With Lee in Virginia by G. A. Henty
Chapter XVIII. A Perilous Undertaking.
Vincent Wingfield had had an arduous time of it with his squadron of cavalry. He had taken part in the desperate charge that checked the advance of Sheridan's great column of cavalry which approached within three miles of Richmond, the charge that had cost the gallant Stuart his life; and the death of his beloved general had been a heavy blow for him. Jackson and Stuart, two of the bravest and noblest spirits of the Confederate army, were gone. Both had been personally dear to Vincent, and he felt how grievous was their loss to the cause for which he was fighting; but he had little time for grief. The enemy, after the tremendous battles of the Wilderness, swung their army round to Cold Harbor, and Vincent's squadron was called up to aid Lee in his struggle there. Then they were engaged night and day in harassing the enemy as they marched down to take up their new base at Petersburg, and finally received orders to ride round at full speed to aid in the defense of that place.
They had arrived in the middle of the second day's fighting, and dismounting his men Vincent had aided the hard-pressed Confederates in holding their lines till Longstreet's division arrived to their assistance. A short time before the terrible disaster that befell the Federals in the mine they exploded under the Confederate works, he was with General Wade Hampton, who had succeeded General Stuart in the command of the cavalry, when General Lee rode up.
"They are erecting siege works in earnest," General Lee said. "I do not think that we shall have any more attacks for the present. I wish I knew exactly where they are intending to place their heavy batteries. If I did we should know where to strengthen our defenses, and plant our counter batteries. It is very important to find this out; but now that their whole army has settled down in front of us, and Sheridan's cavalry are scouring the woods, we shall get no news, for the farmers will no longer be able to get through to tell us what is going on.
"I will try and ride round, if you like, general," Vincent said. "By making a long detour one could get into the rear of their lines and pass as a farmer going into camp to sell his goods."
"It would be a very dangerous service, sir," General Lee said. "You know what the consequence would be if you were caught?"
"I know the consequence," Vincent said; "but I do not think, sir, that the risk is greater than one runs every time one goes into battle."
"Perhaps not," General Lee replied; "but in one case one dies fighting for one's country by an honorable death, in the other--" and he stopped.
"In the other one is shot in cold blood," Vincent said quietly. "One dies for one's country in either case, sir; and it does not much matter, so far as I can see, whether one is killed in battle or shot in cold blood. As long as one is doing one's duty, one death is surely as honorable as the other."
"That is true enough," General Lee said, "although it is not the way men generally view the matter. Still, sir, if you volunteer for the work, I do not feel justified in refusing the opportunity of acquiring information that may be of vital consequence to us. When will you start?"
"In half an hour, sir. I shall ride back to Richmond, obtain a disguise there, and then go round by train to Burksville Junction and then ride again until I get round behind their lines. Will you give me an order for my horse and myself to be taken?"
"Very well, sir," General Lee said. "So be it. May God be with you on your way and bring you safely back."
Vincent rode off to his quarters.
"Dan," he said, "I am going away on special duty for at least three days. I have got a couple of letters to write, and shall be ready to start in half an hour. Give the horse a good feed and have him at the door again by that time."
"Am I to go with you, sah?"
"No, Dan; I must go by myself this time."
Dan felt anxious as he went out, for it was seldom that his master ever went away without telling him where he was going, and he felt sure that the service was one of unusual danger; nor was his anxiety lessened when at the appointed time Vincent came out and handed him two letters.
"You are to keep these letters, Dan, until I return, or till you hear that something has happened to me. If you hear that, you are to take one of these letters to my mother, and take the other yourself to Miss Kingston. Tell her before you give it her what has happened as gently as you can. As for yourself, Dan, you had your letters of freedom long ago, and I have left you five hundred dollars; so that you can get a cabin and patch of your own, and settle down when these troubles are over."
"Let me go with you, master," Dan said, with the tears streaming down his cheeks. "I would rather be killed with you a hundred times than get on without you."
"I would take you if I could, Dan; but this is a service that I must do alone. Good-by, my boy; let us hope that in three or four days at the outside I shall be back here again safe and sound."
He wrung Dan's hand, and then started at a canter and kept on at that pace until he reached Richmond. A train with stores was starting for the south in a few minutes; General Lee's order enabled Vincent to have a horse-box attached at once, and he was soon speeding on his way. He alighted at Burksville Junction, and there purchased some rough clothes for himself and some country-fashioned saddlery for his horse. Then, after changing his clothes at an inn and putting the fresh saddlery on his horse, he started.
It was getting late in the afternoon, but he rode on by unfrequented roads, stopping occasionally to inquire if any of the Federal cavalry had been seen in the neighborhood, and at last stopped for the night at a little village inn. As soon as it was daybreak he resumed his journey. He had purchased at Burksville some colored calico and articles of female clothing, and fastened the parcel to the back of his saddle. As he rode forward now he heard constant tales of the passing of parties of the enemy's cavalry, but he was fortunate enough to get well round to the rear of the Federal lines before he encountered any of them. Then he came suddenly upon a troop.
"Where are you going to, and where have you come from?"
"Our farm is a mile away from Union Grove," he said, "and I have been over to Sussex Courthouse to buy some things for my mother."
"Let me see what you have got there," the officer said. "You are rebels to a man here, and there's no trusting any of you."
Vincent unfastened the parcel and opened it. The officer laughed.
"Well, we won't confiscate them as contraband of war."
So saying he set spurs to his horse and galloped on with his troop. Vincent rode on to Union Grove, and then taking a road at random kept on till he reached a small farmhouse. He knocked at the door, and a woman came out.
"Mother," he said, "can you put me up for a couple of days? I am a stranger here, and all the villages are full of soldiers."
The woman looked at him doubtfully.
"What are you doing here?" she asked at last. "This ain't a time for strangers; besides a young fellow like you ought to be ashamed to show yourself when you ought to be over there with Lee. My boys are both there and my husband. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, a strong-looking young fellow like you, to be riding about instead of fighting the Yankees. Go along! you will get no shelter here. I would scorn to have such as you inside my doors."
"Perhaps I have been fighting there," Vincent said significantly. "But one can't be always fighting, and there are other things to do sometimes. For instance, to find out what the Yankees are doing and what are their plans."
"Is that so?" the woman asked doubtfully.
"That is so," he answered earnestly. "I am an officer in Wade Hampton's cavalry, and, now Sheridan's troopers have cut off all communication, I have come out to find for General Lee where the Yankees are building their batteries before Petersburg."
"In that case you are welcome," the woman said. "Come straight in. I will lead your horse out and fasten him up in the bush, and give him a feed there. It will never do to put him in the stable; the Yankees come in and out and they'd take him off sharp enough if their eyes fell on him. I think you will be safe enough even if they do come. They will take you for a son of mine, and if they ask any questions I will answer them sharp enough."
"I wonder they have left you a feed of corn," Vincent said, when the woman returned after taking away his horse.
"It's no thanks to them," she answered; "they have cleared out everything that they could lay their hands on. But I have been expecting it for months, and, as I have had nothing to do since my man and boys went away, I have been digging a great pit in the wood over there, and have buried most all my corn, and have salted my pigs down and buried them in barrels; so they didn't find much. They took the old horse and two cows; but I hope the old horse will fall down the first time they uses him, and the cow meat will choke them as eats it. Now, is there anything as I can do to help you?"
"I want a basket with some eggs and chickens or vegetables to take into their camp to sell, but I am afraid I have not much chance of getting them."
"I can help you there too," the woman said. "I turned all my chickens into the wood the day I heard the Yankees had landed. They have got rather wild like; but I go out and give them some corn every evening. I expect if we look about we shall find some nests; indeed I know there are one or two of them sitting. So if you will come out with me we can soon knock down five or six of the creatures, and maybe get a score or two of eggs. As for vegetables, a horde of locusts couldn't have stripped the country cleaner than they have done."
They went out into the wood. Six hens were soon killed, and hunting about they discovered several nests and gathered about three dozen eggs. Vincent aided in plucking the chickens and they then returned to the house.
"You had best take a bite before you go," she said. "It's noon now, and you said you started at daybreak. Always get a meal when you can, say I."
She produced a loaf and some bacon from a little cupboard hidden by her bed, and Vincent, who, now he thought of it, was feeling hungry, made a hearty meal.
"I will pay you for these chickens and eggs at once," he said. "There is no saying whether I shall come back again."
"I will not say no to your paying for the chickens and eggs," she said, "because money is scarce enough, and I may have long to wait before my man and the boys come back; but as to lodging and food I would not touch a cent. You are welcome to all I have when it's for the good cause." Vincent started with the basket on his arm, and after walking three miles came upon the Federal camps.
Some of the regiments were already under canvas, others were still bivouacked in the open air, as the store-ships carrying the heavy baggage had not yet arrived. The generals and their staffs had taken up their quarters in the villages. Vincent had received accurate instructions from his hostess as to the position of the various villages, and avoided them carefully, for he did not want to sell out his stock immediately. He had indeed stowed two of the fowls away in his pocket so that in case any one insisted upon buying up all his stock he could place these in his basket and still push on.
He avoided the camps as much as he could. He could see the smoke rising in front of him, and the roar of guns was now close at hand. He saw on his right an elevated piece of ground, from which a good view could be obtained of the fortifications upon which the Federals were working. A camp had been pitched there, and a large tent near the summit showed that some officer of superior rank had his quarters there. He made a detour so as to come up at the back of the hill and when he reached the top he stood looking down upon the line of works.
They were nearly half a mile distant. The intervening ground had already been stripped of its hedges, and the trees cut down to form gabions, fascines, and platforms for the cannon. Thousands of men were at work; but in some parts they were clustered much more thickly than in others, and Vincent had no difficulty in determining where the principal batteries were in course of construction along this portion of the position. He was still gazing intently when two horsemen rode up from behind.
"Hallo you, sir! What are you looking at?" one of them asked sharply. "What are you spying about here?"
Vincent turned slowly round with a silly smile on his lips.
"I am spying all them chaps at work," he said. "It reminds me for all the world of an ant-hill. Never did see so many chaps before. What be they a-doing? Digging a big drain or making a roadway, I guess."
"Who are you, sir?" the officer asked angrily.
"Seth Jones I be, and mother's sent me to sell some fowls and eggs. Do you want to buy any? Fine birds they be."
"Why, Sheridan," laughed the other officer, "this is a feather out of your cap. I thought your fellows had cleared out every hen-roost within twenty miles of Petersburg already."
"I fancy they have emptied most of them," the general said grimly. "Where do you come from, lad?"
"I comes from over there," Vincent said, jerking his thumb back. "I lives there with mother. Father and the other boys they have gone fighting Yanks; but they wouldn't take me with them 'cause I ain't sharp in my wits, though I tells them I could shoot a Yank as well as they could if they showed me."
"And who do you suppose all those men are?" General Sheridan asked, pointing toward the trenches.
"I dunno," Vincent replied. "I guess they be niggers. There be too many of them for whites; besides whites ain't such fools to work like that. Doesn't ye want any fowl?" and he drew back the cloth and showed the contents of the basket.
"Take them as a matter of curiosity, general," the other officer laughed. "It will be downright novelty to you to buy chickens."
"What do you want for them, boy?"
"Mother said as I wasn't to take less nor a dollar apiece."
"Greenbacks, I suppose?" the officer asked.
"I suppose so. She didn't say nothing about it; but I has not seen aught but greenbacks for a long time since."
"Come along, then," the officer said; "we will take them."
They rode up to the large tent, and the officers alighted, and gave their horses to two of the soldiers.
"Give your basket to this soldier."
"I want the basket back again. Mother would whop me if I came back without the basket again."
"All right," the officer said; "you shall have it back in a minute."
Vincent stood looking anxiously after the orderly.
"Do you think that boy is as foolish as he seems?" General Sheridan asked his companion. "He admits that he comes of a rebel family."
"I don't think he would have admitted that if he hadn't been a fool. I fancy he is a half-witted chap. They never would have left a fellow of his age behind."
"No, I think it's safe," Sheridan said; "but one can't be too particular just at present. See, the trees in front hide our work altogether from the rebels, and it would be a serious thing if they were to find out what we are doing."
"That boy could not tell them much even if he got there," the other said; "and from this distance it would need a sharp eye and some military knowledge to make out anything of what is going on. Where does your mother live, boy?"
"I ain't going to tell you," Vincent said doggedly "Mother said I wasn't to tell no one where I lived, else the Yankee thieves would be a-coming down and stealing the rest of our chickens."
The officers laughed.
"Well, go along, boy; and I should advise you not to say anything about Yankee thieves another time, for likely enough you will get a broken head for your pains."
Vincent went off grumbling, and with a slow and stumbling step made his way over the brow of the hill and down through the camps behind. Here he sold his last two fowls and his eggs, and then walked briskly on until he reached the cottage from which he had started.
"I am glad to see you back," the woman said as he entered. "How have you got on?"
"Capitally," he said. "I pretended to be half an idiot, and so got safely out, though I fell into Sheridan's hands. He suspected me at first, but at last he thought I was what I looked--a fool. He wanted to know where you lived, but I wouldn't tell him. I told him you told me not to tell any one, 'cause if I did the Yankee thieves would be clearing out the rest of the chickens."
"Did you tell him that, now?" the woman said in delight; "he must have thought you was a fool. Well, it's a good thing the Yanks should hear the truth sometimes. Well, have you done now?"
"No, I have only seen one side of their works yet; I must try round the other flank to-morrow. I wish I could get something to sell that wouldn't get bought up by the first people I came to, something I could peddle among the soldiers."
"What sort of thing?"
"Something in the way of drinks, I should say," Vincent said. "I saw a woman going among the camps. She had two tin cans and a little mug. I think she had lemonade or something of that sort."
"It wouldn't be lemonade," the woman said "I haven't seen a lemon for the last two years; but they do get some oranges from Florida. Maybe it was that, or perhaps it was spirits and water."
"Perhaps it was," Vincent agreed; "though I don't think they would let any one sell spirits in the camp."
"I can't get you any lemons or oranges neither," the woman said; "but I might make you a drink out of molasses and herbs, with some spirits in it. I have got a keg of old rye buried away ever since my man went off, six months ago; I am out of molasses, but I dare say I can borrow some from a neighbor, and as for herbs they are about the only thing the Yankees haven't stole. I think I could fix you up something that would do. As long as it has got spirits in it, it don't much matter what you put in besides, only it wouldn't do to take spirits up alone. You can call it plantation drink, and I don't suppose any one would ask too closely what it's made of."
"Thank you, that will do capitally."
The next morning Vincent again set out, turning big steps this time toward the right flank of the Federal position. He had in the course of the evening made a sketch of the ground he had seen, marking in all the principal batteries, with notes as to the number of guns for which they seemed to be intended.
"Look here," he said to the woman before leaving. "I may not be as lucky to-day as I was yesterday. If I do not come back to-night, can you find any one you can trust to take this piece of paper round to Richmond? Of course he would have to make his way first up to Burksville junction, and then take train to Richmond. When he gets there he must go down to Petersburg, and ask for General Lee. I have written a line to go with it, saying what I have done this for, and asking the general to give the bearer a hundred dollars."
"I will take it myself," the woman said; "not for the sake of the hundred dollars, though I ain't saying as it wouldn't please the old man when he comes back to find I had a hundred dollars stored away; but for the cause. My men are all doing their duty, and I will do mine. So trust me, and if you don't come back by daybreak to-morrow morning, I will start right away with these letters. I will go out at once and hide them somewhere in case the Yanks should come and make a search. If you are caught they might, like enough, trace you here, and then they would search the place all over and maybe set it alight. If you ain't here by nightfall I shall sleep out in the wood, so if they come they won't find me here. If anything detains you, and you ain't back till after dark, you will find me somewhere near the tree where your horse is tied up."
Provided with a large can full of a liquor that the woman compounded, and which Vincent, on tasting, found to be by no means bad, he started from the cottage. Again he made his way safely through the camps, and without hindrance lounged up to a spot where a large number of men belonging to one of the negro regiments were at work.
"Plantation liquor?" he said, again assuming a stupid air, to a black sergeant who was with them. "First-rate stuff; and only fifteen cents a glass."
"What plantation liquor like?" the negro asked. "Me not know him."
"First-rate stuff," Vincent repeated. "Mother makes it of spirit and molasses and all sorts. Fifteen cents a glass."
"Well, I will take a glass," the sergeant said. "Mighty hot work dis in de sun; but don't you say nuffin about the spirit. Ef dey ask you, just you say molasses and all sorts, dat's quite enough. De white officer won't let spirits be sold in de camp.
"Dat bery good stuff," be said, smacking his lips as he handed back the little tin measure. "You sell him all in no time." Several of the negroes now came round, and Vincent disposed of a considerable quantity of his plantation liquor. Then he turned to go away, for he did not want to empty his can at one place. He had not gone many paces when a party of three or four officers came along.
"Hallo, you sir, what the deuce are you doing here?" one asked angrily. "Don't you know nobody is allowed to pass through the lines?"
"I didn't see no lines. What sort of lines are they? No one told me nothing about lines. My mother sent me out to sell plantation liquor, fifteen cents a glass."
"What's it like?" one of the officers said laughing. "Spirits, I will bet a dollar, in some shape or other. Pour me out a glass. I will try it, anyhow."
Vincent filled the little tin mug, and handed it to the officer. As he lifted his face to do so there was a sudden exclamation.
"Vincent Wingfield!" and another officer drawing his sword attacked him furiously, shouting, "A spy! Seize him! A Confederate spy!"
Vincent recognized with astonishment in the Federal officer rushing at him with uplifted sword his old antagonist, Jackson. Almost instinctively he whirled the can, which was still half full of liquor, round his head and dashed it full in the face of his antagonist, who was knocked off his feet by the blow. With a yell of rage he started up again and rushed at Vincent. The latter snatched up a shovel that was lying close by and stood his ground. The officers were so surprised at the suddenness of the incident and the overthrow of their companion, and for the moment so amused at the latter's appearance, covered as he was from head to foot with the sticky liquor and bleeding from a cut inflicted by the edge of the can, that they were incapable of interference.
Blinded with rage, and with the liquid streaming into his eyes, Jackson rushed at Vincent. The latter caught the blow aimed at him on the edge of the shovel, and then swinging his weapon round smote his antagonist with all his strength, the edge of the shovel falling fairly upon his head. Without a cry the traitor fell dead in his tracks. The other officers now drew their swords and rushed for-ward. Vincent, seeing the futility of resistance, threw down his shovel. He was instantly seized.
"Halloo there!" the senior officer called to the men, who had stopped in their work and were gazing at the sudden fray that had arisen, "a sergeant and four men." Four of the negro soldiers and a sergeant at once stepped forward. "Take this man and conduct him to the village. Put him in a room, and stay there with him. Do you, sergeant, station yourself at the door, so that I shall know where to find you. Put on your uniforms and take your guns." The men put on their coats, which they had removed while at work, shouldered their muskets, and took their places, two on each side of the prisoner. The officers then turned to examine their prostrate comrade.
"It's all over with him," one said, stooping down; "the shovel has cut his skull nearly in half. Well, I fancy he was a bad lot. I don't believe in Southerners who come over to fight in our ranks; besides he was at one time in the rebel army."
"Yes, he was taken prisoner," another said. "Then his father, who had to bolt from the South, because, he said, of his Northern sympathies, but likely enough for something else, came round, made interest somehow and got his son released, and then some one else got him a commission with us. He always said he had been obliged to fight on the other side, but that he had always been heart and soul for the North; anyhow, he was always blackguarding his old friends. I always doubted the fellow. Well, there's an end of him; and anyhow he has done useful service at last by recognizing this spy. Fine-looking young fellow that. He called him Vincent Wingfield. I seem to remember the name; perhaps I have read it in some of the rebel newspapers we got hold of; likely enough some one will know it. Well, I suppose we had better have Jackson carried into camp."
Four more of the negroes were called out, and these carried the body into the camp of his regiment. An officer was also sent from the working party to report the capture of a spy to his colonel.
"I will report it to the general," the latter said; "he rode along here about a quarter of an hour ago, and may not be back again for some hours. As we have got the spy fast it cannot make any difference."
As he was marched back to the village Vincent felt that there was no hope for him whatever. He had been denounced as a spy, and although the lips that had denounced him had been silenced forever, the mischief had been done. He could give no satisfactory account of himself. He thought for a moment of declaring that a mistake had been made, but he felt that no denial would counterbalance the effect of Jackson's words. The fury, too, with which the latter had attacked him would show plainly enough that his assailant was absolutely certain as to his identity, and even that there had been a personal feud between them. Then he thought that if he said that he was the son of the woman in the line she would bear him out in the assertion. But it was not likely that this would be accepted as against Jackson's testimony; besides, inquiry among her neighbors would certainly lead to the discovery that she was speaking an untruth, and might even involve her in his fate as his abettor. But most of all he decided against this course because it would involve the telling of a lie.
Vincent considered that while in disguise, and doing important service for his country, he was justified in using deceit; but merely for the purpose of saving his own life, and that perhaps uselessly, he would not lie. His fate, of course, was certain. He was a spy, and would be shot for it. Vincent had so often been in the battlefield, so often under a fire from which it seemed that no one could come alive, that the thought that death was at hand had not for him the terrors that possess those differently circumstanced. He was going to die for the Confederacy as tens of thousands of brave men had died before, and he rejoiced over the precaution he had taken as to the transmission of his discoveries on the previous day, and felt sure that General Lee would do full justice to his memory, and announce that he had died in doing noble service to the country.
He sighed as he thought of his mother and sisters; but Rose had been married in the spring, and Annie was engaged to an officer in General Beauregard's staff. Then he thought of Lucy away in Georgia and for the first time his lip quivered and his cheek paled.
The negro guards, who had been enlisted but a few weeks, were wholly ignorant of their duties, and having once conveyed their prisoner into the room, evidently considered that all further necessity for military strictness was at an end. They had been ordered to stay in the room with the prisoner, but no instructions had been given as to their conduct there. They accordingly placed their muskets in one corner of the room, and proceeded to chatter and laugh without further regarding him.
Under other circumstances this carelessness would have inspired Vincent with the thought of escape, but he knew that it was out of the question here. There were Federal camps all round and a shout from the negroes would send a hundred men in instant pursuit of him. There was nothing for him to do but to wait for the end, and that end would assuredly come in the morning. From time to time the door opened, and the negro sergeant looked in. Apparently his ideas on the subject of discipline were no stricter than those of his men, for he made no remark as to their carelessness. Presently, when he looked in, the four soldiers were standing at the window watching a regiment passing by on its way to take its share of the work in the trenches. Vincent, who was sitting at a table, happened to look up, and was astonished at seeing the sergeant first put his finger on his lips, then take off his cap, put one hand on his heart, and gesticulate with the other.
Vincent gazed at him in blank surprise, then he started and almost sprang to his feet, for in the Yankee sergeant he recognized Tony Morris; but the uplifted hand of the negro warned him of the necessity of silence. The negro nodded several times, again put his hand on his heart, and then disappeared. A thrill of hope stirred every vein in Vincent's body. He felt his cheeks flush and had difficulty in maintaining his passive attitude. He was not, then, utterly deserted; he had a friend who would, he was sure, do all in his power to aid him.
It was extraordinary indeed that it should be Tony who was now his jailer; and yet, when he thought it over, it was not difficult to understand. It was natural enough that he should have enlisted when the black regiments were raised. He had doubtless heard his name shouted out by Jackson, and had, as Vincent now remembered, stepped forward as a sort of volunteer when the officer called for a sergeant and four men.
Yes, Tony would doubtless do all in his power to save him. Whether it would be possible that he could do so was doubtful; but at least there was a hope, and with it the feeling of quiet resignation with which Vincent had faced what appeared to be inevitable at once disappeared, and was succeeded by a restless longing for action. His brain was busy at once in calculating the chances of his being ordered for instant execution or of the sentence being postponed till the following morning, and, in the latter case, with the question of what guard would be probably placed over him, and how Tony would set about the attempt to aid him to escape.
Had the general been in camp when he was brought in he would probably have been shot at sunset, but if he did not return until the afternoon he would would most likely order the sentence to be carried out at daybreak. In any case, as he was an officer, some time might be granted to him to prepare for death. Then there was the question whether he would be handed over to a white regiment for safekeeping or left in the hands of the black regiment that had captured him. No doubt after the sentence was passed the white officers of that regiment would see that a much stricter watch than that now put over him was set.
It was not probable that he would still be in charge of Tony, for as the latter would be on duty all day he would doubtless be relieved. In that case how would he manage to approach him, and what means would he use to direct the attention of the sentries in another direction? He thought over the plans that he himself would adopt were he in Tony's place. The first thing would be, of course, to make the sentries drunk if possible. This should not be a difficult task with men whose notions of discipline were so lax as those of the negroes; but it would be no easy matter for Tony to obtain spirits, for these were strictly prohibited in the Federal camp. Perhaps he might help Tony in this way. He fortunately had a small notebook with a pencil in his pocket, and as his guards were still at the window he wrote as follows:
"I am captured by the Yankees. So far as I can see, my only chance of escape is to make the sentries drunk. The bearer is absolutely to be trusted. Give him his canteen full of spirits, and tell him what I have written here."
He tore this page out, folded it up, and directed it to Mrs. Grossmith, Worley Farm, near Union. Presently Tony looked in again and Vincent held up the note. The sergeant stepped quickly forward and took it, and then said sharply to the men:
"Now den, dis not keeping guard. Suppose door open and dis fellow run away. What dey say to you? Two of you keep your eye on dis man. Suppose Captain Pearce come in and find you all staring out window. He kick up nice bobbery."
Thus admonished as to their duty, two of the negroes took up their muskets and stood with their backs to the door, with their eyes fixed on the prisoner with such earnestness that Vincent could not suppress a smile. The negroes grinned responsively.
"Dis bad affair, young sah," one said; "bery bad affair. Ob course we soldiers ob de Union, and got to fight if dey tell us; but no like dis job ob keeping guard like dis."
"It can't be helped," Vincent said; "and of course you must do your duty. I am not going to jump up the chimney or fly through the window, and as there are four of you, to say nothing of the sergeant outside, you needn't be afraid of my trying to escape."
"No sah, dat not possible nohow; we know dat bery well. Dat's why we no trouble to look after you. But as de sargent say watch, oh course we must watch. We bery pleased to see you kill dat white officer. Dat officer bery hard man and all de men hate him, and when you knock him down we should like to hab given cheer. We all sorry for you; still you see, sah, we must keep watch. If you were to get away, dar no saying what dey do to us."
"That's all right," Vincent said; "I don't blame you at all. As yon say, that was a very bad fellow. I had quarreled with him before, because he treated his slaves so badly."