The Shades of the Wilderness eBook

Joseph Alexander Altsheler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 332 pages of information about The Shades of the Wilderness.

Harry saw Henrietta Carden carrying the large basket of clothes, go out at a side door, and he felt as if a black shadow like a menace had passed across the floor.  But it was only for an instant.  He dismissed it promptly, as one of those thoughts that come out of nothing, like idle puffs of summer air.  He and Dalton bade a brief farewell to their new friends and left for the headquarters of General Winder.  An elderly and childless couple named Lanham had volunteered to take two officers in their house near Capitol Square, and there Harry and Dalton were sent.

They could not have found a better place.  Mr. and Mrs. Lanham were quiet people, who gave them an excellent room and a fine supper.  Mrs. Lanham showed a motherly solicitude, and when she heard that they were going to the Curtis ball on the following night she demanded that their spare and best uniforms be turned over to her.

“I can make them look fresh,” she insisted, “and your appearance must be the finest possible.  No, don’t refuse again.  It’s a pleasure to me to do it.  When I look at you two, so young and strong and so honest in manner and speech, I wish that I had sons too, and then again I’m glad I have not.”

“Why not, Mrs. Lanham?” asked Harry.

“Because I’d be in deadly fear lest I lose them.  They’d go to the war—­ I couldn’t help it—­and they’d surely be killed.”

“We won’t grieve over losing what we’ve never had,” smiled Mr. Lanham.  “That’s morbid.”

Harry and Dalton did their best to answer all the questions of their hosts, who they knew would take no pay.  The interest of both Mr. and Mrs. Lanham was increased when they found that their young guests were on the staff of General Lee and before that had been on the staff of the great Stonewall Jackson.  These two names were mighty in the South, untouched by any kind of malice or envy, and with legends to cluster around them as the years passed.

“And you really saw Stonewall Jackson every day!” said Mrs. Lanham.  “You rode with him, talked with him, and went into battle with him?”

“I was in all his campaigns, Mrs. Lanham,” replied Harry, modestly, but not without pride.  “I was with him in every battle, even to the last, Chancellorsville.  I was one of those who sheltered him from the shells, when he was shot by our own men.  Alas! what an awful mistake.  I—­”

He stopped suddenly.  He had choked with emotion, and the tears came into his eyes.  Mrs. Lanham saw, and, understanding, she quickly changed the subject to Lee.  They talked a while after supper, called dinner now, and then they went up to their room on the second floor.

It was a handsome room, containing good furniture, including two single beds.  Their baggage had preceded them and everything was in order.  Two large windows, open to admit the fresh air, looked out over Richmond.  On a table stood a pitcher of ice water and glasses.

Project Gutenberg
The Shades of the Wilderness from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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