THE GUNS OF BULL RUN
A STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR'S EVE
by JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER
XIV. IN WASHINGTON
A quarter of a mile from the forest, the wood ascended considerably, throwing him into relief. He felt some shivers here, as he did not know who might be watching him. Field glasses were ugly things when a man was trying to hide. He glanced at the little group that he had seen on the hill, and he noticed now that the officer with the glasses was looking at him. But Harry was a long distance away, and he had the courage and prudence of mind to keep from falling into a panic. He did not believe that they could tell the color of his uniform at that range, but if he whipped his horse into a gallop, pursuit would certainly come from somewhere.
He rode slowly on, letting his figure sway negligently, and he did not look back again at the group on the hill, where the officer was watching him. But he looked from side to side, fearing that horsemen in blue might appear galloping across the fields. It was a supreme test of nerve and will. More than once he felt an almost irresistible temptation to lash his horse and gallop for the wood as hard as he could. That wood seemed wonderfully deep and dark, fit to hide any fugitive. But it had acquired an extraordinary habit of moving further and further away. He had to exert his will so hard that his hand fairly trembled on his bridle rein. Yet he remained master of himself, and went on sitting the saddle in the slouchy attitude that he had adopted when he knew himself to be observed.
The wood was only three or four hundred yards away, when far to his left he saw several horsemen appear on a slope, and he was quite sure that their uniforms were blue. The distance to the wood was now so short that the temptation to gallop was powerful, but he still resisted. Pride, too, helped him and he did not increase the pace of his horse a particle. He saw the dark, cool shadow very near now, and he thought he heard one of the new horsemen on his left shout to him. But he would not look around. Preserving appearances to the last, he rode into the forest, and its heavy shadows enveloped him.
He stopped a moment under the trees and wiped the perspiration from his forehead. He was also seized with a violent fit of trembling, but it was over in a half minute, and then turning his horse from the path he rode into the densest part of the forest.
Harry felt an immense relief. He knew that he might be followed, but he did not consider it probable. It was more than likely that he passed for some countryman riding homeward. Martial law had not yet covered all the hills with a network of iron rules. So he rode on boldly, and he noticed with satisfaction that the forest seemed to be extensive and dense. Night, heavy with clouds, was coming, too, and soon he would be so well hidden that only chance would enable an enemy to find him.
In a half hour he stopped and took his bearings as best he could. It seemed to be a wild bit of country. He judged that it was ground cropped too much in early times, and left to grow into wilderness again. He was not likely to find anything in it save a hut or two of charcoal burners. It was a lonely region, very desolate now, with the night birds calling. The clouds grew heavier and he would have been glad of shelter, but he put down the wish, recalling to himself with a sort of fierceness that he was a soldier and must scorn such things. Moreover, it behooved him to make most of his journey in the night, and this forest, which ran almost to
Washington, seemed to be provided for his approach.
He had fixed the direction of Washington firmly in his mind, and having a good idea of location, he kept his horse going at a good walk toward his destination. As his eyes, naturally strong, grew used to the forest, and his horse was sure of foot, they were able to go through the bushes without much trouble. He stopped at intervals to listen for a possible enemy--or friend--but heard nothing except the ordinary sounds of the forest.
By and by a wind rose and blew all the clouds away. A shining moon and a multitude of brilliant stars sprang out. Just then Harry came to a hillock, clear of trees, with the ground dipping down beyond. He rode to the highest point of the hillock and looked toward the east into a vast open world, lighted by the moon and stars. Off there just under the horizon he caught a gleam of white and he knew instinctively what it was. It was the
dome of the Capitol in that city which was now the capital of the North alone. It was miles away, but he saw it and his heart thrilled. He forgot, for the moment, that by his own choice it was no longer his own.
Harry sat on his horse and looked a long time at that far white glow, deep down under the horizon. There was the capital of his own country, the real capital. Somehow he could not divest himself of that idea, and he looked until mists and vapors began to float up from the lowlands, and the white gleam was lost behind them. Then he rode on slowly and thoughtfully, trying to think of a plan that would bring rich rewards for the cause for which he was going to fight.
He had discovered something already. He had seen the bayonets of a regiment marching to join the Northern army, and he had no doubt that he would see others. Perhaps they would consider themselves strong enough in a day or two to attack. It was for him to learn. He was back in the forest and he now turned his course more toward the east. By dawn he would be well in the rear of the Northern army, and he must judge then how to act.
But all his calculations were upset by a very simple thing, one of Nature's commonest occurrences--rain. The heavy clouds that had gathered early in the night were gone away merely for a time. Now they came back in battalions, heavier and more numerous than ever. The shining moon and the brilliant stars were blotted out as if they had never been. A strong wind moaned and a cold rain came pouring into his face. The blanket that he carried on his saddle, and which he now wrapped around him, could not protect him. The fierce rain drove through it and he was soaked and shivering. The darkness, too, was so great that he could see only a few yards before him, and he let the horse take his course.
Harry thought grimly that he was indeed well hidden in the forest. He was so well hidden that he was lost even to himself. In all that darkness and rain he could not retain the sense of direction, and he had no idea where he was. He rambled about for hours, now and then trying to find shelter behind massive tree trunks, and, after every failure, going on in the direction in which he thought Washington lay. His shivering became so strong that he was afraid it would turn into a real chill, and he resolved to seek a roof, if the forest should hold such a thing.
It was nearly dawn when he saw dimly the outlines of a cabin standing in a tiny clearing. He believed it to be the hut of a charcoal burner, and he was resolved to take any risk for the sake of its roof. He dismounted and beat heavily upon the door with the butt of a pistol. The answer was so long in coming that he began to believe the hut was empty, which would serve his purpose best of all, but at last a voice, thick with sleep, called: "Who's there?"
"I'm lost and I need shelter," Harry replied.
"Wait a minute," returned the voice.
Harry, despite the beat of the rain, heard a shuffling inside, and then, through a crack in the door, he saw a light spring up. He hoped the owner of the voice would hurry. The rain seemed to be beating harder than ever upon him and the cold was in his bones. Then the door was thrown back suddenly and an uncommonly sharp voice shouted:
"Drop the reins! Throw up your hands an' walk in, where I kin see what you are!"
Harry found himself looking into the muzzle of an old-fashioned long-barreled rifle. But the hammer was cocked, and it was held by a pair of large, calloused, and steady hands, belonging to a tall, thin man with powerful shoulders and a bearded face.
There was no help for it. The boy dropped the reins, raised his hands over his head and walked into the hut, where the rain at least did not reach him. It was a rude place of a single room, with a fire-place at one end, a bed in a corner, a small pine table on which a candle burned, and clothing and dried herbs hanging from hooks on the wall. The man wore only a shirt and trousers, and he looked unkempt and wild, but he was a resolute figure.
"Stand over thar, close to the light, whar I kin see you," he said.
Harry moved over, and the muzzle of the rifle followed him. The man could look down the sights of his rifle and at the same time examine his visitor, which he did with thoroughness.
"Now, then, Johnny Reb," he said, "what are you doin' here this time o' night an' in such weather as this, wakin' honest citizens out o' their beds?"
"Nothing but stand before the muzzle of your rifle."
The man grinned. The answer seemed to appeal to him, and he lowered the weapon, although he did not relax his watchfulness.
"I got the drop on you, Johnny Reb; you're boun' to admit that," he said. "You didn't ketch Seth Perkins nappin'."
"I admit it. But why do you call me Johnny Reb?"
"Because that's what you are. You can't tell much about the color of a man's coat after it's been through sech a big rain, but I know yourn is gray. I ain't takin' no part in this war. They've got to fight it as best they kin without me. I'm jest an innercent charcoal burner, 'bout the most innercent that ever lived, I guess, but atween you an' me, Johnny Reb, my feelin's lean the way my state, Old Virginny, leans, that is, to the South, which I reckon is lucky fur you."
Harry saw that the man had blue eyes and he saw, too, that they were twinkling. He knew with infallible instinct that he was honest and truthful.
"It's true," he said. "I'm a Southern soldier, and I'm in your hands."
"I see that you trust me, an' I think I kin trust you. Jest you wait 'til I put that hoss o' yourn in the lean-to behind the cabin."
He darted out of the door and returned in a minute shaking the water from his body.
"That hoss feels better already," he said, "an' you will, too, soon. Now, I shet this door, then I kindle up the fire ag'in, then you take off your clothes an' put them an' yo'self afore the blaze. In time you an' your clothes are all dry."
The man's manner was all kindness, and the poor little cabin had become a palace. He blew at the coals, threw on dry pine knots, and in a few minutes the flames roared up the chimney.
Harry took off his wet clothing, hung it on two cane chairs before the fire and then proceeded to roast himself. Warmth poured back into his body and the cold left his bones. Despite his remonstrances, Perkins took a pot out of his cupboard and made coffee. Harry drank two cups of it, and he knew now that the danger of chill, to be followed by fever, was gone.
"Mr. Perkins," he said at length, "you are an angel."
"Mebbe I air," he said, "but I 'low I don't look like one. Guess ef I went up an' tried to j'in the real angels Gabriel would say, 'Go back, Seth Perkins, an' improve yo'self fur four or five thousand years afore you try to keep comp'ny like ours.' But now, Johnny Reb, sence you're feelin' a heap better you might tell what you wuz tryin' to do, prowlin' roun' in these woods at sech a time."
"I meant to go behind the Yankee army, see what reinforcements were coming up, find out their plans, if I could, and report to our general."
Perkins whistled softly.
"Say," he said, "you look like a boy o' sense. What are you wastin' your time in little things fur? Couldn't you find somethin' bigger an' a heap more dangerous that would stir you up an' give you action?"
"I was set to do this task, Mr. Perkins," he said, "and I mean to do it."
"That shows good sperrit, but ef I wuz set to do it I wouldn't. Do you know whar you are an' what's around you, Johnny Reb?"
"No, I don't."
"Wa'al, you're right inside o' the Union lines. The armies o'
McDowell hem in all this forest, an' I reckon mebbe it wuz a good thing fur you that the storm came up an' you got past in it. Wuz you expectin', Johnny Reb, to ride right into the Yankee pickets with that Confedrit uniform on?"
"I don't know exactly what I intended to do. I meant to see in the morning. I didn't know I was so far inside their lines."
"You know it now, an' if you're boun' to do what you say you're settin' out to do, then you've got to change clothes. Here, I'll take these an' hide 'em."
He snatched Harry's uniform from the chair, ran up a ladder into a little room under the eaves, and returned with some rough garments under his arm.
"These are my Sunday clothes," he said. "You're pow'ful big fur your years, an' they'll come purty nigh fittin' you. Leastways, they'll fit well enough fur sech times ez these. Now you wear 'em, ef you put any value on your life."
Harry hesitated. He wished to go as a scout, and not as a spy. Clothes could not change a man, but they could change his standing. Yet the words of Perkins were obviously true. But he would not go back. He must do his task.
"I'll take your clothes on one condition, Mr. Perkins," he said, "you must let me pay for them."
"Will it make you feel better to do so?"
"A great deal better."
"All right, then."
Harry took from his saddle bags the purse which he had removed from his coat pocket when he undressed, and handed a ten dollar gold piece to the charcoal burner.
"What is it?" asked the charcoal burner.
"A gold eagle, ten dollars."
"I've heard of 'em, but it's the first I've ever seed. I'm bound to say I regard that shinin' coin with a pow'ful sight o' respeck. But if I take it I'm makin' three dollars. Them clothes o' mine jest cost seven dollars an' I've wore 'em four times."
"Count the three dollars in for shelter and gratitude and remember, you've made your promise."
Perkins took the coin, bit it, pitched it up two or three times, catching it as it fell, and then put it upon the hearth, where the blaze could gleam upon it.
"It's shorely a shiner," he said, "an' bein' that it's the first I've ever had, I reckon I'll take good care of it. Wait a minute."
He picked up the coin again, ran up the ladder into the dark eaves of the house, and came back without it.
"Now, Johnny Reb," he said, "put on my clothes and see how you feel."
Harry donned the uncouth garb, which fitted fairly well after he had rolled up the trousers a little. "You'd pass for a farmer," said Perkins. "I fed your hoss when I put him up, an' as soon as the rain's over you kin start ag'in, a sight safer than you wuz when you wore that uniform. Ef you come back this way ag'in I'll give it to you. Now, you'd better take a nap. I'll call you when the rain stops."
Harry felt that he had indeed fallen into the hands of a friend, and stretching himself on a pallet which the charcoal burner spread in front of the fire, he soon fell asleep. He awoke when Perkins shook his shoulder and found that it was dawn.
"The rain's stopped, day's come an' I guess you'd better be goin'" said the man. "I've got breakfast ready for you, an' I hope, boy, that you'll get through with a whole skin. I said that both sides would have to fight this war without my help, but I don't mind givin' a boy a hand when he needs it."
Harry did not say much, but he was deeply grateful. After breakfast he mounted his horse, received careful directions from Perkins and rode toward Washington. The whole forest was fresh and green after its heavy bath, and birds, rejoicing in the morning, sang in every bush. Harry's elation returned. Clothes impart a certain quality, and, dressed in a charcoal burner's Sunday best, he began to bear himself like one. He rode in a slouchy manner, and he transferred the pistols from his belt to the large inside pockets of his new coat. As he passed in an hour from the forest into a rolling open country, he saw that Perkins had advised him wisely. Dressed in the Confederate uniform he would certainly have had trouble before he made the first mile.
He saw the camps of troops both to right and left and he knew that these were the flank of the Northern army. Then from the crest of another hill he caught his second view of Washington. The gleam from the dome of the
Capitol was much more vivid now, and he saw other white buildings amid the foliage. Since he had become technically a spy through the mere force of circumstances, Harry took a daring resolve. He would enter Washington itself. They were all one people, Yanks and Johnny Rebs, and no one could possibly know that he was from the Southern army. Only one question bothered him. He did not know what to do with the horse.
But he rode briskly ahead, trusting that the problem of the horse would solve itself, and, as he turned a field, several men in blue uniforms rode forward and ordered him to halt. Harry obeyed promptly.
"Where are you going?" asked the leading man, a minor officer.
"To Washin'ton," replied the boy in the uncouth language that he thought fitted his role.
"And what are you going to Washington for?"
"To sell this hoss," replied Harry, on the impulse of the moment. "I raised him myself, but he's too fine fur me to ride, specially when hosses are bringin' sech good prices."
"He is a fine animal," said the officer, looking at him longingly. "Do you want to sell him now?"
Harry shook his head.
"No," he replied. "I'm goin' to make one o' them big bugs in Washin'ton pay fur him an' pay fur him good."
The officer laughed.
"You're not such a simpleton as you look," he said. "You're right. They'll pay you more for him in the capital than I could. Ride on. They may pass you over
Long Bridge or they may not. That part of it is not my business."
Harry went forward at a trot, glad enough to leave such dangerous company behind. But he saw that he was now in the very thick of mighty risks. He would encounter a menace at every turn. Had he realized fully the character of his undertaking when he was in the charcoal burner's hut he would have hesitated long. Now, there was nothing to do but go ahead and take his fate, whatever it might be.
Yet his tale of wishing to sell a horse served him well. After a few questions, it passed him by a half dozen interruptions, and he became so bold that he stopped and bought food for his noon-day meal at a little wayside tavern kept by a woman. Three or four countrymen were lounging about and all of them were gossips. But Harry found it worth while to listen to their gossip. It was their business to carry vegetables and other provisions into Washington for sale and they picked up much news. They said that the Northern government was pushing all its troops to the front. All the politicians and writers in Washington were clamoring for a battle. One blow and "Jeff Davis and Secession" would be smashed to atoms. Harry's young blood flamed at the contemptuous words, but he could not afford to show any resentment. Yet this was valuable information. He could confirm
Beauregard's belief that an attack would soon be made in great force.
When Harry left them he turned again to the left, as he saw a stretch of country rolling and apparently wooded lying in that direction. Once, when a young boy, he had come to Washington with his father for a stay of several weeks, and he had a fair acquaintance with the region about the capital. He knew that forested hills lay ahead of him and beyond them the Potomac.
In another hour he was in the hills, which he found without people. Through every opening in the leaves he saw Washington and he could also discern long lines of redoubts on the Virginia side of the river.
Late in the afternoon he came to a small, abandoned log cabin. He inferred that its owner had moved away because of the war. As nearly as he could judge it had not been occupied for several weeks. Back of it was a small meadow enclosed with a rail fence, but everything else was deep woods. He turned his horse into the meadow and left his saddle, bridle and saddle blanket in the house. He might not find anything when he returned, but he must take the risk.
Then he set off at a brisk pace through the woods, which opened out a little after dusk, and disclosed a great pillared white house, with surrounding outbuildings. He knew at once that this was Arlington, the home of one of the Southern generals, Lee, of whom he had heard his father speak well.
But he also saw, despite the dusk, blue uniforms and the gleam of bayonets. And as he looked he saw, too, earthworks and the signs that many men were present. He lay long among the bushes until the night thickened and darkened and he resolved to inspect the earthworks thoroughly. No very strict watch seemed to be kept, and, in truth, it did not seem to be needed here so near to Washington, and so far away from the Southern army.
Before ten o'clock everything settled into quiet, and he cautiously climbed a great beech which was in full and deep foliage. The boughs were so many and the leaves so dense that one standing directly under him could not have seen him. But he went up as far as he could go, and, crouched there, made a comprehensive survey.
It was a fine moonlight night and he saw the earthworks stretching for a long distance, thorough and impregnable to anything except a great army. Beyond that was a silver band which was the Potomac, and beyond the river were the clustered roofs which were Washington. But he turned his eyes back to the earthworks, and he tried to fasten firmly in his mind their number and location. This, too, would be important news, most welcome to
The boy's elation grew. They had given him a delicate and dangerous task, but he was doing it. He had overcome every obstacle so far, and he would overcome them to the end. He was bound to enter that Washington which, in the distance, seemed to lie in such a close cluster.
He felt that he had lingered long enough at Arlington, and, descending, he made a great curve around the earthworks, coming to the river north of Arlington. His next problem was the passage of the Potomac. He did not dare to try Long Bridge, which he knew would be guarded strictly, but he thought he might find some boatman who would take him over. As the capital was so crowded, the farmers were continually crossing with loads of provisions, and now that an uncommonly hot July had come the night would be a favorite time for the passage.
A search up and down the bank brought its reward. A Virginian, who said his name was Grimes, had a heavy boat filled with vegetables, and Harry was welcome as a helper.
"It's a dollar for you," said Grimes, who did not trouble to ask the boy his name, "an' here are your oars."
The two, pulling strongly, shot the boat out into the stream, and then rowed in a diagonal line for the city, which rose up brilliant and great in the moonlight. Other boats were in the river, but they paid no attention to the barge, loaded with produce, and rowed by two innocent countrymen. They soon reached the Washington shore, and Grimes handed Harry a silver dollar.
"You're a strong young fellow," he said, "an' I guess you've earned the money. My farm is only four miles up the river an' thar's goin' to be a big market for all I kin raise. I need a good han' to help me work it. How'd you like to come with me an' take a good job, while them that don't know no better go ahead an' do the fightin'?"
"Thank you for your offer," replied Harry, "but I've got business to attend to in Washington."
He slipped the dollar into his pocket, because he had earned it honestly, and entered Washington, just as the rising sun began to gild domes and roofs. Coming from the boat, his appearance aroused no suspicion. People were pouring into Washington then as they were pouring into the Confederate capital at Richmond. One dressed as he, and looking as he, could enter or depart almost as he pleased, despite the ring of fortifications.
Up went the sun, and the full day came, extremely hot and clear. Harry turned into a little restaurant, and spent half of his well-earned dollar for breakfast. Neither proprietor nor waiter gave him more than a casual glance. Evidently they were used to serving countrymen. Harry, feeling refreshed and strong again, paid for his food and went outside.
The streets were thronged. He had expected nothing else, but there was a great air of excitement and expectancy as if something important were going to happen.
"What is it?" asked Harry of a man beside him.
"Don't you know what day this is?" asked the man.
"I've forgot," replied the boy in the slouchy speech and intonation of the hills. "I jest came in with dad this mornin', bringin' a wagon load of fresh vegetables."
"You look as foolish as you talk," said the man scornfully. "This is the Fourth of July, and the special session of Congress called by
President Lincoln is to meet this morning and decide how to give the rebels the thrashing they need."
"I did hear somethin' about that," replied Harry, "but workin' in the field I furgot all about it. I 'low I'll stroll that way."
He drifted on with the crowd toward the
Capitol, which rose nobler and more imposing than ever, a great marble building, gleaming white in the sunshine. Harry's heart throbbed. He could not yet dissociate himself from the idea that he, as one of the nation, was a part owner of the Capitol. But, forgetting all danger, he persisted in his errand. A great event was about to occur, and he intended to see it.
There were soldiers everywhere. The streets blazed with uniforms, but the people were allowed to gather about the Capitol and many also entered. A friendly sentinel passed Harry, who stood for a few moments in the rotunda. He was careful to keep near other spectators, in order that he might not attract attention to himself.
All things that he saw cut sharply into his sensitive and eager mind. It was in truth an extraordinary situation for one who had come as he had come, and he waited, calm of face, but with every pulse beating. The comments of the other spectators told him who the famous men were as they entered. Here were Cameron and Wade of the lowering brows. There passed Taney, the venerable Chief Justice, and then dry and quiet Hamlin, the Vice-President, on his way to preside over the Senate, went by. A tall and magnificent figure in a general's uniform next attracted Harry's attention. He was an old man, but he held himself very erect and his head was crowned with splendid snowy hair.
"Old Fuss and Feathers," said a man near Harry, and the boy knew that this was
General Scott, the Virginian, who had led the famous and victorious march into the City of
Mexico, and who was now in name, but in name only, commander of the Northern army. His father had served under him in those memorable battles and Harry looked at him with a certain veneration, as the old man passed on and disappeared in another room. Then came more, some famous and others destined to be so.
The atmosphere of the great building was surcharged. Harry and his comrades had heard that the North was discouraged, that the people would not fight, that they would "let the erring sisters go in peace." It did not seem so to him here. The talk was all of war and of invading the South, and he seemed to feel a tenacious spirit behind it.
He managed to secure entrance to the lobbies of both Senate and House, and he listened for a while to the debates. He discovered the same spirit there. He felt that he had a right to report not only on the forts of Washington and the movements of brigades, but also on the temper in the North. Resolution and tenacity, he now saw, were worth as much as cannon balls.
Harry did not leave the Capitol until the middle of the afternoon, when he drifted back to the restaurant at which he had obtained his breakfast, where he spent the other half of the dollar for luncheon. Then he resolved to escape from Washington that night. He had picked up by casual talk and observation together a fair knowledge of Washington's defenses. Above all he had learned that the North was pouring troops in an unbroken stream into the capital, and that the great advance on the line of Bull Run would take place very soon. He could scarcely expect to achieve more; he had already surpassed his hopes, and it was surely time to go.
He left the restaurant. The streets were still crowded, and he saw standing at the nearest corner a figure that seemed familiar. He took a long look, and then he was shaken with alarm. It was Shepard. He had seen him under such tense conditions that he could never forget the man. The turn of his shoulders, the movement of his head--all were familiar. And Harry had a great respect for the keenness and intelligence of Shepard. He could not forget how Shepard had talked to him that night in
Montgomery. There was something uncanny about the man, and he had a sudden conviction that Shepard had seen him long since and was watching him. He thrust his hands into his capacious pockets. The pistols were still there, and he resolved that he would use them if need be.
He went at first toward the Potomac, and he did not look back for a long time, rambling about the streets in a manner apparently aimless. Now and then a quiver ran down his back, and he knew it was due to the mental fear that Shepard was pursuing. When he did look back at last he did not see him, and he felt immediate elation. It would not be long now until dark, and then he would make his escape across the river.
Time was slow, but it could not keep darkness back forever, and, as soon as it had come fully, he turned toward the north. Southern troops would not be looked for there, and egress would be easier in that direction. He passed on without interruption and soon was in the suburbs, which were then so shabby. Then he looked back, and cold fear plucked at the roots of his hair. A man was following him, and he could tell even in the dim light that it was Shepard.
A shudder shook him now. A rope was the fate for a spy. But he recovered himself and walked on faster than ever. The cabins thinned away, and he saw before him bushes. His keen hearing brought to him the soft sound of the pursuing footsteps. Now he took his resolution. There were few games at which two could not play.
He passed between two bushes, came around and returned to the open. But he returned with one of the pistols cocked and levelled, his finger on the trigger. Shepard, pursuing swiftly, walked almost against the muzzle, and Harry laughed softly.
"Well, Mr. Shepard," he said, "you've followed me well, but as I've no mind to be hung for a spy or anything else, I must ask you to go back."
"You have the advantage at present, it is true," said Shepard, "but what makes you think I was going to shoot at you or have you seized?"
"Isn't it what one would naturally expect?"
"Yes--perhaps. But I could have given the alarm while you were still in the city. I speak the truth when I say I do not know just what I had in mind. But at all events the tables are turned. You hold me at the pistol's muzzle and I admit it."
He smiled and the boy could not keep from liking him.
"Mr. Shepard," said Harry, "what you told me at Montgomery was true. We of the South did not realize the numbers, power and spirit of the North. I know now the truth of what you told me, but, on the other hand, you of the North do not realize the fire, courage and devotion of the South."
"I understand it, but I'm afraid that not many of our people do so. Suppose we call it quits once more. Let this be Montgomery over again. You do not want to shoot me here any more than I wanted to shoot you down there."
"I admit that also," said Harry.
"Then you are safe from me, if I'm safe from you."
"Agreed," said Harry, as he lowered the weapon.
"Good-bye," said Shepard.
But they did not offer to shake hands. Each turned his back on the other, and, when Harry stopped in the bushes, he saw only the dim outlines of Washington. At midnight he found a colored man who, for pay, rowed him across the Potomac. At dawn he found his horse peacefully grazing in the meadow, and at the next dawn he was once more within the southern lines.