“Nearly two days ago, sir.”
“You have made good speed through a country swarming with our enemy. You are entitled to rest.”
“It’s not all, sir?”
“On my way I captured a messenger with a letter from General Meade to General Pleasanton. I have the message, sir.”
He brought forth the paper from his blouse and extended it to General Lee, who took it eagerly. Some one held up a torch and he read it aloud to his generals.
“And so Meade means to trap me,” he said, “by coming down on our flank!”
“Since the river is unfordable he’ll have plenty of time to attack us there,” said Longstreet.
“But will he dare to attack?” said Stuart defiantly. “He was able to hold his own in defense at Gettysburg, but it’s another thing to take the offensive. We hear that General Meade is cautious and that he makes many complaints to his government. A complainer is not the kind of man who can destroy the Army of Northern Virginia.”
“Sometimes it’s well to be cautious, General,” said Lee.
Then he turned to Harry and said:
“Again I commend you.”
Harry saluted proudly, and then fell unconscious at the feet of General Lee.
When the young staff officer awoke, he was lying in a wagon which was moving slowly, with many jolts over a very rough road. It was perhaps one of these jolts that awoke him, because his eyes still felt very heavy with sleep. His position was comfortable as he lay on a heap of blankets, and the sides of the wagon looked familiar. Moreover the broad back of the driver was not that of a stranger. Moving his head into a higher place on the blankets he called.
“Hey you, Dick Jones, where are you taking me?”
Jones turned his rubicund and kindly face.
“Don’t it beat all how things come about?” he said. “This wagon wasn’t built for passengers, but I have you once and then I have you twice, sleepin’ like a prince on them blankets. I guess if the road wasn’t so rough you’d have slept all the way to Virginia. But I’m proud to have you as a passenger. They say you’ve been coverin’ yourself with glory. I don’t know about that, but I never before saw a man who was so all fired tuckered out.”
“Where did you find me?”
“I didn’t exactly find you myself. They say you saluted General Lee so deep and so strong that you just fell down at his feet an’ didn’t move, as if you intended to stay there forever. But four of your friends brought you to my wagon feet foremost, with orders from General Lee if I didn’t treat you right that I’d get a thousand lashes, be tarred an’ feathered, an’ hung an’ shot an’ burned, an’ then be buried alive. For all of which there was no need, as I’m your friend and would treat you right anyway.”
“I know you would,” laughed Harry. “You can’t afford to lose your best passenger. How long have I been sleeping in this rough train of yours?”