Elsie's Motherhood by Martha Finley
"Abate the edge of traitors, gracious lord, That would reduce these bloody days again, And make poor England weep in streams of blood." --SHAKESPEARE
The sun had just risen above the tree-tops as Solon led Beppo, ready saddled and bridled for his master's use, from the stables to the front of the mansion.
A moment later Mr. Travilla came out, gave some orders to the servant, and was about to mount, when his attention was attracted by the approach of a man on horseback who came cantering briskly up the avenue.
"Good morning," he said, as the stranger drew near. "Solon, you may hitch Beppo and go to your work."
"Good morning, Mr. Travilla, sir," returned the horseman, lifting his hat and bowing respectfully, as Solon obeyed the order in regard to Beppo, and with a backward glance of curiosity, disappeared around the corner of the building.
"You bring news, Martin?" said Mr. Travilla, stepping nearer to the stranger and looking earnestly into his face.
"Yes, sir and very bad, I'm sorry to say, unless," and he bent low over his saddle-bow and spoke in an undertone, "unless you can defend yourself against a band of thirty-five or forty ruffians."
"Fasten your horse to that post yonder and come with me to my private room," said Travilla, in calm, quiet tones.
Martin, alias Snell, immediately complied with the request, and as soon as he found himself closeted with Mr. Travilla, proceeded to give a full account of his last night's adventure.
"I assure you, sir," he concluded, "I look upon it as a piece of rare good fortune that I came upon that lad yesterday, and that he mistook me for one of the Klan; as otherwise you'd have had no warning."
"It was a kind providence, Martin," returned Mr. Travilla, with grave earnestness, "'If God be for us who can be against us?'"
"Nobody, sir; and that's the most Christian way of looking at the thing, no doubt. But, if I may ask, what will you do? fight or fly?"
"How do you know that I shall do either?" Mr. Travilla asked with a slight twinkle in his eye.
"Because you're not the man to tamely submit to such an outrage."
"No, as my wife says, 'I believe in the duty and privilege of self-defense;' and for her sake and my children's, even more than my own, I shall attempt it. I am extremely obliged to you, Martin."
"Not at all, sir; it was all in the way of business, and in the interests of humanity, law and order. No, no, sir, thank you; I'm not to be paid for doing my duty!" he added, hastily putting back a check which his host had filled out and now handed him.
"I think you may take it without scruple," said Mr. Travilla; "it is not a bribe, but simply a slight expression of my appreciation of an invaluable service you have already rendered me."
"Still I'd rather not, sir, thank you," returned the detective rising to go. "Good morning. I shall hope to hear to-morrow that the raiders have got the worst of it."
Left alone, Mr. Travilla sat for a moment in deep thought; then hearing Mr. Lilburn's voice in the hall, stepped out and exchanged with him the usual morning salutations.
"So you are not off yet?" remarked the guest.
"No, but am about to ride over to the Oaks. Will you give me the pleasure of your company?"
"With all my heart."
Elsie was descending the stairs.
"Wife," Mr. Travilla said, turning to her, "your cousin and I are going to ride over to the Oaks immediately; will you go with us?"
"Yes, thank you," she answered brightly, as she stepped to the floor; then catching sight of her husband's face, and seeing something unusual there, "What is it, Edward?" she asked, gliding swiftly to his side and laying her hand upon his arm, while the soft eyes met his with a loving, anxious look.
He could scarce refrain from touching the sweet lips with his own.
"My little friend, my brave, true wife," he said, with a tender sadness in his tone, "I will conceal nothing from you; I have just learned through a detective, that the Ku Klux will make a raid upon Ion to-night, between twelve and two; and my errand to the Oaks is to consult with your father about the best means of defense--unless your voice is for instant flight for ourselves, our children, and guests."
Her cheek paled, but her eye did not quail, and her tones were calm and firm as she answered, "It is a question for you and papa to decide; I am ready for whatever you think best."
"Bravo!" cried her cousin, who had listened in surprise to Mr. Travilla's communication, "there's no coward blood in my kinswoman's veins. She is worthy of her descent from the old Whigs of Scotland; eh, Travilla?"
"Worthy of anything and everything good and great," returned her husband, with a proud, fond glance at the sweet face and graceful form by his side.
"Ah ha! um h'm! so I think. And they are really about to attack you,--those cowardly ruffians? Well, sir, my voice is for war; I'd like to help you give them their deserts."
"It would seem cowardly to run away and leave our wounded friend and helpless dependents at their mercy," Elsie exclaimed, her eye kindling and her cheek flushing, while she drew up her slender figure to its full height; "our beautiful land, too, given up to anarchy and ruin; this dear sunny South that I love so well."
Her voice trembled with the last words, and tears gathered in her eyes.
"Yes, that is it," said her husband; "we must stay and battle for her liberties, and the rights guaranteed by her laws to all her citizens."
Horses were ordered, Elsie returned to her apartments to don a riding habit, and in a few minutes the three were on their way to the Oaks.
The vote there also was unanimous in favor of the policy of resistance. Mr. Dinsmore and Horace, Jr. at once offered their services, and Arthur Conly, who happened to be spending a few days at his uncle's just at that time, did the same.
"I was brought up a secessionist and my sympathies are still with the Democratic party," he said, "but these Ku Klux outrages I cannot tolerate; especially," he added, looking at Elsie with an affectionate smile, "when they are directed against the home and husband if not the person of my sweet cousin."
"You are to me 'a kinsman born, a clansman true,' Art," she said, thanking him with one of her sweetest smiles.
"That's right, old fellow!" cried Horace, clapping his cousin on the shoulder. "We shall muster pretty strong;--papa, Brother Edward, Mr. Lilburn, you and I--six able-bodied men within the fortress, with plenty of the best small arms and ammunition; all of us fair shots, too, some excellent marksmen--we ought to do considerable execution among our assailants."
"And God being on our side," said Mr. Lilburn, reverently, "we may have strong hope of being able to beat them back."
"Yes, 'the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,'" remarked Mr. Dinsmore. "'Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.'"
"And if we do so truly, fully, he will take hold of shield and buckler and stand up for our help," added Mr. Travilla.
The plan of defense was next discussed, but not fully decided upon; it was agreed that that could be done most readily upon the spot, and that accordingly Mr. Dinsmore and the two young men should ride over to Ion shortly after breakfast, to view the ground and consult again with the other two.
"Why not return with us and breakfast at Ion?" asked Elsie.
"Why not stay and breakfast with us?" said Rose.
"Certainly," said her husband. "Take off your hat, daughter, and sit down to your father's table as of old."
"Ah, my little ones! I know they are watching now for mamma and wondering at her long delay."
"Then I shall not detain, but rather speed you on your way," he said, leading her out and assisting her to mount her horse.
The children had thought mamma's ride a long one that morning, and much they wondered at papa's unusual silence and abstraction. He quite forgot to romp with them, but indeed there was scarcely time, as he did not come in from the fields till the breakfast bell had begun to ring.
Grace had just been said, every one was sitting silent, quietly waiting to be helped (the children were all at the table, for "Cousin Ronald" who had been with them for a week, was now considered quite one of the family). Mr. Travilla took up the carving knife and fork with the intent to use them upon a chicken that lay in a dish before him; but the instant he touched it with the fork, a loud squawk made every body start, and Harold nearly tumbled from his chair.
"Why dey fordot to kill it!" he cried breathlessly.
"But its head's off!" said Eddie, gazing into the dish in wide-eyed astonishment.
"Ah ha nn h'm! is that the way your American fowls behave at table?" asked Cousin Ronald, gravely, but with a slight twinkle in his eye, pushing back his chair a little while keeping his eyes steadily fixed upon the ill-mannered bird, as if fearful that its next escapade might be to fly in his face; "a singular breed they must be."
Elsie and her husband began to recover from their momentary surprise and bewilderment, and exchanged laughing glances, while the latter, turning to his guest, said, "Capitally done, cousin! wouldn't have disgraced Signor Blitz himself or any of his guild. But I had no suspicion that ventriloquism was one of your many accomplishments. What part shall I help you to?"
"The leg, if you please; who knows but I may have use for more than two to-night?"
A gleam of intelligence lighted up little Elsie's face. "Oh! I understand it now," she said, with a low silvery laugh; "cousin is a ventriloquist."
"What's that?" asked Vi.
"Oh I know!" cried Eddie. "Cousin Ronald, don't you have a great deal of fun doing it?"
"Well, my boy, perhaps rather more than I ought, seeing it's very apt to be at other folks' expense."
The guest, mamma and Elsie having been helped, it was now Vi's turn to claim papa's attention.
"What shall I send you, daughter?" he asked.
"Oh nothing, papa, please! no, no, I can't eat live things," she said half shuddering.
"It is not alive my child."
Violet looked utterly bewildered: she had never known her father to say anything that was not perfectly true, yet how could she disbelieve the evidence of her own senses?
"Papa, could it hollow so loud when it was dead?" she asked deprecatingly.
"It did not, my little darling; 'twas I," said Cousin Ronald, preventing papa's reply, "the chick seemed to make the noise but it was really I."
Papa and mamma both confirmed this statement and the puzzled child consented to partake of the mysterious fowl.
Minna, standing with her basket of keys at the back of her mistress's chair, Tom and Prilla, waiting on the table, had been as much startled and mystified by the chicken's sudden outcry as Vi herself, and seized with superstitious fears, turned almost pale with terror.
Mr. Lilburn's assertion and the concurrent assurance of their master and mistress, relieved their fright; but they were still full of astonishment, and gazed at the guest with wonder and awe.
Of course the story was told in the kitchen and created much curiosity and excitement there.
This excitement was, however, soon lost in a greater when the news of the expected attack from the Ku Klux circulated among them an hour or two later.
It could not be kept from the children, but they were calmed and soothed by mamma's assurance, "God will take care of us, my darlings, and help papa, grandpa and the rest to drive the bad men away."
"Mamma," said Vi, "we little ones can't fight, but if we pray a good deal to God, will that help?"
"Yes, daughter, for the Bible tells us God is the hearer and answerer of prayer."
Elsie herself seemed entirely free from agitation and alarm; full of hope and courage, she inspired those about her with the same feelings; the domestic machinery moved on in its usual quiet, regular fashion.
The kitchen department it is true, was the scene of much earnest talk, but the words were spoken with bated breath, and many an anxious glance from door and window, as if the speakers feared the vicinity of some lurking foe.
Aunt Dicey was overseeing the making of a huge kettle of soft soap.
"Tears like dis yer's a long time a comin'," she said, giving the liquid a vigorous stir, then lifting her paddle and holding it over the kettle to see if it dripped off in the desired ropy condition; "but dere, dis ole sinnah no business growlin' 'bout dat; yah! yah!" and dropping the paddle, she put her hands on her hips, rolled up her eyes and fairly shook with half suppressed laughter.
"What you larfin' at, Aunt Dicey? 'pears you's mighty tickled 'bout suffin'," remarked the cook, looking up in wonder and curiosity from the eggs she was beating.
"What's de fun, Aunt Dicey?" asked Uncle Joe, who sat in the doorway busily engaged in cleaning a gun.
"Why, don't you see, darkies? de soap ain't gwine to come till 'bout de time de Kluxes roun' heyah; den dis chile gib 'em a berry warm deception, yah! yah! yah!"
"A powerful hot one," observed the cook, joining in the laugh; "but dey won't min' it; dey's cobered up, you know."
"'Taint no diffence," remarked Uncle Joe, "de gowns an' masks, dey's nuffin but cotton cloth, an' de hot soap'll permeate right tru, an' scald de rascal's skins!"
"Dat's so; an' take de skin off too."
Uncle Joe stopped work and mused a moment, scratching his head and gazing into vacancy.
"'Clar to goodness dat's a splendid idea, Aunt Dicey!" he burst out at length. "An' let's hab a kettle ob boilin' lye to tote up stairs in da house, 'bout de time we see de Kluxes comin' up de road; den Aunt Chloe an' Prilla can expense it out ob de windows; a dippah full at a time. Kin you git um ready fo' den?"
"Dat I kin," she replied with energy, "dis consecrated lye don't take no time to fix. I'll hab it ready, sho' as you lib."
Meanwhile the party from the Oaks had arrived according to appointment, and with Mr. Travilla and his guest, were busy with their arrangements for the coming conflict, when quite unexpectedly old Mr. Dinsmore and Calhoun Conly appeared upon the scene.
"We have broken in upon a conference, I think," remarked the old gentleman, glancing from one to another and noticing that the entrance of himself and grandson seemed to thrown a slight constraint over them.
"Rest assured, sir, that you are most welcome," replied Mr. Travilla. "We were conferring together on a matter of importance, but one which I am satisfied need not be concealed from you or Cal. I have had certain information that the Ku Klux--"
"Stay!" cried Calhoun, springing to his feet, a burning flush rising to his very hair, "don't, I beg of you, cousin, say another word in my presence. I--I know I'm liable to be misunderstood--a wrong construction put upon my conduct," he continued glancing in an agony of shame and entreaty from one astonished face to another, "but I beg you will judge me leniently and never, never, doubt my loyalty to you all," and bowing courteously to the company he hastily left the room, and hurrying out of the house, mounted his horse and galloped swiftly down the avenue.
For a moment those left behind looked at each other in dumb surprise; then old Mr. Dinsmore broke the silence by a muttered exclamation, "Has the boy gone daft?"
"I think I understand it, sir," said his son, "poor Cal has been deceived and cajoled into joining that organization, under a misapprehension of its deeds and aims, but having learned how base, cruel, and insurrectionary they are, has ceased to act with them--or rather never has acted with them--yet is bound by oath to keep their secrets and do nothing against them."
"Would be perilling his life by taking part against them," added Mr. Travilla. "I think he has done the very best he could under the circumstances."
He then went on with his communication to the old gentleman, who received it with a storm of wrath and indignation.
"It is time indeed to put them down when it has come to this!" he exclaimed, "The idea of their daring to attack a man of your standing, an old family like this,--of the best blood in the country! I say it's downright insolence, and I'll come over myself and help chastise them for their temerity."
"Then you counsel resistance, sir?" queried his son.
"Counsel it? of course I do! nobody but a coward and poltroon would think of anything else. But what are your plans, Travilla?"
"To barricade the verandas with bags of sand and bales of cotton, leaving loopholes here and there, post ourselves behind these defenses, and do what execution we can upon the assailants."
"Good! Who's your captain?"
"Your son, sir."
"Very good; he has had little or no experience in actual warfare, but I think his maiden effort will prove a success."
"If on seeing our preparations they depart peaceably, well and good," remarked Travilla. "But if they insist on forcing an entrance, we shall feel no scruples about firing upon them."
"Humph! I should think not, indeed!" grunted the old gentleman; "'Self-defense is the first law of nature.'"
"And we are told by our Lord, 'all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword,'" observed his son.
The arrangements completed, the Dinsmores returned to their homes for the rest of the day.
About dusk the work of barricading was begun, all the able-bodied men on the plantation, both house-servants and field-hands, being set to work at it. The materials had been brought up to the near vicinity of the house during the day. The men's hearts were in the undertaking (not one of them but would have risked his own life freely in defense of their loved master and mistress), and many hands made light and speedy work.
While this was in progress, old Mr. Dinsmore and the whole family from the Oaks arrived; Rose and her daughter preferring to be there rather than left at home without their natural protectors.
Elsie welcomed them joyfully and at once engaged their assistance in loading for the gentlemen.
The little ones were already in bed and sleeping sweetly, secure in the love and protecting care of their earthly and their heavenly Father. Little Elsie, now ten years old, was no longer required to retire quite so early, but when her regular hour came she went without a murmur.
She was quite ready for bed, had just risen from her knees, when her mother came softly in and clasped her in a tender embrace.
"Mamma, dear, dear mamma, how I love you! and papa too!" whispered the child, twining her arms about her mother's neck. "Don't let us be afraid of those wicked men, mamma. I am sure God will not let them get papa, because we have all prayed so much for his help; all of us together in worship this morning and this evening, and we children up here; and Jesus said, 'If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.'"
"Yes, darling, and he will fulfill his word; he will not suffer anything to befall but what shall be for his glory and our good. Now, dear daughter, lie down and take that promise for a pillow to sleep upon; and if waked by sounds of conflict, lift up your heart to God for your dear father, and mine, and all of us."
"I will, mamma, I will."
Leaving a loving kiss on the sweet young lips, and another on the brow of her sleeping Violet, the mother glided noiselessly from the room.
"What is it, mammy?" she asked on finding her faithful old nurse waiting to speak with her in the outer room.
"Miss Elsie, honey, is you willin' to let us scald dem Kluxes wid boilin' soap an' lye?"
"Scald them, mammy?" she exclaimed with a slight shudder. "I can hardly bear the thought of treating a dog so cruelly!"
"But dey's worse dan dogs. Miss Elsie; dogs neber come and detack folks dat's sleepin' quietly in dere beds; does dey now?"
"No; and these men would take my husband's life. You may all fight them with any weapon you can lay hands on."
Aunt Chloe returned her thanks and proceeded to give an account of the plan concocted by Aunt Dicey and Uncle Joe.
Elsie, returning to the dining-room, repeated it there.
"Excellent!" exclaimed her brother. "Come, Art, let's hang a bell in the kitchen and attach a string to it, taking the other end up to the observatory."
The suggestion was immediately carried out. It had been previously arranged that the two young men should repair to the observatory, and there watch for the coming of the foe, and on their first appearance, probably a mile or more distant, give the alarm to those below, by pulling a wire attached to that from which the front door bell was suspended; thus setting it to ringing loudly. Now they were prepared to sound the tocsin in the kitchen, also, thus giving time for the removal of the boiling lye from the fire there to the second story of the mansion, where it was to be used according to Uncle Joe's plan.
The detective had reported the assailing party as numbering from thirty-five to forty; but the Ion force, though much inferior in point of numbers, even with the addition of eight or ten negro men belonging to the Oaks and Ion, who were tolerably proficient in the use of firearms, certainly had the advantage of position, and of being on the side of right and justice.
The gentlemen seemed full of a cheerful courage, the ladies calm and hopeful. Yet they refused to retire, though strongly urged to do so, insisting that to sleep would be simply impossible.
It was but ten o'clock when all was ready, yet the young men deemed it most prudent to betake themselves at once to their outlook, since there might possibly have been some change in the plans of the enemy.
The others gathered in one of the lower rooms to while away the tedious time of waiting as best they could. Conversation flagged; they tried music, but it had lost its charms for the time being; they turned away from the piano and harp and sank into silence; the house seemed strangely silent, and the pattering of Bruno's feet as he passed slowly down the whole length of the corridor without, came to their ears with almost startling distinctness.
Then he appeared in the doorway, where he stood turning his eyes from one to another with a wistful, questioning gaze: then words seemed to come from his lips in tones of wonder and inquiry.
"What are you all doing here at this time o' night, when honest folk should be a-bed?"
"Just what I've been asking myself for the last hour," gravely remarked a statue in a niche in the opposite wall.
The effect was startling even to those who understood the thing; more so to the others, Rosie screamed and ran to her father for protection.
"Why, why, why!" cried old Mr. Dinsmore, in momentary perplexity and astonishment.
"Don't be afraid Miss Rosie; I'm a faithful friend, and the woman over there couldn't hurt you if she would," said Bruno, going up to the young girl, wagging his tail and touching his cold nose to her hand.
She drew it away with another scream.
"Dear child," said her sister, "it is only a trick of ventriloquism."
"Meant to amuse, not alarm," added Mr. Lilburn.
Rosie, nestling in her father's arms, drew a long breath of relief, and half laughing, half crying, looked up saucily into Mr. Lilburn's face.
"And it was you, sir? oh, how you scared me!"
"I beg your pardon, my bonnie lassie," he said, "I thought to relieve, somewhat, the tediousness of the hour."
"For which accept our thanks," said Mr. Dinsmore. "But I perceive it is not the first time that Travilla and Elsie have been witnesses of your skill."
"No," said Elsie, laughing. "My dear, you are good at a story, tell them what happened at breakfast this morning."
Mr. Travilla complied with the request. He was an excellent story-teller and made his narrative very entertaining.
But in the midst of their mirth a sudden awe-struck silence fell upon them. There was a sound as of the rattling of stiffly starched robes; then a gruff voice from the hall exclaimed, "There he is, the old scalawag! Dinsmore too. Now take good aim, Bill, and let's make sure work."
Rosie was near screaming again, but catching sight of Mr. Lilburn's face, laughed instead; a little hysterical nervous laugh.
"Oh t's you again, sir!" she cried. "Please don't frighten me any more."
"Ah, no, I will not," he said, and at that moment a toy man and woman on the table began a vastly amusing conversation about their own private affairs.
In the kitchen and the domiciles of the house-servants, there was the same waiting and watching; old and young, all up and wide awake, gathered in groups and talked in undertones, of the doings of the Ku Klux, and of the reception they hoped to give them that night. Aunt Dicey glorying in the prospect of doing good service in the defense of "her family" as she proudly termed her master, mistress and the children, kept her kettles of soap and lye at boiling heat, and two stalwart fellows close at hand to obey her orders.
Aunt Chloe and Dinah were not with the others, but in the nursery watching over the slumbers of "de chillens." Uncle Joe was with Mr. Leland, who was not yet able to use the wounded limb and was to be assisted to his hiding place upon the first note of alarm.
In the observatory the two young men kept a vigilant eye upon every avenue of approach to the plantation. There was no moon that night, but the clear bright starlight made it possible to discern moving white objects at a considerable distance. Horace was full of excitement and almost eager for the affray, Arthur calm and quiet.
"This waiting is intolerable!" exclaimed the former when they had been nearly an hour at their post. "How do you stand it, Art?"
"I find it tedious, and there is in all probability, at least an hour of it yet before us. But my impatience is quelled by the thought that it may be to me the last hour of life."
"True; and to me also. A solemn thought, Art, and yet might not the same be said of any day or hour of our lives?"
From that they fell into a very serious conversation in which each learned more of the other's inner life than he had ever known before: both were trusting in Christ and seeking to know and do his will, and from that hour their hearts were knit together as the hearts of David and Jonathan.
Gradually their talk ceased till but a word or two was dropped now and then, while the vigilance of their watch was redoubled; for the hour of midnight had struck--the silver chimes of a clock in the hall below coming distinctly to their ears--and any moment might bring the raiders into view.
Below stairs too a solemn hush had fallen upon each with the first stroke of the clock, and hearts were going up in silent prayer to God.
Horace was gazing intently in the direction of Fairview but at a point somewhat beyond.
"Look, Art!" he cried in an excited whisper, "do my eyes deceive me? or are there really some white objects creeping slowly along yonder road?"
"I--I think--yes, yes it is they!" returned Arthur, giving a rigorous pull to the string attached to the bell in the kitchen, while Horace did the same by the wire connected with the other; then springing to the stairway they descended with all haste.
Loudly the alarm pealed out in both places, bringing all to their feet, and paling the cheeks of the ladies.
Mr. Dinsmore's orders were given promptly, in calm, firm tones, and each repaired to his post.
Aunt Dicey, assuming command in the kitchen, delivered her orders with equal promptness and decision.
"Yo' Ben an' Jack, tote dis yer pot ob lye up stairs quick as lightnin', an' set it whar Aunt Chloe tells yo'. An' yo' Venus, stan' by de pot ob soap wid a dippah in yo' hand, an' fire away at de fust Klux dat shows his debbil horns an' tongue at de do'. Min' now, yo' take um in de eye, an' he neber come roun' heyah no mo' tryin' to kill Marse Ed'ard."
Mr. Leland had fallen asleep in the early part of the evening, but woke with the ringing of the alarm bells.
"Ah, they must be in sight, Uncle Joe," he said; "help me to my hiding place and leave me there. You will be needed below."
"Yes, Massa Leland, dey's coming" said the old man, instantly complying with his request, "an' dis niggah's to demand de boilin' lye compartment ob dis army ob defense."
A narrow couch had been spread in the little concealed apartment, and in a trice Mr. Leland found himself stretched upon it.
"There, I'm quite comfortable, Uncle Joe," he said; "lay my pistols here, close to my hand; then close the panel with all care, and when you leave the room, lock the door behind you and hide the key in the usual place."
"Yes, sah; an' please, sah, as yo's got nuffin' else for to do, keep askin' de Lord ob armies to help de right."
"That I will," answered Leland heartily.
Uncle Joe, moving with almost youthful alacrity, obeyed the orders given, and hastened to join his wife and Dinah whom he found on the upper veranda in front of the nursery windows, standing ladle in hand, one by the kettle of lye, the other leaning over the railing watching for the coming of the foe.
The old man, arming himself also with a ladle of large capacity, took his station beside the latter.
"Aunt Chloe," said he, "yo' bettah go back to de chillens, fear dey might wake up an' be powerful scared."
"Yes, spect I bettah; dere ole mammy do best to be wid de darlins," she replied, resigning her ladle to Prilla, who joined them at that moment, and hurrying back to her charge.
She found her mistress bending over the crib of the sleeping babe. "I am so thankful they were not roused by the noise, mammy," she said softly, glancing at the bed where the older two lay in profound slumber, "but don't leave them alone even for a moment."
"Deed I won't, darlin'; de bressed little lambs! dere ole mammy'd fight de Kluxes to her last breff, fo' dey should hurt a hair ob deir heads. But don't ye fret, Miss Elsie, honey; dey'll not come yere; de good Lord 'll not let dem get into de house," she added, big tears filling her old eyes, while she clasped her idolized mistress in her arms as if she were still the little girl she had so loved to caress and fondle years ago.
Elsie returned the embrace, gave a few whispered directions, and glided into the next room, there to linger a moment by the couch of her little girls, who were also sleeping sweetly, then hastened to rejoin Mrs. Dinsmore and Rosie, in one of the rooms opening upon the lower front veranda.
They sat at a table covered with arms and ammunition. Rose was a little pale, but calm and composed, as was Elsie also; Rosie, making a great effort to be brave, could not still the loud beating of her heart as she sat listening intently for sounds from without.
Elsie placing herself beside her young sister and taking her hand, pressed it tenderly, whispering with a glad smile, "'They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which can not be removed, but abideth forever.'"
Rosie nodded a half-tearful assent.
Horace looked in. "They are just entering the avenue. Mother and sisters, be brave and help us with your prayers," he said, low and earnestly, and was gone.
The ladies exchanged one swift glance, then bent forward in a listening attitude and for the next few moments every other sense seemed lost in that of hearing.
The raiders, as was their usual custom, had dismounted at the gate, and leaving their horses in the care of two of their number, approached the house on foot. They came on three abreast, but as they neared the dwelling, one line branched off and passed around it in the direction of the kitchen.
In an instant more the double column, headed by the leader of the troop, had reached the steps of the veranda, where it came to a sudden halt, a sort of half smothered grunt of astonishment coming from the captain as he hastily ran his eye along the barricade, which till that moment had been concealed from himself and comrades, by the semi-darkness and a profusion of flowering vines.
The darkness and silence of death seemed to reign within: yet each one of the little garrison was at his post, looking out through a loophole, and covering one or another of the foe with his revolver, while with his finger upon the trigger, he only awaited the word of command to send the bullet to its mark.
Young Horace found it hard to restrain his impatience. "What a splendid opportunity his father was letting slip! why did he hesitate to give the signal?" For, perhaps, the first time in his life, the young man thought his father unwise.
But Mr. Dinsmore knew what he was about; blood should not be shed till the absolute necessity was placed beyond question.
A moment of suspense, of apparent hesitation on the part of the raiders, then in stentorian tones the leader, stepping back a little, called; "Edward Travilla!"
An instant of dead silence; then the call was repeated.
Elsie shuddered and hid her face, faltering out a prayer for her husband's safety.
Still no reply, and the third time the man called, adding, with a volley of oaths and curses, "We want you, sir: come out at once or it'll be the worse for you."
Then Mr. Dinsmore answered in calm, firm tones, "Your purpose is known; your demand is unreasonable and lawless, and will not be complied with; withdraw your men at once or it will be the worse for you."
"Boys!" cried the leader, turning to his men, "up with your axes and clubs, we've got to batter down this breastwork, and it must be done!"
With a yell of fury the hideous forms rushed forward to the attack.
"Fire!" rang out Mr. Dinsmore's voice in clarion tones, and instantly the crack of half a dozen revolvers was heard, a light blaze ran along the line of loopholes, and at the same instant a sudden, scalding shower fell upon the assailants from above.
Several of them dropped upon the ground and as many more threw away their clubs, and ran screaming and swearing down the avenue.
But the others rallied and came on again yelling with redoubled fury; while simultaneously similar sounds came from the sides and rear of the dwelling.
The scalding shower was descending there, also; Uncle Joe and his command were busy, and bullets were flying and doing some execution, though sent with less certain aim than from the front.
Aunt Dicey, too, and her satellites were winning the laurels they coveted.
As she had expected, several of the assailants came thundering at her door, loudly demanding admittance, at the same time that the attack was made in front.
"Who dar? What you want?" she called.
"We want in; open the door instantly!"
"No, sah! dis chile don' do no sich ting! Dis Marse Ed'ard's kitchen, an' Miss Elsie's."
Then in an undertone, "Now Venus an' Lize, fill yo' dippahs quick! an' when dis niggah says fire, slam de contentions--dat's de bilin' soap, min'--right into dar ugly faces."
"An' Sally Ann, yo' creep up dem stairs, quick as lightnin' an' hide under the bed. It's yo' dey's after; somebody mus' a tole 'em yo' sleeps yere sense de night dat bloody hand ben laid on yo' shouldah."
These orders were scarcely issued and obeyed when the door fell in with a loud crash, and a hideous horned head appeared in the opening; but only to receive three ladles-full of the boiling soap full in its face, and fall back with a terrible, unearthly yell of agony and rage, into the arms of its companions, who quickly bore it shrieking away.
"Tank de Lord, dat shot tole!" ejaculated Aunt Dicey. "Now stan' ready for de nex'."
The party in front were received with the same galling fire as before, and at the same moment a sound, coming apparently from the road beyond the avenue, a sound as of the steady tramp, tramp of infantry, and the heavy rumbling and rolling of artillery, smote upon their ears.
There had been a report that Federal troops were on the march to suppress the outrages, and protect the helpless victims, and seized with panic terror, the raiders gathered up their dead and wounded and fled.