The Shades of the Wilderness
Joseph A. Altsheler
Part 2 out of 6
"Did I not warn you a little while ago that you couldn't frighten me?
I prepared a trap for you, and thus I rise from defeat to victory."
"At any rate we are about even on the evening's work, Leonidas, and we
have made more progress than for the whole six months preceding. It
seems likely now that we can finish our game soon."
A sudden crash of rifle fire toward the east and from a point not distant
told them no. They rose to their feet, but they put the chessmen away
very deliberately, while the young officers hastened to their posts.
The fire continued and spread about them in a half circle, accompanied
now and then by the deeper note of a light field gun. Sherburne made his
dispositions rapidly. All the men remained on foot, but a certain number
were told off to hold the horses in the center of the camp.
"We're attacked by a large force," said Sherburne, "Our scouts gave us
warning in time. Evidently they wish to drive us away from here because
this will be the ford in case the river falls in time."
"Then you look for a sharp fight?"
"Without question. And remember that you're to avoid all risk if you
can. It's not your business to get shot here, but it is your business,
and your highly important business, to ride back to General Lee with the
news of what's happening. In order to do that it's necessary for you to
"I obey orders," said Harry reluctantly.
"Of course you do. Keep back with the men who are holding the horses.
That fire is growing fast! I'm glad we were able to find a camp so
defensible as this hill."
He hurried away to watch his lines and Harry remained at his station near
the horses, where Dalton was compelled by the same responsibility to stay
with him. It was the first time that Harry had been forced to remain a
mere spectator of a battle raging around him, and while not one who
sought danger for danger's sake, it was hard work to control himself and
remain quiet and unmoved.
"I suspect they're trying to cut us off completely from our own army,"
he said to Dalton.
"Seems likely to me, too," said Dalton. "Wipe us out here, and hold the
river for themselves. Our scouts assured us that there was no large
force of the enemy in this region. It must have been gathered in great
"In whatever way it was gathered, it's here, that's sure."
There was a good moon now, and, using his glasses, Harry saw many details
of the battle. The attack was being pressed with great vigor and
courage. He saw in a valley numerous bodies of cavalry, firing their
carbines, and he saw two batteries, of eight light guns each, move
forward for a better range. Soon their shells were exploding near the
hill on which Harry stood, and the fire of the rifles, unbroken now,
grew rapidly in volume.
But the men under Sherburne, youthful though most of them might be,
were veterans. They knew every trick of war, and columns of infantry
swept forward to meet the attack, preceded by the skirmishers, who took
heavy toll of the foe.
"If they'd been able to make it a surprise they might have rushed us,"
"Nobody catches Sherburne sleeping," said Dalton.
"That's true, and because they can't they won't be able to overcome him
here. Now there go our rifles! Listen to that crash. I fancy that
about a thousand were fired together, and they weren't fired for nothing."
"No," said Dalton, "but the Yankees don't give way. You can see by their
line of fire that they're still coming. Look there! A powerful body of
horse is charging!"
It was unusual to see cavalry attack at night, and the spectacle was
remarkable, as the moonlight fell on the raised sabers. But the defiant
rebel yell, long and fierce, rose from the thicket, and, as the rifles
crashed, the entire front of the charging column was burned away, as if
by a stroke of lightning. But after a moment of hesitation they came on,
only to ride deeper into a rifle fire which emptied saddles so fast that
they were at last compelled to turn and gallop away.
"Brave men," said Harry. "A gallant charge, but it had to meet too many
Southern rifles, aimed by men who know how to shoot."
"But their infantry are advancing through that wood," said Dalton.
"Hear them cheering above the rifle fire!"
The Northern shout rang through the forest, and the rebel yell, again
full of defiance, replied. The cavalry had been driven off, but the
infantry and artillery were far from beaten. The sixteen guns of the
two batteries were massed on a hill and they began to sweep the Southern
lines with a storm of shells and shrapnel. The forest and the dark were
no protection, because the guns searched every point of the Southern line
with their fire. Sherburne's men were forced to give ground, before
cannon served with such deadly effect.
"What will the colonel do?" asked Dalton. "The big guns give the Yankees
"He'll go straight to the heart of the trouble," said Harry. "He'll
attack the guns themselves."
He did not know actually in what manner Sherburne would proceed, but he
was quite sure that such would be his course. The wary Southern leader
instantly detailed a swarm of his best riflemen to creep through the
woods toward the cannon. In a few minutes the gunners themselves were
under the fire of hidden marksmen who shot surpassingly well. The
gunners, the cannoneers, the spongers, the rammers and the ammunition
passers were cut down with deadly certainty.
The captain of the guns, knowing that the terrible rifle fire was coming
from the thickets, deluged the woods and bushes with shells and shrapnel,
but the riflemen lay close, hugging the ground, and although a few were
killed and more wounded, the vast majority crept closer and closer,
shooting straight and true in the moonlight. The fire from the batteries
became scattered and wild. Their crews were cut down so fast that not
enough men were left to work the guns, and their commander reluctantly
gave the order to withdraw to a less exposed position.
"Rifles triumphant over artillery," said Harry, who studied everything
through his glasses; "but of course the dusk helped the riflemen."
"That's true," said Dalton, "but it takes good men like Sherburne to use
the favoring chances. Now our boys are charging!"
The tremendous rebel yell swelled through the forest, and the Southern
infantry rushed to the attack. Harry saw that the charge was successful,
and his ears told him so too. The firing moved further and further away,
and soon declined in volume.
"They've been beaten off," said Harry.
"At least for the time," said Dalton, "but I've an idea they'll hang on
our front and may attack again in a day or so."
"How then are you and I to get through and tell General Lee that this is
the place to bridge the Potomac, if it's to be bridged at all?"
Dalton shook his head.
"I don't know," he replied, "and I won't think about it until Colonel
Sherburne gives his orders."
The sounds of battle died in the distant woods. The last shot, whether
from cannon or rifle, was fired, and the Southern troops returned to
their positions, which they began to fortify strongly. Sherburne
appeared presently, his uniform cut by bullets in two or three places,
but his body untouched. He drew Harry and Dalton aside, where their
words could not be heard by anybody else.
"You two," he said, "were to report to General Lee when I thought fit.
Well, the time has come; Harry, you go first, and, at a suitable moment,
George will follow. We have news of surpassing importance. We took
a number of prisoners in that battle and we were also lucky enough to
rescue several of our men who had been held as captives. We've learned
from them that General Meade, after making up his mind to pursue,
followed straight behind us for a while, but he has now turned and gone
southward in the direction of Frederick. He will cross South Mountain,
advance toward Sharpsburg, and attempt to smash us here, with our backs
to this swollen river. Why, some of the Federal leaders consider the
Army of Northern Virginia as good as destroyed already!"
He spoke with angry emphasis.
"But it isn't," said Harry.
"No, it isn't. Doubtless General Lee will learn from scouts of his own
of General Meade's flanking movement, but we mustn't take the chance.
Moreover, we must tell him that this is the place for our army to cross.
If the river runs down in two or three days we'll have a ford here."
"I'm ready to go at any moment," said Harry. "Night helping me, I may be
able to ride through the lines of our enemies out there."
"No, Harry, you must not go that way. They're so vigilant that you would
not have any possible chance. Nor can you ride. You must leave your
"What way then must I go, sir?"
"By the river. We have gathered up a few small boats, used at the
crossing here. You can row, can't you?"
"Fairly well, sir."
"'Twill do, because you're not to stay in the boat long. I want you to
drop down the stream until you're well beyond the Federal lines. Then
leave the boat and strike out across the country for General Lee.
You know the way. You can buy or seize a horse, and you must not fail."
"I will not fail," said Harry confidently.
"You'll succeed if anybody will, and now you must be off. Your pistols
are loaded, Harry? You may have to use them."
They did not delay a minute, going down the shelving shore to the Potomac,
where a man held a small boat against the bank.
"Get in, Harry," said Sherburne. "You'd better drop down three or four
miles, at least. Good-by and good luck."
He shook hands with his colonel and Dalton, took the oars and pulled far
out into the stream.
A HERALD TO LEE
When he swept out upon the sullen bosom of the Potomac, Harry looked back
only once. He saw two dim figures going up the bank, and, at its crest,
a line of lights that showed the presence of the Southern force. There
was no sound of firing, and he judged that the enemy had withdrawn to a
distance of two or three miles.
The night had turned darker since the battle ceased, and not many stars
were out. Clouds indicated that flurries of rain might come, but he did
not view them now with apprehension. Darkness and rain would help a
herald to Lee. The current was strong, and he did not have to pull hard,
but, observing presently that the far shore was fringed with bushes,
he sent the boat into their shadow.
He did not anticipate any danger from the southern shore, but the old
inherited caution of the forest runners was strong within him. Under the
hanging bushes he was well hidden, but, in some places, the flood in the
river had turned the current back upon itself, and he was compelled to
pull with vigor on the oars.
The clouds that had threatened did not develop much, and while the
forests were dark, the surface of the river showed clearly in the faint
moonlight. Any object upon it could be seen from either bank, and Harry
was glad that he had sought the shelter of the overhanging bushes.
He realized now that in this region, which was really the theater of war,
many scouts and skirmishers must be about.
The bank above him was rather high and quite steep, for which he was glad,
as it afforded protection. A half mile farther down he came to the mouth
of a creek coming in from the South, and just as he passed it he heard
voices on the bank. He held his boat among the bushes on the cliff and
listened. Several men were talking, but he judged them to be farmers,
not soldiers. Yet they talked of the battle that night, and Harry
surmised that they were looking at the lights in the Southern camp which
might yet be visible from the high point on which they stood. He could
not gather from their words whether they were Northern or Southern
sympathizers, but it did not matter, as he had no intention of speaking
to them, hoping only that they would go away in a few minutes and let him
continue his journey unseen.
His hope speedily came to pass. He heard their voices sinking in the
distance, and leaving the shelter of the bushes he pulled down the stream
once more. Then he found that he had deceived himself about the clouds.
If they had retired, they had merely recoiled, to use the French phrase,
in order to gather again with greater force.
During his short stay among the bushes at the foot of the cliff the whole
heavens had blackened and the air was surcharged with the heavy damp and
tensity that betoken a coming storm. The lightning blazed across the
river thrice, and he heard a mutter which was not that of cannon.
Then came rain and a rushing wind and the surface of the river was
troubled grievously. It rose up in waves like those of a lake, and
Harry's boat rocked and tumbled so badly that in a few minutes it was
half-full of water.
Fearing he might sink, carrying with him his great message, he pulled
again, but fiercely now, for the southern bank and the shelter of the
bushes, which, fortunately for him, grew here in the water's edge.
He shoved his boat with all his might among them, as their tops snapped
and crackled in the hurricane. But he knew he was safe there, and he
continued to push until it reached the edge of the land.
The river would be swollen by another storm, but for the present it did
not bother him greatly. He was more immediately concerned with his wish
to get back to Lee as soon as possible, and he was grateful for that
dense clump of bushes, growing in the very water's edge, because the wind
was blowing like a hurricane and the waves were chasing one another on
the Potomac, like the billows on a lake. He was a fair oarsman, but it
would have taken greater skill than his to have kept his boat afloat in
the tempestuous river.
The bushes formed an absolute protection. His boat swayed with them,
which saved it from being damaged, and the overhanging lee of the cliff
kept most of the rain from him. He also wrapped about his body the pair
of blankets that he always carried, and he sat there not only in safety,
but with a certain physical pleasure.
Once more amid surroundings with the like of which Henry Ware had been so
familiar, the soul of his great ancestor seemed to have descended upon
him. Most young officers, no matter how brave or how skilled in war,
would have been awed and alarmed. He had no comrades at his elbow.
There was no light, no friendly sound to encourage him, he was as truly
alone, so far as his present situation was concerned, as any pioneer had
ever been in the heart of the wilderness. But for him there was pleasure
at that moment in being alone. He did not quiver when the thunder rolled
and crashed above his head, and the lightning blazed in one Titanic
sword slash after another across the surface of the river. Rather, the
wilderness and majesty of the scene appealed to him. Leaning well back
in his boat with his blankets closely wrapped about him, he watched it,
and his soul rose with the storm.
Harry knew from its sudden violence that the rain would soon pass,
and if the waves abated a little he would certainly take his boat into
the river and try his fortunes again. Yet a precious hour was lost,
and nothing could replace it. The thunder ceased by and by and there was
only dim lightning on the far horizon. The waves began to abate, and,
taking off his blankets, he pushed his boat once more into the stream.
It rocked prodigiously and shipped water, but by strenuous effort he kept
it afloat, and as the wind sank still further he decided that he would
seek the northern shore and disembark as soon as possible. It would be
easier to steal through the thickets than to navigate what amounted to
a wild sea. But the banks were yet too high and steep for a landing,
and he continued to row, keeping now near the middle of the stream.
Wind and rain were dying fast, and he heard a sound behind uncommonly
like the distant swish of oars. It sent an unpleasant thrill through him,
because he wished to be alone on the river at that particular time,
but his eyes, tracing a course through all the dusk and gloom, rested
upon another boat, about two hundred yards away, containing a single
A farmer or a riverman, Harry thought, but to his great astonishment
the man suddenly raised himself up a little and shouted to him in a
tremendous voice to halt. Harry had not the least idea of stopping for
anybody. He bent to his oars and rowed swiftly on. Again came that
shout to halt, and it seemed more insolent to him than before. He put a
few more ounces of strength into his arms and shoulders and increased his
The pursuer, suddenly drawing in his oars, raised a rifle from the bottom
of his boat, and fired point blank at the fugitive. The bullet whistled
so near Harry that he felt his ear burn, and at first thought he was hit.
He would have been glad to fire back, but his pistols could not carry
like his enemy's rifle, and there was nothing to do but flee. Once again
he sought to draw a few more ounces of energy from his body. But the
man behind him was a much greater oarsman than he and gained rapidly.
The stranger, shouting another command to halt, to which no attention
was paid, fired a second time, and the bullet went through the side of
Harry's boat, barely scraping his knee as it passed.
His rage became intense. He had been shot at many times in battle,
and many times he had fired his pistols into the opposing masses, but
here upon this river a man sought his life, as the savages of old sought
the hunter. Another glance showed him that pursuer had closed up half
the distance between them, and, snatching one of the pistols from his
belt, he fired. He knew that he had missed, as he saw the water spurt up
beside the boat, but he thought that his bullet and the probability of
more might delay the pursuit. Nevertheless the man came on as boldly and
as fast as ever. If he fired a third time he could scarcely miss at such
It seemed to Harry the gift of Heaven, that a whole pack of clouds should
drift above them at that moment, deepening the obscurity and making the
pursuing boat, although it was so near, a shapeless form in the mist.
He could not see the features of the man, but he was able to discern his
large and powerful figure, and he noticed the rhythmic manner in which
his arms and shoulders worked at the oars. Obviously he had no chance to
escape him by flight, and drawing his second pistol he fired. The bullet
struck the boat but did no damage. The man came on faster than ever.
Harry took a desperate resolution, and, whirling his boat about, he
rowed it straight at his pursuer, who was now almost level with him. He
intended to ram and take his chances. His movement was so quick and
unexpected that it succeeded. The bow of his boat, helped perhaps by a
wave, struck the other with such violence that both were shattered and
Harry went down with his craft, but in a few seconds came up again,
his mouth and eyes full of muddy water. He was a splendid swimmer,
and his eyes clearing in a moment he looked toward the northern shore,
seeking an easy place for landing. They encountered ten feet away a
large sun-browned face and two burning eyes.
"Shepard!" Harry gasped.
"And so it was you, Lieutenant Kenton. Perhaps if I had known it was you
I wouldn't have fired upon you."
"Don't let that deter you. We're enemies."
"I merely said 'perhaps!' I like you, but that wouldn't keep me from
stopping you by any method I could from reaching Lee."
"I'm sure it wouldn't. I like you, too, Mr. Shepard, but we're enemies
here in this river, deadly enemies, and I mean to beat you off."
"One may mean to do a thing and yet not do it. I'm the larger and the
more powerful. Besides, I'm toughened by superior age. You'd better
surrender, Mr. Kenton. I don't want to do you any bodily harm."
"I admit that you're larger and stronger, but on land only. I'm the
better swimmer. We're both floating now, but if you'll make a comparison,
Mr. Shepard, you'll find that I'm doing it with the greatest ease.
Take my advice, and swim to the southern bank of the river while I go to
the northern. I say it in all good faith."
"I've no doubt of that, but the young are likely to over-estimate their
powers. I'm a good swimmer, and you can't escape me."
"The important point is not whether I can escape you, but whether you can
escape me. Since you have lost your boat and your rifle and we're in
such a treacherous and unstable element as water, I occupy the superior
position. The young may indeed over-estimate their powers, but in
swimming at least I'm a competent critic. For instance, you're holding
your shoulders too high, and you kick too much. You're splashing water,
a useless waste of energy. Now observe me. The surface of this river is
rough. Little waves are yet running upon it, but I float as easily as a
fish, come up to see by the moon what time it is. It is not egotism on
my part, merely a recognition of the facts, but I warn you, Mr. Shepard,
to swim to the other shore and let me alone."
The two were not ten feet apart, and, despite the lightness of their talk,
their eyes burned with eagerness and intensity. Harry knew that Shepard
would not dream of turning back. Yet in the water he awaited the result
with a confidence that he would not have felt on land.
"It's your move, Mr. Shepard," he said.
The intensity of Shepard's gaze increased, and Harry never took his eyes
from those of his enemy. He intended like a prize fighter to read there
what the man's next effort would be.
"I don't see that it's my move," said Shepard, as he floated calmly.
"You're following me for the purpose of capturing me."
"To capture you, or delay you. Meanwhile, it seems to me that I'm
delaying you very successfully. I can't see that you're making much
progress towards Lee."
"That depends upon which way this river is flowing. You note that we
float gently with the stream."
"It's a poor argument. The Potomac flows directly by Washington, and
if we were to float on we'd float into the heart of great Northern
fortresses instead of Lee's camp."
"That's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. I'm
leaving the river soon. You can have it all then."
"Thanks, but I think I'll go with you, Lieutenant Kenton."
"Then come to the bottom!" exclaimed Harry, as he dived forward like a
flash, seized Shepard by the ankles and headed for the bottom of the
river with him. The water gurgled in his eyes and ears and nose, but he
held on for many seconds, despite the man's desperate struggles. Then
he was forced to let go and rise.
As his head shot above the stream he saw another shooting up in the same
manner about fifteen feet away. Both were choked and gasping, but Harry
managed to say:
"I didn't intend for you to come up so soon."
"I suppose not, but perhaps you didn't pause to think that when you rose
I'd rise with you."
"Yes, that's true. It seems to me that matters grow complicated.
Can't you persuade yourself, Mr. Shepard, to go and leave me alone?
I really have no use for you here."
"I'd like to oblige you, Lieutenant Kenton, but I intend to see that you
don't reach General Lee."
"Still harping upon that? It seems to me that you're a stupidly stubborn
man. Don't you know that I'm going anyhow?"
Harry had never ceased to watch his eyes, and he saw there the signal of
a coming movement. Shepard dived suddenly for him, intending to repeat
his own trick, but the youth was like a fish in the water, and he darted
to the right. The man came up grasping nothing. Harry laughed. The
chagrin of Shepard compelled his amusement, although he liked the man.
"I wish you'd go away, Mr. Shepard," he said. "On land you could,
perhaps, overpower me, but in the water I think I'm your master. All
through my boyhood I devoted a great deal of my time to swimming.
Dr. Russell of the Pendleton Academy--but you never knew him--used to say
that if I would swim less and study more I could make greater pretensions
Shepard, swimming rather easily, regarded him thoughtfully.
"While we talk to each other in this more or less polite manner,
Mr. Kenton," he said, "we must not forget that we're in deadly earnest.
I mean to take you, and our scouts mean to take every other messenger who
goes out from Colonel Sherburne's camp. You know, and I know, that if
the Army of Northern Virginia does not reach in a few days that camp,
where there is a ford in ordinary weather, it will be driven up against
the Potomac and we can accumulate such great forces against it that it
cannot possibly escape. Even at Sherburne's place its escape is more
than doubtful, if it has to linger long."
"Yes, I know these things quite well, Mr. Shepard. I know also, as you
do, that General Meade's army is not in direct pursuit, and, that in a
flanking movement, he is advancing across South Mountain and toward
Sharpsburg. It is a march well calculated and extremely dangerous to
General Lee, if he does not hear of it in time. But he will hear of it
soon enough. A comrade of mine, George Dalton, will tell him. Others
from Colonel Sherburne's camp will tell him, and I mean to tell him too.
I hope to be the first to do so."
Harry never deceived himself for a moment. He knew that although Shepard
liked him, he would go to the uttermost to stop him, and as for himself,
while he had a friendly feeling for the spy, he meant to use every weapon
he could against him. Realizing that he could not linger much longer,
as the chill of the water was already entering his body, he swam closer
to Shepard, still staring directly into his eyes. How thankful he was
now for those innumerable swimmings in the little river that ran near
Pendleton! Everything learned well justifies itself some day.
Although there was but little moonlight they were so close together that
they could see the eyes of each other clearly, and Harry detected a
trace of uneasiness in those of Shepard. A good swimmer, the water
nevertheless was not his element, and although a man of great physique
and extraordinary powers, he longed for the solid earth under his feet.
Harry drew himself together as if he were going to dive, but instead of
doing so suddenly raised himself in the water and shot forth his clenched
tight fist with all his might. Shepard was taken completely by surprise
and he sank back under the water, leaving a blood stain on its surface.
Harry watched anxiously, but Shepard came up again in a moment or two,
gasping and swimming wildly. The point of his jaw was presented fairly
and Harry struck again as hard as he could in the water. Shepard with
a choked cry went under and Harry, diving forward, seized his body,
bringing it to the surface.
Shepard was senseless, but getting an arm under his shoulders Harry was
able to swim with him to the northern shore, although it took nearly all
his strength. Then he dragged him out upon the bank, and sank down,
panting, beside him.
The great Civil War in America, the greatest of all wars until nearly
all the nations of Europe joined in a common slaughter, was a humane war
compared with other wars approaching it in magnitude. It did not occur
to Harry to let Shepard drown, nor did he leave him senseless on the
bank. As soon as his own strength returned he dragged him into a
half-sitting position, and rubbed the palms of his hands. The spy opened
"Good-by, Mr. Shepard," said Harry. "I'm bound to leave before you
recover fully because then I wouldn't be your match. I'm sorry I had to
hit you so hard, but there was nothing else to do."
"I don't blame you. It was man against man."
"The water was in my favor. I'm bound to admit that on land you'd have
"At any rate I thank you for dragging me out of the river."
"You'd have done as much for me."
"So I would, but our personal debts of gratitude can't be allowed to
interfere with our military duty."
"I know it. Therefore I take a running start. Good-by."
"We'll meet again."
"But not on this side of the Potomac. It may happen when the Army of
Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac go into battle on the other
side of the river."
Harry darted into the forest, and ran for a half-hour. He meant to put
as much distance as possible between Shepard and himself before the
latter's full strength returned. He knew that Shepard would follow,
if he could, but it was not possible to trail one who had a long start
through dark and wet woods.
He came through the forest and into a meadow surrounded by a rail fence,
on which he sat until his breath came back again. He had forgotten all
about his wet uniform, but the run was really beneficial to him as it
sent the blood leaping through his veins and warmed his body.
"So far have I come," said Harry, "but the omens promise a hard march."
He had his course fixed very clearly, and a veteran now in experience,
he could guide himself easily by the moon and stars. The clouds were
clearing away and a warm wind promised him dry clothing, soon. Long
afterward he thought it a strange coincidence that his cousin, Dick Mason,
in the far South should have been engaged upon an errand very similar in
nature, but different in incident.
He crossed the meadow, entered an orchard and then came to a narrow road.
The presence of the orchard indicated the proximity of a farmhouse,
and it occurred to Harry that he might buy a horse there. The farmer
was likely to be hostile, but risks must be taken. He drew his pistols.
He knew that neither could be fired after the thorough wetting in the
river, but the farmer would not know that. He saw the house presently,
a comfortable two-story frame building, standing among fine shade trees.
Without hesitation he knocked heavily on the door with the butt of a
He was so anxious to hasten that his blows would have aroused the best
sleeper who ever slept, and the door was quickly opened by an elderly man,
not yet fully awake.
"I want to buy a horse."
"Buy a horse? At this time of the night?"
He was about to slam the door, but Harry put his foot over the sill and
the muzzle of his pistol within six inches of the man's nose.
"I want to buy a horse," he repeated, "and you want to sell one to me.
I think you realize that fact, don't you?"
"Yes, I do," replied the man, looking down the muzzle of the big horse
"Come outside and close the door behind you. I know you haven't on many
clothes, but the night's warm, and you need fresh air."
The man with the muzzle of the pistol still near his nose, obeyed.
But as he looked at the weapon he also had a comprehensive view of the
one who held it.
"Wet ain't you?" he said.
"Do you think it necessary to put it in the form of a question?"
"I don't like to say, unless I'm shore."
"Where do you keep your horses?"
"In the barn here to the left. What kind of a horse did you think you'd
keer fur most, stranger?"
"The biggest, the strongest and fastest you've got"
"I thought mebbe you'd want one with wings, you 'pear to be in such a
pow'ful hurry. I wish you wouldn't keep that pistol so near to my nose.
'Sides, you've gethered so much mud an' water 'bout you that you ain't so
very purty to look at!"
"It's your own mud and water. I didn't bring it into this country with
"Which means that you don't belong in these parts. I reckon lookin' at
you that you wuz one o' them rebels that went to Gettysburg and then come
"Exactly right, Mr. Farmer. I'm an officer in General Lee's army."
"Then I wuz right 'bout you needin' a horse with wings. An' I guess all
the men in your army need horses with wings. Don't be in such a tarnal
hurry. You're goin' to stay right up here with us, boarders, so to speak,
till the war is over."
"Kind of you," he said, "but here is the stable and do you open the stall
doors one by one, and let me see the horses. At the first sign of any
trick I pull the trigger."
"Well, as I don't like violence I'll show you the horses. Here's the
gray mare, five years old, swift but can't last long. This is old Rube,
nigh onto ten, mighty strong, but as balky as a Johnny Reb hisself.
Don't want him! No? Then I think that's about all."
"No it's not! You open that last stall door at once!"
The farmer made a wry face, and threw back the door with a slam. Harry
still covering the man with the pistol that couldn't go off, saw a
splendid bay horse about four years old.
"Holding out on me, were you?" he said. "Did you think a Confederate
officer could be fooled in that manner?"
"I reckon I oughtn't to have thought so. I've always heard that the
rebels had mighty good eyes for Yankee horseflesh."
"I'll let that pass, because maybe it's true. Now, saddle and bridle him
quicker than ever before in your life."
The farmer did so, and Harry took care to see that the girth was secure.
"At how much did you value this horse?" he asked.
"I did put him down at two hundred dollars, but I reckon he's worth
nothin' to me now."
"Here's your money. When General Lee goes through the enemy's country he
pays for what he takes."
He thrust a roll of good United States bills into the astonished man's
hand, and sprang upon the horse. Then he turned from the stable and rode
swiftly up the road, but not so swiftly that he did not hear a bullet
singing past his ears. A backward glance showed him an elderly farmer in
his night clothes standing on his porch and reloading his rifle.
"Well, I can't blame you, I suppose," said Harry. "You can guess pretty
well what I am, and it's your business to stop me."
But he rode fast enough to be far beyond the range of a second bullet,
and maintained a good pace for a long time, through hilly and wooded
country. His uniform dried upon him, and his hardy form felt no ill
result from the struggle in the river. The horse was strong and spirited,
and Harry knew that he could carry him without weariness to Lee. He
looked upon his mission as already accomplished, but his ambition to
reach the commander-in-chief first was yet strong.
He rode throughout the rest of the night and dawn and the pangs of hunger
came together. But he decided that he would not turn from his path to
seek food. He would go on straight for Lee and let hunger have its way.
He had a splendid horse under him and he was faring quite as well as he
had a right to expect. He thought of Shepard, and felt pity for him.
The man had only striven to do his duty, and while he had used force
he had been very courteous and polite about it. Harry was bound to
acknowledge that his had been a very chivalrous enemy and only his
superiority in swimming had enabled him to win over Shepard. He was glad
that he had saved him and had left him on the bank, so to speak, to dry.
Then Shepard faded away with the mists and vapors that were retreating
before a brilliant dawn. The country was high, rolling, and the foliage,
although much browned by the July sun, which was unusually hot that year,
was still dense. Most of the hills were heavy with forest, but all the
valleys between were fertile and well cultivated. With the dew of the
morning fresh upon it the whole region was refreshing and soothing to the
eye with a look of peace, where in reality there was no peace. Many thin
columns of smoke lying blue against the silver sky told where farmhouses
stood, and hunger suddenly seized upon Harry again.
Hunger is natural to youth, and his severe exertions all through the
night had greatly increased it. It became both a pain and a weakness.
His shoulders drooped with fatigue, and he felt that he must have food
or faint by the way.
He was ashamed of his physical weakness, but he knew that unless he found
food his faintness would increase, and hunger alone would stop him,
where so able a man as Shepard could not. His uniform, faded anyhow,
was so permeated with the dried mud of the river that it would take a
keen eye to tell whether it was Federal or Confederate, and he need not
disclose his identity in this region, which was so strongly for the
Union. He made up his mind quickly and rode for the nearest farmhouse.
Harry knew that he was inviting risks. His pistols were still useless
but they would be handy for threats, and he should be able to take care
of himself at a farmhouse.
The house that he had chosen was only a few hundred yards away, its white
walls visible among trees, and the clatter of his horse's hoofs brought a
man from a barn in the rear. Harry noted him keenly. He was youngish,
stalwart and the look out of his blue eyes was fearless. He came
forward slowly, examining his visitor, and his manner was not altogether
hospitable. Harry decided that he had to deal with a difficult customer
but he had no idea of turning back.
"Good morning," he said politely.
"I wish some breakfast and I will pay. I've ridden all night in our
"You've so much dried mud on you that you look as if you'd been passin'
through a river."
"Correct. That's exactly what happened."
"But there's none on your horse."
"He didn't pass with me. I'm willing to answer any reasonable number of
questions, but, as I told you before, I ride on an important service.
I must have breakfast at once, and I'll pay."
"Whose service? Ours or Reb's?"
"A military messenger can't answer the chance questions of those by the
roadside. I tell you I want breakfast at once."
"Fine horse you ride, stranger. How long have you had him?"
"All this year."
"Funny. When I saw him last week he belonged to Jim Kendall down by the
Potomac, an' livin' on this very road, too."
"It isn't half as funny as you think. Hands up! Now call to your wife
as loud as you can to bring me coffee and food at the gate! I know
they're ready in the kitchen. I can smell 'em here. Out with it,
call as fast as and as loud as you can, or off goes the top of your head!"
Although a horse pistol held in a firm hand was thrust under his nose,
the man's blue eyes glared hate and defiance, and his mouth did not open.
Harry, in his excitement and anger, forgot that the charge in his weapon
was ruined and hence it was no acting with him when his own eyes blazed
down at the other and he fairly shouted:
"I give you until I can count ten to call your wife! One! two! three!
four! five! six! seven! eight! nine!--"
"Sophy! Sophy!" cried the farmer, who saw death flaming in the eyes that
looked into his, "Come! Come a-runnin'!"
A good looking young woman threw open a door and ran, frightened, toward
the gate, where she saw her husband under the pistol muzzle of a wild and
savage looking man on horseback.
"Sophy," said the farmer, "bring this infernal rebel a cup of coffee and
a plate of bread and meat. If it weren't for his pistol I'd drag him off
his horse and carry him to General Meade, but he's got the drop on me!"
"And Sophy," said Harry, who was growing cooler, "you make it a big tin
cup of coffee and you see that the plate is piled high with meat and
bread. Now don't you make one mistake. Don't you come back with any
weapon in your hand in place of food, and don't you fire on me from the
house with the family rifle. You're young and you're good looking, and,
doubtless the widow of our friend here with the upraised hands, wouldn't
have to wait long for another husband just as good as he is."
The woman paled a little, and Harry knew that some thought of the family
rifle had been in her mind. The husband's glare became ferocious.
"You can take your hands down," said Harry. "I've no wish to torture you,
and I'm satisfied now that you're not armed."
The man dropped his arms and the woman hurried to the kitchen. Harry did
not watch her, but kept his eyes continually upon the man, who he knew
would take advantage of his first careless moment, and spring for him
like a tiger. A pistol that he couldn't fire wouldn't be of much use to
But the woman returned with a big tin cup of smoking coffee and a plate
piled high with bread and bacon and beefsteak. It was a welcome sight.
The aspect of the whole world became brighter at once, and the pulse of
hope beat high. But happiness did not make him relax caution.
"Stand back about ten feet more," he said to the man, "I don't like your
"What's the matter with my looks?"
"It's not exactly your looks I mean, though they're scarcely worthy of
the lady, your wife, but it's rather your attitude or position which
reminds me of a lion or a tiger about to spring upon something it hates."
The man, with a savage growl, withdrew a little.
"I'd like to put a bullet through you," he said.
"I've no doubt of it, your eyes show it, but before I take a polite leave
of you I want to tell you that I did not steal this horse from your
friend, Jim Kendall. I paid for it at his own valuation."
"Confederate money that won't be worth a dollar a bale before long."
"Oh, no, bills that were made and stamped at Washington, and I pay for
this breakfast in silver."
He dropped it into the hand of the woman, as he took the huge cup of
coffee from her. Then he drank deep and long, and again and again,
draining the last drop of the brown liquid.
"I hope it's burnt the lining out of your throat," said the man savagely.
"It was warm, but I like it that way. It was good indeed, and I'm sorry,
Madame, that you have such a violent and ill-tempered husband. Maybe
your next will be a much better man."
"John is neither violent nor ill-tempered. He's never said a harsh word
to me since we were married. But he hates the rebels dreadfully."
"That's too bad. I don't hate him and I'm glad you can give him a good
character. A man's own wife knows best. Now, I'm going to eat this
breakfast as I ride on. You'll find the plate on the fence a quarter of
a mile ahead."
He bowed to both, and still keeping a wary eye on the man, thrust his
pistol into his belt, and as his horse moved forward at a swift and easy
gait he began to eat with a ravenous appetite.
A backward glance showed husband and wife still gazing at him. But it
was only for a moment. They ran into the house and a little further on
Harry looked back again. They had reappeared and he almost expected to
hear again the whistle of a rifle shot, fired from a window. But the
distance was much too great, and he devoted renewed attention to the
demands of hunger.
When he had finished his breakfast he put the plate upon the fence as he
had promised, and, looking back for the last time, he saw an American
flag wave to and fro on the roof of the house. He felt a thrill of
alarm. It must be a signal concerning him and it could be made only to
his enemies. Speaking sharply to his horse, he urged him into a gallop.
THE DANGEROUS ROAD
The road led in the general direction of Lee's army and Harry knew that
if he followed it long enough he was bound to reach his commander,
but the two words "long enough" might defeat everything. Undoubtedly a
Federal force was near, or the farmer and his wife would not be signaling
from the roof of their house.
A plucky couple they were and he gave them all credit, but he was aware
that while he had secured breakfast from them they had put the wolves
upon his trail. There were high hills on both the right and left of the
road, and, as he galloped along he examined them through his glasses for
flags answering the signal on the house. But he saw nothing and the
thickness of the forest indicated that even if the signals were made
there it was not likely he could see them.
Now he wisely restrained the speed of his horse, so full of strength and
spirit that it seemed willing to run on forever, and brought him down to
a walk. He had an idea that he would soon be pursued, and then a fresh
horse would be worth a dozen tired ones.
The road continued to run between high, forested hills, splendid for
ambush, and Harry saw what a danger it was not to have knowledge of the
country. He understood how the Union forces in the South were so often
at a loss on ground that was strange to them.
The road now curved a little to the left, and a few hundred yards ahead
another from the east merged with it. Along this road the forest was
thinner, and upon it, but some distance away, he saw bobbing heads in
caps, twenty, perhaps, in number. He knew at once that they were the
enemy, called by the signal, and leaning forward he spoke in the ear of
his good horse.
"You and I haven't known each other long," he said, "but we're good
friends. I paid honest and sufficient money for you, when I could have
ridden away on you without paying a cent. I know you have a powerful
frame and that your speed is great. I really believe you're the fastest
runner in all this part of the state. Now, prove it!"
The horse stretched out his neck, and the road flew behind him, his body
working like a mighty machine perfectly attuned, even to its minutest
part. Harry's words had met a true response. He heard a cry on the
cross road, and the bobbing heads came forward much faster. Either they
had seen him or they had heard the swift beat of his horse's hoofs.
Loud shouts arose, but he saw the uniforms of the men, and he knew that
they belonged to the Northern army.
He went past the junction of the roads, as if he were flying, but he was
not a bit too soon, as he heard the crack of rifles, and bullets struck
in the earth behind him. He knew that they would follow, hang on
persistently, but he had supreme confidence in the speed and strength of
his horse, and youth rode triumphant. It was youth more than anything
else that made him raise himself a little in his saddle, look back to his
pursuers and fling to them a long, taunting cry, just as Henry Ware more
than once had taunted his Indian pursuers before disappearing in a flight
that their swiftest warriors could not match.
But the little band of Union troopers clung to the chase. They too
had good horses, and they knew that the man before them was a Southern
messenger, and in those hot July days of 1863 all military messages
carried on the roads north of the Potomac were important. The fate of an
army or a nation might turn upon any one of them, and the lieutenant who
led the little Union troop was aware of it. He was a man of intelligence
and a consuming desire to overtake the lone horseman lay hold of him.
He knew, as well as any general, that since Gettysburg the fate of the
South was verily trembling in the balance, and the slightest weight
somewhere might decide the scales. So he resolved to hang on through
everything and the chances were in his favor. It was his own country.
The Federal troops were everywhere, and any moment he might have aid in
cutting off the fugitive.
When Harry eased his horse's flight he saw the troop, very distant but
still pursuing, and he read the mind of the Union leader. He was saving
his mounts, trailing merely, in the hope that Harry would exhaust his own
horse, after which he and his men would come on at great speed.
Harry looked down at his horse and saw that he was heaving with his great
effort. He knew that he had made a mistake in driving him so hard at
first, and with the courage of which only a young veteran would have been
capable he brought the animal almost to a walk, and resolutely kept him
there, while the enemy gained. When they were almost within rifle shot
he increased his speed again, but he did not seek for the present to
increase his gain.
As long as their bullets could not reach him his horse should merely go
stride for stride with theirs, and when the last stretch was reached,
he would send forward the brave animal at his utmost speed. His were the
true racing tactics drawn from his native state. He had no doubt of his
ability to leave his pursuers far behind when the time came, but his true
danger was from interference. He too knew that many Union cavalry troops
were abroad, and he watched on either flank for them as he rode on.
At the crest of every little hill he swept the whole country, but as yet
he saw nothing but peaceful farmhouses.
The day was clear and bright, not so warm as its predecessors, and he
calculated by the sun that he was going straight toward Lee. He knew
that a great army always marched slowly, and he was able to reckon with
accuracy just how far the Army of Northern Virginia had come since
Gettysburg. He should reach it in the morning, with full information
about the Potomac, and the best place for a crossing.
He arrived at the crest of a hill higher than the others, and saw the
Union troop, about a quarter of a mile behind, stop beside a clump of
tall trees. Their action surprised Harry, who had thought they would
never quit as long as they could find his trail. To his further surprise
he saw one of the men dismount and begin to climb the tallest of the
trees. Then he brought his glasses into play.
He saw the climber go up, up, until he had reached the last bough that
would support him. Then he drew some thing from his pocket which he
unrolled and began to wave rapidly. It was a flag and through his
powerful glasses Harry clearly saw the Stars and Stripes. It was evident
that they were signaling, but when one signals one usually signals to
somebody. His breath shortened for a moment. He believed that the man
in the tree was talking with his flag about the fugitive. Where was the
one to whom he was talking?
He looked to both left and right, searching the fields and the forests,
and saw nothing. Then, as he was sweeping his glasses again in a half
curve he caught a glimpse of something straight ahead that made the great
pulse in his throat beat hard. About a mile in front of him another man
in a tree was waving a flag and beneath the tree were horsemen.
Harry knew now that the two flags were talking about the Confederate
messenger between. The one behind said: "Look out! He's young, riding a
bay horse and he's coming directly toward you," to which the one in front
replied, "We're waiting. He can't escape us. There are fields with high
fences on either side of the road and if he manages to break through the
fence he's an easy capture in the soft and muddy ground there."
Harry thought hard and fast, while the two flags talked so contemptuously
about him. The fields were unquestionably deep with mud from the heavy
rains, but he must try them. It was lucky that he had seen the flags
while both forces were out of rifle shot. He decided for the western
side, sprang from his horse and threw down a few rails. In a half minute
he was back on his horse, leaped him over the fence, and struck across
It had been lately plowed and the going was uncommonly heavy. It would
be just as heavy however for his pursuers, and his luck in seeing their
signals would put him out of range before they reached the field.
But it was a wide field and his horse's feet sank so deep in the mud that
he dismounted and led him. When he was two-thirds of the way across a
shout told him that the two forces had met, and had discovered the ruse
of the fugitive. It did not take much intelligence to understand what he
had done, because he was yet in plain sight, and a few of the cavalrymen
took pot shots at him, their bullets falling far short. Harry in his
excited condition laughed at these attempts. Almost anything was a
triumph now. He shook his fist at them and regretted that he could not
send back a defiant shot.
The cavalrymen conferred a little. Then a part pursued across the field,
and two detachments rode along its side, one to the north and the other
to the south. Harry understood. If the mud held him back sufficiently
they might pass around the field and catch him on the other side.
He continued to lead his horse, encouraging him with words of entreaty
"Come on!" he cried. "You won't let a little mud bother you. You
wouldn't let yourself be overtaken by a lot of half-bred horses not fit
to associate with you?"
The brave animal responded nobly, and what had been the far edge of the
field was rapidly coming nearer. Beyond it lay woods. But the flanking
movement threatened. The two detachments were passing around the field
on firm ground, and Harry knew that he and his good horse must hasten.
He talked to him continually, boasting about him, and together they
reached the fence, which he threw down in all haste. Then he led his
weary horse out of the mud, sprang upon his back and galloped into the
He knew that the horses passing around the field on firm ground would be
fresh, and that he must find temporary hiding, at least as soon as he
could. He was in deep thickets now and he galloped on, careless how
the bushes scratched him and tore his uniform. The Union cavalry would
surely follow, but he wanted a little breathing time for his horse,
and in eight or ten minutes he stopped in the dense undergrowth. The
horse panted so hard that any one near would have heard him, but there
was no other sound in the thicket. The rest was valuable for both.
Harry was able to concentrate his mind and consider, while the panting of
the horse gradually ceased, and he breathed with regularity. The young
lieutenant patted him on the nose and whispered to him consolingly.
"Good, old boy," he said, "you've brought me safely so far. I knew that
I could trust you."
Then he stood quite still, with his hand stroking the horse's nose to
keep him silent. He had heard the first sounds of search. To his right
was the distant beat of hoofs and men's voices. Evidently they were
going to make a thorough search for him, and he decided to resume his
flight, even at the risk of being heard.
He led the horse again, because the forest was so dense that one could
scarcely ride in it, and he thought, for a while, that he had thrown off
the pursuit, but the voices came again, and now on his left. They had
never relaxed the hunt for an instant. They had a good leader, and Harry
admitted that in his place he would have done the same.
The country grew rougher, being so steep and hilly that it was not
easy of cultivation, and hence remained clothed in dense forest and
undergrowth. Twice more Harry heard the sound of pursuing voices and
hoofs, and then the noise of running water came to his ears. Twenty
yards farther and he came to a creek flowing between high banks, on which
the forest grew so densely that the sun was scarcely able to reach the
The creek at first seemed to be a bar to his advance, but thinking it
over he led his horse carefully down into the stream, mounted him and
rode with the current, which was not more than a foot deep. Fortunately
the creek had a soft bottom and there was no ringing of hoofs on stones.
He went slowly, lest the water splash too much, and kept a wary watch on
the banks above, which were growing higher. He did not know where the
creek led, but it offered both a road and concealment, and it seemed that
Providence had put it there for his especial help.
He rode in the bed of the stream fully an hour, and then emerged from
the hills into a level and comparatively bare country. It was a region
utterly unknown to him, but with his splendid idea of direction and the
sun to guide him he knew his straight course to Lee. The country before
him seemed to be given up wholly to grass, as he noticed neither corn nor
wheat. He saw several farm hands, but decided to keep away from them.
That was no country for the practice of horsemanship by a lone
Confederate soldier, nor did he like to be the fox in a fox hunt.
Yet the fox he was. He chose a narrow road leading between cedars,
and when he had advanced upon it a few hundred yards he heard the sound
of a trumpet behind him, and at the edge of the woods that he had left.
He saw horsemen in blue emerging and he had no doubt that they were the
same men whom he had eluded in the thickets.
"Their pursuit of me is getting to be a habit," he said to himself with
the most intense annoyance. "It's a good thing, my brave horse, that
you've had a long rest."
He shook up the reins and began to gallop. He heard a faint shout in the
distance and saw the troopers in pursuit. But he did not fear them now.
Numerous fences would prevent them from flanking him, and he saw that the
road led on, straight and level. He shook the reins again and the horse
lengthened his stride.
He felt so exultant that he laughed. It would be easy enough now to
distance this Union troop. Then the laugh died suddenly on his lips.
A bullet whistled so near his face that it almost took away his breath.
An elderly farmer standing in his own door had fired it, and Harry
snatched one of the pistols from his own belt, remembering then with rage
that it could not be fired. He shouted to his horse and made him run
A bullet struck the pommel of his saddle and glanced off. A boy in an
orchard had fired it. A load of bird-shot, a handful it seemed to Harry,
flew about his ears. A bent old man who ought to have been sitting on
a porch in a rocking chair had discharged it from the edge of a wood.
A squirrel hunter on a hill took a pot shot at him and missed.
Harry was furious with anger. Decidedly this was no place for a visitor
from the South. He did not detect the faintest sign of hospitality.
Men and women alike seemed to dislike him. A powerful virago hurled a
stone at his head, which would have struck him senseless had it not
missed, and a farmer standing by a fence had a shotgun cocked and ready
to be fired as he passed, but Harry, snatching one of the useless pistols
from his belt, hurled it at him with all his might. It struck the man a
glancing blow on the head, felling him as if he had been shot, and then
Harry, thinking quickly, acted with equal quickness.
He reined in his horse with such suddenness that he nearly shot from the
saddle. Then he leaped down, seized the shotgun from under the hands of
the fallen man, sprang on his horse and was away again, sending back a
cry of defiance.
Harry had never before in his life been so furious. To be hunted thus by
a whole countryside, as if he were a mad dog, was intolerable. It was
not only a threat to one's life, it was also an insult to one's dignity
to be treated as an animal. Although he was armed now the insult
continued. The call of the trumpet sounded almost without ceasing,
and the Union troopers uttered many shouts as do those who chase the fox,
although Harry knew that their cries were intended to rouse the farmers
who might head him off.
The chase grew hotter, but he felt better with the shotgun. It was a
fine double-barreled weapon of the latest make, and he hoped that it was
loaded with buckshot. He was a sharpshooter, and he could give a good
account of any one who came too near.
Yet with the trumpet shrilling continually behind him the huntsmen
gathered fast on either flank. It was yet the day when nearly every
house in America, outside a town, contained a rifle, and bullets fired
from a distance began to patter around Harry and his horse. The
riflemen were too far away to be reached with the shotgun, and it seemed
inevitable to him that in time a bullet would strike him. He was truly
the fox, and he knew that nothing could save him but forest.
It was in his favor that the country was so broken and wooded so heavily,
and fixing his eyes on trees a half-mile ahead he raced for them.
If none of this yelling pack dragged him down he felt sure that he might
escape again in the forest. The trees swiftly came nearer, but the shots
on either flank increased. More than ever he felt like the fox with the
hounds all about him, and just one slender chance to reach the burrow
He felt his horse shake and knew that he had been hit. Yet the brave
animal ran on as well as ever, despite the triumphant shout behind,
which showed that he must be leaving a trail of blood. But the woods,
thick and inviting, were near, and he believed that he would reach them.
The horse shook again, much more violently than before, and then fell to
his knees. Harry leaped off, still clutching the shotgun, just as the
brave animal fell over on his side and began to breathe out his life.
He heard again that shout of triumph, but he was one who never gave up.
He had alighted easily on his feet. The trees were not more than fifteen
yards away and he disappeared among them as bullets clipped bark and
twigs about him.
He breathed a deep sigh of thankfulness when he entered the forest.
It was so dense, and there was so much undergrowth that the horsemen
could not follow him there. If they came on foot, and spread out,
as they must, to hunt him, he had the double-barreled shotgun and it
was a deadly weapon. The fox had suddenly become the panther, alert,
powerful, armed with claws that killed.
Harry went deep into the thickets before he sat down. He had no doubt
that they would follow him, but at present he was out of their sight and
hearing. He felt a mixture of elation and sadness, elation over his
temporary escape, and sadness over the loss of his gallant horse.
But one could not dwell long on regrets at such a time, and, advancing a
little farther, he sat down among the densest bushes that he could find
with the shotgun across his knees.
Now Harry saw that the horse had really done all that it was possible
for him to do. He had brought him to the wood, and within he would have
been a drawback. A man on foot could conceal himself far more easily.
Everything favored him. There were bushes and vines everywhere and he
could be hidden like a deer in its covert.
He looked up at the sun shining through the tops of the trees and saw
that he had kept to his true course. His flight had taken him directly
toward Lee at a much faster pace than he would have come otherwise.
The enemy had driven him on his errand at double speed. He felt that he
could spare a little time now, while he waited to see what the pursuit
His feeling of exultation was now unalloyed. Deep in the forest with
his foes looking for him in vain, the spirit of Henry Ware was once
more strong within him. He was the reincarnation of the great hunter.
He lay so still, clasping the shotgun, that the little creatures of the
woods were deceived. A squirrel ran up the trunk of an oak six feet away,
and stood fearlessly in a fork with his bushy tail curved over his back.
A small gray bird perched on a bough just over Harry's head and poured
out a volume of song. Farther away sounded the tap tap of a woodpecker
on the bark of a dead tree.
Harry, although he did not move, was watching and listening with intense
concentration, but his ears now would be his surest signals. He could
not see deep in the thickets, but he could hear any movement in the
underbrush a hundred yards away. So far there was nothing but the
hopping of a rabbit. The bird over his head sang on. There was no
wind among the branches, not even the flutter of leaves to distract his
attention from anything that might come on the ground.
He rejoiced in this period of rest, of the nerves, rather than purely
physical. He had been keyed so high that now he relaxed entirely,
and soon lay perfectly flat, but with the shotgun still clasped in his
arms. He had a soft couch. Under him were the dead leaves of last year,
and over him was the pleasant gloom of thick foliage, already turning
brown. The bird sang on. His clear and beautiful note came from a point
directly over his head, but Harry could not see his tiny body among the
leaves. He became, for a little while, more interested in trying to see
him than in hearing his pursuers.
It was annoying that such a volume of sound should come from a body that
could be hidden by a leaf. If a man could shout in proportion to his own
size he might be heard eight to ten miles away. It was an interesting
speculation and he pursued it. While he was pursuing it his mind relaxed
more and more and traveled farther and farther away from his flight and
hiding. Then his heavy eyelids pulled down, and, while his pursuers yet
searched the thickets for him, he slept.
But his other self, which men had thought of as far back as Socrates,
kept guard. When he had slept an hour a tiny voice in his ear, no louder
than the ticking of a watch, told him to awake, that danger was near.
He obeyed the call, sleep was lifted from him and he opened his eyes.
But with inherited caution he did not move. He still lay flat in his
covert, trusting to his ears, and did not make a leaf move about him.
His ears told him that leaves were rustling not very far away, not more
than a hundred feet. His power of hearing was great, and the forest
seemed to make it uncommonly sensitive and delicate.
He knew that the rustling of the leaves was made by a man walking.
By and by he heard his footfalls, and he knew that he wore heavy boots,
or his feet would not have crushed down in such a decisive manner.
He was looking for something, too, because the footfalls did not go
straight on, but veered about.
Harry was well aware that it was a Union soldier, and that he was the
object of his search. He was a clumsy man, not used to forests, because
Harry heard him stumble twice, when his feet caught on vines. Nor
was any comrade near, or he would have called to him for the sake of
companionship. Harry judged that he was originally a mill hand, and
he did not feel the least alarm about him, laughing a little at his
clumsiness and awkwardness, as he trod heavily among the bushes, tripped
again on the vines, and came so near falling that he could hear the rifle
rattle when it struck a tree. He did not have the slightest fear of the
man, and at last, raising his head, he took a look.
All his surmises were justified. He saw a great hulking youth of heavy
and dull countenance, carrying a rifle awkwardly, his place obviously
around some town and not in the depths of a forest, looking for a wary
enemy, who knew more of the wilderness than he could ever learn in all
his life. Harry saw that he was perspiring freely and that he looked
more like the hunted than the hunter. His eyes expressed bewilderment.
He was obviously lonely and apprehensive, not because he was a coward,
but because the situation was so strange to him.
Besides his rifle he carried a large knapsack, so much distended that
Harry knew it to be full of food. It was this that decided him. A
soldier, like an army, must travel on his stomach, and he wanted that
knapsack. Moreover he meant to get it. He leveled his shotgun and
called in a low tone, but a tone so sharp that it could be heard
distinctly by the one to whom it was addressed:
"Throw up your hands at once!"
The man threw them up so abruptly that the rifle fell from his shoulder
into the bushes, and he turned around, staring face toward the point from
which the command had come. Harry saw at once that he was of foreign
birth, probably. The features inclined to the Slav type, although Slavs
were not then common in this country, even in the mill towns of the North.
"Are you an American?" asked Harry, standing up.
"All but two years of my life."
"The first two years then, as I see you speak good English. What's your
"Do you think that anybody named Michael Stanislav has the right to
interfere in the quarrel of the Northern and Southern states? Don't the
Stanislavs have trouble enough in the country where the Stanislavs grow?"
The big youth stared at him without understanding.
"Do you know who I am?" asked Harry, severely.
"The running rebel that we all look for."
"Rebels don't run. Besides, there are no rebels. Anyway I'm not the man
you're looking for. My name is Robin Hood."
"Yes, Robin Hood! Didn't you ever hear of him?"
"Then you have the honor of hearing of him and meeting him at the same
time. As I said, my name is Robin Hood and my trade is that of a
benevolent robber. I lie around in the greenwood, and I don't work.
I've a lot of followers, Friar Tuck and others, but they're away for a
while. They're as much opposed to work as I am. That's why they're my
followers. We're the friends of the poor, because they have nothing we
want, and we're the enemies of the rich because they have a lot we do
want and that we often take. Still, we couldn't get along very well,
if there were no rich for us to rob. It's like taking sugar water from
a maple tree. We won't take too much, because it would kill the tree
and we want to take its sugar water again, and many times. Do you
"Yes," replied the big youth, but Harry knew he didn't. Harry meanwhile
was listening keenly to all that was passing in the forest, and he was
sure that no other soldier had wandered near. It was perhaps partly a
feeling of loneliness on his own part that caused him to linger in his
talk with Michael Stanislav.
"Michael," he continued, "you appreciate our respective positions,
"Ah!" said Michael, in a puzzled voice.
"I've explained carefully to you that I'm Robin Hood, and you at the
present moment represent the rich."
"I am not rich. Before I turn soldier I work in a mill at Bridgeport."
"That's all very well, but you can't get out of it by referring to your
past. Just now you are a proxy of the rich, and it's my duty to rob you."
The mouth of the big fellow expanded into a wide grin.
"You won't rob me," he said. "I have not a cent."
"But I'm going to rob you just the same. Don't you dare to drop a hand
toward the pistols in your belt. If you do I'll blow your head off.
I'm covering you with a double-barreled shotgun. Each barrel contains
about twenty buckshot, and at close range their blast would be so
terrific that you'd make an awful looking corpse."
"I hold up my hands a long time. Don't want to be any kind of a corpse."
"That's the good boy. Steady now. Don't move a muscle. I'm going to
rob you. It's a brief and painless operation, much easier than pulling a
He deftly removed the two pistols and the accompanying ammunition from
the man's belt, placing them in his own. His belt of cartridges he put
on the ground beside the fallen rifle, and then as he felt a glow of
triumph he passed the well-filled knapsack from the stalwart shoulders
of the other to his own shoulders, equally stalwart.
"Is everything in it first class, Michael?" he demanded with much
"The best. Our army feeds well."
"It's a good thing for you that it's so. Robin Hood is never satisfied
with anything second class, and he's likely to be offended if you offer
it to him. On the whole, Michael, I think I like you and I'm glad you
came this way. But do you care for good advice?"
"That's right. Say 'sir' to me. It pleases my robber's heart. Then,
my advice to you is never again to go into the woods alone. All the
forest looks alike to those who don't know it, and you're lost in a
minute. Besides, it's filled with strange and terrible creatures,
Robin Hood--that's me, though I have some redeeming qualities--the
Erymanthean boar, the Hydra-headed monster, Medusa of the snaky locks,
Cyclops, Polyphemus with one awful eye, the deceitful Sirens, the Old Man
of the Mountain, Wodin and Osiris, and, last and most terrible of all,
the Baron Munchausen."
A flicker of fear appeared in the eyes of the captive.
"But I'll see that none of these monsters hurt you," said Harry
consolingly. "The open is directly behind you, about a mile. Right
about! Wheel! Well done! Now, you won't see me again, but you'll hear
me giving commands. Forward, march! Quit stumbling! No true forester
ever does! Nor is it necessary for you to run into more than three
trees! Keep going! No, don't curve! Go straight ahead, and remember
that if you look back I shoot!"
Michael walked swiftly enough. He deemed that on the whole he had fared
well. The great brigand, Robin Hood, had spared his life and he had lost
nothing. The army would replace his weapons and ammunition and he was
glad enough to escape from that terrible forest, even if he were driven
out of it.
Harry watched him until he was out of sight, and then picking up the
rifle and belt of cartridges he fled on soundless feet deeper into the
forest. Two or three hundred yards away he stopped and heard a great
shouting. Michael, no longer covered by a gun, had realized that
something untoward had happened to him, and he was calling to his
comrades. Harry did not know whether Michael would still call the man
who had held him up, Robin Hood, nor did he care. He had secured an
excellent rifle which would be much more useful to him than a shotgun,
and his course still led straight toward the point where he should find
Lee's army on the march. He felt that he ought to throw away the shotgun,
as two weapons were heavy, but he could not make up his mind to do so.
A hundred yards farther and he heard replies to Michael's shouts, and
then several shots, undoubtedly fired by the Union troops themselves,
as signals of alarm. He laughed to himself. Could such men as these
overtake one who was born to the woods, the great grandson of Henry Ware,
the most gifted of the borderers, who in the woods had not only a sixth
sense, but a seventh as well? And his great grandson had inherited many
of his qualities.
Harry, in the forest, felt only contempt for these youths of Central
Europe who could not tell one point of the compass from another. He
guided his own course by the sun, and continued at a good pace until he
could hear shouts and shots no longer. Then in the dense woods, where
the shadows made a twilight, he came to a tiny stream flowing from
under a rock. He knelt and drank of the cool water, and then he opened
Michael's knapsack. It was truly well filled, and he ate with deep
content. Then he drank again and rested by the side of the pool.
As he reflected over his journey Harry concluded that Providence had
watched over him so far, but there was much yet to do before he reached
Lee. Providence had a strange way of watching over a man for a while,
and then letting him go. He would neglect no precaution. The forest
would not continue forever and then he must take his chances in the open.
Still burning with the desire to be the first to reach Lee, he put the
rifle and the shotgun on either shoulder, and set off at as rapid a pace
as the thickets would permit. But he soon stopped because a sound almost
like that of a wind, but not a wind, came to his ears. There was a
breeze blowing directly toward him, but he paid no attention to it,
because to him most breezes were pleasant and friendly. But the other
sound had in it a quality that was distinctly sinister like the hissing
of a snake.
Harry paused in wonder and alarm. All his instincts warned him that a
new danger was at hand. The breath of the wind suddenly grew hot,
and sparks carried by it blew past him. He knew, in an instant, that the
forest was on fire behind him and that tinder dry, it would burn fast and
furious. Changing from a walk to a run, he sped forward as swiftly as he
could, while the flames suddenly sprang high, waved and leaped forward in
TESTS OF COURAGE
Harry did not know how the woods had been set on fire, and he never knew.
He did not credit it to the intent of Michael and his comrades, but he
thought it likely that some of these men, ignorant of the forest, had
built a campfire. His first thought was of himself, and his second was
regret that so fine a stretch of timber should be burned over for nothing.
But he knew that he must hurry. Nor could he choose his way. He must
get out of that forest even if he ran directly into the middle of a Union
brigade. The wind was bringing the fire fast. It leaped from one tree
to another, despite the recent rains, gathering volume and power as it
came. Sparks flew in showers, and fragments of burned twigs rained down.
Twice Harry's face was scorched lightly and he had a fear that one of
the blazing twigs would set his hair on fire. He made another effort,
and ran a little faster, knowing full well that his life was at stake.
The fire was like a huge beast, and it reached out threatening red claws
to catch him. He was like primeval man, fleeing from one of the vast
monsters, now happily gone from the earth. He was conscious soon that
another not far from him was running in the same way, a man in a faded
blue uniform who had dropped his rifle in the rapidity of his flight.
Harry kept one eye on him but the stranger did not see him until they
were nearly out of the wood. Then Harry, with a clear purpose in view,
veered toward him. He saw that they would escape from the fire. Open
fields showed not far ahead, and while the sparks were numerous and
sometimes scorched, the roaring red monster behind them would soon be at
the end of his race. He could not follow them into the open fields.
When the two emerged from the forest Harry was not more than fifteen feet
from the stranger, who evidently took him for a friend and who was glad
to have a comrade at such a time. They raced across fields in which the
wheat had been cut, and then sank down four or five hundred yards from
the fire, which was crackling and roaring in the woods with great
violence, and sending up leaping flames.
"I was glad enough to get out of that. Do you think the rebels set it on
"I don't think so, but I was as pleased as you to escape from it,
"Why, how did you know my name?" exclaimed the man in wonder.
"Why should I forget you? I've seen you often enough. Your name is John
Haskell and you belong to the Fifth Pennsylvania."
"That's right, but I don't seem to recall you."
"It takes a lot of us some time to clear up our minds wholly after such a
battle as Gettysburg. In some ways I've been in a sort of confused state
myself. I dare say you've seen me often enough."
"Pity you had your horse shot under you, Mr. Haskell. A man who is
carrying important messages at a time like this can't do very well
without his horse."
"How did you know I'd lost my horse?"
"Oh, I'm a mind reader. I can tell you a lot now. You carry your
dispatch in the left-hand pocket of your waistcoat, just over your heart.
And it hasn't been long, either, since you lost your horse, perhaps not
more than an hour."
Haskell stared at him, but Harry's face was innocent. Nevertheless he
had read Haskell's name and regiment on his canteen, cut there with his
own knife. It was a mere guess that he was a dispatch bearer, but he
had located the dispatch, because at the mention of the word "message"
the man's hand had involuntarily gone to his left breast to see if the
dispatch were still there. Boots with little dirt on them indicated that
he had been riding.
"A mind reader!" said Haskell, with suspicion. "What business has a mind
reader in this war?"
"He could be of enormous value. If he were a real mind reader he could
tell his general exactly what the opposing general intended to do.
I'm employed at a gigantic salary for that particular purpose."
"I guess you're trying to be funny. Why do you carry both a rifle and a
"In order to hit the target with one, if the other misses. I always use
the rifle first, because if the bullet doesn't get home the shotgun,
spreading its charge over a much wider area, is likely to do something."
"Now I know you're trying to be funny. As I'm going about my business as
fast as I can, I'll leave you here."
"I like you so well that I can't bear to see you go. Don't move.
My rifle covers your heart exactly and you are not more than ten feet
away. I shall have no possible need of the shotgun. Keep your hands
away from your belt. You're in a dangerous position, Mr. Haskell."
"I believe you're an infernal rebel."
"Take out the objectionable adjective 'infernal' and you're right.
Keep those hands still, I tell you."
"What do you want?"
"Your dispatches! Oh, I must have 'em. Unbutton your coat and waistcoat
and hand 'em to me at once. I hate to take human life, but war demands a
terrible service, and I mean what I say!"
His voice rang with determination. The man slowly unbuttoned his
waistcoat and took out a folded dispatch.
"Put it on the ground in front of you. That's right, and don't you reach
for it again. Now, lay your canteen beside it!"
"What in thunder do you want with my canteen? It's empty!"
"I can fill it again. This is a well watered country. That's right;
put it beside the dispatch. Now you walk about one hundred yards to the
right with your back to me. If you look around at all I fire, and I'm
a good marksman. Stand there ten minutes, and then you can move on!
That's right! Now march!"
The man walked away slowly and when he had gone about half the distance
Harry, picking up the dispatch, took flight again across the fields.
Climbing a fence, he looked back and saw the figure of John Haskell,
standing motionless on a hill. He knew that the man was not likely to
remain in that position more than half the allotted time. It was certain
that he would soon turn, despite the risk, but Harry was already beyond
He leaped from the fence, crossed another field and entered a wood.
There he paused among the trees and saw Haskell returning. But when he
had come a little distance, he shook his head doubtfully, and then walked
toward the north.
"A counsel of wisdom," chuckled Harry, who was going in quite another
direction. "I think I'll read my dispatch now."
He opened it and blessed his luck. It was from Meade to Pleasanton,
directing him to cut in with all the cavalry he could gather on the
enemy's flank. The Potomac was in great flood and the Army of Northern
Virginia could not possibly cross. If it were harried to the utmost by
the Union cavalry the task of destroying it would be much easier.
"So it would," said Harry to himself. "But Pleasanton won't get this
dispatch. Providence has not deserted me yet; and it's true that fortune
favors the brave. I'm John Haskell of the Fifth Pennsylvania and I can
He had put the canteen over his shoulder and the name upon it was a
powerful witness in his favor. The dispatch itself was another, and his
faded uniform told nothing.
Harry had passed through so much that a reckless spirit was growing upon
him, and he had succeeded in so much that he believed he would continue
to succeed. Regretfully he threw the shotgun away, as it would not
appear natural for a messenger to carry it and a rifle too.
He went forward boldly now, and, when an hour later he saw a detachment
of Union cavalry in a road, he took no measures to avoid them. Instead
he went directly toward the horsemen and hailed them in a loud voice.
They stopped and their leader, a captain, looked inquiringly at Harry,
who was approaching rapidly.
Harry held up both hands as a sign that he was a friend, and called in a
"I want a horse! And at once, if you please, sir!"
He had noticed that three led horses with empty saddles, probably the
result of a brush with the enemy, and he meant to be astride one of them
within a few minutes.
"You're a cool one," said the captain. "You come walking across the
field, and without a word of explanation you say you want a horse.
Don't you want a carriage too?"
"I don't need it. But I must have a horse, Captain. I ride with a
message and it must be of great importance because I was told to go with
it at all speed and risk my life for it. I've risked my life already.
My horse was shot by a band of rebels, but luckily it was in the woods
and I escaped on foot."
As he spoke he craftily moved the canteen around until the inscription
showed clearly in the bright sunlight. The quick eyes of the captain
caught it at once.
"You do belong to the Fifth Pennsylvania," he said. "Well, you're a
long way from your regiment. It's back of that low mountain over there,
a full forty miles from here, I should say."
Harry felt a throb of relief. It was his only fear that these men
themselves should belong to the Fifth Pennsylvania, a long chance,
but if it should happen to go against him, fatal to all his plans.
"I don't want to join my regiment," he said. "I'm looking for General
"General Pleasanton! What can you happen to want with him?"
Harry gave the officer a wary and suspicious look, and then his eyes
brightened as if he were satisfied.
"I told you I was riding with a message," he said, "and that message is
for General Pleasanton. It's from General Meade himself and it's no harm
for me to show it to so good a patriot as you."
"No, I think not," said the captain, flattered by the proof of respect
Harry took the letter from his pocket. It had been sealed at first,
but the warmth of the original bearer's body with a little help from
Harry later had caused it to come open.
"Look at that," said Harry proudly as he took out the paper.
The captain read it, and was mightily impressed. He was, as Harry had
surmised, a thoroughly staunch supporter of the Union. He would not only
furnish this valiant messenger with a good horse, but he would help him
otherwise on his way.
"Dexter," he called to an orderly, "bring the sorrel mare. She was
ridden by a good man, Mr. Haskell, but he met a sharpshooter's bullet.
Harry sprang into the saddle, and, astride such a fine piece of
horseflesh, he foresaw a speedy arrival in the camp of General Lee.
"I'll not only mount you," said the captain, "but we'll see you on the
way. General Pleasanton is on Lee's left flank and, as our course is in
that direction, we'll ride with you, and protect you from stray rebel
Harry could have shouted aloud in anger and disappointment. While the
captain trusted him fully, he would not be much more than a prisoner,
"Thank you very much, Captain," he said, "but you needn't trouble
yourself about me. Perhaps I'd better go on ahead. One rides faster
"Don't be afraid that we'll hold you back," said the captain, smiling.
"We're one of the hardest riding detachments in General Pleasanton's
whole cavalry corps, and we won't delay you a second. On the contrary,
we know the road so well that we'll save you wandering about and losing
Harry did not dare to say more. And so Providence, which had been
watching over him so well, had decided now to leave him and watch over
the other fellow. But he had at least one consolation. Pleasanton was
on Lee's flank and their ride did not turn him from the line of his true
objective. Every beat of his horse's hoofs would bring him nearer to
Lee. Invincible youth was invincibly in the saddle again, and he said
confidently to the captain:
"All right. You keep by my side, Haskell. You appear to be brave and
intelligent and I want to ask you questions."
The tone, though well meant, was patronizing, but Harry did not resent it.
"This troop is made up of Massachusetts men, and I'm from Massachusetts
too," continued the captain. "My name is Lester, and I had just
graduated from Harvard when the war began."
"Good stock up there in Massachusetts," said Harry boldly, "but I've one
objection to you."
"Everything wonderful in our history was done by you. No chance was left
for anybody else."
"Well, not everything, but almost everything. Good old Massachusetts!
As Webster said, 'There she stands!'"
"It was mostly New York and Pennsylvania that stood at Gettysburg."
"Yes, you did very well there."
"Don't you think, Captain, that a nation or a state is often lucky in its
possession of writers?"
"I don't catch your drift exactly."
"I'll make an illustration. I've often wondered what were the Persian
accounts of Marathon and Thermopylae, of Salamis and Plataea. Now most
of our history has been written by Massachusetts men."
"And you insinuate that they have glorified my state unduly?"
"The expression is a trifle severe. Let's say that they have dwelled
rather long upon the achievements of Massachusetts and not so long upon
those of New York and Pennsylvania."
"Then let New York and Pennsylvania go get great writers. No state can
be truly great without them. There's another detachment of ours just
ahead, but we'll talk to them only a minute or two."
The second detachment reported that Pleasanton, with a heavy cavalry
force, was about six miles farther west and that there was a fair road
all the way. They should overtake him in an hour.
Harry's heart beat hard. Unless something happened within that hour he
would never reach Lee, and his brain began to work with extraordinary
activity. Plans passed in review before it as rapidly as pictures on
a film, but all were rejected. He was in despair. They were trotting
rapidly down a smooth road. A quarter of an hour passed and then a
half-hour. A low bare hill appeared immediately on their right, and
Harry saw beyond it the tops of trees.
"Captain Lester," he said, "suppose that you and I ride to the crest of
the hill. You have strong glasses, so have I, and we may see something
worth while. The men will ride on, but we can easily overtake them."
"Not a bad idea, Haskell," said the captain, still in that slightly
patronizing tone. "I judge by your speech that you're a well educated
man, and you appear to think."
They rode quickly to the summit, and Lester, putting his glasses to his
eyes, gazed westward over a vast expanse of cultivated country. But
Harry looking immediately down the slope, saw the forest that he wished.
Lester swept the glasses in a wide circle, looking for Union troops.
His own troop was about a hundred yards ahead and the hoofbeats were
growing fainter. Then Harry's courage almost failed him, but necessity
was instant and cruel. Still he modified the blow, nor did he use any
weapon, save one that nature had given him.
"Look out!" he cried, and as Lester turned in astonishment he struck him
on the point of the jaw. Even as his fist flashed forward he held back a
little and his full strength was not in the blow.
Nevertheless it was sufficient to strike Lester senseless, and he slid
from his horse. Harry caught him by the shoulder and eased him in his
fall. Then he lay stretched on his back in the grass like one asleep,
with his horse staring at him. Harry knew that he would revive in a
minute or two, and with a "Farewell, Captain Lester," he galloped down
the slope and into the covering woods.
He knew that Lester's men, finding that they did not follow, would
quickly come back, and he raced his horse among the trees as fast as he
dared. A couple of miles between him and the hill and he felt safe,
at least so far as the troop of Captain Lester was concerned. Fortune
seemed to have made him a favorite again, but he knew that dangers were
still as thick around him as leaves in Vallombrosa.
He tied his horse, climbed a tree, and used his glasses. Two miles to
the west the bright sun flashed on long lines of mounted men, obviously
the horsemen of Pleasanton. How was he to get through that cavalry
screen and reach Lee? He did not see a way, but he knew that to find,
one must seek. His desire to get through, intense as it always had been,
was now doubled. He not only carried the news to Lee about the possible
ford, but he also bore Meade's dispatch to Pleasanton, directing a
movement which, if successful, must be most dangerous to the Army of
He descended the tree and waited a while in the forest. He found a
spring at which he drank, and he filled the canteen. It was a precious
canteen with the name of John Haskell engraved upon it, and he meant that
it should carry him through all dangers into his camp. But he did not
mean to use it yet. If he rode into Pleasanton's ranks they would merely
take his letter to the general, and that would be the failure of his real
Night was now not far distant, and, concluding that he had a much better
chance to run the gantlet under its cover, he still waited in the wood
until the twilight came.
Wrapped in a coil of dangers he was ready to risk anything. Quickness,
resource and boldness, of which the last had been most valuable, had
brought him so far, and, encouraged by success, he rode forward full of
On his right was a small house standing among the usual shade trees, and,
approaching it without hesitation, he spoke to a man who stood in the
"Which way is General Pleasanton?" he asked.
The man hesitated.
"I belong to the Fifth Pennsylvania," said Harry, pointing to the name on
the canteen, still visible in the twilight. The man's eyes brightened
and he replied:
"Down there," pointing toward the southwest.
"I've a message for him and I don't want to run into any of the rebel
"Then you keep away from there," he said, pointing due west.
"What's the trouble in that direction?"
"Jim Hurley was here about an hour ago. The whole country is terribly
excited about these big armies marching over it, and he said that our
cavalry was riding on fast. A lot of it was ahead of the rebel army,
but straight there in the west some of the rebel horsemen had spread out
on their own flank. If you went that way in the night you'd be sure to
run right into a nest of 'em."
"So the Johnnies are west of us, your friend Hurley said. Tell me again
what particular point I have to watch in order to keep away from them."
"Almost as straight west as you can make it. A valley running east and
west cuts in there and it's full of the rebels. It's the only place all
along here where they are."
"And consequently the only place for me to avoid. Thanks. Your
information may save me from capture. Good night."
"Good night and good luck."
Harry rode toward the southwest until a dip in the valley hid him from
possible view of the man at the house. Then he turned and rode due west,
determined to reach as soon as possible those "rebel raiders" in the
valley, but fully aware that he must yet use every resource of skill,
courage and patience.
The twilight turned into night, clear, dry and bright. Unless it
was raining in the mountains the flood in the Potomac could not be
increasing. Here, at last, the conditions were all that he wished.
The captured haversack still contained plenty of food, and, as he rode,
he ate. He had learned long ago that food was as necessary as weapons
to a soldier, and that one should eat when one could. Moreover, he was
He kept among trees wherever possible, and, as the night grew, and the
stars came out in the dusky blue, he enjoyed the peace. Even though he
searched with his glasses he could not see soldiers anywhere, although he
knew they were in the hollows and the forests. A pleasant breeze blew,
and an owl, reckless of armies, sent forth its lonesome hoot.
But he kept his horse's head straight for the narrow valley where the
"rebel raiders" rode. He met presently a small detachment of Connecticut
men, but the sight of his canteen and letter was sufficient for them.
Again he rode southwest, merely to turn due west once more, after he had
passed from their sight, and near the head of the valley he encountered
two men in blue on horseback watching. They were alert, well-built
fellows and examined Harry closely, a process to which long usage had
"I hear that the rebels are down in that valley, comrade," he said.
"So they are," replied the elder and larger of the men. "We've got to
ask you who you are and which way you're going."
"John Haskell, Fifth Pennsylvania, with dispatches from General Meade to
General Pleasanton. They're tremendously important, too, and I've got to
be in a hurry."
"More haste less speed. You know the old saying. In a time like this
it's sometimes better for a man to know where he's going than it is to
get there, 'cause he may arrive at the wrong place."
"Good logic, comrade, but I must hurry just the same. Which is my best
way to find General Pleasanton?"
"Southwest. But I'm bound to tell you a few things first."
"All right. What are they?"
"You and I must be kinsfolk."
"How do you make that out?"
"Because my name is William Haskell, and I belong to the Fifth
Pennsylvania, the same regiment that you do."
"Is that so? It's strange that we haven't met before. But funny things
happen in war."
"So they do. Awfully funny. Now my brother's name is John Haskell,
and you happen to be carrying his canteen, but you've changed looks a lot
in the last few days, Brother John."
Haskell's voice had been growing more menacing, and Harry, with native
quickness, was ready to act. When he saw the man's pistol flash from his
belt he went over the side of his horse and the bullet whistled where
his body had been. His own rifle cracked in reply, but Haskell's horse,
not he, took the bullet, and, screaming with pain and fright, ran into
the woods as the rider slipped from his back.
Harry, realizing that his peril was imminent and deadly, fired one of his
pistols at the second man, who fell from his horse, too badly wounded in
the shoulder to take any further part in the fight.
But Harry found in Haskell an opponent worthy of all his skill and
courage. The Union soldier threw himself upon the ground and fired at
Harry's horse, which instantly jerked the bridle from his hand and fled
as the other had done. Harry dropped flat in the grass and leaves and
listened, his heart thumping.
But luck had favored him again. He lay in a slight depression and any
bullet fired at him would be sure to go over him unless he raised his
head. He could not see his enemies, but he could depend upon his
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