The main character of this story is a young man named Barr Lassiter. He lived near Carthage with his parents and older sister. The Lassiters were simple farmers. They were not wealthy enough to own a huge house or buy slaves. But they were never hungry. There was always enough food. Barr was twenty-two years old when the Civil War began. This event divided many families. Many children started opposing their parents. The people of the North did not support slavery, and the Southerners wanted to preserve the existing order of things at any cost. The Barr's family supported the Confederates. The young man was against it. In the end Barr was forced to leave home. The family did not try to stop him and did not even say goodbye.
It was a deep night. Eight people gathered in a small house. They were sitting around a simple wooden table. One man was reading a book under the light of an old desk lamp. There was also the ninth person — the owner of the house. He was laying under a white rag dead. It was quiet in the house. Only the birds were shouting outside the window. The men gathered in the house had an important job. They had to understand how the owner of the house died. It was up to them to reveal the truth. They were farmers with tanned faces and strong muscles from the work in the field. The man with the book was different from them. With a hat and a mustache, he looked like an important educated person. The coroner was reading a diary that belonged to the dead man.
Brownville is a small provincial town in California. It is located between two hills covered with a dense forest. The air is fresh and clean here. Lots of people come to this town to relax. There is only one school in Brownville and the main character of the book works there as a teacher. He lives in a boarding house and the school is on the other side of the hill, about a mile and a half from there. There is another and shorter way- a forest path through the hill. The school can be reached in fifteen minutes. Late at night the teacher is walking through the forest. He sits down on a log to rest and suddenly hears voices. Someone is cursing and threatening to kill another. Then he hears one of these voices in the boarding house. The teacher begins to realize that the city is too quiet and safe.
The main character of the book was born in NewYork, but lived in Hong Kong. He had a successful business in Asia and the money was always in abundance. Twenty years later, he decided to return home in New York. On the way, he stopped in California for a week. There he had a friend named Mohun Dampier. Dampier never worked. He just lived off his parents. Mohun was also convinced that the magic existed and ruled all his life. He enjoyed reading occult books. When the main character wrote to Mohun, he soon sent a servant to the hotel. In the evening, the main character went by taxi to his friend's house. It was a brick mansion near the ocean. Mohun changed a lot. He looked like an old man. Some interesting changes happened in his life.
Lieutenant Hermann Braille from Ohio was the best soldier in the regiment. No one knew him too closely, but the general treated Herman very well. Lieutenant Braille was a tall and handsome man. He had blue eyes and long blond hair. He always looked like a real gentleman. Even in battles he managed to wear a clean and tidy uniform. Herman was about thirty years old. He looked like a hero, which artists like painting on their pictures. In another battle, Hermann was just standing on the spot. The bullets and the shells were flying past. He did not make any movements, but nothing hurt him. After this incident, the other soldiers decided that the lieutenant was neither stupid nor immortal, but just a really very lucky man.
This story begins with an unusual scene. A civilian in the clothes of a planter is standing on the bridge. There are several soldiers in the form of the Confederate States near him. The Civil War is going on in Alabama.The only spectators of this scene are a few more soldiers standing nearby. The civilian is looking at the water thinking how to escape. He is dreaming of returning to his wife and children and is ready to use the slightest chance for this. But the captain nods and the penalty begins. The second part of the story begins from the life of a wealthy slave owner. He lives in Alabama and did not join the army. But still he is ready to help the Confederate States. And soon the slaver gets this long awaited opportunity.