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Civil War Harper's Weekly, November 8, 1862

You are viewing an issue of Harper's Weekly from our online archive. We have posted the entire run of Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These papers are rich with eye-witness illustrations and news reports written as the events unfolded.

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NOVEMBER 8, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

715

Noel; I am only your servant! Then, when the will is safe, and when you are safe, write to your wife at this house. Tell her her infamous imposture is discovered—tell her you have made a new will, which leaves her penniless at your death—tell her, in your righteous indignation, that she enters your doors no more. Place yourself in that strong position, and it is no longer you who are at your wife's mercy, but your wife who is at yours. Assert your own power, Sir, with the law to help you, and crush this woman into submission to any terms for the future that you please to impose."

He eagerly took up the pen. "Yes," he said, with a vindictive self-importance, "any terms I please to impose." He suddenly checked himself, and his face became dejected and perplexed. "How can I do it now?" he asked, throwing down the pen as quickly as he had taken it up.

"Do what, Sir?" inquired Mrs. Lecount.

"How can I make my will, with Mr. Loscombe away in London and no lawyer here to help me?"

Mrs. Lecount gently tapped the papers before her on the table with her forefinger.

"All the help you need," Sir, is waiting for you here," she said. "I considered this matter carefully before I came to you, and I provided myself with the confidential assistance of a friend, to guide me through those difficulties which I could not penetrate for myself. The friend to whom I refer is a gentleman of Swiss extraction, but born and bred in England. He is not a lawyer by profession, but he has had his own sufficient experience of the law, nevertheless; and he has supplied me, not only with a model by which you may make your will, but with the written sketch of a letter which it is as important for us to have as the model of the will itself. There is another necessity waiting for you, Mr. Noel, which I have not mentioned yet, but which is no less urgent, in its way, than the necessity of the will."

"What is it?" he asked, with roused curiosity.

"We will take it in its turn, Sir," answered. Mrs. Lecount. "Its turn has not come yet. The will, if you please, first. I will dictate from the model in my possession, and you will write. Unless I greatly mistake your intentions, the document, when completed, will be short enough and simple enough for a child to understand it. But if any doubts remain on your mind, by all means compose those doubts by showing your will to a lawyer by profession. In the mean time, let me not be considered intrusive if I remind you that we are all mortal, and that the lost opportunity can never be recalled. While your time is your own, Sir, and while your enemies are unsuspicious of you, make your will!"

She opened a sheet of note-paper and smoothed it out before him; she dipped the pen in ink and placed it in his hands. He took it from her without speaking; he was, to all appearance, suffering under some temporary uneasiness of mind. But the main point was gained. There he sat, with the paper before him and the pen in his hand, ready at last, in right earnest, to make his will.

"The first question for you to decide, Sir," said Mrs. Lecount, after a preliminary glance at her Draft, "is your choice of an executor. I have no desire to influence your decision; but I may, without impropriety, remind you that a wise choice means, in other words, the choice of an old and tried friend whom you know that you can trust."

"It means the admiral, I suppose?" said Noel Vanstone.

Mrs. Lecount bowed.

"Very well," he continued. "The admiral let it be."

There was plainly some oppression still weighing on his mind. Even under the trying circumstances in which he was now placed it was not in his nature to take Mrs. Lecount's perfectly sensible and disinterested advice without a word of cavil, as he had taken it now.

"Are you ready, Sir?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Lecount dictated the first paragraph from the Draft as follows:

"This is the last Will and Testament of me, Noel Vanstone, now living at Baliol Cottage, near Dumfries. I revoke, absolutely and in every particular, my former will, executed on the thirtieth of September, eighteen hundred and forty-seven; and I hereby appoint Rear-Admiral Arthur Everard Bartram, of St. Crux-in-the-Marsh, Essex, sole executor of this my will."

"Have you written those words, Sir?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Lecount laid down the Draft; Noel Vanstone laid down the pen. They neither of them looked at each other. There was a long silence.

"I am waiting, Mr. Noel," said Mrs. Lecount, at last, "to hear what your wishes are in respect to the disposal of your fortune. Your large fortune," she added, with merciless emphasis.

He took up the pen again, and began picking the feathers from the quill in dead silence.

"Perhaps your existing will may help you to instruct me, Sir," pursued Mrs. Lecount. "May I inquire to whom you left all your surplus money after leaving the eighty thousand pounds to your wife?"

If he had answered that question plainly he must have said, "I have left the whole surplus to my cousin, George Bertram," and the implied acknowledgment that Mrs. Lecount's name was not mentioned in the will must then have followed in Mrs. Lecount's presence. A much bolder man, in his situation, might have felt the same oppression and the same embarrassment which he was feeling now. He picked the last morsel of feather from the quill, and, desperately

leaping the pitfall under his feet, advanced to meet Mrs. Lecount's claims on him of his own accord.

"I would rather not talk of any will but the will I am making now," he said, uneasily. "The first thing, Lecount—" He hesitated—put the bare end of the quill into his mouth—gnawed at it thoughtfully—and said no more.

"Yes, Sir?" persisted Mrs. Lecount.

"The first thing is—"

"Yes, Sir?"

"The first thing is, to—to make some provision for You?"

He spoke the last words in a tone of plaintive interrogation—as if all hope of being met by a magnanimous refusal had not deserted him even yet. Mrs. Lecount enlightened his mind on this point without a moment's loss of time.

"Thank you, Mr. Noel," she said, with the tone and manner of a woman who was not acknowledging a favor but receiving a right.

He took another bite at the quill. The perspiration began to appear on his face.

"The difficulty is," he remarked, "to say how much."

"Your lamented father, Sir," rejoined Mrs. Lecount, "met that difficulty (if you remember) at the time of his last illness?"

"I don't remember," said Noel Vanstone, doggedly.

"You were on one side of his bed, Sir, and I was on the other. We were vainly trying to persuade him to make his will. After telling us he would wait and make his will when he was well again—he looked round at me and said some kind and feeling words which my memory will treasure to my dying day. Have you forgotten those words, Mr. Noel?"

"Yes," said Mr. Noel, without hesitation.

"In my present situation, Sir," retorted Mrs. Lecount, "delicacy forbids me to improve your memory."

She looked at her watch and relapsed into silence. He clenched his hands and writhed from side to side of his chair in an agony of indecision. Mrs. Lecount passively refused to take the slightest notice of him.

"What should you say—?" he began, and suddenly stopped again.

"Yes, Sir?"

"What should you say to — a thousand pounds?"

Mrs. Lecount rose from her chair and looked him full in the face with the majestic indignation of an outraged woman.

"After the service I have rendered you today, Mr. Noel," she said, "I have at least earned a claim on your respect—if I have earned nothing more. I wish you good-morning."

"Two thousand!" cried Noel Vanstone, with the courage of despair.

Mrs. Lecount folded up her papers and hung her traveling-bag over her arm in contemptuous silence.

"Three thousand!"

Mrs. Lecount moved with impenetrable dignity from the table to the door.

"Four thousand!"

Mrs. Lecount gathered her shawl round her with a shudder and opened the door.

"Five thousand!"

He clasped his hands and wrung them at her in a frenzy of rage and suspense. "Five thousand!" was the death-cry of his pecuniary suicide.

Mrs. Lecount softly shut the door again and came back a step.

"Free of legacy duty, Sir?" she inquired. "No!"

Mrs. Lecount turned on her heel and opened the door again.

"Yes!"

Mrs. Lecount came back and resumed her place at the table as if nothing had happened.

"Five thousand pounds, free of legacy duty, was the sum, Sir, which your father's grateful regard promised me in his will," she said, quietly. "If you choose to exert your memory, as you have not chosen to exert it yet, your memory will tell you that I speak the truth. I accept your filial performance of your father's promise, Mr. Noel—and there I stop. I scorn to take a mean advantage of my position toward you; I scorn to grasp any thing from your fears. You are protected by my respect for myself and for the Illustrious Name I bear. You are welcome to all that I have done and to all that I have suffered in your. service. The widow of Professor Lecompte, Sir, takes what is justly hers—and takes no more!"

As she spoke these words the traces of sickness seemed for the moment to disappear from her face; her eyes shone with a steady inner light; all the woman warmed and brightened in the radiance of her own triumph—the triumph, trebly won, of carrying her point, of vindicating her integrity, and of matching Magdalen's incorruptible self-denial on Magdalen's own ground.

"When you are yourself again, Sir, we will proceed. Let us wait a little first."

She gave him time to compose himself; and then, after first looking at her Draft, dictated the second paragraph of the will, in these terms:

"I give and bequeath to Madame Virginie Lecompte (widow of Professor Lecompte, late of Zurich) the sum of Five Thousand Pounds, free of Legacy Duty. And, in making this bequest, I wish to place it on record that I am not only expressing my own sense of Madame Lecompte's attachment and fidelity in the capacity of my housekeeper, but that I also believe myself to be executing the intentions of my deceased father, who, but for the circumstance of his dying intestate, would have left Madame Lecompte, in his will, the same token of grateful regard for her services which I now leave her in mine."

"Have you written the last words, Sir?" "Yes."

Mrs. Lecount leaned across the table and offered Noel Vanstone her hand.

"Thank you, Mr. Noel," she said. "The five thousand pounds is the acknowledgment on your father's side of what I have done for him. The words in the will are the acknowledgment on yours."

A faint smile flickered over his face for the first time. It comforted him, on reflection, to think that matters might have been worse. There was balm for his wounded spirit in paying the debt of gratitude by a sentence not negotiable at his banker's. Whatever his father might have done, he had got Lecount a bargain after all!

"A little more writing, Sir," resumed Mrs. Lecount, " and your painful but necessary duty will be performed. The trifling matter of my legacy being settled, we may come to the important question that is left. The future direction of a large fortune is now waiting your word of command. To whom is it to go?"

He began to writhe again in his chair. Even under the all-powerful fascination of his wife the parting with his money on paper had not been accomplished without a pang. He had endured the pang; he had resigned himself to the sacrifice. And now here was the dreaded ordeal again awaiting him mercilessly for the second time!

"Perhaps it may assist your decision, Sir, if I repeat a question which I have put to you already," observed Mrs. Lecount. "In the will that you made under your wife's influence, to whom did you leave the surplus money which remained at your own disposal?"

There was no harm in answering the question now. He acknowledged that he had left the money to his cousin George.

"You could have done nothing better, Mr. Noel, and you can do nothing better now," said Mrs. Lecount. "Mr. George and his two sisters are your only relations left. One of those sisters is an incurable invalid, with more than money enough already for all the wants which her affliction allows her to feel. The other is the wife of a man even richer than yourself. To leave the money to these sisters is to waste it. To leave the money to their brother George is to give your cousin exactly the assistance which he will want, when he one day inherits his uncle's dilapidated house and his uncle's impoverished estate. A will which names the admiral your executor, and Mr. George your heir, is the right will for you to make. It does honor to the claims of friendship, and it does justice to the claims of blood."

She spoke warmly, for she spoke with a grateful remembrance of all that she herself owed to the hospitality of St. Crux. Noel Vanstone took up another pen and began to strip the second quill of its feathers as he had stripped the first.

"Yes," he said, reluctantly; I suppose George must have it—I suppose George has the principal claim on me." He hesitated: he looked at the door, he looked at the window, as if he longed to make his escape by one way or the other. "Oh, Lecount," he cried, piteously, "it's such a large fortune! Let me wait a little before I leave it to any body!"

To his surprise, Mrs. Lecount at once complied with this characteristic request.

"I wish you to wait, Sir," she replied. "I have something important to say before you add another line to your will. A little while since I told you there was a second necessity connected with your present situation, which had not been provided for yet, but which must be provided for when the time came. The time has come now. You have a serious difficulty to meet and conquer before you can leave your fortune to your cousin George."

"What difficulty?" he asked.

Mrs. Lecount rose from her chair without answering, stole to the door, and suddenly threw it open. No one was listening outside; the passage was a solitude from one end to the other.

"I distrust all servants," she said, returning to her place—"your servants particularly. Sit closer, Mr. Noel. What I have now to say to you must be heard by no living creature but ourselves."

A LETTER FROM THE COUNTRY.

To the Edditer of Harper's Weekly:

DEAR MR. EDDITER—Sarah Blue is a woman, and I bein' a person ov the same seeks, yu see it's nateral we shouldn't allways agree.

I call myself a thorrough administratrix—I go fur the administrashun, thet is, fur the present one. None ov yure sham demockracys fur me!

Sarah says the same; but, between yu and me, it ain't true. Sarah is a good administratrix jest as long as affares go on tu suit her, but jest the eyedentical minit things go against the grain, she's off on the other side like a roket.

But I don't wunder at her idees bein' sumwhat fuddled on pollytics, for her father was the gratest turn-coat yu ever did see. He was brot up a methodist—then turned dimmycrat, and was made hog-reeve the same yeer, and every one said that he intered inter pollytical life for the sake ov gittin' that office. Bimeby he jined the odd fellus (he was odd enuff then, in all konshunce!), and putty soon after that he gut married and dyed his whiskers, fur which latter offense he was expelled frum the methodists, on the charge of pervurtin' the Scripture, which says, thou canst not make one hair white or black. Then he bort a small farm (he was a blacksmith before), and settled daown near us, and has voted reggerlarly on the dimmycratic ticket ever sense, but twise—once in Harrison's time, and agin in Taylor's; and of aour State elecshun had come befour Pennsilvany, so he'd a known old Abe was baound tu win, he'd have voted for him.

Sense the war broke aout he's jined the Quakers, and every time he hears ov a draft bein' spoken of

he quakes like a piece o' crab-apple jelly when yu fast turn it ker slap aout of the mold.

Naow there's one thing where Sarah is as like her father as two peas. She is fond ov pollytics. She reeds the New York Herald reggerlarly, so's tu be on all sides to once; and don't hardly touch a novel, except the hisstorical novels in the Sunday papers. She don't reed menny works of fickshun, except ockashunally storys rit by the reliable correspondents of some of the newspapers. She nevver plays whist, becawse her father was a methodist; but she cheets awful in old maid and slap-jack, and sumtimes tells fokeses fortunes with the kards. But they don't many of 'em cum true. Tho' once she told Sam Jennings thet he would be choked tu death sum day eeting flap-jacks; and sure enuff, one nite, jest after supper, when his mouth was fall of cakes and molasses, he slipped daown the sellar stares and broke his neck. They had a corrowner's jury on the boddy, and the verdick was he died from flap-jacks, as he had so menny in his maouth thet it removed the senter of gravety, and made him top-heavy, which cawsed him tu fall daown seller.

Wa'al, as I was goin' tu remarc, the larst conversashun I had with Sarah was abaout pollytics.

I was doin' aour ioning—we don't keep no hired gurl, and I du the work mostly—when in rushed Sarah Blue, as mad as a march hair, and sot rite daown on my pile ov hankerchefs, thet I'd put on the settle bench after ioning of 'em till they was as slick as a whistle.

"Charity! what du you think?" says she, as pail as a gost.

"Why, for the land's sake, what's the matter?" says I.

"Matter enuff!" she ansered, looking the very picture of skorn. "Old Abe Lincon has made a nu proclamashun!"

"Wa'al naow," says I, "I'm glad on't!—is it good?"

Yu see I didn't know exackly what it was—I didn't know but it was sum nu kind of cake he'd maid. Yu know we hev Washington Cake, and 'Lecshun Cake, and why shuldn't we hev Liucun Cake? Haowever, I didn't tell Sarah what I thort it was, and I was glad I didn't afterwards.

"Good! there ain't no good to it," she replyed; "don't yu think he's gorne and told all the niggers tu cut sticks and run from there marsters as farst as thay kan; and he is trying tu aggeravate aour Suthern brethren [thet's what she kalls the rebbels], and I'm afrade they wun't like it!"

"Du tell!" said I.

"Oh Ahe, dear Abe!" says she, agoin' rite daown on her nees tu the picture of the present ockupent ov the White Haouse, "du evry thing else but that! Kill the Saouth with yure bagonets, run 'em thro' with sords, shute 'em with pistuls, and knock 'em over with the cannon's rore, but spare, oh! spare thare pockets! Skin 'em alive, but don't tutch their niggars!"

"Don't yu mind a word she says!" cried I, impashuntly. "She don't know what she's a saying! Go it, Farther Abraham, and I'll sustane yu!"

"Grimes and liberty!" "Glory halleuyah!"

Don't yu think, Mister Edditer, that kritter gut so mad, she up and took one of my own flat ions and kum at me like a, wild-cat!

I immejitly seesed hold of the tongs, and we fit thare in the kitchen till her face looked as if she'd hed the small-pox, and mine was puffed up as 'tis when I hev the tooth-ake, and all my kleen close that I'd ioned hed tu be put inter the wash agin.

I hev'nt bin aout ov the haouse sence.

But I had my reevenge, fur I rit a poim—a sarkastical poim, ov coarse—abaout the abolishun ov nigger slavery, and sent it to Sarah Blue, and sined it Trooth, so she'd know who rit it. She hasn't spunk anuff to anser it, tho'. Here it is, deer reeder:

POIM.

Abram, spair the Saouth!

Tutch not a single nigger;

They'll bee daown in the maouth

Ef yu cut such a figgar!

'Twas England's forstring hand

The niggers here that brot;

Here Abram, let tent stand!

Yure acks shall harm 'em not.

 

When but a pickaninny

They're wuth a lot ov tin;

Naow, good as gold frum Ginny,

A fust-rate price they'd win.

The Saouth wants mony orful,

And fites us, tooth and nale;

But oh! kan it be lorful

Tu give thare niggs leg-bail?

 

Who fired rite on aour flaag—

Dragged freemen tu thare graves?

Who luv tu boast and brag

Thet we shall bee thare slaves?

Who cum upon aour track,

And scatter ruin through it?

And ef we kan strike back,

For pity's sake, let's du it!

 

Yes! By our martyred dead,

We'll follow Abram's plan;

On tu thare soil we'll tread,

And hit 'em whare we kan!

CHARITY GRIMES.

[We shall be glad to hear from Mrs. GRIMES again.—Ed. Harper's Weekly.]

THE NINTH INDIANA AT
DANVILLE.

WE publish on page 710 a picture of the RECEPTION OF THE NINTH INDIANA REGIMENT AT DANVILLE, KENTUCKY, from a sketch by Mr. Mosler. Mr. M. writes:

DANVILLE, October 14, 1862.

To the Editor of Harper's Weekly:

Inclosed please find a sketch of the reception of the Ninth Indiana Regiment at Danville, Kentucky, after driving the rebels nearly five miles, fighting their way through town, which was held by the rebel John Morgan and his force of cavalry. The Ninth fought gallantly, commanded by the brave Colonel W. H. Blake. We captured, including prisoners in hospitals, about 500, who were all paroled. The Union feeling and exhibition of joy when we entered was never equalled. This is also the residence of General Fry and General Boyle. The town contains about 3000 inhabitants. The Ninth Indiana was greatly complimented by their General, W. L. Smith Commanding, General Nelson's Division.

Yours respectfully,

HENRY MOSLER.


 

 

  

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