Lotta Schmidt, by Anthony Trollope

The Two Generals.

CHRISTMAS of 1860 is now three years past, and the civil war which was then being commenced in America is still raging without any apparent sign of an end.* The prophets of that time who prophesied the worst never foretold anything so black as this. On that Christmas-day, Major Anderson, who then held the command of the forts in Charleston harbour on the part of the United States Government, removed his men and stores from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, thinking that he might hold the one, though not both, against any attack from the people of Charleston, whose state, that of South Carolina, had seceded five days previously. That was in truth the beginning of the war, though at that time Mr. Lincoln was not yet president. He became so on the 4th of March, 1861, and on the 15th April following Fort Sumter was evacuated by Major Anderson, on the part of the United States Government, under fire from the people of Charleston. So little bloody however, was that affair, that no one was killed in the assault; though one poor fellow perished in the saluting fire with which the retreating officer was complimented as he retired with the so called honours of war. During the three years that have since passed, the combatants have better learned the use of their weapons of war. No one can now laugh at them for their bloodless battles. Never have the shores of any stream been so bathed in blood, as have the shores of those Virginian rivers whose names have lately become familiar to us. None of those old death-doomed generals of Europe, whom we have learned to hate for the cold-blooded energy of their trade,—Tilly, Gustavus Adolphus, Frederic, or Napoleon,—none of these ever left so many carcasses to the kites as have the Johnsons, Jacksons, and Hookers of the American armies, who come and go so fast that they are almost forgotten before the armies they have led have melted into clay.

* This story was first published in December, 1863.

Of all the states of the old Union, Virginia has probably suffered the most, but Kentucky has least deserved the suffering which has fallen to her lot. In Kentucky the war has raged hither and thither, every town having been subject to inroads from either army. But she would nave been loyal to the Union if she could; nay, on the whole she has been loyal, She would have thrown oft the plague chain of slavery if the prurient virtue of New England would have allowed her to do so by her own means; but virtuous New England was too proud of her own virtue to be content that the work of abolition should thus pass from her hands. Kentucky, when the war was beginning, desired nothing but to go on in her own course. She wished for no sudden change. She grew no cotton. She produced corn and meat, and was a land flowing with milk and honey. Her slaves were not as the slaves of the Southern States. They were few in number; tolerated for a time because their manumission was understood to be of all questions the most difficult, rarely or never sold from the estates to which they belonged. When the war broke out Kentucky said that she would be neutral. Neutral, and she lying on the front lines of the contest! Such neutrality was impossible to her,—impossible to any of her children!

Near to the little state capital of Frankfort, there lived at that Christmas time of 1860 an old man, Major Reckenthorpe by name, whose life had been marked by many circumstances which had made him well-known throughout Kentucky. He had sat for nearly thirty years in the congress of the United States at Washington, representing his own state sometimes as senator and sometimes in the Lower House. Though called a major he was by profession a lawyer, and as such had lived successfully. Time had been when friends had thought it possible that he might fill the president’s chair; but his name had been too much and too long in men’s mouths for that. Who had heard of Lincoln, Pierce, or Polk, two years before they were named as candidates for the presidency? But Major Reckenthorpe had been known and talked of in Washington longer perhaps than any other living politician.

Upon the whole he had been a good man, serving his country as best he knew how, and adhering honestly to his own political convictions. He had been, and now was, a slave-owner, but had voted in the congress of his own state for the abolition of slavery in Kentucky. He had been a passionate man, and had lived not without the stain of blood on his hands; for duels had been familiar to him. But he had lived in a time and in a country in which it had been hardly possible for a leading public man not to be familiar with a pistol. He had been known as one whom no man could attack with impunity; but he had also been known as one who would not willingly attack any one. Now, at the time of which I am writing, he was old,—almost on the shelf,—past his duellings and his strong short invectives on the floors of congress; but he was a man whom no age could tame, and still he was ever talking, thinking, and planning for the political well-being of his state.

In person he was tall, still upright, stiff, and almost ungainly in his gait, with eager gray eyes that the waters of age could not dim, with short, thick, grizzled hair which age had hardly thinned, but which ever looked rough and uncombed, with large hands, which he stretched out with extended fingers when he spoke vehemently; and of the major it may be said that he always spoke with vehemence. But now he was slow in his steps, and infirm on his legs. He suffered from rheumatism, sciatica, and other maladies of the old, which no energy of his own could repress. In these days he was a stern, unhappy, all but broken-hearted old man; for he saw that the work of his life had been wasted.

And he had another grief, which at this Christmas of 1860 had already become terrible to him, and which afterwards bowed him with sorrow to the ground. He had two sons, both of whom were then at home with him, having come together under the family roof-tree that they might discuss with their father the political position of their country, and especially the position of Kentucky. South Carolina had already seceded, and other Slave States were talking of Secession. What should Kentucky do? So the major’s sons, young men of eight and twenty and five and twenty, met together at their father’s house;—they met and quarrelled deeply, as their father had well known would be the case.

The eldest of these sons was at that time the owner of the slaves and land which his father had formerly possessed and farmed. He was a Southern gentleman, living on the produce of slave labour, and as such had learned to vindicate, if not love, that social system which has produced as its result the war which is still raging at this Christmas of 1863. To him this matter of Secession or Non–Secession was of vital import. He was prepared to declare that the wealth of the South was derived from its agriculture, and that its agriculture could only be supported by its slaves. He went further than this, and declared also, that no further league was possible between a Southern gentleman and a Puritan from New England. His father, he said, was an old man, and might be excused by reason of his age from any active part in the contest that was coming. But for himself there could be but one duty, that of supporting the new Confederacy, to which he would belong, with all his strength and with whatever wealth was his own.

The second son had been educated at Westpoint, the great military school of the old United States, and was now an officer in the national army. Not on that account need it be supposed that he would, as a matter of course, join himself to the Northern side in the war, to the side which, as being in possession of the capital and the old government establishments, might claim to possess a right to his military services. A large proportion of the officers in the pay of the United States leagued themselves with Secession, and it is difficult to see why such an act would be more disgraceful in them than in others. But with Frank Reckenthorpe such was not the case. He declared that he would be loyal to the government which he served, and in saying so, seemed to imply that the want of such loyalty in any other person, soldier, or non-soldier, would be disgraceful, as in his opinion it would have been disgraceful in himself.

“I can understand your feeling,” said his brother, who was known as Tom Reckenthorpe “on the assumption that you think more of being a soldier than of being a man; but not otherwise.”

“Even if I were no soldier, I would not be a rebel,” said Frank.

“How a man can be a rebel for sticking to his own country, I cannot understand,” said Tom,

“Your own country!” said Frank. “Is it to be Kentucky or South Carolina? And is it to be a republic or a monarchy? Or shall we hear of Emperor Davis? You already belong to the greatest nation on the earth, and you are preparing yourself to belong to the least; that is, if you should be successful. Luckily for yourself, you have no chance of success.”

“At any rate, I will do my best to fight for it.”

“Nonsense, Tom,” said the old man, who was sitting by.

“It is no nonsense, Sir. A man can fight without having been at Westpoint. Whether he can do so after having his spirit drilled and drummed out of him there, I don’t know.”

“Tom!” said the old man.

“Don’t mind him, father,” said the younger. “His appetite for fighting will soon be over. Even yet I doubt whether we shall ever see a regiment in arms sent from the Southern States against the Union.”

“Do you?” said Tom. “If you stick to your colours, as you say you will, your doubts will be soon set at rest And I’ll tell you what, if your regiment is brought into the field, I trust that I may find myself opposite to it. You have chosen to forget that we are brothers, and you shall find that I can forget it also.”

“Tom!” said the father, “you should not say such words as that; at any rate, in my presence.”

“It is true, Sir,” said he. “A man who speaks as he speaks does not belong to Kentucky, and can be no brother of mine. If I were to meet him face to face, I would as soon shoot him as another; sooner, because he is a renegade.”

“You are very wicked,—very wicked,” said the old man, rising from his chair, “very wicked.” And then, leaning on his stick, he left the room.

“Indeed, what he says is true,” said a sweet, soft voice from a sofa in the far corner of the room. “Tom, you are very wicked to speak to your brother thus. Would you take on yourself the part of Cain?”

“He is more silly than wicked, Ada,” said the soldier. “He will have no chance of shooting me, or of seeing me shot. He may succeed in getting himself locked up as a rebel; but I doubt whether he’ll ever go beyond that.”

“If I ever find myself opposite to you with a pistol in ray grasp,” said the elder brother, “may my right hand——”

But his voice was stopped, and the imprecation remained unuttered. The girl who had spoken rushed from her seat, and put her hand before his mouth.

“Tom,” she said, “I will never speak to you again if you utter such an oath,—never!”

And her eyes flashed fire at his and made him dumb.

Ada Forster called Mrs. Reckenthorpe her aunt, but the connexion between them was not so near as that of aunt and niece. Ada nevertheless lived with the Reckenthorpes, and had done so for the last two years. She was an orphan, and on the death of her father had followed her father’s sister-in-law from Maine down to Kentucky; for Mrs. Reckenthorpe had come from that farthest and most strait-laced state of the Union, in which people bind themselves by law to drink neither beer, wine, nor spirits, and all go to bed at nine o’clock. But Ada Forster was an heiress, and therefore it was thought well by the elder Reckenthorpes that she should marry one of their sons. Ada Forster was also a beauty, with slim, tall form, very pleasant to the eye; with bright, speaking eyes and glossy hair; with ivory teeth of the whitest, only to be seen now and then when a smile could be won from her; and therefore such a match was thought desirable also by the younger Reckenthorpes. But unfortunately it had been thought desirable by each of them, whereas the father and mother had intended Ada for the soldier.

I have not space in this short story to tell how progress had been made in the troubles of this love affair. So it was now, that Ada had consented to become the wife of the elder brother, of Tom Reckenthorpe, with his home among the slaves, although she, with all her New England feelings strong about her, hated slavery and all its adjuncts. But when has love stayed to be guided by any such consideration as that? Tom Reckenthorpe was a handsome, high-spirited, intelligent man. So was his brother Frank. But Tom Reckenthorpe could be soft to a woman, and in that, I think, had he found the means of his success. Frank Reckenthorpe was never soft.

Frank had gone angrily from home when, some three months since, Ada had told him her determination. His brother had been then absent, and they had not met till this their Christmas meeting. Now it had been understood between them, by the intervention of their mother, that they would say nothing to each other as to Ada Forster. The elder had, of course, no cause for saying aught, and Frank was too proud to wish to speak on such a matter before his successful rival. But Frank had not given up the battle. When Ada had made her speech to him, he had told her that he would not take it as conclusive.

“The whole tenor of Tom’s life,” he had said to her, “must be distasteful to you. It is impossible that you should live as the wife of a slave-owner.”

“In a few years there will be no slaves in Kentucky,” she had answered.

“Wait till then,” he had answered; “and I also will wait.”

And so he had left her, resolving that he would bide his time. He thought that the right still remained to him of seeking Ada’s hand, although she had told him that she loved his brother.

“I know that such a marriage would make each of them miserable,” he said to himself over and over again. And now that these terrible times had come upon them, and that he was going one way with the Union, while his brother was going the other way with Secession, he felt more strongly than ever that he might still be successful The political predilections of American women are as strong as those of American men. And Frank Reckenthorpe knew that all Ada’s feelings were as strongly in favour of the Union as his own. Had not she been born and bred in Maine? Was she not ever keen for total abolition, till even the old major, with all his gallantry for womanhood and all his love for the young girl who had come to his house in his old age, would be driven occasionally by stress of feeling to rebuke her? Frank Reckenthorpe was patient, hopeful, and firm. The time must come when Ada would learn that she could not be a fit wife for his brother. The time had, he thought, perhaps come already; and so he spoke to her a word or two on the evening of that day on which she had laid her hand upon his brother’s mouth,

“Ada,” he had said, “there are bad times coming to us.” .

“Good times, I hope,” she had answered. “No one could expect that the thing could be done without some struggle. When the struggle has passed we shall say that good times have come.” The thing of which she spoke was that little thing of which she was ever thinking—the enfranchisement of four millions of slaves.

“I fear that there will be bad times first. Of course I am thinking of you now.”.

“Bad or good, they will not be worse to me than to others.”

“They would be very bad to you if this state were to .secede, and if you were to join your lot to my brother’s. In the first place, all your fortune would be lost to him and to you.”

“I do not see that; but of course I will caution him that it may be so. If it alters his views, I shall hold him free to act as he chooses.”

“But, Ada, should it not alter yours?”

“What,—because of my money?—or because Tom could not afford to marry a girl without a fortune?”

“I did not mean that He might decide that for himself. But your marriage with him under such circumstances as those which he now contemplates, would be as though you married a Spaniard or a Greek adventurer. You would be without country, without home, without fortune, and without standing-ground in the world. Look you, Ada, before you answer. I frankly own that I tell you this because I want you to be my wife, and not his.”

“Never, Frank; I shall never be your wife, whether I marry him or no.”

“All I ask of you now is to pause. This is no time for marrying or for giving in marriage.”

“There I agree with you; but as my word is pledged to him, I shall let him be my adviser in that.”

Late on that same night Ada saw her betrothed and bade him adieu. She bade him adieu with many tears, for he came to tell her that he intended to leave Frankfort very early on the following morning.

“My staying here now is out of the question,” said he. “I am resolved to secede, whatever the state may do. My father is resolved against Secession. It is necessary, therefore, that we should part. I have already left my father and mother, and now I have come to say good-bye to you.”

“And your brother, Tom?”

“I shall not see my brother again.”

“And is that well after such words as you have spoken to each other? Perhaps it may be that you will never see him again. Do you remember what you threatened?”

“I do remember what I threatened.”

“And did you mean it?”

“No; of course I did not mean it. You, Ada, have heard me speak many angry words, but I do not think that you have known me do many angry things.”

“Never one, Tom:—never. See him then before you go, and tell him so.”

“No,—he is hard as iron, and would take any such telling from me amiss. He must go his way, and I mine.”

“But though you differ as men, Tom, you need not hate each other as brothers.”

“It will be better that we should not meet again. The truth is, Ada, that he always despises any one who does not think as he does. If I offered him my hand he would take it, but while doing so he would let me know that he thought me a fool. Then I should be angry, and threaten him again, and things would be worse. You must not quarrel with me, Ada, if I say that he has all the faults of a Yankee.”

“And the virtues too, Sir, while you have all the faults of a Southern ———— But, Tom, as you are going from us, I will not scold you. I have, too, a word of business to say to you.”

“And what’s the word of business, dear?” said Tom, getting nearer to her, as a lover should do, and taking her hand in his.

“It is this. You and those who think like you are dividing yourselves from your country. As to whether that be right or wrong, I will say nothing now, nor will I say anything as to your chance of success. But I am told that those who go with the South will not be able to hold property in the North.”

“Did Frank tell you that?”

“Never mind who told me, Tom.”

“And is that to make a difference between you and me?”

“That is just the question that I am asking you. Only you ask me with a reproach in your tone, and I ask you with none in mine. Till we hare mutually agreed to break our engagement you shall be my adviser. If you think it better that it should be broken, better for your own interest, be man enough to say so.”

But Tom Reckenthorpe either did not think so, or else he was not man enough to speak his thoughts. Instead of doing so, he took the girl in his arms and kissed her, and swore that, whether with fortune or no fortune, she should be his, and his only. But still he had to go, to go now, within an hour or two of the very moment at which they were speaking. They must part, and before parting must make some mutual promise as to their future meeting. Marriage now, as things stood at this Christmas time, could not be thought of even by Tom Reckenthorpe. At last he promised that if he were then alive he would be with her again, at the old family-house at Frankfort, on the next coming Christmas-day. So he went, and as he let himself out of the old house, Ada, with her eyes full of tears, took herself up to her bed-room.

During the year that followed,—the year 1861,—the American war progressed only as a school for fighting,

The most memorable action was that of Bull’s Run, in which both sides ran away, not from individual cowardice in either set of men, but from that feeling of panic which is engendered by ignorance and inexperience. Men saw wagons rushing hither and thither, and thought that all was lost. After that the year was passed in drilling and in camp-making, in the making of soldiers, of gun-powder, and of cannons. But of all the articles of war made in that year, the article that seemed easiest of fabrication was a general officer. Generals were made with the greatest rapidity, owing their promotion much more frequently to local interest than to military success. Such a state sent such and such regiments, and therefore must be rewarded by having such and such generals nominated from among its citizens. The wonder, perhaps, is that with armies so formed battles should have been fought so well.

Before the end of 1861, both Major Reckenthorpe’s sons had become general officers. That Frank, the soldier, should have been so promoted was, at such a period as this, nothing strange. Though a young man he had been a soldier, or learning the trade of a soldier, for more than ten years, and such service as that might well be counted for much in the sudden construction of an army intended to number seven hundred thousand troops, and which at one time did contain all those soldiers. Frank, too, was a clever fellow, who knew his business, and there were many generals made in those days who understood less of their work than he did. As much could not be said for Tom’s quick military advancement. But this could be said for them in the South,—that unless they did make their generals in this way, they would hardly have any generals at all, and General Reckenthorpe, as he so quickly became,—General Tom as they used to call him in Kentucky,—recommended himself specially to the Confederate leaders by the warmth and eagerness with which he had come among them. The name of the old man so well known throughout the Union, who had ever loved the South without hating the North, would have been a tower of strength to them. Having him they would have thought that they might have carried the state of Kentucky into open Secession. He was now worn-out and old, and could not be expected to take upon his shoulders the crushing burden of a new contest. But his eldest son had come among them eagerly, with his whole heart; and so they made him a general.

The poor old man was in part proud of this and in part grieved.

“I have a son a general in each army,” he said to a stranger who came to his house in those days; “but what strength is there in a fagot when it is separated? Of what use is a house that is divided against itself? The boys would kill each other if they met.”

“It is very sad,” said the stranger.

“Sad!” said the old man. “It is as though the devil were let loose upon the earth;—and so he is; so he is.”

The family came to understand that General Tom was with the Confederate army which was confronting the Federal army of the Potomac and defending Richmond; whereas it was well known that Frank was in Kentucky with the army on the Green River, which was hoping to make its way into Tennessee, and which did so early in the following year. It must be understood that Kentucky, though a slave state, had never seceded, and that therefore it was divided off from the Southern States, such as Tennessee and that part of Virginia which had seceded, by a cordon of pickets; so that there was no coming up from the Confederate army to Frankfort, in Kentucky. There could, at any rate, be no easy or safe coming up for such a one as General Tom, seeing that being a soldier he would be regarded as a spy, and certainly treated as a prisoner if found within the Northern lines. Nevertheless, general as he was, he kept his engagement with Ada, and made his way into the gardens of his father’s house on the night of Christmas-eve. And Ada was the first who knew that he was there. Her ear first caught the sound of his footsteps, and her hand raised for him the latch of the garden door.

“Oh, Tom, it is not you?”

“But it is though, Ada, my darling!” Then there was a little pause in his speech. “Did I not tell you that I should see you today?”

“Hush. Do you know who is here? Your brother came across to us from the Green River yesterday,”

“The mischief he did! Then I shall never find my way back again. If you knew what I have gone through for this! ”

Ada immediately stepped out through the door and on to the snow, standing close up against him as she whispered to him, “I don’t think Frank would betray you,” she said. “I don’t think he would.”

“I doubt him,—doubt him hugely. But I suppose I must trust him. I got through the pickets close to Cumberland Gap, and I left my horse at Stoneley’s half way between this and Lexington. I cannot go back to-night now that I have come so far!”

“Wait, Tom; wait a minute, and I will go in and tell your mother. But you must be hungry. Shall I bring you food?”

“Hungry enough, but I will not eat my father’s victuals out here in the snow.”

“Wait a moment, dearest, till I speak to my aunt.”

Then Ada slipped back into the house and soon managed to get Mrs. Reckenthorpe away from the room in which the major and his second son were sitting.

“Tom is here,” she said, “in the garden. He had encountered all this danger to pay us a visit because it is Christmas. Oh, aunt, what are we to do? He says that Frank would certainly give him up!”

Mrs. Reckenthorpe was nearly twenty years younger than her husband, but even with this advantage on her side Ada’s tidings were almost too much for her. She, however, at last managed to consult the major, and he resolved upon appealing to the generosity of his younger son. By this time the Confederate general was warming himself in the kitchen, having declared that his brother might do as he pleased; he would not skulk away from his father’s house in the night.

“Frank,” said the father, as his younger son sat silently thinking of what had been told him, “it cannot be your duty to be false to your father in his own house.”

“It is not always easy, Sir, for a man to see what is his duty. I wish that either he or I had not come here.”

“But he is here; and you, his brother, would not take advantage of his coming to his father’s house?” said the old man.

“Do you remember, Sir, how he told me last year that if ever he met me on the field he would shoot me like a dog? ”

“But, Frank, you know that he is the last man in the world to carry out such a threat Now he has come here with great danger.”

“And I have come with none; but I do not see that that makes any difference.”

“He has put up with it all that he may see the girl he loves.”

“Psha!” said Frank, rising up from his chair. “When a man has work to do, he is a fool to give way to play. The girl he loves! Does he not know that it is impossible that she should ever marry him? Father, I ought to insist that he should leave this house as a prisoner. I know that that would be my duty.”

“You would have, Sir, to bear my curse.”

“I should not the less have done my duty. But, father, independently of your threat, I will neglect that duty. I cannot bring myself to break your heart and my mother’s. But I will not see him. Good-bye, Sir. I will go up to the hotel, and will leave the place before daybreak tomorrow.”

After some few further words Frank Reckenthorpe left the house without encountering his brother. He also had not seen Ada Forster since that former Christmas when they had all been together, and he had now left his camp and come across from the army much more with the view of inducing her to acknowledge the hopelessness of her engagement with his brother, than from any domestic idea of passing his Christmas at home. He was a man who would not have interfered with his brother’s prospects, as regarded either love or money, if he had thought that in doing so he would in truth have injured his brother. He was a hard man, but one not wilfully unjust. He had satisfied himself that a marriage between Ada and his brother must, if it were practicable, be ruinous to both of them. If this were so, would not it be better for all parties that there should be another arrangement made? North and South were as far divided now as the two poles. All Ada’s hopes and feelings were with the North. Could he allow her to be taken as a bride among perishing slaves and ruined whites?

But when the moment for his sudden departure came he knew that it would be better that he should go without seeing her. His brother Tom had made his way to her through cold, and wet, and hunger, and through infinite perils of a kind sterner even than these. Her heart now would be full of softness towards him. So Frank Reckenthorpe left the house without seeing anyone but his mother. Ada, as the front door closed behind him, was still standing close by her lover over the kitchen fire, while the slaves of the family, with whom Master Tom had always been the favourite, were administering to his little comforts.

Of course General Tom was a hero in the house for the few days that he remained there, and of course the step he had taken was the very one to strengthen for him the affection of the girl whom he had come to see.

North and South were even more bitterly divided now than they had been when the former parting had taken place. There were fewer hopes of reconciliation; more positive certainty of war to the knife; and they who adhered strongly to either side—and those who did not adhere strongly to either side were very few,—held their opinions now with more acrimony than they had then done. The peculiar bitterness of civil war, which adds personal hatred to national enmity, had come upon the minds of the people. And here, in Kentucky, on the borders of the contest, members of the same household were, in many cases, at war with each other.

Ada Forster and her aunt were passionately Northern, while the feelings of the old man had gradually turned themselves to that division in the nation to which he naturally belonged. For months past the matter on which they were all thinking—the subject which filled their minds morning, noon, and night,—was banished from their lips because it could not be discussed without the bitterness of hostility. But, nevertheless, there was no word of bitterness between Tom Reckenthorpe and Ada Forster. While these few short days lasted it was all love. Where is the woman whom one touch of romance will not soften, though she be ever so impervious to argument? Tom could sit up stairs with his mother and his betrothed, and tell them stories of the gallantry of the South,—of the sacrifices women were making, and of the deeds men were doing,—and they would listen and smile and caress his hand, and all for awhile would be pleasant; while the old major did not dare to speak before them of his Southern hopes. But down in the parlour, during the two or three long nights which General Tom passed in Frankfort, open Secession was discussed between the two men. The old man now had given away altogether. The Yankees, he said, were too bitter for him.

“I wish I had died first; that is all,” he said. “I wish I had died first. Life is wretched now to a man who can do nothing .”

His son tried to comfort him, saying that Secession certainly be accomplished in twelve months, and that every Slave State would certainly be included in the Southern Confederacy. But the major shook his head. Though he hated the political bitterness of the men whom he called Puritans and Yankees, he knew their strength and acknowledged their power.

“Nothing good can come in my time,” he said; “not in my time,—not in my time.”

In the middle of the fourth night General Tom took his departure. An old slave arrived with his horse a little before midnight, and he started on his journey.

“Whatever turns up, Ada,” he said, “you will be true to me.”

“I will; though you are a rebel all the same for that.”

“So was Washington.”

“Washington made a nation;—you are destroying one.”

“We are making another, dear; that’s all. But I won’t talk Secesh to you out here in the cold. Go in, and be good to my father; and remember this, Ada, I’ll be here again next Christmas-eve, if I’m alive.”

So he went, and made his journey back to his own camp in safety. He slept at a friend’s house during the following day, and on the next night again made his way through the Northern lines back into Virginia. Even at that time there was considerable danger in doing this, although the frontier to be guarded was so extensive. This arose chiefly from the paucity of roads, and the impossibility of getting across the country where no roads existed. But General Tom got safely back to Richmond, and no doubt found that the tedium of his military life had been greatly relieved by his excursion.

Then, after that, came a year of fighting,—and there has since come another year of fighting; of such fighting that we, hearing the accounts from day to day, have hitherto failed to recognise its extent and import. Every now and then we have even spoke of the inaction of this side or of that, as though the drawn battles which have lasted for days, in which men have perished by tens of thousands, could be renewed as might the old German battles, in which an Austrian general would be ever retreating with infinite skill and military efficacy. For constancy, for blood, for hard determination to win at any cost of life or material, history has known no such battles as these. That the South have fought the best as regards skill no man can doubt. As regards pluck and resolution there has not been a pin’s choice between them. They have both fought as Englishmen fight when they are equally in earnest. As regards result, it has been almost altogether in favour of the North, because they have so vast a superiority in numbers and material.

General Tom Reckenthorpe remained during the year in Virginia, and was attached to that corps of General Lee’s army which was commanded by Stonewall Jackson. It was not probable, therefore, that he would be left without active employment. During the whole year he was fighting, assisting in the wonderful raids that were made by that man whose loss was worse to the Confederates than the loss of Vicksburg or of New Orleans. And General Tom gained for himself mark, name, and glory,—but it was the glory of a soldier rather than of a general. No one looked upon him as the future commander of an army; but men said that if there was a rapid stroke to be stricken, under orders from some more thoughtful head, General Tom was the hand to strike it. Thus he went on making wonderful rides by night, appearing like a warrior ghost leading warrior ghosts in some quiet valley of the Federals, seizing supplies and cutting off cattle, till his name came to be great in the State of Kentucky, and Ada Forster, Yankee though she was, was proud of her rebel lover.

And Frank Reckenthorpe, the other general, made progress also, though it was progress of a different kind.

Men did not talk of him so much as they did of Tom; but the War Office at Washington knew that he was useful,—and used him. He remained for a long time attached to the Western army, having been removed from Kentucky to St. Louis, in Missouri, and was there when his brother last heard of him.

“I am fighting day and night,” he once said to one who was with him from his own state, “and, as far as I can learn, Frank is writing day and night. Upon my word, I think that I have the best of it.”

It was but a couple of days after this, the time then being about the latter end of September, that Tom Reckenthorpe found himself on horseback at the head of three regiments of cavalry, near the foot of one of those valleys which lead up into the Blue Mountain ridge of Virginia. He was about six miles in advance of Jackson’s army, and had pushed forward with the view of intercepting certain Federal supplies which he and others had hoped might be within his reach. He had expected that there would be fighting, but he had hardly expected so much fighting as came that day in his way. He got no supplies. Indeed, he got nothing but blows, and though on that day the Confederates would not admit that they had been worsted, neither could they claim to have done more than hold their own. But General Tom’s fighting was on that day brought to an end.

It must be understood that there was no great battle fought on this occasion. General Reckenthorpe, with about 1500 troopers, had found himself suddenly compelled to attack about double that number of Federal infantry.

He did so once, and then a second time, but on each occasion without breaking the lines to which he was opposed; and towards the close of the day he found himself unhorsed, but still unwounded, with no weapon in his hand but his pistol, immediately surrounded by about a dozen of his own men, but so far in advance of the body of his troops as to make it almost impossible that he should find his way back to them.

As the smoke cleared away and he could look about him, he saw that he was close to an uneven, irregular line of Federal soldiers. But there was still a chance, and he had turned for a rush, with his pistol ready for use in his hand, when he found himself confronted by a Federal officer. The pistol was already raised, and his finger was on the trigger, when he saw that the man before him was his brother.

“Your time is come,” said Frank, standing his ground very calmly. He was quite unarmed, and had been separated from his men and ridden over; but hitherto had not been hurt.

“Frank!” said Tom, dropping his pistol arm, “is that you?”

“And you are not going to do it, then?” said Frank.

“Do what?” said Tom, whose calmness was altogether gone. But he had forgotten that threat as soon as it had been uttered, and did not even know to what his brother was alluding.

But Tom Reckenthorpe, in his confusion at meeting his brother, had lost whatever chance there remained to him of escaping. He stood for a moment or two, looking at Frank, and wondering at the coincidence which had brought them together, before he turned to run. Then it was too late. In the hurry and scurry of the affair all but two of his own men had left him, and he saw that a rush of Federal soldiers was coming up around him.

Nevertheless he resolved to start for a run.

“Give me a chance, Frank,” he said, and prepared to run. But as he went,—or rather before he had left the ground on which he was standing before his brother,—a shot struck him, and he was disabled. In a minute he was as though he were stunned; then he smiled faintly, and slowly sunk upon the ground.

“It’s ail up, Frank,” he said, “and you are in at the death.”

Frank Reckenthorpe was soon kneeling beside his brother, amidst a crowd of his own men.

“Spurrell,” he said to a young officer who was close to him, “it is my own brother.”

“What, General Tom?” said Spurrell. “Not dangerously, I hope?”

By this time the wounded man had been able, as it were, to feel himself and to ascertain the amount of the damage done him.

“It’s my right leg,” he said: “just on the knee. If you’ll believe me, Frank, I thought it was my heart at first. I don’t think much of the wound, but I suppose you won’t let me go.”

Of course they wouldn’t let him go, and indeed if they had been minded so to do, he could not have gone. The wound was not fatal, as he had at first thought; but neither was it a matter of little consequence, as he afterwards asserted. His fighting was over, unless he could fight with a leg amputated between the knee and the hip.

Before nightfall General Tom found himself in his brother’s quarters, a prisoner on parole, with his leg all but condemned by the surgeon. The third day after that saw the leg amputated. For three weeks the two brothers remained together, and after that the elder was taken to Washington,—or rather to Alexandria, on the other side of the Potomac, as a prisoner, there to await his chance of exchange. At first the intercourse between the two brothers was cold, guarded, and uncomfortable; but after a while it became more kindly than it had been for many a day. Whether it were cold or kindly, its nature, we may be sure, was such as the younger brother made it. Tom was ready enough to forget all personal animosity as soon as his brother would himself be willing to do so; though he was willing enough also to quarrel,—to quarrel bitterly as ever, if Frank should give him occasion. As to that threat of the pistol, it had passed away from Tom Reckenthorpe, as all his angry words passed from him. It was clean forgotten. It was not simply that he had not wished to kill his brother, but that such a deed was impossible to him. The threat had been like a curse that means nothing,—which is used by passion as its readiest weapon when passion is impotent. But with Frank Reckenthorpe words meant what they were intended to mean. The threat had rankled in his bosom from the time of its utterance, to that moment when a strange coincidence had given the threatener the power of executing it. The remembrance of it was then strong upon him, and he had expected that his brother would have been as bad as his word. But his brother had spared him; and now, slowly, by degrees, he began to remember that also.

“What are your plans, Tom?” he said, as he sat one day by his brother’s bed before the removal of the prisoner to Alexandria. “Plans?” said Tom. “How should a poor fellow like me have plans? To eat bread and water in prison at Alexandria, I suppose?”

“They’ll let you up to Washington on your parole, I should think. Of course, I can say a word for you.”

“Well, then, do say it. I’d have done as much for you, though I don’t like your Yankee politics.”

“Never mind my politics now, Tom.”

“I never did mind them. But at any rate, you see I can’t run away.”

It should have been mentioned a little way back in this story that the poor old major had been gathered to his fathers during the past year. As he had said himself, it would be better for him that he should die. He had lived to see the glory of his country, and had gloried in it. If further glory, or even further gain, were to come out of this terrible war,—as great gains to men and nations do come from contests which are very terrible while they last,—he at least would not live to see it. So when he was left by his sons, he turned his face to the wall and died. There had of course been much said on this subject between the two brothers when they were together, and Frank had declared how special orders had been given to protect the house of the widow, if the waves of the war in Kentucky should surge up around Frankfort. Land very near to Frankfort had become debateable between the two armies, and the question of flying from their house had more than once been mooted between the aunt and her niece; but, so far, that evil day had been staved oft, and as yet Frankfort, the little capital of the state, was Northern territory.

“I suppose you will get home,” said Frank, after musing awhile, “and look after my mother and Ada?”

“If I can I shall, of course. What else can I do with one leg?”

“Nothing in this war, Tom, of course.”

Then there was another pause between them.

“What will Ada do?” said Frank.

“What will Ada do? Stay at home with my mother.”

“Ay,—yes. But she will not remain always as Ada Forster.”

“Do you mean to ask whether I shall marry her;—because of my one leg? If she will have me, I certainly shall.”

“And will she? Ought you to ask her?”

“If I found her seamed all over with smallpox, with her limbs broken, blind, disfigured by any misfortune which could have visited her, I would take her as my wife all the same. If she were penniless it would make no difference. She shall judge for herself; but I shall expect her to act by me as I would have acted by her.” Then there was another pause. “Look here, Frank,” continued General Tom, “if you mean that I am to give her up as a reward to you for being sent home, I will have nothing to do with the bargain.”

“I had intended no such bargain,” said Frank, gloatingly.

“Very well; then you can do as you please. If Ada will take me, I shall marry her as soon as she will let me. If my being sent home depends upon that, you will know how to act now.”

Nevertheless he was sent home. There was not another word spoken between the two brothers about Ada Forster. Whether Frank thought that he might still have a chance through want of firmness on the part of the girl; or whether he considered that in keeping his brother away from home he could at least do himself no good; or whether, again, he resolved that he would act by his brother as a brother should act, without reference to Ada Forster, I will not attempt to say. For a day or two after the above conversation he was somewhat sullen, and did not talk freely with his brother. After that he brightened up once more, and before long the two parted on friendly terms. General Frank remained with his command, and General Tom was sent to the hospital at Alexandria,—or to such hospitalities as he might be able to enjoy at Washington in his mutilated state,—till that affair of his exchange had been arranged.

In spite of his brother’s influence at head-quarters this could not be done in a day; nor could permission be obtained for him to go home to Kentucky till such exchange had been effected. In this way he was kept in terrible suspense for something over two months, and mid-winter was upon him before the joyful news arrived that he was free to go where he liked. The officials in Washington would have sent him back to Richmond had he so pleased, seeing that a Federal general officer, supposed to be of equal weight with himself, had been sent back from some Southern prison in his place; but he declined any such favour, declaring his intention of going home to Kentucky. He was simply warned that no pass South could after this be granted to him, and then he went his way.

Disturbed as was the state of the country, nevertheless railways ran from Washington to Baltimore, from Baltimore to Pittsburgh, from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, and from Cincinnati to Frankfort. So that General Tom’s journey home, though with but one leg, was made much faster, and with less difficulty, than that last journey by which he reached the old family house. And again he presented himself on Christmas-eve. Ada declared that he remained purposely at Washington, so that he might make good his last promise to the letter; but I am inclined to think that he allowed no such romantic idea as that to detain him among the amenities of Washington.

He arrived again after dark, but on this occasion did not come knocking at the back door. He had fought his fight, had done his share of the battle, and now had reason to be afraid of no one. But again it was Ada who opened the door for him, “Oh, Tom; oh, my own one!” There never was a word of question between them as to whether that unseemly crutch and still unhealed wound was to make any difference between them. General Tom found before three hours were over that he lacked the courage to suggest that he might not be acceptable to her as a lover with one leg. There are times in which girls throw off all their coyness, and are as bold in their loves as men. Such a time was this with Ada Forster. In the course of another month the elder general simply sent word to the younger that they intended to be married in May, if the war did not prevent them; and the younger general simply sent back word that his duties at head-quarters would prevent his being present at the ceremony.

And they were married in May, though the din of war was going on around them on every side. And from that time to this the din of war is still going on, and they are in the thick of it. The carnage of their battles, and the hatreds of their civil contests, are terrible to us when we think of them: but may it not be that the beneficent power of Heaven, which they acknowledge as we do, is thus cleansing their land from that stain of slavery, to abolish which no human power seemed to be sufficient?

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01