"The whole thing has been mismanaged from the first," remarked a sapient-looking man with a gaunt, cadaverous face, addressing two listeners. "The Administration is corrupt; our generals are either incompetent or purposely inefficient. We haven't got an officer that can hold a candle to General Lee. Abraham Lincoln has called for six hundred thousand men. What'll he do with 'em when he gets 'em? Just nothing at all. They'll melt away like snow, and then he'll call for more men. Give me a third of six hundred thousand, and I'll walk into Richmond in less'n thirty days."
A quiet smile played over the face of one of the listeners. With a slight shade of irony in his voice he said, "If such are your convictions, Mr. Holman, I think it a great pity that you are not in the service. We need those who have clear views of what is required in the present emergency. Don't you intend to volunteer?"
"I!" exclaimed the other with lofty scorn. "No, sir; I wash my hands of the whole matter. I ain't clear about the justice of warring upon our erring brethren at all. I have no doubt they would be inclined to accept overtures of peace if accompanied with suitable concessions. Still, if war must be waged, I believe I could manage matters infinitely better than Lincoln and his cabinet have done."
"Wouldn't it be well to give them the benefit of your ideas on the subject?" suggested the other quietly.
"Ahem!" said Mr. Holman, a little suspiciously.
"Only this, that if, like you, I had a definite scheme, which I thought likely to terminate the war, I should feel it my duty to communicate it to the proper authorities, that they might take it into consideration."
"It wouldn't do any good," returned Holman, still a little suspicious that he was quietly laughed at. "They're too set in their own ways to be changed."
At this moment there was a sharp rap on the table, and a voice was heard, saying, "The meeting will please come to order."