“Of course I can. Nothing easier. Write your telegram. I will send it under cover to General Early. He will forward it by flag of truce to Washington, and it will be sent North from there.”
But Jack’s letter was never sent, for when the post came from Richmond the next day, Vincent read in the morning paper a surprising personal item:
“’Among the distinguished arrivals in the city within the week, we have just learned of the presence of Mrs. Sprague, wife of the famous Senator, a contemporary with Clay and Webster. Mrs. Sprague has come to Richmond in search of her son, who was captured or killed on the field near the Henry House. She comes with her daughter under a safeguard from General Johnston, who knew the family when he was at West Point. Mrs. Sprague is stopping with Mrs. Bevan, on Vernon Street, and is under the escort of Private William Bevan of the general headquarters.’”
UNDER TWO FLAGS.
That modest paragraph in the morning paper wrought amazing results in the fortunes of many of the people we are interested in. A regiment of cavalry encamped near the outskirts of the city on the line of the Virginia Central had broken camp early in the morning to march northward. One company detailed to bring up the rear was still loitering near the station when the newspapers were thrown off the train and eagerly seized by the men, who bestrewed themselves in groups to hear the news read aloud.
“Here, you Towhead, you’re company clerk; you read so that we can all hear.”
In response to this a stripling, in the most extraordinary costume, came out from the impedimenta of the company with a springy step and consequential air. You wouldn’t have recognized the scapegrace, Dick Perley, in the carnival figure that came forward, for his curling blond hair was closely cropped, his face was smeared with the soilure of pots and pans, and it was evident that the eager warrior had exchanged the weapons of war for the utensils of the company kitchen. He read in a high, clear treble the telegraphic dispatches, the sanguinary editorial ratiocinations, Orphic in their prophetic sententiousness, and then turned to the local columns.
Any one listening to the lad would never have suspected that he was not a Southron. He prolonged the a’s and o’s, as the Southern trick is, and imitated to such perfection the pleasant localisms of Virginian pronunciation, that keener critics of speech and accent than these galliard troops would have been deceived. But suddenly his voice breaks, he falls into the clear, distinct enunciation of New York—the only speech in the Union that betrays no sign of locality. He is reading the lines about the distinguished arrivals. Fortunately at the instant there is a blast from the bugles—“Fall in!”—and the men rush to their horses. In twenty minutes the company is clattering out on the Mechanicsville road, and at noon, when the squadron halted for dinner, the company cook had to rely on the clumsy ministrations of his colored aides. “Towhead” had disappeared.