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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XVIII. The Stone that is Rejected
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The Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XVIII. The Stone that is Rejected Post by :studentbee Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :February 2011 Read :873

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The Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XVIII. The Stone that is Rejected

That Friday morning Stephen awoke betimes with a sense that something was
to happen. For a few moments he lay still in the half comprehension
which comes after sleep when suddenly he remembered yesterday's incidents
at the Arsenal, and leaped out of bed.

"I think that Lyon is going to attack Camp Jackson to-day," he said to
his mother after breakfast, when Hester had left the room.

Mrs. Brice dropped her knitting in her lap.

"Why, Stephen?"

"I went down to the Arsenal with the Judge yesterday and saw them
finishing the equipment of the new regiments. Something was in the wind.
Any one could see that from the way Lyon was flying about. I think he
must have proof that the Camp Jackson people have received supplies from
the South."

Mrs. Brice looked fixedly at her son, and then smiled in spite of the
apprehension she felt.

"Is that why you were working over that map of the city last night?" she
asked.

"I was trying to see how Lyon would dispose his troops. I meant to tell
you about a gentleman we met in the street car, a Major Sherman who used
to be in the army. Mr. Brinsmade knows him, and Judge Whipple, and many
other prominent men here. He came to St. Louis some months ago to take
the position of president of the Fifth Street Line. He is the keenest,
the most original man I have ever met. As long as I live I shall never
forget his description of Lyon."

"Is the Major going back into the army?" said Mrs. Brice, Stephen did
not remark the little falter in her voice. He laughed over the
recollection of the conversation in the street car.

"Not unless matters in Washington change to suit him, he said. "He thinks
that things have been very badly managed, and does not scruple to say so
anywhere. I could not have believed it possible that two men could have
talked in public as he and Judge Whipple did yesterday and not be shot
down. I thought that it was as much as a man's life is worth to mention
allegiance to the Union here in a crowd. And the way Mr. Sherman pitched
into the Rebels in that car full of people was enough to make your hair
stand on end."

"He must be a bold man," murmured Mrs. Brice.

"Does he think that the--the Rebellion can be put down?"

"Not with seventy-five thousand men, nor with ten times that number."

Mrs. Brice sighed, and furtively wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.

"I am afraid we shall see great misery, Stephen," she said.

He was silent. From that peaceful little room war and its horrors seemed
very far away. The morning sun poured in through the south windows and
was scattered by the silver on the sideboard. From above, on the wall,
Colonel Wilton Brice gazed soberly down. Stephen's eyes lighted on the
portrait, and his thoughts flew back to the boyhood days when he used to
ply his father with questions about it. Then the picture had suggested
only the glory and honor which illumines the page of history. Something
worthy to look back upon, to keep ones head high. The hatred and the
suffering and the tears, the heartrending, tearing apart for all time of
loving ones who have grown together,--these were not upon that canvas,
Will war ever be painted with a wart?

The sound of feet was heard on the pavement. Stephen rose, glancing at
his mother. Her face was still upon her knitting.

"I am going to the Arsenal," he said. "I must see what as happening."

To her, as has been said, was given wisdom beyond most women. She did
not try to prevent him as he kissed her good-by. But when the door had
shut behind him, a little cry escaped her, and she ran to the window to
strain her eyes after him until he had turned the corner below.

His steps led him irresistibly past the house of the strange flag,
ominously quiet at that early hour. At sight of it anger made him hot
again. The car for South St. Louis stood at the end of the line, fast
filling with curious people who had read in their papers that morning of
the equipment of the new troops. There was little talk among them, and
that little guarded.

It was a May morning to rouse a sluggard; the night air tingled into life
at the touch of the sunshine, the trees in the flitting glory of their
first green. Stephen found the shaded street in front of the Arsenal
already filled with an expectant crowd. Sharp commands broke the
silence, and he saw the blue regiments forming on the lawn inside the
wall. Truly, events were in the air,--great events in which he had no
part.

As he stood leaning against a tree-box by the curb, dragged down once
more by that dreaded feeling of detachment, he heard familiar voices
close beside him. Leaning forward, he saw Eliphalet Hopper and Mr.
Cluyme. It was Mr. Cluyme who was speaking.

"Well, Mr. Hopper," he said, "in spite of what you say, I expect you are
dust as eager as I am to see what is going on. You've taken an early
start this morning for sightseeing."

Eliphalet's equanimity was far from shaken.

"I don't cal'late to take a great deal of stock in the military," he
answered. "But business is business. And a man must keep an eye on what
is moving."

Mr. Cluyme ran his hand through his chop whiskers, and lowered his voice.

"You're right, Hopper," he assented. "And if this city is going to be
Union, we ought to know it right away."

Stephen, listening with growing indignation to this talk, was unaware of
a man who stood on the other side of the tree, and who now came forward
before Mr. Hopper. He presented a somewhat uncompromising front. Mr.
Cluyme instantly melted away.

"My friend," said the stranger, quietly, "I think we have met before,
when your actions were not greatly to your credit. I do not forget a
face, even when I see it in the dark. Now I hear you utter words which
are a disgrace to a citizen of the United States. I have some respect
for a rebel. I have none for you, sir."

As soon as Stephen recovered from the shock of his surprise, he saw that
Eliphalet had changed countenance. The manner of an important man of
affairs, which he hay so assiduously cultivated, fell away from him. He
took a step backward, and his eyes made an ugly shift. Stephen rejoiced
to see the stranger turn his back on the manager of Carvel & Company
before that dignitary had time to depart, and stand unconcernedly there
as if nothing had occurred.

Then Stephen stared at him.

He was not a man you would look at twice, ordinarily, he was smoking a
great El Sol cigar. He wore clothes that were anything but new, a slouch
hat, and coarse grained, square-toed boots. His trousers were creased at
the knees. His head fell forward a little from his square shoulders, and
leaned a bit to one side, as if meditatively. He had a light brown beard
that was reddish in the sun, and he was rather short than otherwise.

This was all that Stephen saw. And yet the very plainness of the man's
appearance only added to his curiosity. Who was this stranger? His
words, his action, too, had been remarkable. The art of administering
a rebuke like that was not given to many men. It was perfectly quiet,
perfectly final. And then, when it was over, he had turned his back and
dismissed it.

Next Stephen began to wonder what he could know about Hopper. Stephen
had suspected Eliphalet of subordinating principles to business gain, and
hence the conversation with Mr. Cluyme had given him no shock in the way
of a revelation, But if Hopper were a rogue, ought not Colonel Carvel to
hear it? Ought not he, Stephen Brice, to ask this man with the cigar
what he knew, and tell Judge Whipple? The sudden rattle of drums gave
him a start, and cruelly reminded him of the gulf of prejudice and hatred
fast widening between the friends.

All this time the stranger stood impassively chewing his cigar, his hand
against the tree-box. A regiment in column came out of the Arsenal gate,
the Union leader in his colonel's uniform, on horseback at its head. He
pulled up in the street opposite to Stephen, and sat in his saddle,
chatting with other officers around him.

Then the stranger stepped across the limestone gutter and walked up to
the Colonel's horse, He was still smoking. This move, too, was
surprising enough, It argued even more assurance. Stephen listened
intently.

"Colonel Blair, my name is Grant," he said briefly.

The Colonel faced quickly about, and held out his gloved hand cordially,
"Captain Ulysses Grant," said he; "of the old army?"

Mr. Grant nodded.

"I wanted to wish you luck," he said.

"Thank you, Grant," answered the Colonel. "But you? Where are you
living now?"

"I moved to Illinois after I left here," replied Mr. Grant, as quietly as
before, "and have been in Galena, in the Leather business there. I went
down to Springfield with the company they organized in Galena, to be of
any help I could. They made me a clerk in the adjutant general's office
of the state I ruled blanks, and made out forms for a while." He paused,
as if to let the humble character of this position sink into the
Colonel's comprehension. "Then they found out that I'd been
quartermaster and commissary, and knew something about military orders
Now I'm a state mustering officer. I came down to Belleville to muster
in a regiment, which wasn't ready. And so I ran over here to see what
you fellows were doing."

If this humble account had been delivered volubly, and in another tone,
it is probable that the citizen-colonel would not have listened, since
the events of that day were to crown his work of a winter. But Mr. Grant
possessed a manner of holding attention.. It was very evident, however;
that Colonel Blair had other things to think of. Nevertheless he said
kindly:

"Aren't you going in, Grant?"

"I can't afford to go in as a captain of volunteers," was the calm reply:
"I served nine years in the regular army and I think I can command a
regiment."

The Colonel, whose attention was called away at that moment, did not
reply. Mr. Grant moved off up the street. Some of the younger officers
who were there, laughed as they followed his retreating figure.

"Command a regiment!" cried one, a lieutenant whom Stephen recognized as
having been a bookkeeper at Edwards, James, & Doddington's, and whose
stiff blue uniform coat creased awkwardly. "I guess I'm about as fit to
command a regiment as Grant is."

"That man's forty years old, if he's a day, put in another. "I remember
when he came here to St. Louis in '54, played out. He'd resigned from
the army on the Pacific Coast. He put up a log cabin down en the Gravois
Road, and there he lived in the hardest luck of any man I ever saw until
last year. You remember him, Joe."

"Yep," said Joe. "I spotted him by the El Sol cigar. He used to bring a
load of wood to the city once in a while, and then he'd go over to the
Planters' House, or somewhere else, and smoke one of these long fellows,
and sit against the wall as silent as a wooden Indian. After that he
came up to the city without his family and went into real estate one
winter. But he didn't make it go. Curious, it is just a year ago this
month than he went over to Illinois. He's an honest fellow, and hard
working enough, but he don't know how. He's just a dead failure."

"Command a regiment!" laughed the first, again, as of this in particular
had struck his sense of humor. "I guess he won't get a regiment in a
hurry, There's lots of those military carpet-baggers hanging around for
good jobs now."

"He might fool you fellows yet," said the one caller, though his tone was
not one of conviction. "I understand he had a first-rate record an the
Mexican War."

Just then an aide rode up, and the Colonel gave a sharp command which put
an end to this desultory talk. As the First Regiment took up the march,
the words "Camp Jackson" ran from mouth to mouth on the sidewalks.
Catching fire, Stephen ran with the crowd, and leaping on passing street
car, was borne cityward with the drums of the coming hosts beating in his
ears.

In the city, shutters were going up on the stores. The streets were
filled with, restless citizens seeking news, and drays were halted here
and there on the corners, the white eyes and frenzied calls of the negro
drivers betraying their excitement. While Stephen related to his mother
the events of the morning, Hester burned the dinner. It lay; still
untouched, on the table when the throbbing of drums sent them to the
front steps. Sigel's regiment had swung into the street, drawing in its
wake a seething crowd.

Three persons came out of the big house next door. One was Anna
Brinsmade; and there was her father, his white hairs uncovered. The
third was Jack. His sister was cringing to him appealingly, and he
struggling in her grasp. Out of his coat pocket hung the curved butt of
a pepperbox revolver.

"Let me go, Anne!" he cried. "Do you think I can stay here while my
people are shot down by a lot of damned Dutchman?"

"John," said Mr. Brinsmade, sternly, "I cannot let you join a mob.
I cannot let you shoot at men who carry the Union flag."

"You cannot prevent me, sir," shouted the young man, in a frenzy. "When
foreigners take our flag for them own, it is time for us to shoot them
down."

Wrenching himself free, he ran down the steps and up the street ahead of
the regiment. Then the soldiers and the noisy crowd were upon them and
while these were passing the two stood there as in a dream. After that
silence fell upon the street, and Mr. Brinsmade turned and went back into
the house, his head bowed as in prayer. Stephen and his mother drew
back, but Anne saw them.

"He is a rebel," she faltered. "It will break my father's heart."

She looked at Stephen appealingly, unashamed of the tears in her eyes.
Then she, too went in.

"I cannot stay here mother," he said.

As he slammed the gate, Anne ran down the steps calling his name. He
paused, and she caught his sleeve.

"I knew you would go," she said, "I knew you would go. Oh, Stephen, you
have a cool head. Try to keep Jack--out of mischief."

He left her standing on the pavement. But when he reached the corner and
looked back he saw that she had gone in at his own little gate to meet
his mother. Then he walked rapidly westward. Now and again he was
stopped by feverish questions, but at length he reached the top of the
second ridge from the river, along which crowded Eighteenth Street now
runs. There stood the new double mansion Mr. Spencer Catherwood had
built two years before on the outskirts of the town, with the wall at the
side, and the brick stable and stable yard. As Stephen approached it,
the thought came to him how little this world's goods avail in times of
trouble. One of the big Catherwood boys was in the blue marching
regiment that day, and had been told by his father never again to darken
his doors. Another was in Clarence Colfax's company of dragoons, and
still another had fled southward the night after Sumter.

Stephen stopped at the crest of the hill, in the white dust of the new-
turned street, to gaze westward. Clouds were gathering in the sky, but
the sun still shone brightly, Half way up the rise two blue lines had
crawled, followed by black splotches, and at the southwest was the glint
of the sun on rifle barrels. Directed by a genius in the art of war, the
regiments were closing about Camp Jackson.

As he stood there meditating and paying no attention to those who hurried
past, a few familiar notes were struck on a piano. They came through the
wide-shuttered window above his head. Then a girl's voice rose above the
notes, in tones that were exultant:--

"Away down South in de fields of cotton,
Cinnamon seed and sandy bottom,
Look away, look away, Look away, look away.
Den I wish I was in Dixie's Land,
Oh, oh! oh, oh!
In Dixie's Land I'll take my stand,
And live and die in Dixie's Land.
Away, away, away.
Away down South in Dixie."

The song ceased amid peals of girlish laughter. Stephen was rooted to
the spot.

"Jinny! Jinny Carvel, how dare you!" came through the shutters.
"We shall have a whole regiment of Hessians in here."

Old Uncle Ben, the Catherwoods' coachman, came out of the stable yard.
The whites of his eyes were rolling, half in amusement, half in terror.
Seeing Stephen standing there, he exclaimed:

"Mistah Brice, if de Dutch take Camp Jackson, is we niggers gwinter be
free?"

Stephen did not answer, for the piano had started again,

"If ever I consent to be married,
And who could refuse a good mate?
The man whom I give my hand to,
Must believe in the Rights of the State."

More laughter. Then the blinds were flung aside, and a young lady in a
dress of white trimmed with crimson stood in the window, smiling.
Suddenly she perceived Stephen in the road. Her smile faded. For an
instant she stared at him, and then turned to the girls crowding behind
her. What she said, he did not wait to hear. He was striding down the
hill.

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