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Robert E. Lee Portrait
LOVE AS A CLAIRVOYANT.
A CHILLY wind sighing through
leafless boughs, rain pattering against the windows, river and sky a gray
blank—such had been the day. Twilight came early, filling the little parlor at
Oak Glen with shadow. Already the flower-stands were scarcely distinguishable
from the sea-green curtains against which they stood, the tall Indian vases, the
book-cases, the wide fauteuils, the gay pastels on the walls looked alike but so
many dim ghosts, and Barton Ethicke's weird, uncanny music seemed sounding out
from shadow-land itself.
He sat, with head bent down,
playing low, as if to himself—the music, evidently only the half unconscious
expression of his thought, ceasing presently altogether. Little boot-heels on a
sudden clicked sharply on the marble tiles without, a fresh young voice hummed
"Oh liberta gradita!" just without the door, and then with a swish of silken
flounces came straight toward him an airy, slender figure. Close upon him Ethel
Herrick started and tossed her saucy head.
"Oh! it is you, Mr. Ethicke! I
hardly knew what it could be sitting there in the dark."
Barton's thought stood before
him, and the golden opportunity for which he had prayed so long was in his
grasp. For weeks she had eluded him; always tantalizingly kind, but innocently
inaccessible. Now he had her—with no elderly relatives of dull perceptions as a
shelter, no child, not even a spaniel, with which to effect a diversion.
Sunbeams and mist wreaths had been as easily trapped as she—and now there she
was, alone with him and the shadow, shrinking, uneasy; outwardly demure,
inwardly, he knew, divining his intention and plotting to defeat it.
" Mr. Ethicke."
"Don't call me that."
"I have another name."
"Oh! Mr. Barton Ethicke."
"Give me my first name," he
remonstrated, with ominous meekness.
"Well then, Mr."
With such an enemy what was the
use of firing at long range, thought Barton, and sent Patience to the
right-about, threw reticence to the winds. Long repressed emotion flamed up
suddenly in his face; vi et armis he possessed himself of the little fingers
toying nervously with the ends of her sash.
Ethel recoiled, and as Fate would
have it, against a light music-stand, which, under the pressure, followed the
example of certain commercial houses, and went down. The crash sounded out with
melancholy distinctness, and an elderly relative crossing the hall put in her
head to see what was the matter. There sat Ethel, by the fading light diligently
reading "Idylls of the King," while Barton was guiltily gathering up the music.
"It was Mr. Ethicke," explained
the little hypocrite. "He is always coming down with a crash. For some
unfortunate people this world seems really only one great stumbling-block."
Virtuous indignation, polite
resignation, sounded in her voice. The elderly relative hemmed, hesitated, and
like most neutrals, finding her position untenable, retired. The door had
scarcely closed when Barton rose and walked over to her. As quick as he, she had
tied her handkerchief on her fan, and held it up, a flag of truce, as he reached
her; but he was no longer to be evaded with jests. He sat down close beside
her—useless then for her to tremble and shrink away in her corner of the sofa;
closer and closer he drew her, till her full scarlet lips were pressed against
his, and he could feel the beating of her poor heart. She tried to cover her
glowing face with her hands, but they were seized and imprisoned at once,
leaving no hiding-place but on his shoulder.
"You shy little elf," he
whispers, "how did you have the heart to torture me so long?"
What need to go on? It is the old
story. Lovers know it by heart; pater and mater families smile to recall it;
fossil bachelors and awful maiden ladies are shocked even to think of it.
Besides, more serious matters presently claimed the attention of our young
Their engagement was hardly
viewed with pleasure by Ethel's family, for Barton Ethicke, desirable in other
respects, was a Northern man, and his Union sentiments made Alabama no longer a
safe residence for him.
The marriage, if marriage there
was, must take place at once; the separation of Ethel from her family be
immediate, perhaps final. Mother's and brother's love, political sentiment,
Ethel's natural hesitation, all barred the way, only to be swept aside by
Barton's indomitable energy. Monday was the day fixed; "four days more," Ethel
said to herself with flushing cheeks, as she sat watching for the click of his
horse's hoofs on the gravel walk. He had been gone two days—detained in the city
on business. She had expected him early in the afternoon, and now it was
twilight, so a few minutes more must bring him, and her heart beat high at the
Sounded out, sharp and suddenly
on the evening stillness, a horse's hurried gallop: over the little wooden
bridge, along the road, in at the gate it came. She ran gleefully out on the
piazza, waving her handkerchief; but the rider, who had slackened his furious
pace, and was coming slowly up the avenue of oaks, was not Barton, but her
brother Ralph. He looked pale and anxious, and came in without speaking, seeming
scarcely to see her. She followed him to the library.
"Have you seen Barton?"
"Where is he? What keeps him?"
"Detained! How odd! But he sent
me a message—you have a letter for me?"
He sat down as he spoke in the
most shadowed part of the room. Ethel instantly drew away the curtains to let in
the feeble light, and going up to him looked searchingly in his face.
"Ralph, what is it? What is the
"There is. Are you sick?"
"No, I tell you! How absurd you
His tone and look were half
savage, but she wound her arms about his neck, murmuring close in his ear,
"Ralph, you can not deceive your
sister. I know that something troubles you. What have you been doing? Tell me.
When did I ever fail you, or betray your confidence? Trust in me once more, and
perhaps I can help you. You know the mouse gnawed the lion's net."
No answer, only the closer
pressure of his arm. Appalled at the silence, she bent her head back, and met
the solemn, ominous pity of his eyes. All at once she began to tremble and grow
"Is it—is it—something has
happened to Barton! He is dead—they have killed him!"
"No, but he is in prison."
"Well, why do you stop?" I am
calm, Don't you see, perfectly calm."
Ralph's broad chest heaved; his
voice shook in spite of himself.
"My poor Ettie! shall I tell you?
Have you courage to hear?"
"Yes, yes, I tell you. All, any
thing, only quick! for my heart won't beat. I think it is waiting to hear." All
this spoken low, with white, dry lips and a curious, strained distinctness of
utterance, as though each word were forced out by a mighty effort of will.
"Ethel, it would be better if he
were dead this moment with a bullet through his heart. Our boys had planned a
surprise for the Federals, and how Barton got wind of it Heaven only knows, for
it was kept secret, and why he must meddle with it, is a still deeper mystery.
He must have counted on capture and detection, for the train filled with
soldiers was positively in sight as he was tearing up the track."
"Is that all? The destruction of
a few rails!"
"All! He might have murdered his
father with more impunity. Our long-cherished and well-planned scheme was
foiled; the Federals saved incalculable loss and disaster! His life will be the
forfeit, for he is judged and condemned already, before his trial."
"Never! It is monstrous!
incredible! He shall not die! Ralph, we must save him."
"Ethel, all this afternoon I have
been with Judge Percy, father's oldest friend. I have told him how near he was
to us and to you. I offered myself as a hostage for his good conduct, till he
could be sent North. I pleaded for imprisonment—any thing but a shameful death.
I even threatened."
"Said if it were his own son he
could not save him. The mob were clamoring night and day about his prison; they
thirsted for his blood. It was doubtful if they would not tear him limb from
limb on his way to trial. He dared not, even if he would, acquit him. There is
actually no hope."
Ethel shuddered, but made no
comment, only rose quietly. Ralph held her back.
"Where are you going?"
"My dear child, not to-night; you
can not see him. Visitors are not allowed after this hour. Wait till to-morrow."
"But the night is so long and
still, and I shall think—" answered Ethel, with a look of terror.
"My poor Ettie! I will stay with
"And we shall start very early?"
"As early as you like." And with
that she was forced to be content.
Says George Herbert, "Closets are
halls, and hearts highways to God's affections." And all Ralph's tender
sympathy, all her desperate striving, nowise softened her fearful suffering. She
paced the floor, she knelt down, she fairly groveled at times, as if enduring
acutest physical anguish. With the first ray of light she ordered the carriage,
and her misery was so great that no one had the heart to oppose her. She drove
straight to the prison, where she was refused admittance, as she had expected;
back again she went to the house of Judge Percy. The old man wiped his
spectacles, blew his nose vigorously, and tried to look all judicial sternness.
"My dear Miss Ethel, a Roman or a
Spartan maiden would have tied the noose with her own hands, were he twenty
times her lover;" but Ethel burst out with a pitiful cry,
"Oh! Mr. Percy, I am neither
Roman nor Spartan, only a poor, weak girl, and so utterly miserable. See, I will
carry nothing to him. Search me if you will. I can not help him to escape; the
words that we speak will harm no one; but I must see him—I must! Do not shake
your head. You will not refuse, oh! you can not, for you are not of stone;" and
she fell down on her knees before him, and her beautiful golden hair, loosed
from the comb, dropped about her like a shining veil.
The Judge cleared his throat
"I have no sympathy with the
traitor," he said, half apologetically to Ralph, "but for her sake—here is the
order for your admittance. After all a couple of hours will do no harm."
Ethel clutched the paper with
desperate eagerness, stopped for no thanks, not even to look if Ralph were
coming, but hurried back to the carriage again. To her burning impatience
minutes were ages of torture. She sat leaning forward, her hand on the door, her
eyes devouring the streets through which they rolled.
They were admitted. The door of
Barton's cell opened. "At length!" she said, and sprang in with a cry. He turned
quickly—opened his arms wide.
"My darling! my pet!" he said,
For the last time she was folded
to his heart.
Oh! the unutterable bitterness of
His last kisses! his last words
to her on earth!
So precious, yet melting away
like the air, to leave her only their remembrance.
"But there is another world," he
said, softly. "Ah! but I haven't faith like you."
"My darling, Christ will come to
you I am persuaded.
You see my death is for the best.
He might not if I had lived."
"But oh, Barton, to die in this
way! If you had beers shot in battle, or stricken by God, I must have mourned;
but by the hangman's hands!— horrible!"
"For the Union—for our country,
Ethel. Is not that glorious? Could I do less than offer up my life? The meanest
hireling in the ranks does that. I counted the cost beforehand. I acted
deliberately. I knew that capture was almost certain, but I felt that God, who
sent me knowledge of the plot in a way of which the conspirators little dream,
destined me also to foil it."
Ethel answered by mute caresses,
she had no heart for words. Two hours slipped away like a dream. Ralph called
her, but she clung frantically to Barton.
"Oh, I can not, I can not! or if
it must be, grant me annihilation! Let not one atom of my being remain to throb
with this intolerable anguish!"
"Poor heart! ask rather for
resignation," he whispered; but she was past hearing—for the first time in her
life she had fainted.
The mockery of a trial was over,
Barton condemned, and the day of his execution fixed—the Monday that should have
been his wedding-day. Ethel had left the city because her thoughts wandered out
continually, and went up one street and across another, and so on, till they
came to the prison, outside of whose bars they clamored, crying out "that they
were spirit, and it but senseless matter, and they must pass; that he was alone,
perhaps despairing, and they were one with him, and must go to him—they must,
they must!" till she fancied herself going mad.
The journey and alternate trances
of sleep and paroxysms of agony wore out the wretched Saturday, and the Sabbath
brought with it a new phase of feeling; an utter incredulity, born out of the
fragrance and stillness about her. The tranquil fields, the peaceful sunshine,
the very bird swaying and balancing on the slender twig near her window, what
were they but nature's contradictions of the possibility of such horror as
haunted her? Surely it was some dream, and oh, how she struggled and prayed that
she might wake! She knew nothing about the time, for Ralph had stopped all the
clocks in the house, and possessed himself of her watch, that she might be
unable to count the hours or know the moment of his last struggle but somewhere
late in the wane of the long golden day she lay down, utterly wearied in body
and mind, but with the unbelief in her coming desolation still strong upon her.
There were the roses blooming in the rustic flower-stand that he had given her;
his miniature rose and fell on her bosom with every pulse of her heart. She
opened the little golden case and looked at it, There was no foreshadowing of
evil, no foreboding in the clear-cut face. As she closed it the ring on her
third finger caught the light, and flamed out with red and violet hues. She
remembered so well when he placed it there; he who was to die the death of a
felon, of those loathsome degraded beings whom she hesitated to believe
possessed of a common humanity with herself, he who had held her to his heart
and pressed his lips on hers—monstrous! impossible!
At last, present and future, all
outward circumstances, all thoughts were lost, merged suddenly in a sense of
nervous exaltation, a rapid, awful thrill, as if soul and body were parting. She
was not asleep, she was not dreaming, but she was with him floating on to the
wild music of the Hirten Spiele, filled with an unearthly pleasure that was half
the delicious whirling harmony, half the clasp of his loving arm. Suddenly
sepulchral air chilled them through and through, and they were in his prison
cell, doors fast shut, all hope gone, and again her whole soul rose up in wild
rebellion; before its revolt bars of sense went down, time and place
vanished—whether in the body or out of the body she could not tell, but she saw
a road with its iron track, showing ghostly, white in the dim night, cut in two
by a wide and rapid stream. The faint air was alive with the low hum of voices,
the clatter and ring of arms. Men swarmed like bees rolling huge bales to the
banks, tearing up the iron rails, prying open ropes, binding the bales together,
and hurling them into the dull water. Each worked with vim, with intensity, as
though he alone were the saviour of his cause. Now and then lantern gleams
caught the glitter of bayonets or of an epaulet, and high above them, a dim form
in the darkness, floated the flag for which Barton was to die—the
Foremost among them worked Mayne
Ethicke, Barton's cousin, often enough before the bitter war of brother against
brother, a guest in Ethel's father's house. If he but knew—and she struggled
incredibly to speak. She would have given her life for a moment's power of
speech, but voice and words were denied her. She could only look and watch.
Barton died to her a hundred times while the bridge was building, and the great
host passing over. To her his life seemed hanging on the stumble of every foot,
each slipping of a board, whatever caused delay.
The dawn came at last, haggard
and threatening. It looked in on Barton sleeping quietly and woke him. Only a
few hours now and for him all mysteries would be unveiled; he was going fast
over the little strip of time that separated him from eternity. Solemn
excitement possessed him. Something that was almost triumph shone out in his
face except when he remembered Ethel; but he put away the thought of her as fast
as possible, lest the gush of tenderness with which he looked at and kissed the
soft hair lying on his heart night unman him.
On the cool morning air grew a
murmur, coming at first with an occasional sigh and sweep of the wind,
deepening, nearing, resolving itself at last into a heavy measured tramp of feet
and roll of wheels. Suddenly three or four shots sounded out sharply—a rush—a
sudden flurry and terror in the streets—a shout,
"The Federals are upon us!
Mitchell's advance-guard are already in the town!"
Barton heard indistinctly the
tumult surging about his prison, but speculated little about it; it mattered
nothing to him. The time dragged on—time that is always in such haste with
criminals and dying men! always late in the day the key turned in the lock. His
heart gave one mighty bound and stood still. "At last," he said, and rose. The
door opened wide, Mayne Ethicke's arms were thrown about him.
"Barton, dear old boy, we were
just in time to save you!"
And then a strong hand was laid
on his shoulder, and turning he saw Ralph trying to laugh and choking in an
"Barton, my dear fellow, I never
thought before to rejoice over a Yankee triumph."
Barton's answer was, "Ethel?"
Far away Ethel lay in deep,
stirless sleep, so like that of death that her mother; anxiously watching, bent
more than once in sudden terror lest the breath had departed. Horses' hoofs rang
out on the road, came clattering up the carriage-way.
"Ethel! Ethel!" called a
strangely, joyful voice in the hall below.
"Is Ralph mad?" murmured Mrs.
Herrick, as Ethel opened wide her violet eyes, soft and dark with the sweet
mystery of a happy sleep. Some one ran lightly up the stairs—it was Barton's
step, his head looked in at the open door. Mrs. Herrick recoiled and shrieked,
but Ethel sprang forward with hands outstretched.
"My darling, I knew you were safe
and coming back to me."
Half an hour after she said to
Mayne Ethicke, "How you worked when you were building that bridge!"
He looked surprised.
"How did you know? I told no—"
"Oh ! I saw," and she recounted
"An odd dream," said Ralph,
"But it was not a dream—I saw
it," insisted Ethel.
"Easily explained," laughed
Barton. "Love in the old days was blind, but in this our modern progressive age
he has grown clairvoyant."
THE WAR ON THE MISSISSIPPI.
pages 408 and 409 to
illustrations of the WAR ON THE MISSISSIPPI, from sketches by our artist, Mr.
Alexander Simplot. One of the pictures represents the
GUN-BOAT FIGHT ON THE
MISSISSIPPI OPPOSITE MEMPHIS. As a contrast to the descriptions by loyal men, we
give the following account of this remarkable combat from the pen of the
reporter of a rebel paper, the Memphis Argus, of June 6:
As was generally anticipated,
several gun-boats of the Lincoln fleet made their appearance around the bend
above the city this A.M., arriving below the island a little before 6 o'clock.
Their appearance created an immediate movement in our fleet, under the brave
Commodore Montgomery, who had been awaiting them, and his boats were at once
headed up stream to offer them battle. Our fleet was composed of the General Van
Dorn, flag-ship, General Price, General Bragg, Jeff Thompson, General Lovell,
General Beauregard, Sumner, and Little Rebel, all rams, under the supreme
command of Commander Montgomery. Upon arriving opposite the mouth of Wolf Creek,
the Federal boats in the mean time advancing from the island, tine order was
given to open fire, which was accordingly done by the Little Rebel. Three shots
were fired from the Confederate fleet before any reply was made by the enemy,
who, however, continued advancing. A short time afterward fire was opened by the
advancing boats of the Federal fleet, and a brisk interchange of cannonading was
kept up for some time, the shots from both sides generally falling wide of the
mark. Up to this time no damage had been done. The engagement had then continued
probably twenty minutes.
Several more of the enemy's
gun-boats now came in sight. Aware that upon their arrival, which would give the
enemy great superiority, he could not continue the engagement at this point with
any hope of success, Commodore Montgomery, who was using the Little Rebel as his
flag-vessel, ordered the fleet to fall back. The order was reluctantly obeyed,
the firing, however, being kept up vigorously.
Our fleet retired to opposite
Beal Street, no longer in line of battle, when one of the Federal rams shot
ahead of the remainder of the fleet in pursuit. Upon reaching the vicinity of
our fleet, preparations were made to receive her. The Beauregard at once
prepared to strike, and they both bore down on each other in gallant style. The
contest was of short duration, as the Beauregard, avoiding the blow intended for
her, struck her adversary forward of her wheelhouse. The blow placed the Federal
adventurer hors du combat, and she hauled off and made for the Arkansas shore,
where she remained during the rest of the engagement.
In the mean time another Federal
ram, the Monarch, started to the first's assistance, rapidly passing the city
under full head of steam. The Beauregard, having disabled her first adversary,
turned about to run into the Monarch. The Price was also moved up, and the three
boats were rapidly coming together.
A heavy blow aimed by the
Beauregard at the Monarch missed and struck the Price, which was unable to get
out of the way. She was struck squarely on the wheel-house, which was torn
completely off, leaving the boat nearly a wreck. She at once made for the
Arkansas shore, and sunk as deeply as the shallow water would allow. A number of
persons on board were killed and wounded by the enemy's sharp-shooters.
Just at this period the four
iron-clad gun-boats of the enemy, none of which had yet taken any other part in
the engagement than firing at long range as they slowly advanced, moved down for
the scene of the action. The cannonading on their arrival was fiercely renewed,
and in a short time the General Lovell was pierced by a large shot, which caused
her to fill rapidly and settle down. We had by this time lost two boats, and the
fighting was at close quarters.
The Little Rebel, which was all
the time in the thickest of the fight, was soon afterward struck by one of the
Federal shots, and she at once started for the Arkansas side, and stopped near
the General Price.
Commodore Montgomery and a
majority of the officers and men escaped.
The Beauregard, nothing daunted
by the disaster which had befallen the others, still continued vigorously
firing. As she retired toward the point two or three of the enemy's large boats
closed in on her, pouring in broadside after broadside. She was struck several
times by shot which raked her fore and aft. A Federal ram also coming up dealt
her a blow, and she contnienced sinking rapidly in deep water opposite Jackson
Mound. A Federal tug was sent to her assistance, in which the officers and men
were conveyed to the Arkansas shore as prisoners fo war. The remaining
Confederate boats, the Jeff Thompson, Van Dorn, Sumter, and Bragg, now rapidly
moved down the river, aware that their only hope of safety, after the loss of
the other four and the arrival of the remainder of the Lincoln fleet, was in
further continuing to retreat; they soon rounded the point, and from Memphis
could no longer be seen. But our reporter, who witnessed their (Next