To the Reader of this Work:
In submitting Captain Carter's strange manuscript to you in book
form, I believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality
will be of interest.
My first recollection of Captain Carter is of the few months he spent at
my father's home in Virginia, just prior to the opening of the civil war. I
was then a child of but five years, yet I well remember the tall, dark,
smooth-faced, athletic man whom I called Uncle Jack.
He seemed always to be laughing; and he entered into the sports of the
children with the same hearty good fellowship he displayed toward
those pastimes in which the men and women of his own age indulged; or
he would sit for an hour at a time entertaining my old grandmother with
stories of his strange, wild life in all parts of the world. We all loved him,
and our slaves fairly worshipped the ground he trod.
He was a splendid specimen of manhood, standing a good two inches
over six feet, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, with the carriage of
the trained fighting man. His features were regular and clear cut, his hair
black and closely cropped, while his eyes were of a steel gray, reflecting
a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and initiative. His manners
were perfect, and his courtliness was that of a typical southern gentleman
of the highest type.
His horsemanship, especially after hounds, was a marvel and delight
even in that country of magnificent horsemen. I have often heard my
father caution him against his wild recklessness, but he would only
laugh, and say that the tumble that killed him would be from the back of
a horse yet unfoaled.
When the war broke out he left us, nor did I see him again for some fifteen
or sixteen years. When he returned it was without warning, and I
was much surprised to note that he had not aged apparently a moment,
nor had he changed in any other outward way. He was, when others
were with him, the same genial, happy fellow we had known of old, but
when he thought himself alone I have seen him sit for hours gazing off
into space, his face set in a look of wistful longing and hopeless misery;
and at night he would sit thus looking up into the heavens, at what I did
not know until I read his manuscript years afterward.
He told us that he had been prospecting and mining in Arizona part of
the time since the war; and that he had been very successful was evidenced
by the unlimited amount of money with which he was supplied.
As to the details of his life during these years he was very reticent, in fact
he would not talk of them at all.
He remained with us for about a year and then went to New York,
where he purchased a little place on the Hudson, where I visited him
once a year on the occasions of my trips to the New York market—my
father and I owning and operating a string of general stores throughout
Virginia at that time. Captain Carter had a small but beautiful cottage,
situated on a bluff overlooking the river, and during one of my last visits,
in the winter of 1885, I observed he was much occupied in writing, I
presume now, upon this manuscript.
He told me at this time that if anything should happen to him he
wished me to take charge of his estate, and he gave me a key to a compartment
in the safe which stood in his study, telling me I would find his
will there and some personal instructions which he had me pledge myself
to carry out with absolute fidelity.
After I had retired for the night I have seen him from my window
standing in the moonlight on the brink of the bluff overlooking the Hudson
with his arms stretched out to the heavens as though in appeal. I
thought at the time that he was praying, although I never understood
that he was in the strict sense of the term a religious man.
Several months after I had returned home from my last visit, the first
of March, 1886, I think, I received a telegram from him asking me to
come to him at once. I had always been his favorite among the younger
generation of Carters and so I hastened to comply with his demand.
I arrived at the little station, about a mile from his grounds, on the
morning of March 4, 1886, and when I asked the livery man to drive me
out to Captain Carter's he replied that if I was a friend of the Captain's he
had some very bad news for me; the Captain had been found dead
shortly after daylight that very morning by the watchman attached to an
For some reason this news did not surprise me, but I hurried out to his
place as quickly as possible, so that I could take charge of the body and
of his affairs.
I found the watchman who had discovered him, together with the local
police chief and several townspeople, assembled in his little study