Harper's Weekly 12/14/1861


IN CHARLESTON, DECEMBER,
1860.


I.

I wish you'd stop playing that tune, Grace.
Just now it's in very bad taste, to say the least
of it.”


The musician looked at her uncle with a funny
expression of mirth, willfulness, and malice in her
exceedingly pretty face, and said, her fingers sau-
cily rattling over the keys and repeating the chorus
of “The Star-Spangled Banner:”


“Why, it's a good tune. You fought for it in
1812.”


“Yes; but things are very different now. Then
we were one united people, and an insolent, arro-
gant, fanatical section had not attempted—” I
spare the reader the rest of the sentence; the ful-
minations of a sun-burned, sincere, bald-headed,
kindly-natured, simple-hearted, but inveterately
prejudiced South Carolinian of sixty would be pro-
ductive but of weariness of spirit and waste of
space; the imagination may easily supply them.


His niece meanwhile changed her tune to “Yan-
kee Doodle.”


“That's worse!” he said, irritated; “for of all
the sniveling, nasal, singsong, whining, Yankee,
Puritan—” Speech suppressed for previously giv-
en reasons. “Play `Dixie' or the `Marseillaise;'
they're the tunes for our people now.”


“That's so!” assented a tall, fair-haired young
man, attired in a military uniform of coarse home-
spun gray, scantily trimmed with red worsted, who
entered the room, his clanking steel scabbard trail-
ing at his heels; “you hear 'em every whar.”


“Except over at Moultrie,” added his cousin.

“Except over at Moultrie,” he admitted, “and
they won't be played tharr long!”—speaking with
a burr which proclaimed him from the up country.


“No, indeed!” echoed the old gentleman; “the
honor and dignity of South Carolina demands that,
after solemnly voting herself out of the Union, she
shall resume all the privileges of a sovereign State,
taking immediate possession of her property in
forts, arsenals, post-offices, public—” Suppression
as before, in tenderness to the reader.


“I'll tell the officers so at Captain F—'s
party,” said the young lady, when her uncle had
temporarily exhausted his eloquence.


“I wish you wouldn't go there,” he answered,
pettishly; “F—is a Yankee, and I don't like
him. All these absurd preparations at the fort are
attributed to him, to D—, and their cowardly
distrust of our people. Major Anderson, now, is a
Southerner and a gentleman—understands us—we
shall have no trouble with him.”


“Sis is half abolitionist, I reckon, since she came
back from France and England,” said the young
volunteer, with a look of mingled shyness, admira-
tion, and distrust at the brilliant beauty of his
cousin.


“I'm not!” she exclaimed, with a flash of Caro-
linian instinct, for to Southern ears the epithet ap-
plied to her always sounds like a taunt; “but the
soldiers are only doing their duty, and if you're
going to attack and murder that brave little garri-
son for that, I think it's a wicked and cowardly
business—there!”


More platitudes on the part of the old gentleman.

“Grace,” he inquired, presently, “have you ac-
cepted for this evening?”


“Yes, uncle!”

“Who goes with you?”

“Eva, and Clare, and the Doctor—and you, if
you like.”


Mr. Allen shook his head negatively. “I have
a great respect for the officers at Fort Moultrie,”
he said, “with a few exceptions, and wish them
(as they probably wish themselves) safely out of
the false position in which a treacherous and imbe-
cile government has placed them, but I can not
visit Captain F—. You will do as you please.
Only there was a little girl five years ago, who, be-
fore she went to Paris and London to finish her
education and returned with French and English
notions about her kinsfolk, wouldn't disobey them
in any thing.”


“Uncle,” the girl remonstrated, “if you really
don't wish me to go, I won't.”


“No, no!” he said, good-naturedly, satisfied
with having spoken, “go—go and enjoy yourself,
only don't fall in love with any of the officers!”


Grace reddened so suddenly and deeply at this,
that had not the old gentleman bustled to the win-
dow for the purpose of opening it and looking over
the yellow water of Charleston harbor, he must
have perceived it. As it was, he only drew in a
deep inspiration of the mild, moist December morn-
ing, took his hat, told Grace to give him a match
for his cigar, lit it, and strolled forth into the gar-
den. His nephew remained. He had observed
his cousin's discomposure.


“Gracie,” he asked, bluntly, “who's that United
States captain who talked with you on board the
Osiris, going down to the island yesterday?”


She told him, blushing deeper than before.

“Hum! Then I think—” He commenced im-
petuously but broke off, faltering and confused by
the sudden concentration of two big, black, and ex-
ceedingly indignant eyes upon his own.


“Mark, if you have any thing to say to me,
say it; but remember that I like to have my own
way just as much as you do, and have an equal
right to it!”


“Gracie, I'm jealous of that captain. I sus-
picioned him from the first!”


Grace laughed, tossed her curls, blushed again,
and answered,


“Foolish fellow, what business is it of yours?”

The tall volunteer pulled at his blond mustache
and bit it vindictively.


“Look here,” he said, awkwardly, yet with a
certain earnestness and simplicity about his rustic
features which seemed to refine them for the occa-
sion, “I've ben troying to get your good-will for
ever so long, Gracie, and I do think—”


“Then you oughtn't! You're a very good fellow,
Mark, but we can't be any thing more to each
other than cousins, as I have told you again and
again, so don't say a word more about it. Recol-
lect, too, I'm for the Union and Uncle Sam, and
don't believe in secession. You ought to hate me
for that!”


“Well, I can't bear it, though I do think it mean
to go back on us and side with the Yankees against
old Carolina. But you'll know better when we
have whipped 'em—that is, if they oblige us to do
it.”


“Mark, I hate to hear you talk so; it's as
wicked as it is foolish, and I'll tell you why. When
I was a girl here, in Charleston, I used to think
South Carolina the greatest place in the world, and
that we were the finest, and best, and bravest peo-
ple, just as you do now. So when I went to
France and England I talked and bragged like a
perfect goose, and was very mad when they called
me a Yankee, as they do all of us from this side of
the water; but I found they knew nothing about
South Carolina (except in connection with slavery
—I heard enough of that of course!), and cared as
little. But every body understood that being an
American meant something, and believed we were a
great people, even if they didn't like us. And now
here we are trying to pull down all this, and to ruin
the country just because Mr. Lincoln is to be Presi-
dent!”


“Thar won't be any ruin, I reckon. The Yan-
kees are a no-fight people, and will back right
squarr down when they see they've got to do it or
fight.”


“I don't believe it. Captain—says—” In
her eagerness the girl forgot herself, the name es-
caping before she was aware of it. Mark Harding
simultaneously gave vent to an expression of anger,
which if not an oath was very like one.


“See hyar!” he said, striding up to her with a
lowering brow, and looking into her conscious, con-
fused, yet resolute face, “you've said enough now,
if I hadn't ben on the right track before. Jest you
tell Captain—if he wants you to 'ware of me
that's all!”


And he strode, rather melodramatically, from
the room, his long sword clanking at his heels.
The girl gazed after him at first defiantly, and then
with a changed aspect leaned her head upon her
hand and mused deeply. Presently her eyes fol-
lowed the direction of her thoughts; she rose,
walked to a window, and looked forth in the direc-
tion of Sullivan's Island.


II.

That evening—it was the twenty-sixth of De-
cember, 1860—the lights of a neat wooden villa
not far from the walls of Fort Moultrie shone out
brilliantly into the raw, moist evening, the shadows
of graceful and manly forms flitted across the il-
luminated casements, and the sound of music,
mirth, and laughter awoke the ordinary quiet
echoes of the sandy island. Captain F—of the
U. S. A.—the “Yankee” officer disparaged by
Grace's uncle—in other words, a brave and loyal
Vermonter, whose known hostility to the designs
of the secessionists had incurred the honor of their
hatred, was holding revel in honor of the Christ-
mas time. I need not say that my heroine made
one of the party.


The house, a summer one, like most of its class,
has long windows reaching to the floor, some of
which are open for the better ventilation of the
heated rooms. Now and then certain of the guests
emerge from the ball-room on to the wooden piazza.
Two of these, after lingering for some time, descend
the shallow flight of steps to a neglected garden,
horrent with the green spikes of the tropical-look-
ing Spanish bayonet, and from thence saunter into
and along the sandy road. They are male and fe-
male, the lady small and slight in figure, the gen-
tleman wearing the uniform of a captain in the
United States Army.


“Gracie,” he says, tenderly arranging a shawl
about her head and shoulders, and looking loving-
ly down into the big black eyes, “you mustn't ask
why? Take my word for it and promise.”


“Promise what?”

“That whatever befalls me you will credit me
with having loved you dearly; that nothing shall
make you distrust this; that, so long as you have no
reason to doubt my love, fidelity, and honor, you
will be true to me, in the faith that some day you
will become mine own dear wife!”


“George, you speak as though some danger
were hanging over you?”


“You know our position here!” And he shrugged
his shoulders.


“Is that all? Is there any thing imminent?”

“We think the Charlestonians are going to at-
tack us. We are pretty sure of it, and have even
some intimation of the time and plan resolved upon.
And we shall do our duty.”


The girl clung apprehensively to his arm. “It's
very dreadful,” she said, “for Americans to kill
Americans; but—what's that?”


They had reached the picturesque cluster of pal-
metto-trees growing by the road-side, and known
as “the Five Indians.” Grace's exclamation was
caused by a figure emerging from their shadow,
striding into the road, and confronting them.


“Captain—,” said Mark Harding, “I want
the favor of just three words with you in private,
if you can spare the time.”


The Captain looked surprised, exchanged a few
words with his companion, who, apprehensive and
indignant, had uttered an exclamation of alarm at
her cousin's appearance, and followed his example
in stepping a little aside.


“Well, Sir?”

“Will you fight?”

Captain—slightly elevated his eyebrows at
the inquiry, and responded:


“I am a soldier, Sir.”

“When will you give me a meeting, then?”

“If you have no objection to answering the
question, I should like to know what cause of
quarrel you have with me.”


“You are a—Yankee, and fond of my cousin
Grace. Tharr!”


“A sufficient reason! I suspect you ought to
sympathize with me in the latter part of it. In-
stead of doing so, you want to kill me, eh?”


“I guess you'll give her up right off!”

“I shall not submit to be dictated to by any
body in such a matter, least of all by a person of
your appearance and manners.”


“Then you've got to fight. I'm bound to fix
you to that, though I know you Yankees 'll talk
yourselves out of any thing, if you only get a
chance.”


“I will fight you whenever you please except
now. I suppose you don't want Miss Allen to be
a looker-on?”


“Will you meet me here to-night when the ball
breaks up? I'll wait for you.”


“Without seconds?”

“With or without 'em, just as you please. I
can raise a friend if you want to bring one.”


“You know that, as the challenged person, I
have the right to the choice of weapons?”


The young South Carolinian looked puzzled.
Like most of his class he possessed very crude
ideas as to the etiquette of the duel, connecting
it indefinitely with the use of revolvers and bowie-
knives. He assented, however.


“I name swords, then, and will endeavor to give
you a lesson which may be of value to you as a sol-
dier—as I see you are ambitious of becoming one.”


Mark Harding, of the Marion Guard, Edgefield,
South Carolina, had as little practical acquaint-
ance with the use of the weapon which he wore so
proudly in its clinking steel scabbard as he had
with the harpoon or the integral calculus, but his
pluck would have induced his acceptation of a prop-
osition to be tied hand to hand with his opponent,
then to walk over a precipice. So he bowed with
as much dignity as he could muster, and would
have strode away if Grace had not called to him
imperatively.


“Well?” he said, ungraciously.

“If you don't retract every word you have been
saying—I know it's something quarrelsome—I'll
never speak to you again.”


The volunteer muttered something to himself,
turned on his heel, and was gone. None the less
endeared to each other from what had occurred,
and conversing earnestly, the lovers returned to
Captain F—'s Christmas party.


III.

“You can't keep the appointment. It's to be
done to-night, George.”


“To-night?”

“Immediately. I'm free to tell you now that
the hop was only a blind. The men will be in the
boats in half an hour. All the cannon—there's
only eleven of them pointing toward Sumter—are
already spiked and the flag-staff cut down, so that
they can never hoist any of their miserable Seces-
sion rags upon it in place of the dear old Stars and
Stripes, which, please God, shall to-morrow defy
them from the top of the strongest fort in the har-
bor. In another half hour the gun-carriages will
be blazing; the Major and I have seen to it our-
selves. You are wanted immediately. Let the
blockhead wait, or defer his quarrel with you un-
til they attack us, if they dare to do it. We have
not a moment to lose.”


IV.

All Charleston was frantic next morning with
the news of the secret evacuation of Fort Moultrie
by Major Anderson and his garrison. Then and
throughout the weeks of excitement, of apprehen-
sion, of expectation, of chronic alarm, anger, and
vainglory which marked that memorable time, per-
haps the most exasperated man in the rebellious
city was Mark Harding.


Three weeks afterward the columns of a New
York newspaper contained the following paragraph
in a letter from its Charleston correspondent:


“All private visits to Fort Sumter are strictly forbidden.
For disobeying this order a clergyman, the Rev. Dr.—,
and three young ladies were recently expelled from Charles-
ton. He lived at Sullivan's Island, and rowed to the fort
in a pleasure-boat, spending an hour or two in the society
of the officers, friends of the party. It is said that the
reverend gentleman and ladies have proceeded to Wash-
ington.”


V.

At last dearest!”

“At last! I feared I should never see you
again.”


“And I, too, for all the long, dreary weeks, and
particularly at the close of them. It was really
pretty artillery practice on both sides, I assure
you. Do you know that that amiable cousin of
yours was exceedingly energetic during the at-
tack? I understand he wanted to head a storm-
ing party in a steamer or open boat, in which case
we should have been obliged to have blown both
him and his enterprising friends out of the water.
I am glad the necessity wasn't forced upon us, for
I shouldn't like to shed blood akin to that which
flows in your veins, Grace. I have no doubt he
was actuated by feelings of personal hostility to-
ward one particular `cowardly Yankee,' who dis-
appointed him by not keeping a certain nocturnal
appointment on Sullivan's Island.”


“Foolish Mark! he talked horridly about it, and
made my life miserable, until I was almost glad
when they sent me away.”


“And your uncle, dearest? What did he say?”

“He was a member of the Vigilance Committee,
and though very angry, seemed as wretched as
myself. He loves me so, that I think he would
like to be here too, if it weren't for deserting South
Carolina, as he'd call it.”


“I'm sorry he's not here to give you away,
Grace!”


“George!”

“Dearest, you are all alone in the world now;
I love you best of any thing in it, and claim you
for that love's sake. I shall be ordered on duty in
a fortnight—let me leave a wife behind to pray for
me! Our dear old Doctor is here, you know, and
you owe him a job for getting him expatriated. I
dare say Miss Eva and Clare will look very pretty
as bridemaids!”


VI.

We are in the debatable land between the two
armies in Virginia, near the outskirts of the rebel
camp. It is a calm, moonlight night in autumn,
and the “sweet regent of the sky” sails aloft in
unclouded splendor, silvering with her pure efful-
gence, or hiding in broad deep shadows, the hide-
ous features of devastation which war has stamped
upon the once beautiful landscape. The door-
less, windowless, and dismantled farm-houses—the
blackened remains of those which have been de-
stroyed by fire—the fenceless and trampled gardens
and fields, all scored with unaccustomed wheel-
tracks and footprints of men and horses—the fetid
water-poolsin the highways—the deep wagon-ruts—
the carcasses of steeds, which lie putrefying by the
road-side, no longer intrude themselves upon the
sickened attention, as during the garish day. Yet
the scene is otherwise than peaceful. From the
woody covert of a little copse bordering a field of
maize, which has been trodden into a miry jungle
of rotting corn-stalks, comes the scattering report
of musketry, the sharp crack of the rifle, and the sud-
den, continuous snap of the revolver. One of those
frequent, bloody, nameless skirmishes character-
izing the present war is in progress, having origin-
ated in the surprisal and attack upon a posse of
rebel troops by a daring little party of United States
riflemen.


Hotly the ground is contested, inch by inch, but
the alarm has been communicated to the Union
troops in the rear, and dreading the arrival of rein-
forcements, the rebels are compelled to retreat, half
of their number having already bit the dust. The
fight slackens until it is a mere duel between a few
desperate men who resist ineffectually, apparently
preferring death or captivity to flight.


One of these, a tall, muscular young fellow, with
fair hair and blond mustaches, after defending him-
self with more fury than skill with a long cavalry
sabre, finds it shivered in his grasp by the blow of a
musket, and himself borne to the ground with a bay-
onet thrust through his sword-arm into his side.


“Dont't kill him, Rob!” cries the officer in com-
mand of the Union party, as the soldier is about to
repeat his thrust with fatal intent. “Yield your-
self our prisoner, Sir, and your life shall be spared.”


The officer chances to be bareheaded, his hat
having been lost in the mêlée, and the moonlight
strikes full upon his countenance. And Mark
Harding, with an oath of recognition and hatred,
despite his wounded sword-arm, draws his revolver
and fires its two remaining charges at his preserver
—fires and misses.


“Bayonet him!” is the cry, and a storm of exe-
cration and rage rises round the wounded Caro-
linian. It is with no small difficulty, and the
promptest enforcement of his authority, both by
voice and gesture, that the officer can save the
justly-forfeited life of his intended murderer.


“You would have slain me,” he said; “now see
how a Yankee will revenge himself on one who has
no title to his mercy beyond his relationship to her
who was Grace Allen! You are our prisoner, but
your hurt shall be seen to as soon as possible, and
I will do all I can toward effecting your liberty by
procuring your exchange for one of our men. Fight
against us again, if you will; but remember the
lesson of to-night. Boys, let us go back to the
camp.”



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