“Then he said that after all they were not to blame, as they had been sent by General Early, and he made one of them who had the stub of a pencil write on the back of the dispatch these words: ’General Jubal Early, C. S. A.: This has ceased to be a joke. After your first man was stopped, it was not necessary to do anything more. I have the dispatch. Why insist on sending duplicate after duplicate?’ And the two had to walk all the way back to General Early with that note, because they didn’t dare make away with the dispatch.
“I have a certain respect for that man’s skill and daring, but General Early had a series of spells. He retired to his tent and if the reports are not exaggerated, a continuous muttering like low thunder came from the tent, and all the cloth of it turned blue from the lightnings imprisoned inside.”
General Lee himself smiled.
“It was certainly annoying,” he said. “I hope the dispatch was not of importance.”
“It contained nothing that will help the Yankees, but it shows that the enemy has some spies—or at least one spy—who are Napoleons at their trade.”
THE COMING OF GRANT
The little dinner ended. Despite his disapproval of General Early’s swearing, General Lee laughed heartily at further details of the strange Yankee spy’s exploits. But it was well known that in this particular General Early was the champion of the East. Harry did not know that in the person of Colonel Charles Woodville, his cousin, Dick Mason, had encountered one of equal ability in the Southwest.
Presently General Lee and his two young aides mounted their horses for the return. The commander-in-chief seemed gayer than usual. He was always very fond of Stuart, whose high spirits pleased him, and before his departure he thanked him for his thoughtfulness.
“Whenever we get any particularly choice shipments from the North I shall always be pleased to notify you, General, and send you your share,” said Stuart, sweeping the air in front of him again with his great plumed hat. With his fine, heroic face and his gorgeous uniform he had never looked more a knight of the Middle Ages.
General Lee smiled and thanked him again, and then rode soberly back, followed at a short distance by his two young aides. Although the view of hills and mountains and valleys and river and brooks was now magnificent, the sumach burning in red and the leaves vivid in many colors, Lee, deeply sensitive, like all his rural forbears, to rural beauty, nevertheless seemed not to notice it, and soon sank into deep thought.
It is believed by many that Lee knew then that the Confederacy had already received a mortal blow. It was not alone sufficient for the South to win victories. She must keep on winning them, and the failure at Gettysburg and the defeat at Vicksburg had put her on the defensive everywhere. Fewer blockade runners were getting through. Above all, there was less human material upon which to draw. But he roused himself presently and said to Harry: