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A Gray Sleeve
by [?]

Of a sudden a trooper halted and said: “Hello! there’s a house!” Every one paused. The men turned to look at their leader.

The captain stretched his neck and swung his head from side to side. “By George, it is a house!” he said.

Through the wealth of leaves there vaguely loomed the form of a large white house. These troopers, brown-faced from many days of campaigning, each feature of them telling of their placid confidence and courage, were stopped abruptly by the appearance of this house. There was some subtle suggestion–some tale of an unknown thing–which watched them from they knew not what part of it.

A rail fence girded a wide lawn of tangled grass. Seven pines stood along a drive-way which led from two distant posts of a vanished gate. The blue-clothed troopers moved forward until they stood at the fence peering over it.

The captain put one hand on the top rail and seemed to be about to climb the fence, when suddenly he hesitated, and said in a low voice: “Watson, what do you think of it?”

The lieutenant stared at the house.”Derned if I know!” he replied.

The captain pondered. It happened that the whole company had turned a gaze of profound awe and doubt upon this edifice which confronted them. The men were very silent.

At last the captain swore and said: “We are certainly a pack of fools. Derned old deserted house halting a company of Union cavalry, and making us gape like babies!”

“Yes, but there’s something—something——” insisted the subaltern in a half stammer.

“Well, if there’s ‘something—something’ in there, I’ll get it out,” said the captain.”Send Sharpe clean around to the other side with about twelve men, so
we will sure bag your ‘something–something,’ and I’ll take a few of the boys and find out what’s in the d——d old thing!”

He chose the nearest eight men for his “storming party,” as the lieutenant called it. After he had waited some minutes for the others to get into position, he said “Come ahead” to his eight men, and climbed the fence.

The brighter light of the tangled lawn made him suddenly feel tremendously apparent, and he wondered if there could be some mystic thing in the house which was regarding this approach. His men trudged silently at his back. They stared at the windows and lost themselves in deep speculations as to the probability of there being, perhaps, eyes behind the blinds—malignant eyes, piercing eyes.

Suddenly a corporal in the party gave vent to a startled exclamation, and half threw his carbine into position. The captain turned quickly, and the corporal said: “I saw an arm move the blinds—an arm with a grey sleeve!”

“Don’t be a fool, Jones, now,” said the captain sharply.

“I swear t’—” began the corporal, but the captain silenced him.

When they arrived at the front of the house, the troopers paused, while the captain went softly up the front steps. He stood before the large front door and studied it. Some crickets chirped in the long grass, and the nearest pine could be heard in its endless sighs. One of the privates moved uneasily, and his foot crunched the gravel. Suddenly the captain swore angrily and kicked the door with a loud crash. It flew open.


The bright lights of the day flashed into the old house when the captain angrily kicked open the door. He was aware of a wide hallway, carpeted with matting and extending deep into the dwelling. There was also an old walnut hat-rack and a little marble-topped table with a vase and two books upon it. Farther back was a great, venerable fireplace containing dreary ashes.