Jul/Aug 2021  •   Fiction

Hunter, Scholar, Spy

by Peter Bridges

Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash

Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash

The year 1862: black night in mid-ocean. Stearns Putnam woke when the Europa lurched violently and he almost fell out of his bunk. The ship recovered and then lurched again. My God, was it going to capsize? In the course of several minutes, in the dark, he managed to pull on his clothes. The ship was rolling from side to side, but he made his way slowly up the dark stairway, holding on to the railing with both hands. He came, finally, out on the broad deck. He saw no one. Where was the captain? Was he there with the helmsman, there in the wheelhouse aft? Must be; he'd better be. The other passengers must be below, holding on to their bunks. Not me, he thought. Whatever this is, I want to see it.

Dawn was breaking ahead. There was a dull gray sky but no storm, no rain and not much wind, just huge waves out of the south hitting the right side and making the ship roll in a sickening way. As he watched, Europa turned leftward, the helmsman no doubt wanting the waves to hit the stern and not the side. He caught sight of a single sailor on watch at the pointed bow. Holding tight to the left-hand railing, Putnam made his way slowly forward past the funnel, stopping when the 40-foot side paddlewheel rose, groaning as it came out of the sea, and crashed down again. He stopped again by the foremast and held on while two more waves struck, not quite so hard now that they were striking the stern. Finally, soaked, he reached the bow.

"Morning, sir," the man shouted. He had tied himself to the rail. "As you see, we've turned to port, northward. Some extra days to Liverpool, that'll mean."

Putnam had feared that as he inched up the deck. It was ten days since they had left Boston, a week since they had left Halifax. How much longer to reach Liverpool, another week, even longer? This was not a modern ship; it made at best ten knots. Cunard had better ones.

The sailor took a length of rope and tied him to the rail just before another wave came out of the dimness and struck the stern. Then another, not so bad, and in minutes more they had seen the last of them. At least, he hoped there would be no more. Thank God!

As he stood now at the bow with the sailor, he saw the ship was turning back eastward again to plow a sea of only smaller waves. Well, he thought, let's hope the immediate crisis is over. I've stood here too long. I'm half-freezing. He went down to his cabin.

He stripped off his sodden clothes, wondering if they'd ever dry, and rubbed his pale, trim, and shivering body with a towel. This is not just a rough trip, he thought, it's a bitter one.

He had not given Joanna much of an explanation of his need to go to Europe, and to go without her. He had said only that he had to deliver some messages from William Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, and he did not know how long he would be gone. She had in no way been reconciled to his going off to Europe without her. Their parting had been bitter. She had said to him, "We have always been partners; always. I simply cannot understand why you don't want me to go. We can afford it, God knows. It's not some woman, is it? No, I know it's not that. I just don't understand." But he could not, would not, tell her any more.

What was he getting into, anyway? He had gotten only vague instructions from the two Sewards, and nothing better from the State Department's number-three, William Hunter. Together with Lincoln, Chase, Stanton, and himself, that made seven who were in on his secret. Too many.

Putnam stood now, dressing himself in dry clothes, thinking of the black, unfriendly sea, thinking, Chances are that I'll end up dead. Or disgraced. He was tempted to sail back to Boston on the ship's next westbound voyage... if they made it to Liverpool.

One more wave struck, and the ship shuddered, and he thought back to his last days in New England. In the end Joanna had refused to go with him to Boston to see him take ship. He learned, after his train from White River Junction reached Boston, that the Europa was late in arriving from Liverpool and so would be sailing not the next morning but a day later. In the morning, then, he took the horse car across the river to Cambridge to look up his friend Nicholas Stanfield at Harvard College.

Putnam had known Stanfield for so many years, he could not recall when they had first met, but their more recent contact had been by letter and not in person. This morning he found Stanfield in his cramped office in Harvard Yard, in an old red brick building called Massachusetts Hall, to which a passing student pointed him.

"Ah," said Nick Stanfield, "My friend from the land of cows and pines. Has the word reached you yet that we're at war? Well, perhaps that's not so funny. Forgive me, Stearns; it's good to see you."

"Thanks, Nick. I trust I see you well."

"Well enough for an aging man, my friend." In fact, thought Putnam, he's just 50 or so, but he's aged a lot since we last met.

Putnam looked at himself in a mirror on Stanfield's wall: gray eyes in a lean face, trim brown beard, just a few gray hairs; not bad for forty-three. No, he, too, was aging. "We're all aging, Nick. But I'm not so old that I've lost my appetite. Shall we go eat?"

They went to lunch at a crowded Cambridge tavern with low ceilings blackened by age. They talked about the war over bowls of good chowder but then some over-fried fish, not good. The day turned dark and gloomy for June. What Nick Stanfield said made it worse.

"The Union will not win this war. We can take the Mississippi, we can take Richmond, but we won't take them. I tell you, Stearns, the rebels will run to the hills and they'll wage a war as partisans, as guerrillas. Just you wait and see. And our boys will keep on dying, and after some more months, why, we'll decide the game's not worth it. We don't need 'em, anyway... we don't need them. The North and the West are big and rich, and soon they'll be crisscrossed by railroads. Let the rebels whip their poor slaves and make their damned cotton. It's nothing that any of us needs to die for. I say, let's just leave the damned Southerners to themselves. Let 'em go!"

"It's a fair argument, I admit," said Putnam. "We're losing too many young men. And you may be right about the rebels taking to the hills. I've read they're forming companies of partisan rangers, whatever that means... but no, Nick, we've got to keep fighting; we've got to restore the Union."

Thinking back now, though, Putnam feared Stanfield was right. It may well, he thought, be a senseless, useless war. And here goes Don Quixote Putnam off to Europe. And what for? I should be in the army, that's where I should be. Instead I'm on a fantastical trip. Stupid, useless.

He had left Stanfield in Cambridge and gone back to his hotel in Boston, and though he usually drank little, that evening he finished off a pint of Monongahela whiskey. When they sailed for Liverpool in the morning, he was hungover and disconsolate.

Enough rumination. He put on his shoes and went to breakfast. The ship's large dining saloon with elegant wood-paneled walls was almost empty. He took the seat next to the captain. This was a gray-bearded, gray-eyed, and likable Scot named Shannon. Now that the sea had calmed, Captain Shannon, clearly relieved, was talkative. He said, "You know, Mr. Putnam, before my grandfather went seafaring, my people were the harpers of our clan. We were good harpers and we've been good captains. But weather's the real master. It'll haud up, now, but truly I was a bit worried about those waves. Not a thing I'd ever seen before, in 30 years at sea. And it's a wooden ship, you know, though we've got iron vessels on the New York run, and Europa is not exactly new. But I do know this old craft. And we've come through, we've come through. It'll be calm seas, I do believe, from here to Liverpool."

And so it was. When he finished breakfast and went on deck again, a few passengers were there, testing the air. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and the waves were small. But westward—westward toward home, he thought—there stood a gray thick wall, a barrier from north to south along the sea. Well, he must look ahead. Perhaps I can accomplish something. Lincoln seemed to have hopes in me.

The voyage turned pleasant. They passed just one vessel, a two-masted steamer like theirs, heading westward to America. The waves stayed small and green, and every day was long and sunny. Putnam's spirits calmed. After all, he thought, this will be an adventure, my adventure in middle age!

The pleasant final week on board ended on the Tuesday morning when they sailed up the Mersey to Cunard's long dock. It had been all the more pleasant because of Signora Bionaz. Gemma Bionaz. Earlier in the voyage he had caught sight of her only once or twice: a very pretty, blue-eyed woman in her 30s, wearing a cap against the wind from which blonde curls escaped. It turned out, when she began to appear more often, that she had stayed seasick in her cabin for several days. Now she and Stearns sat together at meals and strolled, for hours sometimes, along the deck in both sun and cloud. Gemma, he thought, just right: she is indeed a gem. Lord, here I am not two weeks from home and making eyes at other women. Home. I am very far from home and going farther.

He thought again of that gray wall he had seen stretching across the west. Well, onward and upward, as Lincoln had said in some speech. Some speech before the war. Onward, anyway. We're not bound upward at this point. Anyway, this is a sweet lady.

Gemma told him she was a native of Genoa. Her husband, though, came from a small village west of Turin in Piedmont. It was an isolated place. Giovanni Bionaz was one of the few village boys to attend secondary school, and to do so he had gone to live with an uncle down in Turin. When Giovanni entered the Turin university, he quickly become a republican, and "some political activities," said Gemma, earned him a year in prison the year he received his degree.

Then came 1848, the year of revolutions in Europe. The revolutions did not succeed, but the Savoys who ruled in Turin granted their kingdom a constitution and Giovanni Bionaz his freedom. Still, Gemma said, life was difficult for republicans in Piedmont, and after she and Giovanni married, they went to New York to live. In a dozen years there, they had done well, she said, as importers of Italian wines and cheeses. Giovanni had returned to Italy a few months ago, to test life in the newly united Kingdom and run his business, in Turin and in Genoa, from the export rather than import end. So far, so good, and now Gemma was coming back to join him, after visiting New York and Boston to meet with American importers. Giovanni, she said, had bought a nice house for them just outside Turin. She hoped Stearns Putnam—"I may call you Stearns?"—would come to them soon.

"Thanks," he said, wondering what he should say about his plans. "I would very much like to do that. I will certainly be spending a lot of time in Turin, and I hope Genoa, too... You see, what I want to do in Italy is to carry out research so I can write a history of the Savoys. As you know better than I, before they became kings, the Savoy family were dukes of the Western Alps for almost a millennium, but no American or English scholar has yet attempted a history of them. Now that they've become the kings of the new Italy, a book is certainly needed, and it needs to be an objective one and not a whitewash."

"Oh, Stearns," she said, "I do agree with all you say. I think Giovanni and I can put you in touch with a number of people, in both Turin and Genoa, who can be of use to you."

"That would be more than kind," he said, and he meant it. He was going to need all the contacts he could make. And, he thought, she's very pretty.

He said goodbye reluctantly to Gemma Bionaz on the dock. She was staying in Liverpool for a day or two to talk to local importers. Putnam had seen enough of gray Liverpool in past years, and he wanted to get to Italy. With his suitcase and small steamer trunk, he took the 10:00 AM train for London. They sped south at what must have been 50 and even 60 miles an hour, and at 5:00 PM he reached Euston Station. With a porter pushing his small trunk on a cart, he walked through the pretentious Great Hall, which had reminded him of a Roman basilica when he first saw it—a dozen years ago, now. He found a modest room nearby at the Victoria Hotel.

Putnam woke at 7:00 the next morning and looked out the window. It was raining, a grim gray day. Best go on to Italy and see some sunshine. He went down to breakfast, and as he ate his egg and toast, alone in the well-lit dining room, it struck him that he was sitting in the world's greatest city. He thought of going to walk in Regent's Park, but it was too wet. He checked out of his hotel and just after noon was on a train to Dover. He took a dirty French packet boat to Calais, got seasick on the rough, three-hour crossing, and then boarded an abominably slow train to Paris.

He reached the City of Light in the evening. He took a cab from the Gare du Nord to the Hotel du Louvre, a place he'd read about, elegant and built by an American company. They gave him a room for 12 francs. The room was fine, though it seemed expensive even for Paris, but why not spend a little government gold? That evening he had a good dinner in the elegant hotel restaurant: partridge with truffles, together with an excellent bottle of Bordeaux. He looked at his fellow diners, all couples or larger parties. He wished Joanna could be with him—he felt lonely in this grand capital—but he went to bed not discontent and slept well.

At 8:00 in the morning he boarded the first of what seemed interminable trains taking him southward. In late afternoon he finally reached the upland village of St. Michel, where for now the rail line ended, and the dozen passengers for Turin found lodgings in a small inn.

He wondered whether he might have done better to take the train from Paris to Marseilles and then a packet boat to Italy, but he had had enough sea travel. He wondered again the next morning, when he woke with three flea bites. The coffee was awful. But the sun was shining. No doubt, he thought, memories of the bad parts of this trip—the flea bites, at least—would dim. And the trip over the Mont Cenis Pass should be interesting.

Putnam found he would have four fellow travelers today: a black-bearded Russian in his 30s, the Russian's ugly wife, who was perhaps German, and his elderly parents. The five and their baggage left the inn just after dawn in a diligence pulled by four horses. They drove through lush country toward hazy big mountains. He thought of the Savoys, whose history he had decided to study—or pretend to study.

The Savoys had ruled these uplands for eight centuries,. By 1720 they controlled both Piedmont and Savoy; that year they added the backward island of Sardinia to their realm, and now they called themselves kings of the somewhat misnamed Kingdom of Sardinia. They made Turin their capital, and it became a grand place.

Just three years ago the current monarch, Vittorio Emanuele II, had agreed to cede Savoy, the heartland of his family, to France in exchange for Napoleon III sending him a huge French army to help the Italians invade Lombardy and kick out the Austrians. The year after that, in the spring of 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his brave little army of volunteers, the Thousand, invaded Sicily and took all of the Bourbon kingdom of southern Italy, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, for Vittorio Emanuele. The three dukedoms of Modena, Parma, and Tuscany collapsed and, together with two-thirds of the Papal States, joined the Kingdom. Vittorio Emanuele assumed the title of King of Italy.

So it was that just as America was coming apart, the unification of Italy was almost complete. In Italy's Northeast, though, the Austrians still held the Veneto, while the once liberal and now reactionary Pius IX ruled Rome and the region adjacent to the city.

No one anticipated all this change, he thought, and felt a great jolt as the carriage went through a deep mudhole. What future for our own rebels? Are they about finished, or not? The future is always unknowable. I had better assume the dastards can hold out for some time. I wish I had news of Joanna. My country is being torn apart and I am far away. Oh God!

At a poor hamlet above tree line, the horses were replaced by a team of six mules. The road got rougher and zigzagged ever upward. The Russian family were having an animated talk, but Putnam was looking out of the window. It was a sweet and sunny day. Patches of old snow remained, but the roadside grass was bright green and scattered in the green were small violet flowers. They came slowly up behind a herd of 100 big cows with long horns and mottled brown coats, being driven to mountaintop pastures for the summer. The carriage stayed behind them for a mile as the animals ambled on toward a pass flanked by glaciers, snowfields, peaks. Big bells on the cows' necks rang rambling tones befitting this fine day. How he loved mountains!

It was a long and tiring day. Late that night, they came into Turin on the train they had taken for the last few miles from Susa. He hired a cab to take him to the Hotel Feder. He walked into the grand lobby and looked about him. It seemed faded, compared to what he remembered from a dozen years ago. Well, he was a bit faded, too. In any case here he was in Italy's capital. Tomorrow he would set to work... but how?

The clerk said "C'é una lettera per Lei, Signore," and gave him an envelope from the American Legation. He opened it. The American Minister presented his compliments and would be pleased if Professor Putnam could find an early opportunity to call. How in God's name did George Marsh know he was here? He'd find out tomorrow, first thing. Just what, he wondered, was left of his "secret" mission? Sadness filled him, and worry as well. Why, in God's name, was he here?

It seemed so long ago this whole thing had begun, although it was only weeks since that Friday afternoon in Hanover. He stood at his lectern facing his two dozen students, happy to be nearly finished with his lecture. The students looked equally ready for it to end. Sanford had his eyes closed.

"And so in conclusion, you see, gentlemen—I trust you see, Mr. Sanford!—that there are differences between cases of treason. One man's traitor may well be another man's hero. But take General Arnold. He was the purest sort of traitor, and few will deny it. He was a man motivated just by jealousy and greed, and..."

At the back of the lecture hall he saw the Western Union delivery boy waving something. "...And so, young men, since I see Jimmy Holt waving at me with an urgent message that comes, no doubt, from the President of the United States, let us stop for now and resume on Monday. We will have some discussion then of our current band of traitors. Before that, read Bancroft on the discontent that rankled in Benedict Arnold's breast. Discontent can engender treason, but ask yourselves at what point it can justify treason. If it ever can, that is. A pleasant weekend to you all."

The undergraduates grabbed their notebooks, said quick goodbyes to their professor, and were on their way out of dusty old Dartmouth Hall in a minute.

"Jimmy," said Putnam, "Let me see what you've got for me. It had better be something important."

"Yes, sir. I mean, I think it is. Here it is, sir." He took the message, and Jimmy took a nickel and was gone. He sat down by the open window looking over the College Green and read the telegram. Of course it was not from Abraham Lincoln—but, dear God, it was from his Secretary of the Treasury:

Prof. S. Putnam
Dartmouth College
Hanover N. Hampshire

Urgent you see me Monday 10:00 AM in Department. Can you come?

S.P. Chase

Could he come? Of course. But why was his old friend from Ohio calling him down to Washington, this June of 1862? Stearns Putnam was no accountant, no financier, just a professor: an historian. He had not gone to the war, and at 43 he saw no reason to try for a commission, given his total lack of military experience.

He sat now at the window. He knew his limits, he told himself. It was not a question of fear. He would have said, if asked, that he was not a fearing man. What am I, then? Well, he thought, a civil man; a good citizen. He was proud of his physical condition, and he was known in Grafton County as an expert shot.

Stearns had been born and raised in Hanover, where his father was Dartmouth's Professor of Oriental Languages. As a boy of 12 he had been sent to an unusual school, Round Hill, 100 miles down the river in Northampton, Massachusetts. Two Harvard graduates, geology professor Joseph Cogswell and would-be historian George Bancroft, had come back from several years in Germany with the idea of starting a European-style preparatory school. Hence Round Hill, where boys from all over the country studied Greek, Latin, and modern languages. In summer they learned the outdoors on 25- and 30-mile marches, with a supply wagon following them and Cogswell walking along, telling them, "Be strong, be strong, boys, and banish fear!" Those were tough summers and tough studies, but it all toughened the boys, and they were proud of being fit and fearless.

Headmaster Cogswell sensed in young Putnam a love for the outdoors. After one of the long marches, the headmaster lent his copy of Emerson's long essay on Nature to Stearns, who ever after remembered reading, "In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages." Me, too, he thought, after looking in the dictionary for "connate."

Putnam went on from Round Hill to Kenyon College in Ohio, his father's alma mater. The college was situated in a 1,000-acre wooded reserve, and on a warm afternoon the young undergraduate would steal off to the secret place he had found, where dozens of huge oak trees surrounded a green meadow. He liked to imagine this had been the site of a Delaware village. It was a peaceful place where he could read without disturbance. One afternoon he brought with him his classmate Rutherford Hayes. They sat on a fallen oak trunk to discuss their futures. Rud Hayes, a good but staid fellow, was intent on becoming a lawyer. Putnam thought of his former headmaster, Cogswell, whose interests and experience were very broad. Perhaps he himself might wait a while to settle on a line of work.

After they graduated in 1842—Hayes edged out Putnam to become class valedictorian—Hayes went on to Harvard to study law, a path that would one day take him to the White House. Putnam came back to New England to teach at Dartmouth, as his father had done before him. It was not just his father; Hanover was near good woods and mountains. He wanted to teach, but more so he loved the wilds.

Within a couple of years, Stearns Putnam had stood atop most of the peaks in the White Mountains, from Moosilauke to Washington. He was also a hunter and ranged widely over the farms and mountains of New Hampshire. He was known for having shot one of the last New Hampshire wolves, one of a pair who followed him for miles through empty country one autumn. Often he hunted alone, but sometimes in autumn he would go with his friend Kidd.

Kidd was a bachelor who had a small house and carpentry shop at the southern edge of the village of Hanover. The sign outside said "N. Kidd, Carpentry," but no one knew what the "N" stood for. People called him just Kidd. A thin man of dark complexion, he was the perfect woodsman and knew the countryside even better than Putnam did. The two had met early one November day in the woods above Goose Pond. Each was out for deer. The weather was nasty. It was spitting snow, and visibility was poor. Each man caught a brief sight of the other, and each thinking he'd seen a deer, they came close to firing at one another. In two minutes more they had shaken hands, and by day's end they were friends.

Kidd was a little older than Putnam and declared a general distaste for civilization. He had no more than five or six years of schooling, but he read his paper every morning and had a fair understanding of national politics. He was good company. The best of it was that almost any time Putnam asked him if he would care to go to the woods, hunting or just hiking, Kidd would drop what he was doing and they'd go. The two men invariably had good outings, even though deer had gotten scarce and sometimes their camp dinner was mainly pemmican. Putnam liked his academic colleagues well enough, but Kidd was a true comrade, his only comrade other than Joanna.

Joanna felt slightly less fond of Kidd after she learned his usual female company was a lady who kept a house in Lebanon, to which he would repair on Saturday evenings.

"Stearns," she said, "You know I'm not a prude, but I don't like men buying women's bodies."

"I know, Joanna. I know it's not right. But, you know, the poor fellow's lonely. Men can be lonely creatures." He did not speak of the loneliness, the sadness, he sometimes felt in himself despite a loving wife.

Joanna shrugged, and she and Stearns invited the poor fellow to dinner every month or two. Both of them enjoyed hearing him rail against cities, governments, and wars, none of which he knew except from newspapers.

"Well, I did go down to Concord, once," he told the Putnams. "Somebody told me there that the population had reached ten thousand. He sounded proud of it, that fellow. Me, I was in an all-fired hurry to get away from all that noise and... and effluvium."

"Just as well you've never been to New York City," said Stearns. "The effluvium is even worse down there. I was offered a job in Manhattan, at Columbia College, a few years ago. Joanna and I talked it over, and we decided to stay here. It's pretty quiet in Hanover, at least when the students don't riot, and that's been quite a while. Sometimes it's too quiet, I'd say, but we've been to Europe once, and perhaps sometime soon we'll go again. Right, Joanna?"

"I do hope so," she said. "The White Church is a handsome structure, but it would be nice to see another cathedral or two."

Putnam was content to visit cities with Joanna on occasion, but he loved the woods in all seasons. During the college year he would leave town on a fair afternoon and jog several miles, walking and running along the road to Hanover Center and Etna. In winter he would walk eastward two miles out of Hanover, put on his snowshoes, and make his way from the road up to the high ledges called Velvet Rocks, to enjoy the view down the Connecticut River valley to Mt. Ascutney, 20 miles south. It was good to be alone, at least in small doses. And, he knew, he needed hard exercise. He needed an outlet for his energy. In fact, though, he had to admit it was more than a question of energy. Sometimes it came near to being aggression.

Several years ago now, walking down a street in Boston, the good citizen had seen a man grab an older woman's purse. Putnam ran after the thief and caught him after 100 yards. He knocked the thief down and pummeled him as he lay on the ground, breaking the fellow's jaw and nose. The police did not charge him, but they warned him that he might have killed the man. It was not something to tell his wife about—or his neighbors—and he had never done anything like that again; but then a similar occasion had not arisen since. In Hanover, most people knew him as a quiet gentleman.

What only his wife could see was how a rage, a fury, would sometimes come over him, say when he read of slaves being whipped in the South, and he would pace up and down in his study to calm down. When he learned Chief Justice Taney had found, in the Dred Scott decision of 1857, that the framers of the Constitution believed all black people were beings of an inferior order, he had a restless night. At dawn he took his horsewhip and walked out into his yard. Then for a quarter of an hour he lashed out furiously in the air at the spirits of Washington and Jefferson because he knew Taney was right: the proud Founders did think blacks inferior. They kept other humans in slavery. They had engendered heartless creatures like Roger Brooke Taney.

There were 300 Dartmouth students who did not answer Lincoln's call for volunteers. Some stayed on because they were too young, others because the army simply came second to their plans to teach or become physicians or enter the ministry. That was fine by President Lord. Nathan Lord was a graduate of Bowdoin College who had been president of Dartmouth for over three decades. He was old now, and Putnam sometimes suspected Lord's brains were addled. Although he was a Northerner, the President of the College had decided, and made it known, that the Bible fully justified slavery. Slavery was, he said, a divine institution. He did not want to see students go join the Union army. They should, he said, remember "the responsibility of their calling" and stick to their books.

It's a good thing, Putnam thought to himself this June afternoon in 1862, that there's some abolitionists like me around to balance the college scene. But is it right for me to be here when so many are off to the war? Friend Kidd's been in the field for months now, a gunnery sergeant. He says he's got a six-man team, and they're deadly with their Parrott rifle. I bet they are. And I am sitting here ignoring reality, the reality that thousands of Americans are dying on the field while thousands of others—no, millions—are slaves and are being whipped and chained because of their color. It is just altogether too easy to ignore these things, sitting in peaceful white New Hampshire. I may just need to get into this war, after all.

He thought of Jonathan Gibbs, his former student. Gibbs had entered the College a dozen years ago, the son of a Philadelphia minister—a black minister. Young Gibbs had been born free in the City of Brotherly Love. He was a gentle, and genteel, young man, but one day after class he filled his professor's ears with stories of the hatred and prejudice he and his family had experienced, and continued to experience, from their white fellow citizens.

"I'm sorry, Gibbs. I'm sorry," said Putnam. "What must you think?"

"Sometimes I think hard thoughts, Professor. Hard and bitter and, I confess, un-Christian." Gibbs had gone on, relating stories of the horrors he had heard from Southern blacks who escaped slavery and managed to reach the North. Putnam thought of Gibbs now. The last he knew, he had become a minister like his father. But was it enough to be a minister, or a professor, while a war for freedom was raging? Maybe not. But at least for Jonathan Gibbs the question did not apply. The army wasn't enlisting any blacks; not yet, anyway. Why not? What was in Lincoln's mind? He said the main thing was restoring the Union. What about ending slavery? The President was too damned timid on the subject.

Putnam broke off his long revery at the window in Dartmouth Hall. These last minutes he'd reviewed his whole life, it seemed. Now it was time to act. With the telegram from Salmon Chase in his hand, he walked down Main Street to the Western Union office and sent his reply to the Secretary of the Treasury. Samuel Ripley, the old office manager, assured him the message would be delivered in Washington within the hour.

Putnam was going to Washington, but only God and Salmon P. Chase knew why. Now to tell Joanna.

Don't be gloomy, he told himself. The temperature was over 70, and the afternoon sun shone bright. There was no wind along the ground, but above, a few white clouds were sliding slowly eastward. He could smell green things growing, and the lilacs were in bloom. Delicate new leaves were out on the big elms. It was an altogether fine day in early June in Upper New England. He walked up the street toward his well-loved white house with green gables, guarded by four oaks and ringed by a picket fence. His wife was there, planting petunias in their yard.

Joanna Morse Putnam had just turned forty-one. She was brown-eyed, brown-haired, pretty and slim, hardly any heavier than when they'd first met. Joanna was almost as tall as her husband and just as well educated. She came from Woodstock in Vermont. When she was 17, she had made the long trip west to Ohio to enter Oberlin College, that rare institution where women could study alongside men—and blacks alongside whites.

Her mother had not wanted her to go to Oberlin, had wanted her to stay home, to marry. Joanna saw her mother as, well, retiring, the very figure of a New England lady. Joanna loved her but did not want to emulate her. As a girl she had felt closer to her father and two older brothers. When she was 15, though, the brothers, Tom and Frank, had gone out to the Northwest, to Wisconsin, to seek their fortunes, and they never came home to Vermont.

That left her all the closer to her father, Noah Warren Morse, a prominent citizen of Woodstock who owned and edited the Vermont Mercury, the leading newspaper in that part of the state. He had taken her with him when he went to another town for a court session or political meeting. She had precious memories of those trips that were always, it seemed, on sunny days.

She would sit beside her father as they drove across the green hills of Vermont, which had been stripped of their virgin forests years earlier. Vermont was a land of pastures and sheep now, but there were still a few great trees. As their buggy coursed over ridges and through quiet valleys, Noah Morse taught his little daughter the names of all the trees they saw: white pines and sugar maples, tamaracks and beeches, oaks and yellow birches.

"I want you to love the land, my dear child. Love our trees and hills," he told Joanna. She always had, and she would. And she would always love him, too. He was gone now, but she remembered him well and often. A straight man, an honest man, himself like some great, straight forest tree. She wanted to honor him, to live a good life as he had done, but how? It was not enough to be just a New England housewife.

The summer that Joanna Morse graduated from Oberlin, she came up to Hanover from Woodstock to visit her cousin Amanda and Amanda's husband, John Frost, who taught medicine at the College. He introduced Cousin Joanna to a young colleague, a professor of history. Joanna Morse and Stearns Putnam found they had both studied in Ohio and that they had much else in common, from a hatred of slavery to a love of mountains. Soon his thoughts, she felt, were all on her—and hers on him. She had, she thought, never really been in love, although she had had a suitor or two.

The previous Christmas a young banker from Rutland, Nathan Rockwell, had pressed her hard to marry him. Her mother thought he'd be a good catch. What he wanted, though, it was clear to Joanna, was a docile, obedient spouse to keep house for him and give him children.

She had finally said to him, "Mr. Rockwell, you do not understand me, but I dare say I understand you. What you want, sir, is a pretty little slave for a wife, and I have no doubt you will find one in Rutland who will suit you well. Good day, sir." The banker had walked out red-faced and angry.

Now, months later, she woke one August morning thinking of Stearns Putnam. He was bright enough, she thought. Handsome, strong, maybe a bit rough, but within him she perceived a good soul. She liked those gray eyes, that trim figure. He would have been a good Indian fighter, she thought; he was a woodsman, a man like Cooper's Natty Bumppo.

That afternoon she said to him, "I would like to take you to Woodstock sometime to meet my mother. You know, my father died some years ago, in a stagecoach accident on his way to Brattleboro. I have two brothers but they've gone out to the Northwest and we never see them. So I'm really all my mother's got, and she wants to make sure I make good choices. I mean..."

He smiled, a broad smile. "Good choices? Joanna, you're not by chance proposing to me?"

"No, no," she said. He thought he saw her blush, very slightly. "We Vermont ladies leave that sort of proposing to gentlemen. Don't misunderstand me. I'm just proposing, I mean suggesting, we go see my mother. You do understand? I think there's a stage early tomorrow morning for White River Junction, and we can make a connection and get to Woodstock by afternoon."

"I have a better proposal, and if this one works, why... I mean to say, I've two horses that need to be exercised, my big mares, Robbie and Daisy. You've seen 'em. I inherited Daisy from my Uncle Will, who died a few months ago, and I ride her all too seldom. What do you say we ride the two of them over to Woodstock tomorrow? It's not 20 miles by the back roads, and the weather's bound to be good."

"That sounds fine. Let's do it."

They left at 9:00 AM, lunch in their saddlebags. It was a sunny day. By the time they had made their way into Vermont, both of them were hot and thirsty.

"Stearns," she said, "I know a pretty pond just north of Woodstock. It's midday, and you must be hungry—certainly I am. Mother's not expecting us, so best we not show up there until afternoon or she'll be angry she wasn't prepared to feed us lunch. Shall we go lunch at my pond?"

It was a very pretty pond, 40 acres of cool clear water. The horses drank from it and then began to graze in the adjacent green meadow, 20 sunny acres ringed by forest. A huge oak stood in the middle of the meadow, and in its shade the two young people made their picnic. They ate and drank, and reclined against the tree. He kissed her, and kissed her again, and would have done more but she said, gently, No. By and by the warm day made them sleepy. She let him lie then with his head in her lap, and she stroked his thick brown hair, and after a bit he said, "Passy measures."

"Passy? Whatever are you saying?"

"Passy measures. Shakespeare says something about a pavane in passy measures. I am looking at these great white clouds and thinking they're passing by like some noble dance, some slow pavane. I am thinking; no, I'm not thinking,"—and he rose up and knelt in front of her and took her hands in his two hands—"I am knowing. I love you. I want you. This is my proposal: Will you have me? I want to have you, forever. Dearest Joanna, will you marry me? I'm a selfish blockheaded fellow, but will you?"

She looked at him, looked into his eyes. "I'd never marry a blockhead. I had a chance to do that last year. But yes, Stearns. Yes, with all my heart. Yes, I'll marry you."

They were married that September in the little Universalist Chapel in Woodstock, which Joanna's mother attended most Sundays. Early in their marriage they read, together, Margaret Fuller's new book Woman in the 19th Century. They found they agreed with Fuller, and with one another, that theirs should be a marriage of intellectual companionship.

And also of love. Stearns knew Joanna loved him. Indeed she loved and admired him very much, not least for his good humor—although he had an occasional morose, dark hour or two—and for his hard work. His academic work, that was. "You know, Stearns," she said to him one afternoon, "You're a sight better with books and pens than you are with hammers and nails."

"That's sure. It's the nature of the beast; but not so bad a beast, would you say? Or would you say Namby-pamby? A sallow, bookish fellow? More brain than brawn?"

"I will say, I love the beast. You do know that? But you can prove yourself. Go hang that portrait of Emerson I had framed last week. I want it in the parlor, above the blue settee."

"And if I succeed without punching a hole in the wall, what reward? A little dalliance with my dear?"

"Elevate your mind, Mr. Putnam."

"I'll try, but first a kiss." She kissed him, a long kiss. They looked at one another. She smiled. He followed her upstairs.

Stearns loved and admired Joanna, he hoped at least as much as she did him. He sometimes feared he was too dour for her, too taciturn, but they achieved sweet intimacy and passion in an age when a wife might still call her husband Mr. Smith after years of marriage and sex was not to be discussed. Sometimes, in bed, Joanna wondered for a moment whether she was wanton, lascivious, not a proper lady; but then she would turn again to her husband and kiss his shoulder, his breast, his mouth, and he would turn to her again, and all was fine and good.

Along with Joanna's physical enticements came what Stearns thought of as a questing way. She read widely in New England and natural history. She seemed to know the scientific name of everything that grew in Grafton County. He soon found she also liked walking up mountains with him. They started with Moose Mountain near Hanover, really just a high ridge, only 2,300 feet above sea level. Two years later they made their way up Mount Washington, 6,288 feet high and a real climb; the elevation gain was 4,000 feet. The mountain was, as he well knew, often a place of violent weather, but they climbed on a cloudless, windless July day.

It was a day they always remembered. They started at dawn up the path rebuilt recently by Ethan Crawford, the huge and friendly proprietor of the large inn in Crawford Notch where they had spent the previous night. It was noon when they came up out of the last trees onto the grass below the rough, rocky summit and, after another half-hour, finally reached the summit.

Joanna looked about and said, "My first time at the top of New England! What glory, Stearns!"

Glory indeed, he thought. The other peaks of the great Presidential Range rose all about them, and Stearns tried to name them for his wife but could not remember more than Jefferson, Adams, and Madison to the north and northeast. Ah, and that was Lafayette, some miles southwest, and Moosilauke beyond. Far to the west, the long chain of the Green Mountains stretched up and down Vermont. Still farther west rose the clumped Adirondacks, a good 100 miles away. They could see a farm or two below them but no roads, no towns, no sign of urban life.

It was past 6:00 that evening when two tired, parched, and hungry Putnams came back down to the inn, just in time for pork chops, potatoes, and pints of cold ale. "Well done! You look tuckered out," said their host; and they were. "There'll be some weather this evenin'," he added. An hour and a half later, as they were climbing into bed, the heavens descended, wind and hail and heavy rain. But they were off the mountain and safe.

That afternoon, in a cleft on the bare sunny summit, Joanna had found a dwarf cinquefoil with yellow flowers. She called excitedly, "Stearns, look, this is the first I've ever seen; it's the rarest plant in the White Mountains!" He was standing some feet away, less interested in flowers than in the huge far thunderhead that foretold a storm. They always remembered their two different perspectives on the mountain. They had a lot of memories like that, good memories, from the two decades they had so far lived together.

Only once had they had a real argument. In July 1848, a "women's rights convention" was held in the small town of Seneca Falls, New York. Three hundred people attended, most of them from places nearby. A third of those attending signed a "Declaration of Sentiments" with accompanying resolutions. The document denounced in strong terms men's unfair treatment of women and called for the immediate enfranchisement of women. Joanna and Stearns learned of the meeting only days later, when they got the issue of the New York Herald that printed the Declaration.

"Hurrah!" she said. "We will, God willing, finally get some justice in this land of ours."

"What do you mean, justice? Do you really feel mistreated, my dear wife?"

"Not by you, dear husband; by the state, by the republic. As you may be aware, we do not have the vote. You are aware, of course you are. You know as well as I do that we used to have the right to vote in this state—and then after America won its independence, we lost ours. I think it was in 1783 that women lost the vote in New Hampshire. It's time to do something about that, that crime. It's truly a crime. It's shameful!"

"Yes, yes, I know. In fact the year was 1784 when women here lost the vote. But you know, Joanna, I vote for us both. You know that. I think I have never voted for a candidate you disliked."

"I think you really do not understand that women are a subject race. A subjugated race. A race subject to the whims of men, and I do mean whims. Sure, it's better than black slavery, but sometimes I wonder just how much."

"Dear God, how can you say such things?"

"Because I think about it every day. And you don't. You don't need to, you're a man. Well, you do need to. And I'm not the first woman to say such things. I was browsing the other day through that book of yours by Harriet Martineau, the Englishwoman, about her trip to America. She says that justice is denied to both white women and black slaves with no better reason than the strength, the force, that you white men can employ with us.

"Now, you say you and I are companions, as Margaret Fuller says we should be. Well, I think companions means equals—won't you agree? Start thinking about it, Stearns."

He did, and very slowly he decided she was right. So now there were two Putnams who supported suffrage for women. "And much good it does," he said. "This world seems immobile. It won't change in our lifetime, either suffrage or slavery."

"Maybe not," she said, "but I am going to write to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who organized that convention. I see she lives in Seneca Falls. That's too far to go visiting, but still, maybe I can help." She wrote to Stanton, and Stanton wrote back, and then Joanna talked with other women in Hanover.

She had an idea, she told them: "We have quilting-bees and spelling-bees; why not start a suffrage-bee, a voting-bee?" But the local ladies said they were too busy.

"They're afraid, Stearns. They don't want to touch it. They're afraid of their husbands. They're afraid they may be seen as, as unladylike. As rebels. Pariahs. They're cowards."

"And so they are, Joanna. But that's not you. Keep working."

A dozen years passed, with sadness as well as happiness. She bore a daughter who at two died of diphtheria. They had no more children. Joanna kept working for women's right to vote. Some Hanover women came to agree with her, but women were still denied the vote, and now the war had put off much discussion of the question. Husband and wife planted the last of the petunias and went inside. He said, "I have some news to tell you."

"What sort of news might that be?"

"News that I'll tell you over the good dinner you're going to make for us."

"That's not nice. I think you're playing with me."

"That comes later. Make dinner, and I'll tell my news—and wash the dishes, too."

"Hmm. A middling sort of offer. But no doubt the best I'll get."

She went to the kitchen, and he went upstairs to his study, to look up something that had been on his mind, the Hartford Convention of 1815. There was little on the subject in the College library. How many of the delegates from New England states had actually favored secession? Some, he knew. He had in mind writing an article on the subject. The bookshelves in his study held well over 1,000 volumes, but he couldn't find the answer.

In ten minutes he gave up and went down to the kitchen. There he found Joanna cutting up the ingredients for that best of New England dishes, red flannel hash: corned beef, beets, potatoes, onions, and only Joanna knew what else. Some folks liked hash for breakfast; the Putnams preferred it for an evening meal.

An hour later they sat down to eat at the big table in the kitchen where they had most of their meals. Joanna did not seem distressed when Stearns told her he must go down to Washington and would have to leave on tomorrow morning's train out of Norwich if he was to reach Washington by Sunday night.

"But, Stearns Putnam," said Joanna Putnam, "I do hope our friend Chase doesn't mean for you to stay down there. The College needs you. Heaven knows, I need you." She got up, walked over to him, looked down at him, and kissed him warmly on his forehead.

He looked at her and smiled. "Now," said he, "Let's play."

"I thought you said you'd wash the dishes?"

"Well, I recollect I did; but I won't mind if you help. You know my mother used to say 'Wash and wipe together, live in peace forever.'"

"Very well. We'll give it a try. The dishes, I mean."

Early next morning she fixed him a big breakfast and a lunch to take on the train, and at 6:30 he started down the street carrying his suitcase. It was not heavy, and when he reached the corner of Main Street, he told Fred Fisk, waiting there in his wagon for passengers, that he wouldn't need a ride for the last mile to the station.

When he got to the middle of Ledyard Bridge, he stopped, put down the case, and looked up the placid Connecticut River flowing down from the north, from the White Mountains. Another fine day, cloudless so far. A warm breeze was blowing up the valley from the south. He had promised Joanna that later in the summer, when the snow was gone from the mountains, they would go spend a night at the new Prospect House, high above tree line on the summit of Mt. Moosilauke.

He thought of John Ledyard, whose name this bridge bore. Ledyard had been a poor student in the College a century ago, but had become an intrepid traveler, dead in his 30s in Africa. Well, I'm going off, too, but just 500 miles. I'd best hurry, though, my train's almost due. On to the national capital!

As the train steamed down through Vermont, there came a curving stretch along the Connecticut, a broader river here than farther north. He looked idly at the placid water and the green woods over on the New Hampshire side. He thought again of John Ledyard. He could remember a little of the biography by Jared Sparks, the president of Harvard. Ledyard had tired of college, paddled a canoe down this river, and taken ship for England. He had sailed the Pacific with Captain Cook and traversed Siberia. What was it like, to be an adventurer like that?

It was Sunday night when he finally reached Washington City. Trains ran late now in wartime. He had missed his connecting train in New York and had to wait hours for another. He was tired and grimy with engine smoke when he checked in at the Willard Hotel in the nation's capital. He had done well to telegraph ahead for a room. The hotel was a huge place with five floors, but when he registered, he found people without reservations were being turned away.

On Monday morning he went down to breakfast at eight and found a noisy scene, a crowd almost all male, some uniformed officers, and many civilians. They were attacking plates of fishes and meats and pastries as they talked and gesticulated and smoked and called to the black waiters for more. He heard the plump fellow at the next table give his order: black tea, scrambled eggs, wild pigeon, two robins on toast, pigs' feet, oysters, some rolls. Putnam thought, Two robins for breakfast and maybe a couple of ducks for lunch? He ordered oatmeal and coffee.

New Englanders were lean, mostly. These Washington people, or at least a number of them, were just plain fat. They looked greedy rather than patriotic. Everyone knew the stories about the corrupt army sutlers who supplied the army with spoiled foodstuffs and defective equipment. These men looked like the ones who financed the sutlers. Putnam soon finished his oatmeal, paid his bill, and started off down Pennsylvania Avenue, wide, unpaved, and dusty, for the Treasury. He passed many people on the sidewalk. On the roadway were delivery wagons and a few private carriages, plus an occasional horse car on the single track that ran down the middle of the avenue, but the traffic was mainly two- and four-horse Army wagons. It was only early June, which in New England meant perfect weather, but here the day promised to be as hot as August up home.

He had traveled widely, but he had been in Washington only once before this, many years ago. As he approached the side of the Treasury and its great Ionic columns, he tried to recall where else he might have seen such a grand building. London or Paris, maybe, or Turin, but not in America.

In five more minutes he was in the Secretary's cool and high-ceilinged outer office. He was almost an hour early, but certainly that was better than coming late on a busy Monday morning in wartime. Portraits of old Secretaries of the Treasury lined the walls: Alexander Hamilton, Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire; he could only guess at the others. In not many minutes the present Secretary walked in, tall and handsome, balding, in a fine dark suit. Chase smiled slightly and shook Stearns' hand warmly.

Putnam could not remember for sure when he had first met Salmon P. Chase, who must be a good decade older than he was. It might have been when he was a boy and his father was teaching at Dartmouth, and Chase came to Hanover for his last two years of college. But it was in Ohio that they had become friends, when Putnam was studying at Kenyon College—which had been founded by Salmon Chase's uncle.

"Stearns, I'm glad you could come down to see me. How are you? How are things in Hanover?"

"Salmon, that is, Mr. Secretary, thank you, I'm pleased to be here. And to see you again. Hanover is pretty quiet, now that a number of the boys have gone off to the army. Half a dozen from below the Mason-Dixon Line went to join the rebels. We suspect they had President Lord's blessing... Is there something I can do for you?"

"Yes. But this whole affair has got to be kept secret. If anyone wants to know why I called you here, you must say that old Chase offered you a job in his Treasury—and that you could not accept. You can give 'em whatever reason you want to.

"But in fact there is a job for you, an important one, and my colleague Seward will tell you all about that. He will see you at the State Department, now. Go see William Seward, and he will tell you how you can serve our country. When you enter the State Department, they'll ask your name and what it is you want. Tell them your name is John Carruthers and you have an appointment with the Secretary.

"I'm sorry, Stearns, but I can't spend any more time with you this morning. Come to dinner this evening. Eight o'clock, if you please."

The State Department was housed in a handsome old brick building with big columns, adjacent to the Treasury. What could be in store for him here? He gave his name as Carruthers, John Carruthers, at the door, and an usher showed him upstairs to the outer office of the Secretary of State. He sat down in a plush chair and waited long, over half an hour. Finally he picked up a newspaper from a table. The front page reported a big battle at some place in Virginia called Fair Oaks. The rebels were in retreat. They were said to be throwing up defensive earthworks at the very edge of Richmond. The reporter thought that the fate of rebeldom was near at hand. Could it be?

In came two men. Putnam stood up. The older of the two was William H. Seward, unmistakable with his large nose figuring prominently in the day's cartoons. His hair, however, was no longer dark as it was in illustrations; it was white, almost silver. The younger man, with a smaller nose and bushy side whiskers, turned out to be the Secretary's son Frederick, his deputy as the Assistant Secretary of State.

William Seward offered him a chair. They sat, and Seward, facing him, leaned forward and looked at him with keen eyes. Penetrating eyes, Putnam thought. "Mr. Putnam," said the Secretary of State, "I am glad you could come. You must agree to tell no one of this meeting, not even the fact that we've met."

"I understand, sir. I agree."

"There are just six men who know that I am seeing you. One is the President; one is of course Salmon Chase; one is Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War, who remembers meeting you one weekend in Ohio when you were a student and he a young lawyer; and we are the other three. Let us keep the number to six. No, it will be seven; I had forgotten William Hunter, whom you will meet soon.

"Now let me explain what this is all about. I am putting together what Fred and I call the Secret Diplomatic Service. I want even its name to stay secret. Its members are going to go to Britain, the Continent, and the Mediterranean, and what they are to do is counter the efforts our enemies are exerting in those parts. The rebels, as we all know, have found sympathizers in various parts of Europe. Maybe not too many sympathizers, but influential ones; that's the problem. And the British are building ships, warships, for them. Our merchant ships are being sunk by the raiders, and the blockade runners are bringing into the South considerable stores of weapons and other goods—again, more than our newspapers have been reporting. We want you to go to Italy and help to stop all that."

Putnam shut his eyes for a few seconds. So if he wasn't going to be a soldier, he'd be an agent? A spy, was it? A leap into the unknown. Well, it would be a leap for the Union.

He opened his eyes and looked at Seward. His mind was racing. He said, "I'm honored, Mr. Secretary, that you should ask me to join this, this new corps. Frankly, I can't understand why you would want me. I know Italy rather well, but I'm no sort of diplomat. Or secret agent. May I have a few days to consider?"

"No. I need your answer now. And I need you. You are here because you come well recommended, and not just by Chase and Stanton, as an active and intelligent man—and, indeed, because you know Italy better than anyone else we might consider. And Italy is where we're going to send you. Are you acquainted with your fellow Dartmouth alumnus, George Perkins Marsh?"

"I know that Mr. Marsh is our Minister to Italy. But if I may correct you, he and I are not fellow alumni; I teach at Dartmouth, but I graduated from Kenyon College. I've met Mr. Marsh just once, several years ago, when he was the Vermont railroad commissioner."

"Very well. When you reach Turin, you will naturally call on Mr. Marsh as our envoy and an old acquaintance, but you are not to tell him what you're up to. You are to explain that you plan a sojourn in Italy of, say, several months. You've come both because of your health and because of your studies. I will leave it to you to decide what you say you'll be studying. It should be something that will warrant your travel to Italy. Am I clear, so far? Will you do it? Will you go?"

He sat silent for some seconds. How could he take this all in? He said, "Yes, you're clear, sir. I'll do it. I'll go. But may I ask questions?"

"Of course."

"I have a modest income, beyond what the College has been paying me, but it will hardly suffice for an extended trip to Italy. Incidentally, would you prefer that my wife accompany me, or not? And may I draw on the Government for funds to cover my expenses? But tell me, please, just how am I to stop these blockade runners and raiders?"

"Good questions, of course. I urge you to leave your wife in America. She's no doubt a fine person, but one travels faster who travels alone. As to money, Fred will advance you $3,000 in gold against your signature, and that will have to suffice until you return to this country. It may prove to be far more than you need, but on the other hand, you may encounter some problem that neither you nor I can imagine right now, something that requires funds. I suggest you deposit most of the $3,000 at the Riggs Bank down the street from here, rather than with some little New Hampshire banker who'd wonder where all the specie came from. Riggs of course has correspondents in Europe, and you can draw on them for what you need. Incidentally, I'm told you are a hunter. Am I right?"

"Oh, yes. I like to hunt, and I admit to being a fair shot."

"We have a small armory in the cellar here. I don't think we'll issue you a rifle this morning, but we'll give you a choice of handguns. But you had another question?"

"Yes, sir. Just how am I supposed to rid the seas of rebel ships? And how long do you propose I remain abroad? Will you want a report, or reports, from me after a time, and how can I best send them?"

"I really can't answer all your questions. I frankly have no idea what you can do about the rebel shipping. But friends tell me that you're an ingenious man. I know that's not much to say, but there you are. Incidentally, you will of course not have diplomatic immunity, or any sort of official status. If you should get into trouble, you might appeal to Minister Marsh for help, but I don't know how much help he could give you. As to reporting, I doubt there's a safe way to do it. You must assume someone will open and read any letter you send to America.

"I will of course see you as soon as you return, and I'd like to spend more time with you now, but I've been keeping the Russian Minister waiting in the other room and I don't want to anger him. Not without good reason, I mean.

"I wish you all possible success, my dear Mr. Putnam. I do not like setting people to impossible tasks. I am confident that you'll do good things for the Union. Fred, do take the professor in hand."

Wait! thought Putnam. You haven't told me nearly enough. "Mr. Secretary, one more minute, if you please. Am I to be the only member of this new service in Italy? Am I to make the acquaintance of any others?"

"Ah. Perhaps you will. Henry Sanford, our Minister to Belgium, is to coordinate the efforts of our new service, insofar as he can do so; but he will not necessarily make contact with you. I will also name Archbishop Hughes, who is abroad now and perhaps in Rome, on a private trip as the world is given to understand. I see no need for the two of you to meet, and I think you need not visit Rome. I wish you well, my friend."

"Thank you, sir," he said. "I will do my best."

They stood up. Suddenly came a sharp knock on the door. A very tall man entered. It was Abraham Lincoln.

"Seward," said the President, "You've got the Russian waiting to see you but we need to talk..." He stopped, realizing that the man with the Sewards was a stranger.

"Mr. President," said the Secretary of State, "This is Professor Putnam, whom I have just asked to go to Italy for us."

"Ah, yes. The man from Dartmouth College. You come well recommended. We need you. I need you. How soon can you leave?"

"Very soon, Mr. President. I hope..."

"Good. I wish you luck. It won't be easy for you. Italians are complex people, I believe. More complex than Virginians, even. But we cannot let them help the rebels. Now, you'll excuse us, but I must have a private word with the Secretary."

"Mr. President," said Fred Seward, "The professor and I are just going off to see William Hunter. Stearns, if I may, Mr. Hunter is our Department's number-three. He'll take you down to our little armory, and meanwhile I'll get you some gold."

Stearns nodded to the President and the elder Seward and walked toward the door. He looked back. Lincoln's gaze was fixed on him. The tall, gaunt President nodded slightly to the new Union agent.

By noon the new agent was back at the Willard, equipped with a .31 caliber Remington pistol in a holster under his shoulder, a small sack of new gold dollars, and a letter of credit from Riggs Bank. He consumed a bowl of good beef and potato stew in the dining room and went out to see the city. First he walked up to the Capitol, imposing but raw, unfinished, with scaffolding where someday there would be a dome. He turned and walked down to the Mall, looking toward the also unfinished, awkward, grayish stone stump of the Washington National Monument and thinking, There's all kinds of unfinished business around and about me. On the grass and bare earth of the long Mall stood 100 or more white army tents in neat rows. The rebel army must not be very far away, across the Potomac in Virginia. And soon I'll be across the sea. What will Joanna think of all this?

For an hour or more he wandered aimlessly down hot dusty streets. He came on a small herd of pigs ambling out of a back alley, cruising for garbage, and they were finding it. They looked at him in an unfriendly way. He laughed and told them, "Don't worry, fellows. I'm not competing with you!" Not a sight you'd see in Boston, he thought. This is a camp, a big shabby camp, and no sort of capital.

There was, he found that evening, a better part of town. At 8:05 he knocked on the door of Salmon Chase's imposing three-story brick house at 6th and E Streets and was admitted by a white manservant sporting gold braid and gold buttons on his jacket. When he walked into the elegant front parlor, he found several guests had already arrived. A tall young woman, graceful and elegantly dressed, came up and offered him her hand. It had to be Kate Chase, who as everyone knew acted as hostess for her thrice-widowed father.

"I'm Kate Chase," she said, "and you must be Papa's friend, Professor Putnam. Papa's in his study for the moment, signing some papers, but he will be finished soon. Let me introduce you to our other guests."

The first of them, a man of 60 with bushy gray eyebrows and a gray mustache, said he was Ben Wade. The Senator from Ohio, and a strong abolitionist, Putnam remembered. He said, "I am honored to meet you, sir. I was born in Ohio and I studied there, at Kenyon College, but I teach at Dartmouth. Perhaps you know the name of my uncle, Return Meigs, Junior."

"He was of course our governor, and we Ohioans honor his memory. As I recall, his father came out to Ohio after the Revolution. But you, as I understand it, have decided to be a New Englander. Sometimes, I know, that can seem a long way from Washington. I trust there's no rebels or Copperheads up your way? What brings you to Washington, Mr. Putnam?"

"Secretary Chase asked me to come down. He very kindly asked me if I would join his Department, but I'd already made firm plans to go abroad, to Italy. I'm planning to do several months of research there, for my next book. I'm an historian."

"And just what will you be accomplishing there for our cause? We're in difficult straits, Mr. Putnam, we need all the help we can get. Are you going to be able to keep the Italians from recognizing the so-called government down in Richmond?"

"I don't think they'll listen to a middle-aged professor. If I had any useful experience, I'd go for a commission. But..."

Here came the host, just at the right moment to end a conversation that was going nowhere good. In any case the neophyte secret agent had not revealed himself. Nor was he enjoying himself. He was going to have to tell a lot of lies. It was not a good feeling.

Chase greeted him, adding quietly that Seward had told him the professor had agreed to serve. "I have, indeed," said Putnam, trying to put a smile on his face. Then it was time to go into dinner. There were 12 at table and the dining room was brightly, indeed brilliantly, illuminated by gas lights. Putnam thought he had never seen anything so splendid. Or so incongruous, with 200,000 men battling, dying, down the road from here. This is enough of Washington dinners. I'd like a chance to talk quietly with my friend Chase, but that won't happen. I wish I were on Wheelock Street at supper with Joanna instead of dining with these grand people. It's time to go home. I can hardly wait for tomorrow's train. But what will she think of me going off to Italy, and without her?


At 9:00 on the morning after he reached Turin, a rested, bathed, and combed Stearns Putnam called on George Perkins Marsh at the legation's less than imposing offices in the center of the capital of Italy. Putnam had never been in a legation before, or for that matter in an embassy. As he knew, the United States had no embassies or ambassadors. That was too grand a level of diplomatic representation for a republic that wanted to steer clear of entangling alliances with foreigners. Most major countries had embassies abroad, but American diplomatic missions were small legations, headed by envoys with the title of minister.

This minister was a pleasant, slightly plump man of sixty. Putnam remembered him as being thinner. But if plump, he had the tanned face of a man who liked the outdoors. Perhaps he spends his weekends in the Alps, thought Putnam. Perhaps I can do the same. I'd feel better if I could tell Marsh what I'm about, but that's not what Seward wanted, and Seward knows more about this gentleman than I do. A great gossip, he may be, for all I know.

"I am pleased to see you again, Professor Putnam. I remember meeting you in Vermont. Secretary Seward wrote me that you'd be coming. I gather you're on a scholarly mission?"

"Quite so, Mr. Minister. My hope, my aim, is to do enough research here that when I get home, I can finish a history of the Savoys. Just one volume, I think, beginning with the first Umberto and ending eight centuries later with the present Vittorio Emanuele. I hope you may see this as a worthwhile endeavor."

"I do, indeed. We need such a book. Tell me, how long a stay do you intend in Italy? My wife and I should be glad to have the company of another American—a loyal American, that is; there are a few rebels around here, too."

"I plan a stay of not more than several months. My wife has stayed in Hanover, and, well, I dare to hope that by the end of this year we may see an end to the rebellion."

"When did you leave New York?"

"I sailed from Boston on June 10th. At that point the papers were describing McClellan as feeling his way toward Richmond. There was some expectation the city might fall soon. But do you have any more recent intelligence? I have of course begun reading the American news in Galignani's Messenger, and it seems to arrive from Paris a little faster than it once did, but one never knows how comprehensive their reports may be."

"I have just received a dispatch from the Department that was sent on June 17th. The news is not good. Richmond has not fallen. Our offensive, it seems, has failed. You should not deceive yourself about George McClellan, sir. To be frank, I see McClellan as someone who operates on a mixture of both cowardice and treachery. Oh, I don't mean treachery to the Union; I mean treachery to this administration. We suffer here, of course, from a lack of up-to-date information. God knows when we shall again have a trans-Atlantic telegraph, one that works, I mean, but from what I can see at this distance, there is just no chance of an early end to the conflict."

"I understand. And I guess I'm not surprised, but I'm sorry to hear it. If I may turn again to the Savoys, I am hoping, in particular, that the court will grant me access to the royal archives. I was here some years ago, but I had no thought then of undertaking my present project. All this to say that I'd be grateful if you could put me in touch with officials who might help me."

"Of course, of course," said Marsh. He sprang up, darted to his office door, and opened it. No one was there. He closed it and returned to sit back down with Putnam. He looked keenly at Putnam and said to him quietly, "Let us get down to business. I had a visit last week from my colleague in Brussels, Sanford. Studies are studies, but I know why you've really come. You should trust no one in this country but me. Well, and my wife, Caroline. In particular you should be wary of my number-two, the secretary of legation, Billy Hazlitt. He is a Virginian. He says he's a loyal Virginian, but I have reason to doubt him.

"Just what you do here is up to you, but do try to stay out of jail. It can be easier to get into this king's prisons than to get out, or for me to try to get you out. I can introduce you to people in and out of the court, but there are some—one person in particular—whom you must get to know on your own. When you were last here, did you by chance meet the Princess Marie de Solms?"

"I think not. Was she the one they used to call Princess Brouhaha? The good friend of your predecessor, Mr. Daniel?"

"The same. She's also, you may know, a great-niece of the Emperor Napoleon I. It seems John Daniel infected her with his rosy views of slavery. The king likes her, at least on the days when she's not too outrageous. Indeed, they say it's been more than just a liking. And now she has become the very good friend of Giuseppe Rusconi. I surmise the King got tired of her and pushed her off on his premier. "

"Rusconi is the new prime minister? When I was last here he was, I believe, the minister of posts and railways."

"Quite right. He is that again, now, as well as premier. A moderate man, he's even been something of a reformer, but of course a royalist and no sort of republican. Strongly anticlerical, which fits well with the King's views and, frankly, with my own. I'm sure you recall that the Pope excommunicated the King two years ago. Someday I shall write a book about this corrupt and cruel Church.

"I'm not quite sure," Marsh went on, "just what Rusconi wants to do about America. I'm not sure he is giving much thought to us for the moment, maybe because he doesn't know much about us. He's not the statesman his predecessor Camille Cavour was. Rusconi is focused on domestic matters. He wants to produce a truly unified Italy, and he's got a long way to go before that work's complete. This country's behind the times.

"But as to Italy and our rebels, I think you know that most Italians have no love for black slavery. Even so, if France or England decide to recognize the rebel regime, I fear Italy will follow suit. Both France and England want to see America stay divided. They don't want a big united America that can challenge them... and in the future we will challenge them. Italy's motives are different. It's not a leader, no great power. All too often it looks—at least to me it looks—like a satellite of France. When Rusconi was asked in Parliament, not long ago, whether Italy was going to send troops to Mexico to join the French there, all he could find to say was that he'd act in Italy's best interest.

"We—you—must try to do something more to make these people decide that their best course is to go their own way, which means supporting the Union and not the damned rebels. Perhaps you can best find a way through the Solms woman.

"Marie de Solms is fluent in English. She may tell you at some point that her father was English, a Member of Parliament named Wyse. So the record shows, but I've learned that Marie was born three years after her parents separated. There's a story that her real father was some Irish captain. I wonder if it may be a case of like mother, like daughter. Incidentally, the princess still has a husband. She has nothing more to do with the Prince de Solms, but at least for now there can be no question of her marrying Rusconi.

"I think we'd best stop here. Those who are watching—and I have no doubt there's a police agent in the street—should not surmise this was something other than just a professor's polite call on an envoy. I wish you to keep in touch. Caroline and I will hope to see you soon at dinner."

As Putnam walked out the door, he caught sight of a man lounging by a big plane tree across the street, looking down the street as if he expected someone. It's me he's been expecting, Putnam thought. Well, once warned, twice wary. And he set off for the Hotel Feder. Marsh, he thought, is all right. He says to trust him, and I will, but that doesn't mean he has to know everything.

The hotel clerk confirmed the Princess de Solms kept a suite in the hotel. She was out just now, but was expected in the afternoon, when she usually received friends in her suite. Putnam took out a card, wrote on it that he would be honored to call on her, gave it to the clerk, and walked out. He spent two hours strolling through one of Europe's more elegant capitals, then ate a light lunch of salad and cold meats, sitting outside at a café in the rectangular, noble Piazza Castello. He looked at the large royal palace on the north side of the piazza and thought, How do I penetrate a palace? He walked back to the hotel. The clerk said the Princess de Solms was in and was receiving callers. He walked up one flight of stairs, and a maid showed him into her suite. Beyond a corridor came an elegant salon with yellow wallpaper, and there she sat, alone. She rose to greet him. She was in her early 30s, younger than he had expected, and prettier. Dark hair above pale white shoulders, large round brown eyes, a small mouth that made her, he thought, look demure. She wore some perfume he thought he had never smelled before, faint, sweet and alluring.

She looked into his eyes and said in English, "Professor Putnam, I believe."

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you for receiving me. Ma forse Ella preferisce parlare italiano?"

"Thank you, but no. I trust you can understand my English, even if I lack an American accent."

"Of course. And I trust you can understand my own accent. I come from the state of New Hampshire, north of Boston. I am an historian, and I'm here to attempt a work on the long history of the Savoys, a work which up to now is lacking in our literature. What American readers need, in my view, is a single volume in English, not an exhaustive or definitive work, but one that's based on good scholarship. I think—but please forgive me if I'm getting carried away."

"Not at all. I think you are on to an excellent thing. The Savoys are an interesting clan, and I'm sure your book will prove dulce et utile, as Horace demands. Is there some way I might help you?"

"Indeed, I hope so. I have visited Piedmont twice in earlier years, but I came then to study Italy without the thought of writing about it. Now I want to meet people who can tell me both about the recent years of the kingdom and about its history. And if I am to write a worthwhile book, I will need to delve deeply into the old archives. If you can point me in useful directions, I will be most grateful."

"With pleasure. I might begin by putting you together with my friend Mr. Rusconi, who as you may know is president of the council of ministers, the premier, that is. Would you be prepared to call on him, say, tomorrow?"

"Of course. At any time."

"And then you shall come back to me, and we shall talk some more." She smiled, not quite demure but, he thought, almost inviting, even seductive?

It was two days later, on a Wednesday morning, that he walked to the Palazzo Carignano, ponderous, brick, and ugly, the seat of the Italian government. He had spent the interim, or much of it, reading what he could about Giuseppe Rusconi, his views, and his government. The Feder had a well-stocked library of books and magazines in both English and Italian, and when Putnam walked into the palazzo, he felt he had gained a fair understanding of Italy's premier. He had not much liked what he read. Rusconi was not a man to trust, it seemed.

Putnam was ushered into the prime minister's grand reception room and sat down in a plush chair. In two minutes Rusconi walked in, a thin man wearing a large dark mustache and a serious look. He was somewhere in his 50s. He greeted Putnam politely if not warmly. He said immediately he had already sent word to the King's aide-de-camp that he hoped the court would give the professor free access to their archives, it being understood that papers from recent years could not be made available. "I am glad to know," he said, "that an American scholar is showing such interest in our distinguished royal family."

This was the opening Putnam wanted. "Mr. Prime Minister," he said in his fluent Italian, "I want to do what I can to inform my fellow countrymen about your country, both past and present. The history of the Savoys is fascinating, and the unification of your country under Vittorio Emanuele II means even more to us because of the unfortunate rebellion that has split our own Union. I am only a professor, not a politician, but my friends and I all hope that the Europeans will support our Union. Europe can be sure the rebels are going to end in defeat, but of course we don't know when.

"Frankly, if I may go on for a moment, there are great powers that may prefer a divided America because they fear a united and growing America will become too much of a competitor for them. But it seems to me that it's different for Italy. I think we can be a useful partner for you.

"You know, perhaps, that there are few Italians in our country now, I think no more than ten thousand. Most of them are to my knowledge in California, where they first went for the Gold Rush a dozen years ago. They've stayed, and by and large I think they've prospered, and my personal hope is that the future will bring many more Italians to America. Forgive me for speaking too long, but as you see I am a firm friend of Italy."

"You speak well, Mr. Putnam. We like the Americans, even if so far few of us have followed Columbus and Verrazzano across the sea. We wish America well." He opened a small silver box and held it out to Putnam. "May I offer you a cigarette? We Piedmontese are beginning to find them preferable to cigars, especially the cigarettes that, like these, are made of the finest dark tobacco. Virginia tobacco, I might add."

Hmm, thought Putnam. How is Virginia tobacco reaching Turin? "No, thank you," he said. "I don't smoke. I trust your tobacco warehouses have good stocks. I think our naval blockade is going to make it difficult for Virginia tobacco to reach Europe." He sensed Rusconi had seen enough of him, and so continued, "Mr. Prime Minister, I have taken too much of your time. I am very grateful to you for approaching the court on my behalf. I have much to learn about the history of the royal family, and I am anxious to get to work."

"Mr. Putnam," said Rusconi, "I thank you for this visit. I have met all too few Americans. I wish you well."

That was rather ambiguous, Putnam thought as he walked out. Just what Americans does he wish well? And I wonder what Americans he has met. I don't like the man. I wonder whether he aims to help our rebels—and maybe make some money in the tobacco trade—and maybe not just tobacco?

When he returned to the Feder, there was a lady waiting for him, sitting in the lobby. An attractive and well-dressed lady. It was Gemma Bionaz, his acquaintance from the ship. "Mr. Putnam, I mean Stearns, I happened to be passing by, and it struck me you might be staying here. The clerk told me you'd probably return soon, so I thought to wait for you. Giovanni and I would like you to come to dinner, one evening soon. Can you come to us?"

"Of course," he said, "I will be delighted to come."

This was Wednesday; on the Saturday evening he took a cab to the Bionazes' new house a mile beyond the outskirts of Turin. He had expected a modest place, but it was impressively large behind its stone wall.

He had looked back twice along the way there, and he was fairly sure another carriage had followed him. Judging from what Minister Marsh had said about police agents, it was not unusual for a foreigner new in Turin to be followed. Or was it? Had the neophyte secret agent somehow shown his hand? When he got out of the cab, he saw the other carriage pass by and turn right at the next crossing.

He rang the bell. Gemma herself opened the door, led him in, and introduced him to her husband. Giovanni was tall and trim and spoke almost perfect American English, even better than Gemma's.

There were only two other guests, another married couple. Carlo Costa was a pleasantly plump fellow with thick side whiskers. Maria Costa was a thin, almost scrawny lady, in no wise beautiful. They, too, spoke fluent American English. Signora Costa had an animated way and a high-pitched voice, and though not lovely, she was somehow attractive. She demanded his attention. She wanted to know, immediately, what part of America he came from? Why, if he was from the North, he was here instead of serving as a Union officer? Why had the North not already taken Richmond? Why had the Southern blacks not revolted?

"Maria," said her husband, "Let up a bit on the poor man!"

Putnam smiled. "I don't mind. Those are good questions, but even if I am a professor, I'll not attempt to lecture just now. My turn for a question: are the Costas former New Yorkers, like our hosts?"

They were, and republicans as well. In the Costas' case it was Maria who had gone to jail, for several months, over a dozen years earlier. "Anyway," she said, "We got the Statuto, the constitution, in 1849. It's not a very good one, but it's better than none. Better than the tyranny everywhere else in Europe!"

It became clear over dinner that the four former New Yorkers were all strong for the Union. They hoped, they said, that Putnam would speak out strongly for the Union cause in the course of his stay in Italy. "Indeed," he said, "I intend to do just that, with anyone who will listen to me."

Dinner ended, and as they rose from the table, Gemma told the maid who had served them they would need nothing more. She and the cook could go home, it being Saturday evening, as soon as the dishes were done.

The hostess led the way into a paneled library and shut the door. They sat down, Putnam in the middle of a sofa with a lady on either hand, and the two other men in chairs facing them. Giovanni offered small glasses of a greenish strong digestivo. God! thought Putnam, trying not to grimace, What foul stuff!

Giovanni looked at him and laughed. "It's good for you, Stearns. Made by the monks. Helps digestion and kills all the parasites!"

"Stearns," said Gemma, "Maria is Genoese, like me. Carlo comes from La Spezia, which you will recall is farther down the Ligurian coast from Genoa. His family has had a winery in La Spezia for a long time. Several generations, I think, Carlo?"

"Seven," said Carlo Costa. "Our firm produces several wines, and we're the main producer of sciacchetrà. Do you know sciacchetrà? Not a digestivo, quite different. It's a sweet fortified wine, the best of its sort in Italy. Quite expensive, I might add. We make it from grapes grown on the terraces above the five villages we call the Cinque Terre. Our home is at Genoa, but we have a place in La Spezia as well. We will be happy to have you as our guest in either place.

"If I may change the subject," Costa continued, "there is someone whom I might call an interesting American living in Genoa. He is a Virginian, and his name is Charles Taliaferro, but it seems in Virginia they pronounce it Tolliver. He has a cousin, he tells people, who is a Confederate general. This man, who wants the Genoese to call him Carlo Taliaferro, is, I am sure, a Confederate agent. I have taken the occasion to mention this to the American consul in Genoa. The consul is a man named Wheeler, and he's intelligent enough, but until he reached Italy some months ago, I think what he knew about the world came out of books. He was a professor in some little college in the state of Iowa."

"Interesting," said Putnam, "but why do you mention this to me? I'd be delighted to visit you in Genoa, and I suppose I may have occasion to meet our consul there at some point, but I'm not sure I want to make the acquaintance of any Confederate agents." In fact, he thought, I may want to do just that.

"I am not exactly sure," said Costa, "why I mention this. Perhaps it's because, to be blunt, I think Taliaferro is hoping to have his Confederacy use the port of Genoa in one way or another. And someone has got to do something about this."

"Certainly in saying 'someone,' you don't mean me?"

Maria Costa broke in her husband. "What Carlo means is that there are no Americans in or around Genoa except for Wheeler the consul, an artist or two, some rich old banker we've never met, and a few semi-Americans like us. Everyone in Genoa and La Spezia knows that the only thing left of the US Navy's Mediterranean squadron is one sailing ship. It doesn't even have a steam engine. I don't think it's even based in La Spezia, as used to be the case. What if the Confederates set up a naval base on our coast? Or they start shipping all sorts of guns and ammunition out of Genoa? Or both? What then? Who's going to stop them?"

"Maybe," said Putnam, "you should go talk to our envoy here in Turin, Mr. Marsh. He seems a sensible man."

"Sensible?" she said. "Someone told me he's busy writing a book about trees. Trees! Nero fiddles while Rome burns. Isn't that what they say?"

Putnam was thinking fast. What am I supposed to say? Who are these people, really? For all I know, Giovanni Bionaz is really the police chief and Carlo Costa is his deputy. He said, "I don't know what other people say, but from what I know of Mr. Marsh, I believe him to be a man of good sense... In any case I shall certainly visit Liguria in the course of my research, and if I happen to learn anything that our government should know, I will as a good citizen plan to pass the information on to either Consul Wheeler or Minister Marsh. But I doubt I'll come on much useful intelligence in the archives in Liguria, or for that matter in the ones here in Turin."

Carlo Costa said, "If you go so far as Genoa, and that is easily done now that we have the railroad from Turin, you must travel beyond and see the Cinque Terre. That will take longer. You must come from Genoa by sea. Someday we'll have a railroad all the way down the coast from Genoa to Rome, but I wonder if I will live to see it completed.

"Anyway, it's a unique area, though I must say it's rather poor. And then you will come to La Spezia, where, I say again, you'll be our guest. It will be my pleasure to show you our winery. It's not large, but it is modern, and we make excellent wines, and not just sciacchetrà!"

"Thank you," said Putnam. "I would love to do all that. Perhaps, say, in September? Before then, I anticipate having to do weeks of work in the archives, first, I think, here in Turin and then in Genoa."

Giovanni Bionaz broke in. "I have a different proposal for you. Gemma has told you I come from the mountains above the Val d'Aosta. I have inherited an old house there, near a village called Ceresole. Turin is already hot. August is nearly on us, and will be worse. Think of coming to us at Ceresole for some summer weekend. But first I suppose I should ask, do you in fact like mountains?"

"I do, very much, but I know only our Eastern mountains, and of course they're not even half the height of the Alps. I'd be delighted to have a chance to visit your village, in August, if you like."

The Costas were staying somewhere in the center of Turin, and they drove Putnam back to his hotel. It had been an interesting evening. The two couples, he decided, were exactly what they claimed to be. They had been honest with him. Somehow or other they could help him... help him to do what?

Two weeks had now passed since he reached Italy. It was more than five weeks since he had left Hanover. He had written four letters to his wife and received none. He had told Joanna before he left Hanover that he hoped to stay at the Hotel Feder in Turin and she should write him there. Each evening he asked at the desk, and each time the clerk said no letters from America had come for him. He hoped she was not having money troubles. He had inherited his Uncle Will's big dairy farm down in Cornish, and the milk sales should be providing her a good $200 dollars a month.

Putnam had quickly gained access, thanks to the prime minister, to the royal archives. Although he had not really come to Italy to do research, he was going to have to do a good amount of research if he did not want the reasons for his Italian sojourn to be called into question. Well, perhaps a book really would come of it.

On his first day in the royal palace, he was ushered in to the office of a kindly gentleman named Provana who showed him around the private library and its copious collection of historical and genealogical works. Provana, who mentioned in passing that he was not just an archivist but a Senator, told him politely that he could have access to all the archives. They went back a long way.

"One or two of our documents," said Provana, "even date from the time of the Longobards, the time before Umberto, who as you will recall was the first of the Savoys, appeared on the scene around the year 1000. However, even if you know Latin well, as I suppose you do, the ancient calligraphy can be hard to decipher. Perhaps you might best begin with published works." Putnam said that made good sense to him.

He had been going through the library's dusty books for some days, taking extensive notes and wondering whether he was wasting his time, when an usher in an elegant tailcoat appeared.

"Signor professore, ora Sua Maestà La riceverà."

The King wanted to see him, and right now? Well, he thought, I can hardly refuse that. Dear God, I hope they won't search me on the way. He had decided that the Remington revolver was too bulky to carry around every day. He was a little worried about his security, though, and so had taken to carrying the Bowie knife his father had given him on his 12th birthday, in its old leather sheath on his belt at his left hip. It had a six-inch blade. It was not something to wear to a royal audience.

In ten minutes he was shown into a large and sumptuous room somewhere in the royal apartments. He had not been searched. Here came the King, in uniform, many decorations on his left breast. Vittorio Emanuele II, Putnam knew, had been born in 1820 and so was just over 40, a year younger and, Putnam saw, three or so inches shorter than himself. He was bearded, but more noticeable were his big mustaches that curled up at the ends and gave him a fierce look. What he said to the American, though, was not fierce but friendly.

"We are pleased to see you in Turin, Professor. Our friend the Princess de Solms has explained to us your purpose in coming here. We hope your researches will prove useful. Tell me, what is happening in your country? Our envoy in Washington, Bertinatti, has been reporting to us that the outcome of the American rebellion is quite unsure."

"Your Majesty, the times are difficult, but we are certain that our Union will prevail. I cannot say how soon. The rebel Confederacy of course controls a large territory, but it has fewer people and is lacking in resources. The rebels are, as Your Majesty must know, hoping for help from European states. I cannot speak for my government, but I know Mr. Lincoln trusts that no other government will recognize the rebels. Or give them aid."

"Certainly Italy will not do so. We detest black slavery, but we admire the Americans. You may not know that a dozen years ago, after we suffered reverses at the hands of the Austrians, the autocratic Hapsburgs wanted us to revoke our new constitution. We had suffered severely in the war. I personally resolved that we would suffer no more insults. I told the Marchese d'Azeglio, our prime minister, who had himself been severely wounded in the battle for Vicenza, that sooner than do away with the constitution I would pack up and go to America. Perhaps it was an outlandish thing to say. I was young then, and I suppose impetuous. But I am a hunter, and I think I fancied myself as becoming a sort of Leatherstocking, if a more prosperous one than—what was his real name?"

"Your Majesty perhaps refers to Cooper's hero Natty Bumppo."

"Exactly. Bumppo. Well, I did not emigrate, and we have had some recent successes in this country. But if I had gone to America, I would not have gone to the South but to the North. What part of the North do you come from?"

"I come from New Hampshire, Your Majesty, north of Boston. It is a region of mountains, but we also have prosperous farms and towns. There is good hunting. Perhaps some day Your Majesty will pay us a visit. We would be honored to welcome you in New Hampshire."

"Perhaps some day I will come. In any case I do not like the slave masters. I like them even less," he said with a slight smile, "than I like priests or Austrians. Have you any requests?"

"Your Majesty is very kind to ask. But no, I have no requests. Senator Provana has been most helpful to me, and I am very grateful for that. I will only add that I cannot make this visit to Italy a very long one. While I want to make sure that the history I plan is well based in fact, it worries me to be so far away from my country."

"I understand. I hope that your army will prevail. Come see me again if there are any questions I might answer about my interesting family."

He left the King's apartments feeling satisfied. No more dusty books today. He had better go tell Marsh about his royal audience. Where would it lead, if anywhere?

Marsh had told him on his first visit that he did not keep afternoon office hours. He needed, he said, some time for literary pursuits. Could it be that he was really writing a book about trees? No matter, thought Putnam; this minister is a good sort.

It was on the morning after seeing the king that Putnam walked into the legation for the second time. He was met at the door by an Italian, a clerk, whom he had not seen on his previous visit. The clerk led him not to Marsh but into another office. There, sitting at a large desk under a framed lithograph of George Washington—not a very good one, Putnam thought—was a small young man with blond hair and blond mustache, who rose to meet him. "I am Mr. Hazlitt, sir," he said in a Southern accent, perhaps a little pompously. "I am the secretary of legation. May I help you?"

"Stearns Putnam. I'm a professor. May I see the minister?"

"Let me see if he is free. Kindly wait, sir, and I shall return." He did so in a couple of minutes. "Minister Marsh will be happy to see you, Professor. This way, please." He led the way into George Marsh's office with what Putnam decided was more pomp than the moment required.

Hazlitt walked out, bowing, obsequious, shutting the door behind him. In a low voice Putnam told the minister about his meetings with both king and prime minister.

"I had no doubt," said George Marsh softly, "about the King's feelings toward America, but he does not fully control his prime minister, and I am far from sure about Rusconi. I have just heard a rumor that Rusconi may have an interest in some venture involving trade with the rebels. Ah, have you seen the Princess de Solms?"

"Yes. Just once, so far. I think she must have asked both the prime minister and the King to receive me. She has apparently left town for her villa at Aix, but I will hope to see her again, soon after she returns to Turin."

"Well, I'm glad you're beginning to find your way around Piedmont. But then, you've been here before. It's not exactly new territory for you."

"No, but of course the circumstances are. I have to tell you, I have some personal worries. I have not heard from my wife since I arrived here, although there has been plenty of time for letters to arrive. I am going to write to friends in Hanover, to see what they may know."

"Was she to write you in care of the Hotel Feder?"

"Yes, yes, I told her I thought I would be staying there, and she should in any case write to me there. But they say nothing has come for me."

"I ask," said Marsh, "because often enough people in America send letters for friends or relatives in care of the legation." In a louder voice he called "Billy!"

Billy Hazlitt came in, a little too quickly, Putnam thought. Had he been listening at the door?


"Do we by chance have in our pile of poste restante any letters for Mr. Putnam?"

"It is actually quite a large pile, Mr. Minister. The latest post has just arrived. Shall I go through them all?"

"Yes, do, by all means. In fact I'll help you look. Professor, if you don't mind waiting, we will see if by chance there is something for you."

Hazlitt and the minister returned in five minutes. Marsh announced, "We have found a letter for you, Professor Putnam, that came just now. Here it is."

Hazlitt walked out again, closing the door. Marsh said, "Sit here on the sofa, my dear Putnam, and read your mail, while I busy myself at my desk."

The envelope was in Joanna's hand. The flap did not appear to have been tampered with. He opened it. She had written on July 10th. What did he want her to do about Frank Anthony? She hoped her letters were reaching him at the legation. She had written down the name of the hotel where he planned to stay, but after he left, she simply could not find the sheet of paper. She had looked everywhere. Cousin John Frost had told her that foreigners usually stayed at the Hotel Europa when they were in Turin, but she knew that was not the right name, so John said it was best to write in care of the legation. Could he ever forgive her for forgetting such a thing?

My poor dear wife, he thought. What was this about Frank Anthony, their helpful neighbor on Wheelock Street? And how many letters had Joanna sent to him at the legation before she left Hanover for Washington? Where were the letters? She had written this letter three weeks ago.

"Putnam, you look worried. Have you had bad news?"

"Why... No. But from what my wife writes, this is not the first letter she has sent me in care of the legation. Do I gather Mr. Hazlitt found no others?"

Marsh walked over to the sofa, leaned down, and said quietly in Putnam's ear, "I would not bet on that. I am more and more convinced that his sympathies are with the rebels and that he is a spy. I will in any case ask him to go through the stack of mail with me once again."

He did so, but when Marsh came back he had found no other letters for Stearns Putnam.

Putnam got up to leave. The minister said softly in his ear, "Can it be that your wife wrote something in an earlier letter that might indicate you are working for our government?"

"I can't say. I hope not. What can be done about Hazlitt?"

"Oh, I've already written Seward that he must be recalled. I can't legally fire him, since he has a Presidential appointment, but if I don't hear from the Secretary soon, I'm going to fire him anyway. He can complain to Washington if he likes, but the Sewards will make short shrift of him, that is if he doesn't go South." In a louder voice he continued, "I am glad you came. Will you come to dinner this Friday evening?"

"With pleasure." And he left. Hazlitt was not to be seen. The little bastard, Putnam thought. I'm sure he purloined Joanna's earlier letters. God knows how many she's sent me. Or thinks she's sent me. It was time to go back to the dusty books in the palace. If nothing else, he thought, maybe this trip really will produce a work on the Savoys.

It was past 10:00 when he walked into the royal library. In a half-hour old Senator Provana had helped him accumulate six or seven more dusty works at his desk. He skimmed through them, trying to decide which books might give trustworthy accounts about the first Savoy, Umberto Biancamano: Humbert White Hand.

Finally it was time to stop for the day.

He walked out of the palace. The city in the Po valley had turned hot, humid, windless. The sun was hidden by a layer of gray unpleasant cloud. But the weather didn't matter. He needed to walk. He was not so hungry, he could stop at a café later. He started down Via di Po toward the river where perhaps it would be cooler. He walked into Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and down the long arcades flanking the piazza on the right side. Ahead of him he saw two men talking, one of them a short blond fellow. Was it Hazlitt? Blond mustache. It was Hazlitt.

Putnam the secret diplomat decided to try a little spying. The bases of the grand arcade were rectangular and 15 feet across. He made his way around the one Hazlitt and friend were standing next to, to a point where he could hear them just around the corner from him. He could not see them—or, he hoped, be seen.

The other man was also American had a Southern accent. A Virginian like Hazlitt, Putnam thought.

"...Sixteen or seventeen, can't say which at this point. Anyway, you can assure our friend I'll try to find out more. What've you got for me, son?"

He heard Hazlitt say, "I've just met a Union spy. I'm not exactly sure what he's up to, but he's no professor, which is what he's supposed to be. He just came calling on old Marsh. Wanted to know if any letters had come for him from his wife. I'd seen two, and read them, of course, and it's clear from what she wrote that he's here on official business of some sort. Some sort of spy, no doubt about it. Of course I burned the letters, but there was a third letter, too, and Marsh got his hands on it first, so the bastard got that one.

"Listen, I need some more money. We can't take chances. This professor is going to have a bad accident. I mean, a fatal accident, and there's no time to lose. I know the right man for the job, and I can see him this evening. I'll need 300 Francs more at least, small notes if you have them, but anyway nothing bigger than twenties. I'll give you an accounting later but..."

But that was enough for Putnam. He walked back 50 yards and turned. In a minute or two he saw Hazlitt walking in the other direction, toward the river. Here came the other man, tall and lanky, late 30s maybe, dark goatee and mustache, slouch hat. Putnam moved around the nearest pillar out of his sight, and in a minute started after Hazlitt. Was he going to lunch? Putnam hoped he was going home. But, he thought, what shall I do? Confront him, try to scare him off? Or buy him off, try to buy him off, with my gold? And then next night some bastard shoots me? That won't do.

Hazlitt reached the end of the piazza and turned rightward along the embankment, then right again into a narrow street leading away from the river: Via del Soccorso, Putnam read. Street of Succor, Street of Help. I don't think so. I hope not. Animal, he thought. Going to kill me, is he? He's not even a wolf; not even a clever fox. A rabbit, a damned white rabbit.

His mouth tightened. He felt rage mounting in him. He thought, It mustn't show—or must it? He was going to confront little Hazilitt and break his damned nose; break more than that, maybe. He reached his right hand inside his coat as he walked, and with his thumb absentmindedly rubbed the smooth steel butt of his old knife in its sheath.

Hazlitt was walking down the sidewalk on the left side of the Via del Soccorso. After going 100 yards, he turned left and went up a flight of a dozen stairs and entered a building of several stories, no doubt apartments. Putnam waited two minutes and then walked up to look at the names by the door. "Hazlitt" was the lowest. Good. He had the ground floor.

Putnam looked around him and saw no one. He entered the building and knocked on what he hoped was Hazlitt's door. I know what I have to do, he thought. I do, I do. I'll beat him to a pulp. The end of me as a secret agent. No matter. He felt full of fury. Did it show on his face? He took a deep breath. Stay cool, he thought.

In a minute the door opened. Not a servant. Little Mr. Hazlitt, in shirtsleeves.

"Professor Putnam? Why on earth?"

"I must see you. I prevailed on your clerk to tell me where you lived. Forgive me, but it's urgent. It's urgent and important. May I come in?"

"Why, yes. Yes, of course."

Hazlitt led him into a large parlor. Doors led elsewhere.

"It is a confidential matter. Are we alone?"

"Oh, yes. There is a cleaning woman who comes in the morning, but she leaves by noon. What is the matter, sir?"

"What's the matter is you're a damned deceitful rebel spy, and I'm going to give you..."

Hazlitt leaped for his jacket hanging on a chair, dug into a pocket. A derringer. He pointed it at Putnam and pulled the trigger. Misfire.

Putnam was on him in another second with his knife. Five inches of steel penetrated Hazlitt's heart. His mouth came open and he tried to speak, but it was an agonized groan that stopped in a second.

It was Putnam who spoke. "You are a dead man. You, not me."

Hazlitt looked at Putnam, a strange look. A little blood flowed from his mouth. He collapsed on the floor. He was a dead man.

Putnam felt calm. No; not so calm; his hands were shaking, shaking badly. Pull yourself together, he thought.

He wiped his blade quickly on Hazlitt's trousers and returned it to its sheath. There was no blood on him, at least none he could see. He went through Hazlitt's trousers. Nothing but a key. He took it. Hazlitt's coat, on the chair? A roll of 20-franc notes was in one pocket and some coins in another. He took it all. What else? A desk, with various papers. Had the bastard really burned the letters from Joanna? There were no letters. Bills for a carriage, for laundry, for a supper... nothing of interest. Six 20-franc gold pieces in a drawer. He took those and left the drawer open. The rest of the apartment was a dining room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a bath. He looked hurriedly through the chest of drawers in the bedroom. Shirts, socks, underclothing. No papers. Several suits of clothing hanging in the corner. Nothing there. Time to go. He went back and looked down at Hazlitt, whose hand still clutched the derringer. A fly was walking across his dead eye. Addio, Hazlitt.

He locked the door to the apartment behind him and walked out to the street. It was 3:00, a hot afternoon. No one in view, to left or right. Let us hope everyone is taking a nap. He threw Hazlitt's key into a rubbish can far down the street. It was only after turning a corner that he came on the first pedestrian, an aged man with a cane who ignored him.

In half an hour he was back at the Feder. He went to his room, poured water from the large jug into the porcelain basin, and dunked his face and head. Now he was cool.

I must keep a cool head, he thought. I believe I will. But what have I done?

Well, I have killed a traitor.

Because the penalty for treason is death. And he would have killed me if he could, if I hadn't gotten him. Young fool. But did he deserve to die?

I won't be telling my students about this case of treason. Oh, God, what about my clothes? He stripped. He could see nothing on coat or trousers. There were two small stains on the front of his shirt. He scrubbed and rinsed it in the basin, and nothing was left of the stains. The knife? Maybe a little blood on the haft. He washed and wiped it carefully.

He lay down on the bed in just his shorts and began to read Herman Melville's recent novel, The Confidence-Man, that he had found in the hotel library, no doubt left there by some guest. Am I a confidence-man? I am a killer. In a good cause. Soldiers are that. But I am also going to have to tell lies, more lies, in a good cause. Am I as good a liar as I am a killer? Melville's man wants people to trust him. So do I.

He was tired. He thought of his father, long dead. A professor, but after some militia service he had been a colonel in the War of 1812. Uncle Will had told him once that his father had been "bloodthirsty" in the war. And I my father's son... but I'm not bloodthirsty. I am not bloodthirsty. He closed his eyes and rested. He thought again of his father, who had taught him to hunt when he was twelve. Who had taught him to eviscerate a deer. A rabbit. He thought of Hazlitt, and grimaced.

After some minutes he still could not sleep. He got up. I am no longer the staid professor; but was I ever that? Hunter. I am the hunter. The stealthy hunter. He felt almost calm now. It was time to go downstairs for an apéritif before dinner.


There was a knock on the door and then another. Early morning, the sun had come up. He got out of bed and opened the door. Three men pushed into the room, two uniformed Carabinieri and a civilian who addressed him. "Buon giorno, signore. Lei è il professor Putnam Stearns, vero?"

"Yes, I am Stearns Putnam," he replied in Italian.

"You must dress and come with us to the Questura. These men will meanwhile search your room."

"What is this? What is wrong? I am an American scholar. Our Minister, Mr. Marsh, can tell you who I am. So can your prime minister. He has offered me his assistance. Again, what is wrong? Just who are you?"

"There has been an incident, in which you are involved. I am aware that you have met with the prime minister. I am the Assessore Spaventa." An assessore was a mid-grade police official. An inspector who was going to take him to the Questura, the main police station.

The two Carabinieri found the pistol and the knife under two pairs of trousers in Putnam's small trunk. "So," said Spaventa, "You are armed. How do you explain these weapons?"

"I brought them with me from America. My father gave me the knife when I was a boy. I am hoping to go walking in the mountains, and I do not want to go there unarmed. From what I have read, there are brigands."

"We will confiscate these things for now."

"With due respect, I protest. I do not understand why you are here."

The searchers finished their search. Besides the knife and pistol, they had found a quantity of bank notes, a small bag with gold coins, his passport, Joanna's letter, the letter of credit from Riggs, a notebook. All went into a case carried by one of the men. The assessore said, "I must ask you, Professor, if you have concealed anything. It is a crime to conceal anything from us."

"No, I have concealed nothing. I will want a written list of everything you have taken, and I will want it all returned to me promptly."

"I assure you that we will follow the procedures established under the laws of the Kingdom of Italy."

The three men stepped outside, and Putnam dressed. Half an hour later they were in the large gray building of the Questura. Spaventa left him in a drab anteroom with one of the Carabinieri. He sat there for 20 minutes. Spaventa reappeared. "Please come with me, Professor." They marched 20 yards down a corridor. Spaventa knocked on a door, and they entered a large office with red wallpaper and dark woodwork, fine furniture, fine rugs. A portrait of Vittorio Emanuele II hung on the wall above a large desk stacked with folders. A small man with a full beard was sitting at the desk. The man got up and silently motioned Putnam and Spaventa to a sofa and upholstered chairs.

"Please sit down, Professor," said the small man. "I am called Chiapussi. I am the questore of Turin. We have invited you to come here because an American official has been murdered, and we wish to know what you can tell us."

Putnam broke in on him. "An official? Not our envoy? Not Mr. Marsh?"

"Not Marsh. His deputy, a young man named Hazlitt. You are one of the last persons known to have seen Hazlitt. Did you kill him, Professor?"

"No, of course not. I saw him—I met him for the first time—yesterday at the American legation when I went to see Mr. Marsh. That was also the last time I saw him. Marsh can confirm that."

"Not exactly. I have not yet had the honor of an interview with the Minister, but while I suppose he will be able to confirm you saw Hazlitt at the legation, he will not necessarily know whether that was the last time you saw Hazlitt. What did you do after you left the legation?"

"I went to the royal palace. I am doing research there for a book on the Savoys. An historical work. Day before yesterday I was received by His Majesty the King. What I am doing here in Turin is no secret. I am not a murderer. But who would want to kill young Hazlitt? Where did this happen, may I ask, and when?"

"At his apartment, near the river, sometime yesterday evening or perhaps in the night. As today's press is reporting, the body was found early this morning by his housekeeper when she came to work. At what hour did you leave the palace yesterday, and where did you go then?"

"I think it may have been three when I left. Of course the palace people will know. It was hot, and I thought to walk down to the river, in hopes it might be a little cooler there and I could find a café and have something to drink. But it was too hot, so I went back to my hotel. I think it was then sometime before four. The clerk may remember. I went to my room and rested until it was time to go downstairs for an apéritif. I dined in the hotel, alone, and I did not go out in the evening. I hope the hotel staff can verify all this."

"You knew, of course, that Hazlitt lived near the river?"

"No, I did not know that. How could I know that? And if I had known that, why would I admit to you that I walked down to the river?"

"That is something we must consider. Have you anything further to say?"

"No. That is, yes. I am sorry poor Hazlitt is dead. I met him just yesterday, briefly, at our legation. I am a civilized person who upholds the laws. I will be happy to assist you in any way I can. May I go now?"

"Yes. We will hold your passport and the weapons for now. You are to remain in the city of Turin."

"I understand. And I would like a receipt for my possessions."

In ten minutes, receipt in hand, he left to go see George Marsh. It could have been worse, he thought. But what next?

Twenty minutes later he walked into the American legation. Marsh immediately pulled him into his office and shut the door behind them. "Putnam, someone has killed Billy Hazlitt."

"Yes, I know. The police came to my hotel room and took me down to the Questura. The questore, a man named I think Chiapussi, asked if I had killed him, and of course I said I had not. They said he was killed in his apartment. Have they told you the details? Does it appear to have been the work of a burglar?"

"It would seem so. Whatever money he had was missing. I asked if they'd found any documents. I have been wondering whether Hazlitt has been taking, or copying, our dispatches—or letters from your wife if not from others—but they said they had found nothing."

"I suppose that is some relief. Mr. Minister, I must tell you that the Carabinieri found in my room, and they've kept not only my passport and funds but my old hunting knife—and a new revolver I brought with me from America. I told them that I had owned the knife since boyhood, which is true, and that I had brought a revolver because I hope to go into the mountains while here and I know that there are brigands. I have never fired the revolver since I acquired it. But I think they found it suspicious I had weapons. I did not ask them how Hazlitt was killed. Do you know?"

"With a knife, or perhaps a sword, in the heart. They did not find the weapon. I'll ask them to return your possessions to you. I know this questore, Giacinto Chiapussi. He has a reputation for solving difficult cases. I suspect he'll take a personal interest in this one, it being the murder of a foreign official. I have, incidentally, already told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I have no reason to believe this is anything other than a simple case of robbery and murder. And that is true, unless you know something more."

"Alas," said Putnam. "I can't add anything. I must say I know very little about crimes like this. By the way, is there some American in Turin, or elsewhere in Piedmont, whom you might recruit to replace Hazlitt? I know that there are only a few Americans here. But, just to be clear, although I'd like to help, I don't think I should volunteer my own services, for whatever they might be worth."

"No, no, my friend, of course not. Perhaps I may press my wife into service for a time. Caroline has a good hand. Fortunately we do not send the Department, or receive from it, more than several dispatches a week. But everything coming and going must, of course, be copied into the letterbook.

"We look forward to seeing you at dinner tomorrow evening at eight. Meanwhile let us keep one another informed of any developments."

Putnam walked out and found a breeze had come up and the city was more tolerable. But he could not countenance going back to the dusty royal library, not today. He walked westward through the city, away from the river. He had done a horrid thing. Enough to win him a hanging or life in a small stone cell.

A well-dressed couple passed, and the pretty lady smiled at him. Could it be it didn't all show in his face? Well, it was no case of Cain and Abel. Hazlitt was no brother. He was an enemy, and this was a war. But, Putnam thought, I'm not finished here. If the Italians start sending arms to the rebels, or even just uniforms, why, I'll think I've lost. But I am not going to lose. I've got more to do. But how do I do it? What next?

He stopped at a little trattoria where it was dim and cool inside, and he had a bowl of thick, good minestrone. No wine, thank you; nothing else. Then he walked another hour, hardly noting what he saw. It was good to walk. Now it was time to go back and put his notes in order.

Back at the Feder he sat down in his room and went through the 50-odd pages that he had so far scribbled at the library. It wouldn't be such a bad idea, he thought, to start drafting a preface, an introduction, even at this point.

After an hour and a half at his desk he thought he had made a fair beginning. It seemed to him that he had begun to comprehend, insofar as a modern man could do, the first few Savoy centuries, the centuries they had spent trying to dominate the Western Alps. They had had fair success at that. Their success had continued into the 1600s, when other European rulers began to take some notice of them. He needed to learn much more about that. Well, there was no hurry. Who knew how long it would be before he got his passport back, not to speak of his knife and the revolver? Or before the police told him he could leave the sweltering city. Oh, to be in the cool mountains!

He went downstairs and walked out of the hotel, to pace a few minutes, thinking about his book-to-be. On his return the hotel clerk said there was an envelope for him. He opened it and read: "The Princess de Solms would be glad for the opportunity of another interview with Professor Putnam." Perhaps this was a good moment to call on her again. She must have come back from Aix-les-Bains. He could tell her His Majesty had received him and he was grateful to her for that, and then he would see what direction the conversation took. He was lonely. Lonely for a woman. He had thought, the previous Saturday, of going to one of the case di tolleranza that now functioned legally in the city. But he could not, would not, betray Joanna. He had gone instead to a café and drunk brandy, lonely in a corner.

The princess herself met him at the door to her apartment. She had given the maid an afternoon off, she said. She asked him to come in. She was even prettier than he remembered. She was wearing a light blue sleeveless dress that clung to her, that showed much of her white arms, her bosom, her swelling breasts. Sweet, seductive, he thought.

He followed her into the yellow salon. The room was cool, with its high ceiling, although the sun was shining through the curtains. It was all bright, cool and bright and golden, he thought. She turned toward him, near him, silent, smiling, playing with the gold coin of a monarch on the little chain around her neck. He smelled her perfume, that sweet faint perfume. It goes with her, it goes with her. An aching in his groin. Passion filled him.

He took a step to her. She looked steadily at him with those great round eyes. Pretty panther, he thought. He smiled slightly, and put his right arm around her waist. He gently pulled her to him. She did not resist. He kissed her red mouth. She put her arms around his neck. A long embrace. Her tongue was in his mouth. She moved with him, she led him, into an adjoining room, a bedroom.

"Help me take off this dress." He did so, and then undid her corset. He stripped his clothes off and turned back to her. She had pulled off her pantalettes and faced him, naked and pretty and lithe, nothing on but her white stockings and little blue shoes.

In a minute they were in her bed. She was in his arms, soft, sweet. He kissed her and her tongue again went into his mouth. He leaned down and kissed her right nipple and she shuddered. Now, now, on her, in her, now! A huge fine moment as they both came to a shuddering climax. In a minute he rolled away onto his back. She stroked his chest lightly with her long nails. Did she want more? It was finished. He had done it. Done it. He kissed her cheek and got up to dress, leaving her lying there and looking at him. Trousers on, buttoning his shirt, he walked back into the salon while she went into another room.

In five minutes she had dressed again and joined him. She looked at him quizzically, and he wondered what to say. What must she be thinking? After some seconds he said, "I have not told you how beautiful you are. Do you understand me? I have never seen anyone so beautiful. Do you know..."

She cocked her head slightly, raising her hand—and went to fix them tea.

When she returned with a pot of tea and cups on a silver platter, Putnam said, "I have to thank you, I mean for getting me in to see your friend the King. I am sure it was you who arranged that."

She smiled faintly and said nothing.

"He is a likable man, and of course I have read good things about him. I told him I hoped he might visit America one day. I guess he'd like to come. He told me he was a hunter, and I told him there was good hunting where I come from."

She smiled again, and she said, "His Majesty has a rough or perhaps I should say a frank side to him. You're a little rough, too. Or is the word abrupt? I wonder, are you perhaps a hunter? The King has a hunter's way. He can be terrible sometimes, I mean on formal occasions. He paid a visit to Queen Victoria in England and said shocking things to her."

"Indeed. What sort of things?"

"Oh, I can't remember all the stories. Well, I do remember one. Victoria said something to him about religion, about her faith sustaining her, and His Majesty said he'd like to string up all the priests and bishops from lampposts. He can say awful things."

"Well, what he said to me was very pleasant to my ears. He said that he liked Americans but detested slavery and the masters of slaves. May I ask what you yourself think of our poor, divided country? I think you've never been there."

"No, I have not. You may know that I was a friend of your last envoy in Turin, Mr. Daniel. We were quite good friends. I know people told stories about us, but it was only what they call platonic friendship. Frankly, I don't think it could have been otherwise. There was something, well, lacking on his part.

"John could be charming, but there was a bitterness about him. They said he fought a lot of duels. Among other things he was bitter about black people. He said they were inferior, that they didn't even come from the same species we did. Did you ever see a picture of him? He was a handsome man, but he was swarthy, and he had black, black hair. He said once that he had a Spanish ancestor, but I used to wonder if it was an African instead and he wanted to hide that.

"Be that as it may be," she continued, "I have no love for slavery, myself. I do not like oppression. My cousin the Emperor, Napoleon III I mean, expelled me from France some years ago—did you know that?—because I do not like presidents who make themselves into emperors, as he did. Now this shoddy emperor wants to help the rebels in your South. He wants to recognize them as a legal, I mean a legitimate government. What is worse, he wants Italy to do the same. Well, I hope we will not do the same. You understand?"

Hmm, he thought. Marsh was wrong about her. It sounds as if she would like to steer her friend Rusconi away from a pro-Southern course. But can she?

She went on, "We have had a pleasant afternoon. It seems to me that that's enough to say. I must return to Aix tomorrow, but perhaps we will see one another again before you leave Italy. Perhaps, I say. But I would like that."

Hmm again, he thought. They rose. He took her hand and kissed it, smelling her faint perfume. She smiled as he looked into her brown, almost golden eyes, and that concluded the warm afternoon.

He walked out of the hotel and down the street, thinking, thinking. She is very sweet and I have betrayed my wife. I have never done that before, in two decades of marriage. I couldn't help myself. I needed a woman. I could have gone to a whore. Well, I helped myself to a princess. It won't happen again. That is, I hope it won't. But she was sweet.

He felt languid. He thought of that poem by Sextus Propertius, Arethusa writing to her husband who was off in the East with Caesar's army, writing that she hoped some foreign woman had not left her teeth marks in him. Dear Joanna, there's no teeth marks in me.

But then suddenly he thought of Hazlitt. A feeling of dread. And hatred. Well, it had to be done. This is war, a bloody war; and yet it feels like murder. He stopped at a street corner and closed his eyes for a minute. He breathed deeply, thinking, I am a brute. But I will do what must be done.

Friday evening he spent pleasantly at the home of George and Caroline Marsh, an elegant apartment in an ancient small palazzo. There were five other guests, most notably the envoys of Great Britain and Montenegro. The Montenegrin had a huge black mustache, and he was the tallest man Putnam had ever seen, well over six and a half feet. His wife, too, was taller than Putnam, who at five feet nine was certainly not short for an American. Marsh had explained to Putnam the day before the dinner that this Petar Vukovic was not exactly an official envoy, since Italy did not formally recognize Montenegro's independence, but he was related to the Prince of Montenegro, and the Italians were happy to deal with him.

Marsh had added, "We are also expecting the Misses Elizabeth and Irma Robinson, two spinster sisters from Portland who live in Rome but of course leave it in summer, and Sir James Hudson who has been the British envoy here in Turin for some years. Too many years, I'd say. He's lost his objectivity. He's what I'd call uncritically philo-Italian. I do wonder whether the Foreign Office knows their man's portrait of Italy is not a perfect likeness. Incidentally, be careful not to criticize the Italians if you are around Hudson, or he may well pass it on to Rusconi's ministry."

That evening, when Caroline Marsh welcomed him, she said abruptly, "I hear you've made the acquaintance of that princess they call Brouhaha. I don't know what my husband has told you, but I'd be careful, if you don't mind my saying so. She's an adventuress. To say the least."

Be careful? thought Putnam, fearing he might be blushing. Ah, Mrs. Marsh, if you only knew. He was glad she did not pursue the subject.

After dessert Caroline Marsh led Madame Vukovic and the Misses Robinson off to the parlor. The gentlemen stayed at table over port. Putnam was prepared to make positive remarks for Hudson's sake about the Kingdom of Italy, but both Hudson and Vukovic wanted to hear from Marsh about the Hazlitt murder. Italian was the language of the evening, since all the guests spoke it fluently and the Balkan envoy spoke only Italian, other than Serbian. Putnam decided to keep his own mouth shut—and ears open.

The Englishman asked Marsh whether the police thought the young man had been killed in the course of a robbery. "Or might there be more to it? Do you know whether the authorities anticipate still more violence directed at foreign diplomats, or"—this with a nod to Putnam—"at foreigners in general? Have the police detained anyone, or do they at least have a suspect? I shall of course make my own inquiries. But the Turin police do excellent work, I must say. There's no question but that they'll get their man."

Their host said, "I know very little about police work. I believe, though, that there can be no doubt when Hazlitt entered his apartment, he surprised a thief, who then killed him. Surely there can be no reason to anticipate any wave of violence against foreigners. I suppose, though, that we cannot entirely rule out the possibility the murderer was some sort of crazy xenophobe—but if he was, he was not so crazy as to leave behind Hazlitt's money, however much that amounted to."

"Well," said the big Montenegrin, "Let that person come after me, if he will. I am ready. I will kill him. Or them, rather. I can tell you that there is more than one of them."

Putnam looked at him and thought, This diplomat probably carries a large pistol in his pocket, and a knife longer than mine. I wouldn't care to have a confrontation with him.

The Montenegrin was not finished. "This murder was not the work of only one man. I can tell you it was a band from Croatia. I have said so to the police. My information comes from our Austrian colleague, but I did not tell the police so much. Von Loewenthal received a report, a reliable report, that a band of as many as four men is operating on Italian territory. They are ostensibly Croatian patriots, but in fact they are simply thieves. If they are Croatians, they may come after me, too, for ethnic as well as monetary reasons. Let them! I am ready. I will kill them."

Putnam went home wondering what the questore would make of all this. He had his answer on Monday morning. Two Carabinieri came to his room at 7:00 and summoned him to headquarters. Spaventa the assessore was waiting for him there. He gave him back his belongings, including his knife and pistol, saying, "Professor, we have arrested the foreign criminals who killed Mr. Hazlitt. You are now free to leave the city when and if you wish. If you go into the mountains here in Piedmont, I do not think you will encounter any brigands. But if you should run into any sort of trouble, you should turn to the Carabinieri. It is not for you to make justice in our country. We are the ones who do that."

"I understand. I assure you I am a law-abiding man. Thanks for your courtesy. I wish you a good day." He left the gray building and drew a long breath.

He spent the week in the palace library with books and, as well, some handwritten manuscripts from the 1600s and 1700s. He found that some of the Savoy clerks though, alas, not all of them, had fairly legible handwriting. He found interesting dispatches from the Savoys' envoy at the court of Louis XIV in Paris. Oh, Lord, he thought, now he would have to read up on France. A country about which he knew too little. He could spend years... but he was not going to be here for years. Or was he? He felt alone and destitute. He could foresee nothing good.

He had continued to write home to Joanna twice a week. After his brief fling—was it even that?—with Marie de Solms, he had not found it any more difficult to write to his wife. He loved Joanna, missed her, wanted news of her. He had written her after receiving the first letter she had sent in care of the legation, to tell her that his hotel was the Feder and she should write to him there and not at the legation. How was she? What was this business about their neighbor Frank Anthony?

She was writing to him as much as he was to her. She was fine, she said. Ah—the business about Frank Anthony.

Frank, she explained, had asked her to sign a petition he had drafted. It demanded that the pro-slavery Dr. Lord step down as college president, and it asked the Union authorities to arrange for him to cross the battle-line so he could move South, where he would find life more congenial. Joanna had told Frank she agreed with his sentiments, but since Stearns was employed by the College, while Frank was independent with his livery business, she must defer to her husband in this matter. Frank had said he understood and sent his best regards to Stearns. He had been very helpful to her. Just recently the roof had sprung a leak, and Frank had quickly found the problem, a broken shingle, and fixed it. He had told her to be sure to call on him if there was anything else she needed done.

Incidentally, she wrote, when she had seen Dr. Lord some time ago, he had asked her when Stearns would be returning. He said he had been happy to grant him a leave of absence, since he knew the importance of research, and of course young Will Bartholomew had been happy to take over Stearns' courses. Still, Lord had said to her, he hoped her husband would not be gone too long. Joanna wrote Stearns that she had assured the president her husband did not want to be away from Hanover even one day longer than necessary.

"You did just right," he wrote her. "I hope Lord has other things besides me on his mind; he must know people are upset about his views on slavery. And I'll talk to Frank about his petition when I get home. I hope that won't be long from now. I just can't say when."

What he did not like was this Anthony business. He himself had deceived his wife and gone to bed with another woman. That was not going to happen again. Joanna was prudent and wise. She must also be lonely. Just how friendly was she with their neighbor in Hanover, so far away from Turin?

His days in the palace library were increasingly hard slogging. At first, in July, the rooms there had been relatively cool, but as summer progressed, the temperature mounted. What had seemed a cool haven was now too warm, and outside the palace the streets were hot by mid-morning. What made it worse was seeing, when city buildings did not block his view, the peaks of the distant high Alps. He could distinguish the sharp peak of the Matterhorn, and maybe even great Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa.

Now, though, he was free to leave town and go to the mountains. Gemma and Giovanni Bionaz invited him to do just that. On the next Friday morning, he left Turin with them in their carriage, bound for a long weekend at Ceresole, wherever that was.

It was a long way. They picked Putnam up at the Hotel Feder at 7:00 AM. He had with difficulty coaxed the manager into letting him have breakfast at 6:30 AM. The Bionaz carriage and driver had come down from the mountains two days before. Giovanni sat on the front seat with the driver, Gemma and Stearns on the seat behind. The driver added Putnam's large knapsack, all the baggage he was taking, to the Bionazes' suitcase and supplies from the big city, all strapped on behind them. The driver was a gray-bearded man named Fransesch. He had a long black feather in his hat, and he spoke a dialect Putnam could understand not at all.

In an hour or more, driving westward, they left the flat Po valley. Peaks and snow rose ahead of them. They began to ascend a narrow valley, and the road got narrower and worse. At midday they stopped for lunch at a little village inn, then resumed their drive. It was past 3:00 when, a good 50 miles from Turin, they came into Ceresole, with its sturdy stone houses and a church with a thick tower. The valley dropped far below the south side of the village, and steep wooded slopes rose to the north and east. A great snowy ridge stretched along the western horizon. It was the Levanne, Giovanni said. The sun shone bright and strong, but the air was cool. Gemma said they were a mile above sea level, and so they were nearly that much above Turin and its low-lying river.

The Bionaz house was one of the larger ones in the village. "How old is this fine place, Giovanni?" asked Putnam. "Or do you know?"

"As a matter of fact, I do know. The main roof beam has the date carved on it: 1488. That's even older than the house we had in Brooklyn! My people have been here for a long time—as long as the Savoys, in fact.

"Tomorrow," Giovanni went on, "If you'd like to do some walking, Gemma and I will take you to the Nivolet pass. It's a long way. We'll climb almost 1,000 meters, say 3,000 feet, in the course of seven miles or so. We can spend the night at a herder's hut up by the pass. The views are splendid. Agreed?"

"Agreed. With pleasure."

Fransesch the driver and, it seemed, general handyman, had a much younger wife named Rosa who fixed them a hearty dinner: a cheese soup with truffles followed by grilled lamb, vegetables, rice, and then a rich chocolate and custard dessert. "Bonet, we call it," said Gemma.

"This has all been delicious, Gemma," said Putnam as he scraped up the last of his bonet. "And ample, I must say. Good thing we are going to do some walking tomorrow."

Gemma translated his English into dialect for Rosa, who replied, as best Putnam could make out, that she was glad he had an appetite because he was màire. He was what? Magro; tu sei magro, Gemma explained. "Skinny; you're skinny." He laughed.

Rosa spoke again. "She says it's too bad you couldn't be here in the old days. She could have grilled a young stambecco for you instead of a sheep, I mean lamb. But she says the ugly King put a stop to that."

"I know what a stambecco is, I think: a kind of mountain goat with great horns. In English it's called, let me think, an ibex. But what is this about the ugly King?"

"Well, we are not so fond of Vittorio Emanuele in this village. He's set aside a huge area, up above us in the mountains, as a royal hunting preserve. No one can hunt the stambecco there but the King. As to his being ugly"—she exchanged a few words with Rosa, who laughed and nodded her head—"this goes back a couple of years. Rosa was up in the woods, looking for mushrooms I think, when three hunters came up to her and asked how to find the village of Ceresole. One of them was a man with big mustaches. He seemed to be the leader, and he had what Rosa thought was a kind of, how do you say, haughty way about him. She gave him a curt answer, and one of the other men said, 'You should not address His Majesty that way!' and Rosa said 'What majesty? This ugly fellow is not the King!' 'He is, though.' 'No,' she says, 'I saw Queen Rosa once, and she's a lovely lady, and this can't be the King.' 'I am, though,' he says, and gives her a gold coin with his portrait on it. Well, she laughed, and so did the King, and she asked if the three men would stop for dinner. The King said that that was kind of her, but he had to get back to Turin and the Queen.

"Anyway, even if he isn't so ugly, the people here can't forgive him for taking all that land just for himself. Of course, you know Queen Rosa isn't really the Queen. She's not even of noble birth, although he made her a countess, and they're not really married. But she is in fact quite pretty. The peasants like her. They call her la bela Rosin."

Putnam smiled at this Rosa, and she smiled at him. He thought, I'll have to remember the story of her meeting the King, if ever I see him again. Well, maybe best not mention it to him. But perhaps it'll fit in my book. If there ever is a book, that is.

Next morning the three of them and Fransesch set out on the track leading up to the Nivolet. It was a sunny day, cool. Putnam suspected it never got hot in these mountains. Giovanni said they would see considerable amounts of snow when they got up toward the pass. By now, though, the track itself would be clear of snow and dry.

Soon they had left the last pines and firs behind and below them and were climbing through high meadows. Giovanni led them at a good pace. He may be a city man now, Putnam thought, but he's got good legs, and so does Gemma. Fransesch, too, kept up with them although he was carrying a large and obviously heavy pack with things to eat and drink. Putnam's pack was not so heavy. He had left his change of clothes back at the house, but he had brought the revolver, just in case something untoward happened. And the sheath with his knife was on his belt.

It took them a good four hours to do the seven miles to the Col Nivolet. It was, he found, a place of beauty. They were 8,500 feet above sea level now. Rocky peaks and snowfields rose above the pass in bright sun, and beyond them to the left, the west, was a small blue lake with old ice on its edges. There were small yellow and red flowers everywhere in the grass. I have never been so high, he thought. I have never seen such splendid mountains.

What Giovanni had called a herder's hut, where they were to spend the night, was actually a sizable stone house standing 100 yards from the blue lake. It belonged to the comune, the town, Gemma said. They dropped their packs inside the door. There was a large room with a fireplace, a wood stove, two long tables with benches, and two rooms with rough wooden beds and covers made of furs. Chamois, Putnam guessed. The four of them stepped outside again.

"There is another lake, a larger one, beyond us to the west," said Giovanni to Stearns, "but perhaps this will do us for today. Tomorrow, if you like, we can go back to the pass and then follow that ridge you see leading eastward. There is a high point, the Punta Foura, with splendid views."

"Giovanni," said Putnam, "I'll follow wherever you lead, but for me, what we see right here is splendid. It is splendor such as I've never seen in my life."

Fransesch started a fire in the stove—they were far above tree line but someone had brought up a quantity of wood, no doubt on mule back—and Gemma fixed tea. The four of them sat out on the step to drink the tea and to drink in the beauty.

After a few minutes Putnam pointed out to the others a small group of people in the distance, approaching them from the pass. There were four men in front, and after them came two men each leading a loaded mule. He asked, "Who's this coming, Giovanni?"

"I'd prefer not to guess. We'll see soon enough."

Could they be brigands? All six men, they could see now, were carrying rifles. Putnam went in, got his pack with the pistol in it, and brought it outside.

They came closer. They must be hunters. The two in front, a young man and an older man with large mustaches, were well-dressed.

"Giovanni, Gemma," said Putnam, "It's the King."

It was, and the young man behind him must be the crown prince. The latest Humbert, thought Putnam. As the little royal party neared them, Putnam and the two Bionazes and Fransesch all got to their feet. The three men doffed their hats.

"Good day," said Vittorio Emanuele. "Can that be the American professor? Surely you haven't come up here to study my family. Welcome to you all. Now let us be practical. The evening is already upon us, and if you others are of Piedmont, you know the saying Chi tard ariva mal alögia. That means, my dear Professor, that if you arrive late, you won't find good lodging. Will you kindly allow us to share this dwelling with you?"

"Your Majesty," said Gemma, "We are at your service. It will be cold tonight. If you will allow us a little space by the fire, we will be most grateful."

As long as he lived, Putnam remembered his night in the high mountains with the King of Italy. Vittorio Emanuele and his teen-aged son took one of the two rooms with beds and Putnam and the two Bionazes the other. The King's men and Fransesch would sleep on the floor in the main room, near the stove, "And," said the King, "If they keep it properly stoked, we'll all stay warm enough."

The two parties shared the food and drink they had brought. One member of the royal party turned out to be the cook, a good cook, who made a huge pot of stew. The King invited the three hikers to join him and young Humbert at one table, while the attendants and Fransesch sat at the other. Part of the mules' load had been wine, as well as bottles of grappa, two of which appeared on the table after they had devoured the stew and drunk a good amount of Barolo.

"This is not just any sort of grappa," the King explained to Putnam, who was sitting at his left. "Here we use an alambicco to produce grappa, and so all the flavors and aromas are preserved. I have tasted your American whisky. We do not make whisky, but this, too, is a good drink. It warms both the soul and body, we say."

Putnam's Italian vocabulary did not include alambicco, but it was indeed good grappa.

The King refilled his glass and Putnam's and continued, speaking more quietly and only to Putnam, "I have always admired America. And I will never forget that it was your new President, Mr. Lincoln, who—although, as I knew, he had many worries at home—who was almost the first head of state to recognize me as the King of our newly united Italy. This, while my good cousin the Emperor in Paris was not quite sure whether he wanted to do so or not. I hear, incidentally, that Napoleon has just given a friendly reception to an envoy from your southern states, that same one whom your people took off a British ship and then had to release. The name escapes me."

"Can it be Slidell, Your Majesty?"

"Perhaps. I am not good at your American names. Of course you know that besides my cousin the Emperor and his compatriots in Paris, there are people in England who do not wish you well. Our envoy in London reports some Member of Parliament whose name in English is like a deer—I think there is an animal called Roebuck?—predicts America will end up in five pieces. You know, I find most educated Englishmen to be fluent fools. I suspect this Roebuck knows no more of America than I do. He likes your rebels. He says they are true English people, while you people in the North are the scum and refuse of Europe. He doesn't like Italians, either; he wishes the Austrians still held Milan and Lombardy.

"Now, what I want you to know is that some people here in my country are pleased at the news from London and Paris, and so they have started thinking harder of, let me say, extending a hand to your rebels. It would be good business, they think. I suppose it might be just that, for them. I suspect one of them may be the person who is for now heading my government. Just now, though, he is preoccupied with other matters. Garibaldi, I mean. You have heard the latest news?"

"Perhaps not, Your Majesty."

"As you certainly do know, Giuseppe Garibaldi sailed again to Sicily, some time ago. He has never given up his aim of taking Rome, where he bravely defended the Roman Republic during its brief life, in 1849, until the French army drove him out of the city. Our reunited Italy of course owes him a great debt. Two years ago he made me a present of all the South, but that did not include Rome or its environs, which still remains in the hands of that, that Pope who deigned to excommunicate the King of Italy.

"Just now, we have learned, Garibaldi and some 3,000 men have moved from Sicily onto the mainland, to Calabria. We believe he intends to march on Rome. Well, if he should do so, there would be a violent reaction from the French, who still think they must defend the Papacy. We cannot afford a war with France. I will tell you in confidence that our army is going to stop Garibaldi in Calabria. Better that we hurt the great liberator than that he hurt our overall interests. Of course I do not know what effect this will have on our political scene.

"There are many people who, to be frank, love Garibaldi better than they do the King or Giuseppe Rusconi. The King will not, of course, step down, but perhaps, let me say frankly, Rusconi will have to do so. Whether that distant land, America, will play any part in his calculations, I do not know. But Rusconi is a calculating man.

"You may tell this to your Mr. Marsh, and if he comes to me, I will repeat a little of it to him directly. A little, I say. I do not drink quite so much grappa when I am away from my beloved mountains. Now it is time to retire."

In the morning the two parties went different ways. The King and Crown Prince and followers left early and headed west from the hut, toward the second lake, in hopes of shooting a stambecco or two. The morning began to cloud over, and Giovanni Bionaz thought the four of them should not attempt the ridge above the hut since a thunderstorm seemed likely. "You know, Stearns," he said, "sometimes in life it's better not to aim too high. There's your lesson for a Sunday morning!"

They started back down the track to Ceresole. By the time they got there, a little less than three hours later, the sky behind them was black and thunder was coming quick after bright bolts of lightning.

"We must assume," Giovanni said, "that the royal party has taken shelter in the hut up there. There are a few people hereabouts who might not mind if he were fulminato. Is there a word in English for getting hit by lightning? But, you know, lightning does not often strike kings. I must say His Majesty certainly took a liking to you. He could not find his stambecco, so he settled for another kind of creature rarely seen around here, the American. Please forgive my poor joke, Stearns!"

They returned to Turin on Monday evening. The capital on the Po was still sweltering in the heat of late August. He had been thinking as they descended from the mountains that it was time he went down to Genoa, to consult the archives there. And see what he could see.

When Stearns Putnam had first visited Italy back in 1849 with Joanna, it had taken them two long days by road to get from Turin to Genoa. Now he made the trip in five hours on a thoroughly modern railroad. The whole line was double track, the small as well as larger stations built of sturdy, handsome stone, and the tunnels were impressive. One of them must have been a good two miles long.

He had telegraphed the Hotel Feder in Genoa for a room. He had chosen the Feder not because it bore the same name as his Turin hotel, but because the Costas had told him he could get a room there with a good view of the harbor. And what was Genoa if not the round harbor full of ships, that had brought cargoes and prosperity to this place since the time of the Greeks and Etruscans? He took a big fourth-floor room with a big view. Here by the sea the temperature was moderate, by no means hot. But his contentment was tempered.

Hotel Feder, Genoa, August 31, 1862

Dear Joanna,

I was pleased to receive your letter written after you returned home. The last American news I have seen in Galignani's reports a disastrous loss for Union forces under General Banks at Cedar Mountain, which I understand to be somewhere in Virginia. Do write me all you know.

As you see, I have come down to Genoa, but I shall not be here long enough to suggest you write me at this place. The length of my stay will depend largely on what I may find in the archives here relating to the history of the royal family. I plan to begin my investigations tomorrow.

Just before leaving Turin, I had the opportunity to spend several days in the Alps in the company of friends I have lately met, who lived in America for some years. The mountains were glorious and lacked only your presence. There was, however, a royal presence. We encountered His Majesty the King, who was on a hunting trip, and I had the privilege of a long and I may say very friendly conversation with him. I hope it may not be long until I have the privilege of telling all these things in person to my dear wife, who is always in my thoughts. Please believe me, my love.

Yr affectionate husband,


There, he thought. We will see what the Genoa police make of that when they read it. But how I could wish for a telegraph line to New Hampshire!

He decided his first step should be a call on the American consul, about whom Maria Costa had spoken so disparagingly. The next morning David Wheeler received Stearns Putnam in the consulate's offices facing the small Acqua Sola park, acres of green shaded by large plane trees and even a few palms—quite a different place from the narrow streets with old palaces near the harbor.

Wheeler was a man with a full beard and a modest way, not much over thirty. He greeted Putnam warmly. He said he had heard good things about him from Minister Marsh, about Putnam's knowledge of Italy.

"I'm quick to add, Professor Putnam, that after a year I'm still somewhat of a neophyte in Italy, and in this consular business as well. It's no secret I got this job after campaigning for Lincoln in Iowa—and I'm proud to say Lincoln beat Douglas worse in Iowa than he did in Illinois. But, despite my studies in Greek and Latin, I did not know the Mediterranean world at first hand. I'm working hard to remedy that. I have in train the translation of a work on Genoa in the 16th century. I feel the need to learn more about Italy's South, too, even if that's far beyond the boundaries of my consular district. I may, I can tell you, attempt a work on the Italian brigands."

"Brigands? I know they're widespread in the South. Are there any of them around here, which is to say Liguria and Piedmont?"

"There may be a few, but brigands in these parts might better be described as just thieves. I'm told that poor Billy Hazlitt was killed by a band of thieves from the Balkans."

"So it seems. My dear sir, I need your help."

"Of course, as long as it's not something illicit, as long as you're not a brigand. I'm sorry... that's a poor joke."

"Understood, no offense taken. It's just this: I'd be grateful if you could arrange for me to meet the head of the local archivio di stato."

"Willingly. Of course you know the Savoys only gained control of Genoa and the Liguria region after the powers put down Napoleon I. So, if what interests you is the Savoys, you're not likely to find anything here about them dating back more than a few decades. If you do want to get into older stuff about Genoa and Liguria, I may be able to help you a little. I have been doing some side reading as I work on my Genoa translation.

"Incidentally," the consul continued, "There's more history, very recent history, that I've come on just now. It's not very complimentary to the King."

"What's that?"

"Well, you know, after Garibaldi handed all of Southern Italy to the King, something had to be done about the big Bourbon army, the army of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. They had failed miserably to defeat Garibaldi's little band and the local people whom he recruited, but they were in any case still a big force. The Turin government sent down troops from the North to enlist or disarm them, and from what I know, most of them took the oath of allegiance to Vittorio Emanuele. But not all of them. Some of them took to the mountains, to become the brigands I want to write about.

"There were also a few thousand, maybe as many as 10,000, who refused to take the oath but, for whatever reason, didn't join the brigands, either. A couple of people have told me very quietly that these Southerners were put in chains, packed onto ships, and brought here to Genoa. From here, I'm told, several thousand were sent up to Piedmont, to the Alps, to the Fenestrelle. Do you know what that is?"

"I think I've heard the name. But no, I don't know."

"The Fenestrelle is a huge long fortress laid out along an ascending mountain ridge near the French border. They sent the Southerners there, and I think they're still there. No trials, no courts-martial, they're just there. That is, if they're still alive and haven't frozen to death, which is more than I know. There's a great silence about the whole thing. Of course the Alps are out of my consular district, which covers only Genoa and the rest of Liguria. But I think Minister Marsh must know something about the Fenestrelle. You might ask him sometime, if you're writing about this most admirable King.

"Again," said Wheeler, "If I can share any of my notes with you, I mean mainly about Genoa and Liguria, I'll be happy to do so."

"That's very kind of you, but I don't think I'll need to trouble you about the old times in this area. But I will have to ask Mr. Marsh about the Fenestrelle."

Putnam walked away with a good feeling about the consul. The next day he called on the director of the Genoa archives, a surprisingly young man for a fairly senior Italian bureaucrat, almost as young as Wheeler. His name was Salmini, he said. The consul had asked him to do all possible to assist the professor, and he would be happy to do so.

The American chronicler of the Savoys spent several hours going through dusty folders containing almost nothing of interest. It was time to undertake a different sort of investigation. Best start with Wheeler again, he decided.

He was back at the consulate the first thing next morning. "Many thanks," he said to David Wheeler, wondering as he began talking whether perhaps he was becoming a yet more accomplished liar, a sort of Ulysses in Liguria. "With the help of your friend Salmini, I spent several useful hours in his archives. I think I'll spend today just idling around the city. May I ask, is there much of an American presence here, other than yourself and this consulate? If I'm not wrong, a fair number of our vessels used to call here with cargoes of cotton and Virginia tobacco. I guess that's finished. But are there many Americans living here? Not so many as in Rome or Florence, I imagine."

"Yes, you're right. If I tell you that I am one-tenth of our entire American colony, I will not be far from the truth."

"I met a couple in Turin who come from Genoa. They mentioned an American named Tolliver who apparently lives here."

"Ah, yes. Mr. Tal-i-a-ferro. He registered here at the Consulate sometime before I arrived, I think perhaps in 1859. I know he listed his residence as a place in Tidewater Virginia. That was before the Old Dominion decided to leave the Union. I've never seen him in the months I've been here, but I have wondered sometimes what, if anything, he may be up to. He was, I know, in the export-import business, but perhaps now he's just playing the gentleman. My clerk told me he had the impression Taliaferro was a man of some means. I hear he tells people he has a cousin who's a general—a Confederate one, that is.

"As for the other Americans in Genoa, there's a retired banker from Manhattan and his wife whom I see occasionally, and a painter and his sculptress wife whom I see more frequently. I will be happy to make you acquainted with both couples. There are several others I see not at all unless they come seeking my help. Mr. Taliaferro, as I've indicated, is one of those who do not. Meno male; just as well."

Putnam said he would hope to see the consul soon again and walked out. He thought to himself, almost smiling, what would Leatherstocking do now? He'd say it was time to take the bull, I mean the buffalo, by the horns. Oh, brave Natty Bumppo!

After an hour's search, he found the office of Charles Taliaferro on Via di Pré, an amazingly narrow street lined by ancient, perhaps medieval, buildings four and five stories high, one street back from the harbor. He had walked other streets on his way to Taliaferro just as narrow, only a dozen or 15 feet wide, lined by tall noble palaces. Via di Pré was different, shabby, dirty. Men, poorly clad, were lounging about a number of low-life bars and cafés. Many of them looked to be North African, Arab, Asian—sailors, probably. Sailors hefting knives. Not a good place, Putnam thought, to come roaming after dark, or maybe even now.

Putnam walked up three flights of low stone steps worn in the middle by centuries of feet, found a sign saying Import-Export, and knocked on a heavy door. He explained to the clerk who opened it that his name was Putnam, he was an American, and he would like to see Mr. Taliaferro if possible about a business matter. In two minutes he was invited into an office with two broad curtained windows facing the narrow street. Taliaferro rose from his desk and came toward him. He was a thin man with a dark mustache and a narrow goatee. Dear God, it's the fellow in the hat who was talking with Hazlitt! Does he recognize me? Even if he doesn't, Hazlitt told him about a spy posing as a professor. Be careful, Stearns.

Thinking fast, he said, "Mr. Taliaferro, my name is Putnam. I am in Italy on what I would call partly official and mainly private business. I would like to consult you on a purely personal matter. May I take a few minutes of your time?"

"Certainly, sir. Let me be clear with you, since you mention official business and to judge from your accent you are a Northerner. I am myself a Virginian, and my allegiance is to the Confederate States of America."

"I understand. I was lately with Mr. Wheeler, the American consul, and he indicated as much to me. Let me go on. What I call my partly official business is a commission from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The assistant secretary of the Institution, Mr. Spencer Baird, is an ornithologist. When a friend of mine told him I was coming to Italy to do research, he solicited my help. I'm not a scientist, myself; I am an historian of the Renaissance, and my work here now is mainly in the old royal archives. Nevertheless I agreed to help put Mr. Baird in touch with persons here who might provide specimens, specimens of Italian birds, for the Smithsonian's collections. Our legation in Turin has agreed to ship them to Washington.

"That's my official work, if I must call it that. Now let me explain just why I've come to see you. It is purely a private matter, and I'd prefer to keep it between the two of us. I have said nothing about it to Wheeler.

"Although I am a New Englander, as you can tell from my accent, my mother's sister, my aunt Elizabeth, lives with her family, four children, in Wilmington, North Carolina. They are in difficult straits. My aunt's husband was killed at Bull Run, that is to say Manassas, and he left her with very little money. What I want to do while I'm here in Genoa, if at all possible, is to send off to Aunt Lizzie a box, a crate, with clothing and foodstuffs and other things they may need. It would of course have to go on a blockade runner. I know such ships sail out of European ports, but I don't know if they come here to Genoa. So, do you think you could help me? And what chance do you think such a box would really have of reaching her?"

"I hope, sir, that you don't think I myself am anything of a blockade runner. The blockade runners don't come here, in any case. They work out of Bermuda and the Caribbean, as your Navy knows better than I. What you'd have to do is ship your box from Genoa on some vessel bound for, let's say, Bermuda, where it could be shipped onward to a port in the South. Wilmington, ideally, if that's where your aunt lives. Wherever it arrives, I believe your relatives would have to take delivery in the port. Cartage companies don't work too well in wartime. But I think, sir, I've seen you before. Am I right?"

"I don't believe so. I arrived in Genoa just two days ago. But I was in Turin for two weeks before that, mainly working in the royal archives, as I say. I was staying there at the Feder. Were you perhaps in Turin recently?"

"In fact I was, but not at Hotel Feder. But I do believe I've seen you somewhere."

"You may have seen me walking about Turin. Five or six hours with dusty manuscripts is about all I can take for a day, and so after that I go walking, walking pretty vigorously, I must say, even on hot days, up and down the city.

"Anyway, to be brief, I hope you can help me even if our politics differ. Perhaps, though, they don't differ all that much. I am not a reb—a Confederate—but I am an historian, and I know American history even better than I do Italian. Do you know that some of our New England states talked about secession once, in 1815? You don't believe me? I wrote an article about it not long ago. I don't mind saying that I think Lincoln is inconsistent on the question, to say the least. I'm sorry what things have come to in America. We can talk about that some other time if you like.

"But the point is that my old mother has asked me to do what I can to help my aunt, and I must. What do you say?"

"Let me see what I can do. You should realize that shipping such a crate will be expensive."

"Do you have any idea how expensive?"

"No, not exactly. The freight ought to be, if I'm right, about $1.25 a pound. If it weighs, say, 150 pounds—call it 70 kilos—that would come to, let me see, $187.50. But there'll be other expenses. It'll come to at least $200. But that's a rough figure."

"That's much more than I imagined. But it's got to be done. Let me come back to you in a few days and see what you've found out."

"Very well," said Taliaferro, and Putnam left, feeling the man's eye on his back. Did Taliaferro somehow know he'd killed Hazlitt? He might at least suspect it. But maybe his greed has dampened his suspicion. A man can probably live here for a couple of months on $200. Maybe I should have told him I'd gladly pay him even more.

Putnam wondered if Taliaferro had sent someone to follow him, but as he walked away from Taliaferro's place, he saw no one among the dirty loungers on the Via di Pré who seemed interested in him. He walked through the narrow streets back to the hotel and wrote a note to Carlo and Maria Costa, hoping they were in Genoa.

They were, and two days later he went to lunch at their villa in the hills just above the city. They sent a small carriage to pick him up at the hotel—small, the driver explained to him, because the road was narrow, and in fact they drove up into the suburban hills along extremely narrow little lanes with sharp turns and high walls on either side they scraped more than once. Finally they drove through a gate into a sunny courtyard, and there were the Costas to greet him.

The three had lunch on a terrace outside their pleasant house, shaded this warm sunny day by a huge grapevine spread across the trellis above them. The view was glorious, he thought. Several miles away and hundreds of feet below them, the old city with its churches, palaces, and tight streets surrounded the round white basin of the port. Beyond stretched a limitless blue sea. Here on the terrace there was peace in the shade, a light breeze, a delicate smell of flowers.

Maria was at her vibrant best. "I hear you went to the mountains with Giovanni and Gemma. This is better, no? Better than grim gray Manhattan, I'd say. Or Boston. I'll take the sun, any day. Or don't you agree?"

"How can I not? I only wish my wife were here to share this. At home, you know... This war, I think, may take longer than any of us imagined. I only hope Italy won't decide to give help to the rebels, one way or another."

"We'd better not!" she said. "But, you know, it seems we may. Well, not we, of course, but some others. Carlo, tell him what you've heard."

"What I have heard, Stearns, is that there are well-placed people in Italy who plan a profitable two-way trade with the Confederacy. That means shipping arms and munitions westward, with the eastbound cargoes to be Southern cotton and tobacco. This shipment of arms may legally be a little questionable, as I understand it, since Italy has not extended recognition to the Confederacy, but it seems our government will turn its head the other way. This, because the premier himself is involved.

"Let me go on. We do not want to see Italy helping a slave regime in America, and we do not like our premier. We like him even less now that he's ordered Italian troops to fire on Giuseppe Garibaldi. Did you know that? No? Well, the news is just in. Italian troops have wounded Garibaldi and he is in custody. This is outrageous, and if we can't do anything about the army, we want at a minimum to see an end put to Rusconi's little deal with the slave owners.

"Now, we tell you this in confidence, and we want you to tell us something, too. You can speak freely here. The servants are gone, and no one lives within earshot. I cannot believe you have any love for the Southerners. Why on earth did you go see that fellow Taliaferro?"

"You know that? I didn't think I'd been followed. You're not really with the police, are you? No, I know you're not. Well, I will tell you what I told him. I told him that my dear Aunt Lizzie and her family live in North Carolina, and that I would like his help to send her a crate with food and clothing, since my uncle has died and they are hard up."

"And what did the man say?"

"He said he'd look into it. I sense that if I just agree to pay enough, he'll be willing to help. No doubt he's in with the blockade runners. Do you suppose he is involved with this Rusconi gang, if that's the word?"

"Indeed, we know that he is, and most intimately. He is their channel of communication to the Confederate authorities. It seems to be a full-time job for him. A month ago I sent my clerk to ask his clerk whether the firm would be interested in helping us with our shipments of wine and cheese to New York. This is a not a question of bulk cargo, you will understand, but of relatively high-value shipments. Some money might be made, my man said, without great trouble. But Taliaferro was not interested, at least not then. He was too busy with other matters. I think he may already have arranged some shipments of arms to Bermuda or Nassau."

Carlo Costa took a long look at Putnam, and continued. "I also think we should lay all our cards on my Genoese table. What are you really up to? You come to Turin, and a young Southerner is murdered. You come to Genoa and immediately go see another Southerner. What is his fate going to be? Forgive me for being blunt, but we are into some serious matters, here. Do you really have any intention of sending a crate off into rebel territory?"

"I'm not a murderer, let me assure you, any more than I am a soldier. Let me just say that I would never harm someone who was not threatening me. But if someone was threatening another, say a lady who could not defend herself... It seems to me that's proper conduct, wouldn't you say so? But let me add something. You are indeed speaking of serious matters. As a loyal American I would like very much to help prevent any arms from being shipped out of Italy to the rebels. But I'm not quite sure what I could do about it. As to me sending a box to Carolina, no, I have no intention of doing that. I just wanted to find out, if I could, whether Taliaferro was involved with blockade running."

Maria broke in. "Clever. Let me join in this interesting discussion. Perhaps, if I may speak for Carlo as well as myself, the Italian side of us is more prone to think of direct action—violent action, even—than our American side is. I'll be frank. I think we can trust you, whether or not you killed that fellow in Turin, and I'm not asking if you did.

"We've learned that some of Rusconi's friends have commissioned a new steamship, and they have given him a large share, a silent share, in it in exchange for his arranging for the authorities to let this ship alone. The ship is being built in England, I suppose because it might raise more questions if it were built here in Genoa.

"About the time the ship comes to Genoa, which is supposed to be in coming weeks, a large shipment of wooden cases from Trieste is to be unloaded in the port here. The cases will contain new rifles made in Austria. Wanzl rifles, which are apparently better than most of what the Confederates have now. We Italians are still not on close terms with our old enemy Austria, but business is business. Anyway, these cases are going to be reloaded here onto the prime minister's new steamer, together with additional cargo which we think is going to be gunpowder made in Italy. Our rifles may not be as good as the Austrian ones, but our gunpowder is perfectly serviceable, if that's the word.

"I hope I'm not taking a risk in telling you these things, Stearns. I'll go on. We want to plant some explosives on that ship. We know what to plant, but until just now we haven't seen a way to plant it."

Putnam broke in on her. "What is it that you would plant? Some form of bomb? Would you think to blow up a ship here in the port?"

"Did you ever hear of nitroglycerine?"

"Yes, of course. It blows up if it's jolted. You think there's some way you could get it onto a ship without its blowing up on the way?"

"Yes. The stuff freezes at temperatures below ten degrees or so."

"Very well, but this is not an Arctic climate."

"I mean ten degrees Centigrade. I think that's around 50 degrees, Fahrenheit? We're not sure we can wait until there's a cold spell here. That might not come until December. But we could get the stuff chilled enough that we—by we I mean Giovanni Bionaz's export firm, working with dear Mr. Taliaferro—could pack it into something and then have it loaded it on the ship, where it ought to stay cool for a while in the hold. At some later point when they're at sea, the temperature is up and the seas are up and Boom! And I am sorry to say that it may mean the end for some honest sailors, but sailors who are bringing arms that would kill hundreds, thousands I suppose, of Union soldiers.

"You see," she went on, "Behind this pretty face is a fiendish mind. The authorities here never understood what Carlo and I and our friends would have done, or tried to do, back in 1849, if the country had not gotten a constitution. As it was, when we tried to restore the old Genoese republic that spring, the king's troops and ships came down here and they bombarded our city. It was a bitter time. Two members of my own family were killed, and lots of other people. If we, I mean we Genoese, could have held out, we would no doubt have used, or tried to use, nitroglycerine among other things. You know it's a Turinese invention?"

"Of course I don't know. How do you mean, Turinese?"

"It was invented by a professor at the university in Turin named Sobrero. He's still there. A pleasant man... maybe you've met him. No? Well, I don't want you to think that Sobrero is some sort of revolutionary. He's not, but we know, let us say, people who know him. People who can provide a couple of gallons of this deadly but freezable stuff. A couple of gallons, let us say, that we could send off in the bottom of the crate of good things for your Aunt Lizzie. By the way, do you really have an aunt in the Confederacy?"

"I do have an Aunt Lizzie, but she lives in Ohio, not North Carolina. As I say, I went to see Taliaferro to try to find out whether he was involved in trade with the Confederacy. An old auntie in need was the best thing I could think up. But I wasn't sure what I was going to do with any information I picked up. Incidentally, I have funds. I'll supply what you need."

"Well," she said, "So now you know what you can do. What we can do, I mean, together, we and you and the Bionazes. Dear Stearns, do let us know what Mr. Taliaferro tells you about shipping the garments and pasta to your auntie."

Back in his hotel room in the August afternoon, Putnam lay down on the bed and looked out the window. He thought of that old rhyme: Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief. Now, he thought, it's scholar, cheater, killer. What else? Bomber doesn't fit the verse. Well, if that doesn't fit, neither does a bunch of misguided Virginians shooting at my friends. It is not yet time for me to retreat to quiet New Hampshire. It's in for a dime, in for a dollar. Dear Joanna, just keep on waiting and I'll be there.

September arrived. Putnam took the Costas to dinner at the Concordia restaurant, opposite the grand old Palazzo Rosso with its bright red granite walls in a city of white marble. He recalled dimly how several members of the family who had built the palace were Doges. No doubt they had blood, red blood, on their hands, and liked their walls the same color. Genoa was no America, but it had had its own civil wars. Insensate wars, like all wars.

The three ate at a table in a quiet corner. Stearns told Maria and Carlo he thought he would go down to Rome for a week or more. Perhaps Giovanni Bionaz would telegraph him if there were any interesting developments in Genoa. Fine, said the Costas. For the moment they knew nothing new about Genoa, but otherwise, things in Italy seemed to have reached a critical moment.

"This has much to do with Giuseppe Garibaldi," said Carlo. "As I told you before, when those dastards—the royal army, I mean—attacked Garibaldi and his 3,000 men at Aspromonte, in Calabria, Garibaldi was wounded. Not in the foot, as the papers say, but in the ankle. We've learned they took him in a royal ship to La Spezia, more or less under arrest—and much as we would like to welcome you in La Spezia, I wouldn't suggest you visit there just now.

"I think Rusconi would like to put Garibaldi and his lieutenants on trial as rebels. If he does that, I hope the King will graciously grant them amnesty; but what I really hope is that there's no trial. Now, it's no secret, when civil war first broke out in America, Garibaldi was ready to go there to fight for the Union. In fact he wanted to be Lincoln's commander-in-chief. And, I'd say, why not? Garibaldi knows how to fight a war, and he knows how to win one; he has lived in America, and he speaks English. God knows he would have been a better commander than your cowardly McClellan. Well, not yours, I know. But the most Lincoln was willing to offer him was a commission as major general, and that was not enough for Garibaldi, so he stayed in Italy.

"Now," continued Carlo, "we hear he is again thinking he might go to America. If he survives, that is. His ankle is infected, and I hear the doctors may see a need to amputate.

"But what if instead of going off to America, he should decide to stay here, to raise the banner of an Italian republic? What if Garibaldi should tell the Italians the time has finally come for them to rise up against this no-good King and his ministers? I tell you, a lot of us would follow him. And if we should succeed in creating a republic in Italy, I think it's quite possible the French would kick out their self-made Emperor and restore their own republic. Who knows? It might be another 1848, but this time perhaps the republican revolution would be successful all across Europe."

Maria broke in. "You know, Stearns, this King thinks—I mean he wants the Italian people to think—that it was God who put him on his throne. Well, maybe, but a lot of us don't think it was God's doing. You know there's a story he's not really even the son of King Carlo Alberto, who is of course supposed to have been his father—that his real father was a butcher named Tanaca? You've seen this King. You know how... well... dumpy he is. He's a good foot shorter than Carlo Alberto was, and his complexion is darker, and he's a lot shorter, too, than his brother Ferdinando was. Not very kingly, I'd say, and..."

"Maria, not so loud. Basta!" said her husband. "Let me get back to my main point. What I want to say, Stearns, is that this is what in English is called, I think, a heady time. An uncertain time. Where it's all heading I just don't know. And I know even less what all this may mean for the American Union. Our Union, I should say. I feel myself as much American as I do Italian. But one thing seems clear to me. If the prime minister thinks he can get ahead by playing some sort of American card, either in the political game or just to make money, he'll do it. And anybody who wants to put Giuseppe Garibaldi on trial deserves whatever we can do to him. So, to conclude, we'll make preparations."

He woke on Tuesday morning, pulling himself out of a dream. A long, difficult dream. He had gotten off a ship in Boston and had to walk all the way home to Hanover. The trail went over a mountain, and he got into thick snow and could hardly walk. Awake now, he realized his feet were caught up in a sheet that had not stayed tucked in.

Giovanni Bionaz had given him the address of his export firm on Via Carlo Alberto. Putnam found him there, in his office on the fifth floor looking out over the harbor to the sea beyond.

"I am glad to see you, Stearns. Take a minute to admire my view. We are fortunate to have this north wind and such clear air. Look out my window, and you can see Corsica." He looked, and there, far out in the west, was the dim line of the big island's high ridges. "But you haven't come here for the view. I will tell you where things stand here."

First of all," said Giovanni, "I want you to know Maria Costa was called into the Questura here in Genoa, yesterday morning. Why? she asked. Routine, they told her. You have a prison record, they reminded her; you lived outside the Kingdom for some years; just now you have been in touch with a foreign visitor. The visitor, I suppose, was you. They kept asking her whether she had been involved in any illegal activity, and she said, naturally, No. After an hour of questioning, they said she was free to go. I don't think the police have any particular suspicions, but I wanted you to know about this. I do not think it should stop us.

"Now, there's a new steamship in the harbor; have you seen it? No? Well, it looks to be British-made. It is the one in which the prime minister has an interest. I have not yet learned the name. Let's just call it Ship X. Then, a friend has told me 1,050 cases, each weighing about 70 kilos and all of them containing what is described on the invoices as finished lumber, are arriving here next Tuesday, that is five days from now, on a vessel from Trieste. My friend has seen the invoices. The point of origin for all this lumber is the town of Steyr in Austria. Can you guess what they manufacture in Steyr? Wanzl rifles. If each of these cases contains, say, a dozen rifles, and I have little doubt that it's rifles and not lumber—but I will make sure of this—then this is a shipment of 12,600 weapons on their way to the Confederate army. It's enough to equip a division, I think.

"I did a little more arithmetic. Ship X looks like a fast sailer. If it can make a dozen round trips a year between here and Bermuda, carrying a similar load to Bermuda each time, that means that in addition to the gunpowder, which I hear they're also going to load, more than 150,000 rifles will come through here every year on their way to the rebels. That's a lot of rifles. I don't think they have as many as half a million men in their entire army. Besides, they'll be new ones and all of the same make. From what I've read, the Confederates use all sorts of old pieces with different calibers.

"But we will stop those shipments before they begin. We'll do it, with the help of you and your poor Aunt Lizzie.

"What we'll do, Stearns, is prepare a sturdy wooden box for you to send. We'll chill some nitroglycerine and pack and seal it in metal cans that'll go in the bottom of the box. I imagine three or four gallons will suffice, packed into maybe a dozen cans or less. I think we'll label the cans as meat and flour. The worrisome part is how to seal them. We should solder them if we're to make sure no one takes a look at what's inside, but I fear soldering runs the risk of raising the inside temperature too much, if you know what I mean. I'll have to consult my expert on such things. The cans will go at the bottom of the box, and there'll be other cans, too, preserves and the like, and maybe some small sacks of good Genoese pasta, and then comes some good warm clothing and maybe quite a few pairs of shoes for your aunty and her poor children. What else could we include, do you think?"

What should he think? He was not feeling good. So far he had killed two men. Now he was helping to prepare the murder of a whole ship's crew. He had no commission to kill anybody. He sat, staring at an engraving of an old sailing ship on the wall, saying nothing. He felt sick and worried. The fact that the police had called in Maria was worrisome, no matter what Giovanni said—and Giovanni looked a little worried. But they had to go ahead. They had to.


"Yes. Yes, fine, Giovanni. That is, I see you've thought everything through. Everything sounds fine. I'd best go see Taliaferro and tell him I can have the box ready in what, two or three days, if he can only arrange to get it shipped. Does that sound right? Oh, and if he says he can ship it, perhaps I can ask him whether I can secure it with ropes and a seal, so no one will steal the contents. Or, I will ask him, will the customs people need to get into it?"

"Yes. Do go see the man. My guess is that the prime minister has arranged for the customs people to stay away from his ship. Incidentally, we must assume that Taliaferro knows, or will learn soon, that you have been in contact with me. He may just be suspicious. I suggest you volunteer to him that you've asked an exporter named Bionaz, whose wife you met crossing the Atlantic, to prepare your modest-sized shipment. I also suggest you see him as soon as you can, since this is Thursday and, as I said, we understand the rifles are to arrive by ship from Trieste next Tuesday."

"Very well. How many people are working with you on, on this?"

"Four. And I know I can trust them."

"Good. Let me give you, let's see, I can give you $100 in gold for each of them. For their families, tell them, just in case something goes wrong."

"That's more than generous. They're good men. And they'll be very grateful."

Putnam found that Taliaferro was not in his office. He left his card, returned there the next morning, and found him in.

"Thanks for seeing me, Mr. Taliaferro. I have found a firm here in Genoa that will prepare the shipment for my aunt. The name is Bionaz. I met the wife of the owner when I was crossing the Atlantic. But can you tell me whether at this point you see a good possibility of making the shipment? Frankly, I asked the Bionaz company if they could do it, and they said that they were exporters of wines and cheeses but didn't do the actual shipping. However, the man I spoke with there said he had crates of the size I needed, and then he even offered to help me shop for the things I want to send. I suspect he will charge me too much but anyway, can you help me?"

"Yes, it seems we can. In fact, a ship is leaving here next week and will connect, I can't tell you just where, with another vessel bound for Wilmington, which is where you say your aunt lives. If you can have the box delivered to me by Tuesday afternoon, it'll go."

"And the cost, again, would be... I think you said something like $200?"

"No. Freight's gone up, and I'll have to engage a carter to drive the box to the ship. Pay me $300 even, if it's not over 70 kilos. Tell the Bionaz people to get it to me not later than Tuesday afternoon, and it'll go."

"I am very grateful, but $300? Well, I've got to do it. Ah, the Bionaz people asked me whether it should be roped up and sealed, or whether Italian customs would want to take a look."

Taliaferro looked at him for a moment, then said, "No, they can rope it. Customs will not bother with such a small shipment, and an outgoing one at that."

"Goodbye, then, and thanks again. I do hope this war ends soon. In my view it profits neither side. And we don't need any more bloodshed in America. I was very close to Elizabeth's, that's my aunt's, late husband."

"Arrivederci, Mr. Putnam."

Putnam went back to his hotel room, got $300 dollars in gold, and returned to pay Taliaferro. Greedy fellow, thought Putnam as he looked at the man. He really does look greedy. Good. He takes my money, he ships my crate.

He reached the Genoa archives before noon, stayed there until they closed for the day at two o'clock, and then returned there on Friday morning. If there was not much there, still it was good to put in an appearance, if anyone should be following him. By now he had decided he simply could not tell whether anyone was tailing him. Perhaps it was best he not show an interest in the question. And perhaps he could at least find in the archives some documents relating to the uprising in Genoa in 1849, when Maria's relatives had been killed. He found that well over a hundred—perhaps several hundred—Genoese had been killed by the King's troops. Even after the rebels had surrendered, a number of them had been shot without any trial. Two of them were probably Maria Costa's relatives. These were not events to be ignored. Vittorio Emanuele might not feel so friendly toward him after his Savoy history came out.

The season had just begun at the Teatro Carlo Felice. On Friday evening he went there to see Rossini's Barber of Seville. He had not seen an opera in years; there was not much of a theatrical season in Hanover. No matter, he thought, but I do like an occasional uplifting experience. What was coming up next week was not going to be uplifting. What was the word, dreadful? In any case he would enjoy the music this evening. He had a good seat, in the 15th row, in the magnificent theater all red and gold.

He had forgotten that at the Carlo Felice they liked to begin the evening by putting on a short ballet, to get the people settled in their seats before the opera began. He had no one to talk to, so he went straight to his seat. Scores of ladies in elegant bright dresses and gentlemen in fine dark suits were still strolling about, talking, courting, arguing. Tonight's ballet was, his program said, Bianchi e Negri. Whites and Blacks? What could that be about?

The curtain rose. A plantation, no doubt in the American South. White gentlemen and ladies, an evening of toasting and courting and dancing, black slaves in attendance. War, or in any case confusion and much noise. White gentlemen shot by the insurgent blacks, and now the finale, the black slaves dancing with the white ladies.

The dancers exited. He looked around him. The opera-goers, now in their seats, were applauding politely. What does this crowd make of it? I know damned well these fine Genoese gentlemen wouldn't want their own ladies dancing with black slaves. Well, America's not their world, he thought. It's just a titillating show for them. For them America is an exotic place and they really don't want to get into it. They really don't care what's happening across the ocean. But I do. I won't have these people shipping rifles to kill my fellow townsmen.

Now the opera. Figaro was hefty and over-aged, but Count Almaviva was trim and handsome; Rosina was quite attractive and had a good soprano voice. The acoustics were fine. Putnam wondered idly if the King's Rosina was that pretty. It was too warm in here. He dozed, and woke, and was about to doze again but came wide awake when the scene got lively, soldiers and townspeople crowding into the courtyard. Count Almaviva is in disguise. An officer moves to arrest him. Almaviva shows him a paper. The officer draws back and salutes him. Ah, thought Putnam, that's the kind of paper it might be useful for me to have. Soon the act ended. He was very tired, he thought, and he went back to his hotel and soon slept.

He spent much of Sunday writing about the Savoys and went to bed early after a fairly good supper in a small and noisy Genoa trattoria. On Monday morning he went for the last time to the Genoa archives, stopping to see Salmini, the young director, on his way out. "I am very grateful for the access you have granted me to all these valuable documents. I am far from finishing my research, and I will hope to be able to return here sometime in the coming year, but I must return now to Turin, and to America. I must be back in my university by the beginning of January."

"I understand," said Salmini. "You are welcome to return here at any time. It will be an honor for us to see a book written by an American about our royal family."

The next morning Putnam went to see Giovanni Bionaz. The box for Aunt Lizzie was all ready, said Bionaz. It was packed with good things on top—shoes, sweaters, trousers, skirts—so that even if someone should open the box to inspect it, they should see nothing untoward. Foodstuffs were on the bottom—including six large cans marked Meat. They had decided they could not risk the chance of an explosion if they soldered the lids; but at least they were screwed on tightly.

"You may have noticed," said Bionaz, "that the weather has turned nicely cool. The maestrale is continuing to blow strong out of the north, a little early in the season. The temperature will keep dropping, but nevertheless I am keeping the box in cold storage until it is time to take it to the ship, which I hope to be able to do later today. I suggest you go see Taliaferro once more, and tell him Bionaz & Company await instructions as to when, and to what quay, we should deliver the merchandise. Tell him we will get it straight to the ship. He might like that. That way, he won't have to hire a carter and the greedy fellow can keep a little more of your money. $300! That's over twice what he should charge."

Putnam went to see Taliaferro once again and found him quite amenable to Bionaz sending his trunk straight to the ship. That evening Giovanni told Stearns his man had seen the box for his aunt loaded on the vessel, a new iron steamer called the Omero. He had also somehow confirmed that the 1,050 crates from Austria contained rifles and not lumber, and that they were already in the hold. Stevedores were carrying on board some other cargo in heavy sacks. It must be the Italian gunpowder for Lee's army.

He listened to what Giovanni told him, thinking it seemed unreal. He had not even seen the ship. Yet he was, he would be, the agent of its destruction.

The following morning he went to call on Consul Wheeler, to thank him again for his help with the archives. "I'm going back to Turin today, on the afternoon train. I hope to reach New Hampshire before the first snow falls. The College is anxious to have me back before the next semester begins, and I'm even more anxious to see my wife. I've had no news from home since I've been in Genoa."

"I understand," said Wheeler. "I intend doing a little research of my own, next spring—a trip to Naples and perhaps farther south, to look into brigandage for the book I am planning. But I don't think I'll try to interview any brigands... Dear God!" A great thump, certainly an explosion. The windows rattled. Then another thump. The two men looked at each other. Wheeler said, "What can that be?"

They rushed to the window facing the sea. There was no clear view of the harbor—there were buildings in the way—but beyond, some distance out at sea, a cloud of black smoke was rising.

"A ship, it seems," said Putnam. And that of course it was. The Omero had sailed out into the north wind and rough sea and blown up. The scheme had worked. The rifles would not reach the rebels. But, thought Putnam, how many sailors have drowned or been torn to bits? Twenty, thirty, forty? This is a dirty world. No, a harsh world. It had to be done. But he felt sick at his stomach. Those sailors were just doing their jobs. He had killed innocent men. But those rifles would have killed many Americans. But...

Wheeler was looking at him quizzically. "Are you all right, Professor?"

"Yes, fine. I was just thinking about the poor men who must have perished on that ship. I've got to get to the station. Thanks again for your help, and do let me know if ever you come to New England."

That afternoon the professor from New England sat on the northbound train, looking out the window at the valleys and steep wooded mountainsides of Liguria. These small summits were sharper, not as rounded, not as friendly, as his White Mountains. These mountain leaves were turning autumnal brown. It was dry weather. What was that old farmers' saying? All signs fail in a dry time. He wished he was back in New Hampshire. Escape, he thought; I just want to get away from here. Soon I'll be home. He closed his eyes and dozed.

The train reached Turin on schedule, at 6:00 PM. As he walked down the platform under the high steel arches of the train shed, he saw ahead of him four uniformed Carabinieri and a civilian. It was that policeman, what was his name? The assessore, Spaventa. Were they waiting for him? They were.

Spaventa walked up to him. "I arrest you in the name of the Kingdom of Italy. Secure him!" One Carabiniere grabbed his suitcase, another turned him around and pulled his arms behind him. They clapped handcuffs on his wrists and quick-marched him into the station and out the front entrance. People stared, curious, as they passed.

"Why are you doing this? Where are you taking me? I demand to see the American minister!"

"You are going to the Fenestrelle. You will see no one."

"Fenestrelle? What is that?"

"Silence! You are not to speak."

A black van drawn by two horses was parked in front of the station, and they thrust him into it. Two of the Carabinieri got in with him. There was a bench on one side of the van. His handcuffs were released, his arms brought in front of him, and he was handcuffed again. One Carabiniere sat down on either side of him. The rear door slammed, and they started off. There were windows up near the ceiling of the van, so he could not see out. From the light he thought they must be headed west, toward the mountains. They drove for three hours and stopped. They got him out and took off his handcuffs. It was dark, not a light to be seen. "Puoi orinare." He urinated on the ground, as did his guards. They handcuffed him again. It was so dark, he could not see their faces. They started off again. In several more hours they arrived—where? It was colder. They were in the mountains. It must be the Fenestrelle.

They pulled him out of the van. He saw in the dimness that he was in a courtyard with a high wall on three sides and a big stone building on the fourth. Into the building with his two guards, down a corridor paved with large stones, up a stone stairway. Down another corridor, lined with doors with small apertures. Cells. They opened the door and thrust him into a cell with stone floor, walls, ceiling. They released his handcuffs.

"Where am I? Tell me, where am I?"

"Forte San Carlo. The Fenestrelle." They left and slammed the door. There was a small high window, but outside was black night. Only a little light came through the edges of a closed aperture in the door. A sort of pallet and a blanket lay on the floor under one wall. A large stone jar, presumably a slop jar. Nothing else but him. It was cold.

Later, it seemed, he slept. Not much. At dawn someone opened the aperture and thrust through it a hunk of bread and a mug of water. Good dark bread, at least. The little barred window did not let in much light. No one, no human, appeared all day. Occasionally he heard shouts, a scream, in the distance. Was it the poor Bourbon soldiers from the South?

Toward evening the door opened. While a guard watched, a poorly dressed man entered the cell and emptied the slop jar into a container on wheels. They gave Putnam another hunk of bread and a mug of tepid minestrone. He tried to speak to the guard, but the man said, "Silenzio!" and slammed the door shut.

The next morning two silent guards came for him. They put handcuffs on him and marched him down the corridor and rightward down another long corridor to an office that at least had rugs on the stone floor. They sat him down on a chair and tied him tightly to it. He was facing a desk behind which sat a uniformed officer, a man with a gaunt and mean look and cold, steely eyes. Putnam saw he wore the epaulettes and small gold chevrons of a colonel. A blue and red strap stretched from his right shoulder to his left hip. On his left breast was a large medal, gold with an inset white cross. It was, thought Putnam, the top decoration awarded by the Savoys.

"You are Stearns Putnam, born 7 October 1818, nationality American."

"Yes. What is your name, please? I demand to see the American minister, Mr. Marsh. He will..."

"Silence! You are not to ask questions. You will answer my questions. We know all about you. We know that you are a member of a band of terrorists. We have arrested them all. They will be hanged. Your fate has not been decided. It may depend on whether you cooperate with us."

Cooperate? Perhaps they don't really know that much. Whom have they arrested? "Of course I will cooperate with you. I have nothing to hide. Someone, it seems, has been spreading false stories about me. But I do not understand who that could be. As far as..."

"Enough! You will answer my questions. When did you first meet the couples known as Bionaz and Costa?"

"I met Gemma Bionaz on the ship coming from America. Later, in Turin, I met her husband, and they introduced me to the Costas. As you must know, they are American citizens as well as Italians, and..."

"Enough! When did you first discuss with them your idea of undertaking violent action to destroy lives and property?"

"That is not a subject I would ever discuss with anyone. I am a professor, an historian. I have never broken the law. I have come to Italy to do research for a book on the royal family. In fact I have met with His Majesty the King. He..."

"Silence! You have deceived the royal house and the government as well. That was a serious mistake, quite aside from your murderous activities. I shall give you a few days to reconsider what you are saying. I want the truth from you. The full truth. Guards! Take him back to his cell."

One guard pulled him along by his handcuffs, the other pushed him, and he went stumbling down the empty corridors back to his cold stone cell. He sat down in the cell and wondered about Gemma and Giovanni, Maria and Carlo. The interrogator had mentioned them. Could they be in this awful place, too? It was no place for women. Nor, indeed, for men.

Five days passed before the same unnamed colonel had him brought back again. They sat him down, handcuffed in a chair. Again a guard bound him across the chest with a rope, tying him to the back of the chair. Again the officer told him he must confess. He must tell all the details of the plot, give the names of all his fellow plotters. "Do you really want to hang? You must tell me all you know."

For three hours, maybe four, the interrogator went at him, and Putnam gave him brief answers, stuck to his story. At least he hoped he did. He did not want to provide this man any sort of crack he could widen. I am not a killer, he thought, I am an American patriot. A patriot. Remember that, Putnam. But he shivered.

"Putnam," said the officer, walking over to his chair and looking down at him. "Look in my eyes. Do you see death there? I kill spies. I kill them myself. I hang them, not with a rope but a wire. It is more painful. I am going to hang you if you do not tell me the truth. Before I hang you, I will cut off your hands, and then I will give you one last chance to confess. I know much, I know almost everything about your activities in our country, but you must confirm these things or else die."

"I have nothing to confirm. I have done no wrong."

The officer said, "You are a liar." He struck Putnam hard with the back of his right hand.

Stearns felt blood coursing down his face. Had the bastard broken his nose? He swallowed, looked at the man, and said, "I am not a liar, but you are a coward. Only a coward will strike a man who is tied. If my hands were not tied, I would kill you. I am not a killer, but you I would happily kill."

The officer spat in his face.

They took him back to his cell. He was shivering. He kept shivering, shivering in hatred, in horror. He was in fact a killer. He was guilty of murder. Mass murder. They would hang him and bury him in a hole in the ground, and no one, not his wife, not his son, no one would ever know.

After a half-hour he pulled himself together. He had acted for the country, for the Union. They could very well hang him, but meanwhile he must keep his senses. He must keep track of time. The stone of the cell wall was just soft enough, he found, that he could scratch on it, with the handle of the iron mug they brought him with water and soup twice a day. He scratched on the wall the date he had been brought here—October 24—and a line for each day since then. He was eternally cold, but he did not get sick. He sat long hours on the bed, the thin blanket draped over his shoulders.

Every morning, bread and water. Every evening, bread and a poor soup. He began losing weight. But he needed to exercise. The cell was not small, perhaps 15 feet across, and he paced from wall to wall and back again. He decided he would do 1,000 paces a day.

He needed to exercise his mind, too. A year ago he had read for the second time The Count of Monte Cristo. He would remember all he could about Edmond Dantès in the Chateau d'If. It was fiction, yet perhaps there was something in it that could be useful to him. How, though? He could not hope to escape from this place.

No, the book he should be thinking about was My Prisons by Silvio Pellico. The Austrians in Milan had condemned Pellico to 15 or was it 20 years of harsh confinement because he belonged to some pitiful little Italian independence movement. He should forget about Dumas and think about Pellico. Pellico and the years he spent in chains. That was hard fact, not fiction. At least, thought Putnam, I'm not in chains. But Pellico had people to talk to. He talked to his guards all the time. These people won't talk to me. They'd like me dead. Well, I'm not dead, boys, I'm not dead. Pellico survived, and so will I. What was it Emerson said about the heroic class? Known for their hilarity? Not really a place for hilarity, but he'd laugh in their damned faces, next time they questioned him. Next time?

He had a rough idea of where he was. He tried to remember just what Wheeler the consul had told him about the Fenestrelle. A series of fortresses along an ascending mountain ridge, somewhere near the French border. What of the Bourbon soldiers imprisoned here? Wheeler had wondered if they'd been tried. They should have been. After all it was a constitutional regime. But had they? And if they had not been tried, were they still here? What about himself? Would they try him, or just keep him in this cell and let him slowly starve? He kept hearing occasional shouts and screams, sometimes shots. But he could see nothing, nothing but stone.

The interrogator had said something about his having deceived the royal house. The ugly King must have been an angry King, when they told him one of the terrorists who blew up the ship was the friendly American he had met with twice—the American with whom he had drunk a fair amount of grappa. But, again, how much did the King or any of his people really know about what had happened? What had happened to the Bionazes, and the Costas, and whoever else had been working with them?

He acquired a cough. He was losing weight. Days passed. Many days. He wondered whether George Marsh knew he had been put in prison. Probably not, probably thought he'd sailed home. When the guard brought his meager food and drink, he said nothing to Putnam, who kept telling him he was an American and should not be here.

He realized Joanna might never learn what had happened to him. Some song came to mind. The Harbison—no, Hutchinson—Family Singers used to sing it, about their home in the mountains. About New Hampshire. It began, "Among our free hills..." What was the rest of it?

He looked at the cold stone walls. Walls not hills. How long had Pellico spent in chains in that Austrian prison? Ten years, was it? He thought, I'm tough, but that's unimaginable. He tried to say the word and it did not come out right. What if they hanged him? Or shot him, which the military liked to do? Passare per le armi, was the Italian phrase. Passero. No; that was a bird. That was a sparrow. He was losing his mind. No, he would not do that.

But the days went on. Days and nights, in stone. One night he dreamed someone, someone good, came to him and said he must be true. He must be straight and strong, and seek. Yes, but seek what... he woke, wondering.

Why did they not bring him to that damned interrogator again? He needed to see someone. To see a human face, even the face of that son of a bitch. They hadn't even put him on trial, for God's sake. Pellico at least got to see people, didn't he? He was sick. They were giving him less bread. He was slowly starving, he knew. He heard more shouts. Shouted orders, maybe to do with the poor Bourbon soldiers?

He began to spend his days sitting in the corner of his cell. No exercise. Why exercise? He stopped scratching days on the wall. At night he dreamed, bad dreams he could not remember when he woke. What did Job say? The night racks my bones. Racks my bones. O God, why try me so?

One morning the aperture opened as usual, and he went to get his bread and water.

"Excellency," said a low voice in Italian, "They say the King himself is angry with you. Are you maybe a prince or a duke, or some general? Who are you?"

"I am an envoy. An envoy from America. My colleague, our envoy in Turin, does not know that I am here. I have committed no crime. I am an American, a friend of Italy."

"Excellency, I must obey orders. But I admire America. I have a nephew who is to go to Turin this week from our village, with a load of firewood. Perhaps your envoy needs some firewood. Perhaps my nephew can see him."

"Yes, my friend, yes, for the love of God, tell your nephew to go see our envoy and tell him I'm here. My name is Putnam."

"Patnum. Good. But say nothing of this to anyone, or I shall be in a cell, too."

The aperture slammed shut. Nor would the guard, if it was the same guard, speak to him that evening or the day that followed. The days. The days went on. How many days? Weeks, it must be. Tu ne cede malis. Horace. No, Virgil. Don't give way. No.

One morning the aperture opened as usual, and he went for his bread and water.

A whisper: "Excellency!" It was the guard who had spoken to him weeks ago. "Excellency, I told my nephew to go see your envoy in Turin. Perhaps he did. But he has not returned to the village. We think he was waylaid by bandits. I do not know whether he told your envoy about you. I must go. I cannot say any more to you, ever. Too dangerous."

Putnam took his rations and the guard slammed shut the aperture.

Now, Putnam thought, I am utterly alone, lost, hopeless. I'm finished. He broke into tears. He slumped to the stone floor.

Many more days passed; who knew how many? The end was coming. Well, let it come, he thought. I'm ready.


Someone was coming down the corridor. No, people. Two people. Three people? The door opened. "Marsh? Mr. Marsh?"

It was George Marsh.

"Putnam, thank God. How are you? I will get you out of here."

"You will? I think... I think they are going to pass me... pass me through..."

"Shoot you? No, they are not. Can you stand up? Come with me."

He stood up and followed Marsh and a single guard down the corridor. He stumbled just once or twice. The guard led them into some furnished place, and they sat down at a table. Marsh said, "I have brought you a coat and some food. I suspected you had neither. Here."

Putnam put on the garment Marsh held out to him, a kind of heavy hunter's jacket. "Here is some bread and sausage and cheese, and a little wine and water. Do not eat or drink too fast, or too much, not for now. They've been starving you, it seems."

"Yes. Yes. Thanks." He sat down and ate and drank a little.

"I have reserved rooms for us at an inn in the village. I think you should get some rest before we travel to Turin, which we will do when you're ready."

"I'll be ready, soon. But what day is it? I mean, what month is it? I have no idea. I know it's winter, but..."

"Today is the 20th of December. And a good day, you'll agree. Look, the sun is shining!"

It was late afternoon when Marsh and Putnam rode out of the fortress courtyard in the envoy's carriage. The inn was a kilometer away and proved to be warm and pleasant. A maid drew a bath for him. Hot water! Marsh had brought him a change of clothing, and a razor and scissors and soap and a comb. He threw his grimy prison clothing, almost rags now, into a corner. He went to trim his beard and saw in the mirror a gaunt fellow with a beard turning gray. It was grayer when he finished trimming. A shabby and unsmiling type, he thought.

Two hours later, after Putnam had taken a nap, the two Americans sat at dinner near the fireplace. Good food, it's all very pleasant, Putnam thought, and he finished his plate and drank the rest of a glass of red wine. There were several uniformed officers at a table a dozen feet away, but they were talking loudly, not listening to anyone else.

"Putnam," said Marsh, "I will not tell you in detail what I had to do to secure your release once I learned three weeks ago, from some country fellow, that you were here in this awful place. But the thing was not easily done. I saw the prime minister, knowing that it was his ship, or anyway partly his—I do have my sources—his ship that exploded outside Genoa harbor. I gave him my word that you had had no part in any plot, if there was any plot, to blow up that ship. I said that I wondered if it might have been carrying some sort of hazardous cargo. Did he know that I had heard his ship was carrying gunpowder for the rebels? I wonder.

"I was told you had been plotting with two Italian couples to destroy the ship; that you'd arranged for some mysterious box to be added to the cargo. I asked what sort of box it might be that would explode of its own accord. They could not tell me. I said that sounded like magic, and I did not believe in magic. I also said I did not believe that the good relations between our two countries should suffer because of the false arrest of a reputable scholar.

"In any case I've also been doing what I can for the two couples. I have insisted I have a legitimate interest in them because they have American as well as Italian citizenship, although in fact I've not been able to confirm that. They will not be executed, but they may face long prison terms, I think on a charge of sedition. I have been unable to learn whether they are here in the Fenestrelle or somewhere else. I am pressing the King about them, as best I can. If it was a conspiracy, the authorities must think it was a small one; no one except you and the two couples has been arrested.

"Now, what I must tell you"—he glanced at the officers at the next table, but they were arguing with one another, still more noisily—"what I must tell you is that you are not to return to Turin. Whether Rusconi really believes you somehow destroyed his ship, I just don't know, but I know from someone close to the throne that the King still suspects you are a plotter and that you took advantage of his kindness to you. I'm not saying that either the prime minister or the King would order an assassination, any more than that you plot bombings, but it would not be safe for you to go back to the capital."

"What then? What am I to do, then? If I'm not safe in Turin, I suppose the same is true for Genoa."

"Right. You must go over the mountains into France, to Grenoble where you can take a train to Paris and then Calais. It may be a week's walk to Grenoble, I'm not sure. Fortunately the snow is not deep yet. I have brought your knapsack and still another change of clothes, and your boots and a wool cap and gloves, your passport and your money and letter of credit from Riggs Bank. And some food and drink to carry. And the best map I could find. Oh, and I insisted they even give me your revolver, and your knife with its rather long blade. They're in the pack.

"We will spend, I think, two more days and a third night here, to let you recuperate. We can spend longer than that if need be. But if you feel strong enough after two more days we will start off on the road for Turin. My driver, who is trustworthy, and I will stop and let you out, about three kilometers down the road from here, and you will start on your way west on a mule path I will point out to you. Your way to New Hampshire. Why you will not appear in Turin at the Hotel Feder is for others to puzzle over. Certainly it's not a question I will be able to answer for them."

Putnam looked at Marsh and thought he had never known such a kind man. "George Marsh," he said, "How can I ever repay you? You have saved my life."

"Stearns Putnam," said Marsh, "I know you would do the same for me. We are two Union men, and that is enough to say. Let us have just a little more wine. To the Union!"

"To the Union! And I know you will do all you can for the Bionazes and Costas. They are good republicans, Italian and American alike."

"I promise you I will do so. But when you are back in America, you may not hear much about them, or from them."

After three nights in the inn and a good breakfast on the third morning, Putnam said he was fit enough to begin walking. Marsh and driver dropped him off down the road, out of sight of the village and the great fortress stretching up its mountain ridge. It was 8:00 on a cold morning when Putnam started into the outliers of the high Alps. The three days of good food and the nights under a down quilt made him feel quite restored.

An older Natty Bumppo, he thought as he walked west. I am rather sorry the King doesn't like me. What would he think if he knew I was playing frontiersman in his own mountains? He walked almost happily through the dark pine forest on the way that would take him to France. If he had to, he would explain to curious villagers and peasants that he was an American writer who was—what? Maybe exploring possible routes Hannibal and his elephants had taken through the Alps. Why not? He was good now at telling tall stories.

His road rose steadily. He encountered no one. By midday he had left all trees behind him. The road had become a narrow mule track and climbed steeply through a land of shallow snow and rock outcrops to a lonely pass. He stopped at the pass. He could not understand where he was on the map Marsh had given him. Fortunately the sun was shining, and he was marching west. He must be at least a mile above sea level. He could see peaks ahead and to his right, northward, that might be as high as 10,000 feet. Perhaps he was now in France. In any case he was alone, happily alone, not closed in a tight stone cell but out in the bright world.

He breathed in the mountain air, cold and still and pure. He fell to his knees and stretched his arms toward the sun. He had come through. He thought of Kidd's story about the family in the forest, how the Master helped them. Sometimes the Master helped good people. Am I good? Onward.

An hour beyond the nameless pass he was down again in forest and there was no more snow. In another mile his track climbed slowly again, several hundred feet, to a high point. Beyond this a huge meadow stretched downhill. Shaggy horses, a dozen at least, were grazing on the yellowed grass. Ahead of him he saw a brown clump. Coming closer, he saw it was the body of a colt. The head and legs were intact but the rest of the body was eaten away. Only the backbone and ribs were left. Wolves. There were two large paw prints on the damp earth. Recent prints. He looked around but saw nothing and continued on his way. In a quarter-mile he was back in woods. He felt, he sensed, a presence. His hair rose. Every minute he looked around, and now they were there: four thin gray wolves. Hungry wolves.

He pulled his revolver out of his pack. He had just six cartridges. The animals stood watching him, not 20 yards away, and now they came slowly toward him. He fired at the largest animal and it yelped, fell, hurt. He fired again, to kill it, but missed. He had wasted a shot. The other three wolves trotted off into the woods, out of sight, but how far?

He kept on his way. He had been followed in Italy, but these fellows might be more deadly than human followers. Three to one was not good odds, and he had just four shots left. After a few minutes he saw them again, coming after him down the track. They stayed too far away for him to hazard another shot. He kept on. So did they, at a distance.

Two hours later, as light was failing, he found himself on a trail leading along a narrow valley. He saw ahead a tall pointed steeple and a little village. A great high mountain lay beyond. He looked behind him. The wolves had finally vanished. His track became a street as he approached the first houses. He felt tired, weak. It was partly from worry about the wolves, partly because he had walked too far, but this was the only inhabited place he had seen all day.

At the village center a larger road crossed his street, and at the crossroads was an old stone inn. The innkeeper, a sharp-faced woman of 30 or so, said he could have a room and dinner for a franc. She had trouble producing change for the 20-franc gold piece he gave her. The room was clean but shabby; at least the bed had a down comforter. He realized he was not just tired but hungry. Dinner was rather tough mutton, boiled potatoes and cabbage with butter, and dark bread. The woman also brought him a small carafe of a fairly good red wine.

He had cleaned his plate and was polishing off the carafe when the innkeeper said he was wanted at the gendarmerie, and without delay. He went to his room, got his passport, and strolled down the dark street 100 yards to the police station. He walked in and found a man who must be the sergeant in charge buttoning up his uniform collar. He was older, heavy-set with a large gray mustache, and he greeted Putnam curtly.

Putnam's French was good, if less fluent than his Italian. "Good evening. My name is Putnam. You wanted to see me? Let me present my passport. I am an American."

"Thank you for your visit. I am the maréchal Daudet. I wish to know why you are here, where you have come from, and where you are bound. We are, you know, very close to our national border here. This is a strange place for any foreigner to visit, and especially in this season. In a word, I find you a suspicious person. If you cannot explain yourself, I regret I must send you under guard to my superiors in Briançon."

Putnam thought, a maréchal is just a sergeant but I'd best treat him like a field marshal. "I understand," he said, "Monsieur le maréchal. I do not suppose you see many Americans here. I have come from Italy—from Rome—on foot, over the last several months. I am a writer. With due respect, if you were an American you would know my name. I travel and write books about my travels: China, Egypt, Peru. I have published three books so far; none has been translated into French, but I am sure the next one will be. It is to be called A Walk from Rome to Gaul. I am making my way on foot from Rome to Paris, which I believe no one has done since the pilgrims in the Middle Ages. I have studied Caesar, and I believe he may have come through this village with his army more than once, on his way to and from Gaul. In any case, once I reach Paris I am finished walking. From Paris I will go by train to Le Havre, to take ship for New York, and there I shall finish writing my book."

"Interesting. But, I must ask, why did you decide to walk through the Alps in the winter? No one does that. Not even Caesar did that, I believe. There are dangers—snow, wolves, thieves, who knows what else."

"Unfortunately," said Putnam, thinking fast, "I fell sick in Italy, in Piedmont, and so was delayed for two months. I had hoped to walk through here in the autumn, which, I was told, is a beautiful season in this region. But I must complete my walk as soon as I can, because my contract with my publisher in New York requires that I finish this book by June. I received a letter from him in Turin stating he was unwilling to extend the contract." As he looked at the gendarme he sensed that the man believed him.

"I see," said the maréchal. "I must tell you, my friend, that you still do not look well. Perhaps you should stay in our inn for at least a few days. I will tell Madame Prévot, the innkeeper, to feed you well."

"That is very kind of you; but I feel stronger every day—incidentally, Madame Prévot gave me quite a good dinner—and I cannot delay. Well, I am in fact still somewhat fatigued. Perhaps I will stay here one more day and night.

"Ah, let me add that if I may have your name and address, next year I will be happy to send you a copy of the French edition of my book, in which I shall not fail to mention my stay in this hospitable village."

"And that is equally kind of you." He went to the desk at the back of the room and wrote on a piece of paper which he gave to Putnam: Maréchal-des-logis Pierre Daudet, Gendarmerie Impériale, Névache, Hautes-Alpes. So now, Putnam thought, I know where I am. Névache is on my map.

"Many thanks, Monsieur le maréchal. With your permission I will take back my passport and take my leave from you now. I do need sleep. But I regret to say I do not think I can afford to stay here for more than two nights. I must reach America."

"Good luck. I shall look forward to seeing your book." Long will you wait, thought Putnam.

After two nights in Névache, he resumed his walk. There were a few people on the road, no wolves, and no more encounters with gendarmes as he got farther from the Italian border. He spent two more days trekking lonely country roads, and a night in a country inn more miserable than the one in Névache. Finally he walked into the city of Grenoble, late on a gray afternoon. The city seemed quiet. He realized it was the day after Christmas. He asked a passer-by what was the city's best hotel. This was, he was told, the Grand-Hotel Primat, on the Rue de la Halle, near the railway station. It looked to be a pleasant place, far from full. He took a room there for ten francs a night.

He was still tired, but he felt the long walk had done him good. He stayed two days and nights at Grenoble, sleeping, eating well, and strolling just a little. The city had a fine setting among the mountains, and a big old Bastille rose high above the place, but he had seen enough of fortresses.

It was just five days after leaving Grenoble, including two days at Liverpool waiting for the next ship, that Stearns Putnam sailed for Boston on the Cunard Line. It was New Year's Day in the year 1863. The ship was the old wooden Europa again. No matter. Captain Shannon said he was glad to see him, adding, "I trust, my dear Professor, that you had a pleasant sojourn on the Continent."

"It was interesting," said Putnam.

"You look a bit weary. No doubt you'll be content to see your wife again. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but that's not so forever, I think."

"I fear you may be right," said Putnam. What was waiting for him at home?

The weather as they steamed west was not bad. "Not bad at all for January," said the captain. It was a relaxing voyage, all told. The ship was not crowded. There were no more than 50 or 60 saloon passengers. The weather on the North Atlantic was mild for January. He spent many hours alone on the fore deck, watching waves, enjoying the clouds and wind and sunny intervals. He wrote a sonnet, decided it was not a very good one, and threw the page overboard. Still he always remembered the first line: "A grand tour's best when one nears home at last..." Ah, well. No more Roman Pope, no more Turin King. No more freezing Fenestrelle. And no more killing. He thought of Hazlitt and grimaced. It was all behind him, though.

It had been his brief Odyssey. What was it Ulysses had said? I am a man who's had his share of sorrows. Yes, but my own sorrows lasted only months, not a decade, and now I'm on my way to wife and home. That's enough of Europe for a long time to come. But what is happening in America?

The ocean stayed fairly calm, and Europa reached Halifax safely in 11 days. He went ashore for an hour and cabled Joanna:

Halifax N.S.

Mrs. S. Putnam

Hanover N. Hampshire

Arrive Boston Tuesday


It was 8:00 PM on a Tuesday in January 1863 when he got off the train at Lebanon. Outside the depot, thank Heaven, the omnibus for Hanover was waiting for passengers. In half an hour he got off at the Hotel, on the corner by the snowy Green. There was no moon, but the night was clear. In the starshine he saw the big white College buildings, dim on the low ridge above the Green. He walked rightward up Wheelock Street to his house, his home.

Joanna opened the door. She looked at him with her eyes wide and her mouth open, hardly believing he was there. "Stearns! I am so glad. Oh, welcome home! You are so thin. Why, you've gone gray. Are you well? Are you all right?"

"Yes. Oh, my dearest!" She looked slightly flushed and very pretty. He pulled her to him, kissed her, ran his hands over her hair, her face, held her tight. Fine, lovely Joanna. He was home. He kissed her again. He pulled back a little, holding her shoulders lightly, gently, and asked, "How are you? I will not leave you again. Ever."

They went to bed an hour later. When he had put on his pajamas he found her already in bed, with a candle burning on the table next to her. She was wearing that pink nightgown with white lace that showed her splendid breasts. She was looking steadily at him. "Stearns, what were you up to in Italy? How did you lose so much weight? I want to know. I want you to tell me."

"Joanna, I killed someone. More than one. They put me in a prison in the Alps. I got out and fled to France."

"You did this for the Union? For the country?"

"I did. But no one must know. Ah, God!" He began to sob. She took him in her arms. She solaced him. She put out the candle, and she reached under the sheet for him. They made love more passionately, perhaps, than ever before.

Stearns dropped into sleep, but Joanna lay awake for a long time. She thought about that afternoon, weeks earlier, with John Frost. A brief interlude—was that what you called it? An amorous interlude, she had to admit, that had almost ended in this bed. She had been so lonely; she had had no word from Stearns for months. She had gone to a faculty dinner with John on an evening when his wife, Amanda, was out of town. She had worn her best blue dress and applied just a bit of rouge to cheeks and lips—and sensed that the men were looking at her with admiring, even lustful eyes. Something stirred in her. And the next afternoon John had come calling, and she had received him happily.

Well, she had finally sent him away, but she had dallied with him. She had sinned. It had been less than what Catholics called mortal sin, but anyway, she would sin no more. She loved her husband, poor man. What had those Italians done to him in that prison? She sighed and kissed his shoulder and went to sleep.

The morning after his return, Stearns Putnam knocked on Frank Anthony's door. Anthony, the ever-helpful neighbor. Just how helpful had he been, beyond fixing the roof?

"Stearns! What a surprise! A pleasant surprise, I mean," said Anthony. He looked at Putnam and suddenly saw something ugly in his eyes.

Putnam looked hard at his neighbor. Could he have taken Joanna to bed? No, it's only me that's the adulterer. The secret agent. The killer. But that's all ancient history. I should know, I'm the historian. He smiled at his neighbor, who did not understand. Meno male, thought Putnam.

The news of General Ambrose Burnside and his army was appalling. That December of 1862, over a month ago now, Burnside, heading a Union force of over 100,000 men, had launched a frontal attack on Lee's smaller Confederate army at Fredericksburg, halfway from Washington to Richmond. The 5th New Hampshire formed part of one of the three Grand Divisions under Burnside.

As Putnam had learned before sailing from Liverpool, the attack on the rebels at Fredericksburg had not gone well for Burnside. Indeed it had proved disastrous. To get into Fredericksburg the Union men had to cross the Rappahannock River, which farther upstream would not have presented a great obstacle but at Fredericksburg was a tidal watercourse sometimes 12 feet deep. Burnside ordered six pontoon bridges, but they were very late in coming. By the time the engineers began assembling them, there was murderous fire from the town across the river. The New Hampshiremen had finally made their way across one of the bridges, only to face fierce enemy fire in the streets. Union artillery knocked down houses, but Southern sharpshooters kept firing from the rubble and Union men kept dropping. Beyond the town stretched 500 or 600 yards of open fields. At the far side of the fields ran a low stone wall. On the other side of the wall, although the Union men could not see it, was a slightly sunken road. There, well protected by the wall, four ranks of Confederate riflemen stood waiting. Beyond them, Confederate artillery up on a low ridge began firing steadily down onto the Northerners on the field. A disaster—and Putnam soon learned that two of the Union dead were former students of his, Townsend Pope and John Wray.

Putnam had gone to see President Lord the afternoon after he returned home, in Lord's large office in Dartmouth Hall that looked out over the College Green. Putnam thought Lord had aged considerably in the months since he had seen him; he must be at least seventy.

Lord greeted him with his rich and powerful voice. An unctuous man, Putnam thought. Lord had been a pastor before becoming a president, and he was ever the pious preacher.

"I am glad to see you back in Hanover, my dear Professor. You were away quite long. I trust that means your researches went well... but I fear you overworked. You have come back thin, very thin, from the land of good cooking."

"Dr. Lord, I am very pleased to be home, and I am sorry to have absented myself for longer than I had planned. Let me just say that it is hard, indeed tedious, to make one's way through the dusty Savoy archives. But I assure you I do not intend such absences in the future. Thank you for letting me come by. I must not keep you longer on a busy morning..."

His other colleagues had more questions. They wanted to know all about Europe, about his researches in Italy. Apparently nothing had appeared in the press about his arrest, which was just as well. He was not going to tell people that he had walked out of Italy through the mountains after spending weeks as a prisoner of a king. And certainly he would not speak of what he had done earlier.

On the first Sunday after his return, Stearns and Joanna went, as they did not infrequently, to the services at the old White Church on the north side of the Green. It was Congregational and not Unitarian, but there was no Unitarian church in Hanover, and in any case it was the College church. The minister, Dr. John Martin, was a black-haired man whom Stearns thought of as both ardent and kind. He based his sermon on Chapter 31 of the Book of Job, and God's fierce answer to Job's plea, "Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity."

Putnam thought of the weeks he had spent oppressed in stone, in cold. He began quietly to cry. Two or three people sitting nearby saw that and wondered a little, but after all it was wartime and there were good reasons to be sad. Joanna took his hand, believing he must be thinking of all the human losses. But he was not. I am crying, he thought, from pure selfishness. I am a fool, a selfish fool, like Job. How can Joanna love me? But that was enough self-pity and in a minute he had composed himself.

Next day he woke early with another sort of worry. After leaving George Marsh and walking a mile into the forests of Piedmont, he had suddenly realized Marsh had said nothing to him—and he had forgotten to ask—about the many pages of notes he had taken in the archives in Turin and Genoa, and the draft he had begun to work on that would be the beginning of his Savoy book. He had put everything in his suitcase, and the police had taken that when they arrested him. Marsh had not mentioned seeing a suitcase. Alas, he could never reconstruct from his memory all that he had written. He had better not talk about writing a book, but clearly his colleagues expected him to do so. John Newton Putnam, a distant cousin and the College's much respected professor of the classics, had greeted him with, "Our future Bancroft! When shall we expect the magnum opus?"

Putnam wrote Marsh to express his deep thanks for all he had done for him, without saying just what that was. Who knew who was opening people's mail, these days? He added apologetically that he wondered whether the Minister by any chance had heard what happened to the notebooks he had left behind him. And he hoped the Minister was doing all he could to help those friends of his, the friends they had discussed when the two of them last met.

Just three weeks later, when his letter could barely have reached Turin, he received a packet from Marsh, and there were all his notes, everything he had written about the Savoys. Marsh had managed to get hold of his papers from the police and had sent the packet to Washington in the diplomatic pouch, and the Department had sent it on to him in Hanover. He appended a note saying that Stearns' four friends were well and happy. What a good man! And now he could tell his colleagues that he had made a good start on a book about the Savoys.

No doubt Secretary Seward, and of course Salmon Chase, would want a firsthand report from him on his months in Italy. He wondered if he could tell them all he had done. He had not told Marsh. He would at least tell them of his meetings with Vittorio Emanuele and Rusconi and the Pope, although he imagined Marsh had already reported to Washington about his meetings in Turin. Putnam had written young Frederick Seward just after his return, to ask when he might visit the Department to discuss matters of mutual interest.

No reply came for several weeks, and then he received a brief letter:

Department of State


April 2, 1863

Dear Professor Putnam,

Thank you for your letter of recent date addressed to the Assistant Secretary. I regret to have to inform you that, given the press of current business, it does not seem possible to find a time to receive you in the Department at any early point.

Yours ever truly,

William Hunter

Second Assistant Secretary

Putnam could only guess at what had happened. Marsh had certainly reported to Seward both about the murder of Hazlitt and about the steamship explosion at Genoa, which of course had been in the press. He had probably also reported that Stearns Putnam had unfortunately, unjustly, been suspected of involvement in one or both cases. Presumably Marsh had reported that Putnam had vanished from Italy. At a guess, Marsh had seen no need to add that he himself had started Putnam on his way back to America. Perhaps, too, that Italian envoy in Washington—what was his name, Bertinatti?—had asked hard questions about the vanished professor. The Italians were suspicious people. Even if Marsh had gotten him released, Bertinatti's government probably still suspected he was a plotter.

But would they seek his extradition to Italy? That was a worrisome thought, for a minute, but the answer was clearly no. An extradition request could result in everything coming out in the papers, and the King would not want Lincoln to know that the head of his government had been involved in smuggling arms to the Confederacy.

As to our own people, he thought, Secretary Seward must have decided no advantage to the nation would derive from either him or his son meeting again with this questionable Professor Putnam. In fact, any sign that an American agent might have played a part in sinking an Italian ship and killing several dozen Italians could damage the American cause in Italy. It could tip Italy toward recognizing the Confederacy.

And yet, he thought, it was Seward who recruited me, recruited me to go to Italy for the Union, to do work Seward never specified. I argued the Union cause, and I think I argued it well, with a King and a Prime Minister. I kept thousands and thousands of rifles out of rebel hands. And the rebels are doing worse things at sea, with their raider the Alabama still sinking unarmed Union merchantmen up and down the Atlantic.

He thought again. Hunter had referred to his letter "of recent date." Didn't he have the letter in front of him when he replied? Probably not. One of the Sewards had probably thrown it on the fire in his office fireplace. No need to keep a record of that fellow Putnam.

Well, he thought, no matter. I never expected a medal. I suppose I should have realized from the start that it would be a thankless task—and that the greater my success, the greater the likelihood I would be disowned. But should I write to Salmon Chase? No; let him write me. But Chase did not. Too busy, no doubt. To hell with him.

But then Putnam thought, was Chase really so busy, or was he deliberately ignoring him—or was the great man simply disconsolate? The war news at the beginning of May was terrible. After Burnside failed at Fredericksburg, he had been replaced by General Joseph Hooker, who had acquired the nickname Fighting Joe. Hooker, too, aimed at Richmond, but near the village of Chancellorsville, just a dozen miles west of Fredericksburg, the Union army was hit at front and rear and soundly defeated by Lee's army, which was half the size of Hooker's.

And now, thought Putnam, what will the Europeans do? Last year Britain and France backed away from recognizing the Confederacy, and so Italy did nothing, either. What is the King thinking now? And the Pope? God help us; I'm not sure the Papacy will.

As Putnam was doing all this thinking, he was walking on a pleasant Tuesday afternoon in May to the Hanover post office. The latest issue of Harper's should have come. It had, he found. Good!

There was also an envelope addressed to Prof. Putnam with a Washington postmark but no return address. Curious; who could be writing him again from there? That letter from Hunter in the State Department had arrived just days ago.

He opened the envelope on the sunny sidewalk. It contained a letter on White House stationery:

Mr. John Carruthers

Philadelphia, Penn.

Dear Mr. Carruthers,

With reference to your visit to Washington last June, I would be pleased to have a chance to meet with you soon. I will expect you at the White House on Monday next, the 22nd, at 9:00 AM unless, for urgent and compelling reasons, you wire me of your inability to come.

Please present this letter to the usher when you arrive.

Very truly yours,

John G. Nicolay

What could this mean? Nicolay was one of the President's two secretaries. Well, he must go to Washington again. To the White House! But what was up?

He left for Washington on the Saturday morning train after assuring Joanna he had finished for good his service to the Union, "Unless, of course," he said with a smile, "They insist on making me a general. But if they do, I promise I'll consult you about it."

It was a 8:45 on Monday morning when he walked into the President's house and showed Nicolay's letter to the usher, who said, "Yes, sir, Mr. Carruthers, please come this way," and led him up the stairway to the second floor and down the wide corridor. On the right they passed an anteroom where he saw a dozen men in civilian dress, a young soldier in uniform, an older woman. They all wanted, no doubt, something from the President. They were going to pounce on him for jobs, pardons, pensions, and who knew what else.

The usher escorted Putnam down the corridor to a door on which he knocked. He opened the door, gestured to Putnam, then walked in before him and announced, "Here's Mr. Carruthers."

A thin young man with dark reddish hair and freckles rose quickly from behind a huge desk on which lay a pile of letters. The man said, "Thanks, Jeb." The usher left, closing the door behind him.

"Professor Putnam, I believe. My name is Nicolay."

"Stearns Putnam, at your service, sir."

"You are good to come. The President would like to see you. Come now, please." Nicolay opened the door behind his desk and said, "Mr. President, Professor Putnam is here." Putnam followed Nicolay into the large office of Abraham Lincoln.

The President shook Putnam's hand and waved him to sit on a small sofa, then sat down on a simple wooden chair facing him. To Putnam's left, two large windows faced south toward the Mall. In the morning light, Lincoln looked older, worn and tired, sallow. I understand, thought Putnam. No human has cares like you.

The President's gray eyes looked keenly at him, into him. "You seem to have survived tolerably well. I heard from Marsh privately that you had a hellish time. I also heard you sank a ship loaded with arms for the rebels, the first of what would have been many. That's more than many of my generals have done. Far more.

"Seward thought it best not to see you again. I thought I should see you, to thank you for your service. And I do thank you. I have been wondering whether I might offer you an appointment, perhaps as a brigadier. It would have to be under an assumed name, so as not to make it look like a reward for sinking the ship of a friendly prime minister. Friendly like a Sangamon skunk!

"But I conclude that it would be too complicated. Your fellow scholars would wonder where you'd gone to. Your wife would probably be after me, and I've got enough ladies belaboring me already over their sons and husbands. So I won't make you a general. I won't even give you a medal. You just write a note for your posterity saying Abe Lincoln congratulated you for your valuable, no, your incomparable service to your country. I do mean that.

"Now, you'd best be gone, unless you want to join that throng of patriots outside who want me to make them postmasters and consuls. Goodbye, and do your best to send our young men in the right direction. And I don't mean just to war."

"Mr. President, I... I thank you. God protect you."

"Well, I hope he will, if I stay on His side, and I try to do that. Again, goodbye, and thanks, my friend Putnam."

He walked out of the White House and wandered the streets for long after, proud of what Lincoln had said to him but thinking of the President's sad face, the tragic times, the blood and dead. And then he took the next train north, into the uncertain future in a country of unending war.