Marcy The Refugee
by Harry Castlemon
CHAPTER I. WHAT BROUGHT BEARDSLEY HOME.
CHAPTER II. ALLISON IS SURPRISED.
CHAPTER III. THE NEIGHBORHOOD GOSSIP.
CHAPTER IV. VISITORS IN PLENTY.
CHAPTER V. MARCY'S RASH WISH.
CHAPTER VI. THE WISH GRATIFIED.
CHAPTER VII. MARCY SPEAKS HIS MIND.
CHAPTER VIII. THE ARRIVAL OF THE FLEET.
CHAPTER IX. LOOKING FOR A PILOT.
CHAPTER X. BEARDSLEY IN TROUBLE.
CHAPTER XI. MARCY IN ACTION.
CHAPTER XII. HOME AGAIN.
CHAPTER XIII. A REBEL SOLDIER SPEAKS.
CHAPTER XIV. A YANKEE SCOUTING PARTY.
CHAPTER XV. MARCY SEES SOMEBODY.
CHAPTER XVI. A FRIEND IN GRAY.
CHAPTER XVII. MARCY TAKES TO THE SWAMP.
CHAPTER XVIII. CONCLUSION.
CHAPTER I. WHAT BROUGHT BEARDSLEY
In this story we take up once more the history of the exploits and
adventures of our Union hero Marcy Gray, the North Carolina boy, who
tried so hard and so unsuccessfully to be True to his Colors. Marcy,
as we know, was loyal to the old flag but he had had few opportunities
to prove it, until he took his brother, Sailor Jack, out to the Federal
blockading fleet in his little schooner Fairy Belle, to give him a
chance to enlist in the navy. That was by far the most dangerous
undertaking in which Marcy had ever engaged, and at the time of which
we write, he had not seen the beginning of the trouble it was destined
to bring him. Not only was he liable to be overhauled by the
Confederates when he attempted to pass their forts at Plymouth and
Roanoke Island, but he was in danger of being shot to pieces by the
watchful steam launches of the Union fleet that had of late taken to
patrolling the coast. But he came through without any very serious
mishaps, and returned to his home to find the plantation in an uproar,
and his mother in a most anxious frame of mind.
Although Marcy Gray was a good pilot for that part of the coast, and
knew all its little bays and out-of-the-way inlets as well as he knew
the road from his home to the post-office, his older brother Jack was
the real sailor of the family. He made his living on the water. At the
time we first brought him to the notice of the reader he had been at
sea for more than two years, and it was while he was on his way home
that his vessel, the Sabine, fell into the hands of Captain
Semmes, who had just begun his piratical career in the Confederate
steamer Sumter. But, fortunately for Jack, Semmes was not as
vigilant in those days as he afterward became. He gave the Sabine's
crew an opportunity to recapture their vessel and escape from his
power, and they were prompt to improve it. By the most skilful
manoeuvring, and without firing a shot, they made prisoners of the
prize crew that Semmes had put on board the Sabine, turned them
over to the Union naval authorities at Key West, and took their vessel
to a Northern port. On the way to Boston, and while she was off the
coast of North Carolina, the brig was pursued and fired at by a little
schooner which turned out to be Captain Beardsley's privateer Osprey, on which Marcy Gray was serving in the capacity of pilot.
When Jack Gray found himself in Boston, the first thing he thought
of was getting home. The Potomac being closely guarded against
mail-carriers and smugglers who, in spite of all the precautions taken
against them, continued to pass freely, and almost without detection,
between the lines as long as the war lasted, the only plan he could
pursue was to go by water. Being intensely loyal himself, Jack never
dreamed that Northern men would be guilty of loading vessels to run the
blockade, but there was at least one such craft in Bostonthe West
Wind; and through the good offices of his old commander, the captain
of the Sabine, Jack Gray was shipped on board of her as second
mate and pilot. Her cargo was duly consigned to some house in Havana,
but the owners meant that it should be sold in Newbern; and there were
scattered about among the bales and boxes in her hold, a good many
packages that would have brought the vessel and all connected with her
into serious trouble, if they had been discovered by the custom-house
When the West Wind was a short distance out from Boston, the
second mate learned by accident that one of his best foremast hands was
also bound for his home in North Carolina. His name was Aleck Webster,
and his father lived on a small plantation which was not more than an
hour's ride from Nashville. Being a poor man Mr. Webster did not stand
very high in the estimation of his rich neighbors, but that made no
sort of difference to Jack Gray, and a warm and lasting friendship at
once sprung up between officer and man. Although they belonged to a
vessel that was fitted out to run the blockade they were both strong
for the Union, and many an hour of the mid-watch did they while away in
talking over the situation. All they knew about their friends at home
was that they were opposed to secession; but they dared not say so,
because they were surrounded by rebels who would have been glad of an
excuse to burn them out of house and home. The two friends got angry as
often as they talked of these things, but of course they could not
decide upon a plan of operations until they had been at home long
enough to see how the wind set, and how the land lay. We have told
what they did when they got ashore. When they were paid off and
discharged in Newborn they made their way home by different routes,
Jack arousing his brother in the dead of the night by tossing pebbles
against his bedroom window, and afterward going off to the Federal
fleet to enlist under the flag he believed in. Aleck Webster remained
ashore for a longer time; and finding that his father belonged to an
organized band of Union men who held secret meetings in the swamp, and
whose object it was to oppose the tactics pursued by their rebel
neighbors, he joined his fortunes with theirs, and went to work with
such energy that in less that two weeks' time he had the settlement in
such a panic that its prominent citizens thought seriously of calling
upon the garrison at Plymouth for protection.
It was Mrs. Gray's misfortune to have many secret enemies about her,
and the meanest and most dangerous among them were Lon Beardsley, who
lived on an adjoining plantation, and was the owner and captain of the
schooner to which Marcy belonged, and her overseer, whose name was
Hanson. Beardsley's enmity was purely personal; but with Hanson it was
a matter of dollars and cents. The captain took Marcy to sea against
his will, because he wanted to persecute his mother; while the overseer
was working for the large reward Colonel Shelby had promised to give if
Hanson would bring him positive information that Mrs. Gray was in
reality the Union woman she was supposed to be, and that she had money
concealed in her house. When Sailor Jack had been at home long enough
to find out how and by whom his mother was being persecuted, he told
Aleck Webster about it, and the latter stopped it so quickly that
everybody was astonished, and the guilty ones alarmed.
While Marcy was gone to take his brother out to the fleet, a very
strange and startling incident happened on Mrs. Gray's plantation.
Sailor Jack had predicted that the morning was coming when the negroes
would not hear the horn blown to call them to their work, for the very
good reason that there would be no overseer on the plantation to blow
it, and his prediction had been verified. One dark night, just after
Marcy and Jack set out on their perilous voyage, a band of masked men
came to the plantation, took Hanson, the overseer, out of his house and
carried him away. Where he was now none could tell for certain; but
Marcy had heard from Aleck Webster that he had been turned loose with
orders never to show his face in the settlement again. Perhaps he had
gone for good; but the fear that he might some day come back to trouble
her caused Mrs. Gray no little uneasiness.
While every one else in the settlement was so excited and uneasy,
and wondering what other mysterious things were about to happen, Marcy
Gray was as calm as a summer's morning. To use his own words, he was
getting ready to settle down to business. The overseer being gone,
there was no one but himself left to manage the plantation; and he was
glad to have the responsibility, for it gave him something to occupy
his mind. When Aleck Webster told him that Hanson would not trouble him
or his mother any more, he had also given him the assurance that he
would never again be obliged to go to sea as Captain Beardsley's pilot.
There was a world of comfort in the words, and Marcy hoped the man knew
what he was promising when he uttered them; but he thought he would
feel more at his ease when he saw Beardsley's schooner at her moorings
in the creek, and Beardsley himself at work in the field with his
On the morning of the day on which our story begins, the leaden
clouds hung low, and the piercing wind which came off the Sound,
bringing with it occasional dashes of rain, and scattering the few
remaining leaves the early frosts had left upon the trees, seemed to
cause no little discomfort to the young horseman who was riding along
the road that led from his father's plantation to the village of
Nashville. He had turned the collar of his heavy coat about his ears,
dropped the reins upon his horse's neck, and buried his hands deep in
his pockets. It was Tom Allison, the boastful young rebel whom Marcy
Gray, then the newly appointed pilot of Captain Beardsley's privateer
schooner, had once rebuked and silenced in the presence of a room full
of secession sympathizers.
Allison was on his way to the post-office after the mail, and to
listen to any little items of news which the idlers he was sure to find
there might have picked up since he last saw them; and, as he rode, he
thought about some things that puzzled him. He went over the events
that had taken place along the coast during the last few months,
beginning with the bombardment and capture of forts Hatteras and Clark,
and ending with the Confederate occupation of Roanoke Island, and he
was obliged to confess to himself that things did not look as bright
for the South now, as they did after that glorious victory at Bull Run.
Finally, he thought of the incidents that had lately happened in his
own neighborhood, and in which some of his acquaintances and friends
were personally interested. In fact he was deeply interested in them
himself, and would have given any article of value he owned for the
privilege of holding five minutes' conversation with some one who could
tell him what had become of Jack Gray and Hanson.
I can tell you in few words what I think about it, said Tom to
himself. There's more behind the disappearance of those two fellows
than the men folks around here are willing to acknowledge. That's what
I think. I notice that Shelby, Dillon, and the postmaster don't
talk quite as much nor as loudly as they did before Hanson and Gray
left so suddenly, and when I ask father what he thinks of it, he shakes
his head and looks troubled; and that's all I can get out of him. They
are frightened, the whole gang of them; and to my mind we would all be
safer if that Gray family was burned out and driven from the country.
They know everything that is said about them, and it beats me where
they get the news. The settlement is full of traitors, and probably I
meet and speak to some of them every day.
While Allison was talking to himself in this strain his nag brought
him to a cross-road, and almost to the side of another horseman who,
like himself, was riding in the direction of Nashville. The two pulled
their collars down from their faces, raised their hats, and looked at
each other; and then Allison was surprised to find that he was in the
company of Lon Beardsley, the privateersman and blockade runner. There
had been a time when he would not have noticed the man any further than
to give him a slight nod or a civil word or two, for he was the son of
a wealthy planter, and thought himself better than one who had often
been seen working in the field with his negroes. There used to be a
wide gulf between such people in the South. For example, N. B. Forrest
was not recognized socially while he was a civilian and made the most
of his money by buying and selling men and women whose skins were
darker than his own, but General Forrest, the man who massacred
Union soldiers at Fort Pillow and took their commander, Major Bradford,
into the woods and shot him after he had surrendered himself a prisoner
of war, was held in high esteem. To Allison's mind, Captain Beardsley,
who had smelled Yankee powder and run two cargoes of contraband goods
safely through the blockade, was more worthy of respect than Lon
Beardsley the smuggler, and he was willing to gain his good-will now if
he could, for he believed the captain had it in his power to punish
Marcy Graythe boy who had dared to taunt Allison with being a coward
because he did not shoulder a musket and go into the army.
Why, captain, I thought you were miles away and making money hand
over fist by running the blockade, said Allison, with an awkward
flourish which was intended for a military salute. I hope when you go
out again you will be sure and take that so-called pilot of yours with
you, for we don't want him hanging about here any longer. I don't
believe his arm is so very badly hurt, and neither does anybody else. I
am glad to see you back safe and sound. When did you get in?
In where? said Beardsley gruffly; and then the boy saw that he was
in bad humor about something.
Into Newbern, of course. And when and how did you come up here?
I came up last night in the Hattie.
You did? You don't mean to say that your schooner is in the creek,
do you? exclaimed Allison, who was surprised to hear it. You did not
do a very bright thing when you brought her there, for the first thing
you know the Yankees will send some of their gunboats up to the island,
and then you will be blocked in. I should think you would have stayed
at Newbern, where you could run out and in as often as you felt like
Don't you reckon I know my own affairs better'n you do? snapped
Beardsley. I didn't quit a money-making business of my own free will
and come home because I wanted to, but because I couldn't help myself.
I don't understand you, answered Tom, who was all in the dark.
Our authorities didn't send you home, of course, and the Yankees
couldn't. If your schooner is in good shape
The Hattie is all right, said Beardsley, with a ring of
pride in his tones. She has been in some tight places, I can tell you,
and if she hadn't showed herself to be just the sweetest, fastest thing
of her inches that ever floated, I wouldn't be here talking to you now.
And the Yankees did send me home too; or their friends did, which
amounts to the same thing. What's become of Mrs. Gray's overseer,
I can't make out what you mean, when you say that the Yankees or
their friends sent you home, replied Allison. We haven't heard of
their making many captures along the coast lately.
I dunno as it makes any sort of odds to me what you didn't hear. I
know what I am talking about. What's happened to Hanson, I ask you?
How do you suppose I can tell? And if you only came home last
night, how does it come that you know anything has happened to him?
inquired Tom, who thought he saw a chance to learn something. I
haven't seen that man Hanson for a long time.
Nor me; but I know well enough that there's something went wrong
with him, said Beardsley very decidedly. I know that he was took out
of his house at dead of night by a gang of men, that he was carried
away, and that nobody ain't likely to see hide nor hair of him any
That news is old, and I don't see why you should assume so
mysterious an air in speaking of it, said Tom. Your daughter has had
time enough to tell you all about it since you came home.
But I heard about it before I left Newbern.
You did! Who told you?
Well, I heard all about it.
What if you did? I don't see how Hanson's disappearance could
interfere with your blockade-running.
Mebbe you don't, but I do. If you had been in my place, and
somebody had sent you a letter saying that if you didn't quit business
and come home at once, some of your buildings would be burned up, what
would you think then? Do you reckon it would bust up your blockade
running or not?
Do you pretend to tell me that you received such a letter? cried
Allison, who could scarcely believe his ears.
That is just what I pretend to tell youno less, answered the
captain, tapping the breast of his coat as if to say that he could
prove his words if necessary.
Whywhy, who could have sent it to you? Who do you think wrote
You tell. I don't know the first thing about it; I wish I did. I am
here now, and if I could only put my finger on the chap who caused me
all this bother, I'd fix him.
Would you bushwhack him? inquired Allison, wondering if there was
any way in which he could prevail upon Beardsley to show him that
No; but I would put the authorities on to him tolerable sudden and
have him forced into the army. Because why, I am scart of that chap
myself. He's hanging around here now, waiting for a good chance to do
some more meanness.
You don't say! exclaimed Tom, growing frightened. He ought to be
got rid of. But who is he? Is there any one about here that you know of
who has reason to be down on you? Any one besides the Grays, I mean?
Beardsley dropped his reins, pulled the collar of his coat down from
his face with both hands, and looked hard at his companion.
Why, of course the Grays are down on you heavy, and all your
friends and mine know it, continued Tom. You know it, don't you?
There, now! exclaimed the captain, rearranging his collar and
picking up his reins again. I never once thought of blaming it on that
I don't blame it on him, and I don't want you to think so for a
moment, said Tom, who had not yet arrived at the point of being
confidential with Beardsley. I never hinted that Marcy wrote the
letter; but just look at the way the thing stands. A man who knows as
much about this coast as you do never wanted a pilot, but you did want
to marry Mrs. Gray's plantation; and when she gave you to understand
that she wouldn't have it so
See here, young feller, you're going too fur, cried the captain,
pulling his collar down with one hand and shaking his whip
threateningly at Allison with the other. You don't know what you're
talking about, and I won't hear another word of it.
What's the use of getting mad because somebody tells you the
truth? demanded Tom. Every one says so, and what every one holds to
can't be so very far wrong. You know you don't need a pilot, and I know
it too. You have nothing against Marcy Gray personally
I ain't, hey? shouted the angry captain. He's just the biggest
kind of a traitor that ever
That isn't what I am trying to get at, and you know it,
interrupted Tom. You want to hurt him and his mother by taking him to
sea against his will and hers. Now if you were in Marcy's place, and
knew all these things, as he most likely does, and you saw a good
chance to get even with the man who was persecuting you, would you let
that chance slip? I reckon not.
But if it's Marcy who has been a-pestering of me, how can I prove
it on him? inquired Beardsley, who was as angry as Allison had ever
known him to be.
Let me see the letter, replied Tom.
No, I reckon not. What do you want to see it fur?
I can tell you whether or not Marcy Gray wrote it, for I know his
hand as well as I know my own.
Beardsley hesitated. Ever since the morning he took the letter in
question from the office in Newbern, he had been burning with anxiety
and impatience to find out whom he had to thank for sending it to him,
and he was now on his way to call upon his friends Shelby and Dillon to
see if they could not put him on the track of the writer. He wanted to
ask them what they thought of the whole miserable business any way, and
did not care to show the letter until he heard what they had to say
I know the handwriting of every man and boy in this settlement,
continued Allison, and if I can't tell you who wrote it no one can;
not even the postmaster.
This settled the matter, to Allison's satisfaction. The captain
opened his coat and drew out the letter, which was written in a hand
that was plainly disguised, for the same characters were not formed
twice alike. It was not very long, but it was to the point, and ran as
This is to inform you that you have spent jes time enough in
persecuting Union folks in this settlement on account of
them not beleeving as you rebbels do, and likewise time
enough in cheeting the government by bringing contraband
goods through the blockade. And this is to inform you that
if you do not immediately upon resep of this stop your
disloyal practices and come home at once, you will not find
as many buildings standing, when you do come, as you have
got standing now at this present time of writing. And this
is likewise to inform you that the first proof that we mean
jes what we say, you will get in a letter from your folks,
who will tell you that a letter something like this was
found on the front gallery of your house on a certain night,
and that a lot of dry weeds and stuff was likewise found
piled against the back of said house. Proof number 2 will be
in the same letter, which will tell you that Mrs. Gray's
overseer has been toted away by armed men, and that he won't
never be seen in this settlement again. For every day you
delay in coming home immediately after this letter has had
time to reach you in Newbern, you will loose a building of
some kind or sort, beginning with the house you live in.
This is from those who believe in defending the wemen and
children you rebbels are making war on, and so we sign
ourselves, THE PERTECTORS OF THE HELPLESS.
Marcy Gray never had a hand in getting up this letter, more's the
pity, thought Tom, as he again ran his eye over the plainly written
lines in the hope of finding something that would give him an excuse
for saying that Marcy did write it. Look at the spelling and the
bungling language! Marcy couldn't do that if he tried.
Well, what do you reckon you make of it? demanded the captain.
It's perfectly scandalous the most outrageous thing I ever heard
of! exclaimed Allison. Just think of the impudence this fellow shows
in ordering youordering, I say
Oh, there's more'n one feller mixed up in it, said Beardsley, with
Perhaps there is, and then again, perhaps there isn't, replied
Tom. Couldn't I write a letter and sign a hundred names to it, if I
wanted to? I say it is a burning shame that good and loyal Confederates
should submit to be ordered about in this way, and you were foolish for
paying the least attention to it. You ought to have gone on with your
business and come home when you got ready.
Beardsley turned down the collar of his coat, threw his left leg
over the horn of his saddle, and shook his whip at Allison as if he
were about to say something impressive.
CHAPTER II. ALLISON IS SURPRISED.
Oh, I mean it, said Tom, and one would have thought by the way he
shook his head and frowned and made his riding-whip whistle through the
air, that it would be useless for anybody to try to order him around.
Just try me and see; that's all.
And if you had been in my place you wouldn't have come home till
you got good and ready? said Beardsley.
You bet I wouldn't. I wouldn't be guilty of setting such an example
to the timid ones at home. This is the time when every man
How many buildings have you got in this part of the country?
inquired the captain, shutting his right eye and laying his finger by
the side of his nose. Have you forgot the men who took Hanson away in
the night, and piled up those weeds and stuff up agin my house?
Well, that's so; but still I don't think they would have been bold
enough to do anything to you. You are a wealthy planter, while Hanson
was nothing but a common overseer, without a friend or relative in the
world so far as any one knows. Did you receive the proofs this letter
You bet I did, answered Beardsley, shaking his whip in the air.
My daughter got old Miss Brown to write to me just as them Pertectors
of the Helplessdog-gone the last one of 'emsaid she would, and sure
as you live she found another letter on the gallery, and a whole passel
of stuff piled up agin the house, ready to be touched off with a match;
and the very same night Mrs. Gray's overseer was carried away. When she
told me all them things and begged me to come home I thought I had best
come. But I don't mean to let the matter drop here, tell your folks.
The fellers who wrote that letter must be hunted down and whopped like
they was niggers. Did Marcy Gray do it?
I can't swear that he didn't, replied Tom guardedly. But if he
did, he disguised his hand so that I do not recognize it. I can't find
the first letter in it that looks like Marcy's work.
Beardsley seemed disappointed as he returned the letter to his
pocket and buttoned his coat, and Tom Allison certainly was. Two or
three times it was on the end of his tongue to declare that Marcy was
the guilty one, but he lacked the courage. He was afraid of the
mysterious men who had begun to carry things with so high a hand in the
settlement, for he did not know how soon they might turn their
attention to him or to his father's property.
Marcy is quite mean enough to do a thing of that kind, hoping to
bring you home so that you would not take him to sea any more, said
Tom, who could not resist the longing he had to say something that
would lead Beardsley to declare war upon the boy who had served as his
pilot. He may have written the letter, but he could not have piled
that light stuff against your house, for he was not at home when the
thing happened. Has it struck you that the work must have been done by
some one who belongs on your plantation? Your dogs would have raised a
terrible racket if a stranger
No, it wasn't, said Beardsley earnestly. The dogs made furse
enough that night to wake up everybody in Nashville; but they didn't
none of 'em do nothing, and that shows that they were afraid of the
crowd that was there. My folks was that scared that they dassent none
of 'em look out of the winder; but the next morning the letter that was
put on the gallery and the stuff to burn the house was both there.
It's very strange that I never heard of it before, said Tom, who
could not help telling himself that the recital made him feel very
uncomfortable. It's just awful that things like these can go on in the
settlement and nobody be punished for them.
Well, it ain't so strange that you didn't hear of it, when you bear
in mind that my folks didn't say much about it for fear that they might
speak to the wrong person, said Beardsley. I reckon it was done by
the same fellers who took Hanson away to the swamp. Ain't nary idee who
they were, have you?
Nary an idea. I wish I had, so that I could expose them. Why, just
think of it, captain! If things like these are allowed to go on, who is
safe? How do we know but you or I may be marched off in the same way
some dark night?
I don't know it, and that's just what's a-troubling of me, said
Beardsley, groaning again and rubbing his gloved hands nervously
together. Such doings is too shameful to be bore any longer. There's a
heap of traitors right here amongst us, and I don't see how we are
going to get shet of 'em.
That's the thought that was running in my mind when I met you,
said Tom savagely. I know who some of the traitors are, but the truth
is, they are so cunning you can't prove the first thing against them.
There's that Marcy Gray for one.
Say! whispered Beardsley, reining his horse a little closer to
Tom's and tapping the boy's shoulder with his riding-whip, you have
hit the very identical idee I have had in my mind for a long time. If
Marcy ain't a traitor, what's him and his mother keeping that money of
theirn stowed away so quiet for?
Say! whispered Allison in his turn, at the same time laying the
handle of his own whip lightly upon the captain's knee, that is
something I have thought about more times than I can remember. If they
haven't got money, and plenty of it, hidden somewhere, I am mistaken.
You know that before Marcy came home from school his mother made a good
many trips to Richmond, Newbern, and Wilmington; and everybody says
those trips were not made solely for the purpose of buying supplies for
I know it, assented Beardsley.
When Mrs. Gray came home she made a big show of parading all her
niggers in bran' new suits of clothes, continued Allison. But she did
not have to go to three cities to buy the cloth those clothes were made
of, did she? She's got money, and I am sure of it.
I know it, said Beardsley again. I tried my best to make Marcy
say so, but he was too sharp for me. You see his share of the
prize-money the Hollins sold for amounted to seventeen hunderd
Great Moses! ejaculated Tom. What a plum for that traitor to put
into his pocket! I wish I had it. But he told me he was to get eight
hundred and fifty dollars.
P'raps he did, for that was what the foremast hands got; but I
promised to give Marcy more for acting as pilot and I done it, consarn
my fule pictur'! I wanted to get on the blind side of him, so't he
would sorter confide in me for a friend, don't you see? But I didn't
make it. That boy might have cleared five thousand dollars if he had
took out a venture the first time we run the blockade, but he wouldn't
do it for fear he might lose the money. He said he might want to use
them seventeen hunderd before the war was over.
Nonsense! exclaimed Tom.
That's what I thought, replied Beardsley.
Seventeen hundred dollars are not a drop in the bucket to the sum
he and his mother have on hand at this moment, and I'll bet on it,
added Tom. They've got thousands, and I wish I could have the handling
of some of it.
That was what Captain Beardsley wished; but the trouble was he did
not know where the money was concealed, or just how to go to work to
get hold of it. He had a partly formed plan in his head, but he did not
think that it would be quite safe to let Tom into the secret of it. At
any rate, he would tell all his news first, and think about that
That boy Marcy is a plum dunce to act the way he is doing now,
said the captain, after a little pause. If he would go into our navy,
and this war should happen to last a year or so longer, he would make a
big officer of himself.
It won't last six months longer, said Allison confidently. The
Yankees can't stand more than one Bull Run drubbing. But tell me
honestly, captain: Did Gray really show pluck on the night he got that
He did for a fact, replied Beardsley. He stood up to the rack
like a man, and took the schooner through the inlet with that arm
hanging by his side as limp as a dish-rag. I'm free to say it, though I
ain't no friend of his'n.
I am sorry you said it in the letters you wrote home to Shelby and
Dillon. I wish that splinter, or whatever it was, had hit his head
instead of his arm, for he carries himself altogether too stiff-legged
on the strength of it. If he had whipped the whole Yankee fleet he
could not throw on more airs. But why do you say he could win promotion
by enlisting in our navy? Do you think he would go among the Federals
if he wasn't afraid?
That's where he would go if it wasn't for his mother. It's where
his brother Jack is at this minute.
Captain, said Tom impressively, you and I ought to be the very
best of friends, for we think alike on a good many points. Somebody, I
don't know who it was, gave it out through the settlement that Jack
Gray went to Newbern to ship on a Confederate iron-clad; but I didn't
believe it, and I don't think so now. If he and Marcy wanted to go to
Newbern they would have gone by rail, wouldn't they? Instead of that
they went in Marcy's schooner.
I don't care what anybody has give out or what anybody thinks,
said Beardsley doggedly. I know what I know, and believe what I have
seen with my own two eyes, don't I? While I was standing into Crooked
Inlet on my waysay! I don't know as I had best tell you what I seen
with my own two eyes.
Why not? demanded Allison, who was sure he was about to hear some
exciting news. You have already told me more than you had any business
to tell, if you don't think I can keep a secret.
Well, that there is a fact. Look a-here. I aint said a word to
nobody about this, and you mustn't let on that I told you; but while I
was running into Crooked Inlet on my way home from the last trip I made
to Nassau, I didn't see the steam launch that I was afraid might be
waiting there for me, but I did see Marcy Gray's schooner.
Isn't that what I said? exclaimed Tom gleefully. What was Marcy
Gray's schooner doing outside, and in the night-time, too?
Hold on till I tell you how it was, replied the captain. The
first thing I see was that the schooner had been disguised, but that
didn't by no means fool your uncle Lon. Them two boys, Marcy and Jack,
had towed her through the inlet with their skiff and were just about to
get aboard again and make sail, when I run on to 'em in the dark. I was
that scared to see 'em that I couldn't move from my tracks, for a
minute or two. I thought the Yankees had me sure.
It almost takes my breath to have my suspicions confirmed in this
way, said Tom. Did you watch them to see where they went?
Listen at the fule! exclaimed the captain, in a tone of disgust.
Not much, I didn't watch them boys. I had enough to do to mind my own
business; and knowing what brung them outside at that time of night,
didn't I know where they had started for without watching 'em? They
didn't go nigh Newbern. They went straight out to the Yankee fleet, and
there's where Jack Gray is, while me and you are riding along this
Captain, I wouldn't have missed seeing you this morning for a
bushel of money, declared Tom, whose first impulse was to whip up his
horse and carry the joyful news to Nashville. I've got a hold on Marcy
Gray now that I shan't be slow to use.
What are you going to do? asked Beardsley anxiously.
I'll let him know who he called a coward before a whole post-office
full of people, said Allison savagely. He will take that word back on
his knees and do his best to make a friend of me, or I'll
There, now! cried Beardsley; and the tone in which he uttered the
words was quite as savage as Tom's. I knew well enough that I had no
call to tell you all them things without first speaking to Shelby and
Dillon about them.
Of course I shall consult you, before doing or saying anything to
Marcy, replied Tom, wishing he had net been so quick to speak the
thoughts that were in his mind. I don't want you to think that I am
going to take these matters out of your hands, for I don't mean to do
anything of the sort.
You had better not. You are nothing but a boy, and you would be
sure to make a mess of the whole thing if you tried it. Me and Shelby
will deal with Marcy and his mother.
I shall be satisfied, so long as you do something to him that he
can feel. All I ask is to be around when it is done, so that I can see
it. But you will have to be careful, captain. There are some about here
who believe that the Grays are the best kind of Confederates.
What makes them believe that when me and you know it aint so?
It's the way they worked things; and it was about the slickest
scheme I ever heard of, replied Allison. Why, captain, they ran down
the river past Plymouth and Roanoke, with our flag flying from the
Fairy Belle's masthead.
Of all the imperdence! Where did they get a flag of our'n?
No one knows, unless Jack got it off the smuggler West Wind,
that he piloted into Newbern. Anyhow he got it, and kept it hung upon
the wall of his mother's house in plain sight of all who went there.
It was nothing but a cheat and a swindle, I tell you, shouted the
captain. Both them boys is Union, and their mother is too. I'll fix
I say again that you had better be careful, cautioned Tom. If it
turns out that they are in favor of the South, you will burn your
fingers if you touch them; and if they are Union, they have friends to
watch over and see that no harm comes to them. Have you forgotten the
men who carried Hanson away in the night?
No, I ain't; and that's what makes me so mad. We-uns about here
can't do nothing with that moneySay! mebbe I could tell you
something else if you'll promise never to let on about it.
All right. I never will, answered Allison, who was becoming
impatient to hear all the man had on his mind. Nashville was in plain
sight now, and of course there could be no more talking of this sort
done after they got there. Hold up a bit. Don't let your horse walk so
What I thought of saying to you is this, said Beardsley, once more
sinking his voice to a whisper. We-uns who live about here can't do
nothing by ourselves, but we can hintjust hint, I sayto some
outsiders that there's a pile of money in that there house of Mrs.
Gray's that's to be had for the taking.
Go on, said Tom, when Beardsley stopped and looked at him. I am
listening, but I don't catch your meaning.
I could easy find half a dozen fellers right around here who would
be up and doing mighty sudden if I should say that much in their
private ears, continued the captain. But mebbe that plan wouldn't
work. I can't tell till I hear what Shelby thinks about it. But if it
don't work, we might put the Richmond officers onto them.
What good would that do? If there is money in Mrs. Gray's house the
Richmond authorities have no right to touch it.
Aint they, now! chuckled Beardsley. Don't the law say that we-uns
mustn't pay no debts to the Yankees, but must turn the money over to
the fellers at Richmond?
But I am afraid Mrs. Gray doesn't owe any money to the Yankees.
What's the odds whether you think so or not? said the captain
earnestly. We can hint that she does, can't we? And can't we hint
furder, that instead of turning that money over, like the law says she
must do, she is keeping it hid for her own use!
Then why not make a sure thing of it by putting the government
officers on the scent the first thing?
Because they won't divide, the officers won't. Don't you see? The
other fellers will.
Tom Allison was astonished now, and no mistake. For a minute or two
he looked hard at Beardsley, but he couldn't speak.
What do you stare at me that-a-way for? demanded the captain. I
don't see nothing so very amazing in what I said. Didn't you tell me a
minute ago that you would like mighty well to have the handling of some
of that there money?
Of course I did, and I say so yet; but I wouldn't dare touch it if
it was got in that way. Don't misunderstand me now, said Allison, when
he saw Beardsley gather up his reins and change his riding-whip to his
right hand as if he were about to go on and leave Tom behind. If you
think it would be quite safe
What other way is there to get it? snarled Beardsley. I wasn't
joking. These here aint no times for joking, and I meant every word I
said. Why aint it safe? The folks in the settlement are mostly our
friends, and even if they knew that some of the money went into our
pockets, they wouldn't say nothing about it.
They would know it, and my father would say something to me, I bet
you. But mind you, said Tom, as the two turned their horses toward the
hitching-rack that stood across the street from the post-office, if
you and your friends think it can be done, I say go ahead and good luck
to you. And if you make a success of it, as I hope you will, no one
will hear from me that I knew a thing about it.
And you won't let on about the other things I have told you? said
the captain, as he dismounted and spread a blanket over his horse. I
don't reckon I had oughter said so much. Mebbe Shelby won't like it.
Will you tell me what he says after you have had a talk with him?
Then you may depend upon me to keep a still tongue in my head. As for
Shelby, I don't care whether he likes it or not. It is none of his
business. I know, and have known for a long time, that he and his ring
have some things in hand that they won't let me hear of, and I am as
warm a friend to the South as they dare be, and just as ready to help
But you see you're a boy; and some men don't like to take boys into
their secrets, replied Beardsley.
I know I am a boy, but all the same I am a wild horse in the cane
and hard to curry. If Shelby and his gang don't pay a little more
attention to me I will make them wish they had; and if Beardsley don't
keep me posted in his plans, I'll knock them into the middle of next
week. I'll find means to get Hanson's abductors after him. By George!
That's an idea, and I'll think it over as I ride home.
So saying Tom Allison hitched his horse to one of the pins in the
rack and followed Beardsley across the street toward the post-office.
CHAPTER III. THE NEIGHBORHOOD GOSSIP.
The streets of Nashville were almost deserted, for the cold wind,
aided by the driving rain that was falling steadily, had forced all the
idlers to seek comfort within doors. The post-office was full of them,
and when the captain walked in with Allison at his heels they greeted
him boisterously, and asked more questions in a minute than he could
answer in ten. First and foremost they wanted to know why Beardsley had
come home so unexpectedly, but that was a matter he did not care to say
much about. All they could get from him was that he had some important
business to attend to.
But of course you are going back again, said one. I would if I
had such a chance to make money as you have got. But perhaps you are
rich enough already.
Well, no; I don't reckon I'll ran the blockade any more, replied
the captain. My schooner is safe and sound now and I want to keep her
that way. The Yankees are getting tolerable thick outside, and I don't
care to have them run me down some dark night and slap me into one of
There were at least a dozen persons in the post-office, besides Tom
Allison, who knew that Beardsley had other and better reasons for
quitting the profitable business in which he had been engaged, and
three of them were Shelby, Dillon, and the postmaster. These men knew
by the captain's manner, as well as by the way he looked at them now
and then, that he had something of importance on his mind, and they
left the store one after another, expecting Beardsley to follow and
join them as soon as he could do so without arousing suspicion. A
fourth man was Aleck Webster, who leaned carelessly against one of the
counters and listened to what the captain had to say, although he did
not seem to pay much attention to it. If Aleck had been so disposed he
could have told Beardsley who wrote the letter that broke up his
blockade running and brought him home so suddenly, and so could several
other Union men who were in the office on this particular morning. They
went there every day to hear their doings discussed; and it gave them
no little satisfaction to learn that they had aroused a feeling of
uneasiness and insecurity among the citizens which grew more intense as
the days went by and nothing was heard from Hanson. Although Tom
Allison knew nothing about the letter that had been left on Beardsley's
porch until the latter told him, there were many in the settlement who
knew about it and were wondering who could have put it there. The
captain's negroes were the first to find it out, and Mrs. Brown, the
neighborhood gossip who read the letter for Beardsley's daughter, was
the second; and among them all they had managed to spread the story
Tom Allison was like Captain Beardsley in one respecthe could not
keep a secret any longer than it took him to find some congenial spirit
who was willing to share it with him. He was eager to tell all he knew,
and sometimes he told a good deal more; consequently, the first thing
he did after Beardsley received his mail and left the office to find
the three men who had gone out a while before, was to give his
particular friend and crony Mark Goodwin, a swaggering, boastful young
rebel like himself, a wink and a nod that brought him across to Tom's
side of the store.
What is it, old fellow? whispered Mark. Your face is full of
And so is my head, replied Tom. I am loaded clear to the muzzle,
and anxious to shoot myself off at your head. I am going to ride
down to exchange a few yarns with Mrs. Brown; will you go along?
What's the use? exclaimed Mark, looking through the moist windows
into the street. You won't get anything but lies out of her. And just
see how it rains!
It doesn't rain to hurt anything, and we can't talk here, said
Tom. I don't care whether Mrs. Brown tells me the truth or not, so
long as she will aid me in spreading a few items of news that came to
my ears this morning. Better go, for I promise that I will surprise
you. You know I rode down with Beardsley.
And I rather wondered at it. I can remember when you used to speak
of him in a way that was anything but complimentary. Did he tell you
what brought him home? said Mark, in a whisper. Come along then. I am
ready to be surprised.
The two boys mounted their horses and rode away through the driving
rain, and as they rode, Tom Allison electrified his friend by making a
clean breast of everything Beardsley had told him, and which he had
promised to keep to himself; and observing that Mark was interested and
excited by the narrative, Tom added to it a few details of his own
invention. He declared that Hanson had told Beardsley, in confidence,
that Mrs. Gray owed a big pile of money to Northern men, and instead of
turning it over to the government, as the law provided, she was keeping
it for her own use.
And how does it come that Hanson could learn so much of Mrs. Gray's
private affairs? demanded Mark. He didn't live in the house, but in
the quarter with the niggers.
Probably some of the house servants posted him, answered Tom. You
know that prying darkies sometimes find out a heap of things.
That's so, assented Mark. Tom, you have told me great newsMrs.
Gray with a gold mine hidden somewhere in her house, and Marcy taking
his brother Jack out to the Yankee fleet to give him a chance to enlist
under the old flag! What are we coming to? What are you going to do
about it? You must have some plan in your head, or you wouldn't be
going to see Mrs. Brown. You had better be careful what you say in the
presence of that old witch, or she may get you into trouble.
That is the very thing I wanted to talk to you about, replied Tom.
What do you think we ought to do? I don't know whether I have the
straight of the story or not, but I am sure Mrs. Brown has, for
Beardsley probably told her all about it as soon as he got home last
night. That man can't keep a thing to himself to save his life. I
thought it might be a good idea to see what Mrs. Brown thinks about it,
and to ask her if there is any truth in the report that a band of men
has been got together to rob Mrs. Gray's house.
I will tell you one thing confidentially, said Mark. If that part
of the story isn't true, a few wags of Mrs. Brown's tongue will make it
true. There are dozens of men right here in this country, and you and I
are acquainted with some of them, who would jump down on that house
this very night if they were sure they could make anything by it.
I know that, but I don't care; do you? I always did despise those
Grays, and now that they have shown themselves to be traitors, I say
let them suffer for it. You heard Marcy tell me to put a uniform on
before I presumed to speak to him again, didn't you?
Yes; and I heard his brother Jack call you a stay-at-home
blow-hard. I looked for you to tackle the pair of them the moment they
insulted you; but you surprised me and all the rest of your friends by
keeping perfectly still, observed Mark, who knew well enough that Tom
lacked the courage to tackle the brothers, either of whom could have
tossed him half-way across the post-office without very much trouble.
I was biding my time, replied Allison, making his riding-whip
whistle viciously through the air just above his horse's ears. It has
come now, and if Marcy Gray doesn't take that insulting word back as
publicly as he gave it to me
Oh, you needn't look for him to do that. Marcy isn't that sort of a
He'll wish he was that sort before I am done with him, said Tom,
with spiteful emphasis. That's one reason why I am going to see Mrs.
Brown. I want her to spread it around that Marcy took Jack out to the
She is just the one to do it, said Mark, with a laugh. And the
way to make her go about it as though she meant business is to tell her
your story under a pledge of secrecy.
And there is another matter that I want to speak to you about,
continued Tom. What scheme have Shelby and Dillon and the postmaster
and your father and mine got in hand that they take so much pains to
keep from us boys?
I wish I knew, answered Mark, whose face showed that his
companion's words had made him angry. They talk about something or
other as often as they get together, and if I take a step in their
direction they either send me about my business, or stop talking. And I
tell you I don't like to be treated that way.
That is just the way they treat me, and I don't like it either,
said Tom. More than that, I won't stand it.
I don't see how you are going to help yourself.
Perhaps you don't, but I think I do. Beardsley belongs to the ring,
of course, and if he doesn't keep me posted in all their plans, I'll go
to work to upset them.
Why, Tom, are you crazy? exclaimed Mark, who had never been more
No; but I am mad clear through. I am not willing to go into the
army unless I can have an office of some kind, but I am eager to fight
traitors here at home; and if those men won't give me a chance to help
them, I shall fight on my own hook.
But how can you? And how will you go to work to upset their plans
when you don't know what they are? You take a friend's advice and
behave yourself. Why, Tom, I wouldn't willingly incur the enmity of the
Union men about here for all the money there is in the State. They are
too desperate a lot for me to fool with. Nobody knows for certain who
they are, and that makes them all the more dangerous.
About this time the boys dismounted in front of Mrs. Brown's humble
abodea small log-cabin which Beardsley had built for her in the edge
of a briar patch on his own plantation. That was the only neighborly
act that anybody ever knew the captain to be guilty of; but then it was
not entirely unselfish on his part. Beardsley received important
letters now and then. He was not good at reading all sorts of writing,
and when he came upon a sentence that he could not master, it was
little trouble for him to run over to Mrs. Brown's cabin and ask her to
decipher it for him. Andit is a remarkable thing to tell, but it is
the truththe contents of those letters were safe with Mrs. Brown. She
would tell any and every thing else that came to her knowledge, no
matter how it might hurt somebody, but who Beardsley's correspondents
were and what they wrote about, no one could learn from her.
Having sheltered their horses in some fashion behind the cabin, the
boys opened the door without knocking, and went in. There were two
persons in the single room the cabin containeda little, dried-up
woman who sat in a low rocking-chair in front of the fire with a dingy
snuff-stick between her toothless gums, and one of Beardsley's negro
girls who had come over to slick up things.
How do you find yourself this fine morning, mother? said Tom
familiarly. We thought we would drop in to warm by your comfortable
blaze, and see if you are in need of any little things we can get for
you. By the way, he added, putting his hand into his pocket, it's a
long time since I gave anything toward buying a jar of snuff. Take that
till I come again.
I see the captain has returned; and quite unexpectedly, too, I am
told, said Mark, pulling off his dripping overcoat and hanging it upon
a wooden peg in the chimney-corner. I wish he might find the man who
wrote him that threatening letter and broke up his business. I am sure
he would make it warm for him.
Every one of them triflin' hounds had oughter have a hickory wore
out on their bare backs, said the old woman, in tones which sounded so
nearly like the snarl of some wild animal that Tom Allison shuddered,
although he had often heard her speak that way before.
Do you know who they are?
Of course she knows who they are, exclaimed Mark. The question
is, is she at liberty to tell.
Mebbe I know, an' mebbe I don't, said the woman, with a contortion
of her wrinkled face that was intended for a wink and a smile. I aint
one of them folks who tells all they know. I am a master-hand to keep
things to myself when they are told to me for a secret.
Everybody knows that, and it is the reason why everybody is so
willing to trust you, said Tom; and seeing that he had not given the
old woman quite enough to loosen her tongue, he turned to Mark and
added: I was sure we would forget it, we are so careless. We came away
from your house without ever once thinking of that side of bacon we
were going to bring to Mrs. Brown.
I knew we had forgotten something, said Mark regretfully, and
sure's you live that's it. But it will keep till we come again, won't
it, mother? Who did you say wrote that letter?
You're very good boys to be always thinkin' of a poor crippled body
like me, who can't get about to hear a bit of news on account of the
pesky rheumatiz that bothers me night an' day, whined the old woman.
Now when I was a bright, lively young gal
Did I understand you to say that Jack Gray had something to do with
the abduction of his mother's overseer? interrupted Mark, who knew it
would never do to let the old woman get started on the story of her
girlhood. You astonish me; you do for a fact!
I disremember that I have spoke Jack Gray's name at all sense you
two have been here, said Mrs. Brown cautiously.
But you did, though. Didn't she, Tom?
I thought so, certainly; and I told myself at the time, that I did
not see how Jack could have had any hand in Hanson's taking off, for I
have heard that he was not at home when the thing was done.
No more he wasn't to hum. He was on his way to jine the Yankee
navy, dog-gone him an' them, snapped the woman, whose tongue was
fairly loosened now. But he left them behine who works as well fur him
when he aint to hum as when he is.
We know that very well, said Tom, who was surprised to hear it,
but we don't know for certain who they are. Mark, don't you see that
Mrs. Brown is looking for her pipe?
Mark hadn't noticed it, but all the same he hunted around on the
mantel until he found the well-blackened corn-cob, but he could not
bring himself to light it. He filled the bowl with some natural leaf he
saw in a box and handed it to the woman, who set it going with the aid
of a live coal which she took from the hearth in her bony fingers.
You two aint furgot the stranger who popped up in Nashville all on
a sudden like, about the time that Jack Gray came hum from Newbern,
have you? continued the old woman, after she had assured herself by a
few long, audible puffs that her pipe was well lighted. Lemme see if I
have disremembered his name. No; sounds to me like it was Aleck
Don't know him, said Tom, in a disappointed tone.
I don't know him either, chimed in Mark, but I have seen him. You
know old man Webster, Tom, who lives about six miles down the main
road. Well, Aleck is his son.
Now I do think, in my soul, exclaimed Allison, things have come
to a pretty pass when Crackers like those Websters can throw a
settlement like this into a panic, and order prominent and wealthy
planters like Captain Beardsley to quit business and come home on
penalty of being burned out in case of disobedience.
You're mighty right, said Mrs. Brown, who was pleased to hear the
captain called a prominent and wealthy planter. Sich trash aint no
call to live on this broad 'arth. They're wuss than the niggers, an' a
heap lower down.
But have you any evidence against the Websters? inquired Mark.
I've got a plenty. In the fust place they don't say nothing; an'
folks as don't say nothing these times ain't fitten to live. Now is the
day when every man oughter come out an' show their colors, said the
woman, quoting from Beardsley.
That means Marcy Gray, said Tom. I wish I could see a gang of
armed men take him out of the house and carry him off.
He mustn't be teched, said the woman very decidedly.
Who mustn'tMarcy? exclaimed Tom and Mark in a breath. Who said
so? What's the reason he mustn't be touched? He's a traitor.
I don't know whether he is or not; but he mustn't be pestered.
Leastwise by folks living around here in the settlement.
Tom looked at Mark, and Mark looked about for a chair and sat down.
Then they both looked at the old woman. This was something mysterious,
and they wanted to have it explained.
I aint got no more to say on that there p'int, said Mrs. Brown,
her tone and manner showing that the question did not admit of
argument. He'll be teched fast enough when the time comes, Marcy Gray
will, an' don't you furget to remember what I'm tellin' you. But them
as goes for Marcy will be folks that can't be pestered by the men who
toted Hanson off to the swamp.
Ah! Now I see daylight, said Tom, with something that sounded like
a sigh of relief. I thought you meant that Marcy was to be left alone
altogether for the reason that he was believed to be a good
Confederate. And when these friends of ours, whoever they may be, go
for him, I suppose they'll not neglect to look for the money that Mrs.
Gray is known to have in her house?
I aint heared that anybody knows for sartin that the money is
there, said Mrs. Brown. Leastwise, they don't know it yit.
There won't be nothing much done till that there is settled fur a
Then Marcy will never be molested, declared Tom, throwing a chip
spitefully into the fire. He can go out to the blockading fleet as
often as he pleases and ship a dozen brothers in the Yankee navy if he
wants to, and nothing will be done to him. If Jack Gray left men behind
to work for him while he is at sea, Marcy must know who they are and
where to find them, and he can set them on to Mark's father or mine
whenever he feels like it. I'll touch him the first good chance I get,
and don't you forget to remember that. He is a traitor, and I
wouldn't let him alone if all the Captain Beardsleys in the country
should say so. And how is any one to find out for certain that his
mother has money concealed in her house? She isn't going to publish it
to the world, is she?
The longer Allison talked the more his anger rose, and when he got
through he was stalking about the narrow limits of the cabin, shaking
his fists over his head in the most frantic manner. The old woman
waited patiently for him to sit down again, and then she took her pipe
from her mouth long enough to say:
Kelsey is out of a job jest now.
That's no news. He's always that way. He won't work when he gets
the chance. He would rather beg his living or steal it.
I know that he's mighty shiftless an' triflin', but he's a tol'able
overseer, Kelsey is, when he onct makes up his mine to do something,
said the woman. Now that Hanson has went off the Grays aint got nobody
to boss the hands.
The idea! cried Tom, who began to see daylight once more. Does
Captain Beardsley labor under the delusion that Marcy Gray will hire
that man Kelsey, who is next door to a fool, and allow him
Yes, Kelsey is tol'able triflin', an' that there is a fact,
interrupted the woman. But he aint nobody's fule. He's as sly an ole
fox as you can meet in a day's travel.
Marcy Gray will not have him on the place, I tell you, said Tom.
And even if he should be dunce enough to hire him, how could Kelsey
find out whether or not there was any money in the house? If the
captain has anything against Kelsey, and wants him to disappear some
dark night as Hanson did, he is taking the right course to bring it
about. That's what will happen to Kelsey if he goes to work on that
plantation, and I want you both to remember my words.
And let me tell you another thing, added Mark. No one man is
going to find the hiding-place of that money if there is any about the
house. When the building is down and the foundations are torn up, then
it will be found, and not before.
That there is a fact, observed the woman.
Where do you think it is concealed, any way? inquired Tom. I had
an idea that it might be buried in the garden.
I am willing to bet my horse against your jack-knife that it
isn't, replied Mark. It is so close to the house that the family can
keep an eye on all the approaches to it, and it is where fire can't
Then it must be buried in the cellar, exclaimed Tom. I declare! I
believe you have hit the exact spot. I should like to be left alone in
that place for about an hour with a shovel to work with. I would be
rich when I came out.
You jest keep away from that there suller, said the old woman
sternly. Don't go nigh the house, nary one of you.
The two boys elevated their eye-brows and looked at each other, and
it was as much as half a min ate before Mark Goodwin continued:
You would be fooled if you looked anywhere but in the walls for it.
So a shovel would be of no use to you. I have been in that cellar when
Marcy and I were on better terms than we are now, and I know that the
floor is laid in cement. It would be a job, I tell you, for a woman to
dig it up and put it down again, and she couldn't do it so that the
spot would not show itself to the first person who might happen to go
A woman! exclaimed Allison.
Yes, for a woman did the work, answered Mark, who could not have
spoken with more confidence if he had been in Mrs. Gray's company on
the night the thirty thousand dollars were concealed. You know Marcy
was not at home when his mother made those trips about the country.
What of that? Didn't she take some of her old servants into her
No, sir. When people are trying to carry water on both shoulders as
Mrs. Gray is, they don't let one hand know what the other does.
And I believe, said Allison, getting upon his feet again and
walking about the cabin, that if somebody should go for Mrs. Gray's
coachman in the right way, he would find out all about it. But I say,
Mark, it's time for us to be riding along. What shall we bring you when
we come again, mother? Snuff and smoking tobacco are always acceptable,
And don't forget to say that you haven't seen either one of us for
more than a week, chimed in Mark. Doings of some sort are liable to
happen in the settlement at any hour of the day or night, and we don't
want our names mixed up with them. We shall attend strictly to our own
business, and hope that those ruffians who carried Hanson away will do
I am mighty glad to hear you say that, and I don't want you to
disremember what I have tole you, answered the old woman, with some
earnestness. You aint to go a-pesterin' of Marcy Gray an' his maw,
kase there is folks about here who won't by no means take it kind of
you if you do.
The boys promised that they would bear her warning in mind, but Tom
Allison told himself that he thought he should do as he pleased about
heeding it. He was not obliged to consult anybody's wishes, in dealing
with such a traitor as Marcy Gray had shown himself to be. He turned
his back to the fire while Mark was putting on his overcoat, and just
then a gentle snore reminded him that there was one person in the cabin
whom he had forgotten. It was the negro girl who, having cleared away
the late breakfast dishes and put the little furniture there was in the
room to rights, had drawn a chair to the table and fallen fast asleep
with her head resting on her folded arms. Tom took one look at her, and
then he and Mark went out. Neither of them said a word, until they had
mounted their horses and ridden into the road, and then Mark inquired:
What do you know now more than you did when you came here? All I
have learned is that Beardsley is afraid of Marcy Gray, and don't want
anything to happen to him, if he can help it, for fear that the blame
would be laid at his door. I tell you, Tom Allison, as long as those
men who carried Hanson away are at large, we have got to look out what
we say and do. It's an awful state of affairs, but that is the way it
looks to me.
That was the way it looked to Tom also; and as he could not say
anything encouraging, he held his peace, and rode on with his eyes
fastened upon the horn of his saddle.
CHAPTER IV. VISITORS IN PLENTY.
Although we have said that Marcy Gray appeared to be as calm as a
summer's morning, he was not so in reality. He had the most disquieting
reflections for company during every one of his waking hours, and they
troubled him so that he found it next to impossible to concentrate his
mind on anything. On this particular morning he felt so very gloomy
that he did not ride his filly to town, as was his usual custom, but
sent old Morris and a mule instead. What was the use of going to the
post-office through all that rain just to listen to the idle boasts of
a few stay-at-home rebels who could not or would not tell him a single
reliable item of news? He and his mother had been talking over the
situationit was what they always talked about when they were
aloneand the conclusion to which they came was, that their affairs
could not go on in this way much longer, and that a change for better
or worse was sure to come before many days more had passed away.
I suppose our situation might be worse, but I can't see how, said
Marcy, rising from his seat on the sofa and looking out at one of the
Would it not be worse if we had no roof to shelter us in weather
like this? inquired Mrs. Gray.
It would be bad for us if our house was burned, of course,
answered Marcy. But as for a roof, we shall always have that. If they
turn us out of here we'll go to the quarters; and if they burn us out
of there, we'll go into the woods and throw up a shanty. As long as
they leave me or a single darky on the place the weather will never
trouble you, mother.
But I am afraid they will not leave you with me, replied Mrs.
Gray. You know that General Wise has asked the Richmond authorities to
re-enforce him at Roanoke Island, and they have told him to re-enforce
himself. You know what that means?
Yes; it means a general drumming up of recruits among the lukewarm
rebels hereabouts. But it doesn't scare me. When I see such fellows as
Allison, Goodwin, Shelby, and Dillon, and a dozen others I could
mention, shoulder a musket and go to the defence of the Island, then I
shall begin to worry about myself, and not before. Mother, Captain
Beardsley and his friends will not permit me to be forced into the
army, and neither will they let harm come to you, if they have
influence enough to prevent it.
Marcy, I am afraid you are placing too much reliance upon Aleck
Webster and his friends, said his mother. They have not brought
Beardsley home yet. Suppose he has the courage to defy them?
But he hasn't, said the boy earnestly. He hasn't had time to
answer that letter yet, but he will do it, and he will answer it in
person. I know he would have the courage to brave an open enemy,
especially if he was driven into a corner and couldn't run, but it
worries him, as it does everyone else, to have people work against him
in secret. He will come home before he will allow his property to be
destroyed, and Aleck assured me that if anything happens to us,
Beardsley will have to stand punishment for it. But I do wish he had
not caught Jack and me at Crooked Inlet. He will tell all about it the
minute he gets homehe would die if he had to keep it to himselfand
I am afraid the folks about here will do something to us in spite of
all Beardsley and his friends can do to prevent it. I wonder where
those two horsemen are going in such haste. Why, mother, they are rebel
officers, and they are turning toward the gate. Yes, sir; they are
coming in. Now what do you suppose they want here?
This was a startling piece of news, and a question that Mrs. Gray
could not answer. Although there were two garrisons within a few miles
of the plantation, one being located at Plymouth and the other at
Roanoke Island, Marcy and his mother seldom saw any soldiers, unless
they happened to be neighbors who had enlisted, and come home on a few
days' furlough. These furloughed men never came near the house, but
rode by without looking at it; while the two men who were now
approaching were headed straight for it, and their actions seemed to
indicate that they had business with some member of the family. Marcy
glanced at his mother's pale but resolute face, and then he looked up
at the Confederate bannerthe one Captain Semmes hoisted at the
Sabine's peak when he put his prize crew aboard of her, and which
Sailor Jack had captured and brought home with him. That flag had twice
taken the little Fairy Belle in safety past the rebel
fortifications down the river, and Marcy had great hopes of it now.
It may not serve you this time as well as it did before, said his
mother, who seemed to read the thoughts that were passing in his mind.
I was afraid you would miss it by passing those batteries in broad
daylight, but I do not understand these things, and did not think it
best to raise any objections to Jack's plans.
Why, mother, we never could have run those works in the dark
without being seen and fired at and perhaps sunk, replied Marcy. The
very impudence of the thing was what disarmed suspicion and saved us
from being searched. We'll soon know the worst now, for here they are
at the bottom of the steps. I shall ask them right in here.
So saying Marcy opened the door that gave entrance into the hall,
and called for Julius to run around to the front door and take charge
of a couple of horses he would find there, after which he stepped out
upon the gallery just as the Confederates were getting ready to hail
Good-morning, gentlemen, said he. Alight, and give your nags over
to this boy.
The officers replied in courteous tones, and when they had ascended
the steps to the gallery and turned down the wide collars of their gray
overcoats, Marcy was somewhat relieved to find that they were both
strangers, and that they did not look at him as though they had
anything unpleasant to say to him.
I am Captain Porter, at your service, and my friend here is
Lieutenant Anderson; no relation, however, to the Yankee hero of Fort
Sumter, who, so I am told, is about to be canonized by the Northern
people, said the elder of the two; and then he waited a moment for his
subordinate to laugh at his wit. If you are Marcy Gray and the head
man of the plantation, you are the man we are looking for. Who wouldn't
be a soldier this fine weather? How is your arm coming on by this
Marcy was beginning to feel a little at his ease in the presence of
his unwelcome visitors, but this abrupt question aroused his fears on
the instant. Did the captain know what was the matter with his arm? and
if he did, which one of their gossiping neighbors told him about it? He
was anxious to know, but afraid to ask.
It is getting better every day, thank you, was his reply. Will
you not come and speak to my mother? Julius will put your horses under
We are 'most too muddy to go into the presence of a lady, said the
captain, looking down at his boots, but as I don't want to blot my
notebook by taking it out in the rain, I think we'll have to go in. We
had a short but interesting chat with your captain a while ago.
Beardsley? Marcy almost gasped. Has he got home?
Of course he has. You didn't think the Yankees had captured him, I
hope. He gave us a good account of you, and since you can't run the
blockade any more, I wish you would hurry up and get well so that you
Right here the captain stopped long enough to permit Marcy to
introduce him and his lieutenant to Mrs. Gray. They sat down in the
easy-chairs that were brought for them, made a few remarks about the
weather, and then the captain resumed.
Yes; we saw Beardsley this morning, and would have been glad to
spend a longer time with him, but business prevented. He says you are a
brave and skilful pilot, and I happen to know that they are the sort of
men who are needed on our gunboats; but, of course, you can't go just
now. Hallo! exclaimed the captain, whose gaze had wandered to the
rebel flag that hung upon the wall. Where did you get that, if it is a
It is one my brother brought home with him, answered Marcy,
speaking with a calmness that surprised himself. He was second mate
and pilot of the blockade runner West Wind that was fitted out
and loaded in the port of Boston.
Oh, yes; we heard all about him too, said the captain, and Marcy
afterward confessed that the words frightened him out of a year's
growth. He went down to Newbern to ship on an ironclad he didn't find;
so I suppose he went into the army, did he not?
Not that I know of, answered Marcy, looking first one officer and
then the other squarely in the eye. Almost the last thing I heard him
say was, that he was going to ship on a war vessel.
Then he will have to come back here to do it, for there is no
ironclad building at Newbern, and I don't see why he did not ship with
Commodore Lynch in the first place, said Captain Porter. But
doubtless he wanted to serve on deep water. Now to business. We want
negroes to work on the fortifications on and about the Island, and
Captain Beardsley sent us here to get some. He said he thought you
might spare, say fifty or more.
Marcy was suspicious of everything Beardsley said and did, and
wondered if this was a new move on the man's part to bring him and his
mother into trouble with the Confederate authorities. If it was a trap
Marcy did not fall into it.
You can call on my mother for double that number, said he without
an instant's hesitation. We can't spare them, of course, for there's
work enough to be done on the place; but all the same you will have to
All right, answered the captain, pulling out his notebook. Send
them down to Plymouth as soon as you can and in any way you please, and
we will furnish them with transportation and take care of them after
that. By the way, it's rather queer about that overseer of yours. Where
do you imagine he is now?
If Marcy had not been fully on the alert this question would have
struck him dumb; but the captain, whose suspicions had not been in the
least aroused, and who believed Marcy and his mother to be as good
Confederates as he was himself, had unwittingly paved the way for it by
talking so freely about Captain Beardsley.
It was a very strange as well as a most alarming proceeding,
admitted Mrs. Gray, who thought it time for her to take part in the
conversation. I have not yet fully recovered from the fright it gave
me, she added, with a smile, and we have not the faintest idea where
Hanson is now.
What was Hanson anyhow? Which side was he on?
I don't know, replied Marcy. Sometimes he claimed to be one
thing, and then he claimed to be another.
Captain Beardsley thinks he was in favor of the South.
That proves my words, for he assured me that he was a Union man,
and wanted to know if I was going to discharge him on account of his
principles. I told him I was not, and added that if Shelby and Dillon
and their friends wanted him driven from the place they could come up
and do the work themselves, for I would have no hand in it. I desire to
live in peace with all my neighbors.
Oh, you can't do that, and it's no use to try, exclaimed the
captain, getting upon his feet and buttoning his heavy coat. Beyond a
doubt your overseer was a Confederate in principle; and if that is so,
his abductors must have been Union men. If Confederates had carried him
away they would not hesitate to say so. Those Unionists must be your
near neighbors, and if I were in your place, I should not show my
colors quite so plainly, added the captain, pointing to the banner on
the wall. I am surprised to learn that there are so many traitors in
my State, and we shall turn our attention to them as soon as we have
beaten back the Yankee invaders of our soil.
Do you think there will be any more fighting, captain? asked Mrs.
Yes, madam, I do. I am not one of those who believe that the North
is going to be easily whipped. They do not belong to our race, I am
glad to say, but they are a hardy, enduring people, and although they
don't know how to fight they think they do, and they are going to give
us a struggle. We must hold fast to Roanoke Island, for the possession
of that important point would give the enemy a chance to operate in the
rear of Norfolk. We expect to have a brush with them soon, and when it
comes, we intend to make another Bull Run affair of it. I wish we could
remain longer, but our duties call us away. I trust you will have those
negroes down to us to-morrow.
Mrs. Gray replied that they should be sent without loss of time, and
Marcy went out to tell Julius to bring up the horses. When he came back
and followed the officers to the front door, he inquired if they had
heard what Beardsley's reason was for quitting a profitable business
and coming home so unexpectedly.
Oh, yes; Beardsley told us all about it. He said he was afraid of
the Yankees, and he didn't act as though he was ashamed to confess it.
Their cruisers are getting so thick along the coast that a sailing
vessel stands no chance. I asked him if he was going to enlist and he
thought not. He wants to do his fighting on the water.
He wants to do his fighting with his mouth, was what Marcy said to
himself. He will neither enlist nor ship; but he will stay at home and
try by all the mean arts that he is master of to keep mother and me in
trouble. Then aloud he said: I am glad he came home, for it lets me
out of the service. I have no desire to face any more steam launches
that carry howitzers.
I suppose not, said the captain, giving Marcy's hand a hearty
farewell shake. The more I see of those people the less I like to face
them in battle. I hope you will soon have the use of your arm again,
and that I shall see you by my side fighting for the glorious cause of
Southern independence. Good-by.
The two officers mounted and rode away, Marcy remained upon the
gallery long enough to wave his hand to them as they passed through the
gate, and then he went into the house and to the room in which he had
left his mother.
What did I tell you? were the first words he uttered. Didn't I
say that Beardsley would not let harm come to us if he could help it? I
tell you, mother, he is afraid of the men who carried Hanson away and
ordered him to come home.
Well, then, is he not aware that we are looking to those same men
for protection? inquired Mrs. Gray.
If he doesn't know it he suspects it pretty strongly. Aleck Webster
told me that Beardsley had been warned to cease persecuting Union
people in this settlement. That includes you and me, for the minute
Beardsley saw and recognized my schooner in Crooked Inlet, that very
minute he knew where to place us. He knows where Jack is now as well as
we know it ourselves.
And will he not tell of it?
Of course, for it is to his interest to do so. If he has been home
long enough to ride into Nashville, he has told Shelby and Dillon of it
before this time. I wish I could see a copy of the letter that was sent
to him by Aleck and his friends. I am sorry to lose all our best hands
at the very time we need them most, but all the same I am glad those
officers came here. They didn't say money once, and that proves
that Beardsley could not have spoken of it in their hearing.
O Marcy, exclaimed Mrs. Gray, rising from her chair and nervously
pacing the room. I little dreamed that that money would be the
occasion of so much anxiety to all of us. I almost wish I had never
seen it. I can't sleep of nights for thinking of it, and sometimes I
imagine I hear someone moving about the cellar.
I don't wish you had never heard of it, replied Marcy. We can't
tell how long it will be before a dollar or two of it may come handy to
us. Say, mother, he added, stepping to her side and placing his arm
about her waist, do you think you would be any easier in your mind if
you did not know just where that money was, so long as you knew it was
I know I should, was the reply, given in cautious tones. But, my
son, you must not attempt to remove it to another hiding-place. There
seem to be so many who are on the watch, that I am sure you would be
detected at it. That would mean ruin for you and arrest and
imprisonment for me.
Marcy Gray was surprised, frightened, and angered by the
wordssurprised to learn that his mother was tormented by the very
fear that had been uppermost in the mind of the absent Jack; frightened
when he reflected how very easy it would be for some of their secret
enemies to bring evidence to prove that every dollar of the money that
was concealed in the cellar-wall rightfully belonged to Northern men,
and that Mrs. Gray was hoarding it for her own use in violation of the
law in such cases made and provided; and angered when he thought of the
many indignities that would be put upon his mother by the Confederate
authorities, who had showed themselves to be brutally vindictive and
merciless in dealing with those whose opinions differed from their own.
He drew a long breath which was very like a sob, and led his mother
back to her seat on the sofa.
All right, said he, with an appearance of cheerfulness that he was
far from feeling. I thought it would be a load off your mind if you
could say that there is no money about the house except the little you
carry in your pocket.
Mrs. Gray noticed that the boy did not promise to let the money
alone, but before she could call his attention to the fact Marcy faced
about and went into the hall after his coat and cap.
It is almost time for the hands to have their dinner, said he,
and when I get them together I will tell them the news. Of course they
will be delighted with it.
I am afraid they will put them under some old overseer who will
abuse and drive them beyond their strength, observed Mrs. Gray.
I think it likely that they will see the difference between working
for you and working for somebody else, admitted Marcy. But these are
war times, and when we can't help ourselves we must do as we are told.
Our darkies ought to be glad of an opportunity to labor for the
government that is fighting to keep them slaves. I wonder how many
Captain Beardsley will send!
You said a while ago that it would be to the captain's interest to
tell of his meeting with you and Jack at Crooked Inlet, observed Mrs.
Gray. I didn't quite understand that.
Well, you see Beardsley needs help to carry out his plans, and his
game now is to do nothing that will cause Hanson's abductors to turn
their attention to him and his buildings. He believes, and he has good
reason to believe, that certain men around here have it in their power
to damage him greatly; and if he can bring Shelby and Dillon and the
rest of the gang to his way of thinking, they will be apt to let us
alone. Now I will go out and make a detail of the men we need about the
place, and tell the others that they must be ready to march at daylight
in the morning. I am not going to send them off in this rain.
The captain said nothing about picks and shovels, suggested Mrs.
Gray. Perhaps it would be well
Picks and shovels cost money, interrupted Marcy, and we are not
going to send any down there to be stolen. Let the Confederate
government furnish its own tools. Now I am beaten again! Here are two
more visitors, and this time they are Captain Beardsley and Colonel
This very unwelcome announcement brought Mrs. Gray to her feet in a
twinkling. What do you think they can want here? she almost gasped,
with a good deal of emphasis on the pronoun.
They are coming to make friends with you, so that you will not tell
the Union men to destroy their property, replied Marcy.
But, my son, I never would do anything of the kind. And besides, I
do not know the Union men, or where to find them.
No difference so long as they think you do. Now sit down and be as
independent as you please, and I will let them in. Julius, stand by the
front door to take those horses.
These men were admitted as the others were, but with very different
feelings on the part of those they came to visit. Captain Porter and
his lieutenant had donned uniforms and were ready to risk their lives
for the cause in which they honestly believed, but these two lacked the
courage to do that. Beardsley was ready to do anything that would bring
him a dollar, provided there was no danger in it, while Shelby would
not have enlisted if he knew that he could thereby earn a right to the
title that was now given him out of respect to his wealth. They were
ready to urge or drive others into the army, but it hurt them to be
obliged to send their negroes to work on the fortifications. Colonel
Shelby entered the room and seated himself with an air of a gentleman,
while Beardsley acted the boor, as he always did. He gave Marcy's well
hand a tremendous grip and shake, and said, in the same voice he would
have used if he had been hailing the masthead:
Well, how do you find yourself by this time? Ain't you sorry now
that you didn't take out a venture when I wanted you to, so that you
might be shaking thousands in your pocket at this minute, when you've
only got hunderds? My respects to you, Mrs. Gray; but when me and this
boy of yourn get to talking we don't know when to stop. Hope you have
been well since I saw you last, and that the carrying away of your
overseer didn't scare you none.
Marcy was well enough acquainted with Captain Beardsley to know that
he did not rattle on in this style for nothing. The man was excited and
nervous, and tried to conceal his feelings under a cloak of hearty good
nature and jollity that ill became him. Marcy sat down and looked at
him in a way that made Captain Beardsley mutter to himself:
I'd like the best in the world to wring that there brat's neck.
He's got the upper hand of me and Shelby and all of us, and dog-gone
the luck, he knows it. I'd give a dollar to know what he's got on his
mind this very minute.
After a little talk on various subjects that were of no particular
interest to anybody, Captain Beardsley introduced the subject of
blockade running, and gave a glowing description of the manner in which
he had hoodwinked the Yankee cruisers by dodging out of Ocracoke Inlet
while they were busy fighting the forts at Hatteras. He seemed to look
upon it as a very daring and skillful exploit, and yet it was nothing
more than any alert shipmaster would have done under the same
After that we had fun alive, added the captain; and Marcy was
surprised to see him put his hand into the pocket of his overcoat and
bring out a good-sized canvas bag which was filled so full of something
heavy that it would not hold any more. All we had to do was to run
down to Nassau, discharge our cargo, and load up and come back again;
and all the while we was making money till I couldn't eat nor sleep on
account of it, and the Yankees never showed up to bother us.
You were fortunate, said Marcy, when Beardsley stopped and looked
That ain't no name for it. We had the best kind of luck. I kept a
bright watch for that steam launch when we passed through Crooked
Inlet, but she had got tired of waiting and went off somewheres. We
seen one or two little blockade runners like ourselves, but no Yankees.
Now there's your share of the profits, Marcy, said the captain, and he
got up and placed the canvas bag upon the table. We made two runs, and
I promised you I would give you five hunderd dollars
But, Captain, exclaimed Marcy, while Mrs. Gray looked troubled, I
have no right to take that money. I wasn't aboard the Hattie
when she made those two runs.
That's the gospel truth; but didn't I say I would keep your place
open for you while you was laid up in ordinary with your broken arm? I
did for a fact, and I always stand to what I say.
But I haven't done the first thing to earn that thousand dollars,
and I hope you will believe that I am in dead earnest when I assure you
that I'll not touch it, replied Marcy.
There was no doubt about his earnestness, and the captain looked
disappointed. He settled back in his chair and nodded at Shelby, and
that was a bad thing for him to do. It told Marcy as plainly as words
what their object was in coming there to call upon him and his mother.
Even if you were not on board the Hattie when she made those
successful trips, you belonged to her, and have a right to demand pay
according to contract, said the colonel.
And while I belonged to her I took pay according to contract, said
Marcy quickly. I was paid by the run and not by the month.
I have never heard that the pay of an enlisted man ceases the
moment he is injured, added the colonel.
Nor I either; but I am not an enlisted man, and what's more, I do
not intend to be.
Well, if you won't take the money, you will acknowledge that I
tried to do the fair thing by you? 'said Beardsley.
I am willing to say that you offered me some money and that I
declined to take it, answered the boy, who knew very well that
Beardsley was not trying to do the fair thing by him. As it is
nobody's business, I never expect to be questioned about it.
The captain took little share in the conversation that followed. He
put the canvas bag into his pocket, folded his arms and went into the
dumps, where he remained until the name of the missing overseer was
mentioned, and then he brightened up to say:
That there was a little the strangest thing I ever heard tell of.
What's went with Hanson, do you reckon?
I haven't the least idea where he is, was Marcy's answer.
I know you wasn't to home when he was took offleastwise I have
been told so, said Beardsley, but I didn't know but mebbe you and
your maw might suspicion somebody. Now what you going to do for an
overseer? There's that renter of mine, Kelsey his name is. I know you
don't collogue with no such, but mebbe you know who he is.
Marcy started, and looked first at his mother and then at Captain
Beardsley. The latter sat with his bearded chin on his breast,
regarding Marcy through his half-closed eyelids, and there was an
expression on his face that had a volume of meaning in it. Taken by
surprise at last, the usually sharp-witted boy had betrayed the secret
he was most anxious to keep from the knowledge of everybody.
CHAPTER V. MARCY'S RASH WISH.
I know mighty well that Kelsey is trifling and lazy when he ain't
got nothing much to occupy his mind, said Beardsley, who was not slow
to catch the meaning of the frightened glances which mother and son so
quickly exchanged, but when he was working on my place and bossing my
hands, I found him
Are you in earnest in proposing him for my mother's overseer?
cried Marcy, as soon as he could speak. Our fields can grow up to
But really, he wants work, began the colonel.
Then let him go down to the Island and work in the trenches,
replied Marcy. He can't come here.
But Kelsey is the only support of his family, the colonel
remarked. He is loyal to our cause, and would enlist in a minute if he
had enough ahead to support his wife and children during his absence;
but he hasn't got it.
They will fare just as well without him as they do with him. If
they get hungry, my mother will no doubt feed them as she has done a
hundred times before; but Kelsey can't come on this place to work.
There isn't money enough in the State to induce us to agree to that.
But what you uns going to do for an overseer? said Beardsley
again. You'll need one if you intend to run the place.
Not until the hands return from the Island, replied Marcy, and
then I shall take hold myself.
Having done all they intended to do when they came there the
visitors were ready to leave, and Colonel Shelby gave the signal by
arising from his chair and pulling his collar up about his ears.
I still think, Mrs. Gray, that Marcy ought to take this money,
said he. The captain does not offer it to him as a gift but as his
We perfectly understand the object he had in mind, answered the
lady; whereupon the colonel opened his eyes and looked at her very
hard. But if Marcy thinks he ought not to receive it I have nothing to
I hope you will not regret it, said the colonel. Some people seem
to think that we are about entering upon a long conflict, and that
money will be a necessary thing to have after a while.
But if you get hard up, which I hope you won't, don't forget that
this thousand dollars is all yourn, Marcy, exclaimed the captain.
Marcy assured him that he would bear it in mind. If Beardsley hoped
to hear him declare that his mother had more money in the house than
she was likely to need, he was disappointed.
And don't forget either, that if at any time you stand in need of
such assistance as the captain and I can give, you must not hesitate to
say so, continued the colonel, as he bowed to Mrs. Gray and followed
Marcy to the door. Our little settlement, I am sorry to say, is full
of the meanest of traitors, and it may comfort you to know that there
are a few persons in it to whom you can speak freely.
We know that, and it certainly is a very great comfort to us,
replied Marcy, thinking of Aleck Webster. It will take more than a
thousand dollars to keep roofs over your heads if anything comes of
this day's work, was what he added to himself when he had seen the men
ride out of the yard. I saw through your little game from the first,
and yet I went and gave myself away. That was about the biggest piece
of foolishness I was ever guilty of; but I suppose it was to be so. I
was all in the dark before, but I know what I am going to do now.
In order that we may know whether or not Marcy's fears were well
founded, let us ride with Beardsley and his companion long enough to
overhear a few words of their conversation. The moment they rode out of
the gate, and were concealed from the house by the thick shrubbery and
trees that surrounded it, Beardsley threw back the collar of his coat,
giving the cold rain and sleet a fair chance at him, and almost reeled
in his saddle, so convulsed was he with the merriment that could no
longer be restrained.
I done it, by gum! he exclaimed, shaking his head and flourishing
his riding-whip in the air. I done it, didn't I?
You did not purchase his good-will, if that is what you mean,
answered his companion. He wouldn't touch your gold. He knew why you
offered it as well as I did, and I was satisfied from the start that
you would not catch him that way. He will put those Union men on you if
you so much as crook your finger.
But I aint a-going to crook no fingers, said Beardsley, with a
hoarse laugh. Let him sick 'em on if he wants to, but he'd best watch
out that I don't get there first. Say, colonel, that there money is in
the house all right, just as we uns thought it was.
How do you know? exclaimed his companion. The colonel had not
noticed the frightened glances that Marcy and his mother exchanged when
Kelsey's name was mentioned, and he was surprised to hear Beardsley
speak so positively.
Say! answered the captain. You aint forgot how you sent Kelsey up
to Mrs. Gray's, while I was at sea, to make some inquiries about the
money she was thought to have stowed away, have you? Well, Marcy and
his mother aint forgot it nuther; and when I spoke Kelsey's name, and
said mebbe he would be a good one to take Hanson's place, Marcy jumped
like I had stuck a pin in him.
Well, what of it?
What of it? Marcy knowed in a minute that I wanted to have that man
took on the plantation for to snoop around of nights and find out all
about that money. But I aint a caring. I know the money is there, and
that's all I wanted to find out. The ways I have talked and schemed and
planned to make that there boy say that him and his maw had as much as
they wanted to tide them through the war that's coming, is just
amazing, now that I think of it; but not a word could I get out of him.
He was too smart to be ketched; but all on a sudden he gives out the
secret as easy as falling off a log. The money is there, I tell you.
And you intend to get it, I suppose? added the colonel. Well,
now, look here, Beardsley; don't say a word to me about it.
All right, Colonel, said Beardsley, who could scarcely have been
happier if he had had the whole of Mrs. Gray's thirty thousand dollars
where he could put his hand upon it at any time he pleased. I know
what you mean by them words. Of course you are too big a man and too
rich to go into business with me, but I know some who aint. I'll show
them Grays that they aint so great as they think for.
Have you so soon forgotten what that letter said? inquired the
colonel. If anything happens to Marcy's mother or her property some of
us will be sure to suffer for it, unless you are sharp enough to lay
the blame upon some one else.
Say! replied Beardsley, in a whisper. That's what I'm thinking of
doing. Your time's your own, I reckon, aint it? and you don't mind a
little mite of rain, do you? Then come with me and see how I am going
to work it.
So saying the captain urged his horse into a lope, and Colonel
Shelby followed his example. After a while they turned into one of the
narrow lanes that ran through Beardsley's cultivated fields to the
woods that lay behind them, galloped past Mrs. Brown's cheerless cabin,
and at last drew rein before the door of one that was still more
cheerless and dilapidated. It stood in one corner of a little patch of
ground that had been planted to corn and potatoes, and which had
received such slight care and attention of late years that the
blackberry briars were beginning to take possession of it. A small pack
of lean and hungry coon dogs greeted the visitors as they stopped in
front of the cabin, and their yelping soon brought their master to the
door. He was the same lazy Kelsey we once saw sitting on the front
porch of Mrs. Gray's house, only his hair was longer, his whiskers more
tangled and matted, and his clothes worse for wear.
Alight and hitch, was the way in which he welcomed Captain
Beardsley and his companion. Git out, ye whelps!
Can't stop so long, replied the captain. Been over to Mrs. Gray's
to see how my pilot was getting on, and tried to scare up a job for you
at overseering, in the place of that chap who was took off in the night
I dunno's I am a-caring for a job of that sort, answered Kelsey.
I've got a sight of work of my own that had oughter be did.
That's so, said Beardsley, glancing at the broken fences, the bare
wood-yard and the briars that were encroaching upon the borders of the
little field. But there's no ready money in your work, while there is
a sight of it up to the Grays.
I won't work for no sich, declared Kelsey. They think too much of
They set a heap more store by them nor they do by such poor folks
as you be. But you needn't bother. They won't take you and give you a
chance to keep your head above water, and put a bite of grub into the
mouths of your family and a few duds on their backs. They allowed that
they wouldn't have no such trifling hound as you on their place.
Did Mrs. Gray use them words about me? exclaimed Kelsey, growing
excited on the instant.
I heard somebody say them very words, but I aint naming no names;
nor I aint been nowheres except up to Mrs. Gray's to-day. One of 'em
allowed that if you wasn't too doggone useless to live, you'd go and
'list on the Island.
I'm jest as good as they be, said the man, who by this time was
looking as though he felt very ugly.
That's so. And some of 'em likewise said that a man who was too
lazy to keep a tight roof over his own head, when he could have nails
and boards by asking for 'em, wouldn't do no good as an overseer,
added Beardsley, counting the holes in the top of the cabin through
which the rafters could be seen, and glancing at the stick chimney,
which leaned away from the wall as if it were about to topple over.
But that aint what I come here for, to carry tales about my neighbors.
I want to say I'm glad to see you doing so well, and that if you are
needing a small side of meat and a little meal, you know where to get
Sarvant, sah, replied Kelsey. That there is more neighbor-like
than demeaning a man for a trifling hound because he is pore, and I'll
bear it in mind, I bet you. As for my roof, it's a heap better'n the
one them Grays will have to cover them in a week from now; you hear me?
That big house of theirn will burn like a bresh-heap.
Well, take care of yourself, answered the captain. But if I'd
suspicioned you was going to fly mad about it, I wouldn't 'a' spoke a
word to you.
Kelsey will never carry out his threat, said Colonel Shelby, as
the two rode away from the cabin. He is too big a coward.
I know that mighty well, but you can say that you heard him speak
them very words, can't you?
Captain Beardsley was very lively and talkative after that, and
plumed himself on having done a neat stroke of work that would turn
suspicion from himself, when the results of a certain other plan he had
in his head should become known in the settlement. But perhaps we shall
see that he forgot one very important thing. As to the colonel,
although he approved the work that was to be done, he had the
profoundest contempt for the man who could deliberately plan and carry
it out. He had little to say, and was glad when his horse brought him
to a bridle-path that would take him away from Beardsley and toward his
Meanwhile Marcy Gray was in a most uncomfortable frame of mind. When
he saw the visitors ride out of the gate, he closed the door and went
back to his mother. The captain never spoke of meeting you and Jack at
Crooked Inlet, were the first words she uttered.
Of course not, replied Marcy. You did not expect him to, did you?
But I rather looked for him to give some reason for coming home, and to
hear him say that he would have no further occasion for my services;
but he was so disappointed because I would not take that
O Marcy! exclaimed his mother. I was afraid that that was what
the money was intended for.
That was just it, and how the colonel stared when you said you
understood the object Beardsley had in view in offering it. Those men
think we can destroy their buildings or protect them, just as we
But, Marcy, we cannot do it.
Let them keep on thinking so if they want to. And another reason
Beardsley didn't say all he meant to was because I was foolish enough
to give him something else to think about. I was frightened when he
mentioned Kelsey's name, for I knew in an instant what he wanted the
man on the place for, and I showed that I was frightened.
So did I, Marcy, groaned Mrs. Gray. So did I.
Well, it can't be expected that a woman will be on the watch all
the time, but I ought to have had better sense. I gave Beardsley good
reason for thinking that there is something on or about the place that
we don't want a stranger to know anything about, and of course he
believes it is money. But don't you worry. We'll come out all right in
So saying Marcy put on his coat and cap, kissed his mother, and left
the house to tell one of the hands to put the saddle on his horse. At
the door he met old Morris, who was just coming in with the mail. He
saw at a glance that the darky was frightened.
Marse Marcy, dere's going be great doings 'bout dis place, he
Never mind. I can't stop to hear about it now, for I am in a hurry.
Give those papers and letters to one of the girls, and let her carry
them in. I wouldn't have you go into my mother's presence with that
face of yours for anything. Say nothing to nobody, and I will see you
again as I can go to the quarter and back.
From his earliest boyhood Marcy had always been glad to go among the
field hands when he was troubled, for they were so full of fun, and had
so many quaint and amusing things to say to him that gloomy thoughts
could not long keep his company in their presence; but it was not so
this time. He silenced all their laughter by the very first words he
spoke to them. All the able-bodied men among them (and Marcy designated
them by name) were to start for Plymouth before daylight the next
morning, to work on the Confederate fortifications. Some of them
rebelled at once, and declared that they wouldn't stir a step, but
thought better of it when Marcy told them that, if they did not go
willingly, they would be marched down by a squad of soldiers, who would
not hesitate to help them along by a prod from a bayonet if they showed
the least disposition to lag behind. It took him longer to get through
with this disagreeable duty than he thought it would, for the blacks
hung around him, and clung to his hands as though they never expected
to see him again; but it was accomplished at last, and then Marcy
turned about, and rode back to the house to interview the coachman. He
found him wandering disconsolately about among the horses, too
dispirited to work. The two went out in the rain together, taking care
to keep out of sight of the sitting-room windows, and the faithful old
darky astonished the white boy by describing, almost word for word, as
we have told it, what had been said and done in Mrs. Brown's cabin that
morning while Tom Allison and Mark Goodwin were there. He said not a
word until Morris finished his story, and then he inquired:
Where did you hear all this?
Marse Beardsley's niggah gal, Nancy, was dar, and heared and seen
it all wid her own eyes and ears, replied Morris. She met me on de
road when I was coming home wid de mule and de mail, and done told me.
Is dat a fac' 'bout de money, Marse Marcy?
The boy did not in the least doubt the truthfulness of the story. He
knew that the girl Nancy looked out for Mrs. Brown's comfort in a
shiftless sort of way; that long association with the old gossip had
made her a tolerable gossip herself; and that, although she was often
sent to the overseer on account of it, she kept on talking just the
same. Besides, Nancy could not have known about the money unless she
had heard somebody speak of it. And Mark Goodwin was sure it was
concealed in the cellar wall! That was the worst piece of news Marcy
Gray had ever listened to. He stood for some minutes looking down at
the ground in deep study, and then he seized the black man's arm and
drew him closer to him. He gave him some rapid whispered instructions,
old Morris now and then nodding, as if to show that he understood them
perfectly, and then they shook hands, as two brothers might have done,
At daylight the next morning there was not a single able-bodied
black man to be seen on Mrs. Gray's plantation, if we except the few
who found employment about the house, the working party having left
hours before. Marcy saw them from his window as they marched out of the
gate with their bundles on their backs, but he did not go down to speak
to them. He had taken leave of them once, and had no desire to go
through the same ordeal again. He rode into Nashville that morning, as
he did every other morning for the next two weeks, but the only news he
heard related to the fortifications at Roanoke Island, which grew in
size and strength every day, and were to be held at all hazards. He
thought it strange that he did not see Aleck Webster, but, of course,
he dared not ask after him. He saw Allison, and Goodwin, and others of
that stamp, who went out of their way to profess friendship for him;
but Marcy never lingered long in their company until one day when they
followed him to the hitching-rack, after he had secured his mail, to
warn him that he had better have an eye on that man Kelsey, who meant
harm to him.
What does he think he has against me? was the first question Marcy
asked. Doesn't he want me to feed him any more?
He doesn't want grub so much as he wants work, replied Goodwin.
And you wouldn't hire him to take Hanson's place.
Hadn't we a right to say who shall work for us and who shall not?
demanded Marcy. But we don't need anybody. I am going to act as my
mother's overseer; that is, if I ever have any hands to oversee.
But Kelsey doesn't like to be called a lazy, trifling hound; and
you wouldn't like it either, said Allison.
I never called him that. I simply said that I would let the fields
grow up to briars before I would have him on the place, and I say so
yet. Let him enlist, if he wants something to do.
But he can't enlist. The doctors wouldn't pass him.
Has he tried them?
What would be the use? Can't you see for yourself how he is bent
almost double with rheumatism?
I can see how he bends over because he is too lazy to straighten
up, but I never heard that he had rheumatism. What is he going to do to
He has threatened to burn you out.
I expect to be burned out, but not by that man Kelsey. Now mind
what I say, you two. When that thing happens you will see some
disappointed men and boys right here in this settlement, and our house
will be in good company when it burns. Good-morning.
Hold on! exclaimed Mark. Don't go off mad. What do you mean?
I mean what I say, answered Marcy, who wanted to say more, but
thought it would not be prudent. And there is no need that I should
enter into explanations with you and Tom Allison.
Marcy rode away, wondering if he had done wrong in letting those
young rebels see that he was so well posted. If he had made a mistake
in speaking so plainly it was too late to mourn over it now. He wished
he might have opportunity to exchange a few words with Aleck Webster,
and sometimes, during the week that followed, he was strongly tempted
to ride by his house in the hope of seeing him there; but prudence
always interposed in time to keep him from doing anything so rash. Then
he waited and hoped for a sign from some of the other members of the
band; but, although he was sure that he met and spoke to them every day
in the post-office, they said no word to him that could not have been
uttered in the presence of a third party, nor did they give him a
chance to speak to them in private. Marcy told himself that it was
little short of maddening to live in this way to know that there were
enemies all about him and not a single old-time friend of his family to
whom he could go for advice or comfort. The state of suspense he was in
day and night was hard to bear, and Marcy was almost ready to do some
desperate deed to bring it to an end.
A few days more passed and once more Colonel Shelby and Captain
Beardsley came to visit the family. This was nothing unusual, for they
and others often came now to keep up an appearance of friendship, and
to inquire if there was any way in which they could be of assistance to
Mrs. Gray. They stayed an hour, and when they went away, and Marcy and
his mother reviewed the conversation that had taken place during the
visit, to see if they had been entrapped into saying anything they
ought not to have said, the only news they remembered to have heard was
that Shelby and Beardsley, and some others whose names they mentioned,
were going down to the Island to inspect the works, and see how their
hands were getting along under their military overseers. They would
probably be gone three or four days, and if Marcy or his mother desired
to send a word of remembrance to any faithful old servant, they should
be pleased to take it.
I am getting heartily tired of visits of this sort, said Marcy. I
wish they would keep away, and let us alone, for I don't care to talk
to men I have to watch all the time. I am afraid there is something
back of these friendly calls.
There was something back of this one at any ratesomething that was
very like a tragedy; and the first act was performed that night a
little after dark. Marcy was just rising from a late supper, when the
sound of hoofs was heard on the carriage-way, and Bose challenged with
all his might. When Marcy opened the door he saw the horseman bending
down from his saddle, and waving his hand at the dog as if he were
trying to quiet him. He was so far away that Marcy could not see who he
was, although the light from the hall lamp streamed brightly out into
the darkness. When he heard the boy's step upon the porch the man
straightened up, but did not offer to come any nearer.
What is wanted? demanded Marcy.
Does this yere road lead to Nashville? asked a hoarse, gruff voice
that Marcy had never heard before.
The one outside the gate leads to Nashville, but the one you are on
leads up to this door, answered the boy, who, for some reason or
other, began to feel uneasy.
You aint overly civil to strangers in these parts, seems like,
said the man. I've been out lookin' for niggers to work on the forts,
an' got lost, if it will do you any good to know it. And, with the
words, he turned his horse about, and galloped out of the yard.
It was a very simple incidentone that was likely to happen at any
timebut all that evening Marcy could not get it out of his mind. He
could not read, either, and did not want to talk, so he went to bed at
an early hour; but before he did so, he made the rounds of the house
with a lighted lantern in his hand. Bose was in his usual place on the
rug in front of the door, and so fast asleep that he did not move when
his master stepped over him, and the doors and windows in the lower
part of the house, as well as those in the cellar, were closed and
fastened, and, having satisfied himself on these points, Marcy bade his
mother good-night, and went to his room. But he did not close his door.
He took pains to leave it wide open, and called himself foolish for
I am getting to be afraid of the dark, was what he thought, as he
turned down his lamp and tumbled into bed. There isn't a darky on the
plantation who hates to have night come as bad as I do, and I don't
know that there is anything surprising in it. If there is danger
hanging over this house, I wish it would drop, and have done with it.
Marcy went to sleep with this rash wish half formed in his mind.
CHAPTER VI. THE WISH GRATIFIED.
Marcy Gray slept like a boy who had eaten heartily of mince pie for
supper, that is, uneasily. But still he must have slumbered soundly or
he would have heard the faint scream and the hoarse, muffled voice that
came up from his mother's room shortly after midnight, or been awakened
by the swift rush of the two figures who hastened up the stairs and
through the wide-open door into his room. The figures were there, but
the first Marcy knew of it was when one turned up the lamp and the
other laid a heavy hand upon his shoulder. Then he opened his eyes and
tried to sit up, but was pressed back upon his pillow at the same
instant that the cold, sharp muzzle of a revolver was put against his
Keep still now, you pore white trash, and you is all right, said
the man who held the revolver. Make a noise, and you is all wrong,
kase you'll be dead quick's a cat can bat her eye. You heah me? Git
[Illustration: THE MASKED ROBBERS.]
Any sense of fear that might have come upon Marcy Gray, if he had
been given time to think twice, was lost in profound astonishment. The
man talked like a negro; but in those days negroes were not given to
doing desperate deeds of this sort. Hardly realizing what he was doing,
Marcy threw off the bedclothes and sat up; and as he did so, the man
who had turned up the lamp snatched the pillows from the bed and took
possession of the brace of revolvers he found under them. Marcy looked
at the pillows that were flung upon the floor, and saw that there were
dark stains on both of them. He took short, searching glances at the
two men, and saw the white showing through the black on their faces. By
this time he was wide awake, and trying to nerve himself for the ordeal
he saw before him.
Git up an' climb into them dry-goods of yourn commanded the
robber, standing first upon one foot and then on the other, and swaying
about after the manner of a field hand who had suddenly found himself
in an embarrassing situation. Git into 'em lively. I tol' you, chile.
I is de oberseer now, an' you is de niggah. Hustle 'em on.
How do you expect me to dress rapidly with only one hand to work
with? demanded Marcy, who was not frightened out of his senses, even
if he was powerless. You must give me a little time.
Well den, what for you go in the wah an' fight the Yankees what
want to give us pore niggahs our freedom? said the robber. You done
got your arm broke, an' it serves you jes right. Wisht it had been your
Marcy dressed in much less time than he generally did, and when he
had thrown his coat over his shoulders and slipped his well arm into
one of the sleeves, he was ready to follow the robbers downstairs and
into the cellar; for he thought that was where he would have to go
sooner or later. He drew a long breath of relief when he was conducted
into the sitting-room, where his mother was waiting for him guarded by
two more robbers, whose hands and faces were covered with something
that looked like shoe-blacking. Although she was pale she did not
appear to be badly frightened, for she smiled pleasantly as the boy
seated himself on the sofa by her side, and said:
I hope they did not handle you very roughly, Marcy.
Oh, no; they didn't put a hand on me.
An' what's more, missus, we aint going to, if you do jes like we
tell you, said the robber who had thus far done the talking. You
white folks is rich, an' we black ones is pore. You've got money, an'
we aint got none.
And you want us to give you some, I suppose, added Marcy, putting
his hand into his pocket and drawing forth the small buckskin purse in
which he carried his change. There's my pile. How much have you,
Look a-here! exclaimed the man, forgetting himself in his rage and
speaking in his ordinary tone of voice. That won't go down. You've got
more, an' we know it; an' if you don't trot it out without no more of
So far as I know, these purses contain every cent of money there is
in the house or about it, interrupted Marcy, taking both the articles
in question in his hand and extending them toward the robber. The
darkies may have some, but if they have I don't know it.
With a muttered curse the man hit Marcy's hand a heavy blow and sent
the purses flying to the farthest corner of the room. He expended so
much strength in the blow that he almost pulled the boy from his seat
on the sofa, and drew an involuntary exclamation of surprise and
indignation from his mother.
Look a-here, ole woman! You'll say 'Oh, my dear boy!' a good many
times afore we uns is done with you if you don't trot out that money,
declared the robber, in savage tones. We know jes what we're doing,
an' you might as well give in without wasting no more time over it.
Where is it? I ask you for the last time.
It is in those purses, replied Marcy. If you want it, go and pick
them up. You knocked them there.
We'll take some of that there sass out of you in two minutes by the
watch, snarled the robber, glancing up at the heavy chandelier which,
depended from the center of the high ceiling. Where's that rope, Jim?
Do you reckon that there thing will pull out or not?
What are you ruffians going to do? gasped Mrs. Gray, when she saw
the man Jim pull a rope from his pocket.
We're going to see if we can choke some sense into this boy of
yourn, was the answer. If you don't want to see him hung up afore
your face an' eyes, make him tell where that money is. We uns have got
to have it afore you see the last of us.
Mrs. Gray turned an appealing look upon Marcy, who said stoutly:
I told nothing but the truth when I said that there is no money in
the house except the little in those purses. Why don't you men look
around and satisfy yourselves of the fact?
We aint got time, an' more'n that, we've knocked off work for the
night. Throw one end of the rope over that thing up there, an' make a
running noose in the other. I said I wouldn't ask him agin, an' I meant
every word of it.
Things began to look serious, and the resolute expression on Marcy's
pale face showed that he understood the situation. His mother knew he
told the truth that he had secretly removed her treasure to another
hiding-place, and she longed to throw herself upon his neck and beg him
to tell what he had done with it. But she did not do it, for that would
only have made matters worse. It would have encouraged the robbers and
disheartened the boy, who was so calmly watching the preparations that
were being made to pull him up by the neck. He knew that the men were
working on a supposition; that they had no positive proof that there
was money in the house; and hoped that they would soon weary of their
useless demands, or that something would frighten them away. But he was
obliged to confess to himself that neither contingency seemed likely to
happen. The robbers acted as though they were in earnest, and there was
nothing to interfere with their work. None of the servants had showed
themselves, and even Julius and Bose, who never failed to be on hand
when there was anything unusual going on, had not once been seen or
heard. The house was as silent as if it had been deserted. After a few
unsuccessful attempts the man Jim managed to throw the rope over one of
the branches of the chandelier at the same time that a second robber
finished the work of putting a running noose on the other end.
Now I reckon we're about ready for business, said the leader
grimly. Mebbe you'd best bear down on it first, Jim, to see if the
thing will hold you up.
Jim's prompt obedience came near costing him his life. Seizing the
rope with both hands he jerked his knees up toward his chin and swung
himself clear of the floor; whereupon the hook which held the
chandelier, and which was not intended to support so heavy a weight,
was torn from its socket and the ponderous fixture came down upon the
head of the robber, crushing him, bleeding and senseless, to the floor.
But the room was not left in darkness, as Marcy wished it had been; for
the single lamp that lighted it was on a side table, safely out of the
way. Every one in the room was struck motionless and speechless with
amazement and alarm, and if Marcy Gray had only had two good hands to
use, the disaster to the robber band would have been greater than it
was. Their leader was so nearly paralyzed with astonishment that a
quick, dexterous fellow, such as Marcy usually was, could have
prostrated and disarmed him with very little trouble; but under the
circumstances it would have been foolhardy to attempt it.
As was to have been expected, Mrs. Gray was the first to recover
herself and the first to act. In less than two seconds after the robber
struck the floor she was by his side, trying with both hands to remove
the chandelier from his prostrate form. The sight brought Marcy to his
Are you lubbers going to stand there and let the man die before
your eyes? he shouted. Why don't you bear a hand and get him out?
These words proved to be almost as magical as the whistle shrill
with which Roderick Dhu was wont to summon his Highland clan. Before
they had fairly left Marcy's lips the boy Julius danced into the room
through the door that led into the hall, shouting at the top of his
Here dey is! Here dey is! Shoot Then he stopped stock still,
and rolled the whites of his eyes toward the wreck in the middle of the
floorthe shattered lamps, the broken chandelier with the robber's
legs sticking out from under itand finished by saying, Dere's a muss
for de gals to clean up in de mawnin. Why don't you shoot 'em?
Almost at the same instant the doorway behind the prancing darky was
filled by armed and masked men, who filed rapidly into the apartment,
turning right and left along the wall to give their companions in the
rear room to follow them. Not a word was said or a thing done until a
dozen or more had entered, and then the robbers were disarmed, without
the least show of resistance on their part, and the heavy chandelier
was lifted off their injured and still senseless comrade. It was all
done in less than two minutes, and the rescuers were about to pass out,
as quickly and silently as they came, taking the robbers with them,
when Mrs. Gray said:
Will you not tell us who you are, so that we may know whom to thank
for the inestimable service you have rendered us?
We are friends, replied a voice that was plainly disguised.
We know it; and if that is all you care to have us know, of course
we shall have to be satisfied with it, said Marcy, who had received a
slight nod from one of the masked men, whom he took to be Aleck
Webster. But it's mighty poor consolation not to be able to call our
friends by name. I wish you would do me another friendly act by going
through that wounded robber's pockets and getting my revolvers back for
me. They jumped on to me and took them away before I was fairly awake.
This request was quickly and silently complied with, and then the
masked men started out again, taking the four would-be robbers with
them. Mrs. Gray wanted much to ask what they intended to do with the
prisoners, but a look and a few words from Marcy checked her.
Let us show our gratitude by respecting their wishes and asking no
questions, said he earnestly. They have saved me from a choking, and
if they ever want anything I can give them, I know they will not
hesitate to let me know it. Good-night, friends, if you will not tell
us what else to call you.
A dozen voices, which sounded strange and hollow under the thick
white masks that covered the faces of the rescuers, responded
good-night, and Marcy, filled with gratitude for his deliverance,
stood on the porch at the side door and saw them disappear down the
lane that led through the almost deserted negro quarter. Then he walked
around to the front door to see what had become of Bose, and discovered
him curled up in his usual place on the mat.
You rascal! he exclaimed. What do you mean by lying here fast
Marcy's impulse was to kick the dog off the mat in the first place
and off the porch in the second; but remembering how faithfully the
devoted animal had served him in the past and that this was his first
offence, he bent over and grasped him by the neck, only to let go his
hold the very next instant. Bose was stiff and coldas dead as a door
Poisoned! ejaculated Marcy. And to think that I was on the point
of kicking the poor beast! I deserve to be kicked myself for doubting
him. The chap who rode into the yard to-night to inquire the way to
Nashville is the villain who is to blame for this. He is the fellow who
captained the robbers to-night, and no doubt he was feeding Bose
something, when I thought he was trying to quiet him. Poor old Bose!
The boy's heart was heavy as he faced about and went into the house,
where he found his mother pacing the floor, more frightened and
agitated now than she had been at any time while in the presence of the
robbers. She laid her head on Marcy's shoulder, and cried softly as he
put his arm around her and led her to a seat.
What's the good of taking on so now that the trouble is all over?
said he. But that's always the way with a woman. She will stand up to
the rack when there is need of it, and cry when there is nothing to cry
for. What's the use of doing that?
Marcy, said his mother, did I not tell you to let that money
No, ma'am; you said you were afraid that if I tried to take it to a
new place some one would catch me at it; but I wasn't afraid. I was
sure I could do it without being seen, I knew you would sleep better if
it was put somewhere else, and so, while you and every one on the
plantation, except the man who was helping me, were in the land of Nod,
I took the bags out of the cellar wall and put them where nobody will
ever think of looking for them. Whenever you want any of it say the
word, and I will see that you get it; and in the meantime, if you are
asked where it is, you can truthfully say that you don't know.
But, Marcy, the events of the night, which seem more like a
terrible dream than a reality, prove conclusively that the story has
got abroad; and I don't see how I can muster up the courage to pass
another night in this house, said Mrs. Gray with a shudder. How could
they have got in without alarming Bose?
Poor old Bose will never act as our sentry again, replied the boy,
with tears of genuine sorrow in his eyes; and then he went on to tell
how he had found the companion and friend of his childhood dead at his
post, and his mother said that she would willingly surrender the money,
that had been nothing but a source of trouble to her ever since she
drew it from the bank, if by so doing she could bring Bose back to life
What bothers me quite as much as his death is the thought that I
wanted to hurt him because he did not awaken me, said Marcy. And one
thing I should like to have explained is how those masked men happened
to be on the watch on this particular night, and get here as they did
just in the nick of time. I tell you, mother, I was glad to see the
chandelier knock that villain endways, and if I could have snatched the
weapon the robber captain had in his hand, I would have made a
scattering among them.
I don't suppose you have any idea who the robbers were?
I am sure I never saw one of them before. I didn't pay much
attention to their voices, for I knew they would not betray themselves
by talking in their natural tones, but I took notice of the way they
acted and carried themselves, and was obliged to put them down as
strangers. They do not belong about here.
Marcy, you frighten me! cried Mrs. Gray. You surely do not wish
me to think that some of our neighbors brought them here to rob us?
That is what I think myself, and there is no use in denying it.
Didn't Shelby and Beardsley take particular pains to tell us that they
would be away from home to-night? Hallo, there! exclaimed Marcy, who
just then caught sight of the boy Julius standing in a remote corner,
pulling his under lip and gazing ruefully at the ruins of the
chandelier. What do you mean by keeping so quiet when you know that I
want to have some serious talk with you? Come here, sir.
Julius had learned by experience that when he was addressed in this
style he was to be taken to task for something, probably for lying or
stealing. He could not remember that he had been guilty of telling lies
very lately, but as for picking up things he had no business to touch
that was a different matter. When Julius was certain that he knew what
the offence was for which he was to be reprimanded, he always tried to
make it lighter by offering some sort of a confession; and he did so in
I know I aint going steal it, Marse Marcy, he began, putting his
hand into his pocket. I jes want look at it and den I going give it
So you've got it, have you? said Marcy, who had not the slightest
idea what the black boy meant. I knew I'd find it out sooner or later.
Give it to me, sir!
The boy took his hand out of his pocket and placed in Marcy's
extended palm a bright, new fifty-dollar gold piece. Mother and son
looked at each other in silent amazement, both being startled by the
same suspicion. Cautious as he thought he had been, Marcy had not
succeeded in removing the money from the cellar to a new hiding-place
without being seen. Julius knew all about it.
What for dey make all dem sharp corners on dar? asked the boy,
pointing to the gold piece. What for dey don't make 'em roun' like all
Where are the rest? demanded Marcy. Hand them out.
Julius obeyed, but this time he produced a twenty-dollar piece.
Go on. Pull out some more, said Marcy.
Dat's all, replied the boy. When de bag bus' you and ole Morris
pick up all but two, and dere dey is.
Marcy remembered now, although he might never have thought of it
again, how startled he was when one of the little bags in which his
mother's treasure was packed became untied in his hand, and the gold
pieces rattled down upon the hard floor of the cellar. The coachman,
who was working with him, was prompt to extinguish the lantern, while
Marcy alternately groped for the money and sat up on his knees and
listened for the sound of footsteps on the floor overhead. It seemed to
him that all in the house ought to have been aroused by the racket, but
when he became satisfied that such was not the case, the lantern was
again lighted and the work went on. He thought he had picked up all the
pieces, but it seemed he hadn't. And where was the boy Julius when this
happened? That was a point that could be cleared up at some future
time; but just now Marcy wanted to talk about something else.
Where were you when those robbers came into the house? he
inquired. Were you in bed!
Oh, no, sar; I wasn't in bed, replied Julius.
Where were you?
I was out dar, said the boy, giving his head a circular nod, so as
to include nearly all the points of the compass at once.
Jest out dar in de bresh.
Julius, said Marcy, getting upon his feet, are you going to
answer me or not?
Oh, yes sar, exclaimed the boy, backing off a step or two. I
going answer ebery question you ax me. I was jest out in de gyarden.
What were you doing out there at that time of night?
Did you see the robbers come into the house?
Yes, sar; I done seed 'em come in.
Then what did you do?
I jest went 'round out dar.
And did you see those other masked men, who came in and rescued us
from the power of the robbers?
Yes, sar, I seed dem too, replied Julius, becoming interested.
And I done tol' 'em to come in quick.
Did you know they were out there in the garden?
Yes, sar; I knowed it.
Who told you they were there?
Julius, said Marcy sternly, I am going to know all about this. I
shall give you no peace until you answer every one of my questions, and
I shall begin by putting a grubbing-hoe into your hands at daylight in
the morning. Have you any more money in your pockets?
No, sar; I gib you de lastest I got.
Then hurry off to bed and be ready to go to work when I call you.
Well, sar, Marse Marcy, said the boy, plunging his hands into his
pockets and swinging himself about the room as if he was in no
particular hurry to go to bed, if you wuk Julius till he plum dead you
can't make him tell what he don't know.
At this juncture a new actor appeared upon the scene. It was old
Morris, who had been in the hall for the last five minutes, waiting as
patiently as he could for Julius to give him an opportunity to speak to
Marcy and his mother in private. His patience was pretty well exhausted
by this time, and when he saw that Julius had no intention of going
away until he got ready, the coachman stepped into the room.
See here, niggah, he began, and that was enough. Julius knew the
old man, and when the latter pointed to the door he lost no time in
going out of it. Morris followed him to the end of the hall and closed
and locked that door behind him, and then came back to the
sitting-room. He was badly frightened, and so excited that he hardly
knew what he was doing, but he was laughing all over.
How is you, missus? said he, as he shut the door and backed up
Morris, exclaimed Mrs. Gray, do you know who the robbers were?
No, missus, I don't; but I does know that they don't 'long around
in dis part of the country. That Cap'n Beardsley, he brung 'em up from
Do you know what you are saying? demanded Marcy. Who told you
that improbable story?
G'long now, honey, answered Morris good-naturedly. Mebbe de
niggahs all fools, but they know a heap. Marse Marcy, dat gal Nance
didn't tell no lie when she say how that Allison and Goodwin boy come
to Miss Brown's house and talk about de money, did she? And she didn't
say no lie nudder when she tol' me that these men coming up here some
night to get that money, did she? Aint they done been here dis night?
What for the cap'n and all the rest of dem white trash gone to the
Island this night? Kase they don't want to be here when the thing
Did you know that the robbers were to come here to-night?
No, sar, Marse Marcy. I didn't know that. I know they was coming
Well, some one must have known that they had made up their minds to
come to-night and told the Union men to be on the watch for them, said
That's a fac', assented Morris.
Who was it?
II don't know, sar; 'fore the Lawd
Morris! said Mrs. Gray reproachfully.
Yes, missus; I does know, but I don't want to tell.
That is more like it, said Marcy. What is the reason you don't
want to tell?
Kase I don't want to get nobody in trouble with Cap'n Beardsley,
replied the coachman; and he might as well have told the full
particulars, for Marcy and his mother knew that they had one of the
captain's own servants to thank for their rescue.
And does Julius know all these things?
Ye-yes, sar, exclaimed Morris, becoming so angry that he could not
talk half as fast as he wanted to. Dat niggah all the time snooping
around, and you nebber know when he aint hear all you saying.
He knows that you and I removed that money, said Marcy. He was
somewhere about when that bag became untied, and here are two pieces
that he picked up after we left the cellar.
Old Morris was profoundly astonished. He leaned heavily against the
door, and gazed at the glittering coins in Marcy's hand as if he had
been deprived of the power of speech.
CHAPTER VII. MARCY SPEAKS HIS MIND.
Julius also knew that those Union menI don't know any other name
to give to those who turned the tables on the robberswere out there
in the garden, and he told them to hurry up, continued Marcy. Now,
where were you at the time?
Marse Marcy, said Morris, recovering himself with an effort, you
had best sell that niggah, kase if you don't Ise bound to kill him.
You will be careful not to touch him, said Mrs. Gray. It is not
your place to discipline any one.
But, missus, you don't know that niggah, began Morris.
We know that he was brave enough to send those men to our rescue,
while you were too badly frightened to do anything to help us, said
I couldn't be two places, protested Morris. I was in the stable
looking out for the hosses. There's whar I belong.
Did you see them when they took their prisoners away? And was that
poor fellow who was knocked down by the chandelier very badly injured?
inquired Mrs. Gray.
Pore fellow! repeated the coachman. No, he wasn't bad hurt. They
jest chuck him in the hoss trough and he come back to his right mind
I hope they did not abuse him?
No, missus; dey didn't 'buse him at all. They jest say 'Come along
here! We fix you.' And that's all they done.
And you did not see what became of him and the others?
Morris replied that he watched the rescuers and their prisoners from
the stable door until they disappeared in the darkness, and that was
all he knew about them. And we may add that that was all any one in
that house ever knew about them. Although Marcy Gray afterward became
acquainted with all the men who had taken an active part in this
night's work, and daily mingled with them, he never learned what they
did with their captives. Indeed he never inquired, for he was afraid
that he might hear something unpleasant if he did.
If you have told all you have on your mind you can go back to bed,
said Marcy, after a little pause.
That's all, answered Morris. I wish you a very good evening,
saryou and the missus. And he passed into the hall, closing the door
behind him. Marcy waited until he heard the outer door shut, and then
he walked over and took a look at the fallen chandelier.
Wouldn't Beardsley be hopping if he knew that one of his own
negroes had upset his plans? said he. I really believe he would be
the death of that girl Nancy. Julius is wide awake, but I do wish he
would not keep so much to himself, and that I could place more
dependence on what he says.
But you do not mean to put him to work? said his mother.
Oh, no; and the rascal knows it. He would not stay in the field two
minutes without some one to watch him, and he is of use about the
house. Now, go and get some sleep, mother, and I will see that things
Once more Marcy made the rounds of the building, and this time he
did not find things just as they ought to be. He found how the robbers
had effected an entrance. They had cut a hole through the side door so
that they could reach in and turn the key in the lock and draw back the
bolt. Probably Morris was hiding in the stable when they did it, too
badly frightened to give the alarm; but the robbers would not have done
their work entirely undisturbed if Bose had not been dead on his mat
around the corner.
If Morris and Julius knew this thing was going to happen, I do not
understand why they did not warn us, said Mrs. Gray, when Marcy came
back to the sitting-room.
Because they are darkies, and darkies never do what they ought,
answered Marcy. They did not want us to be frightened until the time
came, and so they stayed awake and watched while we slept. Good-night.
When Marcy went up to his room he took his pillows from the floor,
and put them on the bed where they belonged. He pushed his revolvers
under them, smiling grimly when he thought of the little use they had
been to him when their services were really needed, turned down the
lamp, and was about to throw himself upon his couch, without removing
his clothes, when he heard something that had startled him once
beforethe noise made by a pebble striking against his window. That
was the way in which Sailor Jack attracted his attention on the night
he came up from Newbern, after piloting that Northern blockade runner
safely into port; but who could this person be? The dread of danger,
that was uppermost in his mind when he stepped to the window and opened
it, gave way to indignation when he looked out and saw the boy Julius
standing on the ground below.
Look here, you imp of darkness, he exclaimed.
Hursh, honey, hursh! said Julius, in an excited whisper. Go fru
de hall, and look out de oder side.
What's out there? asked Marcy, in the same low whisper.
Nuffin. But you go and look.
Marcy put down the window and went, knowing that it would be a waste
of time to question such a fellow as Julius. When he stepped into the
hall he was alarmed to see that it was lighted up so brightly by a
glare which came through the wide, high window at the other end that he
could distinguish the figures on the wall-paper. He reached the window
in two jumps, stood there about two seconds looking toward two
different points of the compass, and then faced about, and ran down the
Mother, mother! he exclaimed, as he rapped on her bedroom door.
Get up and tell me what to do. Here's the mischief to pay. Beardsley's
house is in flames.
O Marcy! was all Mrs. Gray could say in reply.
Yes. And there's a little blaze just beginning to show above the
trees in the direction of Colonel Shelby's, continued Marcy.
This is a dreadful state of affairs, said his mother.
I believe you; but Aleck Webster told the truth, and those Union
men are bricks. Jack will be tickled to death when he hears of it.
I hope he isn't heathen enough to rejoice over any one's
misfortune. But how can I tell you what to do? What do you want to do?
I want to know if you will be afraid to remain here with the girls
while I run over there, answered Marcy.
Certainly not. Take every one on the place, and save what you can.
But, Marcy, you cannot do any work with only one hand.
No matter. I can show my good will. I don't expect to have a chance
to save anything. The house has been burning so long that the roof is
about ready to tumble in. Good-by.
Marcy buttoned his coat to keep it from falling off as he ran,
caught his cap from the rack as he hurried through the hall, and opened
the front door to find Julius waiting for him at the foot of the steps.
Wake up everybody! commanded Marcy. Tell the girls to go into the
house to keep their mistress company, and bring the men over to the
fire. Hurry up, now!
Marcy ran on in the direction of the gate, and, as soon as he was
out of sight, Julius whirled around and seated himself on the lower
step. He sat there about five minutes, and then rose and sauntered off
toward the road.
What for I want wake up everybody? said he to himself. I jes aint
going take no men ober to de fire to holp save de cap'n's things, when
de cap'n done sick de robbers on us. Luf him take keer on he own
things; dat's what I say.
Marcy was right when he told his mother that he would not be in
season to assist in saving the captain's property. The roof of the
house fell in about the time he reached the road, and when he ran into
the yard he could do no more than follow the example of Beardsley's
frightened household, and stand by and look on while the fire burned
itself out. He caught one glimpse of the captain's grown-up daughter
standing beside the few things that had been saved, but she straightway
hid herself among the negroes, and gave him no opportunity to speak to
her. He looked toward Colonel Shelby's plantation, and saw that his
house, too, was so far gone that there was no possible chance of saving
it. This was the important thing that Captain Beardsley forgot, and of
which we spoke a short time ago. He forgot the band to which Aleck
Webster belonged, or perhaps he would have contrived some way to make
them believe that the man Kelsey, and not himself, was to blame for the
raid that had that night been made upon Mrs. Gray's house.
Aleck and his friends must have had the strongest kind of evidence,
or they never would have done such work as this, thought Marcy, as he
turned his steps homeward after satisfying himself that there was
nothing he could do at the fire. I wish I knew what that evidence is,
and how all this is going to end. I wish from the bottom of my heart
that the fanatics who are responsible for this state of affairs could
be in my place for a few days.
I hope you asked the captain's daughter to come over here, said
Mrs. Gray, when her son entered the room in which she was sitting.
Well, I didn't, was the reply. I meant to, but she didn't give me
a chance to say a word to her. Let her go and bunk with Mrs. Brown, and
then there will be two congenial spirits together.
By this time it was getting well on toward morning, and sleep being
quite out of the question, Marcy and his mother sat up and talked until
breakfast was announced. The burden of their conversation, and the
inquiry which they propounded to each other in various forms, was: What
should they say to their neighbors regarding the events of the night?
Should they tell the story of the attempted robbery, when questioned
about it, or not? There were many living in the settlement who had not
been taken into Beardsley's confidence, who did not know that the Union
men were banded together for mutual protection, and some of them were
Confederate soldiers; and what would these be likely to do if they
learned that there was a little civil war in progress among their
neighbors? The situation was an embarrassing one, and Marcy and his
mother did not know how to manage it.
I am a-going to trust to luck to help me out, said the boy, who
had been gazing steadily into his cup of coffee as if he there hoped to
find an answer to the question that had been under discussion for the
last two hours. I don't believe there will be anything done, one way
or the other, until the battle that is going to be fought at Roanoke
Island is decided.
Why, Marcy? said Mrs. Gray, in surprise. What direct influence
can a great battle have on our private affairs?
I thought you wouldn't fall in with my notions, but I think I am
right, replied Marcy. If the rebels win, look out for breakers. This
part of the State will be overrun with soldiers, who will shoot or
drive out every one who is suspected of being friendly to the old flag,
and such fellows as Beardsley and Shelby and Allison will be out in
full force to hie them on. If the Federals win, as I hope they may, and
occupy the Island and Plymouth and other points about here, our
stay-at-home rebels will crawl into their holes, and you will not hear
a cheep from them.
But all that is in the future, said Mrs. Gray.
And what we want to know is how to conduct ourselves to-day, added
Marcy. I know that, and, as I said before. I am going to trust to
luck. I can tell better what to say after I have mingled for a few
minutes with the crowd I shall meet at the post-office.
Do any of the Union men ever go there? inquired Mrs. Gray.
I have seen Webster there once or twice, but as to the rest, I
cannot say; for I do not know them.
I shouldn't think they would go there for fear of being arrested.
Who is there to arrest them?
I don't know; but I suppose the postmaster could bring a squad of
soldiers from Plymouth, could he not?
Yes, but he would have to bring another squad to watch his house
and store after the one that made the arrest went away, answered
Marcy. If the Nashville people attempt to manage this thing
themselves, I am afraid their town will go up in smoke.
Going to the post-office, on this particular morning, was one of the
hardest tasks the boy had ever set for himself. He wished he could hit
upon some good excuse for sending Morris in his place, and indeed the
old fellow offered to go when he brought up Marcy's horse, adding:
I'm jubus that they will ask you a heap of questions that you won't
want to answer. They won't say nothing to Morris, kase a pore niggah
never knows nothing.
I've got to face them some time, and it might as well be to-day as
next week, replied Marcy, slipping into the coachman's hand one of the
gold pieces that Julius had given him the night before. Let Julius
entirely alone, and the next time you hear of any plans being laid
against us, don't keep us in ignorance. Come to us at once, so that we
may know what we have to expect.
Thank you kindly, sar, said Morris, taking off his hat. I'll bear
that in mind; but you see, Marse Marcy, I didn't want for to pester you
and your maw. I was on the watch.
But you were frightened to death, and that little imp Julius was
the one who helped us, thought Marcy, as he swung himself into the
saddle, with the coachman's assistance, and rode away. Well, I was
frightened myself, but I couldn't run and hide.
When Marcy came to Beardsley's gate, he thought it would be a
neighborly act for him to ride in and ask if there was anything he
could do for the captain's daughter; but she was not to be seen. Marcy
afterward learned that she had taken up her abode with Mrs. Brown, with
whom she intended to remain until her father could come home and make
other arrangements for her comfort. There were a few negroes sauntering
around in the neighborhood of the smoking ruins, and among them was the
girl Nancy, who looked at him now and then with an expression on her
face that would have endangered her life if her master could have seen
and understood it. The boy was glad to turn about and ride away from
the scene, for it was one that had a depressing effect upon him.
Beardsley brought it upon his own head, was what he told himself
over and over again, but without finding any consolation in the
thought. It is bound to make him worse than he was beforeit would
make me worse if I were in his placeand nobody knows what he will
spring on us next.
As Marcy had expected, his arrival at the hitching-rack in front of
the post-office was the signal for which Tom Allison, Mark Goodwin, and
a few others like them had been waiting. They opened the door and ran
across the street in a body, highly excited of course, and all talking
What happened out your way last night? was the first question he
Fire, was the reply. Didn't you see it?
You're right, I did, said Tom.
Then why didn't you come out? inquired Marcy. I didn't see you or
any other white man about there.
I'll bet you didn't, exclaimed Goodwin. When two houses owned by
prominent men, and standing a mile and a half apart, get on fire almost
at the same moment in the dead hour of night
And while their owners are absent from home, chimed in Tom.
And while their owners are away from home on business, added Mark,
it means something, doesn't it? We stayed pretty close about our
hearth-stones, I bet you, for we didn't know how soon our own buildings
might get a-going. Where were you when it happened?
I was at home, where you were, replied Marcy.
And wasn't your house set too?
Marcy said it was not; or if it was he hadn't found it out.
That's mighty strange, remarked one of the group who had not
What is strange? demanded Marcy. Explain yourself.
Why, if there was a band of marauders about, as every one seems to
think, said the boy
Well, there was, interrupted Marcy. They came to our house, and
made preparations to hang me up by the neck, when the
Oh, get out! exclaimed Allison and Goodwin in concert.
Marcy had pushed his hat on the back of his head and squared himself
to tell the story of his adventure; but when these words fell upon his
ear, he put his hands into his pockets and started for the post-office.
Hold on, cried Tom, catching at his arm. Don't go off that way.
Tell us all about it.
I will, if you will ride home with me so that I can prove my
story, said Marcy. When you see the chandelier that was pulled out of
its place in the ceiling by the rope
Were you hanging to the rope when it pulled out? exclaimed the
No. If I had been I would have a broken head now. One of the
robbers put his weight upon the rope to see if it would hold me up,
when the thing came down on his head and knocked him senseless.
Well now, I am beat! Did they go off without getting any money?
inquired Tom, who would not have asked the question if he had been in a
They certainly did. They never took a cent.
And they didn't fire your house afterward?
Not that we know of. Our house is standing this morning.
Who were the robbers?
That's a conundrum to give up, replied Marcy. All I know is that
they were white men who had made a bungling attempt to disguise
themselves as negroes; but they did not put black enough on their hands
Tom Allison looked at his friend Mark, and when he moved away Mark
followed him. As soon as they were beyond ear-shot of the rest of the
group, Tom said:
Let's shake those fellows, and wait for a chance to speak to Marcy
alone. What do you think you make of the situation just as it stands?
I don't make anything of it, answered Mark. I can't see through
it, and I don't believe Marcy told the truth.
I do. In the first place he is not given to lying, and besides he
asked us to go home with him. He wouldn't have done that if he had been
telling us a funny story. I believe Beardsley sent those robbers to
Mrs. Gray's house and then took himself off so that he could say he
wasn't at home when the robbery was committed, just as Marcy and Jack
could say they were not at home when their overseer was abducted.
There may be something in that, said Mark reflectively. But the
captain made a mighty poor selection when he took men who permitted
themselves to be scared away by the breaking down of a chandelier. A
brave lot of fellows they were.
But perhaps that wasn't what frightened them away, said Tom. How
do you account for the burning of Beardsley's house and Shelby's, while
Gray's was allowed to stand?
I don't account for it. It is quite beyond me.
You don't think those robbers set the buildings on fire?
It isn't likely, when they were in Beardsley's employ. Still they
might have done it to revenge themselves for the loss of the money they
expected to find in Mrs. Gray's house.
They might, but I don't believe they did. Have you forgotten what
was in the letter Beardsley received while he was in Newbern?
By gracious, Tom! You don't think
Yes, I do. They said they would jump on him if he didn't stop
persecuting Union people, and they have done it. The men who wrote that
letter were the men who burned those houses.
Tom, you frighten me. I'll tell you what's a fact, old fellow: You
and I made a big mistake in calling on that old gossip Mrs. Brown. We
didn't get a thing out of her beyond what we knew when we went there,
and I'm going to keep clear of that shanty of hers in future. It may be
your father's turn next, or mine.
That is what I am afraid of, said Tom honestly. And that is the
reason I want to hang around and see Marcy aloneto ask if he saw
anything of those Union men last night.
Marcy remained in the post-office for nearly half an hour, for he
was surrounded by an excited and anxious group there, and plied with
the same questions he had been called on to answer outside; but about
the time that Allison and his companion were becoming so impatient that
they were on the point of going in after him, he came out with his mail
in his hand, and, what was a comfort to them, he came alone.
Are you two going to ride out with me? said Marcy, when he reached
the hitching-rack, where they were waiting for him.
We may go out some day, but not for proof, replied Tom. What
would be the use, when we know that you told us nothing but the truth?
But, Marcy, you don't mean to say that those robbers were frightened
from their work by the simple breaking down of the chandelier?
Oh, no; they had better reasons than that for letting us alone,
replied the boy, who knew that he might as well tell the whole story
himself as to leave them to hear it from somebody else. A moment or so
after the chandelier came down on the head of one of the robbers, a
party of armed and masked men came into the room and rescued us.
It was right in the point of Tom Allison's tongue to say to Mark,
Didn't I tell you so? but he caught his breath in time, and tried to
look surprised. Who were they? he managed to ask.
Didn't I say they were all masked? inquired Marcy.
Well, they said something, didn't they.
They spoke about half a dozen words.
And didn't you recognize their voices?
I did not. Let Mark put his handkerchief over his mouth and speak
to you, and see if you can recognize his voice.
But haven't you an idea who they were?
You know as much about them as I do, answered Marcy; and he knew
by the expression of astonishment that came upon Tom's face that he had
hit the nail squarely on the head.
How do you explain the burning of those two houses? inquired Mark.
In the same way that I explain the raid that was made upon our
house. The men who were responsible for one were responsible for the
You don't mean to say that the robbers did it! exclaimed Tom.
I mean to say that they were the cause of it. If you won't ride
with me I shall have to say good-by.
What do you think now? asked Tom, as he and Mark stood watching
Marcy's filly spatter the mud along the road.
I hate to say what I think, was Mark's reply. I'm sorry to say
it, but it is a fact that that villain holds every dollar's worth of
property in this county between his thumb and finger.
Well, he shall not hold it there forty-eight hours longer, said
How are you going to help it?
By writing a note to the commanding officers at Plymouth and
Roanoke, and telling them what sort of a fix we are in, replied Tom.
Don't you do it! cried Mark. Don't think of it, for if you do you
will see worse times here than you ever dreamed of. If you are not
hanged to one of the trees on the common you will be driven out of the
Wait a few minutes, and we will tell you whether or not Mark Goodwin
had reason to be frightened at Tom's reckless words.
CHAPTER VIII. THE ARRIVAL OF THE
Marcy Gray had passed through the ordeal he so much dreaded, and was
as well satisfied with the way he had come out of it as he had hoped to
be. Of one thing he was certain: every person to whom he had spoken
that morning was suspicious of him, but that was no more than he
expected. Some people in Nashville believed that he had not only
instigated but ordered the destruction of Beardsley's house and
Shelby's, and that he could in like manner command the burning of any
house in the settlement if he felt like it, and that was what he
thought they would believe. He knew it wasn't so, and it troubled and
vexed him to have such things laid to his charge; but how could he help
it, and what single thing had he done to bring it about?
Heaven knows I wish they would let us alone, was what Marcy said
to himself as he galloped along the road, but I'll not stand by and
see my mother worried and tormented without doing something to stop it;
and if Beardsley or Shelby or anybody else tries it on, I will have him
punished for it if I can.
Just then a low but shrill whistle, sounding from the woods which
came down close to the road on the left hand, attracted Marcy's
attention and caused him to draw rein gradually and bring his horse to
a stand-still. He pulled a paper from his pocket, and while pretending
to read, looked sideways toward the woods, and saw Aleck Webster making
his way up through the bushes. You will remember that these two once
held a short private interview at this very spot.
Good-morning, sir, was Aleck's greeting. We didn't like to break
up your night's rest, but I suppose we did.
You may safely say that, answered Marcy. We never slept a wink,
or even tried to, after we saw that Beardsley's house was on fire. My
mother and I are sorry you did that. After you had rescued us, why
couldn't you go away satisfied?
And let the same thing happen again? exclaimed Aleck. I suppose
you know that Beardsley was to blame for the robbers coming to your
We don't know it, but we think so, replied Marcy.
We had as strong evidence as we needed that he meant to do that
very thing, and when he was ready to spring his plans, he found us
waiting for him. Perhaps you don't know it, but your house has been
watched every night for a week past.
I wish I could find words to thank you, began Marcy.
Belay that, if you please, sir, said Aleck hastily. We are
helping ourselves while we are looking out for you. You are Mr. Jack
Gray's brother, and that is enough for me to know. Our letter brought
the cap'n home in a tolerable hurry, and ought to have been a warning
to him to keep still after he got here. Perhaps he will see now that we
meant what we said to him.
I certainly hope he will, for I don't want to see any more of his
buildings destroyed. I suppose you had reason to connect Colonel Shelby
with Beardsley's schemes?
You're right, we did. He was knowing to them and didn't try to stop
them, and so we thought we'd best tell him not to go too far. They
thought, if they left home for a spell, we would not blame them, but we
were onto them all the same. They can't make a move or do a thing that
we don't know it.
Marcy wanted much to ask what means Aleck and his friends used to
keep themselves so well informed; who those friends were and how many
there were of them; but on second thought he decided that the best
thing he could do would be to listen and say nothing. He would have
been glad to know what had been done with the four prisoners the
rescuing party carried away with them; but as Aleck did not once refer
to them, Marcy contented himself with asking about the wounded one.
Was the man who was knocked down very much hurt? said he.
Oh, no. He came around all right in a few minutes, answered Aleck;
and then, as if to show Marcy that he did not intend to say more on
that subject, he hastened to add, My object in stopping you was to
inquire if you are satisfied with the way I have kept the promise I
made Mr. Jack. I told him I would always stand his friend, and yours.
You don't often get letters from him, I suppose?
Not often, replied Marcy, with a smile. The mail does not run
regularly between our house and the Yankee fleet.
No, I reckon not; but if you get a chance to write to him, tell him
what I have told you.
Look here, Aleck, said Marcy suddenly. Do the members of your
band ever hang about the post-office? I know I have seen you there a
Of course; and you will, no doubt, see me there again. We have to
go among people to keep suspicion away from us.
That's what I thought, continued Marcy. Now, are you not afraid
that some one will bring soldiers there to make prisoners of you?
No, I don't think they will, said Aleck indifferently. If the
soldiers should come, there are men in that town who would run so fast
to meet and send them back, that you couldn't see them for the mud they
would kick up in the road.
You mean that they would not permit the soldiers to molest you?
They wouldn't, if they could help it, for they know their town
would be destroyed if they did, replied Aleck; and Marcy was
frightened by the spiteful emphasis he threw into his words. They will
be sorry enough, before we are done with them, that they ever tried to
break up this government. We want peace and quiet, and we're going to
have 'em, if we have to hang every rebel in the country.
This was what we meant when we said, at the close of the last
chapter, that we should soon see whether or not Mark Goodwin had reason
to be alarmed by Tom Allison's reckless proposition. It seemed that
every contingency had been thought of and provided for by the
long-headed Union men who held secret meetings in the swamp, and that,
if Allison possessed ordinary common sense, he would not say a word to
the commanding officers at Plymouth and Roanoke regarding the situation
in and around Nashville. Marcy did not like to hear the stalwart young
sailor talk in this savage strain, so he switched him off on another
track, by saying:
I want to ask one other question before I forget it: Were you the
man who nodded to me last night, when you and your friends came in, and
saved me from a choking?
I reckon so; and I was the one who got your revolvers back for you.
They didn't do you much good, did they? That little nig of yours is as
sharp as they make 'em. Didn't he tell you who we were?
He gave us to understand that he didn't know.
That was all right. It shows that he can be trusted to keep his
mouth shut. But, I am afraid, if we don't quit talking, somebody will
ask you what you found in your paper that was so mighty interesting; so
good-by. Don't be alarmed on account of Beardsley and the rest. I have
a notion that the fear of punishment will make them let you and every
other Union man about here alone after this.
Aleck disappeared among the bushes, and Marcy rode on with his eyes
still fixed upon his newspaper; but he did not see a word in it. He was
thinking of the Union men, who had showed themselves brave enough to
punish their enemies almost under the noses of two strong Confederate
They are a desperate lot, whoever they are, was his mental
reflection, and I would rather have them on my side than against me.
What will be the next thing on the programme?
There was not much work accomplished on the plantation that day, for
the excited negroes, some of whom did not know a thing about the raid
of the previous night until it was over, had too much talking to do
among themselves, and with Morris and Julius, who held their heads high
and threw on airs because they had been prominent actors in the
thrilling scenes that took place in Mrs. Gray's sitting-room. Julius
thought himself of so much consequence that it was all Marcy could do
to persuade him to give the dead Bose a decent burial, and then he was
obliged to go with him to see that the task was well done. But he was
not as impatient with the black boy as he would have been if Aleck
Webster had not spoken so well of him. They had visitors, too; and
Marcy knew that their object in coming was not to sympathize with his
mother and denounce the outrage as they called it, but to gain her
good will if they could. As Marcy bluntly expressed itThey would not
come near us if they thought we were friendless and helpless, but they
know we are not, and so they want to get on our blind side. They
fairly gushed over the Confederate flag that was hung upon the wall
of the sitting-room, but when they went away they told one another that
that banner did not express Mrs. Gray's honest sentiments, and that it
would not protect her or her property for one minute if the Richmond
authorities would only yield to the importunities of General Wise, and
send a strong force to occupy Roanoke Island and the surrounding
country. If that time ever came, the general's attention should be
called to the fact that one of the sons of that house was a sailor in
the Yankee navy.
After another almost sleepless night Marcy Gray rode again to the
post-office, to find there the same talkative, indignant, do-nothing
crowd he had long been accustomed to meet at mail time. This morning,
if such a thing were possible, they were more excited and angry than
they had been the day before; but they did not fail to meet Marcy at
the hitching-rack, or to talk to him as though they looked upon him as
one of themselves. He noticed that they all held papers in their hands.
This thing is going to be stopped now, I bet you, said Mark
Goodwin, who was the first to speak.
Do you mean the war? inquired Marcy. If you do, I am heartily
glad to hear the news.
I mean the war right around here, answered Mark. It's got into
the Newbern papers, and they are giving us fits on account of it. They
say it serves us just right.
Why, having our houses burned andand all that.
Do they say anything about robbery? asked Marcy. Or about
threatening to pull a law-abiding boy up by the neck because he does
not happen to have a pocketful of money with him?
No, replied Mark, rather indignantly; and then, seeing by the
curious smile on Marcy's face that he had spoken too quickly, he added,
I suppose of course that they do say something about that outrage, but
I can't tell for certain, for I have only had time to read what my
papers say concerning the burning of Beardsley's house and Shelby's.
Probably they don't refer to the way those four villains conducted
themselves in my mother's house, said Marcy, in a tone of contempt.
It's altogether too insignificant a thing to have travelled as far as
the city of Newbern.
It isn't, either! exclaimed Tom Allison, glaring savagely at
Marcy. Nothing is too insignificant to attract attention these times.
My paper saysbut there it is. Read it for yourself.
Thank you; I can't stop, answered Marcy, moving toward the office.
I'll get my own, and read it on the way home.
Contrary to his expectations he did not find a very belligerent
crowd in there. The space between the counters was filled with men, and
they were all talking at once; but they had learned wisdom by past
experience, and however much they might have desired to threaten
somebody, they were careful not to do it. They denounced Yankees and
their sympathizers in a general way, and declared that it was a
cowardly piece of business to burn houses while their owners were
absent, but they did not mention any names. Marcy loitered about until
he found that he was not going to hear anything more than he had heard
a score of times before, and then mounted his horse and set out for
home. Dropping the reins upon his filly's neck and allowing her to
choose her own gait, he drew his Newbern paper from his pocket, and
began looking for the article of which Mark Goodwin had spoken. He
could not run amiss of it, for the black headlines were too prominent.
They took up more than half the column, and after Marcy had run his eye
over a few of the leading ones, he had a very good idea of the article
itself. He read: A Reign of Terror.Civil War Inaugurated in a
Sovereign State. Cowardly Citizens Who Allow a Handful of Traitors to
Work their Sweet Will of Them.Armed and Masked Incendiaries Abroad at
There now! exclaimed Marcy, when he read the last line. That is
as good proof as I want that the man who wrote this knew the whole
story. Mother and I were the only white persons who saw those men, and
nobody would have known that they were armed and masked if I hadn't
said so. I'll bet you the paper doesn't say a word concerning the
'cowardly citizen' who sent those robbers to our house.
Swallowing his indignation as well as he could, Marcy turned his
attention to the article, which ran as follows:
We have learned, from what we think to be reliable sources,
that a reign of terror exists in certain portions of this
Commonwealth that is a burning shame and a disgrace to the
cowards who permit it. They claim to be loyal Southern
gentlemen up there, but they will have to furnish better
proof than they have thus far given before we will believe
it. When the gallant Wise was placed in command of this
district in December last, Secretary Benjamin desired him to
bring his legion up to 10,000 strong by recruiting in North
Carolina. There was reason for this order, and for anxiety
regarding Roanoke and adjacent points, because as early as
September, 1861, General McClellan requested the Yankee
Secretary of War 'to organize two brigades of five regiments
each of New England men, for the general service, but
particularly adapted to coast service.' That means that he
intended to turn a horde of red-hot abolitionists and
nigger-lovers loose upon our almost defenceless shores. Wise
saw and realized the danger, tried hard to obey Secretary
Benjamin's order, and failed; and now we know the reason
why. How could he make brave soldiers out of men who will
permit armed and masked traitors to ride about their county
of nights, wreaking vengeance upon those who are so
unfortunate as to incur their displeasure? While we deeply
sympathize with Messrs. Shelby and Beardsley, whose
dwellings were burned last night, and wish that the
incendiaries might have chosen some less out-spoken and
liberal citizens as their victims, we are constrained to say
that the lesson that community has received is well
deserved. Now let them arouse and stamp this lawlessness out
with an iron heel; and let us warn those Union men in the
same breath, and all others who feel disposed to follow in
their lead, that their day will be a short one. They will
not be driven from the country they will be hunted down like
dogs, and hanged to the nearest tree. They will not be shot.
That is the death the loyal soldier dies, but we save the
rope for traitors.
The editor's pen was so mad it stuttered when it wrote this
rambling article, thought Marcy. It couldn't talk straight. If he
owned about fifty thousand dollars' worth of houses in these parts, he
would not write so glibly about hanging Union men. Now, let us see what
sort of language he used in denouncing the raid that was made upon our
He looked the paper through without finding any reference to it, but
that was no more than he expected. The outrages of every description
that were perpetrated upon Union people during the days of the war, by
loyal Southern gentlemen, were of so common occurrence, and of so
little consequence besides, that they were never mentioned in the
newspapers. The oft-expressed verdict was that Unionists had no rights
that any white man was bound to respect.
If our house had been burned and everybody in it hanged, this rebel
sheet would not have said a word against it. thought Marcy, shoving
the paper into his pocket and starting up his horse. Mark Goodwin says
that these things have got to be stopped now, which means that
Beardsley and Shelby will set something else afoot as soon as they
return from the Island. Now, let us see what it will be. Shall I show
this paper to mother, or not?
This was the question that Marcy pondered during his ride, and the
conclusion he came to was that his mother had as much right to know the
worst as he had to know it himself; so he handed out the paper as soon
as he reached home, and rode on to the field to see how his small force
was getting on with the work he had assigned it.
Then came several days of suspense that were hard to bear. Beardsley
and Shelby came home as soon as they heard of the loss they had
sustained, but what they had to say, and what they made up their minds
to do about it, never came to Marcy's ears. They did not take the
trouble to call upon Mrs. Gray. Evidently they did not think it worth
while, because she could not restore to them the property they had
lost; but others, who had roofs that they wanted to keep over their
heads, came every day or two, although they did not bring much news
that was worth hearing. About all Marcy learned was that Beardsley and
his companion had returned filled with martial ardor, that they were
working night and day to send recruits to Roanoke Island, although they
did not show any signs of going back there themselves. They declared
that the Island was as strong as Gibraltar, and if the Yankees were
foolish enough to send an expedition against it, there wouldn't be a
man of them left to tell the story of the fight; and they wanted all
the youngsters in the country to go there and enlist, so that they
could be able to say that they had assisted in winning the most
glorious victory of modern times. They were very enthusiastic
themselves, and they made some others so; but Marcy Gray, who kept a
close watch of all that went on in the settlement, did not see more
than a dozen young men and boys fall in in response to their earnest
It's a disgraceful state of affairs, said Tom Allison one morning,
when Marcy met him at the post-office. The Southern people deserve to
be whipped, they are so lacking in patriotism.
Did you ever think of going into the army yourself? inquired
I can't go, replied Tom. We have sent our overseer, and that is
as much as we can do at present. I wanted to enlist weeks ago, but
father said I must stay at home and help him manage the place.
Marcy found it hard to keep from laughing outright when Tom said
this. The latter had never done a day's work at overseeing or anything
else, and it is doubtful if he could have told whether or not a corn
furrow was laid off straight. He was too indolent to do anything but
eat, sleep, and ride about the country.
There are plenty around here who could go as well as not,
continued Tom, and I might go myself if I could only get a commission.
But I won't go as a private soldier.
Have you tried to get a commission? asked Marcy.
Tom replied that he had not. He did not know how to go about it, and
was not acquainted with any one who could tell him.
Then hunt up General Wise, and ask his advice, suggested Marcy.
He can, and no doubt will put you on the right track at once.
But Tom Allison was much too sharp to do a thing like that. He was
well aware that enlisted men had no love for cits who could go into
the army and wouldn't, and the promise of a colonel's commission would
not have induced him to go among them. He meant to remain at home and
let other and poorer men's sons do the fighting, and Marcy knew it all
The latter did not put much faith in the stories that Captain
Beardsley and Colonel Shelby had spread through the country, and when
his mother's negroes began coming home in companies of twos and threes,
he put still less faith in them. They were a sorry-looking lot, ragged
and dirty; and the first thing they asked for as they crowded about the
kitchen door was something to eat.
Oh, missus, don't eber luf dem rebels take we uns away agin, was
their constant plea. Dey 'buse us de wust you eber see. Dey whop us,
an' dey kick us, an' dey don't gib us half 'nough to eat. We all starve
to def. We been prayin' night an' day dat de Yankees may come an' shoot
dat place plum to pieces.
But the trouble is that the Yankees can't do it, said Marcy, as he
bustled about in search of bread and meat to satisfy the demands of the
hungry blacks. Captain Beardsley says the Island is too strong to be
The negroes confessed that they did not know much about military
matters, but they did know that there was much dissatisfaction among
the soldiers composing the garrison, many of whom declared that they
would make tracks for home as soon as their year was out, leaving the
Confederacy to gain its independence in any way it pleased. The
Richmond authorities would not help them, the people along the coast
were too cowardly or too lazy to shoulder a musket, and they were not
going to stay in the army and eat hard-tack while other able-bodied men
stayed at home and lived on the fat of the land. They would do their
duty until their term of enlistment expired, and then they would stand
aside and give somebody else a chance to fight the Yankees. That was
what a good many deluded and disappointed rebels thought and said about
this time; but those who have read Rodney, the Partisan, know how
very easy it was for the Confederate authorities to bring such
malcontents to their senses.
But at last the time came when at least one of these vexed questions
was to be solved by a trial at arms. While the scenes we have attempted
to describe were being enacted on shore, others, that were of no less
interest and importance to Marcy Gray and the people who lived in and
around Nashville, were transpiring on the water. On the 11th day of
January a formidable military and naval expedition, consisting of more
than a hundred gunboats, transports, and supply ships, set sail from
Fortress Monroe. Its object was to obtain possession of Roanoke Island,
which the Confederates had spent so much time and care in fortifying,
and which their General Wise called the key to all the rear defences
of Norfolk. Two days later the expedition arrived off Hatteras just as
a fierce northeast gale was springing up, and two days after that the
Newbern papers brought the encouraging news to Nashville. We say
encouraging, because there was not a man or boy in town who did not
honestly believe that those hundred vessels were doomed to certain and
swift destruction. As in the case of a former expedition, Tom Allison
was much afraid that the wind and the waves would do the work which the
gunners at Roanoke Island were anxious to do themselves.
Oh, don't I wish this wind would go down! was the way he greeted
Marcy on the morning on which the news of the arrival of the fleet
reached Nashville. Here we've gone and worked like beavers to fortify
the island, hoping and expecting to give the Yankees a Bull Run licking
there, and now Old Hatteras has taken the matter out of our hands, and
is pounding the expedition to pieces on the shoals. Half of the enemy's
tubs have gone to smash already, and the rest will go back as soon as
they can. Not one of them will ever cross the bar, I tell you.
For two weeks a furious gale raged along the coast, and, during that
time, Marcy Gray lived in a state of suspense that cannot be described.
He could not bring himself down to work, so he went to town twice each
day, and always came back to report the loss of another ship belonging
to the expedition.
Why, Marcy, if they keep on losing vessels at this rate, there will
not be any expedition left after a while, said his mother one day.
These reports are all false, declared Marcy. I tell them to you
because they are told to me, and not because I expect you to believe
them. Don't worry. Those ships are commanded by Yankees, and Yankees
are the best sailors in the world.
For a time it looked as though Tom Allison's prediction would be
verified; for it was only after fifteen days' struggle with the
elements, and the loss of four vessels, that Burnside and his naval
associate, Flag-officer Goldsborough, succeeded in passing through
Hatteras Inlet to the calmer waters of Pamlico Sound. It was an
exhibition of patient courage and skill on the part of the Union
officers and men that astonished everybody; and even Tom Allison was
willing to confess that things were getting serious. There was bound to
be a terrible battle at the Island, and the citizens of Nashville would
hear the guns. And if the Island should be captured, as Forts Hatteras
and Clark were captured, then what? The thought was terrifying to the
timid ones, who straightway hid their clothing, and began carrying the
contents of their cellars, smoke-houses, and corn-cribs into the woods,
as they had done when the news came that Butler and Stringham had
reduced the fortifications at the Inlet; but, on this occasion, Mrs.
Gray's neighbors were all so busy with their own affairs that they did
not have time to run over and find fault with her because she did not
A few days of inactivity followed, during which the fleet was
repairing the damages it had received during the storm, and then a hush
seemed to fall upon the whole nation as the news was flashed over it
that the final struggle for the possession of those waters was about to
begin. The low, swampy shores of the Sound being but sparsely settled,
and nearly all the able-bodied men in the country, both white and
black, having been summoned to the Island, some as soldiers and the
others to work on the forts and trenches, there were few to witness the
grand and imposing spectacle the fleet presented as it moved into
position on the evening of February 5, and dropped anchor within a few
miles of the entrance to Croatan Sound; but among those few was one who
was destined to bring Marcy Gray into deeper trouble than he had ever
known before, and the reader will acknowledge that that is saying a
good deal. It was Doctor Patten's negro boy Jonas. He lay flat behind
some obstruction near the water's edge, and took in the whole scene as
if it had been a review arranged for his especial benefit. He saw the
waters of the Sound splash as the heavy anchors were dropped into them,
and could even hear the shrill tones of the boatswains' pipes. When
darkness came and shut the nearest vessel out from his view, he
scrambled to his feet and hastened toward his master's house, muttering
under his breath:
Jonas been prayin' hard fur de Yankees to come, an' bress de Lawd,
here dey is! Now, what Jonas gwine do?
CHAPTER IX. LOOKING FOR A PILOT.
Bright and early the next morning the captain of one of the
twenty-seven gunboats that were attached to the Burnside expedition,
came out of his cabin to take a breath of fresh air before sitting down
to his breakfast. He was a large, full-bearded man, had a broad and a
narrow band of gold lace around each sleeve of his coat, a lieutenant's
straps on his shoulders, and wore his hands in his pockets. When he
went up the ladder he lifted his cap to the quarter-deck, and was in
turn saluted by the acting ensign on watch.
Anything new or strange to tell me, Mr. Robbins? asked the captain
Nothing at all, sir, except that a lone contraband came off to us
in a leaky skiff, when I first took charge of the deck, was the reply.
Does he know anything? was the captain's next question.
I did not interrogate him, sir, only just enough to find out that
he is not a pilot.
Perhaps he knows where we can get one, so you might as well bring
A messenger-boy was sent forward to obey this order, and presently
brought to the quarter-deck the lone contraband of whom the ensign had
spoken, and who was none other than Doctor Patten's boy Jonas, whom we
saw watching the Union vessels from his hiding-place on the beach. The
captain asked him who he was and where he belonged, what his master's
politics were, and why he ran away from him and came off to the fleet,
and then he said:
You told my officer here that you are not a pilot for these waters;
but you must know where I can find one. There ought to be any number of
them on the mainland, for I happen to know that many of you black
people make the most of your living on the water.
Dat's a fac', moster, replied Jonas, but I aint no pilot. Dey
used to be some on de mainland, but dey aint dar now. Dey up to de
forts on de Island.
All of them? inquired the captain. Can't you think of a single
man hereabouts who knows the channel through Croatan Sound?
Not about here, I can't, answered the black boy, an' I tell you
dat fur de truth. Dey is all on de Island waitin' for you uns to come
wha' dey is; but dey's two back in de country a piece.
How far back in the country, and who are they?
It's a right smart piece, sar; twenty mile suah, an' mebbe mo'.
Name Mahcy Gray an' Cap'n Beardsley, sar.
Are they Union or secesh?
Well, sar, dere's Mahcy Gray, he's de best kind of a Union boy; but
de other one, he's
Boy! interrupted the captain. I don't want any boy to take charge
of my ship. This is no boy's play, he added, returning the salute of
his executive officer, who just then came up the ladder. If I
understand the flag-officer's plans, we are to lead one division of the
fleet in the attack; and if we go on until we are aground, and the
division follows in our wake, there will be the mischief to pay, for
the other vessels draw more water than we do.
Sakes alive, moster! Mahcy Gray won't nebber run you on de groun',
exclaimed the negro, with so much earnestness in his tones that the
captain turned about and listened to him. He de bes' boy fur de Union
you eber see, an' he take you right fru de Sound, wid his eyes shet, on
de blackest night you eber was out in. But dat rebel Beardsley you
don't want no truck wid him. He know wha' de deep watah is mighty well,
but he aint gwine to take you dar. He run you on de groun' suah's you
live and breathe.
Never mind talking about that. You called him captain a minute ago.
What is he captain of?
Well, sar, moster, previous to de beginning of de wah he was cap'n
ob a trader; but endurin' de wah he run a privateer an' blockade
runner; de Osprey he call her.
What? exclaimed the gunboat captain, so suddenly that Jonas
jumped, and the executive and the officer of the deck looked surprised.
Did you call him Beardsley, and say that he commanded the Osprey?
Dat's de name, moster, replied Jonas. He cotch some Yankee
vessels outside, an' when de gunboats get too thick on de bar, he take
de two big guns out, load up wid cotton, an' run de blockade.
What was his object in taking the guns out? inquired the captain;
and the negro went on to explain what the reader already knowsthat
Beardsley had disarmed and disguised his little vessel in order to
deceive the cruisers along the coast. If he had been captured with
nothing but cotton on board, the Federal authorities would not be
likely to hang him and his men as pirates, which they might have done
if they had caught him while he had two howitzers on his gun-deck and a
supply of small-arms and ammunition in his cabin. The gunboat captain
listened attentively, and seemed very much impressed by what the negro
had to say; and when the latter ceased speaking he turned his back upon
him, and said to his executive officer:
Mr. Watkins, I have wanted to meet that man forfor an age, it
seems to me now. He is the villain who robbed me of the Mary Hollins, and ironed my crew like felonslike felons, sir, and in spite of my
earnest protest. Then turning once more to the negro, he inquired,
Can you guide a squad of my men to Beardsley's house and Gray's
to-night? You told me, I believe, that they live twenty miles or more
Dat's about de distance of de journey you will have to travel,
sar, answered Jonas.
I kin go da', kase I know de house whar dey resides. But de cap'n
don't live da' no more sense de Union men riz up in de night an' burn
I don't care how many times he has been burned out, nor who did it.
What I want to know is if you can take my officers where they can put
their hands on him to-night.
Yes; Jonas was quite positive he could do that.
All right; but look here, boy, said the captain, shaking his
finger at Jonas. Tell me the truth now, or you will never see another
sunrise. Are there any rebels ashore between here and the place where
those two pilots live?
Oh, yes, sar; dere's plenty of dem at Plymouth, moster.
I am as well aware of that fact as you are, interrupted the
captain. What I want particularly to know is if there are any cavalry
scouting around who would be likely to pick up the men I shall probably
send ashore to-night.
Not now, dey aint, sar; but a while ago dey was piles of dem. Dey
go round to all de plantations an' tooken away de black ones en' make
'em wuk on de forts. I wuk on dem myself.
Consequently there may be some cavalry out there now, said the
captain. But I warn you, boy, that if you lead my men among them
Who? Me? exclaimed the negro, in accents of alarm. 'Fore de Lawd,
moster, you don't think Jonas would do dat? Why, sar, Ise been prayin'
fur you uns to come, an' so has all de black ones. Dem rebels kill me
suah, if dey see me wid de Yankees.
And so will I if you take my men where the rebels can get hold of
them; so that will make twice you will be killed. That will do for the
present, but I may want to ask you some more questions by and by. Go
for'ad. Beardsley, Beardsley! continued the captain, turning again to
his chief officer, who wore an acting-master's uniform. I remember
that when I was a prisoner on board the Osprey I heard one of
the mates address my captor by that name, and it somehow runs in my
mind that this pilot we have been talking about is the same man. I made
the best effort at escape that I could, but the Hollins was so
heavily loaded that she moved through the water as though she had a
hawser dragging over the stern; and besides he had the weather gauge of
me. I showed him some pretty fair seamanship, and he might have given
me and my men kind treatment in return for it.
Certainly, sir, answered the executive. A brave man always
respects a brave foe.
But he didn't, Mr. Watkins. On the contrary, when we got into
Newbern, and the mob on the wharf began howling and calling us names,
as they did the minute they caught sight of us, Captain Beardsley made
no effort to stop them. He rather seemed to enjoy it. Give me a chance
to take a good look at him when he is brought on board, and if he is
the man I think he is, I want you to have him put into the brig without
the loss of a moment and into double-irons besides. That was the way he
served my crew. As soon as I have taken my coffee I will go down and
tell the flag-officer what I have learned and what I intend to do with
his permission; so I shall want my gig presently.
The captain went into his cabin, and when he came out again, a short
time afterward, he was dressed in full uniform and wore his side-arms.
He seemed to be in no particular hurry to leave the vessel, for
although breakfast had been served and eaten, the long red meal pennant
was still floating from the masthead, and the blue-jackets were smoking
their pipes on the forecastle; but Jonas was loitering around, looking
as happy as a darky always does after he has enjoyed a hearty repast,
and when he saw the captain beckoning to him he came aft. What the
Union officer wanted to question him about this time was as to the
quickest and safest methods that could be employed to take a company
of, say fifty men, through the country to Beardsley's house and Gray's,
and bring them back to the fleet. Would it be necessary for this
company to march overland, or could it go the whole or a part of the
way in boats? and was there any danger that the men would be forced to
fight their way? Jonas answered all his questions as readily as though
he had known beforehand what they were going to be; and when the
captain brought the interview to a close by sending the negro forward
again, he held in his hand a rude map of all the principal waterways
that intersected the mainland south of Plymouth and north and west of
Middletown, and had learned how the garrison at the first-named town
could be easily and safely avoided. Then he stepped into his gig, which
was called away when the meal pennant was hauled down, and was taken on
board the flagship.
His superior officer must have approved of the plans which Captain
Benton (for that was the name of the Yankee skipper who had once been
Lon Beardsley's prisoner) submitted for securing the services of a
pilot who was familiar with the waters through which the fleet was to
sail to victory, although not very much was done toward carrying them
out until after dark. The day was not a favorable one for a movement on
the part of the Union forces, for a thick fog came rolling in from the
sea and covered the waters of the Sound. Once during the forenoon it
lifted long enough to disclose the rebel fortifications on the Island,
and the double rows of piles and sunken ships through which the
Fairy Belle had sailed a few weeks before, with Commodore Lynch's
eight boats above, and then it settled down again thicker than ever.
But two of the Union commanders at least were not idle, and when
darkness came to conceal its movements, the expedition which they had
quietly prepared during the day put off for the shore. It consisted of
four cutters filled with small-armed men, two being from Captain
Benton's vessel and the others from the gunboat that lay next astern.
The work of securing the pilots was to be done by two squads of twenty
men each, one under command of Captain Benton's executive officer, the
second being led by an acting ensign from the other vessel. Mr.
Watkins's boat was first in the line and the boy Jonas, who crouched in
the bow of his cutter, was the guide and pilot.
A second expedition, which put off from the flag-ship an hour later,
held straight for the shore and stopped when it got there; but the one
in whose fortunes we are at present most interested did not stop. It
turned into the mouth of a little river which was seldom navigated,
even by the fishing and trading boats that were so numerous in the
Sound. It was known as Middle River; and if Jonas, who had lived upon
its banks ever since he could remember, had been asked how long it was
and where it took its rise, he would have been obliged to say that he
did not know. But he did know that by following some of its numerous
tributaries the expedition could pass in the rear of the forts at
Plymouth into Seven Mile Creek, and land within a few hundred yards of
Captain Beardsley's house and Marcy's. And that was just what it did.
Although the strictest silence and caution were observed, the
progress of the blue-jackets was not as slow and laborious as those who
knew where they were going thought it would be, and neither did they
see or hear anything to be afraid of. Only once during the long hours
they passed in those narrow, crooked streams did they hear a sound to
tell them where they were, and that was when a distant sentry on the
right bank, and a little astern of them, shouted the number of his post
and called out that all was well. Then the blue-jackets drew a long
breath of relief, and congratulated themselves and each other on having
passed Plymouth without knowing it. Perhaps this was a fortunate thing
for Jonas. It might have frightened the wits all out of him if he had
dreamed of such a thing, but the two sailors who crouched by his side
in the leading cutter held revolvers in their hands, and were under
orders to shoot him down at the first sign of treachery. He knew,
however, that they were watching him, for on several occasions, when it
was found necessary to change the course of the boat in order to follow
the windings of the stream, they had cautioned him to clap a stopper on
his jaw-tackle and pass his instructions aft in a whisper, like any
other white gentleman.
Da' now! Da' now! said Jonas suddenly.
Not so loud, you black rascal, commanded one of the guards,
emphasizing his words with a crushing grip on the negro's shoulder.
What's the row?
Cap'n Beardsley used to live right ober da', 'fore de Union men riz
up an' burn' him out, replied Jonas.
We don't care where he used to live, growled the tar. Where does
he live now?
Right ober da', repeated the negro. An' you uns got ter lan' heah
on de lef' han' side ob de bayou.
This information was duly passed aft to Mr. Watkins, who sat in the
stern-sheets by the side of the coxswain, and the first cutter was
turned in toward the bank, the others following close in her wake. When
Mr. Watkins stepped ashore, he demanded of Jonas why he had landed the
expedition in those dark woods where there was not a sign of a house to
be seen; and the negro hastened to explain that the road lay about a
quarter of a mile straight ahead, and that the house in which Beardsley
formerly lived stood on the other side of it. The drive-way, which ran
close by the ruins of the dwelling, led into a lane that passed through
the quarter; and there, in the overseer's house, was where Beardsley
lived now. This much having been learned, and a guard being left in
charge of the boats, forty sailors, with Jonas and his keepers at their
head, began threading their way through the thick bushes in the
direction in which the road lay. Twenty minutes' time sufficed to bring
them to it, but when Jonas began giving further instructions and
directions Mr. Watkins interrupted him.
Right da' is de drive-way, said he, an' down da' is de lane dat
goes fru de quarter. Look out fur de houn' dogs, an' don't waste no
time in foolin', kase Beardsley's niggers say he mighty timersome sense
you Yankees come on de coast, an' de fust thing you know he run out de
back do' an' take to de bresk. Now, sar, moster
Take the boy with you and go ahead, Mr. Burnham, commanded the
executive officer. And it might be well for you to act upon the hint
he has given, and surround the house as quickly and quietly as
possible. Remember the signal, and when you are done with the boy send
him back to me under guard.
In obedience to these orders Mr. Burnham's squad moved through the
open gate at a quick but noiseless pace, Jonas and his keepers leading
the way, and in a few minutes disappeared in the darkness. Ten minutes
were passed in silence, and then the angry protests of a small army of
dogs, mingled with the doleful yelps of one which had been knocked
endways by a savage blow from the butt of a Spencer carbine in the
hands of a blue-jacket, whom he had tried to seize by the throat, arose
on the still air, being almost immediately followed by a single shrill
note from a boatswain's whistle. This was the signal agreed upon, and
it brought to Mr. Watkins' ears the intelligence that if Captain
Beardsley was in his house, he was now shut up in it and could not
escape. In less than ten minutes more Jonas and his two guards were
heard coming back along the drive-way at double-quick; whereupon Mr.
Watkins's own squad, which up to this time had remained motionless in
the road, set out at a brisk walk for Mrs. Gray's dwelling.
This is the place where the Union pilot lives, is it? said Mr.
Watkins, when Jonas halted and pointed out the house.
Yes, sar, moster, dat's de place. No dogs heah to pester you, kase
ole Bose done killed by de robbers. I speck Mahcy Gray mighty dubersome
sense dem robbers been heah, an' mebbe he fight; but you uns luf Jonas
talk to him, an' clem you see him open de front do' too quick. No need
to circumroun' dis house. Marse Mahcy aint gwine run off.
Mr. Watkins's men were moving toward the house while the negro was
talking in this way, and now they were drawn up in line in front of the
gallery by the master's mate, who was second in command, while Mr.
Watkins mounted the steps and pounded upon the door with such effect
that he awoke echoes in all the wide halls. The startling summons
frightened old Morris so badly that he drew his head under the
bed-clothes; sent Julius like a shot out of the back window and
scurrying barelegged through the garden; reached the ears of a pale but
resolute woman, who hastily began arraying herself in such garments as
she could find in the dark, and brought out of bed an excited,
determined boy who opened an upper window with a crash, and shoved the
muzzles of two heavy revolvers down at the blue-jackets. This was Marcy
Gray. When his eye fell upon the double line of men in front of the
house he made up his mind that the robbers had come out in full force
Get out of that, or I will blow some of you to kingdom come! said
he, without a quiver in his voice. Onetwo
Avast there! exclaimed the master's mate.
Don't shoot, Marse Mahcy, honey! cried Jonas, who thought that
both the revolvers were pointed straight at his own head. Dese yer
folks all Yankees, sar; all Yankees de las' blessed one ob 'em, sar.
Jonas, is that you? said Marcy, who could scarcely believe his
ears. What brought you here at this hour of the night, and how came
you in the company of such a gang as that?
If you are Marcy Gray, I beg to assure you that we are here for no
evil purpose, said Mr. Watkins, who now came down from the porch and
looked up at the boy. We want to see you particularly. Come down, if
you please, and let me explain.
You're quite sure you are Union, are you? said Marcy, who, at
first, could not make up his mind that this was not a ruse on the part
of lawless men to gain admission to the house; but, on second thought,
he concluded that it was not, for, if they had been determined to come
in, they could have done it by breaking down the doors, or smashing the
windows, and that, too, without taking the trouble to call him and his
We are quite positive on that point, answered Mr. Watkins. We
belong to the Burnside expedition. You knew we were in the Sound, I
I am satisfied, and will be down while you are thinking about it,
said Marcy, slamming the window, and hastening back to his room.
He lingered there long enough to put on a few articles of clothing,
and then ran down the stairs with a lighted lamp in his hand. In the
lower hall he found his mother, who was bravely striving to nerve
herself to face something more dreadful than she had yet experienced.
She had heard Marcy talking to the men who were gathered in front of
the house, and, although she had not been able to catch any of the
words that passed between them, she was somewhat reassured when she
looked into her son's beaming face.
Who are they? she asked calmly. Surely they do not act like the
They are Yankees from the fleet, and want to see me about
something, was the excited reply. Will you take this lamp into the
parlor while I admit them?
Certainly his mother would do that; but what could the Yankees want
of Marcy at that time of night, and how did they hear of him, in the
first place, and find out where he lived?
Doctor Patten's boy, Jonas, told them, most likely; but when and
where they picked him up beats me. I can't imagine what they want,
either; but I will open the door for them as readily as I would for
Jack, replied Marcy; and, as his mother turned into the parlor with
the lamp, he went down the hall to the front door.
Are you Marcy Gray, the pilot? inquired Mr. Watkins, as the two
saluted each other, instead of shaking hands.
Caesar's ghost! was the ejaculation that trembled on the boy's
lips; and then he wondered if he was to be arrested for acting as pilot
for Captain Beardsley's privateer and blockade runner.
Because, if you are, you are the man I want to see, continued the
Will you come in? answered Marcy, who thought it best to hold his
peace until he had received some insight into the nature of the
business that had brought his visitor there.
The latter complied, and, when he entered the parlor, was rather
taken aback to find a dignified lady there. He saluted her courteously,
and, without intending to do so, added to her fears at the same time
that he explained his errand, by saying:
I beg a thousand pardons, madam, for intruding upon your privacy at
this unseemly hour; but the truth is, our fleet has gone as far toward
the enemy as it can go without the aid of pilots to direct its
movements. The name of Marcy Gray has been mentioned to my commander,
Captain Benton, and I am here to secure his services.
Oh, sir! cried Mrs. Gray, clasping her hands appealingly. Would
you cruelly rob me of the only son I have left, and take him into
battle? He has already been sadly injured during this terrible war.
The fact that Marcy carried one of his arms in a sling had not
escaped the notice of the officer, and now he looked at the boy rather
sharply. There was but one conclusion to be drawn, he told himself: If
Marcy got that wounded arm in battle, he must have been fighting on the
I was not aware that the young man was in the service, said he
coldly. I thought he was Union.
And so I am, exclaimed Marcy. I have a brother in your service,
and he is aboard one of your gunboats at this moment. I know, for I
took him out to the fleet before the fortifications at Roanoke Island
were completed. Did you speak of a Captain Benton just now? I once met
a sea-captain of that name, but of course the commander of a Union
war-ship can't be the man I saw insulted and abused by a mob in
How and when did that happen? demanded the officer, his face
exhibiting the profoundest interest.
It was when the crew of the prize-schooner Mary Hollins were
marched off to jail, replied Marcy. It was no fault of mine that I
saw them captured, for I am Union to the backbone. I have been
persecuted on account of my principles
My lad, exclaimed Mr. Watkins, taking Marcy's uninjured hand in
both his own, were you on the Osprey when she made a prize of
the schooner Hollins?
I was, answered Marcy, becoming as excited as the officer appeared
to be. I passed as her pilot and drew pay as such; but I did duty as
foremast hand most of the time, and sailed on her because I could not
help myself. May I ask if you know anything about it? I do not remember
of seeing you among the crew.
I know all about it although I wasn't there, answered Mr. Watkins,
whose astonishment would scarcely permit him to speak plainly. My
commander, Captain Benton, was master of the Mary Hollins at the
time she was captured by that pirate. He is now acting volunteer
lieutenant in the navy of the United States, and commands one of the
finest vessels in Flag-officer Goldsborough's squadron.
Marcy Gray had never been more amazed in his life.
CHAPTER X. BEARDSLEY IN TROUBLE.
The profound silence that reigned in the room for a minute or two
after Mr. Watkins made his extraordinary announcement, was broken at
last by Marcy Gray, who exclaimed eagerly:
If that is the man who wants to see me, I hope you will take me to
him at once. I have wanted to meet him ever since that miserable day
when I stood by and saw him make his gallant attempt at escape, for I
have seventeen hundred dollars that belong to himmy share of the
prize money his schooner sold for, you know, captain.
Mister, if you please, said the officer, with a smile. I used to
be captain in the merchant marine, but am now executive officer of
Captain Benton's vessel, and am simply Mr. Watkins.
Mr. Watkins, interposed Mrs. Gray, my son has saved all the money
that came to him through the sale of the Hollins, and longed for
and dreamed of the day when he could restore it to its lawful owner.
When Captain Beardsley turned his privateer into a blockade runner
Marcy refused to take out a venture, though by so doing he might have
made his seventeen hundred dollars of prize money bring him five
thousand more. Captain Benton's money is safe, and he will receive it
in the same shape in which it was paid to my son. But, sir, added Mrs.
Gray, seeing that the officer did not occupy the chair that had been
placed for him, I trust you will not find it necessary to take Marcy
I really cannot see anyway in which it can be avoided, madam, said
Mr. Watkins truthfully. There is bound to be a fight if the enemy
stands his ground, and my vessel will be one of the foremost in it. But
I hope you understand that we do not mean to keep him with us unless he
wants to stay. He will be at liberty to return to you as soon as his
services can be dispensed with.
Yes, sir, I understand that, said the mother tearfully. But a
stray bullet or a shell will be as likely to strike a non-combatant as
any one else. I have given one son to the service of his country, and I
can give another; but when you take Marcy you take all I have.
The officer drew his hand across his eyes, as if brushing away a
mist that was gathering there, and looked up at a painting over the
mantel; while Marcy, knowing that the parting must come, and that it
would be better to have it over as speedily as possible, began to
I will have the money dug up right now, said he. And, mother,
while I am doing that, will you bring down my Union flagnot the
weather-beaten one, but the other that I hoisted on the Fairy Belle
when I took Jack out to the fleet.
I little expected to find a Union flag down here, said Mr.
Watkins, who was very much surprised. I should think you would find it
dangerous to keep one.
So we would if the people around here knew it was in the house,
replied Marcy. But that is something we don't publish. Your men will
not bother me if I go into the garden, will they?
I will see that they don't, was the answer; and, while Marcy went
out of the back door as if he had been thrown from a catapult, Mr.
Watkins went out at the front, and Mrs. Gray hastened to her son's room
with a pair of scissors in her hand. Marcy went to the coachman's cabin
and felt for the latch-string; but it had been pulled in, and that
proved that old Morris was inside. He pounded upon the door, and called
the black man's name impatiently.
O Lawd! Who dat? came in muffled tones from under the blankets.
Before Marcy could answer Julius glided around the corner of the
cabin, looking like a small black ghost very scantily clad in white. He
had been brave enough when the robbers made their raid upon the house
and there was a strong force of Union men to back him up, but now that
he thought the robbers had come again to finish their work, when Aleck
Webster and his friends were not at hand to lend assistance, he was
very badly frightened.
I don't suppose Morris will get up and let me in, but you will do
as well as anybody, said Marcy. Get a spade, quick, and come with me.
No, they are not robbers. They are Yankees, and I am to go to the fleet
with them; and that is all I can tell you. Hurry up.
While Julius was digging in one of Mrs. Gray's flower-beds under
Marcy's supervision, and the quilt on his bed was being ripped to
pieces, Mr. Watkins was standing in the front yard, telling the
master's mate what he had seen and heard in the house. The young
officer was astonished, and declared he had never dreamed that there
was such Union sentiment anywhere in the South.
I did not believe there was either, though I have often heard of
it, replied Mr. Watkins, but I believe it now. It is easy enough for
us who are surrounded by loyal people to swear by the old flag, but I
tell you it must take pluck and plenty of it to do it down here. I wish
some one else had been ordered to do this work, for I have taken her
last prop away from that poor woman in there. She is a heroine; and as
for the boy, he is as true as steel, and as brave as they make them.
One can't look in his face and think anything else of him. He has gone
to dig up the captain's money and will be along directly. I never
thought to ask him how he got his hand hurt.
While the officer was adding to his subordinate's surprise by
telling how completely Lon Beardsley had reduced Captain Benton to
poverty by taking the Hollins from him, Mrs. Gray came down the
steps with Marcy's flag in her hand and followed by three laughing
darkies, who brought with them large trays loaded with something good
to eat and drinkbread and butter, cold meat, and pitchers filled to
the brim with the richest of milk. While the hungry gunboat men were
regaling themselves and wondering at such treatment from Southerners,
all of whom they supposed to be the most implacable and violent of
rebels, Mrs. Gray shook out the folds of the flag, and spread it upon
the wall where they could all see it. The unexpected sight thrilled
them, and every cap was lifted.
If things wasn't just as they are, missus, said one, we'd give it
a cheer; asking your pardon and the deck's for speaking when I wasn't
But our guns will cheer it in the morning, and they will make more
noise than we could, observed another. Likewise asking pardon for
At this moment Marcy appeared, bundled up ready for his trip to the
coast, and carrying in his hand a valise, which contained, among other
things, the box that held Captain Benton's money. It was all in gold,
too; for at that time gold was as plenty as scrip in the Confederacy,
and Captain Beardsley, ignorant as he was on some points, was much too
shrewd a man of business to take paper money when he could have what he
called the hard stuff for the asking. Had the Hollins been
captured one short year later, Marcy would have been obliged to take
his share of the prize money in scrip, and Captain Benton might have
thought himself lucky if he had received twenty cents on the dollar.
When the blue-jackets had disposed of everything there was on the
trays, either by eating it themselves or putting it into the bosom of
their shirts, to be divided with the guards who had been left in charge
of the boats, and Marcy had stowed his Union flag in his valise, there
was nothing to detain them longer. The master's mate marched the squad
away while Mr. Watkins lingered a moment, cap in hand, to say good-by
to the woman whose quiet courage had excited his admiration.
Take good care of my boy, sir, said Mrs. Gray, as if she thought
the officer could give Marcy a safe station in action, or protect him
from the shot and shell that would soon be shrieking about his ears.
Remember he is all I have to give you.
I'll have an eye upon him, madam, and upon your other boy as well,
when I find out where he is, replied Mr. Watkins. We are not pressing
men into our service, and I know I can safely say that Marcy will be
permitted to return to his home as soon as we can get along without
I shall have that promise to console me during his absence, said
Mrs. Gray. Good-by, Marcy. When you come back to me I want you to be
able to say that you did your duty. Oh, is there no way in which this
dreadful state of affairs can be brought to an end? she cried, once
more giving way to her tears when she felt Marcy's arm closing around
Certainly there is, answered the officer. The Richmond
authorities can end this war in an hour by telling their soldiers to
lay down their arms and stop fighting the government. That would be an
easy thing for them to do, and it is all we ask of them. Good-by, Mrs.
Gray. I trust we may meet again under pleasanter circumstances.
The executive turned away as he spoke, leaving the young pilot alone
with his mother. He did not prolong the leave-taking, but brought it to
an end as quickly as he could, shook hands with the three darkies,
whose laughter was now changed to weeping, looked around for Morris and
Julius, neither of whom was in sight, and in two minutes more was
marching by Mr. Watkins's side along the road that led past the ruins
of Captain Beardsley's house. If Marcy remembered that his old captain
was one of the best pilots for those waters that could be found
anywhere he did not think to speak of it, nor did he take more than
passing note of the fact that there was another squad of sailors
standing in the road in front of Beardsley's gate. They seemed to be
waiting for Mr. Watkins, for an officer walked up and exchanged a few
low, hurried words with him. Marcy afterward thought that the barking
of Beardsley's dogs, and the shrill frightened voices of the house
servants and field-hands which came faintly from the direction of the
quarter, ought to have told him that something unusual had been going
on there, but he did not pay very much attention to the sounds. He was
thinking of his mother. Very good, sir, said Mr. Watkins, in response
to the officer's whispered communication. Make all haste to the boats
and shove off; but preserve silence, and keep the line well closed up.
The officer, accompanied by Doctor Patten's boy Jonas, went back to
his own squad, which at once moved into the woods. That of Mr. Watkins
immediately followed, led by the master's mate, the executive and Marcy
bringing up the rear as before; but it was not until the men were all
embarked and the four boats were well on their way down the creek, that
they had opportunity to exchange a word with each other. Mr. Watkins's
cutter led the way, Jonas occupying his old place in the bow, and
passing his instructions to the coxswain in a whisper. The sailors bent
to their work with a will, and the boats moved swiftly on their course;
but the muffled oars were dipped so carefully, and feathered so neatly,
that there was no sound heard save the slight swishing of the water
alongside. Feeling entirely satisfied with the way in which he had
carried out the instructions of his superior, Mr. Watkins settled back
on his elbow in the stern-sheets and addressed Marcy in low and guarded
I remarked to one of my officers a short time ago that it must take
courage, and plenty of it, to be loyal in this country; and I told the
truth, did I not? he whispered.
One has to be more than brave to be true to his colors in this
section, replied Marcy. He has to be deceitful. I can satisfy you of
that, if you think a few scraps of my personal history would be of
interest to you.
Mr. Watkins answered that nothing would suit him better than to
hear, from the lips of one who knew all about it, how the Union people,
if there were any in that country besides his own family, managed to
live among their rebel neighbors; and Marcy began and told his story,
but not quite so fully as the reader knows it. He did not have time to
do that, and besides he was too modest; but he easily brought his
auditor to believe that the arm he carried in a sling had not been
injured while its owner was fighting on the Confederate side, and also
showed him that he had more reason to stand in fear of Captain
Beardsley than of any other man in the settlement.
What worries me just now is the fear that Beardsley will in some
way find out that you Yankees have taken me from my mother's house to
help your vessels through Croatan Sound, said Marcy, who little dreamed
that Captain Beardsley had been taken from his own bed for the same
purpose, and was at that very moment a prisoner in one of the boats
that followed astern. The night was so dark that Marcy could not have
recognized the man if he had looked straight at him; and if Beardsley
had seen and recognized Marcy, when the two squads came together and
got into the boats on the bank in front of his house, he had made no
sign. And we may add here that the privateer captain had not been
treated by his captors with the same kindness and consideration that
Marcy received at the hands of Mr. Watkins. The men who surrounded his
house, who followed him to his hiding-place in the cellar and dragged
him out by main strength, knew that he was a rebel who hadn't the
manhood to treat his prisoners with any degree of kindness, and when
Beardsley frantically resisted them and yelled to his darkies to put
the dogs on to the Yankees, the boatswain's mate who held him said
that, if he opened his mouth again in that fashion, he would make what
little light there was in the cellar shine straight through the
captive's head. This threat kept Beardsley quiet, and he would not have
dared to say anything to Marcy if he had had the opportunity; but he
had a good deal to say about him after he got home.
If you whip the rebels at Roanoke Island and let me go among my
friends again, that man will make me no end of trouble, said Marcy, in
conclusion. He will declare that I went aboard of you of my own free
will, and did all I could to help you through the Sound. It will be
pretty near the truth, but all the same I don't want the story to get
wind in the settlement.
He is about the meanest two-for-a-cent outfit that I ever heard
of, said Mr. Watkins, in a tone of disgust. I am glad you told me all
this, and will be sure to bear it in mind. But yours is not the only
Union family in this country, I hope?
Oh, no, Marcy said in reply. There were many who professed to be
Union, and as many more who had little or nothing to say about it one
way or the other. The latter were the real Union people. Some of them
held secret meetings in the swamp, and had rid Marcy's mother of the
presence of one of her meanest and most dangerous enemies by coming to
her plantation one night and carrying away the overseer. They also
captured the four men who raided his mother's house with the intention
of robbing it, and had given Marcy to understand that they were keeping
a watchful eye upon him and would punish any one who persecuted him or
his mother. While he was telling this part of his story another faint
call from a far-away sentry gave to Mr. Watkins the gratifying
intelligence that Plymouth had once more been passed in safety. Why
these convenient rear water-ways were not more closely guarded by the
Plymouth garrison it is hard to tell. Perhaps it was because they
thought the Yankees would not venture to penetrate so far inland in
small boats. They learned better when Cushing sunk the Albemarle.
There was little current in the river to help the cutters on their
journey, but the ebb tide presently came to their assistance, and under
its influence they went on their way with increased speed; still it was
almost daylight when Mr. Watkins's cutter and the two immediately
astern of it drew up to the gangway on the starboard quarter of Captain
Benton's vessel. The executive officer and Marcy stepped first upon the
grating, and Beardsley and the acting ensign who commanded the second
cutter followed them up the side to the deck, where Captain Benton was
waiting to receive them.
I am aboard, sir, said Mr. Watkins, placing his hand to his cap,
and have the honor to report that your orders have been carried out to
the letter. These are the pilots I was instructed to bring.
Very good, sir, replied the captain.
At the word pilots Marcy Gray turned his head to see where and who
the other one was, and his amazement knew no bounds when he saw Captain
Beardsley's eyes looking into his own. His old commander was startled
too; for up to this moment he supposed that the object of the
expedition was to capture him alone. And if he was ill at ease to know
that he was wholly in the power of men whose flag he had insulted, he
was terribly frightened when he found himself confronted by Marcy Gray.
The latter knew too much about him and his business, for hadn't he as
good as confessed in the boy's presence that he had been a smuggler? If
Marcy remembered that fatal admission and felt in the humor to take
advantage of it, there was likely to be trouble in store for him. The
man saw that very clearly, even before the gunboat captain turned his
steady gaze upon him. Then Beardsley wished that the deck might open
under his feet and let him down into the hold. He cringed a moment,
like the coward he was, and then tried to call a smile to his face. He
remembered his old prisoner, the master of the Mary Hollins, and
acting upon the first thought that came into his mind, he took a step
forward as if he would have shaken hands with him; but Captain Benton
turned on his heel and walked away. This movement must have served as a
signal to somebody, for there was a slight but ominous jingling of
chains close by, and the master at arms clasped a pair of irons about
Beardsley's wrists before he could raise a finger to prevent it. The
touch of the cold metal aroused him almost to frenzy.
[Illustration: CAPTAIN BEARDSLEY PERTESTS.]
Take 'em off! In the name and by the authority of the Confederate
States of Ameriky I pertest agin this outrage! yelled Beardsley,
hardly knowing what he said in his excitement. Marcy Gray, aint I
always stood your friend and your mother's too, and are you going to
keep as dumb as an oyster while this indignity is being put upon your
old cap'n? Take the dog-gone things off, I say! I aint in the service,
and you aint got no right to slap me in irons when I aint done the
first thing agin you or your laws, either. No, I won't keep still!
roared the captain, struggling furiously in the grasp of the sailors,
who were guiding him with no very gentle hands toward the gangway that
led down to the brig. I'll pertest and fight as long as I have breath
or strength left in me; and when we have gained our independence, Cap'n
Benton, I'll make it my business to see that you suffer for this.
From the bottom of his heart Marcy Gray pitied the frightened,
half-crazy man who was being hurried below, but he did not draw
attention to himself by interceding in his behalf because he knew it
would do no good. Beardsley was being treated just as he had treated
Captain Benton's men; but there was no mob on the Union gunboat to
whoop and yell at him as the Newbern mob had whooped and yelled at his
prisoners when they were being taken to jail. Beardsley continued to
struggle and shout until his head disappeared below the combings of the
main-hatch, and then the racket suddenly ceased. He had not been
gagged, as Marcy feared, but he had been told that he would be if he
didn't keep still, and the threat silenced him.
Quiet having been restored Mr. Watkins said to his commander, waving
his hand in Marcy's direction:
This young man, sir, was also on board the Osprey, when she
made a prize of your schooner. I think he has something to say that
will interest you. His name is Marcy Gray.
Why, Gray was mentioned to me as a Union man, said the captain.
And so I am, replied Marcy. But when one is surrounded by enemies
he can't always do as he likes, and I sailed on that privateer because
I couldn't help it. If you will be kind enough to look into this valise
you will see something that will prove my words.
He has seventeen hundred dollars in that grip, which he says
belongs to you, sir, Mr. Watkins whispered in the ear of his superior.
It is the money he received when the Hollins was condemned and
sold by the Confederate government.
Captain Benton was greatly astonished. He looked hard at Marcy for a
minute or two, and then beckoned him to come into the cabin. Seating
himself on one side of the little table that stood in the middle of the
floor he pointed to a chair on the other side, and the boy dropped into
it. The captain continued to look closely at him for another minute,
and then said:
I don't know whether I saw you on board the Osprey or not.
I don't wonder at it, sir, answered the young pilot. You had so
many bitter reflections to occupy your mind, about that time, that you
probably do not remember a single one of the crew with the exception of
Captain Beardsley. But I remember you, sir; and when I saw you looking
over the Osprey's stern at your own vessel which was following
in our wake, I felt sorry for you. I said then that I would never spend
a cent of your money, and I never have.
While he talked in this way, Marcy took the key from his pocket and
opened his valise. The first thing he brought to light was his Union
flag, the one his Barrington girl gave him, and which, we said, in the
first volume of this series, was destined to float in triumph over the
waters that he had once sailed through in Captain Beardsley's
privateer. The glorious day we then prophesied had dawned at last! The
captain looked on in surprise when Marcy took the flag from his valise,
and shook it out so that he could see it.
I should think your rebel neighbors, if you have any, would destroy
that banner, said he.
We have plenty of that sort of neighbors, sir, but they never saw
this flag, answered Marcy. I keep it hidden in one of my bedquilts,
and sleep under it every night. And, being a boy of business, he came
at once to the subject that just then was nearest his heart. Am I to
remain on this ship when she goes into action, sir? he inquired.
For anything I know to the contrary, you are, the captain answered
with a smile. Of course, that will be just as the flag-officer says.
Why do you ask?
Because, if I am, I wish you would do me the favor to run this flag
of mine up to your masthead, replied Marcy. The young lady who made
it for me, and who worked upon it while her rebel relatives were
asleep, would be very much gratified if she could hear that it had been
carried to victory by a Federal ship of war.
Well, my young friend, whether you stay aboard of us or not, that
flag of yours shall go up to our masthead. You think we are going to
beat them, do you?
I know it, sir, replied Marcy, so earnestly that the captain
smiled again. If they beat you to-day, you will beat them to-morrow,
or next week. You are bound to win in the long run, and in their heart
of hearts the rebels know it.
It does me good to hear you talk, said the captain, getting upon
his feet and pacing his cabin with his hands in his pockets. I have
been pretty well discouraged since the fleet arrived off this coast,
but you put new life into me. Is that my money? he added, as Marcy
placed a good-sized box upon his table. Am I as rich as that? You
handle it as though it was heavy.
If I haven't forgotten all my schooling, it ought to weigh close on
to ten pounds, troy, answered Marcy, throwing back the cover, so that
the captain could see the glittering contents. If you will run it
over, sir, I think you will find it all there.
Good gracious, my lad! Do you take me for a bank cashier? I could
not count a pile of money like that in an hour, and I have scarcely two
minutes' time at my disposal now. Steward, give us a cup of coffee, and
tell the officer of the deck to call away the gig. I shall want you to
go to the flag-ship with me. How much did that pirate get for the
Hollins and her cargo, any way?
Fifty-six thousand dollars, answered Marcy.
That is rather more than they would have brought in Boston, said
the captain reflectively. And the Confederate government got half, I
Yes, sir; and half the remainder was divided between Captain
Beardsley and his two mates. The other fourteen thousand were equally
divided among the sixteen members of the crew, petty officers and
foremast hands sharing alike, each one receiving eight hundred and
Then how does it come that there are seventeen hundred dollars
here? said the captain, jerking his head toward the box on the table.
There are seventeen hundred and fifty dollars in this box to be
exacttwo shares, replied Marcy. Captain Beardsley promised to do
what he called 'the fair thing' by me if I would ship as pilot on his
schooner, and he did it by giving me eight hundred and seventy-five
dollars of your money.
That was pretty cool, I must say. But how do you know that he did
not reward your fidelity by giving you some of his own money?
No, he didn't, sir! exclaimed Marcy. Captain Beardsley doesn't
reward anybody unless he thinks he sees a chance to make something by
it, and neither does he pay out a cent of his own when he can take what
he needs from the pockets of some one else. It is all yours, sir, and I
am glad to have the opportunity to give it to you.
And I am glad to receive it, and to have the opportunity to shake
hands with such a young man as you are, said the captain; and suiting
the action to the word, he came around the table and gave Marcy's hand
a hearty sailor's grip.
CHAPTER XI. MARCY IN ACTION.
Marcy Gray was somewhat surprised, though not at all abashed, to
find himself treated as an honored guest on board the gunboat. He took
breakfast with Captain Benton, who did not think it beneath his dignity
to acknowledge that he was glad to know he was seventeen hundred
dollars richer than he thought he was, and who listened with the
deepest interest to the boy's account of the various adventures that
had befallen him since the war broke out. When the story was finished
the captain believed with his executive officer that it required
courage to be loyal to the old flag in that country.
Breakfast over, the two stepped into the captain's gig and were
taken on board the Southfield and into the presence of the
officer who commanded the naval part of the expedition. Flag-officer
Goldsborough was a native of Maryland, but he believed that the South
was wrong in trying to break up the Union, that she ought to be
compelled to lay down her arms since she would not do it of her own
free will, and he was doing all a brave and skilful man could to force
her to strike the strange flag she had hoisted in opposition to the
Stars and Stripes. He was very busy, but he found time to ask Marcy a
few questions, and gave him pencil and paper with which to draw a map
of the channel that led through Croatan Sound. When it was done he
compared it with another that lay upon his table, and Marcy learned,
from some remarks he exchanged with Captain Benton, that he was not the
only pilot whose services had been secured by force of arms.
We have spoken of an expedition similar to that of Mr. Watkins,
which left the fleet the night before, went as far as the mainland and
stopped there. It was in search of a pilot, and it brought him, too. He
was now on board the flag-ship, from which he was afterward sent to the
vessel that had been ordered to lead in the attack. There was still
another that Marcy did not know anything abouta negro boy named Tom,
who had once called John M. Daniel of Roanoke master. He ran away on
the same night the expedition came into the Sound, and had been taken
on board Burnside's flag-ship. He afterward showed the general the
landing at Ashby's Harbor, and told him how the troops could be placed
there without being obliged to wade through the deep marshes at the
foot of the Island. At the beginning of the war the Confederates did
not believe that their own slaves would turn against them and give aid
and comfort to the Federals; but the blacks were sharp enough to know
who their friends were, and the information they were always ready to
give was in most cases found to be reliable.
There is one thing I had almost forgotten to speak of, sir, said
Captain Benton, when the commodore, as he had been called, intimated
that he had no more questions to ask. What shall I do with that man
Beardsley, if you please?
I will give you an order to send him off to a store-ship, for of
course you don't want him aboard of you in action, was the answer.
What will be done with him after we are through here, I can't say. If
he had been taken with his privateer he might be held as a prisoner of
war; but as it is, I presume he will be released after a while, to get
into more mischief after he returns within the Confederate lines.
But it will put him to some trouble to get back, thought Marcy.
And that will be a blessing.
As soon as the order referred to had been written, Captain Benton
and his pilot took their departure. When the former stepped upon the
deck of his own vessel the second cutter was called away, and Captain
Beardsley was brought out of the brig to be taken on board the supply
ship, where he would be out of harm's way during the fight that was
soon to begin. He did not yell and struggle now as he did when the
irons were first placed upon his wrists, for the fear of the gag had
taken all that nonsense out of him. His face was very pale, and he
walked with his head down, and did not appear to notice any of those he
passed on his way to the side. When he saw how utterly dejected and
cast down his old commander was, Marcy felt heartily sorry that he had
said so much against him; but after all he hadn't told more than half
the truth. He had promised himself that he would shut Beardsley up for
a long time if he ever got the chance, but now that it was presented,
he hadn't the heart to improve it. He did just as he knew his mother
would wish him to do under the circumstanceshe held his peace; and
when the cutter shoved off with him, he hoped that something would
happen to keep Beardsley away from Nashville as long as the war
continued. But unfortunately he came back. Marcy had not neglected to
bring his binoculars with him, and finding himself at liberty after the
captain went below, he walked forward to take a look at things, being
accompanied by a couple of master's mates, one of whom had been second
in command of Mr. Watkins's expedition, and answered to the name of
Perkins. The Union fleet lay anchored in three parallel lines a short
distance below the lighthouse, which stood on a dangerous shoal on the
right-hand side of the channel, the gunboats being in advance, with the
exception of half a dozen or more that had been drawn up on the flanks
to protect the transports, in case the enemy began the fight without
waiting to be attacked. A short half mile ahead of the fleet were two
small vessels, the Ceres and the Putnam, whose business
it was to act as picket-boats and look out for obstructions when the
larger vessels were ready to move. Straight up the channel, and not
more than twelve or thirteen miles away, were the double rows of piles
and sunken ships that must be passed in some manner before the Union
vessels could engage the Confederate squadron, which lay on the other
side and close under the protecting guns of Fort Huger. His glass
showed him that the rebels had steam up and were ready for action, and
Marcy wondered why the Union commander wasn't doing something. He said
as much to the two young officers who stood by his side, while he was
making his observations.
Wait a while, replied Perkins, with a sly wink at his companion.
After you have been in one fight you'll not be in any hurry to get
into another. I can wait a week or two as well as not.
I assure you that I am not spoiling for a fight, answered Marcy.
I'd rather not go into one; but since I've got it to do, I wish we
might get at it and have it over with. And as he said this he picked
up his left hand, which had been hanging by his side, and placed it in
the sling he wore around his neck.
Look here, Perk, said the other young officer, when he observed
this movement. I'll bet you have been giving advice to one who knows
more than you do. Where did you get that hand, pilot, if it is a fair
My hand is all right, but my arm was broken by one of your shells
while I was running the blockade, replied Marcy, whereupon the
youngsters opened their eyes, and looked at him and at each other as
though they felt the least bit ashamed of themselves.
But of course you did not know anything about it, and I don't think
hard of it if you took me for a greenhorn.
I took you for a lad of spirit and courage when Mr. Watkins told me
how you had been living back there in the country, exclaimed Perkins.
But of course I did not know that you had snuffed powder.
I should think that shell would have taken your arm off instead of
breaking it, observed the other.
The shell never came near me, but a heavy splinter that was torn
from our rail made me think I was a goner, replied Marcy. The man you
saw put into the brig, and afterward taken out and sent aboard the
store-ship, was my old captain; and I was acting as pilot of his vessel
at the time I was hit. And I am as strong for the Union as anybody in
this squadron. I have a brother on one of these boats, and would like
much to see him.
You don't say? exclaimed Perkins. What boat is he on, and what
position does he hold?
He is a foremast hand on the Harriet Lane. I hope he will
make himself known to his commander, for he is the best kind of a pilot
for this coast.
I am afraid he will not be of any use to us to-day, and that you
will not shake hands with him this trip, replied Perkins. That boat
is not with us. She is outside, chasing blockade runners. Hallo! There
goes our answering pennant. Now, watch the signal from the
flag-shipone, nine, five, second-repeaterAw, what's the use of my
reading off the numbers when I have no signal-book to translate them
It is 'engage the enemy' probably, said his companion.
After we have answered it a few times more, perhaps we will recognize
it when we see it.
If that is what the signal means, why don't you go to your
stations? inquired Marcy, as they began walking leisurely toward the
waist to leave the forecastle clear for the blue-jackets, who came
forward in obedience to a shrill call from the boatswain's whistle,
which was followed by the command: All hands stand by to get ship
under way. You don't seem to be in any haste to do anything, you
What is the use of being in a hurry to get shot at? said Perkins.
Wait until you hear the call to quarters, and then you will see us get
around lively enough. But we shall not have so very much fighting to do
to-day. I heard Mr. Watkins tell the officer of the deck this morning
that this battle will be merely preliminary. When the soldiers get a
foothold on the Island you'll see fun, unless the rebels run away.
Where is my station in action? asked Marcy.
Close at the old man's side, wherever he happens to be, replied
the master's mate. And I will tell you, for your consolation, that he
always happens to be in the most dangerous place he can find. There he
is on the bridge, and perhaps you had better go up to him.
The bridge was a platform with a railing around it, extending nearly
across the deck just abaft the wheel-house, and when Marcy mounted the
ladder that led up to it, he found himself in a position to see
everything that was going on. The captain was standing there with his
hands in his pockets, but he seemed more like a disinterested spectator
than like a man who was about to take a ship into action, for he had
not a word to say to anybody. He wore a canvas bag by his side,
suspended by a broad strap that passed over his shoulder; and if Marcy
could have looked into it, he would have found that it contained a
small book whose cloth covers were heavily loaded with lead. This was
the signal-bookone of the most important articles in a man-of-war's
outfit. The captain always kept it where he could place his hands upon
it at a moment's notice, and if he found that his vessel was in danger
of being captured, he would have thrown it overboard rather than permit
it to fall into the hands of the enemy.
For the first quarter of an hour or so Marcy Gray had nothing to do
but keep out of the way of the captain, who walked back and forth on
the bridge so that he could see every part of the deck beneath him by
simply turning his head, and watch the gunboats fall into line one
after another. The ease and rapidity with which this was done surprised
him. The several commanders knew their places and got into them in
short order, and without in any way interfering with the vessels around
them. If the inanimate masses of wood and iron they commanded had been
possessed of brains and knew what they were expected to do, they could
not have done it more promptly or with less confusion. It was a fine
and inspiriting sight, and Marcy Gray would have walked twenty miles to
see it any day.
The flagship is signalling, sir, said a quartermaster who was on
the bridge with him and the captain.
Marcy turned about and saw a long line of different-colored
streamers traveling up the Southfield's main-mast. When it
reached the top and the breeze had carried the flags out at full length
so that the captain could distinguish them, he took down the number
they represented on a slip of paper, and turned to the corresponding
number in his book to see what the signal meant. This he wrote upon a
separate piece of paper which he held in his hand.
By the time the vessel was fairly under way several signals had been
made from the commodore's flag-ship, and finally a rattle was sounded
somewhere below; whereupon the blue-jackets came running from all
directions, but without the least noise or disorder, and took their
stand by the side of the big guns to which they belonged. When the
command cast loose and provide had been obeyed and every man was in
his place, the roll was called by the commanders of the different
divisions, the sailors responding by giving the names of their stations
First captain and second boarder, sir.
Second loader and first boarder, sir.
Shotman and pikeman, sir.
When the roll had been called the various division commanders
reported to the executive officer, who always has charge of the
gun-deck in action, and he approached the bridge on which the captain
was standing, saluted with his sword, and said:
All present or accounted for, sir.
Very good, sir, answered the captain, giving the officer the paper
he held in his hand. There is what the commodore had to say to us in
one of his signals. Read it to the men.
Mr. Watkins went back to his station and took off his cap; and
instantly the eye of every sailor on deck was fixed upon him.
This signal has just been made from the flag-ship, said Mr.
Watkins, holding the paper aloft. Listen to the reading of it: '
This day our country expects every man to do his duty!' What have
you men to say to that? Will you show the commodore that you know what
your duty is by beating those fellows up there?
The answer was a lusty cheer, in which the officers joined as wildly
as their men. Then cheers began coming from all directions, showing
that the reading of the signal had had the same effect upon other
crews. When the Stars and Stripes, the vessel that was to lead in the
attack, went by to take her station at the head of the line, her men
were yelling at the top of their voices; and when their cheers died
away everything became quiet, and the fleet settled down to business.
The first shot was fired at eleven o'clock. It was from a
hundred-pounder on the leading vessel, and was directed against Fort
Bartow. It was the signal for the opening of the contest, and was
quickly followed by such an uproar that Marcy Gray could hardly hear
himself think. He had always thought that a twenty-four pound howitzer
made a pretty loud noise, but it was nothing to the deafening and
continuous roar of the heavy guns that in a moment filled the air all
about him. He thought he ought to be badly frightened, and he expected
to be; but somehow he was not, and neither was he killed by the shell
from Fort Bartow that struck the water close alongside and exploded, it
seemed to him, almost under his feet. He was in full possession of his
senses, and the hand with which he levelled his glass at the
Confederate fleet was as steady as he had ever known it to be. He was
particularly interested in the movements of that fleet, for he was
acquainted with some of the sailors who manned it. As soon as the
action was fairly begun it left its sheltered position under the guns
of the fort and steamed down the channel. Its leading boats came on at
such a rate of speed that Marcy thought they must know of some opening
in the lines of obstructions, and that they intended to come through
and demolish the Union fleet without aid from the guns on shore; but if
that was their object they failed to accomplish it. Their heaviest
ship, the Curlew, was whipped so quickly that her rebel
commander must have been astonished; and so badly crippled was she by
the solid shot that crashed through her sides, that it was all she
could do to haul out of the fight and seek refuge under the guns of the
nearest fort. In the end both the ship and the fort were blown up
About this time something happened that the young pilot might have
expected, but which he had never once thought of. The smoke of battle
settled so thickly about his vessel that his eyes were of little use to
him; and, to make matters worse, Captain Benton shouted in his ear:
Keep a bright lookout, and if you see us getting into less than
fourteen feet of water, don't fail to let me know it.
I declare, I don't know whether there are fourteen or fourteen
hundred feet of water under our keel at this moment! was the thought
that flashed through Marcy's mind and awoke him to a sense of his
responsibility. I don't know where we are. Then aloud he said: I
can't see a thing from the bridge, Captain. I shall have to go aloft.
The boy did not know whether or not pilots were in the habit of
going aloft in the heat of action, but he thought it was the proper
thing to do under the circumstances. He went, and he did not go any too
soon, either; for when he had climbed up where he could see over the
thickest of the smoke, he found to his consternation that the vessel
was heading diagonally across the channel far to the eastward of the
position in which she ought to be, that she would be hard and fast
aground if she held that course five minutes longer, and that her
shells were exploding in the edge of a piece of timber where he could
not see any signs of a fort or breastwork. It was the work of but a few
seconds for Marcy to make Captain Benton understand the situation, and
when the latter had brought his ship to her proper course by following
the instructions the young pilot shouted down to him, he came up and
took his stand in the top by Marcy's side. There they both remained as
long as the fight continued, and their dinner consisted of a sandwich
and a cup of coffee, which the cabin steward brought up to them at
The first object of the bombardment was accomplished about five
o'clock that afternoon, when a heavy smoke was rolling over Fort
Bartow, caused by the burning of the barracks, which had been set on
fire by a shell from the fleet, the defiant roar of its guns being
almost silenced, and its flaunting banner sent to the dust by the
shooting away of the staff that sustained it, and the enemy, all along
the line, had been driven so far back that the transports could come up
with the troops. It was at this juncture that the services of Mr.
Daniel's black boy, Tom, came into play. He piloted General Burnside's
launches and lighters into Ashby's Harbor, and, by midnight, ten
thousand soldiers were landed in readiness for the real battle, which
was to begin on the following morning. By this time the Confederates
must have been satisfied that they were going to be whipped. Commodore
Lynch knew that he had had all the fighting he wanted; for he retreated
round Wier's Point, and was never seen afterward until Captain Rowan,
with a portion of the Union fleet, hunted him up, and finished him at
Elizabeth City. The battle was over shortly after dark (although the
firing was kept up at intervals during the night), and the leading
boats dropped back to allow others to take their places.
We are not whipped, are we? exclaimed Marcy, when he witnessed
this retrograde movement.
Oh, no, replied the captain, as he backed down from the top. We
have done just what we set out to do when we began the fight this
morning, and, having won all the honors that rightfully belong to us,
we must fall astern, and let somebody else have a show to-morrow.
Marcy followed the captain to the deck, and was greatly surprised by
what he saw when he got there. There were wide openings in the
hammock-nettings that he had not seen there in the morning, and the
ports, through which two of the broadside guns worked, had been torn
into one. Some of the standing rigging was not taut and ship-shape, as
it ought to have been, but was flying loose in the breeze, and there
were one or two dark spots on the deck which looked as though they had
been drenched with water, and afterward sanded. Marcy's heart almost
stopped beating when he saw these things, for they told him that the
vessel had suffered during the fight, and that some of her crew had
been killed or wounded, and he never knew it. But the sight of a flag
which a gray-headed quartermaster was just hauling down from the
masthead, drove gloomy thoughts out of his mind, and sent a thrill of
triumph all through him. It was his own flag, and it had been floating
over his head all day long. He took supper with Captain Benton, and
afterward went below to see the poor fellows who had not come out of
the fight as well as he did. Two of them were laid in the engine-room,
covered with the flag in defense of which they had given up their
lives, and four others were wounded. The sight was nothing to those
that his rebel cousin, Rodney, the Partisan, had often witnessed on the
field of battle; but it was enough to show Marcy Gray that there was a
terrible reality in war.
The next day was the army's. The battle began at seven in the
morning; and although the gunboats, Captain Benton's among the rest,
did the work they were expected to do and succeeded in passing the
obstructions shortly after noon, the heaviest of the fighting was done
by the soldiers. The Confederate flag went down before the sun did, and
twenty-five hundred prisoners, forty heavy guns, and three thousand
stand of small arms fell into the hands of the victors. The Confederate
fleet endeavored to escape by running up the Pasquotank river to
Elizabeth City, Commodore Lynch thinking no doubt that he would there
find re-enforcements, which could easily have been sent from
Portsmouth; but if they were there they did not do him any good, for
Captain Rowan followed him into the river the next day, and destroyed
his entire squadron with the exception of one boat which was captured
and transferred to the Union fleet. After demolishing a portion of the
Dismal Swamp canal, Captain Rowan went to Edenton, Winton, and
Plymouth, all of which were captured without resistance that amounted
to anything, and garrisoned by troops from Burnside's army.
The historian says that the results of this expedition in a
military point of view, were considerable; but those of a political
character did not answer the expectations of the Federal government.
It was believed that the occupation of these points would not only be
the means of stopping the contraband trade, which was kept up in spite
of the blockading fleet, but that it would also keep in countenance
the partisans of the Union, who were thought to be numerous in North
Carolina. When the capture of Newbern, Beaufort, and forts Macon and
Pulaski, which followed close on the heels of the reduction of Roanoke
Island, put all the coast north of Wilmington into the hands of the
Federals, blockade running indeed became a dangerous and uncertain
business; but Marcy Gray could not see that the native Unionists were
in any way benefited. To begin with, General Burnside released all his
prisoners after compelling them to take oath that they would never
again serve against the United States. Does any one suppose that the
prisoners had any intention of keeping that promise, or that the
Confederate government would have permitted them to keep it if they had
been so disposed? It is true that some of these rebel soldiers had had
quite enough of the army, and vowed that they would take to the swamps
before they would enter it again; but it is also true that the most of
them, when they returned to their homes, became determined and
relentless foes of all Union men. So the conquest of Roanoke Island
gave Marcy Gray more enemies to stand in fear of than he had before;
but it had a still worse effect upon his affairs.
It was night when the soldiers that were to take possession of
Plymouth and garrison the place were sent ashore from the transports.
Marcy stood on the bridge, watching them as they disembarked, and
wondering how long it would be before Captain Benton would tell him
that his services were no longer needed and that he might return to his
home; and, while he watched and thought, he discovered a small party of
men on shore with bundles in their hands or on their shoulders, and who
acted as though they were waiting for a chance to come off to the
fleet. He knew, as soon as he looked at them, that they were Union men
who were about to take the opportunity thus presented to enlist under
the old flag.
That is who they are, thought Marcy, after he had kept his
binoculars pointed at them for a minute or two. They can't be anything
else, for they are in citizens' clothes. Now, in trying to better their
own condition, are they not making matters worse for their families, if
they have any? I wonder if I am acquainted with any of them? I will
soon know, for they are heading for this ship.
The boats belonging to Captain Benton's vessel had been engaged,
with all the other boats of the fleet, in taking the soldiers to the
shore, and when they placed their last load of bluecoats upon the bank
and were ready to return to their ship, they brought the party of which
we have spoken off with them. As the leading boat drew nearer to the
side, so that Marcy could obtain a fairer view of the man who sat in
the stern-sheets talking to the coxswain, he uttered a cry of surprise
and alarm, and almost let his glass fall from his hand. The man was
CHAPTER XII. HOME AGAIN.
Marcy Gray waited until the boat drew a little nearer, and then
looked again. There could be no mistake about it. The man in the
stern-sheets with the coxswain was Aleck Webster, the one who had
promised to have an eye on Marcy and his mother while Jack was at sea,
and those who composed his party were men whom Marcy met at the
post-office almost as often as he went there. If they were coming off
to enlist, as Marcy thought they were, wouldn't that break up the band
who held meetings in the swamp? And if that band should be broken up,
who would there be to stand between his mother and the wrath of Captain
Beardsley? These questions and others like them passed through the
boy's mind, as he came down from the bridge and stepped to the gangway
to meet Aleck and his friends when they came on board. Aleck was the
first to get out of the boat and mount the ladder, and when he reached
the top, where the officer of the deck was standing, he touched his hat
We want to ship, sir.
Very good, was the answer. Stand to one side, and some one will
talk to you presently.
This gave Marcy the opportunity he wanted to speak to Aleck. He
moved to his side at once, and was surprised to hear Aleck say, as if
he had expected to find him there:
I was little in hopes I should have a chance to say good-by to you,
sir. Where's old man Beardsley, and have you seen anything of Mr.
Did you know I was here? asked Marcy.
I knew you were in the fleet, of course, for the darkies told us
about the Yankees coming ashore and taking you and Beardsley away to
act as pilots, replied Aleck. But I didn't know you were serving on
this ship, if that is what you mean. Yes; we're going now where we can
fight for our principles. We are tired of living in the woods.
But who will protect the Union families if you go away? said
They'll not need any one to protect them now, answered Aleck. I
talked to some of the soldiers on shore, and they told me they were
here to stay; and as long as they do stay, Beardsley and Shelby and
among 'em will keep as still as mice. They won't dare to do or say
anything to you while there is Union cavalry scouting around through
the settlement every day or two. We left thirteen men in the swamp; and
whether or not they will come out and show themselves as Union men,
depends on the way things look after the fleet goes away.
Marcy was on the point of telling Aleck that Beardsley had been
placed in irons by Captain Benton, who was master of the Mary
Hollins at the time she was captured by the Osprey, but
before he could open his lips a messenger boy came up and told him that
the captain wished to see him in the cabin. Marcy went, and found the
captain seated at his table holding a pen in one hand and something
that looked like a blank sheet of paper in the other.
Sit down, said he, pointing to a chair. I suppose we are as near
to your home as we shall go; and as we are about to start for Newbern,
where you will not be of much service to us as a pilot, I propose to
give you your release unless you have made up your mind to stay with
us. I should be glad to have you do it, and will advance your interests
in every way I can.
But what would my mother do without me? asked Marcy.
I assure you I have not forgotten her, and so I do not urge you to
remain, replied the captain. Now, how can you get home in the easiest
By boat, if I had one.
You can have three or four if you want that many. You know that we
have captured every sort of craft we could find along the shore, and
you can take your pick of any of those on deck. I don't know that this
will be of any use to you, said the captain, shaking the sheet of
paper he held in his hand, but I think it would be a good plan for you
to take it along, for there is no telling what may happen. You don't
think there is anything on it, do you? Well, there is, and it is the
strongest letter of recommendation I know how to write. We are going to
leave garrisons scattered all through this region, and if at any time
you find yourself in trouble with them, tell the first officer you can
find to hold this paper before a hot fire and read the words the heat
will bring out. The letter is written with sympathetic ink, and you
don't want to use it until you have to, because, after the characters
have once been brought out, there is no way that I know of to make them
invisible again. I am deeply indebted to you, and wish there was some
way in which I could serve you.
It made Marcy sad to have the captain talk to him in this way.
Although he was impatient to get home, he did not like to take leave of
the new friends he had made on board that ship, for the probabilities
were that he would never see them again. After thinking a moment he
replied that he did not know of anyway in which the captain could favor
him, unless it was by taking a brotherly interest in Aleck Webster and
his friends, who had come off to his ship for the purpose of enlisting.
They are on deck now, said Marcy, in conclusion, and I was sorry
to see them come aboard. Of course they have a right to do as they
please, but I had somehow got it into my head that they would stay on
shore to protect those of us who are unable to protect ourselves. But
Aleck thinks we do not need any one to protect us now that all these
captured points are to be held by the Union forces.
And that is what I think, replied the captain. The commanding
officer at Plymouth will not stand by and let your rebel neighbors
impose on you. If they don't behave themselves, report them; that's all
you've got to do.
But you don't know how sly they are, and how hard it is to prove
anything against them. The commodore as good as said that Captain
Beardsley would be released.
Of course; and Burnside probably released him at the time he
paroled the prisoners we captured on the Island. When you get home you
will probably find him there, but I don't think you have anything to
fear from him. There's your letter, and here are a few copies of a
joint proclamation by Burnside and Goldsborough, which I am instructed
to scatter wherever I go, said the captain, placing a good-sized
package in Marcy's hand and rising from his seat as he spoke. Take
them along, and put them where you think they will do the most good. I
suppose the folks ashore think we are outlaws of the worst
Marcy replied that that was about the idea the people in his
settlement had of Yankees, and added that he did not believe that a
single article of value could be found in a plantation house within a
circle of ten miles of Plymouth, everything that was worth stealing
having been carried away and concealed in the swamps.
Well, when you meet people of that sort, call their attention to
the last paragraph of that proclamation, said the captain. Now, we
shall have to say good-by, for I expect to drop down the river in a few
And you'll not forget to look out for Jack and Aleck? said Marcy.
You know Aleck is the man who saved me from choking. And I can have my
flag back, I suppose?
I'll have Webster sworn in this very night, and when I see the
captain of the Lane I will tell him what I know about Jack Gray,
and will say that his brother did me good service while the fleet was
in Croatan and Albemarle sounds. The quartermaster will return your
flag at once.
Marcy went into the state room that he had used as his own since he
had been on board the ship, and when he came out he brought his valise,
in which he had stowed the package the captain had intrusted to his
care. The flag with which his Harrington girl presented him, and which
had waved triumphant during three hard battles and several sharp
skirmishes, was promptly handed out by the quartermaster on watch, and
then Marcy followed the captain to the waist, to pick out the skiff
that was to take him to his home. As his wounded arm was not yet in a
serviceable condition, he selected a boat with a square stern, that
could be sculled with one oar. After it had been put into the water,
and the countersign, Roanoke, had been whispered in his ear, Marcy
shook hands all around, not forgetting Aleck Webster and the other
Union men among the rest, and pushed off into the darkness. The current
was strong, and Marcy hugged the bank to keep out of it as much as he
could, and by so doing brought himself to the notice of half a dozen
sentries who compelled him to come ashore with the countersign. Of
course this was a bother, and the progress he made with his one-handed
sculling was slow and laborious; but it was safer than following a
lonely road and running the risk of falling in with some of those rebel
soldiers whom General Burnside had sent to their homes. Marcy told
himself that that was about the worst thing that could have happened to
him. He was afraid that these paroled prisoners would be pliant tools
in the hands of Captain Beardsley, and they were so numerous that the
thirteen Union men, who were all there were left of the band that had
rescued him and his mother from the power of the robbers, could not
hold their own against them.
Things will be worse now than they ever were before, thought
Marcy, as he sculled his boat out of the river into Seven Mile Creek,
and sat down to take a much-needed rest and eat a portion of the lunch
that Captain Benton's steward had put up for him. Beardsley will be
more vindictive than ever, because I did not say a word for him when
Captain Benton put him in irons, and if the truth will not answer his
purpose, he'll not scruple to lie about me. He'll try his best to force
me into the army so that he can have a clear field for his operations,
but I'll tell you what's a fact, I'll not go, said Marcy hotly. Jack
declared that he would take to the swamp before he would fight for the
Confederacy, and why shouldn't I do the same? I will. I'll become a
refugee rather than shoot at the flag my brother is sailing under.
Refugee: one who flees for refuge or safety. That's me, as Dick Graham
used to say. I'll seek safety among the Union men who spend the most of
their time in the woods. It's my opinion that from now on they will
have to spend all their time there, for I don't believe that the
prisoners Burnside released will leave any houses for them to go into.
Mother's will have to go with the rest.
Marcy had often made the trip from his mother's house to Plymouth
and back in a rowboat, and if he thought it hard when he had two hands
to use, it was doubly tedious and discouraging now that he had only
one, and nothing but the most gloomy thoughts for company. He had
almost made up his mind that he would camp on the bank for the rest of
the night and walk home in the morning, when he was startled by hearing
a low, familiar whistle, something like the chirp of a cricket, a short
distance away. He listened until the sound was repeated, and then
called out, in a husky voice:
Hi ya! came the answer through the darkness; and Marcy thought he
had never heard anything half so melodious as the black boy's laugh. I
done tol' dat fool niggah he didn't know nuffin, but he won't listen to
Julius. Eberybody take Julius for a plum dunce; but I done fine you,
Marse Mahcy, an' dere's dat Morris
Where are you? interrupted the boy. Come here and tell me what
you mean, and what brought you here so far from home.
Nuffin didn't brung me hyar; I jes done come, replied Julius; and
a slight splashing in the water indicated that he was in a boat, and
that he was pushing off from the bank in the direction from which
Marcy's voice sounded. Dat fool Morris, he take de mu-el an' de filly
an' done gone to Nashville lookin' for you; but I know you aint gwine
come home dat a way fru all dem rebel soldiers, an' so I come hyar.
And very glad I am to see you, answered Marcy, laying hold of the
side of the dugout that just then bumped against his skiff. You came
here to meet me while Morris went to Nashville with my horse. How did
you know I was coming home to-night?
Well, de missus say you boun' to come mighty soon, now dat de
Yankees done cotch Plymouth, an' so I come hyar, replied Julius.
Howdy, Marse Mahcy!
The latter replied that he felt pretty well but hungry, although he
had just finished a hearty lunch. Julius had been thoughtful enough to
provide for that, and straightway produced a basket whose contents
would have withstood the assaults of two or three boys with appetites
sharper than his own; and while he ate, Marcy asked a good many leading
questions, in the hope of inducing his close-mouthed black friend to
tell him just how things had been going at home during his absence. He
learned that Captain Beardsley had returned in company with some of the
prisoners who had been paroled at the Island, but so far as Julius knew
he had not set any new plans afloat against Marcy and his mother.
Perhaps he did not think it would be safe to do so until things became
a little more settled, for among those who had been captured at Roanoke
were many who were very bitter against the Confederate government, and
who declared that they would fight before they would go into the army
again. Some of the soldiers had stopped at the house to ask for
something to eat; but others had marched by shaking their fists and
yelling derisively. Marcy's heart sank when he heard that, for it
proved that he had not been mistaken as to the course Captain Beardsley
would pursue when the Federals permitted him to return to his home.
Undoubtedly he had told all he knew about Mrs. Gray and her two sons,
and it would have been just like him if he had urged the defeated and
enraged Confederates to take satisfaction out of all the Union people
they could find, since they had failed to beat those who had confronted
them in battle. Indeed, that was what Beardsley did; and Marcy
afterward found out why his scheme did not work.
Having taken the sharp edge off his appetite, Marcy told Julius to
make the skiff's painter fast to the stern of his dugout and go ahead;
and the sooner he reached home the better he would like it. He found it
much easier to lie at full length on the bottom of his boat, and allow
Julius to tow him, than it was to work his way against a strong current
with one handso very much easier, in fact, that he dropped asleep and
slumbered until the bow of the skiff touched the landing abreast of the
buoy to which his little schooner was moored. The sight of her recalled
to mind the last conversation he had held with Captain Benton.
I am afraid we shall have to look up a new berth for the Fairy
Belle said he. It may not be safe for her to stay here any
longer, because the Yankees are taking possession of everything in the
shape of a boat that they can get their hands on.
What for dey do dat? exclaimed Julius. De boats aint agin de
They have been made to do service against the Union, answered
Marcy, and they can be used to carry dispatches from one side of the
river to the other.
Well, den, luf dem go down an' bus' up Cap'n Beardsley's schooner,
exclaimed Julius. She wuk agin de Union when she run de blockade.
I know that; and I had half a notion to put Captain Benton on the
track of her, said Marcy, who knew very well that he had no intention
of doing anything of the kind. That is the way he would serve me if he
had a good chance. Pick up my valise and come along.
When Marcy went through the gate he missed his faithful Bose, who
had always been the first to welcome him; but some of the house
servants were stirring, and these greeted him as though they had never
expected to see him again. They knew where he had been and what he had
been doing, and had thought of and prayed for him as often as they
heard the roar of the big guns, which the breeze now and then brought
faintly to their ears. They made such a fuss over him that Marcy was
saved the trouble of awaking his mother, whom he found waiting for him
in the sitting-room.
You told me that when I came home you wanted me to be able to say
that I did my duty, said the young pilot, as his mother laid her head
on his shoulder and cried softly. I can honestly say it, and I have a
letter in my pocket from Captain Benton that will bear me out in it.
I am sorry you brought it with you, said Mrs. Gray. The country
is overrun with Confederate soldiers, and from the way some of them
behave I am led to believe that they know all about us.
I'll bet they do, said Marcy bitterly. You know, of course, that
Beardsley was carried away the same night and for the same purpose I
was? Well, the Yankees did not call upon him to act as pilot, but put
him in irons at once; and I am sorry to say that he was paroled at the
time the other prisoners were. But you need not worry about my letter,
as I shall presently show you. Sit down, and tell me what you have done
to kill time since I have been gone.
To his relief Marcy found that Julius had told the truth for once in
his life, and that his mother had had nothing beyond his absence to
trouble her, if we except the demonstrations that some of the paroled
prisoners made while they were going by the house. They had not annoyed
her by coming into the yard, as they might have done if their officers
had not been along to restrain them, but they had whooped and yelled
and threatened in a way that was enough to frighten anybody. She said
that the excitement and alarm that took possession of the people when
the news came that Roanoke Island was in the hands of the invading
forces, was something she would remember as long as she lived. The news
must have reached Nashville and Plymouth on the night of the surrender,
for at daylight the next morning the road in front of the house was
filled with fugitives who were making all haste to carry their property
out of harm's way. If a body of Yankee cavalry had suddenly appeared at
their heels it would scarcely have caused a flutter among them, for
they were panic-stricken already.
The world is full of fools, exclaimed Marcy, undoing the string
that held together the bundle of proclamations that Captain Benton had
given him, and the biggest ones I ever heard of live right around
here. Didn't they ask you why you didn't pack up and run, too?
They did; and my reply was, that I had a son who had been impressed
into the Union service; that if I went away he would not know where to
look for me, and that I intended remaining in my home until he
returned, said Mrs. Gray.
Good for you, mother! exclaimed Marcy. You'll do. Of course, the
last one of them was suspicious of you, but you couldn't help that.
Now, here are some copies of a proclamation that Captain Benton gave
me, with the request that I would spread them around where they would
do the most good. He wished me to call particular attention to the last
paragraph, and now I will see how it reads.
Seating himself by his mother's side, with a copy of the
proclamation in his hand, Marcy proceeded to read it aloud. After
referring to the desolating war, that had been brought on by
comparatively few bad men, the last paragraph went on to say:
These men are your worst enemies. They, in truth, have drawn
you into your present condition, and are the real disturbers
of your peace and the happiness of your firesides. We invite
you, in the name of the Constitution, and in that of
virtuous loyalty and civilization, to separate yourselves at
once from their malign influence, to return to your
allegiance, and not compel us to resort farther to the force
under our control. The government asks only that its
authority may be recognized; and we repeat that in no manner
or way does it desire to interfere with your laws,
constitutionally established; your institutions, of any kind
whatever; your property, of any sort; or your usages, in any
That was what Mr. Watkins told you on the night he took me away,
said Marcy, when he had finished reading the proclamation. He said
that the South could end the war by laying down their arms, and General
Burnside and Commodore Goldsborough say the same.
But, my son, that is not what the secession leaders want, said
Mrs. Gray. They demand a separate government, and say they will not
return to their allegiance.
They'll have to do it, and, when they go back, they'll not take
slavery with them. Mark my words. The time is coming when the darkies
will be as free as we are; and I wish that time might come to-morrow,
if it would only bring peace upon the land once more. I sometimes
think, and hope, that I am having a horrid dream, and that I will wake
up in the morning to find everything as it was before. Now, don't cry,
mother. I'll not talk so any more. There's my flag as sound as it was
when I took it away; but it has been in battle-smoke so thick that you
couldn't see it from the deck. I must hoist Dick Graham's next, but not
until it can float in a breeze that is untainted by any secession rag.
That was the promise I made him when he gave me the flag, instead of
turning it over to Rodney, who wanted to destroy it. Can't we have
breakfast a little earlier, so that I can go to town?
You can have breakfast whenever you want it; but, Marcy, I am
almost afraid to have you go to town, replied his mother.
If I thought I would be in any more danger there than I am at home
I wouldn't stir one step, said the boy. I don't think it would be
policy for me to keep away from those paroled prisoners, but that it
would be safest for me to go among them as Captain Beardsley does.
Besides, I want to hear what sort of stories that old villain has been
telling about me since he came back. Now, where would be a good place
to put Captain Benton's letter? We are liable to receive a visit from
the Union cavalry any day, and the letter ought to be kept handy.
In accordance with Marcy's request breakfast was served as soon as
it could be made ready, and during the progress of the meal Marcy
entertained his mother with a glowing description of the various
engagements through which he had passed on Captain Benton's vessel.
Contrary to his expectations, he said, he did not feel frightened when
he went into the first fight at the Island, and no doubt the reason was
because he had so many things to occupy his mind; but after that he
grew pale and trembled every time he heard the call to quarters, for he
had a faint idea of what was before him. And the oftener he was under
fire the more he dreaded the thought of going into action. His
experience was like that of every soldier in this land; and when we say
soldier we do not mean coffee-cooler.
Mrs. Gray became alarmed when Marcy told her how Captain Beardsley
had been put in irons by the man who had once been his prisoner, for
she was well enough acquainted with the captain to know that he would
be revenged upon somebody for it. When he had eaten all the breakfast
he wanted, Marcy mounted his mother's horse, that had been brought to
the door in place of his filly which old Morris had taken to Nashville,
and galloped out of the yard. The first man he saw was Beardsley,
standing by the ruins of his house. The man looked up when he heard the
sound of hoofs on the road, and when he discovered Marcy he beckoned
him to come in.
I've just thought of something, said the boy to himself, as he
turned into the gate. This villain is going to play off friendly, and
I can't watch him any too closely. When the Yanks get to scouting
through here, he will be the best Union man in the world; and who knows
but he will send them to our house after Jack's rebel flag? That flag
must come down the minute I get home.
Then he rode up and shook hands with Captain Beardsley, who acted as
if he was glad to see him.
CHAPTER XIII. A REBEL SOLDIER
I just wanted to ask you how and when you got back, said the
captain, holding fast to Marcy's hand. I see Morris over town
yesterday, and right there he is going to stay till you come to ride
the filly home. How did you like the Yanks, what you seen of 'em?
I have no reason to complain of my treatment, replied Marcy. I
had no idea that you were impressed at the time I was, until I saw you
on that gunboat.
If I'd knowed that they was going to slap the bracelets onto me,
they never would have took me there alive, said Beardsley in savage
tones. I'd a fit till I dropped before I would have went a step. Who'd
'a' thought that me and you would ever seen any of them Hollins
fellers on a war-ship? I'm mighty sorry now that I didn't stick Captain
Benton in irons the same as I done with his men, and it's a lucky thing
for him that he didn't let me have the handling of his ship. I would
have run her so hard aground that she would be there now.
Then it is a lucky thing for you that you were sent below, added
Marcy. You would have been hanging at the yard-arm in less than ten
minutes after you ran the ship ashore. Those gunboat fellows don't
stand any nonsense.
Mebbe that's so, said the captain. And sense I've got home all
right, I'm kinder glad things happened as they did. The robbers who
went to your house, after the money they didn't get, used me pretty
rough, didn't they? he added, jerking his thumb over his shoulder
toward the spot on which his home had once stood. How do you reckon
they happened to know that I wasn't here to fight 'em that night?
That is a question I can't answer, replied Marcy, and then he
waited for Beardsley to say something about the Union men who had
rescued him and his mother, but that seemed to be a matter that the
captain did not care to touch upon.
Don't it beat you what sort of stories get afloat these times?
continued the latter. There's plenty of people about here who believe
you uns have got money in your house.
I know it. I told the robbers there wasn't a cent outside of the
little there was in mother's purse and mine, and asked them to look
around and see if they could find any more. They preferred to choke a
different story out of me, but they wouldn't have got it if they had
choked me to death. If there is a dollar in the house besides what I
offered them, I don't know it.
Where's the prize-money I paid you?' asked Beardsley.
That was safely concealed; but it wasn't what they wanted, and so I
said nothing about it. They were after money which they and some other
lunatics think my mother brought from Wilmington, when she went there
to buy goods.
Have you any idea who they were?
If I had, I would give their names to the Union commander at
Plymouth before I was twenty-four hours older, said Marcy
I don't reckon they'll trouble you any more after the lesson they
have had, said Beardsley; and then he hastened to add: I mean they
won't dare to pester you, now that the Union soldiers are here. And
speaking of the Yankees reminds me of another thing I wanted to ask
you. Do you reckonaint I always stood your friendyourn and your
You need not question me on that point. You know well enough how we
feel over your taking me to sea when you didn't need my services any
more than you need two noses, said Marcy, for once permitting his
indignation to get the better of him. But I shall not do you any mean,
underhanded tricks, if that is what you mean.
Why, Marcy, I never done you nary one, began Beardsley.
Captain, I know you from main-truck to kelson, answered the boy,
gathering up his reins as if about to ride away. You took me from my
mother for reasons of your own, not because you wanted a pilot; and you
have scarcely made a move since these troubles began that I can't tell
you of. You ought to let up now, and I tell you plainly that you had
Beardsley was astounded. His victim had turned at last, and showed
that he was ready to fight. He spoke so positively, and with such easy
assurance, that the man was afraid of him.
Why, Marcy, sure, hope to die I never
Yes, you have. You have been persecuting us systematically, and
there's the proof of it right there, exclaimed Marcy, pointing to the
ruins of Beardsley's home. If you had quit that business two months
ago, you would have a house to live in now, and so would Colonel
Shelby. I believe I could have sent you to prison by telling Captain
Benton a few scraps of your history, but I wasn't mean enough to do
No, you couldn't, declared Beardsley, who had had time to recover
a little of his courage. I never was in the Confederate service; and
even if I was, I can't be pestered for it now, kase the Yankees done
let me go with the rest of the prisoners.
You have been a smuggler, haven't you?
S'pose I have? I can't be hurt for that now.
I almost wish I had tested the matter by speaking to Captain Benton
about it. If I had, I don't think you would have been turned over to
the army to be paroled with the other prisoners. I could have told him
about the Hattie, couldn't I?
Great smoke! exclaimed Beardsley. I never thought of her, and
there she is in the creek, where they could have picked her up as easy
as you please. It was good of you not to say anything about her, and if
I ever get a chance I'll show you that you and your maw have been
thinking hard of me without a cause.
Beardsley turned away as if he had nothing further to say to Marcy,
and the latter wheeled his horse and rode on toward Nashville,
wondering if he had made a mistake in talking so plainly to his old
If I have it is too late to be sorry for it now, was his
reflection. But I don't think he can say worse things about me now
than he could before. Beardsley is nobody's fool, though he does look
like it, and he has known all along how mother and I feel toward him.
When Marcy reached the village he found the streets almost deserted;
but he knew there was a talkative crowd in the post-office, for every
time the door was opened loud and angry voices came through it. Tom
Allison, Mark Goodwin, and their friends were not at hand to have the
first talk with him, as Marcy thought they would be, but he found them
in the office listening to an excited harangue from a paroled soldier,
who had discarded his coat and hat and pushed up his sleeves, as if he
were prepared to do battle with the first one of his auditors who dared
dispute his words. Marcy saw at a glance that some of the crowd were
very much shocked, while others were grinning broadly, and nodding now
and then as if to say that the speaker was expressing their sentiments
exactly. Marcy knew him well. He lived in the settlement, and had been
one of the first to put on a uniform and hasten to the front; and so
very patriotic was he that he was anxious to fight all his neighbors
who could not be persuaded to go into the army with him. But his
experience at Hatteras and Roanoke Island had somewhat dampened his
ardor, and showed him that there were some things in war that he had
never dreamed of.
How does it come that you stay-at-homers know so much about this
business, and about my duty as a soldier, that you take it upon
yourselves to tell me what I had oughter do? shouted the man who had
heard the shrieking of Yankee shells at Fort Bartow. I see some among
you who are mighty hard on your niggers, but there aint one who is as
hard as our trifling officers were on us. Having no niggers to drive
they took to driving us white men, and they 'bused us like we was dogs.
Many's the time I have seen men tied up by the thumbs and bucked and
gagged for nothing at all; and, Tom Allison, I give you fair warning
that if you say again that I'm a coward kase I don't allow to go back
and be 'bused like I was afore, I'll twist your neck for ye.
This made two things plain to Marcy Gray. One was that the man had
had quite enough of soldiering and that he did not mean to try it again
if he could help it. The other was that his friend Allison had presumed
to speak his mind a little too freely, and that that was what started
the prisoner on his tirade against those whom he called
stay-at-homers. After some twisting, and turning, and elbowing Marcy
succeeded in obtaining a glance at Tom.
He was leaning against one of the counters, as far away from the
speaker as he could get, and his face was as white as his shirt-front.
I'm mighty glad to hear that there's Union men among you,
continued the soldier, and if there's any here in this post-office I
want them to know that there's more of 'em now nor they was a week ago,
and that some of 'em wears gray jackets. And I am glad to hear that
them same Union men have took to burning out them among you who was
cowards enough to persecute women and children on account of their
principles. Now, there's that trifling hound Lon Beardsley. He told me
and some others who come up from the Island the same time he did, that
we could make a pile of money by burning Mrs. Gray's house.
Colonel Shelby was one of those who listened while the angry soldier
talked, but being a stay-at-homer he dared not interrupt him. He
stood where he could look over the shoulders of some of the crowd into
Marcy's face; and when the soldier spoke Beardsley's name, and told
what the latter had tried to induce him and some companions to do, the
colonel leaned forward and whispered a few earnest words to him. The
man bent his head to listen, but as soon as the colonel ceased speaking
he broke out again.
I aint a paroled pris'ner neither, he shouted. I took my oath
that I wouldn't never fight agin the United States again, and I'm going
to stick to it. I'm a free man now; I am going to stay free, and I
won't shut up till I get ready. When I say that Lon Beardsley tried to
get me to burn Mrs. Gray's house I say the truth, and Beardsley dassent
come afore me and say different. But I told him plain that we uns who
had fit and snuffed powder wouldn't do no dirty work like that. We
don't care if Jack Gray is in the Yankee navy and Marcy was a pilot on
a Yankee gunboat. If they was in that fight I done my level best to
sink 'em; but they whopped us fair and square, and I've had enough of
fighting to last me as long as I live. All the same I aint going to let
no little whiffet like Tom Allison call me a coward.
While the soldier was going on in this way, pounding the air with
his fists and shouting himself hoarse, those of his auditors who could
do so without attracting too much attention, secured their mail and
slipped through the door into the street; and when the crowd became
thinned out so that he could see to the other end of the post-office,
Marcy was surprised to discover that the man was not alone and
unsupported, as he had supposed him to be. Six or eight stalwart
fellows in uniform leaned against the counters; and the fact that they
did not interrupt their comrade, or take him to task for anything he
said, was pretty good evidence that he spoke for them as well as for
himself. Among those who were glad to get away from the sound of his
voice were Tom Allison and Mark Goodwin, who went across the road to
the hitching-rack, and had time to do a little talking between
themselves before Marcy came out.
Did you ever hear a fellow go on as Ben Hawkins did? whispered
Tom, who had not yet recovered from his fright.
It's just awful to hear a Confederate soldier talk treason like
that, replied Mark. I declare, things are getting worse every day. I
thought that when our soldiers came home they would hunt the Unionists
out of the country, and burn everything they've got; but, by gracious!
they are Unionists themselves, or traitors to the flag, which amounts
to the same thing. I tell you, Tom, you came mighty near getting
yourself into serious trouble by calling Hawkins a coward. If ever fire
came from a man's eyes it came from his. What in the world made you do
I called him a coward when he declared that he wouldn't fight the
Yankees any more, because I thought he was one, replied Tom. And I
still think so. There were several other soldiers in there, and I
supposed of course they would stand by me. They all know my father, and
some of them are under obligations to him; but instead of backing me in
my efforts to make Hawkins ashamed of himself, they stood by and let
him talk as he pleased. I was glad to hear him say what he did about
Do you think he told the truth? asked Mark.
I am sure of it; for if Beardsley didn't say something to him, how
would Hawkins know that there was a big pile of money in Mrs. Gray's
house? I'm free to confess that I am getting scared, and if I knew any
safe place around here I would go to it.
Here, too, exclaimed Mark. But, Tom, this state of affairs can't
last long. Unless we are whipped already, and I never will believe that
till I have to, these places will all be taken from the enemy, and then
there can be something done toward driving from the country such
fellows as Hawkins and
And such fellows as this one coming, added Tom, with a slight nod
toward Marcy Gray, who just then came out of the post-office.
Won't he hold his head in the air now? exclaimed Mark, in disgust.
If he doesn't know by this time that he is the biggest toad in this
puddle, it isn't Hawkins's fault. Doesn't it beat the world how some
people can hold their own with a whole settlement against them?
Marcy Gray did not look as though he thought himself better than
anybody else, but he did look astonished and perplexed. The scene he
had just witnessed, and the words to which he had listened, almost
dazed him. If any one had told him that such sentiments could be
littered in a town like Nashville, nine out of ten of whose citizens
were supposed to be good Confederates, without a tragedy following
close upon the heels of it, he would have thought the statement an
absurd one for any sane man to make. Marcy knew then, as well as he did
when he afterward read it in one of his papers, that the people of
North Carolina were not ardently devoted to the Confederate cause. In
fact they did not care much for either party; but while a large number
of them would have liked to wait for the issue of the struggle to
declare their preferences, those who remained loyal to the flag of the
Union were too much afraid of a turn of fortune to avow their
sentiments openly. But it seemed that Hawkins was not afraid to say
what he thought of the situation, and only one of the rebels who
listened to his speech in the post-office had dared dissent from his
views. That was Tom Allison, who came near having his neck twisted
for his impudence.
You look surprised, old fellow, was the way in which Tom greeted
Marcy when he came up.
Who wouldn't be? answered Marcy. If all the paroled prisoners
think that way the Confederate army must be in bad shape.
But they don't, said Mark hastily. If some of those Tom and I
talked with yesterday were here now, they would make Hawkins sing a
different song, I bet you. We found them as strong for the cause, and
as spiteful against all Unionists, North and South, as they were when
they first went into the army. Hawkins is mad because he got whipped;
but he will be all right a week from now. Were you in any battles,
You can't think how astonished we were when we woke up in the
morning and learned that the Yankee sailors had been through our
neighborhood, and that nobody, except a few niggers, was the wiser for
it, said Tom. Beardsley says you acted as pilot, but he didn't. He
positively refused to do it, and the Yankees put him in irons. Is that
It is true that Beardsley was put in irons, but not because he
refused to act as pilot, replied Marcy. He didn't get a chance to say
whether he would go on the bridge or not, for Captain Benton did not
ask him. He was ironed for the reason that he served the crew of the
Hollins that way when he captured them.
Did they treat you well?
First-rate. They couldn't have done better if I had been one of
And you were one of them. You couldn't have done more to help them
win the fight if you had had a blue shirt on, were the words that
trembled on the point of Tom Allison's tongue. But he did not speak
them aloud. He had received one severe rebuke that morning, and did not
think he could stand another; but Ben Hawkins and his friends, who just
then left the post-office and came across the road to the place where
the boys were standing, did not hesitate to commend Marcy for the
course he pursued while on the gunboat. They came up in time to hear
Mark Goodwin say:
Why didn't you run that ship aground? That's what I would have done
if I had been in your place, and it is what Captain Beardsley would
have done if he had been allowed the opportunity.
And been hung up by the neck for his trouble, said Hawkins; and to
Mark's surprise and Tom's, he took Marcy's hand in both his own and
shook it cordially. It would have pleased them better if Hawkins had
knocked Marcy down. That was the way they expected to see Confederate
soldiers treat all Union men and boys, and they would have enjoyed the
spectacle. You stay-at-homers don't know nothing about war, continued
Hawkins, giving way to his comrades, all of whom shook Marcy's hand one
after the other, and we uns, who have been there, say Marcy acted just
right in doing as he did. I'd 'a' done the same thing myself, and so
would any other man unless he was plum crazy. Go and get some soldier
clothes and shoulder muskets, you two. We've done our share, and now we
will stand back and give you uns a chance to see how you like it.
Don't you intend to return to the army, Mr. Hawkins? inquired
Well, 'cording to the oath I've took I can't, answered the
soldier. I did promise that I would never fight against the old flag
agin, but that's neither here nor there. My year is pretty nigh up, and
I'm going to stay around home and eat good grub for a while. I don't
mean to say that I won't never 'list again, but it won't be till I've
seen some others whopped like I have been.
He looked fixedly at Tom as he said this, and the boy, believing
that he would feel more at his ease if he were farther out of the
soldier's reach, turned about and went toward the post-office, followed
by his friend Mark.
Say! whispered Hawkins, as soon as the two were out of hearing. I
aint a-going to ask you where you stand, kase that aint none of my
business; but what's this I hear about your maw having a pile of money
in the house, and Beardsley and among 'em be so anxious to get it that
they brought men up from Newbern, to rob her of it?
Marcy explained in few words; that is to say, he told what Captain
Beardsley thought, but he did not acknowledge that there was money in
or about the house with the exception of the small sum he had offered
the robbers, and which they refused to take. And then he asked Hawkins
how he happened to know anything about it.
I know pretty much everything that's happened here sense I went
into the army, and what's more, I know why it happened, was the
answer. My folks told me about it soon's I got home. I know, too, that
some of your friends have gone into the Yankee service; but you've got
a few yet, and you see them right here with gray jackets on. Say
nothing to nobody; but there's skursely a poor man around here who aint
beholden to your folks for something or other, and if you get into
trouble we're bound to help you out.
I am very grateful to you for the assurance, said Marcy. But do
you know that if you do not go back to serve your year out, you will be
treated as deserters?
We know all that, and we know better'n you do how they treat
deserters in our army; but it's a good plan to catch your rabbit afore
you cook him, said Hawkins, with a grin. My folks wanted me to stay
home the worst kind and see who was going to whop afore I took sides,
and I'm mighty sorry I didn't listen to 'em. Look out what you're
doing, you babolitionist, exclaimed Hawkins, as old Morris elbowed his
way through the group to Marcy's side. We rebels will eat you up.
I don't care what you do to Morris so long's you let Marse Mahcy
be, said the black man, who was almost ready to cry when he saw the
boy standing before him as sound as he was when he left home. The
Yankees done kill himjes' look at that hand of hisnand now you
rebels done pester him plum to death.
Go 'long now, Uncle Morris. We aint worrying on him and he will
tell you so, replied Hawkins good-naturedly. But our critter-fellers
are round picking up all the darkies they can find and making soldiers
of 'em, and you had best watch out. Don't go outside the two-mile
limit, or, better yet, don't put your nose out of doors after dark.
Hawkins and his comrades walked away, and old Morris turned a very
badly frightened face toward Marcy.
Don't mind them, said the latter. They're soldiers, and of course
they must have their fun. You need not think that the rebels will ever
put faith enough in you black ones to trust you with muskets in your
They'd better not, said Morris. How you come here, Marse Mahcy? I
been waiting two days for you.
The boy explained that Julius had found him in the creek and helped
him home, and the old fellow did not appear to be well pleased with the
news, for he walked off, muttering to himself and shaking his head with
every step he took, to bring up his mule and Marcy's horse. The latter
did not wait for him, but mounted and rode homeward; and he was in so
anxious and unsettled a frame of mind that he could not bring himself
to take his papers from his pocket. The situation was something he had
never dreamed of, and Marcy did not believe it would last for any
length of time. The Confederate authorities would not permit enlisted
men to roam at large through the country, talking as Hawkins had done,
but would soon put a stop to it by some violent measures, and bring
their disaffected soldiers to punishment at the same time. The paroled
prisoner was angry over the result of the battles at Roanoke Island; he
must have been or he would not have expressed himself so freely. And
when Marcy reached home and talked the matter over with his mother, and
became quieted down so that he could read his papers understandingly,
he found that there were some high in authority who were angry over it
also; General Wise for one, who said in his report that Roanoke
Island, being the key to all the rear defences of Norfolk, ought to
have been defended at the cost of twenty thousand men. But General
Wise did not stop there. He sent a protest to the Confederate Congress,
censuring both the President and Secretary of War, and the upshot of
the matter was that Mr. Benjamin became so unpopular that he was forced
to resign. The general's letter also opened the eyes of the Confederate
government to the fact that the people of North Carolina were not half
as loyal to the cause as they ought to have been, and that something
would have to be done about it. If the Southern men would not enter the
army willingly, they must be compelled to come in; and this the
government straightway proceeded to do. Almost the first move that was
made brought about the thing that Marcy Gray most dreaded, and made a
refugee of him.
CHAPTER XIV. A YANKEE SCOUTING
Marcy Gray served as pilot on Captain Benton's vessel for a period
of ten days, counting from February 8 to the time the fleet set sail
for Newbern; but the work the Burnside expedition had to do was not
finished until April 26, when Fort Macon, in Georgia, surrendered,
after a short, but brisk, bombardment. This fort was commanded by a
nephew of the Confederate President, who, in response to a summons to
surrender, declared that he would not yield until he had eaten his last
biscuit. The Union commander thought that a man who could talk like
that would surely do some good fighting, but he was disappointed. A few
hours' pounding by gunboats and shore batteries brought the boastful
rebel to his senses, and he was glad to escape further punishment by
hauling down his own flag, and sending a white one up in place of it.
The Union forces were successful everywhere along the coast; not
once did they meet with disaster. The nearest they came to it was when
that terrible northeast gale struck them off Hatteras, and with that
gale they had their longest and hardest battle. Of course, Marcy Gray
did not get what he called straight news regarding these glorious
victories, but his rebel neighbors confessed to defeat in every
engagement, and that was all he wanted to know. But there was another
thing that began troubling him now, and it was something he had not
thought of. With the fall of Newbern, and the occupation of the
principal towns by the Federal troops, the regular mails from the South
were cut off, and, for a time, the village of Nashville had little
communication with the outside world. Even rebel news, distorted, as it
was, out of all semblance to the truth, was better than no news at all,
and Marcy declared that there was but one thing left for him to do, and
that was to ride around and gossip with the neighbors, as Tom Allison
and Mark Goodwin did. His short experience aboard the gunboat filled
him with martial ardor, and, if his mother had only been safely out of
harm's way, he would have tried every plan he could think of to find
Jack, and then he would have shipped on his vessel. Being shot at six
hours out of twenty-four he thought was better than living as he was
obliged to live now. If he were an enlisted man he would know pretty
nearly what he had to face; now he had no idea of it, and that was
another thing that troubled him. The news of the victories that were
gained so rapidly, one after another, did much to keep up his spirits,
but had the opposite effect upon Allison and Goodwin, who could not
find words with which to express their disgust. These two, as we have
said, spent all their waking hours riding about the settlement
comparing notes, and going first to one man, and then to another, in
the hope of hearing something encouraging; but they passed the most of
their time with Beardsley, who seemed to be the best-informed man for
miles around. Of course they did not place a great deal of faith in
what the captain told them; but he was always ready to talk, and that
was more than other people seemed willing to do. Since Ben Hawkins
denounced him in the post-office, Beardsley did not ride around as much
as he used to do. He thought he had better stay at home until the
effect produced by the rebel soldier's speech had had time to wear
On the morning of the 11th of March Tom Allison stood on the front
porch of his father's house, thrashing his boots with his riding-whip,
and waiting for his horse, which he had ordered brought to the door,
when he saw Mark Goodwin coming up the road at a furious gallop. The
two generally met at the crossroads, a mile away, and Tom knew in a
moment that something unusual had happened to bring Mark to the house;
consequently, he was not much surprised when he saw that the visitor's
face was as white as a sheet.
What's broke loose now? exclaimed Tom, when his friend dashed into
the yard and drew up in front of the porch. You look as though you
were frightened half to death.
Frightened! I am so elated that I can't stay on my horse a moment
longer, replied Mark; and suiting the action to the word he rolled out
of his saddle, pulled the reins over his horse's head, so that he could
hold fast to them, and sat down on the lowest step. Why don't you
whoop and holler and dance andwe've licked them off the face of the
earth. Have they been here yet?
They? Who? cried Tom. What do you mean, any way?
I mean that you had better hide your hunting outfit and be quick
about it, answered Mark. They took mine away from me just now, and I
came here on purpose to warn you. You see it was this way, added Mark,
as Tom came down the steps and seated himself by his friend's side.
The stories that have been spread abroad about her being no good, and
so heavy that her engines could not move her from the dock where she
was built, were all lies that were got up on purpose to fool the Yanks;
but three days ago, that was on the 8th
Look here, Mark, you've got two stories mixed up, exclaimed Tom.
Two? I've got half a dozen, and I don't know which to tell first.
And the beauty of it is, they are all good ones.
You said somebody had taken your hunting rig away from you, Tom
reminded him. Do you call that a good story?
I didn't think about that when I spoke, replied Mark, jumping up
and looking around for a place to hitch his horse. Then he calmed
himself by an effort, and went on to say: This morning I received all
the proof I want that we are for a time a subjugated peoplethat the
presence of a hostile garrison means something. I had somehow got it
into my head that the Yankees would stay inside the forts they have
taken from us by their overwhelming numbers, and that they would not
have the cheek to come among our people where they know well enough
they are not wanted, but now I know that they don't mean to do anything
of the sort. They are going to bother us by sending scouting parties
through our settlement as often as they feel like it.
The spiteful emphasis Mark threw into his words, and the look of
disgust his face wore while he talked, brought a hearty laugh from
somewhere. The boys looked up and saw Mr. Allison standing at the top
of the steps.
Of course, Mark, they will do that very thing, said he. They will
make it their business to annoy us in every way they can. Do I
understand you to say that they came to your house this morning?
Yes, sir, they did, said Mark angrily. There were about fifty of
them in the party. They asked for father, and when he sent back word,
as any other Southern gentleman would have done, that he would hold no
intercourse with the invaders of his State
Was your father crazy enough to send them any such message as
that? exclaimed Mr. Allison, who was very much astonished.
Of course he sent them that message, replied Mark, becoming
surprised in his turn. Wouldn't you, if you had been in his place?
Indeed, I would not, said Mr. Allison, decidedly.
My father is a brave man, added Mark, in a tone which implied that
that was more than he could say of the gentleman to whom he was
speaking. He looks down on a Yankee.
So do I; but that is no reason why I should make a fool of myself
when they come to my house fifty strong and send word that they want to
see me. It's a wonder they didn't hang your father, or take him away
We thought that was just what they meant to do, said Mark, with a
shudder, for four or five of them came rushing into the house, and I
tell you they talked and acted savage.
Well, what did they want? asked Tom.
They wanted to know if we had any weapons in the house, answered
Mark. And when we told them no, they
That was another foolish thing for you to do, Mr. Allison
interposed. Your people must have taken leave of their senses since I
last saw them. When you said there were no weapons in the house, they
proceeded to search for them.
That is just what they did, replied Mark, with tears of rage in
his eyes. And we had to stand there and see them pull the house to
And steal everything they could lay their hands on, chimed in Tom.
Of course. That's a foregone conclusion; although I did hear my
mother say that she passed her bedroom door while the search was going
on, and there was her jewelry lying on the bureau, and a soldier with a
carbine keeping guard over it.
That was done for effect, declared Tom. When she comes to look
into the matter, she will find that she hasn't so much as a breastpin
left. Did they take your father's pocketbook?
I haven't the least doubt of it, although I did not see them do
it, said Mark, who wished he could add effect to his story by saying
that he had seen his father robbed of his money. They were the very
worst-looking lot I ever sawall Irish and Dutch; not a gentleman
But what did they steal besides your weapons? inquired Mr.
I didn't see that they took a thing, Mark was obliged to confess,
but, of course, I did not look into their pockets. When father heard
them coming, he shoved his revolver between the mattresses on his bed;
but he might as well have left it in plain sight, for the first thing
those Yankees did when they went into his room was to pull that bed to
pieces. Then they went upstairs into my room and walked off with my
fine rifle and shot-gun. One of them grinned when he went out, and said
that for a place that had no weapons in it, he thought our house had
panned out pretty well. I tell you that made me mad.
And do you think they are coming this way? asked Mr. Allison.
I believe they will visit every house in the settlement before they
quit, replied Mark; whereupon Tom got up and acted as though he wanted
to do something. They must have robbed other houses before they came
to ours, for I noticed that several of them carried sporting rifles and
fowling-pieces in addition to the carbines that were slung at their
backs. It is my opinion that you had better wake up, if you want to
save the guns that cost you so much money.
Mr. Allison evidently thought so, too, for he turned about and went
into the house, whither he was followed by Tom and Mark as soon as the
latter had hitched his horse. The boys went at once to Tom's room and
opened the closet, in which was stowed away one of the finest and most
expensive hunting outfits in that part of the State.
Sooner than let this fall into the hands of the enemy I would break
it in pieces over the chopping-block, said Tom, looking admiringly at
the handsome muzzle-loading rifle he had carried on more than one
excursion through the Dismal Swamp.
Oh, I wouldn't do that, replied Mark. Take it into the garden,
and shove it under some of the bushes. Go ahead and I will follow with
the shot-gun; but be sure and take the flask, horn, game-bags, and
everything else belonging to them, for if they find part of the rig
they will want to know where the rest is.
Mark's suggestions were carried out, and just in the nick of time
too; for as the boys were returning from the garden, in which they had
hastily concealed the guns and their accoutrements, they heard the
pounding of a multitude of hoofs on the road and hastened through the
hall to the front porch in time to see a small squad of cavalry ride
into the yard, while another and larger body of troopers halted outside
the gate. It was plain that Mr. Allison did not intend to follow the
example of his foolhardy neighbor, and so run the risk of bringing upon
himself the vengeance of the men he could not successfully resist, for
he stood out in plain view of them, and even returned the military
salute of the big whiskered man who rode at the head of the squad.
They are the same who robbed our house, said Mark, in an excited
whisper. Will they know me, do you think? And if so, will they do
anything to me for warning you?
Tom Allison did not reply, for his attention was wholly occupied by
the Yankee soldiers, the first he had ever seen. They were not ragged
and dirty like most of the paroled Confederates who passed through the
settlement a few days before. On the contrary, they were well and
warmly dressed, and, like the horses they rode, looked as though they
had been accustomed to good living.
Good-morning, said the captain pleasantly. It is my duty to ask
if you have anything in the shape of weapons in your house.
To the surprise of both the boys Mr. Allison replied:
Yes, sir; I have.
That's honest, at any rate, said the captain. Will you please
bring them out?
Do you intend to take them from me? said Mr. Allison.
I think you understand the situation as well as I could explain it
to you, answered the soldier, nodding toward Mark Goodwin, whom he
recognized as soon as he looked at him; and as if to show that he was
not in the humor to put up with any nonsense, he dismounted, his
example being quickly followed by his men.
Of course I will bring them out, Mr. Allison hastened to say. But
they are heirlooms and I don't like to part with them. Besides, they
are no longer of use as weapons.
He went into the house as he said this, and the captain, who seemed
to be a lively, talkative fellow, and good-natured as well, even if he
was a Yankee, turned to Mark and said:
You beat me here, did you not?
I hope there was nothing wrong in my coming, said Mark, beginning
to feel uneasy.
Nothing whatever. You have a right to go where you please and do
what you like, so long as you do not set the graybacks on us.
Graybacks? said Mark inquiringly.
Yes. Johnniesrebel cavalry.
Oh! Well, there are none around here that I know of, but you can
find plenty of them a few miles back in the country, said Mark, who
was a little surprised to hear himself talking so freely with this boy
in blue who had carried things with so high a hand in his father's
house a short time before; and then, emboldened by the sound of his own
voice, and prompted by an idea that just then came into his mind, he
added: I can tell you where you will find one rebel and also a rebel
flag, if you would like to have it for a trophy.
These words almost knocked Tom Allison over, but at the same time
they loosened his tongue.
That's so, but I never should have thought to speak of it, he
exclaimed. Go back the way you came until you strike the big road,
then turn to the left and stop at the first house you come to.
And remember that you will pass ruins on your left hand before you
get where you want to go, added Mark, who did not mean that the Yankee
officer should miss his way for want of explicit directions.
Who lives there? inquired the latter, looking sharply at the two
boys as if he meant to read their thoughts, and find out what object
they had in view in volunteering so much information. He must be a
rebel, of course, if he has a rebel flag in his possession.
His name is Marcy Gray, and he is rebel or Union, just as it
happens, said Tom. He has been pilot on a privateer and blockade
Aha! said the captain.
Yes, continued Tom. But the minute you Yankees came here and
captured the Island he quit business and came home.
Which was the most sensible thing he could have done, said the
officer. Are there any weapons in the house, do you know?
Before either of the boys could reply Mr. Allison came out upon the
porch, bringing with him the heirlooms of which he had spokenan old
officers sword and a flint-lock musket that, so he said, had passed the
winter with Washington at Valley Forge.
If that is the case I'll not touch them, said the captain. These
are all you have, I suppose?
There are no other weapons in the house, replied Mr. Allison.
The officer smiled, gave Mark Goodwin a comical look, and then
mounted his horse and rode out of the yard without saying another word.
Mr. Allison and the boys watched him until he joined his command and
with it disappeared down the road, and then Mark said:
What do you reckon he meant by grinning at me in that fashion?
He meant that those 'heirlooms' of father's did not fool him worth
a cent, answered Tom. The next officer who comes here will say:
'Perhaps there are no weapons in the house, but are there any around
it?' And then he will turn his men loose in the yard and root up
everything. Those guns of mine must go in some safer place as soon as
night comes. Now give us one of your good stories, Mark.
That's so, exclaimed the latter. The sight of those Yankees made
me forget all about it. You know that big iron-clad of ours that's been
building up at Portsmouth, don't you?
Aw! I don't want to hear any more about her, cried Tom. She is a
Judging by the stories that have been circulated about her she was
a failure; but judged by the work she did three days ago she is a
glorious success, replied Mark, pausing for a moment to enjoy the
surprise which his statement occasioned among his auditors for now that
the Yankees had taken themselves off, without turning the house upside
down or insulting anybody, the whole family came out on the porch, and
a servant brought chairs enough to seat them all. She captured and
burned the Congress, sunk the Cumberland, and if there
had been a few hours more of daylight, she would have served the rest
of the Yankee fleet in the same way.
Why, Mark, when did this happen? inquired Mrs. Allison.
And where? chimed in Tom.
And how did you hear of it, seeing that the Yankees have rendered
our post-office at Nashville useless to us? said his father.
It happened on the afternoon of the 8th of March, and the scene of
the conflict was Hampton Roads, off the mouth of the James, answered
Mark. My father told me of it last night, and he first got the news
from Captain Beardsley, who
Ah! I was afraid there wasn't a word of truth in it, exclaimed Mr.
But it is true, every word of it, said Mark earnestly. Beardsley
always has been half crazy over that vessel, for he says he has seen
and talked with sailor-men who have been all over her; and he has more
than once declared that, when she was ready for sea, she would make a
scattering among the Yankee fleet at Fortress Monroe. He told father
that he had heard a letter read that was in some way smuggled through
from Norfolk yesterday, and that that letter was written by a man who
took part in the fight. All the same father would not believe it until
he had seen and read the letter himself. He thinks it is true, and so
I certainly hope it is, said Mrs. Allison. But those Yankees who
came here a while ago acted more like victors than like beaten men.
Mark Goodwin, who of course got his ideas from his father, declared
that they would not act that way much longer; for as soon as the
Federal fleet at Fortress Monroe had been disposed of, Commodore
Buchanan, the gallant commander of the Virginia, would have his
choice of two courses of action: he could not carry coal enough to run
up and lay the city of New York under contribution, but he could reduce
Fortress Monroe and bombard Washington, or he could come South, scatter
Goldsborough's fleet, and recapture Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.
Glory! shouted Tom, jumping up and throwing his hat into the air;
and even his father began to show signs of excitement. Tell him not to
mind us, but to go up and lay Washington in ashes. Our papers said long
ago that it must be purified by fire before Southern legislators would
consent to go there again. Well, which course did Buchanan decide to
I don't know, replied Mark. I wish I did; but that letter was
written on the evening of the 8th, after the Virginia drew out
of the fight and came back to Norfolk.
Were any of our brave fellows injured? asked Mrs. Allison.
Oh, yes. Buchanan himself was wounded, and treacherously too. When
the Congress struck her flag and our boats went alongside to
take possession of her, she opened fire on us again. That made Buchanan
mad, and he riddled her with his big guns till he killed her captain
and more than a hundred of her crew.
She was deservedly punished, said Mrs. Allison, and all on the
porch agreed with her, though there was not a word of truth in the
story. The volley of musketry that was poured into the Confederate
small boats came from the Union troops on shore, who did not know that
the Congress had surrendered.
Go on and tell us some more good news, said Tom, when his friend
settled back in his chair.
That's about all I heard, because the letter did not go much into
particulars; but there'll be others smuggled through in a day or two,
and some papers, most likely, and then I shall expect to hear that our
fellows are in Washington. At any rate the people around here are
acting on the supposition that we have got the upper hand of the Yanks,
and I want to be able to say that I had a hand in whipping them, so I
have joined the Home Guards. So has my father.
The Home Guards? echoed Tom.
I was not aware that there was an organization of that kind in the
settlement, said Mr. Allison.
I didn't either until father told me last night, answered Mark.
And I am a little too fast in saying that I have joined. I am going to
hand in my name this very day, and Tom, you must go with me.
I'll do it, said Tom, getting upon his feet and squaring off at an
imaginary antagonist. What are we going to do? Who are we going to
whip, and what is the object of the thing, any way?
Well, Iwe're going to fight, replied Mark.
I suppose one object of the organization is to keep the spirit of
patriotism alive among our people, observed Mr. Allison.
That's the idea; and to make the traitors among us shut their
mouths and quit carrying their heads so high, cried Mark. They have
had companies of this kind in Kentucky and Tennessee for a long time;
and in Missouri the State Guards, as they are called, have done the
most of the fighting. Ben Hawkins says that if we had had strong
companies of well-disciplined Home Guards around here, Roanoke Island
would not have been captured.
Who cares what Ben Hawkins says? exclaimed Tom. He's a traitor;
and when he declared that he wouldn't fight for the South any more, I
told him to his face that he was a coward.
Oh, my son, said the doting mother, I am afraid your high spirit
will bring you into trouble some time.
Mark Goodwin knew that his friend's high spirit had nothing to do
with the scathing rebukes he had received in the post-office. His
unruly tongue and his want of common sense were to blame for it.
Is Mr. Goodwin a member of the Home Guards? inquired Mr. Allison.
Then I think I will ride over and have a talk with him. From his house
I will go to town and see if I can learn more of that glorious victory
in Hampton Roads.
The gentleman went into the house accompanied by his wife, and Tom
and Mark descended the steps out of ear-shot of the rest of the family.
Where shall we go? was the first question they asked each other.
I wish we could go to half a dozen different places at once, said
Tom, at length. If we go to Beardsley's we may be sorry we didn't go
to town; and if we call on Colonel Shelby, to see if he can tell us
anything about that light, we may be sorry we didn't go somewhere else.
What do you say?
I say, let's ride over to Beardsley's in the first place, and to
Marcy Gray's in the next.
And so follow up that squad of thieving Yankees and see what damage
they did? If they overhauled Gray's house I can pretend to sympathize
with them, you know, for that was the way they served us.
Overhaul nothing! exclaimed Tom in disgust. Mark my words: I
don't believe they went near the Grays; but if they did, they treated
them with more civility than they showed my father. Come along, and see
if I haven't told you the truth.
Tom's horse was ready and waiting, and a rapid ride of twenty
minutes brought him and Mark to a field in which Beardsley was working
with some of his negroes. When he saw them approaching he shied a chip
he held in his hand at the head of the nearest darky, who caught sight
of it in time to dodge, and came up to the fence to wait for them. His
actions proved that he was full of good news, for he placed his hands
on his knees, bent himself half double, looked down at the ground, and
shook his head as if he were laughing heartily. When he reached the
fence he pounded the top rail with his fist, and shouted as soon as the
boys came within speaking distance:
Have them varmints been up to your house?
Do you mean the Yanks? answered Mark, as he and Tom reined their
horses across the ditch to the place where the man was standing. I
should say so; and you ought to have seen the way they conducted
themselves, just because my father stood on his dignity as any other
Southern gentleman would.
Well, he was a fule for standing on his dignity or anything else,
said the captain bluntly. You didn't ketch your Uncle Lon trying to
ride no such high horse as that there, I bet you, kase fifty agin one
is too many. I was right here in this field when they come along,
continued Beardsley, resting his right foot upon one of the lower rails
and both his elbows on the top one, for he never could stand alone if
there were anything he could conveniently lean upon, and when they
asked me did I have any we'pons of any sort up to the house, I told 'em
I had for a fact, and if they didn't mind, I'd go up and bring 'em out.
So I clim the fence and went along.
Here the captain went off into another paroxysm of laughter, shaking
his head and pounding the top rail with his clenched hand.
Well, what did you give them when you reached the house? asked
Nothing in the wide world but an old shotgun that belonged to one
of the boys that used to come out from Nashville squirrel shooting once
in a while, and that I wouldn't fire off if you'd give me a five-dollar
gold piece, chuckled Beardsley. The rest of my shooting-irons is hid
where they won't find 'em. You see I suspicioned that they would do
something of this kind as soon's they got a foothold here, and so I
toted my guns out in the garden and shoved 'em under some bresh there
You had better hunt up a better hiding-place for them the first
thing you do, said Tom earnestly. There's where I put mine when Mark
warned me, but I am not going to leave them there. The Yankee who came
to our house was as much of a gentleman as one of his kind could be,
but the next one who comes along may be a different sort. Did they go
to Marcy Gray's?
Bet your life, said the captain, with another chuckle. Do you
reckon I'd let them miss that place? I sent them there, and they was
gone long enough to give the house a good overhauling; but what I can't
quite see through
We sent them there too, exclaimed Tom. Did you see them when they
returned? What did they have?
I'll bet they made Marcy hand over that fine hunting rig in which
he takes so much pride, added Mark. I'd give a dollar if I could have
looked into his face about the time he gave up that boss shot-gun of
his, that I have heard him brag about until it made me sick.
Why didn't they take Marcy himself as well as the guns? continued
Tom. He couldn't deny that he has given aid and comfort to the
Confederates by running the blockade and capturing vessels for them.
And if he did deny it, how did he explain the presence of that
Confederate flag in his house? demanded Mark.
Hold on till I tell you how it was, said Beardsley, as soon as the
boys gave him a chance to speak. Them Yankees went up to Grays', like
I told you, and I was here when they come back; but they didn't have
the first thing.
Whoop! Then they didn't search the house, yelled Mark. Marcy and
Jack have more shot-guns and sporting rifles than any two other boys in
Leastwise they didn't find nothing that was contraband of war,
said the captain. Them is the very words they spoke to me.
Tom and Mark looked at each other in speechless amazement.
CHAPTER XV. MARCY SEES SOMEBODY.
If you would like to know why Captain Burrows (that was the name of
the officer who commanded the Union troopers) did not find in Mrs.
Gray's house any articles that were contraband of war, we will ride
with him and his company long enough to find out.
During the days of which we write scouting was a necessary duty, but
it sometimes happened that it was one of the most disagreeable,
particularly when it fell to the lot of a gentleman like Captain
Burrows, and his orders compelled him to enter private houses whose
only inmates were supposed to be women and children; but now and then
these scouts found able-bodied men in uniform concealed in dwellings
that were thought to be occupied wholly by non-combatants. During the
Yazoo Pass expedition the gunboat to which we belonged was ordered to
search all the houses along the banks of the Coldwater and Tallahatchie
rivers, although we knew that that important duty had already been
performed by the soldiers. In one house, whose female occupants
vociferously affirmed that all the men who belonged there were in
Vicksburg and had not been near home for six months, a belt containing
a sword and revolver was found under a bed. That was as good evidence
as we wanted that the man who owned the belt was not far away, and
after a short search he was discovered in the cellar. No doubt there
were better hiding-places about the house, but the blue-jackets came up
so suddenly that he did not have time to go to them. A little further
search resulted in the finding of some important dispatches which the
Confederate had concealed in a barrel of corned beef; but when its
contents were poked over by a bayonet, the dispatches betrayed
themselves by rising to the surface. So you see it was sometimes
necessary to search private houses; but like Mr. Watkins, the gunboat
officer who took Marcy Gray from his bed to serve as pilot in the Union
navy, Captain Barrows wished that some other officer had been detailed
to do the work. Although he went from Beardsley's house straight to
Mrs. Gray's, he had no intention of searching it. He knew more of Marcy
than Tom and Mark thought, and perhaps he could have told them a few
things concerning themselves that would have made them open: their
eyes. He had halted and questioned every negro he met on his scout, and
he knew the name of every Union man and every rebel in the settlement.
When he arrived at the house he did not lead his men into the yard, nor
did he ride in himself. He dismounted and went in on foot, and Marcy,
who had seen him coming, opened the door without giving him time to
I know you are Marcy Gray, from the descriptions I have heard of
you, was the way in which the captain began his business. I am told
that you have any number of dangerous weapons as well as a Confederate
flag in your possession.
I plead guilty, replied Marcy. Will you walk in?
He was not at all afraid of the officer, for the latter smiled at
him in a way that put him quite at his ease. Besides, if the captain
knew anything about him, as his words seemed to indicate, he must be
aware that he had willingly served under the Union flag, and under the
other one because he could not help himself. Marcy led him into the
room in which his mother was waiting, and the captain straightway
quieted her fears, if she had any, by saying:
I am on a scout, madam, looking for rebel soldiers and fire-arms
that may be concealed in the settlement; but, so far as you are
concerned, my visit is merely a matter of form.
Take this chair, said Marcy, and I will be back in a moment.
The Confederate flag had been removed from its place on the wall,
but the boy knew where to find it; and when he brought it into the room
he brought with it his fine rifle and shotgun, his revolvers, a
bed-quilt and the letter that Captain Benton had given him; and Julius,
who followed at his heels, brought as many more guns, which belonged to
the absent Jack. He was gone but a few minutes, but quite long enough
to enable Mrs. Gray to give the visitor some scraps of his history; and
as her story was confirmed by those he had heard from the negroes along
his line of march, he was so well satisfied of Marcy's loyalty that
when the latter came in and deposited his burdens on the table, the
officer had not the least intention of taking any of them away with
him. He spread the Confederate flag upon the floor so that he could see
it; examined the guns one after another, and inquired about the
shooting on the plantation; and held Captain Benton's letter up to the
light, to see if he could read what was written upon it.
There's a fire on the hearth, sir, Marcy reminded him.
I know there is; but if I should bring out the words by holding
this paper to the heat, and it should some day fall into the hands of
the rebels, it might make serious trouble for you, said the captain.
If such a thing happens I don't want to be the means of it, for I know
that you were of service to our fleet during the fight at Roanoke
I was there, sir, answered the boy modestly. And if you say so, I
will rip up this quilt and show you the Union flag that waved over my
head while I was acting as Captain Benton's pilot.
A Union flag in this house, alongside of a Confederate! exclaimed
the captain, who was surprised to hear it. I should think you would be
afraid to have it about you. I understand that the most of the people
in this neighborhood are the worst of rebels.
Marcy replied that although there were some Union people in the
settlement the Confederates outnumbered them two to one, but he did not
believe that any of the latter knew there was a Union banner in the
house. Then he went on to explain how and when it came into his
possession, and again offered to produce it; but Captain Burrows said
he would not put him to so much trouble. He asked a few leading
questions which he knew Marcy could not answer unless he had really
been there, after which he took his cap from the table, saying as he
If you will take a friend's advice, you will conceal those guns, as
well as any other articles of value you may have, somewhere outside,
and keep Captain Benton's letter where you can put your hand on it at
any hour of the day or night. It is probable that some of our scouts
will be along here every few days, and I am afraid there will be some
among them who will insist on going through your house. Besides, the
Home Guards may need those guns to arm some of their men.
Home Guards? echoed Marcy. What are they?
Well, they are men who, although they haven't the courage to enlist
in the army to fight us, are perfectly willing to act as police in the
rear of the Confederate army. It is their intention to patrol the
settlement, night and day, until they drive out every man who is
suspected of Union sentiments.
Marcy looked bewildered, and his mother was frightened.
Is it possible that you haven't heard of it? continued the
captain. Then it proves the truth of the old saying that one needs to
go away from home to learn the news. We know all about it, and we also
know that these Home Guards intend to operate as they do in Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Missouri; that is, they will be industrious and peaceful
farmers during the daytime, and thieves and murderers at night. But
mind you, as fast as we can locate them, we shall run them in and hold
them as prisoners of war. I hope that you, and the rest of the Union
people about here, will be watchful and keep us posted.
This is news to me, said Marcy, as soon as his surprise would
allow him to speak. I never dreamed of such a thing.
Then I am very glad I mentioned it, said the officer.
And I am certain I can give you the name of every man in the
company, added Marcy. What do you suppose put the idea into their
I am sure I do not know, unless it was that fight in Hampton Roads,
which created the wildest excitement all over the country. The Richmond
people were very jubilant, while our Washington folks were
That is another piece of news, said Mrs. Gray. To what particular
battle do you refer, Captain?
Don't you know anything about that, either? exclaimed the officer,
throwing open his coat, and thrusting his hand into an inside pocket.
It was a fight between our fleet and six Confederate steamersfive
wooden vessels and one iron-clad. It lasted the better part of two
days. At the end of the first day the advantage was all with the
Confederates, who captured and burned one of our best ships and sunk
another, without any serious damage to themselves. These papers, which
I shall be glad to leave with you, tell all about it, and they will
also give you a faint idea of the consternation that seized upon
everybody up North, when the story got abroad that the rebels had one
single vessel that could cope with Uncle Sam's entire navy. Every city
along the coast, as well as the capital, was supposed to be at the
mercy of that one iron-clad; but when she came out, on the morning of
the 9th, to complete her work of destruction, she ran against a snag,
in the shape of a little Union iron-clad, not more than half her size,
which had come upon the scene during the night.
And did those two iron-clads fight? exclaimed Marcy, who was
worked up to the highest pitch of excitement. Which whipped?
Of course they fought, for that was what our vessel, the Monitor, went down there for. She came in the night and anchored behind the
hull of one of our big ships, so that the rebel boat did not see her
until she was close upon her. They had the hardest kind of a fight, and
our vessel whipped.
Marcy did not break out into cheers as the captain no doubt thought
he would, but settled contentedly back in his chair and drew a long
breath of relief.
Our fellows did not sink the Virginia as they tried to do,
continued Captain Burrows, but they gave her such a pounding that it
was all she could do to draw out of the fight and go back to Norfolk.
We had the best of the engagement, for the rebel boat failed to
accomplish the object she had in view when she came out, which was to
sink the three frigates that were aground off Fortress Monroe.
And you think it was during the excitement consequent upon the
first day's victory that our neighbors were led to organize the Home
Guards? said Mrs. Gray.
I certainly think it had much to do with it, answered Captain
Burrows. You see these 'stay-at-homers,' as I have heard them called,
jumped to the conclusion that the Yankees were whipped, and when the
war is over they want to be able to say that they helped do it.
Pardon my curiosity, said Marcy. But have you seen Ben Hawkins?
I don't think there will be any harm in telling you that I had a
short talk with him before I came here. I met him on the road, and he
volunteered so much information concerning his neighbors that I became
suspicious of him. But I have since learned that he told me nothing but
the truth. He is a paroled prisoner and, I may add, a warm friend to
you and your mother.
And you do not think it would be unwise to trust him? said Mrs.
Gray, who had listened with surprise to her son's account of the speech
he had heard Hawkins deliver in the post-office.
No, I do not. He is very bitter against the Confederacy, as many of
his comrades are; he has had enough of soldiering, and if I were in
your place I think I should look upon him as a friend.
I thank you for saying so much, replied Marcy. I am sure we need
friends bad enough.
And don't forget, said the captain as he rose to go, that we are
not here for fun. I shall report you to my commander as a staunch Union
family, and if your rebel neighbors prove troublesome and you will let
us know, we will surely punish them for it. I wish you good-day.
Now there's a friend worth having, said Marcy, when he and his
mother were once more alone. He brought us bad news, though. He did
not want to say too much against his comrades, but he said enough, and
I think we had better hide your silver and jewelry before some rascal
in blue walks off with them.
No doubt it would be a wise thing to do, replied Mrs. Gray. He
said he heard that there were arms and a flag in the house; have you
any idea who told him?
Beardsley is the chap, answered Marcy readily. Two or three times
I was on the point of asking what the captain said to him, but I was
afraid he might not answer me. Beardsley can't get me into trouble with
the Yankees, and he might as well give up trying. Now let's read about
the fight in Hampton Roads.
What about the Home Guards? said his mother.
I will take a ride presently and see if I can learn something about
them. They must have been very sly in getting up their company, for I
don't believe our darkies knew the first thing about it. If they did
they would have told us. I wonder if it wouldn't be a good plan for me
to join it.
Why, Marcy, they would not accept you! exclaimed Mrs. Gray.
That's what I think; but if they refuse it will show me that I had
better be on my guard, won't it?
I am glad to know that Hawkins is our friend.
When I met him in Nashville, and he took the trouble to cross the
road and shake hands with me and say that I did just right while I was
on Captain Benton's gunboat, I knew right where he stood, answered
Marcy. I can see him as often as I have anything to say to him, for he
is loafing about the settlement all the time.
While Marcy talked he was looking through one of the papers Captain
Burrows had left behind for the account of that famous fight in Hampton
Roads, and when he found it he read it aloud. The result of the first
day's struggle must have been alarming as well as discouraging to the
loyal people in the North, and the gloomy predictions that were made in
the papers concerning the terrible things the Virginia was going to do
when she finished the Union fleet at Fortress Monroe, were enough to
make Marcy feel gloomy himself. But the account of the next fight was
most inspiriting. The little Monitor proved to be more than a
match for her ponderous antagonist. Washington would not be bombarded,
the blockading fleet, which the Virginia was to sink or capture
at her leisure, was still on top of the water and likely to stay there,
and the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by France and England
was as far off as ever.
There's one thing I like about Northern papers, said Marcy, when
he had read every line he could find that in any way related to the
matter that was just then uppermost in his mind. They always tell the
truth. If their people are whipped they don't hesitate to say so, but
ours gloss it over and try to make it appear that every fight is a
Confederate victory. According to our Newbern papers the South hasn't
lost a single place that she couldn't spare as well as not. Donelson
and Fort Henry were outposts that we did not intend to hold anyway, and
Roanoke Island was of so little consequence that the Richmond
authorities did not garrison it as heavily as they would if they had
wanted to keep it. It's the worst kind of bosh, and everybody in the
South knows it. Now then, he added, addressing himself to Julius, who,
since he followed his master into the room, had stood in one corner
hearing and seeing all that was said and done, put these guns and
things where they belong, and stand by to-night after dark to help me
hide them in the garden. You heard what that Federal officer said about
the Home Guards, didn't you? Well, what do you know of them?
Not de fustest think, Marse Mahcy, answered the boy earnestly.
Dey gettin' to be mighty jubus of de niggahs round hyar, an' nobody
nebber say nuffin whar Julius kin ketch it.
Keep your eyes and ears open, and if you do catch on to anything
come straight to me with it; do you understand? Now I am going to ride
out for a while.
Do you intend to say anything about our visitors? inquired his
If I meet anyone who knows they were here I don't see how I can
avoid speaking of them, was Marcy's reply. But circumstances will
have to determine what I shall say about them. I don't mean to let
every Tom, Dick, and Harry know how very friendly that captain was with
us. I don't think it would be just the thing. Good-by.
Look a hyar, Marse Mahcy, began Julius; and then he hesitated for
as much as a minute before he went on to say, You know dat niggah
Yes, I know Mose, answered Marcy, and he might have added that he
knew him to be the laziest and most worthless black man on the
plantation. What of him?
Well, sar, moster, replied the boy, when I fotch in dem guns an'
luf 'em on de table I slip out de do' kase I aint wantin' to see no
horns an' hoofs like Marse Jack say de Yankees done got, an' I see Mose
talkin' wid dem soldiers in de road. Den he slip thoo 'em into de bresh
on de odder side de road an' never come out no mo'; an' den I come hyar
to tol' you.
Do you mean to say that Mose has run away? cried Marcy and his
mother in concert.
Yes, sar, missus; dat's what I mean, replied Julius.
Marcy was much surprised to hear it, but after all it was nothing
more nor less than he had predicted when the war first broke out. The
negroes knew to a man that the contest between the North and South
would decide whether they were to be bondsmen or free, and it was
natural that their sympathies should be on the side of those who did
not believe in slavery, and that they should desire to be with them.
You are quite sure that the Yankee soldiers did not take Mose away,
are you? said Marcy, after a little pause.
Yes, Julius was positive about that. When the Federal captain left
the house Julius had hastened to the front porch in order to satisfy
himself on that very point, and had taken pains to see that Mose was
not with the soldiers when they rode away. Mose had gone on his own
I am afraid he will repent when it is too late, said Mrs. Gray,
with a sigh of regret. Mose is too old, and too badly crippled with
rheumatism, to be of any use to his new friends.
I suppose you and Morris will be going next, said Marcy, nodding
at Julius, and that, if I want my filly brought to the door, I can
bring her myself.
Oh, hursh, honey, replied the boy. I aint a-keerin what dat old
niggah Morris gwine do, but Julius aint gwine run away.
I think you are better off here than you would be anywhere else.
The Yankees believe that those who don't work can't eat, and that would
let you out so far as grub is concerned. You never did a hand's turn in
your life. Now go and tell Morris to saddle my horse, and then come
back, and put away these guns as I told you.
When Julius left the room Marcy put on his hat, and went out to ask
if any of the other house servants knew that old Mose had run away, and
was not much surprised to find that they all knew of it and had been
expecting it, for Mose had given them due-notice of what he intended to
do. He had often been heard to say that if the Yankee soldiers ever
came to the plantation he would go away with them, and he had kept his
word. Some planters in the neighborhood would have said, Good riddance
to bad rubbish, for of late years Mose had not done work enough to pay
for the corn meal and bacon he ate, let alone the clothes he wore; but
Marcy felt sorry for him, and predicted that Mose would repent of his
bargain in less than a month.
Marse Mahcy, will the Yankees luf him come back if he wants to?
I reckon not, was the boy's answer. The Federal general, Butler,
has declared slaves to be contraband of war, and I don't think they
will give Mose up any more than they would surrender a mule they had
captured. Now, what do you black ones know about the Home Guards?
The expression of bewilderment that came upon the ebony faces by
which he was surrounded prepared Marcy for the reply. The servants, one
and all, declared that they did not know what he meant; and this made
it plain that the rebels in the settlement were beginning to learn that
their black people could not be trusted to keep their secrets. He went
into the house to tell his mother what he had learned, and finding his
filly at the door when he came back, he mounted and rode away.
The first white man he saw was one who could have told him all about
the Home Guards if he had been so disposed. It was Captain Beardsley,
who was still in the field with his negroes, Tom Allison and Mark
Goodwin having left him a few minutes before Marcy came up. The man did
not stop his work and come to the fence, nor did he look up as Marcy
rode by; and this made the latter believe that his old captain had some
reason for wishing to avoid him.
He is going to spring something else on me, and before long, too,
was what Marcy said to himself as he passed on down the road. When
Beardsley won't talk he is dangerous.
That he had shot close to the mark was made evident to Marcy before
ten minutes more had passed over his head. A short distance farther on
was the gate which gave entrance to the carriage-way that ran by the
ruins of Beardsley's home. It was wide open, and as he rode up he saw a
horseman passing through it. Marcy had a fair view of him, and
recognized him at once as the man Hanson, his mother's old overseer;
and he was riding one of Beardsley's horses.
CHAPTER XVI. A FRIEND IN GRAY.
Marcy Gray had seldom thought of his mother's overseer since he
learned that he had been spirited away by armed and masked men, and,
when he did, it was to indulge in the hope that he would never see or
hear of him again. He did not believe that Hanson would dare disregard
the warning of the Union men, who had turned him loose, with orders
never to show his face in the settlement again; but here he was,
riding along the public road in broad daylight, without making the
least effort at concealment, and, to make the situation more alarming,
he was riding one of Captain Beardsley's horses. Acting upon the first
thought that came into his mind, Marcy urged his filly forward,
intending to speak to the man, and Hanson, nothing loath, turned his
horse about to wait for him.
I'm on hands agin, like a bad piece of money, he said, with a
So I see, answered Marcy. And I must say that I little expected
to meet you.
Hanson's response, and the way in which he acted, disheartened Marcy
Gray, for they gave him a clew to the course this enemy of his mother's
had marked out for himself. The first thing he did was to ride up and
offer Marcy his hand, and the boy took it, because he did not think it
would be policy to refuse. He wanted to find out what the man's plans
were, and he could not do that by making him angry the first thing he
did. Then Hanson went on to say:
But I'm back agin, all the same, and safe and sound, too. I hope
you didn't think I would let them few Yankees scare me away from my
home altogether? I belong on your plantation, and there's right where I
am going before I am many hours older.
This was an astounding and terrifying statement, and it was a minute
or two before Marcy could collect his wits sufficiently to reply to it.
We never expected you to come back, and so I took your place, said
he at length. I am my mother's overseer now.
You! exclaimed Hanson, with a laugh. What do you know about
farming and driving niggers? 'Taint gentleman's work, that aint, and
you aint by no means suited to it. I'll take it off your hands now.
'Cording to my contract, I can't leave till next month, any way, and,
besides, I've lost right smart of time. I didn't leave the plantation
of my own free will; but that don't make no difference.
We owe you a little money, and mother will give it to you any day
you call for it; but we don't ask you to make up any lost time, said
Marcy, who couldn't bear the thought of having this sneaking Hanson on
the plantation again.
I know what my duty is, replied the overseer very decidedly, and
I mean to do it. I bargained with your mother for so much a year. I
want every cent of that money, for I can't afford to do without it; but
I shan't ask for it till I have done twelve good solid months of work.
Marcy felt like yelling, and it was only by a great effort of will
that he controlled himself. He knew pretty nearly what was before him
now. He believed that Beardsley had kept track of Hanson; that he knew
where he had been all the while, and that he had brought him back to
fill out his unexpired term as overseer, because he had failed to
induce Marcy and his mother to employ Kelsey in his place. Hanson would
make it his business to get on the track of that money. He would not
succeed, of course; but Mrs. Gray would not see a moment's peace during
her waking hours, or enjoy a moment's refreshing sleep at night, as
long as Hanson remained on the place. Oh, why was not Aleck Webster on
hand to tell him what to do in a case like this?
I knowed your maw would be looking for me to come back and finish
out my time, continued Hanson, but I was most afraid to come till I
heard that the coast was clear, and I wouldn't be in no danger of being
pestered by them Union men.
There are some of them about here yet, said Marcy.
Not many, there aint, replied the overseer, who seemed to
understand the situation perfectly. The wust of them have went into
the Yankee navy; and them that's left aint men to be afraid of.
Besides, I've got a body guard that won't put up with no nonsense from
them or any other Union men. You know all about the Home Guards?
I heard of them for the first time this morning, said Marcy
truthfully. But then I have not been around much since I came home.
The last words slipped out before Marcy knew it; but Hanson seemed
to take them as a matter of course, for he said in reply:
I don't know as I blame you for keeping clost to home for a few
days. You couldn't do no other way than you did do, but there's some
onreasonable folks about who stick to it that you had oughter run that
there gunboat on the ground. That's what Beardsley allowed to do, but
they didn't give him the chance. I wouldn't like to be one who had
anything to do with the burning of Beardsley's house. He's an officer
in the Home Guards, a leftenant or something, and he allows to hunt
them men down the first thing he does.
Probably he knows where to look for them, said Marcy.
If he don't he can guess pretty clost to the place, answered
Hanson. But you're all right. Nobody in this settlement is going to
let harm come to you.
When did you return, and how does it come that you are riding the
Oh, him and me has always been friends, and when he got Miss Brown
to write to me in Newbern that it was safe for me to come back and work
my year out on your plantation, and that he knew you and your maw was
looking for me to do it, as any honest man should, I come right to his
house. I've been here three days, looking round and keeping sorter
clost in doors, and allow to go up to your place this afternoon.
So it seemed that there was no help for it, at least for the
present. The man had told him some things he was glad to know, and
talked as though he believed Marcy to be as good a rebel as he was
himself. Perhaps he would be willing to go further and tell him how he,
Marcy, stood in the estimation of the Home Guards.
I suppose the object of that organization is to make Union men
behave themselves, he said, at a venture.
You're mighty right, answered Hanson. Likewise to see that all
the prisoners about here, who was paroled at the Island, go back to the
army where they belong. Some of 'em have been talking agin the
'Federacy in a way we uns don't like to hear, and we're going to put a
stop to all sich work as that.
No one asked me to join, and that is the reason I knew nothing
about it, continued Marcy. When you see Beardsley, will you tell him
that I want to come in?
If he expected the man to hesitate or raise objections he was
disappointed, for Hanson answered readily:
I'll do it. You'll get in easy enough, and I know Beardsley will be
glad to have you. Some of our men aint got a thing in the way of guns,
and I know you wouldn't mind lending some of yours that you don't need.
Well, I must be piking along. I'll be up this afternoon, tell your
And it will be the worst news she ever heard, thought Marcy, as
the two separated and rode away in different directions. What he is up
to now I can't imagine; but he has strong backing, I know from the way
he talks. Mother has always been afraid that he would come back to
trouble her, and here he is. And here am I without a friend to advise
or assist me. I was almost sure that something like this would happen
when Aleck Webster and his friends deserted me.
But if Aleck was gone there was at least one man in the neighborhood
who was able and willing to take his place, and that was Ben Hawkins,
the paroled prisoner, whom he encountered before he left Beardsley's
gate a quarter of a mile behind. The man was sitting on his horse in
the middle of the road, and the first words he spoke seemed to indicate
that he was waiting for Marcy.
Who was that onery looking chap I met along here a spell ago riding
Beardsley's old clay-bank? said Hawkins. I seen you talking to him up
Oh, Mr. Hawkins, exclaimed Marcy, who had suddenly resolved to put
a certain matter to the test then and there. You saw and talked with a
Federal scouting party that came through here this morning, and the
officer in command told me that you are a good friend of mine. Is that
so or not?
What do you want me to do to prove it? asked the rebel in reply.
Ob, a hundred things, answered Marcy. But in the first place, do
you know anything about the Home Guards?
Being one of 'em I oughter know all about 'em, was the reply. But
not being pizen enough agin the Unionists to suit 'em, I have sorter
got it into my head that they are keeping some things from me. All the
same, I know enough to be sartin sure that they mean harm to you.
That is what I thought; and I am certain of it too, now that this
Hanson has returned. He used to be my mother's overseer, and is the man
who was taken from his house and carried into the swamp.
So that's the chap, is it? exclaimed Hawkins. I didn't know him,
for your mother hired him after I 'listed; but I've heard as much as I
want to know about him. Of course he is going back on the place to stay
his time out?
That is what he says; but the worst of it is that he wants to make
up the time he lost by being carried away. Now, is there any way in
which I can stop that?
You can shoot him, I reckon. That's what I'd do for any man who
kept shoving himself on me when he wasn't wanted, like this feller is
shoving himself on you and your maw.
Marcy made no reply, for nothing he could then think of would have
induced him to carry things as far as that. Hawkins understood this,
and after thinking a moment he added:
You can give his name to the fust Yankee officer you meet scouting
around out here, or you can leave a note on Beardsley's gallery and
Shelby's, telling them that, if they don't get him off your place in a
little less than no time, some more of their buildings will go up in
smoke. Where's the schooner that Beardsley used to run the blockade in?
He'd ruther lose half his niggers than lose her.
I know what you mean, but the trouble is I can't prove anything on
him. I can't bear the thought of destroying his property just because I
think he is persecuting me.
If you should blame everything that has happened to you on him you
would not be fur wrong, said Hawkins earnestly. He's mighty savage
agin you for not trying to make that gunboat cap'n quit putting him in
How in the name of common sense could I stop it? cried Marcy. I
didn't volunteer to go on that boat (I blame Jonas for that), and would
Captain Benton have paid any attention to me if I had interceded for
Beardsley? I might have brought myself into difficulty by it.
Course, replied Hawkins. A blind man could see that, but all the
same Beardsley means to even up with you 'cause he was ironed and you
wasn't. He is first leftenant of the Home Guards, Colonel Shelby being
the captain, and he's going to take you out'n your bed some night and
send you to Williamston.
What for? exclaimed Marcy.
And put you in jail there, continued Hawkins. The lock-up is
jammed full of Union men already, but they'll find room for one more.
And mind you, after you onct get in you'll not come out till you
promise to 'list in the Confederate army. That's the way they are doing
now to put patriotism into people who aint got any.
Do you know when the Home Guards intend to come to our house?
No, I don't. I wisht I did, so't I could tell you when to be on the
watch for 'em; but that's one of the things they aint told me, and the
only way I can think of for you to beat 'em is to be on your guard
night and day, beginning now.
While this conversation was going on Marcy and his companion had
been riding slowly in the direction of Nashville. Just before they came
within sight of the town they met a man dressed in a ragged uniform,
and riding a mule that looked as though it had served through two or
three hard campaigns. Marcy recognized him as a poor white of the
Kelsey stamp, and Hawkins told him in a whisper that he was a paroled
prisoner like himself, a friend of his, a member of his company and
mess, and also a Home Guard whom the officers were not afraid to trust.
If Marcy would ride on and leave him alone with the man, he might be
able to obtain some information from him. Marcy was glad to agree to
this programme, and it was duly carried out. He went ahead and waited
half an hour in Nashville, and might have remained a still longer time
had he not seen Hawkins ride a short distance down the road from the
first turn, and then wheel his horse and ride back again out of sight.
Taking this for a signal, Marcy mounted his filly and set out for home;
and, as he expected, found Hawkins in the lonely place in the road
where he had held two interviews with Aleck Webster. He thought the man
looked very sober, but before he could speak of it Hawkins said, in a
Mister Marcy, you aint safe in this here settlement one hour
longer. I dunno but you had oughter be out of it now.
What did that friend of yours tell you? asked the boy, with a
desperate effort to appear calm, although he knew that his face was as
white as it could be.
He said the Home Guards have got things fixed jest as they want
'em, and that they are liable to begin operations any time, answered
Hawkins, who looked as uneasy as Marcy felt. Beardsley won't hear to
nothing but that you must be got rid of the very fust thing. You know
too much to be let loose any longer.
I know that Beardsley was a smuggler, and believe I could have made
trouble for him by saying that much to Captain Benton; but I did not do
it, replied Marcy. I hadn't the heart to do it, and neither did I
think he would dare do anything to me so long as the Yankees are so
thick about here.
There's where you made the biggest kind of a mistake, said the
rebel, in a tone of disgust. I don't see why you were so easy on him
when you know that he is doing all he can to pester you. My advice to
you is to leave this very night.
But where shall I go? cried Marcy. And how do I know but they
will take some sort of vengeance on my mother if they fail to find me?
Beardsley won't do the first thing to her, for mean as the Home
Guards are, there's some among 'em, and one of 'em is talking to you at
this minute, who won't by no means stand by and see him go as far as
that. But if she should see them snake you out'n the house and tote you
off to jail, don't you reckon that would worry her? Your best plan is
to light out while you can.
But you have not yet told me where to go, Marcy reminded him.
Put straight to the swamp and find those Union men, replied the
rebel. There's some of 'em there now.
But I don't know where to find them. The swamps along the coast
cover a good deal of ground
I know where to find 'em, interrupted Hawkins. Now, I'll tell you
what to do: you go straight home, pack up any little things you want to
take with you for comfort, and when night comes get into one of your
boats and put straight down the bayou for Middle River. Look out fur
yourself, fur it's likely that the Yankees have posted sentries all
along the river, and if they chuck you into the guard-house, there's no
telling when they will turn you loose. It might put you to some trouble
to prove that you aint a Confederate spy. And when you get into Middle
River t'other side of Plymouth, you will find a friend on the bank who
will tell you what to do.
Who will he be? What shall I call him? asked Marcy.
He will be old man Webster, the father of that sailor who promised
to stand by you through thick and thin, and then went off and 'listed.
He's home now, and as soon as I leave you, I'll ride straight down to
his house and tell him what sort of 'rangement me and you have come to.
Oh, I am all right with the Union men, even if I do wear a gray jacket;
and if they aint afraid to trust me you needn't be.
I am not afraid to trust you, Marcy hastened to say. But I don't
like to leave mother. It looks cowardly.
You want her to have some peace of mind, don't you? demanded
Hawkins, almost angrily. Well, she'll see a heap more of it if you
will do as I tell you and clear yourself, than she will if you stay to
home. As long as I am foot-loose, I'll make it my business to go to
your house as often as any of the Home Guards go there, and the first
one who don't do jest right will have to answer to me fur it.
I thank you for the assurance, began Marcy.
I aint got no time to hear you talk that a way, exclaimed the
rebel. What I want to know is whether you are going to foller my
advice or not.
Marcy said very emphatically that he was.
Cause, if you don't, you are liable to be started on the road to
jail before this time tomorrer, added Hawkins.
I'll do just as you have told me, and there's my hand on it,
replied Marcy. You will be sure to arrange matters so that Mr. Webster
will meet me on the river?
The soldier assured him that he could be depended on to do as he had
agreed, and after another lingering hand-shake they separated, Hawkins
to carry out his part of the programme, and Marcy to take a budget of
most unwelcome news to his mother. But she bore up under it better than
he did. She declared that her heart would be much lighter if she knew
her son was in full possession of his liberty, even though he was
compelled to hide in the swamp for the time being, than it would be if
she were called upon to remember, every hour in the day, that he was
shut up in jail, with a fair prospect before him of being forced into
the Confederate army, and she urged him to carry out Hawkins's
instructions to the very letter. And in order to show him that she
meant he should do that very thing, she began at once to pack his
valise. When she left the room for a few minutes, Marcy, having become
satisfied that Hawkins's plan was the best, and in fact the only one
that could be followed under the circumstances, seated himself at the
desk, pulled out a sheet of foolscap paper, and began writing a short
note upon it. While thus engaged his face wore a most determined
expression, and when the note was finished he put it into his pocket.
But he said nothing to his mother about it.
The hours were a long time in dragging themselves away, but Marcy
and his mother had many small details to arrange and many things to
talk about, and only once was he out of her presence. That was when he
made a trip to the creek, in company with Julius, to select the boat
that was to take him down the river. He raised the black boy very high
in his own estimation by making a confidant of him and promising to
take him along as his servant, and in order to provide against the
upsetting of his plan by some awkward blunder on the part of Julius, he
told him just what he was going to do when darkness came to conceal his
movements, and how he intended to do it. It was well for him that he
went to so much trouble, as we shall presently see.
When the afternoon was about half spent Hanson and his trunk made
their appearance in one of Beardsley's wagons, and Mrs. Gray and Marcy
listened to his story in the kitchenthe only room about the house to
which the man had ever been admitted. And the kitchen wasn't in the
house, but a short distance away from it, and under its own roof. The
overseer made his statement to Mrs. Gray in much the same words that he
had made it to Marcy; and when the lady made a mistake by saying that,
after the experience he had already had with the Union men, she should
think he would be afraid to return to that plantation, the man answered
in tones so insolent and savage that Marcy felt inclined to resent them
on the spot.
Them villains toted me off onct, Miss Gray, but they won't never do
it again. I know who they were, I've got friends enough around me to
hang every one of 'em, and I'm going to do it before I ever leave this
place. You hear me?
Those were the words he used, but his manner seemed to say: I am on
this plantation with the intention of remaining. I came for a purpose,
and you dare not turn me off. Marcy understood that to be his meaning,
and made up his mind that he and Hanson would have a settlement in a
very few days. Mrs. Gray understood him, but she did not give
expression to the fears that came upon her, for she knew that by so
doing she would dishearten her son who, just, then, needed all the
encouragement she could give him.
It began to grow dark about supper time, and Julius came slouching
into the sitting-room as if he had no particular business there, but in
reality to listen to the instructions that Marcy had promised to have
ready for him at that time.
You will find the guns and things that you are to hide on the floor
of my room, said the boy. My revolvers, fowling-piece, and a good
supply of ammunition are on my bed; but you must not touch them. They
are to go with us to the swamp. Be as sly as you can, for, if the Home
Guards catch you at the work, they will give you something you never
had yeta striped shirt.
During the next hour Julius was in and out of the house several
times, and on each occasion he took something away with him; while
Marcy and his mother sat side by side on the sofa trying, as Marcy put
it, to do talking enough to last them during the separation that was
soon to come. At last Julius moved silently along the hall and
appeared at the door of the sitting-room with a heavy valise in his
hand, and a bundle of quilts and blankets thrown over his shoulder.
Dis all, he whispered, in his short, jerky way, an' you best be
gettin' out'n dar. Good-by, missus. Julius gwine run now like ole
You haven't seen or heard anything suspicious, have you?
Oh, hursh, honey, was the reply. If Julius hear sumfin, don't you
reckon he got sense 'nough to tell? You best be gettin' out'n dar 'fore
dey come. Good-by, missus.
Go ahead with those things, and I will be at the boat by the time
you are, said Marcy.
Julius disappeared, but it was not so easy for his master to follow
him as it was to talk about it. He found it hard to tear himself away,
and lingered long over the parting so long, in fact, that Julius grew
tired of waiting for him. He placed the valise and blankets in the bow
of the boat, made sure for the twentieth time that the little craft was
ready for the start, and then sauntered back to the house to see why
Marcy did not come. But he did not find the coast clear this time. Just
as he was passing through the gate he heard a slight rustling in the
bushes that lined the carriageway on both sides. Without waiting a
second to see what made the noise, the quick-witted darky took to his
heels; but, before he had made half a dozen steps, a man stepped into
the carriage-way in front of him and seized him by the arm. Julius
looked up, and saw that he was in the grasp of Captain Beardsley.
None of that, you little varmint, said the captain. You stay here
As he spoke he tightened his grasp and began dragging his prisoner
toward the concealment from which he had just emerged; whereupon the
black boy set up a yell that could have been heard half a mile away.
And what was more, he kept on yelling until Beardsley clapped his big
hand over his mouth, and put a stop to the performance.
CHAPTER XVII. MARCY TAKES TO THE
The little darky was not very badly frightened on his own
accounthe never got that way unless he saw or heard something he
could not understandbut he was overwhelmed with anxiety for Marcy
Gray, who had not yet left the presence of his mother. Julius believed
that the dwelling had been surrounded by the Home Guards while he was
stowing the valise and blankets in the boat, and if that proved to be
the case, Marcy would in all probability start for Williamston jail
instead of the swamp. The black boy thought of these things in an
instant of time, and did what he could to upset the plans of the Home
Guards by yelling at the top of his voice.
Keep still, you little fule, said Beardsley, in an angry whisper.
Nobody's going to hurt you.
Aint, hey? exclaimed a second man, who at that moment came upon
the scene. I'll hurt him to-morrow, I bet you; I'll have him brung
into the field; and he has heard me talk often enough to know what them
Just then Julius succeeded in freeing himself from Beardsley's
grasp, and it was well for him that he did so, for the man had almost
smothered him by holding his nose between his thumb and fore-finger at
the same time that he covered his mouth with the rest of his hand. The
negro gasped once or twice, and then sank to the ground like a piece of
All right. Let him lay there till he gets ready to get up, said
Captain Beardsley. Where's the men? Where's Shelby!
The men started on a run for the house the minute that black
villain yelled, replied Hanson; for he was the one who came to
Beardsley's assistance. Shelby is round on the other side watching the
back door, and he sent me to see what the fursing was about. Now I'll
go back and tell him.
And be sure that you and him keep out of sight when Marcy is
brought out, cautioned Beardsley. You don't want to let him get a
sight at ary one of you, for there's no telling when he will have the
power on his own side.
The overseer hastened away, trusting more to the darkness than to
the bushes in the yard to conceal him from Mrs. Gray's view and
Marcy's, should either of them chance to look out at the window, and
the captain moved a few steps nearer to the carriage-way, so that he
could look at the house through the branches of an evergreen. When he
first peeped out the front windows were all dark; but presently lights
began to appear here and there, heavy steps and loud angry voices were
heard in the house, and finally the front door opened, and a man,
carrying a lighted lamp in his hand, came out and walked the whole
length of it. Captain Beardsley was surprised, and he felt
uncomfortable, too. If the boy of whom they were in search was in the
house he ought to have been discovered before this time; and if he had
escaped, where could he have gone unless it was to Plymouth or to the
Union men who were hidden in the swamp? If he had gone to either place
Captain Beardsley knew it meant the loss of more buildings to him and
And if he's went off it is bekase some traitor or 'nother in our
company told him he'd better, soliloquized Beardsley, when he saw the
lights shining from the windows of the upper rooms. Julius, come here.
I want to ask you something.
The black boy had by this time recovered his breath and strength
enough to sit up. He had all his wits about him, and was as much
interested in what was going on in the house as Captain Beardsley
himself. He saw the lights ascend from the lower rooms to those in the
second story, and finally he saw them in the garret and in the
observatory on the roof; and when no shout of triumph, or any sound to
indicate that there was a disturbance in the house, came to his ears to
tell him that his master had been traced to his hiding-place and
captured, the wild hope seized upon him that Marcy, in some mysterious
manner, had succeeded in eluding the Home Guards. If that was the case
he would of course make the best of his way to the boat; and if he got
there before Julius did he would shove off alone, and Julius would be
left behind to labor under the lash of the overseer. He thought he
would rather die than do that, but how could he escape from Beardsley
and reach the creek in time to meet Marcy there? When he heard the
captain calling to him he got upon his feet and approached the
carriage-way, just as Beardsley bent his head almost to the ground, to
watch a light that was shining from one of the cellar windows. He held
that position for a moment, and then a roar like that of a thousand
Niagaras rang in his ears and all was blank to him. He sank limp and
motionless to the ground, while Julius took to his heels and
disappeared through the gate. Half an hour later, when the Home Guards
came out of the house without finding Marcy Gray or anything that could
be used as evidence against him, they were astounded and greatly
alarmed to find Captain Beardsley lying unconscious in the carriageway.
And where was Marcy all this time! When the black boy's first note
of warning fell upon his ear he was imprinting a farewell kiss upon his
mother's lips and giving her a last embrace; but they fell apart
instantly when they heard that wild cry, for they knew what it meant.
There they are! gasped Mrs. Gray. Marcy, I am afraid I have
detained you too long.
You have not kept me a moment, said Marcy quickly, for I was no
more anxious to go than you were to have me. Keep them in the house as
long as you can, and I will go into the cellar and try to slip through
one of the windows into the garden. Poor Julius will be broken-hearted
when he finds that I went without him. Once more good-by, and don't
expect to see me under a week.
[Illustration: JULIUS GIVES THE ALARM.]
Pressing as the need for haste was, Marcy snatched another farewell
kiss and ran out of the room, taking care not to pass between a window
and a lamp that stood on the centre-table. He caught his cap from the
rack as he hurried through the hall, and in less time than it takes to
tell it, was standing before an open cellar window, waiting and
listening. His ears told him when the Home Guards charged upon the
house and entered it through the back and side doors, and believing
that the sentries, if there had been any posted outside, would be
wholly engrossed with what was going on in the dwelling, he seized upon
that particular moment to make his attempt at escape. Slowly and
carefully he crawled up into the window, and when he raised his head
above the ground all he could see were bushes and trees and a starlit
sky, and all he could hear was the murmur of voices in the
sitting-room. If the doors were guarded, as it was reasonable to
suppose they were, this particular cellar window was not, and Marcy
made haste to crawl out of it and across an intervening flower-bed to
the friendly shelter of a thicket of bushes beyond. He did not linger
there an instant, but taking it for granted that Ben Hawkins was with
the Home Guards, and remembering that the man had promised to see that
they behaved themselves while they were in his mother's house, he
started at once for the creek, crawling on his hands and knees until he
was sure he had passed beyond the sentries that he thought ought to
have been left in the yard, and then he sprang up and ran like a deer.
He hardly knew when he reached the fence, over which he went as easily
as though he had been furnished with wings, but he knew when he halted
on the bank of the creek and caught Julius in the act of shoving off
with the boat. Thinking only of Captain Beardsley and the overseer and
his whip, the frightened black boy could not be prevailed upon to stop
until he had pushed the boat to the middle of the stream, where he felt
comparatively safe; and then he looked over his shoulder to see who his
Why, honey! he exclaimed, as he got out the oars and backed the
boat toward the place where Marcy was standing. Was dat you? What you
doin' hyar? How come dey don't cotch you in de house?
Come here quick, and take me on board, replied Marcy; and he
continued, as he stepped into the stern of the boat and picked up the
paddle he had provided for a steering oar: What do you mean by trying
to desert me in this fashion; and was that you yelling a while ago?
Yes sar, Marse Mahcy, it was Julius done dat yellin', an' I done it
kase I aint want Cap'n Beardsley to cotch you in de house, answered
the boy, as he laid out his strength on the oars, and sent the boat
swiftly away from the bank.
Are you sure that Beardsley was with those men? asked Marcy
earnestly. Think twice before you speak, or you may be the means of
making me do something that I shall be sorry for as long as I live.
Julius don't need to think no two times 'fore he answer dat
question. De cap'n was dar, an' so was de oberseer. I know, kase de
cap'n squoze my arm till it blacker' n my skin. An' de oberseer 'low to
take me to de field in de mawnin'.
If Beardsley had you by the arm how did you manage to get away from
him? said Marcy, who had good reason for wishing to be sure of his
Well, sar, moster, I buck him; dat's de way I got loose from de
cap'n. He scrooch down dis a way, so he kin look in de suller. said
Julius, bending forward until his back was nearly on a level with the
gunwales of the boat, an' I whack him behine de ear, an' he drap so
quick he don't know what hit him. Dat's de troof, sure's you born.
Marcy did not doubt it, for if Beardsley had been foolish enough to
place himself in that position while Julius was within reach of him,
the black boy could have knocked him senseless without any trouble at
all. He was the acknowledged champion bucker of the neighborhood, and
had been known to do such things. The most pugnacious among the little
darkies would scream out in terror, and seek safety in flight, if
Julius raised one foot from the ground and hopped toward him on the
other with his head lowered threateningly, and there was not one among
them with a head hard enough to stand against him for a moment if
Julius succeeded in catching him by the ears. He could double up the
strongest negro on the plantation by butting him in the pit of the
stomach, and he would do it if one of them incurred his displeasure,
even though he had to wait a month to find his opportunity. And he told
nothing but the truth when he said that he had knocked Captain
Beardsley down in that way. All he wanted now was a chance at the
overseer. He knew that Mrs. Gray and Marcy did not want him on the
place, and consequently Julius did not think he would be punished for
butting him good fashion.
Did Beardsley or Hanson say anything about me? was Marcy's next
All I heard de cap'n say was dat de oberseer an' Shelby want to
watch out dat you don't see 'em when you come out'n de house, replied
Julius. Dey don't want you to know dey was dar.
Julius gave way strong on the oars and Marcy steered the boat,
listened for sounds of pursuit, and thought over the situation. He made
up his mind to one thing before he had left the house fairly out of
sight, and that was that Captain Beardsley and Colonel Shelby would be
sorry that they had had anything to do with the Home Guards. His
patience was all gone now, and every move they made should be met by a
counter-movement on his own part. He thought he knew the name of every
man in the company, and he would take pains to see that the Federal
commander at Plymouth knew them also and where they lived; and while he
was waiting for the Yankees to do something he would do something
himself, beginning that very night.
Having at last satisfied himself that the Home Guards were not
pursuing him, Marcy dismissed them from his mind for the present, his
actions indicating that he was looking for some object he expected to
find in the creek in advance of him. He was searching for Beardsley's
schooner, and was so long in finding it that he began to fear her owner
had stolen a march upon him by towing her from the creek to a safer
hiding-place. But the captain evidently thought she could not be in any
safer berth than the one she had always occupied in the creek in front
of his house, for there was where Marcy found her, as he was on the
point of giving up the search and telling Julius to pull for Middle
River the best he knew how, for there was a man waiting for them there.
It seems a pity to destroy a fine vessel like this, said Marcy, as
Julius caught the fore chains and allowed the current to swing the boat
broadside to the Hattie.
Well, den, what for dat rebel burn all dem fine ships out on de
watah like Marse Jack tell about? demanded Julius. An' what for de
cap'n brung all dem Home Gyards to de house to cotch you an' tote you
off to jail?
With all Beardsley's persecutions so fresh in his mind, Marcy Gray
did not stand upon the order of going to work but went at once. Before
Julius ceased speaking he was over the schooner's rail, with a bag of
fat wood in one hand and an axe in the other. The hatches were
fastened down of course, and the door that gave entrance to the cabin
was locked; but the latter yielded to a single heavy blow with the axe,
and Marcy went in and emptied his bag of kindling wood upon the floor.
Then he piled upon it everything he found in the cabin that he could
move, including the slats in the bunks, the tables and chairs, and the
doors that he could tear from their hinges. Over all he poured a couple
of quarts of oil from bottles that he had brought with him for the
purpose, and set fire to it in three or four different places. He
waited until he saw the work of destruction fairly begun, and then ran
on deck and dropped into the boat.
Now set me ashore at the foot of that poplar to which the
breast-line is made fast, said he. I want Beardsley to know who did
this work, and why it was done. But of course he knows without any
Hi yi, Marse Mahcy, she gwine go right up in de elemunts! cried
Julius, as a cloud of smoke, which was brightly illumined by the fire
that was blazing beneath, came pouring out of the cabin-door.
I think I made a sure thing of it, answered Marcy. Of course she
will burn readily, for everything in the cabin is covered with paint or
varnish. We can't get away from here any too quick. Hurry up.
It did not take Julius more than two minutes to row around the stern
of the schooner to the tree to which the breast-line was fastened, nor
did it take Marcy longer than that to spring ashore and place upon a
neighboring tree, in a conspicuous position where it would be sure to
catch the eye of the first man who passed that way, the note which he
had written that afternoon while his mother was packing his valise. It
was addressed to Captain Beardsley, and ran as follows:
This is to pay you for the share you had in bringing Hanson
back to our plantation, and in organizing the Home Guards to
take me to Williamston Jail. This is the first payment on a
big debt I owe you and Colonel Shelby. If you do not wish
any more like it take Hanson away from our place at once and
keep him away; and furthermore, keep everybody else away
from there. You are on a false scent, and so long as you
follow it, so long will you continue to lose property. There
is no large sum of money in or around the house. When you
become satisfied of that fact perhaps you will cease
troubling my mother.
Placing this note on the side of the tree opposite the fire so that
it would not be scorched by the heat, and fastening it there with three
or four wooden pins so that the wind would not blow it away, Marcy ran
back to the boat, and Julius once more pushed out into the stream. He
turned to look behind him every few minutes, but the boat was pulled
into Middle River, and perhaps two or three miles down its swift
current toward the coast, before he saw any signs of the fire he had
left behind; and at the moment his eye caught its first faint
reflection on the clouds, he heard a cautious hail from the bank.
Boat ahoy! came through the darkness in tones that were just loud
enough to attract his attention.
Who is it? demanded Marcy, picking up the loaded gun that lay
beside him in the stern-sheets. Way enough, Julius.
Mebbe dat aint de man you want see, replied the boy, handling the
oars as if he meant to turn the boat toward the opposite bank.
I am Aleck Webster's father, said the voice, in answer to Marcy's
question. Ben Hawkins sent me here to show you the way to our camp.
When did you see Hawkins? inquired Marcy.
This afternoon; and he told me that the Home Guards were likely to
drive you away from home to-night. It's all right, Mister Marcy.
The latter was so sure of it that he at once turned the boat toward
the point from which the voice came (the night was so dark that he
could not see anything but bushes and trees on the bank), and in two
minutes more was standing by Mr. Webster's side. The man pointed toward
the bright spot on the clouds and said, in a voice that Marcy
recognized this time:
Are the Home Guards out to-night?
Oh, yes; they're out, and came to my mother's house, or I shouldn't
be here now. But they didn't set anything on fire so far as I know.
Then whose work is that? There's something burning off that way.
It is the work of Marcy, the Refugee. That's I. After
persecuting me for months in every way he could think of, Beardsley has
driven me from home at last, and I set fire to his schooner to pay him
I am a refugee myself, replied Mr. Webster. And there's my hand,
which says that I will stand your friend as long as you need one. If
the Home Guards had been organized a few weeks sooner Aleck would not
have left us old men and boys to fight our battles alone. But he had an
idea that the presence of the Yankees on the coast would serve as a
protection to us; and there's where he was wrong. If we don't do
something at once, they will follow us into the swamp and kill or
capture the last one of us. That fight in Hampton Roads put life and
energy into them.
I don't see why it should. They got the worst of it.
Are you sure? exclaimed Mr. Webster. I heard that we got the
worst of it; that some of our best ships were sunk or burned.
Will it be quite safe for us to stop here long enough to have a
snack? said Marcy. Then, Julius, you may hand out that brown basket;
the one with the napkin spread over the top. I'm hungry, and I suppose
you are, Mr. Webster, for you have walked from your home since Hawkins
saw you this afternoon. By the way, where is Hawkins now?
He will hang around the settlement as long as he can, and take to
the woods only when he sees that preparations are being made to compel
him to go back to the army. Didn't you see him with the Home Guards
Marcy replied that he did not see anybody, for he ran before the
Home Guards came into the house. If Hawkins was with them, as he had
promised to be, Marcy was satisfied that no indignity had been offered
to his mother.
By this time Julius had made the boat fast to a tree on the bank and
come ashore with the lunch; and while Marcy and his new friend were
eating the cold bread and meat he passed over to them, the former gave
a true history of that battle in Hampton Roads as he learned it from
the papers Captain Barrows left with him. Then he gave a short account
of his experience and dealings with Captain Beardsley, so that the man
might know just how much reason he had to stand in fear of him, and
finally he inquired how many men there were in Mr. Webster's party, and
where and how they lived. He learned that there was an even score of
them now, seven of their number (one of whom was Ben Hawkins) being
paroled prisoners, who declared that they would fight rather than go
back to the army. It had been the habit of the original members of the
band to go into the woods whenever they desired to talk about things
that they didn't want their rebel neighbors to know; but ever since
they heard of the Home Guards, whose avowed object it was to send all
the Union men they could find to Williamston Jail, they had become
refugees in earnest, some of them having taken up their permanent abode
in the camp. Those who had families to look out for now and then
visited their homes during the daytime; but judging by the way things
looked now, that small privilege would soon be denied them.
And when it comes so that we can't see our folks for fear of being
shot, or marched off to jail, we'll take to visiting them in the
nighttime, said Mr. Webster, in concluding his story. And if we have
to do that, we'll light fires to show us the way back to camp.
Having disposed of a good share of the contents of the brown basket,
Mr. Webster declared that it was time for them to start for the camp,
which was located in one of Captain Beardsley's wood lots, and not more
than five miles away. He said that, as long as Captain Beardsley
continued to trouble him and his friends, they would sleep on his
grounds, warm themselves and cook their meals over fires built with
wood that was cut from his trees, steal his corn meal and bacon, and
shoot his hogs as often as they came within range of the camp. Mr.
Webster's canoe was close by, and when he stepped into it he fastened
the painter of Marcy's boat to a cleat in the stern, so that the two
little crafts would not become separated in the darkness. It might
require some talking to bring them together again, and they did not
want to do much of that until they were safe in camp. As they shoved
off from the bank they took a last look at that bright spot on the
clouds, which had been growing brighter and larger every moment since
it appeared, bearing unmistakable testimony to the destructive work
that was going on beneath it. If the fire had attracted the attention
of the Home Guards (and Marcy did not see how it could be otherwise),
they did not reach the creek in time to save the schooner. Marcy
wondered what Captain Beardsley's feelings were about that time.
CHAPTER XVIII. CONCLUSION.
When Marcy Gray opened his eyes the next morning at daylight, he was
in the camp of the refugees, which was to be his home, at irregular
intervals, for long months to come, and surrounded by men who, like
himself, were being persecuted for their opinions' sake. The camp was
located on an island in a remote corner of the swamp that Marcy had
never seen before, although he had hunted through the country for miles
on every side of his mother's plantation. In the middle of the island
was a cleared space, perhaps fifty feet in diameter, and all the bushes
and trees that had been cut from it were piled around the
circumference, to serve the double purpose of wind-break and
breastwork. There were no horses or mules among the refugees to make a
trail through the woods that could be followed by the Home Guards and
soldiers, and no dogs to attract their attention by their baying; but
there were canoes and boats in plenty, and, except when in use, they
were concealed in the bushes, so that they could not be seen from the
mainland. There were several snug lean-tos in the camp, to which the
refugees retreated in stormy weather; but, when the elements were
friendly, they preferred to wrap themselves in their blankets, and
sleep under the trees. When the newcomer opened his eyes on this
particular morning, the first object they rested on was the bearded
face of Ben Hawkins, the paroled prisoner. He was lying under the same
tree, and had been waiting half an hour for Marcy to wake up.
I reckon it does you good to sleep in the open air, were the first
words he spoke.
Want of sleep is something that never troubles me, was the reply.
Were you out with the Home Guards last night? And how did they treat
my mother after they got into the house?
Didn't I say that the first one amongst 'em who looked cross-ways
at her, or said anything out of the way, would have to answer to me for
it? demanded Hawkins. I said that much to 'em before we went into
your yard; and well, them Home Guards know me.
I assure you that I shall not forget it, said Marcy gratefully. I
hope you did not say or do anything to add to their suspicions. You
know you told me they were afraid to trust you. And why did you come
here instead of going home?
I don't care a cent if they distrust me now more'n they did
before, answered Hawkins. I'm watching 'em, and they'll have to get
up in the morning to get the start of me. And I come to camp to see if
you was here, and find out if it was that little nigger's yelling that
That was just it, replied Marcy. If Beardsley hadn't caught him,
he would surely have caught me. What did Beardsley have to say for
He was purty bad hurt, I tell you; and we had to hold him in the
hoss-trough for as much as a minute before he came to. He's bound to
kill that nigger. He didn't see him have no club in his hand when he
Julius never struck him with a club, exclaimed Marcy. He gave him
a butt under the ear.
The Confederate uttered an ejaculation indicative of the greatest
astonishment, and then he sat up on his blanket, reached over Marcy's
shoulder, and began throwing aside the leaves and branches until he
uncovered a gray quilt. This he pulled off in spite of the desperate
efforts of some one beneath to prevent it, and when he drew the quilt
over Marcy's shoulder, he brought with it the boy Julius, who was
highly enraged because his dreamless slumber had been so rudely
Did you like to butt the life out of Cap'n Beardsley last night?
inquired Hawkins. Come here, and let me see how hard your head is.
Take you' hands off'n dat head, sputtered Julius. I buck one
rebel las' night, an' you want watch out dat I don't buck nodder one
dis mawning. Then he became good-natured all at once, for he thought
of something he wanted to ask Hawkins. What Beardsley say when he seen
his fine schooner go up in de clouds?
He was mad and sorry and skeered, answered Hawkins. I'll bet you,
Mister Marcy, that he plum forgot about that schooner, or he wouldn't
have been in such a hurry to help Shelby raise the Home Guards. Of
course we rode hard for the fire as soon as we seen it, but we couldn't
do no good after we got there. The schooner was too far gone.
Did Beardsley find the note I left for him? asked Marcy.
Shelby found it and give it to him; and it was when he read it that
he looked sorry and skeered. It was lucky you wrote it, for it kept
some of the Home Guards from being killed.
How do you make that out?
Just this a way, answered Hawkins. They allowed, after they got
through with you, to go to the houses of two more Union men so't you
would have company when you was took to jail. But when Shelby heard
your letter read he put for his home quick's he could go, some others
who lived up his way went with him, and that sorter broke up the party.
Leastwise it didn't leave enough to capture them two Union men, who I
knew were on the watch and ready to shoot. I went to their houses
afterward, and brought them into the swamp with me. They're getting
mighty tired of living in this way, and they allow to rise up and drive
Beardsley and Shelby out'n the country. There wouldn't be no trouble in
the settlement if them two was out of it.
That is what I think, said Marcy, and I wish that plan might be
put into operation this very day. What is the use of putting it off?
While this conversation was going on the other refugees had begun to
show signs of returning life and energy, and as fast as they arose from
their blankets they came up to greet Marcy, who was not much surprised
to find that he could call every one of them by name. Those who had
rendered him such good service on the night those Newbern robbers
raided his mother's house made themselves known, and of course received
the hearty thanks of the boy they had saved from being hung up by the
neck. One of them remarked that he wished he and his friends had served
Hanson as they had served the robbers, and this led Marcy to believe
that they had made short work with them; but he asked no questions.
For men in their circumstances the refugees were the most jovial lot
Marcy Gray had ever seen. Having learned the art of foraging to
perfection they lived on the best the country afforded; they were so
well armed that it would not pay the authorities to try to capture
them, even if they had known right where to find them; and the
secessionists in the settlement who had property to lose would not
permit the Confederate soldiers to molest their wives and children if
they could possibly help it. But, as Hawkins said, they were becoming
tired of living in this way, and were talking seriously of taking
matters into their own hands. If the Federal garrison at Plymouth could
not protect them, they would protect themselves. That was what Marcy
Gray had made up his mind to do, and it was his intention to begin
operations that very day. As soon as breakfast was over he drew Hawkins
off on one side and took him into his confidence by unfolding the plans
he had in his head. One was to make a prisoner of his mother's overseer
and take him to Plymouth; and while there, to give the Federal
commander the names of the men who belonged to the Home Guards and tell
him what they were organized for. And lastly he would write letters to
Beardsley and Shelby, telling them that if they did not move away at
once and go among the Confederates, where they ought to have gone long
ago, the men whom they had forced to find refuge in the swamp would
destroy everything they had.
I'm with you heart and soul, all except going among the Yankees,
said Hawkins, after Marcy had made him understand what he had on his
mind. I'm sorter jubus that they won't let me come away when I want
to. Why couldn't we bushwhack Hanson, and not go nigh Plymouth at all?
Shoot him behind his back? cried Marcy. Look here, Hawkins, I
hope you are not that sort. I never could look my mother in the face if
I should consent to that. Haven't you something to show that you are a
Not the first thing. One of my officers signed for me.
All right. Then you stand by me till we capture and tie Hanson, and
I will take him down the river myself. I have something in my pocket
that will bring me home all right. And while I am gone you will deliver
a couple of letters for me, will you not?
Oh, yes; Hawkins was perfectly willing to do that, and when he
delivered the warning letters he would add a few words of his own that
would perhaps emphasize what Marcy wrote. Being satisfied with his
promise the boy hastened to hunt up the portfolio he had been
thoughtful enough to bring with him, and while he wrote the letters
which he hoped would forever relieve the community of the meanest men
in it, his Confederate friend busied himself in telling all the rest of
the refugees what he was writing about. Marcy's energy was contagious;
and by the time he and Hawkins and Julius were ready to start on their
mission, half the men in camp were writing similar notes, to be
delivered to certain obnoxious persons by other paroled prisoners.
Every one of them would have been glad to see Marcy through, as they
expressed it, if he would agree that Hanson should be bushwhacked
instead of being turned over to the Yankees. Although they were strong
Union men, they might not be able to prove it to the satisfaction of
the Federals, and for that reason they did not care to put themselves
in their power.
And I don't blame you for it, said Marcy. I wouldn't dare go
among them myself if I wasn't sure they would let me come home again. I
don't need any help, except such as Hawkins is willing to give me. If I
once get Hanson afloat, I shall take him to Plymouth, unless he throws
himself into the river; and I know he isn't the man to do that.
Everything being ready for the start, Marcy and his two companions
crossed to the main land in one of the canoes which they concealed
among the bushes when they reached the bank, and set out for Mrs.
Gray's house, holding such a course that they would pass one of
Beardsley's fields on the way. They expected to find him at work there
with his negroes, and they were not disappointed. When they discovered
him, Marcy drew his letters from his pocket and handed one of them to
Hawkins, who, after telling him where he would find him again at the
end of half an hour, climbed the fence and set out across the field.
Marcy waited until he came up with Beardsley and handed him the letter,
and then resumed his walk, arriving at the place of meeting just about
the time that Hawkins got there. The latter was laughing all over.
You writ him a pretty sassy letter, didn't you? said he.
I told him what I want him to do, and what he may expect if he
doesn't do it, was Marcy's reply. What did he say?
He wanted to know where I got the letter, and I told him I was
hog-hunting in the woods and met a Union man, who asked me would I give
it to him, and I said I would, answered Hawkins. Then he got mad and
whooped and hollered, and said he'd be shot if he stirred one step away
from his home; but I reckon he thought better of it when I told him
that Miss Gray's overseer would be in Plymouth to-night, and that a
squad of Yankee cavalry would be looking for him and Shelby to-morrer.
That was all right, wasn't it?
Perfectly right. I don't care a cent what starts him, so long as he
starts. Now for Hanson. We ought to find him in a field about a quarter
of a mile away in this direction. I am afraid he will run when he sees
If he does I'll stop him, replied Hawkins, patting the butt of a
long squirrel-rifle he carried on his shoulder.
For the first time in many months things seemed to be working in
Marcy's favor; for when he and his companion came within sight of the
field in which Hanson ought to have found employment that day for Mrs.
Gray's hands, he was there, and he did not see them until after they
had crossed the fence and made considerable progress toward him. The
sight of Marcy made Hanson uneasyhis actions proved thatand it is
probable that he would have taken to his heels if the boy had not been
in the company of a Confederate soldier who was also a member of the
Home Guards. Still he must have feared treachery, for when Marcy
approached close enough to speak to him, he saw that his face was very
white, and that his hands trembled so violently he could scarcely hold
his knife and the stick he was trying to cut.
Morning, gentlemen, said he with a strong effort to appear at his
ease. Fine morning, this morning.
Cicero, said Marcy, addressing one of the field hands and paying
no sort of attention to the overseer's greeting, unless you receive
other orders from my mother, you will have charge of this work until I
return. Hanson is going with me.
With you, Mister Marcy! said the man, in a weak voice. The missus
done told me to come out here.
She gave you no orders whatever, and you have not seen her this
morning. I order you to get ready to go to Plymouth, answered Marcy;
whereupon Hawkins placed his rifle upon the ground and drew a rope from
one of his pockets.
Never in his life had Marcy seen a man so astonished and frightened
as the overseer was at that moment. He dared not resist, and he could
not speak when Hawkins drew his arms behind his back and fastened them
there with the rope. As to the negroes, who were quick to understand
the situation, they would have danced and shouted for joy had they not
known that such a demonstration would be displeasing to their young
master; so they contented themselves with bringing forward one of their
number, who bared his brawny shoulder, and by the action called Marcy's
attention to a long ugly-looking welt that had been left there by a
blow from the overseer's raw-hide.
Whoop! yelled Julius; and, to quote from the field hands, he
immediately drapped his wing; that is to say, he humped up his
shoulders and back, dropped his chin upon his breast, raised one foot
from the ground, and began hopping toward the overseer on the other. In
a minute more Hanson would have been served as Captain Beardsley was
the night before, if Marcy had not put a stop to the little darky's
antics by taking hold of his collar and giving him a twist that sent
him ten feet away.
I know what you uns are going to do, and I aint no ways scared of
you, said Hanson, who at last mustered up courage enough to speak; but
his white face and trembling limbs belied his words. My friends will
make you suffer for this.
That's all right, said Hawkins cheerfully. If they don't leave
the country this very night, like they have been told to do, you will
see 'em in Plymouth to-morrer. Now, will you go peaceable, or shall I
walk you along by the neck?
The Confederate soldier picked up his rifle and waved his hand in
the direction of the great house, and the prisoner started toward it
without hesitating or saying another word; while Marcy ran on ahead to
tell his mother what he had done. Although the field was in plain sight
no one about the house had noticed that there was anything unusual
going on, and Marcy went in at the side door and made his way to his
mother's room before she knew he was on the plantation. Marcy did some
rapid talking, for time was precious, and he might be in danger as long
as he remained with her; but he told her of everything that had
happened to him since the Home Guards drove him from home, and when he
said that he and Julius were on their way to Plymouth to deliver Hanson
into the hands of the Federals, she did not try to turn him from his
purpose. She simply said that she thought he was engaged in a desperate
Desperate cases require desperate remedies, answered Marcy,
looking out of the window just as Hawkins and his prisoner passed by.
The soldier was walking by Hanson's side and Julius was acting as
rear-guard, advancing first on one foot and then on the other, and all
the while shaking his head as if he were possessed by an almost
irresistible desire to plant it in the small of the overseer's back.
Here he is now, continued Marcy.
Come and take a last look at him.
I don't want to, replied Mrs. Gray. I hope I shall never see him
That is what I hope, and what I am working for, said Marcy.
Good-by, and remember that I will stop here on my way to camp. Don't
worry, for I am going among friends.
So saying, Marcy ran down the stairs and out of the house. Arriving
at the landing he found there but one boat suitable for his purpose,
and that was the skiff Captain Benton gave him on the night he left the
gunboat. It was old and leaky, but large enough to accommodate three;
so it was shoved from the bank and Hanson was assisted to the seat he
was to occupy in the bow. Then Julius got in and picked up the oars,
while Marcy lingered to take leave of Ben Hawkins.
Like as not you'll come back all right, said the latter.
I hope to, certainly, answered Marcy. Take care of yourself while
I am gone, and remember that I am under obligations to you.
So am I, exclaimed Hanson, who had had leisure to think the matter
over and get a few of his wits about him. You're a traitor, Ben
Hawkins, and I'll see that the Home Guards know it. You're a
Confederate soldier, too, and I'll take pains to tell the Yankees of
Hursh yer noise, dar! said Julius, looking over his shoulder and
scowling fiercely at the overseer. If I drap my wing at you, you drap
overboard, suah's you
That will do, said Marcy, stepping into the stern-sheets. Shove
us off, Mr. Hawkins.
This being done, Julius gave way on the oars, and the great house
and its surroundings were quickly left out of sight. Then Marcy threw
open his coat and drew his holsters in front of him, so that he could
easily lay hold of the revolvers that were in them. He did not think he
would have any trouble with his prisoner, or that he would be called
upon to defend himself against the Home Guards; but he was prepared for
It was a long and tedious journey that Marcy had undertaken, for
there was no one to talk to, and nothing to see that he had not seen a
hundred times before; but it was brought to an end about three in the
afternoon, when the strong current in the Roanoke River carried his
boat within sight of a Union sentry on the bank. The latter faced them
promptly, brought his piece to arms port, and called out:
Who comes there?
Two friends with a rebel prisoner, replied Marcy; and, to his
intense amazement, Hanson twisted himself around on his seat, and
flatly contradicted him by saying:
Taint so, Mister Soldier. It's two rebels with a Union prisoner.
I'm so strong for the old flag that the rebels won't let me
Halt, two friends with a rebel prisoner! shouted the sentry, who
was not the proper person to decide any difference of opinion there
might be between the boy who sat in the stern-sheets, with a
steering-oar in his hand, and the man who sat in the bow with his arms
tied behind his back. Corporal of the guard number eight!
The only way to halt in that current was to bring the boat ashore,
and this Marcy and Julius proceeded to do. They were all on the bank
when the corporal came up, and Hanson would have given Marcy a very
black character indeed if the non-commissioned officer had been
disposed to listen to him; but he said he didn't want to hear a word of
it, and ordered Marcy to take off his revolvers. When this had been
done, and the corporal had the belt in his hand, he demanded:
Now, then, what do you want?
Of course I shall have to tell my story to the officer of the day,
but I should like much to see Captain Burrows, replied Marcy.
Captain Burrows happens to be officer of the day, said the
corporal, who no doubt wondered how Marcy came to be acquainted with
him. Come on, and I will take you to him.
It might be well to release this man, suggested Marcy. He has
been confined a good while.
No, I guess I will turn him over just as I got him, said the
soldier. Then the captain can't find any fault with me.
Not to dwell upon the particulars of Marcy's visit to Plymouth, it
will be enough to say that he found Captain Burrows at the office of
the provost marshal, and that he was just as sociable and friendly as
he was when sitting in one of Mrs. Gray's easy-chairs examining Marcy's
guns, and talking to him about the shooting on the plantation. He
listened patiently and with evident satisfaction to the boy's
statements, and then took him to the headquarters of the colonel
commanding the post; leaving Hanson, who would have been dull indeed if
he had not realized by this time that he was in the worst scrape of his
life, to the care of the provost marshal. When Marcy turned to look at
him as he left the marshal's office, he told himself that Hanson was in
a fair way to see the inside of a Northern prison pen.
He had not talked with the colonel more than five minutes before the
latter became aware that Marcy could tell him the very things he most
wished to know regarding the condition of the Union people who lived
outside his lines. Almost every statement he made was reduced to
writing by one of the orderlies, and when the interview was ended at
ten o'clock that night, Marcy received the thanks of the commandant and
the assurance that the Home Guards should be scattered or captured
without loss of time, and his home made a safe place for him to live.
Captain Burrows offered to take good care of him and his servant if he
would remain all night, but Marcy was so anxious to tell his mother the
good news that he thought he had better start for home at once; so he
was given the countersign, and a pass commanding all guards and patrols
to permit him to enter or leave the lines at any hour of the day or
night, and Captain Burrows furnished him with a generous lunch and went
with him to his boat to see him off.
Good-by, Marcy, but not for long, said he. If I have any
influence with the colonel, I shall be riding around in your
neighborhood to-morrow afternoon; and when this cruel war is over, I am
coming down here on purpose to go quail-shooting with you.
Take care of the Home Guards, and drive the rebels away from
Williamston, and you can go quail-shooting any time, replied Marcy.
But I am afraid it will be a long time before that will come to pass,
or my home will be a safe place for me to live, he soliloquized, as he
settled back in the stern of the boat and looked up at the stars while
Julius plied the oars. Captain Beardsley will be forced to leave the
country and so will Colonel Shelby; but they will go straight to
Williamston or some other place that is in the hands of the
Confederates, and send first one scouting party and then another into
the settlement to trouble us Union people.
That was what Marcy thought, and it was what he told his mother when
he reached home the next morning; and knowing that the Federal colonel
had not yet had time to capture or scatter the Home Guards, he did
not remain long in the house, but ate a hasty breakfast and set out for
the camp of the refugees, walking under cover of all the fences, and
making use of every bush and inequality of the ground to conceal him
from the view of any one who might chance to be passing along the road.
It was well that these precautions were adopted; for when he and Julius
were safe in the woods they looked back and saw about twenty mounted
men enter the yard and surround the house. They were the Home Guards,
and had been sent there by Beardsley and Shelby, who knew that Marcy
would be sure to visit his mother on his return from Plymouth. They
were in the house half an hour or more, but went away as empty-handed
as they came.
That means the loss of more property for you, Captain Beardsley,
said Marcy to himself: and when the other refugees heard of it they
said the same thing, and vowed to make their words good that very
night; but, about one o'clock that afternoon, one of the paroled
prisoners came into camp with the information that he had barely
escaped falling into the hands of a squad of Federal cavalry who were
raiding the settlement, and that Beardsley and Shelby were being
punished already for the rows they had kicked up in the neighborhood.
I was hid in my corn-crib when the Yankees went by my house, said
the soldier, and the feller in command of 'em was the same chap I seed
with 'em once before. They had scooped in as many as a dozen of the
meanest of the Home Guards, Beardsley and Shelby amongst 'em, and were
taking 'em off Plymouth way. My old hat riz on my head when I heard
Beardsley tell the Yankee cap'n that if he'd go into my house he'd
ketch a rebel soldier in there, but that there Yankee cap'n 'lowed that
he knowed what he was doing, and that he wasn't hunting no paroled
prisoners. Now, who do you reckon told him that a paroled prisoner
lived in my house?
I did, replied Marcy. I said a good word for you while I was in
Plymouth, and the Yankee colonel said that, if anybody bothered you
paroled rebels, it would be your own men and not his. You have brought
me good news.
But all the same it did not bring the quiet home life which Marcy
thought would be his when those arch-disturbers of the peace of the
settlement were carried away from it, for the Confederate authorities
interfered with his plans. In April they passed their first general
Conscription Act, making all the able-bodied men in the Confederacy
between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five subject to military duty,
revoked all leaves of absence, and ordered every soldier to report at
once to his command on pain of being treated as a deserter. The Act
provided for the exemption of those who were able to pay for it, but
Marcy did not know it; and supposing that he was as likely to be
conscripted as anybody else, he passed the most of his time in camp,
where he knew he was safe. We have no space in this book to tell of the
other adventures that fell to his lot, and so we must leave him here
for the present while we take up the history of two of our Confederate
heroes, Rodney Gray and Dick Graham, whom we last saw in Rodney's home
in a distant State. They were full-fledged soldiers as you know, having
served fifteen months in Price's army and Bragg's. They had their
discharges in their pockets and were inclined to say, with Ben Hawkins,
that they would not do any more fighting for the Confederacy until some
stay-at-homers, whose names they could mention, had had a chance to
see how they liked it. Dick Graham was homesick and longed to see his
father and mother; but they were somewhere in Missouri, and Dick could
not get to them without crossing the Mississippi, which was closely
guarded by the Union navy. There was no way to get around it, however,
and that river had to be crossed; and how they made one unsuccessful
attempt after another to reach the opposite bank; how Rodney Gray
managed to keep out of the army in spite of the efforts that were made
to force him into it; and how he turned the tables on his old enemy Tom
Randolph, and his Home Guards, who tried to bring him into trouble with
the Federals in Baton Rouge, shall be told in the next volume of this
series, which will be entitled RODNEY, THE OVERSEER.