Capitola The Madcap
Emma D. E. N. Southworth
Part 5 out of 7
cunning of Le Noir. That letters, messages and packets, sent by his
friends to the young soldier, had found their way into his Colonel's
possession and no further.
And so, believing the hatred of that bad man to have been fruitless
of serious, practical evil, Herbert encouraged his friend to be
patient for a short time longer, when they should see the end of the
campaign, if not of the war.
It was now that period of suspense and of false truce between the
glorious 20th of August and the equally glorious 8th of September,
1847--between the two most brilliant actions of the war, the battle
of Churubusco and the storming of Chapultepec.
The General-in-Chief of the United States forces in Mexico was at
his headquarters in the Archiepiscopal palace of Tacubaya, on the
suburbs, or in the full sight of the city of the Montezumas,
awaiting the issue of the conference between the commissioners of
the hostile governments, met to arrange the terms of a treaty of
peace--that every day grew more hopeless.
General Scott, who had had misgivings as to the good faith of the
Mexicans, had now his suspicions confirmed by several breaches on
the part of the enemy of the terms of the armistice.
Early in September he despatched a letter to General Santa Anna,
complaining of these infractions of the truce, and warning him that
if some satisfactory explanations were not made within forty-eight
hours he should consider the armistice at an end, and renew
And not to lose time, he began on the same night a series of
reconnaisances, the object of which was to ascertain their best
approach to the city of Mexico, which, in the event of the renewal
of the war, he purposed to carry by assault.
It is not my intention to pretend to describe the siege and capture
of the capital, which has been so often and eloquently described by
grave and wise historians, but rather to follow the fortunes of an
humble private in the ranks, and relate the events of a certain
court-martial, as I learned them from the after-dinner talk of a
gallant officer who had officiated on the occasion.
It was during these early days in September, while the illustrious
General-in-Chief was meditating concluding the war by the assault of
the city of Mexico, that Colonel Le Noir also resolved to bring his
own private feud to an end, and ruin his enemy by a coup-de-diable.
He had an efficient tool for his purpose in the Captain of the
company to which Traverse Rocke belonged. This man, Captain Zuten,
was a vulgar upstart thrown into his command by the turbulence of
war, as the scum is cast up to the surface by the boiling of the
He hated Traverse Rocke, for no conceivable reason, unless it was
that the young private was a perfect contrast to himself, in the
possession of a handsome person, a well cultivated mind, and a
gentlemanly deportment--cause sufficient for the antagonism of a
mean and vulgar nature.
Colonel Le Noir was not slow to see and to take advantage of this
And Captain Zuten became the willing coadjutor and instrument of his
vengeance. Between them they concocted a plot to bring the
unfortunate young man to an ignominious death.
One morning, about the first of September, Major Greyson, in going
his rounds, came upon Traverse, standing sentry near one of the
outposts. The aspect of the young private was so pale, haggard and
despairing that his friend immediately stopped and exclaimed:
"Why Traverse, how ill you look! More fitted for the sick list than
the sentry's duties. What the deuce is the matter?"
The young soldier touched his hat to his superior and answered
sadly, "I am ill, ill in body and mind, sir."
"Pooh!--leave off etiquette when we are alone, Traverse, and call me
Herbert, as usual. Heaven knows, I shall be glad when all this is
over and we fall back into our relative civil positions towards each
other. But what is the matter now, Traverse? Some of Le Noir's
villainy again, of course."
"Of course. But I did not mean to complain, Herbert; that were
childish. I mus' endure this slavery, these insults and persecutions
patiently since I have brought them upon myself."
"Take comfort, Traverse. The war is drawing to a close. Either this
armistice will end in a permanent peace, or when hostilities are
renewed our General will carry the city of Mexico by storm, and
dictate the terms of a treaty from the grand square of the capital.
In either event the war will soon be over, the troops disbanded, and
the volunteers free to go about their business, and Doctor Traverse
Rocke at liberty to pursue his legitimate profession," said Herbert,
"It may be so; I do not know. Oh, Herbert, whether it be from want
of sleep and excessive fatigue--for I have been on duty for three
days and nights--or whether it be from incipient illness, or all
these causes put together, I cannot tell, but my spirits are
dreadfully depressed! There seems to be hanging over me a cloud of
fate I cannot dispel. Every hour seems descending lower and blacker
over my head, until it feels like some heavy weight about to
suffocate or crush me," said Traverse, sadly.
"Pooh, pooh! hypochondria! cheer up! Remember that in a month we
shall probably be disbanded, and in a year--think of it, Traverse
Rocke--Clara Day will be twenty-one, and at liberty to give you her
hand. Cheer up!"
"Ah, Herbert, all that seems now to be more unsubstantial than the
fabric of a dream. I cannot think of Clara or of my mother without
despair. For oh, Herbert, between me and them there seems to yawn a
dishonored grave! Herbert, they talk, you know, of an attack upon
the Molino-del-Rey, and I almost hope to fall in that charge!"
"Why?" inquired Major Greyson, in dismay.
"To escape being forced into a dishonored grave! Herbert, that man
has sworn my ruin, and he will accomplish it!" said Traverse,
"For Heaven's sake, explain yourself!" said Herbert.
"I will. Listen! I will tell you the history of the last three
days," said Traverse; but before he could add another word the
sentry that was to relieve his guard approached and said:
"Captain Zuten orders you to come to his tent instantly."
With a glance of significance, Traverse bowed to Herbert and walked
off, while the sentinel took his place.
Herbert saw no more of Traverse that day. At night he went to
inquire for him, but learned that he had been sent with a
reconnoitering party to the Molino-del-Rey.
The next day, on seeking Traverse, he understood that the young
private had been despatched on a foraging expedition. That night,
upon again inquiring for him, he was told that he had been sent in
attendance upon the officers who had borne secret despatches to
General Quitman, at his quarters on the Acapulco road.
"Traverse is right. They mean to ruin him. I see how it is, exactly.
When I saw Traverse on guard, two days ago, he looked like a man
exhausted and crazed for want of sleep, and since that time he has
been night and day engaged in harassing duty. That demon, Le Noir,
with Zuten to help him, has determined to keep Traverse from sleep,
until nature is thoroughly exhausted, and then set him upon guard,
that he may be found sleeping on his post. That was what the boy
meant when he talked of the cloud that was hanging over him, and of
being forced into a dishonored grave, and when he hoped, poor
fellow, to fall in the approaching assault upon the Molino-del-Rey!
I see it all now. They have decided upon the destruction of
Traverse. He can do nothing. A soldier's whole duty is comprised in
one word--obedience, even if, as in this instance, he is ordered to
commit suicide. Let them hatch their diabolical plots. We will see
if the Lord does not still reign, and the devil is not a fool. It
shall go hard, but that they are 'hoist with their own petard!'"
said Herbert, indignantly.
Early the next morning he went to the tent of Captain Zuten and
requested to see Private Traverse Rocke, in whom, he said, he felt a
The answer of Colonel Le Noir's tool confirmed Herbert's worse
Touching his cap with an air of exaggerated deference, he said:
"As you think so much of the young fellow, Major, I am very sorry to
inform you, sir, that he is under arrest."
"Upon what charge?" inquired Herbert, calmly, concealing the
suspicion and indignation of his bosom.
"Upon a rather bad one, Major--sleeping on his post," replied the
officer, masking his exultation with a show of respect.
"Rather bad! The penalty is death," said Herbert, dryly.
"Yes, sir--martial law is rather severe."
"Who charges him?" asked Herbert, curtly.
"The Colonel of our regiment, sir," replied the man, scarcely able
to conceal his triumph.
"An accusation from a high quarter. Is his charge supported by other
"Beg pardon, Major, but is that necessary?"
"You have answered my question by asking another one, sir. I will
trouble you for a direct reply," said Herbert with dignity.
"Then, Major, I must reply--yes."
"What testimony? I would know the circumstances?"
"Well, sir, I will tell you about it," said the officer, with ill-
concealed triumph. "Private Traverse Rocke had the early morning
"After his return from the night ride to Acapulco?"
"Yes, sir. Well, Colonel Le Noir and myself in going our rounds this
morning, just before sunrise, came full upon the young fellow, fast
asleep on his post. In fact, sir, it required a hearty shake to
"After ninety-six hours' loss of sleep, I should not wonder."
"I know nothing about that, sir. I only know that Colonel Le Noir
and myself found him fast asleep on his post. He was immediately
"Where is he now?" inquired Herbert.
"In one of the Colonel's extra tents, under guard," replied the
Herbert immediately went to the tent in question, where he found two
sentinels, with loaded muskets, on duty before the door. They
grounded arms on the approach of their superior officer.
"Is Private Traverse Rocke confined within there?" he inquired.
"I must pass in to see him."
"I beg your pardon, sir, but our orders are strict, not even to
admit an officer, without a written order from our Colonel," said
"Where is the Colonel?"
"In his tent, sir."
Herbert immediately went on to the fine marquee occupied by Colonel
The sentinel on duty there at once admitted him, and he passed on
into the presence of the Colonel.
He saluted his superior officer with cold military etiquette, and
"I have come, sir, to ask of you an order to see Private Traverse
Rocke, confined under the charge of sleeping on his post."
"I regret to say, Major Greyson, that it cannot be done," replied Le
Noir, with ironical politeness.
"Will you have the kindness to inform me, sir, upon what pretext my
reasonable request is refused?" asked Herbert, coldly.
"I deem it quite unnecessary to do so, sir," answered the Colonel,
"Then I have no more to do here," replied Herbert, leaving the tent.
He immediately threw himself into his saddle and rode off to the
Archiepiscopal palace of Tacubaya, where the General-in-Chief had
fixed his headquarters.
Here he had to wait some little time before he was admitted to the
presence of the gallant commander, who received him with all the
stately courtesy for which that renowned officer is distinguished.
Herbert mentioned the business that had brought him to the general's
presence, the request of a written order to see a prisoner in strict
confinement for sleeping on his post.
The commander whose kind heart was interested in the welfare of all
his soldiers, made some inquiries into the affair, of which Herbert
proceeded to give him a short history, without, however, venturing,
as yet, directly to charge the Captain or the Colonel with
intentional foul play; indeed to have attempted to criminate the
superior officers of the accused man would then have been most
unwise, useless and hurtful.
The General immediately wrote the desired order and passed it to the
Herbert bowed and was about to retire from the room, when he was
called back by the General, who placed a packet of letters in his
hand, saying that they had arrived among his despatches, and were
for the prisoner, to whom Major Greyson might as well take them at
Herbert received them with avidity, and on his way back to the
Colonel's tent he examined their superscription.
There were three letters-all directed to Traverse Rocke. On two of
them, he recognized the familiar handwriting of Marah Rocke, on the
other he saw the delicate Italian style of a young lady's hand,
which he readily believed to be that of Clara.
In the midst of his anxiety on his friend's account rejoiced to have
this one little ray of comfort to carry him. He knew that many
months had elapsed since the young soldier had heard from his
friends at home--in fact, Travers never received a letter unless it
happened to come under cover to Herbert Greyson. And well they both
knew the reason.
"How very fortunate," said Herbert, as he rode on, "that I happened
to be at the General's quarters to receive these letters just when I
did; for if they had been sent to Colonel Le Noir's quarters or to
Captain Z.'s, poor traverse would never have heard of them. However,
I shall no distract Traverse's attention by showing him these
letters until he has told me the full history of his arrest, for I
wish him to give me a cool account of the whole thing, so that I may
know if I can possible server him. Ah, it is very unlikely that nay
power of mine will be ale to save him if indeed, and in truth, he
did sleep upon his post," ruminated Herbert, as he rode up to the
tent where the prisoner was confined.
Another pair of sentinels were on duty in place of those who had
refused him admittance.
He alighted from his horse, was challenged, showed his order, and
passed into the tent.
There a sight met him that caused the tears to rush to his eyes--for
the bravest is always the tenderest heart.
Thrown down on the mat at the back of the tent lay Traverse Rocke,
pale, haggard and sunken in the deep, deep sleep of utter
exhaustion. Even in that state of perfect abandonment, prostration
and insensibility, the expression of great mental anguish remained
upon his deathly countenance; a mortal pallor overspread his face;
his thick, black curls, matted with perspiration, clung to his
hollow temples and cheeks; great drops of sweat beaded upon his
corrugated brow; a quiver convulsed his mouth and chin; every
circumstance betrayed how severely, even in that swoonlike state, he
Herbert drew a camp-stool and sat down beside his mat, resolving not
to break that greatly needed rest, but to wait patiently until the
sleeper should awake.
Again, I say that I know nothing about mesmerism, but I have seen
strange effects produced quite unconsciously by the presence of one
person upon another. And in a few minutes after Herbert took his
seat beside Traverse, it was noticeable that the face of the sleeper
lost its look of pain, and his rest grew deep and calm.
Herbert sat watching that pale, calm, intellectual face, thanking
heaven that his mother, in her distant home, knew nothing of her
boy's deadly peril and praying heaven that its justice might be
vindicated in the deliverance of this victim from the snares of
those who sought his life.
For more than an hour longer Traverse slept the deep sleep of
exhaustion, and then calmly awoke. On seeing Herbert sitting beside
him, he smiled sadly, saying:
"You here, Herbert? How kind of you to come. Well, Herbert, you see
they have succeeded, as I knew they would. That was what I wished to
tell you about when I was abruptly ordered away. I do believe it was
done on purpose to prevent my telling you. I really think I have
been surrounded by spies to report and distort every word and look
and gesture. If our company had only watched die enemy with half the
vigilance with which they watched me, that party of emigrants would
not have been cut off on the plains."
"Traverse," said Herbert solemnly taking the hand of his friend,
"were you caught sleeping on your post?"
"Ah, sleeping like death, Herbert."
Herbert dropped the hand of his friend, covered his face with his
own, and groaned aloud, "He could not help it!"
"I told you that they had resolved upon my death, Herbert. I told
you that I should be pushed into a shameful grave!"
"Oh, no, no, the Lord forbid! But tell me all about it, Traverse,
that I may understand and know how to proceed," said Herbert, in a
"Well, I need not tell you how I have been insulted, oppressed and
persecuted by those two men, for you know that already."
"It really soon became apparent to me that they were resolved, if
possible, to exasperate to desert, to retort, or to commit some
other fatal act of insubordination or violence. Yet, for the sake of
my dear mother and of Clara, I did violence only to my own natural
manhood, and bore it all with the servility of a slave."
"With the submission of a saint, dear Traverse; and in doing so you
followed the divine precept and example of Our Saviour, who, when
accused, railed upon and buffeted, 'opened not his mouth.' And in
His forbearance, dear Traverse, there was as much of God-like
dignity as there was of saintly patience. Great self-respect is as
often manifested in forbearance as in resentment," said Herbert,
"But you see it availed me nothing. Here I am, under a charge to
which I plead guilty, and the penalty of which is--death!" replied
Traverse in despair.
"Tell me how it was, Traverse. Your persecutions and your patience I
knew before, but what are the circumstances that led to your present
position? That your misfortune is the result of a concerted plan on
the part of Le Noir and his tool, I partly see, but I wish you to
put me in possession of all the facts, that I may see in what manner
I may be able to assist you."
"Ah, Herbert, I thank you, most faithful of friends, but I doubt
whether you can assist me in any other manner than in being kind to
my poor mother and my dear Clara when I am gone--for ah, old
playmate, the act can be too surely proved upon me, and the penalty
is certain--and it is death!" said the poor boy, deeply sighing.
Herbert groaned, and said:
"But tell me, at least, the history of the four days preceding your
"I will. Let me see--this is Friday. Well, until this morning's
fatal sleep, I had not slept since Sunday night. Monday was passed
in the usual routine of military duty. Monday evening I was sent on
a reconnoitering expedition to the old castellated Spanish fort of
the Casa de Mata, that occupied the whole night. On Tuesday morning
I was selected to attend the messenger who went with the flag of
truce into the city to carry our General's letter of expostulation
to Santa Anna, which employed the whole day. On Tuesday night,
without having had an hour's rest in the interval, I was put on
guard. Wednesday morning I was sent with a party to escort an
emigrant caravan across the marsh to the village of Churubusco.
Wednesday afternoon you saw me on guard and I told you that I had
not slept one hour for three days and nights."
"Yes, you looked ill enough to be ordered on the sick list."
"Yet, listen. Thoroughly exhausted as I was, on Wednesday night I
was ordered to join a party to go on a secret reconnoitering
expedition to the Molina-del-Rey. On Thursday morning I was sent out
with another party on a foraging tour. On Thursday night I was sent
in attendance upon the officer who carried despatches to General
Quitman. On Friday morning I was set on guard between the hours of
four and eight!"
"Oh, heaven, what an infamous abuse of military authority!"
exclaimed Herbert, indignantly.
"Herbert, in my life I have sometimes suffered with hunger, cold and
pain, and have some idea of what starving, freezing and torture may
be, but among all the ills to which flesh is heir, I doubt if there
is one so trying to the nerves and brain of man as enforced and
long-continued vigilance, when all his failing nature sinks for want
of sleep. Insanity and death must soon be the result."
"Humph! Go on. Tell me about the manner of their finding you," said
Herbert, scarcely able to repress his indignation.
"Well, when after--let me see--eighty-four--ninety--ninety six hours
of incessant watching, riding and walking, I was set on guard to
keep the morning watch between four o'clock and eight, 'my whole
head was sick and my whole heart faint'; my frame was sinking; my
soul could scarcely hold my body upright. In addition to this
physical suffering was the mental anguish of feeling that these men
had resolved upon my death, and thinking of my dear mother and
Clara, whose hearts would be broken by my fall. Oh! the thought of
them at this moment quite unmans me. I must not reflect. Well, I
endeavored with all the faculties of my mind and body to keep awake.
I kept steadily pacing to and fro, though I could scarcely drag one
limb after the other, or even stand upright; sleep would arrest me
while in motion, and I would drop my musket and wake up in a panic,
with the impression of some awful, overhanging ruin appalling my
soul. Herbert, will you think me a miserably weak wretch if I tell
you that that night was a night of mental and physical horrors?
Brain and nerves seemed in a state of disorganization; thought and
emotion were chaos; the relations of soul and body broken up. I had
but one strong, clear idea, namely, that I must keep awake at all
costs, or bring shameful death upon myself and disgrace upon my
family. And even In the very midst of thinking this I would fall
"No power within yourself could have prevented it; indeed, you had
to drop into sleep or death!"
"I pinched myself, I cut my flesh, I burned my skin, but all in
vain. Nothing could withstand the overwhelming power of sleep that
finally conquered me, about five o'clock this morning. Then, in the
midst of a delightful dream of mother and Clara and home, I was
roused up by a rude shake, and awoke to find my musket fallen from
my hands, and my Captain and Colonel standing over me. It was
several minutes before I could travel back from the pleasant land of
sleep and dreams and realize my real position. When I did I had
nothing to say. The inevitable ruin I felt had come, and crushed me
into a sort of dumb despair. Nor did my superior officers reproach
me--their revenge was too perfect. The captain called a sergeant to
take my gun, and I was marched off to my present prison. And,
Herbert, no sooner was I left alone here than sleep overcame me
again, like a strong man, and despite all the gloom and terror of my
situation, despite all of my thoughts of home and mother and Clara,
I slept like a tired child. But this awakening. Oh! this awakening.
"Be of good courage. Let us hope that heaven will enable us to
confound the plots of the evil, and save you!"
"Ah, Herbert, that will be impossible. The duty of a soldier is
clear and stern; his punishment if he fails in it, swift and sure.
At the word of command he must march into the very jaws of death, as
is right. He must die or madden for the want of rest, rather than
fall asleep on his post, for if he does, his punishment is certain
and shameful death. Oh, my mother! Oh, Clara! Would heaven I had
fallen at Vera Cruz or Churubusco, rather than live to bring this
dreadful sorrow upon you," cried Traverse, covering his convulsed
face with his hands.
"Cheer up, cheer up, old comrade. All is not lost that is
endangered, and we shall save you yet!"
"Herbert, you know it is impossible."
"No, I do not know any such thing!"
"You know that I shall be tried to-day and shot tomorrow! Oh,
Herbert, never let my dear ones at home know how I shall die. Tell
them that I fell before Chepultepec--which will be literally true,
you know. Oh, my mother! Oh, my dear Clara, shall I never see you
more? Never hear your sweet voices calling me? Never feel the kind
clasp of your hands again? Is this the end of a life of aspiration
and endeavor? Is this the comfort and happiness I was to bring you?-
-early bereavement, dishonored names and broken hearts?"
"I tell you, no! You shall be saved! I say it!"
"Ah, it is impossible."
"No, it is only very difficult--so very difficult that I shall be
sure to accomplish it!"
"What a paradox."
"It is a truth. Things difficult--almost to impossibility--can
always be accomplished. Write that upon your tables, for it is a
valuable truth. And no cheer up, for I bring you letters from Clara
and your mother."
"Letters! from Clara! and mother! Oh, give them to me!" exclaimed
the young man eagerly.
Herbert handed them, and Traverse eagerly broke the seals, one after
another, and devoured the contents.
"They are well! They are well and happy! Oh, thank God they are so.
Oh, Herbert, never let them know how I shall die! If they think I
fell honorably in battle, they will get over it in time, but if they
know I died a convict's death it will break their hearts. Oh,
Herbert, my dear friend, by all our boyhood's love, never let my
poor mother and dear Clara know the manner of my death!" cried
Traverse, in an imploring voice.
Before he could say another word or Herbert could answer, an orderly
sergeant entered and put into Major Greyson's hands a paper that
proved to be a summons for him to attend immediately at headquarters
to serve upon a court-martial, to try Private Traverse Rocke upon
the charge of sleeping on his post.
"This is done on purpose to prevent me becoming a witness for the
defense!" whispered Herbert to his friend, "but take courage. We
will see yet whether you shall succeed!"
I wish I could
Meet all accusers with as good excuse,
As well as I am certain I can clear
Myself of this.
Pursuant with the general orders issued from headquarters, the
court-martial, consisting of thirteen officers, convened at
Tacubaya, for the trial of Traverse Rocke, private in the--Regiment
of Infantry, accused of sleeping on his post.
It was a sultry morning, early in September, and by seven o'clock
the drum was heard beating before the Archiepiscopal palace, where
it was understood the trial, involving life or death, would come
The two sentinels on guard before the doors and a few officers off
duty, loitering about the verandas, were the only persons visible
near the well-ordered premises, until the members of the court-
martial, with the prosecutors and witnesses, began to assemble and
Within a lofty apartment of the building, which was probably at one
time the great dining-hall of the priests, were collected some
twenty persons, comprising the court-martial and its attendants.
An extension table covered with green cloth occupied the middle of
the long room.
At the head of this table sat General W., the president of the
court. On his right and left, at the sides of the table, were
arranged the other members according to their rank.
At a smaller table, near the right hand of the President, stood the
Judge Advocate or prosecutor on behalf of the United States.
At the door stood a sentinel on guard, and near him two or three
orderly sergeants in attendance upon the officers.
The Judge Advocate opened the court by calling over the names of the
members, beginning with the President and ending with the youngest
officer present, and recording them as they responded. This
preliminary settled, orders were despatched to bring the prisoner,
prosecutor and witnesses into court.
And in a few minutes entered Colonel Le Noir, Captain Zuten, Ensign
Allen and Sergeant Baker. They were accommodated with seats near the
left hand of the President.
Lastly, the prisoner was brought in guarded, and placed standing at
the foot of the table.
Traverse looked pale, from the severe effects of excessive fatigue
and anxiety, but he deported himself with firmness and dignity,
bowed respectfully to the court, and then drew his stately form up
to its fullest height, and stood awaiting the proceedings.
The Judge Advocate at the order of the President, commenced and read
the warrant for holding the court. He then read over the names of
the members, commencing as before, with the President, and
descending through the gradations of rank to the youngest officer,
and demanded of the prisoner whether he had any cause of challenge,
or took any exception to any member present, and if so, to declare
it, as was his privilege.
Traverse lifted his noble head and keen eyes, and looked slowly
around, in turn, upon each officer of the court-martial.
They might all be said to be strangers to him, since he knew them
only by sight--all except his old acquaintance, Herbert Greyson, who
sat first at the left hand of the President, and who returned his
look of scrutiny with a gaze full of encouragement.
"I find no cause of challenge, and take no exception to any among
the officers composing this court," answered Traverse, again bowing
with such sweetness and dignity in tone and gesture that the
officers, in surprise, looked first at the prisoner and then at each
other. No one could doubt that the accused, in the humble garb of a
private soldier, was nevertheless a man of education and refinement-
-a true gentleman, both in birth and breeding.
As no challenge was made, the Judge Advocate proceeded to administer
to each of the members of the court the oath prescribed in the
Articles of War, to the intent that they should "try the matter
before them, between the prisoner and the, United States, according
to the evidence, without fear, favor or affection."
This oath was taken by each member holding up his right hand and
repeating the words after the officer.
The court then being regularly constituted, and every preliminary
form observed, the Judge Advocate arose and directed the prisoner to
listen to the charge brought against him, and preferred by the
Colonel of his Regiment, Gabriel Le Noir.
Traverse raised his head and fixed his eagle eyes upon the
prosecutor, who stood beside the Judge Advocate, while the latter in
an audible voice read the accusation, charging the prisoner with
wilful neglect of duty, in that he, the said Traverse Rocke, on the
night of the first of September, being placed on guard at the
northwestern outpost of the Infantry quarters, at Tacubaya, did fall
asleep upon his post, thereby endangering the safety of the
quarters, and violating the 46th Article of War.
To which charge the prisoner, in a firm voice, replied:
"Not guilty of wilful neglect of duty, though found sleeping upon my
The Judge Advocate then cautioned all witnesses to withdraw from the
court and come only as they were called. They withdrew, and he then
arranged some preliminaries of the examination, and called in--
Captain Zuten, of the--Regiment of Infantry.
This witness was a short, coarse-featured, red-haired person of
Dutch extraction, without intellect enough to enable him to conceal
the malignity of his nature.
He testified that on Thursday, the first of September, Traverse
Rocke, private in his company, was ordered on guard at the
northwestern out post of the quarters, between the hours of four and
eight a.m. That about five o'clock on the same morning, he, Joseph
Zuten, in making his usual rounds, and being accompanied on that
occasion by Colonel Gabriel Le Noir, Lieutenant Adams and Ensign
Baker, did surprise Private Traverse Rocke asleep on his post
leaning against the sentry box with his musket at his feet.
This witness was cross-examined by the Judge Advocate, who, it is
known, combines in his own person the office of prosecutor on the
part of the United States and counsel for the prisoner, or rather,
if he be honest, he acts as impartial inquirer and arbiter between
As no new facts were gained by the cross-examination, the Judge
Advocate proceeded to call the next witness, Colonel Le Noir.
Here, then, was a gentleman of most prepossessing exterior, as well
as of most irreproachable reputation.
In brief, his testimony corroborated that of the foregoing witness,
as to the finding of the prisoner asleep on his post at the time and
place specified. In honor of his high social and military standing,
this witness was not cross-examined.
The next called was Lieutenant Adams, who corroborated the evidence
of former witnesses. The last person examined was Ensign Baker,
whose testimony corresponded exactly to that of all who had gone
The Judge Advocate then briefly summed up the case on the part of
the United States--first by reading the 46th Article of War, to wit,
"Any sentinel who shall be found sleeping on his post, or shall
leave it before he shall be regularly relieved, shall suffer death,"
etc., etc., etc.
And secondly, by reading the recorded evidence to the effect that:
Traverse Rocke had been found by competent witnesses sleeping on his
And concluded by saying:
"Gentlemen, officers of the court-martial, here is the law and here
is the fact both proven, and it remains for the court to find a
verdict in accordance with both."
The prisoner was then put upon his defence.
Traverse Rocke drew himself up and said, that the truth, like the
blessed sun, must, on its shining forth, dispel all clouds of error;
that, trusting in the power of truth, he should briefly relate the
history of the preceding seven days. And then he commenced and
narrated the facts with which the reader is, already acquainted.
Traverse was interrupted several times in the course of his
narrative by the President, General W., a severe martinet, who
reminded him that an attempt to criminate his superior Officers
would only injure his cause before the court.
Traverse, bowing, as in duty bound to the President at every fresh
interruption, nevertheless proceeded straight on with his narrative
to its conclusion.
The defence being closed, the Judge Advocate arose, as was his
privilege, to have the last word. He stated that if the prisoner had
been oppressed or aggrieved by his superior officer, his remedy lay
in the 35th of the Articles of War, providing that any soldier who
shall feel himself wronged by his captain shall complain thereof to
the Colonel of his Regiment.
To this the prisoner begged to reply that he had considered the
Colonel of his Regiment his personal enemy, and as such could have
little hope of the issue, even if he had had opportunity afforded
him, of appealing to that authority.
The Judge Advocate expressed his belief that this complaint was
vexatious and groundless.
And here the evidence was closed, the prosecutor, prisoner and
witnesses dismissed, and the court adjourned to meet again to
deliberate with closed doors.
It was a period of awful suspense with Traverse Rocke. The prospect
seemed dark for him.
The fact of the offence and the law affixing the penalty of death to
that offence was established, and as the Judge Advocate truly said,
nothing remained but for the court to find their verdict in
accordance to both.
Extenuating circumstances there were certainly; but extenuating
circumstances were seldom admitted in courts-martial, the law and
practice of which were severe to the extent of cruelty.
Another circumstance against him was the fact that it did not
require an unanimous vote to render a legal verdict, but that if a
majority of two-thirds should vote for conviction, the fate of the
prisoner would be sealed. Traverse had but one friend in the court,
and what could his single voice do against so many? Apparently
nothing: yet, as the prisoner on leaving the court-room, raised his
eyes to that friend, Herbert Greyson returned the look with a glance
of more than encouragement--of triumph.
We must not make a scare-crow of the law,
Setting it up to frighten birds of prey;
And let it keep one shape till custom makes it,
Their perch and not their terror.
The members of a court-martial sit in the double capacity of jurors
and judges; as jurors they find the facts, and as judges they award
the punishment. Yet their session with closed doors was without the
solemn formality that the uninitiated might have supposed to attend
a grave deliberation upon a matter of guilt or innocence involving a
question of life or death.
No sooner were the doors closed that shut out the "vulgar" crowd,
than the "high and mighty" officials immediately fell into easy
attitudes, and disengaged conversation upon the weather, the
climate, yesterday's dinner at General Cushion's quarters, the
claret, the cigars and the Mexican signoritas.
They were presently recalled from this easy chat by the President, a
severe disciplinarian, who reminded them rather sharply of the
business upon which they had convened.
The officers immediately wheeled themselves around in the chairs,
facing the table, and fell into order.
The Judge Advocate seated himself at his detached stand, opened his
book, called the attention of the court, and commenced and read over
the whole record of the evidence and the proceedings up to this
The President then said:
"For my own part, gentlemen, I think this quite a simple matter,
requiring but little deliberation. Here is the fact of the offence
proved, and here is the law upon that offence clearly defined.
Nothing seems to remain for us to do but to bring in a verdict in
accordance with the law and the fact."
Several of the elder officers and sterner disciplinarians agreed
with the President, who now said,
"I move that the vote be immediately made upon this question."
To this, also, the elder officers assented. And the Judge Advocate
was preparing to take the ballot, when one of the younger members
arose and said:
"Mr. President and gentlemen, there are mitigating circumstances
attending this offence, which, in my opinion, should be duly weighed
before making up our ballot."
"Lieutenant Lovel, when your hair has grown white in the service of
your country, as mine has, and when your skin is mottled with the
scars of a score of well-fought fields, you will find your soft
theories corrected by hard experience, and you will know that in the
case of a sentinel steeping upon, his post there can be no
mitigating circumstances; that nothing can palliate such flagrant
and dangerous neglect, involving the safety of the whole army; a
crime that martial law and custom have very necessarily made
punishable by death," said the President, sternly.
The young lieutenant sat down abashed, under the impression that he
had betrayed himself into some act of gross impropriety. This was
his first appearance in the character of juror and judge; he was
literally unaccustomed to public speaking, and did not hazard a
"Has any other gentleman any views to advance before we proceed to a
general ballot?" inquired the President.
Several of the officers whispered together, and then some one
replied that there seemed to be no reason why the vote should not be
Herbert Greyson remained perfectly silent. Why he did not speak
then, in reply to this adjuration--why, indeed, he had not spoken
before, in support of Lieutenant Lovel's views in favor of his
friend, I do not know to this day, though I mean to ask him the
first time I have the opportunity. Perhaps he wished to "draw the
enemy's fire," perhaps he was inclined to dramatic effects; but
whatever might have been the motive, he continued silent, offering
no obstacle to the immediate taking of the vote.
The Judge Advocate then called the court to order for the taking of
the ballot, and proceeded to question the members in turn,
commencing with the youngest.
"How say you, Lieutenant Lovel, is the prisoner on trial guilty or
not guilty of the offence laid to his charge?"
"Guilty," responded the young officer, as his eyes filled with tears
of pity for the other young life against which he had felt obliged
to record this vote.
"If that is the opinion of one who seems friendly to him, what will
be the votes of the other stern judges?" said Herbert Greyson to
himself, in dismay.
"What say you, Lieutenant Adams--is the prisoner guilty or not
guilty?" said the Judge Advocate, proceeding with the ballot.
Every officer sprang to his feet and gazed in astonishment,
consternation and indignant inquiry upon the renderer of this
The President was the first to speak, breaking out with:
"Sir! Major Greyson! your vote, sir, in direct defiance of the fact
and the law upon it, is unprecedented, sir, in the whole history of
"I record it as uttered, nevertheless," replied Herbert.
"And your oath, sir! What becomes of your oath as a judge, of this
"I regard my oath in my vote!"
"What, sir?" inquired Captain McConkey, "do you mean to say that you
have rendered that vote in accordance with the facts elicited in
evidence, as by your oath you were bound to do?"
"How, sir, do you mean to say that the prisoner did not sleep upon
"Certainly I do not; on the contrary, I grant that he did sleep upon
his post, and yet I maintain that in doing so he was not guilty!"
"Major Greyson plays with us," said the President.
"By no means, sir! I never was in more solemn earnest than at
present! Your honor, the President and gentlemen judges of the
court, as I am not counsel for the prisoner, nor civil officer, nor
lawyer, of whose interference courts-martial are proverbially
jealous, I beg you will permit me to say a few words in support, or
at least, I will say, in explanation of the vote which you have
characterized as an opinion in opposition to fact and law, and
unprecedented in the whole history of courts-martial."
"Yes, it is! it is!" said General W., shifting uneasily in his seat.
"You heard the defense of the prisoner," continued Herbert; "you
heard the narrative of his wrongs and sufferings, to the truth of
which his every aspect bore testimony. I will not here express a
judgment as to the motives that prompted his superior officers, I
will merely advert to the facts themselves, in order to prove that
the prisoner, under the circumstances, could not, with his human
power, have done otherwise than he did."
"Sir, if the prisoner considered himself wronged by his captain,
which is very doubtful, he could have appealed to the Colonel of his
"Sir, the Articles of War accord him that privilege. But is it ever
taken advantage of? Is there a case on record where a private
soldier ventures to make a dangerous enemy of his immediate superior
by complaining of his Captain to his Colonel? Nor in this case would
it have been of the least use, inasmuch as this soldier had well-
founded reasons for believing the Colonel of his regiment his
personal enemy, and the Captain as the instrument of this enmity."
"And you, Major Greyson, do you coincide in the opinion of the
prisoner? Do you think that there could have been anything in common
between the Colonel of the regiment and the poor private in the
ranks, to explain such an equalizing sentiment as enmity?" inquired
"I answer distinctly, yes, sir! In the first place, this poor
private is a young gentleman of birth and education, the heir of one
of the most important estates in Virginia, and the betrothed of one
of the most lovely girls in the world. In both these capacities he
has stood in the way of Colonel Le Noir, standing between him and
the estate on the one hand, and between him and the young lady on
the other. He has disappointed Le Noir both in love and ambition.
And he has thereby made an enemy of the man who has, besides, the
nearest interest in his destruction. Gentlemen, what I say now in
the absence of Colonel Le Noir, I am prepared to repeat in his
presence, and maintain at the proper time and place."
"But how came this young gentleman of birth and expectations to be
found in the ranks?" inquired Captain Rosencrantz.
"How came we to have headstrong sons of wealthy parents, fast young
men of fortune, and runaway students from the universities and
colleges of the United States in our ranks? In a burst of boyish
impatience the youth enlisted. Destiny gave him as the Colonel of
his regiment his mortal enemy. Colonel Le Noir found in Captain
Zuten a ready instrument for his malignity. And between them both
they have done all that could possibly be effected to defeat the
good fortune and insure the destruction of Traverse Rocke. And I
repeat, gentlemen, that what I feel constrained to affirm here in
the absence of those officers, I shall assuredly reassert and
maintain in their presence, upon the proper occasion. In fact I
shall bring formal charges against Colonel Le Noir and Captain
Zuten, of conduct unworthy of officers and gentlemen!"
"But it seems to me that this is not directly to the point at
issue," said Captain Kingsley.
"On the contrary, sir, it is the point, the whole point, and only
point, as you shall presently see by attending to the facts that I
shall recall to your memory. You and all present must, then, see
that there was a deliberate purpose to effect the ruin of this young
man. He is accused of having been found sleeping on his post, the
penalty of which, in time of war, is death. Now listen to the
history of the days that preceded his fault, and tell me if human
nature could have withstood the trial?"
"Sunday night was the last of repose to the prisoner until Friday
morning, when he was found asleep on his post."
"Monday night he was sent with the reconnoitering party to Casa-de-
"Tuesday he was sent with the officer that carried our General's
expostulation to Santa Anna. At night he was put on guard."
"Wednesday he was sent with another party to protect a band of
emigrants crossing the marshes. At night he was sent with still
another party to reconnoiter Molina-del-Rey."
"Thursday he was sent in attendance upon the officer that carried
despatches to General Quitman, and did not return until after
midnight, when, thoroughly worn out, driven indeed to the extreme
degree of mortal endurance, he was again on a sultry, oppressive
night, in a still, solitary place, set on guard where a few hours
later he was found asleep upon his post--by whom? The Colonel of his
regiment and the Captain of his company, who seemed bent upon his
ruin--as I hold myself bound to establish before another court-
"This result had been intended from the first! If five nights' loss
of sleep would not have effected this, fifteen probably would; if
fifteen would not, thirty would; or if thirty wouldn't sixty would!-
-and all this Captain Zuten had the power to enforce until his
doomed victim should fall into the hands of the provost-marshal, and
into the arms of death!"
"And now, gentlemen, in view of all these circumstances, I ask you--
was Traverse Rocke guilty of wilful neglect of duty in dropping
asleep on his post? And I move for a reconsideration, and a new
"Such a thing is without precedent, sir! These mitigating
circumstances may be brought to bear on the Commander-in-Chief, and
may be embodied in a recommendation to mercy! They should have no
weight in the finding of the verdict," said the President, "which
should be in accordance with the fact and the law."
"And with justice and humanity! to find a verdict against this young
man would be to place an unmerited brand upon his spotless name,
that no after clemency of the Executive could wipe out! Gentlemen,
will you do this! No! I am sure that you will not! And again I move
for a new ballot! "
"I second the motion!" said Lieutenant Lovel, rising quite
encouraged to believe in his own first instincts, which had been so
"Gentlemen," said the President sternly, "this thing is without
precedent! In all the annals of courts-martial, with out
"Then, if there is no such precedent, it is quite time that such a
one were established, so that the iron car of literal law should not
always roll over and crush justice! Gentlemen, shall we have a new
"Yes! yes! yes!" were the answers.
"It is irregular! It is illegal! It is unprecedented! A new ballot?
Never heard of such a thing in forty years of military life! Lord
bless my soul, what is the service coming to!"
"A new ballot:! a new ballot! a new ballot!" was the unanimous cry.
The President groaned in spirit, and recorded a vow never to forgive
Herbert Greyson for this departure from routine.
The new ballot demanded by acclamation had to be held.
The Judge Advocate called the court to order and began anew. The
votes were taken as before, commencing with the young lieutenant,
who now responded sonorously:
And so it ran around the entire circle.
"Not guilty!" "Not guilty!" "Not guilty!" were the hearty responses
of the court.
The acquittal was unanimous. The verdict was recorded.
The doors were then thrown open to the public, and the prisoner
called in and publicly discharged from custody.
The court then adjourned.
Traverse Rocke threw himself upon the bosom of his friend,
exclaiming in a broken voice:
"I cannot sufficiently thank you! My dear mother and Clara will do
"Nonsense!" said Herbett laughing; "didn't I tell you that the Lord
reigns, and the devil is a fool? This is only the beginning of
THE END OF THE WAR
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front,
And now instead of mounting barbed steeds,
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber,
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
Ten days later Molina-del-Rey, Casa-de-Mata, and Chapultepec had
fallen! The United States forces occupied the city of Mexico,
General Scott was in the Grand Plaza, and the American standard
waved above the capital of the Montezumas!
Let those who have a taste for swords and muskets, drums and
trumpets, blood and fire, describe the desperate battles and
splendid victories that led to this final magnificent triumph!
My business lies with the persons of our story, to illustrate whom I
must pick out a few isolated instances of heroism in this glorious
Herbert Greyson's division was a portion of the gallant Eleventh
that charged the Mexican batteries on Molina-del-Rey. He covered his
name with glory, and qualified himself to merit the command of the
regiment, which he afterwards received.
Traverse Rocke fought like a young Paladin. When they were marching
into the very mouths of the cannon they were vomiting fire upon
them, and when the young ensign of his company was struck down
before him, Traverse Rocke took the colors from his falling hand,
and crying "Victory!" pressed onward and upward over the dead and
the dying, and springing upon one of the guns which continued to
belch forth fire, he thrice waved the flag over his head and then
planted it upon the battery. Captain Zuten fell in the subsequent
assault upon Chapultepec.
Colonel Le Noir entered the city of Mexico with the victorious army,
but on the subsequent day, being engaged in a street skirmish with
the leperos, or liberated convicts, he fell mortally wounded by a
copper bullet, and he was now dying by inches at his quarters near
the Grand Cathedral.
It was on the evening of the 20th of September, six days from the
triumphant entry of General Scott into the capital, that Major
Greyson was seated at supper at his quarters, with some of his
brother officers, when an orderly entered and handed a note to
Herbert, which proved to be a communication from the surgeon of
their regiment, begging him to repair without delay to the quarters
of Colonel Le Noir, who, being in extremity, desired to see him.
Major Greyson immediately excused himself to his company, and
repaired to the quarters of the dying man.
He found Colonel Le Noir stretched upon his bed in a state of
extreme exhaustion and attended by the surgeon and chaplain of his
As Herbert advanced to the side of his bed, Le Noir stretched out
his pale hand and said:
"You bear no grudge against a dying man, Greyson?"
"Certainly not," said Herbert, "especially when he proposes doing
the right thing, as I judge you do, from the fact of your sending
"Yes, I do; I do!" replied Le Noir, pressing the hand that Herbert's
kindness of heart could not withhold.
Le Noir then beckoned the minister to hand him two sealed packets,
which he took and laid upon the bed before him.
Then taking up the larger of the two packets, he placed it in the
hands of Herbert Greyson, saying:
"There, Greyson, I wish you to hand that to your friend, young
Rocke, who has received his colors, I understand?"
"Yes, he has now the rank of ensign."
"Then give this parcel into the hands of Ensign Rocke, with the
request, that being freely yielded up, they may not be used in any
manner to harass the last hours of a dying man."
"I promise, on the part of my noble young friend, that they shall
not be so used," said Herbert as he took possession of the parcel.
Le Noir then took up the second packet, which was much smaller, but
much more firmly secured, than the first, being in an envelope of
parchment, sealed with three great seals.
Le Noir held it in his hand for a moment, gazing from the surgeon to
the chaplain, and thence down upon the mysterious packet, while
spasms of pain convulsed his countenance. At length he spoke:
"This second packet, Greyson, contains a--well, I may as well call
it a narrative. I confide it to your care upon these conditions--
that it shall not be opened until after my death and funeral, and
that, when it has served its purpose of restitution, it may be, as
far as possible, forgotten. Will you promise me this?"
"On my honor, yes," responded the young man, as he received the
"This is all I have to say, except this--that you seemed to me, upon
every account, the most proper person to whom I could confide this
trust. I thank you for accepting it, and I believe that I may safely
promise that you will find the contents of the smaller packet of
great importance and advantage to yourself and those dear to you."
Herbert bowed in silence.
"That is all, good-by. I wish now to be alone with our chaplain,"
said Colonel Le Noir, extending his hand.
Herbert pressed that wasted hand; silently sent up a prayer for the
dying wrong-doer, bowed gravely and withdrew.
It was almost eight o'clock, and Herbert thought that he would
scarcely have time to find Traverse before the drum should beat to
He was more fortunate than he had anticipated, for he had scarcely
turned the Grand Cathedral when he came full upon the young ensign.
"Ah! Traverse, I am very glad to meet you! I was just going to look
for you. Come immediately to my rooms, for I have a very important
communication to make to you. Colonel Le Noir is supposed to be
dying. He has given me a parcel to be handed to you, which I
shrewdly suspect to contain your intercepted correspondence for the
last two years," said Herbert.
Traverse started and gazed upon his friend in amazement, and was
about to express his astonishment, when Herbert, seeing others
approach, drew the arm of his friend within his own, and they
hurried silently on toward Major Greyson's quarters.
They had scarcely got in and closed the door and stricken a light
before Traverse exclaimed impatiently:
"Give it me!" and almost snatched the parcel from Herbert's hands.
"Whist! don't be impatient! I dare say it is all stale news!" said
Herbert, as he yielded up the prize.
They sat down together on each side of a little stand supporting a
Herbert watched with sympathetic interest while Traverse tore open
the envelope and examined its contents.
They were, as Herbert had anticipated, letters from the mother and
the betrothed of Traverse--letters that had arrived and been
intercepted, from time to time, for the preceding two years.
There were blanks, also, directed in a hand strange to Traverse, but
familiar to Herbert as that of Old Hurricane, and those blanks
inclosed drafts upon a New Orleans bank, payable to the order of
Traverse pushed all these latter aside with scarcely a glance and
not a word of inquiry, and began eagerly to examine the long-
desired, long-withheld letters from the dear ones at home.
His cheek flamed to see that every seal was broken, and the fresh
aroma of every heart-breathed word inhaled by others, before they
"Look here, Herbert! look here! Is not this insufferable? Every fond
word of my mother, every delicate and sacred expression of--of
regard from Clara, all read by the profane eyes of that man!"
"That man is on his deathbed, Traverse, and you must forgive him! He
has restored your letters."
"Yes, after their sacred privacy has been profaned! Oh!"
Traverse handed his mother's letters over to Herbert, that his
foster brother might read them, but Clara's "sacred epistles" were
kept to himself.
"What are you laughing at?" inquired Traverse, looking up from his
page, and detecting Herbert with a smile upon his face.
"I am thinking that you are not as generous as you were some few
years since, when you would have given me Clara herself; for now you
will not even let me have a glimpse of her letters!"
"Have they not been already sufficiently published?" said Traverse,
with an almost girlish smile and blush.
When those cherished letters were all read and put away, Traverse
stooped down and "fished up" from amidst envelopes, strings and
waste paper another set of letters which proved to be the blanks
inclosing the checks, of various dates, which Herbert recognized as
coming anonymously from Old Hurricane.
"What in the world is the meaning of all this, Herbert? Have I a
nabob uncle turned up anywhere, do you think? Look here!--a hundred
dollars--and a fifty, and another--all drafts upon the Planters'
Bank, New Orleans, drawn in my favor and signed by Largent Dor,
bankers!--I, that haven't had five dollars at a time to call my own
for the last two years! Here, Herbert, give me a good, sharp pinch
to wake me up! I may be sleeping on my post again?" said Traverse in
"You are not sleeping, Traverse!"
"Are you sure?"
"Perfectly," replied Herbert, laughing.
"Well, then, do you think that crack upon the crown of my head that
I got upon Chapultepec has not injured my intellect?"
"Not in the slightest degree!" said Herbert, still laughing at his
"Then I am the hero of a fairy tale, that is all--a fairy tale in
which waste paper is changed into bank notes and private soldiers
prince palatines! Look here!" cried Traverse, desperately, thrusting
the bank checks under the nose of his friend, "do you see those
things and know what they are, and will you tell me that everything
in this castle don't go by enchantment?"
"Yes, I see what they are, and it seems to me perfectly natural that
you should have them!"
"Humph!" said Traverse, looking at Herbert with an expression that
seemed to say that he thought the wits of his friend deranged.
"Traverse," said Major Greyson, "did it never occur to you that you
must have other relatives in the world besides your mother? Well, I
suspect that those checks were sent by some relative of yours or
your mother's, who just begins to remember that he has been
"Herbert, do you know this?" inquired Traverse, anxiously.
"No, I do not know it; I only suspect this to be the case," said
Herbert, evasively. "But what is that which you are forgetting."
"Oh! this--yes, I had forgotten it. Let us see what it is!" said
Traverse, examining a paper that had rested unobserved upon the
"This is an order for my discharge, signed by the Secretary of War,
and dated--ha-ha-ha--two years ago! Here I have been serving two
years illegally, and if I had been convicted of neglect of duty in
sleeping on my post, I should have been shot unlawfully, as that
man, when he prosecuted me, knew perfectly well!" exclaimed
"That man, as I said before, lies upon his deathbed! Remember,
nothing against him! But that order for a discharge! now that you
are in the way of promotion and the war is over, will you take
advantage of it?"
"Decidedly, yes! for though I am said to have acquitted myself
passably well at Chapultepec--"
"Gloriously, Traverse! You won your colors gloriously!"
"Yet for all that my true mission is not to break men's bones, but
to set them when broken. Not to take men's lives, but to save them
when endangered! So to-morrow morning, please Providence, I shall
present this order to General Butler and apply for my discharge."
"And you will set out immediately for home?"
The face of Traverse suddenly changed.
"I should like to do so! Oh, how I should like to see my dear mother
and Clara, if only for a day! but I must not indulge the longing of
my heart. I must not go home until I can do so with honor!"
"And can you not do so now? You, who triumphed over all your
personal enemies and who won your colors at Chapultepec?"
"No, for all this was in my legitimate profession! Nor will I
present myself at home until, by the blessing of the Lord, I have
done what I set out to do, and established myself in a good
practice. And so, by the help of heaven, I hope within one week to
be on my way to New Orleans to try my fortune in that city."
"To New Orleans! And a new malignant fever of some horrible, unknown
type, raging there!" exclaimed Herbert,
"So much the more need of a physician! Herbert, I am not the least
uneasy on the subject of infection! I have a theory for its
"I never saw a clever young professional man without a theory!"
The drum was now heard beating the tattoo, and the friends separated
with hearts full of revived hope.
The next morning Traverse presented the order of the Secretary to
the Commander-in-Chief and received his discharge.
And then, after writing long, loving and hopeful letters to his
mother and his betrothed, and entreating the former to try to find
out who was the secret benefactor who had sent him such timely aid,
Traverse took leave of his friends, and set out for the Southern
Queen of Cities, once more to seek his fortune.
Meantime the United States army continued to occupy the City of
Mexico, through the whole of the autumn and winter. General Butler,
who temporarily succeeded the illustrious Scott in the chief
command, very wisely arranged the terms of an armistice with the
enemy that was intended to last two months from the beginning of
February, but which happily lasted until the conclusion of the
treaty of peace between the two countries.
Colonel Le Noir had not been destined soon to die; his wound, an
inward canker from a copper bullet, that the surgeon had at length
succeeded in extracting, took the form of a chronic fester disease.
Since the night, upon which he had been so extremely ill to be
supposed dying, and yet had rallied, the doctors felt no
apprehensions of his speedy death, though they gave no hopes of his
Under these circumstances there were hours in which Le Noir bitterly
regretted his precipitation in permitting those important documents
to go out of his own hands. And he frequently sent for Herbert
Greyson in private to require assurances that he would not open the
packet confided to him before the occurrence of the event specified.
And Herbert always soothed the sufferer by reiterating his promise
that so long as Colonel Le Noir should survive the seals of that
packet should not be broken.
Beyond the suspicion that the parcel contained an important
confession, Herbert Greyson was entirely ignorant of its contents.
But the life of Gabriel Le Noir was prolonged beyond all human
calculus of probabilities.
He was spared to experience a more effectual repentance than that
spurious one into which he had been frightened by the seeming rapid
approach of death. And after seven months of lingering illness and
gradual decline, during the latter portions of which he was
comforted by the society of his only son, who had come at his
summons to visit him, in May, 1848, Gabriel Le Noir expired a
sincere penitent, reconciled to God and man.
And soon afterward, in the month of May, the treaty of peace having
been ratified by the Mexican Congress at Queretaro, the American
army evacuated the city and territory of Mexico.
And our brave soldiers, their "brows crowned with victorious
wreaths," set out upon their return to home and friends.
THE FORTUNATE BATH
Heaven has to all allotted soon or late
Some lucky revolution of their fate;
Whose motions if we watch and guide with skill
(For human good depends on human will)
Our fortune rolls as from a smooth descent.
And from the first impression takes its bent.
Now, now she meets you with a glorious prize,
And spreads her locks before her as she flies.
Meanwhile, what had our young adventurer been doing in all these
months between September and June!
Traverse, with his two hundred dollars, had set out for New Orleans
about the first of October.
But by the time he had paid his traveling expenses and fitted
himself out with a respectable suit of professional black and a few
necessary books, his little capital had diminished three-quarters.
So that when he found himself settled in his new office, in a highly
respectable quarter of the city, he had but fifty dollars and a few
A portion of this sum was expended in a cheap sofa-bedstead, a
closed washstand and a spirit lamp coffee boiler, for Traverse
determined to lodge in his office and board himself--"which will
have this additional advantage," said the cheerful fellow to
himself--"for besides saving me from debt, it will keep me always on
hand for calls."
The fever, though it was October, had scarcely abated; indeed, on
the contrary, it seemed to have revived and increased in virulency
in consequence of the premature return of many people who had fled
on its first appearance, and who in coming back too soon to the
infected atmosphere, were less able to withstand contagion than
those who remained.
That Traverse escaped the plague was owing not so much to his
favorite "theory" as to his vigorous constitution, pure blood and
regular habits of temperance, cleanliness and cheerful activity of
mind and body.
Just then the demand was greater than the supply of medical service.
Traverse found plenty to do, and his pleasant, young face and
hopeful and confident manners won him great favor in sick rooms,
where, whether it were to be ascribed to his "theory," his
"practice" or to the happy, inspiring influence of his personal
presence, or to all these together, with the blessing of the Lord
upon them, it is certain that he was very successful in raising the
sick. It is true that he did not earn five dollars in as many days,
for his practice, like that of almost every very young professional
man, was among the indigent.
But what of that? What if he were not running up heavy accounts
against wealthy patrons? He was "giving to the poor," not money, for
he himself was as poor as any of them; but his time, labor and
professional skill; he was "giving to the poor;" he was "lending to
the Lord," and he "liked the security." And the most successful
speculator that ever made a fortune on 'change never, never invested
time, labor or money to a surer advantage.
And this I would say for the encouragement of all young persons in
similar circumstances--do not be impatient if the "returns" are a
little while delayed, for they are so sure and so rich that they are
quite worth waiting for, nor will the waiting be long. Give your
services cheerfully, also, for "the Lord loveth a cheerful giver."
Traverse managed to keep out of debt; he regularly paid his office
rent and his laundress' bill; he daily purchased his mutton chop or
pound of beefsteak and broiled it himself; he made his coffee, swept
and dusted his office, put up his sofa-bed, blacked his boots; and
oh! miracle of independence, he mended his own gloves and sewed on
his own shirt buttons, for you may depend that the widow's son knew
how to do all these things; nor was there a bit of hardship in his
having so to wait upon himself, though if his mother and Clara, in
their well-provided and comfortable home at Willow Heights, had only
known how destitute the young man was of female aid and comfort, how
they would have cried!
"No one but himself to mend his poor dear gloves! Oh--oh-boo-hoo-
Traverse never alluded to his straitened circumstances, but boasted
of the comfort of his quarters and the extent of his practice, and
declared that his income already exceeded his outlay, which was
perfectly true, since he was resolved to live within it, whatever it
As the fever began to subside Traverse's practice declined, and
about the middle of November his "occupation was gone."
We said that his office was in the most respectable locality in the
city; it was, in fact, on the ground floor of a first-class hotel.
It happened that one night, near the close of winter, Traverse lay
awake on his sofa-bedstead, turning over in his mind how he should
contrive to make both ends meet at the conclusion of the present
term and feeling as near despondency as it was possible for his
buoyant and God-trusting soul to be, when there came a loud ringing
at his office bell.
This reminded him of the stirring days and nights of the preceding
autumn. He started up at once to answer the summons.
"Is Doctor Rocke in?"
"Yes, what's wanted?"
"A gentleman, sir, in the house here, sir, taken very bad, wants the
doctor directly, room number 555."
"Very well, I will be with the gentleman immediately," answered
Traverse, plunging his head into a basin of cold water and drying it
In five minutes Traverse was in the office of the hotel, inquiring
for a waiter to show him up into 555.
One was ordered to attend him, who led the way up several flights of
stairs and around divers galleries, until he opened a door and
ushered the doctor immediately into the sick room.
There was a little, old, dried-up Frenchman in a blue nightcap,
extended on a bed in the middle of the room and covered with a white
counterpane that clung close to his rigid form as to a corpse.
And there was a little, old, dried-up Frenchwoman in a brown merino
gown and a high-crowned muslin cap who hopped and chattered about
the bed like a frightened magpie.
"Ou! Monsieur le Docteur!" she screamed, jumping at Traverse in a
way to make him start back; "Ou, Monsieur le Docteur, I am very
happy you to see! Voila mon frere! Behold my brother! He is ill! He
is verra ill! He is dead! He is verra dead!"
"I hope not," said Traverse, approaching the bed.
"Voila, behold! Mon dieu, he is verra still! He is verra cold! He is
verra dead! What can you, mon frere, my brother to save?"
"Be composed, madam, if you please, and allow me to examine my
patient," said Traverse.
"Ma foi! I know not what you speak 'compose.' What can you my
brother to save?"
"Much, I hope, madam, but you must leave me to examine my patient
and not interrupt me," said Traverse, passing his hand over the
naked chest of the sick man.
"Mon Dieu! I know not 'exam' and 'interrup'! and I know not what can
you mon frere to save!"
"If you don't hush parley-vooing, the doctor can do nothink, mum,"
said the waiter, in a respectful tone.
Traverse found his patient in a bad condition--in a stupor, if not
in a state of positive insensibility. The surface of his body was
cold as ice, and apparently without the least vitality. If he was
not, as his sister had expressed it, "very dead," he was certainly
"next to it."
By close questioning, and by putting his questions in various forms,
the doctor learned from the chattering little magpie of a
Frenchwoman that the patient had been ill for nine days; that he had
been under the care of Monsieur le Doctor Cartiere; that there had
been a consultation of physicians; that they had prescribed for him
and given him over: that le Docteur Cartiere still attended him, but
was at this instant in attendance as accoucheur to a lady in extreme
danger, whom he could not leave; but Doctor Cartiere had directed
them, in his unavoidable absence, to call in the skilful, the
talented, the soon to be illustrious young Docteur Rocque, who was
also near at hand.
The heart of Traverse thrilled with joy. The Lord had remembered
him! His best skill spent upon the poor and needy who could make him
no return, but whose lives he had succeeded in saving, had reached
the ears of the celebrated Dr. C., who had with the unobtrusive
magnanimity of real genius quietly recommended him to his own
Oh! well, he would do his very best, not only to advance his own
professional interests, and to please his mother and Clara, but also
to do honor to the magnanimous Doctor C.'s recommendation!
Here, too, was an opportunity of putting in practise his favorite
theory; but first of all it was necessary to be informed of the
preceding mode of treatment and its results.
So he further questioned the little, restless magpie, and by
ingeniously framed inquiries succeeded in gaining from her the
necessary knowledge of his patient's antecedents. He examined all
the medicines that had been used, and informed himself of their
effects upon the disease. But the most serious difficulty of all
seemed to be the impossibility of raising vital action upon the
cold, dead skin.
The chattering little woman informed him that the patient had been
covered with blisters that would not "pull," that would not
"delineate," that would not, what call you it--"draw!"
Traverse could easily believe this, for not only the skin, but the
very flesh of the old doctor seemed bloodless and lifeless.
Now for his theory! What would kill a healthy man with a perfect
circulation might save the life of this dying one, whose whole
surface, inch deep, seemed already dead.
"Put him in a bath of mustard water, as hot as you can bear your own
hand in and continue to raise the temperature slowly, watching the
effect, for about five minutes. I will go down and prepare a cordial
draught to be taken the moment he gets back to bed," said Doctor
Rocke, who immediately left the room.
His directions were all but too well obeyed. The bathing tub was
quickly brought into the chamber and, filled with water as hot as
the nurse could bear her hand in then the invalid was hastily
invested in a slight bathing gown and lifted by two servants and
laid in the hot bath.
"Now, bring quickly, water boiling," said the little, old woman,
imperatively. And when a large copper kettleful was forthcoming, she
took it and began to pour a stream of hissing, bubbling water in at
the foot of the bath.
The skin of the torpid patient had been reddening for a few seconds,
so as to prove that its sensibility was returning, and now when the
stream from the kettle began to mix with the already very hot bath,
and to raise its temperature almost to boiling, suddenly there was
heard a cry from the bath, and the patient, with the agility of
youth and health, skipped out of the tub and into his bed, kicking
vigorously and exclaiming:
"Brigands! Assassins! You have scalded my legs to death!"
"Glory be to the Lord, he's saved!" cried one of the waiters, a
"Ciel! he speaks! he moves! he lives! mon frere!" cried the little
Frenchwoman, going to him.
"Ah, murderers! bandits! you've scalded me to death! I'll have you
all before the commissaire!"
"He scolds! he threatens! he swears! he gets well! mon frere!" cried
the old woman, busying herself to change his clothes and put on his
flannel nightgown. They then tucked him up warmly in bed and put
bottles of hot water all around, to keep up this newly stimulated
At that moment Dr. Rocke came in, put his hand into the bath-tub and
could scarcely repress a cry of pain and of horror--the water
scalded his fingers! What must it have done to the sick man?
"Good heavens, madam! I did not tell you to parboil your patient!"
exclaimed Traverse, speaking to the old woman. Traverse was shocked
to find how perilously his orders had been exceeded.
"Eh bien, Monsieur! he lives! he does well! voila mon frere!"
exclaimed the little old woman.
It was true: the accidental "boiling bath" as it might almost be
called, had effected what perhaps no other means in the world could-
-a restored circulation.
The disease was broken up, and the convalescence of the patient was
rapid. And as Traverse kept his own secret concerning the accidental
high temperature of that bath, which every one considered a fearful
and successful experiment, the fame of Dr. Rocke spread over the
whole city and country.
He would soon have made a fortune in New Orleans, had not the hand
of destiny beckoned him elsewhere. It happened thus:
The old Frenchman whose life Traverse had, partly by accident and
partly by design, succeeded in saving, comprehended perfectly well
how narrow his escape from death had been, and attributed his
restoration solely to the genius, skill and boldness of his young
physician, and was grateful accordingly with all a Frenchman's noisy
He called Traverse his friend, his deliverer, his son.
One day, as soon as he found himself strong enough to think of
pursuing his journey, he called his "son" into the room and
explained to him that he, Doctor Pierre St. Jean, was the proprietor
of a private insane asylum, very exclusive, very quiet, very
aristocratic, indeed, receiving none but patients of the highest
rank; that this retreat was situated on the wooded banks of a
charming lake in one of the most healthy and beautiful neighborhoods
of East Feliciana; that he had originally come down to the city to
engage the services of some young physician of talent as his
assistant, and finally, that he would be delighted, enraptured if
"his deliverer, his friend, his son," would accept the post.
Now Traverse particularly wished to study the various phases of
mental derangement, a department of his professional education that
had hitherto been opened to him only through books.
He explained this to his old friend, the French physician, who
immediately went off into ecstatic exclamations of joy as, "Good!
Great! Grand!" and "I shall now repay my good child! my dear son!
for his so excellent skill!"
The terms of the engagement were soon arranged, and Traverse
prepared to accompany his new friend to his "beautiful retreat," the
private madhouse. But Traverse wrote to his mother and to Clara in
Virginia, and also to Herbert Greyson in Mexico, to apprise them of
his good fortune.
THE MYSTERIOUS MANIAC.
Stay, jailer, stay, and hear my woe;
She is not mad, who kneels to thee,
For what I am, full well I know,
And what I was, and what should be;
I'll rave no more in proud despair--
My language shall be calm tho' sad
But yet I'll truly, firmly swear,
I am not mad! no, no, not mad!
It was at the close of a beautiful day in early spring that Traverse
Rocke, accompanying the old doctor and the old sister, reached the
grove on the borders of the beautiful lake upon the banks of which
was situated the "Calm Retreat."
A large, low, white building surrounded with piazzas and shaded by
fragrant and flowering southern trees, it looked like the luxurious
country seat of some wealthy merchant or planter rather than a
prison for the insane.
Doctor St. Jean conducted his young assistant into a broad and cool
hall on each side of which doors opened into spacious rooms,
occupied by the proprietor and his household. The cells of the
patients, as it appeared were up-stairs. The country doctor and the
matron who had been in charge during the absence of the proprietor
and his sister now came forward to welcome the party and report the
state of the institution and its inmates.
All were as usual, the country doctor said, except "Mademoiselle."
"And what of her--how is Mademoiselle--?"
"A patient most interesting, Doctor Rocke," said the old Frenchman,
alternately questioning his substitute and addressing Traverse.
"She has stopped her violent ravings, and seems to me to be sinking
into a state of stupid despair," replied the substitute.
"A patient most interesting, my young friend! A history most
pathetic! You shall hear of it some time. But come into the parlor,
and you, Angele, my sister, ring and order coffee," said the old
Frenchman, leading the way into a pleasant apartment on the right of
the hall, furnished with straw matting upon the floor and bamboo
settees and chairs around the walls.
Here coffee was presently served to the travelers, who soon after
retired for the night.
Traverse's room was a large, pleasant apartment at the end of a
wide, long hall, on each side of which were the doors opening into
the cells of the patients.
Fatigued by his journey, Traverse slept soundly through the night;
but early in the morning he was rudely awakened by the sounds of
maniac voices from the cells. Some were crying, some laughing aloud
some groaning and howling and some holding forth in fancied
He dressed himself quickly and left his room to walk down the length
of the long hall and observe the cells on each side. The doors were
at regular intervals, and each door had in its center a small
opening to enable the proprietor to look in upon the patients.
As these were all women, and some of them delicate and refined even
in their insanity, Traverse felt shocked at this necessary, if it
were necessary, exposure of their sanctuary.
The cells were, in fact, small bedrooms that with their white-washed
walls and white-curtained beds and windows looked excessively neat,
clean and cool, but also, it must be confessed, very bare, dreary
"Even a looking-glass would be a great benefit to those poor girls,
for I remember that even Clara, in her violent grief, and mother in
her lifelong sorrow, never neglected their looking-glass and
personal appearance," said Traverse to himself, as he passed down
the hall and resolved that this little indulgence should be afforded
And except those first involuntary glances he scrupulously avoided
looking in through the gratings upon those helpless women who had no
means of secluding themselves.
But as he turned to go down the stairs his eyes went full into an
opposite cell and fell upon a vision of beauty and sorrow that
immediately riveted his gaze.
It was a small and graceful female figure, clothed in deep black,
seated by the window, with her elbow resting upon the sill and her
chin supported on her hand. Her eyes were cast down until her
eyelashes lay like inky lines upon her snow-white cheek. Her face,
of classic regularity and marble whiteness, bore a ghastly contrast
to the long eyelashes, arched eyebrows and silken ringlets black as
midnight. She might have been a statue or a picture, so motionless
Conscious of the wrong of gazing upon this solitary woman, Traverse
forced his looks away and passed on down-stairs, where he again met
the old doctor and Mademoiselle Angele at breakfast.
After breakfast Doctor St. Jean invited his young assistant to
accompany him on a round of visits to the patients, and they went
immediately up to the hall, at the end of which Traverse had slept.
"There are our incurables, but they are not violent; incurables
never are! Poor Mademoiselle! She has just been conveyed to this
ward," said the doctor, opening the door of the first cell on the
right at the head of the stairs and admitting Traverse at once into
the presence of the beautiful, black-haired, snow-faced woman, who
had so much interested him.
"This is my friend, Doctor Rocke, Mademoiselle; Doctor, this is my
friend, Mademoiselle Mont de St. Pierre!"
Traverse bowed profoundly, and the lady arose, curtsied and resumed
her seat, saying, coldly:
"I have told you, Monsieur, never to address me as Mademoiselle; you
persist in doing so, and I shall never notice the insult again."
"Ten thousand pardons, madame! But if madame will always look so
young, so beautiful, can I ever remember that she is a widow?"
The classic lip of the woman curled in scorn, and she disdained a
"I take an appeal to Monsieur Le Docteur--is not madame young and
beautiful?" asked the Frenchman, turning to Traverse, while the
splendid, black eyes of the stranger passed from the one to the
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