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HOME > Classical Novels > The Blue Balloon > CHAPTER II.STONEWALL JACKSON’S WAY.
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 The months rolled on, the battle of Manassas had been fought and won, and the Federals, driven back upon Washington in hopeless rout1, with the immediate2 result that thousands of volunteers left the Confederate service and returned to their homes and their ordinary vocations3, thinking that an enemy so easily whipped could be as easily finished off without their further help. Many officers, too, who had hastened to the front at the first call of the trumpet5, leaving their plantations6 or their businesses to look after themselves, gladly took advantage of the temporary lull7 to snatch a short furlough. Among these latter was Major Markham, who since the first sudden rush upon Harper’s Ferry in April had never once left the field. Now, however, a wound received at Bull Run incapacitating him from further service for the present, he rejoined his wife and son at Markham Hall.  
The picturesque8 descriptions which his father gave him of the leading features of the battle, along with many incidents of personal adventure and heroism9, so fired Lucius’s already ardent10 spirit, that from that 20time onwards he lived in imagination the life of a soldier. He begged, he prayed, he implored11, he even went on his knees to his father to allow him to join the army as a drummer-boy, as a bugler12, as a mule-driver, as anything at all, in any capacity whatsoever13. Major Markham laughed at his son at first, but when he realised how absolutely in earnest Lucius was, he bade him, with what show of sternness he could muster—for he could not but admire the boy’s high spirit—never to mention the subject again.
Thwarted14 at home, Lucius sought consolation15 from his friend Ephraim, and so worked upon his slower nature with tales of deeds of daring, drawn16 almost entirely17 from his own perfervid imagination, that even Grizzly19 was stirred to enthusiasm, and flourished his long arms over his head as he declared his intention of annihilating20 whole regiments21 of Yankees at one fell blow, by means of some devastating23 compound, the first idea of which was germinating24 in his fertile brain.
At the same time, Ephraim’s common sense stood both him and Lucius in good stead, and held the younger boy back more effectually than the commands of his father or the pleadings of his mother. But when Major Markham rejoined his regiment22 in December, to take part in the terrible expedition to Romney, Lucius could bear the restraint no longer, and one cold, snowy night he astonished Ephraim by suddenly appearing and boldly proposing that they should run away together.
‘Whar ye gwine ter run ter?’ inquired common-sense Ephraim, looking up from the calculations on which he was engaged.
‘How do I know?’ flashed Lucius the fervid18. 21‘We’ll just go on until we come to one of our armies. They’ll be mighty25 glad to let us join.’
‘A stark26 lighter27 sech ez ye would be!’ said Ephraim with beaming admiration28, and without the least trace of irony29.
‘Yes,’ assented30 Lucius complacently31; ‘they’ll not refuse two such strong and active lads as you and’——
‘Sho!’ interrupted Ephraim. ‘Don’t ye count on me. I warn ye.’
‘What!’ exclaimed Lucius, in a voice of mingled32 surprise and grief. ‘Do you mean to say that, after all I have told you, you will let me go alone?’
‘I ain’t gwine ter let ye go at all, Luce,’ returned Ephraim, placing a long, hairy arm affectionately round the boy’s neck. ‘See hyar, now,’ he went on, as Lucius shook himself angrily free, ‘thar ain’t nuthin’ ter call fightin’ goin’ on jest now. Nothin’ but marchin’ round and round, and up and down in the snow and the slush. Now, thar ain’t no fun in thet, I reckon.’
‘Well, no,’ admitted Lucius reluctantly. He thought for a moment or two, and then burst out: ‘Look here, Grizzly, the real fighting is sure to begin again in spring. If I promise to wait, will you promise to come with me then?’
‘I ’low we’ll wait till spring comes along,’ answered Ephraim oracularly. ‘Ef ye’re ez sot upon it then ez ye air now, I’ll see what I kin4 do.’
‘That’s a bargain, then,’ said Lucius. ‘I just long to see a real good battle. Mind, if you go back on me now, I’ll call you a coward and start without you.’
‘I ain’t any coward,’ answered Ephraim quietly, though his pale face flushed slightly; ‘leastways ez fur ez goin’ along with ye is consarned. Ye don’t 22imagine I’d go fer ter lose sight of ye, Luce?’ he finished, with a catch in his voice.
‘Oh no,’ said Lucius, mollified. ‘Only I thought that maybe you couldn’t understand my feelings. You’re a dear old thing, Grizzly; but you’re a rough bit of stick, you know, and you haven’t so much at stake as people like us.’ And the young aristocrat34 drew himself proudly up.
‘Thet’s a fact,’ nodded Ephraim; ‘though I ain’t heard ez the fust families hez been doin’ all the fightin’.’ There was a subdued35 grin on his face as he spoke36.
‘Of course not,’ said Lucius hastily. ‘Our fellows are stark fighters all round; but it’s men like my father and Jackson and the rest who lead the way. You know that well enough.’
Ephraim stretched out his brown hairy paw and drew Lucius towards him. ‘I only know I’d die fer ye glad and willin’ ef ye war ahead, Luce,’ he said tenderly.
‘Shucks!’ exclaimed Lucius impatiently; ‘who said anything about dying? Now it’s all settled, and you’ll come.’
‘I’ll be on time,’ said Ephraim. He was silent for a moment, during which he thought deeply. Finally he said,’Ye air jest sot ter see a battle, ain’t ye, Luce?’
‘Yes,’ answered Lucius. ‘Didn’t I tell you so?’
‘Waal,’ resumed Ephraim, ‘wouldn’t ye be content jest ter see wan37, without arskin’ ter take a hand in the fightin’?’
‘Whatever do you mean by that?’ queried38 Lucius. ‘I don’t understand you.’
23‘Waal, it don’t matter,’ said Ephraim, ’fer I reckon I han’t got no very cl’ar idee of what I mean myself ez yet. Anyway thar’s heaps of time. We’re on’y beginnin’ December now, and thar’ll be nuthin’ this long while. Ef ye’re still sot in spring, why, we’ll see.’
‘See what?’ demanded Lucius impatiently. ‘Can’t you explain?’
But Ephraim either could not or would not, and presently Lucius took his departure in high dudgeon.
Ephraim sat thinking to himself for a long while, and finally he took down a volume from his shelves and buried himself in it, until the voice of the old woman in the next room disturbed him by querulously demanding ‘Ef he warn’t never goin’ to bed.’
‘I b’lieve I could do it,’ he thought to himself as he undressed; ‘but’—— He pulled a trunk from under his bed, and unlocking it, drew out a small cash-box. This in turn he opened and studied the little pile of dollars it contained with an anxious face.
‘Thet’s the only way ter do it,’ he muttered, passing the coins backwards39 and forwards through his fingers. ‘Thar’s not much more than enough thar, if thar is enough. Imagine! Only that little lot in five long years. Seems a pity, jest fer a whim40. But it’s fer Luce. It’s ter pleasure Luce. He’s that sot on it, and he nat’ally looks ter me. No matter, I guess I’ll work it up again.’
He stood looking into the box with eyes that did not see, for he was far away in spirit in the little Massachusetts town, where stood the famous college he so ardently41 desired to enter.
Splash! A great tear fell into the box of dollars.
24‘What ye doin’?’ Ephraim apostrophised himself with great vehemence42. ‘Ain’t it fer Luce? Ain’t he wuth it? Ef ye can’t do a little thing like that fer yer friend, it’s time ye’——
He broke off suddenly, snapped the lid of the box, and threw it back into the trunk.
‘Ef ye can’t do a little thing like that without makin’ a fuss about it,’ he repeated, ‘it’s time ye—it’s time ye’——
He choked over the words, a rain of tears gushed43 from his eyes, and with a low cry he flung himself sobbing44 upon his bed.
The year came to an end, and plague and worry him as he would, Lucius could extract nothing from Ephraim to throw light on the mysterious remark. Indeed Grizzly was now seldom or never to be found in his workshop; nor could Aunty Chris explain his absence, or disclose his whereabouts, for, as she frankly45 confessed, she knew nothing whatever about him. Lucius, of course, whenever he could waylay46 him, questioned and cross-questioned him as to what he was engaged upon in his spare time and where; but Grizzly invariably replied with a wag of his head: ‘Ye’ll git thar in time, Luce. On’y ye’ll hev ter hang on till the time comes.’ With which Delphic utterance47 Lucius was obliged to be content.
Meantime the war was not standing48 still. Manassas had, after all, not crumpled49 up the North, and early in ’62 the people of the valley were rudely awakened50 to the fact by the appearance among them of no less than three Federal generals, with an aggregate51 force of sixty-four thousand men. And to these Stonewall Jackson could oppose but thirteen thousand! But 25though the excitement was great, there was little anxiety; for the reputation which Jackson and his brigade had won at Manassas, and their stern and soldierly endurance of the terrible hardships of the severe winter just ended, inspired a confidence in their prowess, which would scarcely have been shaken had all the armies of the North been combined against them.
What were men’s feelings then, when the astounding52 news spread like wildfire from town to town: ‘Jackson has deserted53 us in our extremity54. He has fled through the gaps to the east side of the Blue Ridge55!’
The report was not unfounded. It certainly was true that Jackson had disappeared from the valley. Only Colonel Ashby, the famous cavalry56 leader, remained behind with a thousand sabres at his back.
Men laughed bitterly. What was this little force to do for their protection against an army so gigantic? But Ashby with scattered57 troops was here, there, and everywhere. Now at McDowell, now at Strasburg, now at Franklin, yesterday at Front Royal, to-morrow at Luray. But what he learned in his reconnaissances, and where he sent the information which he acquired, no man knew, no man had the heart to ask. In Staunton itself the wildest confusion reigned58; for no sooner had the news of Jackson’s flight been conveyed to the Federal generals, than they set their masses in motion, and began to advance along converging59 lines upon the little town. That it was to be occupied was regarded as certain, and in the universal terror much that was valuable in the way of military stores was removed or destroyed; while General Johnson with six regiments retired60 from his strong position on the 26Shenandoah Mountain, intent only on saving his small force by effecting a junction61 with the vanished Jackson wherever he might find him.
Then came the day when Staunton, abandoned and defenceless, lay sullenly62 awaiting its fate, with Milroy and twelve thousand Federals not two-and-twenty miles away, and Frémont coming on with thirty thousand more.
It was a Sunday, and the churches were full of devout63 worshippers, praying doubtless that the chastening rod held over them might be averted64 in its descent. Suddenly a strange and terrible sound arose—a noise of trampling65 thousands, the clink of steel against steel as scabbard and stirrup jangled together, the clatter66 of squadrons upon the road, the hoarse67 rumble68 and grumble69 of artillery70 wagons71. People looked at one another in dismay. Despite their supplications the blow had fallen: they were in the hands of the enemy.
Slowly, with mournful hearts and dejected mien72, they filed out of church, their downcast eyes refusing to look at the bitter sight. Then, as one head after another was lifted, exclamations73 of deep surprise broke forth74 here and there.
Where were the stars and stripes? Where was the blue of the detested75 Federals? The marching columns were gray! The stars and bars waved proudly in the breeze, and here and there in the midst of a regiment the lone33 star shone upon flag and pennon.
What a shout of joy went up from the multitude: ‘Confederates! Confederates! They are our own boys back again! Old Stonewall is here! Thank God! Hurrah76! Hurrah!’
27The excitement was tremendous. Nerves were strung to highest tension; emotions touched the breaking point. Men leaped and danced for very joy. Women flung themselves into each other’s arms and wept for sheer happiness. And through it all the gray hosts rolled steadily77 on.
Then, as suddenly as it had arisen, the hubbub78 subsided79. Apprehension80 reigned once more, and the eager questions passed from lip to lip: ‘What are they doing here? Have they been routed? Are they only in retreat?’
No, the soldiers answered, they were not running away. They had not seen or heard of the enemy for days. What were they doing here, then? Again they did not know. Nobody knew except old Stonewall. He knew of course. It was one of his tricks. He had got something under his hat.
Then the crowd surged to the railway station to watch the debarking troops as train after train rolled in. Here the same ignorance prevailed. Nobody knew; nobody could understand. To their personal friends the officers were dumb, for they were in darkness like the men. Only the General knew; and those who knew the General knew also how hopeless it would be to question him.
The dwellers81 in the country, who had come into town for church, hastened away, full of their news, to tell the folk who had been left at home. They did not get far. All around the town a strong cordon82 of soldiers had been drawn who forced them back. What! they asked, might they not even return to their own homes? No, they might not—at least, not yet. Why? Nobody knew. Simply the General had 28ordered it so. Probably he did not wish the news of his arrival to be spread abroad. But to everything, the one monotonous83, exasperating84 answer, ‘We do not know.’
Then at last the people understood. Silent as ever as to his plans, mysterious in his movements, Jackson’s flight had been but a clever feint. He had stolen back swiftly and without attracting attention; and now, while the Federals fondly supposed him east of the Blue Ridge, here he was, ready and able to deal them one of his slashing85 flank blows. It was ‘Stonewall Jackson’s way.’
As soon as the soldiers began to arrive, Lucius and Ephraim, who both sang in the choir86 of their church, hurried out and raced to the station. Long before they got there Lucius had shouted himself hoarse, while, though he took things more quietly, Ephraim’s cheeks were burning, and his eyes blazing with unwonted fire.
‘Say, Grizzly, isn’t it splendid?’ panted Lucius.
Ephraim did not answer, for just then a roar of delight rent the air. ‘Here he comes! Here’s the General! Hurrah! Stonewall Jackson! Stonewall! Cheer, boys! Hurrah! God bless you, General! Hurrah! Hurrah!’
Clad in his old gray coat, soiled and smirched with the stains of the dreadful march to Romney in December, and with his queer slouched hat cocked askew87 over his forehead, ‘Old Stonewall,’ then but thirty-eight years of age, rode in the midst of his staff. His shrewd, kindly88 face wore a smile of almost womanly sweetness, and his keen blue eyes, which, it is said, glowed when the battle rage was upon him 29with a terrible light that appalled89 both friend and foe90, now beamed mildly on the shouting crowd who sought to do him honour. He bowed continually right and left, and was evidently pleased at his welcome, as well as touched by the supreme91 confidence of the people in him.
So frantic92 was Lucius in his demonstrations93 that at last he attracted the notice of the General, who after regarding him good-naturedly for a moment, broke into an amused laugh, saying, as he nodded pleasantly: ‘Thank you, my lad, for your welcome. It does one’s heart good to see such a face as yours.’ For a moment Lucius could not believe his ears. Then, as he realised that the General had indeed spoken to him, his face crimsoned94 with delight, and forgetting everything in his exaltation, he rushed into the road and clung to Jackson’s stirrup leather, as though to detain him by main force.
‘Take me with you, General!’ he cried at the top of his voice. ‘Take me with you. I want to fight, and they won’t let me.’
‘Hurrah!’ shouted the crowd, moved by this novel sensation, while Ephraim, glowing with pride, craned his long neck to see his hero, as he fully95 expected, caught up in front of the General and borne away to the wars.
‘By time!’ he muttered, ‘ain’t he jest cl’ar grit96? Ain’t he noble? And he’s my friend.’ Great tears rose in his honest eyes and blurred97 his sight as the General reined98 in his charger and bent99 over to Lucius.
‘Take you with me, my boy?’ said Jackson kindly, laying his hand upon the fair, curly head as he spoke. 30‘Take you with me? God forbid! We don’t want children amid such scenes as we are forced to go through.’
‘Why not?’ gasped100 Lucius. ‘I’m sixteen; I’d make one more anyway. I don’t mind being shot any more than the next man.’
‘Gloryful gracious!’ murmured Ephraim, his eyes fairly brimming over; while Jackson, bending lower still, said somewhat huskily: ‘God bless you, lad, for your true heart.’ Then straightening himself in his saddle, he cried in ringing tones to his officers: ‘When our men grow from the stuff this boy is made of, gentlemen, it is no wonder that the victory is ours.’
The crowd cheered again lustily at this, and Jackson, turning once more to Lucius, said: ‘Tell me your name, my boy. I should like to remember it.’
‘Lucius Markham, sir,’ replied the boy. ‘That is my father coming up now.’
‘What, the son of Major Markham!’ said Jackson. ‘Ha! a chip of the old block.—Major!’ he hailed, as a fine-looking bronzed officer rode by with his battery. ‘So this is your son?’
‘I am afraid so, sir,’ returned Major Markham, smiling and nodding at Lucius. ‘What has the young scapegrace been doing? He is always wanting to follow the drum.’
‘Nay,’ protested Jackson, ‘I won’t allow you to call him names. He is a fine fellow, and wants to come and be a soldier under me.’
‘May I, father?’ asked Lucius eagerly. ‘Do say yes.—I know most of the drill, sir,’ he added to the General, ‘and I can shoot pretty straight.’
There was a laugh among the officers at this, but 31Jackson checked it with a look, and, turning to Lucius, said impressively: ‘Listen to me, Lucius. You are too young to come with me, but still you can be a soldier, and a bold one, if you choose.’
‘In what regiment, sir?’ asked Lucius, looking up at him eagerly.
‘In the faithful regiment,’ answered Stonewall gravely, ‘under the banner of the Cross, and with Christ for Commander. The war is the holy war, and the battles are fought for God and against self and the wrong every day. And remember, Lucius,’ he concluded, ‘the first duty of a soldier is obedience101.’
He rode on, followed by the cheers of the crowd, while Major Markham slipped back to his place.
Lucius stared dreamily after them, heedless of the curious and interested looks cast at him, till all at once a hand gripped his arm, and Ephraim’s voice whispered in his ear: ‘Come away out of the crowd, Luce. I’se suthin’ mighty partic’ler to say ter ye.’

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