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—... “As I live,
I 'll lay ye all by the heels, and suddenly!”

King Henry VIII.

One day towards the last of March of 1865, Cain
Smallin's appetite was immeasurably sharpened by untoward
events. The scouts had been recalled from
their operations on the Lower James. With Mrs. Parven
and family in charge, the party had made their
devious way to Petersburg and rejoined their regiment
on the Petersburg lines, after parting with the
wagons which contained the Lares of the Parvens, and
which drove on to Richmond to deposit the said Lares
in their city domicile.

Cain Smallin, provident man! was making biscuits.
His culinary facilities consisted of a (technically so-called)
skillet. A bas that upturned nose, thou French
cook! A skillet? What could not one cook, or do, in
or with a skillet? From a coffee-pot, to a Mambrino's
helmet to keep the infernal rain-strokes out of one's
eyes o' nights, the offices of the skillet ranged.

The skillet was the soldier's Lar.

Around Cain's fire reclined in various attitudes peculiar
to the old campaigner, Rübetsahl, Flemington, and
Aubrey. Of whom Flemington, as he lay flat on his


Page 235
back, was singing with his whole soul a most pathetic
ditty, beginning:—
“Three foot one way, six foot t'other way,
Weighed three hundred pound!”
Aubrey was dreaming of fair Rebecca Parven, and
Rübetsahl read a letter.

Now, by direction of the perverse fates, it had come
about that, some days before the building of Cain
Smallin's fire, a wandering shell had fallen upon the
ground in that neighborhood, and had buried itself and
smothered out the fuse. Moreover, the treacherous
earth showed no sign of it, and Cain Smallin, being
doubtless under ban of the sisters three, had selected
the identical spot of the said burial for his culinary

Rübetsahl's letter was a long one, and an old one.
It bore date two or three months back. It was from

“— So, I have told thee all. Friend, by that which
hath been — and from me to thee, could there be holier
oath of oaths than this? — I charge thee deal with me

“But there are yet more things I must say. Art
tired? Thou knowest we came here, to Richmond,
with Cranston, from Tennessee. Wilt thou wonder that
we came with one that seemed the murderer of our
friends and the destroyer of our home? Well, I wonder,
too; but what could we do? Despair had us; and
I wished that Felix might be near her brother.

“So we came, at last. Some days after we had been
at the American, Cranston came to our parlor.


Page 236

“Ah, his countenance was so mournful, Rübetsahl!

“`I leave,' he said, `to-day.'

“`Well?' I said, after some pause; and yet I pitied
his sad, sad glance.

“`Ah,' he broke out, `you still believe I did it.
Think! Did I not save Felix from the flames?'


“`Did I not risk my life, defending yours, when we
were attacked on the borders by the ruffians?'


“`Am I not in hourly danger that I be taken and
hung for a spy? Have I even asked you not to betray

“`Yes, and no!'

“`Have I discharged all your commissions? Have
I found all your friends for you, and put you in communication
with them?'


“`You still believe,' said he, with sinking voice,
`that — that I did it?'

“He spoke to me, but gazed all the time upon Felix,
who sat near me.

“O Rübetsahl, was I wrong that I suffered my heart
to be a little touched?

“Felix said nothing.

“`Felix,' said I, `perhaps he is innocent.'

“Felix said nothing: would not even look towards

“`At any rate, sir,' said I boldly, `we will give you
the justice of the courts — the benefit of a doubt.'

“`I thank you,' he said with grave courtesy, `for
even so much. Farewell!'


Page 237

“`Farewell,' — but I did not take his hand, and Felix
still was dumb and vacantly gazing otherways. He
descended the stairs, slowly, with downcast face.
Shouldst thou meet him, be as I was to him: do not
kill him, do not kill him, for the sake of the doubt!

“I must also tell thee that Felix is again alive; for
she was surely dead, till three days since. The vacant
calm of her grief was immeasurably pathetic. Ah,
how I suffered!

“But, last Sunday, we went to church; for she would
follow me like — Du Himmel — like a dumb spaniel!
We arrived in time for the voluntary.

“Can it be that thou wast playing the organ that
day? I could have sworn it. It was our Chopin that
the organist played. As the first notes struck, Felix
shuddered, and her eyes began to enlarge and to grow
intelligent, and to gaze as if they saw something.
Presently the rigid lips trembled, and trembled; and a
tear, a blessed, blessed tear fell, and another, and then
burst a storm of weeping so passionate that I led her
from the church. Good friend, what a tempest was
there when we were returned to the hotel! I was terrified;
I feared her frame would go to pieces, like a
vessel! But she `rained her skies blue,' and was
afterwards calmer, and slept; and she is now my own
grave great-hearted Felix again. And she has thy
letter; — thou seest, I can write it!

And one more little corner to myself.

“God be praised! At length, I `lean upon our fair
Father, Christ!' How, and why, I know not, I care
not; but I lean, and am strong. `The wind bloweth
whither it listeth, and thou canst not tell.' Perhaps it


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is because I am a necessity to Felix. To lavish upon
her all tender cares and caresses, — this is my aim of
life. And one lives not easily, nor long, thou knowest,
without an aim of life.

“Rübetsahl, perhaps thy heart will be a little lighter
for me, if I say again:

“God be praised!


Rübetsahl slowly folded his letter, and drew another,
already well-worn, from his breast. Felix had learned
to “thee” and “thou” from German Ottilie, till it
was like mother-tongue to her.

“Thy letter is come,” she wrote, “and mine shall
meet it on the threshold like a hurrying kiss.

“And oh my king, my king, I do utterly love thee
— and having written so, this pen shall never write
another word, and I, this moment, cast it into the fire;
whose yearning flames fly upward, as to thee flies thy


Cain Smallin sat, stiff-backed, upon the ground,
sternly regarding his packed circle of biscuits in the

“How do they come on, Cain? Most done?” inquired
Aubrey, from the other side of the fire, relapsing
— how low, sweet Venus! — from his love-dream.

“Bully! brownin' a little, some of 'em. 'Bout ten
minutes, yit,” gloomily and sententiously replied the

... “Six foot t'other way,
Weighed three hundred pound!”

And what the devil are the next words?” sang
Flemington for the fortieth time.

The next words are lost to history, probably; inasmuch


Page 239
as Vesuvius in petto suddenly opened a crater
immediately beneath Mr. Smallin's skillet; with consequences.
The buried shell had exploded. Aubrey,
being small, continued to gyrate for some time at varying
distances from the centre. Flemington, a long
man, rolled longitudinally to an amazing distance, and
with dizzy rapidity.

Cain Smallin, receiving impetus from his feet upward,
described six distinct and beautiful somersaults — six —
and a half. The result of the half being that, at the
immediate period of stoppage, Smallin's nose was penetrating
the earth, and his eyes were sternly fixed upon
the same, as if he were upon the point of detecting
some agricultural secret of our ancient mother.

“Cain 's perusing the `volume of Nature!”' shouted
Aubrey, who had risen first.

“`Sermons in stones;' he 's reading one of 'em,”
echoed Flemington, holding his sides. Tweaking his
own nose, to get the dirt off, Mr. Smallin arose with a
dignity that struck awe into six admiring messes that
had assembled.

“Boys,” said he, in a broken voice of indignant but
mournful inquiry, “have any of ye seed the skillet?”




—... “List a brief tale:
And when 't is told, O that my heart would burst.
This bloody proclamation to escape
... Taught me to shift into a madman's rags.”

King Lear.

Late in the afternoon of that day, Flemington got
leave and strolled into town, — into poor, desolate Petersburg.
He wandered aimlessly about through the
upper part of the city. Flem was working off, as he
was accustomed to say, his sentimentalities.

As the night comes on, one feels as if one approached
the shore of life. Upon this shore, the receding wave
of the day left phosphorescent sparkles. Lights began
to glimmer in homes.

Occasionally, as a door opened to admit some late
father or brother or other stay of a family, the laugh of
children — for children did laugh, just as flowers
bloomed, amid this desolation — escaped and saluted
him like an unmeant caress. It was as if a bird sang
while one hurried to a battle raging in the next woods.

Flemington wandered on, into the lower city. Here
were no lights. The houses stood with doors open and
windows up; and this, not by neglect of “careless
tenants.” There were no tenants. The whole quarter
had been abandoned. Terrible Battery No. 5 had


Page 241
spoken a doom-word, and at its sound all these houses
had been emptied of their souls. Like a cemetery of
untenanted graves stood they, while hobgoblin shells
screeched and chattered and made the emptiness

The night had come on gloomily, and the clouds were
now black and threatening. The lines were quiet, and
even Hoke's pickets were firing slowly and feebly. As
Flemington turned, at the lower end of Bolingbroke
Street, intending to go back to Jarratt's, the rain-storm
broke upon him, and he ran up the steps of a brick
house by which he was passing, to get shelter. He
tried the door, found it unlocked, entered, and passed
on into the parlor. The carpet was still on the floor.
It had a soft “feel”; Flemington was tired of the pavements;
he stretched himself out on the Brussels, and
gave himself up to luxury.

He had listened to the rain but a few minutes when
he heard the front door open. Almost immediately
two persons entered the room in which he lay. “Somebody
else got the sentimentals?” thought he, and
peered curiously through the darkness. An inexplicable
impulse forbade him to discover himself. As the
figures passed him, a woman's dress brushed over his
outstretched feet.

The strange visitors opened a door and went into an
inner apartment.

“Jane,” said a man's voice, “ye 'll find some light'ood
out thar in the passage. Git some an' kindle a fire,
fur I 'm wet an' cold. I 'll strike a light in a minute.”

Flemington saw that the light shone through, on one
side the partition, into the room where he lay. He


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crept noiselessly that way, and found an alcove with a
rack for flower-pots, on which were yet standing some
rose-bushes. Glass-doors were between this alcove and
the inner room. He leaned on the rack and peered

“A familiar tang is about that face,” thought he;
“where the devil have I seen it before?”

“If you 'd 'a' had as much trouble as I have, gittin' out
o' Norfolk, and 'd 'a' brought all these things strung
about you, to boot, you might talk about bein' tired and
cold!” said the woman, rising from the fire-place where
she had been kneeling.

“Jane, don't git mad. Don't scold me, for God's
sake! I 'm a mizzable man. I 'm gittin' skeery. I 'm
afeard to hide myself down hyur all day any longer.
Forty shell, an' more, 's been a-whizzin' over my head
to-day, an' hittin' the houses an' a-scatterin' the bricks
down like it was rainin' brickbats fur good! Ef I
was n't afferd o' meetin' some o' Sterlin's crowd I 'd go
back to the rigiment an' tell 'em some lie or other,
'bout bein' captured like, an' jes' got back, an' never
deserted, an' all. But I can't do it. I'm mizzable,

Gorm Smallin was lying on the floor with his feet to
the fire, his head resting on a round stick of wood
which he had rolled from a corner of the room. A
black bottle stood on the floor, in arm's reach. He
took a long pull and a strong pull at it. His spirits rose
a little.

“Come, old gal!” said he, more cheerily. “Let 's see
what ye 've got, this time, f'om Norfolk!”

The woman had already begun to disrobe, and having


Page 243
removed her outer cloak, was now unwinding a variety
of scarfs, of all colors, from a waist capacious enough,
naturally, to dispense with the assistance of smuggled
goods. Carefully laying the scarfs upon an outspread
cloth, she proceeded to divest herself of skirt and hoop,
and presently produced, from beneath an inner skirt, a
sort of half-hoop, from which dangled a miscellaneous
array of vials and packages.

“Quinine, by the Rood!” said Flemington, enumerating
to himself the articles, as she untied them and
arranged them on the floor. “And—what is it?—sewing
silk, I reckon, and three pair o' shoes, ladies' size, price
one hundred and fifty a pair, so — needles, morphine,
lunar caustic, lace — and — and a hundred other articles
too numerous to mention! 'Gad, she must have sailed,
overland, from Norfolk, with assorted cargo of dry goods
and medicines!”

Whilst the vessel (weaker) was getting herself
“light,” Gorm Smallin had been taking on freight.
Right whiskey in the real present, and good comfort in
the near prospective, these had power upon the man.
Up from the waves of sorrow, all driping with the
brine, arose the head of Smallin.

He became patronizing, grandiose, braggart.

“Jane,” said he, surveying complacently the array of
merchandise just landed, “thar aint no manner of
doubt but you 're a sharp un an' a strong un! An' I
will say, altho' I say it myself, 'at I don't know 'at I
ever seed ary another 'oman besides yerself 'at could
'a brought out a whole store, dry goods an' all, f 'om
Norfolk, right thu pickets an' gyards an' all, under her
skyurts an' roun' her waist! I will say, Jane, ef I do


Page 244
say it myself, bully for you! I 'm a deferent man to
what I was afore I seed you, Jane” —

“A Janus-faced scoundrel!” quoth Flemington from
the rose-bushes.

“I recomember when I was in the rigiment I used
to say to myself, Gorm Smallin hit aint no use to fight
the military! 'Cause why? Why 'cause every time I
run the block' to town, every single time, here cum
extry roll-call, and drum beatin' long-roll away in the
middle o' the night! and `Smallin' absent f'om roll-call'
next mornin', an' then, shore as shootin', dubble-de-dute!”

“An affectionate pet name for `double duty,' ladies
and gentlemen,” whispered Flemington, gravely bowing
to the roses.

“I did cum it on 'em awhile, tho', a-playing off sick
on 'em! An' it did work elegint, elegint, Jane, untwell
one Monday mornin', Jim Sunnypond, a mean sneak,
swore 'at I was the only man 'at had the priv'lege of
gittin' sick in the whole rigiment, an' said it was axin'
too much of my comrades for me to want to be sick all
the time, an' said fa'r play an' equal rights an' division
o' labor! An' said Monday was his day to git sick; an'
then every man in the whole rigiment got to havin' his
sick-day, an' the military smelt a rat, an' so `sick'
played out!”

“Or, as the Latins have it, sic transit; if my audience
will pardon so much pedantry!” commented
Flemington, with a deprecatory gesture which nearly
betrayed him by overturning the most substantial of his
audience from the rack.

“But, Jane, hit takes you an' me together, you an'
me” —


Page 245

“Oh that I had a stone-bow to hit him in the mouth!”
quoted Flemington.

— “To fool 'em, don't it? Mind what I tell you, no
man don't fool with me, for nothin'! The military
fooled with me; but you an' me has fooled hit to death,
aint we? An' ole man Sterlin”' — his voice sank
involuntarily — “he mus' go an' try to fool with me!
Jane, he better had n't 'a' done it!”

Even in his drunken maundering, Gorm Smallin
paused a moment.

“Jane, sometimes a fellow's brains seems to git actyve
and peert, like, all of a suddent! I tell you what,
I done that thing, that night, jest as well as ef I'd been
to college all my life! Ye see, I tried, an' tried, an'
studied, while I was gittin' to Thalberg” —

Flemington bent close and listened, almost without

— “To think how I could fix a slow-match 'at would
burn untwell I had — untwell I had—had done the other
thing. Fur I was afeared there 'd be sich a stir an'
rumpus about, a'ter that, 'at I could n' git a chance to
build the fire. At last, I cum to think about punk, as
we used to call it when I was a boy, which it 'll burn in
a coal, 'ithout blazin', as slow as you please. And so I
fixed it, 'ith powder an' punk an' some book-leaves an'
laths; an' I even did n' forgit to dig two or three extry
holes 'ith my knife in the plaster, for the air to git thu
an' feed the fire, like!

“An' then I slipped aroun', Jane, roun' to t'other side
the house, an' I seed a light shinin' out like” — Gorm
Smallin arose unsteadily to his feet, grasped a piece of
lightwood to represent his rifle (having risen into the


Page 246
high-tragic), and backed slowly towards the glass-door
where Flemington stood; who, drawing his breath hard,
had laid his hand on his pistol and was wildly debating
which outweighed — the justice of killing this murderer
of his friends, or the deadly sin of sending this inebriated
soul to perdition.

— “Like this, Jane, an' I got me a tree an' stood thar,
God A'mighty knows how long I stood thar, a year,
may be, or two of 'em, an' at last in come Sterlin' an'
his wife and the gals, an' then they played the pianner
an' sung an' hullabalood another hour, an' then they all
sot down together, 'ith Sterlin' in the middle, an' he
talked an' talked; an' all the time I could n' shoot somehow,
my arms was weak, an' my eyes was dim, an' I
thought onst or twiced 'at I was a gwine blind. An'
a'ter a while the ole 'oman laid her cheek agin his'n, an'
somethin seems-to-me-like screeched in my ears like a
car-whistle, `Why aint you settin' 'ith your wife, an',
may be, child, in your house, enjoyin' yer comfort!' and
afore I knowed it, Jane, God knows afore I knowed it,
jest as ole Sterlin' was a sayin' `Amen!' I up gun an'
shot an' seed 'em fall on”—

Suddenly a shell tore through the room where Flemington
stood, into the next apartment, and exploded just
over Gorm Smallin's head. Blinded and half-stifled
by the thick sulphurous smoke, Flemington, with a great
effort, conquered the stun of the concussion and staggered
through the door, which had jarred open, into
the fresh air of the street.

He revived, and listened. No sound came from the
interior of the house save the occasional drop of plastering
shaken loose by the explosion.


Page 247

But the heavens had cleared, the stars were glittering
through the humid air with a sort of rainy fire.
The batteries on the lines had reopened, and the night
was full of that unquiet strange thrill which runs through
an army before a battle: for the long lines were like
two strips of gold-foil, and always trembled and wavered
with a certain unaccountable agitation, which prophesied
victory, as the photometer light, afar off.

Time is a lens which should be clear. Gorm Smallin
was a dust-speck upon it. God had blown him off.
Who prays for dust-specks? and yet who will swear
that he himself is aught more?

Serious of soul, questioning his heart, Flemington
hurried to his camp.




—“The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

King Lear.

Late in the night of the first Sunday of April, 1865,
passion and circumstance — those two accomplished
wire-pullers—were not so busy in manœuvring hundreds
of people away from doomed homes in Richmond but
that they could also find time to arrange, in the centre
of that devoted city, a most unexpected meeting between
three parties not unknown to the readers of this

Philip Sterling had escaped from prison, had lain in
a fever some months at a country-house, had recovered,
and late in the afternoon of this day had entered Richmond,
emaciated to a skeleton, down-hearted for want
of news from home, down-headed for weariness, tattered
like an unsuccessful beggar, unnoticing the stir of
life in the streets. As he made his slow way through
the Capitol-grounds, the plash of a fountain met his
ear; he dragged himself to the brink of the basin, lay
down, and yielded himself to the caresses of that Sunday's
balmy air. He fell asleep, and dreamed that he
saw big wars standing up in ranks, like men, and fighting
with thunders and wild-fires. On the flanks hovered
airy pestilences skirmishing, and anon loud worldcalamities


Page 249
exploded, jarring all space. Which dissolved;
and he was walking upon an immeasurable plain where
lay old dead universes, like skulls whitening on a
deserted battle-field; but presently these faded out of
sight, and the whole plain blossomed with vast odorous
violets. He plucked a petal of one, wrapped himself
in it, lay down, and fell into a dreamless sleep-within-asleep.

Later in the night, John Cranston, sitting in the
Federal line north of the James, heard a loud explosion
in Richmond, and saw a great glare shooting up from
that direction. Love, which laughs not only at locksmiths
but also at pickets and special orders, at this
moment laughed and frowned at once, in Cranston's
soul. The memory of a night when he had borne
Felix Sterling in his arms down a blazing stairs still
flamed in his heart; and the anticipation of another
such ecstasy was too much for duty.

John Cranston started for Richmond.

At an hour something earlier, also, Paul Rübetsahl
displayed more excitement than had been visible in
him during the war.

“Friends,” said he to the three, “Richmond will be
sacked by infuriated men, inhabitants and soldiers.
The women whom we all love are there, alone; the
thought that they are there, at such a time, burns my
heart. No battle will be fought here, and if I knew
one would be fought, I still would risk the apparent
dishonor of absence from it. I, for one, am going to
Richmond, to bring out the beloved, or die. Who else?”


Page 250

“I!” said Aubrey without an instant's hesitation.

“I, too!” cried Flemington.

Cain Smallin grasped Rübetsahl's hand, in silence.

How they strode, those four!

“By two to-night, men!” cried Rübetsahl, striding in
the van.

Meantime Felix and Ottilie, hearing the news late in
the day, had made great attempts to move, that they
might get to Petersburg. But what chance stood two
women in Richmond on the 2d of April, 1865? At last,
after dark, they had sent Gretchen to Mrs. Parven's,
beyond the Capitol, to beg her assistance. Gretchen
had not returned; they feared she was killed at last.
They sat still, pale with apprehension, and shuddering
at the terrible cries that resounded from the streets.

Suddenly, a tap sounded on the door, and a voice
said, “Come, come!” impatiently. Ottilie ran and
opened the door.

“It is Rübetsahl, Felix!”

Without a word, they descended the steps. At the
front door a wild figure rushed in and nearly overturned
big Rübetsahl. Unnoticing, Paul kept on; but the
other turned, with a quick cry, and then silently placed
himself in the phalanx which the four had formed
around the women.

Slowly, they marshalled the precious charge across
the street. Front, flank, and rear, the phalanx struggled
hard to keep the princesses in the centre from insult or
blow of hurrying rascaldom, hurrying to or from the
raging fires, laden with booty and seeking more.

At length they neared the Capitol gates. As Rübetsahl


Page 251
opened it, Gretchen, with a whine, like a faithful
spaniel, grasped Ottilie and drew her on.

“Oh, I could not get back to you,” she cried, “and I
was about to die! Here are our friends — the Parvens
— they came with me so far.”

Cranston had stopped at the gate, and stood in the
shadow, for the whole grounds were lit, as with daylight,
by the fires that were consuming the city. He saw
Felix, with a yearning smile as of a lost goddess finding
heaven, twine her arms about Rübetsahl's neck.
He grasped the iron pillar; it shook with his trembling
a moment, then he folded his arms and remained still,
in the Shadow.

“For God's sake,” cried Flemington, “let us draw
breath here a moment,” and sank down exhausted, by
the fountain.

Philip Sterling opened his eyes. He refused to
believe them, at first; but quickly sprang upon Rübetsahl,
the first he saw; then discovered Ottilie, and drew
her to him.

She instantly released herself, and sank upon her

Himmel!” said Paul Rübetsahl.

The contagion grew. Aubrey caught Rebecca Parven
by the hand, and whirled her to a bench that was
in the shade of a tree.

Cospetto!” exclaimed Paul Rübetsahl.

“Cain, they 're all paired, and nobody left save you
and me. But, Old Bony Fingers,” continued Flemington,
grasping Cain's extended hand, “you are more
faithful than many a woman, and so I keep this hand
by me, till I find one fairer and half as true!”


Page 252

Cielo!” Then, looking down into the deep gray
eyes that yearned upward passionately into his own, “I,
the wanderer among mountains, pray: May we build
our nests upon the strongest bough of the great tree
Ygdrasil, and may love line them soft and warm, and
may the storms be kind to them! Amen, and Amen!”
said Paul Rübetsahl.


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