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   Chapter 17 CLEAVE AND JUDITH

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 24052

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The hospital at Charlottesville, unlovely and lovely, ghastly and vital, brutal, spiritual, a hell of pain and weakness, another region of endeavour and helpfulness, a place of horror, and also of strange smiling, even of faint laughter, a country as chill as death and as warm as love-the hospital at Charlottesville saw the weary morning grow to weary noon, the weary noon change toward the weary latter day. The women who nursed the soldiers said that it was lovely outside, and that all the peach trees were in bloom. "We'll raise you a little higher," they said, "and you can see for yourself. And look! here is your broth, so good and strengthening! And did you hear? We won on the Peninsula to-day!"

At four o'clock Judith Cary gave to another her place beside a typhoid pallet and came out into the emerald and rose, the freshness and fragrance of the spring. The Greenwood carriage was waiting. "We'll go, Isham," said Judith, "by the University for Miss Lucy."

Isham held open the door. "No'm, Miss Judith. Miss Lucy done sont wuhd dat de ladies'll be cuttin' out nuniforms clean 'twel dark. She say don' wait fer her-Mrs. Carter'll bring her home."

Judith entered the carriage. An old acquaintance, passing, paused to speak to her. "Isn't there a greater stir than usual?" she asked.

"Some of General Ewell's men are over from Gordonsville. There goes General Dick Taylor now-the one in grey and white! He's a son, you know, of Zachary-Old Rough and Ready. General Jackson, too, has an officer here to-day, checking the stores that came from Richmond.-How is it at the hospital?"

"It is very bad," said Judith. "When the bands begin to play I laugh and cry like all the rest, and I wave and clap my hands, and I would fight on and on like the rest of you, and I do not see that, given people as they are, the war could have been avoided, and I would die to win, and I am, I hope, a patriot-and yet I do not see any sense in it! It hurts me as I think it may hurt the earth. She would like, I believe, something better than being a battlefield.-There is music again! Yesterday a man died, crying for the band to hush. He said it drowned something he needed to hear."

"Yes, yes," replied her friend, nodding his head. "That is perfectly true. That is very true, indeed!-That band's coming from the station. They're looking for a regiment from Richmond.-That's a good band! What are they playing-?"

"Bright flowers spring from the hero's grave,

The craven knows no rest,-

Thrice cursed the traitor and the knave,

The hero thrice is blessed-"

The Greenwood carriage rolled out of the town into the April country. The fruit trees were in bloom, the woods feathering green, the quiet and the golden light inestimable after the moaning wards. The carriage went slowly, for the roads were heavy; moreover the former carriage horses were gone to the war. These were two from the farm, somewhat old and stiff, willing, but plodders. They went half asleep in the soft sunshine, and Isham on the box went half asleep too. Judith would have been willing to sleep, but she could not. She sat with her gaze upon the fair spring woods and the amethystine hills rising to blue skies. The carriage stopped. Isham bent down from the box. "Miss Judith, honey, er gent'man's on de road behin' us, ridin' ter overtek de kerridge."

"Wait for him, then," said Judith. "There is some message, perhaps."

While they waited she sat with folded hands, her eyes upon the purple hills, her thoughts away from Albemarle. The sound that Isham made of surprise and satisfaction did not reach her. Until she saw Cleave's face at the window she thought him somewhere in the Valley-fighting, fighting! in battle and danger, perhaps, that very day.

Her eyes widened, her face had the hush of dawn; it was turned toward him, but she sat perfectly still, without speaking. Only the door was between them, the glass down. He rested his clasped hands on the ledge, and his dark, moved face looked in upon her. "Judith," he said, "I did not know.-I thought it was one of the others.... I hope that you are a little glad to see me."

Judith looked at him a moment longer, then swayed a little forward. She bent her head. Her cheek touched his clasped hands, he felt her kiss upon them, and her forehead resting there.

There was a moment's silence, deep, breathless, then Cleave spoke. "Judith ... Am I mad?"

"I believe that you love me," she said. "If you do not, it does not matter.... I have loved you for two years."

"Maury Stafford?"

"I have never believed that you understood-though what it was that made you misunderstand I have never guessed.... There is no Maury Stafford. There never was."

He opened the door. "Come out," he said. "Come out with me into the light. Send the carriage on."

She did so. The road was quiet, deserted, a wide bright path between the evening hills. Dundee following them, they walked a little way until they came to a great rock, sunk in the velvet sward that edged a wood. Here they sat down, the gold light bathing them, behind them fairy vistas, fountains of living green, stars of the dogwood and purple sprays of Judas tree. "How I misunderstood is no matter now," said Cleave. "I love you, and you say that you love me. Thank God for it!"

They sat with clasped hands, their cheeks touching, their breath mingling. "Judith, Judith, how lovely are you! I have seen you always, always!... Only I called it 'vision,' 'ideal.' At the top of every deed I have seen your eyes; from the height of every thought you have beckoned further! Now-now-It is like a wonderful home-coming ... and yet you are still there, above the mountains, beckoning, drawing-There and here, here in my arms!... Judith-What does 'Judith' mean?"

"It means 'praised.' Oh, Richard, I heard that you were wounded at Kernstown!"

"It was nothing. It is healed.... I will write to your father at once."

"He will be glad, I think. He likes you.... Have you a furlough? How long can you stay?"

"Love, I cannot stay at all. I am on General Jackson's errand. I must ride on to Gordonsville-It would be sweet to stay!"

"When will you come again?"

"I do not know. There will be battles-many battles, perhaps-up and down the Valley. Every man is needed. I am not willing to ask even a short furlough."

"I am not willing that you should.... I know that you are in danger every day! I hear it in the wind, I see it in every waving bough.... Oh, come back to me, Richard!"

"I?" he answered, "I feel immortal. I will come back."

They rose from the rock. "The sun is setting. Would you rather I went on to the house? I must turn at once, but I could speak to them-"

"No. Aunt Lucy is in town, Unity, too.... Let's say good-bye before we reach the carriage."

They went slowly by the quiet road beneath the flowering trees. The light was now only on the hilltops; the birds were silent; only the frogs in the lush meadows kept up their quiring, a sound quaintly mournful, weirdly charming. A bend of the road showed them Isham, the farm horses, and the great old carriage waiting beneath a tulip tree. The lovers stopped, took hands, moved nearer each to the other, rested each in the other's arms. Her head was thrown back, his lips touched her hair, her forehead, her lips. "Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!"

He put her in the carriage, kissed her hands as they lay on the door ledge, and stood back. It was not far to the Greenwood gates; the old, slow horses moved on, the carriage rounded a leafy turn, the road was left to the soldier and his horse.

Cleave rode to Gordonsville that night as though he carried Heaven with him. The road was fair, the moon was high. Far-flung, beautiful odours filled the air; the red ploughed earth sent its share, the flowering fruit trees theirs, the flowers in the wood, the mint by the stream. A light wind swung them as from a censer; the moved air touched the young man's forehead. He took off his hat; he rode rapidly with head held high. He rode for hours, Dundee taking the way with even power, a magnificently silent friend. Behind, on an iron grey, came the orderly. Riding thus together, away from organization and discipline, the relations between the two men, officer and private, were perfectly democratic. From Rude's Hill across the Massanuttons and from Swift Run Gap to Charlottesville they had been simply comrades and fellow Virginians. They were from adjoining counties, where the one had practised law and the other had driven a stage. There were differences in breeding, education, and employment; but around these, recognized by both, stretched the enormous plane of humanity. They met there in simple brotherliness. To-night, however, Cleave had spoken for silence. "I want to be quiet for a while, Harris.-There is something I have to think of."

THE LOVERS

The night was all too short for what he had to think of. The pink flush of dawn, the distant view of Ewell's tents, came too soon. It was hard to lower the height and swell of the mind, to push back the surging thoughts, to leave the lift and wonder, the moonlight, and the flowering way. Here, however, were the pickets; and while he waited for the corporal of the guard, standing with Harris on a little hill, before them the pink sky, below them a peach orchard, pink too, with a lace-like mist wreathing the trees, he put golden afternoon and moonlight night in the bottom of his heart and laid duty atop.

Ewell's camp, spread over the rolling hills and lighted by a splendid sunrise, lay imposingly. To the eyes of the men from the Valley the ordered white tents of Trimble's and Taylor's and the Maryland line had an air luxuriously martial. Everything seemed to gleam and shine. The guns of the parked batteries gave back the light, the colours seemed silken and fine, the very sunrise gun had a sonorousness lacking to Chew's Blakeley, or to McLaughlin's six-pounders, and the bugles blowing reveille a silvery quality most remarkable. As for the smoke from the camp-fires-"Lord save us!" said Harris, "I believe they're broiling partridges! Of all the dandy places!"

Cleave laughed. "It's not that they are so fine, but that we are so weather-beaten and rusty! They're only in good working-day trim. We'll have to polish up at Rude's Hill."

"This is the 1st Maryland on the hillside," said the guide the corporal had given; "there with the blue flag. Mighty fine feathers, but I reckon they're gamecocks all right! Elzey's Brigade's over beside the woods-Virginian to the backbone. Trimble's got a fine lot-Georgians and Alabamians and Mississippians. Here come some of the 2d Virginia Cavalry! Ain't they pretty?"

They were. But Harris stood up for the absent Valley. "Huh! Ashby's good enough for me! Ashby's got three stallions-the white he's fondest of, and a black like a piece of coal, and a red roan-"

The guide nodded energetically. "Oh, we think a heap of Ashby ourselves! There ain't anybody that the men listen about more eagerly. We ain't setting up on this side of the mountains to beat him! But I reckon the 2d and the 6th'll do right well when they get a chance. Yes, sir, General Taylor's Brigade. He's got a lot of Frenchmen from Louisiana-Acadians I've heard them called-and they can't speak a word of English, poor souls!-There goes their band again. They're always playing, dancing, and cooking rice. We call them Parlavoos-name of their county, I reckon.-He's got Wheat's Battalion, too. Sorrow a bit of a Frenchman there-they're Irish Tartars!-That's headquarters, sir. By the apple orchard."

An aide brought Cleave to a fair-sized central tent, set beside a great wine sap just coming into bloom. Around it was a space of trodden earth, to one side a cheerful fire and a darky cook, in front a pine table, over which a coloured boy was spreading a very clean tablecloth. Out of the tent came a high, piping voice. "Good-morning, Hamilton! What is it? What is it?-An officer from General J

ackson? All right! All right! glad to see him. Tell him to wait-Jim, you black idiot, what have I done with that button?"

The aide smiled, Cleave smiled. There was something in the voice that announced the person, quaintly rough, lovable and gallant,-"dear Dick Ewell." He came out presently, a small man with a round bald head, hook nose and bright eyes.

"This the officer? Glad to see you, Major-Major Cleave? Stay to breakfast. Bob, you black rascal, another plate! Can't give you much,-mysterious inward complaint, myself,-can't eat anything but frumenty.-Well, sir, how is General Jackson?"

"Quite well, general."

"Most remarkable man! Wants to tie a bandage round everybody's eyes but his own!"-all this plaintively treble. "Would ask to have it off if I was facing a firing party, and in the present circumstances don't like it at all!-Did you happen to meet any of my couriers?"

"Yes, general. One at the foot of the Massanuttons, one in Elk Run Valley."

"Got to send them. Got to ask what to do. By God, out on the plains with fifty dragoons I'd know! And here President Davis has made me a major-general, and I don't know!-Draw up to the table, sir, draw up! You can drink coffee; I can't. Can't sleep at night; don't want to lie down; curl up on the ground and think of my fifty dragoons.-Well, sir, and what does General Jackson say?"

"I have a letter for you, sir."

He presented it. Ewell, head on one side like a bird, took and opened the paper. "I really do believe the sun's up at last! What does he say? 'Move in three days by Stanardsville. Take a week's rations. Rest on Sunday. Other directions will be given as needed.' Hm! Highly characteristic! Never anything more than a damned dark lantern!-Well, it's something to know that we're going by Stanardsville and are to rest on Sunday! Where is Stanardsville?"

"It is a few miles this side of Swift Run Gap."

The general helped his guest to cornbread and himself began upon frumenty. "All right! I'll move, and I suppose when I get there old Jackson'll vouchsafe another gleam.-Bob, you damned Ethiopian, where are your wits? Fill Major Cleave's cup.-Glad to welcome you, major, to Camp Ewell. Pretty tidy place, don't you think?"

"I do indeed, sir."

"Have you seen Dick Taylor's beauties-his Creoles and Tigers and Harry Hayes, 7th Louisiana? The Maryland Line, too, and Trimble and Elzey? Damned fine army! How about yours over there?" He indicated the Blue Ridge with a bird-like jerk, and helped himself again to frumenty.

"Your description applies there, too, sir. It's a little rough and ready, but-it's a damned fine army!"

"Kernstown didn't shake it?"

"Kernstown was as much a victory as a defeat, sir. No, it didn't shake it."

"Morale good?"

"Extraordinarily so. That army is all right, sir."

"I wish," said Ewell plaintively, "that I knew what to make of General Jackson. What do you make of him, major?"

"I make a genius, sir."

Ewell raised his shoulder and ducked his head, his bright round eyes much like a robin's. "And he isn't crazy?"

"Not in the very least."

"Well, I've had my doubts. I am glad to hear you say that. I want to think mighty well of the man who leads me. That Romney trip now?-of course, I only heard Loring's side. He doesn't just wind in and out of mountains for the fun of doing it?"

"I think that, generally speaking, he has some other object in view, sir. I think that acquaintance with General Jackson will show you what I mean. It develops confidence in a very marked fashion."

Ewell listened bright-eyed. "I am glad to hear you say that, for damn me, confidence is what I want! I want, sir, to be world-without-end-sure that my commanding officer is forever and eternally right, and then I want to be let go ahead!-I want to be let feel just as though I were a captain of fifty dragoons, and nothing to do but to get back to post by the sunset gun and report the work done!-And so you think that when my force and old Jackson's force get together we'll do big things?"

"Fairly big, sir. It is fortunate to expect them. They will arrive the sooner."

Ewell bobbed his head. "Yes, yes, that's true! Now, major, I'm going to review the troops this morning, and then I'll write an answer for General Jackson, and you'll take it to him and tell him I'm coming on by Stanardsville, just as he says, and that I'll rest on Sunday. Maybe even we'll find a church-Presbyterian." He rose. "You'd better come with me.-I've got some more questions to ask. Better see my troops, too. Old Jackson might as well know what beautiful children I've got. Have you any idea yourself what I'm expected to do at Stanardsville?"

"I don't know what General Jackson expects, sir. But my own idea is that you'll not be long at Stanardsville."

"He'll whistle again, will he?"

"I think so. But I speak without authority."

"There's an idea abroad that he means to leave the Valley-come east-cross the mountains himself instead of my crossing them. What do you think of that?"

"I am not in his council, sir. The Valley people would hate to see him go."

"Well, all that I can say is that I hope Banks is puzzled, too!-Jim, Jim! damn you, where's my sword and sash?"

As they went Ewell talked on in his piping voice. "General Jackson mustn't fling my brigades against windmills or lose them in the mountains! I'm fair to confess I feel anxious. Out on the plains when we chase Apaches we chase 'em! We don't go deviating like a love vine all over creation.-That's Harry Hayes's band-playing some Frenchy thing or other! Cavalry's over there-I know you've got Ashby, but Flournoy and Munford are right wicked, too!"

"The-Virginia is with you, sir?"

"Yes. Fine regiment. You know it?"

"I know one of its officers-Major Stafford."

"Oh, we all know Maury Stafford! Fine fellow, but damned restless. General Taylor says he is in love. I was in love once myself, but I don't remember that I was restless. He is. He was with Loring but transferred.-You went to Romney together?"

"Yes, we went together."

"Fine fellow, but unhappy. Canker somewhere, I should say. Here we are, and if General Jackson don't treat my army well, I'll-I'll-I'll know he's crazy!"

The review was at last over. Back under the wine sap Ewell wrote his answer to Jackson, then, curled in a remarkable attitude on the bench beneath the tree ("I'm a nervous major-general, sir. Can't help it. Didn't sleep. Can't sleep."), put Cleave through a catechism searching and shrewd. His piping, treble voice, his varied oaths and quaintly petulant talk, his roughness of rind and inner sweetness made him, crumpled under the apple tree, in his grey garb and cavalry boots, with his bright sash and bright eyes, a figure mellow and olden out of an ancient story. Cleave also, more largely built, more muscular, a little taller, with a dark, thin, keen face, the face of a thinking man-at-arms, clad in grey, clean but worn, seated on a low stool beneath the tinted boughs, his sword between his knees, his hands clasped over the hilt, his chin on his hands-Cleave, too, speaking of skirmishes, of guns and horsemen, of the massed enemy, of mountain passes and fordable rivers, had the value of a figure from a Flemish or Venetian canvas. The form of the moment was of old time, old as the smell of apple blossoms or the buzzing of the bees; old as these and yet persistently, too, of the present as were these. The day wore on to afternoon, and at last the messenger from Jackson was released.

The-Virginia had its encampment upon the edge of a thick and venerable wood, beech and oak, walnut and hickory. Regimental headquarters was indeed within the forest, half a dozen tents pitched in a glade sylvan enough for Robin Hood. Here Cleave found Stafford sitting, writing, before the adjutant's tent. He looked up, laid down his pen and rose. "Ah! Where did you come from? I thought you in the Valley, in training for a brigadier!" He came forward, holding out his hand. "I am glad to see you. Welcome to Camp Ewell!"

Cleave's hand made no motion from his side. "Thank you," he said. "It is good when a man can feel that he is truly welcome."

The other was not dull, nor did he usually travel by indirection. "You will not shake hands," he said. "I think we have not been thrown together since that wretched evening at Bloomery Gap. Do you bear malice for that?"

"Do you think that I do?"

The other shrugged. "Why, I should not have thought so. What is it, then?"

"Let us go where we can speak without interruption. The woods down there?"

They moved down one of the forest aisles. The earth was carpeted with dead leaves from beneath which rose the wild flowers. The oak was putting forth tufts of rose velvet, the beech a veil of pale and satiny green. The sky above was blue, but, the sun being low, the space beneath the lacing boughs was shadowy enough. The two men stopped beside the bole of a giant beech, silver-grey, splashed with lichens. "Quiet enough here," said Stafford. "Well, what is it, Richard Cleave?"

"I have not much to say," said Cleave. "I will not keep you many moments. I will ask you to recall to mind the evening of the seventeenth of last April."

"Well, I have done so. It is not difficult."

"No. It would, I imagine, come readily. Upon that evening, Maury Stafford, you lied to me."

"I-"

"Don't!" said Cleave. "Why should you make it worse? The impression which, that evening, you deliberately gave me, you on every after occasion as deliberately strengthened. Your action, then and since, brands you, sir, for what you are!"

"And where," demanded Stafford hoarsely, "where did you get this precious information-or misinformation? Who was at the pains to persuade you-no hard matter, I warrant!-that I was dealing falsely? Your informant, sir, was mistaken, and I-"

A shaft of sunshine, striking between the boughs, flooded the space in which they stood. It lit Cleave's head and face as by a candle closely held. The other uttered a sound, a hard and painful gasp. "You have seen her!"

"Yes."

"Did she tell you that?"

"No. She does not know why I misunderstood. Nor shall I tell her."

"You have seen her-You are happy?"

"Yes, I am happy."

"She loves you-She is going to marry you?"

"Yes."

The wood stood very quiet. The shaft of light drew up among the boughs. Stafford leaned against the trunk of the beech. He was breathing heavily; he looked, veritably, a wounded man. "I will go now," said Cleave. "I had to speak to you and I had to warn you. Good-day."

He turned, the leaves crisp beneath his footfall. "Wait," said Stafford. "One moment-" He drew himself up against the beech. "I wish to tell you why I-as you phrase it-lied to you. I allowed you to rest under that impression which I am not sure that I myself gave you, because I thought her yet trembling between us, and that your withdrawal would be advantageous to my cause. Not for all of Heaven would I have had her turn to you! Now that, apparently, I have lost her irrevocably, I will tell you that you do not love her as I do. Have I not watched you? Did she die to-day, you would go on to-morrow with your Duty-Duty-Duty-! For me, I would kill myself on her grave. Where you and I were rivals and enemies, now we are enemies. Look out for me, Richard Cleave!" He began to laugh, a broken and mirthless sound. "Look out for me, Richard Cleave. Go!"

"I shall," said Cleave. "I will not keep a watch upon you in such a moment, nor remember it. I doubt neither your passion nor your suffering. But in one thing, Maury Stafford, you have lied again. I love as strongly, and I love more highly than you do! As for your threats-threatened men live long."

He turned, left the forest glade and came out into the camp lying now beneath the last rays of the sun. That evening he spent with Ewell and his staff, passed the night in a friendly tent, and at dawn turned Dundee's head toward the Blue Ridge.

* * *

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