Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: "Miss Lou"
Author: Roe, Edward Payson, 1838-1888
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""Miss Lou"" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE WORKS OF E. P. ROE

VOLUME NINE

"MISS LOU"


ILLUSTRATED



In Loving Dedication

TO LITTLE MISS LOU MY YOUNGEST DAUGHTER



CONTENTS

     CHAPTER I   A GIRL'S PROTEST

    CHAPTER II   SOMETHING HAPPENS

   CHAPTER III   MAD WHATELY

    CHAPTER IV   AUN' JINKEY'S POLICY

     CHAPTER V   WHATELY'S IDEA OF COURTSHIP

    CHAPTER VI   THE STORM BEGINS

   CHAPTER VII   DANGERS THICKENING

  CHAPTER VIII   "WHEN?"

    CHAPTER IX   PARALYZED WITH SHAME

     CHAPTER X   A BAFFLED DIPLOMATIST

    CHAPTER XI   AUN' JINKEY'S WARNING

   CHAPTER XII   A WHIRLWIND OF EVENTS

  CHAPTER XIII   THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS

   CHAPTER XIV   A THREAT

    CHAPTER XV   MISS LOU EMANCIPATED

   CHAPTER XVI   A SMILE ON WAR'S GRIM FACE

  CHAPTER XVII   THE JOY OF FREEDOM

 CHAPTER XVIII   A WELL-AIMED SLIPPER

   CHAPTER XIX   A GIRL'S APPEAL

    CHAPTER XX   SCOVILLE'S HOPE

   CHAPTER XXI   TWO STORMS

  CHAPTER XXII   CHUNK'S QUEST

 CHAPTER XXIII   A BOLD SCHEME

  CHAPTER XXIV   A HOME A HOSPITAL

   CHAPTER XXV   A TRIBUTE TO A SOUTHERN GIRL

  CHAPTER XXVI   A BACKGROUND OF EGOTISM

 CHAPTER XXVII   AUN' JINKEY'S SUPREME TEST

CHAPTER XXVIII   TRUTH IF THE HEAVENS FALL

  CHAPTER XXIX   "ANGEL OF DEATH"

   CHAPTER XXX   GLIMPSES OF MOODS AND MINDS

  CHAPTER XXXI   THE DUELLISTS VANQUISHED

 CHAPTER XXXII   SAD TIDINGS

CHAPTER XXXIII   CONSPIRATORS

 CHAPTER XXXIV   CHUNK PLAYS SPOOK

  CHAPTER XXXV   A VISITATION

 CHAPTER XXXVI   UNCLE LUSTHAH EXHORTS

CHAPTER XXXVII   A NEW ROUTINE



"MISS LOU"



CHAPTER I

A GIRL'S PROTEST


A great, rudely built stone chimney was smoking languidly one
afternoon. Leaning against this chimney, as if for protection and
support, was a little cabin gray and decrepit with age. The door of the
cabin stood wide open, for the warm spring was well advanced in the
South. There was no need of a fire, but Aun' Jinkey, the mistress of
the abode, said she "kep' hit bunin' fer comp'ny." She sat by it now,
smoking as lazily as her chimney, in an old chair which creaked as if
in pain when she rocked. She supposed herself to be in deep meditation,
and regarded her corncob pipe not merely a solace but also as an
invaluable assistant to clearness of thought. Aun' Jinkey had the
complacent belief that she could reason out most questions if she could
only smoke and think long enough. Unfortunately, events would occur
which required action, or which raised new questions before she had had
time to solve those originally presented; yet it would be hard to fancy
a more tranquil order of things than that of which she was a humble
part.

The cabin was shaded by grand old oaks and pines, through which the
afternoon sun shone in mild radiance, streaming into the doorway and
making a broad track of light over the uneven floor. But Aun' Jinkey
kept back in the congenial dusk, oblivious to the loveliness of nature
without. At last she removed her pipe from her mouth and revealed her
mental processes in words.

"In all my projeckin' dat chile's wuss'n old mars'r en miss, en de wah,
en de preachin'. I kin kin' ob see troo dem, en w'at dey dribin' at,
but dat chile grow mo' quare en on'countable eb'y day. Long as she wus
took up wid her doll en tame rabbits en pony dar wa'n't no
circum'cutions 'bout her, en now she am all circum'cution. Not'n gwine
'long plain wid her. She like de run down dar--but win' en win' ez ef
hit had ter go on, en hit couldn't mek up hits min' which way ter go.
Sometime hit larfin' in de sun en den hit steal away whar you kyant
mos' fin' hit. Dat de way wid Miss Lou. She seem right hyar wid us--she
only lil gyurl toder day--en now she 'clinin' to notions ob her own, en
she steal away to whar she tink no one see her en tink on heaps ob
tings. Won'er ef eber, like de run, she wanter go way off fum us?

"Ole mars'r en ole miss dunno en doan see not'n. Dey kyant. Dey tinks
de worl' al'ays gwine des so, dat means de way dey tink hit orter go.
Ef hit go any oder way, de worl's wrong, not dey. I ain' sayin' dey is
wrong, fer I ain' des tink dat all out'n. 'Long ez she keeps her foots
on de chalk line dey mark out dey ain' projeckin' how her min' go yere
en dar, zigerty-zag wid notions ob her own."

The door darkened, if the radiant girl standing on the threshold could
be said to darken any door. She did not represent the ordinary Southern
type, for her hair was gold in the sun and her eyes blue as the violets
by the brook. They were full of mirth now as she said: "There you are,
Aun' Jinkey, smoking and 'projeckin' as usual. You look like an old
Voudoo woman, and if I didn't know you as my old mammy--if I should
just happen in as a stranger, I'd be afraid of you."

"Voudoo ooman! How you talks, Miss Lou! I'se a member ob de Baptis'
Church, en you knows it."

"Oh, I know a heap 'mo'n dat,' as you so often say. If you were only a
member of the Baptist Church I wouldn't be running in to see you so
often. Uncle says a member of the Baptist Church has been stealing some
of his chickens."

"I knows some tings 'bout de members ob HE church," replied Aun'
Jinkey, with a toss of her head.

"I reckon you do, more than they would like to see published in the
county paper; but we aren't scandal-mongers, are we, Aun' Jinkey?" and
the young visitor sat down in the doorway and looked across the green
meadow seen through the opening in the trees. A dogwood stood in the
corner of the rail fence, the pink and white of its blossoms well
matching the girl's fair face and her rose-dotted calico gown, which,
in its severe simplicity, revealed her rounded outlines.

Aun' Jinkey watched her curiously, for it was evident that Miss Lou's
thoughts were far away. "Wat you tinkin' 'bout, Miss Lou?" she asked.

"Oh, I hardly know myself. Come, Aun' Jinkey, be a nice old witch and
tell me my fortune."

"Wat you want ter know yo' fortin fur?"

"I want to know more than I do now. Look here, Aun' Jinkey, does that
run we hear singing yonder go round and round in one place and with the
same current? Doesn't it go on? Uncle and aunt want me to go round and
round, doing the same things and thinking the same thoughts--not my own
thoughts either. Oh, I'm getting so tired of it all!"

"Lor' now, chile, I wuz des 'parin' you ter dat run in my min'," said
Aun' Jinkey in an awed tone.

"No danger of uncle or aunt comparing me to the run, or anything else.
They never had any children and don't know anything about young people.
They have a sort of prim, old-fashioned ideal of what the girls in the
Baron family should be, and I must become just such a girl--just like
that stiff, queer old portrait of grandma when she was a girl. Oh, if
they knew how tired of it all I am!"

"Bless yo' heart, Miss Lou, you ain' projeckin' anyting?"

"No, I'm just chafing and beating my wings like a caged bird."

"Now see yere, Miss Lou, isn't you onreason'ble? You hab a good home;
mars'r en miss monstus pius, en dey bringin' you up in de nurter en
'monitions ob de Lawd." "Too much 'monition, Aun' Jinkey. Uncle and
aunt's religion makes me so tired, and they make Sunday so awfully
long. Their religion reminds me of the lavender and camphor in which
they keep their Sunday clothes. And then the pages of the catechism
they have always made me learn, and the long Psalms, too, for
punishment! I don't understand religion, anyway. It seems something
meant to uphold all their views, and anything contrary to their views
isn't right or religious. They don't think much of you Baptists."

"We ain' sufrin' on dat 'count, chile," remarked Aun' Jinkey, dryly.

"There now, Aun' Jinkey, don't you see? Uncle owns you, yet you think
for yourself and have a religion of your own. If he knew I was thinking
for myself, he'd invoke the memory of all the Barons against me. I
don't know very much about the former Barons, except that my father was
one. According to what I am told, the girl Barons were the primmest
creatures I ever heard of. Then uncle and aunt are so inconsistent,
holding up as they do for my admiration Cousin Mad Whately. I don't
wonder people shorten his name from Madison to Mad, for if ever there
was a wild, reckless fellow, he is. Uncle wants to bring about a match,
because Mad's plantation joins ours. Mad acted as if he owned me
already when he was home last, and yet he knows I can't abide him. He
seems to think I can be subdued like one of his skittish horses."

"You HAB got a heap on yo' min', Miss Lou, you sho'ly hab. You sut'ny
t'ink too much for a young gyurl."

"I'm eighteen, yet uncle and aunt act toward me in some ways as if I
were still ten years old. How can I help thinking? The thoughts come.
You're a great one to talk against thinking. Uncle says you don't do
much else, and that your thoughts are just like the smoke of your pipe."

Aun' Jinkey bridled indignantly at first, but, recollecting herself,
said quietly: "I knows my juty ter ole mars'r en'll say not'n gin 'im.
He bring you up en gib you a home, Miss Lou. You must reckermember dat
ar."

"I'm in a bad mood, I suppose, but I can't help my thoughts, and it's
kind of a comfort to speak them out. If he only WOULD give me a home
and not make it so much like a prison! Uncle's honest, though, to the
backbone. On my eighteenth birthday he took me into his office and
formally told me about my affairs. I own that part of the plantation on
the far side of the run. He has kept all the accounts of that part
separate, and if it hadn't been for the war I'd have been rich, and he
says I will be rich when the war is over and the South free. He said he
had allowed so much for my bringing up and for my education, and that
the rest was invested, with his own money, in Confederate bonds. That
is all right, and I respect uncle for his downright integrity, but he
wants to manage me just as he does my plantation. He wishes to produce
just such crops of thoughts as he sows the seeds of, and he would treat
my other thoughts like weeds, which must be hoed out, cut down and
burned. Then you see he hasn't GIVEN me a home, and I'm growing to be a
woman. If I am old enough to own land, am I never to be old enough to
own myself?"

"Dar now, Miss Lou, you raisin' mo' questions dan I kin tink out in a
yeah."

"There's dozens more rising in my mind and I can't get rid of them.
Aunt keeps my hands knitting and working for the soldiers, and I like
to do it. I'd like to be a soldier myself, for then I could go
somewhere and do and see something. Life then wouldn't be just doing
things with my hands and being told to think exactly what an old
gentleman and an old lady think. Of course our side is right in this
war, but how can I believe with uncle that nearly all the people in the
North are low, wicked and vile? The idea that every Northern soldier is
a monster is preposterous to me. Uncle forgets that he has had me
taught in United States history. I wish some of them would just march
by this out-of-the-way place, for I would like to see for myself what
they are like."

"Dar, dar, Miss Lou, you gittin' too bumptious. You like de fus' woman
who want ter know too much."

"No," said the girl, her blue eyes becoming dark and earnest, "I want
to know what's true, what's right. I can't believe that uncle and
aunt's narrow, exclusive, comfortless religion came from heaven; I
can't believe that God agrees with uncle as to just what a young girl
should do and think and be, but uncle seems to think that the wickedest
thing I can do is to disagree with him and aunt. Uncle forgets that
there are books in his library, and books make one think. They tell of
life very different from mine. Why, Aun' Jinkey, just think what a
lonely girl I am! You are about the only one I can talk to. Our
neighbors are so far away and we live so secluded that I scarcely have
acquaintances of my own age. Aunt thinks young girls should be kept out
of society until the proper time, and that time seems no nearer now
than ever. If uncle and aunt loved me, it would be different, but they
have just got a stiff set of ideas about their duty to me and another
set about my duty to them. Why, uncle laughed at a kitten the other day
because it was kittenish, but he has always wanted me to behave with
the solemnity of an old cat. Oh, dear! I'm SO tired. I wish something
WOULD happen."

"Hit brokes me all up ter year you talk so, honey, en I bless de Lawd
'tain' likely any ting gwinter hap'n in dese yere parts. De wah am
ragin' way off fum heah, nobody comin' wid news, en bimeby you gits mo'
settle down. Some day you know de valley ob peace en quietness."

"See here, Aun' Jinkey," said the girl, with a flash of her eyes, "you
know the little pond off in the woods. That's more peaceful than the
run, isn't it? Well, it's stagnant, too, and full of snakes. I'd like
to know what's going on in the world, but uncle of late does not even
let me read the county paper. I know things are not going to suit him,
for he often frowns and throws the paper into the fire. That's what
provokes me--the whole world must go just to suit him, or else he is
angry."

"Well, now, honey, you hab 'lieve yo' min', en I specs you feel bettah.
You mus' des promis yo' ole mammy dat you be keerful en not rile up ole
mars'r, kase hit'll ony be harder fer you. I'se ole, en I knows tings
do hap'n dough dey of'un come slowlike. You des gwine troo de woods
now, en kyant see fur; bimeby you come ter a clearin'. Dat boy ob mine
be comin' soon fer his pone en bacon. I'se gwinter do a heap ob tinkin'
on all de questions you riz."

"Yes, Aun' Jinkey, I do feel better for speaking out, but I expect I
shall do a heap of thinking too. Good-by," and she strolled away toward
the brook.



CHAPTER II

SOMETHING HAPPENS


It was a moody little stream which Miss Lou was following. She did not
go far before she sat down on a rock and watched the murmuring waters
glide past, conscious meantime of a vague desire to go with them into
the unknown. She was not chafing so much at the monotony of her life as
at its restrictions, its negation of all pleasing realities, and the
persistent pressure upon her attention of a formal round of duties and
more formal and antiquated circle of thoughts. Only as she stole away
into solitudes like the one in which she now sat dreaming could she
escape from the hard materialism of routine, and chiding for idleness
usually followed. Her aunt, with an abundance of slaves at her command,
could have enjoyed much leisure, yet she was fussily and constantly
busy, and the young girl could not help feeling that much which she was
expected to do was a mere waste of time.

The serene beauty of the evening, the songs of the mocking and other
birds, were not without their effect, however, and she said aloud: "I
might be very happy even here if, like the birds, I had the heart to
sing--and I would sing if I truly lived and had something to live for."

The sun was approaching the horizon, and she was rising wearily and
reluctantly to return when she heard the report of firearms, followed
by the sound of swiftly galloping horses. Beyond the brook, on the
margin of which she stood, rose a precipitous bank overhung with vines
and bushes, and a few rods further back was a plantation road
descending toward a wide belt of forest. A thick copse and growth of
young trees ran from the top of the bank toward the road, hiding from
her vision that portion of the lane from which the sounds were
approaching. Suddenly half a dozen cavalrymen, whom she knew to be
Federals from their blue uniforms, galloped into view and passed on in
the direction of the forest. One of the group turned his horse sharply
behind the concealing copse and spurred directly toward her. She had
only time to throw up her hands and utter an involuntary cry of warning
about the steep bank, when the horse sprang through the treacherous
shrubbery and fell headlong into the stream. The rider saw his peril,
withdrew his feet from the stirrups, and in an instinctive effort for
self-preservation, threw himself forward, falling upon the sand almost
at the young girl's feet. He uttered a groan, shivered, and became
insensible. A moment or two later a band in gray galloped by wholly
intent upon the Federals, who had disappeared spurring for the woods,
and she recognized her cousin, Madison Whately, leading the pursuit.
Neither he nor any of his party looked her way, and it was evident that
the Union soldier who had so abruptly diverged from the road behind the
screening copse had not been discovered. The sounds died away as
speedily as they had approached, and all became still again. The
startled birds resumed their songs; the injured horse moved feebly, and
the girl saw that it was bleeding from a wound, but the man at her feet
did not stir. Truly something had happened. What should she do?
Breaking the paralysis of her fear and astonishment, she stepped to the
brook, gathered up water in her hands, and dashed it into the face of
the unconscious man. It had no effect. "Can he be dead?" she asked
herself in horror. He was as pale as his bronzed features could become,
and her woman's soul was touched that one who looked so strong, who had
been so vital a moment before, should now lie there in pathetic and
appealing helplessness. Was that fine, manly face the visage of one of
the terrible, bloodthirsty, unscrupulous Yankees? Even as she ran to
Aun' Jinkey's cottage for help the thought crossed her mind that the
world was not what it had been represented to her, and that she must
learn to think and act for herself.

As she approached, Chunk, Aun' Jinkey's grandson, appeared coming from
the mansion house. He was nicknamed "Chunk" from his dwarfed stature
and his stout, powerful build. Miss Lou put her finger to her lips,
glanced hastily around, and led the way into the cabin. She hushed
their startled exclamations as she told her story, and then said, "Aun'
Jinkey, if he's alive, you must hide him in your loft there where Chunk
sleeps. Come with me."

In a few moments all three were beside the unconscious form. Chunk
instantly slipped his hand inside the soldier's vest over his heart.
"Hit done beats," he said, quickly, and without further hesitation he
lifted the man as if he had been a child, bore him safely to the cabin,
and laid him on Aun' Jinkey's bed. "Hi, granny, whar dat hot stuff you
gib me fer de belly misery?"

Aun' Jinkey had already found a bottle containing a decoction of the
wild ginger root, and with pewter spoon forced some of the liquid into
the man's mouth. He struggled slightly and began to revive. At last he
opened his eyes and looked with an awed expression at the young girl
who stood at the foot of the bed.

"I hope you feel better now," she said, kindly.

"Are you--am I alive?" he asked.

"Dar now, mars'r, you isn't in heb'n yet, dough Miss Lou, standin' dar,
mout favor de notion. Des you took anoder swaller ob dis ginger-tea, en
den you see me'n Chunk ain' angels."

Chunk grinned and chuckled. "Neber was took fer one in my bawn days."

The young man did as he was bidden, then turned his eyes wistfully and
questioningly from the two dark visages back to the girl's sympathetic
face.

"You remember," she said, "you were being chased, and turned your horse
toward a steep bank, which you didn't see, and fell."

"Ah, yes--it's all growing clear. You were the woman I caught glimpse
of."

She nodded and said: "I must go now, or some one will come looking for
me. I won't speak--tell about this. I'm not on your side, but I'm not
going to get a helpless man into more trouble. You may trust Aun'
Jinkey and her grandson."

"Dat you kin, mars'r," Chunk ejaculated with peculiar emphasis.

"God bless you, then, for a woman who has a heart. I'm quite content
that you're not an angel," and a smile so lighted up the soldier's
features that she thought she had never seen a pleasanter looking man.

Worried indeed that she was returning so much later than usual, she
hastened homeward. Half-way up the path to the house she met a tall,
slender negro girl, who exclaimed, "Hi, Miss Lou, ole miss des gettin'
'stracted 'bout you, en mars'r sez ef you ain' at supper in five minits
he's gwine down to Aun' Jinkey en know what she mean, meckin' sech'
sturbence in de fambly."

"How absurd!" thought the girl. "Being a little late is a disturbance
in the family." But she hastened on, followed by the girl, who was
employed in the capacity of waitress. This girl, Zany by name, resented
in accordance with her own ideas and character the principle of
repression which dominated the household. She threw a kiss toward the
cabin under the trees and shook with silent laughter as she muttered,
"Dat fer you, Chunk. You de beat'nst nigger I eber see. You mos' ez
bro'd ez I is high, yit you'se reachin' arter me. I des like ter kill
mysef lafin' wen we dance tergeder," and she indulged in a jig-step and
antics behind Miss Lou's back until she came in sight of the windows,
then appeared as if following a hearse.

Miss Lou entered the rear door of the long, two-story house, surrounded
on three sides by a wide piazza. Mr. Baron, a stout, bald-headed old
gentleman, was fuming up and down the dining-room while his wife sat in
grim silence at the foot of the table. It was evident that they had
made stiff, old-fashioned toilets, and both looked askance at the
flushed face of the almost breathless girl, still in her simple morning
costume. Before she could speak her uncle said, severely, "Since we
have waited so long, we will still wait till you can dress."

The girl was glad to escape to her room in order that she might have
time to frame some excuse before she faced the inquisition in store for
her.

Constitutional traits often assert themselves in a manner contrary to
the prevailing characteristics of a region. Instead of the easy-going
habits of life common to so many of his neighbors, Mr. Baron was a
martinet by nature, and the absence of large, engrossing duties
permitted his mind to dwell on little things and to exaggerate them out
of all proportion. Indeed, it was this utter lack of perspective in his
views and judgments which created for Miss Lou half her trouble. The
sin of tardiness which she had just committed was treated like a great
moral transgression, or rather it was so frowned upon that it were hard
to say he could show his displeasure at a more heinous offence. The one
thought now in Mr. Baron's mind was that the sacred routine of the day
had been broken. Often there are no greater devotees to routine than
those who are virtually idlers. Endowed with the gift of persistence
rather than with a resolute will, it had become second nature to
maintain the daily order of action and thought which he believed to be
his right to enforce upon his household. Every one chafed under his
inexorable system except his wife. She had married when young, had
grown up into it, and supplemented it with a system of her own which
took the form of a scrupulous and periodical attention to all little
details of housekeeping. There was a constant friction, therefore,
between the careless, indolent natures of the slaves and the precise,
exacting requirements of both master and mistress. Miss Lou, as she was
generally called on the plantation, had grown up into this routine as a
flower blooms in a stiff old garden, and no amount of repression,
admonition and exhortation, not even in her younger days of punishment,
could quench her spirit or benumb her mind. She submitted, she yielded,
with varying degrees of grace or reluctance. As she increased in years,
her thoughts, as we have seen, were verging more and more on the border
of rebellion. But the habit of obedience and submission still had its
influence. Moreover, there had been no strong motive and little
opportunity for independent action. Hoping not even for tolerance, much
less for sympathy, she kept her thoughts to herself, except as she
occasionally relieved her mind to her old mammy, Aun' Jinkey.

She came into the dining-room hastily at last, but the expression of
her face was impassive and inscrutable. She was received in solemn
silence, broken at first only by the long formal grace which Mr. Baron
never omitted and never varied. In her rebellious mood the girl
thought, "What a queer God it would be if he were pleased with this old
cut-and-dried form of words! All the time uncle's saying them he is
thinking how he'll show me his displeasure."

Mr. Baron evidently concluded that his best method at first would be an
expression of offended dignity, and the meal began in depressing
silence, which Mrs. Baron was naturally the first to break. "It must be
evident to you, Louise," she said in a thin, monotonous voice, "that
the time has come for you to consider and revise your conduct. The fact
that your uncle has been kept waiting for his supper is only one result
of an unhappy change which I have observed, but have forborne to speak
of in the hope that your own conscience and the influence of your past
training would lead you to consider and conform. Think of the precious
moments, indeed I may say hours, that you have wasted this afternoon in
idle converse with an old negress who is no fit companion for you! You
are becoming too old--"

"Too old, aunt? Do you at last recognize the fact that I am growing
older?"

With a faint expression of surprise dawning in her impassive face Mrs.
Baron continued: "Yes, old enough to remember yourself and not to be
compelled to recognize the duties of approaching womanhood. I truly
begin to feel that I must forbid these visits to an old, ignorant and
foolish creature whose ideas are totally at variance with all that is
proper and right."

"Uncle thinks I have approached womanhood sufficiently near to know
something of my business affairs, and even went so far as to suggest
his project of marrying me to my cousin in order to unite in sacred--I
mean legal bonds the two plantations."

The two old people looked at each other, then stared at their niece,
who, with hot face, maintained the pretence of eating her supper.
"Truly, Louise," began Mr. Baron, solemnly, "you are indulging in
strange and unbecoming language. I have revealed to you your pecuniary
affairs, and I have more than once suggested an alliance which is in
accordance with our wishes and your interests, in order to prove to you
how scrupulous we are in promoting your welfare. We look for grateful
recognition and a wise, persistent effort on your part to further our
efforts in your behalf."

"It doesn't seem to me wise to talk to a mere child about property and
marriage," said the girl, breathing quickly in the consciousness of her
temerity and her rising spirit of rebellion.

"You are ceasing to be a mere child," resumed her uncle, severely.

"That cannot be," Miss Lou interrupted. "You and aunt speak to me as
you did years ago when I was a child. Can you expect me to have a
woman's form and not a woman's mind? Are women told exactly what they
must think and do, like little children? Aunt threatens to forbid
visits to my old mammy. If I were but five years old she couldn't do
more. You speak of marrying me to my cousin as if I had merely the form
and appearance of a woman, and no mind or wishes of my own. I have
never said I wanted to marry him or any one."

"Why, Louise, you are verging toward flat rebellion," gasped her uncle,
laying down his knife and fork.

"Oh, no, uncle! I'm merely growing up. You should have kept the library
locked; you should never have had me taught to read, if you expected me
to become the mere shell of a woman, having no ideas of my own."

"We wish you to have ideas, and have tried to inculcate right ideas."

"Which means only your ideas, uncle."

"Louise, are you losing your mind?"

"No, uncle, I am beginning to find it, and that I have a right to use
it. I am willing to pay all due respect and deference to you and to
aunt, but I protest against being treated as a child on one hand and as
a wax figure which can be stood up and married to anybody on the other.
I have patiently borne this treatment as long as I can, and I now
reckon the time has come to end it."

Mr. Baron was thunderstruck and his wife was feeling for her
smelling-bottle. Catching a glimpse of Zany, where she stood
open-mouthed in her astonishment, her master said, sternly, "Leave the
room!" Then he added to his niece, "Think of your uttering such wild
talk before one of our people! Don't you know that my will must be law
on this plantation?"

"I'm not one of your people," responded the girl, haughtily. "I'm your
niece, and a Southern girl who will call no man master."

At this moment there was a knock at the door. Without waiting for it to
be opened, a tall, lank man entered and said, hastily, "Mr. Baron, I
reckon there's news which yer orter hear toreckly." He was the overseer
of the plantation.



CHAPTER III

MAD WHATELY


Mr. Baron was one of the few of the landed gentry in the region who was
not known by a military title, and he rather prided himself on the
fact. "I'm a man of peace," he was accustomed to say, and his neighbors
often remarked, "Yes, Baron is peaceable if he has his own way in
everything, but there's no young blood in the county more ready for a
fray than he for a lawsuit." "Law and order" was Mr. Baron's motto, but
by these terms he meant the perpetuity of the conditions under which he
and his ancestors had thus far lived. To distrust these conditions was
the crime of crimes. In his estimation, therefore, a Northern soldier
was a monster surpassed only by the out-and-out abolitionist. While it
had so happened that, even as a young man, his tastes had been legal
rather than military, he regarded the war of secession as more sacred
than any conflict of the past, and was willing to make great sacrifices
for its maintenance. He had invested all his funds as well as those of
his niece in Confederate bonds, and he had annually contributed a large
portion of the product of his lands to the support of the army. Living
remote from the scenes of actual strife, he had been able to maintain
his illusions and hopes to a far greater extent than many others of
like mind with himself; but as the war drew toward its close, even the
few newspapers he read were compelled to justify their name in some
degree by giving very unpalatable information. As none are so blind as
those who will not see, the old man had testily pooh-poohed at what he
termed "temporary reverses," and his immunity from disturbance had
confirmed his belief that the old order of things could not materially
change. True, some of his slaves had disappeared, but he had given one
who had been caught such a lesson that the rest had remained quiet if
not contented.

The news brought by his overseer became therefore more disturbing than
the strange and preposterous conduct of his niece, and he had demanded
excitedly, "What on earth's the matter, Perkins?"

"Well, sir, fur's I kin mek out, this very plantation's been p'luted by
Yankee soldiers this very evenin'. Yes, sir."

"Great heavens! Perkins," and Mr. Baron sprang from his chair, then
sank back again with an expression suggesting that if the earth opened
next it could not be worse.

"Yes, sir," resumed Perkins, solemnly, "I drawed that much from Jute.
He seen 'em hisself. I noticed a s'pressed 'citement en talk in the
quarters this evenin', an' I follered hit right up an' I ast roun' till
I pinned Jute. He was over the fur side of the run lookin' fur a stray
crow, an' he seen 'em. But they was bein' chased lively. Mad
Whately--beg pardon--Mr. Madison was arter them with whip and spur.
Didn't yer hear a crack of a rifle? I did, and reckoned it was one o'
the Simcoe boys out gunnin', but Jute says hit was one o' our men fired
the shot, en that they chased the Yanks to'erds the big woods. They was
all mounted en goin' it lickity switch. The thing that sticks in my
crop isn't them few what Mr. Madison chased, but the main body they
belongs to. Looks as ef there's goin' to be a raid down our way."

"If that is so," said Mr. Baron, majestically, "Lieutenant Whately
proves that our brave men are not far off, either, and the way he
chased some of them shows how all the vile invaders will eventually be
driven out of the country. Be vigilant, Perkins, and let it be
understood at the quarters that Lieutenant Whately is within call."

The overseer bowed awkwardly and limped away. His lameness had secured
him immunity from military duty.

"Ah, that's a man for you," said Mr. Baron, glaring at his niece. "Your
cousin is a true scion of Southern chivalry. That is the kind of a man
you do not know whether you wish to marry or not--a brave defender of
our hearths and liberties."

"If he wishes to marry me against my will, he's not a defender of my
liberty," retorted the girl.

"If you had the spirit which should be your birthright your eyes would
flash with joy at the prospect of seeing a hero who could thus chase
your enemies from our soil. If you could only have seen him in his
headlong--"

"I did see him."

"What!"

"I saw Cousin Madison leading a dozen or more men in pursuit of half a
dozen. That does not strike me as sublimely heroic."

"Why haven't you told me of this? How could you have seen him?" and the
old man, in his strong excitement, rose from his chair.

"My reception when I entered was not conducive to conversation. I was
merely sitting by the run and saw both parties gallop past."

"You should have come instantly to me."

"I'm sure I came in hastily," she replied, crimsoning in the
consciousness of her secret, "but I was met as if I had been guilty of
something awful."

"Well, if I had known," began her uncle, in some confusion, mistaking
her color for an expression of anger.

"I think," remarked her aunt, coldly, "that Louise should have
recognized that she had given you just cause for displeasure by her
tardiness, unless it were explained, and she should have explained at
once. I have no patience with the spirit she is displaying."

But Mr. Baron's mind had been diverted to more serious and alarming
considerations than what he characterized mentally as "a girl's
tantrum."

"It makes my blood boil," he said, "to think that this Northern scum is
actually in our neighborhood, and might be at our doors but for my
brave nephew. Thanks to him, they met a righteous reception on this
plantation; thanks to him, in all probability, we are not now weltering
in our blood, with the roof that shelters us blazing over our heads. If
those marauders had found us unprotected, young woman, you would have
rued the day. Their capacity for evil is only equalled by their
opportunities. If your cousin had not flamed after them like an
avenging sword you might have cried loudly enough for the one of whom,
in your fit of unseemly petulance, you can speak so slightingly. I
advise you to go to your room and thank Heaven for your escape."

"Uncle, are the people of the North savages?"

"Its soldiers are worse than savages. Have you not heard me express my
opinion of them over and over again? Go to your room, and when you
appear again, I trust it will be with the meekness and submission
becoming in a young woman."

When the girl left Aun' Jinkey's cabin the young soldier looked after
her with an expression of deep interest. "Who is she?" he asked.

"Dat's Miss Lou," said the old negress, forcing into his mouth another
spoonful of her fiery decoction.

"Oh, that's enough, aunty, unless you wish to burn me out like a hollow
log," and he struggled to his feet to ease his tendency to strangle.
"Miss Lou? How should I know who she is?"

"Ob co'se," said Aun' Jinkey, dryly, "I ain' namin' her pedigree."

"You a Linkum man, ain' you?" Chunk asked, quickly.

"Yes, and Lincoln is a good friend of yours."

"Hi! I knows dat. W'at fer you so hidin'-in-de-grass, granny? No use
bein' dat away wid a Linkum man."

"I ain' talkin' 'bout my young mistis to folks ez drap down fum de
clouds."

"You wouldn't like me better if I came up from below, aunty. There now,
I'm not a very bad fellow, and I belong to the army that's going to
make you all free."

"I hasn't des tink out dis question ob bein' free yit. I'se too ole to
wuk much an' old mars'r's took keer on me long time."

"Well, I'se tink it out," put in Chunk, decidedly; "en I'se able to wuk
fer you en me too."

"You mighty peart, Chunk, co'tin' a gal lie a bean-pole a'ready. I
reck'n she spen' all you eber mek. You bettah boos' de Linkum man into
dat ar lof sud'n, kase ef Marse Perkins cotch 'im yere we all ain'
feelin' berry good bimeby."

"Dat ar truer'n preachin'," admitted Chunk, with alacrity. "Des you tek
hol' ob dem ladder rouns, mars'r, an' put yo' foots on my sho'lers.
Dat's hit. Nobody tink ob fin'in' you yere. I'se study how ter git yo'
hoss out of sight 'gin mawnin'."

"You stand by me, Chunk," said the soldier, "and you won't be sorry.
There's a lot of us coming this way soon, and I can be a good friend of
yours and all your people if you help me out of this scrape."

"I'se gwine ter stan' by you, boss. I'se mek up my min' ter be free dis
time, sho! Hi! w'at dat?"

He was wonderfully agile, for his arms were nearly as long as his legs.
In an instant he descended, drawing a trap-door after him. Then he
sauntered to the door, which he opened wide. A troop of horsemen were
coming single file by a path which led near the cabin, and the foremost
asked in a voice which the negro recognized as that of Lieutenant
Whately, "Is that you, Chunk?"

"Dat's me, mars'r. My 'specs."

"Be off, you skeleton. Make time for the house and help get supper for
me and the men. If you don't run like a red deer, I'll ride you down."

"Good Lawd! w'at gwine ter hap'n nex'?" groaned Chunk, as he
disappeared toward the mansion. He burst like a bombshell into the
kitchen, a small building in the rear of the house.

"Did you eber see de likes?" exclaimed Zany. "What yo' manners--"

"Hi, dar! talk 'bout manners! Marse Whately comin' wid a army, en want
supper fer um all in des one minute en er haf by de clock!"

Great, fat Aun' Suke threw up her hands in despair, and in the brief
silence the tramp of horses and the jingling of sabres were plainly
heard. They all knew Mad Whately, and it needed not that Mrs. Baron,
desperately flurried, should bustle in a few moments later with orders
that all hands should fly around. "What you doing here?" she asked
Chunk, sharply.

"I'se here ter hep, mistis. Dem's my orders from Marse Whately. He come
ridin' by granny's."

"Then go and kill chickens."

A few moments later the dolorous outcry of fowls was added to the
uproar made by the barking dogs.

With a chill of fear Miss Lou, in her chamber, recognized her cousin's
voice, and knew that he, with his band, had come to claim hospitality
at his uncle's hands. What complications did his presence portend?
Truly, the long months of monotony on the old plantation were broken
now. What the end would be she dared not think, but for the moment her
spirit exulted in the excitement which would at least banish stagnation.

In his secret heart Mr. Baron had hoped that his nephew would go on to
his own home, a few miles further; for applauding him as a hero was one
thing, and having him turn everything upside down at that hour another.
Routine and order were scattered to the winds whenever Mad Whately made
his appearance, but the host's second thoughts led him to remember that
this visitation was infinitely to be preferred to one from the terrible
Yankees; so he threw wide open the door, and, with his wife, greeted
his nephew warmly. Then he shouted for Perkins to come and look after
the horses.

"Ah, mine uncle," cried Whately, "where on earth is to be found a
festive board like yours? Who so ready to fill the flowing bowl until
even the rim is lost to sight, when your defenders have a few hours to
spare in their hard campaigning? You won't entertain angels unawares
to-night. You'd have been like Daniel in the den with none to stop the
lions' mouths, or rather the jackals', had we not appeared on the
scene. The Yanks were bearing down for you like the wolf on the fold.
Where's my pretty cousin?"

Mr. Baron had opened his mouth to speak several times during this
characteristic greeting, and now he hastened to the foot of the stairs
and shouted, "Louise, come down and help your aunt entertain our
guests." Meanwhile Whately stepped to the sideboard and helped himself
liberally to the sherry.

"You know me must maintain discipline," resumed Whately, as his uncle
entered the dining-room. "The night is mild and still. Let a long table
be set on the piazza for my men. I can then pledge them through the
open window, for since I give them such hard service, I must make
amends when I can. Ah, Perkins, have your people rub the horses till
they are ready to prance, then feed them lightly, two hours later a
heavier feed, that's a good fellow! You were born under a lucky star,
uncle. You might now be tied up by your thumbs, while the Yanks helped
themselves."

"It surely was a kind Providence which brought you here, nephew."

"No doubt, no doubt; my good horse, also, and, I may add, the wish to
see my pretty cousin. Ah! here she comes with the blushes of the
morning on her cheeks," but his warmer than a cousinly embrace and kiss
left the crimson of anger in their places.

She drew herself up indignantly to her full height and said, "We have
been discussing the fact that I am quite grown up. I will thank you to
note the change, also."

"Why, so I do," he replied, regarding her with undisguised admiration;
"and old Father Time has touched you only to improve you in every
respect."

"Very well, then," she replied, coldly, "I cannot help the touch of
Father Time, but I wish it understood that I am no longer a child."

"Neither am I, sweet cousin, and I like you as a woman far better."

She left the room abruptly to assist her aunt.

"Jove! uncle, but she has grown to be a beauty. How these girls blossom
out when their time comes! Can it be that I have been absent a year?"

"Yes, and your last visit was but a flying one."

"And so I fear this one must be. The Yanks are on the move, perhaps in
this direction, and so are we. It was one of their scouting parties
that we ran into. Their horses were fresher than ours and they
separated when once in the shadow of the woods. They won't be slow,
however, in leaving these parts, now they know we are here. I'm going
to take a little well-earned rest between my scoutings, and make love
to my cousin. Olympian humbugs! how handsome and haughty she has
become! I didn't think the little minx had so much spirit."

"She has suddenly taken the notion that, since she is growing up, she
can snap her fingers at all the powers that be."

"Growing up! Why, uncle, she's grown, and ready to hear me say, 'With
all my worldly goods I thee endow.'"

"But the trouble is, she doesn't act as if very ready."

"Oh, tush! she isn't ready to throw herself at the head of any one.
That isn't the way of Southern girls. They want a wooer like a cyclone,
who carries them by storm, marries them nolens volens, and then they're
happy. But to be serious, uncle, in these stormy times Lou needs a
protector. You've escaped for a long time, but no one can tell now what
a day will bring forth. As my wife, Cousin Lou will command more
respect. I can take her within our lines, if necessary, or send her to
a place of safety. Ah, here comes my blooming aunt to prepare for
supper."

"Welcome to The Oaks," she again repeated. "Never more welcome, since
you come as defender as well as guest."

"Yes, aunt; think of a red-whiskered Yank paying his respects instead
of me."

"Don't suggest such horrors, please."

The gentlemen now joined Miss Lou in the parlor, while under Mrs.
Baron's supervision Zany, and Chunk, as gardener and man-of-all-work,
with the aid of others soon set the two tables. Then began a procession
of negroes of all sizes bearing viands from the kitchen.



CHAPTER IV

AUN' JINKEY'S POLICY


Allan Scoville, for such was the Union soldier's name, fully realized
that he was in the enemy's country as he watched through a cranny in
the cabin the shadowy forms of the Confederates file past. Every bone
in his body ached as if it had been broken, and more than once he moved
his arms and legs to assure himself that they were whole. "Breath was
just knocked right out of me," he muttered. "I hope that's the worst,
for this place may soon become too hot for me. My good horse is not
only lost, but I may be lost also through him. That queer-looking
darky, Chunk, is my best hope now unless it is Miss Lou. Droll, wasn't
it, that I should take her for an angel? What queer thoughts a fellow
has when within half an inch of the seamy side of life! Hanged if I
deserve such an awakening as I thought was blessing my eyes on the
other side. From the way I ache, the other side mayn't be far off yet.
Like enough hours will pass before Chunk comes back, and I must try to
propitiate his grandam."

He crawled painfully to the trap-door and, finding a chink in the
boards, looked down into the apartment below. Aun' Jinkey was smoking
as composedly it might seem as if a terrible Yankee, never seen before,
was not over her head, and a band of Confederates who would have made
him a prisoner and punished her were only a few rods away. A close
observer, however, might have noticed that she was not enjoying languid
whiffs, as had been the case in the afternoon. The old woman had put
guile into her pipe as well as tobacco, and she hoped its smoke would
blind suspicious eyes if any were hunting for a stray Yankee. Chunk's
pone and bacon had been put near the fire to keep warm, and Scoville
looked at the viands longingly.

At last he ventured to whisper, "Aun' Jinkey, I am as hungry as a wolf."

"Hesh!" said the old woman softly. Then she rose, knocked the ashes
from her pipe with great deliberation, and taking a bucket started for
the spring. In going and coming she looked very sharply in all
directions, thus satisfying herself that no one was watching the cabin.
Re-entering, she whispered, "Kin you lif de trap-do'?"

Scoville opened it, and was about to descend. "No, you kyant do dat,"
interposed Aun' Jinkey, quickly. "Lie down up dar, en I han' you
Chunk's supper. He gits his'n at de big house. You's got ter play
possum right smart, mars'r, or you git cotched. Den we cotch it, too.
You 'speck I doan know de resk Chunk en me tookin?"

"Forgive me, Aunt Jinkey. But your troubles will soon be over and you
be as free as I am."

"I doesn't want no sech freedom ez you got, mars'r, hid'n en scrugin'
fum tarin' en rarin' red-hot gallopers ez Mad Whately en his men. Dey'd
des bun de ole cabin en me in't ef dey knowed you's dar. Bettah stop
yo' mouf wid yo' supper."

This Scoville was well contented to do for a time, while Aun' Jinkey
smoked and listened with all her ears. Faint sounds came from the house
and the negro quarters, but all was still about the cabin. Suddenly she
took her pipe from her mouth and muttered, "Dar goes a squinch-owl
tootin'. Dat doan mean no good."

"Aunt Jinkey," said Scoville, who was watching her, "that screech-owl
worries you, doesn't it?"

"Dere's mo' kin's ob squinch-owls dan you 'lows on, mars'r. Some toots
fer de sake ob tootin' en some toots in warnin'."

"That one tooted in warning. Don't be surprised if you hear another
very near." He crawled to the cranny under the eaves and Aun' Jinkey
fairly jumped out of her chair as she heard an owl apparently hooting
on the roof with a vigor and truth to nature that utterly deceived her
senses. Scoville repeated the signal, and then crept back to the chink
in the floor. The old woman was trembling and looking round in dismayed
uncertainty. "There," he said, with a low laugh, "that squinch-owl was
I, and the first you heard was one of my men. Now, like a good soul,
make pones and fry bacon for five men, and you'll have friends who will
take good care of you and Chunk."

"De Lawd he'p me! w'at comin' nex'? Miss Lou wuz a wishin' sump'n ud
hap'n--w'at ain' gwinter hap'n?"

"Nothing will happen to harm you if you do as I say. Our men may soon
be marching this way, and we'll remember our friends when we come."

"I des hope dere'll be sump'n lef ob me ter reckermember," said Aun'
Jinkey, but she rose to comply with the soldier's requirement, feeling
that her only course was to fall in with the wishes of whoever happened
to be uppermost in the troublous times now foreseen. She was in a
terribly divided state of mind. The questions she had smoked and
thought over so long now pressed with bewildering rapidity and urgency.
An old family slave, she had a strong feeling of loyalty to her master
and mistress. But they had been partially alienating Miss Lou, for whom
she would open her veins, while her grandson was hot for freedom and
looked upon Northern soldiers as his deliverers. Aun' Jinkey was not
sure she wished to be delivered. That was one of the points she was not
through "projeckin'" about. Alas! events would not wait for her
conclusions, although more time had been given her than to many others
forced to contemplate vast changes. With a shrewd simplicity she
decided that it would be wise to keep on friendly terms with all the
contending powers, and do what in her judgment was best for each.

"Hit des took all de 'visions we got," she remarked, disconsolately.

"You'll soon have visions of more to eat and wear than ever blessed
your eyes," said Scoville, encouragingly.

"Hi! granny," said Chunk, peeping in at the door.

"How you start me!" ejaculated the old woman, sinking into her chair.

"That you, Chunk?" asked Scoville. "Is the coast clear?"

"I reck'n. Keep shy yet a while, mars'r." A few words explained the
situation, and Chunk added: "You des feed dem Yankees big, granny. I'se
pervide mo'. I mus' go now sud'n. Made Aun' Suke b'lebe dat I knowed ob
chickens w'at roos' in trees, en dey tinks I'se lookin' fer um. High
ole times up ter de house," and he disappeared in the darkness.

In nervous haste Aun' Jinkey prepared the ample supper. Scoville hooted
again, a shadowy form stole to the cabin for the food, and disappeared
again toward the run. Then Aun' Jinkey prepared to compose her nerves
by another smoke.

"Hand me up a coal for my pipe, also," said Scoville, "and then we'll
have a sociable time."

"I des feared onsosh'ble times dis eb'nin'," remarked Aun' Jinkey.

"If you knew how my bones ached, you'd help me pass the time."

"Reck'n mine ache, too, 'fo' I troo wid dis bus'ness."

"No, Aunt Jinkey, you won't be punished for doing a good deed. Your
young mistress is on your side, anyway. Who is she?"

"Young mistis ain' got no po'r ef dey fin's out. She nuff ter do ter
hol' 'er own."

"How comes it she's friendly to 'we uns,' as you say down here?"

"She ain' friendly. You drap at her feet ez ef you wuz dead, en she hab
a lil gyurlish, soft heart, dat's all. Didn't she tole you dat she ain'
on yo' side?"

"Well, bless her heart, then."

"I circumscribe ter dat ar."

"Aren't you on our side?"

"I'se des 'twix en 'tween all de sides."

"You're all right, Aunt Jinkey. I'd trust you with my life."

"Reck'n you hab ter dis eb'nin'."

"Well, about Miss Lou--you say she has trouble to hold her own. How's
that?"

"Dem's fambly matters."

"And so none of my business, unless she tells me herself."

"How she gwine ter tol' you tings?"

"Ah, Aunt Jinkey, you've vegetated a great while in these slow parts. I
feel it in my bones, sore as they are, that some day I'll give you a
new dress that will make you look like a spike of red hollyhocks.
You'll see changes you don't dream of."

"My haid whirlin' now, mars'r. Hope ter grashus I kin do my wuk
ter-morrer in peace and quietness."

There was neither peace nor quietness at the mansion. Whately, with a
soldier's instincts to make the most of passing opportunities, added to
the hasty tendencies of his own nature, was not only enjoying the
abundant supper, but feasting his eyes meantime on the charms developed
by his cousin in his absence. He knew of his uncle's wish to unite the
two plantations, and had given his assent to the means, for it had
always been his delight to tease, frighten, and pet his little cousin,
whose promise of beauty had been all that he could desire. Now she
evoked a sudden flame of passion, and his mind, which leaped to
conclusions, was already engaged in plans for consummating their union
at once. He sought to break down her reserve by paying her extravagant
compliments, and to excite her admiration by accounts of battles in
which he would not have posed as hero so plainly had he not been
flushed with wine. There was an ominous fire in her eyes scarcely in
accord with her cool demeanor. Unused to the world, and distrusting her
own powers, she made little effort to reply, taking refuge in
comparative silence. This course encouraged him and her uncle. The
former liked her manifestation of spirit as long as he believed it to
be within control. To his impetuous, imperious nature the idea of a
tame, insipid bride was not agreeable; while Mr. Baron, still under the
illusion that she was yet but a submissive child, thought that her bad
mood was passing and would be gone in the morning. He little dreamed
how swiftly her mind was awakening and developing under the spur of
events. She did not yet know that her cousin was meditating such a
speedy consummation of his purpose, but was aware that he and all her
relatives looked upon her as his predestined wife. Now, as never
before, she shrank from the relation, and in the instinct of
self-preservation resolved never to enter into it.

Her long, rebellious reveries in solitude had prepared her for this
hour, and her proud, excited spirit surprised her by the intensity of
its passionate revolt. Not as a timid, shrinking maiden did she look at
her cousin and his men feasting on the piazza. She glanced at him, then
through the open windows at their burly forms, as one might face a
menace which brought no thought of yielding.

The family resemblance between Whately and herself was strong. He had
her blue eyes, but they were smaller than hers, and his expression was
bold, verging toward recklessness. Her look was steady and her lips
compressed into accord with the firm little chin.

Mrs. Baron's ideas of decorum soon brought temporary relief. She also
saw that her nephew was becoming too excited to make a good impression,
so she said, "Louise, you may now retire, and I trust that you will
waken tomorrow to the truth that your natural guardians can best direct
your thoughts and actions."

Whately was about to rise in order to bid an affectionate good-night,
but the girl almost fled from the room. In the hall she met Chunk, who
whispered, "Linkum man gittin' peart, Miss Lou."

"She'll be over her tantrum by morning," said Mr. Baron in an
apologetic tone. "Perhaps we'll have to humor her more in little
things."

"That's just where the trouble lies, uncle. You and aunt have tried to
make her feel and act as if as old as yourselves. She's no longer a
child; neither is she exactly a woman. All young creatures at her age
are skittish. Bless you, she wouldn't be a Baron if she hadn't lots of
red, warm blood. So much the better. When I've married her she'll
settle down like other Southern girls."

"I think we had better discuss these matters more privately, nephew,"
said Mrs. Baron.

"Beg pardon, I reckon we had, aunt. My advice, however, is that we act
first and discuss afterward."

"We'll talk it over to-morrow, nephew," said Mr. Baron. "Of course as
guardian I must adopt the best and safest plan."

Chunk's ears were long if he was short, and in waiting on a soldier
near the window he caught the purport of this conversation.



CHAPTER V

WHATELY'S IDEA OF COURTSHIP


When waiting on the table, Zany either stood like an image carved out
of black walnut or moved with the angular promptness of an automaton
when a spring is touched. Only the quick roll of her eyes indicated how
observant she was. If, however, she met Chunk in the hall, or anywhere
away from observation, she never lost the opportunity to torment him. A
queer grimace, a surprised stare, an exasperating derisive giggle, were
her only acknowledgments of his amorous attentions. "Ef I doesn't git
eben wid dat niggah, den I eat a mule," he muttered more than once.

But Chunk was in great spirits and a state of suppressed excitement.
"'Pears ez ef I mout own mysef 'fo' dis moon done waxin' en wanin'," he
thought. "Dere's big times comin,' big times. I'se yeard w'at hap'n
w'en de Yanks go troo de kentry like an ol bull in a crock'ry sto'." In
his duties of waiting on the troopers and clearing the table he had
opportunities of purloining a goodly portion of the viands, for he
remembered that he also had assumed the role of host with a very meagre
larder to draw upon.

Since the Confederates were greatly wearied and were doubly inclined to
sleep from the effects of a hearty supper and liberal potations, Mr.
Baron offered to maintain a watch the early part of the night, while
Perkins was enjoined to sleep with one eye open near the quarters.
Mattresses and quilts were brought down and spread on the piazza floor,
from which soon rose a nasal chorus, "des like," as Chunk declared, "a
frog-pon' in full blas'."

Whately, trained in alert, soldierly ways, slept on the sofa in the
parlor near his men. One after another the lights were extinguished,
and the house became quiet. Chunk was stealing away with his plunder
through the shrubbery in the rear of the house, when he was suddenly
confronted by Zany. "Hi! you niggah!" she whispered, "I'se cotch you
now kyarin' off nuff vittles ter keep you a mont. You gwinter run away."

"You wan ter run wid me?" asked Chunk, unabashed.

"What you took me fer?"

"Fer better er wuss, w'ite folks say. Reck'n it ud be fer wuss in dis
case."

"I reck'n de wuss ain' fur off. I des step ter ole mars'r an' tell 'im
ter 'vestigate yo' cabin dis eb'nin'," she said, and, with a great show
of offended dignity, she was about to move away.

"Look yere, Zany, doan yer be a fool. Doan you wanter be a free gyurl?"

"Ef you had me fer wuss I'd be des 'bout ez free ez Miss Lou w'en she
mar'ed ter Mad Whately."

"Hi! you year dat, too?"

"I got eyes, en I got years, en you ain' gwinter light out dis night en
lebe yo' granny en we uns. I sut'ny put a spoke in yo' wheel dat stop
hits runnin'."

Chunk was now convinced that he would have to take Zany into his
confidence. He looked cautiously around, then whispered rapidly in her
ear. "Hi!" she exclaimed, softly, "you got longer head dan body."

"I kin reach ter yo' lips," said Chunk, snatching a kiss.

"Stop dat foolishness!" she exclaimed, giving him a slight cuff.

"Zany, keep mum ez a possum. Dere's big times comin', en no un kin
hender um, dough dey kin git deysefs in a heap ob trouble by
blarnations. De Linkum men soon gwine ter be top of de heap an I'se
gwinter be on top wid um. Dar you be, too, ef you stan's by Miss Lou en
me."

"Ve'y well, but I'se gwinter keep my eye on you, Marse Chunk."

"Reck'n you will, kaze I am' gwinter be fur off; en ef you puts yo' eye
on some oder man, you soon fin' he ain' dar." With this ominous
assurance he stole away.

Soon afterward the hoot of an owl was heard again; shadows approached
the cabin; Scoville, assisted by Chunk, joined them, and there was a
whispered consultation. Scoville put the result in the following words:

"The chance is a good one, I admit. It is quite possible that we could
capture the Johnnies and their horses, but that's not what we're out
for. Besides, I'm too badly broken up. I couldn't ride to-night. You
must go back to camp, and leave me to follow. Chunk here has provisions
for you. Better be moving, for Whately will probably be out looking for
you in the morning."

So it was decided, and the shadows disappeared. Scoville was put into
Aun' Jinkey's bed, the old woman saying that she would sit up and
watch. Chunk rubbed the bruised and aching body of the Union scout till
he fell asleep, and then the tireless negro went to the spot where the
poor horse had died in the stream. He took off the saddle and bridle.
After a little consideration he diverted the current, then dug a hole
on the lower side of the animal, rolled him into it, and changed the
brook back into its old channel. Carefully obliterating all traces of
his work, he returned to the cabin, bolted the door, lay down against
it so that no one could enter, and was soon asleep.

The next morning dawned serenely, as if Nature had no sympathy with the
schemes and anxieties to which the several actors in our little drama
wakened. Whately was early on foot, for he felt that he had much to
accomplish. Mr. Baron soon joined him, and the young man found in his
uncle a ready coadjutor in his plans. They were both in full accord in
their desires, although governed by different motives. The old man was
actuated by his long-indulged greed for land, and wholly under the
dominion of his belief that one of the chief ends of marriage was to
unite estates. In this instance he also had the honest conviction that
he was securing the best interests of his niece. No one could tell what
would happen if the invaders should appear, but he believed that the
girl's future could best be provided for in all respects if she became
the wife of a Confederate officer and a representative of his family.

Sounds of renewed life came from all directions; the troopers rolled up
their blankets, and went to look after their horses; Mrs. Baron bustled
about, giving directions for breakfast; Chunk and Zany worked under her
eye as if they were what she wished them to be, the automatic
performers of her will; Aun' Suke fumed and sputtered like the bacon in
her frying-pan, but accomplished her work with the promptness of one
who knew that no excuses would be taken from either master or mistress;
Miss Lou dusted the parlor, and listened stolidly to the gallantries of
her cousin. He was vastly amused by her reserve, believing it to be
only maidenly coyness.

Breakfast was soon served, for Whately had announced to Mr. Baron his
intention of scouting in the woods where the Federals had disappeared;
also his purpose to visit his home and summon his mother to his
contemplated wedding. He and his men soon rode away, and the old house
and the plantation resumed their normal quiet aspect.

It had been deemed best not to inform Miss Lou of her cousin's
immediate purpose until his plans were a little more certain and
matured. Circumstances might arise which would prevent his return at
once. Moreover, he had petitioned for the privilege of breaking the
news himself. He believed in a wooing in accordance with his nature,
impetuous and regardless at the time of the shy reluctance of its
object; and it was his theory that the girl taken by storm would make
the most submissive, contented and happy of wives; that women secretly
admired men who thus asserted their will and strength, if in such
assertion every form was complied with, and the impression given that
the man was resistless because he could not resist the charms which had
captivated him. "Why, uncle," he had reasoned, "it is the strongest
compliment that a man can pay a woman, and she will soon recognize it
as such. When once she is married, she will be glad that she did not
have to hesitate and choose, and she will always believe in the man who
was so carried away with her that he carried her away. My course is
best, therefore, on general principles, while in this particular
instance we have every reason for prompt action. Lou and I have been
destined for each other from childhood, and I'm not willing to leave
her to the chances of the hurly-burly which may soon begin. As my wife
I can protect her in many ways impossible now."



CHAPTER VI

THE STORM BEGINS


Of late years Aun' Jinkey's principal work had been the fine washing
and ironing of the family, in which task she had always been an adept.
For this reason she had been given the cabin near the run and an
unusually fine spring. Miss Lou felt a kindly solicitude and not a
little curiosity in regard to the man who in a sense had been thrown at
her feet for protection. So gathering up some of her laces, she made
them an excuse for another visit to Aun' Jinkey. Mrs. Baron readily
acquiesced, for she felt that if there was to be a wedding, the whole
house must be cleaned from top to bottom. Moreover, by such occupation
her mind could be diverted from the dire misgivings inspired by the
proximity of Yankees. Under the circumstances, it would be just as well
if her niece were absent.

As the girl passed down through the shrubbery, she found Chunk
apparently very busy. Without looking up he said, "Doan be afeard, Miss
Lou, I'se be on de watch. Marse Linkum man right peart dis mawnin'."

Aun' Jinkey was at her washtub near the door, and the cabin presented
the most innocent aspect imaginable. "Good-morning," said the girl,
affably. "How is your patient?"

"Recovering rapidly, thanks to your kindness and the good friends in
whose care you placed me," answered a hearty voice from the doorway.

Aun' Jinkey made a sort of rush to the door, exclaiming in tones that
were low, yet almost stern, "Marse Linkum man, ef you show yo'sef--ef
you doan stay by dat ar ladder so you git up sud'n, I des troo wid dis
bus'ness! Tain' far ter dem w'at's reskin' dere bodies en a'most dere
souls!"

"You are right, aunty," said Scoville, retreating. "It's wrong for me
to do anything which might bring trouble to you or Chunk; but I was so
eager to thank this other good Samaritan--"

"Well, den, sit by de ladder dar, en Miss Lou kin sit on de do'step.
Den a body kin feel tings ain' comin' ter smash 'fo' dey kin breve."

"Good Samaritan!" repeated Miss Lou, taking her old place in the
doorway where she had so recently wished something would happen; "you
have not fallen among thieves, sir."

"My fear has been that you would think that a thief had fallen among
the good Samaritans. I assure you that I am a Union soldier in good and
regular standing."

"I reckon my uncle and cousin would scout the idea that you, or any of
your army, had any standing whatever."

"That does not matter, so that I can convince you that I would not do
or say anything unbecoming a soldier."

"You are a Yankee, I suppose?" she asked, looking at him with strong
yet shyly expressed interest.

"I suppose I am, in your Southern vernacular. I am from New York State,
and my name is Allan Scoville."

"Uncle says that you Yankees are terrible fellows."

"Do I look as if I would harm you, Miss Lou? Pardon me, I do not know
how else to address you."

"Address me as Miss Baron," she replied, with a droll little assumption
of girlish dignity.

"Well, then, Miss Baron, you have acted the part of a good angel toward
me."

"I don't like such talk," she replied, frowning. "You were merely
thrown helpless at my feet. You didn't look as if you could do the
South much harm then. What I may feel to be my duty hereafter--"

"I have no fears at all of what YOU may do," he interrupted, with a
smile that made his expression very pleasing.

"How so?"

"Because you are incapable of betraying even an enemy, which I am not
to you. On the contrary, I am a grateful man, who would risk his life
to do you a service. The little unpleasantness between the North and
South will pass away, and we shall all be friends again."

"My uncle and cousin--indeed all the people I know--will never look
upon you Northern soldiers as friends."

"Never is a long time. I certainly feel very friendly toward you."

"I wish you to know that I am a Southern girl," she replied stiffly,
"and share in the feelings of my people."

"Well, I'm a Northern man, and share in the feelings of my people.
Can't we agree that this is fair and natural in each case?"

"But why do you all come marauding and trampling on the South?"

"I beg your pardon, Miss Baron, but your question opens up all the
differences between the two sections. I have my views, but am not a
politician--simply a soldier. You and I are not at war. Let us talk
about something else. With your brave cousin enlisting your sympathies
against our side, what use would there be of my saying anything?"

"My brave cousin does not enlist any of my sympathies; but that,
certainly, is a matter which we cannot talk about."

"Pardon, but your reference to him made it natural--"

"There is no need of speaking of him," she interrupted, coldly. "I
merely meant that he and those with him in what you slightingly term an
unpleasantness can never be friendly to you. This war may be a small
thing to you, but suppose your home and family were in danger, as ours
are?"

"Can you think that this war is a holiday to me?" he asked, gravely.
"What stands between me now and death--perhaps a shameful and horrible
death--except your kindly, womanly impulses? I am hourly in danger of
being caught and treated as a spy."

"Oh, I didn't realize it," said the girl, simply and kindly.
"Everything looks so quiet and lovely. Aun' Jinkey, there, my old
mammy, is at work just as I have seen her for years, and Chunk is busy
yonder in the garden. It is hard to think how suddenly all might
change."

"A soldier must think and be prepared."

"Have you no fear?"

"Life is sweet to me. I know only one thing--I must do my duty and
trust in God. I have the consolation that no one is dependent on me; no
one would grieve for me very much. I'm quite alone in the world. My
crusty old guardian would inherit my property, and you may well guess
that Aunt Jinkey's tub yonder would hold all his tears if I should make
a sudden exit," and again he smiled in his pleasant way, as if with the
purpose to relieve his words of all sombreness.

"Are you an orphan, too?" she asked sympathetically.

"Such a mature, fully developed orphan as I am is not an object of
pity, Miss Baron," he replied, laughing. Then he added, a little
proudly: "I'm nearly twenty-two; I was twenty-one on my last birthday,
and I celebrated it by a ride only less risky than the one which landed
me at your feet. But your little word 'too' suggests that you are
somewhat alone, also. I hope that your father was not killed in this
war?"

"No, my father and mother died long before the war."

"I am glad of that--not glad that they died, but that you cannot
associate me with the causes of their death."

"But you and yours have caused death and suffering to so many Southern
people!"

"Yes, I'm sorry it is so, but things are pretty even on that score.
Your men give as many blows as they take."

"Why did you enter the army?"

"I suppose for about the same reasons that your cousin did."

"Oh, you aren't like my cousin at all. I don't wish you to keep
referring to him."

"Well, then, I thought it was right. There was an urgent call for men
and strong public feeling. I was at college. I couldn't see others go
and not go with them. I had no influence, no one to push my interests,
so I simply enlisted, and am trying to push my way by extra services.
Now, Miss Baron, think for yourself a little. Here we are, two young
people thrown together by a strange chance. We have been brought up
differently, surrounded by different influences. Even if you think me
wrong, can you not believe that I've followed my conscience and lived
up to such light as I had? I can believe this of you. I don't wish you
to think that we Yankees are monsters. Do I look like a monster? Why,
Miss Baron, if I should live to be a hundred years I should regard a
chance to do you a kindness as the best good-fortune that could befall
me."

As he spoke these words his face flushed, there was a slight quiver in
his dark mustache, betokening deep, honest feeling, and his expression
was one of frank admiration and respect. She looked at him in silent
wonder, and asked herself, "Can this be one of the Yankees of whom I
have heard such horrible things?"

She began saying, "I am trying to think for myself, but I have been so
shut out from the world that--" when she was suddenly interrupted.
Chunk appeared and said, "Marse Scoville, des git up de ladder en shut
de trap-do' quicker'n lightnin'. Miss Lou, kin'er peramberlate slow
to'rd de house, des nachel like ez ef you ain' keerin' 'bout not'n.
Wash away, granny. Play possum, ev'y one."

Miss Lou had gone but a little way before Mad Whately joined her,
having ordered his men to pass on before. "Chunk," he shouted, "take my
horse and rub him well, or you'll get rubbed down yourself."

The openings under the eaves in Aun' Jinkey's cabin were so many and
large that Scoville had fairly good opportunities for observing what
was going on in the immediate vicinity. In witnessing the meeting
between Whately and Miss Lou he was conscious of a peculiar
satisfaction when noting that her manner confirmed her words. The
dashing cousin evidently was not in favor. "Well," thought the scout,
with a decisive little nod toward him, "were I a young Southerner,
you'd have a rival that would put you to your best speed. What a
delicious little drawl she has in speaking, and how charmingly her
consonants shade off into vowels! I would be more readily taken for a
Southerner than she, if I did not speak. How blue her eyes are! and her
fluffy hair seemed a golden halo when the sunshine touched it through
the trees. And then how unsophisticated her face and expression! She is
a lady from instinct and breeding, and yet she is but a sweet-faced
child. Well! well! it was an odd chance to be pitched to the feet of a
girl like that. Very possibly I'd be there again of my own free will
should I see her often enough."

If Scoville were a rival now he certainly would have to take a wild
pace to keep up with Mad Whately in his wooing. His eyes were full of
resolute fire as he walked beside his cousin, and her quick intuition
took speedy alarm at his expression. "Well, sweet coz," he said, "the
Yanks have very prudently dusted back to the region from which they
came. My mother will give herself the pleasure of a visit at The Oaks
this afternoon. Can you guess her object in coming?"

"Why, as you say, to give herself the pleasure of a visit."

"Yes, and you and I will enhance her pleasure a thousand-fold."

"I shall do all that I can in courtesy."

"I'll do the rest, for I shall gladden her heart by marrying you."

"What!"

"Simply that, nothing more. Isn't that enough?"

"Far too much," replied the girl, hotly. "I don't like such jesting."

"Faith and it will prove the best joke of our lives, over which we will
often laugh at our fireside hereafter. Come now, cousin, make the best
of it; it is the best for you as well as for me. You know I always
intended to marry you, and I have the hearty sanction of all the high
contracting powers."

She stopped abruptly in the path, her face so rich in angry color that
it shamed the flowers blooming in the shrubbery near.

"Mr. Whately," she said, firmly, "there is one contracting power that
you have not consulted. How can you marry me when I WILL not marry you?"

"Nothing easier, pretty coz."

"But how--how?"

"Oh, that you will learn at the proper time. Everything shall go as
simply, naturally and merrily as fate. The blessing of parent and
guardian, the clergyman in robes, prayer-book, wedding feast--nothing
shall be wanting."

"This is absurd talk," she cried, and rushed to the house. In the upper
hall she encountered her aunt engaged in superintending a general
dusting and polishing of the old-fashioned furniture.

"What is the meaning of this wild talk of Cousin Madison?" the girl
asked, breathlessly.

"I've heard no wild talk," was the cool response.

"Well, come into my room and hear it, then."

Mrs. Baron reluctantly followed, rather aggrieved that she must bear
the first brunt of the storm.

"What are you putting the house in such wonderful order for?" asked
Miss Lou, with flashing eyes. "What do all these preparations mean?
What is Aunt Whately coming here for this evening?"

"It is very natural she should wish to be present at her son's
wedding," was the quiet and exasperating answer.

"When is this wedding to be?" was the next query, accompanied by a
harsh laugh.

"I think we can be ready by to-morrow evening."

"Are you a woman, that you can thus try to sacrifice the motherless
girl committed to your charge?"

"So far from sacrificing you, I am trying to further your best
interests, and at the same time carrying out the wishes of my husband
and your guardian. These are solemn times, in which you need every
safeguard and protection. We should be faithless, indeed, to our trust
did we not give a brave soldier the best right in the world to shield
and care for you."

"Bah!" cried the girl, now almost furious. "Where's uncle?"

"In his office, I suppose."

Whately had preceded her thither, and had already made known to Mr.
Baron the nature of his interview with his cousin, adding: "Our best
policy will be just to take our course as a matter of course, in a
genial, friendly way. We certainly are the girl's best friends, and it
won't be long before she acknowledges the fact. All we do is to secure
her safety, welfare and happiness. She will be as skittish as a blooded
filly over it all at first--a feature in the case which only increases
my admiration and affection. She doesn't and can't realize the need of
the step, how it's best for all concerned in general and herself in
particular. The thing to do, therefore, is to go right straight along.
Mother will be here this evening, and will do much toward talking her
into it. Lou's anger and revolt will probably be well over by
to-morrow, and all--"

Further predictions were interrupted by the swift entrance of the girl.
She stood still a moment and regarded the two men in silent scorn. "So
you are plotting?" she said at last.

"Oh, dear, no, sweet coz. Nothing is more foreign to my nature than
plotting. I am a man of action."

"If your words have any truth or meaning, you are bent on very
dishonorable action."

"Far from it. I shall have the sanction of both Church and State."

"This, then, is the boasted Southern chivalry of which I have heard so
much."

"It has been knightly in all times to protect and rescue lovely woman."

"I need no protection, except against you. Please leave the room. I
wish to speak to uncle."

He attempted to kiss her hand as he passed out, but she snatched it
away. "Uncle," she said, coming directly to him, "can it be that you
sanction anything so wicked as this? It seems as if you and aunt were
permitting my cousin to put upon me a cruel practical joke."

"Ahem! Your very words, Louise, prove how unfit you are to judge and
act in accordance with this emergency. You even dream that we are in a
mood for jesting at this time, when our days and even hours may be
numbered. No, indeed. I am resolved to unite with my protection all the
power and dignity vested in a Confederate officer."

"In other words, to shield me against some possible danger you will try
to inflict on me the worst thing that could happen."

"Hoity-toity! Is an honorable marriage which has always been
contemplated the worst that could happen? If we are driven forth by
hordes of Northern vandals, you would think it the best thing that had
happened."

"I don't fear these Northern vandals. I have"--and then she checked
herself in time.

"You don't fear them! Why, Louise, every word you speak makes it more
imperative that I should act for one so utterly inexperienced and
ignorant."

"Do you actually mean to say that you will try to marry me against my
will?"

"Certainly, against your present will. Do you suppose that I can be
guided in my solemn trust by your petulance, your ignorant notions of
life, and your almost childish passion? In France, the most civilized
country in the world, parents and guardians arrange these affairs as a
matter of course, and with the best results. It is the general method
all over the world. Far more than mere family and pecuniary interests
are concerned in this instance. We are giving you a protector in the
time of your deepest need."

"How could Lieutenant Whately protect me if the Yankees should come in
numbers?"

"In more ways than you can imagine. Moreover, he would probably be
permitted to escort you and your mother to a place of safety. You would
have his name, and the name of a Confederate officer would always
entitle you to respect."

"Oh, this is dreadful!" cried the girl, bewildered and almost paralyzed
by the old man's inexorable words and manner. So unsophisticated was
she, so accustomed to be governed, that the impression was strong that
she could be controlled even in this supreme crisis.

She rushed into the parlor, where her cousin was striding up and down
in a whirl of the glad excitement so congenial to his spirit. "Cousin
Madison," she exclaimed, "I know you are hasty and impetuous, but
generous impulses should go with such a nature. You surely will not use
your advantage against an orphan girl?"

"No, indeed, dear coz, not against, but for you. I love you too well to
leave you to the chances of war."

"Oh, but this is the certainty of evil. You know I do not love you. If
you would wait--if you would give me time to think it all over--"

"Why, so you shall when I've escorted you and mother to some place
where none can molest or make you afraid."

"Escort me, then, as I am, under your mother's care. Truly this would
be a better way to win my heart than such hasty violence to all my
feelings and wishes."

"My dear Louise, you may think me a hasty, inconsiderate wooer to-day,
but that is because you do not know all that I know. I must, like your
guardians, be guided by your best welfare. When you learn to know me as
a kind, loyal, considerate husband, you will appreciate my most
friendly and decisive action at this time. You are in great danger; you
may soon be homeless. In the case of one so young and fair as you are,
those who love you, as you know I do passionately, must act, not in
accordance with your passing mood, but in a way to secure your peace
and honor for all time."

"Oh, this is all a terrible dream! You can--you can protect me as your
cousin, should I need any such protection, which I cannot believe.
Northern soldiers are not savages. I know it! I know it!"

"How can you know it? Have I not seen more of them than you have? I
tell you that for the honor of our house I shall and will give you the
protection of my name at once. Your uncle and aunt feel as strongly as
I do about it, and your happiness will be the only result. We Southern
people take no chances in these matters."

Overwhelmed, frightened, bewildered, the girl left the room and
mournfully climbed to her own apartment. She was too utterly absorbed
in her own desperate plight to observe Zany whisking away in the
background.



CHAPTER VII

DANGERS THICKENING


Mr. Baron was scarcely less miserable than his ward, yet from wholly
different causes. His anxieties concerning her were deep indeed, his
very solicitude impelling him toward the plan which he was eager to
consummate. He was distracted by fears and forebodings of every kind of
evil; he was striving to fortify his mind against the dire misgiving
that the Confederacy was in a very bad way, and that a general breaking
up might take place. Indeed his mental condition was not far removed
from that of a man who dreads lest the hitherto immutable laws of
nature are about to end in an inconceivable state of chaos. What would
happen if the old order of things passed away and the abominable
abolitionists obtained fall control? He felt as if the door of Dante's
Inferno might be thrown wide at any moment. There was no elasticity in
his nature, enabling him to cope with threatening possibilities; no
such firmness and fortitude of soul as he might be required to exercise
within the next few hours. To start with, he was wretched and
distracted by the breaking up of the methodical monotony of his life
and household affairs. Since general wreck and ruin might soon ensue,
he had the impulses of those who try to secure and save what is most
valuable and to do at once what seems vitally important. Amid all this
confusion and excitement of mind his dominant trait of persistence
asserted itself. He would continue trying to the last to carry out the
cherished schemes and purposes of his life; he would not stultify
himself by changing his principles, or even the daily routine of his
life, as far as he could help himself. If events over which he had no
control hastened action, such action should be in harmony with previous
purpose to the extent of his power. The plan, therefore, of marrying
his niece immediately to her cousin doubly commended itself to him. It
would throw around her additional safeguards and relieve him in part
from a heavy responsibility; it would also consummate one of the
cherished intentions of his life. Things might take a happy turn for
the better, and then just so much would be gained and accomplished.

Thus he reasoned, and his nephew spared no pains in confirming his
views. The truth urged by his niece that she did not love her cousin
seemed a small matter to the unemotional, legal mind of the old man
when safety and solid interests were concerned. "A child like Louise,"
he said, "must be taken care of, not humored." Mrs. Baron had long
since formed the habit of yielding complete deference to her husband,
and now was sincerely in accord with his views. She had never had much
heart; her marriage had satisfied her ambition, had been pleasing to
her kith and kin, and she saw no good reason why her niece should not,
under any circumstances, form a similar union. That the girl should
revolt now, in the face of such urgent necessity, was mere
perverseness. Sharing in her husband's anxieties and fears, she found
solace and diversion of mind in her beloved housekeeping. Neither of
the old people had the imagination or experience which could enable
them to understand the terror and distress of their niece, whom with
good intentions they were driving toward a hated union.

Dinner was served two hours later than usual--a fact in itself very
disturbing to Mr. Baron; while Aun' Suke, compelled to cook again for
the Confederate troopers, was in a state of suppressed irritation,
leading her satellites to fear that she might explode. Small, pale and
bloodless as "ole miss" appeared, none of her domestics dared to rebel
openly; but if any little darky came within the reach of Aun' Suke's
wooden spoon, she relieved her feelings promptly. In dining-room and
kitchen, therefore, was seething and repressed excitement. The very air
was electric and charged with rumors.

Perkins, the overseer, was at his wits' end, also, about the
field-hands. They were impassive or sullen before his face, and
abounding in whispers and significant glances behind his back. What
they knew, how much they knew, he could not discover by any ingenuity
of questioning or threatening, and he was made to feel that excessive
harshness might lead to serious trouble. Disturbing elements were on
all sides, in the air, everywhere, yet he could not lay his finger on
any particular culprit.

Of all the slaves on the plantation, Chunk appeared the most docile and
ready to oblige every one. He waited on the Confederate troopers with
alacrity, and grinned at their chaffing with unflagging good-nature. In
all the little community, which included an anxious Union scout, Chunk
was about the most serene and even-pulsed individual. Nature had
endowed him with more muscle than nerves, more shrewdness than
intellect, and had quite left out the elements of fear and imagination.
He lived intensely in the present; excitement and bustle were congenial
conditions, and his soul exulted in the prospect of freedom. Moreover,
the fact that he had proved himself to Zany to be no longer a mere
object for ridicule added not a little to his elation. Shrewd as
himself, she was true to her word of keeping an eye on him, and she was
compelled to see that he was acting his part well.

Miss Lou positively refused to come down to dinner. She had buried her
face in her pillow, and was almost crying her eyes out; for in the
confusion of her mind, resulting from her training and inexperience,
she feared that if all her kin insisted on her marriage, and gave such
reasons as had been urged upon her, she must be married. She was sorely
perplexed. Could the Yankees be such ravening wolves as her uncle and
cousin represented them to be? Certainly one was not, but then he might
be different from the others because he had been to college and was
educated.

"He said he would be glad to do me any kindness," she sobbed. "Oh, if
he could only prevent this marriage! Yet what can he do? I could not
even speak to a stranger of my trouble, much less to a Northern
soldier. I wish I could see my old mammy. She's the only one who in the
least understands me and feels a little like a mother toward me. Oh,
what a dreadful thing to be a motherless girl at such a time!"

The powers below stairs concluded that it would be best to leave Miss
Lou to herself for a time, that she might think over and become
reconciled to the need and reasonableness of their action, but Mrs.
Baron considerately sent up her dinner by Zany. The unhappy girl shook
her head and motioned the tray away.

"Hi, now, Miss Lou, w'at you tookin on so fer?" asked the diplomatic
Zany.

"For more than you can understand."

"I un'erstan's a heap mo'n you tink," said Zany, throwing off all
disguise in her strong sympathy. "Marse Whately des set out ter mar'y
you, ez ef you wuz a post dat cud be stood up en mar'd to enybody at
eny time. Hi! Miss Lou, I'se bettah off dan you, fer I kin pick en
choose my ole man."

"Everybody in the world is better off than I am."

"I wudn't stan' it, Miss Lou. I sut'ny wudn't. I'd runned away."

"How could I run away? Where could I go to?"

"See yere, Miss Lou," and Zany sank her voice to a whisper, "dere's a
Linkum man"--

"Hush! how did you know that?"

"Chunk en me's fren's. Don' be 'feard, fer I'd like ter see de gyurl
dat kin beat me playin' possum. Dat Linkum man he'p you ter run away."

"For shame, Zany! The idea of my going away with a stranger!"

"'Pears to me I'se rudder runned away wid one man dan hab anoder man
runned away wid me."

"Don't ever speak to me of such a thing again."

"Well, den, Miss Lou, de niggahs on dis plantashon des lub you, en dey
ain' hankerin' arter Marse Whately. Ef you say de wud, I des belebe dey
riz right up again dis mar'age."

"Oh, horrible!" said the girl, in whose mind had been instilled the
strong and general dread of a negro insurrection. "There, Zany, you and
Chunk mean kindly, but neither you nor any one can help me. If either
does or says anything to make a disturbance I'll never forgive you. My
cousin and the men with him would kill you all. I'd rather be left
alone, for I must think what to do."

"I ain' sayin' not'n, Miss Lou, sence dat yo' 'quest, but doan you gib
up," and Zany took her departure, resolving to have a conference with
Chunk at the earliest possible moment.

The impossible remedies suggested by Zany depressed Miss Lou all the
more, for they increased her impression of the hopeless character of
her position. She felt that she was being swept forward by
circumstances hard to combat, and how to resist or whether she could
resist, were questions which pressed for an immediate answer. She
possessed a temperament which warned her imperatively against this
hasty marriage, nor was there any hesitancy in her belief that it would
blight her young life beyond remedy. She was not one to moan or weep
helplessly very long, however, and the first gust of passion and grief
having passed, her mind began to clear and face the situation. Looking
out of her window, she saw that her cousin and his men were mounted and
were about to ride away again. Having waited till they had disappeared,
she bathed her eyes and then descended to her uncle.

"Where has Lieutenant Whately gone?" she asked.

"Your cousin does not forget, even at such a time, that he is a
soldier, and he is scouting the country far and wide. Moreover, it is
his intention to ask the Rev. Dr. Williams to be here to-morrow
evening, and a few friends also. I trust that by that time your
perverse mood will pass away, and that you will unite with your kindred
in their efforts in your behalf."

"Is there no use of reasoning with you, uncle--no use of pleading with
you?"

Perkins stood in the door and knocked to announce his presence.

"Well, what is it?" asked Mr. Baron, nervously.

"Have you heard anything, sir?"

"Good heavens, no! Heard what?"

"Well, sir, I dunno. The field-hands are buzzing like bees, en I kyant
get nothin' out of 'em."

"Well, Perkins, be watchful. Do your best. God only knows what's
coming. You are well armed, I suppose?"

"You may reckon that, sir, en I'll use 'em too, ef need be. The hands
are cute, mighty cute. I kyant lay my finger on any one in particular,
but they're all a sort of bilin' up with 'citement."

"Best to stay among them and be stern and vigilant." When Perkins
withdrew Mr. Baron said to his niece with strong emotion, "You see we
are beset with danger, and you talk of reasoning and pleading against
my best efforts for your safety. There! I'm too harassed, too
overwhelmed with weighty subjects for consideration, to discuss this
matter further. I must give my attention to securing some papers of
vital importance."

Miss Lou departed with the feeling that dangers were thickening on
every hand, and that she was only one of the causes for anxiety in her
uncle's mind. She knew it would be useless to say anything to her aunt;
and with a longing for a little sympathy and advice, she resolved on
another visit to her old mammy, Aun' Jinkey.

The Union soldier had a remote place in the background of her thoughts,
and yet she felt that it was preposterous to hope for anything from him.



CHAPTER VIII

"WHEN?"


The vigilant eyes and constant demands of her mistress prevented Zany
from giving Chunk more than a few significant hints, but he was quick
to comprehend the situation. When he saw Miss Lou bending her steps
toward his granny's cottage, he thanked his stars that the garden was
in that direction also, and soon apparently was very busy at a good
point from which to observe the cabin. In view of the approaching
wedding Mrs. Baron had given Aun' Jinkey much to do, and she was busily
ironing when Miss Lou again stood within the door. The old woman's
fears had been so greatly aroused that she had insisted that Scoville
should remain in the loft. "Folks 'll be comin' en gwine all the
eb'nin', en ole miss hersef mout step dis away."

At the same time her heart ached for the young girl. At sight of the
sweet, troubled face the faithful creature just dropped into a chair,
and throwing her apron over her head, rocked back and forth, moaning
"You po' chile, you po' chile!"

"Yes, mammy," cried Miss Lou, forgetting for the moment that a stranger
was within hearing. "I'm in desperate straits, and I don't know what to
do."

The trap-door was lifted instantly, and Scoville was about to descend.

"You mustn't do dat!" exclaimed Aun' Jinkey. "We's all in mis'ry anuff
now."

"I hope that in no sense I am the cause of it," said Scoville,
earnestly.

"Oh, no," replied Miss Lou, wiping her eyes hastily, "not directly.
Pardon me, I forgot for the moment that you were here. My trouble is
with my family, and you have nothing to do with it except as you
Yankees are coming South and making trouble of every kind."

"Well, Miss Baron," said the scout, regarding her sympathetically
through the open door, "it is too late to talk about our coming South.
Isn't there something I can do for you, to show my gratitude and
good-will?"

"Oh, no, indeed!"

"De bes' ting you kin do, Marse Scoville, is ter shet dat do' an' kep
still; den git back ter yo' folks soon ez you kin trabble. We uns got
des ez much ez we kin stan' up un'er, en ef dey foun' you yere, hit ud
be de worl' comin' ter smash."

"If Miss Baron would tell me her trouble, she might find that I am not
so powerless to help as I seem. Since she has done so much for me, I
have a certain kind of right to do what I can in return."

"You forget, sir, that we are strangers and aliens."

"No one is an alien to me from whom I am accepting life and safety,"
and his glance was so kind and friendly that, in her dire extremity,
she was induced to ask a question.

"If you feel that you owe anything to me," she said, hesitatingly,
"tell me truly, if your people came to this plantation, would our home
be burned and we all be in danger of insult and death?"

"Is that all you fear?" he asked, smiling.

"But answer me on your word and honor."

"No, Miss Baron, not from our regular troops. There are vile wretches
connected with all armies, on your side as well as ours, who act
without orders or any control except their lawless will. If you and
your friends are tortured by the fear of Northern soldiers, should they
come this way, you may set your mind comparatively at rest. I must add,
however, that our troops have to live off the country, and so take food
for man and beast. They also help themselves to better horses when they
find them. I have told you the truth. Why, believe me, Miss Baron, I
would defend you with my life against any one."

"Oh, dear!" cried the girl, with another rush of tears, "my uncle
believes that our house will be burned and we all murdered, and they
are going to marry me to my cousin against my will, so that he can take
me to a place of safety."

"When?" asked Scoville, excitedly.

"To-morrow evening."

Aun' Jinkey in her trepidation had stepped to the door, and there, sure
enough, was Mrs. Baron coming down the path with her hand full of
crumpled muslins. She had appeared so silently and suddenly before
Chunk that he had started and stared at her. When he tried to edge off
toward the cabin, she had said, sharply, "Keep at your work. What is
the matter with you? I reckon your granny is smoking instead of doing
my work," and she hastened her steps to surprise the supposed
delinquent.

Entering the cabin, she saw only Aun' Jinkey ironing, and her niece
sitting with her handkerchief to her face. "Ah!" said the old lady to
her laundress, "I'm glad you realize the importance of doing my work
when it's needed." Then followed a few brief directions in regard to
the articles she had brought. "Louise, I wish you to come with me. This
is no place for you," concluded Mrs. Baron, turning to depart.

The girl rose and followed submissively, for she was overwhelmed by a
confused sense of danger, not merely to the Union soldier, but also to
her old mammy, who was sheltering him. The extremity of her fears and
the fact that Chunk had not come to warn them led her to dread that her
aunt's suspicions were already aroused. Chunk gave her a very anxious
look as she passed, but she only shook her head slightly, as much as to
say, "I don't know."

The negro's elation and confidence now passed utterly; he became deeply
alarmed, not only for the scout, but for himself and grandmother as
well. He was not long in coming to a decision. Whately and his troopers
were absent, and now, perhaps, was the best time to act. After
satisfying himself that he was not observed, he slipped away to the
cabin.

When Mrs. Baron finally disappeared, Aun' Jinkey sank into a chair
almost in a state of collapse. "O good Lawd!" she gasped, "I des
tremblin' so in my knee-jints I kyant stan'."

"Courage, Aunt Jinkey," said Scoville, through the chink in the floor.
"Try to get Chunk here as soon as possible."

"I des done beat. I kyant lif my han' no mo'."

"Granny," said Chunk, sauntering in, "you des watch at de do'," and
without waiting for a word he went up the ladder, lifted the door and
closed it.

"Ah, Chunk, I wanted you badly," said Scoville. "Do you think it
possible for me to get away at once?"

"Dat des w'at I come ter see 'bout, mars'r, en I'se gwine wid you.
Marse Whately and he men all done gone till eb'nin'."

"Well, there's no need of further words. See what you can do about
getting horses and a good start. I will explain on the way. Hoot like
an owl when the coast is clear and you are ready."

A few moments later Chunk emerged from the cabin, with careless mien,
eating a pone of hoecake.

"Go back to yer work," shouted Perkins, who was passing in the distance.

This Chunk did, his eyes following the overseer until the hated form
was lost to sight in a distant field where a squad of hands were at
work. Perkins was simply trying to be ubiquitous that day. Chunk's next
step was to steal to the rear of the stables. To his delight he found
that Whately had left his horse in order that it might rest for further
hard service, and had borrowed one of his uncle's animals for the
afternoon ride. As Chunk was stealthily putting on a bridle, a gruff
voice asked, "What yer doin' thar?"

The negro's heart stood still. Turning quickly, he saw, to his dismay,
one of the Confederate soldiers lying on a pile of straw. A closer
scrutiny revealed that the man was drowsy from partial intoxication,
and Chunk, feeling that he was in for it now, said boldly: "Marse
Whately tole me at dinner ter tek his hoss ter de run fer a drink en
ter limber his jints 'bout dis time in de eb'nin'."

"Very well; bring 'im back safe en sud'n or I'll make you a head
shorter'n you air."

"Ob co'se, mars'r, I do ez I tol'. I des ride ole bay down, too. Mout
ez well took 'im ter water de same time."

The soldier making no response Chunk slipped away with the horses,
trembling as if in an ague fit. Nothing was left for him now but to get
away and take his chances. Fortune in this instance, as it often does,
favored the bolder course. The Confederate soldier was familiar with
Chunk, since he had been the waiter at the troopers' mess; moreover,
his faculties were confused and blunted and he was soon asleep again.
Perkins' back was turned and every one at the mansion deeply
preoccupied. Even Zany, who had been charged not to leave the
dining-room, was not on the watch.

Chunk hastened the horses down the lane toward the run, which having
reached, he looked cautiously around, then hooted in fairly successful
imitation of the ominous bird of night. Aun' Jinkey dropped into her
chair again with an ejaculation of terror.

"Look out of the door and tell me if you see any one," said Scoville,
quickly.

Mechanically she obeyed, saying, "No, mars'r, but dat squinch-owl des
shook me like a ghos'."

Before she knew it he was beside her, his eyes shining with excitement.
"There," he said, putting into the hand he pressed a ten-dollar bill,
"I'll see you again, and you won't be sorry. Good-by," and with a swift
glance around he strode away toward the run. A moment or two later he
was mounted on the bare back of Mad Whately's horse, following Chunk
down the stream so that the flowing water might obliterate the
hoof-prints. They soon left the water and put their horses to a gallop
toward the forest, within whose shades they disappeared. Both had
deemed best not to tell Aun' Jinkey of their departure, so that she
might honestly plead ignorance.

With the unerring instinct of a scout the soldier led the way hour
after hour toward the point where he expected to find the Union cavalry
force. On the way he and Chunk compared notes, and thus Scoville more
truly understood Miss Lou's position. "We must be back to-morrow
afternoon," he said, "in time to prevent this marriage. So, Chunk, be
careful. You must not get sleepy or let your horse stumble."

Leaving them to pursue their way to the northwest, we can return to The
Oaks. Miss Lou followed her aunt into the house, burdened for the
moment with a new and pressing anxiety. Did the resolute old lady
suspect that one of the class which she most detested had been
concealed within earshot of her voice, and would a search be
instituted? The girl's sympathies had gone out to the stranger, and the
fact that he so trusted her appealed strongly to her woman's nature. In
her alienation from her relatives she was peculiarly isolated and
lonely at just the period in life when she most craved appreciative
understanding, and her intuitions led her to believe that this stranger
could both understand and respect her feelings. His genial, kindly
smile warmed her sore, lonely heart, and convinced her that there was a
world of human affections and simple faith as well as of imperious
wills and formal beliefs. His words in regard to himself and the North
was another shock to her confidence in her uncle and aunt, and another
proof that there was no good reason for the marriage they were forcing
upon her.

For a brief time she watched with keen-eyed interest to see if her aunt
would take any steps to have Aun' Jinkey's cabin searched. Her mind was
soon relieved on this score, for she became convinced that her uncle
was distracted by various anxieties; while Mrs. Baron, from force of
habit and with the purpose of diverting her mind from all she feared,
was pursuing her preparations with restless energy, keeping every one
in her employ as busy as herself. It was evident that her niece's idle
hands and perturbed wanderings to and fro annoyed her, and at last she
broke out: "Louise, it would be much more becoming in you to unite with
me in my efforts. The idea of your sitting and idly bemoaning your case
in that foolish old woman's cabin! I'm glad you had the grace to show
obedience to me before her, for this is a time when to our people the
example of obedience is most necessary, and you should be the first to
set it in all respects. It will only increase the trouble which your
uncle and Perkins are having if our people see that you are rebellious.
There is much that you should be doing and seeing to, for your uncle
says that it may be best for you to leave the plantation with Mrs.
Whately and her son immediately after your marriage."

"I am not married yet. I shall appeal to Aunt Whately, and if she has a
woman's heart she will not sanction the marriage."

"You will find that because she has a woman's heart, and a Baron's
heart, she will sanction it and insist upon it."

"We shall see," replied the girl, turning to go to her room.

"Louise, it is my wish that you should put your things in order to be
packed hastily, if need be."

Miss Lou made no answer.



CHAPTER IX

PARALYZED WITH SHAME


So far from obeying her aunt's injunctions, Miss Lou sat down by her
window, but she did not note the smiling spring landscape over which
the western sun was throwing its long, misty rays. Tears so blurred her
eyes and blinded her vision that she could scarcely see at all. At last
she was aroused by the crunching of wheels, and became aware that Mrs.
Whately had arrived. From what she knew of this aunt she had a good
deal of hope from her appeal, for Mrs. Whately had always seemed a
kind-hearted woman. True, she had been over-indulgent to her son, and,
in her blind idolatry of this only child, blind to his faults, always
comforting herself with the belief that he was merely high-spirited and
would settle down when he grew older.

Miss Lou wished to speak to the mother before the son returned, and in
the hope of securing a merciful ally in the lady, went down immediately
to receive her. Mr. Baron was on the back porch calling, "Chunk, where
in the mischief are you?" Where, indeed, with the start he had gained
for the Union lines?

"My dear niece," cried Mrs. Whately, effusively, "how glad I am to see
you, and to take you in my arms on this deeply interesting occasion!"
but the matron was troubled at the girl's red eyes and pallid face.

"I will show you to your room at once," said Mrs. Baron to her guest,
decisively and significantly.

Miss Lou was right in believing that the situation and the unhappy
appearance of the prospective bride would be explained. She had been
forestalled in her chance to make an appeal. Mrs. Baron emphatically
sustained her husband's purpose, concluding: "My dear sister, in this
crisis you will have to take a firm stand with the rest of us. Louise
is acting like a perverse child, and no more realizes the necessity and
wisdom of our course than a baby."

Meantime the outcry for Chunk increased, and Miss Lou was troubled that
he did not respond. Taking advantage of the fact that her mistress was
upstairs, Zany stole swiftly, with many a misgiving, to Aun' Jinkey's
cabin.

"Whar dat gran'boy o' you'n?" she asked, breathlessly.

"Ain' he in de gyardin?"

"No, he ain'. Does you KNOW whar he is? Bettah tell me de truf. Mout
sabe you a heap ob trouble."

"Des you min' yo' business, en doan cum trapesin' yere 'bout Chunk. You
talks ez ef you own 'im."

"Ole mars'r tinks he own 'im, en he des a yellin' fer 'im. De oberseer
hollerin', too, en de lil niggahs runnin' yere, dar, en yander lookin'
fer 'im. Yere one ob um now."

With new and direful forebodings Aun' Jinkey declared loudly: "I doan
know what he be. He ain' say not'n ter me 'bout gwine anywhar."

Uttering an angry and contemptuous exclamation, Zany sped back, and,
with a scared look, said to Miss Lou, "Aun' Jinkey 'clar she dunno
not'n 'bout Chunk's doin's. Ef she ain' foolin' me, I des belebe he's
runned away."

At these tidings and at this suggestion the young girl was almost
distracted. She went instantly to the cabin, supposing that it would
soon be searched.

"Mammy!" she exclaimed, "where's Chunk?"

"Fo' de Lawd, honey, I doan know. I des gwine all ter pieces wid de
goin's on."

"But people will be here looking. Is he up there?" asked the girl in a
whisper.

"No, he des lit out two hour ago, en he guv me dis" (showing the
money), "en say he see me agin. I'se feared he'n Chunk gwine off
togeder."

"Well, you don't know. Hide the money and declare you don't know
anything. I'll stand by you as far as I can."

As she hastened back she saw a Confederate soldier running toward the
house and Perkins limping after him as fast as possible. Entering the
rear door she heard the soldier demanding fiercely of her uncle,
"Where's that cursed nigger you call Chunk?"

"Whom are you addressing, sir?" asked Mr. Baron, indignantly.

"Well, see yere, boss," was the excited reply, "this ere ain't no time
fer standin' on nice words. That cursed nigger o' your'n took the
lieutenant's horse ter the run fer a drink, an one o' your'n 'long of
him, en me en Perkins kyant find nary one of 'em."

"Yes, sir," added Perkins in great wrath, "we uns follered the
hoof-prints ter the run en inter the water, en there's no hoof-prints
comin' back. That infernal nigger has lit out with the two horses."

"Why don't you go after him then?" shouted Mr. Baron, distracted with
anger and accumulating perplexities. "He can't be far yet."

"I'd like ter see the hoss on this place that could ketch the
lieutenant's black mare. Oh, why didn't I shoot the nigger?" and the
soldier strode up and down as if demented.

"You deserve to be shot yourself, sir, if you, who had been placed on
guard, permitted that black rascal to take the horses."

"Yes," replied the soldier, desperately, "en the lieutenant is ther man
ter shoot me--cuss his red-hot blood!" and he stalked away toward the
stables as if possessed by a sudden resolve.

Turning to enter the house, Mr. Baron encountered his niece, who had
been a witness to the scene, which explained everything to her. "You
see, you see," cried the old man, "everything going to rack and ruin!
Would to Heaven you could be married to-night and sent away to a place
of safety!"

"Uncle," said the girl, almost fiercely, "did you not hear that man say
of my cousin, 'curse his red-hot blood'? Is that the kind of a
protector you would force upon me?"

"Yes," almost shouted the angry man, "because he has the spirit to deal
justly with such reprobates. He's just the kind of protector you need
in these lurid times, when it seems as if no one could be trusted. To
think that that boy Chunk, who has been treated so well, could play us
such an infernal trick! His old crone of a grandam must know something
about it, and I'll make her tell. Perkins!" and Mr. Baron rushed toward
the door again.

The ladies had now descended and joined the excited group on the
veranda. Zany was listening with craned neck from the dining-room door,
and other "yard folks," great and small, were gathering also.

"What IS the matter?" cried Mrs. Baron.

Paying no heed to her, Mr. Baron said to his overseer, "Aun' Jinkey
must know about this rascally flight and theft. Bring her here."

"Uncle," said Miss Lou, firmly, "Aun' Jinkey doesn't know anything
about Chunk's disappearance. I've been to her cabin and asked her."

"As if the cunning old witch would tell you anything! Bring her here, I
say, Perkins. It's time the spirit of insubordination on this place
received a wholesome check."

"Why!" exclaimed Mrs. Baron, "it seems but a little while ago that
Chunk was working quietly in the garden."

"En I reckon hit ain't much more'n two hours gone sence I seed 'im
comin' out o' the cabin, lazin' and eatin' hoe-cake," added Perkins as
he started angrily to obey his orders.

"He had mischief in his mind, though, now I think of it." resumed Mrs.
Baron, "for he seemed startled when he saw me, and tried to edge away
to the cabin. I thought he was afraid I would catch his granny smoking
instead of doing urgent work. Louise, you were in the cabin at the
time. Why should Chunk be so anxious to get there before I did?"

"I have not spoken to him this afternoon, and know nothing of his
movements except what I have heard," replied the girl, coldly.

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Whately, "what troublous times we've fallen
upon!"

In the silence which followed they heard the gallop of a horse. A
moment later a negro came running up and exclaiming, "Dat sojer in de
stable des saddle he hoss en put out ez ef de debil wuz arter 'im!"

Miss Lou smiled bitterly as she thought, "He evidently doesn't think it
wise to wait for my protector."

At this moment Mad Whately appeared cantering smartly up the avenue at
the head of his men. Throwing his reins to a colored boy, he strode
smilingly up the steps, exclaiming, "Why, this is a regular committee
of reception. I am doubled honored since my fair cousin is present
also."

Miss Lou made no reply, and the expression on all faces led him to ask
quickly, "Why, what's the matter?"

The young man's brow grew black as Mr. Baron gave a hasty explanation.
A half-suppressed oath rose to his lips as he turned on his heel and
shouted to his men, "Halt, there! Let every man mount and await orders.
Simson, you and two others follow the guard I left with my horse.
Where's that nigger who saw him start? Here, you, put these men on his
track as you value your life! Simson, take him, dead or alive!"

The men saluted, and departed at once. The galloping of their horses
soon died away in the distance. "Now for this beldam," said Whately,
sternly, as Aun' Jinkey approached, tottering in her excess of fear and
accompanied by Perkins.

Miss Lou saw that her cousin was terribly excited; indeed, that he
fairly trembled with passion. She was scarcely less stirred herself,
for she possessed much of the hot blood of her kindled, and during the
last twenty-four hours nearly all that had, occurred tended to fire her
spirit. Now that she saw her own dear old mammy led cowering under the
hostile eyes of every one, she was almost beside herself with pity and
anger. Unaccustomed to conventional restraint, reacting from long years
of repression, a child still in some respects, in others a passionate
woman revolting at a fate from which her whole nature shrank, she was
carried far above and beyond her normal condition, and was capable of
following her impulses, whatever they might be.

Aun' Jinkey turned her eyes appealingly, and was awed, even in that
terrible moment, by the intensity of the girl's expression, as she half
consciously drew nearer and nearer. The field-hands, deeply excited,
had also edged up from the quarters. Mr. Baron and his overseer
observed yet tolerated this, thinking that it might be just as well to
have the negroes learn from Aun' Jinkey's experience that authority
would still be sternly enforced.

Whately's headlong temperament was so overcome by anger that he noted
nothing except the presence of one whom he believed the aider and
abetter in his great loss, for a favorite and trusty horse is one of
the dearest possessions of a cavalryman.

"Where's your grandson?" he demanded, fiercely.

"'Fo' de Lawd, I dunno," gasped Aun' Jinkey.

"The truth, now, or you'll be sorry."

"I dunno, I dunno. Ef he gone, he ain' say neber a word ter me, not
eben good-by."

"No use of your lying. You knew the rascal's purpose. Why didn't you
tell Mr. Baron? Which way did he go?"

"I des declar, mars'r, I dunno."

"You DO know," cried Whately, driven almost to frenzy, "and I'll cut
the truth out of you."

His whip fell before he could arrest it, but it struck the arm and
shoulder of Miss Lou. She had drawn very near, and, swift as light, had
sprung forward and encircled the form of her mammy. There were startled
exclamations from those near, echoed by a groan from the negroes, and
then the girl spoke in stern, deep tones, "You thought to strike ONE
woman, and you have struck TWO."

Whately dropped his whip and stood with bowed head, paralyzed with
shame. There were wild cries and a swaying of the field-hands toward
the house. The mounted soldiers drew their revolvers and looked from
the thronging black faces to that of their commander, but he paid no
heed to them. Perkins did not wait, however, but drawing his weapon,
began to limp toward the threatening mass, with oaths and orders to
disperse. As for Mr. Baron and the ladies, they were just helpless in
the whirl of events.

Although Miss Lou's back was toward this new phase of the drama, she
instantly and instinctively comprehended it. With a fear almost
hereditary, as well as one vaguely dreaded from childhood, she
recognized the possible horrors of an insurrection, her own action the
indirect cause. She turned and sprang forward so swiftly to interpose
that her comb fell away, and her golden hair streamed behind her. She
stood between the blacks and those who could harm them; also those
whom, in their wild excitement, they were ready to attack.

"Silence!" she cried; then in the deep hush that followed she called
out, in clear, ringing tones: "Every friend of mine will go back to
quarters, keep quiet, and obey orders. I promise that no harm shall
come to any of you."

The men doffed their ragged hats, and a voice from the crowd answered,
"We 'bey you, Miss Lou, en we won' let no harm come ter you, noder."
Then as the dense, angry mass of a hundred or more men and women melted
away toward the quarters, it was seen that many a heavy club was
carried among them. Miss Lou watched them silently two or three
moments, the rest looking on in wonder and suppressed anger mingled
with fear. The girl returned, and taking her mammy by the hand, was
about to lead her into the house. Whately started as she essayed to
pass him unheedingly, and seized her hand. "Lou, Cousin Lou, forgive
me!" he cried. "You know I meant you no such indignity."

"I know you mean me a greater one," she replied, coldly, withdrawing
her hand.

"See! I ask your forgiveness on my knees!" he urged, passionately.

But her heart was steeled against him, for her very soul was hot with
indignation. "Come, mammy," she said, firmly, "such shelter and
protection as I still have in this house you shall share."

"Louise, this is monstrous!" began Mrs. Baron.

"NO!" cried the girl. "This poor creature is the nearest approach I
have ever known to a mother. She doesn't know about her grandson, and
no one shall try to cut the truth out of her. Come, mammy," and she led
the trembling old negress up to her room. When hidden from all eyes her
courage and excitement gave way, and she cried on her mammy's breast
like the child she was.



CHAPTER X

A BAFFLED DIPLOMATIST


Miss Lou left consternation, confusion and deep anxiety below stairs.
Mad Whately had his own code of ethics, and he felt as if he had
committed the unpardonable sin. His mother was shocked and pained
beyond measure. She understood the feelings of her son, and sympathized
with him. Drawing him into the parlor, she soothed and cheered him with
the assurance that when his cousin's anger passed she would explain and
intercede.

"Oh, mother!" he exclaimed, "I did love her honestly before, but now I
adore her. I must marry her, and by a lifetime of devotion wipe out the
wrong I did not intend to inflict."

"It will all come about right yet, my boy," she whispered. "I never
understood Louise before. I fear they have been too strict and
unsympathetic in her bringing up, and so she has naturally rebelled
against all their plans. You didn't think at the time--indeed, in our
excitement we all forgot--that Aun' Jinkey was her mammy, and you know
how strong that tie is, even in your case, and you have always had a
mother's love."

"Oh, fool, fool that I was in my mad anger! Brave, grand, heroic girl!
I'd have done as much for my old mammy; or rather I'd have struck down
a general before he should harm her. Oh, mother, mother!" concluded the
much-indulged youth, "I must marry her. She is just the bride for a
soldier."

"Rather than have her fall into the hands of the enemy, we will lead
her to see that it is the only thing to be done," replied Mrs. Whately.

Perkins had a consultation with Mr. Baron, as far as that desperately
perturbed old gentleman was capable of holding one, the result of which
was the decision to let the negroes alone, provided they kept quiet and
obeyed. It was evident to both of them that the approach of Union
forces, though yet comparatively distant, had produced the usual
demoralizing effects. The government at The Oaks had not been harsh,
but it had been strict and animated by a spirit which alienated
sympathy. The situation was now seen to be too critical to admit of
severity, all the more as the protection of Whately and his troopers
might soon be withdrawn.

It was a silent and depressing meal to which they sat down that
evening, long after the accustomed hour, a fact which Mr. Baron would
not forget, even in the throes of an earthquake. He groaned over it; he
groaned over everything, and especially over his niece, who had
suddenly developed into the most unmanageable element in the whole
vexed problem of the future. He felt that they owed her very much, and
that she held the balance of power through her influence over the
negroes; and yet he was incensed that she was not meek and submissive
as a young woman should be under all circumstances. An angry spot
burned in each of Mrs. Baron's cheeks, for she felt that Miss Lou's
conduct reflected very unfavorably on her bringing up. She was so
scandalized and vexed that she could scarcely think of anything else.
Mrs. Whately was all deprecation and apology, trying to pour oil on the
troubled waters in every way, while her son was as savagely angry at
himself as he had been at poor Aun' Jinkey and her grandson.

Most fortunately the main feature in the case remained undiscovered.
The fact that a Union scout had been hidden and permitted to depart
would have been another bombshell, and the consequences of its
explosion would have been equally hard to predict or circumscribe. As
it was, Miss Lou and Aun' Jinkey received a certain remorseful sympathy
which they would have forfeited utterly had the truth been revealed.
And the secret did tremble on the lips of Zany. She was not only
greatly aggrieved that Chunk had "runned away" after all, without her,
and had become a sort of hero among his own kind on the plantation, but
she also felt keenly her own enforced insignificance when she knew so
much more than that Chunk had merely decamped. Her mistress little
dreamed, as the girl waited stolidly and sullenly on the table, that
she was so swelling with her secret as to be like a powder magazine.
But fear rather than faith finally sealed Zany's lips. She was aware
that the first question asked would be, "If you knew so much, why
didn't YOU tell?" and she could give no reason which would save her
from condign punishment. Moreover, she hoped that Chunk would soon
return with no end of "Linkum men," and then her silence would be
rewarded.

Supper was sent up to Miss Lou and her guest, and the old woman, having
at last some sense of security, made her first good meal since "things
began to happen." Then she hankered after her pipe. "I'll get it for
you," said the warm-hearted girl. She stole to the head of the landing,
and, the hall below being clear at the moment, she flitted down and out
at the back door, reaching the deserted cabin unobserved. How desolate
it looked in the fading twilight! The fire was out on the hearth, and
the old creaking chair was empty. But Miss Lou did not think of Aun'
Jinkey. Her thoughts were rather of a stranger whose face had been
eloquent of gratitude as he offered to shield her with his life. Then
she remembered his excited question as to the time of the marriage.
"When?" Had her answer anything to do with the sudden and bold
departure? Her heart was in a sudden flutter. She snatched the corncob
pipe and tobacco pouch, and sped back again in a strange blending of
fear and hope. She felt guilty that she could dare hope to see him, a
Yankee, again. "But his smile was so pleasant and frank!" she murmured.
"Oh, I never remember to have had such genial, honest, unreserved
good-will looked at me by any one except mammy, and she's so old and
wrinkled that she can't look much of anything. What handsome, kind,
dark eyes he had! Yet they would all say, 'He's a monster!'"

She made her way back in safety until she reached the head of the
stairs, and then came plump upon her aunt. "Where have you been?" asked
Mrs. Baron, sharply.

"After Aun' Jinkey's pipe."

"Horrible! I forbid her smoking in this house."

"I shall permit her to smoke in my room."

"You have no right."

"Very well; then I'll go with her to her cabin."

"My dear sister," said Mrs. Whately, putting her hand on the irate
lady's arm, "I think it will be better to let our niece have her way in
such little things. We must remember that she is no longer a child."

"I think she is acting like a very perverse and foolish one; but then
rather than have any more scenes"--and looking unutterable things she
passed on down the stairs.

"My dear, I wish to see you by and by. Won't you let me?" said Mrs.
Whately. "I wish to see you--I must see you before I sleep," replied
the girl, decisively.

"I'll come up soon, then, dear."

Mrs. Baron reported to her husband what had occurred, but he only
groaned. He was scarcely able to do much else now.

"Oh, hang it!" exclaimed Whately, "what fiend directs my luck this
evening? If I had only known she had gone to the cabin, I could have
compelled her to listen to me and to my apologies."

"No worse luck could have happened," said his mother, entering. "You
must curb your impatience, and so--pardon me for saying it--must you,
brother and sister. You are driving the girl to lengths she would never
have thought of going. She is excited and almost beside herself. You
forget, brother, that she is a Southern girl and a Baron, and has all
the spirit of our race. She is one to be coaxed, to yield to gentle
pressure and firm reasoning, and not to be driven."

"Oh, curse it! we've made a mess of it, I fear," groaned Whately, who
was capable of violent alternations of mood, and now was in the valley
of humiliation and almost despair.

"Well, you must all let me manage a little now," resumed Mrs. Whately,
somewhat complacently, "or else there is no telling what trouble you
may have."

"Yes, yes," cried her son, "I insist on mother's managing. She has
always obtained what I wanted, and I shall certainly throw my life away
if I don't marry Cousin Lou."

"Madison," said his mother, tearfully, "am I, who have so loaded you
with kindness, of no account?"

"Oh, forgive me, mother, I can't do anything but blunder to-night. I'm
all broken up, distracted by conflicting duties and feelings. I picked
up important information this evening. The Yankee column, halting in
the rich valley to the northwest, have been ranging the country far and
near, loading their wagons and resting their horses. They will make a
move soon, and will come this way just as likely as not. Our forces are
coming up from the South, and there certainly will be a fight soon
somewhere in this region. I received a secret despatch at the
court-house, after seeing the minister, who will be here early
to-morrow evening. After the wedding I intend to escort mother and my
wife south to Cousin Sam Whately's. They certainly will be out of the
Yankee line of march there. Perhaps you and aunt had better go too."

"No," said Mr. Baron. "I intend to stay and face it out here. I shall
stand or fall on my own hearth."

"And I shall remain with my husband," added Mrs. Baron, firmly.

"Well, nothing worse may happen than a general sack of the place, but I
cannot leave mother and the girl who is to be my wife. I shall ride
over to our place in the morning for the best horse on it, and to see
the overseer. I'll bring back a few papers which I will put in your
charge, uncle."

Thus they discussed the emergency till Mrs. Whately thought she could
venture to Miss Lou's room. Her son accompanied her to the door and
called out, "I give you my word, cousin, that Aun' Jinkey can go to her
cabin, and that no one shall disturb her"; then he retreated to the
parlor again.

When Mrs. Whately entered the room, she witnessed what was not
reassuring. Miss Lou's white shoulder was bare, and upon it was the
long red mark of the whip. Aun' Jinkey was bathing the bruise with some
lotion. "My poor child!" said the lady, "Madison is almost beside
himself with grief and self-reproach."

"Please tell him," replied the girl, "that I'm glad the blow fell on me
instead of mammy."

"Ah, well, my dear, he has asked forgiveness and is profoundly sorry."

"Hit soon be well, honey. Wish ter grashus hit wuz me dat hab it! en
you barin' hit so patient, too, w'en I smokin'. Dar, I kiver hit up
now, en hit ain' dar in de mawnin'. I reck'n I go back ter de cabin
now, honey. I kin'er used ter my own chimbly corner. Miss Whately got
sump'n ter say ter comfort you."

"Very well, mammy. I'll see that you have no trouble," and the old
woman departed.

"Surely, Louise, you cannot expect any more trouble, after my son has
said there would not be any," said Mrs. Whately, in a somewhat
aggrieved tone.

"You must have seen," was the reply, "that Cousin Madison hasn't just
the kind of self-control which inspires confidence."

"I assure you, Louise, that he regrets his act as much as you can. You
should, in charity, remember his great provocation."

"Well, then," Miss Lou burst out, "let him make amends. Here I am, a
defenceless girl, with all my kindred against me. He should be the
first to defend me."

"So he wishes to do, my dear; and he only craves the most sacred right
to defend you."

"Yes, in his own way, and without any regard to my feelings and wishes."

"Indeed, my dear, you misjudge him. You have only to yield one point in
order to make him a slave to your wishes."

"But that is yielding everything. Oh, aunt, how can you urge a girl
toward a loveless marriage?"

"Now, my dear, just listen patiently to me for a few moments," began
Mrs. Whately in a wheedling tone. "I am older than you are. I know
young girls are apt to have romantic notions, but when they reach my
age they find that it is ever best to act in view of good and
sufficient reasons. Apart from the terrible emergency that is upon us,
you know that we all have had our hearts set on this marriage almost
ever since you were born, and we have made no secret of the fact. It
would be a terrible disappointment to us if it should not take place. I
fear that life has been too strict and narrow for you here, but you
know that in my home you will dwell in an atmosphere of kindness and
indulgence. I will give up to you whenever you are ready to take the
reins after these sore troubles are over. But, Louise, you do not
realize that we are in the midst of a terrible emergency. You ought not
to remain here. Madison has arranged that we both go south to his
cousin Sam's."

"I don't wish to go!" cried the girl, wringing her hands.

"Now, my dear, can't you just believe that we, who are more experienced
and know the danger, wish to do what is best for you and what you will
soon see was best?"

"No, I cannot! I cannot! I just feel that I can't marry my cousin
without perjuring myself."

"Surely you don't love any one else, Louise?"

"What chance have I had to love anyone, except my old mammy? I don't
know anything about the love which I feel should lead to marriage. I
have just been treated like a child, and then without any girlhood at
all I'm to be married to one that I shrink from. I feel in my very soul
that it's all wrong and unjust."

"But, my dear, you won't feel so after you are a wife and safe in your
own home. You will then feel that you have reached woman's true place
and sphere, without incurring the risks and misfortunes which befall so
many. Your guardians might have shown more tact, perhaps, but they
meant well, and they wish you well, and are seeking only your welfare.
They feel in honor bound to do what is best for you, and not what, in
your inexperience, you may wish at the moment. As for my son, a
warmer-hearted fellow does not breathe. He loves you fondly. You can
influence him, you can control him as no other can, you have the
strongest hold upon him."

"Alas!" said the girl, divining the ultimate truth, "you love him
blindly and wholly; you would sacrifice me, yourself and everything to
him, and because he has always had everything his own way, he would
have me in spite of the whole protest of my being. No one truly cares
for me; no one understands me. I have been thrown back upon books and
my own nature for such knowledge as I now so desperately need, and I
feel that if I am false to my interests, to what I believe is right, my
life is spoiled. I don't wish to marry any one, and as to all these
dangers you so vaguely threaten, I believe that if there is a good God,
he will take care of me."

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Whately, striving to hide the fact that she
was baffled, "we won't talk any more about it to-night. You are excited
and worried, and incapable of wise judgment. Rest and sleep are what
you need now," and she kissed the girl, who did not return the caress.

"Wise judgment!" she muttered, bitterly, "what fine words they use! So
you, too, are hopelessly against me. You would give me to your son just
as you used to give him everything he cried for when a child. Well,
then, I'll appeal to the minister himself. I don't believe he can marry
me against my will. At any rate, I shall never give my consent, never;
and perhaps somebody may come in time. My people are teaching me to
fear them even more than the Yankees."



CHAPTER XI

AUN' JINKEY'S WARNING


The night passed like a lull in the storm. Perkins reported that the
negroes were quiet, contenting themselves with whispering and
watchfulness. Aun' Jinkey smoked and dozed in her chair, listening to
every sound, but no "squinch-owl" renewed her fears. The family at the
mansion were too perturbed to sleep much, for all knew that the morrow
must bring decisive events. The three soldiers sent after the recreant
trooper returned from a bootless chase and were allowed to rest, but
Whately saw to it that there was a vigilant watch kept by relief of
guards on the part of the others. He was not very greatly encouraged by
his mother's report, but as the hours passed the habits of his life and
the tendencies of his nature asserted themselves with increasing force.
He would marry his cousin on the morrow; he would not be balked in his
dearest hope and wish. The very resistance of the girl stimulated his
purpose, for throughout all his life nothing so enhanced his desire for
anything as difficulty and denial. The subduing the girl's high spirit
into subservience to his own was in itself a peculiarly alluring
prospect, and he proved how little he appreciated her character by
whiling away part of the night over "Taming of the Shrew." A creature
of fitful impulse, nurtured into an arrogant sense of superiority, he
banished all compunctions, persuading himself easily into the belief
that as soldier, officer, and lover he was taking the manly course in
going straight forward. "The idea of consulting a whimsical girl at
such a time," he muttered, "when a Yankee horde may descend on the
plantation within forty-eight hours."

Miss Lou was quite as sleepless as himself, and also did a great deal
of thinking. She had too much pride to hide and mope in her room. Her
high, restless spirit craved action, and she determined to brave
whatever happened with the dignity of courage. She would face them all
and assert what she believed to be her rights before them all, even the
clergyman himself. She therefore appeared at the breakfast table with
just enough color in her cheeks and fire in her eyes to enhance her
beauty.

"Ah, this is something like," exclaimed her uncle. "I knew sleep and
thought would bring back good sense."

Mrs. Whately kissed her effusively and Mrs. Baron formally, the girl
submitting with like mien in both instances. Her cousin, in accordance
with his mood and the policy he had adopted, bowed gallantly and with a
touch of grandiloquence in his tone said, "I again apologize before all
for my most unfortunate act last evening."

She only bowed silently in reply.

Then Whately assumed the air of one who had many and weighty matters on
his mind, his whole conversation conforming to the accepted belief that
they were facing a terrible emergency, and that he, as the practical
head of the family at such a time, must act decisively for the best
good and safety of all. "If I could be governed in this instance," he
said, "only by patriotic feeling I would advise the destruction of all
the forage on the place if convinced that the Yanks were coming this
way, but that would incite them to every possible outrage. Still, I
truly believe that it would be best for you and aunt to go with us this
evening."

"No," said Mr. Baron, "I've settled that."

"Haven't you negroes that you can trust to take the stock off into the
woods for concealment?"

"After Chunk's rascality I won't trust any of them."

"Well, I shall adopt that plan at our place this morning, and leave as
little of value within reach as I can help."

By a sort of tacit agreement it was thought best not to say anything to
Miss Lou except as Mrs. Whately broached the subject, it being believed
that a quiet ignoring of her will and a manifest purpose to carry out
their own would have the most weight in breaking down her opposition.
Indeed it was a shrewd policy, hard for the young girl to bear up
against. Mrs. Baron had been enjoined not to cross her in little
things. The busy housekeeper was too preoccupied to do so had she been
disposed, but it troubled and incensed the girl to the last degree to
see her bustling about, preparing for the wedding as if it would take
place as a matter of course. Mrs. Whately's affectionate smiles and
encouraging words were even harder to endure. That good lady acted as
if Miss Lou were a timid and coy maiden, who merely needed heartening
and reassuring in order to face a brief ordeal, and then all would be
well. Her cousin gallantly lifted her hand to his lips and then rode
away with part of his men, saying cheerfully, "I'll manage everything
for the best."

A vague terror seized upon the girl and she again sought the refuge of
Aun' Jinkey's cabin. She must have some one to speak to who understood
her, who felt for her. She found that Mrs. Baron had been there before
her, urging the completion of certain tasks. Indeed, the old woman was
ironing a white muslin dress which looked very bridal-like. Miss Lou
recognized it as her own gown, which might naturally be worn on such an
occasion.

"Who brought that here?" she asked quickly.

"Ole miss, honey. She said you cud war dis or de one you hab on, des ez
you pleases."

"Aun' Jinkey," said the girl in an awed whisper, "do you think they can
marry me against my will?"

"Miss Lou, I declar ter you I'se been smokin' en projeckin' ober dat
mos' all night."

"Well?"

"Hit 'pears ter me a orfully mux-up question. Yere yo' gyardins, ole
mars'r en ole miss. Dey's des had dere gay on dis plantashon sence I
wuz a gyurl. You wuz trus' ter dem ter be took keer on en you tole me
how he manage yo' prop'ty. He call you he ward. I des dunno w'at po'r
dat ward business gib 'im. I'se yeared en my day ob young gyurls mar'ed
yere en mar'ed dar en dey aim' sayin' much 'bout who dey mar'y. Folks
say dat wuz de way wid ole miss. I reckermember dem days en I year ole
mars'r's fader talk'n wid her fader 'bout w'at dey call set'l'ments en
po'tions. Den ole miss's mammy tole me how her young miss wuz cool ez a
cowcumber, en how she say her folks know bes' en she sat'sfied; en den
how she gib her min' ter w'at she call her trosso. Why honey, I des
doin' up tings ob dat ar trosso yit."

"That's just the trouble with aunt," said Miss Lou scornfully. "I don't
believe she ever had heart enough to love with."

"Well, I reck'n ole mars'r is projeckin' dis away. Ole miss, she settle
down en tuck hole strong. She des kin'er fall inter he ways en mek
tings hum wid de yard en house folks. She des a nachel-bawn
housekeeper, en we uns all had ter stan 'roun' en do ez she sed sud'n,
we sutn'y did; en ole mars'r, he tink hit be des de same wid you."

"But it won't, mammy. I'm not like my aunt."

"Dat you ain', honey, bless de Lawd! Ole miss neber stan' 'twix me en a
whip, en she neber run fer my pipe en let her shol'er ache whiles I
smokes like a ole himage. I'se only des a s'plainin' how dey feels
'bout yo' mar'age."

"Ah, but mammy, you know how I feel about it. I won't marry my cousin
if I can help it."

"Hit's yo' feelin's, honey, w'at des riles up my in'erds so I kyant
hardly wuk. Dat's whar my projeckin' gins out, en I'se kin'er stump'd
'bout hit. Dey's gwine right 'long wid dere prep'rations des ez ef dey
cud do ez dey pleased. Dunno w'at de law is 'bout hit ef dere is any
law in dese mux-up times. I'se des took clar off my foots wid all de
goin's on. De fiel'-han's at de quarters is bilin' ober wid 'citement,
en dey's sayin' de Linkum men's comin' ter upset ebryting. Whar dey get
de news fum I dunno. Dey sez ole mars'r is 'stracted en ole miss des
put her thin lips tergedder ez ef she gwine ter hab her way ter de las'
minit. Ez fer Marse Whately, you knows he al'ays hab his way, en ef
dere isn't eny way he mek it. You sez de min'ster en folks is comin'?
Hit des stumps me fer dem ter go on so ef dey hasn't de po'r."

"Well, then," said the girl desperately, "they will have to use force
all the way through. I'll never give my consent."

"P'raps w'en de min'ster see dat he woan mar'y you."

"That's just my hope," said the girl, "I--"

A quick step was heard and a moment later Mrs. Baron entered the cabin.
Ostensibly she came for some of the articles which Aun' Jinkey had
ironed, but Miss Lou knew she was under surveillance and she departed
without a word. On entering her room she found that her little trunk
had been packed and locked in her absence and that the key was gone.
She felt that it was but another indignity, another phase of the strong
quiet pressure urging her toward the event she so dreaded. A hunted,
half-desperate look came into her eyes, but she did not waver in her
purpose.

Mrs. Whately knocked, but the girl would not admit her.

Meanwhile Mrs. Baron said to Aun' Jinkey in parting, "See to it that
you don't put foolish notions in my niece's head. We are none of us in
a mood for trifling to-day."

Then the old woman's wrath burst out. "You 'speck I'se feared ter speak
fer dat chile w'at stan' by me so? Bettah be keerful yosef, mistis; you
alls gittin' on ve'y scarey groun' wid Miss Lou. You tink you kin do
wid her w'at you pleases des ez ef she a lil gyurl baby. I reck'n her
moder come out'n her grabe ter look arter you ef you ain' keerful."

"What do you mean by such language?"

"I mean des dis, mistis. Ef you tinks Miss Lou ole anuff ter mar'y you
know she ain' a chile. Ef she ain' a chile she a woman. Does you tink
you kin tromple on a woman? You kin tromple on me en I am' sayin'
not'n, but you kyant tromple on a wi'te woman like yosef. I tells you
you gittin' on scarey groun' wid Miss Lou."

"If you both had sense you would know we are getting her off scarey
ground, as you call it. All you have to do is to obey my orders and not
meddle."

"Ve'y well, mistis, I'se warn you," said Aun' Jinkey, sullenly
returning to her work.

"Warn me of what?" But the old woman would not vouchsafe another word.

Mrs. Baron returned to the house, her lips compressed with a firmer
purpose to maintain discipline on deck till the ship went down, if that
was to be the end. Combined with her cold, unimaginative temperament
was a stronger and more resolute spirit than that of her husband, who
now was chiefly governed by his lifelong habit of persistence. He
adhered to his purposes as a man at sea clings to the ship which he
feels is going to pieces beneath him.

Chunk and Scoville reached the Union camp in the gray dawn of the
morning, and the latter soon had an audience with the commanding
officer, with whom he was a favorite scout. The small party which had
been compelled to leave Scoville behind had brought important
information, gained chiefly by the young man's daring and address, and
the general was very glad to see him again and to be assured of his
escape.

"We are ready to move," said the commander, "and the information
brought in by your party has decided me to bear off to the southeast in
order to meet the enemy approaching from the southwest. As soon as you
are rested, Lieutenant Scoville--"

"Sir! what?"

"Yes, I had recommended you for promotion and the order has come."

"If zeal in your service, sir"--began the scout flushing proudly.

"Yes, yes, I understand all that. I remember the men who serve me well.
As soon as you're able to start out in the same direction again I would
like you to do so."

"I'm able now," said Scoville eagerly, and then he briefly related the
situation of affairs at The Oaks, concluding, "If I had twenty-five men
I believe I could not only prevent the marriage but capture all the
Confederates with their information. They have been scouting up toward
us just as we were toward the enemy."

"All right," said the general, laughing. "Perhaps the marriage may come
off yet, only with another groom."

"No, sir," said Scoville, gravely. "The girl befriended me in my sore
need. She is as good and innocent as a child, and I would shield and
respect her as I would my own sister."

"That's the right spirit, Lieutenant. I was not sure how far matters
had gone--in fact, was only jesting."

Scoville made a hearty breakfast, and within an hour, at the head of
over a score of men, was rapidly retracing his steps, Chunk following
in a state of wild elation. They both had been furnished with fresh
horses, and the tough, elastic sinews of the newly-fledged officer were
tense with an unwonted excitement. If those tearful blue eyes of Miss
Lou should welcome him as deliverer this would be the most memorable
day of his life.



CHAPTER XII

A WHIRLWIND OF EVENTS


Whately returned wearing a rather gloomy and angry aspect. He had
threatened his negroes and stormed at them; they had listened in sullen
silence. The overseer had said, "Hit's the old story. They have heard
that the Yanks are near and may come this way. Fact is, one doesn't
know what they haven't heard. They hold together and keep mum. You can
see that all discipline is at an end among 'em."

Whately could only give the man such directions as the emergency
dictated, obtain some valuables, and return chafed and all the more
bent upon securing out of the possible wreck the one object he most
coveted. But Miss Lou puzzled him and perplexed them all. She had taken
refuge in almost absolute silence, and was as unresponsive to Mrs.
Whately's endearments as to her uncle and aunt's expostulations, while
toward Whately she was positively freezing in her coldness. Troubled
and inwardly enraged, he was yet more than ever determined to carry out
his purpose. His orders to his men were given sharply and sternly, and
his mood was so fierce that there was no longer any affectation or
assumption on his part. The girl's heart fluttered with nameless fears,
but she had the strength of will to maintain the cold, impassive
demeanor she had resolved upon. She felt that it would be useless to
make further effort to influence her kindred, and that if she revealed
her purpose to appeal to the clergyman, they might so prejudice his
mind against her that he would not listen favorably. Fearing that this
might be the case anyway, she found her thoughts turning with
increasing frequency to the possible intervention of the Union scout.
She both hoped for and feared his coming, supported as he would be, in
this instance, by followers who might be so different from himself. She
could not free her mind from the influence of the stories about
Northern soldiers, and yet she was sure that as far as his power went,
they would all be protected. Indeed, one danger menaced so closely and
threateningly she could scarcely think of anything else than escape and
relief from it.

As the sun began to sink in the west her uncle came to her door and
said authoritatively, "Louise, I wish you to come down."

She obeyed without a word and entered the parlor where all were
assembled, noting with dismay that the Rev. Dr. Williams was already
present. Her cousin sought to meet her gallantly, but she evaded him
and took a seat. Mr. Baron began a sort of harangue. "Louise," he said,
"as your guardian and in obedience to my sense of duty in a great
responsibility, I have approved of this marriage. I am convinced that
the time will speedily come when you will be glad that I--that we
all--were firm at this time. Both I and your aunt are growing old.
Troubles, sore indeed even for the young to endure, are upon us. I am
not sure that a roof will cover our gray hairs much longer. Perhaps in
the dead of this very night the ruthless enemy may come. Now, your aunt
Whately's carriage is at the door. A gallant soldier and a Confederate
officer, the choice of all your kindred, is eager to give you his name
and loving protection. He will take you far away from war's rude
alarms, with its attendant and horrible perils. We have no common foe
to deal with, but monsters animated by unquenchable hatred and a
diabolical spirit. I should betray my trust and be recreant to my duty
did I not avail myself of the one avenue of safety still open to you.
See, your cousin's brave men are mounted, armed, and ready to act as
your escort. Dr. Williams is here to perform his good offices, although
other invited friends have not ventured from home in this time of peril
which recent tidings prove to be increasing every hour. In a few
moments you will be an honored wife, on your way to a place of refuge,
instead of a helpless girl whose defenders may soon be scattered or
dead."

"Truly, Miss Baron," said the clergyman, rising and approaching, "you
cannot hesitate in circumstances like these."

Miss Lou felt her tongue clinging to the roof of her mouth, and could
only say in a hoarse whisper, "But I do not love my cousin--I do not
wish to marry."

"That may be your feeling at this moment. Indeed, circumstances are not
conducive to gentle amatory feelings, and all may seem sudden and hasty
to you, but you must consider that your relatives in this
emergency--indeed that all your neighbors--are doing many things and
taking many precautions that would not be thought of in a time of
security. I have already sent my own family further South, and now in
your case and Mrs. Whately's I feel that time is pressing. Will you
please rise and take your cousin by the hand?"

She shook her head and remained motionless. Whately advanced
decisively, took her hand, and sought gently to draw her into position
before the clergyman. His touch broke the spell, the paralysis of
dread, and she burst out, "No, no, you cannot marry me when my whole
soul protests. I will not be married!"

"Louise, I command you," began Mr. Baron excitedly.

"It makes no difference. I will not! I will not!" was the passionate
and almost despairing response.

"Oh, come, cousin, you are just excited, frightened, and off your
balance," said Whately soothingly.

"My dear Miss Baron," added the clergyman, "let me reassure you. It is
evident that you are a little nervous and hysterical. Pray be calm and
trust your relatives to do what is best for you. I do not wonder that
your nerves have given way and that--"

"My nerves have not given way. Unfriended child that I am, I must not
lose self-control. God grant that my WILL does not give way."

"Unfriended!" exclaimed Mrs. Whately reproachfully. "Few girls in these
times have so many to care and think for them. We are all bent on
securing your welfare at every cost."

"Yes, at every cost to me."

"Dr. Williams sees the wisdom and reasonableness of our course. My son
is even straining his sense of military duty to escort us to a place of
safety, where you will still be among relatives."

"Then let him escort me as his cousin, not his wife," cried the girl.

"But, Miss Baron, in the turmoil and confusion which may ensue you will
be far safer as his wife," Dr. Williams urged. "I would have been glad
if I could have given my daughter like protection. Truly, it is not
wise to be swayed by mere nervous excitement at such a time."

"Oh, even you, from whom I hoped so much, are against me!"

"No, my dear child," replied the minister, earnestly and sincerely, "I
am for you always, but I cannot help seeing, with your relatives, that
at present you are not in the quiet state of mind which would enable
you to act wisely for yourself. What earthly motive could I have except
your safety, welfare and happiness?"

"Well, then," said the girl, with a swift glance around and as if
turning into stone, "do your worst. I will never give my consent,
NEVER!"

They looked at each other perplexedly and inquiringly, as if to ask
what should be done, when Perkins burst in at the back door of the
hallway shouting, "The Yanks!"

The girl sank into a chair and covered her burning face for an instant.
Deep in her soul she divined who her rescuer was, yet in the midst of
her hope she felt a certain consciousness of guilt and fear. Mr. Baron,
Dr. Williams, and the ladies, half-paralyzed, yet drawn by a dreadful
fascination, approached the open windows. Mad Whately now played a
better part. He was in full uniform and his horse stood saddled
without. He went to it, mounted with almost the swiftness of light, and
was just in time to see the Federals sweep around the drive which led
to the stables. Scoville had brought his little force by the familiar
way of Aun' Jinkey's cabin. Furious at being forestalled, and in
obedience to a headlong courage which none disputed, Whately's sabre
flashed instantly in the rays of the sinking sun, and his command,
"Charge!" rang clear, without a second's hesitancy.

The order echoed in the girl's heart and she felt that she had too much
at stake not to witness the conflict. Her own high spirit also prompted
the act, and in a moment she was out on the veranda. She saw her cousin
spur directly toward the leader of the Federals, in whom she recognized
the Union scout. His men came galloping after him, but seemed more
inclined to envelop and surround the Confederates than to engage in
hand-to-hand conflicts. The latter were experienced veterans and
quickly recognized that they were being overpowered and that there was
no use in throwing away their lives. Hasty shots were fired, a few
sabres clashed, but the demand, "Surrender!" heard on all sides, was so
well enforced by the aspect of the situation that compliance soon
began. Scoville and Whately, with those immediately about them,
maintained the conflict. The two young officers were evenly matched as
swordsmen, although the Federal was the larger, stronger, and cooler
man. As a result, their duel was quickly terminated by the loss of
Whately's sabre, wrenched from his hand. Then the point of his foe's
weapon threatened his throat, and the word "Surrender!" was thundered
in his ears.

Instead of complying, he fell from his horse as if shot, lay still an
instant, and then in the confusion of the melee glided through an
adjacent basement door and disappeared. Seeing him fall, his mother
uttered a wild shriek and gave way to almost hysterical grief. A
backward glance revealed to Whately that the fight was lost, or rather
that it had been hopeless from the first, and his one thought now was
to escape and lead back a larger force for the purposes of both rescue
and vengeance. Gaining a rear door, a bound took him to some shrubbery.
A second later he was behind the kitchen. Aun' Suke saw him, threw up
her hands, and uttered an inarticulate cry. A moment or two more and he
was in the stable, leading out a horse. All attention was now so
concentrated in front of the mansion that he was not observed. He took
only time to slip on a bridle, then springing on the animal's bare
back, he struck into a field behind a clump of trees. Putting the horse
to a run, he was soon beyond successful pursuit. Some of his own men
had seen him fall before they were driven back, and believed that he
was either wounded or dead; thronging Federals, unaware of the
circumstances, occupied the ground, and only Miss Lou, with an immense
burden lifted from her heart, saw his ruse and flight. She wished him
well sincerely if he would only leave her to herself. Hastening to Mrs.
Whately she speedily restored the lady with assurances of her son's
escape, then with her joined the group on the veranda. Mr. Baron, in
the crisis of his affairs and as the head of the family, maintained a
dignity and composure which of late had been lacking.

Scoville paid no heed to them until every vestige of resistance had
ceased and the Confederates were disarmed and collected as prisoners.
Then sitting on his horse in front of the piazza steps he rapidly gave
his orders. His first act was to send a vedette down the avenue toward
the main road; then he selected five men, saying, "Take charge of the
stables, barn, and out-buildings. Keep them as they are and permit no
one to approach without my written orders."

At this moment the field-hands, who had been surging nearer and nearer,
sent forward a sort of improvised deputation. They approached bowing,
with hats in hand and wistful looks in their eyes. Were these in truth
the messengers of freedom of whom they had heard so much? Mr. Baron
almost gnashed his teeth as he witnessed this action on the part of his
property.

"Mars'r," said the spokesman, "I reck'n you got good news for we uns."

"Yes, good news. You are all free." His words rang out so that they
were heard by every one. Shouts and cries of exultation followed like
an echo, and ragged hats were tossed high in joy.

The young soldier raised his hand with a warning and repressive
gesture. In the silence that ensued he added, "My men here are both
free and white, yet they must obey orders. So must you. Go back to your
quarters and prove yourselves worthy of freedom by quiet behavior and
honesty. If I find any one, black or white, acting the part of a thief
while I am in charge it will go hard with him. The general will be here
to-morrow and he will advise you further."

His words found immediate acceptance, the negroes returning to the
quarters, laughing and chatting joyously, not a few wiping tears of
deep emotion from their eyes. The long-expected day had come. They
little knew what the future had in store for them, but this was the
beginning of a new era and the fulfilment of a great hope.

Scoville now dismounted and gave the reins to Chunk, who stood near
with a droll assumption of soldier-like stiffness and oblivion to all
the well-known faces. Mounting the steps, cap in hand, the young
officer approached Mr. Baron, who was becoming a little assured that
the orders thus far heard had not included a general application of the
torch.

"Mr. Baron, I presume?" said Scoville.

"Yes, sir," was the stiff reply.

"The ladies of your household, I suppose?"

"They are."

Scoville bowed ceremoniously to each, giving Miss Lou no other sign of
recognition than a humorous twinkle in his eye. "Ladies," he began,
"since it is the fortune of war that I must have command here for a
brief time, I hasten to assure you that we shall give as little
annoyance as possible. A few men on both sides were wounded, and I fear
that the officer commanding your men was killed. At least I saw him
fall. The night is warm and still and I can make a hospital here on the
piazza with a little aid from you. Please dismiss all further fears.
Unless we are attacked, the night shall pass quietly. Each and every
one will be treated with respect and courtesy. I must request of you,
however, sir," addressing Mr. Baron, "food for myself and men and
forage for our horses."

"I suppose you will take them anyway," growled the unwilling host.

"Certainly," replied Scoville, giving him a steady look. "Do you expect
us to go hungry? I shall do my duty as a soldier and an officer, as
well as deport myself as a gentleman."

There was nothing left but for Mr. Baron to give his directions to
Perkins, or for the ladies to make preparations for the improvised
hospital. Miss Lou gratefully recognized that Scoville did not intend
to compromise her in the least nor reveal his previous acquaintance
unless it should become known through no fault of his. She lingered a
moment as Dr. Williams stepped forward and asked, "May I be permitted
to return to my home?"

"I trust so, certainly, sir, but my duty requires brief explanation on
your part and pledges that you will take no hostile action. We are not
among friends, you know."

"I can very readily account for myself, sir," was the stiff response.
"I was summoned here to perform a wedding ceremony which your most
inopportune arrival prevented. I am a man of peace, not of war, yet I
cannot and will not give any pledges."

"It is scarcely fair then, sir, for you to take refuge in your calling,
but I will waive that point. I must warn you, however, that we can give
protection to those only who do not seek to harm us. You are at
liberty. Good-evening, sir."

He had extracted from the clergyman the fact that he had arrived in
time, and he again gave the girl in the doorway a mirthful glance, then
turned on his heel to attend to his military duties.

Miss Lou hastened to her room with hot cheeks.



CHAPTER XIII

THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS


Scoville soon learned that his opponent, so far from being killed or
even wounded, had escaped. He was not much worried by this fact,
believing that before the Confederate officer could reach his friends
and bring back an attacking force, the Federal column would be on the
ground. Indeed, he was glad that the family upon which he had quartered
himself could not associate him with so terrible a calamity. The young
girl might not wish to marry her cousin, yet be sorry if he were
fatally or even seriously wounded, while the rest of the household
would be plunged in the deepest distress. Although a resolute soldier,
Scoville was a kind-hearted fellow, and disposed to take the most
genial views of life that circumstances permitted. There was a humor
about his present situation which he relished exceedingly. He was
buoyant over the interrupted wedding, and bent upon disappointing Mr.
Baron in all his grewsome expectations in regard to the Yankees. There
should be discipline, order, quiet, and an utter absence of all
high-tragedy. He cautioned his men against the slightest tendency to
excess, even forbidding the chaffing of the negroes and noisiness. A
steer, a pig, and some fowls were killed for supper, and the wood for
cooking it was taken from an ample pile in the rear of the house.
Happily, none were seriously wounded, and being veterans were able to
do much for one another, while an elderly man in the troop who had some
rude surgical experience, supplemented their efforts. Miss Lou speedily
joined her aunts in rummaging for old linen for bandages, and the
performance of human duty by the elderly ladies dulled the edge of the
terrible truth that they were in the hands of the Yankees. True, they
had to admit to themselves that the young soldier did not appear like a
"ruthless monster" and that his conduct thus far had been almost
ceremoniously polite; yet all this might be but a blind on the part of
a cunning and unscrupulous foe.

When they came down to the veranda with the materials required, the
unscrupulous foe met them, cap in hand, thanked them courteously, and
gave his entire attention to the wounded, treating the men of both
sides alike. Mrs. Whately, in glad reaction from overwhelming fear
concerning her son's safety, offered her services in behalf of the few
wounded Confederates and they were readily accepted. Before she was
aware of it she found herself conferring with the young officer and the
surgical trooper in regard to the best treatment of the injuries.
Having long been mistress of a plantation and accustomed to act
promptly when any of her slaves were hurt, she now proved a valuable
auxiliary. When the soldiers with whom she sympathized were attended
to, her kindness of heart led her on to the Federals, who thanked her
as gratefully as if they were not depraved Yankees.

Mr. and Mrs. Baron had retired to the parlor, where they sat in state,
awaiting in gloomy fortitude the darker developments of what they
deemed the supreme tragedy of their lives. Miss Lou was flitting in and
out, getting lint and other articles required by Mrs. Whately. She
found it no easy matter to maintain the solemnity of aspect which her
guardians thought appropriate to the occasion, but was assisted in this
effort by her genuine pity for the wounded. In her joyous relief at
escape from a hated union her heart was light indeed. She had,
moreover, no slight sense of humor, and was just bubbling over with
mirth at the fact that although the Yankee monsters, from whom it was
said she must be rescued at every cost, were masters of the situation,
they were engaged in nothing more ruthless than feeding their horses,
preparing supper, and caring for the wounded. The most delicious thing
of all was that one of the chief prophets of evil, her Aunt Whately,
was aiding in the last-named task. Her exultation was increased when
she brought the last article required and Scoville said with his genial
smile, so well remembered, "I think I can assure you now, Miss Baron,
that all will do very well. We are deeply indebted to this lady (bowing
to Mrs. Whately) whose services have been as skilful as humane."

Now one of the things on which Mrs. Whately most prided herself was the
generally accepted belief that she was as good as a country physician
in an emergency, and she could not refrain from a slight and gracious
acknowledgment of Scoville's words. As they drew near to the door she
said hesitatingly, "Perhaps, sir, I should make an acknowledgment of
deep indebtedness to you. I saw your sabre raised and pointed at my
son's throat. Could you not have killed him had you so wished?"

"Ah! this is Mrs. Whately. Believe me, madam, we are not so
bloodthirsty as to wish to kill, or even to injure, except so far as
the necessities of war require. If you witnessed the brief conflict you
must have observed that my effort was to capture rather than to destroy
your son's force."

"We all could not help seeing that," cried Miss Lou eagerly.

"I could not help seeing also, Miss Baron, that you exposed yourself to
danger like a veteran, and I was anxious indeed lest a stray bullet
might harm you. It was well you were not armed or we might have fared
worse," and there was so much mirth in his dark eyes that she turned
away to hide her conscious blushes.

"Well, sir," resumed Mrs. Whately with emotion, "it is not easy to
bless our enemies in this cruel war of aggression, but I must express
my gratitude to one who stayed his hand when my son's life was within
his power."

"I trust, madam, he may live to care for you in your declining years,
and to become a good loyal citizen."

"He is loyal, sir," replied Mrs. Whately with gentle dignity, "to the
only authority he recognizes," and with a bow she retired.

Miss Lou lingered a moment and said earnestly, "I thank you. You are
very considerate."

His face so lighted up that it was almost boyish in its expression of
pleasure as he answered with the pride and confidence of one sure of
sympathy, "This is a jolly day for me. I was made an officer this
morning, and now, best of all, I am paying a little of my debt to you."

She put her finger on her lips and shook her head, but the smile she
gave him over her shoulder was reassuring. He promptly started on a
round among his men again to see that the prisoners were properly
guarded, and that all was going as he wished.

"Louise," said Mrs. Baron, as the girl appeared in the parlor door, "it
would be far more decorous if you would remain here with your uncle and
myself."

Miss Lou took a seat in the darkest corner that she might be less open
to observation while she calmed the tumult of her feelings. So much had
happened that she must catch her breath and think what it all meant.
Mr. Baron began gloomily, "Well, the dreaded hour which I hoped and
prayed never to see has come. We are helpless and in the hands of our
enemies. Only God knows what an hour will bring forth--"

"He has brought deliverance," cried Mrs. Whately, entering. "I
questioned Aun' Suke, thinking that she might have seen Madison if he
left the house. She did see him safe and sound. She also saw him get a
horse and ride away."

"Ah, poor boy! how different was his departure from what he had every
reason to hope and expect!" replied Mr. Baron. "I should think your
heart would be remorseful, indeed, Louise, when you picture your cousin
flying from his kindred and home, alone and sad, tortured meanwhile by
thoughts of the fate which has overtaken us."

"I'm sure, uncle, we are all sitting quietly in the parlor. That does
not seem very dreadful."

"You little know, young woman, you little realize the cunning
depravity--"

"There now, brother," interposed Mrs. Whately, "we must not think evil
until we see more evidence of it, even in Yankees. I admit that I am
most wonderfully and agreeably disappointed. The young officer in whose
hands we are might have killed my son, but did not. I must at least be
just to such a man."

"And you know he has been polite to us all, and told us to dismiss our
fears," added Miss Lou demurely.

"It would almost seem, Louise, that you welcomed these invaders. I am
too old and well informed not to know that this suave manner he affects
is designed to lull us into a sense of false security."

At this moment a firm step was heard on the veranda, followed by a rap
from the brass knocker. They knew it was Scoville, and Mr. Baron rose
and advanced to the parlor entrance. He assumed the solemn aspect of
one who now must face the exactions and wrongs which he had predicted,
and his wife tremblingly followed, to perish at his side if need be.
But the invader barely stepped within the hall and stood uncovered as
he said politely, "Mr. Baron, I have now practically made my
dispositions for the night. There is no reason why your domestic
routine should not be resumed as usual. As I said before, I pledge you
my word you shall not be disturbed unless we are attacked.
Good-evening, sir. Good-evening, ladies," and he bowed and withdrew,
leaving the old gentleman speechless in the utter reversal of all that
he had declared would take place. No plundering, no insults, no
violence. On the contrary, even his beloved routine might be resumed.
He turned around to his wife and sister almost gasping, "Is this some
deep-laid plot?"

"It certainly must be," echoed his wife.

Miss Lou turned away quickly and stuffed her handkerchief in her mouth
to prevent laughing outright.

Her uncle caught her in the act and was instantly in a rage.

"Shame upon you!" he cried. "Enemies without and traitors within."

This charge touched the girl to the quick, and she replied with almost
equal anger, "I'm no traitor. Where has your loyalty to me been to-day?
Look at me, uncle, and fix the fact in your mind, once for all, that I
am neither a child nor an idiot. God has given me a mind and a
conscience as truly as to you, and I shall use them. This Northern
officer says we are safe. I believe it and you will know it in the
morning. Now I simply insist that you and aunt treat me with the
respect due to my years and station. I've endured too much to-day to be
patient under anything more. I meant no disrespect to you in laughing,
but I cannot help being glad that instead of all sorts of horrible
things happening we are treated with simple and even delicate
politeness."

"Yes, brother," added Mrs. Whately, "as far as this man is concerned,
you must revise your opinions. There is no deep-laid plot--nothing but
what is apparent. I must also urge upon you and sister a change in your
treatment of Louise. She will be far more ready to fulfil our hopes
when led by affection."

"Well, well, that I should live to see this day!" groaned Mr. Baron.
"My ward virtually says that she will do as she pleases. The slaves
have been told that they are free and so can do as they please.
Henceforth I suppose I am to speak to my niece with bated breath, and
be at the beck and call of every Sambo on the place."

"You are not 'weltering in your own blood,' uncle, and the 'roof is not
blazing over our heads,'" replied Miss Lou quietly. "You have merely
been told that you could have supper when it pleased you and then sleep
in peace and safety. Aunt, I will thank you for the key of my trunk. I
wish to put my things back in their places."

Mrs. Baron took it from her pocket without a word, and Miss Lou went to
her room.

True to her nature, Mrs. Whately began to pour oil on the lacerated
feelings of her brother and sister-in-law. "Louise is right," she said.
"Things are so much better than we expected--than they might have
been--that we should raise our hearts in thankfulness. Just think! If
this Northern officer is what you fear, why would he have spared my
son, whom he might have killed in fair battle? In his conduct toward
the wounded he showed a good, kindly spirit. I can't deny it; and he
has been as polite to us as one of our own officers could have been.
Think how different it all might have been--my brave son desperately
wounded or dead, and unscrupulous men sacking the house! I need not
refer to darker fears. I must say that I feel like meeting courtesy
with courtesy. Since this Yankee behaves like a generous foe I would
like to prove that Southern rebels and slave-drivers, as we are called,
can equal him in all the amenities of life which the situation permits."

"Oh, sister!" cried Mrs. Baron, "even a cup of tea would choke me if I
drank it in his presence."

But Mr. Baron had lighted his pipe, and reason and Southern pride were
asserting themselves under its soothing influence. At last he said,
"Well, let us have supper anyway. It is already after the hour."

"Supper has been ready this long time, as you know," replied his wife,
"only I never dreamed of such a guest as has been suggested."

"Of course, sister, I only said what I did as a suggestion," Mrs.
Whately answered with dignity. "You are in your own home. I merely felt
reluctant that this Yankee should have a chance to say that we were so
rude and uncivilized that we couldn't appreciate good treatment when we
received it. There's no harm in gaining his goodwill, either, for he
said that his general, with the main force, would be here to-morrow."

"Mrs. Baron," said her husband in strong irritation, "don't you see
there is nothing left for us to do? No matter how things turn out, the
presence of these Yankees involves what is intensely disagreeable. If
sister is right in regard to this man--and I suppose I must admit she
is till I know him better--he has made it necessary for our own
self-respect to treat him with courtesy. Our pride will not permit us
to accept this from him and make no return. It may be Yankee cunning
which led him to foresee this, for I suppose it is pleasing to many of
the tribe to gain their ends by finesse. Probably if this doesn't
secure them, he will try harsher methods. Anyway, as long as he plays
at the game of courtesy, we, as sister says, should teach him that we
know what the word means. The mischief is that you never can know just
what a Yankee is scheming for or aiming at."

"Well, brother, supposing your words are true, as I do not think they
are in this instance, it is due to our dignity that we act like sincere
people who are above even suspecting unworthy motives. We do not
compromise ourselves in the matter. We only meet courtesy with
courtesy, like well-bred people."

"Well, so be it then. In fact, I would like to ask this man what he and
those he represents can hope to gain by invasion equalled only by that
of the Goths and Vandals."



CHAPTER XIV

A THREAT


The moment Chunk believed that Scoville could dispense with his
services for a time he made his way promptly to the back veranda and
gave a low, peculiar whistle which Zany recognized. He had ceased in
her estimation to be merely a subject for infinite jest. Though not
very advanced in the scale of civilization, she was influenced by
qualities which appealed to her mind, and possessed many traits common
to her sex. His shrewdness and courage were making good his lack of
inches. Above all, he was in favor with the "head Linkum man," and Zany
belonged to that class ever ready to greet the rising sun. While all
this was true, she could not be herself and abandon her coquettish
impulses and disposition to tease. She came slowly from the dining-room
and looked over Chunk's head as if she could not see him. Bent on
retaliation, he stepped behind her, lifted her in his powerful arms and
carried her on a full run to some screening shrubbery, the irate
captive cuffing his ear soundly all the way. Setting her down, he
remarked quietly, "Now I reckon you kin fin' me."

"Yo' wool git gray 'fo' you fin' me agin," she replied, making a feint
of starting for the house.

"Berry well, Miss Zany. I see you doan want ter be a free gyurl. I'se
tell Marse Scoville you no 'count niggah."

"W'at you want anyhow, imperdence?"

"I wants sup'n ter eat. Does you 'spects I kin ride all night en all
day ter brung you freedom, en den not eben git a good word? You ain'
fit fer freedom. I'se tell some nachel-bawn fool ter gib you a yaller
rib'on en den dere be two ob you."

"La now, Chunk," she replied, coming back, "ef I wuz lookin' fer a fool
I des stay right yere. Ef you git a pa'r ob steps en look in my face
you'd see I'se bettah fren' ter you ner you ter me. You stay yere en I
brings you w'at you tink a heap on mor'n me," and now she darted away
with intentions satisfactory to her strategic admirer.

Chunk grinned and soliloquized, "Reck'n I kin fotch dat gyurl roun' wid
all her contrariations. I des likes her skittishness, but I ain'
tellin' her so, kaze I gwine ter hab my han's full as 'tis."

Zany soon returned with a plate well heaped, for at this time her
argus-eyed mistress was sitting in the parlor, awaiting whatever fate
the ruthless Yankees might impose. Chunk sat Turk-fashion on the ground
and fell to as if famished, meanwhile listening eagerly to the girl's
account of what had happened during his absence.

"Hi!" said Zany disdainfully, "you'd mek lub ter Aun' Suke ef she fed
you."

"I kin mek mo'n lub," Chunk answered, nodding at her portentously; "I
kin mek mischief."

"Reck'n you do dat anyhow."

"See yere, Zany, does you tink Marse Scoville a fool?"

"Ob co'se not."

"Well, he doan tink me a fool. Whose 'pinion's wuth de mos'? Who took
keer on 'im? Who got 'im off safe right un'er de nose ob one ob Mad
Whately's sogers? Who brung 'im back des in time ter stop dat ar
mar'age en gib we uns freedom? You mighty peart, but you got a heap ter
larn 'fo' you cut yo' eye-tooths."

"Some folks gits dere eye-tooths en doan git nuthin' wid 'em," Zany
remarked nonchalantly. "I'se 'mit dough dat you comin' on, Chunk. W'en
you gits growed up you'se be right smart."

"I doan min' de foolishness ob yo' talk, Zany," Chunk replied coolly,
between his huge mouthfuls. "Dat's in you, en you kyant he'p hit any
mo'n a crow cawin'. I'se allus mek 'lowance fer dat. I des 'proves dis
'casion ter 'zort you ter be keerful w'at you DOES. Dere's gwine ter be
mighty ticklish times--sorter flash-bang times, yer know. I'se a free
man--des ez free as air, en I'se hired mysef ter Marse Scoville ter
wait on 'im. I'se growed up anuff ter know he kin tek de shine off eny
man I eber see, or you neider. He yo' boss now well ez mine. I'se gib
'im a good report on you ef I kin. I'se feard, howsomeber, dat he say
you outgrowed yo' sense."

"Dar now, Chunk, you puttin' on mo' airs dan Marse Scoville hissef. He
des ez perlite ter marster en ole miss ez ef he come ter pay his
'spects ter dem en he look at Miss Lou ez a cat do at cream."

"Hi! dat so? No won'er he want ter git ahaid ob de parson en dat
weddin' business."

"Oh, yo' orful growed up en ain' fin' dat out?"

"I 'spicioned it. Well, de ting fer you'n me is ter he'p 'im."

"La, now," replied Zany, proposing to give a broad hint at the same
time, "I ain' gwine ter he'p no man in sech doin's. De cream neber goes
ter de cat."

"Yere, tek de plate, Zany, wid my tanks," said Chunk, rising. "Sech
cream ez you gits orful sour ef de cat doan fin' it sud'n. I'se took my
'zert now," and he caught her up again and kissed her on the way back
to the veranda.

This time his performances were seen by Aun' Suke, who stood in the
kitchen door. She snatched up a pail of water, exclaiming, "I cool you
uns off, I sut'ny will. Sech goin's on!" But they were too quick for
her. Zany pretended to be as irate as she was secretly pleased, while
Chunk caused the old woman to boil over with rage by declaring, "Aun'
Suke, I sen' a soger yere ter hab you 'rested for 'zorderly conduct."

"Ef you eber comes ter dis kitchen agin I'se emty de pot ob bilin'
water on you," cried Aun' Suke, retreating to her domain.

"Ef you does, you get yosef ober haid en years in hot water," Chunk
answered with exasperating sang froid. "You niggahs gwine ter fin' out
who's who on dis plantashun 'fo' yo' nex' birthday."

Zany's only response was a grimace, and he next carried his exaggerated
sense of importance to his granny's cabin. He had seen Aun' Jinkey and
spoken a few reassuring words as he passed with Scoville's attacking
force. Since that time she had done a power of "projeckin'" over her
corncob pipe, but events were now hurrying toward conclusions beyond
her ken. It has already been observed that Aun' Jinkey was a neutral
power. As yet, the weight of her decision had been cast neither for the
North nor the South, while the question of freedom remained to be
smoked over indefinitely. There was no indecision in her mind, however,
in regard to her young mistress, and greater even than her fears when
she heard the sounds of conflict was her solicitude over the
possibility of a forced marriage. Since she was under the impression
that her cabin might soon become again the refuge of one or the other
of the contending powers, possibly of Miss Lou herself, she left the
door ajar and was on the alert.

"Hi dar! granny," cried Chunk, the first to appear, "dat's right. Now
you kin smoke in peace, fer you own yosef. Nobody come bossin' you yere
any mo'."

"Doan you git so bumptious all ter oncet," said Aun' Jinkey. "Does you
'spect de hull top's gwine ter be tu'ned right ober down'erds in er
day? But dar! you ain' no 'sper'ience. Yo' stomack emty en you' haid
light. Draw up now en tell me de news. Tell me sud'n 'bout Miss Lou.
Did dey git her mar'd?"

"Yah! yah! Marse Scoville's so'd ud cut de knot ef dey had."

"Dat's des ez much ez you knows. All de so'ds ober flash kyant cut dat
ar knot 'less dey kill Marse Whately."

"Dat 'min's me ob someting ter'ble quar. Marse Scoville had he so'd
pintin' right agin Mad Whately's neck en yit he ain' jab 'im. Dat same
Mad Whately gwine ter mek a heap ob trouble fer he got clean off."

"Marse Scoville know dat ef he kill a man right straight wid he own
han' he spook come and mek a heap mo' trouble."

"Hi! didn't tink o' dat."

"Bettah tink right smart, Chunk. You'se gittin' top-heaby ef you is
sho't. Now tell me all 'bout de mar'age."

"Dey ain' no mar'age. Zany tole me how Miss Lou say she ain' neber
'sent, en den 'fo' dey could say dere lingo ober her en mar'y her des
ez dey would a bale ob cotton, up rides Marse Scoville en put his so'd
troo ebryting. He tells us we all free en--"

"En eat yo' supper. I ain' done projeckin' 'bout dis freedom business.
How we uns gwine ter be free 'less Marse Scoville stay yere en kep us
free?"

"Zany guv me my supper en--"

"Dar now, I ain' no mo' 'count. Zany gobble you aready. I des stick ter
my chimbly corner."

"Howdy, Aunt Jinkey," cried Scoville, coming in briskly. "Well, you see
I'm back again as I promised."

"You welcome, a hun'erd times welcome, kaze you kep my young mistis fum
bein' mar'ed right slap 'gin her own feelin's ter her cousin."

"Pshaw! Aunt Jinkey. No one can marry a girl against her will in this
country."

"Dat des de question Miss Lou en me projeckin' 'bout dis berry mawnin'.
She gyardeens went straight along ez ef dey had de po'r, dey sut'ny
did. Dat's w'at so upset Miss Lou en me. De po'r ob gyardeens is sump'n
I kyant smoke out straight, en I des lak ter know how much dey KIN do.
Ole mars'r al'ays manage her prop'ty en we wuz flustrated w'en we see
'im en Mad Whately en he moder en ole miss en all gittin' ready fer de
weddin' des ez ef hit was comin' like sun-up sho."

"It was a shame," cried Scoville angrily. "They were seeking to drive
her into submission by strong, steady pressure, but if she insisted on
her right--"

"Dat des w'at she did, Marse Scoville. She say she neber 'sent, NEBER,"
Chunk interrupted.

"Then the whole Southern Confederacy could not have married her and she
ought to know it."

"Well, you mus' be 'siderate, Marse Scoville. Miss Lou know a heap
'bout some tings en she des a chile 'bout oder tings. Ole mars'r en
misus al'ays try ter mek her tink dat only w'at dey say is right en
nuthin' else, en dey al'ays 'low ter her dat she gwine ter mar'y her
cousin some day, en she al'ays 'low ter me she doan wanter."

"Poor child! she does need a friend in very truth. What kind of a man
is this Mad Whately anyway, that he could think of taking part in such
a wrong?"

"He de same kin' ob man dat he wuz a boy," Chunk answered. "Den he kick
en howl till he git w'at he want. 'Scuse me, Marse Scoville, but I
kyant hep tinkin' you mek big 'stake dat you didn't jab 'im w'en you
hab de chance."

"Chunk," was the grave answer, "if you are going to wait on me you must
learn my ways. I'd no more kill a man when it was not essential than I
would kill you this minute. Soldiers are not butchers."

"Granny sez how you wuz feared on his spook"--

"Bah! you expect to be free, yet remain slaves to such fears? My horse
knows better. Come, Aunt Jinkey, I'd rather you would give me some
supper than your views on spooks."

"Leftenant," said Perkins, the overseer, from the door, "Mr. Baron
pr'sents his compliments en gives you a invite to supper."

Scoville thought a moment, then answered, "Present mine in return, and
say it will give me pleasure to accept."

"Bress de Lawd! you gwine ter de big house. Not dat I 'grudges cookin'
fer you w'eneber you come, but I des wants you ter took a 'tunerty ter
advise dat po' chile 'bout she rights en de mar'age question."

After assuring himself that the overseer was out of earshot, Scoville
said almost sternly, "Aunt Jinkey, you and Chunk must not say one word
of my ever having been here before. It might make your young mistress a
great deal of trouble, and I should be sorry indeed if I ever caused
her any trouble whatever." Then as he made his way to the mansion he
smilingly soliloquized, "I don't know of any other question concerning
which I would rather give her advice, nor would it be wholly
disinterested, I fear, if I had a chance. At this time to-morrow," he
sighingly concluded, "I may be miles away or dead. Poor unsophisticated
child! I never was touched so close before as now by her need of a
friend who cares more for her than his own schemes."

Chunk following at a respectful distance became aware that the overseer
was glowering at him. "Bettah 'lebe yo' min', Marse Perkins," he
remarked condescendingly.

"You infernal, horse-stealing nigger!" was the low response.

"Hi! Marse Perkins, you kin growl, but you muzzled all de same."

"The muzzle may be off before many mo' sunsets, en then you'll find my
teeth in your throat," said the man under his breath, and his look was
so dark and vindictive that even in his elation Chunk became uneasy.



CHAPTER XV

MISS LOU EMANCIPATED


Nature had endowed Scoville with a quick, active mind, and
circumstances had developed its power and capacity to a degree scarcely
warranted by his age. Orphaned early in life, compelled to hold his own
among comparative strangers since childhood, he had gained a worldly
wisdom and self-reliance which he could not have acquired in a
sheltered home. He had learned to look at facts and people squarely, to
estimate values and character promptly, and then to decide upon his own
action unhesitatingly. Although never regarded as the model good boy at
the boarding-schools wherein he had spent most of his life, he had been
a general favorite with both teachers and scholars. A certain frankness
in mischief and buoyancy of spirit had carried him through all
difficulties, while his apt mind and retentive memory always kept him
near to the head of his classes. The quality of alertness was one of
his characteristics. In schools and at the university he quickly
mastered their small politics and prevailing tendencies, and he often
amused his fellow-pupils with free-handed yet fairly truthful sketches
of their instructors. As the country passed into deeper and stronger
excitement over the prospect of secession and its consequences, he was
among the first to catch the military spirit and to take an active part
in the formation of a little company among the students. It was not his
disposition to be excited merely because others were. Certain qualities
of mind led him to look beneath the surface for the causes of national
commotion. He read carefully the utterances of leaders, North and
South, and to some extent traced back their views and animating spirit
to historical sources.

In the year of '63 he found to his joy that he had attained such
physical proportions as would secure his acceptance in a cavalry
regiment forming in his vicinity. His uncle, who was also guardian, for
reasons already known, made slight opposition, and he at once donned
the blue with its bluff trimmings. In camp and field he quickly learned
the routine of duty, and then his daring, active temperament led him
gradually into the scouting service. Now, although so young, he was a
veteran in experience, frank to friends, but secretive and ready to
deceive the very elect among his enemies. Few could take more risks
than he, yet he had not a particle of Mad Whately's recklessness.
Courage, but rarely impulse, controlled his action. As we have seen, he
could instantly stay his hand the second a deadly enemy, seeking his
life in personal encounter, was disarmed.

The prospect of talking with such a host as Mr. Baron pleased him
immensely. He scarcely knew to whom he was indebted for the courtesy,
but rightly surmised that it was Mrs. Whately, since she, with good
reason, felt under obligations to him. Even more than an adventurous
scouting expedition he relished a situation full of humor, and such,
his presence at Mr. Baron's supper-table promised to be. He knew his
entertainment would be gall and wormwood to the old Bourbon and his
wife, and that the courtesy had been wrung from them by his own
forbearance. It might be his only opportunity to see Miss Lou and
suggest the liberty he had brought to her as well as to the slaves.

Mrs. Whately met him on the veranda and said politely, "Lieutenant
Scoville, you have proved yourself to be a generous and forbearing
enemy. If you feel that you can meet frank enemies who wish to return
courtesy with courtesy, we shall be glad to have you take supper with
us."

"Yes," added Mr. Baron, "my sister has convinced me, somewhat against
my will, I must in honesty admit, that such hospitality as we can offer
under the circumstances is your due."

"I appreciate the circumstances, Mr. Baron," was the grave reply, "and
honor the Southern trait which is so strong that even I can receive the
benefit of it. Your courtesy, madam, will put me at ease."

Miss Lou, thinking it possible that she might see the Northern officer
again, had taken her own way of convincing him that he was still within
the bounds of civilization, for she made a toilet more careful than the
one with which she had deigned to grace the appointed day of her
wedding. She could scarcely believe her eyes when, entering the supper
room a little late, she saw Scoville already seated at the table. He
instantly rose and made her a ceremonious bow, thus again indicating
that their past relations should be completely ignored in the presence
of others. She therefore gravely returned his salutation and took her
place without a word, but her high color did not suggest indifference
to the situation. Mr. Baron went through the formal "grace" as usual
and then said, "Ahem! you will admit, sir, that it is a little
embarrassing to know just how to entertain one with whom we have some
slight difference of opinion."

"Perhaps such embarrassment will be removed if we all speak our minds
freely," replied Scoville, pleasantly. "Pardon the suggestion, but the
occasion appears to me favorable to a frank and interesting exchange of
views. If my way of thinking were wholly in accord with yours my words
could be little better than echoes. I should be glad to feel that my
presence was no restraint whatever."

"I'm inclined to think you are right, sir," added Mrs. Whately. "It
would be mere affectation on our part to disguise our thoughts and
feelings. With neighbors, and even with friends, we are often compelled
to do this, but I scarcely see why we should do so with an open enemy."

"And such I trust you will find me, madam, an OPEN enemy in the better
sense of the adjective. As far as I can, I will answer questions if you
wish to ask any. I will tell you honestly all the harm I meditate and
outline clearly the extent of my hostility, if you will do the same,"
and he smiled so genially that she half smiled also as she answered:

"To hear you, sir, one would scarcely imagine you to be an enemy at
all. But then we know better."

"Yes, sir, pardon me, we do," said Mr. Baron, a little stiffly. "For
one, I would like your honest statement of just what harm you and your
command meditate. I am one who would rather face and prepare for
whatever I shall be compelled to meet."

"I think, sir, you have already met and faced the direst event of the
evening--my presence at your hospitable board. Even this hardship is
due to your courtesy, not to my compulsion."

Miss Lou bowed low over her plate at this speech.

"But how about the long hours of the night, sir? Have you such control
over your men--"

"Yes, sir!" interrupted Scoville with dignity. "The men I have with me
are soldiers, not camp-followers. They would no more harm you or
anything you possess, without orders, than I would."

"Without orders--a clause of large latitude. As far as words go you
have already robbed me of the greater part of my possessions. You have
told my slaves that they are free."

"Not upon my own responsibility, sir, although with hearty goodwill. In
my humble station I am far more often called upon to obey orders than
to give them. You are aware of President Lincoln's proclamation?"

"Yes, sir, and of the Pope's bull against the comet."

Scoville laughed so genially as partially to disarm his reply of its
sting. "In this instance, sir, our armies are rather gaining on the
comet."

"But what can you and your armies hope to accomplish?" Mrs. Whately
asked. "If you should destroy every Southern man, the women would
remain unsubdued."

"Now, madam, you have me at disadvantage. I do not know what we would
or could do if confronted only by implacable Southern women."

"Do not imagine that I am jesting. I cannot tell you how strange it
seems that a man of your appearance and evident character should be
among our cruel enemies."

"And yet, Mrs. Whately, you cannot dispute the fact. Pardon me for
saying it, but I think that is just where the South is in such serious
error. It shuts its eyes to so many simple facts--a course which
experience proves is never wise. I may declare, and even believe, that
there is no solid wall before me, yet if I go headlong against it, I am
bruised all the same. Positive beliefs do not create truths. I fancy
that a few hours since you were absolutely sure that this courtesy of
which I am the grateful recipient could not be, yet you were mistaken."

"Has not the sad experience of many others inspired our fears? Neither
has the end come with us yet. You said that the main Northern force
would come this way tomorrow. We do not fear you and those whom you
control, but how about those who are to come?"

"I can speak only for the class to which I belong--the genuine soldiers
who are animated by as single and unfaltering a spirit as the best in
your armies. If a Confederate column were going through the North you
could not answer for the conduct of every lawless, depraved man in such
a force. Still, I admit with you that war is essentially cruel, and
that the aim ever must be to inflict as much injury as possible on
one's adversaries."

"But how can you take part in such a war?" Mrs. Whately asked. "All we
asked was to be let alone."

"Yes, sir," added Mr. Baron, "how can you justify these ruthless
invasions, this breaking up of our domestic institutions, this
despoiling of our property and rights by force?" and there was a tremor
of suppressed excitement in his voice.

Scoville glanced at Miss Lou to see how far she sympathized with her
kindred. He observed that her face was somewhat stern in its
expression, yet full of intelligent interest. It was not the index of
mere prejudice and hate. "Yes," he thought, "she is capable of giving
me a fair hearing; the others are not. Mr. Baron," he said, "your views
are natural, perhaps, if not just. I know it is asking much of human
nature when you are suffering and must suffer so much, to form what
will become the historical judgment on the questions at issue. The law
under which the North is fighting is the supreme one--that of
self-preservation. Even if we had let you alone--permitted you to
separate and become independent without a blow, war would have come
soon. You would not and could not have let us alone. Consider but one
point: your slaves would merely have to pass the long boundary line
stretching nearly across the continent, in order to be on free soil.
You could compel their return only by conquering and almost
annihilating the North. You will say that we should think as you do on
the subject, and I must answer that it is every man and woman's right
to think according to individual conscience, according to the light
within. Deny this right, and you put no bounds to human slavery. Pardon
me, but looking in your eyes and those of these ladies, I can see that
I should become a slave instantly if you had your way. Unconsciously
and inevitably you would make me one, for it is your strongest impulse
to make me agree with you, to see things exactly as you do. The fact
that you sincerely believe you are right would make no difference if I
just as sincerely believed you were wrong. If I could not think and act
for myself I should be a slave. You might say, 'We KNOW we are right,
that what we believe has the Divine sanction.' That is what the
tormentors of the Inquisition said and believed; that is what my
Puritan and persecuting forefathers said and believed; what does
history say now? The world is growing wise enough to understand that
God has no slaves. He endows men and women with a conscience. The
supreme obligation is to be true to this. When any one who has passed
the bounds of childhood says to us, 'I don't think this is right,' we
take an awful responsibility, we probably are guilty of usurpation, if
we substitute our will for his. In our sincerity we may argue, reason
and entreat, but in the presence of another's conscience unconvinced
and utterly opposed to us, where is human slavery to end if one man, or
a vast number of men, have the power to say, 'You shall'?"

Scoville had kept his eyes fixed on Mr. Baron, and saw that he was
almost writhing under the expression of views so repugnant to
him--views which proved his whole scheme of life and action to be
wrong. Now the young man turned his glance suddenly on Miss Lou, and in
her high color, parted lips and kindled eyes, saw abundant proof that
she, as he had wished, was taking to herself the deep personal
application of his words. Her guardians and Mrs. Whately observed this
truth also, and now bitterly regretted that they had invited the Union
officer. It seemed to them a sort of malign fate that he had been led,
unconsciously as they supposed, to pronounce in the presence of the
girl such vigorous condemnation of their action. Had they not that very
day sought to override the will, the conscience, the whole shrinking,
protesting womanhood of the one who had listened so eagerly as the
wrong meditated against her was explained? Scoville had not left them
even the excuse that they believed they were right, having shown the
girl that so many who believed this were wrong. Miss Lou's expression
made at least one thing clear--she was emancipated and had taken her
destiny into her own hands.

Mrs. Whately felt that she must turn the tables at once, and so
remarked, "It seems to me that the whole force of your argument tells
against the North. You are bent upon conquering the South and making it
think as you do."

"Oh, no. Here the law of self-preservation comes in. If the South can
secede, so can the East and the West. New York City can secede from the
State. We should have no country. There could be no national life.
Would England accept the doctrine of secession, and permit any part of
her dominions to set up for themselves when they chose? I know you are
about to say that is just what our fathers did. Yes, but old mother
England did not say, 'Go, my children, God bless you!' Nor would she
say it now to any other region over which floats her flag. Of course,
if you whip us, we shall have to submit, just as England did. What
government has helplessly sucked its thumbs when certain portions of
the territory over which it had jurisdiction defied its power? We are
called Goths and Vandals, but that is absurd. We are not seeking to
conquer the South in any such old-world ways. We are fighting that the
old flag may be as supreme here as in New England. The moment this is
true you will be as free as are the people of New England. The same
constitution and laws will govern all."

"And can you imagine for a moment, sir," cried Mr. Baron, "that we will
submit to a government that would be acceptable to New England?" "Yes,
sir; and years hence, when the South has become as loyal as New England
is now, if that abode of the Yankees should seek independence of the
rest of the country she would be brought back under the flag. I would
fight New England as readily as I do the South, if she sought to break
up the Union. I would fight her if every man, woman and child within
her borders believed themselves right."

Now he saw Miss Lou looking perplexed. Her quick mind detected the
spirit of coercion, of substituting wills, against which he had been
inveighing and from which she had suffered. Mrs. Whately was quick to
see the apparent weakness in his argument, for she said, "Consistency
is a jewel which I suppose is little cared for by those so ready to
appeal to force. With one breath you say we must not coerce the wills
of others, and now you say you would, even though you did violence to
universal and sacred beliefs."

"I say only that the nation MUST do this as must the individual. Some
one might say to me, 'I honestly think I should take off your right
arm.' I would not permit it if I could help it. No more can a nation
submit passively to dismemberment. The South did not expect that this
nation would do so. It promptly prepared for war. If the North had
said, 'We can do nothing, there's a blank, write out your terms and
we'll sign,' we would have been more thoroughly despised than we were,
if that were possible. There are two kinds of coercion. For instance, I
do not say to you, Mrs. Whately, representing the South, that you must
think and feel as I do and take just such steps as I dictate; but that
there are things which you must refrain from doing, because in their
performance, no matter how sincere you were, you would inflict great
and far-reaching wrong on others. There could be no government without
restriction. We would soon have anarchy if any part of a nation should
and could withdraw when it chose and how it pleased."

"Your doctrine, sir, would banish freedom from the world. All peoples
would have to submit to the central tyranny called government, even
though such government had become hateful."

"This doctrine, which all governments act upon," replied Scoville
pleasantly, "has not banished freedom from the world. In this country,
where every man has a voice, the government will be just about as good
as the majority determine it shall be."

"Well, sir, to sum up the whole matter," said Mr. Baron coldly, "two
things are clear: First, the South is determined to be free; second, if
we fail we can be held only under the heel of your Northern majority as
Poland is trodden upon."

Scoville saw that the discussion had gone far enough for his purposes,
and he said with a good-natured laugh, "I'm neither a prophet nor his
son, but I think it is a very hopeful sign that we could have this
frank interchange of views and belief. I see how perfectly sincere you
are, and if I had been brought up here no doubt I should think and act
as you do. As it is, I am only a very humble representative of the
Government which is trying to preserve its own existence--a Government
which the South helped to form as truly as the North. If I should come
directly to your side, contrary to belief and conscience, you would be
the first to despise me. I suppose we will all agree that we should
obey the supreme dictates of conscience?"

"No, sir," burst out Mr. Baron, "I cannot agree to anything of the
kind. There are multitudes who must be guided and controlled by those
who are wiser, older and more experienced. Why, sir, you would have the
very nursery children in flat rebellion."

"Indeed, Mr. Baron, I have not said one word against the authority of
parents and guardians."

"Ah! I am glad you draw the line somewhere. Half the misery in the
world results from young people's thinking themselves wiser than their
natural advisers. If they can merely say their consciences are against
what their elders know is right and best, we have anarchy in the
fountainhead of society--the family," and he glared for a moment at his
niece.

"What you say seems very true, Mr. Baron. I should be glad to know
where YOU draw the line? Independent action must begin at some period."

While Mr. Baron hesitated over this rather embarrassing question Miss
Lou startled all her kindred by saying, "I did not intend to take any
part in this conversation, but a glance from my uncle makes his last
remark personal to me. I am at least old enough to ask one or two
questions. Do you think it right, Lieutenant Scoville, that a woman
should never have any independent life of her own?"

"Why, Miss Baron, what a question! Within the received limits of good
taste a woman has as much right to independent action as a man."

"Well, then, how can she ever have any independence if she is treated
as a child up to one day of her life, and the next day is expected to
promise she will obey a man as long as he lives?"

The angry spots in Mrs. Baron's cheeks had been burning deeper and
deeper, and now she spoke promptly and freezingly, "Mr. Scoville, I
absolve you from answering one who is proving herself to be neither a
child nor a refined woman. I did not expect this additional
humiliation. If it had not occurred I would have taken no part in the
conversation. Mr. Baron, I think we have granted even more than the
most quixotic idea of courtesy could demand."

"'Granted? demand?' surely there is some mistake, madam," said Scoville
with dignity, as he rose instantly from the table. "I have asked
nothing whatever except that you should dismiss your fears as far as I
and my men are concerned."

Mrs. Whately was provoked equally at herself and all the others. She
now deeply regretted that she had not left the Union officer to obtain
his supper where and how he could, but felt that she must smooth
matters over as far as possible. "Lieutenant Scoville," she said
hurriedly, "you must make allowances for people in the deepest stress
of trouble. We did intend all the courtesy which our first remarks
defined. Of course you cannot know our circumstances, and when words
are spoken which cut to the quick it is hard to give no sign. Perhaps
our hearts are too sore and our differences too radical--" and she
hesitated.

"I understand you, madam," said Scoville, bowing. "I can only repeat my
assurances of your safety and express my regret--"

"Oh, shame!" cried Miss Lou, whose anger and indignation now passed all
bounds. "We are NOT in the deepest stress of trouble, and you, Mrs.
Whately, are the last one to say it. I saw this gentleman's sabre
poised at your son's throat long enough to have killed him twice over,
and he did not do it, even in the excitement of defending his own life.
After Mrs. Baron's words he again assures us of safety. What did you
all predict would happen immediately when Northern soldiers came?
Whether I am refined or not, I am at least grateful. Lieutenant, please
come with me. I will try to prove that I appreciate your courtesy and
forbearance," and she led the way from the room.

He bowed ceremoniously to Mr. Baron and the ladies, then followed the
girl, leaving them, almost paralyzed by their conflicting emotions.



CHAPTER XVI

A SMILE ON WAR'S GRIM FACE


Miss Lou led the way to the broad, moonlit piazza. As Scoville
followed, he saw that the girl was trembling violently, and he was thus
able to grasp in some degree the courage she was manifesting in her
first half-desperate essays toward freedom. "Poor child!" he thought,
"her fright is surpassed only by her determination. How easily they
could manage her by a little tact and kindness!"

She pointed to a chair near the hall door and faltered, "Lieutenant
Scoville, I scarcely know whether I am doing right in seeing you here
alone. I know little of the usages of society. I do not wish to appear
to you unrefined."

"Miss Baron," he replied kindly, "I do not know why you have not the
same right which other young ladies enjoy, of entertaining a gentleman
at your home."

"Oh, I am so glad that you are not angry."

"I was never more lamb-like in my disposition than at this moment.
Moreover, I wish to thank you as a brave girl and a genuine lady."

She was almost panting in her strong excitement and embarrassment.
"Please remember," she said, "that I do not wish to do or say anything
unbecoming, but I know so little and have been so tried--"

"Miss Baron," and he spoke low for fear he would be overheard, "I
already know something of what you have passed through and of your
brave assertion of a sacred right. Continue that assertion and no one
can force you into marriage. I have ridden nearly twenty-four hours to
be here in time and to make some return for your great kindness, but
you were so brave that you scarcely needed help."

"Oh! I did need it. I was so frightened and so desperate that I was
almost ready to faint. My cousin is one who WILL have his own way. He
has never been denied a thing in his life, I should have been taken
away at least and then--oh, I just felt as if on the edge of a
precipice. It seems dreadful that I should be speaking so of my kindred
to a stranger and enemy--"

"Enemy! Far from it. A friend. Have you not protected my life and
liberty? Miss Baron, I give you my sacred word, I swear to you by my
mother's memory to be as loyal to you as if you were my own sister.
Young as I am, perhaps I can advise you and help you, for it is indeed
clear that you need a friend."

"I cannot tell you what relief your words bring, for, inexperienced as
I am, something assures me that I can trust you."

"Indeed you can. I should spoil my own life more truly than yours if I
were not true to my oath. Please remember this and have confidence.
That is what you need most--confidence. Believe in yourself as well as
in me. Have you not been brave and true to yourself in the most painful
of ordeals? Try to keep your self-control and you will make no serious
mistakes, and never so misjudge me as to imagine I shall not recognize
your good intentions."

"Ah!" she sighed, with a rush of tears, "that's the trouble. I'm so
hasty; I lose my temper."

He smiled very genially as he said, "If you were as amiable as some
girls you would have been married before this. Don't you see in what
good stead your high spirit has stood you? I do not censure righteous
anger when you are wronged. You are one who could not help such anger,
and, if controlled, it will only help you. All I ask is that you so
control it as to take no false steps and keep well within your certain
rights. You are in a peculiarly painful position. Your kindred truly
mean well by you--see how fair I am--but if they could carry out their
intentions and marry you to that spoiled boy, you would be one of the
most unhappy of women. If he is capable of trying to force you to marry
him he would always be imperious and unreasonable. You would be a hard
one to manage, Miss Baron, by the words, You must, and You shall; but I
think Please would go a good way if your reason and conscience were
satisfied."

"Indeed, sir, you are right. If I loved my cousin I would marry him
even though he were so badly wounded as to be helpless all his life.
But my whole soul protests against the thought of marriage to any one.
Why, sir, you can't know how like a child I've always been treated. I
feel that I have a right to remain as I am, to see more of the world,
to know more and enjoy more of life. I can scarcely remember when I was
truly happy, so strictly have I been brought up. You would not believe
it, but poor old Aun' Jinkey, my mammy, is almost the only one who has
not always tried to make me do something whether I wish to or not. My
aunt, Mrs. Whately, has meant to be kind, but even in my childish
squabbles with my cousin, and in his exactions, she always took his
part. I just want to be free--that's all."

"Well, Miss Baron, you are free now, and if you will simply assert your
rights with quiet dignity you can remain free. Your kindred are
mistaken in their attitude toward you, and you can make them see this
in time. They are well-bred people and are not capable of using force
or violence. They did, I suppose, believe terrible things of me and
those I represent, and their action, perhaps, has been due partially to
panic. That crisis is past; you have only to trust your own best
instincts in order to meet future emergencies. Whatever comes, remember
that your Northern friend said he had confidence that you would do what
is brave and right. Perhaps we shall never meet again, for we are in
the midst of a fierce, active campaign. There is much advice I would
like to give you, but we shall not be left alone long, and the best
thing now, after this long, hard day, is for you to get your mind quiet
and hopeful. How quiet and peaceful everything is! not a harsh sound to
be heard."

"Yes, and think what they tried to make me believe! They all should be
treating you with kindness instead of--" but here she was interrupted
by the appearance of Mrs. Whately.

In order to understand that lady's action and that of her relatives, we
must go back to the moment when Miss Lou and Scoville left the
supper-room. Mrs. Whately was the first to recover her self-possession
and some true appreciation of their situation. Mr. Baron in his rage
would have gone out and broken up the conference on the piazza, but his
sister said almost sternly, "Sit down."

"Well," ejaculated Mrs. Baron, bitterly, "I hope you are both satisfied
now with the results of courtesy to Yankees. I knew I was right in
believing that we could have nothing whatever to do with them. I think
it is monstrous that Louise is alone with one on the piazza, and her
uncle should interfere at once."

"Brother," said Mrs. Whately, "you can see our niece through the window
from where you sit. She is talking quietly with the officer."

"Yes, and what may he not say to her? Already her contumacious
rebellion passes all bounds. She has heard too much incendiary talk
from him already" and he again rose to end the interview.

"Hector Baron," said his sister solemnly, "you must listen to me first,
before you take any further steps. We will say nothing more about the
past. It's gone and can't be helped. Now, with all the influence I have
over you, I urge you and your wife to remain here until you are
calm--till you have had a chance to think. Is this a time for headlong
anger? Was there ever a period in your life when you should so
carefully consider the consequences of your action? Please tell me how
you and sister are going to MAKE Louise do and think exactly what you
wish. This is no time for blinking the truth that you have alienated
her. You could easily now drive her to do something rash and terrible.
I understand her better every moment and feel that we have taken the
wrong course. She would have gone away with Madison as his cousin, and
wifehood would have come naturally later. We have been too hasty, too
arbitrary. You both must recognize the truth that you cannot treat her
as a child any longer or you will lose her altogether, for in this
matter of marriage she has been made to know that she is not a child.
She can be led into it now, but not forced into it. Her course is open
now, but if you continue arbitrary her action may become clandestine
and even reckless. Then in regard to this Yankee officer. Alas I what
he says is too true. In our strong feeling we shut our eyes to facts.
Are we not in his power? He has spared my son's life and your property
and home, and yet he has been virtually ordered out of the house. There
is truth in what Louise said. We are not in the deepest stress of
trouble--infinitely removed from the trouble we might be in."

"He has not spared my property," growled Mr. Baron, "he has told all my
people they are free. Where does that leave me?"

"Now, brother, your very words prove how essential it is that you
regain your self-control and reason. Is this young officer going
through the country on his own responsibility? He only echoes the
proclamation of Abe Lincoln, whom he is bound to obey. Since we entered
on the discussion of our differences could we expect him to do
otherwise than present his side as strongly as he could? Now if you and
sister can shake all this off by one mighty effort of your wills, do
so; but if we do not wish to invite every evil we predicted, do let us
be calm and rational. For one, I feel Louise's reproof keenly, and it
will not do to outrage her sense of justice any longer. This officer
has proved that we were wrong in our predictions before he came. If now
we continue to treat him as outside the pale of courtesy, we lose her
sympathy utterly and do our utmost to provoke him and his men. Merciful
heaven! if my son were a bleeding corpse or dying in agony, what would
the world be to me? I shall apologize to him and treat him with
politeness as long as I am under his protection."

"I shall have nothing to do with him," said Mrs. Baron, pressing her
thin lips together.

"Well, well," ejaculated Mr. Baron, "I suppose I shall have to become
meeker than Moses, and kiss every rod that smites me for fear of
getting a harsher blow."

Mrs. Whately felt that it was useless to say anything more, and, as we
have seen, joined her niece.

"Lieutenant," she said, "we owe you an apology, and I freely and
frankly offer it. I fear you think we are making sorry return for your
kindness."

"Mrs. Whately, I appreciate YOUR good intentions, and I can make
allowance for the feelings of my host and hostess. The fine courtesy of
Miss Baron would disarm hostility itself, but I assure you that there
is no personal hostility on my part to any of you."

"Well, sir, I must say that I regard it as a very kind ordering of
Providence that we have fallen into such hands as yours."

"I certainly am in no mood to complain," he replied, laughing. "Perhaps
experience has taught us that we had better ignore our differences. I
was just remarking to Miss Baron on the beauty and peacefulness of the
night. Will you not join us? We can imagine a flag of truce flying,
under which we can be just as good friends as we please."

"Thank you. I will join you with pleasure," and she sat down near her
niece. "Well," she added, "this is a scene to be remembered."

Miss Lou looked at Scoville gratefully, for his words and manner had
all tended to reassure her. In her revolt, he showed no disposition to
encourage recklessness on her part. As her mind grew calmer she saw
more clearly the course he had tried to define--that of blended
firmness and courtesy to her relatives. She was so unsophisticated and
had been so confused and agitated, that she scarcely knew where to draw
the line between simple, right action and indiscretion. Conscious of
her inexperience, inclined to be both timid and reckless in her
ignorance and trouble, she began even now to cling, metaphorically, to
his strong, sustaining hand. His very presence produced a sense of
restfulness and safety, and when he began to call attention to the
scenes and sounds about them she was sufficiently quiet to be
appreciative.

Dew sparkled in the grass of the lawn on which the shadows of trees and
shrubbery fell motionless. The air was balmy and sweet with the
fragrance of spring flowers. The mocking-birds were in full ecstatic
song, their notes scaling down from bursts of melody to the drollery of
all kinds of imitation. The wounded men on the far end of the piazza
were either sleeping or talking in low tones, proving that there was no
extremity of suffering. Off to the left, between them and the negro
quarters, were two or three fires, around which the Union soldiers were
reclining, some already asleep after the fatigues of the day, others
playing cards or spinning yarns, while one, musically inclined, was
evoking from a flute an air plaintive and sweet in the distance.
Further away under the trees, shadows in shadow, the horses were dimly
seen eating their provender. The Confederate prisoners, smoking about a
fire, appeared to be taking the "horrors of captivity" very quietly and
comfortably. At the quarters they heard the sound of negro-singing,
half barbaric in its wildness.

"It is hard to realize that this scene means war," remarked Miss Lou,
after they had gazed and listened a few moments in silence.

"Yet it does," said Scoville quietly. "Look down the avenue. Do you not
see the glint of the moonbeams on a carbine? All around us are men,
mounted and armed. If a shot were fired, we should all be ready for
battle in three minutes. Those prisoners will be guarded with sleepless
vigilance till I deliver them up. There is a sentinel at the back of
the house, three guarding the out-buildings, and so it will be till I
am relieved and another takes command."

"Who will he be?" she asked apprehensively.

"I do not know."

"Oh, I wish you could guard us till these troubles are over."

"I can honestly echo that wish," added Mrs. Whately.

"Thank you. It would be pleasanter duty than usually falls to the lot
of a soldier. Yet in these times I scarcely know what my duty may be
from hour to hour."

"You told us that we need not fear anything to-night," began Mrs.
Whately.

"Not unless I am attacked, I said. I am aware that at this moment your
son is seeking a force to do this. I do not think that he will be able
to find any, however, before morning. In any event you could have
nothing to fear from us, except as your dreams were disturbed by a
battle."

"Oh, I wish I were a soldier!" exclaimed the girl. "This whole scene
seems as if taken right out of a story."

"You are looking at this moment on the bright side of our life. At any
rate, I'm glad you're not a soldier. If you were, my duty might be made
more difficult. It has other and very different sides. By the way, I
would like to watch those negroes a little while, and listen to them.
Their performances always interest me deeply. Will not you ladies go
with me? Soon I must get some rest while I can."

Miss Lou looked at her aunt, who hesitated a moment, then said, "I am
very tired, Lieutenant. I will trust you as a chivalrous enemy to take
my niece, and I will sit here until you return."

"I deeply appreciate your kindness, madam."

Miss Lou went with him gladly and found herself at the close of the
long, miserable day becoming positively happy. When out of hearing she
said, "Aunt's permission almost took away my breath. Yet it seems to me
just the way a girl ought to be treated. Oh, how perfectly delicious is
a little bit of freedom! How perfectly grand to have something going on
that does not mean no end of trouble to one's self!"

Scoville laughed lightly as he replied, "I now wish you were a soldier
and an officer in my regiment. You and I would make good comrades."

"You forget, sir," she answered in like vein, "that I am a bloodthirsty
little rebel."

"On the contrary, I remember that yours was the kind, pitying face
which made me half fancy I was in heaven when recovering from my swoon."

"Chunk and Aun' Jinkey brought you back to earth right sudden, didn't
they?" and her laugh rang out merrily.

"Sister," cried Mr. Baron, running out on the veranda, "what on
earth--I thought I heard Louise laugh way off toward the quarters."

"You did."

"What! has she broken all bounds, defied all authority, and gone
utterly wild in her rebellion?"

Mrs. Whately made a gesture of half irritable protest. Meantime, Mrs.
Baron, hearing her husband's voice, came out and exclaimed, "Is that
Louise and the Yankee yonder going off alone?"

"They are not 'going off.' You and brother may join them if you wish.
They simply intend to watch the people at the quarters a little while,
and I will wait here for them."

"Sarah Whately!" gasped Mrs. Baron, "can you mean to say that you have
permitted our ward to do such an indelicate thing? She has never been
permitted to go out alone in the evening with any young man, and the
idea that she should begin with a Yankee!"

"She is not alone. She is always within call and most of the time in
sight. I will make one more effort to bring you both to reason," added
Mrs. Whately, warmly, "and then, if we continue to differ so radically,
I will return home in the morning, after giving Louise to understand
that she can always find a refuge with me if it is necessary. Can you
think I would let the girl whom my son hopes to marry do an indelicate
thing? Pardon me, but I think I am competent to judge in such matters.
I will be answerable for her conduct and that of Lieutenant Scoville
also, for he is a gentleman if he is our enemy. I tell you again that
your course toward Louise will drive her to open, reckless defiance. It
is a critical time with her. She is my niece as well as your ward, and
it is the dearest wish of myself and son that she should be bound to us
by the closest ties. I will not have her future and all our hopes
endangered by a petty, useless tyranny. If you will treat her like a
young lady of eighteen I believe she will act like one."

Mrs. Baron was speechless in her anger, but her husband began, "Oh,
well, if he were a Southern officer--"

Then the blood of her race became too hot for Mrs. Whately's control,
and she sprang up, saying, "Well, then, go and tell him to his face
that he's a vile Yankee, a Goth and Vandal, a ruthless invader,
unworthy of a moment's trust, and incapable of behaving like a
gentleman! Take no further protection at his hands. How can you be so
blind as not to see I am doing the best thing possible to retain Louise
within our control and lead her to fulfil our hopes? I ask you again,
how are you going to MAKE Louise do what you wish? You cannot be
arbitrary with even one of your own slaves any longer."

"Well," said Mrs. Baron, "I wash my hands of it all," and she retired
to her room. Mr. Baron sat down in a chair and groaned aloud. It was
desperately hard for him to accept the strange truth that he could not
order every one on the place, his niece included, to do just what
pleased him. Never had an autocratic potentate been more completely
nonplussed; but his sister's words, combined with events, brought him
face to face with his impotence so inexorably that for a time he had
nothing to say.



CHAPTER XVII

THE JOY OF FREEDOM


In an open space near the quarters the negroes had kindled a fire,
although the night was mild. These children of the sun love warmth and
all that is cheerful and bright, their emotions appearing to kindle
more readily with the leaping flames. When Miss Lou and Scoville
approached, the worshippers were just concluding the hymn heard on the
piazza. From the humble cabins stools, benches, rickety chairs, and
nondescript seats made from barrels, had been brought and placed in a
circle close about the fire. These were occupied by the elderly and
infirm. Uncle Lusthah, whose name had been evolved from Methuselah, was
the evident leader of the meeting, and Miss Lou whispered to her
attendant, "He's the recognized preacher among them, and I believe he
tries to live up to his ideas of right."

"Then I'll listen to him very respectfully," said Scoville.

Their advent created quite a commotion, and not a few were inclined to
pay court to the "Linkum ossifer." All who had seats rose to offer
them, but Scoville smiled, shook his head and waved them back. Uncle
Lusthah immediately regained attention by shouting, "Look at me": then,
"Now look up. Who we uns befo'? De King. De gret Jehovah. Bow yo' haids
humble; drap yo' eyes. Tek off de shoon fum yo' feet lak Moses w'en he
gwine neah de bunin' bush. Young mars'r en young mistis standin' dar
'spectful. Dey knows dat ef de gret Linkum yere hissef, Linkum's Lawd
en Mars'r yere befo' 'im. Let us all gib our 'tention ter 'Im who's
brung 'liverance ter Israel at las'. We gwine troo de Red Sea ob wah
now en des whar de promis' lan' is we got ter fin' out, but we hab
tu'ned our backs on ole Egypt en we ain' gwine back no mo'. Brudren en
sistas, you'se yeard a Gospil, a good news, dis eb'nin' sho. You'se
yeard you free, bress de Lawd! I'se been waitin' fer dis news mo' yeahs
den I kin reckermember, but dey's come 'fo' my ole haid's under de sod.
Hit's all right dat we is glad en sing aloud for joy, but we orter
rejice wid trem'lin'. De 'sponsibil'ties ob freedom is des tremenjus.
Wat you gwine ter do wid freedom? Does you tink you kin git lazy en
thievin' en drunken? Is dere any sech foolishness yere? Will eny man or
ooman call deysefs free w'en dey's slabes ter some mean, nasty vice?
Sech folks al'ays be slabes, en dey orter be slabes ter a man wid a big
whip. See how de young mars'r' haves dat brung de news ob freedom. He
know he juty en he does hit brave. He mek de w'ite sogers he 'mands des
toe de mark. We got ter toe a long, wi'te mark. We ain' free ter do
foolishness no mo' dan he en he men is. De gret Linkum got he eye on
you; de Cap'n ob our salvation got He eye on you. Now I des gib you
some 'structions," and happy it would have been for the freedmen--for
their masters and deliverers also, it may be added--if all had followed
Uncle Lusthah's "'structions."

When through with his exhortation the old preacher knelt down on the
box which served as his pulpit and offered a fervent petition. From the
loud "amens" and "'lujahs" he evidently voiced the honest feeling of
the hour in his dusky audience. Scoville was visibly affected at the
reference to him. "May de deah Lawd bress de young Linkum ossifer,"
rose Uncle Lusthah's tones, loud, yet with melodious power and pathos,
for he was gifted with a voice of unusual compass, developed by his
calling. "He des took he life in he hand en come down in de lan' ob de
shadder, de gret, dark shadder dat's been restin' on de hearts ob de
slabes. We had no fader, no muder, no wife, no chile. Dey didn't 'long
to we fer dey cud be sole right out'n our arms en we see dem no mo'. De
gret shadder ob slav'y swallow dem up. Young mars'r face de bullit,
face de so'ed, face de curse ter say we free. May de Lawd be he shiel'
en buckler, compass 'im roun' wid angel wings, stop de han' riz ter
strike, tu'n away de bullit aim at he heart. May de Lawd brung 'im gray
hars at las lak mine, so he see, en his chil'n see, en our chil'n see
de 'liverance he hep wrought out.

"En dar's young mistis. She hab a heart ter feel fer de po' slabe. She
al'ays look kin' at us, en she stood 'tween us en woun's en death; w'en
all was agin us en she in de watehs ob triberlation hersef, she say
'fo' dem all, 'No harm come ter us.' She put her lil w'ite arm roun'
her ole mammy." ("Dat she did," cried Aun' Jinkey, who was swaying back
and forth where the fire lit up her wrinkled visage, "en de gret red
welt on her shol'er now.") "She took de blow," continued Uncle Lusthah,
amid groans and loud lamentations, "en de Lawd, wid whose stripes we
healed, WILL bress her en hab aready bressed her en brung her
'liverance 'long o' us. May He keep her eyes fum teahs, en her heart
fum de breakin' trouble; may He shine on a path dat lead ter all de
bes' tings in dis yere worl' en den ter de sweet home ob heb'n!"

When the voice of Uncle Lusthah ceased Scoville heard a low sob from
Miss Lou at his side and he was conscious that tears stood in his own
eyes. His heart went out in strong homage to the young girl to whom
such tribute had been paid and her heart thrilled at the moment as she
distinguished his deep "amen" in the strong, general indorsement of the
petition in her behalf.

Then rose a hymn which gathered such volume and power that it came back
in echoes from distant groves.

"Hark, hark, I year a soun'. Hit come fum far away; Wake, wake, en year
de soun' dat come fum far away. De night am dark, de night been long,
but dar de mawnin' gray; En wid de light is comin' sweet a soun' fum
far away.

"Look how de light am shinin' now across de gret Red Sea. On Egypt sho'
we stay no mo' in slabing misery. Ole Pharaoh year de voice ob God,
'Des set my people free;' En now we march wid song en shout, right troo
the gret Red Sea."

Every line ended with, the rising inflection of more than a hundred
voices, followed by a pause in which the echoes repeated clearly the
final sound. The effect was weird, strange in the last degree, and,
weary as he was, Scoville felt all his nerves tingling.

The meeting now broke up, to be followed by dancing and singing among
the younger negroes. Uncle Lusthah, Aun' Jinkey, and many others
crowded around Scoville and "the young mistis" to pay their respects.
Chunk and Zany, standing near, graciously accepted the honors showered
upon them. The officer speedily gave Miss Lou his arm and led her away.
When so distant as to be unobserved, he said in strong emphasis, "Miss
Baron, I take off my hat to you. Not to a princess would I pay such
homage as to the woman who could wake the feeling with which these poor
people regard you."

She blushed with the deepest pleasure of her life, for she had been
repressed and reprimanded so long that words of encouragement and
praise were very sweet. But she only said with a laugh, "Oh, come;
don't turn my poor bewildered head any more to-night. I'm desperately
anxious to have uncle and aunt think I'm a very mature young woman, but
I know better and so do you. Why, even Uncle Lusthah made me cry like a
child."

"Well, his words about you brought tears to my eyes, and so there's a
pair of us."

"Oh!" she cried delightedly, giving his arm a slight pressure, "I
didn't know that you'd own up to that. When I saw them I felt like
laughing and crying at the same moment. And so I do now--it's so
delicious to be free and happy--to feel that some one is honestly
pleased with you."

He looked upon her upturned face, still dewy from emotion, and wondered
if the moon that night shone on a fairer object the world around. It
was indeed the face of a glad, happy child no longer depressed by woes
a few hours old, nor fearful of what the next hour might bring. Her
look into his eyes was also that of a child, full of unbounded trust,
now that her full confidence was won. "You do indeed seem like a lovely
child, Miss Baron, and old Uncle Lusthah told the whole truth about
you. Those simple folk are like children themselves and find people out
by intuition. If you were not good-hearted they would know it. Well,
I'm glad I'm not old myself."

"But you're going to be old--AWFUL old," she replied, full of rippling
laughter. "Oh, wasn't I glad to hear Uncle Lusthah pray over you! for
if there is a God who takes any care of people, you will live to be as
gray as he is."

"If there is a God?"

"Oh, I'm a little heathen. I couldn't stand uncle or aunt's God at all
or believe in Him. They made me feel that He existed just to approve of
their words and ways, and to help them keep me miserable. When I hear
Uncle Lusthah he stirs me all up just as he did to-night; but then I've
always been taught that he's too ignorant--well, I don't know. Uncle
and aunt made an awful blunder," and here she began to laugh again.
"There is quite a large library at the house, at least I suppose it's
large, and I read and read till I was on the point of rebellion, before
you and Cousin Mad came. Books make some things clear and others SO-O
puzzling. I like to hear you talk, for you seem so decided and you know
so much more than I do. Cousin Mad never read much. It was always
horse, and dog, and gun with him. How I'm running on and how far I am
from your question! But it is such a new thing to have a listener who
cares and understands. Aun' Jinkey cares, poor soul! but she can
understand so little. Lieutenant, I can answer your implied question in
only one way; I wish to know what is true. Do you believe there's a God
who cares for us as Uncle Lusthah says?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm glad you do; and simply saying so will have more weight than
all arguments."

"Please remember, Miss Baron, I haven't said that I lived up to my
faith. It's hard to do this, I suppose, in the army. Still I've no
right to any excuses, much less to the unmanly one that it's hard. What
if it is? That's a pretty excuse for a soldier. Well, no matter about
me, except that I wish you to know that with all my mind and heart I
believe that there is a good God taking care of a good girl like you.
Pardon me if I ask another question quite foreign. How could your
cousin wish to marry you if you do not love him?"

He wondered as he saw the child-like look pass from her face and her
brow darken into a frown. "I scarcely know how to answer you," she
said, "and I only understand vaguely myself. I understand better,
though, since I've known you. When you were hiding in Aun' Jinkey's
cabin you looked GOODWILL at me. I saw that you were not thinking of
yourself, but of me, and that you wished me well. I feel that Cousin
Mad is always thinking of himself, that his professed love of me is a
sort of self-love. He gives me the feeling that he wants me for his OWN
sake, not for MY sake at all. I don't believe he'd love me a minute
after he got tired of me. I'd be just like the toys he used to cry for,
then break up. I won't marry such a man, NEVER."

"You had better not. Hush! We are approaching a man yonder who appears
anxious to hear what is none of his business."

They had been strolling slowly back, often pausing in the deep mutual
interest of their conversation. Miss Lou now detected Perkins standing
in the shadow of his dwelling, between the mansion and the quarters.

"That's the overseer," she said, in a low voice. "How quick your eyes
are!"

"They must be in my duty." Then he directed their steps so as to pass
near the man. When opposite, he turned his eyes suddenly upon Perkins'
face, and detected such a scowl of hostility and hate that his hand
dropped instinctively on the butt of his revolver. "Well, sir," he
said, sternly, "you have shown your disposition."

"You didn't 'spect ter find a friend, I reck'n," was the surly yet
confused reply.

"Very well, I know how to treat such bitter enemies as you have shown
yourself to be. Officer of the guard!" A trooper ran forward from the
camp-fire and saluted. "Put this man with the other prisoners, and see
that he has no communication with any one."

As Perkins was marched off they heard him mutter a curse. "Pardon me,
Miss Baron," Scoville resumed. "The lives of my men are in my care, and
that fellow would murder us all if he had a chance. I don't know that
he could do any harm, but it would only be from lack of opportunity. I
never take risks that I can help."

"Having seen his expression I can't blame you," was her reply.

A new train of thought was awakened in Scoville. He paused a moment and
looked at her earnestly.

"Why do you look at me so?" she asked.

"Miss Baron, pardon me, but I do wish I were going to be here longer,
or rather, I wish the war was over. I fear there are deep perplexities,
and perhaps dangers, before you. My little force is in the van of a
raiding column which will pass rapidly through the country. It will be
here to-morrow morning, but gone before night, in all probability. The
war will be over soon, I trust, but so much may happen before it is.
You inspire in me such deep solicitude. I had to tell those poor
negroes that they were free. So they would be if within our lines. But
when we are gone that overseer may be brutal, and the slaves may come
again to you for protection. That cousin of yours may also come
again--oh, it puts me in a sort of rage to think of leaving you so
unfriended. You will have to be a woman in very truth, and a brave,
circumspect one, too."

"You are right, sir," she replied with dignity, "and you must also
remember that I will be a Southern woman. I do feel most friendly to
you personally, but not to your cause. Forgive me if I have acted and
spoken too much like a child to-night, and do not misunderstand me.
Circumstances have brought us together in a strange way, and while I
live I shall remember you with respect and gratitude. I can never lose
the friendly interest you have inspired, and I can never think of the
North as I hear others speak of it; but I belong to my own people, and
I should be very unhappy and humiliated if I felt that I must continue
to look to an enemy of my country for protection. I cannot go over to
your side any more than you can come over to ours."

He merely sighed in answer.

"You do not think less"--and then she paused in troubled silence.

"Louise," called Mrs. Whately's voice.

"Yes," replied the girl, "we are coming."

"I think you will always try to do what seems right to you, Miss Baron.
May God help and guide you, for you may have trouble of which you
little dream. What you say about your side and my side has no place in
my thoughts. I'll help settle such questions with soldiers. Neither do
I wish to be officious, but there is something in my very manhood which
protests against a fair young girl like you being so beset with
troubles."

"Forgive me," she said earnestly. "There it is again. You are
unselfishly thinking of me, and that's so new. There's no use of
disguising it. When you go there'll not be one left except Aun' Jinkey
and Uncle Lusthah who will truly wish what's best for me without regard
to themselves. Well, it can't be helped. At least I have had a warning
which I won't forget."

"But Mrs. Whately seems so kindly--"

"Hush! I see uncle coming. She would sacrifice herself utterly for her
son, and do you think she would spare me?"

Mr. Baron's fears and honest sense of responsibility led him at last to
seek his niece. In doing this he saw Perkins under guard. Hastening to
Scoville he demanded, "What does this mean? My overseer is not a
combatant, sir."

"Mr. Baron," replied the officer, "have you not yet learned that I am
in command on this plantation?"

Poor Mr. Baron lost his temper again and exploded most unwisely in the
words, "Well, sir, my niece is not under your command. You had no right
to take her from the house without my permission. I shall report you to
your superior officer to-morrow."

"I hope you will, sir."

"I also protest against the treatment of my overseer."

"Very well, sir."

"You will please release my niece's arm and leave us to ourselves, as
you promised."

"No, sir, I shall escort Miss Baron back to Mrs. Whately, from whom I
obtained the honor of her society."

"Louise, I command"--Mr. Baron began, almost choking with rage.

"No, uncle," replied the girl, "you COMMAND me no more ... Request me
politely, and I will shake hands with Lieutenant Scoville, thank him
for his courtesy to me and to us all, and then go with you."

The old man turned on his heel and walked back to the house without a
word.

"Bravo!" whispered Scoville, but he felt her hand tremble on his arm.
"That's your true course," he added. "Insist on the treatment due your
age, act like a lady, and you will be safe."

"Well," Mrs. Whately tried to say politely, "have not you young people
taken an ell?"

"No, Mrs. Whately," Scoville replied gravely. "We have not taken a step
out of our way between here and the quarters, although we have lingered
in conversation. We have ever been in plain sight of many of your
people. I put the overseer under arrest because I had absolute proof of
his malicious hostility. I shall inflict no injury on any one who does
not threaten to be dangerous to my command, my duty requiring that I
draw the line sharply there. Mrs. Whately, I have never met a young
lady who inspired in me more honest respect. If we have trespassed on
your patience, the blame is mine. Ladies, I thank you for your courtesy
and wish you good-night," and he walked rapidly away.

"Aunty," said Miss Lou, "you have begun to treat me in a way which
would inspire my love and confidence."

"Well, my dear, I am sorely perplexed. If we yield in minor points, you
should in vital ones, and trust to our riper experience and knowledge."

The distractions of the day had practically robbed Mr. Baron of all
self-control, and he now exclaimed, "I yield nothing. As your guardian
I shall maintain my rights and live up to my sense of responsibility.
If by wild, reckless conduct you thwart my efforts in your behalf, my
responsibility ceases. I can then feel that I have done my best."

"And so, uncle, you would be quite content, no matter what became of
me," added the girl bitterly. "Well, then, I tell you to your face that
you cannot marry me, like a slave girl, to whom you please. I'll die
first. I shall have my girlhood, and then, as woman, marry or not
marry, as I choose. Aunty, I appeal to you, as a woman and a lady, to
stop this wretched folly if you can."

"Louise," said her aunt, kindly, "as long as I have a home it shall be
a refuge to you. I hope the morrow will bring wiser counsels and better
moods to us all."

The mansion soon became quiet, and all slept in the weariness of
reaction. No sound came from the darkened dwelling except an occasional
groan from one of the wounded men on the piazza. Scoville, wrapped in a
blanket, lay down by the fire with his men and was asleep almost
instantly. The still shadows on the dewy grass slowly turned toward the
east as the moon sank low. To the last, its beams glinted on the
weapons of vigilant sentinels and vedettes, and the only warlike sounds
occurred at the relief of guards. All rested who could rest except
one--the overseer. Restless, vindictive, he watched and listened till
morning.



CHAPTER XVIII

A WELL-AIMED SLIPPER


It would be hard to imagine a morning more lovely, a more perfect type
of peace and good-will, than the one which dawned over The Oaks
plantation the following day. With the light came fragrant zephyrs of
delicious coolness; the stillness of the night gave place to a slight
stir and rustle of foliage; chanticleers crowed lustily, with no
forebodings of their doom; the horses began to whinny for their
breakfasts, and the negroes to emerge from their quarters to greet the
light of this first fair day of freedom. Uncle Lusthah declared "De
millenyum yere sho!" Smoke rose from Aun' Jinkey's chimney, and after
the pone was baking on the hearth she came out on the doorstep with her
pipe to do a little "projeckin'." Even she was impressed with the
beauty and peacefulness of the morning. "En ter tink," she ejaculated,
"my honey's sleepin' lak a lil chile 'stead ob cryin' en wringin' her
han's nobody know whar! Wen dey gits ter mar'in' my honey en she a
bleatin' en a tremlin' like a lamb 'long a wolf dat lickin' he chops
ober her, den I say hit's time fer a smash up. Marse Scoville look lak
he 'tect her gin de hull worl'."

So thought Miss Lou herself. In her weariness and sense of security she
had slept soundly till the light grew distinct, when the birds wakened
her. With consciousness memory quickly reproduced what had occurred.
She sprang to the window and peeped through the blinds in time to see
Scoville rise from his bivouac and throw aside his blanket. With a
soldier's promptness he aroused his men and began giving orders, the
tenor of one being that a scouting party should prepare to go out
immediately.

"Oh!" she sighed, "if I had such a brother what a happy girl I might
be! I don't believe I'd ever care to marry."

She was far from being a soft-natured, susceptible girl, and while
Scoville kindled her imagination and had won her trust, she did not
think of him as a lover. Indeed, the very word had become hateful to
her, associating it as she did with her cousin and the idea of selfish
appropriation. More strongly than any slave on the plantation, she
longed for freedom, and the belief that the Union officer understood
her, respecting her rights and feelings, won him all the favor she was
then capable of bestowing upon any one. If he had employed his brief
opportunity in gallantry and love-making she would have been disgusted.
"I never met any one like him," she soliloquized as she hastily
dressed. "It's so strange to find one willing I should be a little bit
happy in my own way, who is not 'seeking my best welfare,' as uncle
says. Welfare, indeed! As if I couldn't see some wish or scheme of
their own back of all they say or do! His dark eyes declare, 'I wish
you well whether you are useful to me or not.' Well, I am glad I've
known him, whether I ever see him again or not. He has made my course
much clearer."

The inmates of the mansion as well as those without were soon busy in
their preparations for a day which all felt must be eventful. That the
"millenyum" had not come was soon proved by the commencement of
hostilities on the part of Mrs. Baron and Scoville. The latter was
approaching the kitchen to interview Aun' Suke when "ole miss" appeared.

"Madam," he said, lifting his hat, "will you kindly direct your cook to
prepare a breakfast immediately for the wounded? It should be light as
well as nutritious, for some are feverish."

She paid no more attention to him than if he had not spoken, and
entered Aun' Suke's domain. There was a mirthful flash in his dark eyes
as he followed her. When she saw him standing in the doorway, her cold
stare, more clearly than words, designated him "intruder." He steadily
returned her gaze, and Aun' Suke, who had been shouting over freedom
the night before, now had the temerity to quiver in all her vast
proportions with amusement.

"Madam," resumed Scoville, removing his hat, "will you give my orders,
or shall I?"

"Your orders, sir! and in my kitchen!"

"Certainly, madam, and my orders in this instance are simply the
dictates of humanity."

"I will see that our men are well cared for. I am not responsible for
the others."

"But I am, and all must fare alike. Cook, prepare a nice light
breakfast for all the wounded men before you do anything else."

"Yes, mars'r, I 'bey you, I sut'ny will."

Scoville strode away to attend to other duties. Mrs. Baron glared after
him and then at Aun' Suke, who at once began her work.

"Do you mean to say that you'll take no more orders from me?" the old
lady asked, in tones of suppressed anger.

"Kyant do mo' 'n one ting ter oncet. Ob co'se I git yo' breakfas' when
I kin. Reck'n dough we soon hab ter disergree on my wages. I'se a free
ooman."

"Oh, you are free and I am not. That's the new order of things your
Yankee friends would bring about."

"La now, misus," said matter-of-fact Aun' Suke, again shaking with
mirth at the idea, "you got mo' edication 'n me. Wat de use bein' blin'
des on puppose? Spose you en ole mars'r tell me dat ain' a egg"
(holding one up): "kyant I see? Hit's broad sun-up. Why not des look at
tings ez dey iz? Sabe a heap ob trouble. Yere, you lil niggahs, hep
right smart or you neber get yo' breakfas'."

Mrs. Baron went back to the house looking as if the end of the world
had come instead of the millennium.

In the hall she met her husband and Mrs. Whately, to whom she narrated
what had occurred. Mr. Baron had settled down into a sort of sullen
endurance, and made no answer, but Mrs. Whately began earnestly: "Our
very dignity requires that we have no more collisions with a power we
cannot resist. Even you, sister, must now see that you gain nothing and
change nothing. We can be merely passive in our hostility. The only
course possible for us is to endure this ordeal patiently and then win
Louise over to our wishes."

Miss Lou, who was dusting the parlor, stole to the further end of the
apartment and rattled some ornaments to warn them of her presence. She
smiled bitterly as she muttered, "Our wishes; mine will never be
consulted."

Mrs. Whately entered the parlor and kissed her niece affectionately.
She did not like the girl's expression and the difficulty of her task
grew clearer. Nevertheless, her heart was more set on the marriage than
ever before, since her motives had been strengthened by thought. That
her son was bent upon it was one of the chief considerations. "If I
obtain for him this prize," she had reasoned, "he must see that there
is no love like a mother's."

Miss Lou, also, had been unconsciously revealing her nature to the
sagacious matron, who felt the girl, if won, would not become a pretty
toy, soon wearying her son by insipidity of character. "I know better,"
the lady thought, "than to agree with brother and sister that Louise is
merely wilful and perverse." Feeling that she was incapable of
controlling her son, she would be glad to delegate this task to the one
who had the most influence over him and who best promised to maintain
it. She was not so blind in her indulgence as helpless in it from long
habit. She thought that as a wife the girl would not only hold her own,
but also do much toward restraining her son in his wild tendencies; but
she gave no weight to the consideration often in Miss Lou's mind, "I do
not see why everything and everybody should exist for Cousin Mad's
benefit."

Mrs. Whately secretly approved of Scoville's orders in regard to the
wounded, but did not so express herself, resolving not to come into
collision again with her relatives unless it was essential. She now
went out and assisted the surgical trooper in dressing the men's
injuries. Miss Lou had learned that breakfast would be delayed, and so
decided to satisfy her hunger partially at Aun' Jinkey's cabin. The
excitements of the preceding day had robbed her of all appetite, but
now she was ravenous. Her estrangement from her uncle and aunt was so
great that she avoided them, having a good deal of the child's feeling,
"I won't speak till they make up first."

The old negress heard her rapid steps and looked out from her door.
"Oh, mammy," cried the girl, "I'm that hungry I could almost eat you,
and I don't know when we'll have breakfast."

"You des in time, den, honey. Come right in."

But Miss Lou paused at the door in embarrassment, for Scoville had
risen from the table and was advancing to meet her. "Good-morning, Miss
Baron," he said. "Aunt Jinkey and Chunk have prepared me a capital
breakfast, and I should be only too delighted to share it. I must be in
the saddle soon and so availed myself of the first chance for a meal.
Please do not hesitate, for it will probably be my only opportunity of
saying good-by."

"Dar now, honey, sit right down. Ef Marse Scoville ain' quality den I
doan know um."

"Miss Baron," cried Scoville, laughing, "Aunt Jinkey has raised a point
now which you alone can settle--the question of my quality."

"About the same as my own, I reckon," said the girl, sitting down with
rosy cheeks. "Aun' Jinkey is evidently your ally, for she has put her
invitation in a form which I could not decline without hurting the
feelings of--"

"Your sincere and grateful friend," interrupted the officer.

"Uncle and aunt would think I was committing an unheard-of
indiscretion."

"But ARE you?"

"I'm too hungry to discuss the question now," she answered, laughing.
"Do let us hasten, for such OLD friends should not part with their
mouths full."

"Well, hit des does my ole heart good ter see you sittin' dar, Miss
Lou. I'se po'ful glad yo' mouf's full ob breakfas' en dat yo' eyes ain'
full ob tears. Wat we projeckin' 'bout yistidy?"

"Now, Aun' Jinkey, just keep still. I can't show becoming sentiment on
any subject except pones and such coffee as I have not tasted for a
long time."

"Hit Yankee coffee."

"I drink your health in my one contribution," cried Scoville. "Never
mind, aunty, we'll be jolly over it all the same. I agree with you.
It's worth a month's pay to see Miss Baron happy and hungry. I'd like
to know who has a better right. Aunt Jinkey's told me how you protected
her. That was fine. You'd make a soldier."

"Oh, please stop such talk, both of you. I'm ridiculously unlike the
heroines in uncle's library. Lieutenant, please don't say 'Ha! the hour
has come and we must part, perhaps forever.' I won't have any forever.
Uncle Lusthah has insured you gray hairs, and if you don't come and see
us before they're gray, Aun' Jinkey and I will believe all uncle says
about the Yankees."

"And so you ought," said Scoville. "Oh, I'll come back to breakfast
with you again, if I have to come on crutches. Well, I must go. There
is Chunk with the horses. Even now I'm keeping one ear open for a shot
from that hasty cousin of yours."

At this reference she looked grave and rose from the table.
"Lieutenant," she said, taking his proffered hand, "please do not think
me a giddy child nor an unfeeling girl. I DO thank you. I do wish you
well just as you wish me well--for your own sake. Oh, it seems such a
blessed thing for people to feel simple, honest goodwill toward one
another, without having some scheme back of it all."

"Well, Miss Baron, if I had a chance I'd soon prove that I too had a
scheme. The chief point in it would be to keep all trouble out of the
eyes that looked on me so kindly when I came to my senses in this
cabin. Heaven bless your good, kind heart! Promise me one thing."

"Well?"

"If your cousin comes soon there may be a sharp fight. Keep out of
danger. I could never be myself again if my coming here should result
in injury to you."

"As far as my curiosity will permit I will try to keep out of the way.
I've seen so little in my short life that I must make the most of this
brief opportunity. In a day or so you may all be gone, and then the old
humdrum life will begin again."

"Yes, we may all be gone before night. Your chief danger then will be
from the stragglers which follow the army like vultures. If possible, I
will induce the general to leave a guard to-night. I wish Mr. Baron had
a clearer eye to his interests and safety. The general is not
lamb-like. If a guard can be procured for to-night it will be due to
your action and my representations. My services as a scout have brought
me in rather close contact with the general, and possibly I may induce
him to give protection as long as the interest of the service permits.
All questions will be decided with reference to the main chance; so, if
I seem neglectful, remember I must obey my orders, whatever they are.
Ah! there's a shot."

Her hand ached long afterward from his quick, strong pressure, and then
he mounted and was away at a gallop. Miss Lou hastily returned to the
house, but Chunk coolly entered the cabin, saying, "I'se git a bite fer
mebbe I ain' yere ter dinner."

"Reck'n you better be skerce, Chunk, ef Mad Whately comes," said his
grandmother, trembling.

"I knows des w'at ter 'spect fum Mad Whately en fum dat ar oberseer
too, but dey fin' me a uggly ole hornet. I got my sting han'y," and he
tapped the butt of a revolver in the breast of his coat. Having
devoured the remnants of the breakfast he darted out and mounted his
horse also.

Mad Whately was coming sure enough, and like a whirlwind. He had fallen
in with the van of the Confederate advance during the night, and by his
representations had induced an early and forced march to The Oaks. The
vigilant Scoville, with his experiences as a scout fresh in his mind,
had foreseen this possibility. He had two plans in his mind and was
ready to act upon either of them.

Rushing through the hallway of the mansion from the rear entrance, Miss
Lou found her kindred on the veranda. They were too excited and eager
to ask where she had been, for the fierce rebel yell had already been
raised at the entrance of the avenue.

"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Baron, "now we'll see this Yankee scum swept away."

Apparently he would have good reason for his exultation. Scoville was
the last man in the world to fight blindly, and Miss Lou kept her eyes
on him. As he sat on his horse, where he commanded the best view of the
advancing enemy, she thought he appeared wonderfully quiet. Not so his
men. They were galloping to the right of the mansion, where there was a
grove on rising ground which formed a long ridge stretching away to the
northwest. It can readily be guessed that it was Scoville's aim not to
be cut off from the main Union column by a superior force, and the
ridge would enable him to see his enemy before he fought, if he should
deem it wise to fight at all. He knew that his horses were fresh. If
those of the attacking party were somewhat blown he could easily keep
out of the way if it were too strong to cope with. He exchanged a few
words with the sergeant commanding the scouting party recently sent
out, and pointed to the grove with his sabre, then slowly followed with
his eye on the enemy.

Miss Lou was in a fever of apprehension in his behalf, for already
shots were fired at him from the Confederates. Suddenly she heard the
click of a musket lock just beneath her, and, looking down, saw Perkins
levelling a piece at Scoville. Quick as light she drew off her slipper
and dashed it into the man's face as he fired. By reason of his
disconcerted aim the bullet flew harmlessly by the Union officer, who
gave a quick, stern glance toward his assailant, recognized him, and
galloped after his men.

"You vile murderer!" cried Miss Lou, "would you shoot a man in his
back?"

"Oh, come, Perkins, that's hardly the thing, no matter what your
provocation," Mr. Baron added.

Perkins bestowed a malignant glance on Miss Lou, then limped away,
wearing a sullen look. The officer in command of the Confederates
sheered off across the lawn toward the grove, and the girl quickly saw
that his force greatly outnumbered that of Scoville. Mad Whately dashed
up to the piazza steps and asked breathlessly, "Are you all safe?"

"Yes," cried his mother. "Thank God! I see you are safe also."

He turned his eyes on his cousin, but in her cold, steady gaze found no
encouragement. With something like an oath, he turned and galloped
after the attacking force.

But Scoville did not wait to be attacked. He continued with his men
along the ridge, retreating rapidly when pressed, pausing when pursuit
slackened. The officer in command soon remarked to Whately, "We are
using up our horses to no purpose, and we shall need them for more
important work later in the day."

Therefore he sounded recall and retired on the mansion, Scoville
following, thus proving that he was governed by other motives than
fear. Indeed, he was in a very genial frame of mind. He had got all his
men off safely, except two or three laggards, and had already sent
swift riders to inform his general of the situation. Knowing that the
tables would soon be turned, he was quite content that he had not made
an obstinate and useless resistance. "What's more," he thought, "Miss
Lou would not have kept out of danger. It isn't in her nature to do so.
Miss Lou! I wish I might call her that some day and then drop the Miss.
One thing is clear. If I meet that cousin again, he'll show me no
quarter. So I must look out for him and that assassin of an overseer,
too. She called him by his right name, the brave little girl! No need
of asking me to come back, for I'd go to the ends of the earth to see
her again."

If he had know how her presence of mind and swift action had in all
probability saved his life, his feelings would have been far more
vivid, while his belief in the luck of throwing an old shoe would have
become one of the tenets of his faith. Miss Lou went after the
extemporized missile and put it on again, saying, "I have fired my
first and last shot in this war."

"It is indeed becoming doubtful on which side you are," answered her
uncle sternly.

"I'm not on the side of that wretch Perkins. Suppose he had succeeded,
and Lieutenant Scoville's general came here, what mercy could we
expect? If Perkins values his life he had better not be caught."

"I am glad indeed, Louise, that you prevented such a thing from
happening," said Mrs. Whately. "The result might have been very
disastrous, and in any event would have been horrible. It was a brave,
sensible thing to do, and you will find that Madison will think so,
too."

Mad Whately, however, was in anything but a judicial mood.



CHAPTER XIX

A GIRL'S APPEAL


Miss Lou was too well acquainted with, her cousin not to recognize
evidences of almost ungovernable rage during the brief moment he had
paused at the veranda. She looked significantly at his mother, whose
face was pale and full of an apprehension now uncalled for, since the
prospect of an immediate battle had passed away. "She is afraid of him
herself, her own son, and yet she would marry me to him," the girl
thought bitterly.

Miss Lou was mistaken. Her aunt had fears only FOR her son, knowing how
prone he was to rash, headlong action when almost insane from passion.
The girl, however, was elated and careless. She justly exulted in the
act by which she had baffled the vengeance of Perkins, and she had
ceased to have the anxieties of a bitter Southern partisan. Such she
would have been but for her alienation from those identified with the
cause. She was capable of the most devoted loyalty, but to whom should
she give it? If a loving father or brother had been among the
Confederates, there would have been no question. Now she was sorely
perplexed in her feelings, for the South was represented by those bent
upon doing her a wrong at which her very soul revolted, and the North
by one who had satisfied her sense of right and justice, who, more than
all, had warmed her heart by kindness. The very friendliness of the
negroes inclined her to take their part almost involuntarily, so deep
was the craving of her chilled nature for sympathy. If she had been
brought up in loving dependence she would not have been so well
equipped for the chaotic emergency. Having no hope of good counsel from
natural advisers, she did not waste a moment in seeking it, or weakly
hesitate for its lack. What her bright, active mind suggested as right
and best, that she was ready to do instantly. Now that she had gained
freedom she would keep it at all hazards.

When the Confederate officers approached the house, she was glad to
observe that her cousin was not chief in command.

Mr. Baron went down upon the lawn to meet the officers, and, after a
brief parley, Major Brockton, the senior in command, began to dispose
of his men for a little rest and refreshment, promising to join the
family soon in the dining-room. Miss Lou, unasked, now aided in the
preparations for the morning meal. Fearing Aun' Suke would get herself
in trouble, she ran to the kitchen and told the old cook to comply with
all demands as best she could. She had scarcely spoken when Mrs. Baron
entered. Casting a severe look on her niece, she asked Aun' Suke, "Will
you obey me now? Will you tell me you are a free woman now?"

"My haid in a whirl aready, misus. Ef you wants me ter I kin cook, but
I kyant keep track ob de goin's on."

"I can," replied the indomitable old lady, "and I can keep a good
memory of the behavior of all on the plantation!"

"You can't govern much longer by fear, aunt," said Miss Lou. "Had you
not better try a little kindness?"

"What has been the result of all the years of kindness bestowed upon
you?" was the indignant answer.

"I only meant that it might be well to bestow a little of what other
people regard as kindness. I had asked Aun' Suke to do her best and am
sure she will."

"It will be strange if she does, when you are setting the example of
doing your worst. But I am mistress once more, and wish no
interference."

"Doan you worry, honey, 'bout we uns," said Aun' Suke quietly. "We
yeard de soun' fum far away, en we year it agin soon."

Meanwhile Mad Whately was closeted with his uncle and mother, listening
with a black frown to all that had occurred.

"I tell you," exclaimed the young man, "it's as clear as the sun in the
sky that she should be sent away at once--in fact, that you all should
go."

"I won't go," said Mr. Baron, "neither will my wife. If the country has
come to such a pass that we must die on our hearths we will die right
here."

"Then with my whole authority, mother, I demand that you and my cousin
go at once while opportunity still remains. The forces on both sides
are concentrating here, and this house may soon be in the midst of a
battle. Lou will be exposed to every chance of war. By Heaven! the girl
to be my wife shall not trifle with me longer. Oh, mother! how could
you let her walk and talk alone with that Yankee officer?"

"I tell you both you are taking the wrong course with Louise," began
Mrs. Whately.

"You never spoke a truer word, auntie," said Miss Lou, entering.

Stung to the quick, Whately sprang up and said sternly, "In this
emergency I am the head of my family. I command you to be ready within
an hour to go away with my mother. Perkins and a small guard will go
with you to my cousin's house."

"Go away with that cowardly wretch, Perkins? Never!"

"You are to go away with your aunt and my mother, and you cannot help
yourself. Your readiness to receive attentions from a miserable Yankee
cub shows how little you are to be trusted. I tell you for the honor of
our house you SHALL go away. I'd shoot you rather than have it occur
again."

"You silly, spoiled, passionate boy!" exclaimed Miss Lou, rendered
self-possessed by the very extravagance of her cousin's anger. "Do you
suppose I will take either command or counsel from one who is beside
himself? Come, Cousin Mad, cool off, or you'll have some more repenting
at leisure to do."

She walked quietly out of the room to the veranda just as Major
Brockton was about to announce himself.

"Miss Baron, I presume," he said, doffing his hat.

"Yes, sir. Please sit down. I think we shall soon be summoned to
breakfast. If the worst comes to the worst," she resolved, "I can
appeal to this officer for protection."

"Mother," said Whately in a choking voice, "be ready to go the moment
you have your breakfast."

His passion was so terrible that she made a feint of obeying, while he
rushed out of the rear door. Perkins readily entered into the plan, and
gave Whately further distorted information about Miss Lou's recent
interview with Scoville. Mrs. Whately's horses were quickly harnessed
to her carriage, and Perkins drove it near to the back entrance to the
mansion.

As Whately entered, his mother put her hand on his arm, and warned,
"Madison, I fear you are all wrong--"

"Mother, I will be obeyed at once. The carriage is ready. My own men,
who have been paroled, will act as escort. Lou shall go if taken by
force."

"Madison, what can you hope from a wife won by such violence?"

"She will fear and obey me the rest of her life. I'd rather die ten
thousand deaths than be balked after what she has said. Come, let's go
through the form of breakfast and then I shall act."

They found Miss Lou with her uncle, aunt, and Major Brockton already at
the table. The major at once resumed his condolences. "I am very sorry
indeed," he said, "that you ladies are compelled to leave your home."

"Do you think it wisest and best that we should?" asked Mrs. Whately
quickly, hoping that her niece would feel the force of the older
officer's decision.

"Yes, madam, I do. I think that the sooner you all are south of our
advance the better. It is possible that a battle may take place on this
very ground, although I hope not. As soon as my men have had something
to eat I shall follow the Yankees, a course I trust that will bring on
the action elsewhere; but this region will probably become one of
strife and turmoil for a time. It won't last long, however, and if the
house is spared I think you can soon return."

Mrs. Baron poured the coffee and then excused herself. A few moments
later Miss Lou, who was very observant, noted a significant glance from
Zany. As the dusky waitress started ostensibly for the kitchen, the
young girl immediately followed. Whately hesitated a moment or two,
then left the breakfast room also. But Zany had had time to whisper:

"Oh, Miss Lou, Miss Whately's keridge's at de do', en Perkins en sogers
wid it. Ole miss in yo' room en--"

"Quit that," said Whately in a low, stern voice, and Zany scuttled away.

"Now, then," resumed Whately to his cousin, "if you have any dignity or
sense left, get ready at once. I can tell you that I'm far past being
trifled with now."

"I'll finish my breakfast first, if you please," was the quiet
response, so quiet that he was misled, and imagined her will breaking
before his purpose.

They were scarcely seated at the table again before she startled them
all by saying, "Major Brockton, I appeal to you, as a Southern
gentleman and a Southern officer, for protection."

"Why, Miss Baron!" exclaimed the major, "you fairly take away my
breath."

"Little wonder, sir. I have had mine taken away."

"Louise, you are insane!" cried Mr. Baron, starting up.

"Major, you can see for yourself that I am not insane, that I have
perfect self-control. As you are a true man I plead with you not to let
my cousin send me away. He can only do so by force, but I plead with
you not to permit it. If I must I will tell you all, but I'd rather
not. I am an orphan and so have sacred claims on every true man, and I
appeal to you. I do not fear any battle that may be fought here, but I
do fear being sent away, and with good reason."

"Oh, Louise!" cried Mrs. Whately, with scarlet face, "you place us in a
horrible position."

"Not in so horrible a one as I have been placed, and which I will not
risk again, God is my witness."

Major Brockton looked very grave, for he was acquainted with Whately's
recklessness. The young man himself was simply speechless from rage,
but Mr. Baron sprang up and said sternly, "You shall hear the whole
truth, sir. It can be quickly told, and then you can judge whether I,
as guardian, am capable of countenancing anything unwarranted by the
highest sense of honor. This girl, my niece, has been virtually
betrothed to her cousin since childhood. I and her aunts deemed it
wisest and safest, in view of dangers threatening the direst evils,
that she should be married at once and escorted by my sister and her
son to the house of a relative residing further south. First and last,
we were considering her interests, and above all, her safety. That's
all."

"No, it is not all," cried Miss Lou, with a passionate pathos in her
voice which touched the major's heart. "Would you, sir, force a girl,
scarcely more than a child, to marry a man when you knew that she would
rather die first? Safety! What would I care for safety after the worst
had happened? I will not be married like a slave girl. I will not go
away to Lieutenant Whately's relations unless I am taken by force."

"Great God, sir, that I should hear a Southern girl make such an
appeal," said Major Brockton, his face dark with indignation. "We are
justly proud of the respect we show to our women, and who more entitled
to respect than this orphan girl, scarcely more than a child, as she
says herself? Good Heaven! Whately, could you not have protected your
cousin as you would your sister? You say, sir" (to Mr. Baron) "that she
was betrothed from childhood. She didn't betroth herself in childhood,
did she? Believe me, Miss Baron, no one has the power to force you into
marriage, although your kindred should use all means, while you are so
young, to prevent an unworthy alliance."

"I had no thought of marriage, sir, until terrified by my cousin's
purpose and my family's urgency but a day since. I am willing to pay
them all respect and deference if they will treat me as if I had some
rights and feelings of my own. My only wish is a little of the freedom
which I feel a girl should enjoy when as old as I am. I detest and fear
the man whom my cousin has selected to take me away. I do not fear a
battle. They all can tell you that I stood on the piazza when bullets
were flying. I only ask and plead that I may stay in such a home as I
have. My old mammy is here and--"

"Well," ejaculated the major, "have you no stronger tie than that of a
slave mammy in your home?"

"I do not wish to be unjust, sir. I try to think my aunt and uncle mean
well by me, but they can't seem to realize that I have any rights
whatever. As for my cousin, he has always had what he wanted, and now
he wants me."

"That is natural enough; but let him win you, if he can, like a
Southern gentleman. Lieutenant Whately, I order you to your duty. Mr.
Baron, if you wish to send your ladies away and go with them, I will
furnish an escort. Any Southern home beyond the field of hostilities
will be open to you. Acquaint me with your decision," and he bowed and
strode away.

Even the most prejudiced and blind are compelled at times by an
unhesitating and impartial opinion to see things somewhat in their true
light. Long-cherished purposes and habits of thought in regard to Miss
Lou, then panic, and strong emotions mixed with good and evil, had
brought the girl's relatives into their present false relations to her.
After the scene at the attempted wedding, Mrs. Whately would have
returned to safe and proper ground, hoping still to win by kindness and
coaxing. She had learned that Miss Lou was not that kind of girl, who
more or less reluctantly could be urged into marriage and then make the
best of it as a matter of course. This fact only made her the more
eager for the union, because by means of it she hoped to secure a
balance-wheel for her son. But the blind, obstinate persistence on the
part of the Barons in their habitual attitude toward their niece, and
now her son's action, had placed them all in a most humiliating light.
Even Mr. Baron, who had always been so infallible in his autocratic
ways and beliefs, knew not how to answer the elderly major. Whately
himself, in a revulsion of feeling common to his nature, felt that his
cousin had been right, and that a miserable space for repentance was
before him, not so much for the wrong he had purposed, as for the woful
unwisdom of his tactics and their ignominious failure. His training as
a soldier led him to obey without a word.

Miss Lou was magnanimous in her victory. "Cousin Madison," she said
earnestly, "why don't you end this wicked nonsense and act like a
cousin? As such I have no ill-will toward you, but I think you and
uncle must now see I'll stop at nothing that will keep me from becoming
your wife. There's no use of trying to make me think I'm wrong in my
feelings, for I now believe every true man would side with me. Be my
cousin and friend and I will give you my hand here and now in goodwill."

But his anger was too strong to permit any such sensible action, and he
rushed away without a word.

"Madison!" called his mother. "Oh, I'm just overwhelmed," and she
covered her face with her hands and burst into tears.

"Well," said Mr. Baron in a sort of dreary apathy, "do you and Louise
wish to go away under an escort furnished by the major?"

"No," cried Mrs. Whately, "I would accept my fate rather than favor at
his hands. If I could only explain to him more fully--yet how can I? My
son, with all his faults, is all I have to live for. I shall stay near
him while I can, for he will be reckless to-day. My heart is just
breaking with forebodings. Oh, why couldn't you, with your gray hairs,
have shown a little wisdom in helping me restrain him?"

"I reckon the restraining should have been practiced long ago," replied
her brother irritably.

"You have practiced nothing but restraint in the case of Louise, and
what is the result?"

The girl looked at them wonderingly in their abject helplessness, and
then said, "If you are taking it for granted that I am spoiled beyond
remedy, I can't help it. I would have made no trouble if you had not
set about making me trouble without end. As soon as I can I'll go away
and take care of myself."

"Of course, Louise," said Mrs. Whately, "we're all wrong, you as well
as the rest of us. We must try to get this snarl untangled and begin
right. The idea of your going away!"

"I supposed that was the only idea," said Mrs. Baron, entering. "I, at
least, have tried to remedy our niece's perverseness by getting her
things ready."

Mrs. Whately wrung her hands in something like despair, while Miss Lou
burst into a peal of half-nervous laughter at the expression on her
uncle's face. "Well," she said, "there'll be no more trouble as far as
I am concerned unless it's of your own making. If I am protected in my
home, I shall stay; if not, I shall leave it. One learns fast in such
ordeals as I have passed through. Aunt Sarah, your son threatened to
shoot me for doing what you permitted. Suppose I had told Major
Brockton that? I made allowances for Madison's passion, but unless he
learns to control himself he will have to vent his passion on some one
else."

"She has just lost her senses," gasped Mrs. Baron.

"No, we have acted as if we had lost ours," said Mrs. Whately rising
with dignity. "I can't reason with either of you any more, for you have
made up your minds that a spade is not a spade. I shall tell my niece
that hereafter I shall treat her kindly and rationally, and then go
home," and she left husband and wife confronting each other.

"What are you going to do?" asked the wife.

"Do!" exploded the husband in desperation, "why, hump myself and
restore everything in a twinkling as it was five years ago. What else
can I do?"

Even Mrs. Baron was speechless at this admission that events had now
passed far beyond his control.



CHAPTER XX

SCOVILLE'S HOPE


Mrs. Whately found her niece on the veranda watching the proceedings
without, and she lost no time in expressing her purpose. To her
surprise, a pair of arms were around her neck instantly, and a kiss was
pressed upon her lips.

"That's my answer," said Miss Lou, who was as ready to forgive and
forget as a child. "If you say a word about going home I shall be
unhappy. See, auntie, the Yankees are retreating again as our men
advance."

The morning sun was now shining brightly and the day growing very warm.
Before them was the scene of military operations. At present, it
afforded a deeply exciting spectacle, yet oppressed with no sense of
personal danger. Scoville's little force was slowly retiring along the
ridge which the Confederates were approaching, thus removing the
theatre of actual conflict from the vicinity of the dwelling.

Mr. Baron appeared on the veranda and soon began to yield to the
soothing influences of his pipe. It was not in his nature to make any
formal acknowledgments of error, but he felt that he had gone on the
wrong track far and long enough, and so was ready for a gradual
amelioration in his relations to his niece and sister. They had become
too absorbed in the scene before them to think of much else, while Mrs.
Baron sought composure and solace in her domestic affairs.

At last Mrs. Whately said, "The Yankees appear to have stopped
retreating and to be increasing in numbers. Alas! I fear our men are in
great danger and that the main column of the enemy is near."

There was a sudden outbreak of cries and exclamations from the negroes
in the rear of the mansion. Zany rushed out, saying, "De Yanks comin'
by Aun' Jinkey's cabin."

She had scarcely spoken before they heard a rush of trampling steeds
and the head of a Union column swept round the house. Miss Lou saw
Scoville leading and knew that he had availed himself of his
acquaintance with the place to guide an attack upon the Confederates in
their rear. He saluted her with his sabre and smiled as he passed, but
her sympathies were with the major, now taken at such disadvantage. At
this period the troops on both sides were veterans, and neither fought
nor ran away without good reason. Major Brockton knew as well what to
do as had Scoville before him, and retreated at a gallop with his men
toward the southwest, whence his supports were advancing. The Union
attack, however, had been something of a surprise and a number of the
Confederates were cut off.

The scene and event had been one to set every nerve tingling. But a few
yards away the Union force had rushed by like a living torrent, the
ground trembling under the iron tread of the horses. Far more
impressive had been the near vision of the fierce, bronzed faces of the
troopers, their eyes gleaming like their sabres, with the excitement of
battle. Scoville won her admiration unstintedly, even though she
deprecated his purpose. His bearing was so fearless, so jaunty even in
its power, that he seemed as brave as any knight in the old-fashioned
romances she had read, yet so real and genial that it was hard to
believe he was facing death that sunny morning or bent upon inflicting
it. Looking at his young, smiling, care-free face, one could easily
imagine that he was taking part in a military pageant; but the headlong
career and flashing weapons of his men, who deployed as they charged
straight at the Confederates, dispelled any such illusion.

The ridge began to grow black with Union men and Miss Lou soon
perceived the gleam of artillery as the guns were placed in position.
Mr. Baron, who had permitted his pipe to go out in the excitement,
groaned, "The Yanks have come in force and are forming a line of battle
yonder. If our troops come up, the fight will take place on my land.
Lord help us! What's coming next?"

Miss Lou began to receive impressions which filled her with awe.
Heretofore she had been intensely excited by what had been mere
skirmishes, but now she witnessed preparations for a battle. That long
line of dark blue on the ridge portended something more terrible than
she could imagine. The sounds of conflict died away down the main road,
the ring of axes was heard in the grove which crowned the ridge near
the mansion, and Mr. Baron groaned again. Thin curls of smoke began to
define the Union position--before noon thousands of coffee-pots were
simmering on the fires.

At last, a tall man, followed by a little group of officers and a
squadron of cavalry, rode down the ridge toward the mansion. These
troopers surrounded the house, forming one circle near and another much
further away, so that none could approach without causing prompt alarm.
The group of officers dismounted and orderlies held their horses. As
the tall man came up the veranda steps Miss Lou saw two white stars on
his shoulder. Then her uncle advanced reluctantly and this man said,
"Mr. Baron, I presume?"

"Yes, sir."

"My name is Marston, commanding officer. This is my staff. Will you
oblige us by as good a meal as can be provided hastily? I will pay for
it."

"No, sir, you cannot pay for it," replied Mr. Baron indignantly. "I
keep a house of entertainment only for my friends. At the same time I
know your request is equivalent to a command, and we will do the best
we can."

"Very well, sir. I can repay you in a way that will be satisfactory to
my mind and be more advantageous to you. Hartly, tell the officer in
command to permit no depredations. Ladies, your servant," and the
general dropped into a chair as if weary.

Some of the younger officers promptly sought to play the agreeable to
Mrs. Whately and her niece, and upon the latter all eyes rested in
undisguised admiration. Cold and shy as she had appeared, she had not
failed to note the fact. The woman was sufficiently developed within
her for this, and the quick, unanimous verdict of these strangers and
enemies in regard to herself which she read in their eyes came with
almost the force of a revelation. For the first time, she truly became
conscious of her beauty and its power. More than ever, she exulted in
her escape and freedom, thinking, "What a poor figure is Cousin Mad
beside these men whose faces are so full of intelligence!"

Mrs. Whately was the perfection of dignified courtesy, but quickly
excused herself and niece on the plea of hastening preparations. She
was one who could not extend even enforced hospitality bereft of its
grace, and she also explained to Miss Lou, "We had much better gain
their good-will than their ill-will."

"Well, auntie, we must admit that the Yankees have not acted like
monsters yet."

The lady bit her lip, but said after a moment, "I suppose gentlemen are
much the same the world over. Thus far it has been our good-fortune to
have met with such only. There is another class, however, from which
God defend us!"

"Lieutenant Scoville admitted that himself. So there is on our side
--men like Perkins."

"No, I mean Yankee officers who have at least permitted the worst
wrongs in many parts of our unhappy land." "Well," thought Miss Lou, as
she helped Zany set the table, "after my experience I shall believe
what I see. What's more, I mean to see the world before I die and judge
of everything for myself. Now if the general on our side, with his
staff, will only come to supper, I shall get quite an education in one
day."

Mrs. Baron retired to her room and would have nothing whatever to do
with her present guests, but Aun' Suke did not need her orders now, nor
did any of her assistants.

Chunk had again returned to his haunts and had made havoc in the
poultry-yard. Now he worked like a beaver, meantime enjoining Aun' Suke
"ter sabe de plumpest chicken ob de lot fer my Boss. Marse Scoville
brung 'em all yere, you knows. Hi! but we uns had ter git out sud'n
dough dis mawnin'."

"Does you tink de Linkum men git druv off agin?"

"How you talks! Aun' Suke. Hi! Druv off! Why, de ridge des black wid
um--anuff ter eat Mad Whately en all he men alibe. Dey des ridin' troo
de kintry freein' we uns."

"Well, I hopes I kin stay free till night, anyhow," said Aun' Suke,
pausing in her work to make a dab at a little darky with her wooden
spoon sceptre. "Firs' Marse Scoville whirl in en say I free; den old
miss whirl in en say I ain'; now conies de gin'ral ob de hull lot en
I'se free agin. Wat's mo', de freer I git de harder I has ter wuk. My
haid gwine roun' lak dat ar brass rewster on de barn, wen' de win' blow
norf en souf ter oncet."

"No mattah 'bout yo' haid, Aun' Suke. Dat ain' no 'count. Hit's yo'
han's dat de gin'ral want busy."

"No mattah 'bout my haid, eh? Tek dat on yo'n den," and she cracked
Chunk's skull sharply.

"Dat's right, Aun' Suke, keep de flies away," remarked Chunk quietly.
"You git all de freedom you wants ef you does ez I sez."

"Mo'n I wants ef I've got ter min' ev'ybody, eben dem w'at's neber
growed up."

"I des step ter de gin'ral en say you hab dejections 'bout cookin' he
dinner. Den I tell 'im ter order out a char'ot ter tek you ter glory."

"G'lang! imperdence," said Aun' Suke, resuming her duties.

"La! Aun' Suke," spoke up Zany, who had been listening for a moment,
"doan yer know Chunk de boss ob de hull bizness? He des pickin'
chickens now ter let de gen'ral res' a while. Bimeby he git on he hoss
en lead de hull Linkum army wid yo' wooden spoon."

Chunk started for her, but the fleet-footed girl was soon back in the
dining-room.

When the early dinner was almost ready Mr. Baron said to his sister:

"Surely, there's no reason why you and Louise should appear."

"Very good reason, brother. I shall make these Northern officers feel
that they have eaten salt with us and so are bound to give us their
protection. Moreover, I wish to gain every particle of information that
I can. It may be useful to our general when he appears. Bring out your
wine and brandy, for they loosen tongues."

It soon became evident, however, that General Marston and his staff
felt in no need of Dutch courage, and were too plainly aware of their
situation to confuse their minds with their host's liquor even if they
were so inclined. The general was serious, somewhat preoccupied, but
courteous, especially to Miss Lou, on whom his eyes often rested
kindly. At last he said:

"I have a little girl at home about your age and with your blue eyes.
I'd give a good deal to see her to-day."

"I think, sir, you are glad that she is not where I am to-day," Miss
Lou ventured to answer.

"Yes, that's true. I hope no harm will come to you, my child, nor will
there if we can help it. I know what claims you have upon us and would
be proud indeed if my daughter would behave as you have in like
circumstances. I have travelled the world over, Mrs. Whately, and have
never seen the equal of the unperverted American girl."

"I certainly believe that true of Southern girls, general," was the
matron's reply, although she flushed under a consciousness of all that
Scoville might have reported.

"Pardon me, madam, but you are in danger of perverting the minds of
Southern girls with prejudice, a noble kind of prejudice, I admit,
because so closely allied with what they regard as patriotism, but
narrow and narrowing nevertheless. That old flag yonder means one
people, one broad country, and all equally free under the law to think
and act."

"Do you intend to remain in this country and hold it in subjection?"
Mrs. Whately asked in smiling keenness.

"We intend to give the Southern people every chance to become loyal,
madam, and for one I rest confidently in their intelligence and sober
second thoughts. They have fought bravely for their ideas, but will be
defeated. The end is drawing near, I think."

"Well, sir," said Mr. Baron grimly, "I am sorry you are preparing for
some more bloody arguments about our very ears."

"I am also, on account of these ladies; in other respects, I am not. By
night there may be many wounded and dying men. It will be well for them
that they do not fall in a wild and desolate region like some that we
have passed through. As you say, sir, war is an argument, a heated one
at times. But a wounded man is an appeal to all kindly humanity. You
would nurse me a little, Miss Baron, if I were brought in wounded,
would you not?"

"Yes, sir, I would, because I feel what you say about a wounded man is
true."

"Oh, I know that," he replied with a very kindly smile. "I hope to tell
my little girl about you." Suddenly he became grave again and said,
"Mr. Baron, you are somewhat isolated here, and may not be so well
informed as I am. However the prospective conflict may turn, I cannot
remain in this region. Many of our wounded may be left. Do not delude
yourself, sir, nor, if you can help it, permit your friends to be
deluded by the belief, or even hope, that our forces will not soon
control this and all other parts of the land. While I trust that
humanity will lead to every effort to assuage suffering and save life,
I must also warn you that strict inquisition will soon be made. There
is nothing that we resent more bitterly than wrongs to or neglect of
such of our wounded as must be left behind."

"It would seem, sir, that you hold me responsible for evils which I
cannot prevent."

"No, sir. I only suggest that you employ your whole influence and power
to avert future evils. I am offering a word to the wise, I trust. Ah,
Scoville, you have news?"

"Yes, sir, important," said that officer, standing dusty and begrimed
at the doorway.

"Is there haste? Is your information for my ear only? I'm nearly
through."

"Plenty of time for dinner, sir. No harm can now come from hearing at
once what I have to say."

"Go ahead, then. I'd like my staff to know."

"Well, sir, having got the enemy on the run, we kept them going so they
could not mask what was behind them. There's a large force coming up."

"As large as ours?"

"I think so. I gained an eminence from which I obtained a good view.
Major Jones told me to say that he would skirmish with the advance,
delay it, and send word from time to time."

"All right. Get some dinner, then report to me."

"Yes, sir;" and Scoville saluted and departed without a glance at any
one except his commander.

"What do you think of my scout, Miss Baron?" asked the general with a
humorous twinkle in his eyes.

"He proved himself a gentleman last evening, sir, and now I should
think he was proving a very good soldier, much too good for our
interests."

"You are mistaken about your interests. Don't you think he was rather
rude in not acknowledging your presence?"

"I don't know much about military matters, but I reckon he thought he
was on duty."

The general laughed. "Well," he remarked, "it does not seem to be age
that makes us wise so much as eyes that see and a brain back of them.
Scoville is a gentleman and a good soldier. He is also unusually well
educated and thoughtful for his years. You are right, my dear. Pardon
me, but you keep reminding me of my daughter, and I like to think of
all that's good and gentle before a battle."

"I wish I could meet her," said Miss Lou simply.

"Come and visit her after the war, then," said the general cordially.
"The hope of the country is in the young people, who are capable of
receiving new and large ideas." Having made his acknowledgments to Mr.
Baron and Mrs. Whately, he repaired to the veranda and lighted a cigar.
The staff-officers, who had tried to make themselves agreeable on
general principles, also retired.

Miss Lou's cheeks were burning with an excitement even greater than
that which the conflicts witnessed had inspired--the excitement of
listening to voices from the great unknown world. "These courteous
gentlemen," she thought, "this dignified general who invites me to
visit his daughter, are the vandals against whom I have been warned.
They have not only treated me like a lady, but have made me feel that I
was one, yet to escape them I was to become the slave of a spoiled,
passionate boy!"

Mrs. Whately guessed much that was passing in her mind, and sighed
deeply.

At the veranda steps stood Uncle Lusthah, hat in hand and heading a
delegation from the quarters. The general said, "Wait a moment," then
despatched one of his staff to the ridge with orders. "Now, my man."

Uncle Lusthah bowed profoundly and began, "De young Linkum ossifer
said, las' night, how you tell us mo' dis mawnin' 'bout our freedom."

"You are free. Mr. Lincoln's proclamation makes you all free."

"Kin we uns go 'long wid you, mars'r? Folks des seem kiner deef 'bout
dat ar prockermation in dese parts."

"No, my man, you can't go with us. We are marching much too rapidly for
you to keep up. Stay here where you are known. Make terms with your
master for wages or share in the crops. If it is necessary, the people
about here will probably soon again hear the proclamation from our
cannon. Mr. Baron, why don't you gain the goodwill of those people and
secure their co-operation? They will be worth more to you as freemen,
and they ARE free. I give you friendly advice. Accept what you can't
help. Adapt yourselves to the new order of things. Any other course
will be just as futile as to resolve solemnly that you will have
nothing to do with steam, but travel as they did in Abraham's time."

Miss Lou looked at her uncle curiously to see how he would take this
advice. His coldness of manner and silence told how utterly lost upon
him it was. The general looked at him a moment, and then said gravely,
"Mr. Baron, such men as you are the enemies of your section, not such
men as I. Good-morning, sir. Good-by, my child. Heaven bless and
protect you!" With a stately bow to Mrs. Whately he departed and was
soon on the ridge again with his men.

"I wonder if Abraham and the Patriarchs would have been any more ready
for the new order of things than uncle?" Miss Lou thought as she went
to find Scoville.

"He down at Aun' Jinkey's cabin. Chunk took he dinner dar," Zany
whispered.

"He des step ter de run ter wash he han's en face," said Aun' Jinkey a
little later.

Passing some screening shrubbery, the girl saw him standing on the spot
from which he had been carried insensible by her directions so brief a
time before. "Your dinner is ready," she called.

He came to her quickly and said, "I've been trying to realize all that
has happened since I fell at your feet yonder."

"Far more has happened to me than to you," she replied. "It seems years
since then; I've seen and learned so much."

"I wish to ask you something," he said earnestly.

"That scamp, Perkins, fired on me at close range. You stood just over
him and I heard what you said. How happened it that his bullet flew so
wide of the mark?"

She began laughing as she asked, "Have you never heard that there was
luck in throwing an old shoe? I hit Perkins over the eyes with one of
mine."

"Took it off and fired it while he was trying to shoot me?"

"Yes."

He seized both her hands and asked, "What will you take for that shoe?"

"What a Yankee you are to ask such a question! It wasn't a shoe; it was
a slipper." "Have you it on now?"

"Yes. What should you want of it?"

"I want to wear it next my heart. Which one was it? Let me see it."

"No; it's old. I haven't any other, and I shall wear it on my right
foot as long as it lasts."

"Please let me see it and take it in my hands just a moment. I may
never have a chance to ask another favor of you."

"Oh, yes, you will. You are coming to see us, and the general has asked
me to visit his daughter after the war is over. Do you think he'll
remember it?"

"The slipper, please."

"How can you ask so absurd a thing?" and a dainty foot was put out a
brief instant before him.

"Oh, you little Cinderella! I wish I was the Prince." He saw something
like a frown gathering on her face. "Don't look that way," he resumed,
"I want to tell you something I've read. I don't remember the words,
but the gist is that a woman never forgets a man on whom she has
bestowed a great kindness. Already I have twice owed my life to you.
You can't forget me. My hope is in what you have done for me, not what
I can do for you. I can think of myself lying dead in front of the
house, I know I am standing here looking into your true, sweet eyes.
Let me look into them a moment, for I have no sister, no mother, no one
in the world that I care for like you. Do not think I am making love. I
may be dead yet before night. But whether I live or die I want you to
remember that there is one human soul that always wishes you well for
your OWN sake, that is wholly and unselfishly devoted to your interests
and happiness."

"There, I'm beginning to cry, and your dinner's getting cold. You must
stop talking so."

"Give me something to carry into battle this afternoon."

She stooped and gathered some wild violets. "There," she said.

"You could not have chosen better. Whenever I see violets hereafter
they shall be your eyes looking at me as you are looking now."

"And--well--you can remember that there is always a little friend in
the South who does care. That's a curious thought about a woman's
caring for those she has--I don't believe a woman can care for any one
and not try to do something for him. Let us just think of ourselves as
friends. It seems to me that I never want to think any other way. Now
you MUST get your dinner. You may be summoned hastily and have no other
chance to-day. After Uncle Lusthah's words last night I'm not going to
have any forebodings."

"Won't you let me call you Miss Lou once before I go?"

"Why not?"

"Well, then, Miss Lou, look in my eyes once more and remember what you
see there. I won't say a word."

She raised hers shyly to his, blushed deeply and turned away, shaking
her head. The power to divine what she saw was born with her.

"Yes, I understand you," he said very gently, "but you can't help it,
any more than the sun's shining. Some day your heart may be cold and
sad, and the memory of what you have just seen may warm and cheer it
Miss Lou, you brave, noble little child-woman, didn't you see that my
love was your servant--that it merely gives you power over me? Even as
my wife you would be as free as I would be. Now good-by. We part here
and not before others. Chunk is yonder with my horse. Be just as happy
as you can whether we ever meet again or not." "Then--then--if you
don't come again?" she faltered.

"I shall be dead, but don't believe this too hastily."

"You've been kind," she burst out passionately, "you've treated me with
respect, as if I had a right to myself. You have saved me from what I
dreaded far worse than death. You shall not go away, perhaps to die,
without--without--without--oh, think of me only as a grateful child
whose life you've kept from being spoiled."

"I shall not go away without--what?" he asked eagerly.

"Oh, I don't know. What shall I say? My heart aches as if it would
break at the thought of anything happening to you." She dropped on the
grass and, burying her face in her hands, sobbed aloud.

He knelt beside her and sought to take one of her hands.

Suddenly she hid her face against his breast for a moment and faltered,
"Love me as a child NOW and leave me."

"You have given me my orders, little girl, and they would be obeyed as
far as you could see were I with you every day."

"Lieutenant Scoville!" shouted the distant voice of an orderly. He
hastily kissed away the tears in her eyes, exclaiming, "Never doubt my
return, if living," and was gone.

In a moment he had passed through the shrubbery. Before she had
regained self-control and followed he was speeding his horse toward the
ridge. "There, he has gone without his dinner," she said in strong
self-reproach, hastening to the cabin. Chunk, who was stuffing a
chicken and cornbread into a haversack, reassured her. "Doan you worry,
Miss Lou," he said. "Dis yere chicken gwine ter foller 'im right slam
troo eberyting till hit cotch up," and he galloped after his new "boss"
in a way to make good his words.



CHAPTER XXI

TWO STORMS


Miss Lou sank wearily on the doorstep of Aun' Jinkey's cabin where the
reader first made her acquaintance. She drew a long sigh. "Oh, I must
rest and get my breath. So much is happening!"

"You po' chile!" was the sympathetic response. "Ah well, honey, de good
Lawd watchin' ober you. I year how dat ole snake in-de-grass Perkins
git out Miss Whately's keridge en tink he gwine ter tote you off nobody
know whar. You passin' troo de Red Sea long o' us, honey. I yeared how
you say you doan wanter lebe yo' ole mammy. I ain' cried so sence I wus
a baby w'en I yeared dat. Doan you reckermember, honey? You sot right
dar en wish sump'n ter hap'n. I 'spects we bettah be keerful how we
wishes fer tings. Doan you min' de time Uncle Lusthah pray fer rain en
we wus all nigh drownded?"

"I'm not sorry, mammy, things happened, for my heart's been warmed,
WARMED as never before. Oh, it's so sweet to know that one is cared
for; it is so sweet to have somebody look you in the eyes and say, 'I
want you to be happy in your own way.'"

"Did Marse Scoville say dat?"

The girl nodded.

"I'se hab ter smoke on dat ar lil whiles."

Both were lost in thought for a time, Miss Lou's eyes looking dreamily
out through the pines and oaks as they had before when vaguely longing
that the stagnation of her life might cease. All had become strangely
still; not a soldier was in sight; even the birds were quiet in the
sultriness of the early afternoon. "Isn't it all a dream?" the girl
asked suddenly.

"Kin' ob wish we could wake up den, if it is. See yere, Miss Lou, you
on'y a lil chile arter all. Doan you see Marse Scoville des tekin' a
longer way roun' de bush? Wen he tell you he want you ter be happy he
mean he want you hissef!"

"Oh, yes, Aun' Jinkey, that was plain enough; but do you know how he
would take me and when?"

"Dat's des w'at I lak ter know, fer I tells you, chile, dis mar'in'
business orful serus."

"He would take me only when I went to him of my own free will and not
before. I feel just as safe with him as with you. I believe he would do
what I asked just as he minds that general of his. That's the wonderful
part of it, which almost takes away my breath. Why, only the other day
uncle and aunt were ordering me about as they always have, and now
here's a brave, educated man ready to do my bidding. What a goose
Cousin Mad was! If he had acted that way I shouldn't have known any
better I fear than to marry him. I was so starved for a little
consideration and kindness, that if he'd been generous and made me feel
that he cared for ME and not for himself all the time, I fear I'd have
just married him out of gratitude. I would have acted like an
impulsive, ignorant child, blind to everything except that some one
cared for me. But that's all past now. My eyes have been opened and
I've been compelled to think and foresee the future. Dreary enough it
would have been with him."

"What you gwine ter do, honey?"

"Stand on my rights. See how much I've learned in a few short days,
yes, even hours. I've learned above all things that my life's my own.
There were my relatives, who would reach out and take it, just as they
would a ripe fig from a tree, with just about as much consideration for
me as for the fig. Thank God! I have been shown clearly my right to my
own life. Since I have learned so much in a few days, I shall keep my
freedom and choose that which is best for me as well as best for
others."

"Now, honey, you on de right track, sho! Des you wait en lis'n. Mo'
folks dan Marse Scoville wanter talk wid you on dis mar'age question.
You on'y lil chile yit. Des you keep yosef deserved-like en say yo'
mouf ain' waterin' few enybody. Marse Scoville berry nice gem'lin, but
he yere to-day en like anuff a orful way yander termorrer--"

"No matter where he is, Aun' Jinkey, he will carry the love I could
give to a kind brother if I had one. He knows I can do no more and he
does not ask more."

"Yes, he does, honey; he ax hit in de bes way ter git hit fum you. He
ain' de fool ter grab at hit, but he tek hit all de same."

"Well," she answered judicially, "I don't see how a girl can help it if
a man thinks more of her than she of him, but it does make all the
difference in the world whether a man tries to grab, as you say, or
waits respectfully for what should be a free gift, to be worth
anything. How strange it seems to be talking quietly of such things!
Think of what has happened, what might have happened, and what may take
place before night!"

"Well, honey, hit's a good ting ter stop tinkin' or ter tink slow
sometimes. We couldn't keep a gwine as we wus. Our haids ud whirl right
off our shol'ers. Hit's all so peaceful now, why doan you go ter yo'
room en tek a nap. Mebbe you git berry lil sleep ter-night."

"I reckon your advice is good, mammy. If you have trouble, come to me."

As she walked through the garden and shrubbery to the mansion she felt
that she was reacting from the strong excitements of the morning into
languor and excessive weariness. The idle negroes had partially
succumbed to the heat and quiet, and were generally dozing in the sun,
even on this eventful day. Perkins, the exacting overseer, had
disappeared on the first alarm of Scoville's charge and had not been
seen since. When entering the house Zany, who always seemed on the qui
vive, told her that her aunts were in their rooms and that Mr. Baron
was in his office. Going out on the veranda, the girl saw two or three
vigilant Union videttes under a tree. It was evident that they had
chosen a point which commanded a good view of the house, outbuildings
and quarters. The ridge was still lined with troops, but they appeared
to be scattered about at their ease on the ground. The girl's eyes
drooped; she wearily climbed to her room and was soon asleep.

Many others slept also who would sleep again that night in the
stillness of death; others who would groan through coming days and
nights in anguished wakefulness. The temporary quiet did not deceive
the resting soldiers on either side. They well knew that the active
brains of their superiors were at work. Scoville found unexpected duty.
He was given a score of men, with orders to scour the roads to the
eastward, so that, if best, his general could retire rapidly and in
assured safety toward the objective point where he was to unite with a
larger force. Instead of resting, the young man was studying topography
and enjoying the chicken which had at last caught up with him. He knew
the importance of his work and did it thoroughly. Having chosen the
road which promised best, he marked it on a map, expecting soon to go
over it again as guide. He sighed deeply as he thought that it would
lead away from the girl to whom he had devoted his life, yet not
because he owed it to her. "If we could only remain together," he
thought, "she would learn to give all that I give. The dear little girl
is just learning that she is a woman, and is bewildered."

Major Jones, who had been skirmishing to delay the Confederate advance,
allowed his men and horses to rest when the enemy paused for their
mid-day bivouac, and so had come about a cessation of hostilities
during which both parties took breath for the coming struggle.

Miss Lou was suddenly awakened by a jar which shook the house, followed
by a strange, unearthly sound. For an instant she was confused,
thinking night had come, so dark was her room. Springing to her window
she threw open the blinds. A black, threatening sky met her gaze, the
sunlight hidden by a dense bank of clouds, above which towered
golden-tipped thunder-heads. The appearance of the ridge puzzled her.
The cannon were there, a puff of smoke rolled heavily from one of them;
but excepting a few gunners just about the pieces, the long line of men
and horses had largely disappeared. Down the lawn from a point not far
from the house to the main street and beyond was a line of horsemen,
keeping abreast and equidistant from each other. What did it all mean?
Facing the ridge on the left of the lawn was an extensive grove,
through which the avenue wound in and out, and the line of horsemen was
approaching this. Suddenly the very earth trembled and she saw smoke
pouring upward among the trees from a rise of ground within the grove.
All now became clear to her. While she had slept, the Confederates had
come up, taken their position and the battle was beginning. In strong
excitement she rushed down to the hall below, where she found her aunts
with pallid, frightened faces. On the veranda was Mr. Baron, looking
white indeed, but with firm, compressed lips and fiery eyes, watching
the opening conflict.

"Go in," he said sternly, "this is no place for you."

In her intense absorption she did not even hear him. From the edge of
the grove and along the avenue were now seen little puffs of smoke,
followed by the sharp crack of carbines. The long line of Union
skirmishers began to reply in like manner, but it was evident that they
found themselves too obvious marks in the open. Here and there men fell
from their saddles, and the riderless horses galloped away. The notes
of a bugle were heard above the din, and the Union skirmish line
retired rapidly to the foot of the ridge.

Miss Lou saw all this only as the eyes catch, half-involuntarily, what
is passing before them. With an awe almost overwhelming, her attention
was absorbed by a phase of war utterly unknown to her--an artillery
duel. Two Confederate batteries in the grove had opened and defined
their positions. The Union guns replied, shot for shot, in loud
explosions, with answering, deep-toned roar. Above the detonations were
heard the piercing screams of the shells as they flew back and forth.
On the ridge they burst with a sharp crack and puff of vapor, with what
effect could only be guessed; but the missiles which shrieked into the
grove gave the impression of resistless, demoniacal power. Great limbs
and even tops of trees fell crashing after them. Blending faintly with
the rending sound which followed were screams and yells.

"Well," exclaimed the girl, "if Cousin Mad is there he at least is
brave. It seems as if my knees would give way under me."

Even as she spoke, a forked line of light burned downward athwart the
heavy rising clouds. The smoke of the battle was lurid an instant; then
came a peal which dwarfed the thunder of earthly artillery. Strange to
say, the sound was reassuring to the girl; it was familiar. "Ah!" she
cried, "the voice of heaven is louder than this din, and heaven after
all is supreme. This fiery battle will soon be quenched and hot blood
cooled."

The voice in the sky was unheeded, for entering the lawn from the road,
distant from the mansion about an eighth of a mile, was seen a solid
gray column. On it went toward the ridge at a sharp trot. "Ah!" groaned
Mr. Baron, "now comes the tug of war."

The girl screamed and moaned as she saw shells tearing their way
through this column, horses and men rolling over on the ground, puffs
of smoke which rose revealing frightful gaps; but on flowed the dark
gray torrent as if propelled by an invisible, resistless force.
Vacancies made by wounds and death were closed almost instantly. In the
strange, luminous twilight made by the approaching storm, the impetuous
advance was wonderfully distinct in the distance, like a vivid
silhouette.

As the head of the column drew near the gentle acclivity, it fairly
seemed to crumble. Grape shot was now making havoc; but for every man
and horse that fell, two apparently came on as from an exhaustless
reservoir. High above all sounds now came a yell which, once heard, can
never be forgotten, and the Confederate column deployed at a gallop,
charging the ridge. The Union skirmish line had already retired to the
right, while pouring over the ridge by which they had been hitherto
concealed, came rank after rank of men in blue, their deeper chest
shouts blending with the shriller cries of their enemies. Charge was
being met with counter charge. Cannon were silent, for now friends and
foes were too near together. Even the clouds loomed silently, as if in
suspense, over the terrific shock of the two lines of approaching
cavalry.

"Awful! awful!" moaned the girl.

"Oh! if Madison is meeting that onset!" shrieked Mrs. Whately, beside
herself with horror, yet compelled to look by a terrible fascination.

Just as the two opposing forces dashed together a bolt of lightning
gleamed over them, turning the upraised sabres for an instant into
swords of fire. The crash of thunder followed so swiftly that it
appeared to result from the impact of the two charging lines. An
impression of annihilation was given, but so far was it from being
realized, that the slope was seen to be alive with a struggling,
seething mass, waving back and forth, at first downward, then
stationary, then gradually upward, upward, until Mr. Baron shouted,
"Hurrah! our men are carrying the ridge!"

The cry was scarcely uttered before another dark line of horsemen on
the far right was seen galloping forward toward the Confederate flank.
Again there was another vivid flash, lighting up the scene with a
lurid, momentary glare. The peal which followed created the illusion of
sounding this new charge or else to be the thunder of the onset. It
turned the fortune of the battle on the right, for the Confederates
were seen to pause, and finally to give back slowly and stubbornly.
Then the advancing rainfall began to blot the combatants from view.

Suddenly the Union artillery opened. It seemed to the terrified
spectators on the veranda as if the shells were shrieking directly
toward them, but the iron bolts tore their way through the grove,
although much nearer the house than before. The reason soon became
apparent. On that ridge, and within the gloomy shadows of the trees,
were officers as coolly observant as if playing a game of chess. They
gave no more heed to the terrific peals of thunder than they would have
done to so many Chinese gongs. While watching the attack upon his
centre and providing against it, General Marston was also seeking to
penetrate, by means of a powerful glass, the mask of the grove, and so
detected a concentration on his left. Instantly his guns began to shell
the grove near the house, where the assaulting force was massing. His
reserves were ordered forward, and instructions rapidly given to the
colonel who was to repel the attack; meanwhile his field-glass was
glued to his eyes.

Soon he cried, "It will be their supreme effort. We must strike a
stunning blow in order to get away in safety," and he sprang on his
horse and started the charge himself.

The men, adoring their leader, followed with stern resolve and high
enthusiasm. Scoville, who had returned, reported and rested somewhat,
knew how critical was the moment. He rode close to the general, but did
not fall out when the wary commanding officer permitted the human bolt
he had launched to pass beyond him. He was responsible for the entire
force, and must do just enough and no more. He must still keep his eyes
on all parts of the field and his brain ready to direct when the result
of the charge was known. More than the military necessity of repelling
the Confederate charge bursting from the grove occupied the mind of
Scoville. It looked to him as if the fight would take place about the
very home of the girl to whom his heart was so tender, and his impulse
was to be near, to protect and defend.

The light was fading fast; the fury of the storm, whose preliminary
blasts were shaking the dwelling, was coming as if an ally with the
galloping Union ranks and threatening the equally impetuous onset of
the Confederates. In the very van of the Southern force a vivid flash
of lightning revealed Mad Whately, with a sabre of flame. For once he
made a heroic figure. His mother saw him and shrieked despairingly, but
her voice was lost in the wild uproar of thunder, yells and shouts of
the combatants, the shock of steel and crash of firearms. Then torrents
of rain, which had approached like a black curtain extending from
heaven to earth, hid the awful scene of conflict. It vanished like a
dream, and would have seemed but a nightmare had not the ominous sounds
continued.

Mr. Baron broke the spell which had fallen upon him, dragged his sister
and niece within the door, and bolted it with difficulty against the
spray-laden gusts.



CHAPTER XXII

CHUNK'S QUEST


If there had been sufficient light the battle might have continued in
spite of the tropical downpour, but darkness became so intense that
friend and foe were alike disguised from each other. At this crisis,
Scoville's horse was shot and fell, dragging his rider down also. A
flash of lightning revealed the mishap to Mad Whately, who secured the
capture of the Union officer before he could extricate himself.

By a sort of mutual consent the contending forces drew apart. Prisoners
had been taken on both sides, and Whately, who had badly sprained his
arm, unfitting himself for active duty, was given charge of those
secured by the Confederates.

General Marston withdrew the Union forces to the ridge again. He was
satisfied that prudence required rapid progress toward his somewhat
distant destination. True, he had severely checked his foes, but he
knew that they had reinforcements near, while he had not. He deeply
regretted Scoville's absence and possible death, but he had the map,
and the men who had been out with the scout were acquainted with the
selected road. Therefore, as soon as the violence of the storm abated
and the moon shed a faint radiance through the murky clouds, he renewed
his march as rapidly as the rain-soaked ground permitted. Fires were
lighted along the ridge to deceive the enemy, and a rearguard left to
keep them burning.

The trembling household within the mansion slowly rallied as the sounds
of battle died away. As soon as the fury of the conflict and storm
decreased, Mr. Baron lighted a candle and they looked into one
another's white faces.

Miss Lou was the first to recover some intrepidity of spirit. "Well,"
she said, "we are still alive, and these torrents are evidently
stopping the fighting as they would put out fire."

"Oh, Madison, Madison!" Mrs. Whately moaned, "are YOU living, or are
you dead? If you are dead it is little to me that I am spared."

Miss Lou did not give very much thought to her cousin. In overpowering
solicitude she asked herself, "Where is he whose eyes looked such
strange, sweet truth into mine to-day? Are they unseeing, not because
it is dark, but because the light of life is quenched?"

The brunt of the storm soon passed and was followed by a drizzling rain
and the promise of a gloomy night. As the howling wind ceased their
clamor, new blood-curdling sounds smote the girl's ears--the cries of
wounded and dying men and horses. Then the ghastly truth, scarcely
thought of in the preceding excitement, sickened her heart, for she
remembered that, scattered over the lawn and within the grove, were
mutilated, bleeding forms. They were all the more vividly presented to
her fancy because hidden by the night.

But little time elapsed before the activity of the surgeons began. Mr.
Baron was summoned and told that his piazzas and as many rooms as
possible must be occupied, and part of the wide hall fitted up with
appliances for amputations. Every suitable place in the out-buildings
was also required.

Mrs. Baron almost shrieked as she heard this, seeing at one mental
glance the dwelling which it had been her ruling passion to maintain in
immaculate order, becoming bloodstained and muddy from top to bottom.

Mrs. Whately asked only for her son, and he soon appeared, with the
excitement of battle still in his eyes. She rushed to his arms and
sobbed on his breast.

"Come, mother," he exclaimed, "we've no time for this now. Please get a
sling for this left arm, which aches horribly--only a sprain, but right
painful all the same."

Before the agitated lady could recover herself, Miss Lou ran to her
room and returned with a scarf which answered the purpose.

"Oh, you deign to do something for me?" he said bitterly.

"Come, cousin," she replied, "since I have not lost my senses after
what's happened it's time you regained yours."

"Thank you, my dear," said his mother fervently, as she adjusted the
support for the disabled arm. "Yes, I trust that we may all regain our
senses, and, if we outlive these scenes, begin to act as if we were
sane."

"There, that will do," he said impatiently. "I must go now, for I have
important duties," and he hastened away.

Meantime General Marston had sent word through his picket line that he
would not interfere with the care of the wounded and that the dwelling
would not be fired upon if used as a hospital. He accompanied this
assurance with the offer of medical stores, coffee, sugar and the
services of two surgeons. The Confederate general accepted the offer.
The trembling negroes were routed out of their quarters, and compelled
more or less reluctantly to help bring in the wounded. Uncle Lusthah
showed no hesitancy in the humane work and soon inspired those over
whom he had influence with much of his spirit. It had been a terribly
anxious day for him and those about him. Hope had ebbed and flowed
alternately until night, when the day which seemed to him the dawning
of the millennium ended as he imagined the world might end. Now,
however, he was comforted in the performance of good works, and he
breathed words of Christian hope into more than one dying ear that
night.

Perkins, the overseer, was animated by a very different spirit. At the
first alarm of Scoville's return in the morning he had dashed into the
grove, and next concealed himself on a distant eminence from which he
could watch events. Under the cover of darkness he returned, and
experienced grim satisfaction when he discovered the hated Union
officer among the prisoners.

As Whately was making his final arrangements for the night, Perkins
touched his arm saying, "Leftenant, I'll help watch that Yank thar"
(pointing to Scoville). "They say he's ez slip'ry ez a eel."

"Do so, Perkins. We both have a heavy score to settle with him. At
daylight I'll send him where he won't fare as well as he did on this
plantation."

"Is your arm woun'ed?"

"No, only sprained, but it pains like the devil. Watch that Yank well.
I'd rather they all got away than he."

"He'll never get away alive," was the ominous reply.

As was true after the first skirmish recorded in this history, Mrs.
Whately now again appeared to the best advantage. Relieved from
overwhelming anxiety in regard to her son, her heart overflowed with
pity for the injured. From the outer darkness, limp, helpless forms, in
bloodstained garments, were borne in. Groans and half-stifled cries
began to resound through the house. Even Mrs. Baron forgot all else now
but the pressing necessity of relieving pain and saving life, but she
had eyes only for those who wore the gray. Mrs. Whately, on the
contrary, made no distinction, and many a poor fellow, in blue as well
as gray, blessed her as she aided the surgeons, two of whom were from
the Union lines. Miss Lou remained chiefly in her own room and busied
herself preparing bandages, sparing not her own rather scanty store of
underclothing in the task.

Mr. Baron was in the dining-room, dispensing wines and liquors to the
officers who were coming and going. The Confederate general had made
the wide hearth, on which roared an ample fire, his headquarters for
the time, and was turning first one side then the other toward the
blaze, in order to dry his uniform. Poor Aun' Suke had been threatened
into renewed activity, and with many colored assistants had begun a
stewing, baking and frying which promised to be interminable. Chickens,
pigs and cattle had been killed wherever found, for hungry soldiers
after a battle and in darkness ask no questions on either side. Mr.
Baron knew he was being ruined, but since it was in behalf of his
friends, he maintained remarkable fortitude, while his wife, with her
thin, white, set face, honored every requisition.

Some of the negroes, sighing for what seemed vanishing freedom, sought
to reach the Union force, but were stopped at the picket line by which
General Marston masked his retirement from the field. The majority of
the slaves, however, were kept at work indoors and out, under the eyes
of the Confederates, who quickly showed themselves to be savage toward
any disposition to shirk orders.

There was one who would have received short shrift if hands could have
been laid upon him--Chunk. None knew this better than he, yet he was as
fearless as he was shrewd. Scoville had already won from him unlimited
devotion--bought him, body and soul, with kindness and freedom. When he
found his new master had not returned from the final charge, Chunk
questioned one and another until he learned that Scoville had been seen
to go down and then disappear in the gloom. Whether he had been killed
or captured, no one knew, but Chunk resolved to find out before morning
at all risks. Yet in the darkness and rain he felt much confidence in
his ability to elude danger, for he knew every inch of the ground and
of numerous places for concealment.

He set about his task in the most matter-of-fact way, resolving to
begin operations with a good supper. At this early stage Aun' Jinkey
and her cabin were both forgotten, and the poor old woman was half dead
from terror. When Chunk tapped at the one window, she feared the spooks
of dead soldiers had already begun their persecutions. Never was there
a more welcome and reassuring sound than the impatient voice of her
grandson, and she soon so rallied as to get him something to eat.

"I darsn't come in," he said. "I got ter be whar I kin run en hide. Now
granny, lis'n wid all yo' ears. Marse Scoville killed, woun'ed or took.
I'se gwine ter fin' out which. Wen dey gits mo' settle down lak anuff
dey be lookin' fer me yere, en I kyant come yere no mo', but I kin git
ter Miss Lou's winder ef she hab no light in her room. I safest whar
dey ain' lookin' fer me. Tell her ter put no light sho! Mebbe she
hafter hep me git Marse Scoville off, ef he took en ef he woun'ed she
de one ter 'tect en keer fer 'im. Dat ar Perkins kill 'im sho, ef he
git de charnce. Now ef you years me toot twice lak a squinch-owl, you
knows dat you got ter go en tell Miss Lou dat I need her hep en dat I
gwine ter creep 'long de pazzer roof ter her winder. Ef I doan toot you
keeps quiet till you sees me agin," and he disappeared.

"Who'd a thunk dat ar boy had sech a haid!" ejaculated Aun' Jinkey,
lighting her pipe. Deep as would now be her solicitude and great as her
fears, her grandson's appearance and words had dispelled the
spook-phase of her tribulations.

Chunk could run on all fours as easily as in an upright position, and
he made his way rapidly through the darkness. His first aim was to get
his eye on Perkins and Mad Whately, from whom he felt that he and
Scoville had the most to fear. He was now armed with a knife and short
club, as well as a revolver, and was determined to use them rather than
be captured. Skulking, creeping and hiding in deep shadow, he at last
saw Perkins issuing from his house, carrying his lantern. Following, he
distinctly observed the brief interview between the overseer and
Whately, and guessed correctly that Scoville was among the prisoners.
He was soon able so to shift his position as to satisfy himself on this
point, and also to note that Perkins, from his movements, would be one
of the guard. By the gleams of the lantern Chunk also saw that Scoville
appeared to be watching the overseer as if suspecting treachery. "I
watch 'im too," the negro soliloquized. "Ef he play eny debil trick he
hissef gwine ter de debil sud'n."

Scoville was indeed anxious about his position, for while he believed
that Whately was scarcely capable of transcending the usages of war, he
knew well that opportunity only limited the malignity of Perkins. He
therefore rarely took his eyes from this personal enemy.

For his own sake and that of the guards, Perkins aided in building a
fire, for in the continued rain all were chilled. As Chunk saw the
leaping flames and the lantern so placed that its rays fell on
Scoville, he was almost in despair of any chance for rescue, but
believed that his best course was to watch for some change which
promised better. He remembered how Scoville had employed the hootings
of the screech-owl as a signal, and resolved by the same means to
prepare the prisoner for co-operation with any effort in his behalf.
Therefore he hooted softly and was glad to see from Scoville's alert
yet wary manner that he had recognized the signal.

So intent was Chunk in watching his master that he did not hear the
steps of a bewildered Confederate who stumbled over him and fell
headlong with a volley of oaths. The negro employed woful strategy to
mislead the soldier, for he grunted like a pig, thus awakening hopes of
more fried pork. The result was immediate pursuit by all within
hearing, and Chunk with difficulty escaped by the aid of darkness and
his complete familiarity with the place. When at last he found himself
secure he panted, "Mout ez well be took fer Chunk ez a hog. Stand des
ez good a charnce. Won't try dat ar game agin."

He was now sorely puzzled to know what to do, and his nerves were
somewhat shaken by his narrow escape. At last he resolved to send his
granny to Miss Lou and consult with the girl. Accordingly, he stole
into the shrubbery of the garden and hooted twice, rightly thinking
that Scoville could hear the signal also and believe that something
might be attempted in his behalf. Cowering under a bush, he soon
observed Aun' Jinkey tottering toward the house, muttering, "Good Lawd,
hep us!" as she went.

As the excitement of battle and exultation over the capture of Scoville
subsided in Whately's mind he became excessively weary and his
exhausted frame suffered from the chill and wetness of the night. He
had sought to keep up by liberal potations in his uncle's dining-room,
but was resolved to get a night's sleep if possible. He had urgently
charged the sergeant of the guard over the prisoners to be vigilant.
When Perkins offered to share in this watch Whately, understanding the
vindictive motive, felt that he need give himself no further anxiety.
He next sought his mother and obtained a little food which the lady had
brought to her room.

"Where is Cousin Lou?" the young man asked.

"She is in her own room, and with Zany's help making bandages. I would
advise you not to see her again to-night. You are greatly wearied."

"Little wonder, after riding nearly all last night, and the fighting
to-day."

"Yes, I know, and have thought of all nearly every moment. I am only
too thankful that you have survived. You have gone to the limit of
human endurance and must sleep. The less you and Louise say to each
other for a short time the better. After you have both grown calmer and
have had a chance to think you will see things in a different light."

"Mother, do you think I mean to be thwarted by that girl? I would marry
her now from pure pride--for the sake of humbling her and teaching her
that she made the mistake of her life in so crossing my will and in
subjecting me to the mortification I endured this morning."

"Madison! actuated by such motives, you'll never win her! If you will
closely follow my advice I believe you can succeed. I must tell you
plainly that if you join with brother and his wife in their tactics it
will always end much as it did this morning."

"Well, anyhow, I have that cursed Yankee cub that she went walking with
in my power."

"What! Lieutenant Scoville?"

"Yes; he's a prisoner and Perkins is helping watch him."

"Then I implore you not to let Louise know it. She saw that this
Scoville might have killed you. She is merely friendly toward him
because, instead of treating us rudely, as she was led to believe he
would, he was very polite and considerate when we were in his power.
That wretch Perkins tried to shoot him to-day and probably would have
succeeded but for Louise," and she narrated the circumstances.

Her son frowned only the darker from jealousy and anger.

"Oh, Madison! why won't you see things as they are?" his mother
resumed. "If you had treated this Yankee officer with kindness and
thanked him for his leniency toward us, you would have taken a long
step in her favor. If you were trying to make her hate you, how could
you set about it more skilfully?"

"Mother," he replied doggedly, "if Lou had married me, even if she had
yielded reluctantly, I would have been her slave; but she has defied
me, humiliated and scoffed at me, and I shall never whine and fawn for
her favor again. I don't believe it would be of any use. If I should
change my tactics she would only despise and laugh at me. What's more,
my very nature revolts at such a change. I can't and won't make it. She
shall learn to fear me. Women marry for fear as well as love. This
Scoville gives me a chance to teach her the first lesson. He shall be
sent by daylight to a Southern prison and that will be the last of him.
Lou shall learn, as all will find out, that it's poor policy to thwart
me. That major who interfered so impudently in our affairs is dead."

"Oh, Madison!"

"You needn't look so. I had nothing to do with it. There were plenty of
Yankee bullets flying to-day. All I mean to say is that it will prove
serious for any one to cross my path. Fate is on the side of a man who
WILL have his own way, and Lou will discover this fact sooner or later."

Poor Mrs. Whately was compelled to rate these vaporings at their true
worth, seeing that between wine, anger and long-indulged arrogance, he
was in a melodramatic mood and beyond reason: so she only said
soothingly, "Please never let Louise know that I was aware of
Scoville's captivity. After you have rested and have had time to think
you will see things differently. I warn you however against Perkins,"
she added solemnly. "If you identify yourself with him in any way you
may involve yourself and all of us in ruin. Now come, I will make a bed
for you at the end of the hall near my room, and you had better sleep
while you can."

He readily acquiesced, for even his lurid schemes for the future could
keep him awake no longer. In a few moments he was sleeping soundly on a
mattress, wrapped in a blanket. His uniform was hung on the back of a
chair near him to dry.



CHAPTER XXIII

A BOLD SCHEME


Aun' Jinkey gained Miss Lou's room in safety, but panting so from
fright and exhaustion as to be for a few moments utterly incapable of
speech. The girl divined that something serious was to be told. To her
questioning look, the old mammy nodded, glancing meantime at Zany as
much as to say, "We should be alone." This quick-witted negress,
consumed with curiosity about Chunk, and some deeper interest, resolved
not to be sent away.

"Why you look dat away at Miss Lou, Aun' Jinkey?" Zany asked
indignantly. "Time you knowed dat Miss Lou trus' me en I ain' doin'
not'n ter loss dat trus'. She know bettah'n you dat ef dars eny ting
ter be done I de one ter he'p."

"We can trust Zany," whispered Miss Lou, who had become very pale. "You
have some news about Lieutenant Scoville?"

"Well, on'y dis, honey, Chunk lookin' fer 'im. Marse Scoville didn't
come back fum dat las' fight, he say, en he say ter me dat ef he toot
twiced lak a squinch-owl dat mean I go ter you, fer he need yo' he'p.
He des done tooted," and Aun' Jinkey repeated all of her grandson's
words as far as she could remember them.

Miss Lou thought a few moments and her face grew very resolute. "Aun'
Jinkey," she said, "tell Chunk I will do as he wishes, but he must act
carefully and not too hastily. Cousin Mad is already asleep. One after
another will follow his example, and fewer will be around by and by. We
must take no risks that can be helped. The fact that he wishes to see
me in this secret way is pretty good proof that the lieutenant is a
prisoner. If he were wounded or--or--" but a rush of tears suggested
the word she could not utter. "You had better go now, and let no one
frighten you into telling anything. Appeal to me if threatened."

As the old woman was stealing out she met Mrs. Baron, who asked
sharply, "What do you want?"

"Does you tink I doan wanter know dat chile is safe?"

"If you wish to be safe yourself, see to it you have nothing more to do
with that grandson of yours. He has sinned away HIS day of grace, and
no mercy will be shown to those who have anything more to do with him."

"I years you, misus," said Aun' Jinkey, stolidly continuing on her way.

Miss Lou, who had followed her mammy to the head of the stairs, heard
this warning and returned to her room with a stern look. She deemed it
best to say nothing and give the impression that she could not endure
the sights and sounds below stairs.

Mrs. Whately entered soon afterward and did her best to propitiate her
niece. Miss Lou pretended to be very weary and was glad to see that her
aunt actually was so. At last the matron said, "Well, I'll go down once
more and see if there is anything which I must attend to; then I shall
try to rest a little while Madison is sleeping. Such experiences as
we've had wear one out fast. I advise you, too, my dear, to sleep when
you can."

"Yes, aunt, I suppose you are right. So much may happen to-morrow."

Mrs. Whately soon retired, and Miss Lou, listening at her door a
moment, knew that she was sleeping. Then she returned to her own room,
blew out her candle, opened the window softly and waited for Chunk.
"Zany," she said, "sit in the dark there, and do not speak or let Chunk
know you are here, unless permitted."

Along the most secluded end of the house the piazza had not been built,
a small lean-to extension taking its place. An apartment was thus
formed which could be entered from without as well as from within the
dwelling, and here Mr. Baron maintained what was at once a business
office and a study. This extension was but one story high, with a roof
which sloped to rising ground beyond. Chunk knew that he could easily
gain this roof, and from it that of the front piazza also. When
returning through the garden Aun' Jinkey had whispered to him not to
make the attempt to see Miss Lou until her light was extinguished. Then
she added the words that Mrs. Baron had just spoken to her and hastened
tremblingly to her own chimney-corner. Chunk made a wide circle,
approaching the house again at an angle which would give him a view of
Miss Lou's window, and watching till it darkened. From the garden he
had carried a small, light ladder which he had used when pruning
fruit-trees. He stole near the extension warily, the shrubbery growing
in that vicinity favoring his effort, and the heavy pall of clouds
obscuring almost entirely the mild radiance of the moon.

Satisfied by a careful reconnoissance that no one was watching or
stirring at that end of the house, with the stealth and agility of a
cat he went from roof to roof and crawled to Miss Lou's window.

"Chunk," she whispered.

"Dat's me, mistis."

"You're a good, brave fellow. Now tell me quick--don't waste a word
--where is Lieutenant Scoville?"

"He's wid de pris'ners, en Perkins en sogers watchin' 'im."

"Why is Perkins watching him?" the girl asked in deep alarm.

"Dunno, Miss Lou, 'cept on 'count ob he gradge. Mad Whately en he talk
knowin'--like en den Perkins tek he lantern en jine de gyard. W'en I
las' see 'im he watchin' Marse Scoville close."

"Lieutenant Scoville wasn't hurt, was he?"

"Reck'n not. Didn't 'pear dat away, but he look at Perkins ez ef he
feared on 'im. Ef I had ony Perkins ter deal wid I gib Marse Scoville
he freedom in pay fer mine, but dar's sogers all aroun' en dey stick me
quick ez dey would a pig."

"Oh, Chunk! what shall we do? I could have no influence over the guard
or Perkins either. Oh! OH! Mad Whately, you'll end by making me loathe
you. To think of employing that treacherous wretch!"

"Dat's des w'at I feard on, Miss Lou. Reck'n yo' cousin en Perkins
projeckin' some debil trick."

"You say my cousin has charge of the prisoners?"

"Yassum. I yeared 'im gib de orders 'bout um, but I too fur off ter
year w'at he say."

"Can you think of any way, Chunk?"

"Ef de gyard ony all get ter sleep, I'd tek de risk ob tacklin'
Perkins, but dere's too many en I des stumped ter know w'at ter do."

"Hi! Miss Lou," whispered listening Zany, "I kin tell you w'at ter do."

"Doan you pay no 'tention ter her foolishness," said Chunk coolly. "Dis
life-en-death business, en Zany outgrowed her sense."

"En you ain' growed into your'n," responded Zany. "Ef you has, why doan
you tell Miss Lou 'bout tings dat kin be done 'stead o tings dat kyant
be?"

"Well, Zany, what have you to say? Quick, and speak lower."

"Miss Lou, dar's Mad Whately's coat en pants hangin' out in de hall.
You put dem on, en tie yo' arm up in a sling. In de night who say you
ain Marse Whately?"

"Oh, Zany!" exclaimed the girl, appalled at first by the boldness of
the scheme.

"Well, dar now," whispered Chunk, "who'd tink dat ar gyurl got so much
gumption! See yere, Miss Lou, dat de way ef you got de spunk ter do it.
Ole Perkins tink you Mad Whately comin' ter play de debil trick en let
you tek Marse Scoville way quietly, en de gyard won' 'fere wid you
nudder, kase dey un'er yo' cousin. You kin go en lead Marse Scoville
right off, en if Perkins follow I settle 'im."

"Do you think there's no other way?" Miss Lou asked, with 'quick,
agitated breathing.

"Fo' de Lawd, I doesn't."

"I don't know what they would do to me in the morning, I'd be sent
away. Oh, you can't realize the risk I would take."

"'Spects not, mistis. I ony know Marse Scoville tek mo' resk fer you ef
he could."

Chunk had touched the right chord now. She set her white face like
flint in the darkness, and said, "I'll make the attempt, no matter what
happens to me."

"Den I des sneak out en get he coat en trousers," Zany whispered.

"Yes."

"En, Miss Lou, you des come out de house dis away wid me en Zany,"
Chunk added. "Less charnce er bein' stopped. We kin go troo de gyardin
end de bushes till we mos' whar we kin see Marse Scoville. Mebbe hit
berry much plainer w'at ter do arter we get out en look roun'. I hab a
ladder yere en you git down mighty easy."

"Yes, that's the best way. I wish to take no risks of being seen till
after I make my attempt."

Zany reconnoitred the hall. No one was in sight. Even Mrs. Baron,
wearied out, had retired, and Mr. Baron had resolved to spend the night
in the dining-room, partly out of courtesy to the Confederate general
and partly to be ready for any emergency. In the hall and on the front
and rear piazzas were alert sentinels who would have observed and
reported any unusual proceeding--therefore Chunk's plan was the only
feasible one. In the darkness Zany helped Miss Lou don her cousin's
uniform and slouched hat which, limp from the rain, fell over her face.
She was not so very much shorter than he as to make the fit a bad one
when seen in the partial light. The trousers had to be turned up, but
that would be expected on account of the mud. Her plumpness filled out
the coat very comfortably, and her arm in a sling made the disguise
almost perfect.

While Miss Lou was dressing Chunk again reconnoitred and reported the
coast clear. It was now about midnight and all were sleeping except
those whom imperative duty or pain kept awake. Chunk led the way,
steadying Miss Lou with a firm hand, and Zany followed.

"Now, Miss Lou," Chunk whispered, "I tek you de s'curest way, so you
git back en' nobody see you ef I git cotched."

They made a circuit to avoid the kitchen and climbed over a low fence
into the garden. On the further side, opening on the driveway to the
stables, was a gate. Before reaching this, Miss Lou said to Zany, "You
stay here. If there's an alarm, go to the kitchen. You must not be
known to have had anything to do with this affair. It might cost you
your life."

"Ve'y well, Miss Lou."

The young girl and her guide paused at the gate some moments, for
attendants upon the wounded, with whom the outbuildings were filled,
were passing to and fro. At last they stole across the roadway to the
shelter of a clump of trees beyond. From this point they could see the
group of prisoners about the fire, which was in a rather dying
condition. It was evident that some of the guards had succumbed to
weariness, but Perkins still watched with the tirelessness of hate, his
lantern so placed that its rays fell on Scoville, who could not make a
movement without being observed. Indeed, it was clear that he, too, was
almost overcome with sleep, for he occasionally nodded and swayed
before the fire.

"Now, Miss Lou," whispered Chunk, "I gwine ter wake Marse Scoville up
by tootin' lak a squinch-owl," and he did so briefly.

The Union officer was much too wary to start and look around, but he
gradually proved that he was alert. Close scrutiny of Perkins showed
that the signal had no significance to him.

"Miss Lou," resumed Chunk, "dere's not'n fer you but ter walk right
down de road ter de fire, berry quiet like, put yo' finger on yo' lips
ter Perkins so he tink you 'bout ter play de debil trick, en' den lead
Marse Scoville into de gyardin. Ef Perkins foller, I foller 'im. My
hoss down by de run en we git off dat away."

The girl drew a long breath and started. Now that she was in the crisis
of the emergency a certain innate spirit and courage sustained her.
Knowing her cousin so well, she could assume his very gait and manner,
while her arm, carried in a sling, perfected a disguise which only
broad light would have rendered useless. Her visit caused no surprise
to the sergeant of the guard, on whom at first she kept her eyes. He
merely saluted and thought Lieutenant Whately was attentive to his
duty. Perkins was not surprised either, yet a little perplexed. As it
had been supposed and hoped, the thought rose instantly in his
revengeful nature that the Confederate officer had some design on
Scoville. The latter watched the form recognized by the others as that
of Whately with the closest scrutiny, and an immense throb of hope
stirred his heart. Could it be possible?

Miss Lou looked over the sleeping prisoners for a moment and then, as
if satisfied, stepped quite near to Perkins, guarding meantime not to
permit the rays of the lamp to fall on her face. "Leave him to me," she
whispered, with a nod toward Scoville, and she put her finger to her
lips. She next touched Scoville on the shoulder and simply said, "Come."

He rose as if reluctantly and followed.

Perkins did not suspect the ruse, the disguise was so good and
Whately's right to appear so unquestioned; but he felt defrauded in
having no part in the vengeance which he supposed would be wreaked on
Scoville. After a moment or two of thought, he obeyed the impulse to
follow, hoping to see what Whately intended to do, and if circumstances
warranted, to be near to help. "If Mad Whately's high-strung notions
lead 'im to fight a duel," he thought, "en the Yank comes off best,
I'll settle my own score. Whately was ter'ble stirred up 'bout the
Yank's talkin' ter his cousin, en would like ter kill 'im, but his
officer-notions won't let 'im kill the blue-coated cuss ez I would. Ef
thar's ter be a fight, I won't be fur off," and he stole after the two
figures disappearing in the gloom.

But Nemesis was on his steps. Chunk had shaken with silent laughter as
he saw that their scheme was working well, but he never took his eyes
from Perkins. Crouching, crawling, he closed on the overseer's track,
and when the man passed into the garden, the negro followed.

As Scoville accompanied Miss Lou, he soon ventured to breathe her name
in a tentative way. "Hush!" she whispered. Then his heart beat thick
with overpowering emotions of gratitude, admiration and love. Entering
the garden, she led the way quickly toward Aun' Jinkey's cabin, and at
a point where the shrubbery was thickest about the path, turned
suddenly, put her finger on her lips, and breathed, "Listen."

They distinctly heard steps following and drew back into the bushes.
Then came the thud of a blow and the heavy fall of a man. The blow was
so severe that not even a groan followed, and for a moment all was
still. Then Chunk, like a shadow, glided forward and would have passed
had not Miss Lou whispered his name.

"Foller me," he answered breathlessly.

This they did, but Scoville secured the girl's hand and carried it to
his lips. The negro led the way beyond the garden to the run, where he
had left his horse. "Lis'n onct mo'," he said. "Dat was Perkins I laid
out."

All was still. "Chunk," said Scoville, "go back on your tracks a little
and see if there are any signs of alarm."

Obedience was very prompt, for Chunk muttered as he ran, "My heart des
bustin' 'bout Zany. Got ter lebe her now, sho! Ter thunk ob her showin'
so much gumption!"

Scoville again took Miss Lou's hands. "Oh, hasten, hasten," she said
breathlessly, "you are in great danger here."

"I can scarcely speak to you," he replied, "my heart is so full. You
brave, noble little girl! How HAVE you accomplished this?"

Incoherently she told him and again urged, "Oh, DO go at once, for my
sake as well as yours, or all may be in vain. I can't breathe until
I've put back my cousin's uniform."

Now that the supreme crisis of danger had apparently passed for the
moment, she was trembling violently in nervous reaction, and could
speak only in little gasps. Every instant a deeper appreciation of the
immense effort she had made in his behalf overwhelmed Scoville, and for
a moment he lost all self-control. Snatching her to his breast he
whispered, "Oh, you little hero, you little saint, I wish I could
shield you with my life. I don't believe you half realize what you have
done for me, bravest, truest, sweetest--"

"Oh, hush," she pleaded, extricating herself from his arms. "Go, PLEASE
go at once, for my sake."

"Yes, my dear girl, I must go soon, more for your sake than mine. With
this horse and this start, I am safe. Oh, it's terribly hard to leave
you." Then he hooted low to recall Chunk. "Don't tremble so. After all,
it's best to wait a few moments to make sure there is no pursuit. Thank
God, after what you have done for me to-night you will never forget me,
you will always care for me. Again I see as never before how true it is
that a woman cares most for him whom most she has tried to help. You
have risked much for me; I give all to you. Only death can keep me from
seeking you and living for you always. Remember, I ask nothing which
your own heart does not prompt, but you cannot help my giving undying
loyalty. See, I just kneel to you in homage and gratitude. There never
was such a gem of a girl."

Chunk now appealed, recalled from a more affectionate parting than Zany
had ever vouchsafed before, and he began to unhitch the horse.

"Chunk must go back with you," Scoville began.

"Oh, no," she whispered, "I cannot breathe till you both are well away.
Chunk would be killed instantly--"

"No matter; he has become a soldier like myself and must take all
risks. I will not leave this spot--I will go with you myself, rather
than leave you here."

"Why, ob co'se I 'spects ter go back wid you, Miss Lou. You tink I
gwine ter lebe you yere en dat ladder dar ter tell de hull business?
Come wid me."

"Well, then, good-by, and God keep you, Lieutenant. I shall hope to see
you again."

"To see YOU again will be my dearest hope. Dear, DEAR little Lou! how
brave you've been! You've won a soldier's whole heart forever. How can
I say good-by? You can't dream how dear you have become to me. Please,
one kiss before we separate."

Yielding to an impulse then not understood, she put her arm swiftly
about his neck, kissed him, and turned so rapidly toward her home that
Chunk could scarcely keep pace with her.

They reached the ladder unobserved, and from the roof of the extension
the way to Miss Lou's room was easy. Chunk went to a point from which
he could watch the girl enter her apartment. Putting the ladder back
into the garden, he rejoined Scoville, and together they made their way
in the direction of the retiring Union column. Scoville never wearied
in questioning his attendant about every detail of Miss Lou's action,
while conjectures as to her experiences often robbed him of sleep.
Never was a man more completely won and held in love's sweet thraldom.

On regaining her room, Miss Lou hastily threw off her cousin's clothes
and resumed her own apparel. Then she softly and cautiously opened her
door. With the exception of sounds in the lower hall, all was still,
and she slipped out in her stocking-feet, replaced the uniform on the
chairs, stole back and bolted her door. For half an hour she sat
panting on her chair, listening to every sound. Only the groans of the
wounded smote her ears. "Oh, thank God! I do not hear HIS voice among
them," she half sobbed, in pity for those who WERE suffering. "Well, I
can best forget my anxiety about him by doing something for these poor
men. Oh, how strange and true his words are! He touched my heart at
first by just being helpless when he fell by the run, and everything I
do for him seems to make him dearer. It cannot be that I shall never
see him again. Oh, when shall I forget the way he took me in his arms?
It seemed as if he gave me his whole heart then and couldn't help
himself."

There was a near mutter of thunder. In her deep preoccupation, she had
not noticed the coming of another shower. It proved a short but heavy
one, and she exulted. "The rain will obliterate all our tracks."

Calmer thought led to the conclusion that the affair would be very
serious for her if her part in it was discovered. She had acted almost
without thought, without realizing the risks she had incurred, and now
the possible consequences so appalled her that she resolved to be on
her guard in every possible way. "He knew, he understood the risk I
took better than I did then, better than I do now, perhaps," she
breathed softly. "That's so fine in him--that way he has of making me
feel that one's WORTH being cared for." She was far too excited and
anxious to sleep. Wrapping herself up, she watched at her window. Soon
the stars began to twinkle beneath the clouds in the west, showing that
this last shower was a clearing one, and that the radiance of the moon
might soon be undimmed. The fires along the ridge which, as she
believed, still defined the Union position, were burning low. Suddenly
flashes and reports of firearms in that direction startled her.



CHAPTER XXIV

A HOME A HOSPITAL


The sudden night alarm caused by firing on the ridge can be easily
explained. Wearied as were the Confederate general and his men, and
severe as had been the repulse of their first attack, both were
undaunted and, after rest and refreshment, eager to bring the battle to
a more decisive issue, and it was determined to learn long before
morning whether the Federal force was on the ridge or not. During the
last shower a reconnoitring party was sent out stealthily, a few of the
rear-guard captured, from whom it was learned that the Union column had
been on the march for hours.

Mrs. Whately was wakened and helped her disabled son to dress in haste.
Little did Miss Lou know about the term ALIBI, but she had the
shrewdness to show herself and to appear much alarmed. Opening her
door, she gave a glimpse of herself in night attire with her long hair
hanging over her shoulders, and cried, "Oh, oh, are we attacked?"

"If we are you may have sad reason to wish that you had obeyed me this
morning," replied her cousin sternly. "You no more understand your
folly and danger than a child. Now I'm compelled to look after my
prisoners first," and he rushed away.

"Come in my room, Louise," said her aunt. "Whatever happens, it is best
that we should be together." The girl was so agitated, fearing that in
some way her adventures might be discovered, that she had no occasion
to feign alarm. Mrs. Whately sought only to soothe and quiet, also to
extenuate her son's words. "I don't suppose we truly realize yet, as
Madison does, what war means," she concluded.

Mr. Baron soon sent up word that there was no special occasion for
further fears, and that the ladies might sleep, if they could, until
morning.

But there was no more sleep for Mad Whately. As soon as he reached the
spot where the prisoners had been kept he asked sharply, "Where is that
Yankee officer and Perkins?"

The man then on duty answered, "The sergeant I relieved said that you
took 'im away, sir, and that the man named Perkins followed you."

"There's been treachery here," cried Whately in a rage. "Bring that
sergeant here."

The weary man was half dragged in his sleep to the officer and there
thoroughly awakened by a volley of oaths. He stolidly told his story,
concluding, "I cud a sworn it was you, and the overseer followed less'n
three minutes after you left."

"'I left'--curse you--don't say that again. You've been fooled or was
asleep and neglected your duty."

"Well, then, sir," was the dogged reply, "find that overseer who was a
watchin' the Yank like a cat. Ast 'im; ast my men ef I wasn't awake en
ef I didn't s'lute you soon ez you come. There's the overseer's lantern
burnin' yet jis whar he left it."

At this moment Perkins came staggering toward the fire, with both hands
to his head as if trying to hold it together. His clothes were muddy,
his face was ghastly and he stared at Whately as if the officer was
also a part of a horrid dream.

Whately seized him roughly by the arm and said sternly, "Speak, man.
What does all this mean? Where's the Yank?"

"For God's sake, quit," cried Perkins. "I'm nigh dead now. You've got
me in anuff trouble for one night."

"Trouble--you! What's your trouble to mine? I'm responsible for these
prisoners. Now where's that Yank? Quick, or you WILL have trouble."

"I ain't seen 'im since yer took 'im away--YOU. I ain't one of your
understrappers. Ez I wuz follerin' yer some one knocked me down from
behind and nigh onto killed me. I jes gittin' my senses back."

Although so enraged, Whately knew that as a soldier he must curb his
passion, report the facts immediately and see what could be done. His
superior officer was called, all the parties questioned closely, the
garden and Aun' Jinkey's cabin searched, but no new facts discovered.
The old negress was savagely threatened, but she only replied, "I
dunno, I dunno not'n. Wat got inter you ter tink an ole tottery,
skeered ooman lak me gwine out in de dark en knock Marse Perkins on de
haid?"

"Where's your grandson, Chunk?" Whately demanded fiercely.

"He des light out wid de Yankees dis eb'nin'."

The conclusion guessed at was that Scoville had been rescued by his own
men, who were known to be daring scouts. In the darkness and confusion
after the battle, it was thought they had mingled with the
Confederates, learned the situation of their leader and the general
appearance of Whately with his disabled arm. Arrayed in the Southern
uniform, of which scouts always had a supply, and favored by the sleepy
condition of the guard, one of the scouts had played the trick which
Whately rued so bitterly. Others, on the watch, had struck down Perkins
and carried Scoville off in safety. No other theory they could hit upon
explained so well what was known. The tricked sergeant was placed under
arrest, and Whately, who had gone to sleep with such high and mighty
notions of his prowess and friendly league with fate, found himself in
partial disgrace and in the depths of mortification. He kept guard over
his prisoners in person the remainder of the night and again had
opportunity to repent at leisure. He mentally cursed himself as a fool,
for now he remembered his mother's words. If he had shown leniency to
Scoville, and brought him into the house, he might have kept the
prisoner and won the goodwill of his cousin. Now, she would probably
hear the humiliating facts and be less inclined either to fear or favor
him. It was well that no suspicion on his part or that of others had
fallen on her, for she was not one who could face coolly a severe
cross-questioning.

Perkins skulked off to his house, assuaged his aching head with cold
water and his wounded spirit with whiskey. As he tried to think the
matter over a vague suspicion of the truth began to enter his confused
brain. The little slipper with which he had been hit over the eyes in
the morning now became a broad hint. He knew well, however, that it
would be dangerous to make any charges, or even suggestions, unless he
had ample proof.

When all became quiet again Miss Lou, in spite of deep anxieties, was
overcome by extreme weariness and slept until, in a dream, she heard
Scoville moaning and sighing in the extremity of physical pain.
Starting up, she saw it was broad day. She passed her hand confusedly
over her brow and tried to recall what had occurred, to understand the
sounds which had suggested her dream. Then in a flash, the strange
swirl of events in which she was involved presented itself and she knew
she had wakened to other experiences beyond even her imagination. The
groans of wounded men brought pitiful tears to her eyes and steadied
her nerves by banishing the thought of self. Whatever might befall her,
so much worse was the fate of others that already she was passing into
the solemnity of spirit inspired by the presence of mortal pain and
death. She drew the curtains of her window and then shrank back,
shuddering and sobbing, for, scattered over the lawn, men and horses
lay stark and motionless. More pitiful still, here and there a wounded
horse was struggling feebly. The spring morning, dewy, bright,
fragrant, made these evidences of strife tenfold more ghastly. There
could not be a more terrible indictment of war than nature's peaceful
loveliness.

By the time she was dressed she was joined by Mrs. Whately, who looked
serious indeed. Before they could descend to the lower hall, Madison,
haggard and gloomy of aspect, intercepted them. Looking at his cousin's
red eyes and pale face, he asked abruptly, "What's the matter?"

"Do you think I am accustomed to these sights and sounds?" she answered.

"Oh," he said, in a tone which seemed to her heartless, "it's an old
story to me. Mother, I must speak alone with you a moment."

She turned back with him to her room, meantime saying, "Louise, I do
not think you had better go down without me."

The girl tremblingly returned to her apartment, fearing that now she
might be forced to confront her own actions. But she was conscious of a
sort of passive courage. Mad Whately's anger, or that of others, was a
little thing compared to the truth that men were dead and dying all
about her.

"Mother," said her son, "I had cursed luck last night. I wish I had
slept on the rain-soaked ground near my prisoners," and he told her
what had happened.

"Oh, Madison!" sighed Mrs. Whately, "I wish this experience would teach
you to be more guided by me. Louise cared nothing for this Yankee,
except in a sort of grateful, friendly way. Through him, you could have
done so much to disarm--"

"Oh, well, mother, the milk is spilled. If possible, let the whole
affair be kept from her knowledge."

"Yes, I suppose that will be the best way. If she hears about it, we
must try to explain by the usages of war. Now, Madison, you are cool.
Let experience be your teacher, for you MUST face the truth. You must
either give her up--"

"I'll never give her up."

"Then, as Major Brockton said, you must win her like a Southern
gentleman. Her spirit is as high as yours. You can't continue to speak
to her as you did last night and this morning. Try to realize the
facts. In the seclusion of her bringing up, Louise has learned nothing
of the conventionalities of society which might incline her toward a
good match on general principles. So far from this, the many
old-fashioned romances she has read have made her feel that she must
and WILL have her romance. If you can make Louise feel that you love
her so well as to become her gallant suitor, circumstances may soon
give you great advantages. She may be cold and indifferent for a time,
but like all passionate high-strung natures, present impulses against
may turn just as strongly for you. At least, you have not to contend
with that most fatal of all attitudes--indifference. A great change in
you will be a flattering tribute to her power to which no girl would be
indifferent. I must tell you now once for all that I will not again
assist in any high-handed measures against Louise. Not only the
futility of such action, but my own dignity and sense of right, forbid
it. I did not understand her at first. Now that I do, I am all the more
eager to call her daughter; but I wish her to feel toward me as she
should in such a relation. Yesterday, when I apologized and told her
that I meant to treat her with kindness and fairness, she kissed me
like the warm-hearted girl she is. I will help you win her as a man
should win his wife; I will not be dragged into any more false
positions which can end only in humiliation. I will be your tireless
ally in the only way you can succeed, but in no other."

"Very well, mother, I agree," said Whately, whose nature it was to
react from one extreme to another.

"Ah, now I have hope. How is your arm?"

"It pains horribly."

Mrs. Whately went to Miss Lou's room and said, "Forgive me for keeping
you waiting. Madison is almost beside himself with pain in his arm, and
I will be detained a little longer."

In her immense relief that she was not charged with all she dreaded,
Miss Lou had leisure from her fears to feel commiseration for her
cousin. When at last he appeared she said kindly, "I am sorry you are
suffering so much."

"If I thought you really cared I wouldn't mind the pain," he replied.
"Cousin Lou, I owe an apology, several, I reckon, but I've been so
distracted between conflicting feelings, duties and pain, that I
scarcely know what I say."

"You little know me if you think I'm weighing WORDS at this time," she
replied. "Come, let us forget the past, shake hands and remember that
we are simply cousins."

He took her hand instantly, but said, "You ask what is impossible.
Suppose you had said, 'Just remember your arm is well from this
moment,' would it be well? I cannot help my feelings toward you and
don't wish to."

"Very well, then," she sighed, "I cannot help mine either. I don't wish
to talk on that subject any more."

"Then I must plead by actions. Well, I must go now."

Mrs. Whately was much pleased, for her son was adopting just the course
she desired. She added nothing and accompanied Louise downstairs.

The amputating table had been removed and the halls cleansed, but the
unmistakable odor of the hospital pervaded the house. Every apartment
on the first floor except the dining-room was filled with the wounded.
Some were flushed and feverish by reason of their injuries, others,
pallid from loss of blood and ebbing vital forces.

The Confederate general, with his staff, had already made a hasty
breakfast and departed; through the open door came the mellow sound of
bugles and the songs of birds, but within were irrepressible sighs and
groans. Mrs. Whately entered the spacious parlor on the floor of which
Confederate officers lay as close as space for attendance upon them
permitted. The young girl paused on the threshold and looked around
with a pitying, tearful face. A white-haired colonel was almost at her
feet. As he looked up and recognized her expression, a pleased smile
illumined his wan, drawn face. "Don't be frightened, my child," he said
gently.

The swift glance of her secured attention took in his condition. His
right arm was gone and he appeared ghastly from loss of blood. In her
deep emotion she dropped on her knees beside him, took his cold hand
and kissed it as she said, "Please let me help you and others get well."

The old man was strongly touched by her unexpected action, and he
faltered, "Well, my child, you make us all feel that our Southern girls
are worth fighting for and, if need be, dying for. Yes, you can help
us, some of us, in our dying perhaps, as well as in our mending. My
battles are over. You can help best by caring for younger, stronger
men."

"Such men will not begrudge you anything, sir."

"Bravo!" cried half a dozen voices, and an officer near added, "Miss
Baron speaks as well and true as you fought, Colonel."

She looked hastily around. Seeing many friendly smiles and looks of
honest goodwill and admiration she rose confusedly, saying, "I must go
to work at once."

"I think, Louise," said Mrs. Whately, joining her in the hall, "we can
accomplish most if we work much together and under the directions of
the surgeons. It is evident from the numbers of the wounded that time,
strength, food--everything will have to be used to the best advantage.
I'm glad that we both got some sleep last night. Now, I insist. Before
you do a thing you must have a cup of hot coffee and some nourishing
food yourself. The best impulses in the world are not equal to the
tasks before us. Indeed, we shall fail these poor men in their sore
need if we do not keep our strength. The worst is yet to come. As far
as you can, control your feelings, for emotion wears faster than work.
Let's first go to the kitchen."

Zany followed from the dining-room with her hands full of dishes. She
gave Miss Lou a swift, significant glance, and that was all. Even she
was sobered by the scenes witnessed that morning and the thought of
Chunk's indefinite absence. Aun' Suke sat dozing in a corner,
absolutely worn out, and other negroes from the quarters had been
pressed into the service. Mrs. Baron was superintending their efforts
to supply soup and such articles of diet as the surgeons had ordered.
"Ole miss" now shone to advantage and had the executive ability of a
general. In cool, sharp, decisive tones she gave her orders, which were
obeyed promptly by assistants awed into forgetfulness of everything
else except the great, solemn emergency. All differences had
disappeared between the two ladies, and they began consulting at once
how best to meet the prolonged demands now clearly foreseen.

"The confusion and conflicting requirements are just awful," said Mrs.
Baron. "As soon as possible, we must bring about some system and order.
One of the first things to do is to get as many provisions and
delicacies as possible under lock and key, especially the coffee and
sugar. They are going to give out anyway, before long."

Miss Lou stole away and ran to Aun' Jinkey's cabin. Soldiers had taken
possession of it and were cooking and eating their breakfasts. Some
recognized the girl politely as she stood at the door, while others
continued their occupation in stolid indifference. Aun' Jinkey rose
tottering from a corner and came to the doorstep. "You see how 'tis,
honey," she said. "Dey des gwine on ez ef I ain' yere. I a hun'erd
yeahs ol'er dan I wuz w'en you want sump'n ter hap'n."

"Take courage, mammy," Miss Lou whispered. "Chunk's safe. Have YOU had
any breakfast?"

"I can't eat, honey, w'en ev'yting des a whirlin'."

The girl darted away and in a few moments returned with a cup of
coffee. Entering the cabin, she said, "Fair play, gentlemen. This is my
old mammy's cabin and this her place here in the corner by the hearth.
Will you do me the favor of being kind to her and letting her remain
undisturbed? Then you can use her fireplace all you please."

The Southern soldiers, understanding so well the relation between the
girl and the old woman, agreed with many good-natured protestations,
offering to share with Aun' Jinkey their rude breakfast.

By the time the girl had returned to the house, she found that Zany and
others had prepared a second breakfast in the dining-room for the
family and such of the officers whose wounds were so slight as to
permit their presence at the table. Miss Lou was placed between her
cousin and a young, dark-eyed officer who was introduced as Captain
Maynard. He also carried his left arm in a sling.

Mrs. Whately sat in Mr. Baron's place, since he, after a night's
vigils, had retired to obtain a little sleep. "Louise," said the lady,
"you will have to begin being useful at once. You have a disabled man
on either side of you for whom you must prepare food."

"Miss Baron," said Captain Maynard gallantly, "I am already more than
reconciled to my wound. Anything that you prepare for me will be
ambrosia."

Whately frowned as he heard these words and saw the immediate
impression made by his cousin upon his brother officer; but a warning
glance from his mother led him to vie in compliments. Before very long
Maynard remarked sotto voce, "If you aid in healing the wounds made by
the Yanks, Miss Baron, who will heal the wounds YOU make?"

"I shall not make any, sir. Such thoughts, even in jest, wound me at
this time. Please excuse me, I've had all the breakfast I wish, and I
cannot rest till I am doing something for those who are suffering so
much."

He rose instantly and drew back her chair. In sitting down again, he
encountered Whately's eyes, and recognized the jealousy and anger
already excited.



CHAPTER XXV

A TRIBUTE TO A SOUTHERN GIRL


Miss Lou entered upon her duties as hospital nurse at once.
Untrammelled even by the knowledge of conventionalities, and with the
directness and fearlessness of a brave child, she went from one to
another, her diffidence quickly banished by her profound sympathy. The
enlisted men on the piazzas received her chief attentions, nor was she
long in discovering the Federal wounded, crowding the outbuildings and
offices.

With the exception of a rearguard and hospital attendants, the
Confederate forces had marched in pursuit of the Union column. The dead
were buried during the morning and the ghastlier evidences of strife
removed. Along the edge of the grove tents were pitched, some designed
for the soldiers, others for the better accommodation and isolation of
certain critical cases. The negroes performed most of the labor, Uncle
Lusthah counselling patience and quiet acceptance of their lot for the
present. The prisoners were sent South. Confederate surgeon Ackley was
in charge of the hospital, while upon Whately was conferred the
military command. His partial disablement would not prevent him from
attending to the light duties of the position, the surgeon being
practically the superior officer. Order was quickly restored, guards
set at important points, and the strangely assorted little community
passed speedily under a simple yet rigorous military government.
Curiosity, desire of gain, as well as sympathy, led people to flock to
the plantation from far and near. One of Surgeon Ackley's first steps
was to impress upon all the need of provisions, for Mr. Baron's larder,
ample as it had been, was speedily exhausted. During the day began the
transfer of the slightly wounded to the nearest railroad town, where
supplies could be obtained with more certainty, and it was evident that
the policy of abandoning the remote plantation as soon as possible had
been adopted.

Miss Lou knew nothing of this, and simply became absorbed in successive
tasks for the time being.

"Miss Baron," said Surgeon Ackley, "a number of the men are so disabled
that they cannot feed themselves. Proper food at the right time usually
means life."

These words suggested what became one of her principal duties. At
first, rough men were surprised and grateful indeed to find fair young
girl kneeling beside them with a bowl of hot soup; then they began to
look for her and welcome her as one who evoked their best and most
chivalrous feelings. It had soon been evident to her that the wounded
officers in the house would receive the most careful attention from the
regularly appointed attendants and also from Mrs. Whately. With the
exception of the old colonel, she gradually began to devote the most of
her time to the enlisted men, finding among them much less
embarrassment in her labors. With the latter class among the
Confederates, there was not on either side a consciousness of social
equality or an effort to maintain its amenities. The relation was the
simple one of kindness bestowed and received.

The girl made the acquaintance of the Union wounded with feelings in
which doubt, curiosity and sympathy were strangely blended. Her regard
for Scoville added to her peculiar interest in his compatriots. They
were the enemies of whom she had heard so much, having been represented
as more alien and foreign than if they had come across the seas and
spoke a different tongue. How they would receive her had been an
anxious query from the first, but she quickly learned that her touch of
kindness made them kin--that they welcomed her in the same spirit as
did her own people, while they also were animated by like curiosity and
wondering interest in regard to herself. A woman's presence in a field
hospital was in itself strange and unexpected. That this woman should
be a Southern girl, whose lovely features were gentle in commiseration,
instead of rigid from an imperious sense of duty to foes, was a truth
scarcely accepted at first. Its fuller comprehension began to evoke a
homage which troubled the girl. She was too simple and honest to accept
such return for what seemed the natural offices of humanity; yet, while
her manner and words checked its expression, they only deepened the
feeling.

At first she could scarcely distinguish among the bronzed, begrimed
faces, but before the day passed there were those whose needs and
personal traits enlisted her special regard. This was true of one
middle-aged Union captain, to whom at first she had no call to speak,
for apparently he was not very seriously wounded. Even before his face
was cleansed from the smoke and dust of battle his large, dark eyes and
magnificent black beard caught her attention. Later on, when feeding a
helpless man near him, he spoke to her and held out a photograph. She
took it and saw the features of a blond young girl scarcely as old as
herself.

"My little girl," said the officer simply. "See how she resembles her
mother. That's one reason why I so idolize her," and he handed Miss Lou
another picture, that of a sweet, motherly face, to which the former
likeness bore the resemblance of bud to blossom.

"We must try to get you well soon, so that you may go back to them,"
said Miss Lou cordially. "You are not seriously hurt, I hope?"

"No, I think not. I wanted you to see them so you can imagine how they
will look when I tell them about you. I don't need to be reminded of my
little Sadie, but I almost see her when you come among us, and I think
her blue eyes would have much the same expression as yours. God bless
you, for you are blessing those whom you regard as your enemies. We
don't look very hostile though, do we?"

"It seems a terrible mistake that you should be here at all as
enemies," she replied. "I have been taught to dread your coming more
than if you were Indians. I never can understand why men who carry such
pictures as these next their heart can fight against us."

"Well, Miss Baron, you must try to believe that we would not have left
the dear originals of such pictures unless we had felt we must, and
there let the question rest. Our lives are sweet to us, although we
risk them, chiefly because so dear to those at home. Let the thought
cheer you in your work that you are keeping tears from eyes as good and
kind as your own. That's another reason why I showed you the
likenesses."

"It will be but another motive," she said. "A suffering man, whether
friend or enemy, is enough."

She smiled as she spoke, then picked her way across the wide barn floor
and disappeared. Every eye followed her, pain all forgotten for the
moment.

"By G--d!" exclaimed a rough fellow, drawing his sleeve across his
eyes, "I'm hard hit, but I'll crawl to and choke the first man who says
a word she oughtn't to hear when she's around."

"If you can keep your own tongue civil, Yarry, you'll have your hands
full," said a comrade.

"Well, I be blankety blank-blanked if that girl doesn't rout the devil
out of a fellow, hoof and horns."

"You're right, my man," said the Union captain, "and your feelings do
you credit. Now I have a suggestion to make. Not one of us is capable
of using a word before her that she shouldn't hear, if not out of our
heads. We can pay her a better tribute than that. Let us decide to
speak in her absence as if she were present. That's about all we can do
in return for her kindness. She won't know the cost to us in breaking
habits, but we will, and that's better. We all feel that we'd like to
spill some more of our blood for the girl who fed Phillips yonder as if
he were a baby. Well, let us do the only thing we can--speak as if our
mothers heard us all the time, for this girl's sake."

"I be blanked if I don't agree, and may the devil fly away with the man
who doesn't," cried Yarry.

"Ah, Yarry," said the captain, laughing, "you'll have the hardest row
of any of us to hoe. We'll have to let you off for some slips."

Then began among the majority a harder fight than that for life--a
fight with inveterate habit, an effort to change vernacular, almost as
difficult as the learning of a new language. For some time Miss Lou did
not know nor understand. Word had been passed to other and smaller
groups of the Union wounded in other buildings. The pledge was soon
known as "A Northern Tribute to a Southern Girl." It was entered into
with enthusiasm and kept with a pathetic effort which many will not
understand. Yarry positively began to fail under the restraint he
imposed upon himself. His wound caused him agony, and profanity would
have been his natural expression of even slight annoyance. All day long
grisly oaths rose to his lips. Now and then an excruciating twinge
would cause a half-uttered expletive to burst forth like a projectile.
A deep groan would follow, as the man became rigid in his struggle for
self-control.

"Yarry," cried Captain Hanfield, who had suggested the pledge, "let
yourself go, for God's sake. You have shown more heroism to-day than I
in all my life. We will make you an exception and put you on parole to
hold in only while Miss Baron is here."

"I be--oh, blank it! This is going to be the death of me, boys. The
Rebs gave me hell with this wound. But for God's sake don't let her
know. Just let her think I'm civil like the rest of you. Wouldn't she
open them blue eyes if she knew a man was dyin', just holdin' in
cussin' on her account. Ha, ha, ha! She'd think I was a sort of a
Yankee devil, worse than the Injins she expected. Don't let her know.
I'll be quiet enough before long. Then like enough she'd look at me and
say, 'Poor fellow! he won't make any more trouble.'"

Whately had a busy day and felt that he had a reputation to regain. He
therefore bravely endured much physical pain in his arm and gave very
close attention to duty. Captain Maynard, on the contrary, had nothing
to do, and his wound was only severe enough to make him restless. The
young girl whom he had met at breakfast at once became by far the most
interesting subject for thought and object of observation. He was a
young fellow of the ordinary romantic type, hasty, susceptible, as
ready to fight as to eat, and possessed of the idea that the way to win
a girl was to appear her smitten, abject slave. The passing hours were
ages to him in contrast to his previous activity, and as he watched
Miss Lou going about on her errands of mercy he quickly passed from one
stage to another of admiration and idealization. Remembering the look
that Whately had given him in the morning, he maintained a distant
attitude at first, thinking his brother officer had claims which he
must respect. As he wandered uneasily around, however, he discovered
virtually how matters stood, and learned of the attempt which Whately
had made to marry his cousin, nolens volens. This fact piqued his
interest deeply and satisfied him that the way was clear for a suit on
his part were he so inclined. Fair rivalry would give only additional
zest, and he promptly yielded to his inclination to become at least
much better acquainted with the girl. At dinner he and Whately vied in
their gallantries, but she was too sad and weary to pay much attention
to either of them.

Mrs. Whately compelled her to lie down for a time during the heat of
the afternoon, but thoughts of the suffering all about her banished
power to rest. She went down and found the old colonel lying with
closed eyes, feebly trying to keep away the pestering flies.
Remembering the bunch of peacock feathers with which Zany, in old
monotonous days, had waved when waiting on the table, she obtained it
from the dining-room, and sitting down noiselessly by the officer, gave
him a respite from his tormentors. In his drowsiness he did not open
his eyes, but passed into quiet sleep. The girl maintained her watch,
putting her finger to her lips and making signals for silence to all
who came near. Other Confederate officers observed her wistfully; Mad
Whately, coming in, looked at her frowningly. His desire and purpose
toward his cousin had been that of entire self-appropriation and now
she was becoming the cynosure of many eyes. Among them he saw those of
Captain Maynard, who was already an object of hate. Little recked the
enamored captain of this fact. To his ardent fancy the girl was rapidly
becoming ideal in goodness and beauty. With the ready egotism of the
young he was inclined to believe that fate had brought about the events
which had revealed to him the woman he should marry. A bombshell
bursting among them all would not have created a greater sensation than
the knowledge that the girl's thoughts were following a Yankee, one
whom she herself, by daring stratagem, had released from captivity.

A twinge of pain awakened the colonel and he looked up, dazed and
uncomprehending. Miss Lou bent over him and said gently, "Go to sleep
again. It's all right."

"Oh, I remember now. You are Miss Baron."

"Yes, but don't try to talk; just sleep now that you can."

He smiled and yielded.

A few moments later Maynard came forward and said, "Miss Baron, your
arm must be tired. Let me take your place."

Now she rewarded him by a smile. "I will be glad if you can," she
replied softly, "not that I am very tired, but there are so many
others."

As she moved away, she saw Surgeon Ackley beckoning to her. "Miss
Baron," he said, "I am going to put one of my patients especially in
your and your aunt's charge. Young as he is, he is a hero and an
unusual character. I have had him moved to a tent, for he is in a very
critical condition. Indeed, his chances for life are few and he knows
it. I am acquainted with his family--one of the best in the South."

He led the way to a small tent beneath the shade of a wide-branched
oak. A stretcher had been extemporized into a camp bed and on it lay a
youth not older apparently than the girl herself. His face had the
blood-drained look which many will remember, yet was still fine in its
strong, boyish lines. The down on his upper lip was scarcely more
deeply defined than his straight eyebrows. A negro attendant sat near
fanning him, and Miss Lou first thought that he was asleep. As she
approached with the surgeon he opened his eyes with the dazed
expression so common when the brain is enfeebled from loss of blood. At
first they seemed almost opaque and dead in their blackness, but, as if
a light were approaching from within, they grew bright and laughing.
His smile showed his white, even teeth slightly, and her look of deep
commiseration passed into one of wonder as she saw his face growing
positively radiant with what seemed to her a strange kind of happiness,
as he glanced back and forth from her to the surgeon. Feebly he raised
his finger to his lips as if to say, "I can't speak."

"That's right, Waldo; don't try to talk yet. This is Miss Baron. She
will be one of your nurses and will feed you with the best of soup.
We'll bring you round yet."

He shook his head and smiled more genially, then tried to extend his
hand to the girl, looking his welcome and acceptance of her ministry.
So joyous was his expression that she could not help smiling in return,
but it was the questioning, doubtful smile of one who did not
understand.

"When she comes," resumed Ackley, "take what she gives you, but don't
talk until I give permission. That will do now. You must take
everything except quiet in small quantities at first."

His lips formed the words "All right," and smilingly he watched them
depart.

"I suppose he is not exactly in his right mind," said Miss Lou as she
and the surgeon returned to the house.

"Many would think so, I reckon," replied Ackley laconically. "He
believes in a heaven and that he's going there. That's the only queer
thing I ever discovered in Waldo. He's worth a lot of trouble, Miss
Baron."

"It would be right strange if I did not do my best for him, sir."

"I thought you'd feel so. I want very strong beef soup made for a few
such special cases, who can take but little at a time. I would like him
to have a few teaspoonfuls every two hours. I am going to trust to you
and Mrs. Whately chiefly to look after him in this respect. We can do
little more than help nature in his case."

Poor Aun' Suke was getting weary again, but she had a heart which Miss
Lou speedily touched in behalf of her patient, and a special saucepan
was soon bubbling over the fire.

The soup for the evening meal being ready, she began again her task of
feeding the helpless soldiers, visiting, among others, Phillips, who
lay in a half-stupor on the great barn-floor. As she stepped in among
the Federal wounded, she was again impressed by the prevailing quiet
and by the friendly glances turned toward her on every side. The Union
surgeon in charge lifted his hat politely, while such of the men as
were able took off theirs and remained uncovered. The homage, although
quiet, was so marked that she was again embarrassed, and with downcast
eyes went direct to Phillips, gently roused him and gave him his
supper. While she was doing this the men around her were either silent
or spoke in low tones. The thought grew in her mind, "How these
Northern soldiers have been misrepresented to me! Even when I am
approaching and before they are aware I am near, I hear no rough talk
as I do among our men. The world is so different from uncle's idea of
it! Whether these men are right or wrong, I will never listen patiently
again when they are spoken of as the scum of the earth."

As she rose and saw the respectful attitude toward her, faltered,
"I--I--wish to thank you for your--your kindness to me."

At these words there was a general smile even on the wannest and most
pain-pinched face, for they struck the men as very droll.

"We were under the impression that the kindness was chiefly on your
side," said Captain Hanfield. "Still we are glad you find us a civil
lot of Indians."

"Please remember," she answered earnestly, "that was not my thought,
but one impressed upon me by those who did not know. Only within a very
short time have I ever seen Northern people or soldiers, and they treat
me with nothing but courtesy."

"Perhaps you are to blame for that," said the captain pleasantly.

"I can't help feeling glad that our good opinion is becoming mutual,"
she replied, smiling. "Won't you please put on your hats and let me
come and go as a matter of course? I don't like to be sort of received
every time I come. I just want to help those I can help, to get well."

"You have only to express your wishes, Miss Baron," was the hearty
reply.

"Thank you. Is there anything more that I can do for you? Is there any
one who specially needs--"

As she was glancing round her eyes fell upon Yarry. His face was so
drawn and haggard with pain that, from an impulse of pity, she went
directly to him and said gently, "I fear, sir, you are suffering very
much."

"I be--oh, hang--there, there, miss, I'll stand it a little longer. I
could stand hell-fire for your sake. I didn't mean to say that. Guess I
better keep still."

His face, now seen attentively, revealed more to her in tuition than
his words. She stooped by his side and said piteously, "Oh, you are
suffering--I FEEL that you are suffering terribly. I must do something
to relieve you."

"Oh, now, miss," he replied, forcing a ghastly sort of smile, "I'm all
right, I be--well, I am. Bless your kind heart! Don't worry about me.
I'll smoke my pipe and go to sleep pretty soon. You look tired
yourself, little one. I will feel better if you won't worry about me, I
be--well, I will. I'm just like the other fellows, you know."

"I reckon you are a brave, good-hearted man, to think of others when I
KNOW you are suffering so much. I am having very strong soup made for
one of our men, and I'll bring you some by and by," and with a
lingering, troubled look into his rugged face, she departed.

His eyes followed her until she disappeared.

"Yarry, you are rewarded," Captain Hanfield remarked.

"--my reward. Fellers, she's just wearin' herself out for us. I don't
want no reward for anything I can do for her. Well, I'm goin' to shut
up now. The only thing I can do for her is to hold my tongue till it
can't wag. I told her I'd smoke my pipe and go to sleep. I be--well, I
will. Light it for me, Tom. When she comes, like enough I'll be asleep,
a sort of DEAD sleep, yer know. Just let her think I'm dozin' after my
pipe. Don't let her try to wake me and worry about me."

"All shall be as you wish, Yarry," said Captain Hanfield. "I tell you,
men, few women ever received such a tribute as Yarry is paying this
Southern girl. For one, I'm proud of him."



CHAPTER XXVI

A BACKGROUND OF EGOTISM


When Miss Lou returned to the house supper was ready and she sat down
weary, saddened and preoccupied by the scenes she had witnessed.

"You are going beyond your strength," said Captain Maynard, who had
watched her coming back from the Federal wounded. "Cannot you be
content to confine your ministrations to your friends only?"

"For once I can agree with Captain Maynard," Whately added stiffly. "I
don't think it's right for you, cousin, to be going among those rough,
brutal fellows."

Instantly her anger flamed at the injustice of the remark and she
answered hotly, "I've found no rough, brutal fellows among the Yankees."

All smiled at her words, and Ackley remarked to one of the Union
surgeons, "Dr. Borden, I thought our men could hold their own pretty
well with the Army in Flanders, but you Yanks, I reckon, surpass all
military organizations, past or present. There was one man especially
who fairly made the night lurid and left a sulphurous odor after him
when he was brought in. It would be rather rough on us all if we were
where he consigned us with a vim that was startling. I certainly hope
that Miss Baron is not compelled to hear any such language."

"I appeal to Miss Baron herself," said Dr. Borden, "if she has been
offended in this respect to-day?"

"No, indeed, I have not," replied the girl indignantly. "I never was
treated with more courtesy. I have not heard a rough word from the
Yankees even when they did not know I was near, and that is more than I
can say of our own men. Fight the Yankees all you please, but don't do
them injustice."

In spite of the girl's flushed, incensed face, there was an explosion
of laughter. "Pardon me, Miss Baron," said Ackley, "but you can't know
how droll your idea of injustice to the Yankees seems to us. That you
have such an idea, however, is a credit to you and to them also, for
they must have been behaving themselves prodigiously."

"Yes, Dr. Ackley," replied Borden emphatically, "Miss Baron's
impressions ARE a credit to her and to my patients. They promptly
recognized her motives and character, and for her sake they pledged
themselves that while here, where she is one of the nurses, they would
not use language at any time which they would not have their mothers
hear. That very man you speak of, who swore so last night, believes
himself dying from his effort at self-restraint. This is not true, for
he would have died anyhow, but his death is hastened by his effort. He
has been in agony all day. Opiates make him worse, so there is no use
of giving them. But I can tell you, no man in your Confederacy ever did
a braver thing than he is doing this minute to show his respect for
this young lady who has shown kindness to his comrades. I can assure
you, Lieutenant Whately, that you need have no fears about your cousin
when visiting my patients."

"What's the name of the soldier of whom you speak?" Miss Lou asked
eagerly.

"He is called Yarry. I don't know any other name yet--been so busy
dressing wounds."

"Thank you," faltered the girl, rising, her face showing signs of
strong emotion.

"Oh, Louise! finish your supper," expostulated Mrs. Whately. "You must
not let these scenes take so strong a hold"--but she was out of
hearing. "I fear it's all going to be too much for her," sighed the
lady in conclusion.

Mr. Baron and his wife exchanged grim glances from the head and foot of
the table, as much as to say, "She has shaken off our control and we
are not responsible," but Ackley remarked, "I agree with you, Dr.
Borden, that it's fine to see a girl show such a spirit, and I
congratulate you that your men are capable of appreciating it. By the
way, Mrs. Whately, I have put her, with you, in charge of young Waldo
and truly hope that among us we can bring him through."

"Mrs. Whately," said Captain Maynard, "I reckon more than one of us
begin to regret already that we were not so desperately wounded as to
need your attention and that of Miss Baron. We must remember, however,
that she is not accustomed to these scenes, and I think we must try to
make her forget them at the table. I suppose in the kindness of her
heart she is now crying in her room over that Yankee." Whately shot a
savage glance at the speaker which plainly implied, "It's none of your
business where she is." Suddenly rising, he departed also, his mother's
eyes following him anxiously.

Miss Lou was not crying in her room. As the level rays of the sun shone
into the wide old barn, making the straw in a mow doubly golden, and
transforming even the dusty cobwebs into fairy lacework, she crossed
the threshold and paused for the first time in her impulsive haste to
find and thank the dying man of whom she had been told. All eyes turned
wonderingly toward her as she stood for a moment in the sunshine, as
unconscious of herself, of the marvellous touch of beauty bestowed by
the light and her expression, as if she had flown from the skies.

"Is there a soldier here named Yarry?" she began, then uttered a little
inarticulate cry as she saw Captain Hanfield kneeling beside a man to
whom all eyes directed her. "Oh, it's he," she sobbed, kneeling beside
him also. "As soon as I heard I felt it was he who told me not to worry
about him. Is--is he really dying?"

"Yes, I hope so, Miss Baron," replied the captain gravely. "He couldn't
live and it's time he had rest."

The girl bent over the man, her hot tears falling on his face. He
opened his eyes and looked vacantly at her for a moment or two, then
smiled in recognition. It was the most pathetic smile she had ever
imagined. "Don't worry," he whispered, "I'm just dozin' off."

"Oh, my poor, brave hero!" she said brokenly, "I know, I know it all.
God reward you, I can't."

"Don't want no reward. I be--say, miss, don't wear--yourself--out fer
us."

She took his cold hand and bowed her forehead upon it, sobbing aloud in
the overpowering sense of his self-forgetfulness. "O God!" she cried,
"do for this brave, unselfish man what I cannot. When, WHEN can I
forget such a thing as this! Oh, live, please live; we will take such
good care of you."

"There, there, little one, don't--take on--so about--me. Ain't wuth it.
I be--Say, I feel better--easier. Glad--you spoke--good word to
God--for me. I be--I mean, I think--He'll hear--sech as you. I'm--off
now. Don't--wear--yourself--"

Even in her inexperience she saw that he was dying, and when his
gasping utterance ceased she had so supported his head that it fell
back on her bosom. For a few moments she just cried helplessly, blinded
with tears. Then she felt the burden of his head removed and herself
lifted gently.

"I suspected something like this when you left the table, Miss Baron,"
said Dr. Borden.

"Oh, oh, oh, I feel as if he had died for me," she sobbed.

"He would a died for you, miss," said Tom, drawing his sleeve across
his eyes, "so would we all."

"Miss Baron," resumed the doctor gravely, "remember poor Yarry's last
words, 'Don't wear yourself--he couldn't finish the sentence, but you
know what he meant. You must grant the request of one who tried to do
what he could for you. As a physician also I must warn you to rest
until morning. You can do more for these men and others by first doing
as Yarry wished," and he led her away.

They had not gone far before they met Uncle Lusthah. The girl stopped
and said, "Doctor, won't you let Uncle Lusthah bury him to-morrow down
by the run? I'll show him the place."

"Yes, Miss Baron, we all will do anything you wish if you only rest
to-night. I tell you frankly you endanger yourself and your chance to
do anything more for the wounded by continuing the strain which these
scenes put upon you."

"I reckon you're right," she said, "I feel as if I could hardly stand."

"I know. Take my arm and go at once to your room."

On the way they encountered Whately. "Cousin! where on earth have you
been? You look ready to faint."

His presence and all that he implied began to steady her nerves at
once, but she made no reply.

"She has witnessed a painful scene, Lieutenant," began the surgeon.

"You have no business to permit her to witness such scenes," Whately
interrupted sternly. "You should see that she's little more than an
inexperienced child and--"

"Hush, sir," said Miss Lou. "Who has given you the right to dictate to
me or to this gentleman? I'm in no mood for any more such words,
cousin. To-day, at least, no one has taken advantage of my
inexperience. Good-evening," and she passed on, leaving him chafing in
impatient anger and protest.

At the house Mrs. Whately began expostulations also, but the girl said,
"Please don't talk to me now. By and by I will tell you what will touch
all the woman in your heart."

"I earnestly suggest," added Dr. Borden, "that you take Miss Baron to
her room, and that nothing more be said to disturb her. She is
overwrought and has reached the limit of endurance."

The lady had the tact to acquiesce at once. After reaching her room
Miss Lou exclaimed, "But I have not been to young Waldo."

"I have," replied her aunt, "and will see him again more than once
before I retire. Louise, if you would not become a burden yourself at
this time you must do as the doctor says."

Within an hour the girl was sleeping and her nature regaining the
strength and elasticity of youth.

As Whately stood fuming where his cousin had left him, Perkins
approached for the first time since they had parted in anger the night
before.

"I reck'n Miss Baron's gone over ter the inemy," remarked the overseer.

"What do you mean?"

"Look yere, Leftenant, what's the use o' you bein' so gunpowdery with
me? What's the use, I say? I mout be of some use ter you ef you wuz
civil."

"Of what use were you last night? You allowed my prisoner to be carried
off right under your nose."

"Who carried 'im off? Answer that."

"Why, some gawk of a Yank that you were too stupid to tell from me."

"P'raps hit was, p'raps hit wasn't."

"Who else could it be?"

"I s'picion who it was, but I'm not goin' ter talk to one who's got
nothin' better to give me 'n uggly words."

"You don't mean to say--"

"I don't mean to say nothin' till I know who I'm talkin' ter."

Whately gave a long, low whistle and then muttered "Impossible!"

"Oh, sut'ny," remarked Perkins ironically.

The two men gave each other a long searching look; then Perkins
resumed, "That's right, Leftenant, take yer bearin's. I don't see ez
you kin do me any special good, ner harm nuther. Ef yer want no news or
help from me, we kin sheer off right yere en now."

"I say your suspicion is absurd," resumed Whately, as if arguing with
himself. "When the alarm, caused by firing, came last night, it
happened she was in her room and was badly frightened."

"What time did the alarm happen?"

"About two o'clock."

"Wal, about midnight a figger that favored you 'mazingly, yes, ter yer
very walk, came up boldly en sez ter me, nodding at the Yank, 'Leave
'im ter me.' The figger wasn't jes' dressed like you in 'Federate
uniform, but I kin a'most swear the figger had on them clo's and that
hat you're a wearin' now; arm in sling, too. What's mo', when I thought
hit over I was cock sure the figger wuz shorter'n you air. I don't
believe there's a Yank livin' that could a fooled me last night, 'less
he had yer clo's on en yer walk."

"My uniform and hat hung on the chairs beside me, just where they had
been put when I went to sleep."

"Jes' tell me ef the do' o' yer room wuz locked."

"I wasn't in a room. I slept at the end of the hall."

"Then enybody could git 'em en put 'em back while you wuz asleep."

"She couldn't knock you senseless. You're talking wild."

"I've schemed that out. Thar's tracks in the gyardin not so blinded but
they kin give a hint ter a blind hoss. Thar's a track nigh whar I fell
mighty like what that infernal nigger Chunk ud make. Beyond, ez ef some
uns had hidden in the bushes, right in the gyarden bed, air two little
woman-like tracks en two men tracks."

Whately ground his teeth and muttered an oath.

"I don't s'pose I kin prove anything 'clusive," resumed Perkins, "en I
don't s'pose it ud be best ef I could. Ef she was up ter such deviltry,
of co'se you don't want hit gen'ly known. Bigger ossifers 'n you ud
have ter notice it. Ef I was in yu shoes howsomever, in huntin' shy
game, I could use sech a clar s'picion agin her en be mo' on my gyard
inter the bargain."

"I can use it and will," said Whately, sternly. "Perkins, keep your
eyes wide open in my behalf. If that Yankee or Chunk ever come within
our reach again--the nigger stole my horse and brought the Yank here
too in time to prevent the wedding, I believe."

"Reck'n he did, Leftenant."

"Well, he and his master may be within our reach again. We had better
not be seen much together. I will reward you well for any real
service," and he strode away in strong perturbation.

"Hang your reward," muttered Perkins. "You think you're goin' ter use
me when the boot's on t'other foot. You shall pay me fer doin' my work.
I couldn't wish the gal nuthin' worse than ter marry you. That ud
satisfy my grudge agin her, but ef I get my claws on that nigger en
dom'neerin' Yank of a master"--his teeth came together after the grim
fashion of a bulldog, by way of completing his soliloquy.

The spring evening deepened from twilight into dusk, the moon rose and
shone with mild radiance over the scene that had abounded in gloom,
tragedy and adventure the night before. The conflict which then had
taken place now caused the pathetic life-and-death struggles occurring
in and about the old mansion. In the onset of battle muscle and the
impulse to destroy dominated; now the heart, with its deep longings,
its memories of home and kindred, the soul with its solemn thoughts of
an unknown phase of life which might be near, came to the fore,
rendering the long, doubtful straggle complex indeed.

The stillness was broken only by the steps and voices of attendants and
the irrepressible groans of those who watched for the day with hope
that waxed and waned as the case might be. Uncle Lusthah yearned over
the Federal wounded with a great pity, the impression that they were
suffering for him and his people banishing sleep. He hovered among them
all night long, bringing water to fevered lips and saying a word of
Christian cheer to any who would listen.

Miss Lou wakened with the dawn and recognized with gladness that her
strength and courage for work had been restored. Even more potent than
thoughts of Scoville was the impulse to be at work again, especially
among those with whom she inevitably associated him. Dressing hastily,
she went first to see the old Confederate colonel. He was evidently
failing fast Ackley and an attendant were watching him. He looked at
the girl, smiled and held out his hand. She took it and sat down beside
him.

"Ah!" he said feebly, "this is a good deal better than dying alone.
Would you mind, my child, writing some things I would like to say to my
family?"

Miss Lou brought her portfolio and tearfully received his dying
messages.

"Poor little girl!" said the colonel, "you are witnessing scenes very
strange to you. Try to keep your heart tender and womanly, no matter
what you see. Such tears as yours reveal the power to help and bless,
not weakness. I can say to YOU all the sacred, farewell words which
would be hard to speak to others."

Brokenly, with many pauses from weakness, he dictated his last letter,
and she wrote his words as well as she could see to do so. "They will
be all the sweeter and more soothing for your tears, my dear," he said.

He kept up with wonderful composure until he came to his message to
"little Hal," his youngest child. Then the old soldier broke down and
reached out his arms in vain yet irrepressible longing. "Oh, if I could
kiss the little fellow just once before--" he moaned.

For a few moments he and the girl at his side just wept together, and
then the old man said almost sternly, "Tell him to honor his mother and
his God, to live for the South, for which his father died. Say, if he
will do this he shall have my blessing, not without. Now, my child, I
trust this letter to you. Good-by and God bless you. I wish to be alone
a little while and face the last enemy calmly."

As she knelt down and kissed him tears again rushed to his eyes and he
murmured, "That was good and sweet of you, my child. Keep your heart
simple and tender as it is now. Good-by."

Returning to her room with the portfolio she met her cousin in the
upper hall. He fixed his eyes searchingly upon her and with the air of
one who knew very much began, "Cousin Lou, my eyes are not so often
blinded with tears as yours, yet they see more perhaps than you are
aware of. I'm willing to woo you as gallantly as can any man, but
you've got to keep some faith with me as the representative of our
house and of the cause which, as a Southern girl, should be first
always in its claims."

Her heart fluttered, for his words suggested both knowledge and a
menace. At the same time the scenes she had passed through, especially
the last, lifted her so far above his plane of life that she shrank
from him with something very like contempt.

"Do you know what I have been writing?" she asked sternly.

"I neither know nor care. I only wish you to understand that you cannot
trifle with me nor wrong me with impunity."

"Oh!" she cried, with a strong repellant gesture, "why can't YOU see
and understand? You fairly make me loathe the egotism which, in scenes
like these, can think only of self. As if I had either time or
inclination to be trifling with you, whatever you mean by that. Brave
men are dying heroically and unselfishly, thinking of others, while 'I,
me and gallant wooing,' combined with vague threats against one whom
you are in honor bound to protect, are the only words on your lips. How
can you be so unmanly? What are you, compared with that noble old
colonel whose last words I have just received? If you care a straw for
my opinion, why are you so foolish as to compel me to draw comparisons?
Do, for manhood's sake, forget yourself for once."

He was almost livid from rage as he replied harshly, "You'll rue these
words!"

She looked at him scornfully as she said, "It's strange, but your words
and expression remind me of Perkins. He might make you a good ally."

In his confusion and anger he blurted out, "Little wonder you think of
him. You and that accursed nigger, Chunk--"

"Hush!" she interrupted in a low, imperious voice, "hush, lest as
representative of our house you disgrace yourself beyond hope." And she
passed quickly to her room.

Within less than an hour he was asking himself in bitter
self-upbraiding, "What have I gained? What can I do? Prefer charges
against my own cousin which I cannot prove? Impossible!--Oh, I've been
a fool again. I should have kept that knowledge secret till I could use
it for a definite purpose. I'll break her spirit yet."

If he had seen her after she reached her room he might have thought it
broken then. Vague dread of the consequences of an act which, from his
words, she believed he knew far more about than he did, mingled with
her anger and feelings of repugnance. "Oh," she moaned, "it was just
horrible; it was coming straight down from the sublime to the
contemptible. That noble old colonel took me to the very gate of
heaven. Now I'm fairly trembling with passion and fear. Oh, why will
Cousin Mad always stir up the very worst of my feelings! I'd rather
suffer and die as poor Yarry did than marry a man who WILL think only
of his little self at such a time as this!"



CHAPTER XXVII

AUN' JINKEY'S SUPREME TEST


The first long tragic day of hospital experience had so absorbed Miss
Lou as to relegate into the background events which a short time before
had been beyond her wildest dreams. In the utter negation of her life
she had wished that something would happen, and so much had happened
and so swiftly that she was bewildered. The strangest thing of all was
the change in herself. Lovers of the Whately and Maynard type could
only repel by their tactics. She was too high-spirited to submit to the
one, and too simple and sincere, still too much of a child, to feel
anything but annoyance at the sentimental gallantry of the other. The
genial spirit of comradeship in Scoville, could it have been maintained
through months of ordinary life, would probably have prepared the way
for deeper feeling on the part of both, but there had been no time for
the gradual development of goodwill and friendly understanding into
something more. They had been caught in an unexpected whirl of events
and swept forward into relations utterly unforeseen. He owed his escape
from much dreaded captivity and his very life to her, and, as he had
said, these facts, to her generous nature, were even more powerful in
their influence than if she herself had received the priceless favors.
At the same time, her course toward him, dictated at first by mere
humanity, then goodwill, had made his regard for her seem natural even
to her girlish heart. If she had read it all in a book, years before,
she would have said, "A man couldn't do less than love one when fortune
had enabled her to do so much for him." So she had simply approved of
his declaration, down by the run, of affection for which she was not
yet ready, and she approved of him all the more fondly because he did
not passionately and arbitrarily demand or expect that she should feel
as he did, in return. "I didn't," she had said to herself a score of
times, "and that was enough for him."

When later, for his sake, she faced the darkness of midnight, a peril
she dared not contemplate, and the cruel misjudgment which would follow
her action if discovered, something deeper awoke in her
nature--something kindled into strong, perplexing life when, in his
passionate gratitude, he had snatched her in his arms and, as she had
said, "given her his whole heart because he couldn't help himself."
From that moment, on her part there had been no more merely kind,
tranquil thoughts about Scoville, but a shy, trembling, blushing
self-consciousness even when in solitude his image rose before her.

As she sought to regain composure after the last interview with her
cousin, and to think of her best course in view of what seemed his
dangerous knowledge, a truth, kept back thus far by solemn and
absorbing scenes, suddenly became dear to her. The spirit of
all-consuming selfishness again manifested by Whately, revealed as
never before the gulf of abject misery into which she would have fallen
as his wife. "If it hadn't been for Lieutenant Scoville I might now
have been his despairing bond slave," she thought; "I might have been
any way if the Northern officer were any other kind of a man, brutal,
coarse, as I had been led to expect, or even indifferent and stupid. I
might have been forced into relations from which I could not escape and
then have learned afterward what noble, unselfish men there are in the
world. Oh, I COULD marry Allan Scoville, I could love him and devote my
life to him wholly, knowing all the time that I needn't protect myself,
because he would always be a kinder, truer, better protector. How
little I have done for him compared with that from which he has saved
me!"

There was a knock at the door and Zany quickly entered. "I des slip off
while ole miss in de sto'-room, ter gib you a warnin', Miss Lou. Hain't
had no charnce till dis minit. Dat ar ole fox, Perkins, been snoopin'
roun' yistidy arter we un's tracks en las' night he tell Mad Whately a
heap ob his 'jecterin'."

"But, Zany," said Miss Lou, "you don't think they KNOW anything."

"Reck'n hit's all des 'jecterin'," Zany replied. "Kyant be nufin' else.
We des got ter face hit out. Doan you fear on me. We uns mus' des star
stupid-like ef dey ax questions," and she whisked off again.

The girl felt that the spirit of Zany's counsel would be the best
policy to adopt. While she might not "star stupid-like," she could so
coldly ignore all reference to Scoville's escape as to embarrass any
one who sought to connect her with it. In the clearer consciousness of
her feeling toward the Union officer her heart grew glad and strong at
the thought of the service she had rendered him, nor did it shrink at
suffering for his sake. A gratitude quite as strong as his own now
possessed her that he had been the means of keeping her from a union
dreaded even as an ignorant child, and now known, by the love which
made her a woman, to be earthly perdition.

"Having escaped that," she reflected, "there's nothing else I greatly
fear," and she went down to breakfast resolving that she would be so
faithful in her duties as a nurse that no one in authority would listen
to her cousin or Perkins if they sought to make known their surmises.

Ignorant of her son's action and its results, Mrs. Whately met her
niece kindly and insisted that she should not leave the dining-room
until she had partaken of the breakfast now almost ready. Captain
Maynard joined her with many expressions of a solicitude which the girl
felt to be very uncalled for, yet in her instinct to propitiate every
one in case her action should be questioned, she was more friendly to
him than at any time before. Meanwhile, she was asking herself, "What
would they do to me if all was found out?" and sustaining herself by
the thought, "Whatever they do to me, they can't reach Lieutenant
Scoville."

It was gall and bitterness to Whately to find her talking affably to
Maynard, but before the meal was over she had the address to disarm him
in some degree. For his own sake as well as hers and the family's she
thought, "I must not irritate him into hasty action. If he should find
out, and reveal everything, no matter what happened to me, he would
bring everlasting disgrace on himself and relatives. I could at least
show that my motives were good, no matter how soldiers, with their
harsh laws, might act toward me; but what motive could excuse him for
placing me, a young girl and his cousin, in such a position?"

Whately had already satisfied himself that no pretence of zeal for the
service could conceal his real motive or save him from general scorn
should he speak of the mere conjectures of a man like Perkins. He had
never meant to speak of them publicly, simply to use his knowledge as a
means of influencing his cousin. He now doubted the wisdom of this.
Reacting from one mood to another, as usual, his chief hope now was
that some unexpected turn of fortune's wheel would bring his
opportunity. The one thing which all the past unfitted him to accept
was personal and final denial. His egotism and impatience at being
crossed began to manifest itself in another direction, one suggested by
Maynard's evident susceptibility to his cousin's attractions. "Here is
a chance," he thought, "of righting myself in Lou's eyes. If this
fellow, thrown into her society by the fortune of war, not by courtesy,
presumptuously goes beyond a certain point in his attentions, Cousin
Lou will find that no knight of olden time would have fought for her
quicker than I will. Mother says she is one who must have her romance.
She may have it with a vengeance. It may open her eyes to the truth
that a spirit like mine brooks no opposition, and when she sees that I
am ready to face death for her she will admire, respect, and yield to a
nature that is haughty and like that of the old nobility."

Thus he blinded himself in these vain, silly vaporings, the result of a
false training and the reading of stilted romances. The thought of
studying the girl's character, of doing and being in some degree what
would be agreeable to her, never occurred to him. That kind of good
sense rarely does occur to the egotistical, who often fairly exasperate
those whom they would please by utter blindness to the simple things
which ARE pleasing. Miss Lou had read more old romances than he, but
she speedily outgrew the period in which she was carried away by the
fantastic heroes described. They became in her fancy the other extreme
of the matter-of-fact conditions in which her uncle and aunt had lived,
and as we have seen, she longed to know the actual world, to meet with
people who did not seem alien to her young and natural sympathies. Each
new character she met became a kind of revelation to her. She was the
opposite pole of the society belle, whose eyes have wearied of
humanity, who knows little and cares less for anything except her
mirrored image. With something of the round-eyed curiosity and interest
of a child, she looked at every new face, asking herself, "What is he
like?" not whether he will like and admire me, although she had not a
little feminine pleasure in discovering that strangers were inclined to
do this. Her disapproval of Maynard arose chiefly from the feeling that
his gallantry at such a time, with the dead and dying all about them,
was "more shocking than a game of cards on Sunday." She regarded his
attentions, glances, tones, as mere well-bred persiflage, indulged in
for his own amusement, and she put him down as a trifler for his pains.
That he, as she would phrase it, "was just smitten without any rhyme or
reason" seemed preposterous. She had done nothing for him as she had
for Scoville. The friendly or the frankly admiring looks of strangers,
the hearty gratitude and goodwill of the wounded, she could accept with
as much pleasure as any of her sex; but she had not yet recognized that
type of man who looks at a pretty woman and is disposed to make love to
her at once. "Why does Captain Maynard stare at me so?" she asked
herself, "when I don't care a thistle for him and never will. Why
should I care? Why should he care? Does he think I'm silly and shallow
enough to be amused by this kind of thing when that brave old colonel
is dying across the hall?"

It was a relief to her to escape from him and Whately and to visit even
poor Waldo, dying also, as she believed. "Dr. Ackley," she said, "you
may trust me to give him his food now every two hours. I won't break
down again."

"You did not break down, Miss Baron. All my nurses have their hours
off. Why shouldn't you? I reckon," he added, smiling, "you'll have to
obey my orders like the rest. I will go with you again on this visit."

To her the youth seemed ghastlier than ever, but the expression of
gladness in his eyes was unchanged.

"Miss Baron feels very remorseful that she has not been to see you
before," said Dr. Ackley, "but her labors yesterday were so many and
varied that she had to rest. She will do better by you to-day."

Waldo could only reach his hand feebly toward her in welcome. She took
the brown, shapely hand in both of hers and it made her sad to feel how
cold and limp it was. "But a few hours ago," she thought, "it was
striking blows with a heavy sabre."--"I have brought you some strong,
hot soup," she said gently, "and shall bring it every two hours. You'll
be very good and take it from me, won't you?"

He laughed as he nodded assent.

"When can I begin to read to him, doctor, to help him pass the time?"

"Perhaps to-morrow if he does well, but never more than a few minutes
together until I permit. Slow and sure, Waldo, slow and sure are my
orders, and you are too good a soldier to disobey."

He shook his head mischievously and whispered "Insubordinate."

The doctor nodded portentously and said, "If you and Miss Baron don't
obey orders I'll put you both under arrest."

This seemed to amuse the young fellow immensely and he was about to
speak again, but the surgeon put his finger to his lips and departed.

As she was feeding him with eyes full of gentle commiseration his lips
framed the words, "You can talk to me."

She scarcely knew how to do this. There were questions she was eager to
ask, for his strange, exuberant happiness under the circumstances were
hard to understand, even after Dr. Ackley's explanation. She had never
seen religion produce any such results. Uncle Lusthah seemed to her
very sincere and greatly sustained in his faith, but he had always been
to her a sorrowful, plaintive figure, mourning for lost kindred whom
slavery had scattered. Like the ancient prophets also, his heart was
ever burdened by the waywardness of the people whom he exhorted and
warned. In young Waldo appeared a joyousness which nothing could
quench. From the moment she obtained a clew to his unexpected behavior,
everything in his manner accorded with the surgeon's explanation. In
his boyish face and expression there was not a trace of the fanatical
or abnormal. He seemed to think of Heaven as he did of his own home,
and the thought of going to the one inspired much the same feeling as
returning to the other.

"Well," said Miss Lou, after a little hesitancy, "it is a pleasure to
wait on one who is so brave and cheerful. It makes me feel ashamed of
worrying over my troubles."

He motioned her to get something under his pillow and she drew out a
small Testament. With the ease of perfect familiarity he turned the
leaves and pointed to the words, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He looked up at her, smiled
brightly, and shook his head when he saw tears in her eyes. Again he
turned the leaves and pointed to other words, "Beloved, think it not
strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some
strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are
partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be
revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." His expression was
wonderfully significant in its content, for it was that of one who had
explained and accounted for everything.

"Oh," she faltered, "I wish I felt as you do, believed as you do. I
hope you will get strong soon. I would like to tell you some things
which trouble me very much, and there is no one I can tell."

"By and by," he whispered. "Don't worry. All right."

"Oh, what does this mean?" she thought as she returned to the house.
"Awfully wounded, suffering, dying perhaps, yet 'glad with an exceeding
joy'! Uncle and aunt haven't any idea of such a religion, and for some
reason Dr. Williams never gave me any such idea of it at church. Why
didn't he? Was it my fault? What he said seemed just words that made
little or no impression. Since he tried to marry me to Cousin Mad I
feel as if I could scarcely bear the sight of him."

Yet he was the first one to greet her on the veranda. He spoke with
formal kindness, but she responded merely by a grave salutation, and
passed on, for she felt that he should have understood and protected
her in the most terrible emergency of her young life.

Having looked after the safety of his family, he had returned with the
best and sincerest intentions to minister to the wounded. If the good
he would do corresponded with these intentions he would have been
welcomed in most instances; but he possessed that unfortunate
temperament which is only one remove for the better from a cold
indifference to his sacred duties. He did not possess a particle of
that mysterious, yet in his calling priceless, gift termed magnetism
for the lack of a better definition. All respected him, few warmed
toward him or thought of opening to him their hearts. His mind was
literal, and within it the doctrines were like labelled and separate
packages, from which he took from time to time what he wanted as he
would supplies from a store-room. God was to him a Sovereign and a
Judge who would save a few of the human race in exact accordance with
the creed of the Church in which the good man had been trained. What
would happen to those without its pale was one of those solemn
mysteries with which he had naught to do. Conscientious in his idea of
duty to the last degree, he nevertheless might easily irritate and
repel many minds by a rigid presentation of the only formula of faith
which he deemed safe and adequate. It seemed his chief aim to have
every form and ceremony of his Church complied with, and then his
responsibility ceased. He and Mr. Baron had taken solid comfort in each
other, both agreeing on every point of doctrine and politics. Both men
honestly felt that if the world could be brought to accept their view
of life and duty little would be left to be desired. When summoned to
perform the marriage ceremony Dr. Williams no more comprehended the
desperate opposition of Miss Lou to the will of her guardian, the
shrinking, instinctive protest of her woman's nature, than he did the
hostility of so many in the world to the tenets of his faith. His
inability to understand the feelings, the mental attitude of others who
did not unquestioningly accept his views and approve the action of the
"powers that be" was perhaps the chief obstacle to his usefulness. He
was not in the least degree intolerant or vindictive toward those who
opposed him; his feeling rather was, "This is your opportunity. I
gladly afford it and there my responsibility ceases"--a comfortable
sort of belief to many, but one that would not satisfy a warm, earnest
nature like Paul's, who said, "To the weak I became as weak, that I
might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by
all means save some." Paul would have found some way to reach the ear
and heart of nearly every wounded man in the extemporized hospital, but
for the reasons suggested the visits of poor Dr. Williams soon began to
be very generally dreaded. Old Uncle Lusthah had far better success
with those who would listen to him.

Miss Lou soon found her way to the Federal wounded again. While
agreeably to her wishes there was no formality in her reception, it was
evident that the poor fellows had now learned to regard her with deep
affection.

"I have told them all," said Dr. Borden who received her, "that you did
as Yarry wished, that you took a good rest and were looking this
morning as you should, and it has pleased them greatly. Phillips died
last night, and has been removed. He hadn't any chance and did not
suffer much. Remembering your wishes, we kept Yarry here. He lies there
as if he were dozing after his pipe, as he wished you to think."

The girl stepped to the side of the dead soldier and for a moment or
two looked silently into the still, peaceful face. Quietly and
reverently the surgeon and others took off their hats and waited till
she should speak. "Oh," she breathed softly at last, "how thoughtful
and considerate you have been! You have made this brave, unselfish man
look just as if he were quietly sleeping in his uniform. There is
nothing terrible or painful in his aspect as he lies there on his side.
Poor generous-hearted fellow! I believe he is at rest, as now he seems
to be. I want you all to know," she added, looking round, "that he
shall be buried where I can often visit his grave and keep it from
neglect, for I can never forget the kindness that he--that you all have
shown me. Dr. Borden, I will now show Uncle Lusthah the place where I
wish the grave to be, and when all is ready I will come and follow poor
Yarry to it. Do you think there ought to be a minister? There is one
here now--Dr. Williams, who has a church near the Court House."

"Just as you wish, Miss Baron. For one, I think a prayer from Uncle
Lusthah, as you call him, would do just as well and be more in
accordance with Yarry's feelings if he could express them. The old
negro has been in and out nearly all night, waiting on the men, and has
won their goodwill. He certainly is a good old soul."

"I agree with the doctor," added Captain Hanfield. "Were it my case I'd
ask nothing better than a prayer from Uncle Lusthah over my grave, for
he has acted like a good, patient old saint among us."

A murmur of approval from the others followed these words, and so it
was arranged. Uncle Lusthah was soon found, and he followed the girl to
the shadow of a great pine by the run and adjacent to the grassy plot
with which the girl would ever associate Allan Scoville. It was there
that she had looked into his eyes and discovered what her own heart was
now teaching her to understand.

Aun' Jinkey followed them from her cabin and asked, "Wat you gwine ter
do yere, honey?"

"Bury here a Northern soldier who has done me a very great honor."

"Oh, Miss Lou, I des feared ter hab 'im so neah de cabin."

"Hush!" said the girl, almost sternly. "Uncle Lusthah, you ought to
teach mammy better than that."

"Ah, youn' mistis, hit's bred in de bone. I des mourns ober my people,
'fusin' ter be comf'ted. Yere Aun' Jinkey, gittin' gray lak me. She a
'fessor ob religion, ye de word 'spook' set her all a tremble. Ef dey
is spooks, Aun' Jinkey, w'at dat ter you? Dere's tunder en lightnin' en
yearthquakes en wurin' iliments en all kin' ob miseries ob de body. Who
gwine ter keep all dem fum yo' cabin? Reck'n you betteah trus' de Lawd
'bout spooks too."

"You don't believe in any such foolishness, Uncle Lusthah?"

"Well, young mistis, I gettin 'po'ful ole en I al'ays yeared on spooks
sence I kin reckermember. I neber seed one fer sho, but I'se had
strange 'sper'ences o' nights, en dar's dem w'at sez dey has seen de
sperets ob de 'parted. I dunno. Dere's sump'n in folk's buzzums dat
takes on quar sometimes, ez ef we libin' mighty close onter a worl' we
kyant mos' al'ays see. Dat ar doan trouble me nohow, en Aun' Jinkey
orter know bettah. Ef de Lawd 'mits spooks, dat He business. He 'mits
lots ob tings we kyant see troo. Look at dese yere old han's, young
mistis. Dey's wuked nigh on eighty yeah, yit dey neber wuked fer mysef,
dey neber wuked fer wife en chil'n. Dat mo' quar dan spooks."

"I don't know but you are right," said the girl thoughtfully. "I didn't
know you felt so about being free. Aun' Jinkey never seemed to trouble
much about it."

"I'se 'feared Aun' Jinkey tink a heap on de leeks en inions ob Egypt."

"Dar now, Uncle Lusthah, you po'ful good man, but you owns up you doan
know nufin' 'bout spooks, en I knows you doan know nufin' 'bout
freedom."

"Yes I does," replied Uncle Lusthah. "Ef de day come w'en I kin stan'
up en say fer sho, 'I own mysef, en God ony my Mars'r,' I kin starbe ef
dat He will. En dat' minds me, young mistis. IS we free? Perkins
growlin' roun' agin dis mawnin', en say we he'p 'bout de horspital
ter-day, but we all go ter wuk ter-morrer. I 'lowed he orter talk ter
us 'bout wages en he des larf en cuss me. Wat's gwine ter be de end?
Marse Scoville en de big Linkum gin'ral say we free, en Perkins larf
'temptuous like. We des all a-lookin' ter you, young mistis."

"Oh, uncle! what can I do?"

"Shame on you, Uncle Lusthah, fer pilin' up sech a heap ob 'plexity on
my honey," cried Aun' Jinkey, who was as practical as she was
superstitious. "I kin tell you w'at ter do. I doan projeck en smoke in
my chimbly-corner fer not'n. W'at kin you do but do ez you tole twel
Marse Scoville en de Linkum gin'ral come agin? S'pose you say you woan
wuk en woan 'bey, how you hole out agin Perkins en Mad Whately? Dey'd
tar you all ter pieces. Dey say dis wah fer freedom. Whar yo' patience
twel de wah'll end? De Yanks mus' do mo' dan say we free; dey mus' keep
us free. Dar Aun' Suke. She say she free one minit en a slabe nex'
minute twel her haid mos' whirl off her shol'ers. Now she say, 'I doan
know 'bout dis freedom business; I does know how ter cook en I'se
gwinter cook twel dey gets troo a whirlin' back en forth.' You says I
mus' trus' de Lawd 'bout spooks, Uncle Lusthah. W'y kyant you trus' de
Lawd 'bout freedom?"

The old man shook his head sorrowfully, for Aun' Suke and Aun' Jinkey's
philosophy didn't satisfy him. "I'se willin' ter do my shar," he said
musingly, "de Lawd knows I be. Ef I cud die lak po' Marse Yarry en de
oders fer freedom I'se willin' ter die."

"Now, Uncle Lusthah, your strong feeling and not your good sense
speaks," said Miss Lou, who had been thinking earnestly, meanwhile
recalling Scoville's prediction that the negroes might come to her for
help and counsel. "Aun' Jinkey is certainly right in this case, and you
must tell all our people from me that their only safe course now is to
obey all orders and bide their time. Perkins' authority would be
sustained by all the soldiers on the place and anything like
disobedience would be punished severely. If what Lieutenant Scoville
and the Northern general said is true you will soon be free without
useless risks on your part. If that time comes I want you and mammy to
stay with me. You shall be as free as I am and I'll give you wages."

"Dar now, young mistis, ef I know I free I bress de Lawd fer de charnce
ter gib my wuk ter you. Dere's a po'ful dif'unce 'twix' bein' took en
kep en des gibin' yosef out ob yo' own heart. Slav'y couldn't keep me
fum gibin' mysef ter de Lawd en I been He free man many a long yeah, en
I be yo' free man, too, fer lub."

"Look yere, now, honey," added Aun' Jinkey, wiping her eyes with her
apron, "you kin bury sogers all 'bout de cabin ef you wanter. Uncle
Lusthah kyant do mo' fer you, honey, ner me, tookin resks ob spooks.
Des bury dem sogers, ef you wanter, right un'er my win'er."



CHAPTER XXVIII

TRUTH IF THE HEAVENS FALL


It was quite natural that the thoughts of Perkins and Mr. Baron should
turn toward the growing crops, neglected by reason of events
unprecedented in their experience. The announcement to the slaves,
first by Scoville and later confirmed by General Marston, of freedom,
had staggered both employer and overseer, but every hour since the
departure of the raiding Union column had been reassuring.

It is not within the province of this story to follow the fortunes of
that force, since it is our modest purpose merely to dwell on those
events closely related to the experiences of the Southern girl who has
won our attention. She had suddenly become secondary in her uncle's
thoughts. A phase of the war, like a sudden destructive storm, had been
witnessed; like a storm, he hoped that it and its effects would pass
away. The South was far from being subdued; the issue of the conflict
unknown. He was the last man in the Confederacy to foresee and accept
new conditions, especially when he still believed the Southern cause
would triumph.

As the confusion of his mind, after the battle, passed he began to look
around and consider what should be done, what could be saved out of
what at first appeared a wreck. When Dr. Ackley assured him that the
house and plantation would be rapidly abandoned as a hospital, hope and
courage revived, while to these was added the spur of necessity.

He knew that he must "make his crops," or his fortunes would be
desperate. Remembering the value of timely labor in the spring season,
he was eager on this second day after the battle to put his slaves to
work again at their interrupted avocations. Accordingly he held a
consultation with his nephew and Dr. Ackley.

"The hands are becoming demoralized," he said, "by unaccustomed duties
and partial idleness. Some are sullen and others distracted by all
kinds of absurd expectations. Uncle Lusthah, the leader and preacher
among them, even had the impudence to ask Perkins about wages. The
Yankee officers, when here, told them they were free, and they wish to
act as if they were. The sooner that notion is taken out of their heads
the better. This can be done now while my nephew is here to enforce
authority, better than when we are alone again. It seems to me that a
certain number could be detailed for regular hospital duty and the rest
put to work as usual."

"I agree with you, certainly," replied Surgeon Ackley. "Give me a dozen
men and half a dozen women to wash and cook, and I can get along.
Lieutenant Whately, you, at your uncle's suggestion, can make the
detail and enforce discipline among the rest."

"I was going to speak to you about this very matter, uncle," said
Whately. "My overseer has been over and I find the black imps on our
place are in much the same condition as yours, a few venturing to talk
about wages or shares in the crop and all that nonsense. I sent him
back with half a dozen men, armed to the teeth, and told him to put the
hands at work as usual. Mother is going to ride over and spend part of
the day. I don't wish her to be there alone just yet, and I shall
gallop over in time to be on hand when she arrives. Things are getting
settled, my arm is not so painful, and it is time we pulled ourselves
and everything together. You struck the right note when you said, 'Now
is the time to enforce authority.' It must be done sharply too, and
these people taught the difference between the Yanks' incendiary talk
and our rights and positive commands. From what Perkins says, this old
Uncle Lusthah is a fire-brand among your people. Give your overseer his
orders and I'll see that he carries them out."

Perkins was summoned, acquainted with the policy--just to his
mind--resolved upon, told to pick out the detail for hospital duty and
to have the rest ready for work after an early dinner.

"Go right straight ahead, Perkins," added Whately, "and let me know if
one of these Yankee-made freemen so much as growls."

Dr. Borden was not the kind of man to take upon himself undue
responsibility. He had therefore mentioned to Surgeon Ackley Miss
Baron's wish to give Yarry a special burial by the run and that she
expected to be present.

Ackley good-naturedly acquiesced, saying, "I suppose there can be no
objection to burying the man in a place of Miss Baron's selection,
instead of the one designated by Mr. Baron. It's but a small concession
to her who is so kindly bent on making herself useful. Let her have her
own way in the whole affair."

The spirit of Yarry's turbulent career seemed destined to break out
afresh over his final disposition. Uncle Lusthah went to the quarters
in order to obtain the aid of two or three stout hands in digging the
grave. It so happened that his visit took place during the adoption of
Mr. Baron's policy in dealing with his property and just before Perkins
received his instructions. The negroes not engaged in labor relating to
the hospital gathered around Uncle Lusthah in the hope of receiving
some advice from Miss Lou. Mournfully the old man told them what she
and Aun' Jinkey had said, adding, "I doan see no oder way fer us des at
dis time ob our triberlation. Ole Pharo sut'ny got he grip on us agin,
he sut'ny hab fer a spell. But brudren en sistas, hit ony lak a cloud
comin' 'cross de risin' sun. Let us des wait pashently de times en
seasons ob de Lawd who alone kin brung de true 'liverance."

When he saw the deep, angry spirit of protest he threw up his hands,
crying, "Wat de use? I warn you; I 'treat you, be keerful. Wat could us
do wid our bar han's agin armed men? I tells you we mus' wait or die
lak Moses 'fo' we enter de promis lan'." Then he told them about Yarry
and asked for two or three to volunteer to dig the grave.

A score stepped forward and nearly all expressed their purpose to
attend the funeral. The old man persuaded all but three to remain near
the quarters at present, saying, "So many gwine wid me mout mek
trouble, fer Perkins look ugly dis mawnin'."

"We ugly too," muttered more than one voice, but they yielded to Uncle
Lusthah's caution.

In going to the run Uncle Lusthah and his assistants had to pass
somewhat near the house, and so were intercepted by Perkins and
Whately, both eager to employ at once the tactics resolved upon.

"Where the devil are you goin' with those men and shovels?" shouted
Perkins.

"We gwine ter dig a grabe fer a Linkum soger down by de run," replied
Uncle Lusthah quietly. "That ain't the place ter plant the Yanks, you
old fool. Go back to the quarters. No words. Leftenant Whately will
detail the hands fer sech work. Back with you. Why in-don't you mind?"

"I hab my orders fum--"

"Silence!" thundered Whately. "Obey, or you'll go back at the point of
the sabre."

Uncle Lusthah and his companions still hesitated, for they saw Miss Lou
running toward them. She had lingered to talk with Aun' Jinkey and was
returning when she heard Perkins' high, harsh words. The overseer was
in a rage, and limped hastily forward with uplifted cane, when he was
suddenly confronted by the hot face and flashing eyes of Miss Lou.

"Don't you dare strike Uncle Lusthah," she said sternly.

Her appearance and attitude evoked all the pent-up hate and passion in
the man's nature and he shouted, "By the 'tarnal, I will strike 'im.
I've got my orders en I'll find out yere en now whether a traitor girl
or a Southern officer rules this place."

Before the blow could descend she sprang forward, seized his wrist and
stayed his hand.

"Wretch! murderer! coward!" she cried.

"Oh, come, Cousin Lou, this won't do at all," began Whately, hastening
up.

An ominous rush and trampling of feet was heard and an instant later
the negroes were seen running toward them from the quarters and all
points at which the sounds of the altercation reached them.

"Turn out the guard," shouted Whately. "Rally the men here with
carbines and ball-cartridges." He whirled Perkins aside, saying, "Get
out of the way, you fool." Then he drew his sabre and thundered to the
negroes, "Back, for your lives!"

They hesitated and drew together. Miss Lou went directly toward them
and implored, "Go back. Go back. Do what I ask and perhaps I can help
you. If you don't, no one can or will help you. See, the soldiers are
coming."

"We'll 'bey you, young mistis," said Uncle Lusthah, "but we uns lak ter
hab 'splained des what we got ter 'spect. We kyant die but oncet, en ef
we kyant eben bury de sogers dat die fer us--"

"Silence!" shouted Whately. "Forward here, my men. Form line! Advance!
Shoot the first one that resists." He then dashed forward, sought to
encircle his cousin with his arm and draw her out of the way.

She eluded him and turned swiftly toward the advancing line of men,
crying, "Stop, if there is a drop of Southern blood in your veins."
They halted and stared at her. She resumed, "You will have to walk over
me before you touch these poor creatures. Uncle" (for Mr. Baron now
stood aghast on the scene), "as you are a man, come here with me and
speak, explain to your people. That is all they ask. They have been
told that they were free, and now the oldest and best among them, who
was doing my bidding, almost suffered brutal violence from a man not
fit to live. Where is the justice, right, or sense in such a course?
Tell your people what you wish, what you expect, and that they will be
treated kindly in obeying you."

She recognized that every moment gained gave time for cooler thoughts
and better counsels, also for the restraining presence of others who
were gathering upon the scene. It was in the nature of her headlong
cousin to precipitate trouble without thought of the consequences; but
as she spoke she saw Surgeons Ackley and Borden running forward.
Captain Maynard was already at her side, and Whately looked as if he
could cut his rival down with the weapon in his hand. While Mr. Baron
hesitated Mrs. Whately also reached her niece and urged, "Brother, I
adjure you, go and speak to your people. They are your people and you
should tell them what to expect before you begin to punish. Go with
Surgeon Ackley and settle this question once for all."

"Yes, Mr. Baron," said Ackley sternly, "we must settle this question
promptly. Such uproar and excitement are bad for my patients and not to
be permitted for an instant."

It was evident that the surgeon was terribly angry. He had been brought
up in the old regular army, and anything like insubordination or injury
to his patients were things he could not tolerate. Mr. Baron went
forward with him and said in a low tone:

"You are virtually in command here and all know it. A few words from
you will have more effect than anything I can say."

"Very well, then," responded the resolute surgeon, and he strode toward
the negroes, not noticing that Miss Lou kept almost at his side.

"Look here, you people," he began harshly, "do you think I will permit
such disturbances? They may be the death of brave men. Quit your
nonsense at once. You are simply what you've always been. Yankee words
don't make you free any more than they make us throw down our arms.
What happened to the general who said you were free? We fought him and
drove him away. There is only one thing you can do and MUST do--go to
work as before, and woe be to those who make trouble. That's all."

"No," cried Miss Lou, "that surely cannot be all."

"Miss Baron! What can you mean?"

"I mean that these poor creatures are looking to me, trusting in me,
and I have promised to intercede in their behalf. Tell them at least
this, you or uncle, that if they obey and work quietly and faithfully
they shall not be treated harshly, nor subjected to the brutal spite of
that overseer, Perkins."

"Truly, Miss Baron, you can scarcely expect me to interfere with your
uncle's management of his property. The only thing I can and will do is
to insist on absolute quiet and order on the place. In this case every
one must obey the surgeon-in-charge. Do you understand that?" he
concluded, turning to the negroes. "Neither you nor any one else can do
anything to injure my patients. As you value your lives, keep quiet. I
will not permit even a harsh, disturbing sound. Do not dare to presume
on Miss Baron's kindness, mistaken in this crisis. This unruly,
reckless spirit must be stamped out now. Your owner and master will
tell you what he expects, and I will have the first man who disobeys
SHOT. Miss Baron, you must come with me."

"Yes, sir, but not until I have spoken the truth about this affair. All
your power, Dr. Ackley, cannot keep me dumb when I see such injustice.
You are threatening and condemning without having heard a word of
explanation. Uncle Lusthah and those with him were simply doing my
bidding. Can you think I would stand by and see him cursed and beaten?
These people have not shown any unruly, reckless spirit. They may well
be bewildered, and they only asked what they must expect. God is my
witness, I will cry out 'Shame!' with, my last breath if they are
treated brutally. They will be quiet, they will do their duty if
treated kindly. They shall not appeal to me for justice and mercy in
vain. My words may not help them, but I shall not stand tamely by like
a coward, but will call any man on earth coward who butchers one of
these unarmed negroes."

She stood before them all possessed by one thought--justice. Her face
was very pale, but stern, undaunted and noble in its expression. She
was enabled to take her course from the courage, simplicity and
unconventionality of her nature, becoming utterly absorbed by her
impulse to defend those who looked to her, neither regarding nor
fearing, in her strong excitement, the consequences to herself.

Dr. Borden was hastening forward to remind Ackley of his promise
concerning Yarry's grave, and to show the girl that he at least would
stand with her; but his chief waved him back. The old surgeon of the
regular army could appreciate courage, and the girl's words and aspect
pierced the thick crust of his military and professional armor,
touching to the quick the man within him. He saw in the brave young
face defiance of him, of the whole world, in her sense of right, and he
had the innate nobility of soul to respect her motive and acknowledge
the justice of her action. Watching her attentively until she was
through speaking he took off his hat, stepped forward and gave her his
hand.

"You are a brave girl," he said frankly. "You are doing what you think
is right and I am proud of you. Tell these people yourself to go back
to their quarters, behave themselves and obey their rightful master.
After your words in their behalf any one who does not obey deserves to
be shot."

She was disarmed and subdued at once. "Ah, doctor," she faltered, tears
in her eyes, "now you've conquered me." Then turning toward the negroes
she cried, "Do just as Dr. Ackley has said. Go quietly to work and be
patient. Uncle Lusthah, you know I told you to do so before all this
happened. I tell you so again and shall expect you to use all your
influence to keep perfect order."

"We 'bey you, young mistis; we tank you fer speakin' up fer us," and
the old man led the way toward the quarters, followed by all his flock.

Dr. Ackley gave his arm to the girl and led her to the house. Captain
Maynard took off his hat in a very deferential manner as she passed;
she walked on unheeding the salutation. Whately frowned at him and
dropped his hand on the hilt of his sabre. At this pantomime Maynard
smiled contemptuously as he walked away. In a few moments the scene was
as quiet and deserted as it had been crowded and threatening.

On the way to the house Miss Lou explained more fully the circumstances
relating to the dead soldier, Yarry, and Ackley said good-naturedly,
"I'll have Uncle Lusthah and two others detailed to dig the grave and
you can carry out your intentions; but, Miss Baron, you must be careful
in the future how you let your inexperience and enthusiasm involve you
in conflict with all recognized authority. We are safely out of this
scrape; I can't answer for anything more."

"Believe me," she said earnestly, "I don't wish to make trouble of any
kind, and after your course toward me, I will seek to carry out your
orders in every way. If I dared I would ask one favor. Uncle Lusthah is
too old to work in the field and he is a kind, good old man. If you
would have him detailed to wait on the wounded--"

"Yes, yes, I will. You are a brave, good-hearted girl and mean well. I
shall rely on your promise to work cordially with me hereafter. Now go
to your room and get calm and rested. You are trembling like a
frightened bird. I'll see your uncle, cousin and Dr. Borden. You shall
bury your chivalrous Yank just as you wish. Then all must go according
to regulations."

She smiled as she gave him her hand, saying, "You may put me under
arrest if I don't mind you in everything hereafter."

"Well," muttered the surgeon, as he looked after her, "to think that a
girl should have a probe long and sharp enough to go straight to the
heart of a man of my age! No wonder Maynard and Whately are over head
and ears."



CHAPTER XXIX

"ANGEL OF DEATH"


It would seem as if the brief tempest of the morning had cleared the
air. Two strong natures had asserted themselves. Surgeon Ackley's
recognition of Miss Lou's spirit and the justice of her plea turned out
to be as politic as it was sincere and unpremeditated. The slaves
learned all they could hope from her or any one now in authority and
were compelled to see the necessity of submission. Whately was taught
another lesson concerning the beauties of headlong action, while even
his egotism was not proof against the feeling that his cousin's
straightforward fearlessness would baffle all measures opposed to her
sense of right. As for Perkins, he began to fear as well as hate her,
seeing her triumph again. The only reward of his zeal had been
Whately's words, "Get out of the way, you fool." Thereafter, with the
exception of the girl's scathing words, he had been ignored. He had
been made to feel that Ackley's threats had a meaning for him as well
as for the negroes, and that if he needlessly provoked trouble again he
would be confronted with the stern old army surgeon. Having known
Whately from a boy he stood in little fear of him, but was convinced
that he could not trifle with Ackley's patience an instant. He now
recognized his danger. In his rage he had forgotten the wide difference
in rank between the girl he would injure and himself. The courtesy
promptly shown to her by Maynard and especially by the surgeon-in-chief
taught him that one whom he had scarcely noticed as she grew up a
repressed, brooding child and girl, possessed by birth the
consideration ever shown to a Southern lady. He knew what that meant,
even if he could not appreciate her conduct. Maynard had scowled upon
him; Mrs. Whately bestowed merely a glance of cold contempt, while her
son had failed him utterly as an ally. He therefore sullenly drove his
malice back into his heart with the feeling that he must now bide his
time.

Even Mr. Baron was curt and said briefly before he left the ground, "Be
sure you're right before you go ahead. Hereafter give your orders
quietly and let me know who disobeys."

The old planter was at his wit's end about his niece, but even he was
compelled to see that his former methods with her would not answer. New
ideas were being forced upon him as if by surgical operations. Chief
among them was the truth that she could no longer be managed or
restrained by fear or mere authority on the part of any one. He would
look at her in a sort of speechless wonder and ask himself if she were
the child to whom he had supposed himself infallible so many years. His
wife kept on the even tenor of her way more unswervingly than any one
on the place. She was as incapable of Dr. Ackley's fine sentiment as
she was of her nephew's ungovernable passion. She neither hoped nor
tried to comprehend the "perversity" of her niece, yet, in the
perplexed conditions of the time, she filled a most important and
useful niche. Since the wounded men were to be fed, she became an
admirable commissary general, preventing waste and exacting good
wholesome cookery on the part of Aun' Suke and her assistants.

Poor Yarry was buried quietly at last, Miss Lou, with Dr. Borden,
Captain Hanfield and two or three of his comrades standing reverently
by the grave while Uncle Lusthah offered his simple prayer. Then the
girl threw upon the mound some flowers she had gathered and returned to
her duties as nurse. The remains of the old Confederate colonel were
sent to his family, with the letter which Miss Lou had written for him.
Every day the numbers in the hospital diminished, either by death or by
removal of the stronger patients to the distant railroad town. Those
sent away in ambulances and other vehicles impressed into the service
were looked after by Surgeon Ackley with official thoroughness and
phlegm; in much the same spirit and manner Dr. Williams presided over
the departure of others to the bourne from which none return, then
buried them with all proper observance. Uncle Lusthah carried around by
a sort of stealth his pearl of simple, vital, hope-inspiring faith, and
he found more than one ready to give their all for it. The old man
pointed directly to Him who "taketh away the sin of the world," then
stood aside that dying eyes might look. With the best intentions Dr.
Williams, with his religious formulas, got directly in the way,
bewildering weak minds with a creed.

Mrs. Whately and her son went and came from their plantation and were
troubled over the condition of things there. The slaves were in a state
of sullen, smouldering rebellion and several of them had disappeared.
"I fear Madison has been too arbitrary," she admitted to her brother.

Mr. Baron shrugged his shoulders and smoked in silence. Perhaps his
preposterous niece had not been so crazy after all.

Between Maynard and Whately there were increasing evidences of trouble,
which the mother of the latter did her best to avert by remonstrances
and entreaty. On one occasion Whately had said a little irritably, "I
say, Dr. Ackley, what's the use of Maynard's hanging around here? He is
almost well enough for duty."

"It is chiefly out of consideration for you that I am keeping him,"
replied the surgeon gravely, in well-concealed mischief. "It is clear
that he has entered the lists with you for your cousin's hand, and I
could not further his suit better than by sending him away, especially
if it were suspected that I did so at your instigation. He is doing
well here, good-naturedly helps me in my writing and can soon go direct
to his regiment. It seems to me that your cousin holds a pretty even
balance between you, and all a man should want is a fair field."

Whately walked frowningly away, more than ever convinced that the
surgeon was too good a friend of his rival to interfere.

At the close of the fourth day after the battle there was an arrival at
The Oaks that greatly interested Miss Lou--a stately, white-haired old
lady, the mother of Lieutenant Waldo. She was very pale and it would
have been hard for Surgeon Ackley to meet her agonized look, her
shrinking as if from a blow, were he unable to hold out any hope.

"Mrs. Waldo," he said gravely, "your son is living and there's a chance
of his getting well. His cheerfulness and absolute quiet of mind may
save him. If he had fretted or desponded he would have died before
this."

"Yes," replied his mother with a great sigh of relief, "I know."

"Miss Baron, will you kindly prepare Waldo for his mother's visit?
Meanwhile, I will tell her a little about his case and our management
of it. He doesn't know that I sent for you, for I was not sure you
could come."

"Is this Miss Baron and one of my son's nurses?"

"Yes, and doing more for him than I--giving him all the bovine nectar
and honeyed words he can take."

"God bless you, my dear. Please let me kiss you."

When Miss Lou entered Waldo's tent he whispered with a laugh, "It's
four hours since you were here."

"No, scarcely two."

"Well, I'm as hungry as if it were four hours."

"That's fine. You're getting right well. Will you be very good and
quiet--not a bit excited, if I let some one else bring you your supper?"

She beamed upon him so joyously that he exclaimed aloud, with a rush of
tears, "Ah! mother?"

The girl nodded and said, "Now remember, don't break her heart by being
worse."

"Oh, how sweet and lovely of her! I'll get well now, sure."

"That's a nice way to treat your old nurse."

Smilingly he held out his hand and said, "You are almost as pretty and
good as she is, but you aren't mother." Then he added in strong
sympathy, "Forgive me. You haven't any, have you? You don't know about
this mother love."

"I know enough about it to have the heartache for its lack. Now you
must save your strength till she comes. Good-by."

From that hour he steadily gained, banishing the look of anxiety from
his mother's face. Mrs. Whately sighed as she saw how her niece's heart
warmed toward the stranger, and how strong an attachment was growing
between them. "Louise is drifting away from us all," she thought, "yet
I cannot see that she encourages Captain Maynard."

A genuine friendship had also grown between the girl and Captain
Hanfield, the Federal officer, and she was heartily sorry when he told
her that he would be sent to the railroad town the next day. "My wound
isn't doing well and I seem to be running down," he explained. "Dr.
Borden has been able to keep me thus far, but I must go to-morrow.
Perhaps it's best. He is trying to get me paroled. If I could only get
home to my wife and children I'd rally fast enough. I'm all run down
and this climate is enervating to me."

She tried to hearten him by kind, hopeful words, and he listened to her
with a wistful look on his handsome face. "How I'd like you to meet my
little girl!" he said. "Won't I make her blue eyes open when I tell her
about you!"

Another bond of union between them was the captain's acquaintance with
Scoville, and he soon observed that she listened very patiently and
attentively when he spoke of the brave scout's exploits. "I declare,"
he had said, laughing, "I keep forgetting that you are a Southern girl
and that you may not enjoy hearing of the successes of so active an
enemy."

"Lieutenant Scoville is not a personal enemy," she had replied
guardedly. "He showed us all very great kindness, me especially. I wish
that both you and he were on our side."

"Well, as you say down here, I reckon we are on YOUR side any way," had
been the captain's smiling reply.

She spoke to Surgeon Ackley promptly about the prospects of a parole,
but he said, "Impossible, Miss Baron. The question would at once arise,
'If granted to Hanfield, why not to others?' I reckon Borden has been
trying to rally his friend by hopes even when knowing them baseless."

This proved to be the case, and the following day brought the young
girl a strange and very sad experience. Dr. Borden appeared at
breakfast looking troubled and perplexed. Miss Lou immediately inquired
about the captain. The doctor shook his head saying, "He isn't so well.
I'd like to speak with you by and by."

She was so depressed by the surgeon's aspect that she paid little heed
to the conversation of her two admirers and soon left the table. Borden
followed her, and when they were alone began sadly, "Miss Baron,
perhaps I am going to ask of you far too much, but you have shown
yourself to be an unusually brave girl as well as a kind-hearted one,
Hanfield is an old friend of mine and perhaps I've done wrong to
mislead him. But I didn't and couldn't foresee what has happened, and I
did hope to start him in genuine convalescence, feeling sure that if he
got well he would give up the hope of going home as a matter of course.
So far from succeeding, a fatal disease has set in--tetanus, lock-jaw.
He's dying and doesn't know it. I can't tell him. I've made the truth
doubly cruel, for I've raised false hopes. He continually talks of home
and his pleading eyes stab me. You can soften the blow to him, soothe
and sustain him in meeting what is sure to come."

"Oh, is there no hope?"

"None at all. He can't live. If you feel that the ordeal would be too
painful--I wouldn't ask it if I hadn't seen in you unexpected
qualities."

"Oh, I must help him bear it; yet how can I? how shall I?"

"Well, I guess your heart and sympathy will guide you. I can't. I can
only say you had better tell him the whole truth. He ought to know it
for his own and family's sake now, while perfectly rational. Soften the
truth as you can, but you can't injure him by telling it plainly, for
he will die. God knows, were it my case, the tidings wouldn't seem so
very terrible if told by a girl like you."

"Oh, but the tidings are so terrible to speak, especially to such a
man. Think of his beautiful wife and daughter, of his never seeing them
again. Oh, it's just awful," and her face grew white at the prospect.

"Yes, Miss Baron, it is. In the midst of all the blood and carnage of
the war, every now and then a case comes up which makes even my
calloused heart admit, 'It's just awful.' I'm only seeking to make it
less awful to my poor friend, and perhaps at too great cost to you."

"Well, he on his side, and others on ours, didn't count the cost;
neither must I. I must not think about it or my heart will fail me. I
will go at once."

"Come then, and God help you and him."

A straw-bed had been made up in a large, airy box-stall where the
captain could be by himself. Uncle Lusthah was in attendance and he had
just brought a bowl of milk.

Borden had left Miss Lou to enter alone. The captain held out his hand
and said cheerfully, "Well, it's an ill wind that blows nowhere. This
one will blow me home all the sooner I trust, for it must be plainer
now than ever that I need the home change which will put me on my feet
again. You needn't look so serious. I feel only a little more poorly
than I did--sore throat and a queer kind of stiffness in my jaws as if
I had taken cold in them."

"Do I look very serious?" she faltered.

"Yes, you look as if troubled about something. But there, see what an
egotistic fellow I am! As if you hadn't troubles of your own! pretty
deep ones, too, I fear. Our coming here has given you a wonderful
experience, Miss Baron. No matter; you've met it like a soldier and
will have much to remember in after years. You can never become a
commonplace woman now and there are such a lot of 'em in the world.
When I remember all you have done for us it makes me ill to think of
some in our town--giggling, silly little flirts, with no higher
ambition than to strut down the street in a new dress."

"Oh, don't think of them or over-praise me. Perhaps if they had been
here and compelled to face things they would have done better than I. A
short time ago I didn't dream of these experiences, and then I would
have said I couldn't possibly endure them."

"Well, you have," resumed the captain, who was slightly feverish,
excited and inclined to talk. "One of my dearest hopes now is to get
back to my little girl soon and deepen her mind by making her ashamed
of the silly things in a girl's life. Of course I wish her to be joyous
and happy as a young thing should be, as I think you would be if you
had the chance. By means of your story I can make her ashamed ever to
indulge in those picayune, contemptible feminine traits which
exasperate men. I want her to be brave, helpful, sincere, like you,
like her mother. How quickly poor Yarry recognized the spirit in which
you came among us at first! Jove! I didn't think him capable of such
feeling. I tell you, Miss Baron, the roughest of us reverence an
unselfish woman--one who doesn't think of herself first and always. She
mayn't be a saint, but if she has heart enough for sympathy and is
brave and simple enough to bestow it just as a cool spring gushes from
the ground, we feel she is the woman God meant her to be. Ah, uncle,
that reminds me--another cup of that cold water. For some reason I'm
awfully thirsty this morning."

Miss Lou listened with hands nervously clasping and unclasping, utterly
at a loss to know how to tell the man, dreaming of home and planning
for the future, that he must soon sleep beside poor Yarry. She had
already taken to herself the mournful comfort that his grave also
should be where she could care for it and keep it green.

"I wish to tell you more about my little Sadie and my wife. Some day,
when this miserable war is over, you will visit us. We'll give you a
reception then which may turn even your head. Ha! ha! you thought we'd
be worse than Indians. Well, I'll show you a lot of our squaws in full
evening dress and you'll own that my wife is the prettiest in the
tribe. Every day, until we started on this blasted raid, I received a
letter from her. I knew about as well what was going on at home as if
there. With my wife it was love almost at first sight, but I can tell
you that it's not 'out of sight out of mind' with us. Time merely adds
to the pure, bright flame, and such a pair of lovers as we shall be
when gray as badgers will be worth a journey to you."

Miss Lou could maintain her self-control no longer. She burst into
tears and sobbed helplessly.

"You poor little girl," exclaimed the captain in deep commiseration.
"Here I've been talking like a garrulous fool when your heart is
burdened with some trouble that perhaps you would like to speak to me
about. Tell me, my child, just as little Sadie would."

"My heart is burdened with trouble, captain; it feels as if it would
break when I hear you talk so. Would to God little Sadie were here, and
your beautiful wife too! Oh, what shall I say? How can I, how can I?"

"Miss Baron!" he exclaimed, looking at her in vague alarm.

"Oh, Captain Hanfield, you are a brave, unselfish man like Yarry. Don't
make it too hard for me. Oh, I feel as if I could scarcely breathe."

As he saw her almost panting at his side and tears streaming from her
eyes, the truth began to dawn upon him. He looked at her steadily and
silently for a moment, then reached out his hand as he said in an awed
whisper, "Is it on account of me? Did Borden send you here?"

She took his hand, bowed her forehead upon it and wept speechlessly.

She felt it tremble for a moment, then it was withdrawn and placed on
her bowed head. "So you are the angel of death to me?" the officer
faltered.

Her tears were her only, yet sufficient answer. Both were silent, she
not having the heart to look at him.

At last he said in deep tones, "I wasn't expecting this. It will make a
great change in"--and then he was silent again.

She took his limp hand and bowed her forehead on it, as before feeling
by some fine instinct that her unspoken sympathy was best.

It was. The brave man, in this last emergency, did as he would have
done in the field at the head of his company if subjected to a sudden
attack. He promptly rearranged and marshalled all his faculties to face
the enemy. There was not a moment of despairing, vain retreat. In the
strong pressure upon his mind of those questions which must now be
settled once for all, he forgot the girl by his side. He was still so
long that she timidly raised her head and was awed by his stern, fixed
expression of deep abstraction. She did not disturb him except as the
stifled sobs of her deep, yet now passing agitation convulsed her
bosom, and she began to give her attention to Uncle Lusthah, hitherto
unheeded. The old man was on his knees in a dusky corner, praying in
low tones. "Oh, I'm so glad he's here," she thought. "I'm glad he's
praying God to help us both." In the uncalculating sympathy and
strength of her nature she had unconsciously entered into the dying
man's experience and was suffering with him. Indeed, her heart sank
with a deeper dread and awe than he from the great change which he had
faced so often as to be familiar with its thought.

At last he seemed to waken to her presence and said compassionately,
"Poor little girl! so all your grief was about me. How pale you are!"

"I do so wish you could go home," she breathed; "I am so very, VERY
sorry."

"Well, Miss Baron," he replied with dignity, "I'm no better than
thousands of others. I always knew this might happen any day. You have
learned why it is peculiarly hard for me--but that's not to be thought
of now. If I've got my marching orders, that's enough for a soldier. It
was scarcely right in Borden to give you this heavy task. I could have
faced the truth from his lips."

"He felt so dreadfully about it," she replied. "He said he had been
giving you false hopes in trying to make you get well."

"Oh, yes, he meant kindly. Well, if it hasn't been too much for you,
I'm glad you told me. Your sympathy, your face, will be a sweet memory
to carry, G--od only knows where. Since it can't be little Sadie's face
or my wife's I'm glad it's yours. What am I saying? as if I should
forget their dear faces through all eternity."

"Ah! captain, I wish you could hear one of our soldiers, talk. Dying
with him just means going to Heaven."

The officer shook his head. "I'm not a Christian," he said simply.

"Neither am I," she replied, "but I've been made to feel that being one
is very different from what I once thought it was."

"Well, Miss Baron, what is it to be a Christian--what is your idea of
it? There has always seemed to me such a lot of conflicting things to
be considered--well, well, I haven't given the subject thought and it's
too late now. I must give my mind to my family and--"

Uncle Lusthah stepped before him with clasped hands and quivering lips.
"Ef marse cap'n des list'n ter de ole man a minit. I ain't gwine ter
talk big en long. I kyant. I des wanter say I hab 'spearance. Dat
sump'n, marse cap'n, you kyant say not'n agin--rale 'spearance, sump'n
I KNOWS."

"Well, you kind old soul, what do you know?"

"P'raps des what mars'r knows ef he ony tinks a lil. Let us git right
down ter de root ob de marter, kaze I feared dere ain' time fer
'locutions."

"Now you're right at least, uncle. I must set my house in order. I must
write to my wife."

"Marse cap'n, you gwine on a journey. Wa't yo' wife wish mo'n dat you
git ready fer de journey? She tek dat journey too, bime by soon, en you
bof be at de same deah home."

"Ah, uncle, if that could be true, the sting of death would be gone."

"Sut'ny, marse cap'n. Didn't I know dat ar w'en I mek bole ter speak?
Now des tink on hit, mars'r. Yere I is, an ole ign'rant slabe, kyant
eben read de good Book. De worl' full ob poor folks lak me. Does you
tink ef de Lawd mean ter sabe us't all He'd do hit in some long
rounerbout way dat de wise people kyant mos' fin' out? No, bress He
gret big heart, He des stan' up en say to all, 'Come ter me en I gib
you res'."

"Yes, uncle, but I haven't gone to Him. I don't know how to go, and
what's more, I don't feel it's right to go now at the last minute as if
driven by fear."

"Now, cap'n, fergib de ole man fer sayin' you all wrong. Haint young
mistis been breakin' her lil gyurlish heart ober yo' trouble? Am de
Lawd dat die fer us wuss'n a graven himage? Doan He feel fer you mo'n
we kin? I reck'n you got des de bes' kin' of prep'ration ter go ter
'Im. You got trouble. How He act toward folks dat hab trouble--ev'y
kin' ob trouble? Marse cap'n, I des KNOWS dat de Lawd wanter brung you
en yo' wife en dat lil Sadie I year you talk 'bout all togeder whar He
is. I des KNOWS hit. Hit's 'spearance."

"Miss Baron," said the captain calmly, "Isn't it wonderful? This old
slave says he knows what, if true, is worth more to me than all the
accumulated wisdom of the world. What do you think of it?"

"It seems as if it ought to be true," she answered earnestly. "I never
so felt before that it OUGHT to be true. We never should have been
born, or given such love as you have for your dear ones, if it isn't
true. Oh, to be just snatched hopelessly away from such ties is
horrible. My whole soul revolts at it."

"See here, uncle," said the captain almost sternly, "I'm not going to
groan, sigh, weep, and take on in any of your camp-meeting tactics. I
am before the last great enemy and I know how to meet him like a man
and soldier, if not a Christian. I'm willing to do anything not
insincere or unmanly to meet my wife and children again. If my thought
and feeling for them at this time isn't right, then I've been created
wrong."

"Marse cap'n, I'se seen de mos' po'ful feelin's en miseries ob de
'victed ones vaperate lak de maunin' dew en I'se larn in my ole age dat
de sabin po'r ain' in we uns, ner in any ting we is ob oursefs ner in
w'at we po' lil chil'n of yearth kin do. De Lawd say, He come ter seek
en sabe de loss; I wuz loss. De wuss ting He enemies cud speak agin 'Im
wuz, Dis man 'ceiveth sinners: I wuz a sinner. I des arst 'Im ter sabe
me, en He did. I des trus' 'Im fer life en death en does de bes' I kin.
Dat's all. But hit's 'SPEARANCE, marse cap'n, en I KNOWS hit. Now,
marse cap'n, w'at fo' you go way in the de dark, you dunno whar? De
bressed Lawd say, I go ter prepare a place fer you. Now you des let
young mistis write ter yo' folks dat you gwine wid Jesus ter dat ar
place en dat you gwine ter wait fer dem dar en welcome urn home bime by
des lak dey wud welcome you home way up Norf. Dat ud comf't em a heap,
en hit's all true. I knows hit. Young mistis berry sens'ble w'en she
say we neber orter be bawn ef hit ain' true."

The officer looked fixedly at the tearful, wrinkled face for a few
moments and then said firmly, "I'll soon find out if it's true. If I do
this thing at all, I'll do it in the only way I can. Miss Baron, you
may write to my wife that I accept her faith. It's much the same as
Uncle Lusthah's--too simple and unphilosophical, I used to think; but
it meets my need now. I can't deal even with God in any other way than
this. The mind he has endowed me with revolts at anything else as
hypocritical. I can and do say that I will accept in grateful,
downright sincerity the terms which Uncle Lusthah accepted, which my
wife accepted. I submit myself to His will. I do this calmly, as I
would give my hand and pledge my faith to a man, and I cannot do any
more. Now He may do with me as He pleases. Miss Baron, you do the same
and you'll be just as good--yes, a much better Christian than I, for
I've done rough, bad things in my life. Don't you wait till you're in
my extremity. I must say that I have a wretched sense of self-contempt
that I am looking Heavenward with dying eyes. There's only one thing
that reconciles me to it--the words 'Our Father.' God knows that I'd
open my arms to my little Sadie under any possible circumstances. What
the old man here says must be true, for to trifle with or mock a man in
my position presupposes a degree of malignity inconceivable. I ask
nothing better than that Christ will receive me as I would receive my
child from world-wide wandering."

"Ah, bress He big gret heart," cried Uncle Lusthah, dropping on his
knees, "w'en yo' fader en yo' moder forsook you den de Lawd took you
up."

"Miss Baron, I wish to think a while and learn from Borden just how
much time I have left. You will come to me again?"

"Yes, whenever you wish."

"Well, then, good-by for a short time. Thank God for sending me such an
angel of death. You stay with me, uncle, till I send you for Borden."



CHAPTER XXX

GLIMPSES OF MOODS AND MINDS


Dr. Borden's predictions were verified in regard to his friend and
patient, Captain Hanfield, but not before the officer had dictated
calm, farewell letters to his wife and "little Sadie." To Miss Lou were
left the serene, smiling likenesses, a grave to be cared for beside
Yarry's, and a memory that could never be blotted out. She was kept
from witnessing the terrible convulsions which began soon after her
interview, but was present at his death and held his hand until it was
cold and lifeless.

Within two weeks after the battle very few patients were left, and all
these were to go with Dr. Ackley on the following day, Lieutenant Waldo
excepted. He was still too weak to be moved. His mother had become so
skilful in the care of his wound that she would be competent, with the
help of an aged resident practitioner, to carry him through his
convalescence. Mrs. Whately now spent most of the time on her
plantation, her presence being needed there to remedy the effects, as
far as possible, of the harsh measures at first adopted by her son. It
was discouraging effort. The strong ebb tide in the old order of things
had set in even far from the Union lines, and only the difficulty in
reaching them prevented a general stampede of the negroes. As it was,
two or three of her best hands would steal away from time to time, and
run the gantlet of many dangers in their travel by night Northward. Her
attempts to mollify and render her slaves contented were more than
counterbalanced by the threats and severity of her son, who was too
vacillating to adopt a fixed policy, and arbitrary by nature.

Her chief hope for him still centred in Miss Lou, upon whom his
thoughts were fixed with a steadfastness and earnestness which his
mother fondly believed would win her eventually, "I'm sure," she
reasoned, "Captain Maynard has made no deep impression. He is about to
depart. All will soon be gone, and the old monotony of plantation life
will be resumed. After what has happened Louise will not be able to
endure this. Madison will return, older and wiser from experience and
she, with nothing else to occupy her thoughts will react, like all
impulsive natures, from her opposition. Next to winning her or her
favor from the start, he has scored a success in waking a hostility far
removed from fatal indifference."

She maintained an affectionate manner toward her niece and never
discussed the hope she entertained and expectation of calling her
daughter. In truth, she had won the girl's respect and goodwill in a
very high degree. She had been a kind and successful nurse among the
wounded, confining her efforts chiefly to the Confederates. She had
also been a dignified lady in all the scenes they had passed through.
Her weakness was her son, yet the girl was compelled to admit that it
was the weakness of love. In seeking to bring about the detested union
a motherly heart and feeling toward her had ever been apparent.

The girl was already becoming depressed by a presentiment of the dull,
stagnant days to come. Scoville had been lost in the great outside,
unknown world completely. She was suffering from reaction after the
strong excitements and fatigues of her experience. Her two lovers,
remaining on the scene, possessed a sort of goading interest which
compelled her to think of them, but she contemplated their near
departure without regret. Nothing in her nature answered to their
looks, words and evident desires. She felt that she would as soon marry
one as the other, and that she would rather be buried beside Captain
Hanfield and take the journey of which Uncle Lusthah had quaintly
spoken than wed either. Yet in her lassitude she feared that she could
now be compelled to marry either or any one if enough active force was
employed, so strangely had ebbed her old fearless spirit.

It were with a kind of wondering pity that she looked at Maynard and
saw the evidences of an honest, ardent attachment. "Why does he feel
so?" she asked herself. "I have done nothing for him, given no
encouragement, and would not care if I never saw him again. I merely
wish him well, as I do so many others. Why can't he see this, and just
act on the truth? He says he is coming to see me every chance he gets
and tries to make me feel that he'll never give me up. Perhaps if I
should let him speak plainly he would see how useless it all would be."

Circumstances apparently favored the half-formed purpose. Languid from
the heat of the day, she went out on the piazza after supper, sat down
on the upper step and leaned against a rose-entwined pillar. Maynard
was entranced by the picture she made and promptly availed himself of
the opportunity. Every one else had disappeared except Zany, of whom
glimpses could be caught through the open windows of the supper-room;
but she did not count. Sitting on a lower step so as to be in a measure
at her feet Maynard began.

"Miss Baron, I am thinking very sadly, if you are not, over the fact
that I am to go away in the morning."

"Yes," she replied, half-consciously ignoring his personal view, "the
old house and plantation will soon be as quiet and deserted as before."

"Do you regret this?"

"I scarcely know. I am very tired and feel sad over all that has
happened. Perhaps I'll feel differently by and by, when I've rested and
had time to think."

"Oh, Miss Baron, if you knew how earnestly I hope to be remembered in
those thoughts, to give you something definite to think of."

She had scarcely the energy to check him, the thought occurring more
than once, "I might just as well let him speak his mind and see how
vain his hope is."

"You have not given me encouragement," he resumed. "You have seemed too
preoccupied, sad or weary; but this phase of your life will pass away.
Our glorious cause must soon be crowned with success. If I survive, may
I not hope that when I come again you will give me a hearing, a chance?
I can be patient, even though not patient by nature. I will do all that
a man--"

"Captain," interrupted the girl, at last, "I suppose, from the books
I've read, I should make some fine speeches about the honor you are
bestowing on me, and all that. I'm too tired and sad for anything
conventional and appropriate. I'm just going to answer you like a
simple, honest girl. One of my chief reasons for sadness is that you
feel as you do. I see no reason for it. I'm glad you say I've given you
no encouragement, I know I have not. Why should you care so for me when
I do not and cannot respond at all? I do sincerely wish you well, but
it seems to me that it should be enough for a man when a girl listens
to such words as yours in weary sadness only."

"It may be hard indeed for a man to recognize this truth, Miss Baron,
but I am not speaking of the present--of the future rather. There has
been much to make you sad and weary. Your very youth and high spirit
will soon lead you to react from your present depression. Let me speak
of the future. Please let me fill that with hope for you and for me."

"Oh, I don't know about the future. For some reason I dread even to
think of it."

At this instant Whately galloped to the piazza, threw the reins on the
neck of his horse as he dismounted, evidently not caring in his
perturbation where the animal wandered. He was in a bad mood, for
things were not going smoothly at home. The attitude of his rival at
his cousin's feet stung him into a jealous rage and he remarked
bitterly as he strode past them, "Don't let my inopportune arrival
disturb this charming tete-a-tete. In fact, I had no business to remain
at my uncle's home at all, even at the call of duty, after Captain
Maynard signified his intention of making it the long-continued field
of his operations."

Cut to the quick, Maynard sprang to his feet, but Miss Lou merely made
a gesture of annoyance and went to her room.

"Lieutenant Whately," began the captain in low, stern tones, "were I
not in some sense a guest, even though an unwelcome one--"

"You are no guest of mine, sir, nor indeed of anyone that I am aware
of."

"Thank you. I was haunted by some restraining consideration of Southern
hospitality, but if I am free--"

"You are perfectly free, sir," again interrupted Whately, dropping his
hand on the hilt of his sabre. "Let me also add that a Southern
gentleman would not have made Southern hospitality a subterfuge for an
opportunity to press a suit repugnant to the family concerned. We have
never failed in hospitality to any invited guest."

"Your words are offensive, sir."

"I mean them to be so."

"Very well; then I have but one answer. I challenge you. Choose your
weapons, hour and place of meeting."

"Revolvers, if you please. Meet me back of the grove yonder, at the
right of the house, at daybreak."

"I'll not fail you. There is no need of seconds in this affair, I take
it, and we are to keep our purpose secret. Dr. Ackley would interfere
and the family be distressed were our intentions known."

"No one need know till our shots are heard and then it will be too late
to interfere. I insist that we fight to the death."

"Certainly, if that's your wish. Good-evening, sir."

"Good-evening," and Whately went to his room to remove the dust of his
ride and prepare for the late supper which his aunt had ordered for him.

This lady, hearing his step in the hall, hastened downstairs and called
for Zany. "Yassum," came in quick response. The young woman emerged
from the dining-room looking as stolid as a wooden image.

"Attend to Lieutenant Whately's supper and see that he has the best you
can get for him."

"Yassum."

Mrs. Baron then repaired to her husband's office, where he and Surgeon
Ackley were closeted, making up the accounts relating to the occupation
of the property for hospital purposes. Maynard lighted his pipe, and
strolled out into the grounds. He was in a cold, deadly mood of anger.
There was just enough sting of truth in Whately's words to make the
insult unendurable. Added to this was intense exasperation that he had
been interrupted at a critical and, as he believed, a hopeful, moment.
He had seen that the girl was not ready for his suit or that of any one
at present, but was quite sure he could have won permission to renew
his addresses in the future. Now--well, he was ready enough to fight to
the death and utterly oblivious of the still, serene beauty of the
night. He appeared but a shadow as he walked quietly under the trees,
but it was a shadow of death. An hour since and he was but a passionate
youth, full of ardent love and longing, vaguely inspired, under the
influence of his passion, toward all noble enthusiasms. At the touch of
a few words his heart overflowed with bitterness, and a cold,
vindictive hate rendered the hours interminable till he could aim a
bullet at his rival's heart, reckless meantime that another bullet was
aimed at his.

In his walk he passed the tent in which Lieutenant Waldo and his mother
were talking quietly of their home and the prospects of maintaining it
during the troublous times clearly foreseen.

"Mother," said Waldo, "have you any definite idea as to the success of
our arms?"

"No, Vincent, nor do I suppose we can at this remote plantation. We
only know that there is heavy fighting at various points and great
successes are claimed; but it seems very hard to get at the real truth.
Our chief confidence must be in the sacredness and justness of our
cause and in the prayers of so many sincere hearts to the God of
justice. In giving you, my son, to our country, when you were scarcely
more than a boy, you can understand why I feel that such sacrifices
cannot be in vain. Now that I have watched beside you in your patient,
heroic suffering, the feeling becomes a conviction that our sunny land
must be enriched and blessed for all time by such blood as yours."

"Well, mother, I do not begrudge my blood or my life. You have taught
me that to die is gain; but almost hourly I pray for recovery that I
may soon rejoin my regiment and do more toward achieving our liberty.
How strange it is that men of the North should be animated by much the
same spirit! Miss Baron has been showing me the lovely faces of the
wife and daughter of a Federal officer who died heroically a few days
ago. She says the war is all a dreadful mystery to her."

"I am beginning to understand her better," replied Mrs. Waldo musingly,
"for to some extent she has given me her confidence. If she had been
brought up as you have been she would feel as you do. I can see why her
uncle and aunts have not won her sympathy, while her cousin's conduct
has been well calculated to alienate her. I can also understand why the
negroes on the place have so enlisted her sympathy. I do not think they
have been treated very harshly, but it is too clear that they are
regarded simply as property, and Mr. Baron has allowed himself to be
represented among them by a brutal, coarse-fibred man. If she had been
your sister and had witnessed the spirit in which our slaves are
governed and cared for she would feel as you do, not vindictive hatred
of the North--such feeling is not permissible toward any of the human
race--but a stern, lofty spirit of independence, such as our fathers
had in separating from England."

"Well, she is a brave, good girl, mother, and has been as kind to me as
if I were her brother."

"Very true, Vincent. She is a remarkably good girl for one brought up
as she has been. She has told me much about her past repressed, unhappy
life. I hope she may visit us some day."

Meantime, the subject of this conversation sat at her window looking
out into the warm, fragrant, starlit night. The words of Maynard, the
passionate resentment of her cousin toward the young captain merely
added to the heavy burden of experience which had been crowded into the
past few weeks. "Oh," she sighed longingly, "if I could only see Allan
Scoville! He is so strong, unselfish and restful. I could tell him
everything. He would know just how weary and depressed I am, nor would
he want me to do what I can't, what I'm not ready for. Oh, what a
blessed thing it would be to have a friend near who wasn't always
exacting or expecting or passionately urging something or other. I
wouldn't need urging in his case, and would even know his hand would be
the first to restrain me for my own good. Where is he now? Oh, he'd be
here if my thoughts could bring him, yet my two lovers would be eager
to take his life. Lovers indeed! Well, it's a strange, tangled up world
that I'm learning about."

Meantime Zany, bursting with her secret, was unable to tell any one,
and not yet sure she wished to tell. For one at her point of
civilization her motives were a little complex and sophisticated. In a
vicarious way she felt not a little the elation of many a high-born
dame that two men were about to fight over her young mistress,
regarding it as an undeniable compliment. She was also inclined to
indulge the cynical thought that it might save Miss Lou, Scoville,
Chunk--indeed, all in whom she was interested--further trouble if, as
she phrased it, "Dat ar young cap'n gib Mad Whately he way onst too
of'un. He des natchelly bawn ter mek folks trouble en I reck'n we git
on wid he spook bettah ner hesef."

Whately would not have relished his supper if he had divined the
thoughts of his waitress. As it was, he had little appetite for it and
paid his respects chiefly to his uncle's decanter. He felt no need of
false courage, but was irritated and depressed over the general aspect
of affairs, and here was an easy way of raising his spirits. By the
time he was ready to dispense with Zany's services he was so affected
by his potations that his aunt, who had appeared on the scene, hastened
his retirement. He told the sergeant of the guard to have him called at
daybreak and was soon asleep.

The indomitable housekeeper, Mrs. Baron, kept the girl busy until
everything was put away and the dining-room in perfect order. Meantime
Zany concluded that she had better tell Miss Lou. Her young mistress
might blame her severely if she did not, and keeping such a secret over
night would also be a species of torture.

When she was dismissed she watched her opportunity, whisked up to Miss
Lou's room, and was glad to find the girl still awake.

"Oh, Miss Lou," she whispered breathlessly, "I des got de orfulest,
quarest news, en I darsn't kep hit eny longer. Marse cap'n en Mad
Whately gwine ter fight 'bout you fo' sun-up."

"What!"

"Dey sut'ny is. Dey gwine ter fight one anoder 'bout you wid
'volvers--fight ter de deth dey said. I yeared dem troo de dine-room
winders."

"Oh, Zany! this is horrible!"

"Hit mout be wuss. Yo' cousin hot fer hit. He say orful tings ter marse
cap'n who didin't gib back a inch en sez, sez he, 'I challing you.
Shoose yo' weapons en place ob meetin'. Dem he berry words. Den yo'
cousin shose 'volvers en de far side ob de grobe up dar en said 'we
fight ter de deth.' Deth useter seem orful, Miss Lou, but sech a heap
ob mens die dat ef Mad Whately des set on dyin', w'y not let 'im hab he
way? Dat orter suit 'im bes'. I reck'n he mek we uns en Marse Scoville
en Chunk berry lil trouble arter he dead."

"Zany, Zany, that's a dreadful way to look at it. You should know
better. This meeting must be prevented. Where is my cousin?"

"He des sound a sleep ez a log," and she made it clear that there would
be no use in trying to remonstrate with him.

"Where's Captain Maynard?"

"Dunno. Sleepin' in he tent too, s'pose. Hit too late now, Miss Lou,
ter do anyting fo' mawnin'."

The girl thought deeply a few moments and then muttered, "Shame on them
both!"

"Dar now, Miss Lou, you doan reckermember dey payin' you a big
compelment."

"I shall tell them to their faces how I regard this outrage rather.
Still, for their sakes, as well as my own, I will keep the affair quiet
if I can. Zany, you must stay with me to-night and at the earliest dawn
we must watch them and be on the ground as soon as they are."

"Berry well, Miss Lou. I lak not'n bettah."

"Go to sleep, then. I won't sleep to-night."



CHAPTER XXXI

THE DUELLISTS VANQUISHED


Zany's tidings brought the spur of a great necessity to Miss Lou's
jaded spirit, and as her waking thoughts dwelt on the proposed
encounter, a slow, deep anger was kindled in her mind. "What right have
they to do such a thing?" she asked herself over and over again. Even
more than at, the barbarism of the act she revolted at its injustice.
"I never wronged either of them," she repeated, "and here they are
recklessly bent on what would imbitter my life. The idea of being
fought about! Two animals couldn't do worse."

And so the long night was passed in bitter, painful thoughts. With the
dawning the bird's innocent songs jarred on her overwrought senses. She
looked out of the window by which she had kept her vigil, inhaled the
dewy freshness of the air and then bathed her tired, hot eyes.

"To think that men would disturb the peace of such a morning by their
miserable, causeless hate! Where is Madison's love for his mother? Why
don't they remember the distress and horror that would follow their mad
act? Zany, wake up. It is time we were on the watch."

Even as she spoke there was a heavy step in the outer hall, that of the
sergeant coming to wake Lieutenant Whately. Miss Lou glanced from her
window in time to see Captain Maynard striding from his tent toward the
grove which would screen the combatants from observation. Waiting a few
moments for the sergeant to retire she and Zany slipped down and out
before Whately left his room. They reached the grove from the back
entrance of the house, and concealing themselves in some copse-wood,
watched for Whately's coming. He soon appeared, walking rapidly as if
fearing to be behind time. He was in fact some moments late, having
stopped to advise Perkins of the affair on hand. He passed so near his
cousin's leafy screen that she could look into his flushed, troubled
face and could hear him mutter, "Curse it all! I'm forever getting into
scrapes."

For the first time since Zany's news, pity overcame her anger and she
murmured, "Poor spoiled boy! It's well for you and your mother that I'm
here."

Swiftly she followed him through the still dusky grove, keeping the
boles of trees between herself and his form. Beyond the grove was an
open grassy field, facing the east, where the light was distinct.
Clearly outlined against the rose-tinted horizon was the figure of
Maynard standing with his arms folded and his back toward them,
apparently lost in deep thought.

"Well, sir," said Whately sternly, "I suppose I should asked your
pardon for keeping you waiting."

"I reckon there's plenty of time for the purpose of our meeting,"
replied Maynard coolly. "Since you are the challenged party and we have
no seconds, arrange the matter to suit yourself."

Whately was about to pace off the ground when a girl's voice rang out
clearly, "Stop that!"

"Miss Baron!" cried Maynard, taking off his hat.

Whately threw back his head proudly. This was better than he had
dreamed, for now his cousin would be compelled to recognize his high
and haughty spirit. A glance at the girl's pale, stern face as she
stepped out between them was not altogether reassuring. She glanced
coldly from one to the other for a moment and then said firmly, "I have
something to say about this affair."

"Pardon me, Miss Baron," Maynard began, bowing, "if I am compelled to
disabuse your mind. This is a little matter between Lieutenant Whately
and myself. I am surprised beyond measure that he has invited you to be
present."

"That's a lie," thundered Whately, drawing his weapon from his belt.

"Stop, both of you," cried the girl. "Captain Maynard, my cousin has
not invited me. Your purpose of meeting was discovered by accident and
revealed to me late last night--too late for me to do anything then.
All the long night I have sat at my window that I might be in time to
keep you from disgracing yourselves and me."

"Great heavens! Miss Baron, you do me injustice," cried Maynard. "I
have been insulted. I never thought of wronging you. Perish such a
thought!"

"Evidently neither of you has thought of me, nor cared for me or
others. Yourselves, your own vindictive feelings have engrossed you
wholly, yet I know I'm the innocent cause of this brutal encounter, and
the world would know me to be the cause whether it believed me innocent
or not. I tell you plainly that if you fight I shall brand you both
unworthy the name of gentlemen and I shall proclaim to all your outrage
to me."

"Outrage to you, Miss Baron?" said Maynard, with a bitter, incredulous
laugh.

"Yes," she replied, turning upon him fiercely. "What can you think of
me when you fight about me like a wild beast?"

"I am prepared to fight Lieutenant Whately on entirely different
grounds," he replied, his face flushing hotly at her words.

"You cannot do it, sir. I would know, and so would all, that I was the
cause. What right, sir, have you to imbitter my life, to fill my days
and nights with horror? I never wronged you."

"But, Miss Baron, in all ages such encounters have been common enough
when a man received ample provocation, as I have."

"So much the worse for the ages then. I say that you both were about to
commit a selfish, cowardly, unmanly act that would have been an outrage
in its cruelty to an innocent girl, to whom you had been making false
professions of regard."

"Now, by the God who made me, that's not true, Miss Baron."

"Cousin Lou, you are beside yourself," cried Whately.

"Miss Baron," said Maynard, coming to her side and speaking with great
earnestness, "I can endure any charge better than your last. No man
ever declared truer love than I to you."

"I can tell you of a man who has declared truer love," she replied,
looking him steadily in the eyes.

"Who in God's name?" he asked savagely.

"Any man who thought more of the girl than of himself," she answered
with passionate pathos in her tones, "any man who considered her before
his own reckless, ungovernable feelings, who would save her heart from
sorrow rather than gratify his anger. Any man who asks, What is best
for the woman I love? instead of What's my humor? what will please me?
Suppose you both had carried out your savage impulses, and lay on this
ground, wounded or dead, what would be said at the house there about
me? What would be your mother's fate, Madison, that you might gratify a
causeless spite? Have you no home, Captain Maynard, no kindred who
would always curse my name? If you had died like the brave men who lie
in yonder graves your friends would ever speak your name proudly; but
even I, all inexperienced, know the world well enough to be only too
sure, they would hang their heads and say you flung away your life for
a heartless girl who was amusing herself at your expense. Fight if you
will, but if you do, I pledge you my word that I will never willingly
look upon either of you again, living or dead!"

She was about to turn away when Maynard rushed before her exclaiming,
"Miss Baron, I beg your pardon, I ask your forgiveness. I never saw
this act in the light you place it."

"There, cousin," added Whately with a sort of shamefaced laugh, "I'm
hanged if you aren't in the right and I in the wrong again. As you say,
the bullet that killed me might do worse by mother, and I should have
thought of that. As for you, we didn't think you'd look at it this way.
There's plenty of girls who'd think it a big feather in their caps to
have men fight about 'em."

"I can't believe it."

"It's true, nevertheless," said Maynard earnestly. "What can I do to
right myself in your eyes?"

"If you wish to be men whose friendship I can value, shake hands and
use your weapons for your country. If you truly care for my good
opinion, forget yourselves long enough to find out what DOES please me
and not rush headlong into action I detest. Consider the rights,
feelings and happiness of others."

"Well, Whately, what do you say?" asked Maynard with a grim laugh. "I
am ready to obey Miss Baron as I would my superior officer," and he
held out his hand.

Whately took it with an answering laugh, saying, "There's nothing else
left us to do. After her words, we could no more fight each other than
shoot her."

"Thank you. I--I--Zany," she faltered, turning deathly white. She would
have fallen had not her cousin sprung to her aid, supporting her to a
seat on a moss-grown log lying near.

For a few moments the long strain and reaction proved too much for her,
and she sat, pale and panting, her head resting against Zany, who had
rushed from her covert. The young men were overwhelmed with compunction
and alarm, but she retained and silenced them by a gesture. "I'll
be--better--in a moment," she gasped.

It proved but a partial giving way of her nervous force. In a few
moments she added, "Please go back to the house by different ways. No
one need know anything about this. No, don't call any one. I'll get
better faster if left with Zany. I beg you do as I ask and then my mind
will be at rest."

"There, Miss Baron," said the remorseful Maynard, "I pledge you my word
I'll never fight a duel. I can prove my courage sufficiently against
the enemy."

She smiled, held out her hand, which he carried to his lips and
reluctantly departed.

"See here, Cousin Lou," said Whately impulsively, "I'm going to give
you an honest, cousinly kiss. I'm not so feather-headed as not to know
you've got us both out of a devil of a scrape."

He suited the action to his words, and strode off in time to intercept
Perkins, who had the scent of a vulture for a battle. "We have arranged
the affair for the present," said the young officer curtly, "and won't
need any graves to-day. Keep mum about this."

"I'll keep my mouth close enough till I kin begin ter bite on my own
account," muttered the overseer as he sullenly followed.



CHAPTER XXXII

SAD TIDINGS


That morning Miss Lou stood on the veranda and bade farewell, one after
another, to those with whom she had been associated so strangely and
unexpectedly. There was an unwonted huskiness in Dr. Borden's voice,
and Ackley, usually so grim and prompt, held the girl's hand
lingeringly as he tried to make a joke about her defying him and the
whole Confederacy. It was a dismal failure. Regarding him with her
weary eyes, she said:

"Doctor, you had wit enough and heart enough to understand and subdue
me. Haven't I minded you since?"

"I'm a little afraid you'd still get the upper hand if you often looked
at me as you do now. I shall find out, however, if you will obey one
more order. Miss Baron, you MUST rest. Your pulse indicates unusual
exhaustion. You have tried to do too much, and I expect those young men
have been making such fierce and counter claims that you are all worn
out. Ah, if I had been only twenty years younger I would have won you
by a regular course of scientific love-making."

"I don't know anything about science and wouldn't understand you. So it
is better as it is, for I do understand what a good, kind friend you've
been. You knew all the while that I was little more than an ignorant
child, yet your courtesy was so fine that you treated me like a woman.
I hope we shall meet again in brighter days. Yes, I will obey you, for
I feel the need of rest."

"I shall come again and take my chances," said Maynard in parting.

Mercurial Whately, forgetting his various troubles and experiences in
the excitement of change and return to active duty, bade her a rather
boisterous and good-hearted farewell. His mind was completely relieved
as to Maynard, and he did not dream of Scoville as a serious rival.

"It's only a question of time," he thought, "and at present mother can
do the courting better than I can. When I return Lou will be so
desperately bored by her stupid life here as to be ready for any
change."

The remaining patients looked at her and Mrs. Whately very wistfully
and gratefully, speaking reluctant adieus. When all were gone the girl,
feeling that she had reached the limit of endurance, went to her room
and slept till evening. It was the sleep of exhaustion, so heavy that
she came down to a late supper weak and languid. But youth is elastic,
the future full of infinite possibilities. Scoville's words haunted her
like sweet refrains of music. No matter how weary, perplexed and sad
she was, the certainty of her place in his thoughts and heart sustained
her and was like a long line of light in the west, indicating a
clearing storm. "He WILL come again," she often whispered to herself;
"he said he would if he had to come on crutches. Oh, he DOES love me.
He gave me his love that night direct, warm from his heart, because he
couldn't help himself. He thought he loved me before--when, by the run,
he told me of it so quietly, so free from all exaction and demands; but
I didn't feel it. It merely seemed like bright sunshine of kindness and
goodwill, very sweet and satisfying then. But when we were parting,
when his tones trembled so, when overcome, he lost restraint and
snatched me to HIS heart--then I learned that _I_, too, had a heart."

If she had been given time this new heart-life, with thoughts and hopes
springing from it like flowers, would have restored her elasticity.
Scoville's manly visage, his eyes, so often mirthful, always kind,
would have become so real to her fancy that the pallid, drawn features
of the suffering, the dying and the dead, would have faded from her
memory. So would have faded also the various aspects of passion from
which she had shrunk, frightened by its hot breath. Her days would have
been filled with the beautiful, innocent dreams of a young girl's first
love so inspired as to cast out fear.

But the ruthless Moloch of war could not permit anything so ideal, so
heavenly, as this.

Mrs. Waldo came down from the apartment to which her son had been
removed and joined the girl on the veranda. "Ah!" she exclaimed, "I
have taken solid comfort all day in the thought that you were sleeping,
and now you are still resting. I want to see the color in your cheeks
again, and the tired look all gone from your eyes before we go."

"You don't know how I dread to have you go," replied Miss Lou. "From
the first your son did more for me than I could do for him. The smile
with which he always greeted me made me feel that nothing could happen
beyond remedy, and so much that was terrible was happening."

"Well, my child, that's the faith I am trying to cherish myself and
teach my boy. It is impossible for you to know what a black gulf opened
at my feet when my noble husband was killed early in the war. Such
things, happily, are known only by experience, and many escape. Then
our cause demanded my only son. I face death with him in every battle,
every danger. He takes risks without a thought of fear, and I dare not
let him know the agony of my fear. Yet in my widowhood, in the sore
pressure of care and difficulty in managing a large plantation in these
times, I have found my faith in God's love adequate to my need. I
should still find it so if I lost my boy. I could not escape the
suffering, but I would not sorrow as without hope."

"How much I would give for the certainty of such a faith!" said Miss
Lou sadly. "Sometimes, since Captain Hanfield died, I think I feel it.
And then--oh, I don't know. Things might happen which I couldn't meet
in your spirit. If I had been compelled to marry my cousin I feel that
I should have become hard, bitter and reckless."

"You poor, dear little girl! Well, you were not compelled to marry him.
Don't you see? We are saved from some things and given strength to bear
what does happen. Don't you worry about yourself, my dear. Just look up
and trust. Happily, the sun of God's love shines on just the same,
unaffected by the passing clouds of our feelings and experiences. He
sees the end and knows all about the peaceful, happy eternity before
us. You dear, worn-out little child! His love is ever about you like my
arms at this moment," and the old lady drew the girl to her in an
impulse of motherly tenderness.

"Oh, Mrs. Waldo, you make me feel what it is to have no mother," sobbed
Miss Lou.

"Well, my dear, that's your heavy cross. Sooner or later, in some form,
a cross burdens every human soul, too often many crosses. All I ask of
you is not to try to bear them alone. See how faith changed everything
for Captain Hanfield in his extremity. He is now in the better home,
waiting for his dear ones."

"I can never forget what faith has done for you and your son, Mrs.
Waldo. Surgeon Ackley said that your son's absolute quiet and
cheerfulness of mind during the first critical days saved his life."

"Yes, I know that," Mrs. Waldo replied with her low, sweet laugh.
"Faith is often more useful in helping us to live than in preparing us
to die. It saved my life, too, I'm sure, after my husband died. I had
no right to die then, for Vincent and, far more, my daughters, still
needed me."

For a time they sat on the piazza steps in silence, the old lady
keeping her arm caressingly about the girl, whose head drooped on the
motherly bosom overflowing with sympathy. Only the semi-tropical sounds
of night broke the stillness. The darkness was relieved by occasional
flashes along the horizon from a distant thunder-shower. Miss Lou
thought, "Have I ever known a peace so deep and sweet as this?"

There was a hasty, yet stealthy step along the hall to the door, yet
the girl had no presentiment of evil. The warm, brooding, fragrant
darkness of the night was not more undisturbed than her mind.

"Miss Lou," said Zany in a loud whisper.

What a shock came with that brief utterance! A flash of lightning
direct from the sky could not have produced such sudden dread and
presentiment of trouble. Truly, a woman listens more with her heart
than her ears, and even in Zany's whisper there was detected a note of
tragedy.

After an instant Miss Lou faltered, "What is it, Zany?"

"Ef you gwine ter yo' room soon I des he'p you undress."

How well the girl knew that the faithful slave meant other and less
prosaic help! She rose at once, kissed Mrs. Waldo good-night and
excused herself. When Zany had lighted the candle her scared, troubled
face revealed at once that she had tidings of dire import.

Miss Lou seized the girl with a grip which hurt her arm, demanding,
"Have you heard anything about--about Lieutenant Scoville?"

"Now, Miss Lou, you gotter be brabe en not look at me dat away. Kaze ef
you does, w'at I gwine ter do? I kyant stan' it nohow."

"Oh! oh!" Miss Lou gasped, "wait a moment, not yet--wait. I must get
breath. I know, I know what's coming. Chunk is back and--and--O God, I
can't bear it, I cannot, I cannot!"

"Dar now, Miss Lou, des lis'n. P'raps tain ez bad ez you tink. P'raps
w'en Chunk 'splain all you see tain ez bad. Hi! Miss Lou, you musn't
took on so," for the girl was wringing her hands and rocking back and
forth in agony. "Folks s'picion dat Chunk yere en dat ud be de eend ob
him, sho. He ain' seen Marse Scoville daid sho. He on'y see 'im fall.
Chunk wanter see you en he mighty skeery 'bout hit, kaze ef Perkins get
on he track he done fer. He ain' see he granny yit en he darsn't come
dar twel hit late. He larn ter toot lak a squinch-owl frum Marse
Scoville en he tole me dat when he come agin he toot. I nigh on run my
legs off follerin' up tootin's o' nights, fer dey wuz on'y pesky
squinch-owls arter all. Dis eb'nin' I year a toot dat flutter my heart
big en I knowed 'twuzn't no squinch-owl dis time, sho," and so Zany ran
on in her canny shrewdness, for she perceived she was gaining Miss
Lou's attention and giving time for recovery from the blow.

Miss Lou had a despairing conviction that Chunk would not have returned
alone unless his master was dead, but her mind quickly seized upon the
element of uncertainty and she was eager to see the negro.

"We mus' wait, we sut'ny mus', twel Chunk kin creep ter he granny's
cabin."

"I can't wait, Zany. It wouldn't be best, either for me or Chunk. It's
not very late yet, and I could visit Aun' Jinkey without exciting
remark if you go with me. It's too dark for Chunk to be seen and I'd
protect him with my life. I must get better ground for hope or my heart
will break. Pretend I wish a glass of water and see if we can't slip
out now."

This Zany did, discovering that Mrs. Baron was with her husband in his
office and that Mrs. Waldo had returned to her son's room.

In a few moments Miss Lou was sitting by Aun' Jinkey and tremblingly
telling her fears. Meanwhile Zany scouted around to insure immunity
from observation.

"You po', po' chile!" groaned Aun' Jinkey. "I wuz a-hopin' dat now you
hab a time ob peace en quietness, en you des gwine ter be s'pended
'twixt hebin en yearth."

"Oh, I fear he's dead, my heart tells me he's dead. Oh, mammy, mammy,
how can God be so cruel? I don't know who caused this war or who's to
blame, but I feel now as if I could TORTURE them."

"I'se feared dat ain' de right speret, honey."

"How can one have the right spirit when mocked by such a hope as I've
had? It needn't have happened. Oh, Mrs. Waldo, I could tell you NOW I'm
no Christian at all. I say it needn't have happened. And then think how
Uncle Lusthah prayed!"

"Chunk down dar by de run, Miss Lou," whispered Zany. "I lis'n wid all
my years en eyes."

"Miss Lou, I'se yere in de shadder ob dis bush," Chunk called softly.

"Tell me everything."

"Darsn't twel I feels mo' safe, Miss Lou. Kin on'y say now Marse
Scoville des dote on you en he ax questions 'bout you sence you lil
gyurl. Hun'erds ob times he say, 'Chunk, we go back some day, sho!' But
he do he duty brabe. I go wid 'im ev'ywhar en onst, des on de aige ob
night, he wuz ridin' long wid 'bout twenty ob he men en dis ting
happen. We didn't tink any Rebs roun' en I'd been kep' back tryn' ter
git a chicken fer mars'r's supper. Ez I riz a hill, ridin' right smart
I see our folks goin' easy en car'less inter a woods. I seed 'em all ez
plain ez eber see anybody, en Marse Scoville ride at de haid. Sudden
dere was flash, flash, bang, bang, all troo de woods. Marse Scoville
fell right off he hoss, he sut'ny did. Den lots ob Johnnies run in de
road fore en hind our mens. I see dere wuz no chaince fer me ter do any
ting but git away en lil chaince fer dat, fer two Rebs on horses come
tarin' arter me. Ef hit hadn't come dark sudden en my hoss wuzn't a
flyer I'se been cotched sho. 'Fo' de Lawd, Miss Lou, dat all I know."

"He's dead," said the girl in a hoarse whisper.

"I orful feared he is, Miss Lou," assented the matter-of-fact Chunk.
"De Rebs so neah w'en dey fiah, en Marse Scoville sut'ny did go off he
hoss sudden. I been a week gittin' yere en I neber git yere ef de
cullud people didn't he'p me long nights."

The girl stood silent and motionless. Suddenly Zany grasped her hand
and whispered, "I yeared steps. Come ter de cabin. Be off, Chunk."

They had scarcely reached Aun' Jinkey's door before a shadow approached
and the harsh voice of Perkins asked, "What's goin' on yere?"

"My young mistis des seein' her mammy 'bout her clos," replied the
quick-witted Zany.

"I thought I yeared voices down by the run."

"Reck'n you bettah go see," said Zany in rather high tones.

"What the dev--what makes yer speak so loud? a warnin'?"

"Tain' my place ter pass wuds wid you, Marse Perkins. Dem I serbs doan
fin' fault."

"I reckon Mr. Baron'll do mo'n find fault 'fore long. I bettah say
right yere en now I've got my orders 'bout that nigger Chunk. Nobody
kin save 'im ef caught. You've been followed before in your
night-cruisin' en you're lookin' fer some one. Ef there's trouble, Miss
Baron kyant say I didn't give warnin'. Now that the sogers is gone I'm
held 'sponsible fer what goes on," and he stalked away.

He did not wish to come into an open collision with Miss Lou again if
he could help it--not at least while the Waldos remained. He had
concluded that by a warning he might prevent trouble, his self-interest
inclining him to be conservative. Confederate scrip had so lost its
purchasing power that in its stead he had recently bargained with Mr.
Baron for a share in the crops. Thus it happened that the question of
making a crop was uppermost in his mind. Until this object was secured
he feared to array the girl openly against him, since her influence
might be essential in controlling the negroes. If policy could keep
them at work, well and good; if the harshest measures seemed best to
him he was ready to employ them.

Not only was he puzzled, but Zany also and Aun' Jinkey were sore
perplexed at Miss Lou's silence. She had stood motionless and unheeding
through the colloquy with the overseer, and now remained equally deaf
and unresponsive to the homely expressions of sympathy and
encouragement of the two women. They could not see her face, but
quickly felt the dread which anything abnormal inspires in the
simple-minded. Prone to wild abandon in the expression of their own
strong emotions, the silent, motionless figure of the young girl caused
a deeper apprehension than the most extravagant evidences of grief.

"Aun' Jinkey," whispered Zany, "you mus' des he'p me git her to her
room."

She went with them without word or sign. Their alarm was deepened when
they saw her deathly pale and almost rigid features by the light of her
candle.

"Miss Lou, honey, speak ter yo' ole mammy. You broke my heart w'en you
look dat away."

"I tell you he's dead," whispered the girl.

"Dis ter'ble," groaned the old woman. "'Fo' de Lawd I dunno w'at er do."

Zany felt instinctively that the girl was beyond their simple
ministrations and she was desperately afraid that if Mrs. Baron came
Chunk's presence would be revealed by words spoken unconsciously. She
and Aun' Jinkey promptly agreed that Mrs. Waldo was their only hope and
Zany flew to summon her.

Fortunately the lady had not retired and she came at once. "Louise,
Miss Baron, what is the matter?" she asked in strong solicitude.

"I tell you, he's dead," again whispered the girl, looking as if a
scene of horror were before her eyes. "The Rebs were so near when they
fired, and he fell off his horse sudden. Ch--"

Quick as light Zany's hand was over the girl's mouth. The scared face
and trembling form of the young negress did not escape Mrs. Waldo's
quick eye.

"Zany, what are you concealing?" she asked, sternly. "What does all
this mean?"

"Dar now, misus," answered Aun' Jinkey with a certain simple dignity,
"we mus' des trus you. I'se yeared you a lubin' serbent ob de Lawd. Ef
you is, you am' gwine ter bring mis'ry on mis'ry. We mus' brung Miss
Lou roun' sudden 'fo' ole miss comes. He'p us git young mistis sens'ble
en I tell you eberyting I kin. Dere ain' not'n bade 'bout dis honey
lam' ob mine."

They undressed the girl as if she were a helpless child and put her to
bed, and then Zany went downstairs to keep Mrs. Baron out of the way if
possible, at the same time listening intently for any signs of trouble
to Chunk.

Miss Lou's over-taxed mind had given way, or rather was enchained by a
spell of horror to the scenes presented all too vividly in Chunk's bald
statement. Her nervous force had been too enfeebled and exhausted to
endure the shock of an impression so tremendous in its tragic reality
that her faculties had no power to go beyond it. Chunk's words had
brought her to a darkening forest and her dead lover, and there she
stayed.

Seeing how unconscious she was Aun' Jinkey whispered enough in
explanation to enable Mrs. Waldo to comprehend the girl's condition.

"We must make her sleep," said the lady decisively, and under her wise
ministrations the stricken girl soon looked almost as if she were dead.
Having kindly reassured and dismissed Aun' Jinkey, Mrs. Waldo watched
Miss Lou as she would have kept vigil with one of her own daughters.



CHAPTER XXXIII

CONSPIRATORS


Perkins was very ill at ease that night, from a haunting suspicion that
Chunk had returned. "Pesky nigger'll have a revolver, too, most likely,
en be crazy ter use it! Haint been 'mong them cussed Yanks fer
nothin'!" There was therefore little disposition for a night hunt after
one who knew every inch of the region besides being as stealthy and
agile as a cat. The blow from which his head still ached had a warning
significance. Coarse, ignorant and superstitious, he was an easy victim
to the tormenting fears of his own bad conscience. The graves by the
run and the extemporized cemetery further away had even greater terrors
for him than for Aun' Jinkey. Even his whiskey jug could not inspire
sufficient courage to drive him at night far from his own door. Though
both hating and despising Whately, yet the absence of the young officer
and his force was now deeply regretted, as they had lent a sense of
security and maintained the old order of existing authority. Now he was
thrown chiefly on his own responsibility, for Mr. Baron was broken and
enfeebled by what he had passed through. Avarice spurned Perkins to
carry through the crops in which he had an interest, while his hope of
revenge on Chunk, Scoville and Miss Lou also tended to keep him at a
post which he foresaw would be one of difficulty and danger. He had no
doubt that the Union officer and his freedman would return as soon as
they could, and for the chance of wreaking his vengeance he was the
more willing to remain in what he feared would be a spook-infested
region. "Onst squar with them, en crops realized," he muttered, "I kin
feel mo' comft'ble in other parts. To-morrer, ef Chunk en that scout's
in these diggin's I'll know hit."

He was aware that the few dogs left on the plantation would make no
trouble for one they knew as well as they did Chunk, but he could rely
on the brute which he kept in his own quarters--a bloodhound, savage to
every one except his master.

"Grip will smell out the cussed nigger in the mawnin' ef he's been
around," he assured himself before beginning his nightly debauch.
"What's mo', Miss Baron ain't so high en mighty now she knows I'm
comin' to be the rale boss on the place. She didn't even squeak w'en I
gin my warnin' ter night."

Although Chunk knew his danger and was cautious, he was disposed on the
first night of his arrival to take some serious risks in order to carry
out the schemes dwelt upon during the long days of skulking home.
Naturally fearless he had acquired much of Scoville's soldier-like and
scouting spirit. The young officer had associated his dwarfish follower
with the service rendered by Miss Lou and was correspondingly grateful.
Chunk therefore received much consideration and good counsel by which
he had profited. Especially had Scoville scoffed at the negro's
superstitions, telling him that a fool afraid of spooks was neither fit
to be a free man nor a soldier.

Since Chunk had no imagination and believed absolutely in his master
there were no more "spooks" for him, but he knew well the dread
inspired by that word on the plantation, and it was his purpose to
avail himself of these deep-rooted fears. He heard the colloquy between
Zany and the overseer very distinctly, but so far from running away,
dogged the latter home. Long knife and revolver were handy in his belt
and a heavy club was carried also. Since no soldiers were around,
Perkins was not to be dreaded in the night, when once his resting-place
was known. Crouching a long time in the shadow of some cedars Chunk
watched the overseer's window, but the light was not extinguished. A
sudden suspicion dawned on our watcher, causing him to chuckle low with
delight. "Hi! he des feared of sleepin' in de dark, en dat can'le bu'n
all night!" Gliding a few steps nearer brought to the quick ear a
resounding snore, accompanied with a warning growl from, the
bloodhound. "I des fix 'em bof fo' I froo," and the brawny hand
clutched with greater force the heavy club it carried.

"Nex', some dem fellers mus' be tole ter he'p," and Chunk crept away to
the quarters. It was an easy task to waken and enlist Jute, well known
to be one of the most disaffected and fearless among the hands. The two
started off to a grove which none could approach without being seen,
and had a long whispered consultation. As a result, Jute returned to
the quarters and brought back three others whom he knew would enter
into the schemes on foot. By midnight Chunk had six of the braver and
more reckless spirits among the slaves bound to him by such uncouth
oaths as he believed would hold them most strongly. Then they returned
to their cabins while the chief conspirator (after again reconnoitring
the overseer's cottage) sought the vicinity of his granny's home.

With mistaken kindness and much shrewdness Chunk had resolved upon a
course that would fill the old woman's life with terror. He adopted the
policy of not letting her know anything of his plans, so that she could
honestly say "I dunno" and prove the fact by her manner. He
instinctively felt that it would have a very bad look if superstitious
Aun' Jinkey remained composed and quiet through the scenes he purposed
to bring about. Her sincere and very apparent fears were to be his
allies. It was part of his scheme also that Zany should be very badly
frightened and made eager to run away with him as soon as he and the
others were ready for departure.

By a preconcerted signal he summoned Aun' Jinkey who was much affected
by the thought that she was bidding her grandson a good-by which might
be final, but oppressed with fear, she was at the same time eager he
should go. Putting into his hands a great pone of corn bread she urged,
"Des light out, Chunk, light out sud'n. 'Twix de baid news en Miss Lou
en w'at Perkins do ef he cotch you, I des dat trembly, I kyant stan'."

"Perkins asleep, granny. I'se off now fer good, but I comin' back fer
you some day."

He disappeared, and too perturbed to think of sleep the old woman
tottered back to her chimney-corner. A few moments later she shuddered
at the hooting of a screech-owl, even though she surmised Chunk to be
the bird. Not so Zany, who answered the signal promptly. In a tentative
way Chunk sought to find if she was then ready to run away, but Zany
declared she couldn't leave Miss Lou "lookin ez if she wuz daid."
Thinking it might be long indeed before she saw her suitor again, she
vouchsafed him a very affectionate farewell which Chunk remorselessly
prolonged, having learned in his brief campaigning not to leave any of
the goods the gods send to the uncertainties of the future. When at
last he tore himself away, he muttered, "Speck she need a heap ob
scarin' en she git all she wants. Ef dat ar gyurl doan light out wid me
nex' time I ax her, den I eats a mule." And then Chunk apparently
vanished from the scene.

The next morning Miss Lou awoke feeble, dazed and ill. In a little
while her mind rallied sufficiently to recall what had happened, but
her symptoms of nervous prostration and lassitude were alarming. Mrs.
Whately was sent for, and poor Mr. Baron learned, as by another
surgical operation, what had been his share in imposing on his niece
too severe a strain. Mrs. Waldo whispered to Miss Lou, "Your mammy has
told me enough to account for the shock you received and your illness.
Your secret is safe with me."

Meantime the good lady thought, "It will all turn out for the best for
the poor child. Such an attachment could only end unhappily, and she
will get over it all the sooner if she believes the Yankee officer
dead. How deeply her starved nature must have craved sympathy and
affection to have led to this in such a brief time and opportunity!"

As may be supposed, Aun' Jinkey had been chary of details and had said
nothing of Scoville's avowal. The mistress of the plantation looked
upon her niece's illness as a sort of well earned "judgment for her
perversity," but all the same, she took care that the strongest beef
tea was made and administered regularly. Mrs. Whately arrived and
became chief watcher. The stricken girl's physical weakness seemed
equalled only by a dreary mental apathy. There was scarcely sufficient
vital force left even for suffering, a fact recognized by the aunt in
loving and remorseful solicitude.

By the aid of his bloodhound Perkins discovered that some one whom he
believed to be Chunk had been about, and he had secret misgivings as he
thought of the negro's close proximity. He had already learned what a
blow Chunk could deal and his readiness to strike. Taking the dog and
his gun he had cautiously followed the run into which the tracks led
until satisfied that the man he was following had taken horse and was
beyond pursuit. On his return he learned of Miss Lou's illness and so
ventured to threaten Aun' Jinkey.

"Yer do know 'bout that cussed grandson o' yourn. Kyant fool Grip, en
he' smelled out all the nigger's tracks. Now ef yer don't tell the
truth I'll raise the kentry 'roun' en we'll hunt 'im to the eends of
the yearth."

"Well den, Marse Perkins," admitted the terror-stricken woman, "I des
tell you de truf. Dat gran'boy ob min' des come ter say good-by. Marse
Scoville daid en Chunk mos' up Norf by dis time, he went away so sud'n."

"That Yankee cuss dead?" cried Perkins in undisguised exultation.

"Marse Scoville daid, shot of'n he hoss long way f'um yere," replied
Aun' Jinkey sorrowfully. "He kyant harm you ner you 'im no mo', ner
Chunk neider."

"Why the devil didn't you let us know Chunk was here las' night?"

"He my gran'son," was the simple reply.

"Well he isn't Zany's grandson! Now I know w'at she was snoopin' round
nights fer, en Mrs. Baron'll know, too, 'fore I'm five minutes older."

Aun' Jinkey threw up her hands and sank back into her chair more dead
than alive. She, too, had been taxed beyond endurance and all her power
to act had ceased with her final effort to show that pursuit of Chunk
would be useless.

Perkins speedily obtained an audience with Mrs. Baron, who became
deeply incensed and especially against Zany. The inexorable old lady,
however, never acted from passion. She nodded coldly to the overseer,
saying, "I will inform Mr. Baron and he will give you your orders in
regard to the offenders."

Zany was too alert not to observe the interview and the omens of
trouble in the compressed lips of "ole miss" and the steel-like gleam
of her eyes. The moment Mrs. Baron was closeted with her husband the
girl sped to the cabin. "Did you tell Perkins Chunk been yere?" she
demanded fiercely.

"Fo' de Lawd I des gwine all ter pieces," gasped Aun' Jinkey.

"Hope ter grashus yer does, en de pieces neber come tergedder agin,"
said Zany in contemptuous anger and deep alarm.

Under the spur of tremendous excitement she hastened back, thinking as
she ran, "Miss Lou too sick ter do anyting. I des got ter 'peal ter
Miss Whately, er ole miss hab me whipped haf ter daith." When in
response to a timid knock Mrs. Whately peered out of her niece's room
she found a trembling suppliant with streaming eyes. Noiselessly
shutting the door the matron said warningly:

"Don't you know Miss Lou's life depends on quiet?"

"How she gwine ter hab quiet w'en ole miss gwine ter hab Marse Perkins
whip me'n Aun' Jinkey ter daith?"

"Nonsense! Why should either of you be punished?"'

"Well missus, I 'fess ter you," sobbed Zany, "kaze you got more feelin'
fer us. Chunk come las' night ter say good-by ter he granny'n me, en
den he put out fer good, en ain' comin' back no mo'. Perkins en he dog
foun' hit out dis mawnin', en Aun' Jinkey tole 'im, too, I reck'n, she
all broke up. Perkins been talkin' ter ole miss en she look lak she
al'ways does w'en ders no let up. Hit ud des kill Miss Lou if she knew
me'n Aun' Jinkey wuz bein' whipped."

"Zany," said Mrs. Whately in rising anger, "you both had full warning.
You knew what Chunk had done. He stole my son's horse and one from his
master also, beside doing other things that could not be forgiven."

"Please reckermember, missus, dat Chunk en me is mighty sweet on each
oder en he Aun' Jinkey gran'boy. Tain' dat we 'prove of his goin's on,
but how cud we tell on 'im en see 'im daid, w'en he des come ter say
good-by. Oh, ef Miss Lou on'y well she neber let dat ole Perkins tech
us."

"I will see your master before anything is done," said Mrs. Whately
with troubled face. "Go to your work now. I will get Mrs. Waldo to
watch in my place after a while."

Mr. Baron was depressed physically and mentally by the trying events of
the past few weeks, but the fact that Chunk had ventured on the place
again and had been permitted to escape angered him deeply. He also
accepted the view of his wife and overseer that all discipline among
the slaves would soon be at an end if so serious an offence were
overlooked. It would be a confession of weakness and fear they believed
which would have a most demoralizing effect in the quarters. Chunk
represented the worst offences of which the slaves could be guilty; the
most solemn warnings had been given against aiding and abetting him in
any way. To do nothing now would be a virtual permission of
lawlessness. There was no thought of mercy for Zany, but Aun' Jinkey's
age, feebleness, together with her relations to Chunk and Miss Lou,
complicated matters.

Husband and wife were still consulting when Mrs. Whately joined them.
Mrs. Baron did not welcome her guest, feeling that this was purely a
personal affair, and was in no mood to brook interference.

"I can't be absent long," began Mrs. Whately, "Zany has told me
everything and--"

"I think, sister, that Mr. Baron and I can manage this matter,"
interrupted Mrs. Baron coolly.

"No doubt you can," Mrs. Whately replied with dignity. "I did not come
down to interfere with your domestic affairs. There is one point on
which I have a right to speak and must speak. You can't punish Aun'
Jinkey and Zany now if knowledge of such punishment can in any way
reach our niece. No matter how much they may deserve it, I say you
cannot do it. I promised Zany nothing, held out no hope to her of
escape, but to you I will speak plainly. If you should excite and
disturb Louise now, you might easily cause her death. If you feel that
you cannot overlook the offence (and I know how serious a one it is)
wait till I can remove Louise to my own house. You will find that Dr.
Pelton when he arrives will confirm my words."

Mr. Baron weakened. He had not the relentless will of his wife, who
interposed with cutting emphasis, "There is no need of Louise's knowing
anything about it till she is much better, and it would be well for her
to learn then, as well as the slaves, that there is still a master and
mistress."

"It may be long before Louise is much better," Mrs. Whately replied
gravely. "She has been subjected to a strain for which my conscience
reproaches me, however it may be with yours. She is in a very critical
state, and seemingly from some recent shock."

"Can the news Chunk brought have had any such effect?" broke forth Mrs.
Baron indignantly--"news of the death of that Yankee whom she met and
treated as a social equal sorely against my will?"

"Lieutenant Scoville dead!" exclaimed Mrs. Whately looking shocked and
sad.

"Yes, so Chunk told his granny."

Mrs. Whately was troubled indeed. Perhaps there had been much more than
she had suspected. If so, this fact would account for the girl's
extreme prostration. To bring these tidings might have been one of
Chunk's chief motives in venturing on his brief visit. Miss Lou might
know all about the visit and even have seen Chunk herself. If this were
true, punishment of those who were in a sense her accomplices would be
all the more disastrous. The perplexed matron felt that she must have
more time to think and to acquire fuller knowledge of the affair.

"Brother," she said finally, "you are the guardian of Louise and in
authority. She is now helpless and at present quiet. If quiet of mind
and body can be maintained long enough she will no doubt get well. In a
sense I am now her physician, and I say as Surgeon Ackley said of his
patients, she cannot be disturbed. I positively forbid it. Dr. Pelton
who must soon be here will take the same ground. Public opinion will
support him and me in holding you responsible if you order anything
endangering your ward's life and health at this time. Mrs. Waldo and
her son would be witnesses. How far the former is acquainted with
affairs we do not know. She watched with Louise all last night. If you
act hastily you may be sorry indeed. I am trying kindness and
conciliation with my people and they are doing better. I fear your
policy is mistaken. Chunk is gone and beyond punishment. It is asking
much to expect that his grandmother and the girl who loves him after
her fashion would give information against him. It would seem that only
the two slaves and Perkins know of this visit. Affairs are bad enough
with you as it is and you can easily make them much worse. If you must
punish for effect, take some stout field hand who is insubordinate or
lazy. At any rate I love Louise and hope some day to call her daughter,
and I will not have her life endangered. That's all I have to say."

Mr. Baron's flame of anger had died out. His views had not been changed
by his harsh experience, but he had been compelled to see that there
were times when he could not have his own way. So he said testily,
"Well, well, we'll have to let the matter rest a while, I suppose."

Mrs. Whately departed. Mrs. Baron put her thin lips together in a way
which meant volumes, and went out on her housekeeping round, giving
orders to Zany in sharper, more metallic tones than usual. The
delinquent herself had overheard enough of the conversation to learn
that the evil day had at least been put off and to get some clew as to
the future.



CHAPTER XXXIV

CHUNK PLAYS SPOOK


Since Mr. Baron had yielded for the present, Mrs. Whately was glad
nothing need be said to the physician concerning their affairs. His
positive injunction of quiet was sufficient, and now that Mr. Baron was
impressed with its need and had had time for sober second thought, he
concluded that he had trouble enough on hand as it was. He felt that
every quiet day gained was so much toward securing the absolutely
essential crops. Perkins was therefore summoned and the situation in
part explained.

The overseer was in unusual good-humor over the death of Scoville, and
if Chunk had escaped finally, there was compensation in the thought of
having no more disturbance from that source. So, fortunately for poor
Zany, avarice came to the fore and Perkins agreed that the best thing
to do was to bend every energy to "making the crops," using severity
only in the furtherance of this end.

"Beg pardon, Mr. Baron, but I must have sump'n up and down clar.
There's been so many bosses of late en my orders been knocked eendwise
so of'en that I don't know, en the hands don't know whether I've got
any po'r or no. Ef this thing 'bout Chunk gits out, en nobody punished,
the fiel'-hans natchelly think we darsn't punish. Mought es well give
up then."

"Punish as much as you think necessary to keep the quarter-hands at
work. Then it is plain," replied Mr. Baron.

Very seldom had Perkins been in so complacent and exultant a mood as
when he left the presence of Mr. Baron that morning. But his troubles
began speedily. Jute had slept little the night before and was stupid
and indifferent to his work in the afternoon. Finding threats had
little effect, the overseer struck a blow with his cane. The negro
turned fiercely but was confronted with a revolver. He resumed work
doggedly, his sullen look spreading like the shadow of a cloud to the
faces of the others. So many began to grow indifferent and reckless
that to punish all was out of the question. Perkins stormed and
threatened, striking some here and there, almost beside himself from
increasing anxiety and rage. Whichever way he turned a dark vindictive
face met his eyes. The slaves had enjoyed a brief sense and sweet hope
of freedom; he was seeking to refasten the yoke with brutal hands and
it galled as never before. Even his narrow arbitrary nature was
impressed with the truth that a great change was taking place; that a
proclamation issued hundreds of miles away was more potent than his
heavy hand. He was as incapable of any policy other than force as was
his employer of abandoning the grooves in which his thoughts had always
run.

The worrisome afternoon finally ended, leaving the harassed man free to
seek consolation from his jug. Mr. Baron relapsed into his quiet yet
bitter mental protest. "Ole miss" maintained inexorable discipline over
the yard and house slaves, keeping all busy in removing every stain and
trace of the hospital. She governed by fear also, but it was the fear
which a resolute, indomitable will produces in weaker natures.

Mrs. Waldo already felt uncomfortable. There was no lack of outward
courtesy, but the two women had so little in common that there was
almost a total absence of sympathy between them. The guests through the
fortune of war resolved therefore to depart in a day or two, making the
journey home by easy stages. Mrs. Whately was both polite and cordial,
but she also felt that the family should be alone as soon as possible,
that they were facing problems which could better be solved without
witnesses. It was her hope now to nurse her charge back to health, and,
by the utmost exercise of tact, gain such an ascendency over the girl
as to win her completely. Granting that the matron's effort was part of
a scheme, it was one prompted by deep affection, a yearning to call her
niece daughter and to provide for the idolized son just the kind of
wife believed to be essential to his welfare. Much pondering on the
matter led her to believe that even if the tidings of Scoville's death
had been the cause of the final prostrating shock, it was but the
slight blow required to strike down one already feeble and tottering to
her fall. "He probably made a strong, but necessarily a passing
impression on the dear child's mind," she reasoned. "When she gets well
she will think of him only as she does of the other Union soldiers who
so interested her."

The object of this solicitude was docile and quiet, taking what was
given her, but evidently exhausted beyond the power of thought or
voluntary action.

The night passed apparently without incident, but it was a busy one for
Chunk. He again summoned Jute and his other confederates to a tryst in
the grove to impress them with his plans. It was part of his scheme to
permit a few nights to pass quietly so that disturbances would not be
associated with him, he being supposed far away. In the depths of the
adjacent forest he had found safe shelter for himself and horse, and
here, like a beast in its lair, he slept by day. The darkness was as
light to him about the familiar plantation, and he prowled around at
night unmolested.

During this second meeting he attempted little more than to argue his
dusky associates out of their innate fear of spooks and to urge upon
them patience in submitting to Perkins's rule a little longer. "I des
tells you," he declared, "dey ain' no spooks fer us! Dere's spooks on'y
fer dem w'at kills folks on de sly-like. If ole Perkins come rarin' en
tarin' wid his gun en dawg, I des kill 'im ez I wud a rattler en he
kyant bodder me no mo'; but ef I steal on 'im now en kill 'im in he
sleep he ghos pester me ter daith. Dat de conslomeration ob de hull
business. I doan ax you ter do any ting but he'p me skeer' im mos' ter
daith. He watchin' lak a ole fox ter ke'p you en Zany yere. Ef you puts
out, he riz de kentry en put de houn's arter you. We des got ter skeer
'im off fust. I'm studyin' how ter git dat dawg out'n de way. Des go on
quiet few mo' days en ef you year quar noises up on de hill whar de
sogers bur'ed you know hit me. Look skeered lak de oders but doan be
fear'd en keep mum."

The next few days and nights passed in quiet and all began to breathe
more freely. Even Aun' Jinkey rallied under the soothing influence of
her pipe and the privilege of watching part of each day with Miss Lou.
Slowly the girl began to grow better. Hoping not even for tolerance of
her feelings in regard to Scoville, it was her instinct to conceal them
from her relatives. She knew Mrs. Waldo would not reveal what Aun'
Jinkey had told her, and understood the peculiar tenderness with which
that lady often kissed her. She also guessed that while the stanch
Southern friend had deep sympathy for her there was not very strong
regret that the affair had ended in a way to preclude further
complications.

"Remember, my dear," said Mrs. Waldo, in her affectionate parting,
"that God never utterly impoverishes our lives. Only we ourselves can
do that. You will get well and become happy in making others happy."

On the evening of that day, even Mr. Baron's routine was completely
restored. His larder was meagre compared with the past, but with the
exception that Mrs. Whately occupied the place of his niece at the
table, and viands were fewer, all was as it had been. Zany's fears had
subsided, leaving her inwardly chafing at the prospect of monotonous
and indefinite years of work under "ole miss," with little chance of
Chunk's return. Aun' Suke's taste of freedom had not been to her mind,
so she was rather complacent than otherwise, and especially over the
fact that there was so little to cook. The garden and Mr. Baron's good
credit would insure enough plain food till the crops matured and the
impoverishment caused by the raid was repaired. It certainly seemed
when the sun set that evening that the present aspect of affairs might
be maintained indefinitely in the little community.

Only one was not exactly at rest. Perkins felt as if something was in
the air. There was a brooding, sullen quiet among the negroes which led
him to suspect that they were waiting and hoping for something unknown
to him. This was true of Uncle Lusthah and the majority. The crack of
Union rifles was the "soun' f'um far away" they were listening for. By
secret channels of communication tidings of distant battles were
conveyed from plantation to plantation, and the slaves were often
better informed that their masters. As for Perkins, he knew next to
nothing of what was taking place, nor did he dream that he was daily
addressing harsh words to conspirators against his peace.

The time had come when Chunk was ready to act. On the night in question
a hot wind arose which blew from the little burial-place on the hill
toward the house. "Hi! now's de charnce ter fix dat ar bizness!" and he
made his preparations. Shortly before midnight he crept like a cat
under the overseer's window. The heavy snoring rose and fell
reassuringly, sweet as music to Chunk's ears. Not so the angry,
restless growling of the savage bloodhound chained within. "But you
doan kotch me dis yere time fer all yer fuss, Marse Grip," the negro
muttered. "I done hab yer brekfus' ready fer yer! Dat'll settle yer
hash,' and with deft hand a piece of poisoned meat was tossed close to
the brute's feet as Chunk hastened away. Jute was next wakened and put
on the watch. An hour later there came from the soldiers' cemetery the
most doleful, unearthly sounds imaginable. No need for Jute and his
confederates to arouse the other negroes in the quarters. A huddled
frightened gang soon collected, Aun' Jinkey among them so scared she
could not speak.

"Marse Perkins ought to know 'bout dis," cried Jute.

The suggestion was enough. The whole terror-stricken throng rushed in a
body to the overseer's cottage and began calling and shrieking, "Come
out yere! come out yere!" Confused in his sudden waking and thinking he
was mobbed, he shouted through the window, "I'll shoot a dozen of yer
ef yer don't clar out."

"Marse Perkins, des you lis'n," rose in chorus from those far beyond
the fear of mortal weapons.

In the silence that followed the rushing wind bore down to them a
weird, dismal howl that in Perkins's ears met every ghostly
requirement. His teeth began to chatter like castanets, and snatching
his jug of corn whiskey he swallowed great draughts.

"We des tink you orter know 'bout dis," said Jute.

"Cert'ny," cried Perkins in his sudden flame of false courage. "I'll
light a lantern and take twenty o' you hands round that place. Ef
thar's a cuss yonder makin' this 'sturbance we'll roast 'im alive."

In a moment or two he dressed and came out with a light and his gun.
Two revolvers were also stuck in his belt. As he appeared on the
threshold there was a prolonged yell which curdled even his inflamed
blood and sent some of the negro women into hysterics.

"Come on," shouted the overseer hoarsely, "thirty of yer ef yer afraid."

The crowd fell back. "We ain' gwine ter dat ar spook place, no mattah
w'at you do to us."

"Perkins, what IS the matter?" Mr. Baron was heard shouting from the
house.

"Reckon you better come out yere, sir."

"Are the hands making trouble?"

"No sir, sump'n quar's gwine on, what we kyant mek out yit."

Mr. Baron, wrapped in his dressing-gown, soon appeared on the scene,
while Aun' Suke's domain contributed its quota also of agitated,
half-dressed forms. Chunk could not resist the temptation to be a
witness to the scene and in a copse near by was grinning with silent
laughter at his success.

After learning what had occurred, Mr. Baron scoffed at their
superstitions, sternly bidding all to go to their places and keep
quiet. "Perkins, you've been drinking beyond reason," he warned his
overseer in a low voice. "Get back to your room quick or you will be
the laughing-stock of everybody! See here, you people, you have simply
got into a panic over the howling of the wind, which happens to blow
down from the graveyard to-night."

"Neber yeared de win' howl dataway befo'," the negroes answered, as in
a mass they drifted back to the quarters.

Perkins was not only aware of his condition but was only too glad to
have so good an excuse for not searching the cemetery. Scarcely had he
been left alone, however, before he followed the negroes, resolved upon
companionship of even those in whom he denied a humanity like his own.
In the darkness Chunk found an opportunity to summon Jute aside and
say, "Free er fo' ob you offer ter stay wid ole Perkins. Thet he'p me
out."

Perkins accepted the offer gladly, and they agreed to watch at his door
and in the little hallway.

"You mus' des tie up dat ar dawg ob yourn," first stipulated Jute.

"Why, whar in--is the dog? Hain't yeared a sound from 'im sence the
'sturbance begun."

"Dwags kyant stan' spooks nohow," remarked Jute.

"I've yeared that," admitted Perkins, looking around for the animal.

"Thar he is, un'er yo' baid," said Jute, peeking through the doorway.

The miserable man's hair fairly stood up when the brute was discovered
stark and dead without a scratch upon him. Recourse was again had to
the jug, and oblivion soon followed.



CHAPTER XXXV

A VISITATION


There was no more sleep at the quarters that night, and never was the
dawn more welcome. It only brought a respite, however, for the
impression was fixed that the place was haunted. There was a settled
aspect of gloom and anxiety on every dusky face in the morning. Mr.
Baron found his overseer incapacitated for duty, but the hands were
rather anxious to go to work and readily obeyed his orders to do so.
They clung to all that was familiar and every-day-like, while their
fears and troubled consciences spurred them to tasks which they felt
might be a sort of propitiation to the mysterious powers abroad. Zany
was now sorry indeed that she had not gone with Chunk, and poor Aun'
Jinkey so shook and trembled all day that Mrs. Whately would not let
her watch by Miss Lou. Knowing much of negro superstitions she
believed, with her brother and Mrs. Baron, that the graves on the
place, together with some natural, yet unusual sounds, had started a
panic which would soon die out.

When at last Perkins, shaky and nervous, reported the mysterious death
of his dog, Mr. Baron was perplexed, but nothing more. "You were in no
condition to give a sane account of anything that happened last night,"
he said curtly. "Be careful in the future. If you will only be sensible
about it, this ridiculous scare will be to our advantage, for the hands
are subdued enough now and frightened into their duty."

Perkins remained silent. In truth, he was more frightened than any one
else, for the death of his dog appeared to single him out as a special
object of ghostly hostility. He got through the day as well as he
could, but dreaded the coming night all the more as he saw eyes
directed toward him, as if he, in some way, were the cause of the
supernatural visitation. This belief was due to the fact that Aun'
Jinkey in her terror had spoken of Scoville's death, although she would
not tell how she knew about it. "Perkins shoot at en try ter kill Marse
Scoville," she had whispered to her cronies, "en now he daid he spook
comin' yere ter hant de oberseer. We neber hab no quiet nights till dat
ar Perkins go way fer good."

This rational explanation passed from lip to lip and was generally
accepted. The coming night was looked forward to in deep apprehension,
and by none more than by Perkins. Indeed, his fears so got the better
of him that when the hands quit work he started for the nearest tavern
and there remained till morning. Chunk was made aware of this fact, and
the night passed in absolute quiet. All the negroes not in the secret
now hoped that the overseer was the sole prey of the spook, and that if
they remained quietly in their places they would be unmolested. Chunk
and a few of the boldest of his fellow conspirators had full scope
therefore to perfect their final arrangements. In a disused room of one
of the outbuildings the most ragged and blood-stained uniforms of the
Union soldiers had been cast and forgotten. These were carried to a
point near the burying-ground, tried on and concealed. Chunk found it
was no easy task to keep even the reckless fellows he had picked up to
the sticking point of courage in the grewsome tasks he had in view, but
his scoff, together with their mutual aid and comfort, carried them
through, while the hope of speedy freedom inspired them to what was
felt to be great risks.

On this occasion he dismissed them some little time before midnight,
for he wished them to get rested and in good condition for what he
hoped would be the final effort the following night. As he lingered in
the still, starlit darkness he could not resist making an effort to see
Zany, and so began hooting like an owl down by the run, gradually
approaching nearer till he reached the garden. Zany, wakeful and
shivering with nameless dread, was startled by the sound. Listening
intently, she soon believed she detected a note that was Chunk's and
not a bird's. Her first impression was that her lover had discovered
that he could not go finally away without her and so had returned. Her
fear of spooks was so great that her impulse was to run away with Chunk
as far from that haunted plantation as he would take her. Trembling
like a wind-shaken leaf, she stole into the garden shrubbery and
whispered, "Chunk?"

"Hi! yere I is."

There was no tantalizing coquetry in Zany's manner now. In a moment she
was in Chunk's arms sobbing, "Tek me way off fum dis place. I go wid
you now, dis berry minute, en I neber breve easy till we way, way off
enywhar, I doan keer whar. Oh, Chunk, you doan know w'at been gwine on
en I darsn't tell you twel we gits way off."

"I isn't feared," replied Chunk easily.

"Dat's kaze you doan know. I des been tremblin' stiddy sence las' night
en I'se feared hit begin eny minute now."

"Hit woan begin dis yere night," replied Chunk, soothingly and
incautiously.

"How you know?" she asked quickly, a sudden suspicion entering her mind.

"Wat's ter begin?" answered Chunk, now on his guard. "De night am
still, nobody roun'. I hang roun' a few nights twel I study out de bes'
plan ter git away."

"Has you been hangin' roun' nights, Chunk?" Zany asked solemnly.

"How you talks, Zany! Does you s'pects I dar stay roun' whar Perkins
am? He kill me. He done gone way to-night."

"How you know dat?"

"One de fiel'-hans tole me."

"Chunk, ef you up ter shines en doan tole me I done wid you. Hasn't I
hep you out'n in eberyting so fur? Ef I fin' out you been skeerin me so
wid eny doin's I des done wid you. I des feel hit in my bones you de
spook. You kyant bamboozle me. I kin hep you--hab done hit afo'--en I
kin hinder you, so be keerful. Dere's some dif'unce in bein' a spook
yosef en bein' skeered ter death by a rale spook. Ef you tryin' ter
skeer en fool me I be wuss on you ner eny Voodoo woman dat eber kunjurd
folks."

The interview ended in Chunk's making a clean breast of it and in
securing Zany as an ally with mental reservations. The thought that he
had fooled her rankled.

Mr. Baron's expostulation and his own pressing interests induced
Perkins to remain at home the following night. As Jute had seemed
forgiving and friendly, the overseer asked him to bring two others and
stay with him, offering some of the contents of the replenished jug as
a reward. They sat respectfully near the door while Perkins threw
himself on his bed with the intention of getting to sleep as soon as
possible. "Are you shore ther wuz no 'sturbances last night?" he asked.

"Well, Marse Perkins," replied Jute, "you didn't s'pect we out lookin'.
We wuz po'ful sleepy en roll we haids en er blankets en den 'fo' we
knowed, hit sun-up. Folks say en de quarters dat ar spook ain' arter
us."

"Who the devil is hit arter then?" was the angry response.

"How we know, mars'r? We neber try ter kill enybody."

"But I tell you I didn't kill him," expostulated their nervous victim.

"Didn't name no names, Marse Perkins. I on'y knows w'at I yeared folks
tell 'bout spooks. Dey's mighty cur'us, spooks is. Dey des 'pear to git
a spite agin some folks en dey ain' bodderin oder folks long ez dey
ain' 'feered wid. I 'spect a spook dat wuz 'feered wid, get he dander
up en slam roun' permiscus. I des tek a ole bull by de horns 'fo' I
'fere wid a spook," and Jute's companions grunted assent.

"W'at's the good o' yer bein' yere then?" Perkins asked, taking a deep
draught.

"Well, now, Marse Perkins, you mus'n be onreasonbul. Wat cud we do? We
des riskin' de wool on we haids stayin' yere fer comp'ny. Ef de spook
come, 'spose he tink we no business yere en des lay we out lak he
kunjer yo' dawg? We des tank you, Marse Perkins, fer anoder lil drap
ter kep we sperets out'n we shoon," and Jute shuddered portentously.

"Well," said Perkins, with attempted bravado, "I rammed a piece o'
silver down on the bullat in my gun. 'Twix 'em both--"

"Dar now, Marse Perkins, you des been 'posed on 'bout dat silber
business. Ole Unc' Sampson w'at libed on de Simcoe place nigh on er
hun'erd yeahs, dey say, tole me lots 'bout a spook dat boddered um w'en
he a boy. Way back ole Marse Simcoe shot at de man dat hanker fer he
darter. De man put out en get drownded, but dat doan make no dif'rence,
Unc' Sampson say, kaze ole Marse Simcoe do he bes' ter kill der man. He
sorter hab kill in he heart en Unc' Sampson low a spook know w'at gwine
on in er man's in'erds, en dey des goes fer de man dat wanter kill um
on de sly, en not dose dat kill in fa'r fight. Ole Unc' Sampson po'ful
on spooks. He libed so long he get ter be sorter spook hesef, en dey
say he talk ter um haf de time 'fo' he kiner des snuf out'n lak a
can'l."

"He wuz a silly old fool," growled Perkins, with a perceptible tremor
in his voice.

"Spect he wuz 'bout some tings," resumed Jute, "but know spooks, he
sut'ny did. He say ole Marse Simcoe useter plug lead en silver right
froo dat man dat want he darter, en dar was de hole en de light
shin'in' froo hit. But de spook ain' min'in' a lil ting lak dat, he des
come on all de same snoopin' roun' arter de ole man's darter. Den one
mawnin' de ole man lay stiff en daid in he baid, he eyes starin' open
ez ef he see sump'n he cudn't stan' no how. Dat wuz de las' ob dat ar
spook, Unc' Sampson say, en he say spook's cur'us dat away. Wen dey
sats'fy dere grudge dey lets up en dey doan foller de man dey down on
kaze dey on'y po'r in de place whar de man 'lowed ter kill um."

Perkins took a mental note of this very important limitation of ghostly
persecution, and resolved that if he had any more trouble all the crops
in the State would not keep him within the haunted limit.

He whiled away the time by aid of his jug and Job-like comforters till
it began to grow late and he drowsy.

Suddenly Jute exclaimed, "Hi! Marse Perkins, w'at dat light dancin' up
yon'er by de grabeyard?"

The overseer rose with a start, his hair rising also as he saw a fitful
jack-o'-lantern gleam, appearing and disappearing on the cemetery hill.
As had been expected, he obeyed his impulse, pouring down whiskey until
he speedily rendered himself utterly helpless; but while his
intoxication disabled him physically, it produced for a time an excited
and disordered condition of mind in which he was easily imposed upon.
Jute shook him and adjured him to get up, saying, "I years quar soun's
comin' dis way."

When satisfied that their victim could make no resistance, Jute and
companions pretended to start away in terror. Perkins tried to implore
them to remain, but his lips seemed paralyzed. A few moments later a
strange group entered the cottage--five figures dressed in Federal
uniforms, hands and faces white and ghastly, and two carrying white
cavalry sabres. Each one had its finger on its lips, but Perkins was
beyond speech. In unspeakable horror he stared vacantly before him and
remained silent and motionless. The ghostly shapes looked at him
fixedly for a brief time, then at one another, and solemnly nodded.
Next, four took him up and bore him out, the fifth following with the
jug. At the door stood an immovably tall form, surmounted by a cavalry
hat and wrapped in a long army overcoat.

"Leftenant Scoville!" gasped Perkins.

The figure, as if the joints of its back were near the ground, made a
portentous inclination of assent and then pointed with another white
sabre to the hill, leading the way. Perkins tried to shout for help,
but his tongue seemed powerless, as in fact it was, from terror and
liquor combined. He felt himself carried swiftly and, as he thought,
surely, to some terrible doom.

At last his bearers stopped, and Perkins saw the mounds of the Union
dead rising near. He now remembered in a confused way that one more
grave had been dug than had proved necessary, and he uttered a low howl
as he felt himself lowered into it. Instantly the tall figure which
appeared to direct everything threatened him with a ghostly sabre, and
an utter paralysis of unspeakable dread fell upon him.

For a few moments they all stood around and pointed at him with ghostly
white fingers, then gradually receded until out of sight. After a time
Perkins began to get his voice, when suddenly his tormentors appeared
in terrible guise. Each white, ghostly face was lighted up as by a
tongue of fire; terrible eyes gleamed from under wide-crowned cavalry
hats and a voice was heard, in a sepulchral whisper, "Nex' time we come
fer you, we bury you!"

At this instant came a flash of lightning, followed by a tremendous
clap of thunder. The jaws of the figures dropped, the burning splinters
of light-wood they carried dropping down into the grave, and on its
half-lifeless occupant. The ghosts now disappeared finally--in fact
took to their heels; all except Chunk, who secured the jug, nodded
thrice portentously at Perkins and then retired also, not a little
shaken in his nerves, but sufficiently self-controlled to rally his
panic-stricken followers and get them to remove their disguises before
wrapping their heads in blankets. Having removed and hidden all traces
of the escapade he hooted for the alert Zany, who had been tremblingly
on the watch in spite of her knowledge of what was going on. As she
fled with Chunk before the coming storm she gasped between the gusts,
"I declar, Chunk, sech doin's gwine ter brung a judgment."

Even Chunk inclined to this view for a time, as the lightning blazed
from sky to earth, and the thunder cracked and roared overhead. The
rain poured in such torrents that he feared Perkins might be drowned in
the grave where he had been placed. As for Aun' Jinkey, she stared at
her unexpected visitors in speechless perplexity and terror until the
fury of the tempest had passed, their voices could be heard.



CHAPTER XXXVI

UNCLE LUSTHAH EXHORTS


The heavy thunder shower which came and passed quickly, combined with a
consciousness of their high-handed performances, so awed Chunk and Zany
and oppressed them with misgivings that they were extremely reticent,
even to Aun' Jinkey. Chunk appeared profoundly ignorant of the ghostly
disturbances, trying to say unconcernedly, "I foun' hit a orful long en
skeery trable ter de Un'on lines en I says ter mysef, 'De Yanks fin' me
down yere quicker ner I fin' dem up Norf. Dey be comin' dis away agin
sho'."

"I des tells you we all git whip nigh ter daith ef you ain' mo'
keerful," said Aun' Jinkey, solemnly. "I kyant stan' de goin's on. I
gwine ter pieces ev'y day en nights git'n wusser'n de days. De gust
ober en you bettah light out. Ef Zany missed dey come yere lookin' fer
her."

They needed no urging to depart, for Zany was now as scared as Chunk
had ever wished her to be, but her terrors were taking a form which
inclined her to cling to the old landmarks rather than risk she knew
not what, in running away. As she and Chunk were stealing toward the
kitchen a flash of lightning from the retiring storm revealed a
startling figure--that of Perkins, drenched and bedraggled, his eyes
almost starting from their sockets as he staggered toward his cottage.
Chunk's courage at last gave way; he turned and fled, leaving Zany in
the lurch. Frightened almost to the point of hysterics, she crept to
her bed and shook till morning, resolving meanwhile to have done with
Chunk and all his doings. The next day Mrs. Baron found her the most
diligent and faithful of servants.

Perkins reached his door and looked into the dark entrance, the gusts
having blown out the light. He shook his head, muttered something
unintelligible, and then bent his uncertain steps to the tavern. The
next morning Mr. Baron suspected where he was and went to see him. The
overseer was found to be a pitiable spectacle, haggard trembling,
nervous in the extreme, yet sullen and reticent and resolute in his
purpose never to set foot on the plantation again. Mr. Baron then
closed all business relations and sent over the man's belongings.
Perkins became a perplexing problem to Mr. Baron and his household and
a terrible tradition to the negroes, who regarded him as a haunted man.
Every day and night passed in quietness after his departure enabled
them to breathe more freely and to become more assured that he "wuz de
on'y one de spooks arter."

Chunk felt that he had disgraced himself by running away and leaving
Zany, and did not venture back till the second night after the
culmination of his schemes. He found Jute and his associates scared,
sullen and inclined to have little to do with him in their present
mood. Then he hooted in vain for Zany. The girl heard him but made no
sign, muttering, "Sence you runned away en lef me I'se done wid runnin'
away. You tootin' lak a squinch-owl en kin kep comp'ny wid
squinch-owls."

Only Aun' Jinkey gave him food and a sort of fearful welcome, and poor
Chunk found himself at last a very unhappy and skulking outlaw.

Mr. Baron gradually rallied under his increased responsibilities and
resolved to be his own overseer. Although an exacting master, the
negroes knew he was not a severe one if they did their work fairly
well. The spook scare had given Uncle Lusthah renewed influence and he
used it in behalf of peace and order. "Our fren Miss Lou, sick," he
urged. "We mek her trouble en we mek oursefs trouble ef we doan go on
peac'ble. What kin we do eny way at dis yer time? De Norf fightin' fer
us en hit all 'pen' on de Norf. We mus' kep a gwine ez we is till de
times en seasons ob de Lawd is 'vealed."

And so for a period, quiet again settled down on the old plantation.
Mrs. Whately and Aun' Jinkey nursed Miss Lou into a slow, languid
convalescence, till at last she was able to sit in an easy-chair on the
piazza. This she would do by the hour, with a sad, apathetic look on
her thin face. She was greatly changed, her old rounded outlines had
shrunken and she looked frail enough for the winds to blow away. The
old, fearless, spirited look in her blue eyes had departed utterly,
leaving only an expression of settled sadness, varied by an anxious,
expectant gaze, suggesting a lingering hope that some one might come or
something happen to break the dreadful silence which began, she felt,
when Scoville fell from his horse in the darkening forest. It remained
unbroken, and her heart sank into more hopeless despondency daily. Aun'
Jinkey and Zany were charged so sternly to say nothing to disturb the
mind of their young mistress that they obeyed. She was merely given the
impression that Perkins had gone away of his own will, and this was a
relief. She supposed Chunk had returned to his Union friends, and this
also became the generally accepted view of all except Aun' Jinkey.

Mrs. Whately came to spend part of the time at The Oaks and part on her
own plantation, where her presence was needed. Her devotion would have
won Miss Lou's whole heart but for the girl's ever-present
consciousness of Mad Whately in the background. The mother now had the
tact to say nothing about him except in a natural and general way,
occasionally trying the experiment of reading extracts from his brief
letters, made up, as they were, chiefly of ardent messages to his
cousin. These Miss Lou received in silence and unfeigned apathy.

The respite and quiet could not last very long in these culminating
months of the war. Without much warning even to the negroes, who
appeared to have a sort of telegraphic communication throughout the
region, a Union column forced its way down the distant railroad and
made it a temporary line of communication. Mr. Baron suddenly woke up
to the fact that the nearest town was occupied by the Federals and that
his human property was in a ferment. A foraging party soon appeared in
the neighborhood and even visited him, but his statement of what he had
suffered and the evident impoverishment of the place led the Union
officer to seek more inviting fields.

Partly to satisfy her own mind as well as that of her niece, Mrs.
Whately asked after Scoville, but could obtain no information. The
troops in the vicinity were of a different organization, the leader of
the party a curt, grizzled veteran, bent only on obtaining supplies.
Miss Lou, sitting helplessly in her room, felt instinctively that she
did not wish even to speak to him.

To Chunk, this Union advance was a godsend. He immediately took his
horse to the railroad town, sold it for a small sum, and found
employment at the station, where his great strength secured him good
wages. He could handle with ease a barrel akin to himself in shape and
size.

Uncle Lusthah suddenly found immense responsibility thrust upon him. In
the opinion of the slaves the time and seasons he had predicted and
asked his flock to wait for had come. Negroes from other and nearer
plantations were thronging to the town, and those at The Oaks were
rapidly forming the purpose to do likewise. They only waited the
sanction of their religious teacher to go almost in a body. The old
preacher was satisfied they would soon go any way, unless inducements
and virtual freedom were offered. He therefore sought Mr. Baron and
stated the case to him.

The old planter would listen to nothing. He was too honorable to
temporize and make false promises. "Bah!" he said, irritably, "the
Yanks will soon be driven off as they were before. I can't say you are
free! I can't give you a share in the crops! It's contrary to the law
of the State and the whole proper order of things. I wouldn't do it if
I could. What would my neighbors think? What would I think of myself?
What a fine condition I'd be in after the Yanks are all driven from the
country! No, I shall stand or fall with the South and maintain the
institutions of my fathers. If you people leave me now and let the
crops go to waste you will soon find yourselves starving. When you come
whining back I'll have nothing to feed you with."

Uncle Lusthah cast an imploring look on Miss Lou where she sat in her
chair, with more interest expressed in her wan face than she had shown
for a long time.

"Uncle Lusthah," she said earnestly, "don't you leave me. As soon as I
am able I'll buy you of uncle and set you free. Then you can always
work for me."

"I doan wanter lebe you, young mistis, I sut'ny doan, ner der ole place
whar I al'ays libed. But freedom sweet, young mistis, en I wanter feel
I free befo' I die."

"You shall, Uncle Lusthah. You have earned YOUR freedom, anyway."

"Tut, tut, Louise, that's no way to talk," said her uncle testily.

The old slave looked from one to the other sorrowfully, shook his head
and slowly retired.

"Remember what I said," Miss Lou called after him, and then sank back
in her chair.

Uncle Lusthah had to relate the result of his conference, and the
consequence was an immediate outbreak of a reckless, alienated spirit.
That afternoon the field hands paid no attention to Mr. Baron's orders,
and he saw that slaves from other plantations were present. Uncle
Lusthah sat at his door with his head bowed on his breast. His people
would listen to him no more, and he himself was so divided in his
feelings that he knew not what to say.

"Hit may be de Lawd's doin's ter set He people free," he muttered, "but
somehow I kyant brung mysef ter lebe dat po' sick chile. Ole mars'r en
ole miss kyant see en woan see, en dat lil chile w'at stan' up fer us
in de 'stremity ob triberlation be lef wid no one ter do fer her. I
berry ole en stiff in my jints en I cud die peaceful ef I know I free;
but hit 'pears that de Lawd say ter me, 'Uncle Lusthah, stay right yere
en look arter dat lil sick lam'. Den I mek you free w'en de right time
come.'"

Uncle Lusthah soon had the peace of the martyr who has chosen his
course. Mr. Baron also sat on his veranda with head bowed upon his
breast. He too had chosen his course, and now in consequence was sunk
in more bitter and morose protest than ever. Events were beyond his
control and he knew it, but he would neither yield nor change. This was
the worst that had yet befallen him. Black ruin stared him in the face,
and he stared back with gloomy yet resolute eyes. "I will go down with
my old colors flying," he resolved, and that was the end of it.

His wife was with him in sympathy, but her indomitable spirit would not
be crushed. She was almost ubiquitous among the house and yard slaves,
awing them into a submission which they scarcely understood and
inwardly chafed at. She even went to the quarters and produced evident
uneasiness by her stern, cutting words. None dared reply to her, but
when the spell of her presence was removed all resumed their confused
and exultant deliberations as to their future course.

Aun' Jinkey, sitting with Miss Lou, scoffed at the idea of going away.
"Long ez my chimly-corner en my pipe dar I dar too," she said. "Dis
freedom business so mux up I kyant smoke hit out nohow."

Zany was in a terribly divided state of mind. Were it not for Miss Lou,
she would have been ready enough to go, especially as she had heard
that Chunk was at the railroad town. Her restless spirit craved
excitement and freedom: a townful of admirers, with Chunk thrown in,
was an exceedingly alluring prospect. With all her faults, she had a
heart, and the sick girl had won her affection unstintedly. When
therefore Miss Lou summoned her and fixed her sad, pleading blue eyes
upon her, the girl threw her apron over her head and began to cry "Doan
say a word, Miss Lou," she sobbed, "doan ax me not ter go kase ef you
does I kyant go."

"Sech foolishness!" ejaculated Aun' Jinkey with a disdainful sniff.
"She lebe you des lak a cat dat snoop off enywhar en arter enybody w'at
got mo' vittles. Wat she keer?"

Down came the apron, revealing black eyes blazing through the tears
which were dashed right and left as Zany cried, "You ole himage, w'at
you keer? You tink a hun'erd times mo' ob yer pipe ner Miss Lou. Long
ez you kin smoke en projeck in dat ar ole cabin hole you woan lebe his
'less you turned out. I des gwine ter stay out'n spite en doan wanter
go a hun'erd mile ob dat gran'boy ob yourn."

"There, Zany," said Miss Lou gently, holding out her hand. "I
understand you and Aun' Jinkey both, and you both are going to stay out
of love for me. I reckon you won't be sorry in the end."

Up went the apron again and Zany admitted, "I kyant lebe you, Miss Lou,
I des kyant," as she rushed away to indulge in the feminine relief of
tears without stint.

Mr. and Mrs. Baron passed a sleepless night, for even the question of
food would be problematical if all the able-bodied men and women on the
place went away. In the early dawn there were ominous sounds at the
quarters, and as the light increased a spectacle which filled the old
planter and his wife with rage was revealed. The quarters were empty
and all were trooping toward the avenue with bundles containing their
belongings. This was to be expected, but the act which excited the
direst indignation was the hitching of the only pair of mules left on
the place that were worth anything to the old family carriage. Aun'
Suke was waddling toward this with the feeling that a "char'ot wuz
waitin' fer her now, sho!"

Mr. and Mrs. Baron looked at each other in quick, comprehensive
sympathy, then hastily and partially dressed. Mr. Baron took his
revolver while "ole miss" snatched a sharp carving-knife from the
dining-room. By the time they reached the scene, Aun' Suke filled the
back seat of the carriage and the rest of the space was being filled
with babies.

"Stop that!" shouted Mr. Baron. "Before I'll let you take my mules I'll
shoot 'em both."

"Ole miss" wasted no time in threats--she simply cut the traces and
there were Aun' Suke and the babies stranded. The negroes drew together
on one side and master and mistress on the other. The faces of the
latter were aglow with anger; on the countenances of the former were
mingled perplexity and sullen defiance, but the old habit of deference
still had its restraining influence.

"Go and starve and leave us to starve, if you will," shouted Mr. Baron,
"but you shall steal none of my property."

Angry mutterings began among the negroes, and it were hard to say how
the scene would have ended if old Uncle Lusthah had not suddenly
appeared between the opposing parties, and held up his hand
impressively.

"I gib up my charnce ter be free," he began with simple dignity. "My
body 'longs ter you yit, mars'r en misus; but not my speret. Out'n dat
I gwine ter speak plain fer de fear ob man clean gone fum me. Mars'r,
w'at I say ter you? Lak ole Pharo, you t'ink yo'sef bigger'n de Lawd.
Ef you'd done spoke ter de hans en say 'des go home en dar de crops en
shar' togeder' dey ud stayed en wucked fer you 'tented like, but you
des talk lak ole Pharo. Now de people gwine en you kyant stop dem. We
knowed 'bout de prokermation ob de gre't Linkum. We know we bin free
dis long time. We al'ays know you no right ter keep us slabes. Dis yer
God's worl'. Hit don't 'long ter you en misus. He ain't stoppin' ter
'suit you 'bout He doin's. Ef you s'mitted ter He will you'd a gwine
'long easy lak de crops grow in spring-time. Now hit des de same ez ef
you plant de crops in de fall en'spect de Lawd ter turn de winter inter
summer ter please you. I berry ole en had 'spearance. I'se prayed all
de long night en de Lawd's gib me ter see inter de futer. Lak Moses I
may never git in de promised lan' ob freedom, but hit dar en you kyant
kep de people out'n hit. Ef you doan bend ter He will, you breaks. Wen
all de han's gone en de fiel's is waste t'ink ober de trufe. De Lawd
did'n mek dis yer worl' ter suit you en misus. P'raps He t'ink ez much
ob dem po' souls dar (pointing at the negroes) ez ob yourn. Didn't I
stan' wid dem w'at die ter mek us free? Der blood wateh dis hull lan'
en I feels hit in my heart dat de Lawd'll brung up a crap dis lan'
neber saw befo'. Please reckermember, mars'r en misus, de gre't wuck ob
de Lawd gwine right along des ez ef you ain' dar."

Then the old man turned to the negroes and in his loud, melodious voice
concluded, "I gibs you one mo' 'zortation. You IS free, but ez I say so
of'un you ain' free ter do foolishness. Tek yo' wibes en chil'un; dey
yourn. Tek yo' clo'es; you arned urn en much mo', but you kyant tek de
mules en de ker'age: dey mars'r's. Go en wuck lak men en wimmin fer
hon'st wages en show you fit ter be free. Reckermember all I tole you
so of'un. De Lawd go wid you en kep you in de way ob life everlas'in'."

The better element among the negroes prevailed, for they felt that they
had had a spokesman who voiced their best and deepest feelings. One
after another came and wrung the hand of the old man and departed. To
"Pharo" and his wife few vouchsafed a glance, for they had cut the cord
of human sympathy. Many messages of affection, however, were left for
Miss Lou. The mothers took the babies from the carriage, Aun' Suke was
helped out and she sulkily waddled down the avenue with the rest. By
the time she reached the main road her powers of locomotion gave out,
causing her to drop, half-hysterical, by the wayside. Some counselled
her to go back, saying they would come for her before long; but pride,
shame and exhaustion made it almost as difficult to go back as to go
forward, and so she was left lamenting. With stern, inflexible faces,
master and mistress watched their property depart, then returned to the
house, while Uncle Lusthah mended the harness temporarily and took the
carriage back to its place. Standing aloof, Zany had watched the scene,
wavering between her intense desire to go and her loyalty to Miss Lou.
The sick girl had conquered, the negress winning an heroic victory over
herself. When she entered the back door of the mansion, her face rigid
from the struggle she had passed through, she was in no lamb-like mood.
Neither was her mistress, who was angrier than she had ever been in her
life.

"Well," she said to Zany in cold, cutting tones, "what are you doing
here? Looking around for something to carry off before you go also?"

Stung to the quick by this implied charge and lack of appreciation of
her great self-sacrifice, Zany replied hotly, "I done wid you, misus. I
tek no mo' orders fum you. I stay fer sump'n you doan know not'n
'bout--lub, but lub fer Miss Lou. Ef she kyant 'tect em 'gin you den I
go."



CHAPTER XXXVII

A NEW ROUTINE


It certainly was a dismal, shrunken household that Mrs. Baron presided
over that morning. Aun' Jinkey came to the rescue and prepared a meagre
breakfast. Miss Lou's room being on the side of the house furthest from
the scenes of the early morning, she had slept on till Zany wakened
her. She listened in a sort of dreary apathy to all that had occurred,
feeling that she was too weak physically and too broken-spirited to
interfere. She also had the impression that it would have been of no
use--that her uncle and aunt were so fixed in their ways and views that
nothing but harsh experience could teach them anything. In answer to
Zany's appeal for protection against "ole miss" Miss Lou said, "We
won't say anything more about it now till you get over your hurt
feelings, which are very natural. Of course my aunt can't punish
you--that's out of the question now, but by and by I reckon you will do
for her out of love for me when you see it will save me trouble. You
have done a good, unselfish act in staying with me, and having begun so
well, you will keep on in the same way. After all of the rest get free
you will, too. What's more, when I come into my property I'll make free
all who stand by me now."

So Zany brought her up a nice little breakfast and was comforted.

When at last the young girl with weak, uncertain steps came down to her
easy-chair on the piazza, she found her uncle gloomily smoking, and her
aunt solacing her perturbed mind with her chief resource--housekeeping
affairs. Little was said beyond a formal greeting.

As Miss Lou sat gazing vacantly and sadly down the avenue, a huge
figure appeared, making slow, painful progress toward the house. At
last Aun' Suke was recognized, and the truth flashed across the girl's
mind that the fat old cook had found she could not get away. Finally
the woman sat down under a tree not far from the house, not only
overcome by heat and fatigue, but also under the impression that she
must open negotiations before she could expect to be received.

"There," said Mr. Baron grimly, "is one of them coming back already.
They'll be sneaking, whining back when the crops are spoiled and it's
too late."

Miss Lou rose feebly and got an old sunshade from the hall.

"Louise, you are not able--I forbid it."

The girl felt she had strength to get to the old woman but not enough
to contend with her uncle, so she went slowly down the steps without a
word. Mr. Baron growled, "I might as well speak to the wind as to
anybody on the place any more."

When Aun' Suke saw the girl coming to her she scrambled to her feet,
and holding up her hands ejaculated all sorts of remorseful and
deprecatory comments.

"Welcome back," said Miss Lou kindly, when in speaking distance.
"There, don't go on so. Sit down and I'll sit down with you." She sank
at the foot of the tree and leaned against it, panting.

"I des feels ez ef de yeth ud op'n en swaller me," began the poor
renegade, quivering with emotion.

"Don't talk so, Aun' Suke. I'm not strong enough to stand foolishness.
You will go back with me and stay with Uncle Lusthah and Aun' Jinkey
and Zany. You will cook for us all just the same and by and by you will
be as free as I am."

"Well, Miss Lou, I comin' back lak de perdigous son, but ole miss ain'
got no fatted calf fer me, ner you neider, I reckon. I des feered on
w'at ole miss say en do."

"Aun' Suke," said the girl, taking the woman's great black hand, "you
stand by me and I'll stand by you. When I get stronger we'll see what's
best to be done. Now I can't think, I don't know. I only feel that we
must help one another till all is clearer."

Mrs. Baron accepted Aun' Suke's presence in the kitchen again in grim
silence. She believed it the earnest of the speedy return of all the
others, and resolved to bide her time when the Southern armies restored
completely the old order of things.

Mrs. Whately drove over during the day and was aghast at what had
occurred.

"I have kept the great majority of my hands by conciliation and
promising them a share in the crops. Indeed, I had virtually to treat
them as if free. It was either that or ruin."

"Well," growled her brother, "you can't keep that pace and I wouldn't
begin it."

"I can only do the best I can, from day to day," sighed the lady, "and
I've been almost distracted."

After showing her affectionate solicitude for Miss Lou she returned,
feeling that her presence at home was now hourly needed.

Gradually the little household began to adjust itself to the new order
of things, and day by day Mr. and Mrs. Baron were compelled to see that
the few servants who ministered to them were kept at their tasks by an
influence in which they had no part. Almost imperceptibly, Miss Lou
regained her strength, yet was but the shadow of her former self. Uncle
Lusthah gave his attention to the garden, already getting weed-choked.
The best he could hope to do was to keep up a meagre supply of
vegetables, and Zany in the cool of the day often gave him a helping
hand.

Late one afternoon Miss Lou, feeling a little stronger, went to Aun'
Jinkey's cabin and sat down on the doorstep.

"Oh, mammy," she sighed, "I'm so tired, I'm so tired; yet I can do
nothing at all."

"You po' lil chile," groaned Aun' Jinkey, "how dif'ernt you looks ner
w'en you fus sot dar en wish sump'n happen."

"Oh," cried the girl almost despairingly, "too much has happened! too
much has happened! How can God let such troubles come upon us?"

"Eben Uncle Lusthah hab ter say he dunno. He say he des gwine ter hole
on twel de eend, en dat all he kin do."

"Oh, mammy, I'm all at sea. I haven't any strength to hold on and there
doesn't seem anything to hold on to. Oh, mammy, mammy, do you think
he's surely dead?"

"I feared he is," groaned Aun' Jinkey. "Dey say he spook come arter
Perkins en dat w'y de oberseer clared out."

"Oh, horrible!" cried the girl. "If his spirit could come here at all
would it not come to me instead of to that brutal wretch? Oh, mammy, I
don't know which is worse, your religion or your superstition. You
believe in a God who lets such things happen and you can think my noble
friend would come back here only to scare a man like Perkins. It's all
just horrible. Oh, Allan, Allan, are you so lost to me that you can
never look goodwill into my eyes again?"

Tears rushed to her eyes for the first time since she heard the
dreadful tidings, and she sobbed in her mammy's arms till exhausted.

That outburst of grief and the relief of tears given by kindly nature
was the decisive point in Miss Lou's convalescence. She was almost
carried back to her room and slept till late the following day. When
she awoke she felt that her strength was returning, and with it came
the courage to take up the burdens of life. For weeks it was little
more than the courage of a naturally brave, conscientious nature which
will not yield to the cowardice and weakness of inaction. The value of
work, of constant occupation, to sustain and divert the mind, was
speedily learned. Gradually she took the helm of outdoor matters from
her uncle's nerveless hands. She had a good deal of a battle in respect
to Chunk. It was a sham one on the part of Zany, as the girl well knew,
for Chunk's "tootin'" was missed terribly. Mr. and Mrs. Baron at first
refused point-blank to hear of his returning.

"Uncle," said his ward gravely, "is only your property at stake? I can
manage Chunk, and through him perhaps get others. I am not responsible
for changes which I can't help; I am to blame if I sit down idly and
helplessly and do nothing better than fret or sulk. Your bitter words
of protest are not bread and bring no money. For your sakes as well as
my own you must either act or let me act."

The honorable old planter was touched at his most sensitive point, and
reluctantly conceded, saying, "Oh, well, if you think you can save any
of your property out of the wreck, employ Chunk on your own
responsibility."

So Chunk was reinstated in his granny's cabin and given a share in all
he could raise and secure of the crops. The negro was as shrewd as
Jacob of old, but like the Hebrew patriarch could do much under the
inspiration of his twofold affection for Zany and his young mistress.

And so the summer and early fall wore away. The railroad line of
communication was maintained, and upon it drifted away Mr. Baron's
former slaves and the great majority of the others in the neighborhood.
The region in which the plantation was situated was so remote and
sparsely settled that it was a sort of border land, unclaimed and
unvisited by any considerable bodies from either party. Rev. Dr.
Williams' congregation had shrunken to a handful. He officiated at one
end of the church, and his plump, black-eyed daughter led the singing
at the other, but it was observed that she looked discontented rather
than devotional. She was keenly alive to the fact that there was not an
eligible man left in the parish. Uncle Lusthah patiently drove the
mules every clear Sunday morning and Mr. and Mrs. Baron sat in the
carriage whose springs Aun' Suke had sorely tried; but Miss Lou would
not go with them. After his readiness to marry her to her cousin she
felt it would be worse than mockery to listen to Dr. Williams again.

But a deep, yet morbid spiritual change was taking place in the girl.
As of old, she thought and brooded when her hands were busy, and during
her long, solitary evenings on the piazza. Strange to say, she was
drawing much of her inspiration from a grave--the grave of a rough,
profane soldier whom she knew only as "Yarry." There was something in
his self-forgetful effort in her behalf, even when in the mortal
anguish of death, which appealed to her most powerfully. His heroism,
expecting, hoping for no reward, became the finest thing in her
estimation she had ever witnessed. Her own love taught her why Scoville
was attracted by her and became ready to do anything for her. "That's
the old, old story," she mused, "ever sweet and new, yet old as the
world. Poor Yarry was actuated by a purely unselfish, noble impulse.
Only such an impulse can sustain and carry me through my life. No, no,
Mrs. Waldo, I can never become happy in making others happy. I can
never be happy again. The bullet which killed Allan Scoville pierced my
heart also and it is dead, but that poor soldier taught me how one can
still live and suffer nobly, and such a life must be pleasing to the
only God I can worship." All wondered at the change gradually taking
place in the girl. It was too resolute, too much the offspring of her
will rather than her heart to have in it much gentleness, but it was
observed that she was becoming gravely and patiently considerate of
others, even of their faults and follies. As far as possible, her uncle
and aunt were allowed their own way without protest, the girl
sacrificing her own feelings and wishes when it was possible. They at
last began to admit that their niece was manifesting a becoming spirit
of submission and deference, when in fact her management of their
affairs was saving them from an impoverishment scarcely to be endured.

For Mrs. Whately the girl now had a genuine and strong affection,
chilled only by her belief that the plan in regard to the son was ever
in the mother's mind. So indeed it was. The sagacious woman watched
Miss Lou closely and with feelings of growing hope as well as of
tenderness. The girl was showing a patience, a strength of mind, and,
above all, a spirit of self-sacrifice which satisfied Mrs. Whately that
she was the one of all the world for her son.

"I do believe," she thought, "that if I can only make Louise think it
will be best for us all as well as Madison, she will yield. The spirit
of self-sacrifice seems her supreme impulse. Her sadness will pass away
in time, and she would soon learn to love the father of her children.
What's more, there is something about her now which would hold any
man's love. See how her lightest wish controls those who work for her,
even that harum-scarum Zany."

In the late autumn a long-delayed letter threw Mrs. Whately into a
panic of fear and anxiety. A surgeon wrote that her son had been
severely wounded and had lost his left arm, but that he was doing well.



Here the author laid down his pen. In Mr. Roe's journal, under date of
July 11, is an entry alluding to a conversation with a friend. That
conversation concerned the conclusion of this book, and was, in effect,
substantially the same as the outline given by him in a letter, part of
which is quoted as follows:

"It is not my purpose to dwell further on incidents connected with the
close of the war, as the book may be considered too long already. It
only remains for me now to get all my people happy as soon as possible.
Zany and Chunk 'make up,' and a good deal of their characteristic
love-making will be worked in to relieve the rather sombre state of
things at this stage. Whately returns with his empty sleeve, more of a
hero than ever in his own eyes and his mother's. Miss Lou thinks him
strangely thoughtful and considerate in keeping away, as he does, after
a few short visits at The Oaks. The truth is, he is wofully
disappointed at the change in his cousin's looks. This pale, listless,
hollow-eyed girl is not the one who set him to reading 'Taming of the
Shrew.' That her beauty of color and of outline could ever return, he
does not consider; and in swift revulsion of feeling secretly pays
court elsewhere.

"Mrs. Whately, however, makes up for her son's deficiencies. Utterly
ignorant how affairs are shaping, she works by her representations upon
Miss Lou's sympathies until the weary consent is wrung from the poor
girl--'Nothing matters to me any more! If it makes you all
happy--why--then--But I must wait a year.' She feels that her love for
Allan Scoville will never be less, and that this period of time is
little enough to devote to him in silent memory.

"The delighted aunt hastens to report to her son, who stares rather
blankly, for a lover, as he hears of this concession on his cousin's
part, and without answer, he orders his horse and rides furiously away.
The ride is one that has been very frequently taken since the young
man's return, and pretty soon he is in earnest conversation with the
rosy-cheeked, black-eyed daughter of Dr. Williams. There seems to be
very good understanding between the two, and later, just at the final
scene, it will come out as effectively as can be portrayed the
startling news of their secret marriage.

"The days go on. One afternoon in the late autumn, Aun' Jinkey, smoking
and 'projeckin'' as usual in her cabin, has a vision which fairly sends
her heart, as she will express it, 'right troo de mouf.' Was it a
'spook,' or had the dead really come back to life? And I hear her
exclaim, throwing up her hands, 'Bress de Lawd, Marse Scoville, dat
you? Whar you drap fum dis yere time? I doan almos' know you widout de
un'fo'm!'

"But the 'vision' will not stop to narrate to the old aunty of his
capture, imprisonment and illness, his release and hurried journey
North. He catches sight of the slight figure of Miss Lou in the
distance near the run, and in a moment is beside her. 'Only death could
keep me from seeking you and living for you always, did I not tell you,
my darling, my darling?'

"And here I will leave them. The reader's imagination will picture more
if more is wished. It is better so."

THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""Miss Lou"" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home