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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XXII. The Straining of Another Friendship
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The Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XXII. The Straining of Another Friendship Post by :Nevidia Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :February 2011 Read :701

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The Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XXII. The Straining of Another Friendship

Captain Lige asked but two questions: where was the Colonel, and was it
true that Clarence had refused to be paroled? Though not possessing
over-fine susceptibilities, the Captain knew a mud-drum from a lady's
watch, as he himself said. In his solicitude for Virginia, he saw that
she was in no state of mind to talk of the occurrences of the last few
days. So he helped her to climb the little stair that winds to the top
of the texas,--that sanctified roof where the pilot-house squats. The
girl clung to her bonnet Will you like her any the less when you know
that it was a shovel bonnet, with long red ribbons that tied under her
chin? It became her wonderfully. "Captain Lige," she said, almost
tearfully, as she took his arm, "how I thank heaven that you came up the
river this afternoon!"

"Jinny," said the Captain, "did you ever know why cabins are called

"Why, no," answered she, puzzled.

"There was an old fellow named Shreve who ran steamboats before Jackson
fought the redcoats at New Orleans. In Shreve's time the cabins were
curtained off, just like these new-fangled sleeping-car berths. The old
man built wooden rooms, and he named them after the different states,
Kentuck, and Illinois, and Pennsylvania. So that when a fellow came
aboard he'd say: 'What state am I in, Cap?' And from this river has the
name spread all over the world--stateroom. That's mighty interesting,"
said Captain Lige.

"Yea," said Virginia; "why didn't you tell me long ago."

"And I'll bet you can't say," the Captain continued, "why this house
we're standing on is called the texas." Because it is annexed to the
states," she replied, quick a flash.

"Well, you're bright," said he. "Old Tufts got that notion, when Texas
came in. Like to see Bill Jenks?"

"Of course," said Virginia.

Bill Jenks was Captain Brent's senior pilot. His skin hung on his face
in folds, like that of a rhinoceros It was very much the same color.
His grizzled hair was all lengths, like a worn-out mop; his hand reminded
one of an eagle's claw, and his teeth were a pine yellow. He greeted
only such people as he deemed worthy of notice, but he had held Virginia
in his arms.

"William," said the young lady, roguishly, "how is the eye, location, and

William abandoned himself to a laugh. When this happened it was put in
the Juanita's log.

"So the Cap'n be still harpin' on that?" he said, "Miss Jinny, he's
just plumb crazy on a pilot's qualifications,"

"He says that you are the best pilot on the river, but I don't believe
it," said Virginia.

William cackled again. He made a place for her on the leather-padded
seat at the back of the pilot house, where for a long time she sat
staring at the flag trembling on the jackstaff between the great sombre
pipes. The sun fell down, but his light lingered in the air above as the
big boat forged abreast the foreign city of South St. Louis. There was
the arsenal--grim despite its dress of green, where Clarence was confined

Captain Lige came in from his duties below. "Well, Jinny, we'll soon be
at home," he said. "We've made a quick trip against the rains."

"And--and do you think the city is safe?"

"Safe!" he cried. "As safe as London!" He checked himself. "Jinny,
would you like to blow the whistle?"

"I should just love to," said Virginia. And following Mr. Jenks's
directions she put her toe on the tread, and shrank back when the monster
responded with a snort and a roar. River men along the levee heard that
signal and laughed. The joke was certainly not on sturdy Elijah Brent.

An hour later, Virginia and her aunt and the Captain, followed by Mammy
aster and Rosetta and Susan, were walking through the streets of the
stillest city in the Union. All that they met was a provost's guard, for
St. Louis was under Martial Law. Once in a while they saw the light of
some contemptuous citizen of the residence district who had stayed to
laugh. Out in the suburbs, at the country houses of the first families,
people of distinction slept five and six in a room--many with only
a quilt between body and matting. Little wonder that these dreamed of
Hessians and destruction. In town they slept with their doors open,
those who remained and had faith. Martial law means passes and
explanations, and walking generally in the light of day. Martial law
means that the Commander-in-chief, if he be an artist in well doing, may
use his boot freely on politicians bland or beetle-browed. No police
force ever gave the sense of security inspired by a provost's guard.

Captain Lige sat on the steps of Colonel Carvel's house that night, long
after the ladies were gone to bed. The only sounds breaking the silence
of the city were the beat of the feet of the marching squads and the call
of the corporal's relief. But the Captain smoked in agony until the
clouds of two days slipped away from under the stars, for he was trying
to decide a Question. Then he went up to a room in the house which had
been known as his since the rafters were put down on that floor.

The next morning, as the Captain and Virginia sit at breakfast together
with only Mammy Easter to cook and Rosetta to wait on them, the Colonel
bursts in. He is dusty and travel-stained from his night on the train,
but his gray eyes light with affection as he sees his friend beside his

"Jinny," he cries as he kisses her, "Jinny, I'm proud oil you, my girl!
You didn't let the Yankees frighten you--But where is Jackson?"

And so the whole miserable tale has to be told over again, between
laughter and tears on Virginia's part, and laughter and strong language
on Colonel Carvel's. What--blessing that Lige met them, else the Colonel
might now be starting for the Cumberland River in search of his daughter.
The Captain does not take much part in the conversation, and he refuses
the cigar which is offered him. Mr. Carvel draws back in surprise.

"Lige," he says, "this is the first time to my knowledge." I smoked too
many last night," says the Captain. The Colonel sat down, with his feet
against the mantel, too full of affairs to take much notice of Mr.
Brent's apathy.

"The Yanks have taken the first trick--that's sure," he said. "But I
think we'll laugh last, Jinny. Jefferson City isn't precisely quiet.
The state has got more militia, or will have more militia in a day or
two. We won't miss the thousand they stole in Camp Jackson. They're
organizing up there. And I've got a few commissions right here," and he
tapped his pocket.

"Pa," said Virginia, "did you volunteer?"

The Colonel laughed.

"The Governor wouldn't have me," he answered. "He said I was more good
here in St. Louis. I'll go later. What's this I hear about Clarence?"

Virginia related the occurrences of Saturday. The Colonel listened with
many exclamations, slapping his knee from time to time as she proceeded.

"By gum!" he cried, when she had finished, "the boy has it in him, after
all! They can't hold him a day--can they, Lige?" (No answer from the
Captain, who is eating his breakfast in silence.) "All that we have to
do is to go for Worington and get a habeas corpus from the United States
District Court. Come on, Lige." The Captain got up excitedly, his face

"I reckon you'll have to excuse me, Colonel," he said. "There's a cargo
on my boat which has got to come off." And without more ado he left the
room. In consternation they heard the front door close behind him. And
yet, neither father nor daughter dared in that hour add to the trial of
the other by speaking out the dread that was in their hearts. The
Colonel smoked for a while, not a word escaping him, and then he patted
Virginia's cheek.

"I reckon I'll run over and see Russell, Jinny," he said, striving to be
cheerful. "We must get the boy out. I'll see a lawyer." He stopped
abruptly in the hall and pressed his hand to his forehead. "My God," he
whispered to himself, "if I could only go to Silas!"

The good Colonel got Mr. Russell, and they went to Mr. Worington, Mrs.
Colfax's lawyer, of whose politics it is not necessary to speak. There
was plenty of excitement around the Government building where his Honor
issued the writ. There lacked not gentlemen of influence who went with
Mr. Russell and Colonel Carvel and the lawyer and the Commissioner to the
Arsenal. They were admitted to the presence of the indomitable Lyon, who
informed them that Captain Colfax was a prisoner of war, and, since the
arsenal was Government property, not in the state. The Commissioner
thereupon attested the affidavit to Colonel Carvel, and thus the
application for the writ was made legal.

These things the Colonel reported to Virginia; and to Mrs. Colfax, who
received them with red eyes and a thousand queries as to whether that
Yankee ruffian would pay any attention to the Sovereign law which he
pretended to uphold; whether the Marshal would not be cast over the
Arsenal wall by the slack of his raiment when he went to serve the writ.
This was not the language, but the purport, of the lady's questions.
Colonel Carvel had made but a light breakfast: he had had no dinner, and
little rest on the train. But he answered his sister-in-law with
unfailing courtesy. He was too honest to express a hope which he did not
feel. He had returned that evening to a dreary household. During the
day the servants had straggled in from Bellegarde, and Virginia had had
prepared those dishes which her father loved. Mrs. Colfax chose to keep
her room, for which the two were silently thankful. Jackson announced
supper. The Colonel was humming a tune as he went down the stairs, but
Virginia was not deceived. He would not see the yearning in her eyes as
he took his chair; he would not glance at Captain Lige's empty seat. It
was because he did not dare. She caught her breath when she saw that the
food on his plate lay untouched.

"Pa, are you ill?" she faltered.

He pushed his chair away, such suffering in his look as she had never

"Jinny," he said, "I reckon Lige is for the Yankees."

"I have known it all along," she said, but faintly.

"Did he tell you?" her father demanded. "No."

"My God," cried the Colonel, in agony, "to think that he kept it from me
I to think that Lige kept it from me!"

"It is because he loves you, Pa," answered the girl, gently, "it is
because he loves us."

He said nothing to that. Virginia got up, and went softly around the
table. She leaned over his shoulder. "Pa!"

"Yes," he said, his voice lifeless.

But her courage was not to be lightly shaken. "Pa, will you forbid him
to come here--now?"

A long while she waited for his answer, while the big clock ticked out
the slow seconds in the hall, and her heart beat wildly.

"No," said the Colonel. "As long as I have a roof, Lige may come under

He rose abruptly and seized his bat. She did not ask him where he was
going, but ordered Jackson to keep the supper warm, and went into the
drawing-room. The lights were out, then, but the great piano that was
her mother's lay open. Her fingers fell upon the keys. That wondrous
hymn which Judge Whipple loved, which for years has been the comfort of
those in distress, floated softly with the night air out of the open
window. It was "Lead, Kindly Light." Colonel Carvel heard it, and

Shall we follow him?

He did not stop again until he reached the narrow street at the top of
the levee bank, where the quaint stone houses of the old French residents
were being loaded with wares. He took a few steps back-up the hill.
Then he wheeled about, walked swiftly down the levee, and on to the
landing-stage beside which the big 'Juanita' loomed in the night. On her
bows was set, fantastically, a yellow street-car.

The Colonel stopped mechanically. Its unexpected appearance there had
served to break the current of his meditations. He stood staring at it,
while the roustabouts passed and repassed, noisily carrying great logs of
wood on shoulders padded by their woollen caps.

"That'll be the first street-car used in the city of New Orleans, if it
ever gets there, Colonel."

The Colonel jumped. Captain Lige was standing beside him.

"Lige, is that you? We waited supper for you."

"Reckon I'll have to stay here and boss the cargo all night. Want to
get in as many trips as I can before--navigation closes," the Captain
concluded significantly.

Colonel Carvel shook his head. "You were never too busy to come for
supper, Lige. I reckon the cargo isn't all."

Captain Lige shot at him a swift look. He gulped.

"Come over here on the levee," said the Colonel, sternly. They walked
out together, and for some distance in silence.

"Lige," said the elder gentleman, striking his stick on the stones, "if
there ever was a straight goer, that's you. You've always dealt squarely
with me, and now I'm going to ask you a plain question. Are you North or

"I'm North, I reckon," answered the Captain, bluntly. The Colonel bowed
his head. It was a long time before he spoke again. The Captain waited
like a man who expects and deserve, the severest verdict. But there was
no anger in Mr. Carvel's voice--only reproach.

"And you wouldn't tell me, Lige? You kept it from me."

"My God, Colonel," exclaimed the other, passionately, "how could I?
I owe what I have to your charity. But for you and--and Jinny I should
have gone to the devil. If you and she are taken away, what have I left
in life? I was a coward, sir, not to tell you. You must have guessed
it. And yet,--God help me,--I can't stand by and see the nation go to
pieces. Your nation as well as mine, Colonel. Your fathers fought that
we Americans might inherit the earth--" He stopped abruptly. Then he
continued haltingly, "Colonel, I know you're a man of strong feelings
and convictions. All I ask is that you and Jinny will think of me as
a friend--"

He choked, and turned away, not heeding the direction of his feet. The
Colonel, his stick raised, stood looking after him. He was folded in the
near darkness before he called his name.


"Yes, Colonel."

He came back, wondering, across the rough stones until he stood beside
the tall figure. Below them, the lights glided along the dark water.

"Lige, didn't I raise you? Haven't I taught you that my house was your
home? Come back, Lige. But--but never speak to me again of this night!
Jinny is waiting for us."

Not a word passed between them as they went up the quiet street. At the
sound of their feet in the entry the door was flung open, and Virginia,
with her hands out stretched, stood under the hall light.

"Oh, Pa, I knew you would bring him back," she said.

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Captain Clarence Colfax, late of the State Dragoons, awoke on Sundaymorning the chief of the many topics of the conversation of a big city.His conduct drew forth enthusiastic praise from the gentlemen and ladieswho had thronged Beauregard and Davis avenues, and honest admiration fromthe party which had broken up the camp. The boy had behaved well. Therewere many doting parents, like Mr. Catherwood, whose boys had acceptedthe parole, whose praise was a trifle lukewarm, to be sure. But popularopinion, when once aroused, will draw a grunt from the most grudging.We are not permitted, alas, to go behind these

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The Crisis - BOOK II - Volume 5 - Chapter XXI. The Stampede
Sunday dawned, and the people flocked to the churches. But even in thehouse of God were dissension and strife. From the Carvel pew at Dr.Posthelwaite's Virginia saw men and women rise from their knees and walkout--their faces pale with anger. At St. Mark's the prayer for thePresident of the United States was omitted. Mr. Russell and Mr.Catherwood nodded approvingly over the sermon in which the South wasjustified, and the sanction of Holy Writ laid upon her Institution. Withnot indifferent elation these gentlemen watched the departure of brethrenwith whom they had labored for many years, save only