Puslapio vaizdai


gray head, was the father of Jenny, angry and impatient, past doubt.

"Don't stand looking any longer, for mercy's sake!" called the querulous voice from the house. "You'll get your death of cold, and then what 'll become of us all? Saddle your horse this minute, and ride over to John Walker's, -for there's where you'll find Jinny, the gad-about, and bring her home at the tail of your critter. I'll see who is going to be mistress here!"

"She's had her own head too long a'ready, I'm afeard,” replied the old man, turning from the gate, with intent, probably, to execute his wife's order.

Seeing this, and hearing this, Hobert, as we said, stood still and trembled, and could only ask, by a little pressure of the hand he held, what was to be said or done.

Jenny did not hesitate a moment. "I expected this or something worse," she said. "Don't mind, Hobert; so they don't see you, I don't care for the rest. You must not go one step farther: the lightning will betray us, you see. I will say I waited for the rain to slack, and the two storms will clear off about the same time, I dare say. There, good night!" and she turned her cheek to him; for she was not one of those impossible maidens we read of in books, who don't know they are in love, until after the consent of parents is obtained, and blush themselves to ashes at the thought of a kiss. To love Hobert was to her the most natural and proper thing in the world, and she did not dream there was anything to blush for. It is probable, too, that his constitutional bashfulness and distrust of himself brought out her greater confidence and buoyancy.

"And how and where am I ever to see you again?" he asked, as he detained her, against her better judgment, if not against her will.

"Trust that to me," and she hurried away in time to meet and prevent her father from riding forth in search of her.

Of course there were fault-finding and quarrelling, accusations and protVOL. XVIII. — NO. 105.


estations, hard demands and sullen pouting, so that the home, at no time so attractive as we like to imagine the home of a young girl who has father and mother to provide for her and protect her, became to her like a prisonhouse. At the close of the first and second days after her meeting with Hobert, when the work was all faithfully done, she ventured to ask leave to go over to John Walker's and inquire how the sick man was; but so cold a refusal met her, that, on the evening of the third day, she sat down on the porchside to while away the hour between working and sleeping, without having renewed her request.

The sun was down, and the first star began to show faintly above a strip of gray cloud in the west, when a voice, low and tender, called to her, "Come here, my child!" and looking up she saw Grandmother Walker sitting on her horse at the gate. She had in the saddle before her her youngest granddaughter, and on the bare back of the horse, behind her, a little grandson, both their young faces expressive of the sorrow at home. Jenny arose on the instant, betraying in every motion the interest and sympathy she felt, and was just stepping lightly from the porch to the ground, when a strong hand grasped her shoulder and turned her back. It was her father who had overtaken her. "Go into the house!" he said. "If the old woman has got any arrant at all, it's likely it's to your mother and me."

Nor was his heart melted in the least when he learned that his friend and neighbor was no more. He evinced surprise, and made some blunt and coarse inquiries, but that was the amount. "The widder is left purty destitute, I reckon," he said; and then he added, the Lord helped them that helped themselves, and we must n't fly in the face of Providence. She had her son, strong and able-bodied; and of course he had no thoughts of encumbering himself with a family of his own, — young and poverty-struck as he was.

Mrs. Walker understood the insinua

tion; but her heart could not hold resentment just then. She must relieve her burdened soul by talking of "poor Johnny," even though it were to deaf ears. She must tell what a good boy he had been, how kind to her and considerate of her, how manly, how generous, how self-forgetful. And then she must tell how hard he had worked, and how saving he had been in order to give his children a better chance in the world than he had had; and how, if he had lived another year, he would have paid off the mortgage, and been able to hold up his head amongst men.

After all the ploughing and sowing, -after all the preparation for the gathering in of the harvest,—it seemed very hard, she said, that Johnny must be called away, just as the shining ears began to appear. The circumstances of his death, too, seemed to her peculiarly afflictive. "We had all the doctors in the neighborhood," she said, "but none of them understood his case. At first they thought he had small-pox, and doctored him for that; and then they thought, it was liver-complaint, and doctored him for that; and then it was bilious fever, and then it was typhus fever; and so it went on, and I really can't believe any of them understood anything about it. Their way seemed to be to do just what he did n't want done. In the first place, he was bled; and then he was blistered; and then he was bled again and blistered again, the fever all the time getting higher and higher; and when he wanted water, they said it would kill him, and gave him hot drinks till it seemed to me they would drive him mad; and sure enough, they did! The last word he ever said, to know what he was saying, was to ask me for a cup of cold water. I only wish I had given it to him; all the doctors in the world would n't prevent me now, if I only had him back. The fever seemed to be just devouring him: his tongue was as dry as sand, and his head as hot as fire. O mother!' says he, and there, was such a look of beseeching in his eyes as I can never forget, 'may be I

shall never want you to do anything more for me. Cold water! give me some cold water! If I don't have it, my senses will surely fly out of my head!' 'Yes, Johnny,' says I, and I went and brought a tin bucketful, right out of the well, and set it on the table in his sight; for I thought it would do him good to see even more than he could drink; and then I brought a cup and dipped it up full. It was all dripping over, and he had raised himself on one elbow, and was leaning toward me, when the young doctor came in, and, stepping between us, took the cup out of my hand. All his strength seemed to go from poor Johnny at that, and he fell back on his pillow and never lifted his head any more. Still he kept begging in a feeble voice for the water. 'Just two or three drops, just one drop!' he said. I could n't bear it, and the doctor said I had better go out of the room, and so I did,-—and the good Lord forgive me; for when I went back, after half an hour, he was clean crazy. He did n't know me, and he never knowed me any more."

"It's purty hard, Miss Walker," answered Mr. Bowen, "to accuse the doctors with the murder of your son. A purty hard charge, that, I call it! So John's dead! Well, I hope he is better off. Where are you goin' to bury him?"

And then Mrs. Walker said she did n't charge anybody with the murder of poor Johnny, nobody meant to do him any harm, she knew that; but, after all, she wished she could only have had her own way with him from the first. And so she rode away, - her little bare-legged grandson, behind her, aggravating her distress by telling her that, when he got to be a man, he meant to do nothing all the days of his life but dig wells, and give water to whoever wanted it.

It is not worth while to dwell at length on the humiliations and privations to which Jenny was subjected, the mention of one or two will indicate the nature of all. In the first place, the white heifer she had always called

hers was sold, and the money tied up in a tow bag. Jenny would not want a cow for years to come. The piece of land that had always been known as "Jenny's Corner" was not thus denominated any more, and she was given to understand that it was only to be hers conditionally. There were obstacles put in the way of her going to meeting of a Sunday, first one thing, then another; and, finally, the bureau was locked, and the best dress and brightest ribbon inside the drawers. The new side-saddle she had been promised was refused to her, unless she in turn would make a promise; and the long day's work was made to drag on into the night, lest she might find time to visit some neighbor, and lest that neighbor might be the Widow Walker. But what device of the enemy ever proved successful when matched against the simple sincerity of true love? It came about, in spite of all restraint and prohibition, that Jenny and Hobert met in their own times and ways; and so a year went by.

One night, late in the summer, when the katydids began to sing, Jenny waited longer than usual under the vinecovered beech that drooped its boughs low to the ground all round her, - now listening for the expected footstep, and now singing, very low, some little song to her heart, such as many a loving and trusting maiden had sung before her. What could keep Hobert? She knew it was not his will that kept him; and though her heart began to be heavy, she harbored therein no thought of reproach. By the movement of the shadow on the grass, she guessed that an hour beyond the one of appointment must have passed, when the far-away footfall set her so lately hushed pulses fluttering with delight. He was coming, he was coming! And, no matter what had been wrong, all would be right now. She was holding wide the curtaining boughs long before he came near; and when they dropped, and her arms closed, it is not improbable that he was within them. It was the delight of meeting her that kept him still

so long, Jenny thought; and she prattled lightly and gayly of this and of that, and, seeing that she won no answer, fell to tenderer tones, and imparted the little vexing secrets of her daily life, and the sweet hopes of her nightly dreams.

They were seated on a grassy knoll, the moonlight creeping tenderly about their feet, and the leaves of the drooping vines touching their heads like hands of pity, or of blessing. The water running over the pebbly bottom of the brook just made the silence sweet, and the evening dews shining on the red globes of the clover made the darkness lovely; but with all these enchantments of sight and sound about him, nay, more, with the hand of Jenny, his own true-love, Jenny, folded in his, Hobert was not happy.

"And so you think you love me!" he said at last, speaking so sadly, and clasping the hand he held with so faint a pressure, that Jenny would have been offended if she had not been the dear, trustful little creature she was.

There was, indeed, a slight reproach in her accent as she answered, “Think I love you, Hobert? No, I don't think anything about it, I know." "And I know I love you, Jenny," he replied. "I love you so well that I am going to leave you without asking you to marry me!"

For one moment Jenny was silent,— for one moment the world seemed unsteady beneath her, then she stood up, and, taking the hand of her lover between her palms, gazed into his face with one long, earnest, steadfast gaze. "You have asked me already, Hobert," she said, "a thousand times, and I have consented as often. You may go away, but you will not leave me; for 'Whither thou goest I will go, where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried.'"

He drew her close to his bosom now, and kissed her with most passionate, but still saddest tenderness. "You know not, my darling," he said, "what you would sacrifice." Then he laid before her all her present advantages, all her bright prospects for the future,

- her high chamber with its broad eastern windows, to be given up for the low dingy walls of a settler's cabin, her free girlhood for the hard struggles of a settler's wife! Sickness, perhaps, — certainly the lonesome nights and days of a home remote from neighbors, and the dreariness and hardship inseparable from the working out of better fortunes. But all these things, even though they should all come, were light in comparison with losing him!

Perhaps Hobert had desired and expected to hear her say this. At any rate, he did not insist on a reversal of her decision, as, with his arms about her, he proceeded to explain why he had come to her that night with so heavy a heart. The substance of all he related may be recapitulated in a few words. The land could not be paid for, and the homestead must be sold. He would not be selfish and forsake his mother, and his young brothers and sisters in their time of need. By careful management of the little that could be saved, he might buy in the West a better farm than that which was now to be given up; and there to build a cabin and plant a garden would be easy,-O, so easy!—with the smile of Jenny to light him home when the day's work was done.

In fact, the prospective hardships vanished away at the thought of her for his little housekeeper. It was such easy work for fancy to convert the work-days into holidays, and the thick wilderness into the shining village, where the schoolhouse stood open all the week, and the sweet bells called them to church of a Sunday; easy work for that deceitful elf to make the chimney-corner snug and warm, and to embellish it with his mother in her easy chair. When they parted that night, each young heart was trembling with the sweetest secret it had ever

held; and it was perhaps a fortnight thereafter that the same secret took wing, and flew wildly over the neighborhood.

John Walker's little farm was gone for good and all. The few sheep, and the cows, and the pig, and the fowls, together with the greater part of the household furniture, were scattered over the neighborhood; the smoke was gone from the chimney, and the windows were curtainless; and the grave of John, with a modest but decent headstone, and a rose-bush newly planted beside it, was left to the care of strangers. The last visits had been paid, and the last good-byes and good wishes exchanged; and the widow and her younger children were far on their journey, — Hobert remaining for a day or two to dispose of his smart young horse, as it was understood, and then follow on.

At this juncture, Mr. Bowen one morning opened the stair-door, as was his custom, soon after daybreak, and called harshly out, "Jinny! Jinny! its high time you was up!"

Five minutes having elapsed, and the young girl not having yet appeared, the call was repeated more harshly than before. "Come, Jinny, come! or I'll know what's the reason!"

She did not come; and five minutes more having passed, he mounted the stairs with a quick, resolute step, to know what was the reason. He came down faster, if possible, than he went up.

"Mother, mother!" he cried, rushing toward Mrs. Bowen, who stood at the table sifting meal, his gray hair streaming wildly back, and his cheek blanched with amazement, "Jinny's run away! run away, as sure as you 're a livin' woman. Her piller has n't been touched last night, and her chamber 's desarted!”

[ocr errors]

And this was the secret that took wing and flew over the neighborhood.

1866.] The Retreat from Lenoir's and the Siege of Knoxville. 21


LATE in October, 1863, the Ninth of a mile east of the village. The camp

Army Corps went into camp at Lenoir's Station, twenty five miles southwest of Knoxville, East Tennessee. Since April, the corps had campaigned in Kentucky, had participated in the siege of Vicksburg, had accompanied Sherman into the interior of Mississippi in his pursuit of Johnston, had returned to Kentucky, and then, in conjunction with the Twenty-third Army Corps, marching over the mountains into East Tennessee, in a brief but brilliant campaign under its old leader and favorite, Burnside, had delivered the loyal people of that region from the miseries of Rebel rule, and had placed them once more under the protection of the old flag. But all this had not been done without loss. Many of our brave comrades, who, through a storm of leaden hail, had crossed the bridge at Antietam, and had faced death in a hundred forms on the heights of Fredericksburg, had fallen on these widely separated battle-fields in the valley of the Mississippi. Many, overborne by fatigue and exposure, had laid down their wasted bodies by the roadside and in hospitals, and had gently breathed their young lives away. Many more, from time to time, had been rendered unfit for active service; and the corps, now a mere skeleton, numbered less than three thousand men present for duty. Never did men need rest more than they; and never was an order more welcome than that which now declared the campaign ended, and authorized the construction of winter quarters.

[blocks in formation]

In or

was laid out with unusual care. der to secure uniformity throughout the regiment, the size of the log-housesthey were to be ten feet by six - was announced in orders from regimental head-quarters. The work of construction was at once commenced. Unfortunately, we were so far from our base of supplies of supplies Camp Nelson, Kentucky

that nearly all our transportation was required by the Commissary Department for the conveyance of its stores. Consequently, the Quartermaster's Department was poorly supplied; and the only axes which could be obtained were those which our pioneers and company cooks had brought with them for their own use. These, however, were pressed into the service; and their merry ringing, as the men cheerfully engaged in the work, could be heard from early morning till evening. Small oaks, four and five inches in diameter, were chiefly used in building these houses. The logs were laid one above another, to the height of four feet, intersecting at the corners of the houses like the rails of a Virginia fence. The interstices were filled with mud. Shelter-tents, buttoned together to the size required, formed the roof, and afforded ample protection from the weather, except in very heavy rains. Each house had its fireplace, table, and bunk. On the 13th of November the houses were nearly completed; and as we sat by our cheerful fires that evening, and looked forward to the leisure and quiet of the winter before us, we thought ourselves the happiest of soldiers. Writing home at that time, I said that, unless something unforeseen should happen, we expected to remain at Lenoir's during the win


That something unforeseen was at hand; and our pleasant dreams were destined to fade away like an unsubstantial pageant, leaving not a rack be

« AnkstesnisTęsti »