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The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan ebook

Thomas Dixon  

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Opis ebooka The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan - Thomas Dixon

The fair girl who was playing a banjo and singing to the wounded soldiers suddenly stopped, and, turning to the surgeon, whispered: “What’s that?” “It sounds like a mob——” With a common impulse they moved to the open window of the hospital and listened. On the soft spring air came the roar of excited thousands sweeping down the avenue from the Capitol toward the White House. Above all rang the cries of struggling newsboys screaming an “Extra.” One of them darted around the corner, his shrill voice quivering with excitement: “Extra! Extra! Peace! Victory!” Windows were suddenly raised, women thrust their heads out, and others rushed into the street and crowded around the boy, struggling to get his papers. He threw them right and left and snatched the money—no one asked for change. Without ceasing rose his cry: “Extra! Peace! Victory! Lee has surrendered!” At last the end had come.

Opinie o ebooku The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan - Thomas Dixon

Fragment ebooka The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan - Thomas Dixon

Thomas Dixon

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Table of contents

TO THE READER

Book I—The Assassination

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

Book II—The Revolution

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

Book III—The Reign of Terror

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

Book IV—The Ku Klux Klan

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

TO THE READER

“ The Clansman” is the second book of a series of historical novels planned on the Race Conflict. “The Leopard’s Spots” was the statement in historical outline of the conditions from the enfranchisement of the negro to his disfranchisement. “ The Clansman” develops the true story of the “Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy,” which overturned the Reconstruction régime.The organization was governed by the Grand Wizard Commander-in-Chief, who lived at Memphis, Tennessee. The Grand Dragon commanded a State, the Grand Titan a Congressional District, the Grand Giant a County, and the Grand Cyclops a Township Den. The twelve volumes of Government reports on the famous Klan refer chiefly to events which occurred after 1870, the date of its dissolution.The chaos of blind passion that followed Lincoln’s assassination is inconceivable to-day. The revolution it produced in our Government, and the bold attempt of Thaddeus Stevens to Africanize ten great States of the American Union, read now like tales from “The Arabian Nights.”I have sought to preserve in this romance both the letter and the spirit of this remarkable period. The men who enact the drama of fierce revenge into which I have woven a double love story are historical figures. I have merely changed their names without taking a liberty with any essential historic fact.In the darkest hour of the life of the South, when her wounded people lay helpless amid rags and ashes under the beak and talon of the Vulture, suddenly from the mists of the mountains appeared a white cloud the size of a man’s hand. It grew until its mantle of mystery enfolded the stricken earth and sky. An “Invisible Empire” had risen from the field of Death and challenged the Visible to mortal combat.How the young South, led by the reincarnated souls of the Clansmen of Old Scotland, went forth under this cover and against overwhelming odds, daring exile, imprisonment, and a felon’s death, and saved the life of a people, forms one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of the Aryan race.Thomas Dixon, Jr.Dixondale, Va.December 14, 1904.LEADING CHARACTERS OF THE STORYScene: Washington and the Foothills of the Carolinas.Time: 1865 to 1870.Ben CameronGrand Dragon of the Ku Klux KlanMargaretHis SisterMrs. CameronHis MotherDr. Richard CameronHis FatherHon. Austin StonemanRadical Leader of CongressPhilHis SonElsieHis DaughterMarion LenoirBen's First LoveMrs. LenoirHer MotherJakeA Faithful ManSilas LynchA Negro MissionaryUncle AleckThe Member from UlsterCindyHis WifeColonel HowleA Carpet-baggerAugustus CæsarOf the Black GuardCharles SumnerOf MassachusettsGen. Benjamin F. Butler Of Fort FisherAndrew JohnsonThe PresidentU. S. GrantThe Commanding GeneralAbraham LincolnThe Friend of the South

Book I—The Assassination

CHAPTER I

The Bruised Reed The fair girl who was playing a banjo and singing to the wounded soldiers suddenly stopped, and, turning to the surgeon, whispered: “ What’s that?” “ It sounds like a mob——”With a common impulse they moved to the open window of the hospital and listened.On the soft spring air came the roar of excited thousands sweeping down the avenue from the Capitol toward the White House. Above all rang the cries of struggling newsboys screaming an “Extra.” One of them darted around the corner, his shrill voice quivering with excitement: “ Extra! Extra! Peace! Victory!”Windows were suddenly raised, women thrust their heads out, and others rushed into the street and crowded around the boy, struggling to get his papers. He threw them right and left and snatched the money—no one asked for change. Without ceasing rose his cry: “ Extra! Peace! Victory! Lee has surrendered!”At last the end had come.The great North, with its millions of sturdy people and their exhaustless resources, had greeted the first shot on Sumter with contempt and incredulity. A few regiments went forward for a month’s outing to settle the trouble. The Thirteenth Brooklyn marched gayly Southward on a thirty days’ jaunt, with pieces of rope conspicuously tied to their muskets with which to bring back each man a Southern prisoner to be led in a noose through the streets on their early triumphant return! It would be unkind to tell what became of those ropes when they suddenly started back home ahead of the scheduled time from the first battle of Bull Run.People from the South, equally wise, marched gayly North, to whip five Yankees each before breakfast, and encountered unforeseen difficulties.Both sides had things to learn, and learned them in a school whose logic is final—a four years’ course in the University of Hell—the scream of eagles, the howl of wolves, the bay of tigers, the roar of lions—all locked in Death’s embrace, and each mad scene lit by the glare of volcanoes of savage passions!But the long agony was over.The city bells began to ring. The guns of the forts joined the chorus, and their deep steel throats roared until the earth trembled.Just across the street a mother who was reading the fateful news turned and suddenly clasped a boy to her heart, crying for joy. The last draft of half a million had called for him.The Capital of the Nation was shaking off the long nightmare of horror and suspense. More than once the city had shivered at the mercy of those daring men in gray, and the reveille of their drums had startled even the President at his desk.Again and again had the destiny of the Republic hung on the turning of a hair, and in every crisis, Luck, Fate, God, had tipped the scale for the Union.A procession of more than five hundred Confederate deserters, who had crossed the lines in groups, swung into view, marching past the hospital, indifferent to the tumult. Only a nominal guard flanked them as they shuffled along, tired, ragged, and dirty. The gray in their uniforms was now the colour of clay. Some had on blue pantaloons, some, blue vests, others blue coats captured on the field of blood. Some had pieces of carpet, and others old bags around their shoulders. They had been passing thus for weeks. Nobody paid any attention to them. “ One of the secrets of the surrender!” exclaimed Doctor Barnes. “Mr. Lincoln has been at the front for the past weeks with offers of peace and mercy, if they would lay down their arms. The great soul of the President, even the genius of Lee could not resist. His smile began to melt those gray ranks as the sun is warming the earth to-day.” “ You are a great admirer of the President,” said the girl, with a curious smile. “ Yes, Miss Elsie, and so are all who know him.”She turned from the window without reply. A shadow crossed her face as she looked past the long rows of cots, on which rested the men in blue, until her eyes found one on which lay, alone among his enemies, a young Confederate officer.The surgeon turned with her toward the man. “ Will he live?” she asked. “ Yes, only to be hung.” “ For what?” she cried. “ Sentenced by court-martial as a guerilla. It’s a lie, but there’s some powerful hand back of it—some mysterious influence in high authority. The boy wasn’t fully conscious at the trial.” “ We must appeal to Mr. Stanton.” “ As well appeal to the devil. They say the order came from his office.” “ A boy of nineteen!” she exclaimed. “It’s a shame. I’m looking for his mother. You told me to telegraph to Richmond for her.” “ Yes, I’ll never forget his cries that night, so utterly pitiful and childlike. I’ve heard many a cry of pain, but in all my life nothing so heartbreaking as that boy in fevered delirium talking to his mother. His voice is one of peculiar tenderness, penetrating and musical. It goes quivering into your soul, and compels you to listen until you swear it’s your brother or sweetheart or sister or mother calling you. You should have seen him the day he fell. God of mercies, the pity and the glory of it!” “ YOUR BROTHER SPRANG FORWARD AND CAUGHT HIM IN HIS ARMS.” “ Phil wrote me that he was a hero and asked me to look after him. Were you there?” “ Yes, with the battery your brother was supporting. He was the colonel of a shattered rebel regiment lying just in front of us before Petersburg. Richmond was doomed, resistance was madness, but there they were, ragged and half starved, a handful of men, not more than four hundred, but their bayonets gleamed and flashed in the sunlight. In the face of a murderous fire he charged and actually drove our men out of an entrenchment. We concentrated our guns on him as he crouched behind this earthwork. Our own men lay outside in scores, dead, dying, and wounded. When the fire slacked, we could hear their cries for water. “ Suddenly this boy sprang on the breastwork. He was dressed in a new gray colonel’s uniform that mother of his, in the pride of her soul, had sent him. “ He was a handsome figure—tall, slender, straight, a gorgeous yellow sash tasselled with gold around his waist, his sword flashing in the sun, his slouch hat cocked on one side and an eagle’s feather in it. “ We thought he was going to lead another charge, but just as the battery was making ready to fire he deliberately walked down the embankment in a hail of musketry and began to give water to our wounded men. “ Every gun ceased firing, and we watched him. He walked back to the trench, his naked sword flashed suddenly above that eagle’s feather, and his grizzled ragamuffins sprang forward and charged us like so many demons. “ There were not more than three hundred of them now, but on they came, giving that hellish rebel yell at every jump—the cry of the hunter from the hilltop at the sight of his game! All Southern men are hunters, and that cry was transformed in war into something unearthly when it came from a hundred throats in chorus and the game was human. “ Of course, it was madness. We blew them down that hill like chaff before a hurricane. When the last man had staggered back or fallen, on came this boy alone, carrying the colours he had snatched from a falling soldier, as if he were leading a million men to victory. “ A bullet had blown his hat from his head, and we could see the blood streaming down the side of his face. He charged straight into the jaws of one of our guns. And then, with a smile on his lips and a dare to death in his big brown eyes, he rammed that flag into the cannon’s mouth, reeled, and fell! A cheer broke from our men. “ Your brother sprang forward and caught him in his arms, and as we bent over the unconscious form, he exclaimed: ‘My God, doctor, look at him! He is so much like me I feel as if I had been shot myself!’ They were as much alike as twins—only his hair was darker. I tell you, Miss Elsie, it’s a sin to kill men like that. One such man is worth more to this nation than every negro that ever set his flat foot on this continent!”The girl’s eyes had grown dim as she listened to the story. “ I will appeal to the President,” she said firmly. “ It’s the only chance. And just now he is under tremendous pressure. His friendly order to the Virginia Legislature to return to Richmond, Stanton forced him to cancel. A master hand has organized a conspiracy in Congress to crush the President. They curse his policy of mercy as imbecility, and swear to make the South a second Poland. Their watchwords are vengeance and confiscation. Four fifths of his party in Congress are in this plot. The President has less than a dozen real friends in either House on whom he can depend. They say that Stanton is to be given a free hand, and that the gallows will be busy. This cancelled order of the President looks like it.” “ I’ll try my hand with Mr. Stanton,” she said with slow emphasis. “ Good luck, Little Sister—let me know if I can help,” the surgeon answered cheerily as he passed on his round of work.Elsie Stoneman took her seat beside the cot of the wounded Confederate and began softly to sing and play.A little farther along the same row a soldier was dying, a faint choking just audible in his throat. An attendant sat beside him and would not leave till the last. The ordinary chat and hum of the ward went on indifferent to peace, victory, life, or death. Before the finality of the hospital all other events of earth fade. Some were playing cards or checkers, some laughing and joking, and others reading.At the first soft note from the singer the games ceased, and the reader put down his book.The banjo had come to Washington with the negroes following the wake of the army. She had laid aside her guitar and learned to play all the stirring camp songs of the South. Her voice was low, soothing, and tender. It held every silent listener in a spell.As she played and sang the songs the wounded man loved, her eyes lingered in pity on his sun-bronzed face, pinched and drawn with fever. He was sleeping the stupid sleep that gives no rest. She could count the irregular pounding of his heart in the throb of the big vein on his neck. His lips were dry and burnt, and the little boyish moustache curled upward from the row of white teeth as if scorched by the fiery breath.He began to talk in flighty sentences, and she listened—his mother—his sister—and yes, she was sure as she bent nearer—a little sweetheart who lived next door. They all had sweethearts—these Southern boys. Again he was teasing his dog—and then back in battle.At length he opened his eyes, great dark-brown eyes, unnaturally bright, with a strange yearning look in their depths as they rested on Elsie. He tried to smile and feebly said: “ Here’s—a—fly—on—my—left—ear—my—guns—can’t—somehow— reach—him—won’t—you—”She sprang forward and brushed the fly away.Again he opened his eyes. “ Excuse—me—for—asking—but am I alive?” “ Yes, indeed,” was the cheerful answer. “ Well, now, then, is this me, or is it not me, or has a cannon shot me, or has the devil got me?” “ It’s you. The cannon didn’t shoot you, but three muskets did. The devil hasn’t got you yet, but he will unless you’re good.” “ I’ll be good if you won’t leave me——”Elsie turned her head away smiling, and he went on slowly: “ But I’m dead, I know. I’m sleeping on a cot with a canopy over it. I ain’t hungry any more, and an angel has been hovering over me playing on a harp of gold——” “ Only a little Yankee girl playing the banjo.” “ Can’t fool me—I’m in heaven.” “ You’re in the hospital.” “ Funny hospital—look at that harp and that big trumpet hanging close by it—that’s Gabriel’s trumpet——” “ No,” she laughed. “This is the Patent Office building, that covers two blocks, now a temporary hospital. There are seventy thousand wounded soldiers in town, and more coming on every train. The thirty-five hospitals are overcrowded.”He closed his eyes a moment in silence, and then spoke with a feeble tremor: “ I’m afraid you don’t know who I am—I can’t impose on you—I’m a rebel——” “ Yes, I know. You are Colonel Ben Cameron. It makes no difference to me now which side you fought on.” “ Well, I’m in heaven—been dead a long time. I can prove it, if you’ll play again.” “ What shall I play?” “ First, ‘O Jonny Booker Help dis Nigger.’”She played and sang it beautifully. “ Now, ‘Wake Up in the Morning.’”Again he listened with wide, staring eyes that saw nothing except visions within. “ Now, then, ‘The Ole Gray Hoss.’”As the last notes died away he tried to smile again: “ One more—‘Hard Times an’ Wuss er Comin‘.’”With deft, sure touch and soft negro dialect she sang it through. “ Now, didn’t I tell you that you couldn’t fool me? No Yankee girl could play and sing these songs, I’m in heaven, and you’re an angel.” “ Aren’t you ashamed of yourself to flirt with me, with one foot in the grave?” “ That’s the time to get on good terms with the angels—but I’m done dead——”Elsie laughed in spite of herself. “ I know it,” he went on, “because you have shining golden hair and amber eyes instead of blue ones. I never saw a girl in my life before with such eyes and hair.” “ But you’re young yet.” “ Never—was—such—a—girl—on—earth—you’re—an——”She lifted her finger in warning, and his eyelids drooped In exhausted stupor. “ You musn’t talk any more,” she whispered, shaking her head.A commotion at the door caused Elsie to turn from the cot. A sweet motherly woman of fifty, in an old faded black dress, was pleading with the guard to be allowed to pass. “ Can’t do it, m’um. It’s agin the rules.” “ But I must go in. I’ve tramped for four days through a wilderness of hospitals, and I know he must be here.” “ Special orders, m’um—wounded rebels in here that belong in prison.” “ Very well, young man,” said the pleading voice. “My baby boy’s in this place, wounded and about to die. I’m going in there. You can shoot me if you like, or you can turn your head the other way.”She stepped quickly past the soldier, who merely stared with dim eyes out the door and saw nothing.She stood for a moment with a look of helpless bewilderment. The vast area of the second story of the great monolithic pile was crowded with rows of sick, wounded, and dying men—a strange, solemn, and curious sight. Against the walls were ponderous glass cases, filled with models of every kind of invention the genius of man had dreamed. Between these cases were deep lateral openings, eight feet wide, crowded with the sick, and long rows of them were stretched through the centre of the hall. A gallery ran around above the cases, and this was filled with cots. The clatter of the feet of passing surgeons and nurses over the marble floor added to the weird impression.Elsie saw the look of helpless appeal in the mother’s face and hurried forward to meet her: “ Is this Mrs. Cameron, of South Carolina?”The trembling figure in black grasped her hand eagerly: “ Yes, yes, my dear, and I’m looking for my boy, who is wounded unto death. Can you help me?” “ I thought I recognized you from a miniature I’ve seen,” she answered softly. “I’ll lead you direct to his cot.” “ Thank you, thank you!” came the low reply.In a moment she was beside him, and Elsie walked away to the open window through which came the chirp of sparrows from the lilac bushes in full bloom below.The mother threw one look of infinite tenderness on the drawn face, and her hands suddenly clasped in prayer: “ I thank Thee, Lord Jesus, for this hour! Thou hast heard the cry of my soul and led my feet!” She gently knelt, kissed the hot lips, smoothed the dark tangled hair back from his forehead, and her hand rested over his eyes.A faint flush tinged his face. “ It’s you, Mamma—I—know—you—that’s—your—hand—or—else—it’s—God’s!”She slipped her arms about him. “ My hero, my darling, my baby!” “ I’ll get well now, Mamma, never fear. You see, I had whipped them that day as I had many a time before. I don’t know how it happened—my men seemed all to go down at once. You know—I couldn’t surrender in that new uniform of a colonel you sent me—we made a gallant fight, and—now—I’m—just—a—little—tired—but you are here, and it’s all right.” “ Yes, yes, dear. It’s all over now. General Lee has surrendered, and when you are better I’ll take you home, where the sunshine and flowers will give you strength again.” “ How’s my little sis?” “ Hunting in another part of the city for you. She’s grown so tall and stately you’ll hardly know her. Your papa is at home, and don’t know yet that you are wounded.” “ And my sweetheart, Marion Lenoir?” “ The most beautiful little girl in Piedmont—as sweet and mischievous as ever. Mr. Lenoir is very ill, but he has written a glorious poem about one of your charges. I’ll show it to you to-morrow. He is our greatest poet. The South worships him. Marion sent her love to you and a kiss for the young hero of Piedmont. I’ll give it to you now.”She bent again and kissed him. “ And my dogs?” “ General Sherman left them, at least.” “ Well, I’m glad of that—my mare all right?” “ Yes, but we had a time to save her—Jake hid her in the woods till the army passed.” “ Bully for Jake.” “ I don’t know what we should have done without him.” “ Old Aleck still at home and getting drunk as usual?” “ No, he ran away with the army and persuaded every negro on the Lenoir place to go, except his wife, Aunt Cindy.” “ The old rascal, when Mrs. Lenoir’s mother saved him from burning to death when he was a boy!” “ Yes, and he told the Yankees those fire scars were made with the lash, and led a squad to the house one night to burn the barns. Jake headed them off and told on him. The soldiers were so mad they strung him up and thrashed him nearly to death. We haven’t seen him since.” “ Well, I’ll take care of you, Mamma, when I get home. Of course I’ll get well. It’s absurd to die at nineteen. You know I never believed the bullet had been moulded that could hit me. In three years of battle I lived a charmed life and never got a scratch.”His voice had grown feeble and laboured, and his face flushed. His mother placed her hand on his lips. “ Just one more,” he pleaded feebly. “Did you see the little angel who has been playing and singing for me? You must thank her.” “ Yes, I see her coming now. I must go and tell Margaret, and we will get a pass and come every day.”She kissed him, and went to meet Elsie. “ And you are the dear girl who has been playing and singing for my boy, a wounded stranger here alone among his foes?” “ Yes, and for all the others, too.”Mrs. Cameron seized both of her hands and looked at her tenderly. “ You will let me kiss you? I shall always love you.”She pressed Elsie to her heart. In spite of the girl’s reserve, a sob caught her breath at the touch of the warm lips. Her own mother had died when she was a baby, and a shy, hungry heart, long hidden from the world, leaped in tenderness and pain to meet that embrace.Elsie walked with her to the door, wondering how the terrible truth of her boy’s doom could be told.She tried to speak, looked into Mrs. Cameron’s face, radiant with grateful joy, and the words froze on her lips. She decided to walk a little way with her. But the task became all the harder.At the corner she stopped abruptly and bade her good-bye: “ I must leave you now, Mrs. Cameron. I will call for you in the morning and help you secure the passes to enter the hospital.”The mother stroked the girl’s hand and held it lingeringly. “ How good you are,” she said softly. “And you have not told me your name?”Elsie hesitated and said: “ That’s a little secret. They call me Sister Elsie, the Banjo Maid, in the hospitals. My father is a man of distinction. I should be annoyed if my full name were known. I’m Elsie Stoneman. My father is the leader of the House. I live with my aunt.” “ Thank you,” she whispered, pressing her hand.Elsie watched the dark figure disappear in the crowd with a strange tumult of feeling.The mention of her father had revived the suspicion that he was the mysterious power threatening the policy of the President and planning a reign of terror for the South. Next to the President, he was the most powerful man in Washington, and the unrelenting foe of Mr. Lincoln, although the leader of his party in Congress, which he ruled with a rod of iron. He was a man of fierce and terrible resentments. And yet, in his personal life, to those he knew, he was generous and considerate. “Old Austin Stoneman, the Great Commoner,” he was called, and his name was one to conjure with in the world of deeds. To this fair girl he was the noblest Roman of them all, her ideal of greatness. He was an indulgent father, and while not demonstrative, loved his children with passionate devotion.She paused and looked up at the huge marble columns that seemed each a sentinel beckoning her to return within to the cot that held a wounded foe. The twilight had deepened, and the soft light of the rising moon had clothed the solemn majesty of the building with shimmering tenderness and beauty. “ Why should I be distressed for one, an enemy, among these thousands who have fallen?” she asked herself. Every detail of the scene she had passed through with him and his mother stood out in her soul with startling distinctness—and the horror of his doom cut with the deep sense of personal anguish. “ He shall not die,” she said, with sudden resolution. “I’ll take his mother to the President. He can’t resist her. I’ll send for Phil to help me.”She hurried to the telegraph office and summoned her brother.

CHAPTER II

The Great Heart The next morning, when Elsie reached the obscure boarding-house at which Mrs. Cameron stopped, the mother had gone to the market to buy a bunch of roses to place beside her boy’s cot.As Elsie awaited her return, the practical little Yankee maid thought with a pang of the tenderness and folly of such people. She knew this mother had scarcely enough to eat, but to her bread was of small importance, flowers necessary to life. After all, it was very sweet, this foolishness of these Southern people, and it somehow made her homesick. “ How can I tell her!” she sighed. “And yet I must.”She had only waited a moment when Mrs. Cameron suddenly entered with her daughter. She threw her flowers on the table, sprang forward to meet Elsie, seized her hands and called to Margaret. “ How good of you to come so soon! This, Margaret, is our dear little friend who has been so good to Ben and to me.”Margaret took Elsie’s hand and longed to throw her arms around her neck, but something in the quiet dignity of the Northern girl’s manner held her back. She only smiled tenderly through her big dark eyes, and softly said: “ We love you! Ben was my last brother. We were playmates and chums. My heart broke when he ran away to the front. How can we thank you and your brother!” “ I’m sure we’ve done nothing more than you would have done for us,” said Elsie, as Mrs. Cameron left the room. “ Yes, I know, but we can never tell you how grateful we are to you. We feel that you have saved Ben’s life and ours. The war has been one long horror to us since my first brother was killed. But now it’s over, and we have Ben left, and our hearts have been crying for joy all night.” “ I hoped my brother, Captain Phil Stoneman, would be here to-day to meet you and help me, but he can’t reach Washington before Friday.” “ He caught Ben in his arms!” cried Margaret. “I know he’s brave, and you must be proud of him.” “ Doctor Barnes says they are as much alike as twins—only Phil is not quite so tall and has blond hair like mine.” “ You will let me see him and thank him the moment he comes?” “ Hurry, Margaret!” cheerily cried Mrs. Cameron, reëntering the parlour. “Get ready; we must go at once to the hospital.”Margaret turned and with stately grace hurried from the room. The old dress she wore as unconscious of its shabbiness as though it were a royal robe. “ And now, my dear, what must I do to get the passes?” asked the mother eagerly.Elsie’s warm amber eyes grew misty for a moment, and the fair skin with its gorgeous rose tints of the North paled. She hesitated, tried to speak, and was silent.The sensitive soul of the Southern woman read the message of sorrow words had not framed. “ Tell me, quickly! The doctor—has—not—concealed—his—true—condition—from—me?” “ No, he is certain to recover.” “ What then?” “ Worse—he is condemned to death by court-martial.” “ Condemned to death—a—wounded—prisoner—of—war!” she whispered slowly, with blanched face. “ Yes, he was accused of violating the rules of war as a guerilla raider in the invasion of Pennsylvania.” “ Absurd and monstrous! He was on General Jeb Stuart’s staff and could have acted only under his orders. He joined the infantry after Stuart’s death, and rose to be a colonel, though but a boy. There’s some terrible mistake!” “ Unless we can obtain his pardon,” Elsie went on in even, restrained tones, “there is no hope. We must appeal to the President.”The mother’s lips trembled, and she seemed about to faint. “ Could I see the President?” she asked, recovering herself with an effort. “ He has just reached Washington from the front, and is thronged by thousands. It will be difficult.”The mother’s lips were moving in silent prayer, and her eyes were tightly closed to keep back the tears. “ Can you help me, dear?” she asked piteously. “ Yes,” was the quick response. “ You see,” she went on, “I feel so helpless. I have never been to the White House or seen the President, and I don’t know how to go about seeing him or how to ask him—and—I am afraid of Mr. Lincoln! I have heard so many harsh things said of him.” “ I’ll do my best, Mrs. Cameron. We must go at once to the White House and try to see him.”The mother lifted the girl’s hand and stroked it gently. “ We will not tell Margaret. Poor child! she could not endure this. When we return, we may have better news. It can’t be worse. I’ll send her on an errand.”She took up the bouquet of gorgeous roses with a sigh, buried her face in the fresh perfume, as if to gain strength in their beauty and fragrance, and left the room.In a few moments she had returned and was on her way with Elsie to the White House.It was a beautiful spring morning, this eleventh day of April, 1865. The glorious sunshine, the shimmering green of the grass, the warm breezes, and the shouts of victory mocked the mother’s anguish.At the White House gates they passed the blue sentry pacing silently back and forth, who merely glanced at them with keen eyes and said nothing. In the steady beat of his feet the mother could hear the tramp of soldiers leading her boy to the place of death!A great lump rose in her throat as she caught the first view of the Executive Mansion gleaming white and silent and ghostlike among the budding trees. The tall columns of the great facade, spotless as snow, the spray of the fountain, the marble walls, pure, dazzling, and cold, seemed to her the gateway to some great tomb in which her own dead and the dead of all the people lay! To her the fair white palace, basking there in the sunlight and budding grass, shrub, and tree, was the Judgment House of Fate. She thought of all the weary feet that had climbed its fateful steps in hope to return in despair, of its fierce dramas on which the lives of millions had hung, and her heart grew sick.A long line of people already stretched from the entrance under the portico far out across the park, awaiting their turn to see the President.Mrs. Cameron placed her hand falteringly on Elsie’s shoulder. “ Look, my dear, what a crowd already! Must we wait in line?” “ No, I can get you past the throng with my father’s name.” “ Will it be very difficult to reach the President?” “ No, it’s very easy. Guards and sentinels annoy him. He frets until they are removed. An assassin or maniac could kill him almost any hour of the day or night. The doors are open at all hours, very late at night. I have often walked up to the rooms of his secretaries as late as nine o’clock without being challenged by a soul.” “ What must I call him? Must I say ‘Your Excellency?’” “ By no means—he hates titles and forms. You should say ‘Mr. President’ in addressing him. But you will please him best if, in your sweet, homelike way, you will just call him by his name. You can rely on his sympathy. Read this letter of his to a widow. I brought it to show you.”She handed Mrs. Cameron a newspaper clipping on which was printed Mr. Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, of Boston, who had lost five sons in the war.Over and over she read its sentences until they echoed as solemn music in her soul: “ I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. “ Yours very sincerely and respectfully, “ Abraham Lincoln.” “ And the President paused amid a thousand cares to write that letter to a broken-hearted woman?” the mother asked. “ Yes.” “ Then he is good down to the last secret depths of a great heart! Only a Christian father could have written that letter. I shall not be afraid to speak to him. And they told me he was an infidel!”Elsie led her by a private way past the crowd and into the office of Major Hay, the President’s private secretary. A word from the Great Commoner’s daughter admitted them at once to the President’s room. “ Just take a seat on one side, Miss Elsie,” said Major Hay; “watch your first opportunity and introduce your friend.”On entering the room, Mrs. Cameron could not see the President, who was seated at his desk surrounded by three men in deep consultation over a mass of official documents.She looked about the room nervously and felt reassured by its plain aspect. It was a medium-sized, officelike place, with no signs of elegance or ceremony. Mr. Lincoln was seated in an armchair beside a high writing-desk and table combined. She noticed that his feet were large and that they rested on a piece of simple straw matting. Around the room were sofas and chairs covered with green worsted.When the group about the chair parted a moment, she caught the first glimpse of the man who held her life in the hollow of his hand. She studied him with breathless interest. His back was still turned. Even while seated, she saw that he was a man of enormous stature, fully six feet four inches tall, legs and arms abnormally long, and huge broad shoulders slightly stooped. His head was powerful and crowned with a mass of heavy brown hair, tinged with silver.He turned his head slightly and she saw his profile set in its short dark beard—the broad intellectual brow, half covered by unmanageable hair, his face marked with deep-cut lines of life and death, with great hollows in the cheeks and under the eyes. In the lines which marked the corners of his mouth she could see firmness, and his beetling brows and unusually heavy eyelids looked stern and formidable. Her heart sank. She looked again and saw goodness, tenderness, sorrow, canny shrewdness, and a strange lurking smile all haunting his mouth and eye.Suddenly he threw himself forward in his chair, wheeled and faced one of his tormentors with a curious and comical expression. With one hand patting the other, and a funny look overspreading his face, he said: “ My friend, let me tell you something——”The man again stepped before him, and she could hear nothing. When the story was finished, the man tried to laugh. It died in a feeble effort. But the President laughed heartily, laughed all over, and laughed his visitors out of the room.Mrs. Cameron turned toward Elsie with a mute look of appeal to give her this moment of good-humour in which to plead her cause, but before she could move a man of military bearing suddenly stepped before the President.He began to speak, but seeing the look of stern decision in Mr. Lincoln’s face, turned abruptly and said: “ Mr. President, I see you are fully determined not to do me justice!”Mr. Lincoln slightly compressed his lips, rose quietly, seized the intruder by the arm, and led him toward the door. “ This is the third time you have forced your presence on me, sir, asking that I reverse the just sentence of a court-martial, dismissing you from the service. I told you my decision was carefully made and was final. Now I give you fair warning never to show yourself in this room again. I can bear censure, but I will not endure insult!”In whining tones the man begged for his papers he had dropped. “ Begone, sir,” said the President, as he thrust him through the door. “Your papers will be sent to you.”The poor mother trembled at this startling act and sank back limp in her seat.With quick, swinging stride the President walked back to his desk, accompanied by Major Hay and a young German girl, whose simple dress told that she was from the Western plains.He handed the secretary an official paper. “ Give this pardon to the boy’s mother when she comes this morning,” he said kindly to the secretary, his eyes suddenly full of gentleness. “ How could I consent to shoot a boy raised on a farm, in the habit of going to bed at dark, for falling asleep at his post when required to watch all night? I’ll never go into eternity with the blood of such a boy on my skirts.”Again the mother’s heart rose. “ You remember the young man I pardoned for a similar offence in ’62, about which Stanton made such a fuss?” he went on in softly reminiscent tones. “Well, here is that pardon.”He drew from the lining of his silk hat a photograph, around which was wrapped an executive pardon. Through the lower end of it was a bullet-hole stained with blood. “ I got this in Richmond. They found him dead on the field. He fell in the front ranks with my photograph in his pocket next to his heart, this pardon wrapped around it, and on the back of it in his boy’s scrawl, ‘God bless Abraham Lincoln.’ I love to invest in bonds like that.”The secretary returned to his room, the girl who was waiting stepped forward, and the President rose to receive her.The mother’s quick eye noted, with surprise, the simple dignity and chivalry of manner with which he received this humble woman of the people.With straightforward eloquence the girl poured out her story, begging for the pardon of her young brother who had been sentenced to death as a deserter. He listened in silence.How pathetic the deep melancholy of his sad face! Yes, she was sure, the saddest face that God ever made in all the world! Her own stricken heart for a moment went out to him in sympathy.The President took off his spectacles, wiped his forehead with the large red silk handkerchief he carried, and his eyes twinkled kindly down into the good German face. “ You seem an honest, truthful, sweet girl,” he said, “and”—he smiled—“you don’t wear hoop skirts! I may be whipped for this, but I’ll trust you and your brother, too. He shall be pardoned.” Elsie rose to introduce Mrs. Cameron, when a Congressman from Massachusetts suddenly stepped before her and pressed for the pardon of a slave trader whose ship had been confiscated. He had spent five years in prison, but could not pay the heavy fine in money imposed.The President had taken his seat again, and read the eloquent appeal for mercy. He looked up over his spectacles, fixed his eyes piercingly on the Congressman and said: “ This is a moving appeal, sir, expressed with great eloquence. I might pardon a murderer under the spell of such words, but a man who can make a business of going to Africa and robbing her of her helpless children and selling them into bondage—no, sir—he may rot in jail before he shall have liberty by any act of mine!”Again the mother’s heart sank.Her hour had come. She must put the issue of life or death to the test, and as Elsie rose and stepped quickly forward, she followed; nerving herself for the ordeal.The President took Elsie’s hand familiarly and smiled without rising. Evidently she was well known to him. “ Will you hear the prayer of a broken-hearted mother of the South, who has lost four sons in General Lee’s army?” she asked.Looking quietly past the girl, he caught sight, for the first time, of the faded dress and the sorrow-shadowed face.He was on his feet in a moment, extended his hand and led her to a chair. “ Take this seat, Madam, and then tell me in your own way what I can do for you.” In simple words, mighty with the eloquence of a mother’s heart, she told her story and asked for the pardon of her boy, promising his word of honour and her own that he would never again take up arms against the Union. “ The war is over now, Mr. Lincoln,” she said, “and we have lost all. Can you conceive the desolation of my heart? My four boys were noble men. They may have been wrong, but they fought for what they believed to be right. You, too, have lost a boy.”The President’s eyes grew dim. “ Yes, a beautiful boy——” he said simply. “ Well, mine are all gone but this baby. One of them sleeps in an unmarked grave at Gettysburg. One died in a Northern prison. One fell at Chancellorsville, one in the Wilderness, and this, my baby, before Petersburg. Perhaps I’ve loved him too much, this last one—he’s only a child yet——” “ You shall have your boy, my dear Madam,” the President said simply, seating himself and writing a brief order to the Secretary of War.The mother drew near his desk, softly crying. Through her tears she said: “ My heart is heavy, Mr. Lincoln, when I think of all the hard and bitter things we have heard of you.” “ Well, give my love to the people of South Carolina when you go home, and tell them that I am their President, and that I have never forgotten this fact in the darkest hours of this awful war; and I am going to do everything in my power to help them.” “You will never regret this generous act,” the mother cried with gratitude. “ I reckon not,” he answered. “I’ll tell you something, Madam, if you won’t tell anybody. It’s a secret of my administration. I’m only too glad of an excuse to save a life when I can. Every drop of blood shed in this war North and South has been as if it were wrung out of my heart. A strange fate decreed that the bloodiest war in human history should be fought under my direction. And I—to whom the sight of blood is a sickening horror—I have been compelled to look on in silent anguish because I could not stop it! Now that the Union is saved, not another drop of blood shall be spilled if I can prevent it.” “ May God bless you!” the mother cried, as she received from him the order.She held his hand an instant as she took her leave, laughing and sobbing in her great joy. “ I must tell you, Mr. President,” she said, “how surprised and how pleased I am to find you are a Southern man.” “ Why, didn’t you know that my parents were Virginians, and that I was born in Kentucky?” “ Very few people in the South know it. I am ashamed to say I did not.” “ Then, how did you know I am a Southerner?” “ By your looks, your manner of speech, your easy, kindly ways, your tenderness and humour, your firmness in the right as you see it, and, above all, the way you rose and bowed to a woman in an old, faded black dress, whom you knew to be an enemy.” “No, Madam, not an enemy now,” he said softly. “That word is out of date.” “ If we had only known you in time——”The President accompanied her to the door with a deference of manner that showed he had been deeply touched. “ Take this letter to Mr. Stanton at once,” he said. “Some folks complain of my pardons, but it rests me after a hard day’s work if I can save some poor boy’s life. I go to bed happy, thinking of the joy I have given to those who love him.”As the last words were spoken, a peculiar dreaminess of expression stole over his careworn face, as if a throng of gracious memories had lifted for a moment the burden of his life.

CHAPTER III

The Man of War

Elsie led Mrs. Cameron direct from the White House to the War Department.

“ Well, Mrs. Cameron, what did you think of the President?” she asked.

“ I hardly know,” was the thoughtful answer. “He is the greatest man I ever met. One feels this instinctively.”

When Mrs. Cameron was ushered into the Secretary’s Office, Mr. Stanton was seated at his desk writing.

She handed the order of the President to a clerk, who gave it to the Secretary.

He was a man in the full prime of life, intellectual and physical, low and heavy set, about five feet eight inches in height and inclined to fat. His movements, however, were quick, and as he swung in his chair the keenest vigour marked every movement of body and every change of his countenance.

His face was swarthy and covered with a long, dark beard touched with gray. He turned a pair of little black piercing eyes on her and without rising said:

“ So you are the woman who has a wounded son under sentence of death as a guerilla?”

“ I am so unfortunate,” she answered.

“ Well, I have nothing to say to you,” he went on in a louder and sterner tone, “and no time to waste on you. If you have raised up men to rebel against the best government under the sun, you can take the consequences——”

“ But, my dear sir,” broke in the mother, “he is a mere boy of nineteen, who ran away three years ago and entered the service——”

“ I don’t want to hear another word from you!” he yelled in rage. “I have no time to waste—go at once. I’ll do nothing for you.”

“ But I bring you an order from the President,” protested the mother.

“ Yes, I know it,” he answered with a sneer, “and I’ll do with it what I’ve done with many others—see that it is not executed—now go.”

“ But the President told me you would give me a pass to the hospital, and that a full pardon would be issued to my boy!”

“ Yes, I see. But let me give you some information. The President is a fool—a d—— fool! Now, will you go?”

With a sinking sense of horror, Mrs. Cameron withdrew and reported to Elsie the unexpected encounter.

“ The brute!” cried the girl. “We’ll go back immediately and report this insult to the President.”

“ Why are such men intrusted with power?” the mother sighed.

“ It’s a mystery to me, I’m sure. They say he is the greatest Secretary of War in our history. I don’t believe it. Phil hates the sight of him, and so does every army officer I know, from General Grant down. I hope Mr. Lincoln will expel him from the Cabinet for this insult.”

When, they were again ushered into the President’s office, Elsie hastened to inform him of the outrageous reply the Secretary of War had made to his order.

“ Did Stanton say that I was a fool?” he asked, with a quizzical look out of his kindly eyes.

“ Yes, he did,” snapped Elsie. “And he repeated it with a blankety prefix.”

The President looked good-humouredly out of the window toward the War Office and musingly said:

“ Well, if Stanton says that I am a blankety fool, it must be so, for I have found out that he is nearly always right, and generally means what he says. I’ll just step over and see Stanton.”

As he spoke the last sentence, the humour slowly faded from his face, and the anxious mother saw back of those patient gray eyes the sudden gleam of the courage and conscious power of a lion.

He dismissed them with instructions to return the next day for his final orders and walked over to the War Department alone.

The Secretary of War was in one of his ugliest moods, and made no effort to conceal it when asked his reasons for the refusal to execute the order.

“ The grounds for my action are very simple,” he said with bitter emphasis. “The execution of this traitor is part of a carefully considered policy of justice on which the future security of the Nation depends. If I am to administer this office, I will not be hamstrung by constant Executive interference. Besides, in this particular case, I was urged that justice be promptly executed by the most powerful man in Congress. I advise you to avoid a quarrel with old Stoneman at this crisis in our history.”

The President sat on a sofa with his legs crossed, relapsed into an attitude of resignation, and listened in silence until the last sentence, when suddenly he sat bolt upright, fixed his deep gray eyes intently on Stanton and said:

“ Mr. Secretary, I reckon you will have to execute that order.”

“ I cannot do it,” came the firm answer. “It is an interference with justice, and I will not execute it.”

Mr. Lincoln held his eyes steadily on Stanton and slowly said:

“ Mr. Secretary, it will have to be done.”

Stanton wheeled in his chair, seized a pen and wrote very rapidly a few lines to which he fixed his signature. He rose with the paper in his hand, walked to his chief, and with deep emotion said:

“ Mr. President, I wish to thank you for your constant friendship during the trying years I have held this office. The war is ended, and my work is done. I hand you my resignation.”