BUT Willie did not die, on the
contrary, he recov ered, and recovered quickly. The manner in which the
young man had been wounded, and the incident connected with it, had been
duly reported to the general, who in return reported it to the war
department, and it got into the newspapers. It was recalled that this
was the same young man who had rescued Helen Rolphe from the burning
railway offices some years before. It can easily be imagined that Helen
Rolphe’s pulse beat double-quick time as she thought of her young hero.
In his letter to her after he had
recovered sufficiently to write, Willie made light of the incident;
indeed, he was somewhat ashamed of having been wounded. As he lay on his
cot during convalescence he thought of the last words of Helen, "Who
knows? you may prove your own liberator." And he greatly wished to be
liberated, for he lived in such a world of uncertainty with regard to
the girl that he often felt like a being bound by thongs that he could
Her replies to his letters gave
him no cue as to what her feelings were. While they were nice, friendly,
chatty letters, breathing a domestic atmosphere, there was nothing in
them to indicate that he was more to her than "My dear friend," as she
began her epistles. She frequently spoke of Jamie, who, she said, was
making good progress, and who, "true to the instincts of the Scottish
race, would one day be president of some railroad." In one letter she
sent, with a jocular remark, a lock of her hair tied with a piece of
blue ribbon, and another time she sent a small photograph of herself.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Rolphe sometimes enclosed notes for Willie and Colin,
when they were writing to their brother, Colonel Rolphe. The colonel was
very friendly to the boys, and took advantage of every opportunity to
show his kindness. During Willie’s convalescence he used to call and
enquire for him whenever he happened to be in the hospital quarters.
But the war was rapidly drawing to
a close. The Confederates were being slowly but surely pushed
southwards, and were abandoning one stronghold after another. General
Grant, after his brilliant campaign in the west, superseded Halleck as
commander-in-chief, and he then turned his attention to Richmond.
Sherman was conducting his marvellous campaign in Georgia, sweeping
everything before him, while Sheridan had cleaned out the great fertile
Shenandoah Valley, thus removing the danger of an attack upon
Washington, and inflicting a severe blow upon the resources of the
It was just before the fall of
Richmond, in April, 1865, that the last incident worthy of special
mention, as affecting characters in this story, occurred.
Grant had pressed the Confederates
so hard, that General Lee hurriedly abandoned Richmond and was
retreating with his army towards Danville, with the hope of effecting a
junction with the other wing of the Confederate army under Johnston,
when it was intended to make a final stand. The morning after the fall
of Richmond, there was some little stir in the Federal camp over a spy
who had been caught. This person had originally been employed as a spy
by the northern secret service, but it had been learned that he was
receiving pay from both sides and betraying information to both. A hasty
court-martial was summoned, and, as documents of an incriminating
character were found upon his person, he was ordered to be shot.
Colin was named as captain of the
squad told off to shoot the spy, and Willie happened to accompany him.
The name which the unfortunate wretch had given to the officers was
Donald Dishart, and, as he gave Canada as the country from which he
hailed, the boys were naturally curious to see the victim.