The Guns of Bull Run by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter VII. The Homecoming
A great and exultant cheer went up from the massed thousands in Charleston. A smile passed over Beauregard's swarthy face and he showed his white teeth. Colonel Leonidas Talbot regarded the white flag with feelings in which triumph and sadness were mingled strangely. But the emotions of Harry and his comrades were, for the moment, those of victory only.
Boats put out both from the fort and the shore. Discipline was relaxed now, and Harry, St. Clair and Langdon went outside the battery. A light breeze had sprung up, and it was very grateful to Harry, who for hours had breathed the heavy odors of smoke and burned gunpowder. The smoke itself, which had formed a vast cloud over harbor, forts and city, was now drifting out to sea, leaving all things etched sharply in the dazzling sunlight of a Southern spring day.
"Well, old Wait-and-See, you have waited, and you have seen," said Langdon to Harry. "That white flag and those boats going out mean that Sumter is ours. Everything is for the best and we win everywhere and all the time."
Harry was silent. He was watching the boats. But the negotiations were soon completed. Sumter, a mass of ruins, was given up, and the Star and Bars, taking the place of the Stars and Stripes, gaily snapped defiance to the whole North. "It begins to look well there," said Beauregard, gazing proudly at the new flag.
All the amenities were preserved between the captured garrison and their captors. Anderson was sent to the Baltic, which still hovered outside, and the Union vessels disappeared on their way back to the North. Peace, but now the peace of triumph, settled again over Charleston, and throughout the South went the joyous tidings that Sumter had been taken. The great state of Virginia, Mother of Presidents, went out of the Union at last, and North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas followed her, but Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri still hung in the balance.
Lincoln had called for volunteers to put down a rebellion, but Harry heard everywhere in Charleston that the Confederacy was now secure. The Southerners were rising by the thousands to defend it. The women, too, were full of zeal and enthusiasm and they urged the men to go to the front. With the full consent of the lower South the capital was to be moved from Montgomery to Richmond, the capital of Virginia, on the very border of the Confederacy, to look defiantly, as it were, across at Washington over a space which was to become the vast battlefield of America, although few then dreamed it. The progress of President Davis to the new capital, set in the very face of the foe, was to be one huge triumph of faith and loyalty.
Harry heard nothing in Charleston but joyful news. There was not a single note of gloom. Europe, which must have its cotton, would favor the success of the South. Women who had never worked before, sewed night and day on clothing for the soldiers. Men gave freely and without asking to the new government. An extraordinary wave of emotion swept over the South, carrying everybody with it. Charleston shouted anew as the newspapers announced the news of distinguished officers who had gone out with the Southern States. There were the two Johnstons, the one of Virginia and the other of Kentucky; Lee, Bragg, of Buena Vista fame; Longstreet, and many others, some already celebrated in the Mexican War, and others with a greater fame yet to make.
Harry heard it all and it was transfused into his own blood. Now a letter came from his father. That obstinate faction in Kentucky still held the state to the Union. Since Sumter had fallen and Charleston was safe, he wished his son to rejoin him in Pendleton, whence they would proceed together to Frankfort, and help the Southern party. His personal account of the glowing deed that had been done in Charleston harbor would help. He was sure that his old friend, General Beauregard, would release him for this important duty.
Harry's heart and judgment alike responded to the call. He took the letter to General Beauregard, finding him at the Charleston Hotel with Governor Pickens and officers of his staff, and stood aside while the general read it. Beauregard at once wrote an order.
"This is your discharge from the Palmetto Guards," he said. "Colonel Kenton writes wisely. We need Kentucky and I understand that a very little more may bring the state to us. Go with your father. I understand that you have been a brave young soldier here and may you do as well up there."
Harry, feeling pride but not showing it, saluted and left the room, going at once to Madame Delaunay's, where he had left his baggage. He intended to leave early in the morning, but first he sought his friends and told them good-bye.
"Don't forget that we're going to have a great war," said Colonel Leonidas Talbot, "and the first battle line will be far north of Charleston. I shall look for you there."
"God bless you, my boy," said Major Hector St. Hilaire. "May you come back some day to this beautiful Charleston of ours, and find it more beautiful than ever."
"I'll meet you at Richmond later on," said Arthur St. Clair, "and then we'll serve together again."
"I'll join you at the White House in Washington," said Tom Langdon, "and I'll give you the next best bed to sleep in with your boots on."
Harry gave his farewells with deep and genuine regret. Whether their manner was grave or frivolous, he knew that these were good friends of his, and he sincerely hoped that he would meet them again. Madame Delaunay spoke to him almost as if he had been a son of hers, and there was dew in his eyes, because he could never forget her kindness to the lad who had been a stranger.
He resumed his civilian clothing and put his gray uniform, fine and new, of which he was so proud, in his saddle bags. Kentucky had declared herself neutral ground, warning the armies of both North and South to keep off her sacred soil, and he did not wish to invite undue attention. He intended, moreover, to leave the train when he neared Pendleton, at the same little station at which he had taken it when he started south.
It was a different Harry who started home late in April. Four months had made great changes. He bore himself more like a man. His manner was much more considered and grave. He had seen great things and he had done his share of them. He gazed upon a world full of responsibilities and perils.
But he looked back at Charleston the gay, the volatile and the beautiful, with real affection. It was almost buried now in flowers and foliage. Spring was at the full, every breeze was sharply sweet with grassy flavors. The very triumph and joy of living penetrated his soul. Youth swept aside the terrors of war. He was going home after victory. He soon left Charleston out of sight. A last roof or steeple glittered for a moment in the sun and then was gone. Before him lay the uplands and the ridges, and in another day he would be in another land.
He crossed the low mountains, passed through Nashville again, although he did not stop there, his train making immediate connection, and once more and with a thrill, entered his own state. He learned from casual talk on the trains that affairs in Kentucky were very hot. The special session of the Legislature, called by Governor Magoffin, was to meet at Frankfort early in May. The women of the state had already prepared an appeal to the Legislature to save them from the horrors of civil war.
Harry saw that he had not left active life behind him when he came away from Charleston. The feeling of strife had spread over a vast area. The atmosphere of Kentucky, like that of South Carolina, was surcharged with intensity and passion, but it had a difference. All the winds blew in the same direction in South Carolina and they sang one song of triumph, but in Kentucky they were variable and conflicting, and their voices were many.
He felt the difference as soon as he reached the hills of his native state. People were cooler here and they were more prone to look at the two sides of a question. The air, too, was unlike that of South Carolina. There was a sharper tang to it. It whipped his blood as it blew down from the slopes and crests.
It was afternoon when he reached the little station of Winton and left the train, a tall, sturdy boy, the superior of many a man in size, strength and agility. His saddle bags over his arm, he went at once to the liveryman with whom he had left his horse on his journey to Charleston, and asked for another, his best, for the return ride to Pendleton. The liveryman stared at him a moment or two and then burst into an exclamation of surprise.
"Why, it's Harry Kenton!" he said. "Harry, you've changed a lot in so short a time! You were at the bombardment of Fort Sumter, they tell me! It's made a mighty stir in these parts! There were never before such times in old Kentucky! Yes, Harry, I'll give you the best horse I've got, there ain't one more powerful in the state, but pushin' as hard as you will you can't reach Pendleton before dark, an' you look out."
"Look out for what?"
"Bill Skelly an' his gang. Them mountaineers are up. They say they're goin' to beat the rich men of the lowlands an' keep Kentucky in the Union, but between you an' me, Harry, it's the hate they feel for them that think harder an' work harder an' make more than themselves. Bill Skelly is the worst man in the mountains an' he has gathered about him a big gang of toughs. They're carin' mighty little about the Union or the freedom of the slaves, but they expect to make a lot out of this for themselves. Now I tell you again, Harry, to look out as you go through the dark to Pendleton. The country is mighty troubled."
"I will," replied Harry, with vivid recollection of his ride from Pendleton to Winton. "I am armed, Mr. Collins, and I have seen war. I served in one of the batteries that reduced Fort Sumter."
He did not say the last as a boast, but merely as an assurance to the liveryman, who he saw was anxious on his account.
"If you've got pistols, just you think once before you shoot," said Collins. "Things are shorely mighty troubled in these parts an' they're goin' to be worse."
"Have you heard anything of my father? Is he at Pendleton?"
"He was two days ago. He'd been up to Louisville where the Southern leaders had a meetin', but couldn't make things go as they wanted 'em to go, an' so he come back to Pendleton. People are tellin' that he's goin' to Frankfort soon."
Harry thanked him, threw his saddle bags across the horse, a powerful bay, and, giving a final wave of his hand to the sympathetic liveryman, rode away. He had little fear. He carried a pair of heavy double- barreled pistols in holsters, and a smaller weapon in his pocket. The horse, as he soon saw, was of uncommon power and spirit and he snapped his fingers at Skelly and his gang.
He rode first at a long, easy walk, knowing too well to push hard at the beginning, and the afternoon passed without anything worthy of his notice save the loneliness of the road. In the two hours before sundown he met less than half a dozen persons. All were men, and with a mere nod they went on quickly, regarding him with suspicion. This was not the fashion of a year ago, when they exchanged a friendly word or two, but Harry knew its cause. Now nobody could trust anybody else.
The setting sun was uncommonly red, tinting all the forest with a fiery glow and Harry looked apprehensively at the line of blue hills now on his right, whence danger had come before. But he saw nothing that moved there. No signal lights twinkled. The intervening space was a mass of heavy green foliage, which the eye, now that the twilight was at hand, could penetrate only a few score yards. A northeast wind off the distant mountain tops was cold and sharp, and Harry, who wore no overcoat, shivered a little.
Young though he was, he remembered the liveryman's caution, and he watched the forest on either side, as well as he could. But he depended more upon his keenness of ear. He did not believe the stirring of any large force in the thickets could pass him unheard, and, having nursed the strength of his great horse, he felt that he could leave almost any pursuit far behind.
The twilight sank into a dark and heavy night. The moon and stars lay behind drifting clouds and, now and then, came a swish of cold rain. Harry was not able to see more than a few yards to right or left, when the road ran through the woods, as it did most of the time, and not much further when fields chanced to lie on either side.
He was within a mile of Pendleton, and his heart began to throb, not with thoughts of Skelly, but because he would soon be in his old home again. Ten or fifteen minutes more, and he would see the solid red brick house rising among the clipped pines. But as he passed the junction of a small road coming down from the hills, his attentive ear gave warning. He heard the sound of hoofs and many of them. He drew in for a moment under the boughs and listened.
Harry's instinct warned him against the troop of men that he heard. Collins, the liveryman, had told him that the country was full of trouble. This region was neither North nor South. It was debatable land, of which raiding bands would take full advantage, and, despite the risk, he wished to know what was on foot. He was almost invisible under the boughs of a great oak which hung over the road, and the horse, after so many miles of hard riding, was willing enough to stand still. The rain swished in his face and the leaves gave forth a chilly rustle, but he held himself firmly to his task.
The hoofbeats came nearer and then ceased. The horsemen stopped at the point, where the narrower road merged into the larger and, as they were clear of the foliage, Harry caught a view of them. There was no moonlight, but his eyes had grown so well used to the darkness that he was able to recognize Skelly, who was in advance, an old army rifle across his saddle bow. Behind him were at least fifty men, and Harry knew they were all mountaineers. They rode the scrubby mountain horses, more like ponies, and every man carried a rifle.
Harry divined instantly that they had come down from the hills to make a raid upon the Confederate stronghold, Pendleton. War was on, and here was their chance to take revenge upon the more civilized people of the lowlands. Skelly was giving his final orders and Harry could hear him.
"We'll leave the main road, pull down the fences an' ride across the fields," he said. "We'll first take the house of that rebel and traitor, Colonel Kenton. It'll be helpin' the cause if we burn it clean down to the ground. If anybody tries to stop you, shoot. Then we'll go on to the others."
A growl of approval came from the men, and some shook their rifles as a sign of what they would do. Harry knew them. Mostly moonshiners and fugitives from justice, they cared far more for revenge and spoil than for the Union. He shuddered as he heard their talk. His own home was to be their first point of attack, and those who resisted were to be shot down.
He waited to hear no more, but, keeping in the shadow of the boughs and riding at first in a walk, he went on toward Pendleton. He was sure that Skelly's men had not heard his hoofbeats, as there was no sound of pursuit, and, three or four hundred yards further, he changed from a walk to a gallop. Careless of the dark and of all risks of the road, he drove the horse faster and faster. He was on familiar ground. He knew every hill and dip, almost every tree, but he did not pause to notice anything.
Soon he saw a light, then a dark outline, and his heart throbbed greatly. It was his father's house, standing among the clipped pines, and he was in time! Now his horse's feet thundered on the brief stretch of road that was left, and in another minute he was at the gate opening on the lawn. A man, rifle in hand, stood on the front steps, and demanded to know who had come.
"It is I, Harry, father!" cried Harry. "Skelly and his crowd are only a mile behind me, coming to destroy the place!"
Harry heard his father mutter, "Thank God!" which he knew was for his coming. Then he quickly led the horse inside the gate, turned him loose and ran forward. Colonel Kenton was already coming to meet him and the hands of father and son met in a strong and affectionate clasp.
"We will have to get out and go into the town," said Harry. "You and I alone can't hold them off. Skelly has at least fifty men. I saw them in the road."
"I'm not afraid since you've got safely through," replied Colonel Kenton. "We had a hint that Skelly was coming. That's why you see me with this rifle. I'd have sent you a telegram to stop at Winton, but couldn't reach you in time. Come into the house. Some friends of ours are here, ready to help us hold it against anybody and everybody that Skelly may bring."
Harry, with his saddle bags and holsters over his arm, entered the front hall with his father, who closed the door behind him. A single lamp burned in the hall, but fifteen men, all armed with rifles, stood there. He saw among them Steve Allison, the constable, Bracken the farmer, Senator Culver, and even old Judge Kendrick. Most of them, besides the rifles, carried pistols, and the party, though small, was resolute and grim. They greeted Harry with warmth, but said few words.
"We've food and hot coffee here," said Colonel Kenton. "After your long ride, Harry, you'd better eat."
"A cup of coffee will do," replied the boy. "But let me have a rifle. Skelly and his men will be here in ten minutes."
Old Judge Kendrick smiled.
"You can't complain, colonel," he said, "that your son has not inherited your temperament."
A rifle, loaded and ready, was handed to Harry, and, at the same time he drank a cup of hot coffee, brought by a trembling black boy. Allison meanwhile had opened the door a little and was listening.
"I don't hear 'em yet," he said.
"They'll approach cautiously," said Colonel Kenton. "I think they're likely to leave their horses at the edge of the wood and enter the lawn on foot. We'll put out the light and go outside."
"Good tactics," said Culver, as he promptly blew out the single light. Then all went upon the great front portico, where they stood for a few moments waiting. They could neither see nor hear anything hostile. Drifting clouds still hid the moon and stars, and a swish of light, cold rain came now and then.
There were piazzas on both sides of the house, and a porch in the rear. Colonel Kenton disposed his men deftly in order to meet the foe at any point. The stone pillars would afford protection for the riflemen. He, his son and old Judge Kendrick, held the portico in front.
Harry crouched behind a pillar, his fingers on the trigger of a rifle, and his holster containing the big double-barreled pistols lying at his feet. Impressionable, and with a horror of injustice, his heart was filled with rage. It was merely a band of outlaws who were coming to plunder and destroy his beautiful home and to kill any who resisted. He had respected those who held Sumter so long, but these fought only for their own hand.
A slight sound came from the road, a little distance to the south. He waited until it was repeated and then he was sure.
"They're out there," he whispered to his father at the next pillar.
"I heard them," replied the colonel. "They'll come upon the lawn, hiding behind the pines, and hoping to surprise the house. I fancy the surprise will be theirs, not ours. When you shoot, Harry, shoot to kill, or they will surely kill us. Keep as much as you can behind the pillar, and don't get excited."
Colonel Kenton was quite calm. The old soldier had returned to his work. Wary and prepared, he was not loath to meet the enemy. Harry, keeping his father's orders well in mind, crouched a little lower and waited. Presently he heard a slight rustling, and he knew that Skelly's men were among the dwarf pines on the lawn. The rustling continued and came nearer. Harry glanced at his father, who was behind a pillar not ten feet away.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" called Colonel Kenton into the darkness.
There was no answer and the rustling ceased. Harry heard nothing but the gentle fall of the rain.
"Speak up!" called the colonel once more. "Who are you?"
The answer came. Forty or fifty rifles cracked among the pines. Harry saw little flashes of fire, and he heard bullets hiss so venomously that a chill ran along his spine. There was a patter of lead on every side of the house, but most of the shots came from the front lawn. It was well that the colonel, Harry and the judge, were sheltered by the big pillars, or two or three shots out of so many would have found a mark.
Harry's rage, which had cooled somewhat while he was waiting, returned. He began to peer around the edge of the pillar, and seek a target, but the colonel whispered to him to hold his fire.
"Getting no reply, they'll creep a little closer presently and fire a second volley," he said.
Harry pressed closer to the pillar, kneeling low, as he had learned already that nine out of ten men fire too high in battle. He heard once more the rustling among the pines, and he knew that Skelly's men were advancing. Doubtless they believed that the defenders had fled within the house at the first volley.
He heard suddenly the clicking of gun locks, and the rifles crashed together again, but now the fire was given at much closer range. Harry saw a dusky figure beside a pine not thirty feet away, and he instantly pulled trigger upon it. His father's own rifle cracked at the same time, and two cries of pain came from the lawn. The boy, hot with the fire of battle, snatched the pistols out of the holsters and sent in four more shots.
Rapid reports from the other side of the house showed that the defenders there were also repelling attacks.
But Skelly's men, finding that they could not rush the house, kept up a siege from the ambush of the pines. Bullets rattled like hailstones against the thick brick walls of the house, and several times the smashing of glass told that windows had been shot in. Harry's blood now grew feverishly hot and his anger mounted with it. It was intolerable that these outlaws should attack people in their own homes. Lying almost flat on the floor of the portico he reloaded his rifle and pistols. As he raised his head to seek a new shot, a bullet tipped his ear, burning it like a streak of fire, and flattened against the wall behind him. He fired instantly at the base of the flash and a cry of pain showed that the bullet had struck a human target.
Harry, in his excitement, raised himself a little for another shot, and a second bullet cut dangerously near. A warning command came from his father, veteran warrior of the plains, to keep down, and he obeyed promptly. Then followed a period of long and intensely anxious waiting. Harry thought that if the night would only lighten they could get a clean sweep of the lawn and drive away the mountaineers, but it grew darker instead and the wind rose. He heard the boughs of the clipped pines rustle as they were whipped together, and the cold drops lashed him in the face. He had become soaking wet, lying on the floor of the portico, but he did not notice it.
Harry saw far to his left a single dim light in the dip beyond the forest, and he knew that it shone through a window in one of the houses of Pendleton.
It seemed amazing that so bitter a combat should be going on here, while the people slept peacefully in the town below. But there was not one chance in a thousand that they would hear of the battle on such a night. Then an idea came to him, and creeping to his father he made his proposition. Colonel Kenton opposed it vigorously, but Harry insisted. He knew every inch of the grounds. Why should he not? He had played over them all his life, and he could be in the fields and away in less than two minutes.
Colonel Kenton finally consulted Judge Kendrick, and the judge agreed with Harry. Besieged by so many, they needed help and the boy was the one to bring it. Then Colonel Kenton consented that Harry should go, but pressed his hand and told him to be very careful.
The boy went back into the house, passing through the dark rooms to the rear. As he went, he heard the sound of sobbing. It was the colored servants crying with terror. He found the constable and Senator Culver on watch on the back porch and whispered to them his errand.
"For God's sake, be careful, Harry," the Senator whispered back. "Bad blood is boiling now. Some of Skelly's men have been hit hard, and if they caught you they'd shoot you without mercy."
"But they won't catch me," replied the boy with confidence. Thinking it would be in the way in his rapid flight, he gave his rifle to the senator, and taking the heavy pistols from the holsters, thrust them in the pockets of his coat. Then he dropped lightly from the porch and lay for a few moments in the darkness and on the wet ground, absolutely still.
A strange thrill ran through Harry Kenton when his body touched the damp earth. The contact seemed to bring to him strength and courage. Doubts fled away. He would succeed in the trial. He could not possibly fail. His great-grandfather, Henry Ware, had been a renowned borderer and Indian fighter, one of the most famous in all the annals of Kentucky, gifted with almost preternatural power, surpassing the Indians themselves in the lore and craft of forest and trail. It was said too, that the girl, Lucy Upton, who became Henry Ware's wife and who was Harry's great-grandmother, had received this same gift of forest divination. His own first name had been given to him in honor of that redoubtable great-grandfather.
Now all the instincts of Harry's famous ancestors became intensely alive in him. The blood of those who had been compelled for so many years to watch and fight poured in a full tide through his veins. His bearing became sharper, his eyes saw through the darkness like those of a cat, and a certain sixth sense, hitherto a dormant instinct which would warn of danger, came suddenly to life.
Two parallel rows of honeysuckle bushes ran back some distance to a vegetable garden. He reckoned that the mountaineers would be hiding behind these, and therefore he turned away to the right, where dwarf pines, clipped into cones, grew as on the front lawn. The grass, helped by a wet spring, had grown already to a height of several inches, and Harry was surprised at the ease with which he drew his body through it. Every inch of garment upon him was soaked with rain, but he took no thought of the fact. He felt a certain fierce joy in the wildness of night and storm, and he was ready to defy any number of mountaineers.
The sixth and new sense suddenly gave warning and he lay flat in the wet grass just under one of the pines. Then he saw three men rise from their shelter behind a honeysuckle bush, walk forward, and stand in a group talking about ten feet behind him. Although they were not visible from the house he saw them clearly enough. One of them was Skelly himself, and all three were of villainous face. Straining his ear he could hear what they said and now he was very glad indeed that he had come.
It was the plan of Skelly to wait in silence and patience a long time. The defenders would conclude that he and his men had gone away, and then the mountaineers could either rush the house or set it on fire. If the final resort was fire, they could easily shoot Colonel Kenton and his friends as they ran out. It was Skelly who spoke of this hideous plan, laughing as he spoke, and Harry's hand went instinctively toward the butt of one of the pistols. But his will made him draw it away again, and, motionless in the grass, lying flat upon his face, he continued to listen.
Skelly's plan was accepted and they moved away to tell the others. Harry rose a little, and crept rapidly through the grass toward the vegetable garden.
Again he was surprised at his own skill. Acute of ear as he had become he could scarcely hear the brushing of the grass as he passed. As he approached the garden he saw two more men, rifles in hand, walking about, but paying little heed to them he kept on until he lay against the fence enclosing the garden.
It was a fence of palings, spiked at the top, and climbing it was a problem. Studying the question for a moment or two he decided that it was too dangerous to be risked, and moving cautiously along he began to feel of the palings. At last he came to one that was loose, and he pulled it entirely free at the bottom. Then he slipped through and into the garden. Here were long rows of grapevines, fastened on sticks, and, for a few moments, he lay flat behind one of the rows. He knew that he was not yet entirely safe, as the mountaineers were keen of eye and ear, and an outer guard of skirmishers might be lying in the garden itself. But he was now even keener of eye and hearing than they, and he could detect nothing living near him. The house also, and all about it, was silent. Evidently Skelly's men had settled down to a long siege, and Harry rejoiced in the amount of time they gave him.
He rose to his feet, but, stooped to only half his height, he ran swiftly behind the row of grapevines to the far end of the garden, leaped over the fence and continued his rapid flight toward Pendleton, where the single light still burned. He surmised that his father had received the warning too late to gather more than a few friends, and that the rest of the town was yet in deep ignorance.
The first house he reached, the one in which the light burned, was that of Gardner, the editor, and he beat heavily upon the door. Gardner himself opened it, and he started back in astonishment at the wild figure covered with mud, a heavy pistol clutched in the right hand.
"In Heaven's name, who are you?" he cried.
"Don't you know me, Mr. Gardner? I'm Harry Kenton, come back from Charleston! Bill Skelly and fifty of his men have ridden down from the mountains and are besieging us in our house, intending to rob and kill! The constable is there and so are Judge Kendrick, Senator Culver, and a few others, but we need help and I've come for it!"
He spoke in such a rapid, tense manner that every word carried conviction.
"Excuse me for not knowing you, Harry," Gardner said, "but you're calling at a rather unusual time in a rather unusual manner, and you have the most thorough mask of mud I ever saw on anybody. Wait a minute and I'll be with you."
He returned in half the time, and the two of them soon had the town up and stirring. Pendleton was largely Southern in sympathy, and even those who held other views did not wholly relish an attack upon one of its prominent men by a band of unclassified mountaineers. Lights sprang up all over the town. Men poured from the houses and there was no house then that did not contain at least one rifle.
In a half hour sixty or seventy men, well armed with rifles and pistols, were on their way to Colonel Kenton's house. Only a few drops of rain were falling now, and the thin edge of the moon appeared between clouds. There was a little light. The relieving party advanced swiftly and without noise. They were all accustomed to outdoor life and the use of weapons, and they needed few commands. Gardner came nearer than anyone else to being the leader, although Harry kept by his side.
They went on Harry's own trail, passing through the garden and hurrying toward the house. Three or four dim figures fled before them, running between the rows of vines. The Pendleton men fired at them, and then raised a great shout, as they rushed for the lawn. The mountaineers took to instant flight, making for the woods, where they had left their horses.
Colonel Kenton and his friends came from the house, shaking hands joyfully with their deliverers. Lanterns were produced, and they searched the lawn. Three men lay stiff and cold behind the dwarf pines. Harry shuddered. He was seeing for the first time the terrible fruits of civil war. It was not merely the pitched battles of armies, but often neighbor against neighbor, and sometimes the cloak of North or South would be used as a disguise for the basest of motives.
They also found two sanguinary trails leading to the wood in which the mountaineers had hitched their horses, indicating that the defenders of the Kenton house had shot well. But by the next morning Skelly's men had made good their flight far into the hills where no one could follow them. They sent no request for their own dead who were buried by the Pendleton people.
But the town raised a home guard to defend itself against raiders of any kind, and Colonel Kenton and Harry promptly made ready for their journey to Frankfort, where the choice of the state must soon be made, and whither Raymond Bertrand, the South Carolinian, had gone already. Colonel Kenton feared no charge because of the fight with Skelly's men. He was but defending his own home and here, as in the motherland, a man's house was his castle.