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night rested upon the cold, pale sheen of waters, and lo! so it seemed to fall. There came back from the carpeted gloom the same splash! She gasped, and clutched an overhanging vine. "En de valley an' de shadder, thy rod an' thy staff, an' er-fearin' nuth'n','" she whispered brokenly; and so, half moaning, she let herself down into the silent water. The chilly flood rose to her armpits, but she moved forward straight into the gloom. Once she stumbled, and the flood rolled over her, but straight on she passed with a precision seemingly supernatural. As she moved she felt with her bruised and torn feet in the soft ooze and in the slime; slowly and patiently, for she fancied she could tread every foot of the dark depths until the knife was found.
But there is a limit to human progress in Black Ankle Swamp; and just as the spot was reached to which she had calculated that her strength could have hurled the bloody weapon, the ground passed from under her feet. Frantically she clutched at a cypress knee to draw back, when instantly a sharp, swift pain ran along her arm. She had touched a snake, and he had struck his fangs into her clenched hand! She must not lose her hold; she did not. But her lips opened and sent up one wild, frenzied cry from that dreadful place,-" O my God!" But what was that? There was no serpent in her grasp; only the long, keen blade of a knife, thrust into the tender cypress. Ignorant and superstitious, her frame trembled with terror; then the truth was upon her. The weapon she had hurled out into the night had stuck where it had struck; the splash was the plunge of a startled cooter. She drew it from its rest and rushed from the place, as when a brown deer, the hounds pressing hard, breaks through the swamp and the cane and the treacherous ooze into the clear fields beyond. But gone now fatigue! The woman passed the cabin, with its crib and its memories, almost without knowing it, and took the road back to the city. It would have been as well to crouch there and wait for the buggy or to have sought the village, but wait she could not. The fever was upon her; she must move. So she ran cityward to meet the gray-haired rescuer. Mile after mile passed, hour after hour, and still he came not. Day broke, and the sun rose. A prescience of mortal danger was upon her, faintly at first, a terror at last; and mastering the fevered energy of her great struggle, it slew her strength and hurled her by the wayside,- to lie with her hunted eyes fixed upon the tree-arched lane overhead.
As thus she lay, an old man riding a flying gray horse rose in the shadowed light of the lane and presently burst into the full sunlight there before her. The thundering feet of the
animal were almost upon her as she staggered dizzily to her feet and thrust upward the knife. Wonder shone in the face of the rider as, divining the truth, he caught the weapon and passed swiftly from her view. A smile came over her wan face. "En de valley an' de shadder,'" she whispered feebly, then set her feet towards home.
Tired? Yes, tired near unto death, but leaning upon a rod and a staff that mortal vision could not compass.
It was a sultry noon, and Jeffersonville was brisk. As Jeffersonville is brisk only during the court week, when the lawyers from Macon ride down to look after the warehousemen's mortgages, and the leading attorneys from the adjoining counties run over to look after the Macon lawyers and attend to the criminal docket, it may be inferred that court was in session.
About the large, white, square frame building with its green blinds and three entrances, little groups of farmers were gathered and many unhitched teams were visible. Within the one great room that takes up the whole of the first floor, and from which ascend steps to the various county offices above, were the usual court-house habitués,-jurors who hope in vain to "get off," and citizens of limited income who yet hope to "get on." In front of the door was the judge's elevated desk, with the clerk lower down, whose feet rested in a chair while his mouth twisted a tooth-pick. The midday meal had just ended, and the court had not reëntered. To the right and left were the jury benches. The front half of the room was devoted to the Bar, which by courtesy included all leading citizens, and the rear to negroes and the promiscuous crowd on curiosity bent.
Apparently there was nothing exciting on hand just then, though a murder trial had been interrupted by a temporary adjournment. But the defendant was a negro, and a negro murderer is not a novelty. While the court was assembling, the curious might have noted the prisoner's points. His face, if it had any marked characteristics, was noted chiefly for its singularly inexpressive lines, and his attitude was one of supreme indifference. His stout, heavy frame was clad in a common jean suit stained with months of wear, and his kinky hair was liberally sprinkled over with gray. He sat quietly in his place, not even affecting stolidity, but suffering his eyes to roam from face to face as the genial conversation drifted about in the group around him. He was evidently not impressed by any sense of peril, though when the court had adjourned, a clear
case of murder had been proved against him, and only his statement and the argument remained.
Slowly the court assembled. The prisoner's counsel had introduced no testimony. A man had been stabbed by his client, had fallen dead, his hand clasped over the wound; and from beneath this hand, when convulsively loosened, a knife had dropped, which the defendant's wife seized and concealed. This had been proved by the state's witnesses.
The prisoner took the stand to make his statement. He declared emphatically that the deceased, knife in hand, had assaulted him and that he had killed him in self-defense; that the knife which fell from the relaxing hand was the dead man's. He told the story simply, and as he began it a tall, thick-set gentleman in a gray suit, with iron-gray hair, and walking with the aid of a stout stick, entered the room and stood silent by the door,- heard him through, losing never a word. As the prisoner resumed his seat the new-comer entered within the rail. He shook hands gravely with several of the older lawyers, and took the hand that the court extended over the desk. Then he turned and, to the astonishment of every one, shook hands with the defendant, into whose face a light had suddenly dawned, which resolved itself into a broad, silent grin. This done, the old gentleman seated himself near the defendant's lawyer, and, resting his hand upon his massive cane, listened attentively to the speech.
The speaker was not verbose. He rapidly summed up, and laid his case before the jury in its best light. Really there was not a great deal to say, and he soon reached his peroration. He pictured the blasted home of the poor negro, his wife and babe deprived of his labor, and dwelt long upon the good name he had always borne. In the midst of the most eloquent periods, wherein he referred to the prisoner "sitting before you, gentlemen of the jury, broken-hearted and borne down by the weight of this horrible tragedy," he turned and extended his hand to where his client sat. A sight met his glance that sent the flush of confusion to his face and started a ripple of laughter around the room. The "brokenhearted" was calmly munching away on an enormous ginger-cake, the liberal moon in which proved the vigor of his appetite. The eloquence of the speaker was fatally chilled. He stammered, repeated, hesitated, and was lost. After an awkward summing up, he took his hat and books and precipitately retired to a secluded part of the room. He had been appointed by the court to defend the prisoner and had made considerable preparation, even to the extent of training his client when to weep.
The solicitor arose, and with a few cold words swept away the cobwebs of the case. The man had stabbed another wantonly. If the knife was the property of the deceased, why was it not produced in court? — the defendant's wife had picked it up.
He passed the case to the jury, and the judge prepared to deliver his charge, when the old gentleman in gray rose to his feet.
"If your Honor please," he said in a deep tone, the honesty and purpose of which drew every eye upon him, "the prisoner is entitled to the closing, and in the absence of other counsel I beg that you mark my name for the defense. With the permission of my young friend who has so cleverly stated the defense, I will speak upon the case."
"Mr. Clerk," said the court, "mark General Robert Thomas for the defense." The silence was absolute. The jurymen moved in their seats. Something new was coming. The old gentleman laid his hat and stick upon the table, and drawing himself up to his great height fixed his bright eye upon first one and then another of the jury, looking down into their very hearts. Only this old man, grim, gray, and majestically defiant, stood between the negro behind him and the grave. The fact seemed to speak out of the silence to every man on that bench. Suddenly his lips opened, and he said with quick but quiet energy:
"The knife that was found by the dead man's side was his own. He had drawn it before he was stabbed. Ben Thomas is a brave man, a strong man; he would not have used a weapon upon him unarmed!" As he spoke he drew from his bosom a long, keen knife, and gently rested its point upon the table. The solicitor's watchful eye was upon him. The attention of all was gained, and the silence was intense. "It has been asked, Where is the dead man's knife? Let me give you my theory: When Bill Fowler staggered back under the blow of Ben Thomas, clutching his wound, and the knife fell to the ground, the lightning's flash was not quicker than the change born in a moment in the bosom of that erring woman, the unwitting cause of the tragedy. Up to that moment she had been weak and yielding; she had turned aside from the little home, that should have been her all, to gamble with strange men; to tread the dangerous paths which beset the one safe road a true woman's feet may know. It had thrown a shadow over the humble home; the husband drunk upon its porch was the mute evidence of its presence. In the awful moment of that tragedy, when the dancers stood horrified, this woman became, as by an inspiration, a wife again. Deceived herself, she caught up
the tell-tale knife and hurled it into the swamp, destroying the evidence of her husband's innocence when she sought to conceal one evidence of his guilt. This, I say, is a theory. You remember her cry was, 'Run!"" His listeners stirred, and a whisper went round the
"But there is other evidence, gentlemen of the jury. Should I be forced to ask for a new trial, it will be developed that this poor woman, repentant now, thank God! walked in three days from the scene of that tragedy to my home, seventy miles away, to ask my aid and counsel; that, eluding me in Macon, though footsore and weary and crazed with grief she returned by night to that swamp, and laboring under an excitement as intense as the first, that brought the scene before her so vividly that she was enabled to find the knife, did find it, and but that an accident to my vehicle delayed me it would have been offered here in evidence-" "May it please your Honor," said the solicitor, "much as I dislike to interrupt the
honorable gentleman, I do not think it is proper to introduce with the argument evidence that has not been offered upon trial."
"If your Honor please," and the speaker turned to the prosecuting officer with quiet dignity and gentleness that disarmed him at once," a decision upon such a proposition is not needed. I willingly admit what is claimed. But, sir, I offer no evidence, not even this knife, with the name of the deceased upon it, though it comes to me direct from the hand of the woman who, it has been proved, snatched almost from under his hand a weapon, when he fell to the ground. I am but arguing a theory to account for the facts that have been proved. But, gentlemen of the jury," and the knife fell to the table as he turned away from it,-"not upon this theory, not upon these facts, do I base the assertion that the deceased had a knife in his hand when he made the assault,-I speak from a knowledge of men. Ben Thomas would never have stabbed an unarmed man." The General looked around
slowly and searched the court-house with his eye, as if daring contradiction. "Why do I say this?" he continued, turning to the court. "Because I know he is as brave a man as ever faced death; a faithful man; a powerful man, and conscious of his power. Such men do not use weapons upon unarmed assailants." The audience stirred in their seats. The speaker turned again to the jury. "I speak to men who reason. True reasoning with such is as strong as proof. A brave man who is full of strength never draws a weapon to repel a simple assault. The defendant drew when he saw a glittering knife in the hand of his foe,- not from fear, because he could have fled, but to equalize the combat. He was cool and calm; you know the result.
"Why do I say he is brave? Every man on this jury shouldered his musket during the war. Most of you followed the lamented Pickett. Some perhaps were at Gettysburg." Two or three heads nodded assent. "I was there too!" A murmur of applause ran round the room, the old man's war record was a household legend. It is even said that the court joined in. "I, and the only brother God ever gave me." The veteran bowed his head; his voice sank to a whisper. "A part of him is there yet," his hand shook slightly as he moved his cane farther on the desk, and rested upon the Code," a part of him, but not all; for, God be praised, we picked up whatever was left of him and brought it back to Georgia. "I well remember that fight. The enemy stood brave and determined, and met our charges with a courage and grit that could not be shaken. Line after line melted away during those days, and at last came Pickett's charge. When that magnificent command went in, a negro man, an humble African, a captain's body-servant, stood behind it, shading his eyes with his hand, waiting. You know the result. Out of that vortex of flame and that storm of lead and iron a handful drifted back. From one to another this man of black skin ran, then turned and followed in the track of the charge. On, on, he went, under my very glass, for it was my misfortune to stay behind; on through the smoke and the flame; gone one moment and in sight the next; on up to the flaming cannon themselves. Then there he
bent and lifted a form from the ground. Together they fell and rose, and this three times, until, meeting them half-way, I took the burden from the hero and myself bore it on to safety. That burden was the senseless form of my brother,"-here he turned and walked rapidly to the prisoner, his hand lifted on high, his voice ringing like a trumpet,-"gashed, and bleeding, and mangled, but alive, thank God! And the man who bore him out, who came to me with him in his arms as a mother would carry a sick child, himself shot with the fragment of a shell until his great heart was almost dropping from his breast,- that man, O my friends, sits here under my hand! See, if I speak not the truth!" He tore open the prisoner's shirt and laid bare his breast, on which the silent splendor of the afternoon sun streamed. A great ragged seam marked it from left to right. "Look!" he cried, " and bless the sight, for that scar was won by a slave in an hour that tried the souls of freemen and put to its highest test the best manhood of the South. No man who wins such wounds can thrust a knife into an unarmed assailant. I have come seventy miles in my old age to say it."
It may have been contrary to the evidence, but the jury, without leaving their seats, returned a verdict of "not guilty," and the solicitor, who bore a scar on his own face, smiled as he received it.
"The prisoner," said the court, rapping for order, "is discharged."
"Yes, sah," said Ben, rising and flashing a set of dazzling ivories at the judge. "I knowed hit uz all right soon es I laid eyes on Marse Bob's ole gray head."
THE evening shadows gather over Black Ankle. A young woman with a baby at her breast sits, weary of eye and limb, under the spreading gum-tree by the spring. Slowly the yellow rooster leads his followers up the rail to the shed, and the lean cow at the picketgate lows for entrance. Suddenly out of the valley of the shadow of death itself- a man comes and rests his hand upon the woman's head. Then the twilight deepens, and we see them no more.
H. S. Edwards.
MEMORANDA ON THE CIVIL WAR.
Union War Songs and Confederate Officers.
THE reading of Mr. Brander Matthews's "Songs of
the War," in the August number of THE CENTURY, vividly recalls to mind an incident of my own experience which seems to me so apt an illustration of the effect of army songs upon men that I venture to send it to you, as I remember it, after twenty-two years.
A day or two after Lee's surrender in April, 1865, I left our ship at "Dutch Gap," in the James River, for a run up to Richmond, where I was joined by the ship's surgeon, the paymaster, and one of the junior officers. After "doing " Richmond pretty thoroughly we went in the evening to my rooms for dinner. Dinner being over and the events of the day recounted, the doctor, who was a fine player, opened the piano, saying: "Boys, we've got our old quartette here; let's have a sing." As the house opposite was occupied by paroled Confederate officers, no patriotic songs were sung. Soon the lady of the house handed me this note: Compliments of General - and Staff. Will the gentlemen kindly allow us to come over and hear them sing?" Of course we consented, and they came. As the general entered the room, I recognized instantly the face and figure of one who stood second only to Lee or Jackson, in the whole Confederacy. After introductions and the usual interchange of civilities, we sang for them glees and college songs, until at last the general said: "Excuse me, gentlemen, you sing delightfully, but what we want to hear is your army songs." Then we gave them the army songs with unction, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "John Brown's Body," "We're Coming, Father Abraham," "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching," through the whole catalogue, to the "Star-spangled Banner,”- to which many a foot beat time as if it had never stepped to any but the "music of the Union," and closed our concert with "Rally Round the Flag, Boys." When the applause had subsided, a tall, fine-looking fellow in a major's uniform exclaimed, "Gentlemen, if we'd had your songs we'd have licked you out of your boots! Who could n't have marched or fought with such songs? While we had nothing, absolutely nothing, except a bastard Marseillaise,' the Bonny Blue Flag,' and 'Dixie,' which were nothing but jigs. Maryland, my Maryland' was a splendid song, but the true, old 'Lauriger Horatius' was about as inspiring as the 'Dead March in Saul,' while every one of these Yankee songs is full of marching and fighting spirit." Then turning to the general he said: "I shall never forget the first time I heard 'Rally Round the Flag.' 'T was a nasty night during the Seven Days' Fight,' and if I remember rightly it was raining. I was on picket, when, just before 'taps,' some fellow on the other side struck up that song and others joined in the chorus until it seemed to me the whole Yankee army was singing. Tom B- -, who was with me, sung out, 'Good heavens, Cap, what are those fellows made of, anyway? Here we 've licked
'em six days running and now, on the eve of the seventh, they're singing "Rally Round the Flag." I am not naturally superstitious, but I tell you that song sounded to me like the 'knell of doom,' and my heart went down into my boots; and though I've tried to do my duty, it has been an up-hill fight with me ever since that night."
The little company of Union singers and Confederate auditors, after a pleasant and interesting interchange of stories of army experiences, then separated, and as the general shook hands at parting, he said to me: "Well, the time may come when we can all sing the Star-spangled Banner' again." I have not seen him since. Richard Wentworth Browne.
General Edwards's Brigade at Spotsylvania. IN the interesting article in the June CENTURY, entitled "Hand-to-Hand Fighting at Spotsylvania," the author, while generally accurate and graphic, unaccountably omits any reference to that brigade of the Sixth Corps which was first engaged there, which was holding the key to the position when his own (Upton's) brigade came upon the field, and which, without egotism, can claim to have fought longer and more effectively than any other brigade of the Sixth Corps engaged. This honorable claim is made for the Fourth Brigade, Second Division, commanded by Colonel Oliver Edwards, which on that day had present for duty three small regiments, the 10th and 37th Massachusetts and the 2d Rhode Island. This claim is based upon the following facts:
When the two divisions of the Sixth Corps, which had been massed the previous evening, were summoned to the support of General Hancock, whose Second Corps had penetrated the Confederate lines, General Wright, who had just assumed command of the Sixth Corps, directed that the first brigade under arms and ready to move should lead the way. Edwards's brigade was first in line and led the march of the corps. It moved to the vicinity of the Landrum House, passing the Confederate generals and some of the prisoners who had been captured by Hancock, and, reaching the edge of woods facing the scene of action, came into line of battle facing by the rear rank, and advanced toward the captured works with the 10th Massachusetts on the right, the 2d Rhode Island in the center, and the 37th Massachusetts on the left.
The situation at this time was simply this, the force of the Second Corps' attack had of itself broken up the organization of that command; the mass of men had been withdrawn to the outer face of the Confederate works and re-formed as well as possible under the circumstances. By the time this was accomplished the Confederates were prepared to undertake the recapture of the works they had lost. Then it was that Edwards's brigade moved forward and occupied the outer face of the intrenchments, relieving some troops already there