“But why don’t you expose it?”
“Expose it? A word in the Senate against these villainies is set down as disloyalty. All that a rascal needs to gain any scope he pleases, is to say ‘rebel sympathizer,’ and Fort Warren or Lafayette is held up as a menace.”
Among the confidential aides of McClellan Brodie knew intimately a young officer, the son of a distinguished lady, whose writings delighted cultivated people fifty years ago. This young man, Captain Churchland, had often been a guest at the Spragues, and to him Brodie went for advice. Inheriting a great deal of his mother’s intellect, with a droll sense of humor, not then so well understood as the lighter school of writers have since made it, Churchland was the delight of the headquarters. He listened to the melancholy story of Jack’s compromising plight.
“It’s a bad fix—no mistake,” he said, gravely; “but I suggest that your fiery young friend come home and shoot the father, marry the daughter, and, as a wife can’t testify against the husband, your client is secure.”
“Ah, captain, it’s not a matter for joking. Think of his wretched mother.”
“That’s just what I do think of—murder’s no joke, though it’s more of a fine art than it was when De Quincey wrote. I’m perfectly serious. I would shoot the scoundrel Boone. Why, do you know the man has cleared a million dollars on rotten blankets since he came here? McClellan ordered a report made out showing his rascalities a few weeks ago. It was disapproved at the War Office, and the condemned blankets have gone to Halleck’s army. Doesn’t that deserve shooting? Napoleon directed all the army contractors to be hanged. I say shoot them. For every one put out of the way a thousand soldiers’ lives will be saved.”
“Well, well, let Boone go. It’s Sprague I’m interested in.”
“So am I. It is Sprague that Boone seems to be interested in, too, for he has filled the new Secretary with, what he himself would call, righteous wrath against the poor boy and his friends. But make your mind easy. The exchange of prisoners will soon begin. Sprague’s turn will come among the first, and then I will keep track of the affair. Beyond that I can promise nothing. You may be sure, so far as purely military men have to do with the business, there will be impartial justice. When the politicians take hold, I can give no assurance.”
And with this cold comfort the disheartened lawyer betook himself to Acredale, where his report, guardedly given, brought no very strong hope to the anxious mother.
THE WORLD WENT VERY ILL THEN.