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Full text of "The gospel writ in steel; a story of the American civil war"

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THE UNIVERSITY OF 






NORTH CAROLINA 






LIBRARY 






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THE WILMER COLLECTION 






OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 






PRESENTED BY 






RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 











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Digitized by tlie Internet Arcliive 

in 2010 witli funding from 

University of Nortli Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/gospelwritinsteeOOpate 



Hppletons' 
trown ant> Country 

No. 249 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL 



THE GOSPEL 
WRIT IN STEEL 



A STORY OF THE 
AMERICAN CIFIL WAR 



BY 

ARTHUR PATERSON 

AUTHOR OF A DAUGHTER OF THE NEZ PERCES, 
FATHER AND SON, FOR FREEDOM'S SAKE, ETC. 




NEW YORK 
APPLETON AND COMPANY 

1898 



Copyright, 1897, 1898, 
By D. APPLETON AND COMPANY. 

All rights reserved. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 



CHAPTEE I. 

Saturday, April 13th, 1861. The day the Fed- 
eral flag was hauled down at Fort Sumter under the 
fire of secession guns: when the citizens of the 
Northern States of America — Democrat and Eepub- 
lican — roused to a frenzy of excitement by those guns, 
called, with one voice, for arms: the day the embers 
of distrust and misunderstanding between the North 
and the South, which had been smouldering for half 
a century, burst into flames — the day the war began. 

In no part of the North was there greater enthusi- 
asm than in the State of Wisconsin. New Yorkers 
and Bostonians looked upon ^Yisconsin as a place 
on the borders of nowhere; a semi-barbarous land, 
where the bowie-knife and revolver settled all dis- 
putes, where youths grew beards at twenty, and maid- 
ens learnt to use a rifle in their teens. Nothing could 
be further from the truth. Frontier simplicity there 
was in plenty, but rowdyism and lawlessness did not 
exist. Yet a Washington man would have thought 
the place archaic. In Chippewa, northern Wis- 
consin, a town of great importance to its inhabitants 
and of no mean reputation elsewhere, politicians, 

1 

603181 



2 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

when free from Congress, drove the plough on the 
farm, or served behind the counter in a store, and 
not one would have had a chance of re-election had 
he shown the least disposition to shirk manual labour 
for the plcasanter, if somewhat crooked, paths of 
party wire-pulling. In Wisconsin, in 18G1, the low- 
liest of labourers addressed his richest neighbour by 
his Christian name, and democracy in practice as in 
principle was the watchword of public and private 
life. It was true that cultivation of mind and out- 
ward refinement both of manner and speech had yet 
to appear in the land — Wisconsin men and women 
had been too busy for such luxuries hitherto — but 
education was recognised as a prime necessity, and 
in Chippewa a good school had been established out 
of the public funds. 

The staple industries around Chippewa and 
throughout the larger portion of the State were lum- 
bering and farming, and very substantial places many 
of these farms were. The soil was good; the people, 
thrifty men and strong-^sons and grandsons of hardy 
frontiersmen and pioneers — were doing well. 

In the sitting-room of one of these homesteads, 
on the evening of April 13th, an old lady was wan- 
dering restlessly to and fro between the window and 
the fire, over which, on a carved mantelpiece, she 
•had placed a letter. A little bent old lad}^, slight 
and frail, with pale and sickly face, yet with keen 
bright eyes, firm chin and mobile lips, in all of which 
lay a force and vitality which belied her feebleness of 
body. This evening, as the shadows lengthened and 
rays of light striking through the window panes, like 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 3 

long red fingers, showed that the sun was near its set- 
ting, Mrs. Burletson's face expressed more tlian its 
usual strength of purpose, and Maria, the help of the 
house, entering at this moment to lay the supper, de- 
cided to keep within her own hreast certain troubles 
that weighed heavily upon her tongue. 

" John is late, mem, I'm thinking." 

" You are wrong, 'Eia. It wants two minutes 
to the hour. Yet he will be late, likely. No man 
can think of bits of time when lambs are coming." 

But Maria heard her sigh, and, being a sympa- 
thetic soul, began to grumble — 

" I know what is in your mind — that letter. 
Good sakes, why didn't you let me run with it when 
it came an hour ago? I will go now." 

" You will go on with your work. I do not wish 
John should see it till he comes in. Nothing puts 
him about so much as being fussed in work hours." 

" Your fretting will wear him more than all — you 
know it will." 

" I know my own mind, ^Eia. Have you finished 
laying table? " 

" I guess so." 

" Then your eyes are asleep, my girl. ISTo spoon 
for the mustard, no fork for John, a little knife for 
the meat. Maria, there are some people who will 
never get through life until they quit minding other 
folk's business. There — I knew he'd not be late. 
Dish up smartly, girl. John is coming now." 

A man was quietly walking toward the house, the 
after glow of the sunset playing upon his worn work- 
a-day clothes and old slouch hat, and glorifying the 



4 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

outlines of his plain, hard-featured face. John Bur- 
letson was five-and-twenty years old, but looked 
thirty. Unlike his mother, his prevailing expression 
was gentleness and good temper. His eyes were mild 
and pleasant, his mouth thoughtful and firm. In 
outline, the face was squ.are and strongly made, but it 
lacked the vivacity and quick changes which were 
so characteristic of Mrs. Burletson. An awkward 
young man, with arms inclined to be too long, and 
round shoulders, broad out of proportion to his 
height, large hands and feet, a man who walked with 
the careless gait of one accustomed to tramp over 
ploughed fields, and who rarely troubled himself 
concerning his carriage or dress. 

" I'm behind, mother." 

They met at the kitchen door. 

" Just one minute, my son, if 'Eia's time is true." 

" I am sorry," he said, smiling; " 'twas the old 
ewe; as usual, she reckoned to see Jim and me 
whipped before she'd get under cover; it came to car- 
rying her at last." 

He sat down on a chair near the door, and stooped 
to take off his boots. 

" Don't do that yet, sonny. Here's a letter from 
Luke." 

He looked up, and she saw an eager light in his 
eyes, but he did not take the note. 

" I'll see to it presently." 

" I have a notion you are wanted in town — at 
once." 

He had pulled off one boot by this time, and now 
began upon the other. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 5 

" That may be, but this mud won't agree with 
'Eia's clean boards or your carpet. Keep the letter 
for me till I'm clean. I will be round in two winks." 

He marched off to his bedroom in Ms stockings, 
returning clad in a better coat. It was a habit of 
John Burletson's never to sit down with his mother 
to the evening meal in his working clothes. 

" Now let me see the news." As he took the let- 
ter from her he kissed her on the cheek, and found it 
wet with tears. Then he read the note, and Mrs. 
Burletson heard him draw a short sharp breath. 

" It has come at last. Sumter's taken. War is 
declared." 

"They want you, John?" 

But he did not answer her. 

" How smart and deep the Southerners have 
played their game! No noise, no dust. They seced-^ 
ed, crying, ' Let us go in peace,' and then, while we, 
trusting to that, stand open-mouthed wondering, 
doing nothing, guarding nothing, they step right in 
and strike; tear down the flag, take our strongest fort. 
President Buchanan will have a heavy day of reckon- 
ing, if we ever make him pay his dues." 

" Does Luke ask your coimscl ? " 

Her mind took in little of the question in its 
general bearing. She was only thinking of him. 
Her words brought John back with a start. 

" Well — I guess he wants to talk. Every one 
talks these days. What we need is a President and 
Government who'll act. This new man, Abraham 
Lincoln, is our only hope. If he don't go forward 
now, the whole natton will break up into bits." 



6 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

"That is what the seceshers want, John?" 

She was falling into his mood; but her eyes were 
watching his face anxiously, and he knew it, though 
he did not look at her, and was not thinking of him- 
self. 

" They will stand a rare chance, mother, of get- 
ting all they wish if Lincoln does not bite back quick- 
ly and hard." 

" But the North is a wide place to conquer, son." 

" Washington is on the Potomac Eiver. If Vir- 
ginia secedes, and I think she will now, spite of all 
they say, the seceshers will only be one day's march 
from our capital. Supposing them to be smart — and 
Virginians will make some of the best fighting-men 
in America. I would not be surprised to hear next 
that the Government, President Lincoln, and all, 
were in their hands. Where would we be then? I 
will show you how this idea comes to me." 

He went to a writing-desk in an adjoining room, 
took out a roll of maps from a pigeon-hole, and 
spread one out upon the table where the supper was 
fast growing cold. 

" Look, mother, I drew this map of the border a 
week since. It is very badly done, but it is correct, so 
far. See that black spot. That is Richmond, 
Virginia's capital; and here is Harper's Ferry, where 
the great arsenal lies with stores of ammunition and 
weapons for two armies like enough, and all on 
Southern ground. I take it the secession folk will 
jump the place — or have done before this. From 
there they will march north, well-equipped, across 
the Potomac, before Long Bridge "is fortified, and on 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 7 

to Washington. There is nothing to stop them, 
unless the Government is awake, and after what we 
have seen so far under Buchanan, things are not 
hopeful. What do you say ? " 

Mrs. Burletson laughed softly, and patted her 
son's broad shoulder. 

" I say if this man here was secesh, I would be 
sorry for the North, but as he is not, spite of the 
arms and President Buchanan and all, I do not fear 
for the Union while it has such men as you. Though 
how you get to know what you do, John, is wonder- 
ful to me. There — I said it before." 

John rolled up his map. 

" It is easy to get books and read them. But I 
am keeping supper standing. Mother, you should 
cheek me when I forget you so." 

" It takes me all my time to make you think of 
aught else, my dear. You will now be off to Luke. 
He expects you to supper." 

John sat down and sharpened the carving-knife. 

" It is not likely that you are going to eat alone. 
What is this? Beef. 'Eia has cooked it well to- 
night. You must have a slice." 

" I could not eat meat this time of day," 

" You had none at noon, and the doctor said 
nourishment was what you needed. Try it, mother, 
or I will leave mine alone, and I want my steak bad." 

She laughed and yielded, and for a few minutes 
they eat silently, John absent and thoughtful, his 
mother watching him. 

"John," she said suddenly, ''what will folk do 
about this?" 



8 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" Volunteer — I should guess. The militia will 
be called out, but that will not be enough — not near 
enough." 

He frowned as he spoke, and his mother's lips 
tightened as if in pain. 

" You mean that men — men working in farms 
and elsewhere — would ^list and serve in the army. 
Aye, they will do so, the brave ones. And it is right " 
— her voice deepened in tone and strength — " the 
men who hesitated for the sake of those they M^ould 
leave, when the country needed they should go, 
would be cowards, and none of their friends would 
hold them back. I hoj)e that all the boys will volun- 
teer round here." 

" You may depend on that," he said, thrusting 
his plate from him, though it was still half full, and 
rising from the table. " I guarantee half the town 
will be at Luke's when I get down. You will not 
wait for me, mother. Promise me that. I do not 
know — I can't rightly tell — when I may be back. 
And it would worry me so tp feel you were breaking 
your rest. Promise you'll not sit up past ten 
o'clock." 

" I promise to go to bed, John, when I feel like 
it. I will not stay up a moment after that. I can- 
not say fairer, dear. Mebbe you will not get home 
at all to-night. Why should you? Yet, if it could 
be so fixed, will you come? Of course they will want 
you there, your place is not at home these times. To- 
morrow I hope you will be on the way to Washington. 
But, to-night — well, never mind." 

Her voice broke at the last, and she paused to 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 9 

steady it. The absent look left John's face in an 
instant, and he took her in his arms. 

"Mother, what is to do with you? I do believe 
you think they'll give me command of a regiment at- 
least. Bless you, they will not want such as me, ex- 
cept to carry a musket when the time comes. There 
are more of my kind, and better, in the jSTorth than 
blackberries on the bushes. If I go — and I have not 
thought of that yet — it will be as a private, when I 
have learnt to shoot. Pshaw! what is in your brain, 
mumsey mine? Come — come." 

He kissed her very tenderly, and the tears that 
were gathering slowly in her eyes did not fall. She 
raised her head with a proud smile. 

" My brain is old, sonny, and I am nigh worn out. 
But I am sharjD enough yet to tell what lies in you. 
Go to the war that is coming how you will, before it 
ends, if it don't fizzle out in a month or two, you will 
be taking a share you little think now. Look what 
our new President was at your age. Look what he is 
now. The future is yours, and though I will never 
see it, my son will make his mark upon it all. You 
need the opportunity, John, to be forced upon you. 
You are slow to move when it is to your own ad- 
vantage. Too slow, which is one of your faults. 
But I believe the time has come when you must show 
to others the worth that your old mother knows. 
Now be off with you to Luke's; don't stay kissin' 
me." 

She gave him a gentle push, then solemnly blessed 
him. As he reached the door, she cried out — 

" Mind you give Jean my love, and tell her to 



10 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

look up to see me early to-morrow. There will be a 
deal to talk about, I fancy, and she can tell me all the 
news." 

John promised, and Mrs. Burletson was alone. 
She went to the window and looked out. It was a 
dark night, but she listened, and presently heard the 
beat of horse's hoofs upon the road. 

" He is loping," she muttered to herself. " Lo- 
ping hard to the war. And he will be the first in the 
fight, will John. They will make him a captain, and 
it is those who lead who are killed. Merciful Lord! " 

She shuddered, and shut the window. 

" How many are saying the same to-night? Moth- 
ers, sisters, wives. I may not complain. But it is 
hard. All his life I have shared his troubles, and 
given him what I had; and every year he has grown 
more precious, being a lad as he is. And now when 
I am old, God sends him away to this war, and I will 
die and never see him again." 

The door opened behind her, and Maria came 
with the tray to clear away the things. 

" 'Eia," cried Mrs. Burletson, severely, " you've 
been crying." 

Maria snifi^ed and tried to answer, then broke 
down altogether and sobbed aloud. 

" I can't hold it in any longer. It's that Jim 
Hallet of mine, and what he's gone and done. We 
was to have been married come June — you know it — 
and now this very day he's off to town in his best 
(ilo'ee, to volunteer for the war. I wouldn't mind 
that with some men, but Jim's bound to get shot — 
jest bound to, he's so big. Let alone he's being too 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. H 

tender-hearted to shoot at any human critter. Oh, 
mem, the men has gone mad, I do believe, an' all for 
notliing at all. But there, when it's a fight we wom- 
en may go and take a back seat for ever, an' stay 
there." 

Maria, being very breathless, stopped at this point, 
and expected a severe reprimand, for she knew that 
her mistress hated display of emotion. To the girl's 
astonishment, Mrs. Burletson wiped her own eyes 
and kissed her. 

" My dear, go, clear these dishes away, then bring 
your work and sit in this room with me. You are 
not the only woman, 'Kia, by many, young and old, 
to curse the war to-night." 



CHAPTEE II. 

Chippewa town was full to overflowing when 
John Burletson rode in at nine o'clock. Men and 
women walked to and fro in restless excitement, or 
stood about in groups listening to some eager talker 
who thought he had important news to tell. Scraps 
of startling intelligence caught John's ears as he 
steered his impatient horse among the crowd, and 
many of the people hailed him by name, and called 
upon him to stop. But he said he had not time, and 
pressed on at the best speed he might into the centre 
of the town, where stood Luke Selby's store, the 
largest building in the place. 

In country towns in the Western States it is to the 
store — when the store-keeper knows his business — 
that every one goes for reliable news during crises in 
public affairs. There will be found the best minds 
and the shrewdest heads in the district. In Chippe- 
wa this was more the case than elsewhere, for Luke 
Selby knew his business well, and no town meeting, 
religious, social, or political, was complete without 
his presence, generally as chairman. All news, from 
the birth of the Senator's last baby to a telegram 
from Washington, reached Luke before it came to any 
other man. No action affecting the interests of Chip- 
13 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 13 

pewa was ever taken without a word, or many words, 
from him. To-night his store was lighted up and 
crammed from end to end with a seething mass of 
men. No goods were to he seen. Every barrel 
and keg and box formed the seat of one or more 
persons. There was not standing room for a fly 
upon his counters; and the body of the store, 
cleared of all goods, was black with people, who clus- 
tered like a swarm of disturbed bees upon the plat- 
form outside, and overflowed into the street itself. 
Everywhere arose the noise and confusion of tongues, 
for an American crowd — until the speech-making 
begins — is the least silent of human congregations; 
and all talked at once, discussing, haranguing, proph- 
esying, arguing. John, after hitching his horse to 
a post behind the store, wondered, as he began to 
make his way slowly up the platform steps, whether 
he would ever get to Luke at all. But no sooner was 
his face seen by the crowd than his name was passed 
from lip to lip, speedily reaching the store-keeper's 
ears at the other end of the room. Luke Selby was 
seated at a table on a small raised platform. He was 
in his shirt-sleeves, writing down a list of names upon 
a sheet of paper. When he heard of John's arrival 
he threw down his pen with a muttered " At last," 
stepped to the edge of the platform, and shouted 
with a voice that resounded above all the babel of 
tongues, 

" John — John Burletson, come up here! ]\Iake 

room for him, good folk, make room! You boys of 

the army, straighten out! 'Tention: eyes right: 

dress: sa-lute! " the words — spoken on the spur of 

2 



14 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

the moment — coming with the full force of his lungs. 
He was answered by a cheer, and then, with one of 
those common impulses which seize a crowd at such 
times, every man stepped closer to his neighbour, a 
narrow lane was made from the door to the platform, 
and John, to liis unspeakable astonishment, found 
himself walking past neighbours and friends as if 
he were a public character. Luke wrung him by the 
hand and pulled him on to the platform, while the 
crowd fell silent, expecting a speech. 

" Welcome, dear friend, right welcome! " cried 
the store-keeper, in a loud voice. " I have to inform 
you, John, that you have been elected to the com- 
mand of the first company of the Chippewa volun- 
teers — Soldiers " — turning to the crowd — " give 
Captain John P. Burletson three big thunderin' 
cheers." 

He slapped John on the shoulder, and then led 
the shouts which followed. 

John stood dazed and bewildered. When the 
cheering was over, and the crowd began to talk again, 
he roused himself. 

" Now, tell me wliat this means." 

" You saw my letter? " 

"Well?" 

"Eead this." 

It was a telegram from the Governor of Wisconsin 
calling for volunteers. 

Luke watched John keenly, and smiled as he saw 
the round shoulders straighten and the strong face 
flush. 

"Lincoln's awake, then?" 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 15 

" Seems so; and you were right — we just as 
wrong. I don't forget that now." 

He referred to arguments in the past, when John, 
who had prophesied war, had stood alone against all 
his friends. 

"How do the Democrats shape?" 

" On our side, every one. Even old Enos Haines, 
who has three brothers down South, is tearing mad 
to fight. There are no Democrats here. We're all 
Union men. Let me tell you, boy, this is going to 
be the biggest fighting boom around the North the 
world has ever seen. We will make the skies crack 
presently if secession don't climb down. We mean 
business. No flather or froth about us. Now come 
inside and see the folk, then step back here with me 
and give the boys your mind upon this thing." 

He descended two steps, opened a door, and push- 
ing John in before him, shut the door again, and 
the strident babel of excited voices sank to a distant 
hum. 

The room they were in was small and bare, lit- 
tered with bills and invoices, packets of paper, pens 
and ink, and blotting pads. The furniture was a 
table, a safe, a rusty stove, and some wooden chairs, 
now occupied by ladies, the wives of Chippewa's 
principal citizens. There was a lamp on the table, 
by the light of which a girl had been reading aloud- 
from a newspaper. She was now talking in quick, 
excited tones, so intent upon her subject that she did 
not notice at first the entrance of the men. 

" Oh, it was just heroic," she was saying, " hold- 
ing that fort so many hours, without a chance of vie- 



16 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

tory. Those soldiers are men indeed. It may seem 
cruel to say so, but I do believe we want a war. Our 
men grub all their days for dollars — dollars — dollars. 
Justice and freedom and right they don't count worth 
a cent. It is always ' We must not do this, or say 
that, for fear the South might take offence, and 
ruin trade; ' or ' Slavery may be a disgrace, but to 
interfere with it won't pay; ' and so on, and so on, 
until I have felt just sick with the shame of it all. 
Why, father, is that you? Good-evening, John. Fa- 
ther, tell me what that cheering meant. Is there 
more news ? " 

" It was our boys greeting their captain, here. He 
is wishful for your congratulations." 

He laughed cheerfully. John did not laugh. 

" If this is some joke you are playing upon me, 
Luke, I guess it is rather a tough one." 

" Joke? Wait till you hear me call the roll of 
names before I telegraph to Washington. Joke? I 
tell ye, friend, I have had no supper — no, not a bite or 
sup since lunch. All afternoon the boys have been 
piling in to have their names put down. We had a 
full company by six o'clock, and then I stopped them, 
and made them elect officers. You came first. Seth 
Cotton was mentioned, and he'll be your lieutenant; 
but you were ahead by a mile. Naturally too; every 
one knows, now, about your maps and military books, 
and how well you have studied out this thing, while 
the rest of us stood and talked. I am pleased, real 
pleased it should be so. 'Tain't every man, friend, 
who can Avin the votes of our Wisconsin boys." 

" And I am delighted, John. It is magnificent. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 17 

I can hardly believe it to be true yet. But I know it 
is just right." 

Jean Selby impulsively held out her hand to him; 
a small, slight hand, quite hidden from view when 
John's fingers closed upon it — hungrily, eagerly. 

" I do not know what to say at all," he rejoined. 
" As for making a speech, I could not if I were to be 
shot for refusing. I never dreamt of this, and will 
have to think out a power of things before I get my 
mind quite straight. It seems to me, you know," he 
added slowly, looking round at them with a quaint, 
dry smile, " as if the news to-day had got into the 
heads of some of you until small men like me look 
twice their natural size." 

Luke Selby laughed again, impatiently. 

" Have done, man, have done ! We know you, 
John, better than you know yourself. There is a 
deep, 'cute brain laying away down in your thick 
head. We know that of all men hereabouts you will 
be the first to give your best to the country and its 
cause. 'Tis hard on the old lady to lose ye, but 
she'll be prouder than a queen when she hears that 
you've been chosen by the boys. Now we must get 
back, I hear stampin'. The folk are impatient. 
Hello! here's Seth to tell us." 

The door had opened smartly, and a young man 
came in, flushed and breathless. He was taller than 
John, of neat and shapely figure, dressed in dark 
clothes of city cut; a graceful, handsome fellow; his 
face full of spirit, with expressive brown eyes and 
delicate features. He spoke to Luke, but his eyes 
sought Jean's face and rested there. 



18 THE GOSPEL WIUT IN STEEL. 

" You must come, sir; the boys are calling for 
you, and some are asking if John has run away. I 
promised to take him to them, dead or alive. How 
do you find yourself, captain ? " 

*■• Very weak in the works, Seth. You must speak 
for both of us." 

" Pshaw! My turn don't come till after yours. 
You rank me here, man, every time." 

He laughed, but spoke with a bitter meaning, and 
his eyes swept from Jean's flushed face to John's pale 
one with quick inquiry and ill-suppressed chagrin. 

" Come out, Johnny," cried Luke, thrusting a 
compelling hand through John's arm, and pressing 
toward the door. " You must go through this busi- 
ness. Do it your own way, but do it. Come." 

John, cornered thus, yielded with a sigh, while 
the others followed, Seth at Jean's side. 

They made a handsome pair, as more than one of 
the ladies behind remarked. Jean was a stately maid- 
en, nearly as tall as her companion. Her face, serious 
in repose, too serious for a girl of twenty, looked its 
best to-night: a sweet and earnest face with deep blue 
eyes, a marvellous complexion, and a crown of abun- 
dant golden hair. 

A yell of applause greeted the little party as it 
appeared on the platform, dropping quickly to silence 
as Luke held up his hand. 

" Gentlemen of the army of the Union, John Bur- 
letson, whom you have honoured by electing your 
captain, is going to speak to you. He didn't want to, 
but I have brought him here because I knew you 
wished to hear him. Was I right? " 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 19 

A shout that shook the roof; and a chorus of 
" ayes," amid which Luke moved to one side, leaving 
John in his place. 

The contrast between the men was a striking one, 
and the audience, quick to notice such things, saw it 
at once and laughed. Luke Selby was a man of 
presence, six feet high and broad in proportion, with 
confident commanding manner and a deep rich voice. 
It was said that his ready smile and laugh were too 
frequently indulged in; that his eyes were frosty and 
calculating; his speech hot or cold, according to the 
temperament of those he addressed; in short, that he 
handled men as he handled goods — for profit. But 
whatever men hinted in private, in public affairs 
every one acknowledged Luke Selby's authority, and 
as a platform orator he stood supreme. John, stand- 
ing beside him, looked the embodiment of awkward 
diffidence. His large head was thrust forward be- 
tween his clumsy shoulders as he nervously clasped 
and unclasped his hands behind his back, trying to 
collect his wits, which were scattered to the four winds 
by the consciousness that he had never made a speech 
before in public, and that he was placed in his present 
position by a man whose motives he thoroughly dis- 
trusted. There was, however, one saving clause to 
all this — John was in earnest, no man in all that en- 
thusiastic crowd more so, and before the people had 
fairly settled down to listen the words came to him 
that he wished to say. 

" Friends, I do not know one bit what I am put 
up here to tell you. Luke has said I do not speak by 
choice, and it might have been better if he had 



20 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

written down something for me to say; but he has 
not, and I reclcon, anyway, that both you and he will 
have to be content with what ideas come from my 
own mind " (" Hear, Hear," from Luke, in sonorous 
tones). " Now, I am not going to say much," John 
went on, straightening himself unconsciously, as. his 
nervousness evaporated, " in my way of looking at 
this thing the less we talk the better. Let us keep 
our breath, now that war is really coming, for the 
fighting." (Loud cheers.) " This war, friends, in my 
idea, ain't going to be any playing game. 'Twill 
mean death, and ruin, and misery untold to thou- 
sands and hundreds of thousands. For I tell you it 
Avill not be finished up this month, nor this year, un- 
less the folk down South have changed a powerful 
deal since they followed George Washington in the 
War of Independence, and whipped the British army 
into bits." 

A growl of dissent here from many throats, and 
a voice shouted — 

"How abovit Boston tea? It was New England 
men, not Southerners, who ran that war." 

"Was it?" said John, slowly, raising his voice 
and looking the crowd squarely in the face. " I guess 
not. They helped; but if you read history you will 
find that Washington himself came from Virginia, 
and that he was not the only one." 

" Virginia ain't seceded," cried an elderly man, 
with slow scorn. 

" Not yet, but she will. And if she did not, there 
is as good fighting stuff in the Carolinas as elsewhere. 
Now, I am not afraid of this." (" Glad you ain't," 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 21 

drawled the last speaker.) " I hope no Union man 
will be. But we must reckon the cost, and it comes 
home to me, hearing that in this town more than one 
hundred boys have elected since noon to leave their 
homes, and march south to the war, that this part of 
the picture has been kind of painted out. Don't for- 
get, friends " — his tone became very earnest now — 
" what such fighting means. It is their country you 
will fight in, not your own. Every man, woman, and 
child you meet will be on their side, and against you. 
We are bound to whip them in the end, but it won't 
be done at once — I know it won't. As to myself, 
Luke says — and what Luke says, he knows — that you 
who have sworn to follow the flag, have taken and 
made me your captain. What shall I say? What 
can I say but that I thank you heartily? I was the 
most surprised man in Chippewa when I heard the 
news, and the most ashamed. For, friends, boys, I 
am not worth it. I ain't indeed." The speaker's 
voice became a trifle husky now, and the cheers broke 
out anew. " Yet to say I do not feel lifted right up, 
until I am nigh as tall as Luke himself, would be to 
tell a lie. I am honoured, indeed. But mind this, I 
will not say that I accept the post ixntil I have had 
time to think a bit. I can't think now, for it has 
come too suddenly. To-morrow I shall know what I 
can do. Thank you, though, every one." 

He stepped back, and the people, after one mo- 
ment of hesitation, stamped and cheered, then cried 
for " Lieutenant Cotton," and Seth came forward 
with a bow. 

Seth Cotton was the schoolmaster of Chippewa.- 



22 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

He was a good and fluent speaker, and an ardent abo- 
litionist; moreover, he was in love, and in the pres- 
ence of his love, a combination of circumstances 
which with a vivid imagination and a sanguine nature 
caused him to speak now as he had never spoken in 
his life before, and in all probability never would 
again. 

He began by a few words in the best taste about 
John Burletson, " a true friend, because a candid one. 
So honest and so strong, that even the force of this 
tremendous time does not move him one inch beyond 
his sober base of thought and conviction. What he 
thinks he says unflinchingly, all honour to him." 
Then, taking John's words about the Southerners as 
his text, the speaker in impassioned language de- 
nounced " those degenerate, profligate descendants of 
our great Father George." He called them " rebels 
and renegades "; he painted the horrors of the sla- 
very they upheld in lurid colours — he had never seen 
a Southerner, and never spoken to a negro, but he 
knew " Uncle Tom's Cabin " by heart. He besought 
his hearers to cast aside all tics of love, and home, 
and worldly gain, and, one and all, to enlist for the 
war. He modestly asserted his right to say as much, 
having, himself, been the first to place his name 
on the list of volunteers; and he concluded by 
asking Luke to read aloud the names of those 
" pledged to stand by their country in this, its hour 
of peril." 

As might be expected, in the present state of the 
public temperature, such a speech as this stirred the 
hearts of men to their depths. It was many minutes 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 23 

before Luke was able to command silence, and in 
deep ringing tones read out the names. The most 
moved of all was Jean. Never had Seth Cotton done 
his own particular cause, which had, on the whole, 
been rather a losing one, so much good as by his 
speech that night. The sentiments he expressed so 
well were the very breath of Jean's life just now. 
She was of eager temperament, and the tune was full 
of an electricity which fired the blood of the coldest. 
Tears started to her eyes as she heard his words, and 
she applauded them until her hands ached. Now, as 
the names were read, a passionate desire came to do 
something — ever so little — herself, and before long 
an idea struck her, caused by a sharp cry of " Old 
John Brown — God bless him," when that famous 
name, which belonged in this instance to a youth of 
eighteen summers, was read out. When Luke's task 
was done, and the cheers had died away, and there 
was a movement toward the door, the girl, moved by 
a sudden impulse, stepped forward to the edge of the 
platform and began to sing. It was a song familiar 
already at Abolitionist meetings, but now to become 
before all others the national air in the North; and 
the people in their excitement listened spellbound, 
with husky, laboured breath. 

"John Brown's body is Ij'ing in the ground, 
But his soul goes marching on." 

And when she paused at the end of the verse, and 
blushing at her own boldness, cried " The chorus, 
please," not a voice in the store was silent. Every 



24: THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

man and every woman, those with strong voices, and 
those with no voices at all, joined in with might and 
main, and sang from the bottom of their hearts — 

" Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. 
His soul goes marching on." 



CHAPTER III. 

It was midnight before John left Chippewa. 
The crowd dispersed after " John Brown " was sung, 
but Luke invited him to share a late supper; Jean's 
eyes seconded the invitation, and though he was 
haunted by a fear lest his mother might, after all, be 
sitting up for him, he could not resist, and once in 
Selby's comfortable parlour, he found it hard to leave. 

The party consisted of John and Seth, Luke and 
his daughter, and Mrs. Selby, whose name we place 
last as she was considered by every one except John 
to be the least important person there. Mrs. Selby 
was a stout, " homely " woman of fifty. Her prin- 
cipal characteristics, as known to her family, were 
placid good temper, and a profound respect for her 
husband and eldest daughter, which took the form 
of absolute submission to the former, and indulgence, 
where practicable, of every whim of the latter. The 
satisfaction, however, that such irreproachable con- 
duct gave to Jean was tempered by the difficulty of 
awakening the least interest in her mother concerning 
any matter which did not pertain to babies and the 
household. No exhortation, however eloquent and 
convincing, could rouse Mrs. Selby into enthusiasm 
for the public rights and duties of women, or the 

25 



26 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

freedom of the slaves. She would listen patiently, 
and try with all her might to grasp their importance, 
but she invariably failed. 

" Jennie talked about the niggers last night," she 
said once to a friend, " until, if you will believe me, 
my dear, my brains became that addled I could not 
tell batter from mush. I did not stop her, 'cos it is 
so uplifting, as you may say, to feel she should be so 
smart, and re'elly her words was sometimes like or- 
gan-music, they was so fine-sounding. But lor', how 
my pore head did ache! I do hope she will not often 
be took that way when we are alone." 

This speech was repeated, with picturesque ad- 
ditions, to Jean, and did more harm to the fast-van- 
ishing deference she still strove to feel toward her 
mother, than half a dozen quarrels. Yet, in her way, 
Mrs. Selby was shrewd and full of knowledge. Her 
skill in cooking amounted almost to genius, and a 
better-kept and ordered household than Luke's did 
not exist in Wisconsin. W^ien the poor folk of 
Chippewa fell sick it was to ." Mother Selby " that 
they came for advice, and the doctor of the town, 
a skilful practitioner, seldom found fault with her 
remedies, and said she was the best nurse he knew. 
John, through his mother, was aware of these things, 
and it was a constant pain to him to see the impa- 
tience with which Jean would often treat her mother, 
and he would resolve to speak his mind on the sub- 
ject; but with a dislike to interfering, and a pas- 
sivity characteristic of him, he never did, though 
they had known one another since babyhood. To- 
night his thoughts were too full of other things, and 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 27 

under the spell of those glorious blue eyes he talked 
and argued with the rest, and noticed no more than 
Seth — who had never thought about it at all — that 
all the work of cooking and dishing up the supper, 
the clearing away, and the washing of things, was 
done by the mistress of the house, her daughter sit- 
ting with the gentlemen, her hands idle before her. 
Jean, herself, thought of it as little as they. Her 
mind was full of the great crisis. She listened with 
breathless interest to John as he expressed his fears 
about the safety of the capital, and she took his part 
valiantly when her father and Seth pooh-poohed the 
danger, and prophesied the paralyzation of the Se- 
ceders when they should hear of the storm their ac- 
tion had aroused throughout the North. As for Mrs. 
Selby, she listened too, and tried to understand, prick- 
ing herself to the bone in her efforts to keep awake 
over her work — a new skirt for Jean — but at last had 
to give it up and steal away to bed unnoticed and un- 
missed. 

At length, Avhen the lamps showed a disposition 
to smell unpleasantly preparatory to going out alto-- 
gether, and Luke himself had given more than one 
portentous yawn, the young men remembered the 
flight of time, and took their leave. Jean shook 
hands with each, very cordially; but Seth noticed 
with a jealous pang that her fingers rested in Burlet- 
son's hand longer than in his, and that her voice was 
tremulous in its earnestness as she said — 

" Do you know, John, you have not put your 
name down on father's list?" 

" That is so." 



28 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

"But why?" 

"I made up my mind when first the idea that 

there was to be war came to me, that I would 

•never promise to go without hearing what mother 

had to say. To-morrow morning I will run down 

here to tell your father what I'll do — and you." 

Was there a slight emphasis on the last word, 
though it was spoken in a lower tone? Seth thought 
there was, and was certain that Jean did, and that 
there was a deeper colour in her cheeks, a suspicious 
brightness in her eyes when John mounted and rode 
away. 

As for John, he galloped merrily home, humming 
" John Brown's body," and making plans all the way. 
He had means enough laid by to give his company 
the best rifles money could buy. The problem was 
the management of the farm in his absence. But in 
this matter his mother's convenience and comfort was 
too deeply involved for any plan to be seriously 
thought out until she had been consulted. He 
stabled his horse, and stole softly to the back of the 
house, for Mrs. Burletson was a very light sleeper. 
He took off his boots before he opened the door, and 
crept in without a sound. When in the hall he saw a 
shaft of light under the sitting-room door, and a low 
exclamation of annoyance and self-reproach escaped 
him. She must have waited for him after all. He 
opened the door, and for a moment his heart stood 
still. Mrs. Burletson was sitting in her arm-chair, 
drawn close to the table. The big family Bible lay 
open before her near a lighted lamp. But she was 
not reading, her eyes were closed, and she was leaning 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 29 

back with folded hands, looking so white and hag- 
gard, that a horrible dread seized John. He laid a 
finger on her wrist, and to his intense relief she 
ojjened her eyes and smiled. 

" Is it you, John ? I have been dozing. My eyes 
soon get tired of reading these days, and to rest them 
I sat a while to think, and so went off. But, sonny, 
you look scared. Is anything wrong?" 

" Nothing — except that I am upset to see you 
here. You promised you would not sit up." 

" If I did not feel like it. That was the contract, 
son. Well, I did — so I kept here. What is the 
time?" 

" Nigh one o'clock." 

" So late? Then you must to your rest, and tell 
me all to-morrow. Only one thing now. Have 
they given you a command? " 

" They— talk of it." 

" Ah, what did I say? " And her eyes, strangely 
heavy and weary, he thought, flashed with their old 
light. " After all, though I never hold much in 
common with the folk round here, I will believe, now, 
that they are intelligent at least. Good-night dear. 
The old mother was right, you see." 

She kissed him, and would have risen, but he put 
his arm about her, laying his cheek against hers as he 
used to do as a child when he had to make a con- 
fession of some fault. The significance of the move- 
ment struck Mrs. Burletson. 

"Wliat's to do, John?" 

" Mother, it was real mean to leave you for so long 
alone. I cannot think how I came to forget you." 
3 



30 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" My dear, you were needed by others. I must 
be your last thought now. Time was when the calls 
for you outside the farm were for pleasure-making. 
Then you never left me. It is different now. Folk 
talk of daughters. I have seen many, and I know 
one. I never heard of any that came near my son 
for tenderness and care. But, John, this has ended. 
I have told myself this evening, and schooled even 
my selfish heart — and I am selfish, aye, grasping and 
miserly about you — I have looked into the future 
until I see it all clear and straight. When you go " 
— she stopped, then set her lips into their firmest line 
— " when you go to the war, John, you will leave he- 
hind a contented old mother, who is thankful that 
God has spared her to see the son she has brought up 
be the strength and support to his country that he 
has been all his life to her. There can't be a higher 
duty for a man, or a greater work." 

" You don't speak of yourself, mother." 

She laughed. 

"1? Am I not doing ray little bit for the great 
Union cause? I have one thing to give — you. I 
give it willingly. I would tell you to go, if you need- 
ed telling. You may be killed or maimed for life, 
or laid aside with chills in that low-lying, un- 
healthy South. But you must go, and I must stay 
at home and wait, with all the rest of the women folk. 
And now, to bed, my dear, to bed. Thank God be- 
fore you sleep, that in His sight we have the strength, 
spite of the love in our hearts, to do the right. It is 
hard on you^ dear, harder than for me. I have only 
you to give — you have me and another. But it is 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IX STEEL. 31 

right, and if we are Christians, Jolm, that is all we 
need to know." 

She kissed him on the lips, and for a moment 
clung to him, then closed her Bihle and put it in its 
proper place, and passed on to her room. John fol- 
lowed her example, and was soon in bed, but not to 
sleep. Every nerve was tighth^ strung; his brain 
throbbed with conflicting thoughts. An hour ago he 
had ridden home in the moonlight, with his mind 
made up to go to the war. Now, he would do — what? 
His duty? He would try — but it was terribly hard. 
All through the silent hours that came before dawn, 
John thought and resolved — and then fought and 
wrestled with his resolutions until he tore them to 
pieces; only to begin again and resolve once more. 
John was not an impulsive man, nor was he quickly 
or easily impressed; but when once moved, once 
roused — as he had been this evening at the store — he 
found it harder than most men to pause and turn 
back. Yet his mother's face as she waited for him, 
go pallid and worn and old, her clinging hands about 
his neck, and, most of all, the yearning and uncon- 
scious appeal in her eyes, in spite of her resolute pur- 
pose to efface herself, and urge him to leave her in 
her loneliness, held John fast, and to cherish her and 
let the war go by spelt " duty " to him now. He was 
not long in coming to that conclusion; but the night 
had passed, and the dawn was stealing in upon his 
chamber, and still he could not bring himself to face 
all that this involved. Again and again he would 
say to himself, " The country can find a thousand 
better than me; my money will be useful, and the 



32 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

boys shall have all that; but as for myself — why, 
Seth is a smarter man, and a readier, let him take 
command, what odds?" but as often consequences 
grimly mocked his words as sophistry and worse. 
What odds, indeed? How should he meet Luke, or 
the boys who had chosen him, or, worst of all, Jean? 
He writhed in his bed at the thought of her, and for 
the time his resolutions would give way. He knew 
Jean better, perhaps, than any one else had ever done; 
better than her mother, far better than her father, 
and the thought of what she would feel and say, 
was torture of the worst kind. Her nature was gen- 
erous but self-willed, ambitious, and full of the wild- 
est enthusiasm for the cause of the Union and the 
slaves. She would recoil at the idea of any man pas- 
sively standing by for others to reap glory and re- 
nown. She would never understand his motive, 
even if she divined it, and for his mother's sake he 
must conceal it. If his mother knew that he had 
done this for her, she would be miserable for life, and 
Jean would never keep such" a secret. The sacrifice 
was too great. He could not do it. Then he would 
turn over, close his eyes and try to sleep, soon to be- 
gin again the struggle with himself. But when the 
day dawned, he pulled himself together with stern 
self-reproach. He could not meet his mother with 
an uncertain mind. A decision, deliberate and final, 
must be come to now. Slowly and wearily he rose, 
and threw the window open wide. It faced east, and 
a pale yellow rim of broadening light crept from the 
horizon line, bringing day with it and action. The 
time for doubt was gone. When John had turned 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 33 

from the window he had left his uncertainties be- 
hind. He dropped on his knees and prayed earnest- 
ly, but it was for strength and faith — not guidance; 
that had been given. 

It was Sunday, and as John went the round of his 
stables and tended his stock, the stillness and calm of 
the Sabbath morning entered his heart, and for a time 
brought comfort to the wounds there, and strength- 
ened nerve and mind for the ordeal that had to come. 
When breakfast-time came, and he met his mother's 
eyes, she only saw a slight pallor and heaviness in his 
face, natural after the late hours and excitement of 
the night before. Yet, whether from some warning 
instinct, or because she could not trust herself to 
speak freely about plans for his departure, Mrs. Bur- 
letson asked no questions about what had passed, and 
the meal was eaten almost in silence. 

" What time do j'ou start for town, John? " 

" Directly we are through breakfast, mother. I 
will be back in time to take you to meeting— but I 
have to see Luke early." 

" I guessed that," she said, with an attempt at a 
smile. " Did you give Jean my message? " 

" I forgot it, mother." 

" I am glad. Don't think me mean, son, but I 
want you to-day — all to myself — that is when you 
do come back." 

They had moved from the table, and now John 
came close to her. 

" I have news to tell you which I've kept till 
now." 

" You should have news, son," looking up at him 



34 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

with keen and questioning eyes. " Tliere was a great 
meeting, 'Eia said — Jim Hallett told her — and you 
made a speech. Come, tell me all." 

"■ Yes," he answered, in a curious, low, strained 
tone. " But there is not much to say. Luke asked 
me if I would volunteer; I said I would answer him 
to-day. I have thought a good bit over it, and what 
I will have to tell Luke, mother, is — is that the one 
thousand dollars I have laying at the bank shall go 
to the boys for arms. Do you approve? " 

" I do, John. You have no present need of that 
money, and from you, as captain of the company, the 
gift comes well. Not many farmers will do so much." 

" I had meant first only to put down half the 
amount," John said, his words coming more and more 
slowly, " but I reckon now to give it all. I have de- 
cided to tell Luke to find another man for the com- 
mand." 

" You mean you'll go as a private only — now why 
is that?" 

" I mean, mother, that I am not going to the war 
at all." 

He spoke in a low tone; but his mother, searching 
his face with her eyes, thought she had never seen 
him look so stern. Then her own face hardened. 

" John," she cried, hoarsely, " tell me the reason 
for such words." 

" There is more than one." 

" Tell me the chief one. Now, do not fence. I 
will not have that. Is it me ? Is it because you 
think I should be fretting about you? Is it that? 
Speak! " 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 35 

Her tone was fierce, almost threatening, and she 
hoped to see him wince; but his face never moved a 
muscle; his eyes met hers without flinching; only, 
when he touched her forehead with a kiss, she felt 
that his lips were cold as ice. 

" Mother, I cannot tell you what is on my mind. 
I will not. But — mother — do not think me cowardly 
or selfish. Have faith that I am trying to do my 
duty. Will you? " 

There was a break in the firm voice now, a bitter 
cry in it that cut his mother to the heart. 

" Why ask me that, John ? I know that what- 
ever it is it must be good — the best." 

He kissed her passionately. 

" I knew you would say that, but I wanted to 
make sure. You see," he tried to smile, " there is no 
one else who will begin to believe in me now, or ever 
again." 

" Nonsense, there is Jean." 

He drew hi-mself away, and shuddered. 

"Jean! Jean — least of all." 



CHAPTER IV. 

The night spent by John in fierce debate and 
struggle with himself was the most miserable Seth 
Cotton had known in a life which had not been a 
happy one. Seth's parents died when he was five 
years old. His father, the son of a well-to-do Cin- 
cinnati doctor, was a man of some character, but ob- 
stinate, impulsive, and vain. As a clerk in a whole- 
sale store he began life with capital prospects, which 
he threw away to become a musician, partly because 
he believed himself to be a genius, but in the main to 
escape the drudgery of commercial life. He was 
talented, and persevering with the work he loved, 
but was unsuccessful, and when he married was but 
a teacher of music, living from hand to mouth. His 
marriage, though a reckless piece of improvidence, 
was the wisest thing he ever did in his life, for his 
wife was a woman of spirit, and really clever. Her 
bargain, poor thing, was a bad one, but she made the 
best of it; cultivated her voice, took singing engage- 
ments, and succeeded in supporting her husband and 
their child in comfort. In time they might have 
been well off, but one bitter winter Mrs. Cotton was 
seized with an affection of the throat, and died before 
the spring. Her husband did not survive her many 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 37 

months. He had loved her deeply in his passionate, 
selfish way, and the depression of mind after her 
death developed a latent heart complaint. 

The only relation that remained to Seth was an 
aunt, his father's sister, an old maid, self-opinionated, 
dictatorial, and austere. She had quarrelled violent- 
ly with her brother when he gave up business, and 
refused to see him when she heard that his wife was 
a " public singer," but at his death she did her duty 
by the child. Miss Cotton was wealthy, and all that 
money could buy was provided for Seth — but it was 
at a price. From the first his aunt chilled and awed 
him. In her presence he was as dvimb as a mouse 
and nearly as timid. The only person he loved was 
his nurse. When he grew older the childish fear de- 
veloped into antagonism of the bitterest kind. It 
was ]\Iiss Cotton's fixed intention that Seth should- 
become a minister in the Episcopal Church, and he 
was educated solely with that view. Seth hated the- 
ology, abhorred the notion of becoming a preacher, 
and early in life determined that he would be a 
schoolmaster. It was a long, hard battle; but the • 
boy won. He possessed his father's obstinacy and his 
mother's brains; and at one-and-twenty procured for 
himself a modest appointment in Chicago, and was 
told by his aunt that she never wished to see him 
again. He had deliberately thrown away a fortune 
of seventy thousand dollars. Seth, however, had a 
natural gift for teaching, and loved his independence. 
He steadily improved his position, and in two years 
had qualified himself to take the management of a 
school — as they existed in those days — single handed. 



38 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

Unfortunately Seth had one weakness, which was a 
serious drawback to his advancement in his profes- 
sion, and in his four-and-twentieth year caused him 
to accept the offer of a less remunerative post in 
■Chippewa. ■ He was always falling in love. As a 
rule the affairs were not very serious, for it was Seth's 
misfortune to show his hand too soon, and propose 
before the young lad}' had thought about him in any 
other light than that of a pleasant acquaintance; 

-consequently the flames of his affection were always 
being prematurely snuffed out. But it happened one 
day that the object of his misplaced attentions took 
offence, and complained to an indignant brother, 

'who attacked Seth next day in the open street with a 
walking cane. The encounter ended by a sound cas- 
tigation being administered to the aggressor. Seth's 
friends said he had done right; but he had to send in 
his resignation as instructor of youth in Chicago. 
He came to Chippewa in an exceedingly misanthropi- 
cal condition of mind; nevertheless, he had not been 

•there a week before he felt that in Jean Selby he had 
met his fate. For a long time he worshipped her 
from afar, content to do so after his recent experi- 
ences, and throwing himself with all his might into 
his work at the school. By-and-bye, however, he 
was able to make his first advance through a younger 
brother of hers, who became one of his scholars. 
They were soon fast friends; and Seth, warned by 
past blunders, and perceiving that Jean was of very 
different stuff from the pretty school teachers he had 
flirted with in former days, kept himself in order, and 
pursued the path of discretion. As a result he 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 39 

plunged into deeper water week by week. In six 
months lie was over head and ears in love, and 
thought of little else. Everything he did, or tried to 
do — the books he read and the subjects he mastered 
— were for Jean. She had many interests, having, 
thanks to her mother, plenty of time at her disposal, 
and Seth made it his duty to keep pace with them all. 
Wherefore, on Jean's side, also, the friendship grew 
in strength as the months went by, and Seth became 
in her eyes a most agreeable and well-informed young 
man. 

One thorn only lay in Seth's bed of roses, but that 
was a very big one — John Burletson. The first' 
words about Jean which Seth heard when he settled 
down in Chippewa had been that she and this farm- 
ing fellow were made for one another; and though 
he had made up his mind that those who said this 
should live to find themselves mistaken, the more he 
saw of John and knew of Jean the more the prophecy 
haunted him. In American country towns, in those 
days, the love affairs of the rising generation were 
looked upon by every one concerned — not excepting 
the parties themselves — from a common-sense, prac- 
tical point of view, eminently unsatisfactory to a ro- 
mancer. It was in the nature of things. The lads 
and lassies went to school together from their earliest 
days. Out of school hours they saw one another when 
and where they listed, and, as people seldom travelled 
much, they never lost sight of one another, and each 
was familiar with the weak points of his friend, her 
affinities and the reverse, long before she reached a 
" marriageable age." This was healthy on the whole. 



40 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

Lessons in those days were not made the cause of keen 
emulation or rivalry we often see now; boys and girls 
did not struggle feverishly for prizes, run hard brain 
races neck to neck, and lose year by year, in the bitter- 
ness of defeat, or exultation of victory — the boys in 
chivalry, the girls in refinement and simplicity. 
Moreover, out of school hours the lad was on the farm, 
the girl in the house, and no opportunities existed for 
seeing too much of each other. Thus the love affairs 
of those days among the poorer middle classes usually 
came quietly and uneventfully, like seeking like. 
Only, now and then, into the quiet towns, would come 
men from other places, with roving eyes and hungry 
hearts, and then angry blood would rise and the story- 
tellers rejoice. So far, however, in the present case 
we are fain to confess nothing of the kind had oc- 
curred. 

In the first place, Jean was not sentimental, and 
held out an open hand of friendship to both men; in 
the second place, it takes two to make a quarrel, and 
John was the most peaceable "of men. As for Seth, 
he was one day in the depths of despair, the next on 
a pinnacle of hope. As the rumours of war grew 
stronger his friendship with Jean grew also, and 
their meetings became more frequent and lasted 
longer. The day before Sumter fell, Seth had been 
two hours with her discussing the situation. Then 
came Saturday evening, and Seth gave way to bitter 
despondency. He could not, though he tried, com- 
plain of Jean. She had been as sympathetic and as 
inspiring to him as ever; but to John she had been 
all this and something more. She had treated him 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 41 

with respect, deference even. She had yielded her 
judgment, which she had never done to Seth. Oh, it 
was bitter. And the worst of it was, he could find 
no fault even with his rival. Burletson gave himself 
no airs, but was just the same simple, slow-speaking 
old John, only a trifle graver than usual. Angry 
and sore as Seth was, he found himself even sympa- 
thizing with Jean's attitude toward his rival. " I 
never liked the man better," he said to himself. 
" Confound him! what a good fellow he is, how- 
straight he goes at a thing, and completely masters it 
— swallows it whole, so to speak, and chews it into 
pulp, before even he talks about it; yet as modest as 
a child. Thunder! but I will follow him to the death 
when the time comes. Heigh-ho! what an unlucky 
beggar I was to meet John here, and what a fool to 
think I should ever stand half a show when it came 
to fighting him! " At about this point in his reflec- 
tions Seth fell asleep. He awakened late, and lan- 
guidly ate his breakfast, finishing just in time to 
stroll over to the store at ten o'clock, where he was to 
meet John and Luke for a chat before meeting-time. 
As he Avent down the street he was surprised at the 
many cordial greetings he received from men with 
whom he had only been on nodding acquaintance 
hitherto, and presently he began to see that his 
speech last evening had made a marked difference in 
his standing in the town. This cheered him im- 
mensely. His spirits rose at a bound, and by the time 
he greeted Mrs. Selby on his way to the room behind 
the store he had marked out for himself a distin- 
guished military and political career. He loved Jean 



42 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

still; but life contained other things worth winning 
besides a woman's heart. The sound of a voice talk- 
ing in loud angry tones arrested his attention, and 
brought him back to the present with a jar. He 
opened the door and looked round. His eyes were 
caught first of all by John standing by the table, his 
head bent, and his hands clasped behind his back, as 
they had been at the meeting. His face was gray 
and miserable, yet full of a determination which 
struck Seth at once, and remained in his memory 
after what followed as the deepest impression of all. 
Then Seth glanced at Jean. She was looking at 
John, an angry light in her eyes, which sent a sud- 
den thrill of hope to Seth's heart. Her father, whom 
Seth saw last, was speaking. At Seth's entrance he 
brought his clenched fist down upon the table with a 
crash. 

" There is time yet," he cried, " just time. Take 
your courage up again, and be a man. Can you, be- 
fore Seth Cotton, here, show the white feather so? 
Do you want him to take your place with — with the 
boys, and all else? Do you think you can bide here 
without one self-respecting citizen among us all to 
touch your hand? By God! John, if you had not 
said this with your own tongue, and before Jean too, 
I would doubt my own ears and wits, sooner than be- 
lieve it. That you, our John, as me and my wife 
have called you these many years, should turn in the 
path set before him, have the plough in the furrow, 
and deliberately go right back on his tracks — why, 
there, it must be a lie, and I can't believe it; I will 
not.'* 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 43 

It was a strange sight to see Luke Selby so com- 
pletely thrown off his balance. Yet every man has a 
tender place somewhere, and Lnke's had been touched 
this morning to the quick. For years he had watched 
John; had noticed his increasing interest in politics, 
his steady way of accumulating knowledge, and fit- 
ting himself to take a responsible part in whatever 
might have to be done. He knew how well he man- 
aged his business, and was as sure as Mrs. Burletson 
herself that he only wanted his opportunity to man- 
age the affairs of others equally well. Naturally he 
had desired this man for his son-in-law, and viewed 
his growing affections for Jean with warmest ap- 
proval. When war became inevitable, and the sure 
way to win popular favour and renown was by arms, 
the idea of John getting a command in the volunteer 
army was quickly seized and made a certainty by 
Luke, and he held himself ready to use every particle 
of political influence he possessed to ensure speedy 
promotion. AVhen after all this he found that John 
threw it away, declined his commission, refused even 
to volunteer, it was hardly wonderful that Luke Selby 
should for once lose his dignity and self-control. 

There was silence for a moment, and then Seth 
said — 

"What is the matter?" 

He looked at Jean, and she replied in a dry, hard 
tone, 

" We have had a surprise this morning, father and 
me. Have you come to tell us that business engage-- 
ments will prevent you from going to the war? " 

"How can 3'ou insult me by such an idea? " 



44 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

She gave a bitter laugh. 

" I told you we had been surprised. I might have 
said we do not feel like trusting any one again. I am 
sorry if I hurt you." 

" You have hurt me," he answered shortly, in- 
stinctively feeling that now, if ever, his time would 
come. " But never mind my feelings. I came to 
take orders from my superior officer. Captain, what 
is the news? " 

He regretted afterward having spoken in this 
way, for when John raised his eyes and looked at him, 
Seth saw such a world of suffering written in his face 
that he positively shivered. 

" The news is this," John answered, in the tone 
of a man weary beyond words. " Circumstances 
-since last night make it that I cannot go to the war. 
I have told these folk; now I tell you. I am sorry 
for all, because it will be upsetting, maybe, after what 
was said last night. But it has to be. When Luke 
has done I have some things to explain to you, Seth, 
before I go." 

Luke sat down with something like a curse. 

" I ain't another word to say. But," with a ma- 
licious smile, " perhaps Jean has." 

" I have many, indeed," she cried, then hesitated, 
as she met John's look. " I mean," she went on, 
with a catch in her breath, ^' I cannot understand it, 
anyway. If, behind what you have said, there is 
some great reason holding j'ou, it seems to me \\n- 
natural, unkind, cruel, that you should treat us this 
way, and give no sort of explanation. John, are you 
afraid?" 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 45 

" I am not afraid." 

" Are you not? " sneered Luke. " Then I never 
saw a man act cowardice better. Talk till you are 
dead, John, you will never convince me, after what 
I have seen to-day, that fear is not at the bottom of 
your mind." 

John turned on him suddenly. 

" I did not lay myself out, Luke Selby, to con- 
vince you, or any other man. This is my busi- 
ness." 

His tone was not so gentle as it had been; he had 
borne about as much as he could stand. 

" Jean," he said in a lower tone, " have you more 
to say? " 

" I want to know ivliy'? " 

" I have said, I cannot give my reasons." 

" Is it your mother? Now tell me that." 

" I cannot," he answered very slowly. " I cannot 
tell you that." 

" Then," she cried, nothing but the trembling of 
her hands to belie the cruelty of her words, " you are 
not the man I believed you to be — oh, nothing of that 
man! And w^hen you are in town about your busi- 
ness, remember, you will never, never trouble to come 
and speak to me." 

He winced for the first time, then, squaring his 
shoulders, turned to Seth. 

" My words with you will not take long. You 
will be in my place — a gain in men. The only loss 
might have been my money; but that I reckon to 
make up. So here " — he took a paper from his 
pocket — "that is for arms, or what else they need. 



46 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

It is not much, but it is twice what I could have 
spared if I had been with them." 

Seth looked at the check and blushed. 

" Say, John, this is hardly fair. Two thousand 
dollars — what does it all mean ? Come, man " — his 
jealousy fading out before the suffering he saw in the 
stern face — " come with me and talk it over quietly. 
I will find some way, I know, to fix your scruples off. 
We want the man, not his money." 

But John turned away. 

" Thank you, friend, for that; but I have no lei- 
sure to talk — it wall be waste of time. The money is 
nothing. It belongs to the boys. Tell them so — 
from me." 

He took up his hat, and without a glance at Jean 
went quickly away. As he passed Seth he looked 
him steadily in the face — and they shook hands. 



CHAPTEE V. 

Feeling ran very high in Chippewa when it was 
known that John had resigned the captaincy of the 
company, and was not going to volunteer at all. But 
for his many friends his personal safety would have 
been in danger when he came into town the next day. 
He was jeered at in the streets; boys threw stones at 
him, asked tenderly after his health, and called him 
" home guard," while many acquaintances cut him 
entirely, and even old friends passed him with the 
coldest of greetings. Only one man had a word to 
say in his favour, and laughed at the suggestion that 
he stayed at home from bodily fear. This was Seth. 
His motives were a little mixed, perhaps, for nothing 
was calculated to improve his own position more than 
generous championship of the man whose place he 
had taken; but he meant all he said, and found a real 
pleasure in his attempt to vindicate John. Not that 
he was successful. It was a time of wild enthusiasm; 
old friendships, even ties of blood, were forgotten, 
and the majority of people, whatever they did them- 
selves, cried shame upon any man who refused to en- 
list for the war, while those who came forward were 
extolled by the platform orators and the press as 
heroes of rarest kind. As for Seth, he found himself 

47 



48 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

a celebrity in a week. The local paper produced a 
fanciful sketch of his life, and prophesied that 
through his achievements Chippewa would become 
famous and world-renowned. In the same issue 
mention was made of John's gift to the company. 
He was duly thanked for his generosity, but not with- 
out an insinuation that he had done it to save his 
own skin. Seth read the paragraph Just before he 
had made an appointment at the Selbys', and was 
so angry that he could not resist expressing his feel- 
ings to Jean. He met with a cold response. 

"■ I am not convinced that the editor is wrong," 
she said. " No," as Seth would have interposed, 
" you need not trouble to tell me anything. I would 
be glad if you did not mention his name. I am so 
bitterly disappointed, that I would rather not hear 
anything about it. Our friendship is dead and done 
with. I could never respect a man again who could 
turn back, from any cause, when his country needed 
him, and his friends called him to the front as the 
boys called John. His being an old friend makes it 
worse. Indeed, I have put him out of my mind once 
for all. The war — and your plans — are what in- 
terest me. Tell me everything you can, you will 
never make me tired." 

Seth needed no second invitation. The first 
practical step the Government were taking was to 
send an officer of the regular army to inspect the vol- 
unteers and formally enrol them. They expected 
him daily. In the mean time Seth was learning his 
drill manual as fast as possible, and practising sword- 
exercise under the guidance of an old book on fencing 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 49 

he had picked up. A happy thought struck him 
that he would ask Jean to hear him his drill. She 
agreed at once, and from that day forth Seth was at 
the store every evening, and as Luke was very busy, 
and Mrs. Selby had her children to put to bed, these 
evenings were mostly spent with Jean alone. 

Jean was not destined, however, to forget John as 
easily as she apparently wished to do. 

" Jennie," said her mother one afternoon, sitting 
down to sew at the table where Jean was poring over 
a newspaper, " what is this your father tells me about 
you and John? Surely there can be no abiding quar- 
rel between you and your oldest friend?" 

Jean looked up from her reading with a flushed 
and angry face. 

" Did not father tell you what he has done? " 

" I understand that he don't feel like going to the 
war." 

" Isn't that enough ? It is for me." 

Jean dashed her paper upon the table, smoothed 
it out with a rustle, and began to read again. 

Mrs. Selby stopped sewing, adjusted her spec- 
tacles, and looked at her daughter with an expression 
of dumb surprise which Jean found exceedingly try- 
ing. It had not entered Mrs. Selby's head for years 
to question, much less find fault with, any opinion or 
action of Jean's. The girl was clever, high-spirited, 
and had received a good education — or her mother 
thought so — while Mrs. Selby believed herself to be 
the must stupid and most ignorant of human beings. 
Jean, so Mrs. Selby told her friends with simple pride, 
could talk politics like a man, and read books which 



50 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

her mother, when she peeped into them quietly, could 
not understand in the least. And Jean had opinions 
upon subjects of which girls were not allowed to 
speak in Mrs. Selby's youth, opinions chiefly concern- 
ing the position in the universe Providence had in- 
tended men — and women — to occupy. Mrs. Selby 
looked up with respect to mankind in general as long 
as they did not " fuss round " the house. Jean 
seemed, in her mother's eyes, to consider men created 
to do the behest of women; and as most of the men 
they knew did what Jean told them without a mur- 
mur, Mrs. Selby could not contradict her. John, it 
was true, had been an exception to this rule, and Mrs. 
Selby had secretly enjoyed the way he would at times 
stand squarely opposed to Jean and all her opinions, 
and had not failed to note that in the end he had 
gained respect and consideration by doing so. So 
much, indeed, had this been the case, that the news 
that Jean had cast his friendship away, and turned 
her back upon him as on one disgraced, gave a shock 
to Mrs. Selby's nature that roused her from her cus- 
tomary submissive attitude into determined atten- 
tion. 

" Jennie, my dear, I do not understand." 
Down went the paper upon the table again. 
" 'No, nor docs any one else; but it appears to be 
a fact." 

" I mean — I don't understand you." 
" Me! Why, mother, do you suppose I would 
have anything to do with a coward? — not if he were 
my own brother." 

" Who says John is a coward ? " 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 51 

Jean dropped her paper and looked up. She had 
never heard her mother speak in so stern a tone. 

" Father said so." 

" He ain't mentioned the word to me." 

" He said it in John's presence." 

"Wliat did the boy reply?" 

" Denied it, of course. But when I asked him 
why he would not volunteer he refused to give any 
reason. Talk of being old friends! If he cared for 
that at all, he would not have treated me so. But 
he would say nothing — not a word." 

" I guess I know why that is," Mrs. Selby said in 
a thoughtful tone; " it's his mother — yet he keeps 
close about it, 'cos she would about die if she were to 
think he held back for her." 

A blush rose to Jean's face, and she started sud- 
denly — then put the thought aside. 

" That cannot be — I asked him direct. He said 
it was not." 

Mrs. Selby looked puzzled. 

" I can't heft his reasons, then; but I am right 
sure they are good ones." 

" The only one I can think of is very bad — the 
fear of being killed." 

Jean spoke with withering scorn. 

" Well, you know," Mrs. Selby rejoined with ex- 
asperating coolness, " I ain't sure that this may not 
be in it. John lives a useful life; he has his mother ■ 
to support, and a rare big farming business. It 
would be more than foolish — I would call it wicked — 
if he went off to the war unless he had to go. And 
that is far from being so; Luke says the boys all 



62 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

around the North are gettin' mad to fight. There will 
be plenty without him." 

"Thank Heaven! yes," cried Jean, so irritated 
and angry at her mother's attitude, that she could 
have slapped her. " There are brave men left. If 
one disappoints us, there is always another to take his 
place." 

Mrs. Selby sighed helplessly. 

" I do not understand one little bit. Seems as if 
you want John to be killed. Is that it? " 

" Mother! " Jean stamped her foot. Then by a 
great effort controlled herself, snatched up her paper, 
and went to her room, locking herself in, and walking 
up and down to cool. 

"How stupid she is — how stupid!" she said 
aloud. " I don't know what I shall do or say one of 
these days if she goes on so. It is wrong, horribly 
wrong, to think this way of one's mother; but I can- 
not help it. It is true. What can be worse than 
this? — because I want John to be a man, she supposes 
that I wish he was dead; or that I am picking a hole 
because I want to quarrel! I want to quarrel? 
Why, I would give — what would I not give to have 
things as they were before? I am miserable — miser- 
able — I mean I hate that he should have turned out 
so. Should I be so bitter, does she think, if I had 
not cared so much? But there, it is over. To worry 
about it any more is quite absurd. If John is a 
coward, Seth turns out different from anything I 
had expected. These times of trial do test a man. 
The heat and stress shrivels up one, but it makes an- 
other greater and nobler than he could ever be with- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 53 

out it. But dear, dear, what can the time be? I 
promised to meet Seth at five; he will have been wait- 
ing quite a while." 

She laved her face in cold water, and then exam- 
ined her eyes in the glass, and frowned. They were 
distinctly red. 

At the Burletson homestead in these stirring days 
life went much as usual. Mrs. Burletson never drove 
to town except on Sundays, and knew nothing at the 
time of the reception John had encountered. John 
had made little of it even to himself. After what 
Jean had said, the opinions of his friends and the 
gibes of the rest were nothing. Yet her words were 
what he had expected. He had not realized before- 
hand all that it would mean to him. His chief anx- 
iety was to prevent his mother knowing what he suf- 
fered, and especially to guard against the least sus- 
picion that he had made the sacrifice for her. At 
first he despaired of this. Mrs. Burletson was an ex- 
ceedingly transparent person; and John saw that, 
though she said nothing after he had told her he 
could not volunteer, she had made up her mind that 
he wanted to go, and he suspected that she was only 
keeping quiet because her busy brain was thinking of 
some way to bring it all about. But, as it happened, 
a new turn was given to Mrs. Burletson's ideas by 
the very thing John had carefully concealed from her 
— what was said of him in town. The news was told 
to her by the Eeverend Septimus Haniman, their 
minister, the kindliest of men, who thought that she 
ought to know it. He did it very gently; but no 
delicacy of handling could remove the significance 



54 THE aOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

of the slight to John — and at the notion that he was 
misunderstood Mrs. Burletson caught fire. 

" Is that what they say? " she exclaimed in a tone 
that caused Mr. Haniraan to hunt for his hat, and 
make up his mind that he was urgently wanted at 
home. " They dare to call my son a coward! They 
dare! Then I quit, at once and for always, what I 
had in my mind to do. I had thought of taking a 
place in a boarding-house, and so fixing things that 
John could not but leave here unless he wanted to 
live alone — for I am sure that my comfort is in his 
mind, whatever else lays there as well — but now I 
will not do it. No; such mean, pitiful-minded folk 
as these shall never drive him from his home. Even 
Luke Selby? I never trusted that man's face. I 
wonder what Jean — but never mind. I do not con- 
sider the opinion of any man or woman in Chippewa 
worth anything now. Going, Mr. Haniman? Then 
see, good friend, should you happen, as you must, to 
be in conversation with those who have spoken so 
about John, tell them from- me that I should feel 
honoured if they would come to see me, and say to 
my face what they talk about behind his back. I will 
guarantee, Mr. Haniman, that I would find ways to 
cause every one to regret that he had ever opened his 
slanderous lips. Good afternoon to you." 

Then Mr. Haniman escaped, thankful and a little 
out of breath. But though for weeks afterward Mrs. 
Burletson religiously donned her best black silk gown 
and prepared to receive callers, nobody ever came. 
She did not say much to John. Deep and true as 
their love was for one another. John was too re- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 55 

served ever to speak, even to his mother, of the wound 
Jean's hand had given him, and Mrs. Burletson, 
though aching to know all about it, never dreamed of 
asking questions. She saw that from that day forth 
John worked as she had never known him work be- 
fore, and that when he spent an hour with her in the 
evenings he was silent and absent-minded, and took 
little interest in anything bvit the newspapers. If 
this hurt her at times, she never let him see it. In 
his presence she was always bright and cheerful, and 
his sore heart was comforted in its bitter pain by the 
thought that she, at least, was happy. 

One evening, a month from that never-to-be-for- 
gotten Sunday morning, he came in earlier than 
usual, and after supper drew his chair close to her 
and kissed her. 

" Mother, I have been poor company of late." 

" Your work, John, has taken up the time. I 
never wish that you should give up that for me." 

" It was a bitterness in my heart that made me 
work so. I have been very bitter." 

" You have had cause," she said between her 
teeth. 

"Hush! do not say that. It is not true, either, 
for I had nothing less to expect. I see that now, 
now that the worst — the worst for me, I mean — has 
come. I was foolish to worry. And so far as it has 
taught me my folly, this blow has done me good." 

Mrs. Burletson looked up anxiously. 

"The worst? what does that mean? I thought 
the worst had come before." 

"I thought so too; I was wrong." He stooped 



56 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

to pick up her ball of worsted, " Jean — Jean has 
'become engaged to be married, mother, to Seth, the 
schoolmaster." 

Mrs. Burletson sat perfectly still in her chair, but 
he felt her stiffen all over. 

"How do you feel, son? Do it crush you — or 
what?" 

He did not reply. His fingers were busy with the 
worsted ball, which had come unwound. 

" Tell me how you feel, John." 

" It is not easy," he said at last, carefully keep- 
ing his face from her. " It seems strange — kind as 
if I were dreaming. For Jean, you know, has seemed 
always, even since that day I told her I could not go 
to the war, to belong to me. Yet the news is true, 
and reasonable enough. I believe it is right, though 
I cannot see it that way." 

He sighed, then took his mother's hand, and 
stroked it lovingly. 

" Never mind; I have you. You are worth them 
all." 

" I am not, John. Though I may be worth 
something while I live, I am very old and ailing. 
For long, very long now, I have looked to Jean — 
though I never thought her worthy of my boy — to 
make you happy, when the Lord took me. Now, 
what is to be when I am gone? Who will comfort 
and care for you? Oh, she is " 

"Don't, mother." 

Mrs. Burletson looked dangerous. 

"I must speak my mind, John. I will to her 
some dav. If vou are not bitter, I am for both of us. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 57 

What does it all mean? Do you tell me she has done 
this because you refused to volunteer? " 

" That was the beginning. Jean, you know, has 
strong views." 

" She has no heart, John, and little sense. There, 
I will stop. But God is very hard upon you, my own 
boy. Yet I pity her — she does not know what she 
has lost. She was never worthy of you. God knows 
that. Yet it is hard, for I cannot live much longer, 
and you are not a man to live alone." 

" I shall be one of many. See, now, let us face it, 
and look at a brighter side. We will have great 
times, you and I. I shall get home earlier from work 
than I have done, and we will read together. The 
present is ours, mother. The future, as you have 
often told me, need not be taken till it comes." 

He kissed her, and she leant against his shoulder, 
while the shadows of the evening darkened around 
them. 

" My precious son," she whispered tremulously, 
" you are my life. It is all the world to me to have 
you here. I would not have said it if I thought 
there would be any chance now that you'd wish to go 
to the war. But as things are, I may tell you all my 
mind. I do not think, John, I should have lived a 
month from the day you started South." 



CHAPTER VI. 

The spring of 1861, after the taking of Fort 
Sumter, was a time when tlie feelings of every Ameri- 
can were wrought up to the highest pitch. From day 
to day, from hour to hour, people were expecting to 
hear news of national significance. There was the 
danger to Washington; the plots to assassinate Mr. 
Lincoln; the secession of Virginia when demand was 
made upon her to supply her quota of militia; the 
riots in Baltimore, when the first regiment of North- 
ern troops, the 6th Massachusetts, passed through on 
their way to protect Washington. All these things, 
with a thousand rumours— laughable now, terribly 
serious then — were poured upon the pul)lic by the 
press, week after week, until excitable people could 
scarcely eat or sleep, and thought and dreamt of noth- 
ing but the war. Jean was one of these. Under the 
guidance of her closest friend, Mrs. Haniman, the 
minister's wife, she had been imbibing abolitionist 
literature of the most extreme type for a long while. 
When the time for action came she would have given 
worlds to have been a man, and could only comfort 
herself by urging every man she knew to volunteer. 
The enthusiasm and fire in Seth's nature was an 
infinite support to her. He seemed to read her 
58 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 59 

thoughts, and say and do just those things she ex- 
pected from him at such a time. Then he was to 
command the compan3^ He seemed, in her eyes, to 
have grown in dignity and power; and while others — 
men twice his size — spoke of him with respect as one 
who would be a leader of men, there was a delightful 
secret consciousness in Jean's heart that she was lead- 
ing him; that every important step he took was re- 
ferred to her first for approval, and sometimes was her 
own suggestion. She was realizing a dream of her 
life, and directly influencing the lives of others. 
With this feeling, however, came the consciousness 
that there could only be one end to it all. Seth's face 
was an open book, and days before he declared him- 
self Jean knew what was coming. At any other time, 
impulsive as she was, Jean would have hesitated be- 
fore she pledged her life to one whom until very late- 
ly she had only thought of as a friend, and not the 
most valued of her friends. Many who knew her 
were astounded when they heard of the engagement, 
for no one had ever thought of Jean as inclined to 
marriage. In this they were right; but it is a fact, 
not often recognised, that in times of excitement the 
girl who has never dreamt of marrying makes the 
first plunge. 

The news was taken by Luke Selby with the philo- 
sophical resignation characteristic of a properly con- 
stituted American parent. 

" It is not the choice I would have made," he said • 
to his wife. " John was the man. He has more 
brains in one finger than there is in Seth's head. 
John, if he had behaved as he ought, would have been 



60 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

top of the tree before this war played out. Curse his 
foolishness! 'Tis that which has done it all. But 
you cannot get away from facts. He went back on 
his bond — leastways climbed out after I'd helped him 
in — while Seth played up to the music, and put in at 
the right moment. We must make the best of it, 
Martha. There's one thing — Jean holds Seth as 
tight as I hold my store, and with her eternal energy 
will keep him waltzing to time. If Seth don't con- 
tinue to make things jig, he will get blue brimstone 
for his wife." 

To all of which wisdom Mrs. Selby had replied — 

" Jean is a woman — or thinks she is. But she is 
a fool. Will ye have baked apple-fritters again for 
supper, or are you tired of them? " 

Luke turned in his chair and looked at his wife 
with interest. 

" Martha, your feelings must have been many to 
have crowded out such words as these. Wait, I say, 
wait and see how things eventuate. I have heard 
that folks get shot sometimes when they go to war. 
Jean will be older and wiser, maybe, later on." 

In the afternoon of this day, only twenty-four 
hours after Seth had won his victory, a man in blue 
uniform alighted from a western bound train at the 
Chippewa depot, and inquired the way to Selby's 
store. 

" My name is Simpson," he said to Luke, in a de- 
cidedly abrupt and not over-polite tone, as the store- 
keeper advanced with his blandest smile, "I have 
authority from Colonel Peck, commanding the 2nd 
Wisconsin Regiment of volunteers, to enrol the men 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 61 

of this town whose names are down for enlistment. 
I was referred to you." 

" I am proud to make your acquaintance. Major/' 
Luke answered, extending a hand of friendship, 
which, however, the soldier failed to see. A military 
man of the old school, Major Simpson looked upon 
civilians of Luke Selby's type with a dislike too deep 
for words. " A blasted political wire-puller," was 
his inward comment. " I will have no truck with 
him." And he kept his word. At this moment 
Seth, who had run post-haste to the store when he 
heard of the major's arrival, came up. Luke turned 
to him with relief. 

" Major, this gentleman is in command of the 
company — allow me to introduce " 

" I have heard of him," Major Simpson said with 
a slight change of manner; " Mr. Burletson, I pre- 
sume. "Well, sir, are there many, think you, of the 
boys here who will pass a doctor's examination and 
stand company drill? I have met precious few so 
far." 

Seth blushed. 

'■■' My name is Cotton, sir — major, I mean. John 
Burletson resigned, and the boys elected me." 

" Did they so? " said the major with a grim arch 
of the eyebrows. " You feel honoured, no doubt. 
Unfortunately it is my duty to inform you, Mr. Cot- 
ton, that in our regiment all who enlist begin from 
the ranks. Promotion, if it comes, will only com- 
mence after service in the field and for special merit. 
Now to business. Step this way, will you, please? " 

This was a direct hint to Luke that his presence 
5 



62 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

was not desired. The store-keeper was highly in- 
dignant, and felt disposed, he said afterward, to 
question then and there Major Simpson's authority, 
and send in a strong complaint of his behaviour to 
headquarters. That he did not do the first may be 
accounted for by a certain inflexibility about the 
major. To attack him would be rather too much 
like striking a piece of cold iron; while the second 
course, though comforting to think of, was not easy 
to put into practice. So for the time, at any rate, 
Luke made the best of it, retired to his business, and 
swallowed his pride, while the major and Seth went 
outside the store. 

" Have you seen service? " the major said. 

" I have read a good amount, and am nearly 
through learning my drill manual." 

" Drill fiddlestick! " was the testy answer. " Ex- 
actly what I expected. Lucky our colonel is a man 
of sense, and that we can find officers who know 
something. What most of the array will be like, the 
devil only knows, with officers holding command at 
the pleasure of their men, and whose knowledge be- 
gins and ends with a book. Let me see these boys. 
To-morrow the doctor will be here, and my drill- 
sergeant. Do you suppose we shall get a dozen to 
stay when they find we mean business? Speak your 
mind, lad." 

He looked Seth up and down, measuring him with 
one shrewd glance. 

" I guess most of them will stay. We mean busi- 
ness, too; as for myself, it was not at my request they 
made me captain." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 63 

" Well said," grunted the major. " I am glad to 
hear that. It may come, you know, in a better way. 
Are those the men ? " 

The news of the " army-major's " arrival had flown 
through town, and the company to a man had col- 
lected round the store — many of its younger members 
first embracing their mothers and sisters, under a 
vague impression that they were going to the front 
that afternoon. 

" Put them through their facings," the major said, 
with another quick glance at his companion. " Let 
me see how far you have brought them." 

Seth went hot all over. This Major Simpson 
was a little man, a head and shoulders shorter than 
himself, but in his squarely set figure, alert bearing, 
severe eyes, and sarcastic smile, there was a sug- 
gestion of power and superior knowledge that was 
most unnerving. Then the boys! For two weeks 
Seth had struggled, two hours daily, to get them into 
line — and keep them there — and persuade them to 
attempt the simplest of evolutions. There were 
countless difficulties, the chief one being that few 
would drill more than half an hour at a time. They 
said they were tired, and either sat down to smoke or 
strolled off for a drink, returning to their places later 
on — from the strongest sense of duty, they said — 
only to make the confusion of the rest worse con- 
founded. This afternoon, under the eye of the 
major, who stood at a little distance looking on with 
frozen imperturbability, the gallant volunteers of 
Chippewa made tremendous efforts to do credit to 
their captain and themselves. Only once did an 



64 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

elderly man, a tailor by trade, who was hard of hear- 
ing and irritable, ask Seth to " holler louder." No 
one offered to leave the ranks or even suggested that 
his throat was dry. Sturdily they stood and did 
their very best. A motley crowd. Here a man in 
silk-hat, broadcloth, and fine linen; next him a far- 
mer, in flannel shirt and blue-jean pants; a clerk, 
weedy and pasty-faced, with delicate fingers; a labour- 
er, dirty, ragged, and hard-handed; a lad of seven- 
teen, the doctor's son; Luke's cashier, a rheumatic 
bachelor of fifty; men of every rank and every age, 
yet all animated with the same spirit — willing to 
leave their homes and give their lives for the Union 
cause. 

Never will Seth forget that day. He had a good 
memory and a good voice, but he could not make 
others do what, except in theory, he had never done 
himself. It was a time of bitter torture to him, while 
his men, rather pleased with themselves, wheeled and 
marched at the word of command — in different direc- 
tions; came to attention in" a variety of ways — none 
of them correct; saluted when told to " dress by the 
right; " and, worst of all, came into violent collision 
with one another at the words " right about turn." 

" It has been the poorest kind of show," he said 
hoarsely to the major when the men were at last dis- 
missed. " I guess drilling is not in me." 

" It will be in you as much as any one else when 
you have been taught," was the reply, in so kindly a 
tone, that Seth could have hugged him. " If you 
cannot handle men, you will a musket. To-morrow 
my sergeant shall take hold of this awkward squad. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 65 

He'll bring them into shape in good time. There is 
better stuff among your folk than I expected. You 
will see what drilling means when Silas Horrocks 
comes." 

Seth did see. First, in the morning, every man 
was examined by a sharp-voiced military surgeon, 
who sent a fourth of them back to their homes as 
useless for service, deeply hurting their susceptibili- 
ties. In the afternoon came the sergeant, a big man 
with a voice of brass, a will of iron, the patience of 
an angel, and the eye of a New York detective. 

" He put us through that blasted drill," said one 
of the " squad " afterward, " until the perspiration 
shone on our coat-tails. If war makes a man as 
thirsty as that sergeant, I guess we'll drink the Poto- 
mac dry when we get there. There ain't one mite of 
gilt-edge left to this volunteering biz, you bet your 
life on that." 

At muster the following day many brave volun- 
teers who had cheered themselves hoarse when Sum- 
ter fell, were missing — most of them giving notice 
that their mothers required them more than their 
country. The majority, however, stuck to the flag; 
while, as for Seth, he renounced all desire or claim 
to be an officer, and took his place with perfect good 
humour as a private in the ranks. Jean was at first 
very indignant that he should have been obliged to 
do this, and suffered a keen sense of personal disap- 
pointment and annoyance; but she acknowledged 
that he had played the part of a sensible man, and 
soon persuaded herself that he would be speedily pro- 
moted when his real qualities as a leader began to 



66 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

show themselves. A week later Major Simpson 
drafted his Chippewa recruits to a camp twenty miles 
east, where, separated from business, relations, and 
love affairs, they settled down to drill in earnest. It 
was hard and weary work for them. At first the men 
grumbled because they had no rifles. " It seemed 
poor mean soldiering," they said, " to fool around 
with nothing in one's hands." When the arms came 
the complaints were louder than before, because the 
rifles were so heavy. Then they had a spell of wet 
weather, and drilled in a pool of mud; and the food 
was rough and hard, and some fell sick. At last, 
after a month had gone, and the men were losing 
their awkwardness, and their officers regaining their 
tempers, orders came that the 2nd Wisconsin was to 
go to the front. The news was received with heart- 
felt cheers. At last the deadly drill was over, the 
monotony of doing every day exactly what had been 
done the day before; the drudgery and weariness of 
learning by constant practice that which appeared so 
easy, and turned out to be so hard — especially for 
those past their first youth — was at an end. The 
first campaign was to begin; " On to Washington! " 
was the cry. Seth, with many others, got leave of 
absence the last day, and spent it in Chippewa. It 
was the first time he had been in town in uniform, 
and most devoutly did he wish that it had been a 
better fit. His trousers, loose and baggy, were too 
long, and had no " shape " at all; his forage-cap, with 
its straight pasteboard peak and a top like a crushed 
concertina, was a severe trial to him; his overcoat, 
which he had to wear, as it was raining, was far too 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 67 

big — the collar up to his ears, the sleeves down to 
his finger-tips. But it was a uniform — the visible 
sign that he was one of these set apart, going to the 
war. People shook hands with him in the street. 
The boys cheered rapturously, and Jean, clinging to 
his arm, with shining eyes, thought no one looked 
more soldierlike and handsome. And through the 
weary weeks that followed, on the day of battle, and, 
worse still, the day after, Jean's farewell kiss and 
parting words were an unfailing comfort and stimulus 
to Seth. He loved her now with all his soul and 
strength, and he went back to camp that night de- 
termined to prove himself to be, if not the hero she 
believed, at least a lover of whom she should never 
be ashamed. Seth could see that Jean valued him 
at more than he was worth — so much the past few 
weeks had taught him. He was not, and probably 
never would be, a commander of men, and yet it was 
that above everything that Jean expected him to be. 
But after all, there were chances in the game of war 
no man might calculate. He would do his best; he 
would never turn his back upon the enemy — the rest 
lay in God's hands. 

It was a drizzling, cold and miserable evening 
when the regiment prepared to embark upon the train 
that was to take them South. A number of the re- 
lations of the men had come to the depot at Mara- 
thon to see the last of them. Seth had no one. 
Luke Selby said he was too busy to get so far; Mrs. 
Selby could not leave her little ones; and Jean, 
though willing enough, could not go alone. It came 
about, therefore, that Seth, as he waited on the plat- 



68 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

form with the rest, stood alone, while the boys around 
him chattered with fathers and brothers, sweethearts 
or wives. A wretched choky sensation tickled the 
back of his throat, and he walked away from the rest, 
feeling very forlorn and lonely. It was a little hard 
that there should not be one hand held out to him, 
one voice to wish him God-speed. Truly he was a 
solitary dog, and, but for Jean, not a soul cared 
whether he lived or died. " And even Jean," he said 
to himself in a momentary fit of bitterness, " will she 
mourn long? I guess not. Burletson is there, and 
when the war is done I shall be forgotten, and his 
day, and the days of all other ' home-guards,' will 
come. A cursed cowardly set." He set his teeth 
savagely, then coloured to the brim of his forage-cap, 
for he saw a familiar figure pushing its way toward 
him through the crowd — John himself. 

" I came around here to see you," John said. " If 
you are engaged with others, I will go at once. I 
only came for a grip of the hand." 

" You are just welcome," Seth answered huskily. 
" I feel lonesome as a boy left at his first school. But 
you will have many to see beside me." 

" I came to you," John answered in a quiet 
tone. " No one else at all. We have not met since 
I heard of your engagement, and I felt I would not 
wish you to go away without one word from me, be- 
cause " He paused, then went on, looking Seth 

straight in the face all the time, " Jean is my 
oldest friend, and, until two months since, the most 
intimate I had. I feel, therefore, kind of espe- 
cially interested in her. It makes no difference 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. QQ 

that she is not interested in me. You are a fortu- 
nate man, Seth. How do these rifles act? " 

" We stand first in the regiment there/' Seth said 
warmly, studying John's face, and noticing many 
things, particularly how firm the lines about the 
mouth had grown. It was a grand, strong face. 

"John," he cried, "you should be where I am 
now — only that you would hold a commission. Why, 
why did you hold back — why the devil did you — you, ' 
the best of us all? " 

Camp life had not improved the refinement of 
Seth's speech. But his vehemence was heartfelt. 
John coloured slightly. 

" I had my reason, and that reason stays with me 
now as it did then. Never mind me. I am dead and 
buried. It is you who are alive. I trust you'll come 
through gaily. I know it will not be second best." 

The hearty words warmed Seth's quick enthu- 
siasm. 

" I will try — enough, if only for her sake. A 
man who failed with Jean behind him would be a 
skulk indeed. I beg your pardon," suddenly recol- 
lecting whom he was speaking to. " That was real 
mean of me." 

John laughed, a genuine laugh, and slapped Seth- 
on the shoulder. 

" Come, come, I am not such sugar-candy as that 
amounts to, if I am a ' home guard.' There's the 
bugle. Are you off? " 

" Yes; see, the train has been switched in. It 
will be good-bye in real earnest now." 

They walked to the cars, and Seth swung in and 



70 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

took up a place near the door, his comrades passing 
him. They were mostly Chippewa men, and seeing 
John, greeted him in so friendly a manner, that he 
Avas quite overcome. He had steeled his heart hy 
this time to the silent contempt and coldness of his 
fellow-townsmen. He had begun to take it as a mat- 
ter of course. This behaviour on the part of the boys 
themselves almost unmanned him. On their side his 
familiar face reminded them of home; his resignation 
of the captaincy was a thing of the past, while his gift 
of money, which had given them an advantage over 
their comrades, was vividly present in their minds. 
The consequence was, that when the men were in 
their places, crowding at the windows, and a shrill- 
voiced lad shouted, " Three cheers for Johnny Bur- 
letson's rifles! " they hurrahed with a will. 

" All aboard! " was the cry now, and the train be- 
gan to move. Seth stretched half his body through 
the window, and shook hands for the last time. 

" Good-bye," he cried, 'f Take care of her till I 
get back, if I ever do. God bless you, John — Good- 
bye." The train moved faster. The crowd on the 
platform cheered; the soldiers answered; then from 
Seth's carriage some one struck up " John Brown's 
body." In a moment the song w^as caught up by a 
hundred voices, and to the sound of " Glory, glory, 
Hallelujah!" sung in all sorts of keys to no time at 
all, the train with its great cargo of flesh and blood 
departed on its way, and John, turning back to where 
he had left his horse — for he had ridden all the way 
to be in time — hid his face on the good beast's neck, 
and sobbed like a child. 



CHAPTER VII. 

The summer had come, and now at last the armies 
of the North and the South, which for three months 
had been drilling and drilling, marching a little, 
fighting hardly at all, and boasting a great deal, were 
to meet in their full strength and fight the first great 
battle of the war. There had been isolated engage- 
ments which, as usual, the press on either side had 
tried to magnify — when their friends gained the ad- 
vantage — into famous victories; but nothing had 
happened as yet to test the merits of the combatants 
as a whole. On the Union side there were whole 
regiments which had never fired a gun, and except 
for small contingents of regular troops — most of 
which were recruits — not a man had been really 
trained in musketry practice. Not a doubt, however, 
existed from one end of the North to the other, as to 
the certainty of a great victory when the enemy were 
met at last. The ordinary evolutions of drill had 
been well ground into the recruits during these three 
months of preparation; their equipment had been 
perfected. When the soldiers destined for the first 
advance southward, thirty-four thousand strong, de- 
filed before the President at Washington on the 15th 
day of July, well armed, well clothed, full of mili- 

71 



72 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

tary ardour, their bearing erect, their faces already 
tanned by exposure in camp, it was no wonder that 
the folk throughout the North, ignorant of the 
meaning of war, led by editors and newspaper corre- 
spondents as ignorant as themselves, should believe 
that these men could conquer a continent, and march 
without check to Richmond, the Confederate capital. 
Many went so far as to count the days when Jefferson 
Davis, as arch-enemy to the Union cause, would be 
brought to Washington to be tried for high treason. 

In well-informed circles the rumour went that 
General McDowell, the commander of the army, had 
protested against an advance being made so soon, 
giving as his reasons the inexperience of the regi- 
mental officers, and the want of any real discipline 
outside the drill-ground among the men, and that he 
had declared his army to be only fit for defensive 
operations. No one in the North, except a few mili- 
tary experts, gave credence to such reports. " On to 
Eichmond," was the universal " cry, and on the army 
went, blindly and exultantly, accompanied by a great 
number of civilians, anxious to witness the triumphs 
of the champions of the Union cause. 

On the 16th day of July the march began from 
Washington to the base of operations, Centreville, a 
town twenty miles south. The Confederate forces 
were in position five miles further on, on the banks 
of Bull Run Creek. This march to Centreville will 
never be forgotten until the memory of Bull Run has 
faded from the minds of American men. "For six 
miles the troops marched steadily; then, alas! the 
point of llic iinkiiul n'marks upon their discipline be- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 73 

came painfully apparent. In nine regiments out of 
ten the men did exactly as they pleased. The day 
was hot, the dust ankle-deep, the rifles became heavier 
than bars of solid iron, and the knapsacks weighed 
upon the unaccustomed hacks which bore them as if 
their contents had been turned into lead. Nor, when 
the nature of these contents is considered, was this 
very wonderful. Seth's kit was a good example of 
the rest: a pair of trousers, a pair of thick boots, four 
pairs of stockings, four flannel shirts, a blouse, a 
Bible, a volume of Shakespeare, and writing and 
shaving materials. It addition to these necessaries 
-ihere were, rolled upon the knapsack, a double 
woollen blanket and a waterproof. Under such bur- 
dens the stamina of the volunteers melted like butter 
in the sun. One by one at first, soon by scores and by 
hundreds, they fell out of the ranks and sat down 
under trees to rest and smoke; when they passed a 
stream they stopped to drink, or they loitered by the 
roadside, and paused to pick and eat blackberries. 
The 2nd Wisconsin, brigaded with the 13th, 69th, and 
79th New York Eegiments, under command of Colo- 
nel W. T. Sherman, became completely mixed up, 
and but for a fine diversity of uniforms which pre- 
vailed in both armies at the beginning of the war, 
might have been a long time disentangling them- 
selves. As for Seth and his comrades of Company A, 
to their credit be it said, they neither picked black- 
berries nor kicked their heels on fences, but, with an 
occasional rest, marched steadily through. Their 
captain was shrewd, active and popular, and by a con- 
stant fire of sarcastic pleasantry at the expense of 



74 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

laggards, kept his men together, and brought them 
into Centreville on the second day, July 18th, foot- 
sore and very weary. At Centreville they heard the 
first boom of cannon, and the men thought a great 
battle had begun. They eat a hasty meal, and then 
many began stealthily writing letters of farewell to 
loved ones at home, or sat about in groups talking 
nervously. Seth was on sentry duty. As he paced 
to and fro, his eyes scanning the fields and hillocks 
and scattered trees to the south, his ears painfully 
alive to the dull roar of artillery and the sharp crackle 
of musketry, he thought of Jean, and contrasted the 
present with the past. He was still very tired, his 
spirits were depressed, and a conversation he had over- 
heard a few minutes before between his captain and 
Major Simpson had not tended to reassure him. 

" We shall not be ready to begin until the troops 
come up," the captain had said. " That will not 
be to-day." 

"Do you think they'll ever get here? I don't," 
the major snarled in reply. The worthy man was in 
a very bad temper. " If they do, don't you be under 
any impression that they will fight. I tell you the 
first time they see a drop of blood they'll run. I am 
sick of this affair. With a division of regulars I 
would whip those seceders into h — 1. But I have no 
use for men like ours — blasted civilians in uniform, 
which they don't know how to wear! " 

" The Eebs may be as bad," the captain had re- 
joined. 

" Not possible. Anyway they can't be worse, and 
they are on their own ground. T bet they know well 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 75 

what we are about. What do we know of their move- 
ments? " 

Seth believed the major to be right, and felt very 
wretched. He had shared to the full the jDopular 
belief in the immediate and decisive success of the 
Union arms. Now, reaction had come, and he fore- 
saw nothing but disaster. A presentiment weighed 
upon him that he would lose control of his nerves, 
and at some critical moment run away. He saw him- 
self before a court martial, sentenced to be shot for 
cowardice, and Jean coldly sajdng that it served him 
right. In the over-wrought state of his nerves all 
these ideas appeared prophetic, and his spirits fell 
lower and lower. But now a horseman approached 
at full gallop, and the morbid phantoms vanished. 

"Who goes there?" 

" Courier from General Tyler." 

The man rode to the rear. He was an orderly 
from the front. It was a call for re-enforcements, and 
presently the brigade battery (Ayers's) limbered up 
and passed Seth at a gallop. Then Colonel Sherman 
trotted by with his staff, and Seth marked well this 
hard-faced man with his bright eyes, and thought he 
looked resolute enough for anything. The sight re- 
freshed him. Another orderly rode up, saluted the 
colonel, and presented a dirty bit of paper. Orders 
were given to advance the whole brigade. 

Away with love-lorn sentimental broodings. In 
less time than Major Simpson, for one, would have 
believed possible, the men were in column, advancing 
at the double quick. There was no more sentry duty 
for Seth, no more doubts and fears. He was shoul- 



76 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

der to shoulder with comrades now, marching to the 
front. No one knew what there was ahead. The 
wonderfully accurate information of the enemy's 
movements, and of the intentions of their own gen- 
erals, that the rank and file of the armies gained 
later in the war, did not exist as yet. Every one ex- 
pected a hattle, and each braced himself to meet it in 
his own way. There was no talking now — mere vol- 
unteer and raw recruits these men might be, but they 
meant fighting. 

They marched three miles, the roar of the guns 
steadily increasing, until they reached the fields di- 
rectly sloping to Bull Eun Creek. The first visible 
signs of the battle now confronted them: a straggling 
crowd of soldiers were approaching, Union men, 
some limping and bloody, some without arms, run- 
ning for their lives; others walking sullenly with 
bent heads, rifle at shoulder, all in full retreat. 

" Halt! " 

The march was over, and the 2nd Wisconsin, 
which was the advance column, formed into line of 
battle. Where were the rebels? Every one expected 
to see them in pursuit, and watched with anxious eyes 
the thick belt of trees that bordered the creek from 
which the firing came. But no men appeared. 
Nothing but puff's of smoke, and shot which tore up 
the ground in places to the feet of the regiment. It 
was sickening work for recruits, standing still to be 
shot at; there was no cover to protect them, and no 
order was given to charge. The men soon became 
mere bags of nerves, and muttered imprecations first 
on the army then on their own commander. Here 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 77 

they had to remain for half an honr — the longest 
thirty minutes, most of them felt, they had ever 
passed in their lives. They were then marched back 
to their old camp, discouraged and very cross. 

By degrees the news spread that General Tyler 
had made a reconnaissance, attempting to carry 
Blackburn's Ford over Bull Eun, and had been re- 
pulsed by the enemy, who were posted there in con- 
siderable force. 

" Blasted fool, Tyler! " was the comment of Silas 
Horrocks, Seth's sergeant, who had been through the 
Mexican War, to an admiring crowd of recruits round 
the camp fire. " What did he do it for? We all 
reckoned the seceshers were there. The only thing 
we know now that wasn't known before is that those 
boys have darned long teeth. That ain't worth any- 
body's life but Tyler's own, which has been carefully 
preserved. He is like a pile more of our officers. 
The returns of killed and wounded we'll send in by- 
and-by through their mistakes will show that pres- 
ently — mark my words now, you pretty volunteers! " 

Two days and nights were spent in the camp at 
Centreville, both men and officers chafing at the delay 
— none more than their commander, McDowell, who 
knew that every hour that passed enabled the Confed- 
erates to bring up re-enforcements. But it was in- 
evitable, the result of the miserable fiasco of a march 
from Washington, and inexperienced staff officers in- 
nocent of any notion how to make efl^ective recon- 
naissances of the enemy's position and strength. 

At last, at one o'clock on the morning of the 21st, 
the sound of muffled drums broke the stillness of the 
6 



78 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

camp, and Sherman's brigade arose with the rest, 
every man feeHng in his very bones that the time had 
come. The air was raw and cold; the men were very 
sleepy and tired; they shivered and growled, and 
wished the enemy and the war, the Union cause and 
all, at the bottom of the sea. By two o'clock the camp 
had faded into the distance behind them, and they 
were again marching on to the creek. No firing to 
be heard now. The brigade marched on unopposed, 
until it was halted on the banks of Bull Eun, and de- 
ployed in line along an edging of timber which af- 
forded the men welcome cover in case of an attack. 
A pause — a long, long pause. The daylight crept 
into the sky, and the sun rose; birds sang in the trees, 
the animal life of the neighbourhood began to bestir 
itself in the usual daily round of occupation, bewil- 
dered and curious, but not much afraid of these lines 
of blue and gray-coated men. Still there was no 
firing. This was harder on the nerves of the recruits 
than the night march. Vague haunting fears beset 
them; and the least disturbance, a chance shot, or cry, 
or loud noise, would have driven them into panic. 
Presently a movement was perceived across the creek. 
Men were marching there in column at a smart pace, 
moving away to the right away from the stream. 
It was a body of the enemy off to intercept the 
brigade which had marched before Sherman, showing 
that part of the Union army had succeeded in cross- 
ing Bull Run, and was making steady progress toward 
the heart of the Confederate position. The fears 
now became intense restlessness, but the men were 
comforted for a little while by watching their bat- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 79 

tery wheel into position to fire upon tlie enemy's 
column. The disappointment when it was discov- 
ered that the guns would not carry so far was very bit- 
ter, and the language in the brigade became outra- 
geous. The sound of brisk musketry fire now began 
directly in front, quickly growing louder, and the 
news flew down the line that Hunter's brigade was 
driving the enemy before it like chaff. The swear- 
ing began again — this time at Hunter's brigade. It 
was hard to stand still and passive Avhile others were 
marching to victory, and winning immortal fame at 
every step. Hunter's brigade was more unpopular 
than the enemy for the moment. 

At last, just at noon, came the order the brigade 
waited for so long. They were to advance to Hun- 
ter's support. That enterprising man had gone too 
fast; had been met, as might have been expected, 
with a superior force, and was in distress. A ford 
was found by the quick eye of Sherman; over went 
a company in skirmishing order, then the New York 
69th, then the 3nd Wisconsin. No hitch occurred, 
and order was given to advance slowly and firmly. 
There was no fear in the mind of any man now that 
the fighting would be over before they could reach it. 
The rattling fire in front had become one continuous 
roar, very trying to unaccustomed ears, growing loud- 
er as more men came into action on both sides. Com- 
pany A marched at the head of the regiment, its 
spirits rising at every step. All hearts beat high with 
courage and excitement; old fatigues, disappoint- 
ments, and fears were forgotten; they panted to be 
in the thick of the fight. They clambered up the 



80 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

steep banks, and marched at a swinging pace over 
fields already strewn with dead men and wounded 
horses. This was a gruesome, sickening sight for re- 
cruits, but they had braced their nerves to meet it, 
and though their faces blanched at this first glimpse 
of war, and the smell of blood made many sick and 
faint, they set their teeth against the weakness, 
grasped their guns the tighter, and hurried grimly on. 

" Form into line of battle! " 

" Thank God," the men whispered under their 
breath, then cheered to the echo when they found 
that the 2nd "Wisconsin was to lead. No one knew 
how the battle stood. The ground had been rising 
for some time, and they were forming on a hill. In 
front of them was the dip of a valley, and then an- 
other hill, dark with masses of men. The desperate 
fighting was there; they could tell so much; and no 
victory for either side was to be recorded yet. It 
was said that the place they now occupied, " Math- 
ew's Hill," had been in the possession of the enemy, 
and that the work before the Union army was to 
storm and take " Henry Hill," the ridge opposite, 
where stood the main body of the Confederates at bay. 
Henry Hill carried — the day was won. It was the 
key of the position. For hours before this time the 
fighting there — dashing assault and stubborn defence 
had been growing fiercer as both sides brought up re- 
enforcements from the rear; but there was no victory 
for either army yet. It was now the turn of Sher- 
man's brigade. 

" Second Wisconsin, advance! " 

Down Mathew's Hill they went, met by a fierce 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 81 

artillery fire, and men fell right and left. The hearts 
of the West Point officers trembled with suspense — 
would the boys falter at their first baptism of death? 
Not they. Ill-disciplined as they were, all unused to 
pain and carnage, and their nerves severely tried 
with the long anxious waiting, their blood was up. 
On they went, steadily, Company A in the van. At 
Seth's right rode Major Simpson. As he saw the 
steady swing of the step of his men, and how coolly 
the gaps in the ranks were closed, his stern face be- 
came almost paternal in its approval. 

" Steady, you boys; steady we go. Don't lose 
your breath by rushing too soon. Hold to it quietly 
until we are within fifty yards, then drive those rebs 
to h— 1! " 

They held to it, and at the bottom of the hill, at 
Young's Ford, struck a road deeply cut in the clay, 
in which for a space they were sheltered from the 
cruel shot. But it was only for a little while. Again 
the ground began to rise. They were at the foot of 
Henry Hill. The road ceased. 

"Left wheel!" 

Now their time had come. Around them the 
men of the regiment which had gone before lay dead 
in lines and heaps, and over the ground they had to 
pass to reach the foe; his guns were hurling sheets of 
deadly hail, to which all they had faced so far had 
been mere child's play. A shout, the flash of the 
officers' swords in the sun, a ringing cheer, and they 
charged. Seth, white with excitement and nearly 
breathless, found himself blindly following the gray 
horse on which the major sat. While that horse held 



82 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

its course, Seth would go on to the bottomless pit if 
need be. Whether men were beside him or not, he 
did not know. He forgot all about the company, 
the regiment, everything except the enemy's line away 
in front and the gray horse close at his side. All at 
once the animal reared, threw itself backward, and 
fell dead. Seth stopped, dropped his musket, and 
tried to extricate the dying man. The major cursed 
him for his pains. 

" Get out," he yelled. " You damned coward, let 
me be! " Then collecting every remnant of strength 
left in him, he raised his voice to its highest pitch. 
" Forward, boys; charge noiv, and the day is ours! " 

Nerved by the cry, Seth caught up his musket, 
and was about to spring onward, when he was nearly 
knocked down by two men who were in retreat. He 
staggered, and dropped the rifle again, picked it up, 
and looked at the major. He was already dead, his 
face stiff, the eyes glazed and dull. A shudder passed 
through Seth, a cold dread paralyzed his nerves, and 
he followed the men down the hill. It was only for 
a short distance, however. Other officers were here, 
cursing, commanding, beseeching their men to stay. 
Half a dozen near Seth rallied, all of Company A, 
and Seth stepped in beside them. Their own captain 
was there to lead, and as they faced round and 
marched back, others joined them with a cheer. 
Then the havoc of the guns began again. The men 
on either side of Seth were struck down. No one 
filled the gaps, for there was no sense of discipline 
now to hold the men together. One by one they fal- 
tered, and at last Seth, seeing a man in front struck 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 83 

in the body and roll on the ground shrieking in mor- 
tal agony, could endure it no more; again the dread 
seized him, and he turned with a cry and ran. 

At the bottom of the hill, in the sheltered road, 
the officers managed to reform the broken ranks — • 
but it was to retreat. The attack on Henry Hill had 
failed. The gallant defence of the Confederates — 
more especially Jackson's brigade, animated by their 
commander, to be known as '' Stonewall " from that 
day — and the timely arrival of re-enforcements turned 
the scale in their favour. The Union army began to 
waver and break. Back with the rest went Sher- 
man's brigade; sullenly, slowly, unwillingly. Back 
to the ford; across the creek; to Centreville once 
more; there to pause and eat and sleep. Their com- 
mander was prepared to renew the struggle on the 
morrow; but the men had no thought of fighting. 
Seth, with burning brain and shivering limbs, his 
left arm throbbing with pain from a bullet wound, 
sat before the camp fire, tortured by every ghastly 
scene of the day, living the futile charge of Henry 
Hill over again, hearing the shriek of the dying man 
and Major Simpson's curse; sick, miserable, and 
worn out in soul and body and mind. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

The retreat of the Union army after the first bat- 
tle of Bull Run has been described by many pens, 
from many points of view. It was a ghastly, and 
nigh inevitable complement to the march from Wash- 
ington. The men who had sat down by the way- 
side and gathered blackberries, when their fond ones 
at home pictured them pressing on with stern faces 
and high hearts to the destruction of the rebels, were 
not of the stuff — yet — to take defeat and the slaugh- 
ter of their bravest calmly or even reasonably. A 
battle with raw troops, however good the material 
may be, is a matter of extremes. At first they fight 
bravely, and when well led will face even big guns for 
a time; but when they turn, when once their hearts 
fail them, they are lost. At Bull Run, when the 
bloody struggle for Henry Hill was over, though a 
few regiments here and there, like Sherman's brigade, 
bore themselves like soldiers, and retreated slowly and 
in order, the rest left the field piecemeal — the men 
melting away in streams, pressing faster and faster 
upon one another's heels until the retreat became 
the terrified rush of a herd of animals. By midnight, 
the whole army, instead of taking up its old position 
at Centreville, which it might safely have done, was 
84 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 85 

rolling back to Washington, one inextricable mass of 
confused, demoralized men. Infantry, cavalry, artil- 
lery, were mixed up together, struggling and swear- 
ing, perspiring with terror at fears their own im- 
agination conjured up, crying out that the enemy was 
pressing hard upon their rear and would cut off their 
retreat, while in reality only a comparatively small 
number of Confederate soldiers were in pursuit. All 
those weary miles the men never paused in their re- 
treat, reaching Washington early next morning. 
Walt Whitman has described their entry there: 

" The men appear — in disorderly mobs — some in 
squads; stragglers, companies, three-quarter queer 
looking objects; strange eyes and faces, drenched and 
fearfully worn; hungry, haggard, blistered in the 
feet. In the midst of the deep excitement many, 
very many of the soldiers are sleeping. They drop 
down anywhere, on the steps of houses, up close by 
the basement and fences; in the side walk; aside 
in some vacant lot, and deeply sleep. Some sleep in 
squads, some singly; and over them as they lie, sul- 
lenly drips the rain." 

One of these sleepers was Seth. When the army 
swept past Centreville Sherman's brigade were obliged 
to follow, and meeting others in the darkness at a 
cross-road, fell into some confusion, many of the men 
falling out of the ranks and losing themselves. Seth 
had done this. His wound had made him feverish 
and light-headed, and he had marched with the rest, 
hardly knowing what he was about. At the confu- 
sion of the cross-roads, the panic of other brigades 
had infected him, and he hurried blindly on, some- 



86 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

times on the road, in the ditch, or in the open field, 
always with others, but with no one that he knew. 
When day came at last, when " the sun rose but shone 
not," he was tramping over Long Bridge cheek by jowl 
with men of half a dozen different regiments. Weari- 
ness ojjpressed him now, his limbs trembled, his head 
was heavy and his eyes half closed, yet the ghastly 
dread of an enemy in pursuit drawing nearer every 
moment, still overpowered everything else, and he 
staggered on until he came to the subvirbs of Wash- 
ington. 

" They will defend the capital," he muttered; " I 
guess we're safe now — but I must find the boys or 
they'll call me a deserter." He was firmly persuaded 
that his regiment was in front, and with feet swollen 
and bleeding, his legs racked with shooting pains, he 
stumbled doggedly on. At last nature would endure 
no more, and at the edge of the side walk of the first 
street he came to he sat down to rest a minute, pres- 
ently sinking on his face and "falling sound asleep. 

When he awoke he found himself in bed, and for 
a moment thought he was in his old rooms at Chip- 
pewa. Then he saw that the place was filled with 
many beds and as his head grew clearer that he was 
in hospital. He lay still for a long time wondering. 
■ His left arm was bandaged tightly — he could not 
move it, and when he lifted his right hand he found 
it absurdly weak. Afterward he ascertained that a 
bullet had been extracted from the arm and that he 
had lain for days in high fever and delirious. All 
he realized himself was the pain in his arm and a 
bitter thirst. Seth would have given anything for 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 87 

something to drink. He looked about for some one 
to bring him water; but except for other men, in bed, 
wounded like himself, he could see no one. He was 
presently roused from consideration of his own wants 
by a conversation that was taking place over his bed. 
It was begun by a man on his left, who was reading a 
newspaper, and had addressed a question to a youth 
with bandaged neck and shoulder. 

" When is your time out, friend? " 

" These four days. I am a three months' man." 

" So am I, thank the Lord! " 

" I shall re-enlist, though." 

"You will not!" 

The speaker, who was fat and middle aged, with a 
coarse, shrewd face, spoke in a tone of most emphatic 
disgust. The other looked surprised, while Seth, 
who in common with most of the first volunteers had 
also joined for three months only, began to listen 
wdth interest. 

" Don't you think there'll be work for us ? " the 
lad said. " We must whip those seceshers now we've 
made a start." 

"Whip 'cm!" the fat man cried, with a fine 
scorn. " Of course we'll whip 'em; and that with- 
out a battle, or only half a one. But this don't con- 
cern any of us who was wounded at Bull Eun, unless 
we had been fools enough to volunteer over ninety 
dsLjs. Now, sir-ree, listen to this." He rustled his 
newspaper with a professional air to attract attention.- 
At home he had been a political agitator. He had 
become a volunteer for what he could get out of it, 
and having extracted nothing but a broken leg, was 



88 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

now burning to revenge himself on the Government. 
" There is but one sensible and proper course for self- 
respecting citizens, who went forth in their country's 
cause in April or May last, to pursue, and that is to 
get back home and stay there. It is reasonable; it is 
right; it is patriotic. You think not? Then" — 
raising his voice so that it could be heard all over the 
room — " I will proceed to demonstrate my case. 
What, friend, caused our defeat at Bull Run? I will 
tell you. Your officers. The West Pointers and their 
friends, puffed up to the eyes with all the pride an' 
ignorance of creation. I reckon, my gallant wound- 
ed heroes, that I can prove this to be an undeniable 
fact. Who, but for these bunglers and snobs, would 
have beaten the enemy to threads? The men! You! 
Ay, and all your dead brothers, lyin' now on the 
bloody swards of Henry Hill. What is to be done 
about it? Listen to me. First take these captains, 
an' colonels, and brigadier generals — take them from 
the high places they abuse, and put in there men of 
the people, 'lected by the people, Xext let you and 
me and those who have suffered behave with proper 
dignity, and refuse to take a further share of this 
shooting business until the boys who stayed at home 
and who, you will see by the papers, are cursin' us to- 
day, have done their share. Let us tell them to go 
to the front, and see how they like it. We will take 
the work they leave behind 'em, and rest awhile. 
There is another way of looking at it. Do you " — 
glaring at the man he spoke to first of all — " want to 
keep all the glory to yourself? Ain't your wounds 
an honour that will keep you goin' a spell? Ain't 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 89 

you got folk who need you? I have. Don't charity 
begin at home? I tell you, friends all/' with a con- 
cluding flourish — the doctor had come in to begin 
his rounds, and it was time to stop — '' that the course 
I recommend to you is one of Christian duty. I will 
be pleased to argify quietly with any one of you who 
don't see it so. I will guarantee to convince him 
even that he is wrong and I am right. Let folk like 
newspaper editors, and other trash that have never 
left their homes, blow the loud trumpets. For you 
and me, sense and duty to those we love the best re- 
quire that we should do what I have said." 

The eloquence of the man — Galibrag by name — 
was not without effect. Hospital life all the world 
over is dull and monotonous; a new interest, espe- 
cially of a personal kind, is welcome, be what it may. 
Nearly all were " three months' " men, and though 
many did not agree with Mr. Galibrag at first, they 
found him a difficult person to argue with, as all men 
are who can shift their ground according to the point 
of view of their opponent and know how to touch him 
in his weakest place, like a skilful boxer in the ring. 
He was more dangerous in conversation than on 
the stump, and, as fate would have it, his bed was next 
to Seth's. Mr. Galibrag took a fancy to Seth, or 
said he did, and when Seth, after he had gained 
strength, took up the cudgels on the other side, Mr. 
Galibrag met him in the most cordial spirit. 

" Mind you, now, friend," he said loftily, " I 
would not influence a man against his inclination — 
no, not for the world. If you feel that the Govern- 
ment and your officers acted right toward you; if 



90 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

drilling, and hard food and catching chills, and bein' 
marched round like a dancin' bear to the tune of the 
sergeant's tongue, suits your constitution, I would 
say nothing. It is a matter of taste and of men. 
But I reckon a man of education — more 'specially a 
man who can educate others — a rare gift, sir, a most 
rare gift — must have peculiar ideas of usefulness if, 
rather than be independent and serve his country in 
a dignified way as a free citizen, he prefers to be 
what some call a soldier and I call a slave. But how 
• does it come to you ? Let us discuss your own par- 
ticular case." 

This Seth declined to do brusquely, apologized 
for his rudeness, and finally was led to talk a great 
deal about himself. The prejudice he first conceived 
against Mr, Galibrag moderated, as he became used 
to the man's manner, and as Mr. Galibrag became 
better acquainted with him. Seth was sick in mind 
as well as body. His nerves had never recovered 
tone, though he was considered convalescent. Any 
unexpected noise would make him start violently, 
and he felt a childish dread of discomfort and bodily 
pain. Most of all, he suffered from home sickness, 
and ached for a sight of Jean. They had exchanged 
letters since Bull Eun, hers full of affectionate solici- 
tude and warm praise of his gallantry, for some one, 
it appeared, now at Chippewa, had seen him charge 
up Henry Hill. He longed to be with her. He had 
won his spurs. At least he might rest awhile and 
enjoy his reward. Mr. Galibrag's arguments dis- 
posed him to go even further, and he began to con- 
jure up a vision of re-organization of the school, mar- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 91 

riage, and, what he had craved for all his life, a home 
of his own. On the other hand, Mr. Galibrag's own 
personality was objectionable, and when he departed, 
the atmosphere of the hospital seemed purer and 
cleaner. A few days later Seth took his discharge, 
and began the long journey to Chippewa. He left 
against the advice of the doctor, who warned him that 
over-exertion might cause inflammation of the wound- 
ed arm not yet healed. But Seth could not stand the 
confinement and depressing surroundings any longer. 
He believed that active change of scene and thought 
was all he needed, and took the risk without hesita- 
tion. When he reached the railway depot, he felt so 
exhausted and miserable he would have turned back; 
but pride forbade it. So he took his ticket, and as 
the train carried him northward he smiled a con- 
tented smile, and jolted on uncomplainingly in the 
dusty car, his faded uniform hanging in clumsy folds 
over his lean limbs, his arm still in a sling, and a 
beard of five weeks' growth adding to the cadaverous- 
ness of his hollow cheeks. It was a terrible journey. 
The weather was hot and close; the cars were ill- 
ventilated, with hard bare wood seats, and populated 
by peculiarly vicious and bloodthirsty mosquitoes. 
Sleep at night was out of the question, there was 
no rest by day, and the food Seth allowed himself 
out of his very slender resources was coarse and badly 
cooked. It was not to be wondered at, therefore, 
if his mind dwelt upon what he should have left alone 
— his sufferings at Bull Eun; if fresh fever in his 
blood began to germinate. The last night he was 
so much exhausted that he dozed fitfully in spite of 



92 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

his aching limbs, but it was to dream of the horrors 
over again, Seth was thankful when daylight came; 
and to employ the few hours that remained before he 
reached Marathon Junction, where he had to change 
for Chippewa, he took pencil and paper and scrib- 
bled a letter to Jean. He had made up his mind 
definitely not to return to the war, and he felt 
that he could put his reasons better on paper than 
he could give them in speech. He would, he thought, 
break the ice when they were together, and then 
leave her the letter to read. The writing down of his 
thoughts and feelings did him good. He got a morn- 
ing nap, and woke, somewhat refreshed, just before 
the train rolled into Marathon, But here the great- 
est trial of all awaited him. The train was two hours 
behind time, the Chippewa train for the day had 
gone, and he must remain at Marathon four-and- 
twenty hours. It was a climax to all he had en- 
dured, A whole day and night to pass before he 
could see Jean! He cursed,until he was weak. What 
was to be done? He could not afford to stay at the 
hotel. The total amount of his resources when he 
left Washington, except for one hundred dollars in 
the bank at Chippewa, had been thirty-nine dollars 
for three months' service in the army. Of this sum 
he had five dollars left; and there was still the rail- 
way fare from Marathon to pay. The result of this 
discovery was a resolve to get two meals at the hotel, 
one this afternoon, and one to-morrow, and spend the 
night at the depot, on a bench. The hotel was some 
way from the railroad, at the top of a long hill, and 
by the time Seth reached it, he was feeling very ill. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 93 

He stumbled into the dining-room, ordered two 
dough-nuts and a cup of coffee, and then, utterly 
worn out, closed his eyes and began to wonder with 
considerable disgust whether he was going to faint. 
Some one came up and stood over him. Seth opened 
his eyes languidly, thinking it was the waiter. It 
was John Burletson. 

" Why, John, old friend! " and they shook hands 
warmly. 

" I thought it could be no one else," John said. 
" But, Seth, you are sick. I hardly knew you." 

" I am whittled down a little," Seth replied, in a 
voice he strove to make cool and indifferent. " The 
weather is infernal, and this thing," touching his 
w^ounded arm, " is inclined to play it rather low- 
down on me. It ought to be well by now." 

John sat down and looked at him. 

"You are bound for Chippewa?" 

" I thought so, but these beastly cars went back 
on me. I will arrive there to-morrow — all that the 
mosquitoes at the depot choose to leave. What a 
cursed noise folk make in these places! The voices 
of those girls go through me. How much, waiter?" 

A negro placed his repast before him, which John 
looked at disapprovingly. 

" Twenty-five cents, sar — cap'n, I mean." 

" I will give you ten," Seth cried irritably; 
" twenty-five be hanged ! " 

" Dough-nuts, ten, sar; coffee, fifteen. Ask de 
boss, please." 

" Take away the coffee, then," Seth said grimly, 
" and bring me a glass of water." 

r 



94 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

The waiter obeyed, with a contemptuous shrug. 
John left his chair. 

" Excuse me, friend, one minute," he said. " I 
have forgotten something." 

When he returned he found Seth at the win- 
dow. 

" Let us go out of this, John. Do you mind? I 
feel stifled here. It has come to me while you were 
absent that I would like to tell you sometliing. Have 
you time to spare?" 

Seth spoke in an excited, feverish tone, and John 
noticed that his face was flushed and twitching all 
over. 

" I would like nothing better. But I know a 
place better than the street." 

" Are you staying here? " 

" I have a private room engaged." 

He led Seth into the hall and up a flight of stairs, 
and took him into a comfortably furnished apartment 
with a carpet, rocking-chair, and a bed with mos- 
quito curtains. 

" Comfort — by George! " Seth sighed, sinking 
into the chair, while John shut the door and placed 
himself astride of a stool. " I have not seen such a 
place as this since — since I saw you last." 

" How long have you been out of hospital ? " 

" Three days — I have come straight from there." 

" Were you stout enough for the journey? " 

"I guess so. Anyway, I had been there long 
enough. Why?" 

" You are so — thin." 

" That is nothing at all. Now, tell me, how are 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 95 

the folk? I seem to have been awa}^ years. Has any 
one got the school ? " 

'' They have a man for the time." 

"Not permanently? Good business. See — I am 
going to tell you what is in my mind. I don't intend • 
going back to the war. I am near played out. Any- 
way, I feel I have done enough for the country. I 
am going to play for myself. You were a wise man, 
old John; by thunder, you were indeed. War is 
pretty to read about; but, the reality is a devilish 
business — simply devilish. You find me changed! 
But for my uniform, I bet you would not have known 
me. Why, my idea is to get back to the school, work 
like ten men, and get married. I don't know what 
Jean will say about it. I have written to her in case 
of accidents, for I have felt, to tell the truth, so 
wretchedly mean and poorly, that I got an idea 
into my head I might not get as far as Chippewa 
for a while. But stop. What is in your mind? 
Something ugly, I can see. Do you think I am 
in the wrong track to talk of staying at home? I 
am not. But tell me, what do you think? Tell me 
straight." 

John bent his head. 

" I was thinking " 

"Well?" 

" You would be the only one — to stay behind." 

" There are thousands leaving, now that their 
time is up." 

" Not around Chippewa." 

"Then you think me a coward?" 

" I did not say that." 



96 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" It is in your mind." 

" Not at all. But let us drop this." 

" I came to talk about just that thing. But I feel 
I am trespassing here — come outside." 

He sprang up in a temper, then staggered, and 
would have fallen had not John caught his arm. 

" Seth, lie down at once." 

He pulled him gently but firmly to the bed. Seth 
yielded with a laugh. 

" I guess I am limp — for the moment. Excuse 
me, I will be right in a minute." 

John covered his feet with a rug. 

" I wonder how long it takes a doctor to get round 
in these parts," he said, looking at his watch. Seth 
sat up. 

" Pshaw, man — did you send for one? " 

There was a knock at the door, and a man of 
seedy appearance came in and introduced himself as 
the " doctor of Marathon city." He apologized for 
not arriving before, omitting to state that the cause 
for his delay was the charms of a brandy-and-soda he 
had been discussing in the landlord's private room. 
He was sober enough, however, to see what was the 
matter witK Seth. 

" You will lay where you are, young man," he 
said solemnly — " Jest exactly where you are — until I 
tell you to git. How long? Mebbe a week — mebbe 
two. All depends." 

"Nonsense!" Seth answered. "I am going on 
to Chippewa to-morrow." 

" Then you will die, sir; I sw'ar you will. You 
are on the way to having a very bad fever." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 97 

""Blast the fever!" Seth said with shut teeth. 
" I must see my folk — and to-morrow." 

" Have 'em here," said the doctor, beginning to 
wake up to the importance of securing a patient. 

" They could not come." 

" They will if they value your life. Can't your 
brother, here," turning to John, " tell 'em about it, 
and tote 'em round?" 

It was now John's turn to be taken aback, the 
more so as Seth caught up the notion eagerly. His 
mind just now had only room for one thought. 

" Why, that is a good idea," he cried. " You will 
do it, I know, John, and take my letter with you. It 
is a mean thing for me to trouble you, but I reckon I 
do feel pretty sick after all. I would be very grate- 
ful." 

John sighed and yielded. The lad was very ill. 
This doctor was a beast, yet right, John thought, in 
his opinion. Care and nursing by experienced hands 
was absolutely necessary. 

" I will go," he said quietly, and helped Seth to 
undress. He then had an interview with the hotel- 
keeper and his wife, the result of which was that 
everything was given to Seth which he could need 
for the present. A telegram was despatched to Mrs. 
Burletson, a light sulky chartered, and a swift horse, 
and John set off for Chippewa as fast as the animal 
would go. In his pocket was the letter for Jean 
which Seth had written in the cars. 



CHAPTEE IX. 

John had not spoken to Jean since Seth left for 
the front. When they had passed one another in the 
street or met in the store, she would bow coldly, 
he simply raise his hat. People speculated much on 
what could have caused such a breach between these 
friends. Few believed that John's refusal to volun- 
teer could be the sole reason. But everybody was 
sure of one thing. There never would be a recon- 
ciliation, even if Seth were killed in the war. Jean's 
pride was proverbial, and every one knew the obsti- 
nacy of the Burletson family. There was a strong 
feeling of sympathy among the older folk with Luke 
Selby. Through no fault of his own, he had lost 
the most eligible son-in-law in town. It was hard 
luck. The sentimental side of the affair did not ap- 
peal to the citizens of Chippewa, while the young 
people who had looked upon John as certain to be 
Jean's choice, were glad now to a man — and a woman 
— that he had lost her. " The girls of this town," 
one of them proudly said, " are not going to marry 
' home guards,' no matter what they thought be- 
fore." 

John left the horses a few blocks away and en- 
tered the store by the back door. This was in order 
98 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 99 

to avoid Luke, who had not only apologized in set 
terms for the warmth of his language on that fatal 
Sunday, but was becoming cordial and friendly to a 
degree John found distinctly embarrassing. Mrs. 
Selby was the right person to see. John knew she 
did not care for Seth, but was sure the boy's illness 
would touch her heart at once, and she would tell 
Jean. He went, therefore, straight to the kitchen. 
As luck would have it, Jean, and not her mother, 
was in the kitchen at this particular moment. The 
entrance of such a totally unexpected person as John 
made Jean give a very perceptible start, and blush 
violently — things which gave her particular annoy- 
ance under the circumstances. 

" I beg your pardon," John said, hastily stepping 
back, and in so doing treading hard upon the tail of 
Jean's cat, which mewed dismally. " I have come 
with a message " — he was going to say " from Seth," 
but Jean did not allow him to finish. 

" You will find mother," she said, " in the 
store." 

But John stood his ground. He had taken up 
the aggrieved cat, which recognised him and purred 
with all its might. 

" I will see your mother presently. But as we 
have met, Jean, I must tell you first. Seth asked me 
to come." 

"Seth? Where is he?" 

"Robjoint's Hotel, Marathon. Held there by 
sickness on his way home." 

" He must be very sick." 

Her tone sounded unsympathetic, and John, 



100 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

though he suspected that this was assumed for his 
benefit, felt indignant on Seth's account. 

" He is — or I would not be here. The doctor said 
that if he stirred one step, he'd not answer for his 
life. Even then it was all we could do to keep Seth 
down. I had to quiet him by a promise to bring a 
letter and tell you exactly how tilings were. It was 
much against my will." 

Jean's eyes dropped before the look he gave 
her. 

" You have been put to much trouble," she mur- 
mured, taking the note. " Seth — Seth should 
thank you." 

There was a touch of bitterness in the last words, 
which John could not understand. 

"Won't you sit down, John?" she continued. 
" Mother will be so pleased to see you." 

John thanked her, watching her under his eye- 
brows with dreamy interest. It was unnatural even 
yet that this was not his Jean. The old wound be- 
gan to ache again, and John gave himself a shake, 
and tried to turn his thoughts to Seth. What would 
the effect of this letter be? Jean's enthusiasm for 
the war, which had been a passion before Bull Eun, 
was her religion now. It was less aggressive. She 
would not now sing " John Brown's Body " from a 
public platform, but it was infinitely deeper. This 
was a bad time for the news of Seth's change of ideas. 
She should have seen him first. With these thoughts 
passing through his mind, John's eyes became intent- 
ly fixed upon Jean's face, until she glanced up and 
saw him. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 101 

"Have you — do you know what is in this letter, 
may I ask? " 

" He told me something — not much." 

" About his giving up the army? " 

" Yes." 

Jean was very pale now, but in her eyes there was 
an expression not pleasant to see. 

" Did you talk with him any ? You advised him, 
perhaps? " 

Her voice was quiet, with a curious vibration 
in it. 

John was rather taken by surprise. He had not 
expected to be questioned about the letter, and now, 
anxious not to betray what Seth had said, which he 
felt must not come through a third person, hesitated 
before he answered. Jean noticed this, and the 
suspicion in her eyes deepened. 

" We had a few words," John answered; " but 
they were of no importance. He was too sick for me 
to allow him to talk." 

"No importance! Do you say that? Yet, after 
all, maybe I am wrong " — her tone was now bitterly 
sarcastic — " perhaps we speak at cross-purposes. 
Yoii may not think it of importance for an honest 
man, who was as brave as the bravest, to turn back, 
when for his country's sake he should go forward as 
he never went before. Oh, why have you, of all men, 
crossed his path just now? Sick? He must be nigh 
mad to listen to you, who never went at all." 

The inner door opened, and Mrs. Selby came in. 
Jean stopped, and walked away to finish her letter. 
Mrs. Selby's honest face beamed like a sun. 



102 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" You, John, callin' ? What a pleasure it is to 
see you! What has brought ye? — though never 
think of explainin' to me. I find it too good to see 
your face here once more to ask for explanations. 
How is your dear mother? " 

" Well— thank you, kindly." 

" Which you are not," Mrs. Selby said, frowning. 
" You are looking death-pale." 

John smiled at her tone of solicitude. 

" 'Tis nothing but the want of a meal, ma'am. 
I have ridden from Marathon, and had not time for 
a bite. You are wanted, Mrs. Selby, badly." 

His voice was very determined. Jean had roused 
him effectually. Not so much by the insinuation 
that he had tried to influence Seth, that he thought 
was natural after the way she had misunderstood him, 
but by her apparent inclination to question her lover's 
motives when she should have been engrossed by anx- 
iety for his sufferings. 

" I came with a message for Jean," John went 
on; "I must give it to you. Seth is at Marathon, 
too weak to move, and if he does not receive care and 
good nursing, and get a sight of the face he loves, I 
doubt if he ever will move again. I thought perhaps 
you would go with Jean, or send her with some nurse. 
He must see her, and that at once — I promised it." 

John said the last words with slow emphasis, look- 
ing hard at Jean, who was now nervously folding up 
her letter. 

Mrs. Selby held up her hands in dismay. 

" Seth lying sick at Marathon! Dear, dear, how 
misfortunate! Of course I will go. It is awkward 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 103 

about the chicks, but they must rub along some way. 
My sister is come with her husband to stay a week, 
and she will see to them and things here. How to 
get there quick enough — that is the only point. 'Tis 
so far to Marathon — twenty miles at least." 

" There is a train in an hour. I must go back by 
it, and could help you pack your traps along if it is 
too soon. Otherwise, I will fetch the team from the 
farm and drive you." 

Mrs. Selby gave a complacent little chuckle. 

" That is our John, every time. Sparing noth- 
ing when his mind is made up. We will catch that 
train. Your horses shall not come out for us. I 
will manage. Now, tell me what ails the boy while I 
get some lunch. Nay," as John protested, " but you 
must have some right now. Jean, mebbe you had 
better go and pack up your things." 

Mrs. Selby, for once in her life, had taken com- 
mand of the situation. Jean, who had been listening 
with downcast eyes, approached John and looked up 
swiftly and then away again. 

" I want to thank you," she said in a whisper. 
" But we need not trouble you to go again to Mara- 
thon." 

John's face did not change. 

" There is no trouble in it. I came because I 
reckoned his life depended upon it. I shall go back 
because I said I would." 

He turned to Mrs. Selby; but paused to say to 
Jean — 

" I would have you remember that he wrote that 
letter before I met him. I do not say this to change 



104 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

your opinion of me. ISTotliing now will do that. But 
I wish you should know the truth." 

All this puzzled Mrs. Selby desperately, but she 
could ask no questions until she made an excuse to 
leave John eating his lunch, and go to Jean's room. 

" Jennie, what has been going on 'tween John 
and you? I never saw him look so stormy. What 
have you said? " 

" I asked questions — I said what I had no right 
to. 'Twas unjust and mean. There, mother, leave 
me alone, please. I cannot talk of anything. I 
wish we could go this minute to Marathon. Why, 
Seth may be dying all those miles away." 

Mrs. Selby soothed her. 

" He'll be far from that, dearie. Trust me. 
Men, even the best, like John, is always fussed and 
flustered where there is illness. They lose their 
heads like frightened hens unless they be doctors. 
Now, Seth, I take it, has lost blood and nerve through 
hard times, and so he's wilted considerable, and we 
must go to him. Pack you trunk with clothes for a 
week, and tell your father about it — leave all else to 
me." 

Jean meekly obeyed. For the first time for many 
years she was content, even glad, to take the second 
place. 

Mrs. Selby kept her word, and with Jean, very 
pale and distressed, arrived at the depot five minutes 
before the train was due. John was waiting for 
them, and finding them a comfortable seat in one 
of the ears, departed immediately for another, and 
was not seen again until Marathon was reached. At 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 105 

the hotel Mrs. Selby found that rooms had been en- 
gaged for her by John, by telegraph. The only diffi- 
culty left for her was to overcome the doctor, who 
was awaiting their arrival in a very spirituous condi- 
tion. Mrs. Selby, however, after a brief examina- 
tion of Seth, made short work of the medical man. 
She listened in silence to his advice, asked for his bill, 
paid it, and showed him the door. 

All the time this was going on Jean sat by Seth's 
bedside holding his hand and trjdng to smile, and 
feeling so wretched and full of self-reproach that at 
the least provocation she would have burst into tears. 
Seth, to her eyes, seemed dying, and with a bitter 
pang Jean felt that it was she who had sent him to his 
death. His cheeks were sunken, his complexion dull 
and unhealthy, he was a mere skeleton of his former 
self. The only comfort Jean found was the bright- 
ness which came into his eyes at the sight of her face, 
and his look of peace as he lay holding her hand, 
basking in the content her presence gave him. Seth 
was perfectly happy. He suffered little pain now, 
and the rest of body and mind and heart that came 
with Jean, with the care and nourishment he had 
already received, had much revived him. He only 
felt tired and a little faint. ISTeither of them thought 
for the moment of John, who, finding that Mrs. 
Selby was more than equal to the doctor, and all 
other matters having been arranged, took his depar- 
ture without entering the sick-room again. 

Seth was able to resume his journey in a week. 
When he asked the hotel-keeper, with many inward 
qualms, for his bill, that gentleman said that his 



106 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 

charge was nothing. He was pleased, he said, to do 
his humble share in the defence of his country by 
"• heljDing one of her gallantest boys," at the ex- 
jDi-ession of which beautiful sentiment Seth thanked 
him warmly, and Jean gave him her sweetest smile. 
Mrs. Selby alone had suspicions concerning the good 
man's exceeding effusiveness. She remembered that 
when she went to look for him soon after their arrival, 
she had seen him in earnest conversation with John, 
who walked hurriedly away. With characteristic pru- 
dence, however, Mrs, Selby kept her ideas to herself. 

Seth received a small ovation the day he arrived 
at Chippewa. A large number of his old scholars 
Avere at the depot, raising shrill cheers as the train 
came in, and fighting hotly for the privilege of carry- 
ing his trunk to the store; while all the unoccupied 
members of the community looked on and vigorously 
applauded. The next day invitations poured in 
from citizens who had sons or brothers in the army, 
and wished to ask numberless questions. This popu- 
larity was pleasant at first, but it had a seamy side. 
He could not show his face in the street without some 
one he had never spoken to before stopping him and 
inquiring anxiously after his health, and wanting to 
know whether, from his experience, he judged the 
preparations the Government were making to in- 
crease the army would prove sufficient for their pur- 
pose. The worst of it was, everybody took it for 
granted that he was to return to the front as soon as 
his health was re-established; Jean alone said noth- 
ing. Seth rather congratulated himself upon her 
silence. Had she nourished any serious intention 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 107 

of opposing his idea, or even had a strong feehng 
against it, she was the last person to have kept it to 
herself. As time went on, however, and his strength 
hegan to return, Seth found the attitude of his own 
mind changing. The air was full of war, not mere 
talk and speculation, but stern reality. Men were 
enlisting now who had never thought of doing so 
four months ago. Bull Eun, while it winnowed out 
mere sentiment and silenced the boasters, brought to 
the surface all that was manly and true in the North. 
The Government, with Lincoln at its head, stood firm 
as a rock, and the most enthusiastic Southerner 
paused and sobered down as the news of what the 
Yanks were doing spread through the South. 

One evening, when alone with Jean, Seth said, 
with a sudden laugh — 

" Jeannie, where's the note I wrote you from the 
cars? The one John brought for me. Have you 
burnt it?" 

" Of course not." 

" Give it to me, dear, then. I will." 

She turned to look at him, a brightness in her 
eyes, a joy in her face he had not seen for a long time, 
and which gave him a sudden pang. 

" Seth, do you mean that you are — that you do 
not feel what you told me then ? " 

" You have just precisely struck it, sweet; onlyyou- 
might put it more strongly. When I put those words 
to paper, I was the most sick and sorry cuss that ever 
lived — ugh — I was limp as a drowning fly. Meaner 
than dirt. I tell you I take back every word of that 
letter, and all I said to John next day. To prove it. 



108 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

I may inform you, mistress mine, that if my arrange- 
ments can be fixed up as I have figured them out this 
afternoon, I'll be with the boys in the Shenandoah 
valley within two weeks. What do you say to that? " 

He held her at arm's length, the better to catch 
the full effect his words might make. 

" Oh, Seth, I am so thankful — so glad. I do not 
know how to express what I feel. I was determined 
I would never ask your plans; nor, after what you 
have suffered, would I ever urge you to go again — 
but if you think this! Well, I think it is perfect. 
It will be very hard to part with you so soon, but it 
is just what a man like you would want to do. You 
could not fail where your country needed you." 

" My country ? " — he gave a little laugh, with a 
touch of bitterness. " I am not sure that my coun- 
try has very much to do with it. I rather think it 
has been a person who shall be nameless. I grant she 
has said nothing; but her face has not been silent. 
Speaking soberly, love, it has come to me lately in 
a way it never came before — either I would go to the 
war or set you free to find a man who would." 

" Nonsense, Seth," she cried vehemently. 
" Please do not say those things; you do yourself in- 
justice. I have been nothing. If I had not been in 
the world you Avould have done the right; I know you 
would." 

" I do not think so," he said slowly; " no, I do 
not. I am not weaker than the average — not so 
weak, I hope, as some. But to sacrifice all that is 
most precious — you, and our future home, for duty, I 
could not do it. Some men could — a few — but I do 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 109 

not belong to that company, and the sooner you real- 
ize that the better. I will go to the war; but if you 
told me to stop at home and marry you, I would let 
my country go. I am speaking the plain truth; how 
do you like it ? " 

He smiled, then sighed, and looked absently out 
of the window. His mind was full of John this even- 
ing. Their meeting at Marathon had proved to him 
beyond a doubt of the noble stuff of which that man 
was made, and a vague desire troubled him to make 
Jean see what he saw now. Yet the wish was not 
easy of fulfilment, and Seth let it drop again, and 
gave himself up to the pleasure her answer afforded 
him. 

" I will not have you say such absurdly foolish 
things. You, who have never spared yourself, who 
have bled in the cause, and dare, with open eyes, to 
do so again — to say you cannot do your duty! You 
make me wild, Seth. Find me a man who has done 
more, or so much. That you once felt differently is 
nothing; I could never bring that up as worth a 
thought. You were sick: now you are yourself 
again. If you thought what was foolish, I did worse, 
for I was unjust." 

"You? Why?" 

" I did wrong to a good man." 

Jean, also, was thinking of John to-night. 



CHAPTER X. 

In the United States work is spelt with a capital 
W. The business competition in the towns, and the 
strain in the country of producing the largest possible 
crops at the smallest possible cost, keeps the brains and 
bodies of men at full stretch all the year round. Holi- 
days are or were almost unknown. Under such cir- 
cumstances it is not surprising to find that in charita- 
ble enterprises women usually take the first place. 
The names of men appear in prospectuses, and men 
grace the chair at public meetings, for men have 
money. But there have -been few philanthropic 
schemes, large or small, in the States for the past forty 
years in which women have not borne the chief re- 
sponsibility and held the power. In Chippewa this 
was as much the case as elsewhere. Whether it was a 
soup kitchen in a hard winter, or the management and 
distribution of supplies for the wounded at the time 
of the war, such matters were under one manager, and 
only one, Mrs. Haniman, the minister's wife. Mrs. 
Haniman did not work alone. She always had a 
committee, of which Luke Selby M^as usually chair- 
man; and out of that committee Mrs. Haniman con- 
trived to get both work and money; but she was its 
guiding spirit, and no person, or persons combined, 
110 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. m 

ever dreamed of questioning any action that she might 
think tit to take. It goes without saying that Mrs. 
Haniman was a woman of character, and a born or- 
ganizer. But she was a great deal more than this. 
PubHc Hfe and public work, of one sort or another, 
was the breath of her existence; and it was her firm 
conviction that the highest destiny for any woman 
was a commanding influence in public affairs. Mrs. 
Haniman was childless, and, though by no means a 
child-hater, it was her custom to point out to all who 
came under her influence that while there were un- 
doubtedly certain women who were more fitted for 
the care and up-bringing of families than for any- 
thing else, every woman who had brains, energy, and 
ambition should consider her domestic affairs second- 
ary to the welfare of the community at large. This 
doctrine she preached in season and out of season, 
more especially to young girls, with results that were, 
at times, astonishing, and not invariably what she ap- 
proved herself. Her aptest pupil was Jean. Since 
Jean's childhood, despite mild protests from Mrs. 
Selby and very vigorous ones from Mrs. Burletson, 
Mrs. Haniman had steadily worked upon the ambi- 
tious side of the girl's nature, and as Jean grew to 
womanhood a desire for public work and interest in 
the welfare of those around her — in the mass — be- 
came her ruling passion. In all things she had been 
Mrs. Haniman's loyal disciple, until at length her 
own native energy and will enabled her to strike out 
a path of her own. Since the fall of Fort Sumter, 
for instance, Jean had out-done even Mrs. Haniman 
in her enthusiasm for the war, and exercised a far 



112 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

greater influence in inducing men to volunteer — 
thanks, perhaps, to her youth and good looks — than 
her teacher. No one was more pleased at this than 
Mrs. Haniman. There \vas not a particle of petty 
pride in her nature. Her only regret was that there 
was not a score of Jeans. Mrs. Haniman was one of 
the warmest approvers of Jean's engagement to Seth. 
She had known John from childhood, and was too 
shrewd not to read the character of the man, in spite 
of all his gentleness. Jean, from Mrs. Haniman's 
point of view, could never grow to the full stature 
Providence intended for women if she married a man 
stronger than herself. As Seth's wife, she would 
take the lead and be in a woman's rightful place — • 
in command. All that Jean needed now, in Mrs. 
Haniman's opinion, was full scope for her energies; 
and no sooner were the ranks of the volunteer regi- 
ments filled up, and the feelings and patriotism of 
every man in the neighbourhood of Chippewa who 
could reasonably be expected to enlist, sufficiently 
worked upon, than the creation of a new work, in 
which Jean should take a leading part, began to 
agitate Mrs. Haniman's mind, and the day after Seth 
departed again for the war she called at the store to 
propound it. 

It was ten o'clock in the morning, and, to Mrs. 
Haniman's surprise, Jean was in the kitchen cleaning 
the stove. It turned out that Mrs. Selby, after rising 
as usual at five, had been obliged to return to her bed 
with a severe headache, and that Jean had stepped 
into the breach. Upon the confusion caused by this 
untoward incident Mrs. Haniman came — a tall, com- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 113 

manding woman, with a fresh-coloured face, aquiline 
features, prominent blue eyes, and a deep voice. It 
was a fine voice, and musical, but it was marred by 
a curious monotony of tone. It was said by many 
that while Mrs. Haniman's opinions were always dis- 
tinctly and impressively delivered, she was apt not to 
listen to those of other people. 

" My dear, this is very iinfortunate for you," she 
said, after she had been told about Mrs. Selby's ill- 
ness. " I have come to see you about a matter of 
great importance, and to which you must give me 
your undivided attention." 

Jean looked despairingly at her hands. 

" I should like to hear about it of all things, but 
you can see how I am placed. I must fly round all I 
know, or there will be a scrap dinner for father, and 
bread and molasses for the children. It Just happens, 
of course, because mother is sick there is nothing 
cooked in the house. I could manage an hour this 
afternoon." 

Mrs. Haniman smiled. Her face did not look so 
pleasant when she smiled, perhaps because smiling 
was not natural to her. 

"My dear," she said, laying her umbrella upon 
the kitchen table, " I would not have come at this 
hour if any other would have suited me. I must 
write twenty letters at least before five o'clock. 
No; we will talk now. I will tell your father my- 
self, on my way out, that he must be satisfied with 
cold fare to-day; and, as for the children, how 
many a poor man's child has to be content all the 
year round with hunks of bread and molasses? 



114 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

My business is too important for delay. Listen 
here." 

Mrs. Haniman drew from a neat leather bag a 
letter, written by a lady in Chicago, the wife of a 
newspaper editor, and a woman of position and power, 
one of the first organizers of the great " Sanitary 
Commission." Some one had told her of Mrs. Hani- 
man, and she wrote to suggest that a sub-depot should 
be established at Chippewa for the collection and dis- 
tribution of comforts and necessaries for the wounded 
soldiers; and she wanted to know whether Mrs. Hani- 
man would organize, and make herself responsible 
for, the management of this depot. The writer con- 
cluded by cordially inviting Mrs. Haniman to visit 
Chicago, to talk over and arrange all the details of 
the scheme. 

" I am bound to go," Mrs. Haniman said; " but 
I can only see this thing through if you will help me. 
No one woman will ever be able to take charge of all 
that will come if the idea gets hold upon our folk — 
which I am sure it will. No one but you has the 
brains and the backbone to run it. We will have no 
men fooling around. They may give — they shall 
give — money; but the work will be too responsible for 
them. Will you take it?" 

Jean's answer lay in the brightness of her face. 

" Yes, indeed. Yes, a hundred times. But am I 
smart enough and strong enough? You must not 
Judge me by yourself. Tell me what it amounts to." 

" Why, just this," Mrs. Haniman answered, with 
the precision of a woman of business, none of her 
enthusiasm visible either in face or manner, " we have 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 115 

sent the boys to the war, you know, we women. 
Warfare means the giving of wounds and death. It 
is our duty, I take it, our particular duty, to see that 
everything is done that can be done for our wounded 
men. Of course there are surgeons and hospitals; 
but, as might have been expected, the doctors are 
careless and worse, and the hospitals not fit for 
sick cattle. How is this to be changed? Who is to 
change it? You have the answer in this letter. The 
women, the women of the Union. Not one or two, 
but all, working together in a compact organization. 
We will have first to make appeals; but that will be 
easy. Eead the account of what goes on in hospital 
and in camp. The railways carry troops to the front 
and leave them there, after a journey of twenty-four 
hours, without a bite of food or a drop of water. 
When the food comes it is often bad, and only fit for a 
hog. As for the sick, the boys are writing to say that 
the hospitals are so miserable that they won't go into 
them. You remember what Seth told us about the 
difficulty he found in getting water when he was sick, 
and how that was dirty — yet that was a hospital in 
Washington. The sheds at the front they call by 
the name of hospitals are in the hands of doctors, 
many of whom drink, I am told; while, as for nurses, 
they will have none yet." 

" A nurse! " Jean cried. " That is what I would- 
like to be best of all. A nurse at the front — within 
sound of the guns." 

Mrs. Haniman smiled her peculiar smile. 

" Is that your ambition? You will get it, I hope; 
but wait a bit. There is work at home to your hand. 



116 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

I am told the men — these doctors — say nothing is re- 
quired; that hospitals for forty where there are a 
thousand sick; stores of food rotting away where 
there is no one to eat it; starvation, or near it, where 
the army lays, is right and reasonable. Why do they 
t*ay it? Because only politics, fighting, and dollar- 
hunting interests men. It is time we women took 
hold. That is what this lady means by a Sanitary 
Commission. Every big town in our State will have 
its sub-depot for stores, and form a local aid society 
of women, which will be directly in communication 
with the Commission. We will find out what things 
are most needed, appeal for them, pack them, and 
start 'em for the front. There \vill be medicines, and 
warm clothing, and any kind of useful, comforting 
things folk have to give. There is the work. Will 
you take it vip with me?" 

" Most willingly." 

" I will write to-day, then, and go to Chicago 
next week, leaving the work I have in hand just now 
with you. When I get back we will start a store- 
room and committee. Now I must go." 

Mrs. Haniman rose with a brisk nod, and walked 
away thoroughly satisfied with herself and her morn- 
ing's work. Luke was of a different opinion when he 
found a dry and scanty dinner awaiting him; the 
children complained sadly at bread and molasses — all 
Jean could find for them; and Mrs. Selby wept bitter- 
ly in her room upstairs. She had felt unwell for some 
weeks, and was haunted by a gnawing anxiety about 
herself. Her doctor refused to say what was the mat- 
ter. " It may be only temporary," he said, " we must 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. II7 

wait and see. Meantime keep you quiet, and take 
things easily." But his looks had belied his soothing 
words, and the events of this day were a climax to 
Mrs. Selby's woes. What would happen to her little 
ones if she were to become unable to care for their 
comfort and well-being? It was clear to her that 
Jean was not to be depended upon. 

This opinion might have been modified if ]\Irs. 
Selby had seen the tremendous efforts Jean made to 
provide an extra good supper for her family this even- 
ing, and put the house in order. But she did not see 
it, and the next day rose from her bed, despite the 
doctor, and quietly turned Jean out. Jean hardly 
noticed at the time how ill her mother looked. Her 
thoughts by day and her dreams by night were of the 
Sanitary Commission and the best possible way of 
helping to bring comfort and relief to thousands of 
heroic suffering men. She wrote daily to Mrs. Hani- 
man, and received long letters in return, full of ac- 
counts of the great doings in Chicago. Upon Mrs. 
Haniman's return the work began, and early and 
late Jean sat upon a straight-backed office chair, and 
wrote letters by the hour, or was on her feet the 
whole day in the store-room, impacking and repack- 
ing boxes of clothing, inspecting canned fruit and 
canned meats, and sorting out baskets of toys and 
boxes of candy, these last sent mostly by children to 
amuse the hospital patients' leisure hours. It was 
hard work, and became harder as the volume of the 
business grew with rapid strides, and to send " some- 
thin' away to the boys " became a ruling passion in 
every Union household, regardless of whether that 



118 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" somethin' " was likely to be of any use. The self- 
denial and devotion of the poorer folk was very touch- 
ing. Here the wife of a labourer brought her hus- 
band's spare shirts, with the remark that " he'd said 
they could go, and he'd chance gettin' more come 
winter-time; " there an old couple handed in a pair of 
fat chickens " to be biled for broth; they are all we 
can spare — we ain't got no money to give." One 
small boy, the raggedest of street urchins, con- 
tributed five cents a week regularly, and when told 
that he should buy himself a pair of shoes first, for 
he was bare-foot, replied with scorn, " Shucks! what 
I give yer I spend on terbacker; but I reckon them 
boys want it more than me. I'll do without it till 
the Rebs climb down! " Queer articles of clothing 
would arrive sometimes, from boot-laces and hair- 
combs to knee-breeches and dress-shirts. Delicacies 
of a perishable nature, such as honey and fresh fruits, 
came in from long distances, and caused much tribu- 
lation to the committee. On the other hand, grate- 
ful letters from " the boys " were delightful to read; 
the demand from the army increased faster than the 
supply; while the authorities became less and less 
antagonistic to the scheme as they found that its in- 
defatigable promoters were doing their best to be 
business-like and practical, and induce the public to 
send what was needed at the front, instead of what 
it did not want at home. 

But these things were more easily promised than 
performed. Jean often said to Mrs. Haniman that 
until she took up this work she had not a notion that 
there were so many foolish people in the world as she 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. HQ 

now found in northern Wisconsin. When the com- 
mittee gained experience, it began to find that firm 
refusal and prompt return of all unnecessary and use- 
less gifts was essential to the credit of the Commis- 
sion; and the storm of indignation from the donors 
of these gifts which fell upon Jean, as the committee's 
secretary, was very wearing. Then Jean worked far 
too hard. All through the rest of the summer she 
laboured without respite or holiday. Even when 
winter came, and she caught a chill, she refused to 
take any care of herself, and developed a cough, 
which lasted until the spring, and gave her mother 
much anxiety. Yet nothing was to be done, for no 
persuasions or arguments could convince Jean that 
her health was of any importance compared with 
her work. Mrs. Haniman never rested; why should 
she? The boys were fighting and suffering in Vir- 
ginia; it would be mean and cowardly to relax efforts 
on their behalf at home. Mrs. Selby, in her distress 
and perplexity, was so seriously concerned about the 
matter that she consulted her husband. But she re- 
ceived no sympathy there. 

" My good Martha, you are over-anxious. I have 
my eyes open, and can see Jean is not so stout as she 
was, but my belief is that the work ain't at the bot- 
tom of it. She is not happy. She is restless all the 
time; the work is good so far, for it employs her 
mind. My notion is quite a different one from yours. 
It is in my head, between ourselves, that if the Lord 
in His mercy should see fit to send that boy Seth to 
a better world, Jean, when the shock has passed, 
would be a different girl. I will have nothing, any- 



120 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

way, said against this work. It is the best the women 
in this country ever tried to do. By-the-by, have 
•you heard that John Burletson is selling horses to 
the Government? That man, my dear, is coining 
money. I always knew he would. As to Jean, we 
have no reason to be dissatisfied with our little girl." 

Luke himself had not indeed. He had never 
done so brisk a trade as since the day " the Sanitary " 
was established. Mrs. Selby after this went on her 
way in silence anxiously watching Jean, and bearing 
with dumb patience her own slowly but surely in- 
creasing ill-health. She made no complaint, and 
only her doctor knew how much she suffered; though, 
thanks to a marvellous constitution, she was able, 
and would be for a long time, to do her part for her 
children and her house. 

A day came at length when even Jean felt that 
her present work was undermining health and nerve 
without adequate results, and decided to give it up. 
The decision, which cost her many sleepless nights, 
she determined to communicate first of all to Mrs. 
Haniman. Mrs. Haniman, somewhat to Jean's sur- 
prise, received the announcement as if she had ex- 
pected it, though with a deep sigh. 

" You have been our right hand, my dear, and we 
can ill spare you; but if it has to be it must. What 
shall you do with your free hours? " 

" I am going to train for a nurse, and go to the 
front as soon as I may." 

" What! Go to the war? " And Mrs. Haniman 
looked at her in blank astonishment. 

" Yes; I was reading accounts of the need they 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 121 

had for nurses, and how many girls were training, 
and I felt that I must go too. It has been an idea 
of mine for a very long time. I hoped you would 
have approved." 

" I do — I do, decidedly," Mrs. Haniman replied 
with emphasis, yet with a reservation in her tone 
Jean could not understand. " But what has your 
father to say about it, and your mother? Your 
mother most of all?" 

" I have not told them yet, but I do not expect 
any difficulty there. They never interfere with any 
plans of mine." 

Mrs. lianiraan coughed and assented, then absent- 
ly played with her pen and remained silent as if in 
deep thought. This proposition of Jean's placed her 
in a very awkward position. The girl's plan would 
answer her most cherished purpose, for the work of the 
committee would be strengthened tenfold by the pres- 
ence of an agent on the spot. On the other hand, not 
twenty-four hours ago she had made a promise which 
it was incumbent upon her to keep, and which charged 
her to say certain things that might entirely change 
Jean's plans. After a pause she remarked — 

" I don't know any one who would make a better 
nurse. I think it is the career that fits you best. 
But the opinion has been expressed to me, and I have 
promised that you should know it, that your mother 
is too sick for you to leave your home or even to stay 
by us for the Sanitary." 

"Mother — sick? She has never told me! What 
is the matter? " 

"I cannot say," Mrs. Haniman said with a curi- 



122 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ous reticence. " I should not have remarked it my- 
self. I tell you what I am told." 

"Who told you?" 

" A friend who knows, or thinks she knows, a 
great deal about such things. I hardly like mention- 
ing her name after what has passed." 

" I must know it, please." 

" John Burletson's mother." 

Jean flushed fierily. 

" Did you ask for her authority? Why does she 
interfere? I don't mean to be disrespectful; but 
why did she not come herself and — and what busi- 
ness is it of hers anyway? " 

Mrs. Haniman pursed her lips and shook her 
head. 

" Mrs. Burletson said to mc " she went on. 

" Thank you, I would rather not hear what she 
said," Jean interposed warmly. " I do not put any 
weight at all upon evidence that comes so very second 
hand. If you know of your own knowledge some- 
thing about mother that I do not, I will be glad if 
you will tell me; but not what Mrs. Burletson says." 

" I have told you," Mrs. Haniman rejoined in 
her monotonous tone, " that I know nothing. It is 
what I have been informed." 

" Then that settles it. If anything had been 
really wrong, mother would have let me know. We 
need not go into it further." 

Mrs. Haniman played with her pen again, then 
she said — 

" What, my dear, is it your purpose to do? " 

" The course you approved, which I had deter- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 123 

mined upon. I can assure you I have quite made up 
my mind." 

Soon after this Jean went home. But Mrs. Hani- 
man did no more work that evening. 

" I did my duty," she said to herself many times. 
" I could not tell her all because she would not listen, 
and she will do more good by being away — good to 
herself and to others. Why should her life be ab- 
sorbed with the care of children and a sick mother? 
The future of our work here is assured. I have done 
right — I have done right." 



CHAPTER XI. 

The next clay J\Irs. Haniman put off two engage- 
ments, and left unanswered a formidable mass of cor- 
respondence to make time for a visit to Mrs. Bur- 
letson. 

" I wanted you to know, Sarah," she said, " and 
from my own lips, that I spoke to Jean last night 
about her mother." 

Mrs. Burletson nodded approvingly. 

" That was right. What did she say? " 

Mrs. Haniman folded her hands in her lap, and 
slightly but distinctl}' raised her voice. 

" You Avill remember that Jean's mind and heart 
have been bent since she was a child upon a life of 
devotion to her fellow-creatures. When she came 
last night to resign her position in the Sanitary " 

" She did so! " Mrs. Burletson exclaimed. 
" Good girl; noble girl. I have misjudged her." 

Mrs. Haniman coughed. 

" Wait one moment. Jean has resigned, and with 
my full approval, so that she may receive the neces- 
sary training as a nurse before she goes to serve in 
hospital at the seat of war." 

All this Mrs. Haniman said in her deepest and 
most impressive manner, as if anxious that her listen- 
124 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 125 

er should not fail to understand the full significance 
of every word. Mrs. Burletson's teeth closed with a 
snap. 

" What did you say to her then? " 

" I kept my promise. I told her what you had 
said about her mother. She asked who had spoken 
so. I mentioned your name. What she said then I 
will not repeat. Her last words were, ' I will go to 
the war; I have quite made up my mind.' " 

" Did you tell her what Dr. Selliger said? " 

" I mentioned what you said. I have not seen 
him." 

" You know what he told me." 

" Maybe I do, Sarah; but you must remember 
that since John saw fit to draw back from volunteer- 
ing, the mention of his name or yours has a peculiarly 
contrary effect upon Jean. The more I brought you 
in, the more set she became to follow out her own 
idea." 

" My son, Martha Haniman, never drew back, and 
you know it perfectly well. They tried to push him 
when he refused to go." 

Mrs. Haniman gave a deprecating wave of the 
hand. 

" I have not come to argue about John." 

" No," Mrs. Burletson said; " there you are wise. 
Now tell me again. Jean is going to leave home. 
What do her folks say?" 

" When Jean has told me her mind," Mrs. Hani- 
man said complacently, " I have never known her 
parents change it." 

" No," Mrs. Burletson said, with an ominous 



126 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

quietness of tone; " the child has had a bad educa- 
tion. Martha Selby never disciplined her any, or 
tried to teach — except ty example — self-denial and 
self-control. Yet I am disappointed. I 'knew Jean 
was blind and headstrong; but that she could ever 
turn out heartless and wicked, I would never have be- 
lieved — if you had not told me." 

Mrs. Haniman tapped her foot imjiatiently upon 
the floor. 

" Such talk is pure foolishness. Jean has done 
right. I have written this day to a friend of mine in 
Washington who will advise in her training. You 
forget yourself, Sarah." 

" I say wicked," Mrs. Burletson repeated, her 
voice still unnaturally quiet; " I say it again. Her 
mother is dying, though very slowly. She may live 
yet for years, but inch by inch her life is leaving her. 
Yet in the face of that — of death itself — that girl 
can go away. You told Jean, of course, that her 
mother urns dying? Answer me." 

Mrs. Haniman rose with dignity to lake her 
leave. 

" I have said I did my duty. That is enough." 

" Answer my question. Did you tell her the 
whole truth, or did you conceal any of it? No empty 
phrases; you are too fond of them. Tell me what 
you said." 

"I have told you all." 

"Then you concealed from Jean her mother's 
danger? I have done the child a wrong; thank God, 
I have. But what shall I say to you, her friend whom 
she has followed for good and for evil — aye, for evil 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 127 

— all her life? No, you are not going yet; sit down 
again. I have more upon my tongue. Jean in her- 
self is nothing to me now. The war craze, the glib 
talk of false advisers, turned her head, which never 
was well-balanced, until she chose to scorn my John, 
a man worth ten — though I, his mother, say it — of 
the one she promises to marry. From the time I 
knew this I have not cared to see her face. But her 
mother is my friend. You despise that woman. I 
happen to know she is one of the best living; and if 
it is in me she shall not be sacrificed to the mad whim- 
sies of a war-sick girl. I may fail; likely I will. I 
am a woman of years and infirm, and my temper is 
more infirm than my limbs; and young folk want 
guiding with a gentle hand. But whatever comes, I 
have learnt something I never thought to know. I 
have seen a woman professing the Christian religion, 
who goes forth in public print as a philanthropist — 
you, Martha Haniman — act in a way the poorest of 
your husband's flock would be ashamed to act. What 
do you say? It is for the best? Jean's place is at 
the war? What has that to do with it? Did you 
tell the truth ? You know 3'ou did not. Go home to 
your chamber. Humble your proud heart before the 
God that made you; then say whether your con- 
science approves a deliberate concealment from this 
girl that her mother is stricken with a mortal disease. 
Go, and let it be a long time before you come within 
my doors again." 

The old lady rose to her feet, her bent figure 
quivering, and her eyes flashing fire. Mrs. Haniman 
tried to speak, but at an imperious gesture from Mrs. 



128 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

Burletson shrank back, and went away without a 
word. 

When John came home from work that evening 
he found his mother lying down, worn out. She 
told him what had passed, for they had no secrets 
from one another. Her eyes wore softer now. 

" I am not quite sure," she said, in a doubtful 
tone, " whether I did not drive my words too hard. I 
expected to see her turn upon me, but she left." 

John laughed. 

" I should say, if you were to ask for my opinion, 
that this was all Mrs. Haniman had a chance to do. 
I would wager she was pleased to be in the fresh air, 
and I doubt whether her ears are not tingling now. 
Don't fret one little bit," he added stoutly; " you 
have not said too much. I would give anything to 
have it in me to command such words as yours when 
I feel hot. But I cannot do it. Those which come 
to me are poor, and generally stick in my throat." 

" Martha Haniman is a good woman at heart," 
Mrs. Burletson said; "but oh, the harm, John, she 
has done your girl " 

"My girl! mother?" 

" Boy, how thoughtless of me! No," she said in a 
different tone; " not yours, because not worthy." 

" There you are quite wrong." 

He spoke with some emphasis; but Mrs. Burlet- 
son was not in a mood to be contradicted. 

" I say I am right, and I know it. Jean is not 
worthy to be your wife." 

" It is not just to speak so of her." 

" I speak of what I know." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 129 

" You are hard, mother, Jean has done more 
than any one person for the boys at the war. When 
I saw her yesterday her face was as white as paper. 
Even now she gives this up to go where all the ghast- 
ly horrors are, and work harder still among wounds, 
and disease, and death. Mother," and his voice trem- 
bled with pent-up feeling, " it is wonderful to me to 
see what strength of mind there is in little Jean. 
She has taught me what a woman can do, as you have 
taught me what a woman ought to be. If she goes 
to the war " 

" She has not gone yet," Mrs. Burletson said, be- 
tween her teeth. 

" How can it be stopped now? " 

" To-morrow morning, son John, if you are not 
too busy, I will ask you to drive me to town." 

" Town, mother! You have not been so far this 
six months." 

" Town, John. First we will go to Jabez Selli- 
ger. I told you what he said about Mrs. Selby. To- 
morrow he shall write that down. Then, sonny, we 
drive to the store." 

"You intend speaking to Jean?" 

" She will have all my mind, John, and all the 
doctor's knowledge. If that is not enough to stop 
her, God have mercy upon her soul, and on Martha 
Haniman's — though that I very much doubt." 

John fidgeted in his chair. 

" Jean — Jean has a high spirit, mother." 

Mrs. Burletson laughed. 

" My dearest boy, I know that well. I will keep 
my temper, and hold my tongue, you may be sure. 



130 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

It is too serious. Besides, Jean, 3'et awhile at least, 
is not so far gone as Martha Haniman." 

When Mrs. Burletson saw Jean next day she no- 
ticed many unexpected changes in the young face, 
and her voice was softer and more gentle than she had 
intended it to be. 

" Excuse me, my dear, for intruding this way on 
your work. But I am an ailing old woman, and had 
to come the first day I could, and I have reasons for 
seeing you that are very urgent." 

Jean murmured some inaudible reply. She was 
flushed and nervous, though she tried to appear quite 
calm. 

Mrs. Burletson looked at the girl a moment, then 
took her hand and drew her to a chair beside her. 

" You guess what I am come about. Is not 
that so?" 

" You mean my mother." 

" Yes." 

" I hear you think," Jean went on, as Mrs. Bur- 
letson maintained a diplomatic silence, " that she is 
sick, too sick to be left alone to care for them all 
here." 

Mrs. Burletson pressed the hand she held. 

" My dear, what I may think is of little conse- 
quence. Tell me what you feel." 

" I spoke to mother this morning. She said noth- 
ing worth mentioning was the matter, and urged me 
to go away. She promised if she became very sick 
to let me know. I told her I could not leave home 
else." 

"Nothing the matter, did she say?" Mrs. Bur- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 131 

letson answered. " You shall see what Dr. Selli- 
ger thinks. I made him write it down for you — for 
your eyes alone." 

She handed the girl an open letter, and Jean read 
it with white shocked face. 

" Cancer! I had no idea of that. It is a terrible 
disease." 

" The worst," Mrs. Burletson said slowly, " the 
most painful there is." 

" Is there no cure at all? " 

" You see what he says — none." 

Jean looked again at the letter, and remained si- 
lent for some minutes, Mrs. Burletson narrowly 
watching her, and trying to read her thoughts. 

" I am much obliged to you. You were very good 
to come to me." 

The tone in which these words were spoken was 
quite simple and sincere, but they bore an unmis- 
takable meaning, and Mrs. Burletson rose to take 
her leave. 

" It is a sore trial, Jean." 

" If only I had been better to her in the past," the 
girl said bitterly; " she has worked and suffered 
alone, while I, who might have shared her burdens, 
have never done my duty once — not once. I can see 
it now, when it is too late. I should have seen it 
long ago." 

Jean's voice was dry and hard, and though Mrs. 
Burletson's heart leapt up in hope at the girl's self- 
accusing words, there was something repellent in her 
manner that puzzled the old lady. 

" Nothing is ever too late," she said softly. " It 



132 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

will be months — maybe a year or more — before the 
end comes, Jean. That is a long time." 

" You call it long? After all these years I have 
lived for myself, it seems Just nothing. And now, 
when I have the will, I find I have not the power. 
I cannot nurse, I cannot cook, I cannot sew to amount 
to anything. She has done it, killing herself for all 
of us. She will do it now to the end, in spite of any 
one. But," recollecting herself, " I am keeping you 
standing. Good-bye." 

Mrs. Burletson did not move. 

" Tell me first, child, what you are going to do." 

There was a ring of the old imperiousness in these 
words; Jean did not notice it, however. Her face 
was full of pain and distress. 

"I? Why hunt everywhere I know for a woman 
who can do for mother what I cannot do— win her 
confidence; some one she will trust. It must be a 
very good woman, so good that she may be hard to 
find, but I must find her some way." 

She made a movement toward the door, but Mrs. 
Burletson did not see it. 

" Jean, I cannot heft the meaning of your words. 
Do you mean that your mother will not have you — 
prefers a stranger? " 

" Just that. Oh, she is right. Lying awake 
last night, I saw it all. I deserve nothing less, ter- 
ribly bitter as it is." 

" Tell me what she said — every word." 

" It was not much. I had thought, before I knew 
how bad she was — how I could be so blind I cannot 
think — of going away to be a nurse at the war. I told 



\ 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 133 

her and father at supper yesterday. Father got angry 
— real mad — and said things that made me obstinate. 
Father and I have not understood one another lately." 

She sighed and went on. 

" Then mother spoke as I had never heard her 
speak before to father. She said I was fitted for that, 
and go I should, if I rested and got strong first; and 
that he need not mention the expense of training, as 
she w^ould pay it. This startled him, and he said no 
more. But before I went to bed, I told mother that 
she looked sick, and that I would not leave her. At 
this she seemed to get more mad at me than she was 
with father. First she said what I told you, that she 
did not feel really very ill; then she said if it were so, 
and she had to be laid right up, she would rather have 
any one to mind the children and nurse her than me. 
I told her I would learn it all, but she would not lis- 
ten, and, finally, said she was convinced it was not in 
me. She could never trust me, she declared, no matter 
what my intentions might be. ' Go to the war,' she 
said, ' an' nurse soldiers. If you stayed at home and 
had me and the house on your mind, you'd be like 
some caged bird.' I tried to show her it should not 
be so, but she would not see it. There — you have it 
all." 

]\Irs. Burletson took both Jean's hands in hers 
and beamed at her. 

" My dear, I thank you for this confidence. It is 
very precious to me. Tell me, now, what you feel 
yourself. You have given me your mother's words — 
God help her — now give me your own." 

Jean tried to release her hands. 



134 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" I cannot," she said brusquely. " Why should 
you trouble about me at all, I cannot think. It is 
mother who interests you. Oh, I know well what you 
think of me." 

" Do you? I guess you do not. But that is not 
the question. I ask you, for your mother's sake, to 
tell me now what you wish to happen to yourself? 
Do you feel content to go to the war after getting her 
a help? That is the question I will have answered 
before I go." 

Jean shook her head, and again tried to draw her 
hands away; but Mrs. Burletson held them fast. 

" Jean, child, whom I loved once — whom I love 
now — tell me your thoughts for your own sake." 

" I feel " — Jean's voice was hardly more than a 
whisper, and she spoke with white lips — " I feel if 
mother would have me now she would never regret it. 
I should have loved nursing the boys, but that is 
nothing to me compared to being with mother. I 
want to be the daughter she deserves to have. But it 
is too late. I have been tried; she has found me 
wanting, and it breaks my heart — it breaks my heart." 

Tears came now and choked her. Then she con- 
trolled herself and wiped her eyes. 

" I am sorry to give way so; why did you let me? 
You must have wanted to go long since." 

" Child," the old lady said, kissing the tear- 
stained face, " I am going right now to see your 
mother. Wait here. Do not stir one step until she 
comes to vou." 



CHAPTER XII. 

" You have come to tell me about your plans? I 
expected you before." Mrs. Haniman spoke with a 
formality of manner she had never shown toward 
Jean. 

" I would have called in the afternoon, but this 
my morning was interrupted, and I had to make up 
time. You know, I am sure you know, I would not 
keep away from you." 

" This morning," said Mrs. Haniman, considering 
— " this morning I saw Mrs. Burletson in town. Was 
that to see you? " 

"Yes. Was it not good of her?" and Jean's 
face brightened in a way Mrs. Haniman could not fail 
to see. 

"W^iat had she to tell you?" The words came 
quickly, as though Mrs. Haniman were a little out of 
breath. 

" A great deal," Jean said; " more — far more 
than I had any idea of. Afterward mother and I 
talked everything through. Mrs. Haniman, I am not 
going to the war." 

"Have you — quite made up your mind?" 

Jean looked a little foolish. 

" You think me weak and changeable. I do not 

135 



136 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

wonder. But I am sure I have decided rightly now. 
I am very sorry to disappoint your plans." 

Mrs. Haniman was silent for a moment. 

" Now it is coming," Jean thought, and braced 
herself for a storm. 

" Your mother, then, is very sick? " Mrs. Hani- 
man said. 

" She can never be better," Jean answered, with 
a break in her voice, though she tried to keep it 
steady. 

Mrs. Haniman cleared her throat. 

" Martha — your mother — has been good to you, 
Jean — the best of mothers." 

" The very best." 

" She is a true Christian; yet some have said her 
mind was narrow, her ideas poor and few. I do not 
think " — again Mrs. Haniman cleared her throat — 
" I say I do not think that- any one will ever speak 
that way again." 

" Not in my hearing," Jean exclaimed. 

" Neither in mine. There are some of us who 
might learn more from your mother than they know 
themselves. But you wish to go. Well, it is my 
opinion, now, that you are right. The Sanitary will 
miss you most of all. But 5fou do well. Tell your 
mother, my dear, with my love, that I said that, will 
you? She might like to know." 

The news of Mrs. Selby's illness, and of Jean's 
resignation of her official duties, was a great shock to 
Chippewa. " ]\Iother " Selby had been looked upon 
as one to whom sickness was unknown, and for Jean 
to take to domestic work was a nine days' wonder. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 137 

Every one, however, was full of sympathy, and had 
Mrs. Selby accepted all the offers of help she received, 
Jean, so far as the work of the house went, might 
have sat in idleness all day long. So many of the 
poor women Mrs. Selby had befriended wished to do 
something. One offered to scrub the floor, another 
to " bathe the little ones Saturdays," a third to do the 
mending. As Mrs. Selby said, with tears in her eyes, 
" You never know how good folk really are until your 
hard times come." 

Times were hard for all in Chippewa. The year 
of 1861 had worn to its close; the summer of 1862 had 
come, and there was no peace nor likelihood of it. 
The grim war-clouds which gathered over the land 
were deeper and more threatening than ever, and men 
went to store or field with faces which grew more 
anxious day by day. Not only had nearly every 
family a father, husband, or brother at the war who 
were dropping fast from wounds and disease, but a 
large proportion of these soldiers had been breadwin- 
ners for others before they volunteered, and to the 
anxiety for their safety was added the pinch of dis- 
tress at home. This was balanced, to a certain ex- 
tent, by the increased value of labour, and many a 
strong, brave-hearted woman went into workshop or 
factory, and not only succeeded in keeping the wolf 
from the door, but sent out stores of comforts to " the 
boys." Mrs. Haniman could tell of numbers of in- 
stances where poor widows, with little mouths of their 
own to feed, brought offerings of comforters and stock- 
ings, made with their own hands after the work of 
the day was over. But not all women were strong; 



138 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

and there were the sick and aged. These helpless 
ones suffered terribly in such a time as this, when 
the resources of all charitable peojDle, rich as well as 
poor, were strained by the constant calls upon them 
to send help to the army. In Chippewa, after the 
fact became known, a systematic effort was made by 
a small body of citizens to provide a fund to meet 
this need. The money was subscribed privately, and 
disbursed by members of a small committee composed 
of some of the principal donors. Here the mainte- 
nance of a fatherless child was provided at an orphan 
school, or a home found for it in a neighbour's fam- 
ily; there a widow was taught a trade, and her fam- 
ily supported until she could earn a living for her- 
self; or an allowance was given to an old couple until 
their sons now on the Rappahannock could do their 
duty by their parents; while nourishment and medi- 
cal comforts were given to the sick whose friends and 
relatives were unable to do more than find them a 
home. The committee who undertook this work was 
composed exclusively of men. John, who was its 
founder, had made this a sine qua non. The object 
he had in view was to avoid publicity and fuss, and 
he politely but firmly refused all co-operation from 
the Chippewa ladies. As the meetings of the com- 
mittee were held at his farm in the presence of his 
mother, a woman's experience and knowledge were 
always at its disposal, and a nurse was employed for 
sick cases; but the work of the society was done by 
men. David Haniman, the minister, was a member; 
Dr. Selliger was chairman; the county attorney 
gave more time than he could well spare; but the 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 139 

main support of the whole was John himself. He 
did more work and gave more money than all the 
rest; only his mother knew how much. It was a 
great help and comfort to him. During those hard 
years up to '64, when circumstances drew him by 
force from his quiet life and swejDt away all his reso- 
lutions; during those years he was wrestling fiercely 
with himself, his back against the wall. Jean was 
not the main cause of this, though had she never 
turned against him the battle would not have been 
so bitter. The real trial was to see the task of the 
Union Army growing harder month by month; to 
hear the cry for men — more men; yet to be obliged 
himself to stand on one side, a passive spectator, 
when he would have given his heart's blood to be in 
the midst of it. But he never wavered in his resolu- 
tion. The need his mother felt for his presence was 
too obvious. She had told the simple truth, and 
John knew it, when she said that if he had gone to 
the war she would not have lived a month. This 
knowledge, and his own humility about himself, kept 
John still and outwardly quiet. He flattered himself 
that his mother never knew the storm that raged be- 
neath the coolness of his manner when they discussed 
the movements of the troops, and marked out on 
maps he was always buying the position of the armies, 
the advance and retreat of the Union Generals Mc- 
Clellan, and Pope, foiled and discomfited again and 
again by the Southerners, Lee and Stonewall Jack- 
son. As the months passed on, and the summer of '62 
began to turn to autumn, in John's heart, as in those 
of all Union men, a sore and angry feeling grew that 



140 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

this condition of things must end. The Union army 
was far better equipped than the Confederates, and 
had the larger numbers. The soldiers by this time 
were brave, hardy, and well-trained. Yet still the 
rebels held the field. 

It was September, and in the Northern States the 
peace and beauty of the country contrasted sadly with 
the miseries and restlessness of men. A rumour had 
gone forth, no one knew why or whence, spreading 
with great swiftness to the remotest corners of the 
States, that a momentous change of policy was under 
consideration. At first it was said that Lincoln 
wished to declare peace; but this report was soon dis- 
credited and superseded by another, said to come 
from the highest sources, that though a peace-party 
was in the Cabinet itself, and growing stronger 
every day, Lincoln himself, like some great cone 
of granite beaten by an angry sea, stood sternly in 
the way. 

In Chippewa the excitement and suspense was in- 
tense. Men and women who had not spoken to each 
other for years, stopped in the street to talk and ask 
for news. Thus one evening when John rode into 
town, as he did now every day, and met Jean and 
Mrs. Haniman, it gave him no shock to see Jean come 
forward. 

" I am so glad to see you. There is news at last, 
and father is going to read it aloud. The store is 
crowding up already. Come with us to the plat- 
form." 

The place was full, but John quickly made way 
for his companions until, as on that Saturday even- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 141 

ing long ago, he stood behind Luke Selby, side by 
side with Jean. 

Luke was waiting for silence, and, man of easy 
self-possession as he was, his face was pale to-day. 
. The store was full; but not with young men crying 
out for war. In their places were women and men 
with careworn faces, many in deepest morning, all 
with hearts aching for boys whom they might never 
see again. 

" My dear friends," Luke began, and at his words 
every one fell silent, and the room was still, " I have 
been asked by our pastor to read out to you what the 
newspapers have brought this afternoon. Brother 
Haniman," he turned to the white-haired minister 
who stood behind him, " has it in his mind that we 
should give public expression of our feelings on this 
matter. Friends, I hold here a message from the 
President. He has thrown the gauntlet down, and 
if you, the people of the North, confirm his words, 
there will be no peace until the South is crushed. I 
will read you what he says." 

He stepped forward to the edge of the platform, 
and read in a deep, solemn tone, so that every word 
was heard by all, the proclamation for the emancipa- 
tion of the slaves. 

" That on the first day of January, in the year 
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty- 
three, all persons held as slaves within every State, 
or part of a State, the people whereof shall be in re- 
bellion against the United States, shall be then, 
thenceforward, and forever, free. And the executive 
Government of the United States, including the mili- 
10 



142 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

tary and civil authorities thereof, will recognise and 
maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do 
no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, 
in any effort they may make for their actual free- 
dom. — Abraham Lincoln." 

When the sonorous voice ceased, there was a deep 
silence. The paleness of Luke's face had fallen on 
his listener's as it was falling on the faces of hundreds 
of thousands throughout the Union who read the 
news this day. No one in Wisconsin failed to grasp 
the full significance of the proclamation. It meant 
that from " now, thenceforward, and forever " the 
North would fight not for the Union alone, but for 
the freedom of the slaves. Up to this time, both at 
home and abroad, a thousand different opinions were 
held concerning the amount of interest Northern men 
really felt in the bondage of the negro — the eman- 
cipation of whom the Southerners believed that 
Abraham Lincoln himself desired more than any- 
thing else. There were the Abolitionists, of course. 
But even when the war broke out they were not a 
tithe of the population. The great majority in the 
North had been welded together to fight the South 
through their devotion to the flag. Numbers ap- 
proved of slavery; none, except the Abolitionists, 
were prepared to vote — much less to fight — for the 
freedom of the negro. When Lincoln's emancipa- 
tion proclamation was discussed by the Cabinet, 
many earnest men told him it would prove a fatal 
blow to the Union. It meant war on the part of the 
South, more vindictive and stubborn than had been 
yet, for Southerners were certain to believe that the 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 143 

proclamation was intended to provoke an insurrec- 
tion of the slaves. What a terrible blow, argued 
the peace-party, would this be to the North, a na- 
tion tired of Avar! All these objections, however, 
Lincoln put on one side, and against opposition that 
was not dreamed of by the public, and will, perhaps, 
never be known, he sent forth his message to the peo- 
ple, played his great trump card, then waited with a 
quiet, even mind to hear the answer. 

The silence in the store at Chippewa lasted a full 
minute; and then a man stepped forward on the 
platform, David Haniman, the minister, and all the 
people stared. 

" Martha Haniman's husband " they called him, 
tolerating him in his ministerial capacity as one 
" gifted with learnin'," looking down upon him from 
an immeasurable height of superiority for his simplic- 
ity. He had never led the smallest of their boys ex- 
cept by the persuasion of his mildness and sweet na- 
ture. Many of the younger men thought he was 
" not all there." Now they did not know him. His 
bowed head was thrown back royally, his feet were 
firmly planted, his eyes ablaze. 

" God bless the President! " he cried, his voice 
ringing through the hall like a trumpet note. " God 
bless Abraham Lincoln! My brothers and sisters, 
let us give thanks unto the Lord. You, who have 
sons in Virginia; you, whose fathers, brothers, hus- 
bands fight under Grant in Tennessee; and you, who, 
like myself, have been denied the privilege of send- 
ing their dearest to this sacred war — give thanks to 
God. There is no power on earth can defeat our sol- 



144 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

diers now. Up to this time, while we have fought 
for the Union only, the Southerners have had a cause 
many have thought near as good as ours. Now, we 
fight for freedom, they for slavery, and this will 
bring their power to naught. Brothers and sisters, 
in this hour of trial — for the flames of war will light 
the sky when our true men march on — let us, I be- 
seech you, stand by the President. I am a man of 
peace, but it is my duty first to preach the Christian 
religion. Slavery is antichristian. Those who de- 
fend this monstrous thing must be swept down with 
the sword until they see the evil of their ways or 
cumber the earth no more. Support this proclama- 
tion — ask Brother Selby to send a telegraphic message 
to the President, to tell him that we, citizens of Chip- 
pewa assembled, hereby accord him our most heart- 
felt thanks for his great words, and will uphold them 
and all that they may bring to the last drop of our 
blood." 

He paused, and sank back into his chair, collaps- 
ing, now that it was over, into the mild pastor that 
they knew. 

But his words received a response no one else's 
would have done. John seconded the resolution, and 
then it was carried by acclamation without one dis- 
sentient voice. 

The war cry had been given to the North in its 
hour of sorest need. Here and there savage protests 
might be heard, while in the South it was received 
with a universal shriek of denunciation. But Lin- 
coln was right. From city, and town, and hamlet, 
especially from the West, came a mighty cry of re- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 145 

lief and congratulation. War? Who now could 
dream of peace until the serpent — slavery — which 
had spread the venom of its noisome breath so many 
weary years, lay crushed and lifeless, ground beneath 
the heel of a free people who were determined, stern, 
united in one bond from East to AYest, unconquer- 
able as fate. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

The winter of 18G3, the hardest winter the 
American people had ever known. The war still 
raged, and though the defeat of Lee at Gettysburg in 
the preceding July, and the fall of Vicksburg, which 
secured the free passage of the Mississippi for the Free 
States, had given the Confederate cause a check that 
many of their best men considered irreparable, they 
still fought on stubbornly, and the end was not yet. 

The cold this year was unusually severe — an ad- 
ditional hardship. The winter began early and last- 
ed long. Mrs. Selby was sinking fast. The progress 
of the disease had been extremely slow, thanks to the 
strength of her constitution and the unremitting 
care of her daughter and her friends. But when the 
frosts began in earnest she drooped quickly, and 
knew she would not live to see another New Year's 
day. Yet she was happy and at peace in spite of the 
pain she suffered. She no longer feared for the 
future of her family. Jean, after many hard strug- 
gles and failures and discouragements without end, 
had trained herself to be an expert housewife and a 
devoted nurse. She had not stood alone in her trial; 
but no one, except Mrs. Burletson and John, knew 
the constant self-denial, the infinite patience, which 
146 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 147 

had been required of her through the weary months 
since the summer of 1862. At times, when she was 
very tired, and the children very troublesome, Jean 
felt that the weight of it all was too great to be 
borne, and she would cry over the endless sewing, 
and rebel against the fate which had cast such re- 
sponsibility upon her. But the fortitude with which 
her mother bore her sufferings, and Mrs. Burletson's 
cheery greetings the next day when she came loaded 
with every delicacy that 'Eia's cookery and the re- 
sources of the farm could supply, cheered and 
strengthened Jean anew. She had many kind 
friends, but it was upon Mrs. Burletson she learned 
to lean in these da3'S. She dreaded to see cold and 
stormy weather when the old lady was unable to ven- 
ture out, for her visits were the happiest time in the 
hard day. John, also, was a welcome guest. All 
coolness and constraint between them had vanished 
long ago, and the old friendship — with a difference — 
had revived in all its strength. His refusal to volun- 
teer was still a mystery to Jean, but she was content, 
now, to let it be. His work among the poor of the 
district was well known to her, and won her warmest 
admiration. They did not, however, see much of 
one another. It was the children whom John came 
to see. These poor little mortals, in spite of all Jean's 
efforts, had a melancholy time of it, for they were old 
enough to understand something of the calamity 
that was coming upon them. John soon became the 
object of their warmest adoration; and all their holi- 
days were spent at the farm, where they fed chickens 
— and hunted them when no one was looking — eat 



148 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

apples without stint, played hide-and-seek in the 
great barns, and enjoyed themselves to their heart's 
content. They were favourites everywhere. Even 
Mrs. Haniman, in theory the sternest of disciplina- 
rians, had a soft place in her heart for " Martha's fam- 
ily," and when Maury, the youngest, a fascinating 
eight-year-old, developed chicken-pox, Mrs. Haniman 
carried her off to her own house to be cured. 

Jean's greatest support in her trials were Seth's 
letters. He had been one of the fortunate ones, and 
while comrades around him sickened and died he es- 
caped without a scratch. In the Shenandoah Valley, 
at Antietam, at Gettysburg itself, he fought with his 
regiment, and came gaily through it all. He would 
complain at times half humorously of the hardships 
of campaigning, but always said he was well in 
health, and hard as a nail. He had the faculty of de- 
scription, and a rapid pen, and, as far as he knew it, 
Jean received a comprehensive account of the progress 
of the war, with swift and trenchant criticisms of the 
Union generals. Seth spared no one. In strongest 
language he condemned McClellan's over-caution. 
Pope's errors, the incapacity of Burnside, and the van- 
ity of Hooker. Surely never in the annals of war were 
the commanders of an army subject to such scathing 
criticism by their men as in the American struggle of 
the sixties. The later letters, or such portions of 
them as related to the war, Jean read to John and his 
mother, which led to John's maps finding their way to 
the store, and to many hours of talk about the war. 
Jean was always struck by the wide grasp and accurate 
knowledge which John possessed of military matters, 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 149 

and liis keen interest in them. She wondered more 
than ever why he had not gone to the war, and brood- 
ed over it, until one afternoon, when Mrs. Burletson 
was in the sick-room, and she was alone with John, 
some chance word of his revealed the truth. 

" Tell me that again, John. You say your moth- 
er feels so lonesome when you are away — that you 
find it makes a difference to her health. Is that real- 
ly so?" 

" I fear it is," he replied, surprised at her eager 
tone. " I am all she has, as you may say. She kind 
of clings to me." 

" Then I know at last why you never went to the 
Avar," Jean exclaimed. " It would have killed her 
to part with you, and you knew it." 

Her lips trembled as she spoke, and her eyes filled 
with tears. John saw that he could not evade her 
now. He tried to laugh it off. 

"Cornered, cornered! as the boys say. Don't 
you ever tell mother." 

" Oh, John, can you — but you never can — for- 
give me ? " 

" Pshaw! There is nothing " 

" But there is everything. I have slandered you 
to your face, and to — to others. I have been unjust, 
cruel — everything that's mean. Oh, why did you not 
tell me at first? Why did you deny it when I asked 
you long ago? " 

She was crying in real earnest now, tears which 
burnt her cheeks. 

" Jean, Jean, you must not take it this way," he 
cried, laying his hand on hers a moment, drawing it 



150 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

away the next and thrusting it in his pocket, " the 
past is dead. I don't feel I have anything to forgive 
now. If I was hurt once it was my own fault. I 
kept it all to myself because of mother. Had she 
known I stayed away from the war for her she would 
not have had any peace of mind again. I knew if 
one person were told, even you, it would be sure to get 
to her. I think now I was a fool. But that does not 
alter facts. Please let it all alone. I am glad enough 
to think you understand me now. Hush, here's 
mother." 

As Mrs. Selby grew weaker Jean nursed her day 
and night, except at intervals for necessary rest, when 
Mrs. Haniman, at her own request, took her place. 
Jean began to realize now in the fullest degree what 
a responsibility the up-bringing of her brothers and 
sisters was going to be. Her father, it was true, was 
a well-to-do man; lack of means would never trouble 
them. But Jean had found that no help from him 
was to be expected in the guidance of the children. 
He was not unkind to them, simply indifferent. 
Soul, body, and mind, he was- given to money-making, 
and to maintaining his public position among his 
neighbours. He was a zealous, energetic guardian of 
public trusts; in business he was hard, over-reaching, 
and industrious; in his home, a blank and a nonen- 
tity. Their mother had been all in all to the younger 
children. At her death Jean saw that she must take 
her place. 

Mrs. Selby died the last day of January, linger- 
ing on a month longer than any one expected. Jean 
kept her self-control to the last; made every arrange- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 151 

ment, and saw to every detail of the household and its 
wants. But when it was over and she went into the 
still room and gazed upon the face that never more 
would answer by a look or smile to any words of hers, 
when that bitter blow was dealt which only conies at 
such a time in all its fulness, the realization of her 
loss came home to her, and she broke down. Mrs. 
Haniman was there, and though an important com- 
mittee meeting claimed her attention in half an hour, 
she did not leave the store until late in the evening, 
putting the children to bed and sitting with Jean 
until the girl went to sleep, tired out with grief. 

The day of the funeral was bleak and wintry, and 
a northwesterly wind sweeping in angry blasts over 
the bare places and whining round house corners with 
an ominous moan. The afternoon of the next day, 
John, finishing his work early, hitched up his team to 
drive into town for the weekly supplies. 

" You will be caught in a storm, son," his mother 
said, handing him his gloves. 

" Like enough," he replied, smiling; " but if I 
lose my way the ponies will not. No danger, 
mother." 

The snow began to fall before he reached the last 
of his fences. By the time he reached the open road 
it was coming down so fast that he found it hard to 
see the track. He was going at a brisk pace, when 
one of the horses shied at a figure in the road — a 
woman's figure hurrying by without shawl or other 
protection from the storm — Jean. 

In a moment John's team were on their haunches, 
and he had leapt to the ground. 



152 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" What has happened? " 

There was a dazed look in Jean's eyes as she turned 
that frightened him. 

" I was going to your mother," she said, in a voice 
that sounded liollow and uunaturah " Don't stop 
for me. I know my way, and the storm cools my 
brain." 

" You have not told me what is the matter." 

" I have had news from Seth — horrible news. 
But go on to town. I don't feel like talking now. I 
will tell you when you get back." 

She would have passed on now, but he took her 
hand and held it. 

" Get in. We'll be there in five minutes." 

" Oh, no. Let me walk." 

" Get in." 

The words came sternly, and Jean obeyed. 

John did not speak again. All the rugs and his 
own heavy overcoat he wrapped closely round Jean, 
then turned his team and put them at the gallop. 
His blood was on fire, and the horses knew it and 
tore home at furious speed. ' In a slight hollow of 
-the road Jean was jolted against him, and his heart 
leapt up in fierce joy. In her direst extremity she 
had come to him and his for comfort and for help. 
All the love that he had crushed down into the hidden 
chambers of his heart, so firmly that he scarcely knew 
himself at times whether it still existed, burst its 
bonds now and poured through his veins like new 
blood. How precious they were, those minutes, as 
she sat cowering against him — worth a lifetime of un- 
happiness. Then came the lights of the farm, and 



I 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. I53 

he had to help her down and leave her with his moth- 
er. Presently he would see her again, and hear what 
had happened to Seth — poor lad! Now, for some 
hard work. He took the horses to the stable and 
rubbed them down until they shone like burnished 
copper; then he went to the wood-pile behind the 
house, and picking out the toughest log there, hewed 
and split it into firewood; then he looked at his 
watch. He had kept away for a whole hour; that 
was enough. 

Mrs. Burletson was sitting before the fire talking. 
Jean on a stool at her feet listening with woe-begone 
face, colourless, hopeless. John thought she looked 
the picture of despair. 

" Sonny," his mother cried as he came slowly to- 
ward them, inclined to feel himself in the way, " we 
are needing you. I have a matter to discuss in which 
we want your mind." 

Sbe spoke with energy and some excitement, at 
which John wondered vaguely. He came to the fire 
as he was told, and stood leaning on the mantelpiece, 
looking down into Jean's face. 

" I want your counsel, John. I told Jean, and 
she knows it to be true, that no one is so well ac- 
quainted with the movement of the armies and with 
the lay of the country in the South as you. Seth has 
been take prisoner. That is the news Jean brings. 
Luckily enough he was able to send word by a note, 
passed through by an officer who was exchanged. 
The boy is not wounded, and as far as we can learn is 
well in health; but Jean is distracted nigh to despera- 
tion by what the papers tell of men in Southern pris- 



154 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ons. I say that the papers lie; but my words do not 
convince her — jjoor child." 

" You are good to try and comfort me/' Jean 
broke in drearily. " I know what is true and what is 
not; but I interrupted you." 

" Well, Seth," Mrs. Burletson continued, " is in 
prison, a place called Santanelle, in Georgia. ISTow, 
as soon as I heard this, I said to Jean ' Hope,' and I 
say so again. You shall tell me, John, whether my 
ideas are moonshine. Did you not say once that 
there was talk of an army under General Sherman 
going right through Georgia? " 

" That is so, and I heard more to-day. The ad- 
vance is to be made in the spring. Tliey are begin- 
ning preparations now." 

Mrs. Burletson patted Jean's hand. 

" Did I not tell you he would know? Here is my 
plan, then. If Seth is in prison in Georgia, and 
Sherman marches through that State, is it not pos- 
sible that Seth might be rescued ? " 

John looked doubtful. 

" Georgia is a tremendous big country, mother, 
and Sherman's business will be to get through the 
best way he can. There will be no time for him to 
welter round picking up prisoners unless they are 
directly in the line of march, and Santanelle is in 
northern Georgia. But go on — let me hear all." 

" It was my idea that if in Sherman's army there 
were folk, or say one man, interested in Seth, it might 
be that a party could go forth and bring Seth out. 
Of course, it goes without saying, that it all depends 
on the man." Mrs. Burletson sat very erect, and 



I 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 155 

looked at John with searching eyes. " But I have 
known men who could do it. You may ask me to 
find them. I will answer that question later. First 
you must tell me whether, given such men, the notion 
has sense in it. I want to know your idea, son." 

But John had turned away. 

" Your words, mother," he said at last, " have 
point in them. There will be difficulties at every 
turn — more than we can see — but there might be a 
chance, aye, more than a chance, of success. And it 
is the only way. So much is certain. Exchange of 
prisoners now, they say, is not to be done. What does 
Jean say? " 

" It seems impossible to me," she answered, in 
the same hopeless tone she had used before. " If it 
could be done, and I don't see that, where is the man 
to be found who would try? Oh, why do we talk 
about what can never be? Excuse me, I am abrupt 
and rude. If only I were a man, or free to go as I 
am. But I am held in, having the children to think 
of, and my helplessness maddens me. I think I will 
go home." 

She rose and kissed Mrs. Burletson, but the old 
lady detained her with one hand, and, rising too, 
laid the other on John's shoulder. 

" John," she said, " it is time for you to speak. 
I know by your face that what has been working in 
my mind is now in yours. She must not go in igno- 
rance. Speak, and tell Jean where to find this man." 

A pause — while Jean, startled, bewildered, looked 
John in the face with questioning eyes. Then he 
spoke at last. 



156 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" Mother has told you my thouglits as well as her 
own. This thing shall be done if 1 can do it." 

" You! " 

" Yes, Jean, me." His voice was low and 
strained, but full of determination. " I would not 
offer if there were any other way, or another man. I 
did not go to the war because I would not leave my 
mother — she may know that now." 

" I guessed it, son, from the first," Mrs. Burlet- 
son cried, " and have known it long." 

" I did not go," he repeated, " because it would 
have killed her to live alone. Now it is different, she 
will have you. Besides, I don't volunteer to stay out 
the war, but go to find Seth and then come back. 
Mind, I don't know that I can do much or anything. 
But all that is in me you may count upon. And if 
you will take my services, I will seek the boy and 
bring him home, please God, sound as he went away." 

And Jean. She tried to speak, then dumbly held 
out a hand to each, and breaking down utterly, fell 
upon Mrs. Burletson's neck, and burst into a passion 
of tears. 



CHAPTEE XIV. 

John and his mother went late to rest that night; 
but Jean was taken home early, as she had her family 
to put to bed. It was a very short drive to John. 
His nerves were still thrilled with excitement, though 
it was purified by a determination to procure Seth's 
freedom at any cost; but it was there, and he felt 
keen enjoyment in her mere presence. He did not 
want to talk, it was enough to feel that they were 
together. In the evening, after consideration of 
practical ways and means, he began to be smitten with 
remorseful pangs about his mother. He left his 
table, drew a stool to her feet, and leant his head 
against her knee. 

" Mother, I did not know I could be so selfish." 

"Why selfish, son?" 

" Because I am content to leave you." 

" Thank God," she said, devoutly. 

John looked up. 

" Why do you say that? I ought not to be. We 
have been all in all to one another." 

She stroked his forehead. 

" I am your mother, dear, no more. You gave 
me three years of your manhood's prime. God for- 
give me for taking it; but you did this because of 
11 157 



158 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

your love for me. That three years is over. I am 
as happy to-night as you are — happier than I have 
ever been since Luke read out the Proclamation. 
Something you said after that gave me full knowledge 
of why you had stood aside from the war. You 
should not have done it for me, John, you should 
not! " 

For answer he took her hand and kissed it, and 
they were silent for a long time. 

Mrs. Burletson broke the pause. 

" Anyway, whatever betides down South, whether 
you are doing your duty under General Sherman, 
John, or seeking Seth, you will know now that I can 
never be miserable or lonesome. Jean will be with 
me a great deal, and I have the joy of feeling that you 
are on the path I set before you wdth my own hand. 
I cannot want more. All I shall worry about will be 
if the men you leave in charge of the farm and the 
stock don't do their duty; but I know you will ar- 
range those things." 

" That does not trouble me in the least," he an- 
swered. " Jim Hallett will be your manager. With 
your head and his, and one more labourer, the farm 
will go right well." 

" Then tell me now about your plans. I was 
thinking of them while you drove Jean home, and 
the more I thought the more difficult it all seemed." 

" It is difficult. The army for Georgia is to be 
composed of picked men. A raw recruit will not be 
wanted here. Besides, as a private in the ranks I 
would be tied to my regiment — to my company — 
and could not move except where my bit of the army 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. I59 

happened to march. We will have to think out an 
idea, quite a different idea from volunteering." 

" That is so. I see by your face, though, that 
you have already thought of a way. Let me hear it." 

John laughed tenderly. 

"What, do you not see? Yes, I have a sort of 
notion. The contract is such a big one when you 
come to work it out, that I must fly high to start 
with. I intend going to Washington with all the 
introductions I can get, my hope being that among 
them I may find one that will take me to the White 
House." 

" The President, John? " 

" Abraham Lincoln himself." 

" I like that idea. But what could he do? " 

" Almost all I need, if he should feel like it. I 
was reading the other day in that reb paper I get 
sometimes. The Richmond Examiner, a rather smart 
argument for the right of secession, which they took, 
they said, from certain clauses in the Constitution of 
the United States. I went straight to Attorney 
Thorpe's office and read the constitution, end to end. 
Among other things, which I never knew before, I 
found that the President is commander-in-chief of 
the army. It strikes me, therefore, that it is worth 
v/hile to try for a word from him to General Sherman. 
Whether I will ever get to him, and what he'll say if 
I do, remains to be seen; but I mean to try. If this 
fails, why I will go to Georgia and interview the Gen- 
eral on my own accoimt." 

John made his preparations very quietly, and by 
his request no one was told of his plans until the last 



160 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

moment, in consequence of which he eseaijed innu- 
merable questions and much good advice. He saw 
Jean alone once before he went away. He had made 
up his mind not to do so, but his resolution failed 
him at the last, and he called in for a few minutes 
on his way to the railway dej^ot. His visit was quite 
unexpected. Luke was in the store, and Jean was 
giving Sam, the eldest of the boys, a reading lesson. 
Sam, however, discreet beyond his years, not only re- 
tired with his book at John's entrance, but mounted 
guard in the hall to prevent interruption. 

It was not a sentimental interview at all. Jean's 
greeting was a merry laugh, for it happened that At- 
torney Thorpe, a well-meaning but fussy and particu- 
lar person, had begged her that morning to hint to 
John the paramount importance of good clothes in 
Washington, and that the blue jean he affected in 
Chippewa must not be thought of — and here was 
John dressed in this same blue jean. John was given 
the attorney's message at once, and laughed too. 

" Tell my dear old friend," he said, " that I have 
seriously thought the question out, and I reckon the 
best thing a man can do when he goes into the world 
is to look what he really is as near as he can. I am a 
Wisconsin farmer, and I wear the clothes I am used 
to, and that are used to me. If I were to put on the 
uniform of a brigadier-general I could not be more 
than a farmer, and certainly less of a man. But, 
Jean, I just came in to say good-bye, and ask whether 
you had any further message for Seth; I have the 
packet safe that you gave mother for him." 

" It contains all, thank you; but I have much 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 161 

to say to you, John, if I could only put it into 
words.'"' 

" Don't try," John cried, with a grimace; " that 
would be too bad, for I cannot talk, and I hate that 
folk should do what is not in me. Good-bye; I will 
do my best; and be sure that he and you are worth 
it all." 

Their hands met with a long, close pressure, and 
they looked into one another's eyes. Then he was 
gone. In the passage he ran against Sam, and caught 
the boy in his arms. 

" Sam, lad, can you make a promise and keep it? " 

" 'Course I can, for you." 

" Then swear to this; be a man, though you 
are only twelve years old; never give Jean one hour 
of trouble till I come home again, and if any one 
else does, go for him straight." 

"What a thing to ask!" was the shrill answer; 
and Sam struggled back to his feet swelling with 
manly scorn. " Ain't she Jean? 'Sides, Mr. John, I 
am thirteen come two weeks to-day, not twelve at all." 

Nevertheless, Sam went back to the parlour a 
graver boy than he had left it, and when he saw that 
Jean looked tired and heavy-eyed, declared he had a 
headache and would go to bed right now. 

John reached Washington early in March. It 
was still bitterly cold, but the snow had melted in the 
principal thoroughfares, and the queer straggling 
city of " hovels and palaces " was drearier and mud- 
dier than usual. Washington in those days was a 
city of large public buildings, immensely wide, badly- 
paved streets, lined with wooden shanties, stone man- 



162 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

sions, and shops of brick and stucco — the queerest 
medley of contrasts of any city in the States. It was 
full of people, and for the whole of his first day there, 
John amused himself by exploring it, and entering 
into conversation with all sorts and conditions of 
men. There was method in his inquiries, however, 
for they all ended with queries concerning the 
personal idiosyncrasies of the President. He heard 
a great deal of nonsense and many palpable lies, 
but picked up certain important facts; that which 
struck him the most being the information that any 
man who had business with Abraham Lincoln might 
go to the White House at a certain hour of the day 
and see him. He would do this, he thought, if all 
else failed. The next day he presented his introduc- 
tions, and his tribulations began. The great men 
were " busy," and days passed before he could get an 
audience with them. When he did so at last, by sheer 
perseverance, he was told that the discovery of Ameri- 
ca by Columbus was easy compared to what he had 
set himself to do. 

" Go home, my good friend," said one, the great- 
est man of all, who did what the rest only pretended 
to do — listened to what John had to say. " Go right 
back, and tell the poor lad's folk that there is noth- 
ing to be done until the Confederacy breaks up. Do 
you suppose the President can see to such a little 
thing? You can interview him, certainly — eleven 
in the morning is the best time, I am told. But I 
put it to you — among the prisoners held by the 
rebels is one private soldier of any real account, 
except to those who know him? The President 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 163 

will shake hands, hear your tale, tell 5^011, maybe, 
a little story to show you how hopeless it is, and that 
will be all. I am very sorry. Glad to have seen you. 
Now, good-bye." 

What was to be done next? John, a pessimist 
by temperament, felt that these remarks contained 
the soundest of common sense. But — and here he 
would drop his head between his shoulders as ob- 
stinate men have a trick of doing — a way had to be 
found. He must try the President; and eleven 
o'clock the next morning found him at the White 
House. It also found a few hundred others there. 
John went with the rest into a long corridor and 
waited. When the President came in, John modestly 
shrank into a corner and watched his face from a dis- 
tance, as he spoke to this person and that, a word or 
two to each. He did not come near John, whose 
bashfulness was too great to permit him to push for- 
ward; besides, of what use would a word in a crowd 
be to him? But though John went away no wiser 
than he came, he was glad he had been to the White 
House. As he walked back to his hotel he could see 
the President still, towering from his great height 
above all common men, with long, cadaverous face 
and deepset sunken eyes. Weary, melancholy eyes — 
the eyes of a man who was never free from care; upon 
whose shoulders lay the burden of a nation in its 
agony; who felt its griefs and miseries and dangers, 
as if they were his own. A man who never left him- 
self in peace even during his rare intervals of rest, 
but was for ever, night and day, planning, thinking, 
deciding for others; holding in his strong hands the 



164 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

welfare of millions and knowing it; yet never losing 
nerve or heart. Learning from those about him all 
they had to teach, listening to everything they had to 
say; and then drawing into himself, and, after silent 
commune with his own judgment and conscience, 
controlling and dictating all that was done. Such 
was Abraham Lincoln. 

All afternoon John wandered aimlessly about the 
streets trying to find a way where there was no way, 
losing heart and hope every hour. He made inquiry 
at the railway offices, and found that the wealth of a 
millionaire would not enable him to approach the 
army in Georgia without a permit from the war office. 
He went there, saw a minor official, and was told 
with unnecessary abruptness that his application was 
absurd, and that he might as well try and reach the 
moon as General Sherman. At length, tired out, he 
returned to his hotel and ate a frugal supper. When 
he had finished, a restlessness greater than his weari- 
ness sent him forth again into the city. He wan- 
dered now, half mechanically, in the direction of the 
White House, As he was passing the gates, the sight 
of a man on the other side of the road brought him 
to a sudden stop. It was the President, strolling 
down the street with long, low strides, his head bent, 
his hands behind his back. John's heart leapt into 
his mouth, and before he had made up his mind what 
he was going to say, he crossed the road and con- 
fronted Abraham Lincoln. Then his breath forsook 
him, and all he had presence of mind to do was to 
raise his hat. The President raised his. 

" Do you want something of me, friend ? " 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 165 

How many scores of men every day of Lincoln's 
life " wanted something " of him! Yet his tone was 
so kindly, so scrupulously polite, that John's diffidence 
broke down. 

" I had a question to ask, Mr. President," he said, 
gaining courage every moment. " You will be too 
busy, likely, to listen now. I should be very thankful 
if you would tell me when it would be convenient for 
me to see you — alone." 

" You have your chance this minute — take it. I 
am walking to the war office — ask me your question 
on the way." 

They turned and walked together, John taking 
two steps to Lincoln's one. 

" It concerns a friend of mine in Santanelle pris- 
on, northern Georgia, sir." John was cool now, and 
clipped his words to the briefest point; time was all- 
important. The President muttered something to 
himself, and shuddered slightly. 

" Go on," he said, as John paused. " Those boys 
in prison are our worst troubles. But let me hear 
it all." 

" I intend to get him out," John continued. " I 
have a little money, but prisoners, as I understand, 
cannot be exchanged." 

" So. Well " 

" The only idea I have left is to go to Georgia 
with General Sherman, and when the army reaches 
the point nearest to Santanelle, get leave to try and 
save my friend. I know enough, sir," John added 
hurriedly, fearing that he would be stopped by a di- 
rect negative, "to tell that the general would not 



166 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

take me on such terms as a volunteer. Would he — 
could it be at all — that I might join the army in any 
other way than a soldier? I wish to ask you this. 
I have money to pay my expenses. All I need is to 
get to the prison some way. I have promised to find 
this man, and I must do it. Could you help me? " 

The murder was out, and John waited for an an- 
swer, white and grim. He felt no hope of success. 
A few words of decisive discouragement would be 
given and it would be over. For a few minutes the 
President answered nothing, walking slowly on down 
Pennsylvania Avenue, past the war office, in a deep 
reverie. Presently he looked down at his companion 
sideways. 

" You call this man your friend. Is he no more 
than that?" 

" No, sir. But he is engaged to be married to 
the oldest friend I have. I have promised to bring 
him back to her." 

" Ah! " 

Another pause, then Lincoln said — 

"Have you quite thought this thing out, friend? 
Sherman has no use for any man who will not fight. 
You will be obliged anyhow to take chances with 
death all the way along. Supposing you got the man 
outside and died yourself? It strikes me you are a 
little away in the clouds at present." 

John looked surprised. It was the first time any 
one had accused him of building castles in the air. 

" I do not think so," he said bluntly. " I know 
most things are against me, but, you see, there is no 
one else. As for fighting, I will take that as it comes. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 167 

and Sherman may make what use of me he likes — if 
he will let me go along with him. I am bound to go 
some way." 

The President, who was watching him keenly, 
nodded without speaking, and tvirning abruptly, 
walked back at a brisk pace to the war office. Under 
the lights at the door, as the sentry duly saluted, he 
took a card from his pocket, and writing on it in pen- 
cil, gave it to John. 

" Bring this with you at three to-morrow. I can 
give you half an hour. We will talk about this thing, 
and — see. No " — as John tried to thank him — " you 
have no occasion. Men with just such ideas as yours 
do not often come my way. Besides, friend," with one 
of his rare smiles, " if it were a sacrifice to me to 
grant this interview, where you lay down your life, 
I may give a little time, I guess, and be a better man 
for doing so. Good night." 

He strode up the steps, the doors closed behind 
him, leaving John on the pavement alone, the pre- 
cious card in his hand. He stood a moment looking 
at it, then slowly collecting his wits, turned back, and 
went to bed to dream of the coming interview all 
night long. 



CHAPTER XV. 

When John presented the President's card at the 
White House, he was shown into a room where Lin- 
coln was dictating letters to his secretary. The Presi- 
dent extended his hand over the table and pointed to 
a chair, but did not pause in what he was saying, until 
the letter was finished. Then the secretary departed, 
and Lincoln poked the fire. 

" The worst enemy of long men like me," he said, 
" is bad circulation when we grow old. I can't keep 
warm these days. You don't look as if you suffered, 
that way, or any other — tough, aren't you?" 

" I was only sick once, and that was measles." 

" Can you ride? " 

The suddenness of this question amused John. 

" Hard telling, sir. I break my own colts, and 
around where I live they think me a rider. I did, 
too, until I tried one of the Western bucking horses." 

" How long did you remain? " said the President 
gravely. 

" Five minutes." 

" Then you can ride. Did you never volunteer? " 

John looked confused, and Lincoln raised his 
hand. 

" Do not answer if the question hurts. I would 
168 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 169 

never ask a man to say a word if he don't feel 
like it." 

But as it happened John did feel like it. There 
are some men, though not many, who attract the con- 
fidence of the most reserved and reticent. Lincoln 
was pre-eminently such a man. His simplicity and 
directness, the kindly consideration of his manner, 
and a subtle magnetic sympathy about him charmed 
and conquered John. Before he knew it, he was tell- 
ing the President of the United States how he had 
longed to go to the war, and why he had stayed at 
home. Then, led on by shrewd and searching ques- 
tions, he went further still, until Lincoln knew, as we 
know it, the story of his life. All at once he remem- 
bered the time, and found to his horror that the 
precious half-hour he had been allowed was almost 
gone. 

Lincoln caught the expression of his visitor's face 
as he looked at the clock. His eyes twinkled, though 
his mouth was grave. 

" Don't be scared; we have five minutes yet. I 
said last night that men of your ideas do not often 
come to this house. I could say more now that I 
know you. I should like to see your mother; I have 
an idea she would remind me of my own — God bless 
her! You see, I was born in the country, and bred 
among farm-folk as you have been, and your speech 
and dress, John, bring back old times. I would like 
to help you, though I see no way yet. Did you ever 
hear the story of the farming man who came from 
Illinois? He wanted fifty dollars to buy a horse, but 
he had no money, and no one would lend him any; 



a i 



a ( 



lYO THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

and all the property he possessed was twenty-five hogs. 
Folks said this would beat him, but they were wrong, 
for he started right away to drive the hogs to Chi- 
cago to sell. Ever driven hogs? I have. Well — it 
took that farmer about six days to get twenty miles, 
and his hogs ran away thirty-five times; he went 
without sleep all the while, and had very little to eat. 
But he got to Chicago, and offered them to a packer. 
How much?' says the packer. 
Fifty dollars.' 
Then you won't get it.' 
I will,' said the farmer. 

" The packer laughed. 

"'The best in the market only fetch $1.75. 
Yours are scrubs.' 

" ' All right, then,' said the farmer, ' I must try 
another way.' 

" The packer looked at the man. 

" ' What are you going to do? ' 

" ' Hire a shed, kill, dress, and pack 'em myself.' 

" ' But how will you live the while? ' for he knew 
the farmer could not have a cent. 

" ' On them. Whatever comes, I will take away 
from here that fifty dollars — 'cos I said I would.' 
Those men are partners now, and rich, I am told." 

He looked at his watch. 

" Half-past three. You must quit, friend. Call 
again to-morrow fifteen minutes earlier, and we'll 
talk business." 

John found the President alone next day, with a 
large map spread upon the table. 

" Come around here," was Lincoln's greeting. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 171 

" You will have sharper eyes than mine. I want to 
make out Santanelle. Have you ever seen a map of 
Georgia? " 

'' I have two at home, but neither is of any ac- 
count. Santanelle is north-west, sir." 

The President looked up over his spectacles. 

" Fond of maps, are you ? Do you draw your- 
self?" 

" I try to. My mother and I reckoned to keep 
track of armies, and, as the atlas I had was small, 
I drew the maps myself on a larger scale around the 
seat of war in Virginia and Tennessee. They are but 
bad ones, and only serve to give a rough idea." 

Lincoln left the table, adjusted his spectacles, and 
put his hands beneath his coat tails. 

" I have made inquiries. I find it may not be 
necessary for you to go South at all — we may get an 
exchange." 

He spoke slowly, watching John's face. That 
face expressed nothing but blank astonishment. 

"What do you think of it?" Lincoln went on, 
dryly. 

" Why that his folk — I mean Jean " — the Presi- 
dent knew who Jean was — " would be ready to give 
her life to you in gratitude." 

"And you — what about yourself, John Burlet- 
son?" 

John himg his head, and Lincoln saw his teeth 
clench. 

"If you want the truth, and I could not frame 
aught else to you, I feel as if you'd robbed me. This 
is my only chance to go; but there — excuse my rude- 



172 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ness — I could not, probably, have saved the boy at all. 
I am notliing in it — anyhow. I thank you for my 
mother's sake." 

" Will you not go if I find the means? " 

John raised his head quickly. 

" I have longed for that all these years. Since 
the day I knew the slaves were to be free, it has been 
almost more than I could bear to stay at home." 

The President's face lighted up, and his sad eyes 
glowed with enthusiasm. 

" Then you approved of the Proclamation," he 
said, slowly. " Tell me! " 

" The whole West approved. You gave us heart 
and hope when they were needed most. We have 
been a different people since. Many a man who'd 
not fight for the Union has given his life to free the 
slaves. The war is sacred now." 

Lincoln stepped forward, and the men clasped 
hands. 

" Friend," he said, in a tone as tender as though 
he were addressing a younger brother, " you must go 
to the front. I have only been trying you. Ex- 
changes cannot be made now. If that boy is to 
be brought out — if those hogs are to be sold — you 
must put your shoulder to the thing and do it 
yourself. The most I can do is to clear the way; 
that I will gladly do." 

He laid his arm on John's shoulder caressingly. 

" You are a fraud, John. One of those men who 
go through life telling lies — about themselves. AVe 
will have you in the army, and, please God, keep you 
there till we send you liome with a star upon your 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 173 

collar, I shall write to your mother, so that you will 
not get a chance of backing down. I wish her to 
know that we feel we owe her something for sending 
her son." 

" She will be the proudest woman in the United 
States," John exclaimed. 

" She has need to be middling proud of you. 
When do you start ? " 

" I will go to-night if there is a train South." 

" One of the men whose wheels are always greased, 
eh? Well, you shall have a note to General Sherman 
in an hour. If you get this man out, I should like to 
know it." 

He shook John's hand warmly, and led him to 
the door to cut short his thanks. AVhen he had gone, 
Lincoln wheeled a chair in front of the fire, and put 
his feet upon the mantelpiece. It was an old habit 
he still indulged in when alone. He used to say he 
could think better so. 

" Uncle Billy Sherman will not like this," he said 
to himself; " but I will have my way, and he must 
find a place for the boy. It is such men who keep the 
Union together and will win the war," 

John left Washington at seven o'clock that even- 
ing. The President was better than his word. Be- 
sides an autograph letter to General Sherman was a 
pass over the railroads to Chattanooga, Sherman's 
headquarters, which provided John with a free jour- 
ney and excellent treatment from the officials all 
along the line. It was well he had this pass, or he 
would have had the greatest difficulty in reaching his 
destination. The further he went, the greater be- 
12 



174 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

came the crush of trains, bearing freight for the army. 
Nothing but such freight was allowed at this time. 
All private baggage and stores were ruthlessly switched 
into sidings, to be removed at the owner's pleasure or 
to rot, as the case might be. John, as a private in- 
dividual, might have waited like these cars, but the 
pass, wMcli elevated him to the rank of a special mes- 
senger, overcame all difficulties, and, after some un- 
avoidable delays, an engine was detached for his bene- 
fit, and he was whirled on to Chattanooga. 

The army here, and nothing but the army. Trim, 
sunburnt men were on the platform in uniform, sol- 
diers were unloading cars, a squad was drilling on a 
plot of waste land by the wayside, while further 
away were rows upon rows of tents. Everywhere was 
the hum and bustle of preparation, the men working 
for their lives. The stirring sight made John's heart 
beat quickly, and when the strains of a band and the 
rattle of drums sounded from the other side of the 
camp, he could have shouted aloud in his excitement. 
The train stopped, and he was confronted by an or- 
derly who was somewhat taken aback at the sight of 
this plain farming-man in a private car. 

"Secret-service, dead-head?" he said to himself 
with disgust. "He'll find Uncle Billy don't take 
much stock in him." 

" You can see the general now, if you want," he 
said to John, after narrowly examining the letter and 
pass. " Come around with me." 

John was surprised. His notion of a general's 
•quarters were taken from the newspaper accounts of 
the splendour of General McClellan, the least of which 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 175 

depicted a man in imposing gold-laced uniform, sur- 
rounded by a brilliant staff, and attended by a guard 
of soldiers always under arms. Such a man, he im- 
agined, could not be approached except at certain 
times and seasons, and then only by special permis- 
sion. The readiness of the orderly to take him 
straight to Sherman, he put down in his simplicity 
to the President's note. As they approached a tent 
which stood apart, with a flag flying over it, John 
looked in vain for the brilliant staff and imposing 
uniforms. Near the tent, which in itself was rather 
shabbier than those about it, sat a dozen men in camp- 
chairs smoking pipes. Could these be Sherman's 
staff? And could the man in the centre, dressed in a 
jacket of faded blue serge, and battered black felt hat, 
sucking at a pipe which would not draw with as much 
vigour and concentrated energy as though he were 
charging the enemy — could this be the general him- 
self? There was no doubt of it, for the orderly stepped 
up smartly, as a soldier does under the eye of his 
commander, and saluting, presented the letter John 
had given him. While the general read it John 
looked at him with keen interest, and noted the 
square head and prominent chin, the lips set tightly 
together, the eyes extraordinarily keen and alert, and 
felt that he was in the presence of one of the greatest 
men in the army. The general read the letter hastily, 
and cast a sharp glance at John; then read it again — 
slowly, and beckoned. John stepped forward. He 
wanted to salute, but could not for the life of him re- 
member which hand to raise, so lifted his hat in- 
stead. 



176 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" What is your name? " 

" John Burletson, General." 

" Where are you from? " 

" Chip23ewa — Wisconsin." 

"Seen any fighting?" 

" Not yet." 

" Do you want to? " 

" I do so." The reply was so emphatic that the 
staff chuckled. 

" When will you begin ? " 

" At your orders, sir." 

"What baggage have you?" 

" This. John displayed one small grip-sack. 
The officers laughed again. 

" H'm," said the general, " the President says you 
have ideas. I begin to think he has grounds for the 
notion. But ideas, mind, are of no kind of use to a 
soldier until he gets experience. Do you know why 
•we were whipped at Bull Eun ? " 

" Our want of discipline for one thing? " 

" You have struck it." 

" But after all," John added eagerly, " if we had 
held the enemy's position we would have done as 
well as they — or better." 

"Why so?" 

" With raw troops it is so much easier to defend 
than attack, at least," pulling up as he remembered 
to whom he was speaking, " so I have understood." 

Sherman himself laughed this time. 

" He talks like General Scott. The only thing 
that puzzles me is why he was not at Bull Eun him- 
self. However, if the war-fever has come late, it 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 177 

seems to have stuck its claws deep. See, then, my 
man. Keport yourself to the sergeant of couriers. 
Orderly, take him to your mess. To-morrow we will 
see what lies behind all this." 

John withdrew and rejoined the orderly, who, 
from a respectful distance, had been a keenly inter- 
ested listener to the foregoing conversation. This 
orderly was a smart, well-built fellow of about John's 
own age. He wore long boots and spurs, and walked 
with the swing of a cavalry man. 

He looked at John with a friendly grin. 

" First time you've met Uncle Billy, I presume? " 

" I guess it is." 

" But you've heard of him — I'll swear." 

"Most folks have— why?" 

" You played your cards so well." 

John looked up. 

" I made a mess of it you mean. Guess that is so. 
Better luck next time." 

" No; that was not my meaning. You had a 
steepish pitch to climb, for if there's one thing that 
riles Uncle Billy Sherman, it is a recommendation 
from Washington. But you climbed, and he is a 
man who, when he takes hold, will freeze uncommon 
hard. Now for supper, mate." 

They were in the midst of the camp, and from 
every side came the glare of fires, the clatter of pots 
and pans, a smell savoury to hungry men. Soldiers 
were cooking their evening meal; mostly in frying- 
pans of every remarkable size and shape, battered and 
dinted and old. The faces of the men John noticed 
were battered too, but brown and healthy. There 



178 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

was little talking among them, and none of the loud 
laughter and shouting that went on in the camp of 
recruits at Washington. Sherman's men seemed to 
be too hungry to laugh, and those who had eaten, 
smoked quietly and chattered in low tones. Nor 
could John discover any of the elaborate cooking 
ranges which had been a feature near the officers 
quarters in the regiment he had seen up North, 
Everything was as plain and simple in construction, 
and nearly as easy to carry away as General Sher- 
man's old camp-chair. 

The orderly halted before one of the oldest and 
most rickety cooking-stoves John had ever seen. 
Here an immense man with arms bare to the shoul- 
ders, dressed in a striped flannel shirt and regimental 
trousers, was on his hands and knees blowing at the 
embers of a dying fire to ignite a handful of kindling. 

" This is our sergeant," the orderly remarked to 
John. " When he is through blowing, if he don't 
bust, I will introduce you." . 

The man at the fire, though he heard the words, 
paid no attention to the speaker, but puffed steadily 
at the stove until a blaze rewarded the efforts, and his 
face was well in hand. Then he rose slowly to his 
feet, and surveying them with arms akimbo, addressed 
the orderly in a voice like the boom of heavy artillery. 

"You blasted coon of a deserter, Mike, where've 
you been? Mighty little grub you shall stow away 
to-night. I left this fire to you." 

"Deserter indeed!" was the retort. "Go to — 
Uncle Billy. Man alive, why don't _you salute? Don't 
vou recognise the President's brother-in-law? lie's 



I 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 179 

come to serve in the rank, and Uncle Billy's sent him 
to you. Friend," addressing John, " Cartwright 
Hornber stands before you. The thirstiest man the 
Almighty ever made; sergeant of couriers; major- 
domo of our mess; a demon for his vittles; a baa-lamb 
to the foe; we call him Joshua. Sergeant, this is 
John Burletson, Esquire, from the White House, 
Washington." 

Hornber grunted. 

" Dry up, you. John Burletson, I am pleased to 
make your acquaintance." He had been looking hard 
at John while the orderly was speaking, and now ex- 
tended his hand. " I don't know who you really are. 
No one takes any notice of Mike, but I like your face, 
and could wish you were in better company. Set 
down, llike, you skunk, help me to get supper, we 
are late to-night." 

This last injunction was quite unnecessary, for- 
the orderly's coat was off before it came, and he had 
set to work with a skill and activity John could not 
sufficiently admire. He presently discovered that this 
]\Iike was a sergeant and Hornber's bosom friend, - 
The spectacle of these men working while he sat still 
soon became too much for John, and, at his own re- 
quest, he began drawing water and cutting up wood 
for future use. One by one other men dropped in 
hot and dusty from continuous riding, and by the 
time the meal was ready there were a score of them, 
some squatting on blankets, some on billets of wood, 
others on their own hats, John looked at them with 
great curiosity. They were couriers to Sherman's 
staff; a- courier's duties being those of orderly and 



180 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

messenger, as occasion might require. They were the 
best riders in the army; men of proved courage, 
nerve, and intelligence; as much accustomed to being 
under fire as they rode from division to division, 
from front to rear, conveying orders in writing, or by 
word of mouth, to the officers in command, as mill 
hands to the clash of machinery. As they ate, they 
talked of the war; when the march toward Georgia 
was to begin; of the gigantic scale of Sherman's prep- 
arations; of the distrust expressed of the young leader 
by some of the papers in the Korth, disputing among 
themselves as to whether it had any foundation in 
fact; finally expressing in the strongest language — 
John thought a little for his benefit — their contempt 
for everybody and everything connected with the 
Government, the press, and the war office. John lis- 
tened to it all in modest silence. No one spoke to 
him, and he looked upon himself as a nonentity, al- 
lowed to partake of the mess in sufferance, through 
Sherman's orders. He would have been much amazed 
had he overheard the conversation between Hornber 
and Mike as they turned in. 

" Cart, old friend, give us your ideas. How will 
he shape? " 

" Finely. I'll bet you five dollars on it. Come! " 

" Oh, it's my idea too. But why do you think so? 
He's fresh as green corn. Our work will be kind of 
refined hell to him." 

" It will be so. But he'll go through. A man so 
straight in the eyes, firm-set round the jaw, and quiet 
in the tongue, is bound to have it in him. And, mark 
me, he's got brains, devilish good brains, which not 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 181 

one in ten of us cusses really have, though we all 
think so. Anyway, I'll lay my money if you'll take it 
up. Poor devil, I am sorry for him though in one 
way. If Uncle Billy has took hold as you say, the 
boy will have his flesh peeled clean away with work. 
While as for danger, we all know that those Uncle 
Billy loves, as the song says, die young." 



CHAPTER XVI. 

The bugle sounded at the first break of dawn, 
and John felt on every side the stir of rousing men. 
He lay still for a minute watching them. None 
wasted time in yawning or stretching themselves; 
there was not a grumble or growl; one and all they 
slipped from their blankets, drew on boots and uni- 
forms, and started for work in silence. John soon 
followed and helped to get breakfast, devouring with 
the rest hard bread and the toughest of beef, washed 
down with muddy coffee. 

" Our camp fare," the sergeant said, watching 
John's struggle with the beef, " has no fixin's. We 
don't run to more on active service, and sometimes 
not as much." 

John smiled, and did his best to appear to enjoy 
his breakfast and eat as fast as the rest, but noticed 
with some annoyance that he was longer over the 
meal than any one else. Such appetite as he pos- 
sessed was taken away by ]\Iike Salter's announcement 
that the general would shortly be ready to see him. 

John felt that his fate was to be decided this 

morning, and was not at all sure what turn affairs 

would take. He saw clearly that Lincoln's letter 

alone would not secure him the position he desired. 

182 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 183 

Sherman, not Lincoln, was in command of the army 
here. Further, it was John's firm conviction that he 
had cut a sorry figure last night by answering liter- 
ally the general's question about Bull Evm. His 
words, innocently meant, would be looked upon as 
bare-faced impudence from a civilian. So John was 
not happy in his mind, and craved for active occupa- 
tion. He was alone for the time being, and no- 
ticing that the pans and dishes were strewed about 
in confusion, proceeded to gather them together and 
put everything in order, even to placing under the 
stove kindling for the next fire. He then settled 
himself down with his back against the tent, and 
drawing from his bag a map of Georgia, was soon en- 
grossed with speculations concerning the probable 
route of the army. Last night the couriers had can- 
vassed this vigorously among themselves, and John 
had stored away in his memory the names of the 
places which had been mentioned in the discussion. 
Now, spreading out the map on the ground before 
him, he took from his pocket a dozen pins with heads 
of gray and blue sealing wax, and began picking out 
the present positions of the armies as far as he knew 
them. He was sublimely unconscious that General 
Sherman had strolled up unheard from behind and 
was watching him. 

"Dalton? Where is Dalton?" John muttered. 
" That is where the rebs are under Jo. Johnston. 
There " — sticking in a big gray-headed pin. " Now, 
the boys said we are to go for that position and drive 
them out, or, better still, out-flank and crush them. 
How will Uncle Billy do it?" He drew from an- 



184 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

other pocket a jDair of compasses, and began measur- 
ing. " Twenty miles from Chattanooga." In went a 
blue pin. " But that is bee line. The roads will be 
bad, they say, and are never straight. Two days' 
march. And we have those armies to move. Gen- 
eral Thomas, with the Army of the Cumberland, will 
start first, as he is at Cleveland. Where's Cleveland? 
There." In went another blue pin. " Down the Ten- 
nessee Eiver he'll go to Red Clay " — there a third pin 
marked the place. " Yes, yes " — studying the effect 
— " simple to look at but — the country is difficult; 
forest and mountains and swamps. Enemy's covmtry, 
too, and Johnston, the old Eeb, is a smart man — some 
say smarter than Lee. Uncle Billy will have his 
hands full. Now " — he took up a gray pin — " if Dal- 
ton is not held by the rebs, where will Johnston go? 
Eesaca, it was remarked, Eesaca? — there. That will 
mean retreat. Now supposing he turned upon our 
rear. What a mine of supplies he would find! He 
could not do it, I guess. Yet it is worth while to 
think how he might try." He took up another gray 
pin and was about to plant it in the map when Sher- 
man moved involuntarily and John discovered him. 
He sprang up horror-struck. 
" Hand me that thing." 

The general spoke very quietly and pointed to 
the map. 

John picked it up, feeling like a schoolboy caught 
drawing caricatures in his exercise book. 
" This is how you spend your time? " 
" I was waiting for your orders. General." 
" How long have you had this map? " 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 185 

"A month." 

" Any others in your bag? Show them to me." 

John's spirits fell to zero. It struck him that 
the general would imagine him to be the correspond- 
ent of some newspaper — a person peculiarly de- 
tested, he knew, by officers in the field. Yet he felt 
utterly unable to explain or defend himself, and 
obeyed the order in silence, taking out maps of Mis- 
souri, Tennessee, and Virginia. This last was pricked 
with innumerable pin holes where John had followed 
the course of the Army of the Potomac. Not a battle 
fought during the war but was located in these maps 
and showed the traces of pin points. Sherman exam- 
ined them one by one, and folded them up. 

" I will keep them a while," he said. " This kind 
of property should not be lying around loose. It 
will be safer with me." 

He paused, and John saluted, not knowing what 
else to do. 

" What have you been doing since I saw you — • 
anything ? " 

"No, General." John would have given worlds 
to have had a different answer. 

" Nothing but eat and sleep? " 

"No, General." 

" That's a lie! " exclaimed a voice — Sergeant 
Hornber's. 

"How is that?" said Sherman, turning sharply. 

The sergeant, who had just come up, saluted and 
pointed to the pile of clean dishes and pans. 

" Las' night. General, when you sent him here he 
ramped round working like two men to help get sup- 



18G THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

per in, and the chores done. This morning I slipped 
out and left every bit of this outfit in a dirty mess and 
muddle. I did it on purpose to see how he'd act. 
Look at it now! He will work, whatever there is to 
him besides." 

General Sherman looked from one man to the 
other. 

" Don't you call that work, Burletson ? " 

" Not exactly, General." 

" Nor do I. Can he fight, Hornber? " 

" Try him. General." 

" If I do, it will be on your word." 

" I will give it, every time." 

" Very well, put the thing through then. It is 
not my idea of business, Burletson, taking a raw re- 
cruit, whose only recommendation is a letter from 
the President. I was in two minds this morning to 
send you back to Washington by the first empty 
freight. As for your prison scheme, I never heard 
such nonsense in my life. We shall not get within 
fifty miles of Santanelle. But I will take you as a 
courier, at your own risk, and chance it. You will 
have trouble to keep going. If you drop out, back 
you go to Wisconsin, if you can get there. Hornber, 
tell Lieutenant Snelling that by my orders this man 
is attached to his command, and is to be supplied 
with necessary kit and horse. Mind, he is under 
your eye. I expect that, before we start South, you 
will have licked him into efficiency. We want no 
half-baked bread on this campaign." 

He turned on his heel with a nod, and Hornber 
struck John a huge slap on the back. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 187 

"■ By thunder, Burletson, you owe me two cock- 
tails for this morning's work when we get to any 
liquor. You have slipped into what many a two- 
years' man would give his soul for. Mark you, 
Uncle Billy has picked his army for this Georgia fan- 
dango, and the couriers, our couriers, are the pick of 
that. If you stand the racket you will be in the best 
of running; but if you fail with his eye upon you, 
blue blazes is not in it with the storm that will break 
on you." 

John did not see his maps again, but he did not 
miss them much. Work for twelve, fourteen, and 
sometimes eighteen hours out of the twenty-four was 
the order of the day. Lieutenant Snelling, in com- 
mand of the couriers, the smartest subaltern in the 
army, looked with little favour on the new recruit. 

" Sherman has played it rather low on me," he 
said to Hornber. " An awkward, heavy, farm help — 
why, he'll put a sore back on every horse he rides — if 
he can ride — and run clean away to the rear when he 
gets under fire. I don't like it." 

But the sergeant stood John's friend, and the 
lieutenant presently found that his first apprehension 
at least was unfounded. There was no elegance in 
John's riding, it was true, but the big-limbed beast 
they chose for him, with a mouth like a steel trap and 
the obstinacy of a Government mule, soon discovered 
that it had found its master. " Ye-es he'll get 
along," the lieiitenant said, " and p'r'aps keep his own 
skin safe; but I doubt if he will do much more." 

John was privately of the lieutenant's opinion 
when it was retailed to him by the friendly Mike; 



188 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

but he kept his ideas to himself and only worked 
harder than ever. Half of every day he was put 
through severe cavalry drill, the rest of the time be- 
ing sent on courier duty far and wide. Yet, hard 
as the work was, he enjoyed the life, and wrote cheer- 
fully to his mother, receiving glowing letters in reply. 
Mrs. Burletson was brimming over with pride at the 
President's note and prophesied for John a future of 
dazzling brilliance. He smiled at her words, but 
laid the letter down almost impatiently. It was 
strange that his mother, of all people, should think 
that he had volunteered to win glory and honour for 
himself. Surely she knew that while she lived the 
career of a soldier was not for him. Seth's release 
once secured, he would go home. Seth's safety was 
the beginning and end of his campaign; meanwhile 
he must do his duty. Sometimes John brooded over 
the risks he would soon begin to run, and then he 
wondered whether he was a coward; but his mother's 
grief if he were killed troubted him more than his 
own danger. After all, she was well provided for as 
far as money went, and she had Jean, who would be 
a real daughter to her now. 

John's training lasted imtil the 1st of May, when 
the advance southward began. He had now to take 
his place as a soldier, and from earliest dawn until 
the last gleam of daylight he was in the saddle. It 
was hard work. Sometimes he would lose his way in 
the forest and wander about for hours before he could 
find it again, or come unexpectedly upon a hidden 
swamp into which his horse would plunge, to the im- 
minent danger of both sinking hopelessly in the mud- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 1S9 

dy slime. Often he would have to ride from sunrise 
to sunset without bite or sup under a blazing sun. 
He had to learn to take all such incidents as part of 
the day's work. Then there was the danger of fall- 
ing into the enemy's hands, a thing to be avoided at 
all costs by couriers lest the rebels should gain im- 
portant news by deciphering the despatches. Over 
the camp fire at night the couriers told many a grim 
tale of hair-breadth escapes and of what captured men 
suffered in the Southern prisons. The accounts were 
so revolting that John turned sceptical at once, and 
was only convinced of their truth by a melancholy 
confirmation by Hornber. The sergeant knew of 
John's plans concerning Santanelle — told under 
promise of secrecy — and he was hugely interested 
though puzzled. 

" I can't make out the kind of man you are," he 
said one evening, " not one little bit. Yet it is my 
business to try, for Uncle Billy's words stay by me 
all the time. What could bring a man fixed as you 
were in business to volunteer in Just this way — that's 
what besets me. I cannot think why this one man 
int'rests you so powerfully. Some men might do it 
for him. There's been cranks by the mile in our 
country since the war began, but you ain't one of that 
stock. Leastways if you be, the rest of your machin- 
ery is put together in a wonderful way. Tell me 
what it is." 

But John laughed and said he was too tired. 
Then they discussed the question of the hour. 

Dalton, the position held by General Johnston, 
was just ahead. It had taken two weeks to do what 
13 



190 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

John in his ignorance thought would be done in two 
days. But they were tliere at last, and the first real 
tussle of the campaign was at hand. In these discus- 
sions, in which all the couriers who happened to be 
awake took part, John was no longer a mere listener. 
His careful study of former campaigns gave him 
knowledge which the rest were quick to see. He sel- 
dom advanced an opinion without being asked, but 
when he had given his views he stuck to tliem tena- 
ciously; arguments rarely beat his notions out of him. 
This, together with the zeal and diligence he put into 
his work, gave him a position in the corps, and few 
remembered that with it all he was a mere recruit, 
who had, so far, never been under fire. John him- 
self, however, knew it well. The night before the 
first battle he, slept little, thinking of the chances of 
the morrow; but the next morning he rose as usual, 
before the rest, and was ready to face all fate might 
bring. The first to rise, he was the first to report 
himself, and whether from this reason, or some other, 
he heard to his great satisfaction that he was to wait 
orders from the general. Sherman looked at John 
with a sharp and critical eye as he handed him a 
letter. 

" You will take this to General McPherson. Do 
you know where he is? " 

" The Sugar Valley, General." 

" How long will it take you to get there? " 

John made a rapid calculation of distances. 

" Two hours, General." 

" You know your way ? " 

" I will find it." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 191 

" See that you keep to time. How do you like 
it now?" 

" First rate, General." 

" H'm, wait till you have smelt powder. You will 
do it to-day, and perhaps have little else to live on 
for a time. We shall see how you like that." 

John was piqued at the general's manner, and as 
he rode off to find Hornber to ask the way to Sugar 
Valley, he determined that, come what might, he 
would prove to Sherman that he was mistaken. 
Hornber was on the lookout for him. 

"How long will it take to ride to McPherson?" 
was John's first question. 

He had answered the general to the best of his 
knowledge; but experience had taught him that dis- 
tances were often deceptive. 

" That's your job? Thunder! Uncle Billy's put 
you in for a tall contract this time — no mistake! " 

" How long will it take me? " 

" Depends. If you get there — I say if — you may 
calc'ate on a four or five hours' run." 

John patted his horse's neck. 

" We've to do it in two." 

Hornber gave a grunt of contempt. 

"Two? Who said that?" 

" I did. Sherman asked me. Afterward he said 
it must be done in that time." 

" Sherman's — w^ell, never mind. But I tell you 
it is impossible. The way to Sugar Valley is the 
worst to find anywhere round, and 'twill be swarming 
with rebs. '^^Hiy, it's twenty miles bee line." 

" I know it; that's why I said two hours." 



192 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" You were a fool," was the rough answer. " And 
your foolishness will likely be your death. Bee 
line indeed, man. The rebs are between us and Mc- 
Pherson. You'll have to go round miles and then 
take a hundred chances. But this talk won't get 
you there. Got a compass?" 

" I have." 

" Well, then, strike southeast direct for about 
five miles, until you come to timber. Then turn 
south and hold to that course till you make Mc- 
Pherson's lines. Bait your horse and yourself well 
first." 

John settled himself in his saddle. 

" That will wait till we get there. Good-bye! " 

He went off at a brisk hand gallop, while Hornber 
stood and cursed. 

" Darned hard, I say. It is hard. Darn Uncle 
Billy! I never knew his like for driving a willing 
horse to death. Why don't he send trash on such 
an errand? There's nothing in that despatch, I'll 
swear there ain't. It is too bad to throw away the 
chances of such a one as John. Blast it all! " 

John rode fast and straight — not too hard, for 
the horse must be spared at first; but without turn- 
ing aside for obstacles such as he would have carefully 
avoided the day before. Sherman's words still 
rankled, and he was in no pleasant mood. But he 
knew more than Hornber about the despatch, and was 
sure that its importance could not be exaggerated. 
There was some comfort in feeling that he had been 
intrusted with it. 

The couriers in the American war were better 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 193 

posted concerning the enemy's movements than very 
many of their officers. Tlieir work cultivated quick- 
ness of perception to tlie liigliest point, and they often 
heard orders given of whicli no one else was aware, 
but which they religiously communicated to each 
other. Thus John knew that McPherson, who had 
moved his division south of Dalton, was out-flanking 
Johnston, and he shrewdly suspected that the de- 
spatch he bore was an order from Sherman to move 
forward at all speed and prevent the enemy from for- 
tifying himself on the heights of Eesaca, a few miles 
south. Very much might depend upon the early de- 
livery of the despatch. 

As John thought of all this he rode harder and 
harder. All went well for a few miles. His horse 
was fresh and powerful, the ground was hard and 
safe. Then came the turn to the south, and a change 
crept over everything. It was sultry weather, and 
the perspiration streamed from man and horse. 
John wondered whether he had urged his beast too 
hard. But his thoughts soon took another turn, 
for a breeze from the south bore with it a dull mut- 
tering sound. Was it thunder? No. John smiled 
at his mistake. It was the distant boom of artillery. 
Had any old friend seen John's face Just now, he 
would have observed it change in a curious way; the 
gentleness characteristic of the man even under 
the stress of sore trouble and affliction had suddenly 
disappeared; while his eyes brightened, the outlines 
of the face hardened until they stood out square and 
prominent, and the lips closed tightly upon one an- 
other. The sound of those guns had chan2;ed John 



194 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

from a peaceful farmer to a fighter keen as the blade 
of the sword he wore. John's horse knew this, for 
his rider pressed his sides with a sudden grip and 
pricked him with the spur which he had not used be- 
fore. The way grew tire^me and difficult; the apol- 
ogy of a road John had been following hitherto died 
away altogether, and his -course lay through forest 
with thick undergrowth. As he forced his way 
through it the grim shade of the trees closed above 
him till he might be compared to some insect strug- 
gling through long grass. Would he ever come out 
alive? But this question did not trouble him. He 
pushed on, plunging deeper and deeper into the for- 
est's unknown depths, his mind and soul full of one 
thing only — the guns. Toward the place where the 
battle was raging he pressed on with all his speed. 
He forgot Hornber's warning, where Dalton lay, or 
where Johnston's army might be. He heard the ar- 
tillery fire growing steadily louder. There was the 
Union army and General McPherson. The only 
thought in his mind now was, how to get the letter 
tlijere in time. 



CHAPTEE XVII. 

One hour had passed and forty-five minute^ of 
another, and John was still plunging on through the 
forest, and seemed as far from his journey's end as 
ever. The ground was very uneven, and though in 
the uplands, where the trees were of sparser growth 
and the soil drier, he was ahle to proceed at a fair 
pace; in the hollows the surface was a mere sponge of 
black oozy mud, into which his horse sank to the fet- 
locks. But on they went, slipping and sliding down 
hill, scrambling up, horse and man plastered with evil- 
smelling slime and choked with thirst, yet full of 
spirit still; for louder and ever louder came the 
sound of the guns. 

John strained his eyes and ears now to the utter- 
most for signs of the armies, friend or foe. A courier 
who is up to his work will have the senses and craft 
of a backwoodsman, especially the quick ear and keen 
sight. But John possessed none of these things, and 
with the heedlessness of inexperience he forced his 
way onward much too fast until he came without 
warning into imminent danger. He would have been 
a lost man but for his horse. This beast, however, 
had been on such work before, and no sooner did he 
scent the approach of his kind than he stopped of 

195 



196 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

his own accord and suspiciously sniffed the air. 
John looked about and listened. Nothing was to be 
seen, but he could hear the faint swish of hoofs 
tramping over swampy ground ahead. He was in one 
hollow, they in the next, and this gave him a minute 
to think. They might be friends, but this must not 
be counted upon. If they were enemies, he was in 
an ugly situation. To escape he must mount the 
rising ground behind, where he would be in full view 
at short range. If they did not shoot him or his 
horse, he would have to make a wider detour to es- 
cape them, and waste many precious minutes. It 
was no time, however, for regrets. Delay was better 
than capture. He turned and spurred his horse, 
which responded gallantly. Halfway up the rise he 
heard the ping of rifle bullets, and turned in the sad- 
dle to see a dozen men in slouch hats blazing at him 
as coolly as if he were a partridge. They did not 
trouble themselves to ride after him, but sat and fired 
three at a time. Forward went John's body over the 
saddle bow, home went his spurs again, and the horse 
bounded on like a mad creature. They reached the 
crest of the hill in safety, and John saw that most of 
the men had started in pursuit. One, however, kept 
still, taking slow and careful aim. Oracle ! the bul- 
let sang through the air and hit his horse in the 
shoulder. The poor beast stumbled, staggered, and 
fell; but John had time to clear his feet of the stir- 
rups and leap to the ground. His misfortune was 
greeted with a loud yell, and the rebels dashed up the 
hill toward him, sure of their prize. But John paid 
no atfenfion to their shouts. The possibility of Iris 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 19 7 

horse being hit had occurred to him before and he 
had thought of a way to meet it. To the left of the 
rise, stretching southward for some distance, was a 
low-lying treacherous morass. John had carefully 
avoided it, thinking, as he passed, what a pleasant 
place it would be for an army to come upon in a 
dark night. Now, it was his one chance of escape. 
As the enemy galloped up to the wounded horse, 
John ran down the slope. He calculated that for a 
short distance he could out-pace the horses over such 
rough ground, and was relieved to see they were well 
behind when he reached the end of the morass. He 
leaped in desperately. He might sink to his neck; 
the enemy might not sink deeper than himself, which 
would be equally fatal. At the first step the slime 
reached to his ankles, the next, halfway to his knee; it 
was cold and sticky and made anything like swift pro- 
gress out of the question; but it got no worse, and 
though the shots of the pursuers as they drew nearer 
came dangerously close, thanks to the reeds and rank 
vegetation on the surface of the swamp, John escaped 
harm and was well upon his way by the time the 
horsemen reached the edge. It was a critical moment 
now, as the horses were urged upon the quagmire. 
To John's relief, only one consented to enter, and, 
falling, narrowly escaped a miserable death. At this, 
some of the men dismounted and followed John on 
foot, and he saw that it must now come to a race, to 
be won by endurance. He measured the distance be- 
tween himself and his pursuers and deliberately sat 
down and took off his boots. This brought the rebels 
terribly near, and they fired upon him with their re- 



198 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

volvers; but it gave him great advantage later, upon 
which several of them did the ' same. John was a 
fairly good runner and was used to rough ground; 
moreover, he was in good hard condition and able 
to stand a great deal of severe exercise. Yet he felt 
that from the first it was only a matter of time. The 
Southerners were more active than he. They knew 
something of swamps, and picked out the best paths, 
while he went straight through everything fair and 
foul. One mile — two — still the chase went on. Yet 
the distance was lessening foot by foot, and the rebels 
showed no signs of giving up. Unless a change were 
to come within a very few minutes, he would be taken 
prisoner — no, not a prisoner — John was determined 
there. So far, he had not replied to the attack, sav- 
ing both breath and strength for escape; but he was 
fully armed. He drew his revolver and cocked it; 
loosened his knife in its sheath; looked for a tree or 
a stump or thick bush where he might come to bay 
and show his teeth at last. Thus searching, he no- 
ticed that he was at the edge of the swamp, and that 
forest land was beginning again, though not of such 
thick growth as before. Suddenly his eye caught 
something more — something directly in front not 
half a mile away, neither a tree nor a bush, but a man 
with his back toward him, leaning upon a rifle. The 
discovery gave new strength to John's weary limbs 
and muscles; but it still remained to be ascertained 
whether the man's uniform was blue or gray. He 
stood in the shade, and at first John could not see 
how be was clad; then he moved to one side and, see- 
ing the approacliing figure, covered it witli his rifle. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 199 

At the same moment a rift of sunlight struck upon 
his coat. The coat was blue. John waved his arms 
and shouted " Friend! " with all the strength that was 
in him, and redoubled his speed; while the enemy 
paused, hesitated, fired a few desultory shots, and 
turned back. By the time John had reached the sen- 
try, a picket of a dozen men had come to his support, 
most of whom, at sight of the sorry figure before 
them, laughed till they were weak. Mud, black and 
shining, encrusted John's face, mud clung in clots 
to his hair, and covered his coat and trousers so com- 
pletely that the corporal in charge of the picket sug- 
gested that he should be scraped to see if he really 
were a Union man. John, when he got his breath, 
laughed too, and begged for the loan of some decent 
garments before he was conducted to General Mc- 
Pherson. But this was denied him, and, dripping 
and disreputable, he was led at once to the com- 
mander of the troops. McPherson received him kind- 
ly, and, ordering him to refresh himself, provided 
another horse and gave him a letter for General Sher- 
man. John rested an hour, and then sat out on his 
homeward journey. He found that the Confederates 
he had met belonged to a brigade of cavalry retreat- 
ing before McPherson's advance. The return ride 
was accomplished without adventure, but the way was 
so difficult to find and the country so bad for travel- 
ling that it was after dark when he reached the lines 
at last, and reported to Lieutenant Snelling. Horn- 
ber was with the lieutenant, and both men exclaimed 
Avhen they saw John, the sergeant gripping his hand 
till it ached. 



200 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" Eesurrected, so help me! " he shouted. " I 
never expected to see you this side of anywhere again. 
We guessed you was plugged for sure. The general 
has sent twice to inquire; he's powerful interested in 
you." 

" In my despatches? I will take them to him." 

John found Sherman inside his tent. He read 
the letter and smiled. 

" McPherson has done it handsomely," he ex- 
claimed to his officers. " If he follows up, we shall 
do." 

Then he turned to John: 

" You delivered my note? " 

" Yes, General." 

"What time from here?" 

" Three hours thirty-five minutes." 

" I thought you were going in two." 

" I did not know how bad the country was when 
I said that." 

" You should not have said it, then. Did you 
have any accident?" 

" My horse was shot." 

" You did not mention that. Shot him yourself, 
by mistake? " 

John was too tired to smile. 

" I ran upon a patrol of rebel cavalry, Gen- 
eral, and was fired on and chased, and ray horse 
fell." 

"What did you do?" 

" Ran it on "foot." 

"How far?" 

" Two milop, as far as I can reckon." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 201 

"Pshaw! Can you beat horses? You said the 
rebs were cavalr3^inen, remember." 

John, thus questioned, was obliged against his 
will to relate all that had happened. When he men- 
tioned the loss of his boots, Sherman took up a lan- 
tern and examined his legs. 

" By George, friends," he said to his staff, " he 
tells the truth. There is not a boot to him. — Go 
on — how did you get through ? " 

John told him. Then the general said: 
" I will tell you something. I gave you a really 
tough bit of work to-day. I thought you knew too 
much, and did too little. I see that I made a mis- 
take, and I will not forget it. Go to your supper; 
you deserve a better one than you will get." 

When Hornber heard John's adventure he 
laughed loud and long. 

" What a doggoned fool you must have been to 
put your head so far into the hornet's nest before you 
found them out! You are not sharp enough for our 
work yet, John — not by a hundred miles. Still, you 
have pleased Uncle Billy. You are on the right 
track with him, and that is everything." 

John did not see how this could be. He said all 
he had shown was a capacity for running away. He 
had certainly got through with the message, but he 
had been an hour and a half behind the time. He 
would have argued the matter from this point of view, 
but Hornber laughed him down. 

" That is all you can see in it, Johnny, yourself? 
Well, I'm blest! There — go to sleep — I am not go- 
ing to say another word. Leave it in Uncle Billy's 



202 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

hands. You've no need to do more, or think the 
least. Turn in, man, and go to sleep." 

For a few days John was put on light duty, as 
the ride and the run had exhausted him more than 
he knew. Then back he went to his work again, 
which, as the army was now in the midst of active 
operations, was harder than ever. 

The force under Sherman amounted to ninety- 
eight thousand men of all arms. It was divided 
into three armies — the Army of the Cumberland, 
under General Thomas; the Army of the Ten- 
nessee, under General McPherson; and the Army of 
the Ohio, under General Schofield. Sherman him- 
self was with the Army of the Cumberland, the most 
important of the three. Since the 1st day of May 
these armies had been closing in upon the Confeder- 
ates under General Joseph E. Johnston, who had 
only fifty thousand effective troops. But though the 
Federals outnumbered the enemy, they were in a hos- 
tile country, and were obliged to bring with them a 
huge supply-train. This had to be strongly guarded, 
and drew considerable strength from the attacking 
force; while the Confederates, besides being able to 
collect supplies as they needed them and obtained in- 
formation from the friendly inhabitants of their ad- 
versaries' movements, occupied strongly fortified posi- 
tions, which could be held against a much larger force 
than their own. Sherman began his attacks by at- 
tempting to drive the Confederates from their in- 
trenchments by direct assault; but this resulted in 
so much loss that he decided to turn the position. To 
do this it was necessary to leave the railroad by which 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 203 

his supplies reached him, and storing up twenty days' 
rations in wagons, strike for the heart of the country, 
his armies proceeding by different routes, to converge 
at a p*oint south of the main positions occupied by the 
enemy. By this means Sherman hoped to induce 
Johnston to evacuate his strongholds for the purpose 
of guarding the country below and thereb}^ give him 
battle on equal terms. The danger of the plan to 
the Union army was that, being cut off from its base 
of supplies, it might run short of food before gaining 
command of the railroads to the south, which were 
now in Confederate hands. The chief difficulties of 
the march were the bad roads, the forests and swamps 
through which they must force their way, and, worst 
of all, ignorance of the enemy's movements, together 
with the disadvantage that their own designs would 
probably be ascertained from the first. Even to keep 
up constant communication between the armies was 
difficult enough and had to be done solely by couriers. 
This formed the basis of John's work. 

He soon began to understand his business, and 
learned to slip past detachments of the enemy without 
attracting notice; to exchange revolver shots with 
the cavalry picket and ride away under fire without 
the quiver of an eyelid; to dash past a line of skir- 
mishers and hear the musket balls patter round him 
like hail; and, worst of all, to ride steadily about his 
business while shells screamed overhead and burst far 
and near, and men were falling on every side, torn 
in pieces by the bombs. He was often hailed by 
wounded men wanting help, cr}ang for water — al- 
ways for water; others shrieking and blaspheming in 



204 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

their agony. Where occasion allowed, John stopped 
to give what help he could, but more often he had to 
harden his heart and hasten on. The succour of 
the wounded was not for him. 

John saw little of the commander-in-chief, ex- 
cept to receive and take messages and pass on his 
sharp decisive orders. But, even by acting as orderly 
to Sherman, John's practical knowledge of the posi- 
tion of affairs rapidly increased and widened his 
grasp of military matters. The discussion among the 
couriers in camp had ceased now, the men being too 
wearied with their long rides to talk. But John and 
the sergeant still kept up the custom. 

The progress of Sherman's march was slow and 
uncertain. McPherson's army had forged ahead; 
Schofield's on the left flank was many miles in the 
rear; while between them, separated from each, was 
the Army of the Cumberland. The difficulties of the 
situation culminated on the 25th of May by an unex- 
pected meeting with the enemy by the Army of the 
Cumberland not far from the point where the Union 
forces should have concentrated. At this place the 
Confederates were massed in considerable strength, 
a circumstance not anticipated by Sherman, who, 
however, knowing the importance of carrying the 
position, ordered an immediate attack. The order 
was obeyed vigorously, though the men were tired 
after a long day's march; but it resulted in nothing, 
for the Confederates were well protected in heavy 
timber and repulsed the attack. When darkness 
came on the fighting stopped, leaving both armies in 
some confusion, for the forest growth was thick. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 205 

and the rain was coming down in torrents. The 
muddle soon became fearful. Not only was the bat- 
tle completely quenched, but it is related that both 
Confederates and Federals severally lost their ways, 
straggled in large numbers into one another's camps, 
discovered their mistakes, and slipped out again with- 
out a shot being fired. John, who was conveying a 
message from General Schofield to Sherman, after a 
vain attempt to find his commander, groped about 
until he came to a fallen tree, to which he tied his 
horse, sitting down beneath it to rest. It was pitch 
dark, and he hunted for matches to light a pipe. He 
had just found that his box was lost, when some one 
tripped over his feet and nearly fell on top of him. 
The voice of the man who tripped and who began 
cursing loudly was Sergeant Hornber's. John made 
himself known, and they sat side by side and grum- 
bled; then talked of the present situation, unconscious 
that at the other side of the log lay General Sherman. 
He had lost his way like many another officer that 
night, and^as trying to snatch a few hours of sleep. 



14 



CHAPTER XVIIL 

Sergeant Hoenber, in common with most of 
tlie army at this particular time, was in a very bad 
temper; and he made use of language to relieve his 
feelings which we will not write down. 

" Gol-darn the whole of this blasted business! " he 
growled, as he rubbed his shins. " Did you ever see 
an army in a beastlier fix? But why do I ask you 
that? A blasted recruit like you ain't seen any- 
thing." 

" I want to light my pipe — got a match? " 

" No — got nothing but bruises and an infernally 
empty stomach. What the darnation did he run us 
into this cursed hole for? Tell me thatf you who 
know everything." 

John chuckled. He was cross and hungry, but 
it is always soothing to find a man who is in a worse 
temper than one's self. 

" Who do you mean by ' he ' ? " 

"Uncle Billy, of course — who else?" 

The man on the other side of the log began to 
listen attentively. 

" You arc wrong there," John said. " It is not 
his fault, it is Joey Hooker's." 

" How do you make that out? " 
206 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 207 

" You know where we are ? " 

" Not I — nor care." 

" If there were any way of getting a light, I 
would show you my map." 

"Map?" exclaimed Hornher. " I thought Uncle 
Billy had 'em all." 

John laughed. 

" He had, but I have scratched out a new one 
since." 

" The devil you have! " muttered Sherman to 
himself. 

" Last night," John said, " I made out from it 
that we — I mean the Army of the Cumberland — were 
marching upon Dallas, intending to join McPher- 
son, who is ahead, to-night or to-morrow. Joey 
Hooker, who was in advance, split his corps into three 
divisions for convenience of marching. The first of 
these ran into a force of reb cavalry which were firing 
a bridge on Pumpkin Vine Creek — the same bridge 
we crossed this afternoon. The rebs were driven ofP, 
and Hooker, after putting out the blaze, must needs 
give chase with one division." 

" Oh, that is fighting Joe all over," Hornber 
cried with an oath. 

" The cavalry retreated toward Marietta, to the 
right of Dallas, and one division, Geary's, instead of 
marching on to Dallas, stuck to the rebs, and were 
hoping to chaw them up, when they were met here by 
infantry, who gave them blow for blow, and stopped 
the fun. I had been sent with a message to Geary 
when up came Hooker and Sherman himself, and I 
heard Uncle Billy order Hooker to go straight ahead 



208 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

— for the rebs were now giving way — and secure this 
position, which is at the cross-road they call ' New 
Hope/ the mission house the boys spoke of last night. 
If Hooker had done that, we should be in a far better 
fix than we are. But Joey would not budge. He 
had an obstinate fit on and waited for re-enforce- 
ments. I went to fetch them and rode all I knew, 
but before they arrived the enemy had increased his 
force, the attack failed, and here we are. It is a mess 
indeed." 

Hornber laughed. 

"Johnny, of all the cusses I ever struck, you 
know the most. If Sherman heard ye, he'd give you 
a commission to keep your mouth shut. I know he 
would." 

" As I never open my mouth to any but you, it is 
rough you should say that," said John warmly. 

" Well, I'll take it back," was the rejoinder. 
" Now, tell me how we'll get out of this mess." 

" I don't rightly know," John replied slowly. " I 
reckon Sherman will try to take the cross-roads yet. 
But I fear the rebs are likely to be too strong for us. 
If that turns out to be so, we must wait until Mc- 
Pherson can get round. He will be advancing on 
Dallas now, and have to turn back. That he will 
not like." 

" But what do we want with this darned ' New 
Hope,' anyhow? Hell-hole would be a better name. 
Dallas was our objective." 

" No, at least not according to my idea, though 
Sherman wants the rebs to think so. It is the rail- 
road." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 209 

*' What for — supplies? " 

" That is it. We have got a few days' rations in 
the wagons, but we can't hold this country or get 
through it unless we keep the rails clear behind us 
to bring all we need. At present the rebs have them 
tight from Kingston — where we left them to start 
for Dallas — to Marietta, twenty-five miles southeast. 
Unless we force this cross-roads, there is no way for 
the army to get to the railroad. Now — we must get 
there, or retreat. The only chance is that when Me- 
Pherson comes back we will outflank Johnston here 
and push him out. If McPherson is held at Dallas, 
we will have to see another way, and that will be hard 
to find — unless the struggle here compels Johnston to 
withdraw from Allatoona, twelve miles north, where 
he controls the road to Kingston. And even if it 
does, I do not know how he could get to know it." 
" What should be done then. General Burletson ? " 
Hornber yawned until his jaw nearly cracked. 
He was very sleepy, yet wanted to hear more. John 
did not answer. 

" Tell me, now," the sergeant said, waking up, 
" what are your ideas if McPherson does not come at 
once? I want to know." 

" If I have any notion, it is worth nothing." 
" Quite likely it ain't; but you must tell it to me." 
" You want sleep more than my ideas." 
"The truth. But I will have the ideas first. 
Come, boy, spit 'em out." 

" Well," said John at last, " as I said, if we do not 
turn Johnston out of Allatoona or take his position 
here, we would have to retreat or find another way 



210 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

of securing the railroad. I think we ought to pros- 
pect around the railroad where the rebs hold it, and 
get accurate and complete information of their move- 
ments. We know might}' little of them, it seems 
to me, and generally find they know everything 
about us." 

" Very pretty sentiments," grumbled the sergeant, 
" only I seem to have heard 'em before. How to 
do it?" 

" Play one of Jeb Stuart's pranks, and detail a 
picked body of men, well mounted, to take a curve 
clean round the reb armies as he did round ours in 
Virginia. I don't know — but it seems to me some- 
thing useful might come of that." 

Hornber scratched his head. 

" I see daylight there, John. But our boys would 
soon be captured fooling about in a strange country." 

" That might happen, but if they were smart and 
could ride they would have a rare chance to escape. 
I should make every man carry provisions for a couple 
of days, and give orders to all that if attacked they 
were to scatter and return in couples or even alone 
to report. If only one came back, Sherman might 
get information that would be worth a good deal to 
him." 

" You go and tell him so," Hornber rejoined with 
a dry chuckle, yawning again. " You are a gen- 
ius, Johnny; you should l)e a general — I said so first 
time I saw ye — and now I'm off to sleep to think it 
over." 

He curled himself up against the log and was soon 
snoring with deep regularity. John thought he 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 211 

would follow suit; but not finding his position com- 
fortable and concluding to try the other side, looked 
over. He immediately came into collision with some 
one. 

" What do you want now? " said a voice he knew, 
which made him jump'tiack with a gasp. 

" General— I " . 

" Did not know I was there. Perhaps not; but I 
have been all the time." 

There was an awful pause. John was so shocked 
that he could not say a word; there was indeed noth- 
ing he could say. 

" Burletson, is it not?" 

"Yes, General." 

" I thought so. Are you sleepy? " 

"Not now, General." 

" Then answer my questions. How would you get 
cavalry, even a scouting party, through such an in- 
fernal country as this? " 

Sherman's tone was severely contemptuous — per- 
haps designedly so. It put John on his mettle. 

" My idea. General," he answered, with deference 
but without hesitation, " would be, not to send more 
than a dozen or twenty at most. We couriers are do- 
ing nothing else." 

" I know a courier thinks he can beat creation. 
But we are not all couriers. Could you do it your- 
self? Answer straight now. Would you, if you had 
a handful of men, undertake to wander around the 
enemy's positions and pick up any intelligence 
worth anything? Let me tell you this before you 
speak. I would not give a cent for the lives of any 



212 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

men who fell into Johnston's hands just now. "Would 
you chance it? " 

" I would, indeed, General." 

" He would — would he ? " Sherman muttered to 
himself. " Then " — he paused to weigh the thought 
in his mind before, with characteristic impetuosity, 
he struck the nail on the head — " then, by G — d, he 
shall! " 

" Burletson," he said in a tone from which all 
sarcasm had gone, " there is something in this plan. 
I will give you the credit, whether by accident or 
natural ability, of having stumbled upon a sensible 
notion, worth putting through. Have you learned 
cavalry drill ? " 

John began to recover his spirits. 

« Yes, General." 

" So. Then we will see. Now, let me have the 
map of which you and Hornber robbed me." 

By the time the sergeant -wakened from his slum- 
bers the general had departed, and John said noth- 
ing about his presence there. Breakfast was the first 
thing to find, and hardly had it been disposed of 
when the order came for attack, and the work of the 
day began. The fighting lasted until night without 
much result, the position of the Confederates being 
as strong as ever; and every one was sulky and disap- 
pointed. John alone was cheerful. He wondered 
what Sherman was planning, and whether it would 
be his good fortune to take part in the experiment. 
He forgot the obligation he was under to his mother 
to avoid all unnecessary risk, and longed for the inter- 
est and excitement of such dangerous work. Late in 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 213 

the night a courier came and reported to his comrades 
that MePherson was hemmed in at Dallas and could 
not stir a man to help the Army of the Cumberland. 
John did not sleep much after this. 

Next morning ea;:ly summons came for John 
from the commander-in-chief. Sherman was at 
breakfast — dry bread and cold meat, which he ate 
astride of a wooden keg, and washed down with coffee 
drunk from a tin mug. As John saluted, the gen- 
eral looked at him very keenly. 

" Are you sound in body? " were his first words. 
"No wounds?" 

" None, General." 

" Then take this note to Colonel Pantling, of Gen- 
eral Stoneman's division of cavalry. You will find them 
on the left wing, in front of General Schofield's corps. 
Return here as soon as possible. Read the note." 

He handed him the letter and went on with his 
breakfast, watching John's face out of the corner of 
his eye. The note was brief and very much to the 
point, as all Sherman's letters were. 

" To Colonel Pantling, U. S. Cavalry. 

" Colonel: Please supply the bearer, my courier, 
John Burletson, with ten of your smartest troopers. 
He had better pick them. All must be well mounted 
and provided with provisions and ammunition for a 
week. They will be under Burletson's command. I 
want the men for special duty, and have ordered him 
to return with them for my personal inspection this 
afternoon. William T. Sherman, 

" Major General Commanding" 



CHAPTEE XIX. 

When Sherman's couriers heard the news about 
John, they were too much surprised even to swear. 
When they recovered, the criticisms of the gener- 
al's choice were extremely vigorous, every one proph- 
esying failure, even Sergeant Hornber, though he be- 
gan by defending his friend against the insinuation 
of political favouritism. 

" You lie! " he said, with an oath; " the boy is 
straight, a damned sight straighter than any one 
here. Eaw? That may be, but not one of you has 
ever worked harder or better. He can ride, and I 
will bet that he can fight; while for head-piece he'll 
beat the crowd. No — that boy will plan out his ideas 
like a map, an' he'll do his level best, but he'll fail at 
last. It is not in him to take hold of men. He won't 
have an idea of commanding; he can't, for he's never 
done it. He was not brought up to it. I don't go 
much on officers, as you all know; but a real one, 
a good West Point man — oh, you may yell," as a gen- 
eral howl of dissent greeted the word; " I know 
what I am saying, and you don't. I say a good West 
Pointer, such as Uncle Billy or Grant — or, be darned 
to 'em, like those Southerners, Lee, and Jackson, and 
Joe Johnston — there's a something that makes a cuss 
214 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 215 

obey and follow blind. West Pointers are trained to 
it. We ain't. Take John. He's patient and gentle 
— obstinate too in his way; but Stoneman's troopers, 
even ten of 'em, will want more than that. Every 
last one will think he knows more than Johnny. 
Each will play his own game, and the whole bunch 
be taken prisoners by the rebs. That's my opinion." 

The rest were unanimous that the party would 
not get to work at all. 

" I know Pantling," said one. " He's an ugly 
brute. If he parts with a trooper, much less ten, I'll 
eat my hat; he'll send the boy back to Sherman 
quicker than he went. You'll see. Then Uncle 
Billy will rar' round and tell John to quit. I was 
under Pantling once; he'll bully-rag and cuss John 
till he'll give his life to clear out of range of the 
colonel's tongue. Pshaw! he'll not be in it." 

John, if he had been given leisure to think about 
himself, would probably have agreed in the main 
with Horuber. But he had no time to think. As he 
rode to General Stoneman's lines, he thought ojily 
of the work before him; and wondered whether Sher- 
man would leave it to his discretion where he went, 
or work out a route for him. The men must be care- 
fully selected, that was important; equally so was the 
quality and condition of their horses. As for provi- 
sions, with all respect to the general, John determined 
that a supply for two days would be sufficient. They 
ought to ride as light as possible. Also they must 
be disguised, so that, if necessary, they would pass 
the enemy's outposts without attracting attention, 
and purchase a meal now and then from farms or 



216 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

even outlying houses of small towns and villages, and 
pick up news. All these things and more passed 
through John's mind before he reached Colonel Pant- 
ling's tent and presented his letter to an orderly 
there. As Hornber said, " he could plan his ideas 
out like a map." He had now to execute them. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Pantling was smoking a 
choice cigar when the note from General Sherman 
reached his hands. There were not many officers in 
the Atlanta campaign who indulged themselves in 
this manner at ten o'clock in the morning; but the 
cavalry had not much to do just now, and Colonel 
Pantling partook freely at all times of the good things 
of life. He was a large and heavy man, with a pull'y 
face; his eyes were bloodshot, with inflamed lids, his 
cheeks flabby, his nose extremely red, and, worst sign 
of all, his hand shook all the time he was reading 
Sherman's note. His face, however, was not with- 
out good points; his forehead was square; he had 
a heavy fighting chin, while a pair of thick, black 
eyebrows gave an impressiveness to eyes that held 
within them a tigerish fierceness not pleasant to 
meet. Drinker the colonel might be; violent in 
temper and sensual in disposition; but he was neither 
a fool nor a coward, and no man who could avoid it 
ever " crossed his line of fire." 

" Ten of my smartest men," he muttered, " to be 
commanded by — what? a courier! By Gad, Sher- 
man is clean off the rails — mad or drunk, or both." 

He looked at the orderly. 

" Send that courier here." 

When Colonel Pantling saw John's quiet face he 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 217 

smiled grimly beneath his mustache. John did not 
see the smile, but in the colonel's eyes there was an 
expression he did not like. 

"Who are you?" . 

" John Burletson, courier to General Sherman." 

*' Do you know the contents of this letter? " 

" The general gave it to me to read, Colonel." 

"In that case/' muttered Pantling to himself, 
" there can be no doubt. He is quite mad." 

Aloud he said with slow, contemptuous emphasis, 
" What are you going to do about it? " 

" Obey orders, Colonel." 

"il/y orders — yes. Wliy, the thing is absurd. 
My boys would eat a man like you. Anyway, I 
cannot spare them at present — not one. You may 
go." 

The colonel put the letter into his pocket, nodded 
carelessly, and took up a newspaper he had been read- 
ing. 

John looked at him in amazement. Such a recep- 
tion as this to an order from the commander-in- 
chief had not entered his head. For a moment he 
stood speechless, wondering if it were a practical joke. 

" What answer am I to take to General Sherman, 
Colonel?" 

Colonel Pantling turned upon him. 

" You here still? If you don't leave my tent 
sharp, my man, you will be under arrest in less than 
a minute! " 

John saluted respectfully. 

"Will you be good enough to tell me, Colonel, 
how I am to get the boys? It will take all my time to 



218 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

complete my arrangements and report to the com- 
mander-in-chief hefore sundown. I would like to 
start at once." 

The colonel sprang up with an oath, and took 
a step toward John as though he would have struck 
him. 

John did not move an inch. 

" I don't wish to inconvenience you any, sir," he 
went on in his quietest tone, " but I am bound to see 
this through." 

Colonel Pantling glared at him for a minute or 
two without speaking, then suddenly laughed. 

" Curse you, but you have sand anyway. There 
are not many men who could face me so." 

He threw away his cigar and buckled on his 
sword. 

" I am going to inspect the men myself," he said, 
frowning again. " Come with me. As to your pick- 
ing any, I will see you damned first! " 

He spoke with a savage aggressiveness that would 
have goaded a quick-tempered man to a retort; but 
John did not speak, standing aside for the colonel 
to pass first from the tent. Then he swung himself 
into the saddle and waited while Pantling gave an 
order to one of his subalterns. Presently a company 
of troopers, all well mounted, smart, soldierly men, 
formed up before their commander. 

" Boys, I have received a message from General 
Sherman asking for ten of you for some expedition — • 
to be under command of this courier. I never disre- 
gard the wishes of my superiors, so you shall hear 
what the man has to say. — Now," turning to John, 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 219 

*' tell the men all you know, and see what they will 
answer." 

" I have your permission. Colonel, to address 
them?" 

" If they will listen." 

At this some of the men langhed, while others 
made remarks upon John's personal appearance. 
But he did not hear them; he was not thinking of 
himself; his mind was full of what he had been sent 
to do, and this took away all nervousness, all unreadi- 
ness of speech, even the irritation caused by the colo- 
nel's manner. With erect mien and stern face, John 
rode up to the men who were laughing at him and 
looked down the line with an observant, critical eye. 

" Your colonel has told you why I am here. I 
understand you are the smartest men in this regi- 
ment. I hope so, for the general has no use for any 
but the best. I want ten of you on the best horses 
you can find. Our business will be to ride round 
Johnston's army as Jeb Stuart rode round ours in 
Virginia. It will be work of the toughest kind, night 
work mostly, and we shall be in danger all the while. 
If the rebs get upon our track we shall have the 
tightest kind of a time and have to race them for life. 
If we fail to get away there will be no quarter; but if 
we are successful it is likely that the army will have 
cause to be grateful to you. Our orders will come di- 
rect from the general himself. He will inspect every 
man I bring away with me, and you know what that 
means if you do your duty." 

He paused to mark the effect of his words. The 
men were silent. There were no more personal re- 



220 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

marks or laughter. Whatever this man might be to 
look at, he spoke the truth, he was in earnest, and he 
was not afraid of men. 

" One thing more. The colonel has said I am to 
command. That is true, and if the raid is a failure 
I shall get the blame; while if it succeeds, each of 
you will have his share of praise and profit. Now, 
tell me, how many of you will pull this through with 
me? " 

He rode slowly down the line, and Colonel Pant- 
ling, who was expecting a roar of laughter, was 
startled by a rousing cheer and a shout that was un- 
mistakable. 

John wheeled and cantered up to him. 

" With your permission, Colonel, I will pick my 
men from this company. More than half have vol- 
unteered." 

"Why don't you take them all, curse you! " was 
the reply, the colonel now beginning to lose his tem- 
per entirely. "Take the regiment! Take me! If 
once they let such roughs as you get into the army, it 
is time for us to leave." 

John saluted, calm and imperturbable. 

" I understand that I have your jjermission." 

" Yes! " roared the colonel, holding down his rage 
by main force as he saw that any further display of it 
would make him ridiculous. Pick them, and be 
d— d!" 

John needed no second bidding. With a matter- 
of-fact air that would have astounded Sergeant Ilorn- 
ber, he ordered the men to file past him, making them 
do so three times before he made his choice. An in- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 221 

terview with the quartermaster followed, and a mi- 
nute examination of kits, arms, and horses. Here 
John proved very hardrto please, his quickness in de- 
tecting defects and good points strengthening his 
position with his men in a way that nothing else 
could have done. 

All this took time, and it was getting late before 
he was able to report himself to the general. Sher- 
man was engaged, and sent word that the men were 
to come for inspection in an hour. This interval 
John spent with his old companions, who compli- 
mented him upon the smart appearance of his troop- 
ers and gave him warm congratulations. Hornber 
alone made no remark, but afterward, when alone 
with John, he said in his most abrupt tone: 

'' Boy, the way you have acted gets right away 
with me. I never thought to see a man change as 
you have since this morning. You'll command a 
regiment before long, or I'm a liar." 

" Just about what you must be, I reckon," John 
retorted without smiling. Eeaction had come 
after the excitement, and he felt tired and out of 
sorts. 

" I was this morning," Hornber said with a sol- 
emn shake of the head; " I ain't now." 

" Simple foolishness. What are ten men? " 

" Don't matter. They want handling, specially 
men from the cavalry. Now, mark me, this is the 
thin edge of the wedge, as they say." 

" To another world," John interrupted. " I 
have the feeling all through me that I shall never get 
out of it alive, and that will mean that I have broken 
15 



222 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

my word. My God! Hornber, I should never have 
come South at all." 

The sergeant gasped. 

"Eh! what? you croaking! You I Blame it all, 
Johnny, what do you mean ? " 

John's face worked, and he clinched his hands. 

" I am thinking of my mother, old friend. 'Tis 
not myself. God knows my life is not worth much 
to me. But I swore that while she lived I would keep 
away from this. For the sake of my — friend and 
her friend I came South to try and get a man out of 
Santanelle prison. I knew I must take risks for that. 
But this is different. It is another line altogether. 
I ought to have refused to go; but I did not think, 
when Sherman spoke. He gave me no warning. 
Never said a word until he put the letter into my 
hand. It is too late to step back now." 

" Too late! " roared Ilornber, finding speech at 
last. " You would deserve to be hanged by the neck 
if you thought of such a thing. What are you made 
of, anyhow ? The chance that has rolled to your feet, 
not a private in the whole army but would sell his 
soul to buy. Carry this through in the way I be- 
lieve now, s'elp me, that you will, and you are bound 
to get on. Once Uncle Billy grips a man, he stays 
right by him. He will never fail to give you an op- 
portunity. Your fortune in the army has been made 
to-day and before you've served three months, and 
yet you croak. Are you all there ? " 

John smiled. 

" Don't worry. I have gone too far to draw out 
again, I know, and I will do my best. I was wrong 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 223 

to be in it, though; I did not join the army, friend, to 
get promotion. But time is up. I shall not see you 
again, as we shall start'at moonrise." 

They shook hands. 

" Where do you strike for first? " 

John laughed. 

" That's for the rebs to discover, Sergeant, if 
they can." 



CHAPTER XX. 

The failure of General Hooker to carry the posi- 
tion at the " Xew Hope " cross-roads hef ore the enemy 
occupied it in force placed the Union army in an awk- 
ward position. It was the critical point of the cam- 
paign — no one really knew how much so but Sher- 
man; yet from the general to the rank and file there 
was a feeling of uneasiness which a few days more of 
desultory marching and countermarching, fighting 
through deep forests under torrents of rain, and ankle 
deep in mud and mire to meet a foe who gave way in 
one place only to break out" in another — would have 
turned into discouragement and worse. Southern 
writers have naturally laid stress upon the size of 
Sherman's army, and attributed his subsequent suc- 
cess to that fact, more than to the skill of its com- 
mander or the qiuility of the troops. But a very large 
force in an extremely difficult country is a doiibtful 
blessing, and from the commissariat point of view it 
is the reverse. 

This fact was painfully obvious to Sherman the 
day after he listened to John summing up the weak- 
ness of the position to Hornber on the 23d of May. 
He had abandoned for the time being his base of sup- 
plies, trusting that Johnston, finding his flank turned, 
224 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 225 

would abandon the strong position he held across the 
railroad, and fall back, leaving the line clear. On 
the 27th, after four d%s' fighting, he found that a 
force too strong to be dislodged without serious loss 
lay directly in the way of his main army, the Army of 
the Cumberland; that McPherson, whom he had or- 
dered to his assistance, was several miles away to the 
east, confronted by a Confederate force at Dallas; 
and that Scholield, to the left, was separated from the 
main army by three miles of very difficult country. 
The situation was critical. The army was dispersed 
in three fractions, any one of which might be sudden- 
ly assailed by the Confederates in full strength; the 
railway also was exposed and unguarded, and accu- 
rate information of the enemy's movements and 
strength and disi^ositions was of absolutely vital im- 
portance. Hornber had good reason to congratulate 
John upon the possibilities which his little expedition 
contained. It was a nervous moment when the gen- 
eral walked out to look at the men, and John did 
not breathe freely until the inspection had been con- 
cluded with a few blunt words of encouragement that 
were worth more than many speeches from any other 
man. "When it was over, the general took John into 
his tent, where a map was spread. 

" You show me," said Sherman, " just where we 
are on that." 

John did so. 

" Now take these compasses. Where would you 
strike first if left to your own idea? " 

John bent over the map and thought for a min- 
ute, Sherman noticing with a twinkle in his eye that 



226 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

tlie request — unusual, to say the least of it, from 
a commander-in-chief to a private — was taken by this 
man quite as a matter of course. 

" I should make the railroad, General, right east 
here between Ackworth and Kingston." He pointed 
to Ackworth as he spoke, a small town ten miles away. 

"Why so?" Sherman said in a gruff, sceptical 
tone. " Why not Marietta ten miles south, the south- 
ernmost point, as far as we know, that Johnston 
holds? I expect you to ride round the whole army, 
Ackworth is about the centre." 

" I know that," John said, forgetting in the in- 
terest of the argument whom he was addressing, " but 
I take it you will want first of all to find out 
what he is doing on the railroad line from here to 
Kingston. My intention was to report to you after 
I had prospected the line from Ackworth northward, 
then ride round Kenesaw, Marietta, and Dallas. But 
to the north first." 

Sherman nodded. 

" You have the right notion. I will leave you to 
work it out. What I require is a clear and correct 
idea where Johnston lies; the number of men he has 
in each place; whether he shows any signs of threaten- 
ing the railroad northward; and as much information 
concerning his movements as you can get together. 
I have a good foundation to guess on, as we stand, 
but guess-work will not do just now. In short, your 
duty is to find the enemy and count him; but don't 
let him find you. Send back a message by a trusty 
man, when you have found out about the railroad, 
and report yourself in person in forty-eight hours. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 227 

Between then and now, do what you like; go where 
you like. I will trust you, Burletson." 

Sherman spoke with the careful distinctness of 
one who measures evety word and expects it to be 
remembered. At the. end, without unbending the 
customary sternness of his face, he held out his hand. 
John took it very respectfully. 

" I will do all that is in me, General," he said 
earnestly, " to bring back what you need." 

" So. When do you start? " 

" I reckoned we should have light enough by two 
o'clock. The moon rises an hour before." 

" You have food? " 

" For two days. General, and a blanket apiece. 
We have also gray overcoats and flap hats." 

" I have no more to say, then." 

John walked slowly back to his men. They were 
asleep, black motionless figures by a dying fire. He 
pulled the embers together and roused a blaze; stud- 
ied the map Sherman had given him, then rolled him- 
self in his blanket and slept also. He woke at one 
o'clock, roused his men and made them eat a meal of 
bread and coffee. By two o'clock they were on their 
way, riding by the stars. It was hard riding, for, 
though the rain had ceased and the sky was clear, the 
ground was soft and treacherous, their way lying over 
rough hills of gravelly soil into which their horses 
sank deeply. John was glad, however, to get over 
this exposed ground by night, and pushed on steadily, 
though at a gentle pace. When day dawned they 
had crossed the railway and found cover in the skirts 
of some forest land to the east of the road. Through 



228 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

the trees, here, in a northerly direction, John deter- 
mined that their course should lie, but after the night 
ride they must eat and the horses rest. On their left, 
toward the railway, was a rail fence inclosing a field 
of corn, and farther away among the trees curled a 
wreath of smoke. John called a halt and held a 
council of war. After a careful consideration of his 
position he had resolved to consult his men before 
taking any important step, reserving the right to de- 
cide every question himself. The point now was, 
whether it would be wise to seek information at the 
homestead and perhaps get a meal there, or to find 
their way by compass and map and observation. 
John himself suggested the former plan, and was 
flatly opposed by the spokesman of the men, Bob 
Spenniker. Spenniker was a little slip of a man, not 
much over five feet high; he had black, beady eyes 
which were never still for two consecutive moments; 
a lean, sinewy body, a brown and wrinkled face, and a 
head as round as an apple, covered with stiff black 
hair. He was called " the rat," and well did he de- 
serve the name. His morals were bad, and his lan- 
guage worse; but for endurance, activity, quick wit 
and courage, there was hardly his equal in the regi- 
ment. 

" That is wrong," was his answer to John's pro- 
posal. " We'll be found out. Do you think you 
look like a Southerner? Do I — or any of us? Not 
a little bit. Let's trust to our own ears and eyes, and 
leave the farms round here alone. That's my advice. 
They'll have us else. I'll bet you all the whisky ever 
I hope to drink. You don't know — I do." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 229 

He nodded with the calm assurance of superi- 
or wisdom, and the men, expecting a meek assent 
from their leader, winked at one another. But John 
gave them no satisfaction. He asked for more 
opinions, and, receiving none, said to Bob Spen- 
niker: 

" ^Ye differ. I think it is worth while getting to 
talk with folk round here. There is much to learn 
from a gossiping woman, whatever her feelings may 
be. She may let out more than she knows. Halt 
here, and whistle if there is any danger. I will go 
on alone.'' 

He spurred away briskly, making close observ- 
ance of the farm and buildings as he went. They 
were in better condition than many he had seen, and 
the appearance of the woman who opened the door at 
his call, though she was plainly dressed, was not that 
of a small farmer's wife. 

John raised his hat. 

" Good-morning, ma'am." 

" Morning," she answered with expressionless 
eyes. "What may your business be?" 

" I am a courier. Can you tell me how to strike 
the nearest way to Allatoona." 

She pointed northward. 

" A track to the right of those trees runs into a 
road that will lead you there." 

" Thank you," he said. Then, in a careless tone: 
" Happen you may tell me something I want to know. 
I am hunting for General Johnston. Will I find him 
at Allatoona?" 

The woman stared hard at her questioner. John 



230 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

had expected that she would show surprise, even 
amusement, at such a question. But there was no 
surprise in that face — a shrewd, strong face he 
thought, with a lurking suspicion in it. 

" The general is there like enough," she said, 
slowly; " it is hard telling, for he's everywhere and 
anywhere, just where he's needed most. What d'ye 
want with him? " 

John tapped his breast pocket significantly. 

" I have my instructions." 

" Who may you be from? " 

" General Hardee, down south." 

The woman gave an intelligent nod, and as John- 
turned to go, called after him. 

"Say, Courier, have you breakfasted?" 

" Why, no." 

" Come in, then, and have a bit. 'Tain't often 
we around here get a soldier so civil spoke as you. 
Get ye down." 

There was a marked change in her manner now; 
it was kindliness itself. John considered an in- 
stant. 

" That is very amiable of you, ma'am, but there 
are ten boys with me. If you have enough for all, I 
can pay; but I could not leave them out." 

" If their manners are as clever as yours, young 
man, we'll not ask for money. If you-uns keep 
Sherman out, we-uns will feed ye and be glad to 
do it." 

John galloped back to the boys. 

" Trapped! " said Bob Spennikcr. " Bet you five 
dollars down, boss — now! " 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 231 

" Stay here alone, then/' retorted John sharply, 
" if it scares you. Th« rest will follow with me. — 
Come, boys." 

They followed him, and Bob Spenniker led the 
way. They tied their horses to a fence near the 
front door, and were presently eating fried hominy 
cakes and bacon and beans, and quaffing buttermilk, 
with great satisfaction. There were no men to be 
seen, a fact John should have noticed. Bob saw it 
at once. The only people they could see were the 
woman who had invited them, and a girl of sixteen; 
a pretty and graceful damsel, who was all smiles and 
attention, and received more than one compliment 
from the men, though Bob, whose eyes were in a 
dozen different directions at once, gazed at her with 
intense suspicion. John did not pay much attention 
to the girl. He was kept busy with his hostess, par- 
rying certain home questions of hers and trying to get 
a direct answer to carefully put queries of his own. 
This he found difficult until he put one about her 
husband. 

" No, my man ain't listed — the same as most," she 
said. " He makes himself of use to the general, 
scouting and such-like. We know General Johnston 
well — God bless his face! Any of your boys ever see 
him? " looking round at them. 

" Not so," John answered for the rest. " We've 
mostly served in Virginny. When will your good 
man be back, ma'am? I would like to have a word 
with him." 

" That no soul can tell," she replied. " He's with 
the general now, somewhere, as he is most always 



232 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

these times. — Jean, my daughter, more hominy cakes. 
Quick, gell." 

Tiie familiar name made John start, and he looked 
at the girl with interest, tender thoughts of home in 
his heart. The sound of a hoarse chuckle roused him 
from his reverie, and he beheld Bob Spenniker cough- 
ing violently. 

" Hominy's too much for me," the little man said, 
as John looked up. " I put in more than the ma- 
chine would hold, and nearly bust." 

He finished with a peculiar chuckle, and looked 
out of the window. John, following his eyes, saw a 
body of horsemen in the distance. There was still 
time to get away. John looked round at his men, 
rose slowly — they doing the same — and went to the 
window. 

"Who is coming there?" he said to the woman. 
" Do you know? " 

He noticed that she was" eyeing him with great 
sharpness, and Bob's suspicion struck him forcibly. 

" Ay. It's the man you want to see — General 
Joseph Johnston and his staff. I know, for my hus- 
band is with them." 

The men drew long breaths, but John did not 
stir. 

" We are in luck, then," was all he said. " Boys, 
we must move out, for I guess the general is coming 
here. — What do I owe you, ma'am?" 

He took out his purse so leisurely that Bob Spen- 
niker could have knocked him down. Every mo- 
ment of delay made escape more difficult. It was 
nigh impossible now. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 233 

" I tell you I take naught," the woman said. " If 
you are friends, you are' welcome to all. If enemies," 
she paused an instant and looked maliciously at Bob, 
" I'll he paid later on." 

John laughed so naturally that his men stared. 

" We have to thank you, then, for a rare good 
breakfast, and for something better still. General 
Johnston is the man I most want to see. — Come, boys, 
smartly." 

He strode out with steady step, not quickening it 
in the least, even outside. As the men prepared to 
mount, he said, in a low voice: 

" I am going to interview the general. You must 
stay still and keep together. If we have to bolt, 
strike southwest. I do not think it need come to 
that. Remember, if any officer speaks to you, we are 
from Hardee's army. Don't say a word more than 
you can help." 

" Right," answered Bob for the rest. " But 
you've clean gone out of your reckoning. We'll be 
corralled, sure." 

"Why?" 

" She'll do it," pointing with his thumb at the 
farm. " She looks us right through. She'll tell 
them all she knows." 

" We must chance that. Ride forward now to 
meet the staff. Halt when I give the word. 
March! " 

" Well, I'm darned," muttered Bob to himself, 
half aloiid. " Pie's going to face a reb general, bold 
as a skunk. I'd rather be shot first. Yet I bet 
I'd " 



234 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

"Silence!" said John sharply; "keep your 
thoughts to yourself. Here they come." 

An officer of the staiT galloped up. John saluted. 

"Who are you?" 

" Scouts — from General Hardee." 

" Hand me your papers." 

" I have none." 

"How's that?" 

" We were sent to reconnoitre Sherman's army, 
and that we've done; but last night we ran too near 
one of his outposts, and had to get clear the best way 
we could. We lost our bearings, and stopped at this 
farm to inquire." 

" You must report to General Johnston at once." 

He wheeled, and they rode together into the gen- 
eral's presence. So far all seemed safe. The officer 
suspected nothing, though the request for papers had 
taken John desperately by surprise, and he had not 
much confidence in the adopted Southern drawl he 
now endeavoured to i)ut into his voice, taken from a 
Southern man he once know in Wisconsin. 

General Johnston was a small man, very upright, 
with closely cut beard and mustache turning gray. 
He had a keen, kindly face, and an impressive dig- 
nity of manner. But he looked, John thouglit, like 
a man worn out with ill-health and mental worry. 
The uniforms of his officers were threadbare and 
weather-stained, and not a horse was in decent con- 
dition; all were gaunt and overworked. 

" You are with Hardee," the general said. 
" What are you doing bo far from your lines? " 

" Eeconnoitring, General. We have been around 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 235 

two of Sherman's armies, and I was starting right 
back when I heard yon were in the neighbourhood, 
and ventured to report to you first." 

"Quite right. Your news?" 

" Sherman 'pears to carry all before him, Gen- 
eral." 

" What supplies has he ? " 

" As far as we could make out, a very large train, 
well guarded. We found no weak places, though we 
looked well." 

Johnston received this with some impatience. 

" You have no good news. Yet we are holding 
him at New Hope crossing." 

" By your leave. General, McPherson is getting 
back from Dallas, and Schofield is closing from the 
left. We will not hold them long." 

The general turned in his saddle, with a jerk of 
the head. 

"Polly, you hear that? It had better be done 
then and at once." 

The officer bowed. 

" No other course seems possible, General. Har- 
dee must know." 

The general turned to John. 

" Do you return direct to your commander? " 

" Direct, General." 

" I have important intelligence for him, which I 
will send by an officer of my staff under your escort. 
Wait with your men while I write a letter." 

John saluted and rode back, swiftly making plans. 

" The ball is rolling in our favour now," he said 
to his men. " We are to escort an officer of John- 



236 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ston's staff with desjjatches to Hardee. This was 
what I wanted — more than I dreamed of. That let- 
ter may be worth everything to us, and must be taken 
witli the bearer, when the time comes. Eide behind 
and keep your eyes on me. Wlien I lay my hand on 
his shoulder, close round, and cover him. If we are 
chased " 

" Just what we shall be," interrupted Bob Spen- 
niker. " That farm was a trap. See! " 

The staff had halted some distance from the house, 
but some one was waving a handkerchief, and while 
Bob spoke, a horseman left the group of ofTicers and 
rode to the gate. 

" There! " cried Bob, with triumph in his tone. 
" I told you how it would be. We have one chance, 
and only one — scoot and let the despatch go. Who 
says the same? There's no time for ceremony." 

The men glanced at John. For an instant he did 
not speak; then, striking his horse with the spur and 
bringing him so close to Spenniker's that they almost 
touched one another, he drew a revolver. 

" You are right. No ceremony. One step and 
you are a dead man — and so are those who follow 
you! " 

Bob's face changed, a smile broke over it, broaden- 
ing to a grin, and then he swore from pure delight. 

" Thunder! I've fetched it out," he said in a 
loud whisper. " I did not tliink he could rar' so, and 
as a last stake I tried rvTshing. Put that thing away. 
Captain. I never ran from a rebel yet, and I won't 
begin now, except at your word. You can command 
me, and I will obey every time." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 237 

There was the sound of a galloping horse, and an 
officer rode up. John had no time to reply. This 
officer was a young man with a fresh-coloured face, 
smooth shaven, only redeemed from actual effemi- 
nacy and boyishness by a pair of honest penetrating 
gray eyes. He nodded good-humouredly all round 
as he rode up. 

"How are you, boys?" Then to John: "I have 
the letter right enough. Let us be off as fast as we 
can tear. My name's Ealph Cunnington, lieutenant. 
What is yours. Courier? " 

He spoke to John, who was the only one who had 
the presence of mind to salute him. 

"Do you know the way?" the lieutenant 
went on. 

" Yes, Lieutenant." 

" Then let us make tracks at the lope." 

The escort was nothing loath. A glance behind 
them showed the man from the farm galloping back 
to the staff at full speed. A detachment would be 
sent in pursuit. 

" Eide, boys," John said, in a tone that made 
the subaltern stare and frown — " ride all you know! " 



16 



CHAPTEE XXI. 

The course John took was not the shortest route 
to Sherman's lines. It was necessary to keep in 
a southerly direction until out of reach of the ene- 
my, or the suspicions of the lieutenant would at 
once he aroused. Equally important was it to make 
for the open country, where the superior speed and 
condition of their horses could have full play. John 
had not bred horses for five years for nothing. In 
spite of the night ride, his animals were still fresh 
and in far better condition .than those of the Con- 
federates. A few miles of hard riding and escape 
would be easy. Meanwhile, if they were pursued, 
what was to be done with Lieutenant Ealph Cun- 
nington? 

John rode at his right. Bob Spenniker on the left, 
and the men behind. All went well for a few min- 
utes, the pace made by the lieutenant being hard 
enough to satisfy even his escort. He was mounted 
on a thoroughbred mare. Then came a shout and a 
pistol shot from behind to attract the lieutenant's 
attention. At the same moment his mare plunged 
forward violently, defying all efforts to control her, 
and bolted at a pace Bob Spenniker and John, who 
had the best mounts, could scarcely keep up with. 
238 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 239 

> 

The circumstance astounded the lieutenant, who was 
unaware that Bob Spenniker had pricked her in the 
flanks with a knife. 

By the time she was in order a clump of trees lay 
between them and the farm. 

. " The best-blooded beast I've ever seen, sir," John 
remarked, as the officer was about to speak. I would 
much like to know her pedigree." 

Cunnington's face, which had been puzzled and 
anxious, lit up at once with enthusiasm. 

" Messenger was her sire; her mother was bred 
on our plantation. There are not many to beat her. 
What was that firing behind us? " 

" Union scout, sir, may be," John answered. 
" They are audacious enough for anything these 
times — Sherman's men," adding quickly: " Messen- 
ger? He was the best horse ever seen this side of 
the Atlantic." 

" You may well say that. Ever seen him? " 

" No, but I have been told a heap. Could ye 
give me his points. Lieutenant? I love a rarely good 
horse. This one ain't bad, though he don't begin to 
compare with your mare. What do you think of 
him? " 

" A good beast." was the answer — " a very good 
beast; bony and well knitted up, steps out freely and 
in good fix. Where and how do you manage to keep 
him in such condition? Johnston himself can not 
get corn enough round here." 

John grinned. 

" We struck the horses near the Union lines and 
made a trade. That pays sometimes." 



240 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

The lieutenant laughed, and then, replying to a 
second request, launched into a learned disquisition 
upon the points of Messenger^ the great English 
thoroughbred sire in that day to some of the best 
horses in America. John began to breathe again 
now. They had distanced their pursuers, and were 
almost out of danger. The next thing was to change 
the course toward the Union lines, and John, still 
talking horse-flesh, began gradually to rein in a 
northerly direction. But they had not gone far 
when Cunnington called a halt. 

"How's this, Courier?" he said to John, looking 
round him. " I thought you knew the way. The turn 
you have taken will run us into Sherman's rear. You 
had better let me guide you. I happen to know this 
country pretty well. We must strike south." 

John looked slowly round and turned his head as 
if puzzled. The officer was still unsuspecting, and it 
was most desirable to keep him so, in case they ran 
into another body of the enemy, but they could not 
afford to lose time. The arrest must come now. He 
raised his hand, and the men were fingering their 
revolvers, when Bob, who was scanning every grass 
blade and twig within sight, said in his driest tone: 

" We have run upon friends when least expecting 
'em. Look ahead." 

John dropped his hand hastily and did so. Half 
hidden behind a tree a hundred yards away was a 
face and a pair of hands levelling a rifle at Lieutenant 
Cunnington. The rest of the man was carefully con- 
cealed, and so motionless was he that only the eyes 
of a frontiersman could have seen him. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 241 

John spurred his horse and placed himself in 
front of the lieutenant. 

" Don't waste the bullet, friend, and lose your 
life/' he called out. " You cannot shoot ten. We 
are from General Johnston. What are you?" 

The man looked at him a moment as if rather in- 
clined to let his rifle answer, then came from behind 
the tree. He had a face as gaunt and brown as an 
Indian's, with unkempt hair and beard, and was 
dressed in greasy leather with a gaudy neckerchief 
and cowhide shoes. 

" I am keepin' an eye for youths — Texans, out- 
post of Hood's division, Hardee's army. If my trig- 
ger pulled easier," he added with a grin, " you'd be in 
hell, young man. But I saw his uniform," with a 
jerk of the thumb at the direction of the lieutenant, 
" and so I held on." 

" How many of you ? " said John, forgetting that 
it was not his place to ask questions. 

" Twenty," was the cheering reply. 

The lieutenant now rode forward. " I have de- 
spatches for your general," he said in an authoritative 
tone. " Take me to him, will you ? " 

The man laughed Jeeringly. That a youthful 
subaltern of another regiment should think that he 
could command a Texan of Hood's was amusing to 
the last degree. 

" Take yourself, my sonny," he said with a sneer. 
" Our work lays here." 

Cunnington's face flushed; his quick Southern 
temper rose in an instant. 

" Damn your impudence! " he flashed out; " I will 



242 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

report you for insubordination. Where's your offi- 
cer? " 

" You will — wliat? " growled the Texan, slipping 
his rifle into his arm-pit and cocking it. But John, 
who had drawn a revolver to be prepared for emer- 
gencies, covered him, Bob Spenniker following suit. 

" Obey orders, friend," John said quietly. " We 
are in a hurry." 

The man glared at the weapons and at the faces 
behind them, and then without speaking threw his 
rifle over his shoulder and strode away, the horse- 
men following. 

" By George, Courier," the lieutenant said, laugh- 
ing, " you are not half so gentle as you look. I 
would rather be behind your fire than face it. That 
is often so, though, with very quiet men. Thanks." 

The subaltern in charge of the outpost turned out 
to be a friend of Cunnington's and offered to add half 
his force to the escort, saying that Hardee's head- 
quarters was ten miles off, and that the road was dan- 
gerous, as they were near the Yankee lines. John 
listened with painful intentness for Cunnington's 
reply. 

" I will take ten," he said, adding privately to 
John: " After our little experience I prefer that you 
and your boys should not be outnumbered by these 
Texans; yet they would be useful if we were let in 
for a brush with the blue-noses." 

The outpost were eating a hasty meal at this time, 
in which John's men were invited to join. They did 
so, and with remarkably good appetites, considering 
that if the halt lasted too long members of Johnston's 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 243 

staff might overtake them, and that in any event they 
had a desperate struggle before them. But it is a sol- 
dier's maxim to eat whenever he has food before him. 
John alone found it difficult, and was deeply thank- 
ful when the order to mount was given. He man- 
aged to get a moment alone with Bob Spenniker. 

" We must strike as soon as we are well away from 
this crowd. A man must cover each Texan. I will 
take the lieutenant. We are not far from our lines, 
as you heard them say. Take no prisoners except 
Cunnington. Tie up the rest, and bring along the 
horses that don't stampede. It was well you had 
your eyes. We should all have been lost else." 

A faint wink quivered on Bob's eyelid. 

" Texans, boss, is hell! " he said solemnly. " But 
we will get away with that letter." 

They started, riding in silence. There was no 
more talk now of blooded mares and thoroughbreds; 
the only sound as they rode was the ceaseless drip of 
the rain and the splash of the hoofs through the mud. 
They were in the midst of forest land again, and a 
thick mist was rising from the steaming, spongy 
ground. The prospect was depressing in the extreme 
to the Union men, and their courage began to drag 
and falter. They cursed the day they had volunteered 
for such an expedition; they cursed John for getting 
them into such a hole. They felt no confidence in 
themselves, and John's qualities as a fighter they 
knew nothing about. Texans had terrible reputa- 
tions for quick shooting and handiness with knives, 
and these were powerful men, hard-faced and supple- 
jointed. John was unconscious of his men's condi- 



24:4: THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

tion. He had not been a leader long enough to 
know how much difference there is in men at dif- 
ferent times. He supposed that they would be ani- 
mated with his own sense of the vital importance 
of securing Johnston's despatch, as Bob Spen- 
niker appeared to be. John's difficulty with him- 
self was to curb his impatience long enough. He 
longed for the struggle and had no fears of its 
results at all. He hardly expected a shot to be 
fired. 

Five minutes jaassed — ten. They were beyond 
sight and hearing of the outpost. At any time an- 
other might be met with. John raised himself in his 
stirrups, looked at Bob, and laid his hand on Lieu- 
tenant Cunnington's shoulder, upon which every 
Union man cocked his rifle and called upon the Tex- 
an nearest to him to surrender. John caught the 
lieutenant firmly by the collar. 

" Dismount, sir." 

"What?" 

" We are Union soldiers. Give me that de- 
spatch." 

" I'll see you " 

The oath was lost in the struggle that followed. 
Gallantly the lieutenant grappled with his enemy; 
but John's grip held, though when Bob, who was not 
troubled with scruples, would have shot Cunnington 
to save trouble, John turned tbe revolver aside and 
saved his life. They were off their horses now, strug- 
gling on the ground. Putting forth all his strength, 
John held Cunnington down while Bob, with profes- 
sional adroitness, picked his pocket of the precious 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL, 245 

letter and thrust it into John's breast. As he did so 
he whispered: 

" Get to your horse and scoot! ISTever mind him 
or any one. The boys are overmatched." 

John sprang up and looked round, when what 
seemed a stunning blow on the back of the head 
threw him violently forward. He fell on his face, 
and, but for the concentration of his mind upon the 
letter, must have been utterly stupefied. But he con- 
trived to raise himself to his knees and found his 
horse standing over him. He set his teeth and made 
a supreme effort and crawled into the saddle. Then 
a deadly faintness overpowered him, and he was con- 
scious of nothing more until he found himself slowly 
riding through the trees alone. His horse was pro- 
ceeding at a gentle pace, as if conscious of the condi- 
tion of his master. Yet he moved his head wearily 
from side to side, for from behind, growing louder 
every moment, came the sound of horsemen in pur- 
suit. The Union men had been beaten. Excellent 
soldiers on the field of battle, they were not a match 
for these Texans in a hand-to-hand fight. As one 
of them said afterward to a man he made prisoner, 
" You'd have had a kind of show, Yank, if ye'd shot 
us first and tied us afterward." 

The presented arms of the soldiers made the Tex- 
ans laugh, for with the quickness of cats they dodged 
aside, only two slightly wounded. Then came their 
turn, and four Union men fell dead in as many sec- 
onds. The rest closed in bravely, but were over- 
powered. Bob Spenniker alone making his escape. 
This little scrimmage and its results put the Texans 



246 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

in such good humour that the excitement of Lieuten- 
ant Cunnington, as he threw himself on a horse and 
called upon them to pursue John, caused a burst of 
laughter, and not a man stirred. The lieutenant was 
so incoherent in his rage and anxiety that it was some 
moments before he could make himself understood. 
13ut when at last he did so the men responded with a 
yell. 

" This way ! " one shouted ; " we'll be on the boy 
in two shakes. I saw him crawlin' off with his head 
hanging over the saddle-horn. We'll get that letter. 
Lieutenant, if we have to ride through Sherman's 
lines." 



CHAPTEE XXII. 

A BULLET had grazed John's skull and cut a deep 
and ugly scalp wound, which had begun to bleed free- 
ly. This, though it had given him consciousness and 
now enabled him to encourage his horse to put forth 
all its speed, brought a new danger with it — a weak- 
ness that rapidly increased. He fought against the 
faintness with all the stubbornness that was in him. 
He knew by the course his horse was taking that he 
was making straight for the lines; he knew the power 
and courage of the animal, and felt that if this faint- 
ness could be kept at bay the precious letter could be 
safely delivered into Sherman's hands. 

Whiz! — a bullet tore over his shoulder, cutting 
through the cloth of his cape. The enemy were with- 
in range and had seen him. John stroked his horse's 
neck and whispered to it. He had not strength for 
whip or spur, or the heart to use them, and they were 
not needed, for the good beast, frightened by the noise 
of the bullet, made a plunge that nearly unseated the 
rider, and then broke into a furious gallop. The 
next shot went wide, and then the firing ceased. But 
giddiness again began to overpower John in spite of 
all his efPorts, and he could neither see nor feel — only 
by some blind instinct cling to his flying horse. He 

247 



248 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

wondered vaguely whether this meant death. " But 
it shall not," he muttered, " till I have brought in 
that letter." For two miles he rode on, the Texans 
following in grim silence, drawing nearer and nearer 
as John grew weaker. The end was very near. 
John's head dropped lower and lower, the reins 
slipped from his hand; he clung to the horse's mane 
and swayed to and fro like a drunken man. The grip 
of his knees began slowly to relax. Suddenly his 
horse pulled up, throwing both feet out stiffly and 
coming to an instant halt, with arched neck and 
quivering ears. A man stood in the path with pre- 
sented rifle; behind him, a score more, mounted — a 
country patrol. 

"Who goes there?" 

The answer was the dull thud of a falling body, 
a yell of disappointment from the Texans, and John 
lay as one dead at Sergeant Hornber's feet! 

"What is it, then?" 

General Sherman spoke in an impatient tone, be- 
ing engaged in calculations which had been interrupt- 
ed five times in as many minutes. 

" Courier returned. General. Lieutenant Snel- 
ling sent me to report." 

" Which courier? " 

" John Burletson." 

Sherman put down his pen. 

" Why does not the man come himself? " 

" He is dead, General." 

Sherman leisurely folded up his papers. 

"Where is the body?" 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 249 

" Lieutenant Snelling's tent." 

" I will go to him." 

A crowd of men^ mostly couriers, were collected 
about the tent, discussing in cool and cheerful tones 
the size and shape of the wound in John's head. 

" Wonderful how he could have lived so long," 
Sherman heard one man say. " He must have want- 
ed to get here powerful bad. Pity the news he came 
with was not written down. He's a gone coon — 
sure." 

Then they drew back to let the general pass. 
Within the tent were the lieutenant, Sergeant Horn- 
ber, and the surgeon to the staff, who was feeling 
John's pulse. 

" Strange case," said the doctor, looking up at 
Sherman. " The man's alive. His brain is nearly 
exposed, and he has lost pints. He must have ridden 
for miles to get himself into such a state. We found 
blood in his boots." 

" Has he spoken? " 

" N^o, General. But I will bring him to con- 
sciousness if there is enough vitality left for my stuff 
to act. I guess you had better remain here if you 
are expecting news of importance. He may last a 
minute or two after he revives; he won't go much 
further. Ah! look out; he's coming round. Stand 
where he can see you." 

John's eyelids quivered; he sighed twice and then 
looked feebly round. As he caught sight of Sher- 
man's face his expression became concentrated and 
full of intelligence and his lips moved. Sherman 
bent his head until their faces almost touched. 



250 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" Speak up/' he said gently, in a matter-of-fact 
tone. " Eemember, I am a little deaf." 

But John did not try to speak. Looking at Sher- 
man with eyes full of meaning, he lifted his arms 
feebly, and placed the nerveless fingers on his left 
side. 

" The pocket! " cried the doctor. " Something in 
his pocket." 

They undid the coat, and Sherman drew out Gen- 
eral Johnston's letter. At sight of the handwriting, 
he tore it open and read swiftly, John watched him 
eagerly. He saw the stern eyes brighten and the 
broad chest heave with a great sigh of relief. Then 
he lost consciousness once more, and even the doctor 
thought this time that he was dead. 

" Greeley," Sherman said to the doctor, who was 
looking at the letter with curious eyes, " this man de- 
serves the thanks of the army. If he lives he shall 
know it. Nothing now must stand in the way of his 
recovery. I know you will spare no pains — you never 
do — but drop all other work, if necessary, and stay 
by him. I would rather lose a company than such 
a life as his." 

Sherman spoke huskily, and with deep feeling. 
He had good reason. The letter now in his possession 
was a notification from Johnston to Hardee that the 
fortified position on the railway from Kingston to 
Marietta had been secretly abandoned. With such 
intelligence to hand, all anxiety in Sherman's mind 
concerning his own position was over. This letter 
meant that a general retreat southward on the part 
of the Confederates was in progress, and his own bold 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 251 

march to Dallas justified. In a few days the army 
would be within reach of all its supplies and be ad- 
vanced far into the enemy's country. These hopes 
were realized. In six days the railway as far as Big 
Shanty, north of Marietta, was in Union hands. New 
Hope crossing was carried, and by the 1st of June 
Sherman was able to report to Washington that he 
was in a strong position and in full command of sup- 
plies, and had marched one hundred miles into Geor- 
gia, through a densely wooded country, against a 
vigilant and stubborn foe. 

John lay between life and death for a week. His 
condition was a subject of interest to numbers of men 
who had never seen his face. Bob Spenniker, who 
had reached camp an hour after the leader, with a 
wounded leg, gave every one he knew a highly col- 
oured account of the whole expedition, and the news 
spread from regiment to regiment that this courier, a 
recruit at that, had interviewed General Johnston, 
and brought to Sherman despatches of enormous im- 
portance. As confirmation of this, the report came 
that " Uncle Billy " sent every day to inquire after 
the wounded man. The chief speculation of interest 
soon became, what reward the courier would receive 
if he lived. It would be promotion of some kind; 
that much was certain. Equally certain was it, 
Sherman being commander, that if the man did his 
duty his future was assured. But would he live? 
Nobody who was able to obtain reliable information 
thought so, for it was given out on the best author- 
ity that Surgeon Comfort Greeley had guaranteed 
that he would not die. 



252 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

Dr. Greeley, or " Candy Gree/' as he was called, 
in compliment to the extreme acerbity of his tongue 
and temper, was a very positive individual. Such a 
man either becomes a prophet to his generation or 
the reverse. Greeley, to put it mildly, was not a 
prophet. This did not mean that his patients usually 
died. Very many recovered, for he knew his busi- 
ness well. But, as he expressed it, they were the 
wrong ones — the people he said would die; while 
others, about whom he had waxed vehemently hope- 
ful, immediately saw fit to contract some unexpected 
complication and become defunct, as if to spite him. 
Yet he never learned discretion, but continued to 
prophesy as positively as ever to a derisive world. 
John's case interested him. He was not easily 
touched, but the determination that this man must 
have shown impressed Greeley as much as it had 
done Sherman. He nursed and tended John with 
more than his usual skill, and with the tenderness of 
a woman. Never in any campaign was a harder 
fight made against death. It was an interesting sight 
to see the general and his surgeon — both grim men, 
inured to bloodshed, daily braving death themselves 
and holding human life at its cheapest rate, as all 
soldiers must at such a time — anxiously watching by 
the bedside of a private soldier, a unit in the hundred 
thousand that one of them commanded, and a stranger 
to them both. 

" He must be pulled through," Sherman said once 
impatiently, when John looked worse than usual. " I 
can't afford to lose this kind of man. Will you do 
it, Gree?" 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 253 

" I said so," was the sharp reply. " Don't I know 
my trade? I tell you he shall live." 

Sherman sighed. 

" Chances are dead against him. I can see that." 

" D — n the chances! But I don't admit it." 

" What is in his favour ? " 

" Youth, health, constitution of a hull; tempera- 
ment of — of an Abraham Lincoln. Chances, Gen- 
eral! Pshaw! I know he has a wound that would 
kill two men — I say I know that. I know he did 
the worst thing he could for your sake, and rode miles 
bleeding like a hog, and that all this last week I have 
had fever to reduce, with hardly an ounce of blood 
in him to spare. But what of it? He's alive; weak — 
yes, that's the point, but his temperature normal and 
pulse not so bad. Wait now; watch, wait and see." 

Twenty-four hours passed, and not only did 
Sherman, Hornber, and Spenniker, the men person- 
ally interested in John, watch anxiously to see what 
changes time would bring, but half of the men in 
Spenniker's regiment watched too, having bets with 
Bob on the result. The deadly prostration after the 
fever and loss of blood showed signs of giving way. 
The next day John took liquid nourishment freely, 
and the corner was turned. Great was the joy and 
congratulation of John's friends, and great was the 
degradation among Bob Spenniker's comrades. That 
astute gentleman, the moment the patient showed 
signs of recovery, had taken up every bet laid against 
his life, and now stood to win a fabulous amount, un- 
less his debtors were knocked over themselves before 
they had a chance of paying up, a fate which, Bob 
17 



254 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

afterward complained, overtook most of them. Two 
weeks later John was sitting up in bed propped by 
pillows, reading a letter from home, when General 
Sherman, who had been too busy to see him lately, 
came in unexpectedly. 

" Tiring your brain, aren't you? " he said kindly, 
bringing with him an atmosphere of power and life 
which John found very invigorating. " What does 
doctor say? Drop that, now," as John saluted. 
" Let ceremony alone until you are on your feet again. 
What are those? Home letters? " 

" Yes, General." 

" Then I must take back what I said. They will 
do you good. That from your wife?" 

John flushed, for he was very weak. It was a 
letter from Jean. Sherman saw he had made a mis- 
take. 

" Whoever it is, send her a bright answer back. 
You will be fit for service before a month is gone — 
and promotion." 

John caught his breath. 

" General — what does that mean? I have done 
nothing deserving such a thing." 

" We think differently," was the answer. " I do, 
anyhow. It is in my power to give a man a com- 
mission if he is clearly worth it." 

"A commission — for me — from you!" John 
gasped. He was still very weak. " I can't be- 
lieve it." 

His voice was strained and trembled in his ex- 
citement. Dr. Greeley, who had just entered, shook 
his head at Sherman. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 255 

" Don't, then/' the general said, good-hnmoured- 
ly. " I only talked to cheer you. It appears I made 
a mistake/' looking at Greeley. " Never mind. 
Good news never turned up a man's toes yet." 

" Nervous excitement has, often," snapped the 
doctor. 

" Then I will go. Take care of yourself, Burlet- 
son, and get well." He rose abruptly, and was leaving 
the tent when Greeley, who was watching John's face, 
stopped him. 

" One minute, General," he whispered. " He has 
something on his mind to say to you." Sherman 
paused good-naturedly and waited, while John took 
up the letter he had been reading and played with it 
nervously. 

" Say it out, man," the general said with a 
smile. " What is there to tell me ? " 

" I've a favour to ask. General." 

"Well?" 

" You have hinted at rewarding my small 
service." 

" We don't reward small services in this army. 
Well?" 

" I joined, General, as a kind of volunteer." 

" So did I." 

" A letter came with me from the President. I 
think he told you my object." 

" You mean that crazy notion, that preposterous 
idea of going to Santanelle?" 

" Yes, General." 

" But when you volunteered for this expedition I 
thought that had been knocked out of you." 



256 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

John smiled faintly and caressed his letter. 

" It has been knocked in to-day. I want to know. 
General " 

"What?". The question came like a pistol shot, 
sharp and threatening. 

" Whether I may go there, right away, when I 
am on my feet." 

" I should not offer promotion to a suicide! " 

" I meant instead of that." John's voice was low 
but very firm. The general looked at him with a 
frown; then turned on his heel, saying, in a biting 
tone: 

" It is well I know your mind, for it will save me 
trouble. A man who can deliberately fool away his 
life is not fit to command others. But I will wait 
until you are stronger and have your nerves and 
senses back again." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

Dr. Greeley was a short-tempered man. The 
infirmity was constitutional, aggravated by a dis- 
appointed life, and when we made his acquaintance 
it had become chronic and ineradicable. Yet he 
had another side to his nature, and was so kind to his 
favourite patients that, though he made numberless 
enemies, he was never without a friend. John had 
found this. His very quiet disposition had drawn 
out all that was best in Greeley, and until the gen- 
eral's visit there had not been a difference between 
them. The immediate consequence of Sherman's 
call was an increase of gentleness on Greeley's part to- 
ward John. The patient's nerves were so much over- 
wrought by the interview that it was only by great 
care and skill that Greeley prevented fever from 
supervening ; and very rude indeed were the remarks 
he made to the general's orderly, Avho was sent to 
inquire. 

" Tell General Sherman that my man has been on 
the tear ever since he was here. I had no sleep with 
him last night, and don't expect to get much to- 
night. It's all his fault, and if the man dies, which 
is now more than likely, I shall hold him responsible. 
Tell him this, word for word. If it scares you, I will 

257 



258 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

write it down. He may know something about lead- 
ing an army, but he knows less than nothing about 
talking to a man wounded in the head." 

When John was well enough, however, his turn 
arrived, and he became the astonished recipient of the 
choicest epithets in Dr. Greeley's vocabulary. Gree- 
ley had been an interested listener to the conversa- 
tion which had done the mischief, and had heard 
from Hornber something of John's intention when 
he joined the army. He liked John, and considered 
it to be his duty to tell him what his obstinacy would 
lead to if he persevered in his plan of going to Santa- 
nelle. The attack began as soon as the patient was 
really out of all danger of relapse, and lasted until 
his wound was healed and his strength had returned 
to him. John said little in his defence, and the doctor 
boasted in private to Hornber that he was convincing 
" this misguided idiot that his mad coon-hunt must 
be given up." Some of the arguments, John had to 
confess, cut him to the quick. 

" I will take it another way," Greeley said one 
evening as they sat smoking, Hornber with them, aid- 
ing and abetting Candy Gree with might and main. 
" You are hard upon your mother — shamefully so. 
To leave her for such a thing as this is the worst kind 
of selfishness. Bad enough to go away to fight your 
country's battles, though that is right and natural. 
If every man who had a mother stayed at home, there 
would be no army at all. That stands to reason. 
But to desert her in her feeble old age to fly off on 
such cracked, senseless wee-gee as this! I tell you, 
any man who could do it after he knows what you 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 259 

know now, is a criminal, and I am not the least too 
tender-mouthed to say so to his face. If the risk were 
reasonable, and the life to be saved your brother's, or 
some man who had gone through fire to save you, I 
would say little. But this man is not that kind, and 
the risk to you is out of all reason and sense. Do you 
think the rebs don't guard their prisons? You have 
sixty miles to ride to Santanelle from this camp, and 
sixty miles to get back again; and if you are found 
out, and he is caught, what then? Shooting; quick, 
cold-blooded gun-work. I know, for I have had 
scores under me that have been in Southern prisons. 
They love there to knock a Yank on the head — it 
means one less to find food for. If the thing had 
ever been done, I would try and forgive you; but it 
has been tried and always failed. If you try now you 
are past swearing at. I am not at all sure that it 
ain't my duty to certify you as unfit to be at large, 
and see that you are arrested the day you leave me. 
— What say you, Hornber? " 

" Me! " cried the sergeant, with a snort. 
" There's more in my pipe than yours, Doc. Why do 
you harp on the risk? As well tell a moth that fire 
burns. John loves danger. Listen to what Bobby 
Spenniker tells of how, instead of saving his skin by 
a scoot, he bluffed up cool as an ice-house to General 
Joe Johnston and his staff and took in the whole out- 
fit with his innocent face. I would not waste two 
breaths on the question of risk, talking to John. Not 
but what you speak God's own truth. What I say is, 
can any man with a head — and we all give him credit 
for having that — deliberately tread under his feet 



260 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

what Sherman has for him? Talk about flying in 
the face of Providence! Never had any man since 
the war began so good a chance of sailing in and cap- 
turing all that is good in the army; while, if he lets 
the chance go by, and goes and does what Sherman 
disapproves of, he'll miss it all and ruin himself. 
You talk of his mother. I'll add this: From what 
he has told me about the old lady she just lives in the 
hope of his success. Aye, John, twist it and turn it 
how ye may, if you fail here you rob your mother of 
her rights. She has helped, as mothers do, to make 
you what you are. To forego what is offered you, 
will be rankest unfilialness, to my thinking. If the 
love of your mother really holds your heart, you'll 
never do it. There, I have said my say." 

Both looked at John and waited for his answer. 
This was his last day in hospital. To-morrow he 
would be a free agent. Earlier in the day he had said 
he was going to the general next morning, so they 
had fired their last guns, for they knew, what John 
did not, that after his great service he would be re- 
fused nothing that he might reasonably ask. 

"What will it be?" the doctor asked. 

John puffed a long ring of smoke from a cigar 
an officer in the cavalry had sent him, and looked at 
it thoughtfully. 

" I have listened carefully, good friends, to all you 
say, and but for the mail that has come to me from 
home I do not know, torn about as my own mind has 
been since I have been here, that T could have stood 
against you on that ground. There is truth bitter 
and strong in much you have set down. But as 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 261 

things are, I cannot, I will not, go back upon my 
word. The chance of success is small, I know. I 
never thought it was big. But there is no other way, 
and if that boy is not pulled out of that hole he will 
certainly die. So much I heard a few days back. 
No — I must go, and without delay. 1 shall ask you. 
Sergeant, to trace out with me a map of roads as far 
as we can get them on the way to Santanelle." 

"What next?" grumbled Hornber. "Perhaps 
you will ask me to go too. I will not help you." 

" Yes, you will," John answered gently, " when 
you see that I mean going. You are the only one 
who knows enough to do it." 

" Good Lord! — the man's mad! " Dr. Greeley 
exclaimed. " Ah — we are going to have a visitor. 
George! " as Hornber sprang smartly to attention. 
" It is the general himself ! " 

" Well, Doctor," Sherman said, taking the camp- 
table as a seat, and lighting a pipe, " have you brought 
the fellow to reason as you promised me ? " 

" That seems impossible. I have done my best." 

" Obstinate still? What is to be done with him? " 

" He should be arrested as a mischievous lunatic," 
Greeley answered savagely. " Tied up and sent home 
in a cage. He has less sense than any man I ever met, 
and that is saying something." 

" What say you, Burletson ? " 

" I would ask your permission. General, to make 
a start for Santanelle in two days." 

The doctor exploded. 

" If you do, I'm d— d! That's all." 

" In three, then." 



262 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" It will be a week, seven whole days and nights, 
and that is a month too soon, before you'll be allowed 
to go anywhere, except for exercise." 

" Well, then, a week," John said, with a sigh, 
" if I must wait so long." 

" You are a fool, Burletson, you know, and 
worse," Sherman remarked severely. 

" So I have been told by both, these friends, 
General." 

" Don't call me a friend," growled Greeley. " I 
have no use for men like you." 

Sherman looked amused. 

"What plans have you?" 

" Have I your leave to go? " 

" I cannot prevent you. The instructions I re- 
ceived from the President are too clear to be set aside. 
If they were not, it might be different." 

" I have strong reasons, General." 

" They must be strong. Well — you are going? 
Tell me your plans, I say." 

" I shall disguise myself. I have thought it out, 
and believe my best chance is to borrow the uniform 
of a rebel subaltern. I know where I can get one." 

" You are ambitious." 

" It is risky, but I reckon worth it. The man who 
is going with me, if he can get his colonel's permis- 
sion, will act as my servant." 

" Only one man? " 

" I should have gone alone, but he wished so much 
to go!" 

"Who?" 

" Bob Spenniker." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 263 

" The little rat! None better. Well? " 

" We will ride straight to Santanelle town, and- 
gather information there about the prison. I shall 
pay a friendly call on the commandant, and perhaps 
get a look at the prisoners. What we do after that 
will depend upon circumstances." 

" When do you expect to get back? " 

" In two weeks. It is sixty miles by road to San- 
tanelle. We shall do that in three days. The return 
journey may take longer, and there are sure to be de- 
lays and many difficulties at the place." 

" I give you less time than that, if you get away at 
all. Eemember, the chances of their seeing through 
your disguise if you go as an officer are ten times as 
great as they were before. We will talk about this 
later. I have a map that may be of use. We will 
do what we can for you. The cavalry shall be on the 
lookout and meet you if necessary. Come and see me 
in your rig. I lived down South some years, and I 
may be able to give you some hints in deportment and 
behaviour. Everything will depend on that. I like 
your ideas on the whole, but you will be like a man 
standing on a powder magazine with a lighted match 
in his hand." 

Two days later, when John appeared before the 
general fully equipped, Sherman laughed heartily. 

" I should not have known you," he said. " But 
there is room for improvement. You must not hold 
your sword that way, to begin with. They would 
see at once there was something wrong. ISTow let me 
hear you speak. Ah, that will not do at all." And 
he then proceeded to give John a lesson in accent, 



264 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

deportment, and manner, which he repeated until all 
that he had to teach was well and thoroughly learned. 

It was a characteristic action — one of those which 
endeared Sherman to all his men, though he was a 
strong disciplinarian. 

John set out on his quest at the end of June. He 
rode the horse whose speed and sagacity had already 
saved his life once. Bob was equally well mounted. 
The men cheered John as he rode off. He could have 
had forty volunteers to accompany him, if he had 
needed them, for this new and original way of " dirk- 
ing the rebs " made a great impression on the bolder 
spirits. But Bob was worth them all. He had been 
•bred in the slums of Chicago, and had completed his 
education in the mining camps and ranches of the 
Eocky Mountains and Texas. There were few things 
of wild and lawless kinds that " the rat " had not 
taken part in; he was the best shot and the best rider 
of his regiment, and, alas! the heaviest gambler. 
Why he had taken so strong a fancy to John no one 
could understand. It was a curious case of attraction 
of opposites. In John's presence, Bob's language was 
comparatively decent; and though publicly he af- 
fected to look upon his leader as an amiable lunatic, 
it was not worth any one's while to make a disparag- 
ing remark about John in Bob's hearing. John, on 
his side, trusted Bob implicitly, and made no secret 
of the opinion that if he were successful it would 
probably be more owing to Bob than to any action of 
his own. Bob's keenness and quickness had inspired 
John with a profound respect for the little man. 

They rode steadily all day, keeping a sharp look- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 265 

out for troops, but meeting none, except a patrol or 
two, which, thanks to Bob's sight and hearing, they 
easily avoided. At night they halted in a small vil- 
lage, and John for the first time tried the effect of his 
disguise. He was well satisfied with the result, and 
they found no difficulty in getting all they needed. 
Now and then they lost their way, but Bob's wood- 
craft and ingenuity proved equal to all emergencies, 
and they reached Santanelle by the evening of the 
third day. Before the war, Santanelle had contained 
one thousand inhabitants. Now there were but a 
hundred males, not one of whom was young and 
able-bodied. Most of the work was done by the wom- 
en, and the place had a depressed, i^overty-stricken 
appearance. There was one hotel, in which place 
they took up their quarters, intending to begin the 
campaign the next day. Bob, however, began that 
night, by making friends with the landlord, and play- 
ing euchre with him until the small hours of the 
morning. In this way he not only increased his 
stock of ready money, for the Southerner was no 
match at cards for the Western man, but gained much 
valuable information about the prison and its com- 
mandant. 



CHAPTER XXiy. 

Bob Spenniker was an excellent listener and 
possessed the art of turning a confiding person inside 
out without that person suspecting his design, but 
he was not good at reporting what he heard. 

" You will have to blufl: it, boss, same as you did 
Joe Johnston, only harder," was his reply to John's 
question concerning the prison. " The prisoners is 
shot like skunks if they put half an inch of nose 
outside the dead line — so you see how it is." 

And this was all Bob would say for a time. By 
dint of many questions, however, John at last learned 
that Santanelle was an offshoot of the great prison at 
Andersonville, and contained about three hundred 
prisoners, guarded by thirty men, under command of 
a Lieutenant Catford. The post of prison guard was 
much hated by the Confederate soldiers; desertion 
was common; and even Lieutenant Catford, the land- 
lord said, was sick of his billet, and pining to be at 
the front. This, the most important part of the evi- 
dence, Bob only mentioned as an afterthought. What 
had impressed him was the landlord's emphatic as- 
sertion that no one was allowed to go over the prison, 
because infectious diseases were too prevalent there. 
Bob was rouwh, hard in the grain and hardily reared; 
266 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 267 

but certain disclosures of the landlord had changed 
his attitude toward the enterprise in a remarkable 
manner. Up to this time the little man had been 
openly scornful that John should spend money and 
effort in an attempt to rescue one man. Now, 
though he said little, that little was significant. 

" I see no road clear myself, but don't doubt it 
will come clear to you. Good luck to the biz. I 
don't know that I take more pleasure in shooting rebs 
in a general way than any other whites. But after 
what I've heard I would like to set some of these 
brutes wriggling over a red-skin's fire — I would, by 
the Lord!" 

John sent Bob to the stable, to procure for him- 
self the opportunity of quietly thinking out his plan 
of campaign. Bob retired nothing loath, groomed the 
horses, and gossiped with the barkeeper until the or- 
der came to saddle up. John took the opportunity, 
remembering something Sherman had told him, to 
walk into the stable and reprove Bob in vigorous 
language for some fancied neglect of the horse. He 
nearly spoilt it all, however, at the end by laughing 
at the intense astonishment of the little man. 

" Your lieutenant can talk, then," the barkeeper 
said, after John had stalked out, his sabre clanking 
royally over the loose stones. " I thought by his 
looks he were an extraordinary mild kind of man." 

" You make no mistake," Bob said viciously. 
" He's the most cussed nigger-driver ever I struck. 
His father's overseer down in Louisanny don't begin 
to come near him. I've seen him take a nigger's hide 
off in strips when he was really riled." 



268 • THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

"Don't say?" exclaimed the other. "Then 
Lieutenant Catford and he will freeze at once." 

"That man fond of thrashing niggers?" ob- 
served Bob meditatively. " You'd say so if you saw 
him with the Yanks. They run at the sound of his 
voice, I'm told. When he first came, they complained 
of their grub — as if they'd be fed high, blame 'em! 
when our own boys have not enough! But he stopped 
that." 

"How?" 

Bob ducked his head behind one of the horses to 
hide his face. He did not think its expression was to 
be trusted. 

" Told 'em that if there was not enough food he 
had plenty of ammunition, and if they spoke again he'd 
feed 'em with that. This settled it. Since then the 
cholera thinned 'em down to rights. Good job, too." 

Bob repeated this conversation to John, who said 
nothing, but rode at a quicker pace. They were rid- 
ing toward the prison. 

"Going to interview the lieutenant?" Bob re- 
marked casually, a little offended that John said 
nothing about his plans. 

" Yes. Remember you are a Texan." 

"That so? An' you?" 

" I'm a subaltern in Hardee's corps, invalided 
from active service." John pointed to his forehead, 
carefully enveloped in one of the old bandages which 
had been preserved for the purpose. " I am calling 
as I pass — that is all at present. We shall have to 
see what this man Catford is like before we make more 
plans." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 269 

The prison was on the side of a hill, at the foot 
of which lay the town of Santanelle. It was a large 
inclosure or stockade, and above it, on the side of the 
hill, stood the guard-house. Four sentries were pacing 
along the four sides of the stockade, and at each angle 
was a twelve-pounder gun. John saw at a glance 
that the place was so constructed as to be easily con- 
trolled by a mere handful of armed men. 

A sentry on duty at the guard-house directed 
John to a house a hundred yards away as the lieuten- 
ant's residence. Here another soldier, who was sit- 
ting at his ease on a stump, cutting up a plug of to- 
bacco, carelessly saluted, and after filling his pipe 
leisurely proceeded to lead the way in. He led 
through a narrow passage, and, without knocking, 
thrust his head into the room beyond. A few words 
passed in whispers in the room, and then the soldier, 
flattening himself against the wall to leave John room 
to pass, said, with a nod of encouragement: 

" He's in. Move along, Lieutenant." 

John moved on with his best Southern swagger, 
leaving Bob outside to converse with the guard, and 
found himself in a small room so full of tobacco 
smoke that the man within it was half hidden as by 
a fog. Through the smoke were to be seen a pair of 
bony legs covering the seats of three chairs, and on 
the fourth the body of a sallow-faced young man who 
looked as if he was in an advanced stage of consump- 
tion. His uniform jacket was minus several important 
buttons, his boots were unpolished, his trousers un- 
strapped, his shirt was ragged, while his face and 
hands were grimy to a degree. On a table at his right 
18 



270 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

were a bottle of spirits, a tumbler half full of whisky 
and water, and a pile of yellow-backed novels, one of 
which he was reading. At John's entrance the lieu- 
tenant withdrew his legs from their supporting chairs 
and extended a cold, limp hand. 

" I am happy to make your acquaintance, Lieuten- 
ant Burletson." 

His voice was as languid as his manner, but his 
eyes, which seemed to contain in their expression all 
the vitality the rest of him lacked, said plainly, " And 
what the deuce do you want with me? " 

John bowed and shook hands in silence, consider- 
ing how he should deal with this man. Bob's first 
words this morning, " Bluff it, boss," occurred to 
him. He felt that no half measures would be of the 
least avail with such a man. 

" My visit surprises you, Lieutenant," he said, 
drawling his words slowly, with as near an approach 
to a Southern accent as it was in his power to utter. 
*' That is because you do not know my business here. 
But you will before long. I am to take your place." 

John forgot himself a little here, and jerked out 
the last sentence with true Yankee abruptness; but 
Catford did not notice it. The significance of the 
words to him prevented all danger of this. Never did 
a random blow go home with greater force. In an 
instant the languor of the man had given way to in- 
tense excitement. 

" It has come at last, then ? Take some whisky. 
Have something to eat. This is news, indeed. Are 
you from Richmond?" 

" Thanks, I have breakfasted," John answered. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 271 

the steadiness of his voice in strong contrast to the 
other's vehemence. " I am from the front, from 
Hardee's corps. I was scalped by a bullet wound, 
and they refused to let me do any more active serv- 
ice for a while and sent me here. You will get au- 
thority from Eichmond later on. Hardee was writ- 
ing there when I left. You will take my place in the 
regiment." 

"Which?" 

"■ Thirteenth— Hood's Texans." 

Catford, who was helping himself to some more 
whisky, looked up with a puzzled air, and John felt 
very cold. 

" But I thought those devils would only fight 
under a Western man." 

" Wa-al," John said, smiling, " that is about what 
they're used to. I am Western bred, as you see; but 
necessity compels many things. Any man who'll 
fight will do now." 

Lieutenant Catford's face fell a little. 

" Infernal queer men to lead, those." 

" More fun to be had with them, though," John 
said dryly, " than guarding prisoned Yanks. But no 
doubt that will depend on the temperament of the 
officer. It's more dangerous." 

Lieutenant Catford flushed angrily. The whisky 
had warmed his blood. 

" If you suppose I'm scared," he cried, " you don't 
know who you are speaking to. I am there, if it 
comes to leading. They shall find out, too, what dis- 
cipline means, and that I know how it should be 
maintained." 



272 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" Be careful," John drawled; " Texans ain't nig- 
gers, you know." 

Catford put down his glass with a muttered oath. 
But John's face was so innocent and withal so firm 
that he thought better of what he was going to say, 
and offered cigars instead. John took one, picking 
it carefully, though in truth he knew little about 
cigars. 

" This life here," he said, " you find quiet, don't 
you?" 

" It is the dullest there is — after you have been 
here as long as I have. A man who likes his own 
company may get along. I do not." 

John nodded and then leaned back in his chair and 
puffed in silence, watching Catford under his eyelids. 

" I want quiet — or they believe I do — the Govern- 
ment, I mean — and they think you have had enough." 

" They are right, then," Catford responded, with 
an uneasy laugh. " I would have thanked them to 
find out that before. Do you know the President? " 

He lit a cigar as he spoke, and John noticed that 
his hand trembled so much that he could hardly hold 
his match. 

" That is a hard question for me to answer," he 
replied. " Perhaps I won't answer it, if you don't 
mind." 

" Not the least. How were things going when 
you left the front? " 

Catford spoke with a visible effort, and for a short 
time they chatted about the chances of the war. Then 
John played his second card. 

" I will ask a favour of you. Lieutenant." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 273 

" Anything I can do." The tone was cordial even 
to nervousness. 

" I want to take measure of what the command 
of this prison amounts to. If you have time this 
morning, will you show me the guard-house, the place 
where you keep your prisoners, and your means of de- 
fence in case of attack or revolt. I do not know, of 
course, how they may settle things at Eichmond; but 
if they approve my appointment here they will want 
you at once, and I should like to be prepared." 

Lieutenant Catford played with his cigar and 
frowned. "Who was this man?" 

" I fear that is out of my power. Eegulations for- 
bid it, unless you can show me written authority from 
the President." 

This was a facer for John. Yet his need was 
desperate. 

" Excuse me, I question that. Show me the 
order." 

The lieutenant did not answer, and John fol- 
lowed up his advantage. 

" As commander here you have a right to exercise 
your discretion. I am aware of that. But I have 
mentioned the name of my general; and I could give 
you others." He paused, but still there was no reply. 
Catford was biting his finger nails in hesitation. 
John put down his cigar and took up his sword. 

" I will wish you good-day. Lieutenant." His 
manner was frigidly dignified, his voice as severe as 
he could make it. 

Catford did not meet his eye. 

" Sit down again; we will talk it over," he said. 



274 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

John turned on his heel. " I see nothing to talk 
about, sir. You have made a mistake, but that is 
your business. Good-morning." 

Catford gathered himself together with a deject- 
ed air. 

" I will do what you ask. After all, you may as 
well see what a God-forsaken hole this is, and the 
dogs that live and die in it. My chief reason for put- 
ting you off, if you wish to know it, was a fear lest 
the place should sicken you and my chance of escape 
be lost." 

" No danger of that. My orders are too strict. 
When shall I come? " 

"This afternoon, at three. You'll lunch here?" 

But John declined, though with politeness. He 
wanted fresh air and leisure to think and plan. He 
had indeed " bluffed it," and his ideas required alto- 
gether rearranging. Before this talk his inspec- 
tion of the prison would have been by the favour of 
the commandant. Now he saw that he must assume 
command. Catford feared him for some reason. 
Tliis must be made the most of. Yet how to work it 
into practical results? 

John found the lieutenant waiting for him when 
he arrived at the appointed time. Catford looked 
smarter and more soldierly, having dressed himself 
with some care. But the same uneasy shiftiness was 
in his eyes. His men looked discontented, to the 
point of mutiny. Their guard-house was a poor 
place; the bedding dirty, the supply of food John 
found scanty and irregular. If this was the condi- 
tion of the jailers, he thought, what must be that of 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 275 

the prisoners? The system of defence was explained 
by Catford in detail, and from the complacency of 
his tone it was evident that he felt himself upon safe 
ground. 

" We have been extra-careful lately. There are 
rumours that Sherman may make a dash for us on 
the way to Andersonville. If he does, the Yanks 
here will wish he'd stayed away. I will show you 
why, presently. As it is, we have had to make sev- 
eral examples, some of the fools thinking we are 
afraid of their slop-pail army. That is easy. The 
trouble is keeping the brutes alive. I tried to 
do something for them when I first took command, 
but it was no good, j^ow I am as hard as nails, 
and would as lief blow them all up to-morrow. As 
it is, they die off like rotten sheep. Come and see 
them." 

The stockade was twelve feet high, an impassable 
wall of timber, within which was a railing spiked at 
the top, and within the railing which inclosed an 
acre of ground were the prisoners. The reports Bob 
had brought and the hints Catford dropped made 
John brace himself to see anything with calmness, 
however loathsome or heart-breaking it might be. 
But when the reality was before him it required all his 
self-control to prevent an exclamation then and there 
of grief and rage. It was fortunate that both Cat- 
ford and his men were too much accustomed to what 
they saw to watch closely any effect it might have 
upon a visitor. Catford wished to get the inspection 
over as soon as possible, walked quickly through the 
throng of prisoners, who shrank back to let him pass, 



276 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

and stared vacantly at the man at his heel in Confed- 
erate uniform. 

Three hundred men, houseless and shelterless, 
huddled together like cattle in stock-yards on the bare 
patch of ground. That was what John saw. They 
were without bedding, and were destitute of decent 
clothing. All day long the fierce sun poured down 
on their unfortunate heads, or they were drenched by 
storms of rain. Their food was a little bacon and 
corn meal, often mouldy and unfit to eat; their only 
drink, water from a stream which trickled through 
the inclosure, and was thereby rendered for the most 
part noisome and bad. Washing was out of the 
question. The place reeked with abominable odours; 
nearly every face was discoloured by disease or poi- 
soned blood. Through this living mass of suffering 
John was hurried by Catford and his men, and so 
stunned was he by what he saw that they had brought 
him back to the gates again before he remembered 
that whatever happened he must find out if Seth were 
still alive. 

" "Wait for me," he said, stopping short. " I need 
no guard, and will be back again in a few minutes. 
Leave me alone — I must see these things for my=elf." 

Then he strode away, leaving the lieutenant and 
his men looking at one another in amazement. The 
sergeant of the guard would have followed, but Cat- 
ford called him back. 

" No," he said nervously, " let him go where he 
pleases — let him go." 

So John went alone. Had the whole guard been 
at his side, however, they would not have stopped him 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 277 

now. He was in a white heat of fury at what he had 
seen, and for the time was careless whether he be- 
trayed himself. To and fro he wandered among the 
crowd, searching among the filth and misery and 
blank despair for the face he knew. Nowhere could 
he find Seth, and at last he came to the conclusion 
that Seth was dead. He stood still, and looked round 
once more, slowly. Had his quest come to nothing, 
after all? Must he go home to Jean and tell her — 
this? He was at the end of the inclosure farthest from 
the gates. No — Seth was not here. He turned to go, 
when some one plucked at him from behind, and a 
lad who looked barely fifteen said: 

" A man would speak to ye. Says he knows ye — 
will you come ? " 

John, in his relief, could not answer, but signed to 
the boy to show him the way, and then saw Seth, 
white and very thin, lying against the railing. 

John threw himself on his knees, while the crowd 
around him stared and whispered. 

" You know me, Seth? " 

" I thought it must be you," he answered faintly. 
"John, have you turned?" 

" I-have put this on to come and look for you. It 
was the only way I could get here." 

" You are too late, old friend." 

"Why so?" 

" I cannot walk. It will be cholera very soon. 
The same as the rest. I'll never see Jean again." 

John bent down until his lips touched Seth's ear. 

" Take heart and strength. You'll be free in less 
than a week, and not only you but evory one here. I 



278 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

came to save you alone, but now, so help me God, I 
will not leave this place until it is in ruins! " 

He wrung Seth's hand, passed quickly through 
the crowd again, and rejoined Lieutenant Catford. 

" I have seen all I want," he said, in a tone Jeffer- 
son Davis might have used. " You may close the 
gates." 



CHAPTER XXV. 

Lieutenant Catford and his sergeant looked at 
John with enrious eyes. 

" Prisoners interest yon? " the former said, as 
they walked away together. 

" If they did not," was the rejoinder, " I should 
not have come to relieve yon. I got my wound 
through a bit of service which my commander rated 
at more than it deserved. I chose the billet here, be- 
cause I wanted to take hold of a Yank prison. Show 
me the plan you mentioned for cheating Sherman if 
he tried to jump the place." 

Catford bit his nails again with indecision, but 
the confidence and authority of John's tone awed 
him. 

A few yards from the stockade, in full sight of the 
guard-house but some distance from it, was a small 
wooden hut. The lieutenant went there and un- 
locked the door, which was unusually heavy, and a 
peculiar sulphurous odour filled John's nostrils. 
The place was dark; the one window it possessed 
closed with a shutter. Catford lighted a lamp of 
the kind used by coal-miners, and unbolted a trap- 
door which covered most of the space inside the hut. 

" Come down," he said, " and see for yourself." 

279 



280 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

They descended a ladder to the depth of several 
feet, and were in a long, low passage filled with 
barrels. 

" Gunpowder," Catford said with a modest pride. 
" At the first report of a Yankee advance on Santa- 
nelle the fuse will be lighted. The stockade is above 
us — you see! " 

" Do the prisoners know? " 

" Certainly. I told them all about it, to prevent 
surprise when the time came. It is my own inven- 
tion, though they tell me there is one on a larger scale 
at Libby. General Winder, at Andersonville, has 
given instructions that when Sherman is within seven 
miles of that place his men are to open fire upon the 
stockade with grape. I think my way is far neater. 
It has had a wonderful moral effect already. You 
should have seen the faces of the cusses when I men- 
tioned it. Will it do?" 

John had not made any remark since they en- 
tered the hut, and Catford found the silence oppres- 
sive. 

" It is interesting. How did you dig it out? " 

" N"iggers," Catford said with a grin. " They did 
not relish the work much, but we found a way to 
persuade them. Let us get out of it now; the air is 
choking." 

He led the way up the ladder, which John behind 
his back examined carefully. It was an ordinary 
builder's ladder and could be pulled up or down by 
one pair of arms. 

*' Anything else you would like to see?" 

" Guess not — thanks." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. £81 

" Then come and have a drink. This is terrible 
thirsty weather." 

John acquiesced absently. Half way to the lieu- 
tenant's quarters he stopped short. 

" Will you sup with me to-night ? " 

" ]S[o — come here. I cannot leave my post. Bad 
example to my men." 

John thought of the stories Bob had told him of 
Catford's night escapades. 

" As you like," he said, after reflection. " But 
we must share the thing. I will send my man to the 
hotel for the wine." 

Bob had to be found first. He was discovered 
playing cards with the men off duty. Already he 
was a favourite among them, and was telling stories 
now in the broadest Western dialect. He went upon 
the errand with great alacrity, and returned loaded 
with sherry, whisky, and a bottle of champagne. 

Under the influence of the wine Catford warmed 
to something like enthusiasm, and confided to his 
new acquaintance much of his personal history more 
peculiar than creditable. 

The officers of the Confederate army as a whole 
were gentlemen and men of honour. The tone set 
by their leaders — Generals Lee, Jackson, and John- 
ston and J. E. B. Stuart — was so good that their sub- 
ordinates would have been of bad material indeed 
had they not been influenced by such noble examples 
of high breeding and purity of living. But there 
were exceptions, as must happen in every body of 
men, and the lower class of Confederate subaltern 
was neither a credit to his country nor a joy to his 



282 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

fellow-officers. John listened in silence. Catford 
and his history were supremely indifferent to him, 
but that the man should talk suited the purpose 
which the awful sights of this afternoon had planted 
in his heart. The prison must be destroyed; the men 
in it rescued from their living death. While Cat- 
ford talked and drank, John sipped slowly at his wine 
and thought. The hours slipped by, and still Cat- 
ford talked — about himself — and John listened, mak- 
ing plans. But the lieutenant had a well-seasoned 
head, and it was long before the liquor overcame 
him. x\bout midnight, however, he was growing 
very tipsy. 

" Burletson, my boy," he hiccoughed solemnly, 
" do you know the best thing I ever did in my life 
for my country? I have done many things, but this 
is the greatest of all — the mine — the mine beneath 
the prison." He wagged a forefinger at John. " I 
will tell you why. If Sherman knew what I know, 
this place would not be safe a day, nor half a day. 
Think of that! " 

" If Sherman knew," John said slowly, " if he 
knew — what ? " 

Catford chuckled. 

" Why, that all the way from here to Kenesaw 
there is a clear road only guarded by a single picket — 
not a brigade, not a regiment, not a company, with- 
in ten miles." 

" It is sixty miles to Kenesaw." 

" What's sixty miles to cavalry? " 

" The Yanks would raise the country upon them, 
and cut off their own retreat." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 283 

" Not if they rode by night. Oh, I have thought 
it all out. I figured it on my map, and I dug that 
mine. Sherman may come if he dares now. I'll send 
the whole three hundred Yanks to glory. I am 
bound to be too smart for 'em. What is a Yank to a 
Southerner for brains? We've the best blood in the 
world, sir. We're masters of this continent, and will 
be always, I don't care how the war goes. Doubt 
my word — do you doubt it ? " 

He was becoming quarrelsome now, and banged 
his fist on the table. 

" Show it me on the map," John said, " and I'll 
believe you." 

" There's one on that shelf. Bring it along; I 
can't, the wine has got into my legs. Not in my 
head, though, not in my head. Get it — there's a 
good chap." 

John did so and spread out a map of Georgia, a 
better one than he had ever seen before, upon the 
table. 

" Where's Sherman now? Not far from Atlanta? 
Curse him. Where's the road? Here. Eun your eye 
along it. I'm drunk, am I? Gad! I know more 
than you, my boy, though you think you're sober." 

John glanced at the map, rolled it up, and went 
back to his chair. 

" You are right." 

" Of course I am," Catford said with a chuckle. 
"Have some more drink and I'll tell you another 
story, the best of all. A yellow girl this time. A 
rattler she be, by gum — as the niggers say. Fill your 
glass, man, full. You don't drink worth a cent." 



284 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

John did as lie was told, and his wrist brushed 
against the map, which rolled on the floor at his feet. 
Catford began his story. But he was getting drowsy 
now and lost the thread of his narrative. He began 
again, laughing at himself, while John drank the wine 
he had poured out, and rose from his chair. 

" You are not going back to the hotel? " 

" Starting now — good-night." 

Catford laughed uproariously. 

" Be oft' then, and be hanged! Pity you have not 
a stronger head. If I could carry no more than you, 
I'd shoot myself. See you to-morrow." 

He waved his hand, and John, with one keen look 
at the man as he tried to fill a glass which he was hold- 
ing upside down, nodded to himself, and left the 
room. 

He gave a sigh of relief when he was outside, and 
drew a deep breath of the cool night air. Where was 
Bob? Card-playing, probably. But John did the 
little man injustice. He had not gone a dozen steps 
toward the guard-house before he saw by the dim 
light a figure holding the horses. 

" What is the luck, boss? " 

" The best. Where have you been? " 

"■ Oh, among them," pointing with his thumb be- 
hind him. " I had a high old time, but this is a rot- 
ten place, and the men are worse." 

"They don't suspect you?" 

"Me? Why, in the whole crowd you could not 
find such a reb as me. Ask any of 'em. What have 
you determined on?" 

They had mounted their horses and rode home. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 2S5 

" Are you up to a hard ride ? " John said, by 
way of answer. 

"Am I not?" 

" When does the moon rise? " 

" In an hour." 

" I shall want you to ride to our lines with a note 
to Sherman and a map I will give you. Take my 
horse, as he is the strongest, and make all the speed 
you can. There is not time for me to give you all 
the details, but I intend to take this place, and if the 
general follows out my ideas I hope you will be back 
here in two days with men enough to cut the guard 
to pieces." 

Bob gave a grim laugh. 

"I am in it." Then a sudden thought struck 
him. "How about you? I can't leave you welter- 
ing here." 

" You must. If I can fix things, you may find 
me here in command when you return. Any way, I 
shall be somewhere near that hut back of the stock- 
ade. They have laid a mine from it underneath the 
stockade, and we must set a guard over the place be- 
fore anything else is done. Eemember that when 
you get back with the boys." 

Bob swore a heavy oath. 

" See here, boss, you must change this thing 
round." 

"How?" 

" You go — I stay. I will ride over to the lieu- 
tenant in the morning and say you had orders to join 
the regiment and will write him. Anything will do. 
I do not leave you at the cannon's mouth this way. 
19 



2S6 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

S'pose they get wind? Why, they'd burn you in oil! 
You should have heard what I did 'bout what hap- 
pened to a nigger who helped a prisoner to escape 
a while back. Your idea is rank foolishness. I came 
to stay by you, and I wont go." 

" You will," said John, in his quickest tone. " I 
must remain, because the man I sought is here lying 
sick. Trust me. Bob, to see to my own skin." 

" That I will not." 

" Yes. But here we are at the hotel. Stay out- 
side while I go in and write the letter. They must 
not see you leave. Can you find your way." 

" Can I ride a horse? We've been here but two 
days. What kind of a handful do you take me for? " 

John found the hall of the hotel empty; he heard 
some late drinkers at the bar, but reached his room 
without attracting notice from any one, and wrote his 
letter. 

" See that the boys reach here at night," John 
said, handing Bob a parcel. " Come in alone first. 
If you do not find me near the mine, you will know 
there is something wrong aiid can judge yourself what 
to do next. If the general will not risk it, come back 
and we will work it ourselves. I know you will 
not fail me." 

Bob gave a short, hoarse laugh. 

" If I do, I'm d— d ! Good-bye." 

He touched his horse lightly with M'hip and spur, 
and was out of sight in a moment. 

John did not ride over to the prison until the 
afternoon of the next day. To his surprise he heard 
from the sentry that the lieutenant was breakfasting. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 287 

He found Catford trying to eat, looldng very ghastly 
after his debauch, a mass of official correspondence 
before him. There was a coolness and stiffness 
in his manner John did not like. 

" 1 have heard from Richmond," he said, playing 
with his cup, looking stealthily at John. 

''That so? What news?" 

" Nothing like what you led me to believe." He 
paused to munch a piece of bread and watch the 
effect of his words. John did not move or take his 
eyes from his face. 

" Well, what do they say? " 

" Why, that another man is coming to relieve me, 
not you at all. That is queer." 

Catford's eyes were peculiarly alive. 

John smiled sarcastically. 

" I am not surprised. What is his name? " 

" Lieutenant Cunnington; aide to Johnston. I 
know something about him. He was in trouble a 
short time since through the loss of important de- 
spatches. He don't come from Hardee at all. Did 
you ever meet him? " 

Catford asked this question as an afterthought. 
He saw John's mouth twitch. 

" Cunnington? The name is familiar. When 
does he come? " 

" To-day." 

" If it is the man I know," John said, smiling 
again, " he will be glad to see me here." 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

Lieutenant Catford was perplexed when he re- 
ceived his mail, but the conversation with John puz- 
zled him still more. Who and what was this Burlet- 
son? The letter from Richmond was simply a for- 
mal order that on the 1st day of July Lieutenant 
Catford was to surrender command of Santanelle 
prison to Lieutenant Ralph Cunnington and report 
himself to General Johnston, commander of the army 
in Georgia. When Catford first read the letter he set 
John down as a fraud of the first water. He felt it 
only remained to find out whether he was the victim 
of a practical joke, or whether — his blood ran cold at 
the thought — whether this pretended subaltern in 
the thirteenth Texas regiment was a spy! Just as 
the horrible idea occurred to him, John came in. 
Catford's nerves were thoroughly out of order, and 
his brain muddy and confused with last night's de- 
bauch. John's coolness, his evident acquaintance 
with Cunnington, extinguished the fear that he was a 
Yankee in disguise and aroused a new suspicion that 
had been in Catford's mind the day before. A spy 
he still believed him to be — but from Richmond, not 
from the enemy. Catford knew that he was not in 
favour in high places. Some time before, when he 
388 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 289 

had comjDlained bitterly to friends at Eichmond of 
his long exile at Santanelle, he had been warned that 
if he did not wish to lose his commission he had bet- 
ter remain quiet, and it was hinted that certain facts 
of his past life had become known to Jefferson Davis. 
The President of the Confederacy was a man of 
strong prejudices and accustomed to act in a very 
arbitrary fashion where his feelings were aroused. 
"NMiat if this Burletson were an emissary from him; 
instructed to examine the condition of the prison and 
its defences and the conduct of its commander ? Cat- 
ford shuddered at the thought, and when his visitor, 
after some general conversation, said that he wished 
to see the stockade again, he gave permission with a 
readiness that he trusted would have a beneficial 
effect. 

" Go anywhere — do anything you please," he said, 
with a ghastly attempt at cordiality. " I will give 
orders to my servants to show you around. There is 
nothing you may not see." 

John thanked him, and, determining to make the 
most of his time, asked for the key of the mine. Cat- 
ford gave it, accompanied him to the guard-house, 
and issued the necessary orders to his men. 

The sergeant, a short, surly-faced Georgian, gave 
a significant grunt as he went with John to the 
stockade. 

" He gives you leave to do what he's never done 
himself till yesterday." 

" Never been in the stockade ? " 

" No, sir. I don't care if you know it, and a little 
more, too. How long will you be around here? " 



290 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" That depends upon my instructions." 

" Strong-constitutioned man, ain't you? " 

"■ You mean this place is not a healthy one? " 

" The most ow-healthy in creation." 

" Prisoners seem sick." 

" Oh, hlame the prisoners! " the sergeant said ir- 
ritably, " I mean us boys. We have nothing to eat; 
nothing to do; no fun, and no fighting; naught but 
dirt and Yankee funerals all day and stinks all night. 
He's well fixed," with a turn of the head toward the 
lieutenant's quarters. " Officers don't starve, you 
bet. But I tell you it's tough for the men. If wc did 
not take some of what they send for the Yanks, we'd 
not get along at all. You did not know it?" look- 
ing shrewdly at John. " Fact. Tell 'em so in Eich- 
mond if you like. I 'spose you are from there ? " 

" Ask your lieutenant," was the reply. 

They were at the stockade gates now, where the 
sentry saluted John, who left a gold coin — Confed- 
erate, given him by Sherman — in the sergeant's hand. 
He then sauntered slowly through the inclosure, 
looking at the groups of prisoners, speaking to one 
here and there, as if he were making a close inspec- 
tion, until he came to the far end, and to Seth, whom 
he found more comfortable than he had left him. 
The attentions the prisoners had seen him receive 
from a reb officer, coupled with the mysterious rumour 
that had got abroad of help and rescue, had caused 
them to cultivate Seth's acquaintance. A bed of tat- 
tered clothing had been made for him, and some food 
found. When John sat down by his side and drew 
from his pocket a pot of beef jelly, slices of chicken 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 291 

and bread, and a flask of brandy, the speculation 
among the prisoners began to grow feverish. 

" Did you ever see a reb do that before? " one said 
to his neighbour. 

" No, nor do I now. He ain't a reb! " 

" He must be." 

" I will bet you a week's rations he's not. If 
he were, wouldn't he find a way of pulling that cuss 
outside. He's a spy." 

" Good luck to him then! " 

" Oh, blast him and all the rest of our boys! Why 
don't they exchange us, or send Sherman round this 
way? No one cares, I tell you. They let us sicken 
and die like flies. Damn them — Government, Lin- 
coln, and all! " 

" Hush ye! — ^he's goin' to speak." 

John was beckoning to them. 

" Boys, crowd round me so that the guard can't 
see us. Then listen — I am a Union man." 

At first they looked at him with blank faces; 
then one moved forward, then another, until a com- 
pact press of bodies surrounded him. 

" Before midnight to-morrow," John said in a 
low voice, " I hope one hundred of Sherman's boys 
will have reached this place and set you free. I did 
not mean to tell you beforehand, as these things are 
never to be depended upon, and I thought I would be 
here to bring the boys along; but I find now that I 
shall be discovered before then. I want you to know 
that I have the key to the mine that runs beneath and 
that I intend to stay and hold it as long as I am alive. 
The other danger for vou is the jruard. Don't give 



292 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

them any excuse to fire. That is the great point. 
Keep quiet and let the boys come to you. Whatever 
happens, don't try to get to them. Above all, the 
rebs must not have a notion that you know anything; 
and make no noise, show no excitement, until our 
boys have pulled those gates apart." 

He knelt beside Seth again, while what he had 
said spread from man to man until all the three hun- 
dred knew. Most of them did not believe it, but some 
— those nearest to him — were convinced that it was 
true, and as John talked with Seth, these men came 
one by one and shook hands with him. They said 
nothing, but many were crying. All understood that 
if their freedom came it would be paid for with his 
life. 

It was a strange ending to what John had come to 
do. The day before, had there been time, Seth 
would have sent his last message to Jean; now it was 
Seth who would live, for he was only suffering from 
weakness and bitter homesickness. It was John 
who must die. He might have thought about saving 
his own life but for the mine and the fear that his 
sudden absence would create suspicion on the part of 
the prison guard! The mine settled the matter. At 
any risk, it must be closed up and held, or all his 
plans would be frustrated. He had little time for 
leave-taking, but between the hand-grips from the 
prisoners he managed to give Seth his few brief 
words for those in Chippewa. 

" Tell mother, with my love, that I don't worry, 
because I know that she will feel things are right; 
and after the first shock is past be glad I died in this 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 293 

way. She will have Jean, thank God. You will 
not separate those two! I know you won't. You 
need not tell me. As to Jean, I do not know that I 
wish you to say anything. She is yours — not mine. 
Wait — there is just this." His voice was a whisper 
now. " Tell her that when I started for you I did 
not expect much to get back again, but I went be- 
cause I could not see her break her heart. I loved 
her more than all the world. There, I did not mean 
to say it. But it don't matter. You won't tell her 
that. Now I must go, or they will be seeking me. 
Heart up, man. Don't give way now — don't think of 
me; think of to-morrow when the boys march in." 

He sprang to his feet, and as he walked out there 
was a smile on his face that Seth will remember until 
his last day comes. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

John found the sergeant waiting for him at the 
gates of the stockade. It had reached the men that 
this officer was on a tour of inspection from Rich- 
mond, and as none of them bore any good will toward 
their commander, they were more than ready to as- 
sist the stranger's inquiries. The sergeant was his 
sworn ally. 

" Any kind of thing you want to know or see, I 
will put you on in a flick," he said. 

John did not reply. He was watching a man on 
horseback, who was approaching them from the town 
at a smart pace. 

"Have you a key to the mine?" John said sud- 
denly. " I was down yesterday, and wish to look at it 
again." 

The sergeant took out a bunch and fumbled with 
it, while the horseman drew nearer and nearer, and 
John saw the sunlight glance on the scabbard of a 
sword. 

" You will let me have it back," the sergeant said, 
wrenching the key free. " There is but two, and this 
lock is of a peculiar make." 

John nodded, took the key, and began to walk 
toward the hut. The horseman was Cunnington 
294 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 295 

himself and had turned in his direction. But John 
was close to the mine, and, slouching his hat over his 
eyes, he quickened his pace, unlocked the door, and 
stepped inside before the lieutenant recognised 
him. Keeping the door ajar, he heard Cunnington 
address the sergeant and then trot off to Catford's 
quarters. The danger was over for the moment, but 
discovery and detection would only be a matter of 
minutes, for his name was known to both the men. 
How to make the mine stand a siege? It was hope- 
less. He shut the door, lighted the lantern, and in- 
spected the hut. Nothing was in it but a barrel of 
gunpowder; he turned his attention to the trap-door, 
threw it open, descended the ladder, and measured the 
distance to the bottom of the mine. It was ten feet. 
He climbed up again and drew the ladder after him. 
This was a matter of difficulty, as there was barely 
room in the hut to dispose of it. Now he heard the 
sound of footsteps, and the voices of two men — two 
men only. His heart gave a sudden leap. There 
was one chance left. Catford, as it turned out, had 
positively refused to believe that his lieutenant and 
Cunnington's Yankee courier could be the same man. 
John blew out the light and crept behind the door. 
The handle was turned and the two men entered, 
Catford leading. As Cunnington crossed the thresh- 
old, John shut the door swiftly and seized Catford 
by the throat and belt. A struggle, a heavy fall, and 
a cry as from the depths of the earth! Cunnington, 
startled and confused in the darkness, drew back and 
clutched his revolver, but before he could draw it he 
was caught round the waist and swung forward; the 



296 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ground seemed to slide from under his feet and he 
dropped down — down into space, until he struck 
something soft and fell sprawling upon Catford at 
the bottom of the mine. Above them came the clang 
of the closing trap-door, and John, panting with his 
exertions, drew the bolts securely. He stood there a 
moment listening for any sound outside. None came, 
and he groj)ed his way to the door and opened it. No 
one was near. The officers had apparently given no 
warning to the men of their visit to the mine. To 
make sure of his ground, however, John locked up the 
hut and strolled in a leisurely manner to the guard- 
house. He was relieved to find most of the men at 
their evening meal. 

"Where is the lieutenant?" he said to the ser- 
geant. 

" Dunno, sir. — Didn't you say, Jim," addressing 
one of the men, " that he'd walked to the mine with 
the new officer? " 

" That's so." 

" I have Just been there," John said quietly. 
" Don't matter, I will go to the house and wait till 
he returns." 

He glanced round at the faces before him. None 
showed the least interest or surprise. He was safe — 
for the time. 

Time — that was the one thing needed. The boys 
ought to be on their way now. How long would it 
take them to ride those sixty miles? Would they 
come at all? He thought so. Sherman would risk a 
hundred men, and Bob would see that there were 
plenty to volunteer. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 297 

John went to Catford's quarters, and sat down in 
tlie same chair that he had occupied the evening be- 
fore. There was no one in the house besides himself 
but a negro who was busy in the kitchen. The place 
was rank with stale cigar-smoke and the fumes of 
wine and spirits. A bottle of brandy and a dirty glass 
stood on the table. The man had been drinking 
again to-day. John took up one of Catford's yellow- 
back novels, and turned the pages mechanically. 
What to do next? There were the guns covering the 
stockade, and the rifles of the men. John began to 
try and devise means of spiking them, but could think 
of none. His brain seemed dull and heavy. If only 
Bob were here with his sharp wits! There seemed 
nothing to be dt>ne but to wait. A restless desire tor- 
mented him to go to the hut and peep at the trap- 
door. But he crushed it. Already he had seen sur- 
prise in the sergeant's face at his desire to visit the 
mine a second time. It was possible that his move- 
ments were watched. What was the condition of the 
men in the mine ? The bottom was soft. They would 
not be severely hurt. But they were firmly held there ; 
no power below could raise that trap-door ; no shout- 
ing underground could be heard outside the hut. 

A step on the floor of the room outside — soft and 
stealthy. John put the book aside and quietly drew 
his pistol; then he sprang up with an exclamation, for 
it was Bob Spenniker. 

The little man looked w^hite and exhausted and 
was covered with dust from head to foot. 

"Any one around?" he whispered, glancing sus- 
piciously about him. 



298 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

"Not a soul. AVhat has happened?" 

" I'll tell ye soon. Le'me sit." 

He threw himself into a chair, coughing and ex- 
pectorating violently, while John shut the door and 
window. 

"What's this? Brandy? Jerusalem and honey, 
that beats all! " and pouring himself out half a tum- 
blerful with a very little water, he drank it and 
smacked his lips. 

" Well, I feel better," taking some more without 
water and sipping it. " Where's the lieutenant ? " 

" Safe, just now. Did you get to the army? " 

" I did so — and the boys are coming — a hundred, 
picked by Sherman himself. Gosh, he's keen on the 
business, you bet! But they won't be here till sun- 
down, maybe later. It won't be no use." 

" They'll do better than I thought." 

" You thought ? " Bob exclaimed contemptuously. 
" Your idea about riding, boss, don't amount to any- 
thing at all. I was in the general's tent at dawn, 
and by sunup had started back — the boys following 
as fast as they could lick. If a hundred could ride 
as one, they'd not be far away now. But they can't, 
it stands to reason. Besides — I've killed my horse," 
he added, carelessly, " though that's neither here nor 
there." 

" It is everything to me," John said with feeling. 
" If there were a chance of my getting through, I 
should owe it to you." 

" Chance! You^re all right. But where's the 
lieutenant, anyhow? " 

John told him all that had happened, at which 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 299 

Bob swore fearfully and drank more brandy to the 
" health of that blasted mine." 

" We had better stroll around to the guard, then," 
he said. " We must not have any of them fooling 
about near the shanty." 

" I have thought about it, and intend sending 
one of the men to look for the officers in town. Did 
any one see you ? " 

" No, sir ! I did not know how things might be 
fixed, so I came the back way." 

" Eight. Then take my horse and wait some- 
where quietly for the boys outside. Eemember, if 
they don't see me, they must strike first for the mine. 
With that in their hands they have everything." 

But Bob stood up with rank mutiny in his face. 

" See here, John Burletson, I hev obeyed you 
oncet, and against my will rode all last night and 
near all this day, and killed as good a beast as any in 
this army. I don't leave you again. It ain't in the 
contract. I came to stay with you. Your life were 
in some danger before, but there will be hell to pay 
now w^hen those boys are out — blue hell-fire. If we 
quit together it'll be a square deal, but no more back- 
handed revokes. Now, you won't go — I know you 
won't, because of what would fall on the prisoners; 
therefore I remain. I don't care about t]ie7n a red 
cent, but where you are I am going to settle. You 
go and talk with those boys while I w^ork some food 
out of the nig cook. I will not be far away from 
you. Leave me alone, and if the enemy keep quiet 
I'll leave them alone. If they start in, I'll cut the 
cards to rights — or try." 



300 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

John shook his head, but it was only in silent 
protest. He saw that Bob was determined, and he 
had not the heart to press the point further. 

He found the guard talking in groups, and evi- 
dently becoming uncomfortable at the continued ab- 
sence of their officer. The sergeant looked worried 
and cross. 

" He always was one for going on a bust when the 
fit seized him," he said to John. " But then it was 
at night, and after telling me. It's that stranger has 
took him off. I wanted a spare hour or two to my- 
self this evening. Just my luck." 

" Send into town for him," John suggested. 

"What's the use? He won't come." 

" Say I want to see him at once, then he will." 

The sergeant brightened a little. 

" That's a healthy idea. I will tell a man to ride 
there. Do you send a letter by him." 

John returned to the house to write one. The air 
was cooler, the sun drawing near the horizon. Two 
hours more, and the boys might be here. The letter 
despatched, John strolled round the stockade with 
the sergeant. The sun sank lower and disappeared; 
a dusky gray line appeared on the eastern horizon, 
spreading minute by minute from a mere film of haze 
until it became the darkness of the night. They stood 
together, the sergeant growing more and more uneasy 
every moment. Suddenly he wheeled round in a lis- 
tening attitude. 

'.'Hear that?" 

John's heart sank. He had heard it — a dull, curi- 
ous blow. It was the smothered report of a pistol. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 30I 

" It is from the mine," the sergeant said. " They 
can't be there after all, and had an accident. Hand 
me the key." 

John felt in his pockets, one after another. 

" The thing must have dropped out. But you 
said there was another." 

"Curse it all! The lieutenant has that one, if 
he's in there." 

" He cannot be." 

Something is — anyway. Come with us, Cap'n, 
we must worry this through together." 

The sergeant was becoming suspicious. John 
drew himself up. 

" Call your men, then, and get something to force 
that door." He spoke in a stern tone of command. 
" If there is an accident, it will be serious work. 
Lose no time." 

He walked away in the direction of the hut, while 
the sergeant, after a quick glance at him, ran to the 
guard-house. Again a shot was fired from the mine, 
and again. All the men had heard them, and came 
running to the spot fully armed. Then they heard 
another sound, the report of a rifle — from the lieu- 
tenant's house. 

" Who in the name of the devil," said the ser- 
geant, stopping short as he was about to dash a mus- 
ket-butt against the lock, " can have done that ? " 

"Are all your men here?" John said. "Some 
one has pulled his trigger by mistake." 

" It may be that," growled the sergeant. — " Xow, 
boys, down with this thing." 

" It was easier said than done. The door was of 
20 



302 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

oak, well put together, and the lock, as the sergeant 
had said, was of peculiar make. Again and again 
blows were rained upon it, until the musket fell apart 
in the sergeant's hands. 

" Get me an axe," John cried as the men paused, 
panting. " If you had your wits about you, Sergeant, 
you would have thought of that before." 

A man was off to the guard-house in a twinkling, 
but several minutes were gained. Two axes were 
brought, and two men set to work with a will and 
made the splinters fly. At last the door gave way. 
It was getting dusk now, and the hut was darker than 
ever. A match! No one had any — yes, the ser- 
geant found one at the bottom of his pocket. As he 
lighted it, some one jerked his arm — they were all 
crowded together — and it went out. Another delay, 
during which the sergeant swore with bitter emphasis, 
until a lantern arrived, and in the meantime the 
sound of smothered voices was heard underneath the 
trap-door. The excitement grew every minute. The 
lantern came; the bolts were drawn, the door thrown 
back, and a man's head appeared — Lieutenant Cat- 
ford's face, blackened and bruised beyond recogni- 
tion. The first man he saw as he clutched the edge 
of the flooring and crawled out was his enemy, stand- 
ing beside the sergeant. The minute before a thought 
of escape had entered John's head, but had been dis- 
missed. They might fire the mine. Their rage must 
be expended on him first. Catford was weak and 
dazed by the fall and confinement and want of air; 
but the sight of John roused him to fury. 

"The spy!" he cried, "the infernal spy!" 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 303 

"What are you raving about?" John answered 
in a contemptuous tone, stepping forward. 

" You devil ! " shrieked Catf ord springing at him ; 
but John had expected this, and flung him to the 
ground. The men stared, stupefied. Then at a 
word from the sergeant they seized John by the arms. 

" I will not resist," he said to them. " But be 
careful what you are about — there's a mistake." 

"Kill him! shoot him!" yelled Catf ord, now 
beside himself, but keeping out of reach. 

" No, take him prisoner," said another voice — 
Lieutenant Cunnington's. " Give the man a fair 
trial." 

" Let us get out of this hole, anyway," the ser- 
geant protested. " If there's any firing here, the 
powder'll be alight." 

At this remark there was a general retreat and 
John was hustled into the open. Then Catford, 
drawing his sword, thrust Cunnington aside. 

" I am in command here. Stand back. Boys, 
that devil is a Yankee spy. Shoot him like a dog! 
Ten of you fall in." 

" You are a liar," John retorted. " I am no spy. 
— Lieutenant Cunnington, I spared your life once. 
Give me time to make an explanation." 

Again Cunnington would have interfered, but 
Catford waved him back. 

" Load! " he cried to the men. The ramrods rang 
sharply. " Present! " 

" Crack! " — a single report and flash, which 
seemed to come from one of the men, and with a gasp 
and groan the lieutenant himself fell grovelling on his 



304 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

face. A few of the men fired at John then, bnt they 
aimed wildly and the shots flew high. 

" Steady, you fools ! " the sergeant said. " There's 
double treason somewhere. That shot was from be- 
hind. Close around this man and take him to the 
guard-house. If one more shot is fired, let go at his 
heart! Good God! what's that?" 

There was a new sound in the air, the thunderous 
beat of horses' hoofs. The men stood still, dumb, 
confounded. 

" Face about, men, face about! " said Cunnington 
at the top of his voice. " Fire at the cavalry — tire! " 

But his words came too late. A score of horses 
were trampling round them, a score of sabres flashed 
above their heads. 

" Surrender! " cried a voice, stern and uncom- 
promising. Then, as the Confederates sullenly laid 
down their arms: "Where is your prisoner? If any 
harm has come to him, not a man of you shall live! — 
John Burletson, are you here? " 

" You bet your bottom dollar. Major," cried a 
voice in answer — Bob Speniiiker's — " didn't I tell ye 
I'd see him through? You never knew me break 
contract yet." 



CHAPTEE XXVIII. 

It was holiday time in Chippewa. The whole of 
the Selhy family, with the exception of Luke, were 
staying at the farm with Mrs. Biirletson, an arrange- 
ment which suited every one concerned except John's 
manager, Jim Hallet, who was nearly driven wild by 
the mischievous doings of the Selby hoys. These 
boys, Sam and a younger brother, were animated 
with the best possible intentions, but they had active 
minds and more active bodies; and they had both 
seriously resolved to become farmers. So, when they 
found that the men about the farm were too busy to 
answer their innumerable questions, they set out on a 
voyage of discovery upon their own account. Their 
system of self-education was a course of practical ex- 
periments upon all agricultural produce, living and 
dead, from the cattle in the meadows and the chick- 
ens in the yard to a mower, a straw-cutter, and a wire 
rat-trap with a rat inside. That they were chased 
by an indignant bull and nearly tossed; kicked heels 
over head by a vicious horse; bitten very badly by 
the rat, which they intended, Sam said, to " train for 
a circus " ; nearly killed by the straw-cutter; and 
severely cut about the fingers by the mower, did not 
cool their ardour in the least. They ought in the 

305 



306 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

end — according to the Sunday-school books — to have 
met with violent and painful deaths, for they had no 
mercy on anything that moved; but nothing worse 
than cuts and bruises happened to them, and when 
hay-making began even Jim Hallet was mollified by 
the way the urchins worked, and he was discovered 
by Jean, one afternoon, teaching Sam to ride. 

The summer this year was fine and dry, and in 
those warm June days Mrs. Burletson and Jean sat 
out all day long among the grass and flowers and 
hum of bees and chirp of grasshoppers. They were 
always busy, sewing hard for the children at home 
and the boys at the war — for each had her share of 
work to do for the Sanitary. Sometimes Mrs. Hani- 
man would join them in an afternoon — only that she 
never sewed. " I find it restful here," she said once, 
sighing, " though I always wonder why, for a busier 
Avoman never lived than you, Sarah; and you have 
a heavy care." This was when they heard that John 
was dangerously wounded. 

Mrs. Burletson looked at Jean. 

" I have some one to share it with me, Martha. 
That is why I get no chance to be lonely." 

Yet they did not talk much in those days. At 
times Mrs. Burletson would tell anecdotes of John's 
childhood, which her companions were never tired of 
hearing, but Jean said little. It was a restful day for 
Jean, in spite of the anxiety and suspense. The bond 
between her and Mrs. Burletson grew daily, and the 
day the news came that John was avgII again and had 
set out for the prison they sat together for a long time 
holding one another's hands, and when they parted 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 307 

for the night, Mrs. Burletson held Jean close and 
kissed her again and again. 

" My dearest girl, what should I do without you 
now? God was very good to give me such a daughter 
when he took my John." 

" For a time, mother," Jean whispered — " only 
for a time. John will come back again to you, I 
know he will. He must." 

Mrs. Burletson shook her head. 

" He ma}' — I believe that he will, but it cannot be 
to stay. Years ago, Jean, the day the war began, I 
said that if ever John went South it would be to 
make his mark. He has done so. The letter from 
the President — God bless him! — and the note that 
doctor sent me the other day, show it. Of course, 
John says nothing. But I must not forget that as a 
great soldier my boy belongs to the country and not to 
me. If when he comes home you ever hear me say one 
word likely to make him feel that he should stay here, 
tell me right there. I will not have that happen. His 
love for me cost him three years of bitter longing; it 
shall never stand in his way again." 

Jean spent a very restless night after this talk. 
She was anxious about Mrs. Burletson. The old lady 
was wonderfully cheerful, but Jean saw plainly how 
she languished for her boy. She would pore over 
his letters by the hour together, and as time went on 
she grew more silent, her movements became less 
brisk, and Jean even fancied she was losing flesh, and 
was certain that her appetite was not what it ought to 
be. Dr. Selliger, however, whom Jean called in pri- 
vately one day, laughed at these fears and said he had 



308 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

never seen Mrs, Burletson looking so well. But it so 
happened that the committee, of which John had 
been the founder, and the doctor the chairman, was 
enlarging the scope of its work in a manner Mrs. Bur- 
letson did not approve, and when the doctor called, 
she gave him a piece of her mind. 

" John ought to be at home," Jean said to herself 
that night. " I shall write and tell him so. Let 
other men risk their lives; his is too valuable. The 
worst of it is, he never thinks of himself, and if he 
feels it is his duty he will go through with it all. But 
I am sure when he sees the change in his mother since 
he went away he will feel that he should stay at home. 
Yes, I will write," and with this resolution in her 
mind Jean went peacefully to sleep. 

The next day Mrs. Burletson was not so well as 
usual, and sent Jean into the garden alone. Jean 
found it dreary work sewing by herself, and was about 
to see what had become of the boys, when she saw a 
sturdy figure tearing up the road from town, and 
recognised Sam. Fearing that some serious acci- 
dent had happened, Jean ran down the garden path 
to meet him. As he drew nearer she heard him cheer- 
ing and whooping in a wild state of jubilation, and 
was reassured. By the time he reached her his 
breath had all gone, and, thrusting a telegram into 
her hand, he threw himself on the ground, exclaiming 
in a series of gasps: 

" Oh, I'm so tired — they're going to have a bon- 
fire — isn't John a trump? Aren't you glad he's com- 
ing back? — I am. Hurrah! " 

It was the best of news: 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 309 

" Seth safe; we come home at once. — John." 

It was Jean's turn to speed the good tidings, and, 
having hugged Sam, to his great surprise, she ran to 
the house. Mrs. Burletson met her at the door; she 
had heard the joyful shouts, and Jean thought she 
looked ten years younger when she read the precious 
news. 

Some days passed, and then the mail from the boys 
arrived: a letter from John to his mother, one from 
Seth to Jean. Mrs. Burletson finished hers first, for 
John, though he did his best, had never written a 
long letter in his life, while Seth„ to Jean at least, had 
never written a short one. The old lady looked curi- 
ously at Jean, and for the first time since John went 
away felt a sudden sense of disappointment. The 
girl's face was flushed; her eyes shining with a happy 
light. 

" Is she really content, after all? " Mrs. Burletson 
thought. Then she reproached herself. " My ideas 
are foolishness. Yet I did begin to think " 

But now Jean looked up, and Mrs. Burletson's re- 
flections stopped. 

" The best letter the dear boy ever wrote. I shall 
read it to you, mother. It is all about John. Seth 
tells Just what we want to know, of which John will 
never tell." 

She began to read, and Mrs. Burletson gave a little 
sigh of relief. 

" I was too quick in judging, as I always am," she 
thought. 

" As to how the thing was done, you Just get par- 



310 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ticulars from John," Jean read. " I cannot tell you 
anything first-hand, as I was' shut up, limp and miser- 
able. But I know what happened afterward. We 
had been waiting all day when, just as dusk came in, 
we heard a scrimmage. We kept quiet as mice and 
were about as scared, for beneath us they had laid a 
mine of gunpowder which they swore they'd fire were 
any attempt made at a rescue. But we listened and 
held our breath, for it would be death or freedom 
now. First came a single shot, then a quick volley, 
then a cheer. ' It's the boys! ' some cried. ' It's the 
rebs! ' growled others, 'keep quiet.' But a few min- 
utes afterward we heard a hammering at the gates, 
and then we knew that we were saved. How we yelled 
and cried and swore in our delight and Joy while they 
got the keys and unlocked everything, and then when 
the doors were opened what a rush was made for 
them! I was too weak to stir, but some of the boys 
picked me up and the rest made way, knowing I was 
John's friend. I can see it all now. The moon had 
come out, shining upon our boys as they sat on horse- 
back, scores of them, laughing and chaffing the pris- 
oners who were now mad or drunk with joy, while in 
the centre stood John — the man who had worked it all 
— white as a sheet, but cool and upright, not one bit 
carried away; not conscious, I believe, that the cheers 
were mostly meant for him. When he saw me, he ran 
up, and all he said was: ' They have saved us, Seth. 
We have to thank Major Templeton and my man Bob 
for this.' Afterward, we were attacked on the way 
to Sherman by reb militia, two hundred and fifty 
strong. It was a surprise. The boys were beaten 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 311 

back, the major killed, and things looked queer. But 
they had given John command of a reserve of fifty 
men, and with these he charged. I saw it all, for 
we were on a hill at the time. If ever I had been in 
doubt that John was a fighting man, I must have 
taken back my words then. Steady as a rocket and 
straight as a line he led his men upon their centre. 
They met him fairly, but naught could stop his boys. 
What was the secret? Why, they ^vere led. When 
we got safe to the army at last, the first man to 
shake hands with John was General Sherman himself. 
He did so before all his staff, and you should have 
heard the cheering. John will be promoted, of 
course. Yet he declares he will come home with me. 
I'll believe it when I see it. He's the hero of the 
army now. That 1 or any of those three hundred 
prisoners are alive to-day is owing to John, and every 
man here knows it, and before long all the folk at 
home, from Lincoln downward, will know it too." 

" That is a real beautiful letter, my dear," Mrs. 
Burletson said, wiping her eyes. " It is pleasing of 
this young man to write so of my boy — yet he should, 
should he not? " 

" Yes," Jean said, looking with hungry eyes at 
the sheets in Mrs. Burletson's hands. But she did 
not see their contents this time, and felt pained and 
hurt. She was beset by a vague yearning and unrest, 
which troubled and perplexed her, and after this she 
did not talk of John so freely to his mother as before. 

John kept his word. The pressure put upon him 
to remain in the army was very great; but in his 
breast pocket he carried something which caused him 



312 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

to withstand it all — the letter from Jean. She had 
written, as she had resolved to do, putting down in 
plain words her anxiety about his mother. After he 
read this, all the glory and offers of promotion in 
the world availed nothing with John. His return 
home, however, was delayed longer than he expected. 
General Sherman, amid the rush and turmoil of the 
taking of Atlanta, found time to send a few lines to 
the President about Santanelle, inclosing Lincoln's 
own letter, and recommending that, though John re- 
fused to serve, he should be given a captain's com- 
mission. Lincoln telegraphed an affirmative reply, 
and wrote to John, telling him to come and see him. 
This correspondence caused the destruction of John's 
peace for many a day. The papers picked it up, and 
the news of the exploit spread through the North. 
Before John had been in Washington an hour he 
was stormed by interviewers. Before he had been there 
ten hours all the public men from whom he had 
humbly sought the boon of an introduction to the 
President called upon him with compliments and in- 
vitations to their houses. Then, through a base plot 
organised by Seth, he was photographed, and the 
next day his likeness was in the shop windows and 
people cheered him in the streets. 

John bore it well enough, on the whole. He was 
ably supported by Seth, who seduced him into the 
purchase of an officer's uniform, and was iijvaluable 
to the press men by the number of circumstantial de- 
tails of John's life and late adventures with which he 
supplied them. But in one thing John was unyield- 
ing. He had promised his mother that he would not 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 313 

stay in Washington more than two days, and no in- 
vitations from great people, no flattery — notliing — 
could induce him to break that promise. On the 
second day, therefore, before they went to keep their 
appointment with President Lincoln, tickets were 
taken for the midnight train. 

Lincoln received John with the smile of an old 
friend. 

" You are welcome, truly welcome, Burletson," 
he said, with a long hand-shake. " Is this the man 
you went to visit in the South ? I am pleased to meet 
him. A Northerner who has tasted Southern hospi- 
tality — and lived — is worth seeing." 

He made them both sit down, and asked them 
many questions, keeping them with him an hour. 
When they rose at last to take their leave, he grasped 
John's shoulder and turned his face to the light. 

" You are older by years, friend, since we met. 
Is that your wound, or fever? " he slipped his hand 
down and felt the muscles of John's arm. " No, it is 
not fever; you are hard as hickory wood. It is 
trouble of the mind — yet you sold your hogs and now 
carry back your fifty dollars with interest." He 
smiled with a quaint shake of the head. " I do not 
like you, John. You have cold-shouldered Uncle 
Billy, who is your best friend, and have left the army 
ladder for some one else to climb. The country 
wants you. I, its representative, tell you so to your 
face. You are a fraud, as I told you once before. 
What does it mean? What have you to answer? 
— say." 

" My folk, sir — my mother — wants me most of all. 



314 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

You, Mr. President, have a thousand men as good 
and better. My mother has only me." 

" Yet you left her," Lincoln said sharply. " You 
set no price at all upon your life — to see those hogs." 

John dropped his eye. 

" There was — no one else to go," he muttered. 

"H'm!" said the President, glancing at Seth. 
" No doubt that was so — but, well, I wish I knew 
any man who would do as much for me." 

lie looked slowly from one face to the other, and 
still holding John with his right hand, placed his left 
upon Seth's shoulder. 

" How long is it since you boys first met? " 

" A year before the war," Seth answered. 

" Yes, I remember what you told me, Burletson — 
all that you told me. Mr. Cotton — that I believe is 
your name — tell me what you think. Will you? " 

Seth started at the sudden question, and then 
looked confused. 

" I don't — I really do not know — what to think 
of it all," he said lamely. 

He found it very difficult to speak, under the 
gaze of those searching eyes. 

" You do not. Then let me tell you a little story. 
Two boys once saw an apple growing, away up on a 
tree. It was the finest apple they had ever seen. 
Both wanted it; but one had chores to do, and reck- 
oned to see them through first. The other had no 
chores, and climbed and picked the apple. Coming 
down, he lost his hold and hung by a branch over a 
spiked fence. He cried for help, and the first boy 
left his chores, went up that dangerous tree like a 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 315 

young buck 'possum, stepped right among the 
branches over the spiked fence, and pulled the climber 
out of danger at the risk of his own life. Mean- 
time the apple had dropped upon the grass. The 
boy who picked it took it up and ate it, but it was 
said by some that the apple did not belong to him. 
Now, friends, my time is up, and you must go. 
Goo-bye, John Burletson." He shook hands with 
them both, and as John tried to thank him he made a 
gesture of impatience. 

" That is just nonsense. I am placed here to do 
what one man may for the nation. That often means 
hard things to the individual. In your case I did my 
best to kill you. I knew the risk you ran, and God, 
when he brought you safely through, my friend, 
treated me better than I deserved." 



CHAPTEE XXIX. 

The journey from Washington to Chippewa is 
tiresome enough even at the present day, and in 1864 
was still less comfortable. But to Seth, after all his 
hardships and bitter sufferings, it was a pure luxury, 
lie had picked up in strength very quickly, and was 
now quite able to enjoy life as long as he did not exert 
himself. The lazy existence in the railway train 
suited him exactly. In Washington the excitement 
and bustle had been very trying, and though he en- 
joyed it in a way, yet, when John, in a final burst 
of impatience, had said that the fuss " made him more 
tired than if he had been in the saddle twenty-four 
hours," Seth, though he laughed, felt disposed to 
agree with him. 

Seth held no illusions concerning himself. He 
was inclined rather to underrate his own powers, and 
was John's most outspoken admirer. But the ever- 
lasting hymn of praise poured forth in honour of his 
old rival became a trifle wearisome after a time, and 
aroused a desire for some, if ever so little, public 
recognition of his own services and sufferings. The 
interview with Lincoln was a climax. The meaning 
of " the little story " was obvious enough, and Seth 
spent a very uncomfortable half hour thinking it 
31G 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 317 

over. Then he threw the thought aside — the anal- 
ogy was false. Jean belonged to him because she 
loved him. He could not, if he wished, give her to 
John. Until she repented of her choice and told 
him so, the President might go hang! As they 
journeyed northward, the longing for Jean became 
overpowering, and his heart swelled with the pride 
of possession. Let John receive all the praise and 
glory that was his due, and even the overpraise that 
sentimental people poured upon his head. He, Seth, 
had something better than all this waiting him at 
his journey's end — something that John would have 
given his fame ten times over to possess. " In story- 
books, goody-story books," Seth comfortably reflected 
as he smoked a fragrant Havana which John had 
given him, " old John would return to find the lady 
of his love so dazzled by the greatness of his achieve- 
ments that I, in common decency, would have to 
bundle myself away at the shortest possible notice 
back to the war and get killed out of hand. In real 
life these come out differently. Nevertheless, con- 
found the President! His little story will leave a 
nasty taste in my mouth to my dying day. Poor old 
John!" 

The night that John and Seth returned to Chippe- 
wa will not soon be forgotten by the good folk there. 
Since the day the local paper had doubled its cir- 
culation by reprinting paragraphs from the great 
organs of the East about the " Wisconsin patriot," 
every soul in the place, from the minister to the 
youngest of Seth's old pupils, determined that a re- 
ception worthy of the occasion should be accorded to 
21 



318 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

John. There was to be a band, a torchlight pro- 
cession, and a grand supper at tlie store. The rail- 
way depot was hung with flags, and Chinese lanterns, 
which were to be lighted with the torches when the 
train was signalled. Every one was there, and cheered 
heartily when Mrs. Burletson, in the very best of all 
her dresses, leaning on the arm of Luke Selby, chair- 
man of the festivities, walked to the place of honour 
in the centre of the platform. With her was Jean, 
still in mourning for her mother, but with fresh flow- 
ers in her hat and dress. Many a nod and smile passed 
from neighbour to neighbour. " What a daisy she 
is! " the sheriff whispered to his friend the saloon- 
keeper, "and what a pity she waits for Seth! She 
took the wrong one, Job, my boy, that I will always 
say, when she had him and mittened John." 

The whistle of the approaching train now sound- 
ed, and every one drew breath for a cheer. Mrs. 
Burletson stood up and took Jean's hand. The en- 
gine light travelled along the platform, but the rat- 
tle of the cars and the scrunch of the brakes were 
quickly drowned by the yell of men and boys as they 
recognised John in his captain's uniform, standing 
on the platform of the car, waving his hat to his 
mother. Seth was beside him and forgot to feel this 
time that he was left in the cold, for there was Jean's 
face, eager and beautiful — the face that belonged to 
him. There was little time, though, for private 
greetings. A hurried word and hand pressure, and 
then they passed from the cars between the lines of 
cheering townsfolk and the music of the band. 

John came first, his mother on his arm, the proud- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 319 

est mother in the North that day, Seth following 
with Jean, who was a trifle pale, somebody remarked, 
and was looking tired. At the entrance to the depot 
a carriage was waiting, into which Luke handed Mrs. 
Burletson and Jean, John and Seth following. Then 
six young men drew out the horses, amid ecstatic 
shouts from the crowd, and placed themselves in the 
shafts; the torch-bearers ranged alongside; the band 
took up position in front and struck up a favourite 
air with might and main, and away they went in full 
procession down the main streets of the town. As 
they approached the store the band played " Tramp, 
tramp, tramp! " and here the enthusiasm of the 
people broke all bounds; and when John, having 
mounted the platform, turned to face his friends and 
make the speech he felt was inevitable, a thousand 
throats roared out the refrain of the last verse of 
the Union prisoners' song: 

" On, on, on the boys come marching, 

Like a grand majestic sea, 
And they dashed away the guards 
From the heavy iron doors, 

And we stood once more beneath our banner — free ! " 

After this they cheered again until no one had any 
breath or voice left. Then John spoke: 

" I thank you, friends, for your splendid wel- 
come. Seth has asked me to do the speaking for us 
both, and, though he would do it twice as well as I, I 
am glad to address you. First, I want to say this: 
The papers have printed a great deal of stuff about 
me. Don't you believe a word of it. I am almost 



320 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

ashamed to show my face, after what I've read. There 
is only one hero in this thing, and they scarce men- 
tioned him. But I will name him to you — this man 
who stands by me." 

As he turned to Seth, and the crowd hoarsely 
cheered, his eyes met Jean's. '' Ay, boys," he cried, 
becoming eloquent for the first time in his life, 
" cheer him all you know. He deserves it and more. 
He fought three long years for his country; he was 
badly wounded once, and has endured hardships right 
along. Then for six months he lay in Santanelle 
prison. What he suffered you will never know, and 
I, though I saw something, do not realize it all. It 
was a martyrdom of pain and misery. But God has 
been merciful to him and his, and he has returned in 
safety. On his behalf as well as on my own, I thank 
you for your greeting." 

When the speeches were done, then came the sup- 
per in the store. It was long after midnight when 
John and Seth reached their beds. The next morn- 
ing John rose betimes and drove his mother home. 
He was dressed in his workaday blue jean trousers 
and rough brown coat; and though his friends tried 
to call him " Captain," the effort soon became too 
great; they dropped into old habits of speech, and 
came back to plain John Burletson at last. 

Seth left his room later — he had been much ex- 
hausted by the excitement the night before. John 
had departed, Luke was in the store, and Jean was in 
the kitchen with her sleeves turned up, busy with 
household work. 

" This is a change," he exclaimed, as he noticed 



THE GOSPEL WEIT IN STEEL. 321 

the plainness of her dress, and a tinge of redness in 
the hands and wrists that used to be so white; not to 
mention a big coarse apron, which in old days Jean 
had said was a thing she would never wear. 

" I hope so," she said, with half a sniile and half a 
sigh, for Seth's presence brought back sad memories. 
" A more useless creature than I when you went away 
did not exist, I suppose. But mother's illness 
changed all that. I had to work. Now sit down at 
that table while I get your breakfast ready. Poor 
dear, you look very tired still. You must take things 
easy to-day and for many days." 

Seth did as he was told, and as he watched Jean's 
quick, deft movements she reminded him of her moth- 
er, and he was not sure that he quite liked it. But 
the changes in her face that these three years had 
wrought were to the good; he felt that strongly. It 
was a rounder, sweeter face, the mouth more tender 
in expression, the eyes softer and less aggressive 
than they used to be; yet the whole firmer in out- 
line and as beautiful as ever. 

Seth took things easily for a month. Thanks to 
his constitution, a habit of temperate living and 
youth, the prolonged hardships even of Santanelle, 
left no permanent weakness behind, and after a four 
weeks' holiday he felt as well able to do a man's work 
in the world as ever. The first point was to find the 
work; the second one, to earn enough to marry. 
Both these things, before Seth had been a week in 
Chippewa, began to cause him no little anxiety, which 
in its turn did not tend to improve his temper, which 
that three years' campaigning had considerably 



322 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

roughened. The quiet life at the store soon became 
intensely irksome to him; the children were an un- 
mitigated nuisance; Luke Selby bored him, and he 
could never see as much of Jean as he considered he 
had a right to do. Marriage was the only remedy 
for this. The way to that was by securing a reap- 
pointment as master of the school, and by good luck 
and influence inducing the managers of the school to 
give him a sufficiently substantial salary. Circum- 
stances were in his favour; the present schoolmaster 
was not a capable man and was under notice of dis- 
missal, and the chairman of the board was Luke him- 
self. No sooner, however, were Seth's practical diffi- 
culties in the fair way of clearing themselves than a 
vague uneasiness began to haunt him, which one day, 
four weeks after he came home, broke out into a defi- 
nite and distinct trouble of mind. It struck him that 
Jean, apart from the sense of responsibility toward 
her home duties, was not so eager as himself for the ar- 
rival of their marriage day. At first Seth scouted the 
idea as absurd. All this month she had spent every 
spare moment away from her work and her household 
exclusively with him. She had not even been to see 
Mrs. Burletson; and in their walks and drives had 
cheerfully discussed his plans and approved of his ap- 
plication for the schoolmastership, and at his request 
had spoken to her father about the matter. Yet he 
was not content. It might be fancy, but at times he 
thought she showed a tendency to be absent-minded 
when they were alone, a habit which was growing 
upon her. When, in the light of this thought, he 
looked back upon their talks together, he remem- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 323 

bered that every plan for the future had been sug- 
gested by himself. Jean had passively agreed to 
them all, and had initiated nothing. With some 
women this would be natural enough, but it was not 
like Jean. In old days she had always been full of 
ideas — too full, he had sometimes thought. N'ow 
she had none. Then, when he had spoken hopefully 
of his chances for the school through her father's 
position, she had been very unresponsive, and had 
obviously disliked speaking to him. At the time 
Seth had put this down to a certain estrangement 
which he noticed had grown up between father and 
daughter; but, taken with the rest, it might mean 
something ver)^ different. 

At length Seth could keep his thoughts to him- 
self no longer, and one day, when they were out driv- 
ing, the impulse to prove this matter to the root fas- 
tened upon him. 

" Jean, I want to ask you something," he said. 
"Do you know that we have been engaged three 
years? " 

" It is a long time." 

" Do you really think so ? " 

She looked up quickly. 

" Why do you ask that question ? " 

" I will tell you." He looked away as he spoke. 
" Since I have been home I have moved heaven and 
earth to get an appointment and see some clear road 
to our marriage. I want to be married, and I have 
a right to, after all this time. I want to be first in 
your thoughts and to give my life to you. As things 
are now, I worry and fret and wear until I could snap 



324 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

my own head off, as I did Sam's this morning, poor 
little chap ! Xow, you are very different ; women 
always are, I guess, and you have a family to think 
and do for — I have not a soul. But patience — even 
yours — ought to have limits. Even a woman, if 
she really loves, must want to be married some 
time. Lately it has struck me that — well, that I 
am doing all the talking about this thing, and that 
it is time you began — if you find it any way inter- 
esting." 

He spoke brusquely at the end, and turned to her 
with a frown; then, seeing a troubled look on her 
face, he blamed himself for hurting her feelings. 

" I have the children on my mind, Seth," Jean 
said, after a pause. " I want to make you happy. But 
I must not forget Sam and Tom and Mamy. I will 
tell you how I plan things out. In the spring — and 
I could not come to you before, whatever happened — 
Sam will go to work under father to learn the busi- 
ness, which may some day be his. Tom, who is to 
be a lawyer, as he seems the smartest of the boys, is 
to go away to a school at Marathon. Mamy is the 
difficulty. Mrs. Haniman would adopt her to-mor- 
row, but the child clings to me, and I do not feel I 
should be doing my duty if I gave her up to any one 
else. What do you think? Would you mind very 
much if she came to live with us? " 

"Is that all the trouble?" Seth exclaimed in a 
tone of genuine relief. " That is nothing. Mamy 
and I are excellent friends. She may come and wel- 
come. Why didn't you tell me of this before? " 

He laughed, his sanguine nature already on the re- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 325 

bound; but Jean's face did not brighten, and Seth. 
stopped laughing. 

" Go on/' he said; " there is something more." 

" Seth/' she said with a touch of her old impul- 
siveness, " I wish you had never asked me to speak 
to father." 

"Why?" 

" He thought that I wanted to ask him a favour. 
He made me feel quite ashamed of it." 

Seth shrugged his shoulders. 

" If a man may not ask a favour from his future 
father-in-law, especially when it will cost him noth- 
ing, what may he do? " 

" It was I, not you, who had to ask it," Jean re- 
torted with a sudden flash that took Seth back three 
years of his life. " But that is not what I wanted to 
say," she added hastily. " I did not mean to ask 
him a favour at all. I would have scorned to do 
such a thing. It was simply a matter of business — 
a good business for the board, for you are the best 
teacher they ever had, and, as I told father, you did 
not ask him to give you one cent more than you could 
honestly earn." ' 

" You told him that ? " Seth exclaimed spitefully, 
cutting the horse with the whip. " Why? " 

" Why— Seth? " She looked at him in astonish- 
ment. 

" I repeat why? " he continued, lashing the horse 
until he bolted. "Keep quiet, you fool!" to the 
horse. "If you don't slow down, I'll cut you to 
pieces! — I asked you to speak, Jean, instead of doing 
so myself, because the school must give me twice 



326 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

what the present man gets; that's all. I thought you 
would understand. Now, your father is Just the man 
to take you at your word, for he hates me. Well, that 
chance is gone. But he is not the only member of 
the board. I will see Selliger and Thorpe again, and 
— by George! I did not think of it before — John has 
just been made a member — I will get at him." 

" Seth! " Jean grasped his arm tightly. " You 
will not! " 

" Don't be too sure," Seth replied, setting his 
teeth obstinately, while something in her tone made 
him feel cold and weak, " the thing has to be done. 
I will earn the money they give me, no fear of that. 
But, first, I must get it. If I do not, we should be no 
nearer marriage after I get the school than we are to- 
day; and, rather than wait in this way, I would go 
back to the army. I am in dead earnest, I assure 
you." 

He looked it as he lashed the frightened horse. 

But Jean did not seem to have heard his last 
words. 

" If you go to John," she cried, too angry for the 
moment to measure her words, " and ask him to vote 
you public money, I can never respect you again. It 
would be mean, dishonourable, and quite useless. In- 
deed, I would not advise you to suggest such a thing 
to John." 

Seth turned from the horse and looked at her 
with whitening lips. 

"Indeed! " he said, slowly. "Is that your opin- 
ion? Then we will drop the subject." 

He did not speak again until they got home, but 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 327 

drove at a gallop all the way. When they reached 
the store^ he led the horse at once to the stable and 
groomed it himself, and Jean did not see him until 
after she had put the children to bed. Then she 
found him reading in the parlour. Her anger had 
cooled by this time, though she was still hurt and 
surprised. 

" Seth, dear," she said, going straight to him, 
" tell me that you did not mean what you said this 
afternoon." 

He threw away his book. 

" My darling, I did — but I don't now. You were 
right, and I knew it. I am a savage, unprincipled 
brute. Until you belong to me for good and all, be- 
ware of my temper! But I will not go to John." 



CHAPTER XXX. 

A LETTEE came for Jean the next morning from 
Mrs. Burletson, inviting her and Seth and the chil- 
dren to spend a day at the farm. Jean handed it 
to Seth. 

"Shall we go?" 

" Why do you ask? Don't you wish to? " 

Jean filled Mamy's plate with porridge before she 
answered. 

" Yes, if you would enjoy it." 

" We will certainly go." He told the children, 
and watched their delight with a curious grimness. 

" You should have kept it a secret till after 
breakfast," Jean said. " They will eat nothing now." 

They did not eat much, and until they were al- 
lowed to leave the table talked incessantly of what 
they would do and see. 

Upon their arrival at the farm the young people 
relieved their elders of their presence and sought their 
old haunts and revelled there, while John and Seth 
went to inspect the stock, and Mrs. Burletson and 
Jean sat in their accustomed nook in the garden. 

" My dear, you are not well." 

It was the first remark Mrs. Burletson made as 
Jean settled back cosily into her chair. 
328 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 329 

" Don't say that, mother dear. I am only a 
little tired. I have not been sick, and now I feel — 
happy." 

She sighed a contented sigh, and looked dreamily 
across the fields waving with their crops of grain to 
the horizon line. 

" It is eight months ago to-day," Mrs. Burletson 
said, " since you brought us the news that Seth was 
a prisoner. Much has come and gone in those eight 
months." 

" Yes, indeed." 

Another pause — a very long one. 

" Jean, my daughter, will you listen to me? " 

Jean's dreaminess vanished at the old lady's tone, 
and her heart beat painfully. 

" I must speak, child," Mrs. Burletson went on, 
" though God knows I am the last who should. Yet, 
come what may, you are too dear to me for my pride 
to stand against my duty. I promised your mother 
I would try and take her place. I speak now as your 
mother, yours only. Jean, you are not happy — you, 
whose lover is home from the war, delivered from his 
peril through God's mercy by my dear John. Your 
face has care in it that I did not see a month ago. 
Why is this? What does it mean? Will you tell me 
if you can? " 

Jean considered a moment. 

" It means, mother," she said — " it means that 
Seth and I do not agree about things as we used to- 
do. We are both to blame. But the fault is mostly 
mine. How did you think he looked?" She asked 
the question anxiously. 



330 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

" He does not appear in very great spirits. 
But I do not know his face well enough. Ask 
John." 

She saw Jean shiver. 

" Oh, no. Indeed, he would not mind one bit. 
I know what is worrying Seth. It is want of money. 
He feels the waiting terribly, and thinks I might help 
him if I would." 

" You! " exclaimed Mrs. Burletson. " Does he 
want you to earn a living for him ? " 

" No, no. It is what I feel — what he thinks I 
feel." 

" What do you feel, my dear? Oh, be very sure. 
I have seen lives wrecked and lost that might have 
been so happy if girls had but looked enough into 
their hearts before they married. Your fate is in 
your own hands; but if it would relieve you to tell 
me anything " 

She paused and waited breathlessly. 

" I cannot," Jean said at last. " I could not tell 
any one.. Besides, I have decided. If Seth gets the 
place as schoolmaster, we'll be married in the spring. 
We shall be poor, but I don't mind that. I shall keep 
Mamy with me, and father will pay for her. Three 
years ago I promised to be Seth's wife. He went to 
the war for my sake then; he has no one else to care 
for him now. So I will do my best to make him 
happy. That is right, mother. I know it must be 
right." 

There was an appeal, almost a question, in the 
words, though they were said firmly enough. But 
there was no response from Mrs. Burletson. For per- 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 331 

haps the only time in her life she dared not give 
advice. 

" I am afraid, Jean," was all she said, " my ideas 
would not help you any. I will keep them to my- 
self." 

They were silent again, and looked out upon the 
garden and cornjfields, as they had so often done in 
former days. But they sat no longer hand-in-hand. 
By impereeptihle degrees Mrs. Burletson turned away, 
took up her knitting and became absorbed in it. A 
separation had begun — a separation which Jean felt 
would grow deeper and deeper as time went on, and 
her heart sank. 

The guests left the farm early — far too early for 
the children, who grumbled vigorously. But Jean 
was firm, and they were at home before seven o'clock. 
At nine Jean found Seth alone, waiting for the talk 
they always had before Luke came in from the store. 
This evening she saw at once that he was out of tem- 
per; and a sense of weariness, almost of despair, over- 
came her. Jean did not remember that the sight of 
the substantial comfort on John's farm, and evidence 
of his ample means, were gall and wormwood to Seth. 
He had been thankful to get away from it all — from 
the keen-faced old lady who loved him not; even from 
John, whose cordial and frank good nature were an 
aggravation in themselves. 

" I hope you enjoyed yourself," Seth snapped out, 
as Jean came in. 

" Yes, I told you how good Mrs. Burletson has 
been to me, ever since mother fell sick." 

" Only Mrs. Burletson? " 



332 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

Seth did not mean anything serious by the ques- 
tion, but he was in the kind of humour when it is a 
relief to be as disagreeable as possible. 

Jean coloured. 

" Of course I enjoy seeing John, if you mean that. 
He is the oldest friend I have." 

" And the best? If you want to say it, don't mind 
me. I am not jealous." 

He spoke banteringly, but an old, old wound 
had stirred. 

" The best," Jean repeated — " the best that you 
and I have ever known." 

"Do you think so? How some people can 
change! " 

Seth was really angry now. He had spoken only 
half the truth when he said he was not jealous. He 
did not fear John as a rival in Jean's affections, but 
her words of the day before were rankling still. 

" Oh, I mean it," he went on, in answer to a look 
of amazement in Jean's face. " John is a good fellow. 
I have always said so; but it seems to me that you are 
the last person who should hold him up as a pattern 
citizen to me." 

" Please explain why." 

The heat of old days, which was seldom seen in 
Jean now, had come to the surface again. 

" That is easy," he retorted. " I have only to 
quote your own words. Who was it, when some of 
us volunteered for the war, and threw away our 
chances in life — and John did not — who said he was 
a coward, and that she could never respect such a man 
again, whatever his reasons for holding back might 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 333 

be? Then after we were engaged, and I warned you 
that we should have to wait years before we could be 
married, who said she would rather wait ten years 
for a man who did his duty, and then work for his 
living, than marry one who meanly stayed at home, 
even though he had a million dollars a year? That 
was three years ago, you will say. I grant that, but 
you meant your words, and some of them hold good 
still. Wait a moment," as Jean began to speak, " I 
have not done yet. I am sick of having John flung - 
at my head. If you think he is so much greater than 
you used to do, perhaps you think me corresponding- 
ly less; indeed, I begin to guess this may be so, after 
what you said the other day. Was your promise to 
marry me made under a mistake? " 

He flung the words, regardless of consequences. 
The air had been full of thunder lately and must be 
cleared. 

" Have you finished now ? " Jean said, as he 
paused. 

" Yes. Speak your mind." 

" I will. 'You are unjust and worse. Not to me 
only — I don't blame you for that, I deserve it for 
the wrong things I said three years ago; but to make 
a grievance out of what I said of John, and to speak 
slightingly of the man who for your sake faced cer- 
tain death, that is mean. I can hardly believe my 
ears. Three years ago you defended John when 
every one misjudged him. You have changed in- 
deed from the Seth I loved then." 

" You loved? " he said quickly. " Does that mean 
that your feeling is difllerent now ? " He was pale and 
22 



334 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

grave^ his iniimtieiice and impetuousness killed by a 
sudden dread. 

"It means" — Jean caught her breath, startled 
by the turn he had given to her words — " it means 
that if you seriously believe that anything I said about 
John in my blindness and ignorance is still true, then 
you are not the man I loved." 

" In short, that you now care for John more than 
you care for me? Come, let me hear the truth." 

" Seth! you are insulting and cruel. My words 
meant no such thing, and you know it." 

" I beg your pardon, I do not know it. If you 
feel insulted, I am very sorry. I do not intend to 
give you pain." 

" What right have you to make such an insinua- 
tion? " 

" I don't insinuate. For God's sake, Jean, do not 
misunderstand me! I respect John, I say. I rever- 
ence you. When I brought in his name first, it was a 
Joke — in bad taste, I admit — but only a joke. Then 
I lost my temper. You are very angry at what I said 
— quite right! But I cannot help thiriking there is 
something more on your mind, whether you are aware 
of it or not. Let me ask one thing more. Can you 
say now, solemnly, that you will take mc as your 
husband and love me, for better or worse, for 
richer or poorer, till death do us part — can you say 
that?" 

There was a pause before Jean answered, only for 
an instant, but to Seth it seemed eternity. 

" I have promised to be your wife," she said, in a 
low, steady voice. " I will keep that promise." 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 335 

" That is not enough. I want more than that. 
You must tell me " 

Jean covered her face with her hands. " jSTot to- 
night. To-morrow we will talk it quietly out. I 
could not now. I am too tired." 

Seth looked at her, breathing hard; then he con- 
trolled himself, and drew her hands into his own and 
kissed her. 

" Poor love, you are worn out with my tantrums. 
Go to bed at once. I will let it be." 

Jean's eyes filled with tears. All her anger had 
evaporated long ago; she felt very weary and very 
grateful. 

" You are good. Do not worry over me. It will 
be all right to-morrow." 

When Jean had gone, Seth took up a book to 
read; but he found the air of the room stifling, and 
went into the store. This was worse; so he strolled 
out into the street, and, avoiding all acquaintances 
and friends, walked on until the town was behind 
him and he was alone in the silent starlit night. He 
remained out for two hours; and got back just as 
Luke was shutting up for the night. 

" Late walking, Seth." 

" I like it best." 

" It is a way young folk have sometimes. I have 
been hunting for you." 

" On business? " 

" Yes. The board has met and fixed up about the 
school. They will offer it to you." 

"That so?" 

" They took some time to do it. They wanted 



336 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

you, but balked at the money you need. The vote 
went in your favour at the last though; and if fifteen 
hundred dollars a year and a house will meet your 
ideas, the thing is settled." 

Seth gave an exclamation of surprise. 

" Indeed, yes. I never thought they would give 
so much." 

" Nor did I," said Luke with a dryness of tone 
which Seth noticed at once. " Nor would they, but 
you had a friend who argued for you till he got his 
way. The thing came the way it did because of him. 
You needn't say I said so." 

"Who was it? You?" 

" No, John Burletson." 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

Seth was thoroughly weary, tired out in body 
and brain, when he met Luke. He had been trying 
to analyze his talk with Jean and decide judiciously 
whether she had only been indignant with his ill- 
temper, or whether her love had really been slowly 
dying in three years of separation until only " duty " 
remained. He had failed, as men under such circum- 
stances always do fail, his mind becoming at last a 
mere pendulum swinging back and forward. It was 
absurd to doubt her love; it was certain that she did 
not love. Why should she have renewed her promise 
to marry him if her love were dead ? Why should she 
be so indignant at his reminder of his old sentiments 
if those sentiments had not undergone a revolution? 
— and so on. 

Two hours of such reflection will reduce the 
strongest man to imbecility. Seth walked home limp 
and nerveless. Then came Luke's news, and excite- 
ment took the place of lassitude; hope became para- 
mount, and Seth went to bed to sleep soundly and 
dream happy dreams. 

He woke betimes next morning, and, with his 
spirits still at their best, sought Jean. There could 
be no time for any talk now, for the children per- 

337 



338 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

vaded the place, but he might find opportunity to tell 
her about the school. He caught her in the passage, 
and before he spoke turned her face to the light. He 
was struck in a moment by her paleness, the dark 
rings under her eyes, and the coldness of her fin- 
gers. 

" Jean," he exclaimed, " you have not slept all 
night." 

" Not very much." 

" I have something to tell you — something most 
astounding! " 

He felt her hands tremble and shrink. 

" You mean about the school? " 

"Youknowit all, then?" 

" Father has just told me." 

He drew a slow, deep breath, and the light in his 
eyes died out. 

"It is rather overwhelming, isn't it?" he said 
faintly. 

The clasp of her hands grew firm again. 

" It is what you wished, exactly." 

He looked at her with a "dazed expression. There 
was not a spark of colour in her cheeks; yet she held 
his hand. 

" I wish I could understand you, Jean." 

She shook her head and smiled at him. 

"Do men ever understand women? Come to 
your breakfast, dear boy, and never mind me." 

He turned slowly to obey her, when the passage 
door was opened and with a rush Sam tore up to them 
with a letter in his hand. 

" It's for Seth, from the army! " he cried. " I've 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 339 

run all the way from the post office. I guessed it 
might he important." 

They laughed at the hoy's earnest face, and then 
joined the others. 

" From the captain of my company,'' said Seth, 
when he had read the letter, looking at Jean. 
" Grant is pressing Lee hard, he writes, and the army 
feel that they have a man in command who means 
business at last. The cry is for men, fighting men — 
not bounty- jumpers, who get five hundred dollars for 
enlisting and run at the first shot. Cap says there was 
never greater need for men than now, or a better 
chance of promotion." 

He turned to his letter again, and read it slowly, 
one eye on Jean all the time, while his coffee cooled 
and his bacon remained untasted. At last he put it 
aside and began to eat. Suddenly, as if he had re- 
membered something, he dropped his knife and fork. 

" Excuse me, Jean. I have a man I want to see," 
and leaving the table he hurried away, half his break- 
fast still untasted. 

Luke Selby looked after him knowingly. 

" Is our schoolmaster touched with war fever 
again ? " 

" It is not likely," Jean said, " after what you 
told him." 

" Well — you know, I do not. If he should go, it 
will be to stay. There will not be another vacancy 
in the school, that I can tell him. What else he is 
fit for, I have not a notion, but it is not my business." 

Jean did her work very badly this morning. She 
was thankful it was not a holiday. 



340 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

In an hour a message came from Seth. It was a 
scrawl in pencil on the leaf of a pocket-book : " Don't 
wait lunch. I can't tell when I may be back," 

The note was brought by one of the lads from 
the Burletson farm, who said in answer to questions, 
while devouring doughnuts and milk: " I don't 
guess he will be round to-day, Miss Jean, if you ask 
me. It is market-day, but the boss is staying at home 
with Seth and sending Jim, which I've never known 
him to do before." 

At the farm John and Seth were alone together. 

" They want me back at the front," Seth had said, 
by way of greeting, handing John the letter. " I 
have just come to t(;ll you that I reckon to go." 

John's reply had been to lead the way to the upper 
story of an old granary and point to a pile of corn- 
sacks. 

" Set down there. Go right ahead and tell me 
what this means." 

" If cap's letter had come twenty-four hours 
ago," Seth continued, " I would not have looked at it. 
Now — it is different. I owe it to you that you should 
see my reasons, though." 

" I see nothing yet." 

Seth clasped his hands across his knees and looked 
John in the face. 

" It would be a wicked business for a man to go to 
the war if he were 'bout to marry." 

" Then you cannot go." 

" Yes — for I shall never marry." 

John looked up to see whether his companion had 
taken leave of his senses. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 341 

"What has happened, then?" 

Seth rocked himself to and fro, as if in bodily 
pain, with white-set face. 

" I do not know," John went on before Seth could 
answer, " that I have any business to ask the ques- 
tion, but why have you come to me at all ? " 

" Because I want advice — no — not advice. I 
mean I need to talk to some one I can trust, or I'll go 
mad. Jean does not care — that — for me! Don't 
shake your head. D — n it, man, should I talk like this 
if I were not sure? No, she has not said so, she won't 
say so; but I know it now. See, I will tell you all 
about it from the beginning " — then, recollecting 
himself — " no, I can't do that. But it was this Avay: 
I had not a suspicion until last night. Then we had 
a long talk, which made me feel very uneasy. I did 
not see clearly though; the idea was too sudden, too 
terrible to realize all at once; but the more I thought 
about it the bigger it grew. Things that have hap- 
pened since we came back from Georgia, things I had 
not noticed, took hold upon my mind last night and 
held me. But this morning, when I told her of the 
school, then I l-new. She was brave, loyal to the last, 
God bless her! She does not know now that I have 
made up my mind to go " 

John stopped him. 

" You have not told her? " 

" Not yet." 

" Then go and do it at once." 

" I have not finished," Seth went on, 

John went to the granary door. 

" When Jean knows and has given you her answer. 



342 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

come back to me and we will talk all day if you wish. 
I will hear nothing till then." 

He was as pale as Seth now, and as much excited, 
though his voice was quiet. Seth went up to him. 

" John, if you were any other man, what you say 
would be right. But, after Santanelle, this will not 
do. Jean shall know that I am going away; but you 
must tell her. I am determined upon that." 

" I tell her ? You are mad ! " 

" Then I will write from Washington." 

" You are clean crazy, Seth." 

" I wish I were." 

" If you go to the war," John went on, raising his 
voice, " I tell you that you are a lunatic or a scoun- 
drel." 

"Why?" 

" When you and I were at the stables yesterday, 
Jean and my mother talked of you, and mother, see- 
ing Jean was worried, asked the cause. She found 
that the chief one was your own poor chances, as you 
thought, of marriage. Your happiness was Jean's 
first consideration and her last. As you have said so 
much, I will tell you something. After hearing this 
from mother, I went to that school meeting. They 
had a place for you, but there was not enough money. 
I told them — they were all old friends — how it stood, 
and, privately, out of respect to what you've done for 
your country all these years, they made the money 
up to fifteen hundred. After the war is over a repre- 
sentation will l)e made to the authorities for a pen- 
sion for you, l)ut, even though that may fail, the 
money will not. That I guarantee. jSTow, what 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 343" 

room is there for such nonsense as you have in your 
brain ? " 

At this Seth smiled sadjy, but the expression of 
his face became firmer than before. 

" The thing is where it was, old friend, though 
you shame me more than I thought was possible." 

" Pshaw! I did not do it for you. But what more 
do you want? " 

" Her love," Seth cried with sudden fierceness. 
" I know as well — better than you — that she will 
marry me. But why? Because she has promised, 
and will not break her word. I will not have that, 
I tell you." 

" That cannot be all." 

" It is. If you doubt it, ask her yourself." 

" God forbid! " 

But Seth took his hand and pressed it hard. 

" John, old friend — licr friend who has never 
failed her yet — statid by her and by me. Heaven 
knows we need it sorely enough." 

John faltered for the first time, and turned away. 

" What do you want me to do ? " 

" Take a letter to Jean." 

He made an emphatic motion of dissent. 

" Wait till I have finished," Seth went on. " If 
you will do it, I promise to stay here and see her 
again. If you won't go, then I am off to the front to- 
night, I swear I am! " 

John set his teeth. 

" You would desert Jean and spoil her life?" 

" I will set her free and spoil my own. But this 
is foolishness. I know she does not care for me, so 



344 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

my miud is fixed. But if you will take a letter I'll 
remain here till you get back, and give it another 
chance. If you do not, I shall not write until I am 
with the boys." 

They looked one another in the eyes and did not 
speak for a minute. 

" Is there no other way ? " John groaned at last. 

" None, so help me God! " 

" If I go, you promise to see her? " 

" Yes." 

" Well, come, then." 

They walked to the house, passed Mrs. Burletsou 
to her great surprise without a word, went to the 
study, and shut the door. A few minutes later John 
came out alone. 

" Mother, I am going to ride to town. Seth will 
remain till I return. I shall take Black Warrior, so 
I shall not be long. You shall hear all by-and-bye." 

He kissed her and hurried away. The horse was 
a thoroughbred, and Chippewa was reached in six 
minutes. But though Black Warrior was in a lather 
and had covered his rider with flecks of foam, John 
was as pale as when he left the farm. He gave his 
horse to a boy at the store, walked to the private door 
without a word of greeting to any one, and stood in 
the kitchen face to face with Jean. 

" Seth is well," he said quickly, as she started up. 
" Allow me to shut that door." He did so, Jean 
watching him with wondering eyes. 

" I have brought you this letter. Read it, please, 
then we can talk." 

He gave her the note and went to the window. 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 345 

He heard the rustle of paper. She had read it. The 
blow had fallen. With an eifort he turned to look at 
her. She was standing, as if in a dream, looking into 
the fire, the letter in her hand, neatly folded. John 
breathed heavily a moment and then spoke with diffi- 
culty. Her silence oppressed him. 

" I will go now and bring him to you." 

She looked up at the words. 

" Wait, please. I want to think a moment. Why 
did he not come himself? " 

" He is crazed Just now with the morbid fancy 
that you do not care. You know why I came in- 
stead?" 

John asked the question sharply. 

" Seth doesn't tell me." 

" He might have done so, I think," John said, 
with a touch of bitterness. " I came, because other- 
wise he would have left Chippewa without seeing you 
at all." 

She looked up with a quick, questioning glance, 
but she did not speak. 

" I could not allow that," John went on huskily. 
" It is just some fever in his blood. He loves you 
dearly all the time." 

" You are very good to Seth." 

"I did not do it," he said coldly, "for Seth's 
sake." 

She turned from him, so that he could not see 
her face. 

" It was very kind and thoughtful of you. I 
will write to him. He must certainly come and see 
me before he goes." 



34:6 THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 

She went to a side-table and wrote a few 
words, and came back. John took the note me- 
chanically. 

" I want to ask you something," he said, the words 
coming out one by one, as if against his will. " I 
have no right — but we are old friends, you and I. 
Do you — don't you — love this man ? " 

" No," she answered gravely, " not as he loves 
me." 

" Then he was right, after all." 

"What did he say?" 

" That you would have married him because you 
promised, but that — that you did not care — enough." 

" That is true," she paused, then went on hurried- 
ly: "I thought I was right to keep my promise to 
him. Now I see that I was very wrong. But he was 
poor and lonely. It seemed so hard, so cruel, to give 
him up after he had waited all these years. Yet it 
was not right. It was unjust to him and to — to my- 
self. I can see it now." 

She moved away to put the ink and pen into their 
places. John stood and watched her, and then all at 
once he realized why Seth had made him come. It 
was absurd — it was impossible — yet his head reeled 
with the thought. 

" Good-bye, Jean." 

" Good-bye." 

She gave him her hand, and, as John's closed upon 
it, all the passionate love and yearning that he had 
held down so long swelled up in his heart and clam- 
oured to be heard; he tried to be loyal to Seth, but it 
would not go. He went to the door and turned the 



THE GOSPEL WRIT IN STEEL. 347 

handle, then he closed it again, came back, and took 
her hands. 

At the farm the minutes came and went, and an 
hour passed before the black horse returned. Mrs. 
Burletson met John at the front door. 

" Seth in the study, mother? " 

" Yes, but what has happened ? Quick, tell me, 
John." 

He kissed her lovingly. 

" I will very soon, but I must go to Seth." 

Seth, however, was already there. A glance at 
John's face told him all, and taking John affection- 
ately by the arm, he turned to Mrs. Burletson. 

" Congratulate me. Up to this morning I owed 
your son more than any man ever owed another. 
Now the first instalment of the debt is paid. — John, 
old friend, I shall write to the President to-day and 
tell him that the boy who picked the apple did not 
get it, after all." 



THE END. 



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153. A Mild Barbarian. By E. Faw- 

CETT. 

134. The God in the Car. By A. 
Hope. 

155. Children of Circumstance. By Mrs. 

M. Capptn. 

156. At the Gate of Samaria. By W. J. 

Locke. 

157. The Justification of Andrew Le- 

brun. By P. Barrett. 

158. Dust and Laurels. By M. L. Pen- 

DEKBD. 

159. The Good Ship Mohock. By W. C. 

Russell. 

160. Noemi. By S. BARiNG-GrOULD. 

161. The Honour of Savelli. By S. L. 

Yeats. 

162. Kitty's Engagement. By F. Wab 

DEN. 

163. The Mermaid. By L. Dougall. 

164. An Arranged Marriage. By D. 

Gerard. 

165. Eve's Ransom. By G. Gissing. 

166. The. Marriage of Esther. By G. 

BOOTHBT. 

167. Fidelis. By A. Cambridge. 

168. Into the Highways and Hedges. By 

F. P. MONTRKSOR. 

169. The Vengeance of James Vansittart. 

By Mrs. J. H.Needell. 

170. A Study in Prejudices. By G. 

Paston. 

171. The Mistress of Quest. By A. Ser- 

geant. 

172. In the Tear of Jubilee. By G. Gis- 

sing. 

173. In Old New England. By H. 

BUTTERWORTH. 

174. Mrs. Musgrave— and Her Husband. 

By R. Marsh. 

175. Xot Cminting the Cost. By Tasma. 

176. Out of Due Season. By A. Ser- 

geant. 

177. Scylla or Charybdis? By R. 

Bhoughton. 

178. In Defiance of the King. By C. C. 

HOTUHKISS. 

179. A Bid for Fortune. By G. 

BoOTHBT. 

180. The King of Andamun. By J. M. 

Cobban. 

181. Mrs. Ti-egaskiss. By Mrs. Camp- 

bell-Praed. 
183. The Desire of the Moth. By C. 
Vane. 

183. A Self-Denying Ordinance. By M. 

Hamilton. 

184. Successors to the Title. By Mrs. L. 

B. Walpord. 

185. The Lost Stradivanus. By J. M. 

Palkner. 

186. The Wrong Man. By D. Gerard. 



187. In the Day of Adversity. By J. 

Bloundelle-Burton. 

188. Mistress Dorothy Marvin. By J. C. 

189. A Flash of Summer. By Mrs. W. 

190. The Dancer in Yellow. By W. E. 

NORRIS. 

191. The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt. 

By A. Morrison. 

192. A mnning Hazard. By Mrs. 

Alexander. 

193. The Picture of Las Cruces. By C. 

Reid. 

194. The Madonna of a Day. By L. 

Dougall. 

195. The Riddle Ring. By J. McCar- 

thy. 

196. A Humble Enterprise. By A. Cam- 

bridge. 

197. Dr. Nikola. By G. Boothbt. 

198. An Outcast of the Islands. By J. 

Conrad. 

199. The King's Revenge. By C. Bkat. 

200. Denounced. By J. Bloundelle- 

Burton. 

201. A Court Intrigue. By B. Thomp- 

son. 

202. The Idol- Maker. By A. Sergeant. 

203. The Intriguers. By J. D. Barry. 

204. Master Ardick, Buccaneer. By F. 

H. COSTELLO. 

205. With Fortune Made. By V. Cher- 

BULIEZ. 

206. Fellow Travellers. By G. Travers. 

207. McLeod of the Camerons. By M. 

Hamilton. 

208. The Career of Candida. By G. 

Paston. 

209. Arrested. By E. Stuart. 

210. Tatterley. By T. Gallon. 

211. A Pirichbeck Goddess. By Mrs. J. 

M. F'leming (A. M. Kiplins). 

212. Perfection City. By Mrs. Orpen. 

213. A Spotless Reputation. By D. 

Gerard. 

214. A Galahad of the Creeks. By S. L. 

215. The Beautiful White Devil. By G. 

Boothby. 

216. The Sun of Saratoga. By J. A. 

Altsheler. 

217. Fierceheart, the Soldier. By J. C. 

Snaith. 

218. Mai-ietta's Marriage. By W. E. 

NORRIS. 

219. Dear Faustina. By R. Broughton. 

220. NUlma. By Mrs. Campbell Praed. 

221. The Folly of Pen Harrington. By 

J. Sturgis. 

222. A Colonial Free-Lance. By C. C. 

HOTCHKISS. 

223. His Majesty's Greatest Subject, By 

S. S. Thorburn. 



APPLETONS' TOWN AND COUNTRY LIBRARY.— (Co«i!m?<«(f.) 



234. Mifanwy : A Welsh Sitiger. By A. 
Sainb. 

225. A Soldier of Manhattan. By J. A. 

Altsheler. 

226. Fortune's Footballs. By G. B. 

BUBGIN. 

227. The Clash of Arms. By J. Bloun- 

DELLB-BURTON. 

228. God's Foundling. By A. J. Daw- 

son. 

229. Miss Providence. By D. Gerard. 

230. The Freedom of Henry Meredyth. 

By M. Bamilton. 

231. Sweethearts and Friends. By M. 

Gray. 

232. Sunset. By B. Whitby. 

233. A Fiery Ordeal. By Tasma. 

234. A Prince of Mischance. By T. Gal- 

lon. 

235. A Passionate Pilgrim. By P. 

White. 



236. This Little World. By D. C. Mur- 

ray. 

237. A Forgotten Sin. By D. Gerard. 

238. The Incidental Bishop. By G. 

Allen. 

239. The Lake of Wine. By B. Capes. 

240. A Trooper of the Empress. By C. 

Ross. 

241. Tm-n Sails. By A. Raine. 

243. Matetfamilias. By A. Cambridge. 

243. John of Strathbourne. By R. D. 

Chetwode. 

244. The Millionaires. By F. F. Moore. 

245. The Looms of Time. By Mrs. H. 

Fraser. 

246. The Queen's Cvp. By G. A. IIenty. 

247. Dicky Monteith. By T. Gallon. 

248. The Lust of Hate. By G. Boothby. 

249. The Gospel Writ in Steel. By Ar- 

thur Paterson. 

250. The Widower. By W. E. Norris. 



"In tills laiire collection, especially adapted for summer readers, the 
purchaser can hardly make a mistake, as in the seiies will be found leading 
works of fiction, written by leading authors." — .New York Times. 

" The percentage of excellence maintained throughout has been ex- 
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mate fiction can show so many names of the first rank as judged by 
popularity. From time to time in this manner new and powerful pens- are 
introduced." — Rochester Herald. 

"The red-brown covers of ' Appletons' Town and Country Library ' 
have come to be an almost inevitable sign of a story worth reading. . . . 
Not a poor story can be found in any one of them." — Boston Household. 

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cause it is fittest to do so. It has always maintained a high standard, yet 
at the same time the popular quality has been preserved. It has been re- 
markably successful, and the secret of continued success lies in the dis- 
crimination used in selecting tales that are clean, pure, and withal of 
interest to the average reader's intelligence." — Burlington News. 

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known all over the United States, and it is uncommon to enter a drawing- 
room car on a railroad train without seeing two or three of them in hand or 
strapped in the wraps. They cover the best English fiction outside the 
magazines and the novels of a few privileged writers who make special 
arrangements with special publishers." — Worcester Gazette. 



D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YOKK. 



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