"I shall go down to the telegraph office at once," he said, rising from his seat and placing the child down; "and now, my little darling," he continued, speaking to the child, "you must tell your ma not to cry so much." With these words he shook Mrs. Wentworth's hand and left the house.
The day passed wearily for Mrs. Wentworth; every hour she would open one of the windows leading to the street and look out, as if expecting to see Mr. Awtry with a telegraphic dispatch in his hand, and each disappointment she met with on these visits would only add to her intense anxiety. The shades of evening had overshadowed the earth, and Mrs. Wentworth sat at the window of her dwelling waiting the arrival of the news, which would either remove her fears or plunge her in sorrow. Long hours passed, and she had almost despaired of Mr. Awtry's coming that evening, when he walked up the street, and in a few minutes was in the house.
"What news?" gasped Mrs. Wentworth, starting from her seat and meeting him at the door of the apartment.
"Read it, my dear madam. I shall leave that pleasure to you," he replied, handing her a telegraphic dispatch he held in his hand.
Taking the dispatch, Mrs. Wentworth, with trembling fingers, unfolded it and read these words: "Mrs. Eva Wentworth, New Orleans, Louisiana: Yours received. I am safe. Alfred Wentworth." As soon as she had read the dispatch, her pent up anxiety for his safety was allayed, and throwing herself on her knees before a couch, regardless of the presence of Mr. Awtry, who stood looking on, Mrs. Wentworth poured forth a prayer of thanks at the safety of her husband, while tears of joy trickled down her cheeks.
"Allow me to congratulate you, Mrs. Wentworth, on the safety of your husband," said Horace Awtry, after she had become sufficiently composed. "I assure you," he continued, "I feel happy at the knowledge of being the medium through which this welcome intelligence has reached you."
"You have, indeed, proved a friend," she said, extending her hand, which he shook warmly, "and one that I feel I can trust."
"Do not speak of it," he answered; "it is only a natural act of kindness towards one whom I desire to befriend."
"And one I will never cease to forget. Oh! if you had but known how I felt during these past hours of agonizing suspense, you would not have thought lightly of your kind attention; and I am sure when I write Alfred of it, he will not have words sufficient to express his gratitude."
"In my haste to impart the good news to you," said Mr. Awtry, rising, "I almost forgot an engagement I made this evening. It is now getting late, and I must leave. Good evening."
"Good evening," she replied. "I trust you will call to see me soon again."
"With your permission I will," he answered, laying particular emphasis on the word "your."
"Certainly," she said. "I shall be most happy to see you at anytime."
"I will call soon, then," he replied. "Good night," and he stepped from the threshold of the house.
"Good night," she said, closing the door.
Horace Awtry stood for a moment near the house; then walking on he muttered: "A politic stroke, that telegraphic dispatch."
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI—A HAPPY HOME.
We will now change the scene of our story, and, using the license of all writers, transport the reader to Jackson, the Capital of the great State of Mississippi, and there introduce him or her to other characters who will bear a prominent part in this book.
In the parlor of an elegant resident on Main street, a beautiful girl was sitting with an open book in her hand. She was not, however, reading, as her bright blue eyes rested not on the pages, but were gazing at the half-opened door, as if expecting the arrival of some one. While she is thus musing, we will endeavour to give a description of the fair maiden. Fancy a slight and elegant figure, richly dressed in a robe of moire antique, from under the folds of which the daintiest little feet imaginable could be seen. Her features, though not regularly carved, made her, at the name time, very beautiful, while her bright blue eyes and rich golden hair, braided smooth to her forehead, and ornamented with a jewelled tiara, then much worn, lent additional charm to her appearance. Her hands were small, and as Byron, we think, has it, was an undoubted mark of gentle birth.
She remained in this reverie for some time, but was at last aroused by the entrance, unannounced, of a handsome young man dressed in the uniform of a lieutenant, when she started up, and meeting him, said in a half-vexed, half-playful tone:
"Oh, Harry! why did you not come earlier? I have been waiting for your arrival over an hour!"
"Excuse me, dearest," he answered. "I was just on the point of starting from my office when I received a mass of orders from regimental headquarters, which detained me until a few minutes ago. You must, therefore," he continued, "excuse me for this once, and I shall not offend again," and as he spoke he parted the hair from her forehead and pressed a kiss upon her lips.
"I forgive you for this time," she answered, playfully tapping him on the shoulder with her fan; "but the next offence I will not be so likely to excuse."
"I will take good care not to offend again, then," he laughingly said.
The conversation continued for some time in this light way, which lovers will sometimes indulge in, when, assuming a serious countenance, she spoke to him:
"When does your regiment leave for Virginia?"
"I hardly know," he replied, "if it will go to Virginia at all. The Colonel informs me that it is likely the regiment will be sent to Tennessee; so if it is sent there, I will be nearer than you thought."
"What a horrid thing war is!" she said, without appearing to notice his last remarks.
"You are not inclined to show the white feather now, are you?" he said, laughing.
Her bright blue eyes sparkled for a moment, as if repudiating the question; then lowering them she answered: "No, indeed. I would not have a single one that I love remain at home while the Abolitionists are invading our homes."
"Spoken like a brave girl and a true Southern woman," he replied, "and I shall remember your words when I go into battle. It will nerve and inspire me to fight with redoubled courage, when I recollect that I am battling for you." As he spoke he gazed at her with mingled pride and affection, and for some minutes they remained gazing at each other with that affection which springs from
"Two souls with but a single thought— Two hearts that beat as one."
Oh, Love! ye goddess of all that is blissful and elevating in man! How thy devotees bow down to thy shrine and offer all that they possess to purchase but a smile from thee! And when you have cast your favors on some happy mortal, and the pure feeling of affection becomes centered on woman, the fairest flower from Eden, how should not mankind cherish the gift you have bestowed upon him, and look upon it as the first and priceless object on earth, and but second to one above in heaven!
The lovers remained in this silence, which spoke more than words could have done, until the entrance of a tall and venerable looking gentleman of about fifty years of age. As soon as he entered, they rose up together, the young lady addressing him as "father," and the young man as "doctor."
"How are you, Harry, my boy? give me a kiss, Em'," he said, in one breath, as he shook the young man warmly by the hand and pressed a parental kiss on the brow of his daughter. "Pretty warm weather, this," he continued, speaking to the young man; "it is almost stifling."
"Suppose we step out on the balcony, pa," said the young lady; "it is much cooler there."
"Ha, ha, ha," he laughed; "you had not found that out until I entered. However," he went on, "do you both go out there. I am certain you will do better without than with me."
His daughter blushed, but made no reply, and the young man removing two chairs to the balcony, they both left the old gentleman, who, turning up the gas, proceeded to read his evening Mississippian.
Dr. James Humphries was one of the oldest and most respectable citizens of Jackson, and was looked upon with great esteem by all who knew him. He had been a medical practitioner in that city from the time it was nothing more than a little village, until railroad connections had raised it to be a place of some consequence, and the capital of the State. He had married when a young man, but of all his children, none remained but his daughter Emma, in gaining whom he lost a much-loved wife, she having died in child-birth.
At the time we write, Emma Humphries was betrothed to Henry Shackleford, a young lawyer of fine ability, but who was, like many of his countrymen, a soldier in the service of his country, and been elected first lieutenant of the "Mississippi Rifles."
We will now leave them for the present, and in the next chapter introduce the reader to two other characters.
The Spectator and Extortioner.
Mr. Jacob Swartz was sitting in the back room of his store on Main street counting a heap of gold and silver coins which lay on a table before him. He was a small, thin-bodied man, with little gray eyes, light hair and aquiline nose. He was of that nationality generally known in this country as "Dutch;" but having been there for over twenty years, he had become naturalized, and was now a citizen of the chivalrous States of Mississippi, a fact of which he prided himself considerably.
Mr. Swartz was busily engaged counting his money, when a little boy, who seemed, from a similarity of features, to be his son appeared at the door, and mentioned that Mr. Elder desired to see him.
"Vot can he vant?" said Mr. Swartz. Then as if recollecting, he continued: "I suppose it is apout that little shtore he vants to rent me. Tell him to come in."
The boy withdrew, and a few seconds after a tall and scrupulously dressed gentleman, with his coat buttoned up to the throat, and wearing a broad rimmed hat, entered the room. This was Mr. James Elder, a citizen of Jackson, but not a native of the State. He came from Kentucky several years before, and was a man with "Southern principles." To do him justice, we will say that he was really true friend to the South, which fact may have been not only from principle, but from his being a large slaveholder. He was also the possessor of a considerable amount of landed property and real estate, among which were several buildings in Jackson.. He was also looked upon by the world, as very charitable man, being always busy collecting money from the people in aid of some benevolent object, and occasionally his name would appear in the newspapers, accompanied by a flattering compliment to his generosity, as the donor of a liberal amount of money to some charitable institution or society. There were people, however, who said that the poor families, who hired a series of tenement buildings he possessed in the lower part of the city, were very often hard pressed for their rent, and more than once turned out for non-payment. These reports were considered as slanders, for being a member, and one of the pillars of the Methodist Church, no one, for a moment, believed that he would be guilty of so unfeeling an action.
On entering the room, Mr. James Elder made a stiff bow to Mr. Swartz, and declining the hand offered to him, as if it were contamination to touch the person of one of God's likeness, dusted a chair and sat down opposite his host.
"Vell, Mr. Elder, have you decided whether I can get the shtore or not? Tis place of mine is in very pad orter, and I tinks yours vill shust suit me," began Mr. Swartz, after a silence of about three minutes.
"Yes, Mr. Swartz, I think you can have the place, if you and I can come to terms about the price of the rent, which must be payable always in advance," replied Mr. Elder.
"I tont care," answered Mr. Swartz. "I would as soon pay you in advance as not. But vot price to you charge?"
"I charge fifty dollars per month," was the short answer.
"Vell, dat vill do; and I suppose you vill give me the shtore for von year certain?"
"I am not decided about that," replied Mr. Elder, "as I do not like to bind myself for any given time; for," he continued, "there is no telling what may be the worth of a store in six months."
"I vould not take it unless I could get a lease by the year," replied Mr. Swartz; "for the fact is, I have made a large contract with the government, and vill have to extend by pisness."
Mr. Elder remained thoughtful for a few moments; then he replied: "As you wont take it unless I give a lease for twelve months, I will do so on one condition: that on your failure to pay the rent monthly in advance, you forfeit the lease, and I am at liberty to demand your removal without any notice."
"Shust as you like," he replied, "for I know te monish vill always pe ready in advance."
"Well, I shall have the lease drawn out to-day and bring it to you to sign," said Mr. Elder, rising and putting on his gloves. "Good morning; be here at three o'clock, as I shall call round at that hour," and with those words he left the room, and the Dutchman resumed the counting of his money.
THE HUSBAND A PRISONER—EXILE OF THE SOLDIER'S WIFE.
Months rolled on, during which time Mrs. Wentworth was cheered by many kind and affectionate letters from her husband, who had not been sick a day since his departure from home. One of the letters received from him stated that he had been detailed from his regiment to act as clerk in Brigadier General Floyd's adjutant general's office, his superior intelligence fitting him admirably for such an office; and the next letter from him was dated at Fort Donelson, whence General Floyd had been ordered with his brigade.
Fort Donelson fell. We need not record here the heroic defense and stubborn fighting of the Confederate forces, and their unfortunate capture afterwards. These are matters of history, and should be recorded by the historian, and not the novelist. Sufficient to say, that in the last day's fight Alfred Wentworth, having received a severe wound in the arm, was marching to the rear, when an officer, dressed in the garb of a lieutenant, who was lying on the field, called faintly to him, and on his going up, he observed that the lieutenant's left leg was fearfully mangled by a fragment of shell, and was bleeding so profusely, that, unless medical aid was quickly procured, he would die. Forgetting his own wound, which was very painful, he lifted the officer on his shoulder and bore him to the hospital, where his leg was immediately attended to, and his life saved. The severity of his own wound, and the length of time which elapsed before any attention was paid to it, brought on a severe fever, and on the escape of General Floyd, he was delirious and unable to accompany him. He was, therefore, sent to Chicago, and placed in the same hospital with the lieutenant whose life he had saved.
On their recovery, which was about the same time, Lieutenant Shackleford—for it was he—and Alfred Wentworth were both sent to "Camp Douglas," the military prison near Chicago.
On the receipt of the news in New Orleans, that Fort Donelson and nearly its entire garrison had surrendered, Mrs. Wentworth underwent another long suspense of excitement and anxiety, which was, however, partially allayed by the intelligence that General Floyd and staff had escaped. But as the weeks rolled on, and she received no letter from her husband, the old fear that he may have been killed came over her again, until relieved by seeing his name as being among the wounded at the Chicago hospital in one of the city papers.
In mentioning these hours of grief and suspense on the part of Mrs. Wentworth, it must not be understood that we are representing a weak-minded and cowardly woman. On the contrary, Mrs. Wentworth would have rather heard that her husband was killed than one word spoken derogatory to his courage, and would never have consented to his remaining at home, while so many of his countrymen were hurrying to protect their country from invasion. Her suspense and grief at the intelligence of a battle in which her husband was engaged, were only the natural feeling of an affectionate wife. At that moment she was no longer the patriot daughter of the South; she was the wife and mother, and none should blame her for her anxiety to know the fate of one so much loved as her husband, and the father of her children.
Soon after her husband was taken prisoner, Mrs. Wentworth observed that Horace Awtry became more assiduous in his attentions to her. Every day he would call with presents for her children, and several times small packages of bank-bills were found in the parlor, which, when presented to him, he would always disclaim being the owner of; and although Mrs. Wentworth truly believed that they had been left there by him, the kind and respectful tone he used to her, and the intense interest he appeared to take in the welfare of her children, were such that she never imagined, for a moment, he was using this means to cloak a vile and unmanly purpose. Once, and only once, was she made aware that the scandal tongues of her neighbors were being used detrimental to her honor; and then the information was given by her slave Elsy, who overheard a conversation between two of her neighbors not at all complimentary to her, and which the faithful negress lost no time in repeating to her mistress, with the very indignant remark that, "ef dem people nex' doh fancy dey can do anyting to take away your name, dey's much mistaken, as I will tell you ebery ting dey say 'bout you, an' you will know what to do." Mrs. Wentworth made no reply to the negro, but on the next visit of Mr. Awtry's, she candidly told him what had been said of her in consequence of his visits. He appeared very much surprised, but told her that such scandalous remarks, emanating as they did out of pure malice, should not be noticed, as all who were acquainted with her knew very well that her character and fair name were above suspicion. With that the subject was dropped, and he continued paying her his visits.
New Orleans fell into the hands of the enemy, and the whole Confederacy was convulsed, as if shaken by an earthquake. None anticipated such a thing, and its fall brought misery to thousands. The enemy had scarcely taken possession, than Horace Awtry and his bosom friend, Charles Bell, went to the provost marshal's office and took the oath of allegiance, after proving, entirely to the satisfaction of the Yankees, that they were Northern, and had always been Union men. Mr. Awtry immediately received a commission in the Federal army, and by his willingness to point out prominent "secession" men and women, soon ingratiated himself in the favor of "Beast Butler."
No sooner had he gained the favor of Butler, than his attentions to Mrs. Wentworth changed to that of unmanly presumption, and at last he had the baseness to make proposals at once dishonorable to her as a lady of virtue and position in society, and disgraceful to him as a man. These propositions were accompanied by a threat to have her turned out of the house and exiled from New Orleans. With a spirit worthy of a Southern woman, she indignantly spurned his base offers and ordered him never to place his feet across the threshold of her house, at the same time defying to do his worse. He left her, declaring that she should be turned out of the city, and a few days after, in proof of his threat, an order was presented to her, signed by General Butler, commanding her to leave the city.
Her faithful slave, Elsy, shed bitter tears on hearing that her kind mistress would have to leave New Orleans, and declared that she would not remain in the city, but would follow her.
"But they will not let you go with me, Elsy," said Mrs. Wentworth. "You are free now, they say, to do as you like—you are no longer belonging to me."
"I ain't a gwine to stay here, missis," replied the negro, "for any money in dis world, and if dey wont let me go out wid you, I will come arter you by myself."
"Well, Elsy," said Mrs. Wentworth, "I do not force you to leave New Orleans, but should you get out, come to me at Jackson. You are a good girl, and I shall not forget your fidelity."
"I'll be dere, shure," said the negro, quite pleased at the permission to follow her mistress if she could.
Mrs. Wentworth immediately set to work packing up a few necessaries, and with the small amount of money she had left awaited the next morning, when she would start for Pass Manchac.
On the following morning she proceeded to the boat, amid the cries and lamentations of the faithful Elsy, and with throbbing heart and many sighs gazed on her loved city until it had receded from her view.
On arriving at the "Pass" she was about to step from the boat, when a hand was laid upon her shoulder, and looking round she observed Mr. Awtry, dressed in the full uniform of a Yankee captain, standing by her.
"Are you determined to leave home," he said, "and all its pleasures; and starve in the rebel lines? Why not accept my offer and lead a life of ease and affluence. Your husband shall never know of our connection, and thus you will be spared many a weary day and night working for bread to feed your children."
She looked at him for a moment with all that withering scorn and indignation which outraged virtue and innocence can assume, and then said: "Leave me! Go to the land from whence you came and make such offers to the women there, but remember now you are speaking to a Southern woman."
"But think a moment, and—" he began.
"Leave me this instant," she said excitedly, "or I shall call others with more the heart of men than you to my assistance. Accept your offer?" she continued with all the scorn she could use. "Accept such an offer from a Yankee! Go, I would despise and hate were you not too despicable for either feeling of enmity."
Several persons approaching at that moment, he moved away hurriedly after hissing in her ear: "Take your choice. In either one way or the other I am revenged on you for the way you rejected my addresses in past years."
She landed on the shore, and a few minutes after the boat moved back on its way to New Orleans, when taking her small trunk in her hands the soldier's wife, with her two children, started on their long and lively march. For where? She knew not. There she was, an utter stranger with two tender children, far from her home, and with only two hundred dollars in money. Where could she go to for support. Her husband was in a foreign prison, and she a wanderer in a strange State. Her heart sank within her, and the soldier's wife wept. Aye, wept! Not tears of regret at what she had sacrificed, but tears of loneliness. Who would not weep if they were parted from those they love, and were cast in a strange land without a friend, and with scarcely any means?
We leave the soldier's wife for a brief while, and transport the reader to her husband. Her trials have commenced—God help her!
THE PRISONERS—THE HUSBAND AND THE LOVER.
We stated that on the recovery of Alfred Wentworth and Lieutenant Shackleford from their wounds, both were sent to Camp Douglas together, and as Alfred had no regiment of his own captured, the lieutenant promptly requested him to become one of his mess. The generous courage exhibited by Alfred Wentworth, and the fact that but for his chivalric attention, he should have died on the bloody field of Fort Donelson, had created a feeling of gratitude in Lieutenant Shackleford for his preserver, which, on closer acquaintance, had ripened into a warm friendship, and he soon made Alfred acquainted with the fact of his betrothal to Emma Humphries, and Alfred in turn would speak of his wife and children in such tones of affection as only those who love can use. They would sit down for hours and converse on the loved ones at home, thus wiling away the sad and lonely hours of a prison life, until the news was received in Chicago of the fall of New Orleans. Although he bitterly regretted his native city having fallen into the hands of the enemy, the opportunity which it presented of once more being able to correspond with his wife, made him feel happier, and as soon as mail communication was received with the city, he requested and obtained permission to write her.
Alfred Wentworth had not the slightest idea that Horace Awtry would ever dare to offend his wife, much less to offer infamous proposals, and on their being refused have her driven from the home he had placed her in. It is true that his wife had written to him that Mr. Awtry had renewed his acquaintance with her, but her statements of his kind attention to her and the children, and her mentioning the eager manner in which he had relieved her anxiety after the battle of the 21st of July, 1861, instead of raising any suspicion on his part of the honesty and purity of his motives, only made him return thanks in his heart for the previous kindness shown to his wife.
On obtaining permission to write her, he immediately penned a long and affectionate letter which was forwarded. For many days after he remained in a long suspense for the expected answer, as he never believed for a moment that she would delay answering him, but as days rolled into weeks, and no letter came, while the other prisoners from New Orleans received letters regularly, he became alarmed, and spoke his fears to Shackleford.
"Do not be afraid of any harm having occurred to her, Alf," said the lieutenant, after listening attentively to his friend's words. "You may depend that your letter never reached her, and she, in ignorance whether you escaped unhurt from the engagement, cannot write, not knowing where you are."
"It is not her silence which troubles me as much as the knowledge that she possess no other money than Confederate notes," replied Alfred. "How she will manage to support herself and the children God only knows."
"Have you not friends there?" enquired Harry.
"Yes, but I cannot depend on them for assistance, for two reasons: first, because from the disordered state of the money market in New Orleans, they are almost as badly off as she is; and second, I am quite certain that Eva would rather starve than ask for charity."
"Charity!", echoed his companion. "Do you call it charity to assist another situated as your wife is, particularly where her husband is far from her fighting for his country?"
"You do not know the people of New Orleans," replied Alfred. "No matter how kindly a favor may be bestowed on them, it is still considered charity, and though dire necessity may induce them to accept aid if proffered, the knowledge that they were eating the bread of charity, would embitter each mouthful."
"Pooh, pooh," said his friend, "all these fine notions would do very well before the war, but at the present time the least we think of them the better."
"It is all very well for you to speak that way," answered Alfred, "for you have no wife and children to cause uneasiness, but I cannot be otherwise than anxious to know what has become of her, that I receive no letters, while other prisoners have had theirs regularly by mail."
"An unfortunate fact, which you may depend has been caused by no other reason than the neglect of the Yankee officers to forward your letters," said Harry, then continuing: "Come, cheer up, and throw aside your dullness. Another battle like that of Shiloh, will give the South as many Yankee prisoners as they have of us, and then ho! for home and the "Sunny South!" As soon as we return, I will take you to Jackson, and then you can write your wife to come out, and she can live with my mother, if you are not too proud to accept my hospitality."
"Thank you," he replied, "but I must first wait until we are exchanged, and God knows when that will be."
"Why, man, I tell you there is no doubt of our whipping the Yanks and capturing a lot of them in the next battle; then adieu to Camp Douglas, and hurrah for the Confederacy once more!" replied Harry, taking his companion by the arm, and dragging him to their tent where dinner had been placed in readiness for them.
ROOM TO RENT.
We must now return to my heroine, who, with her two children, we left slowly travelling toward Jackson, Mississippi. On arriving at Ponchatula, she took the cars on the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad, and in a few hours was in Jackson. On arriving there she proceeded to the Bowman House, and purchasing a newspaper eagerly scanned the columns to find an advertisement of rooms to rent, knowing full well that, with her limited means, she would never be able to remain at the hotel, or live at a boarding house.
After looking for some time, without finding the desired advertisement, her eye at last lit upon the following notice under the heading of "To rent:"
"Unfurnished rooms in the one-story tenement buildings on —— street. For particulars, apply to the undersigned at his office on Main street, near the State House.
After reading it she folded the paper, and remained musing for several minutes, when rising up she went to her children, and, kissing them, told them she was going out for a few minutes, and to play like good children until her return. She then left the hotel, and, after some little trouble, at last found out the office of Mr. Elder, which she entered.
"Is Mr. Elder in?" she inquired of a clerk.
"Yes, madam," he replied.
"Can I see him?" she asked.
He gave her no answer, but going to an adjoining door, half opened it, and announced, in a loud voice, that a lady desired to see Mr. Elder.
"Admit her," was the reply of that gentleman.
Mrs. Wentworth passed the desk, and, entering the room from whence the voice proceeded, found herself in the presence of Mr. Elder, who was seated in an arm chair reading a newspaper.
"Be seated, madam," he said, rising and handing her a chair. "What can I have the honor of doing for you this morning?"
"This is your advertisement, I believe," she replied, handing him the newspaper.
"Yes, madam," he answered, looking at her through his spectacles.
"Well, sir, it is my desire to rent one of the rooms."
"You, madam!" he replied, evidently surprised at her question.
"Yes, sir," she replied; "I am a refugee from New Orleans, having been driven from there by General Butler. My husband is now a prisoner of war in the hands of the enemy, and my means being limited, I am compelled to live economically."
"Ahem, ahem," said Mr. Elder, clearing his throat; "indeed, madam, I sympathise with you. This war has cast many people homeless and in need throughout the country. I sympathize with you, indeed I do," and he looked on her in the most benevolent manner possible.
"Well, sir, what is the price charged for the rent of one of your rooms?" asked Mrs. Wentworth after a few moments' silence.
"Well, ah—well, ah—you see, my dear madam, the price of everything has gone up immensely," he replied.
"And what do you charge for the room?" she asked.
"Well, ah, I think sixteen dollars per month as cheap as I could possible rent it," he answered finally.
"I will take it, then, by the month," she answered, rising, "and will go into possession to-day."
"Well, ah, my dear madam, it is a rule I have always made, only to rent my houses for the money, paid in advance—not that I have the least apprehension of your inability to pay me, but you see it never does any good to deviate from fixed rules."
"I am perfectly filling to pay you in advance," she replied, taking her port-moniae from her pocket and handing him the advance pay for one month's rent.
Calling a clerk, Mr. Elder handed him the money, and ordered a receipt to be made out; then turning to Mrs. Wentworth, he said:
"There is another thing, I desire to have you understand, madam, and agree to. The fall of New Orleans has occasioned the inflation of all kinds of real estate in price, and this, added to the rapid manner in which Confederate notes are depreciating in value, may compel me to raise the price of rent. I would, therefore, like you to agree, that in no way am I bound for any time longer than the month you have paid for, to take the present price; and another thing I desire is, that you agree not to take advantage of the stay law, in the event of non-payment, or refusal to pay any additional price I may charge. In making these conditions, madam," he continued, "I must not be understood to say that the contingencies mentioned are at all likely to occur, as I trust and hope they will not; but at the same time, I only desire to avoid all deviation from my usual course of doing business."
"Any terms you may desire I will agree to," she replied in an absent manner, "as I wish to remove from the hotel, the charges there being above my means."
"Very well, madam, very well," he responded.
After the clerk had brought the receipt for the months rent, Mr. Elder rose from his chair, and, requesting Mrs. Wentworth to remain seated for a few minutes, left the apartment. He shortly after returned with a printed document in his hand, which he requested her to sign. Without reading the paper, she obeyed his request, and, receiving the key of the room she had just rented, requested that Mr. Elder would have her shown where it was situated. Calling a negro boy, who was lounging at the door, he directed him to accompany Mrs. Wentworth to —— street and show her the rooms. With that he made a low bow, and she left following the boy.
"Humph!" said Mr. Elder, half aloud, as soon as she had left. "I do not care much about hiring my rooms to such tenants. Refugees are certainly becoming as thick as locusts in the State, and are nearly all as poor as Job. However, I have made myself secure against any excuse for pay on the ground of poverty, by the paper she signed," and with these reflections, that worthy gentleman re-entered his room, and was soon deeply interested in his newspaper.
THE NEW HOME.
Mrs. Wentworth followed the boy till he arrived in front of series of wretched looking rooms, situated on one of the miserable lanes with which Jackson abounds. Stopping in front of one of them, he pointed to it, and with no other words than "Dem is de room, ma'm," walked off. Taking the key, which Mr. Elder had previously given her, she opened the door and entered.
Mrs. Wentworth's heart sank within her as she viewed the wretched looking apartment. The interior of the room was exceedingly dirty, while the faded paper, which once gaudily adorned it, now hung in shreds from the walls. The fireplace was broken up, and disgusting words were written in every part of the room. It had been, in fact, the lodging of a woman of dissolute character, who had been accustomed to gather a crowd of debauched characters in her apartment nightly, but who, from a failure to pay her rent, had been turned out by Mr. Elder. The other apartments were still occupied by abandoned women; but of this fact Mrs. Wentworth was not aware.
As she looked at the room a feeling of indescribable sadness crept over her, and a sigh of bitterness burst from her throbbing bosom. It was, however, not to be helped; she had already paid the rent, and was compelled to keep it for the month. Sadly she left the room, and locking it after her, repaired to a store to purchase a few necessary articles of furniture.
On entering a store, the first person she saw was Mr. Swartz, who had, by this time, risen from the lowly position of a grocer to that of a "General wholesale and retail merchant," as the sign over his door very pompously announced.
Mr. Swartz remained on his seat at her entrance, barely raising his eyes to sec who had entered. She stood for a few moments, when, seeing that no one appeared to notice her presence, she walked up to him and informed him that she wished to purchase a few pieces of furniture.
"Vot kind do you vant?" he inquired, without moving from his seat.
"A small bedstead, three or four chairs, a table and a washstand," she answered.
"Look at them and see vich you like te best," he said, "and I vill tell you te brice."
After a little search, Mrs. Wentworth selected the plainest and most homely she could find of all the articles she desired, and, turning to him, inquired what the price would be.
"Te pedstead is forty tollars; te chairs is three tollars apiece; te taple is twenty tollars; and to washstand is fourteen," he replied.
"And how much will that amount to, altogether?" she asked.
"Eighty-six tollars," he responded.
"Can you take no less, sir?" she asked.
"No, ma'am," he answered. "I have put one brice, and if you don't vant to pay it you can leave it."
Taking out the desired amount, she paid him without making any further remark, and requested that they would be sent after her. Calling a drayman, Mr. Swartz told him to follow her with the furniture, and he returned to his seat, satisfied with having made sixty dollars on the eighty-six, received from Mrs. Wentworth, the furniture having been bought at sheriff's sale for a mere trifle.
Having purchased a few other household utensils, Mrs. Wentworth proceeded to the Bowman House, from which, after paying her bill, she removed her children, and, followed by the dray with her furniture, proceeded to the wretched hovel site had rented. Her stock of money had now been reduced to less than sixty dollars, and with this she embarked upon the world with two tender children.
After paying the drayman, who was a kind-hearted negro, and getting him to erect the bedstead, he departed, and a feeling of desolation and loneliness spread its dark shadows over the heart of Mrs. Wentworth. Seating herself on a chair, with her two children clinging to her knees, the long pent up fountain of grief burst forth, and tears bedewed the cheeks of the Soldier's Wife; tears, such as only those who have felt the change of fortune, can shed; tears, which, like the last despairing cry of the desolate, can only be answered in heaven!
THE ATTEMPTED ESCAPE.
We must now return to Alfred, whom we left in a disconsolate mood at Camp Douglas, with his friend trying to cheer his spirits. But he could think of nothing else but his absent wife, until at last he determined to attempt an escape. The idea once in his mind could not be dismissed. He, therefore, informed Harry of his intention, and asked if he thought it feasible, or likely to result in success.
"So far as the feasibility of the attempt is concerned," observed Harry, as soon as Alfred had concluded, "I think it could be attempted. But about the result, you will have to trust to luck."
"I am aware of that," he replied. "But I do not know how the attempt can possibly be made. The camp is so well guarded, that an attempt to escape is almost hopeless of success."
"Pshaw! If you are determined to go, I see nothing to prevent your making the attempt. If it even fails, the most that will be done to you by the Federals is closer confinement."
"I do not care much about that risk," he replied. "My desire is to form some plan of escape. Can you devise one by which I can get away?"
"That is a difficult task," said Harry. "But as we are of the same desire, I suppose something must be done. What do you say about digging a tunnel, and escaping by that route?"
"That is a very good idea; but it will take too long," replied Alfred. "Besides which, what are we to do with the dirt that is dug up?"
"I never thought of that," he answered. "But now that you have reminded me of it, I do not believe the plan will suit. Some other must be devised, but what it is to be, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine."
"What do you say to scaling the walls?" asked Alfred.
"A very good idea it would be, if we had anything to scale them with," he replied.
"Suppose we tear up our blankets and make a rope of them."
"How will you attach the rope to the wall?" asked Harry.
"We can easily get a hook of wire and throw it over. It will be certain to catch," he replied.
"Very likely," observed Harry, drily, "and make such confounded noise, that the first thing we heard after, it would be a Minie ball whistling past our ears; or should it catch without making any noise, the chances are that, when one of us ascends, it will be to meet the burly form of some Dutch sentinel traversing the walk. The idea is not feasible; so we must think of something else."
"I do not know what to think," replied Alfred; "and the probability is, that if I even did, you would find some objection to its performance."
"That is true," answered Harry, laughing, "and I accept the reproach in the spirit it is given. It will never do for us to be raising objections to every plan offered, for that will not hasten our escape."
"Then think of something else, and I will acquiesce, no matter how extravagant it may be," said Alfred. "I am tired of this cursed prison, and intend to get away by some means or other."
"It is all very good to talk about getting away," said Harry. "For the matter of that, I am as anxious to leave as you are, but in the name of wonder, how are we going to manage it?"
"That is the very thing I desire to consult you about. We certainly will never escape, unless we make the attempt; but in what manner we are to attempt it, is exactly what I desire to know."
"What do you say to bribing one of the sentinels?" asked Harry.
"Where will we get the means from?" inquired Alfred. "I have some Confederate Treasury notes, but they will not be any temptation to a Yankee."
"Leave me to find the means," replied Harry. "I have a fine gold watch, and about seventy dollars in gold. These will be sufficient, I think, to attempt the cupidity of any Dutchman in the Yankee army."
"And how do you propose offering the bribe?" Alfred inquired.
"I shall look out for the first chance to speak to the sentinel at the gate, some time during the day, and will make the necessary preparations to escape to-night, if the Yankee will accept my offer."
"That will do very well," observed Alfred, "There is one thing, however, I must remind you of. It will not do to offer the sentinel all your gold, for we will require money to pay our way into Tennessee."
"Do you never fear that," replied Harry. "I will be certain to reserve enough funds for our expenses. It does not cost much at any time to travel through these Northern States."
"Well, I trust to you to make all the necessary arrangements," replied Alfred. "I am determined not to remain in this place, with my mind so disturbed about my wife and children. If I can only reach the Confederate lines safely, I will have no difficulty in hearing from New Orleans."
"I will make every effort to facilitate an escape," remarked Harry; "and if my penetrating qualities do not deceive me, there is a sentinel at the gate to-day, who would not be averse to taking a bribe, even if it permits a "rebel" to escape. Cheer up, my friend," he continued. "I will guarantee that your wife and children are all well and happy, except a natural anxiety on your account."
Alfred made no reply, and the two friends shortly after separated.
Harry kept an assiduous watch for an opportunity to speak with the sentinel. The time for the man to remain on guard expired, however, without any favorable chance presenting itself. He was, therefore, compelled to wait until the evening, when the same sentinel would be again on guard, before he could attempt to bribe him. At four o'clock he was posted, and after some hesitation, Harry determined to address him. Walking up as soon as he perceived no one near the man, he called out to him.
"Vot to deuce do you vant? you rebel," asked the sentinel in a broad Dutch accent.
"Will you let me come a little nearer?" Harry inquired, perceiving that the distance between the guard and himself too great for a conversation.
"Vot do you vant to come a leetle nearer for?" asked the sentinel.
"I want to talk to you," he replied, making a motion of his hand to indicate that he wished to converse in secret.
The sentinel, looking carefully around to be certain that no one was near at hand who could perceive him, beckoned to Harry to approach. The young man went forward cautiously, as the numerous sentinels around the wall were likely to perceive him, and would not hesitate to fire if they imagined he was about to attempt an escape. As soon as he reached the sentinel, he made known his wishes, and ended by offering the man his watch and forty dollars in gold if he would permit himself and his friend to pass the gate at night. At the same time he promised the man he would take all the responsibility in the event of detection or re-capture.
The sentinel listened attentively, and at first appeared unwilling to receive the bribe, but upon Harry representing to him that there was no chance of his agency in the escape being discovered, he finally consented to receive it. It was, therefore, arranged between them, that at twelve o'clock that night the two prisoners should start. The signal was to be a faint whistle, which would ultimate to the guard that they were there, if it was answered they should advance, but if not they should return, as his silence would either indicate that he was not alone, or that he was not on his post. Everything having been amicably arranged between them, Harry promised to pay the bribe as soon as they had reached the gate. This the fellow demurred to at first, but as Harry was determined, not to pay over the watch and forty dollars, until the hour of their departure, he was compelled to assent.
On Harry's return to his tent, he found Alfred reading a Yankee pictorial newspaper.
"Well," he remarked, looking up from his paper as soon as Harry entered.
"Everything progresses finely," replied Harry.
"Have you been able to speak to the sentinel?" he asked.
"I have seen him, and made all the necessary arrangements," Harry replied.
"And when will we leave," Alfred asked.
"To-night at twelve is the time fixed between us," he replied. "The fellow appeared unwilling at first, but a little persuasion with a sight at the watch and money, was too much for his nature, and he yielded to my wishes."
"Then everything goes on well, if the fellow does not play us false," Alfred remarked.
"That is a risk we are bound to run," replied Harry. "I think the fellow means to be honest, if a man can be honest who agrees to allow a prisoner to escape, who is placed under his charge."
"Did you inform him there were two of us who desired to leave," asked Alfred.
"Yes," was the reply; "I would never have bothered to escape and run the risk of re-capture and harsh treatment, did not you desire to leave this place, and the trip could as well be made with you as otherwise."
Alfred pressed his friend's hand warmly, as he replied. "Thank you, Harry, I trust I will be able to return the kindness you have shown me, at some future and more favorable time."
"Poh, poh!" he replied. "Don't speak of it. The kindness has been paid for long ago," pointing to his wound as he spoke.
"I expect we may as well make preparations to leave," remarked Alfred, after a moment's pause.
"Preparations!" echoed his friend, "What in the name of all that is glorious, do you require any preparations for?" and then, he added dryly, "there is one thing certain, my trunk (?) is already packed, although I don't know if yours is."
"A truce to joking about trunks," replied Alfred, "but seriously you must be aware that we cannot leave here without being dressed in citizens clothes."
"The thunder!" exclaimed Harry, "are you going to raise any more objections?"
"No," he replied, "but it is absolutely necessary that we shall be apparelled in different clothes to those of a soldier."
"I think we can get a couple of suits to borrow from the officers, but how I will get them, without their knowing our intention to escape, is a matter of much difficulty. If they should once know it, the whole crowd will desire to leave with us."
"That would be unreasonable on their part," replied Alfred. "They must be aware that every man cannot get away at the same time, and to desire or attempt such a thing would be to ensure the re-capture of every man."
"Well, I will start now on the borrowing expedition, and by some subterfuge, be saved the necessity of informing any person of our intention."
Having moved off as he spoke, and proceeding to the tent of a brother officer, succeeded in borrowing a citizens' coat and pants without exciting any suspicion of his intended escape. At the next place he went to, a few remarks were made, but upon his informing the Captain to whom he applied, that he desired to have his uniform renovated, and had no change of clothing while that was being done. The citizens' clothes were cordially loaned, and he returned to Alfred with a joyous heart.
"What luck have you had?" enquired Alfred as soon as he returned.
"See for yourself," was the reply of Harry, as he threw down the coats and pants.
"Then everything needed is procured," he observed.
"Yes," replied Harry. "We must now mix with the other prisoners, as if nothing was transpiring in our minds, like an attempt to escape. It will be no use keeping away from them, as it is likely to excite suspicion."
The two friends left the tent and proceeded to where a group of prisoners were seated. Their appearance was greeted with cheers, as Harry was a universal favorite among both officers and men, on account of his lively and genial temper, combined with a fine voice for music—an accomplishment that with soldiers endears, and makes a favorite of any person possessing it. He was soon called upon for a song, and in accordance with the request commenced a song, and soon the rich and clear voice of the young man rang out on the air of the soft twilight. He sang of home, and as each word fell with distinctness on the ears of the soldiers, who grouped around him, each heart throbbed with emotion, and each mind wandered back to the distant land, where, in the mansion, or in the little cottage, loved ones there dwelt, pining for those who were now prisoners in a foreign country.
The hour of nine having arrived, the soldiers dispersed to their respective quarters, and soon after the command "lights out" was uttered in stentorian notes. Long and anxiously the two friends remained lying on their bunks in the tent, awaiting the hour of twelve. Each moment seemed an hour to Alfred Wentworth, whose mind was wrought up to a pitch of excitement, almost unendurable. Several times he rose from his bed and paced the tent. At last the long wished for hour arrived. Harry who had been smoking all the night, looked at his watch by the faint light the fire of his segar emitted, and perceived that it was only five minutes for twelve. Crossing over to the bunk on which Alfred was lying, he whispered: "It is time." Silently they put on the citizens clothes borrowed in the evening, and left the tent. The night had changed from the pleasant, starry evening to a black and dismal gloom. Heavy clouds covered the skies, giving every indication of rain. The night was just such a one for an escape, and although the darkness was so intense, that it was impossible for the eye to penetrate a distance of five paces, both felt that their chance of escape was accelerated.
"Give me your hand," whispered Harry, as soon as they had left the tent.
"Do you know the direct way to the gate," asked Alfred,
"Yes," he replied, "cease speaking now and follow me. The least whisper may be heard, and then our attempt will be foiled."
Grasping the hand of his friend, Alfred followed him, and they moved with noiseless tread toward the gate. As soon as he descried the faint light of the sentinel's lamp near him, Harry stopped, and stooping down gave a faint whistle. For some time no answer was returned. The two friends remained in almost breathless suspense awaiting the signal. At last it was returned, and moving forward, they reached the gate.
"Here," whispered Harry to the sentinel, as he handed him the watch and money.
The man raised the little lantern near him, and looked at the bribe to see that it was all right. "Pass on," he said.
As Harry and his friend passed the gate, the former perceived several forms flit across the darkness, and a suspicion of treachery instantly flashed through his mind.
"We are betrayed," he whispered to Alfred.
"No matter, let us push boldly forward," was the reply.
They had not moved ten paces before the command "Halt" given.
"Push on!" exclaimed Alfred, darting forward.
The two friends moved on at a rapid run, when a volley of musketry was fired at them. Harry escaped unhurt and continued running at the top of his speed, and not until he had gone a considerable distance, did he discover that his friend was not with him. It was, however, too late for him to turn back, and entering Chicago, he made his way through the city, and continued his journey.
At the fire of the Federals, Alfred received four wounds; and sunk without a word to the ground. The enemy shortly after coming up found him insensible, and conveyed his inanimate body to the hospital. He was dangerously wounded, and the physicians declared there was but little hope of his recovery.
Two weeks after this unfortunate occurrence, a cartel for the exchange of prisoners was agreed upon between the Federal and Confederate authorities, and the prisoners at Camp Douglas were transported to Vicksburg. The doctors declared that Alfred was not in a state to be removed, and was left at the hospital. His condition at that time was very precarious. One of the balls that had entered his body could not be found, and the wound was kept open with the view to discovering where it had lodged. His agony of mind at the failure of his attempt to escape had retarded his recovery in a great degree, and when the information came that the prisoners were about to be exchanged, and he was declared unable to be removed, it added further to his detriment. A fever seized him, and for many days he remained on his bed, hovering between life and death.
THE STARVING CHILDREN.
Long weeks rolled on, and the small sum possessed by Mrs. Wentworth, had been entirely exhausted. She had, however, by sewing, contrived to supply herself and children with food. It was the same old tale of sleepless nights of toil. Often the grey streak which heralds the morning, would find her still pouring over her work, while her two children were sleeping on the bed in one corner of the room. At times she would cease her work, and think for long hours on the loved husband, now a prisoner in the hands of the Federals. In those hours, tears would course her cheeks, as the stern reality of her position presented itself; to know that he was absent, while she was leading a life of penury and toil. Still she struggled on. When at times despair rose up before her like a demon, and she felt herself about to succumb to it, the memory of her absent husband, and the sight of her loved children, would nerve the soldier's wife to bear with fortitude the misery to which she had been reduced.
And thus she toiled on, until the last source of support had vanished. The Quartermaster from whom she received work, having completed all the clothing he required, had no further use for her services, and she then saw nothing but a blank and dreary prospect, looming up before her. She had no means of purchasing food for her children. Piece by piece her furniture was sold to supply their wants, until nothing was left in the room but a solitary bedstead. Starvation in its worst form stared her in the face, until at last she sold what clothing she had brought out from New Orleans. This relieved her necessities but a short time, and then her last resource was gone.
If her present was dark, the future seemed but one black cloud of despair. Hope, that ignis fatuus, which deceives so many on earth, left the soldier's wife, and she was indeed wretched. The blooming woman had become a haggard and care-worn mother. She had no thought for herself. It was for her children alone she felt solicitous, and when the day arrived that saw her without the means of purchasing bread, her long filling cup of misery overflowed, and she wept.
Yes, she wept. Wept as if her whole life had been changed in a moment, from one of joy and happiness, to that of sadness and misery.
Her children in that dark hour clustered around her. They could not cry. A fast of over twenty-four hours had dried all tears within them. They only wondered for awhile, until the sharp pangs of hunger reminded them of another and greater woe. They too had been changed. The bloom of youth had departed from their little cheeks, while in the eyes of the oldest an unnatural light burned. She was fast sinking to the grave, but the mother knew it not. Knew not that her darling child had contracted a disease, which would shortly take her to Heaven, for the little Eva spoke no word of complaint. Young, as she was, she saw her mother's agony of soul, and though the little lips were parched and dry, she told not her ailing.
The tears continued to flow from Mrs. Wentworth, and still the children gazed on in wonderment. They knew not what they meant.
"Mother," at last said her little infant, "why do you cry?"
She took her on her knees. "Nothing, my darling," she replied.
"Then stop crying," he said, pressing his little hand on Mrs. Wentworth's cheek. "It makes me feel bad."
"I will stop crying, darling," she replied, drying her tears and smiling.
Smiles are not always the reply of the heart. We have seen men smile whoso whole life was a scene of misfortune, and yet this emblem of happiness has lit their features. It is outward show—a fruit, whose surface presents a tempting appearance to the eye, but which is blasted and withered within. Smiles are often like the fruit called the Guava. It is a beautiful looking fruit which grows in the West Indies, and to the taste is very luscious, but when examined through a microscope, it presents the appearance of a moving mass of worms. Its beauty is deceptive, nothing but a wretched view presents itself,
"Like dead sea fruit, that tempts the eye, And falls to ashes on the lips."
The child saw her mother smile, and the little heart forgot its hunger, and for a moment beat with joy. The gleam of sunshine that spread itself over him, did not last, for soon after the face of the mother assumed the same sad and cheerless expression, it had worn for many weeks. The child saw it, and again felt his hunger.
"Mother," she said, "give me a piece of bread."
"I will get some for you to-morrow," she replied. "There is no bread in the house this evening."
"I am so hungry," remarked the child. "Why is there no bread?"
"Mother has got no money to buy any," she replied.
The other child had remained quiet all the while. She still nestled to her mother's side and looked long and earnestly into her face. She was not thinking, for one of her years knew nothing of thought, but divined that all was not right with her mother.
"Eva, my child," the mother said, speaking to her for the first time, "go to the grocer's, and ask him if he will let me have a loaf of bread on credit."
"I am so glad you have sent for bread," exclaimed the infant on her knees, as he clapped his hand joyfully together.
Eva left the room, and in a few minutes returned empty handed.
"Has he refused to let you have it?" asked Mrs. Wentworth.
"Yes, mother," replied the child sadly. "He says he will not give credit to anybody."
"I thought as much," Mrs. Wentworth remarked.
"Then I won't get any bread?" asked the child on her knees.
"No, my darling," Mrs. Wentworth answered, "you must wait until to-morrow."
"I hav'nt eaten so long, mother," he said. "Why aint you got any bread?"
"Because mother is poor and without any money," she replied.
"But I feel so hungry," again the child remarked.
"I know it, my sweet boy," replied his mother, "but wait a little longer and I will give you something to eat."
Her heart was wrung with agony at the complaint of the child and his call for bread; but she knew not how to evade his questions or to procure food. The thought of asking charity had never once entered her mind, for those with whom she had daily intercourse, were too much engaged in self-interest to make her hope that any appeal for help would touch their sordid hearts; and yet food must be had, but how she knew not. Her promise to give her child food, on the next day, was made only to silence his call for bread. There was no prospect of receiving any money, and she could not see her children starve. But one recourse was left. She must sell the bed—the last piece of furniture remaining in the room—no matter that in so doing her wretchedness increased instead of diminished.
The child was not satisfied with her promise. The pangs he endured were too much for one of his age, and again he uttered his call for bread.
"There is no bread, Willy," said Eva, speaking for the first time. "Don't ask for any bread. It makes mamma sad."
The child opened his large blue eyes enquiringly upon his sister.
"My sweet, darling child," exclaimed Mrs. Wentworth, clasping the little Ella to her heart, and then bursting into tears at this proof of her child's fortitude, she continued: "Are you not hungry, too?"
"Yes, mother," she replied, "but"—Here the little girl ceased to speak as if desirous of sparing her mother pain.
"But what?" asked Mrs. Wentworth.
"Mother," exclaimed the child, throwing her arms round her mother's neck, and evading the question, "father will come back to us, and then we will not want bread."
The word "father," brought to Mrs. Wentworth's mind her absent husband. She thought of the agony he would endure if he knew that his wife and children were suffering for food. A swelling of her bosom told of the emotion raging within her, and again the tears started to her eyes.
"Come, my sweet boy," she said, dashing away the tears, as they came like dewdrops from her eyelids, and speaking to the infant on her knee, "it is time to go to bed."
"Aint I to get some bread before I go to bed?" he asked.
"There is none, darling," she answered hastily. "Wait until to-morrow and you will get some."
"But I am so hungry," again repeated the child, and again a pang of wretchedness shot through the mother's breast.
"Never mind," she observed, kissing him fondly, "if you love me, let me put you to bed like a good child."
"I love you!" he said, looking up into her eyes with all that deep love that instinct gives to children.
She undressed and put him to bed, where the little Ella followed him soon after. Mrs. Wentworth sat by the bedside until they had fallen asleep.
"I love you, mother, but I am so hungry," were the last words the infant murmured as he closed his eyes in sleep, and in that slumber forgot his agonizing pangs for awhile.
As soon as they were asleep, Mrs. Wentworth removed from the bedside and seated herself at the window, which she opened. There she sat, looking at the clouds as they floated by, dark as her own prospects were. The morning dawned and saw her still there. It was a beautiful morning, but the warble of the bird in a tree near by, as he poured forth his morning song, awoke no echo in the heart of the soldier's wife. All was cheerless within her. The brightness of the morning only acted like a gleam of light at the mouth of a cavern. It made the darkness of her thoughts more dismal.
THE APPEAL FOR CREDIT
The first call of the little boy, when he awoke in the morning, was for bread. He was doubly hungry now. Thirty-six hours had passed since he had eaten the last mouthful of food that remained in the room. Mrs. Wentworth on that night of vigils, had determined to make an appeal for help to the man she had purchased the furniture from, on her arrival at Jackson, and in the event of his refusing to assist her, to sell the bed on which her children were wont to sleep. This determination had not been arrived at without a struggle in the heart of the soldier's wife. For the first time in her life she was about to sue for help from a stranger, and the blood rushed to her cheeks, as she thought of the humiliation that poverty entails upon mortal. It is true, she was not about to ask for charity, as her object was only to procure credit for a small quantity of provisions to feed her children with. The debt would be paid, she knew well enough, but still it was asking a favor, and the idea of being obligated to a stranger, was galling to her proud and sensitive nature.
"Mother," exclaimed the child, as he rose from his bed, "it is morning now; aint I going to get some bread?"
"Yes," she replied, "I will go out to the shop directly and get you some."
About an hour afterwards she left the room, and bidding Ella to take care Of her brother, while she was absent, bending her steps towards the store of Mr. Swartz. This gentleman had become, in a few short weeks, possessed of three or four times the wealth he owned when we first introduced him to our readers. The spirit of speculation had seized him among the vast number of the southern people, who were drawn into its vortex, and created untold suffering among the poorer classes of the people. The difference with Mr. Swartz and the great majority of southern speculators, was the depth to which he descended for the purpose of making money. No article of trade, however petty, that he thought himself able to make a few dollars by, was passed aside unnoticed, while he would sell from the paltry amount of a pound of flour to the largest quantity of merchandize required. Like all persons who are suddenly elevated, from comparative dependence, to wealth, he had become purse proud and ostentatious, as he was humble and cringing before the war. In this display of the mushroom, could be easily discovered the vulgar and uneducated favorite of frikle fortune. Even these displays could have been overlooked and pardoned, had he shown any charity to the suffering poor. But his heart was as hard as the flinty rocks against which wash the billows of the Atlantic. The cry of hunger never reached the inside of his breast. It was guarded with a covering of iron, impenetrable to the voice of misery.
And it was to this man that Mrs. Wentworth, in her hour of bitter need applied. She entered his store and enquired of the clerk for Mr. Swartz.
"You, will find him in that room," he replied, pointing to a chamber in the rear of the store.
Mrs. Wentworth entered the room, and found Mr. Swartz seated before a desk. The office, for it was his private office, was most elegantly furnished, and exhibited marks of the proprietor's wealth.
Mr. Swartz elevated his brows with surprise, as he looked at the care-worn expression and needy attire of the woman before him.
"Vot can I do for you my coot voman," he enquired, without even extending the courtesy of offering her a seat.
Mrs. Wentworth remained for a moment without replying. She was embarrassed at the uncourteous reception Mr. Swartz gave her. She did not recollect her altered outward appearance, but thought only of the fact that she was a lady. Her intention to appeal to him for credit, wavered for awhile, but the gaunt skeleton, WANT, rose up and held her two children before her, and she determined to subdue pride, and ask the obligation.
"I do not know if you recollect me," she replied at last, and then added, "I am the lady who purchased a lot of furniture from you a few weeks ago."
"I do not remember," Mr. Swartz observed, with a look of surprise. "But vot can I to for you dis morning?"
"I am a soldier's wife," Mrs. Wentworth commenced hesitatingly. "My husband is now a prisoner in the North, and I am here, a refugee from New Orleans, with two small children. Until a short time ago I had succeeded in supporting my little family by working on soldiers' clothing, but the Quartermaster's department having ceased to manufacture clothing, I have been for several days without work." Here she paused. It pained her to continue.
Mr. Swartz looked at her with surprise, and the idea came into his mind that she was an applicant for charity.
"Vell, vot has dat got to do vid your pisness," he observed in a cold tone of voice, determined that she should see no hope in his face.
"This much," she replied. "For over twenty-four hours my two little children and myself have been without food, and I have not a dollar to purchase it."
"I can't do anything for you," Mr. Swartz said with a frown.
"Dere is scarce a day but some peoples or anoder vants charity and I—"
"I do not come to ask for charity," she interrupted hastily. "I have only come to ask you a favor."
"Vat is it?" he enquired.
"As I told you before, my children and myself are nearly starving," she replied. "I have not the means of buying food at present, but think it more than likely I will procure work in a few days. I have called to ask if you would give me credit for a few articles of food until then, by which I will be able to sustain my family."