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- The Battle Ground - 1/71 -


THE BATTLE GROUND

By ELLEN GLASGOW

To

The Beloved Memory of My Mother

CONTENTS

BOOK FIRST

GOLDEN YEARS

I. "De Hine Foot er a He Frawg" II. At the Full of the Moon III. The Coming of the Boy IV. A House with an Open Door V. The School for Gentlemen VI. College Days

BOOK SECOND

YOUNG BLOOD

I. The Major's Christmas II. Betty dreams by the Fire III. Dan and Betty IV. Love in a Maze V. The Major loses his Temper VI. The Meeting in the Turnpike VII. If this be Love VIII. Betty's Unbelief IX. The Montjoy Blood X. The Road at Midnight XI. At Merry Oaks Tavern XII. The Night of Fear XIII. Crabbed Age and Callow Youth XIV. The Hush before the Storm

BOOK THIRD

THE SCHOOL OF WAR

I. How Merry Gentlemen went to War II. The Day's March III. The Reign of the Brute IV. After the Battle V. The Woman's Part VI. On the Road to Romney VII. "I wait my Time" VIII. The Altar of the War God IX. The Montjoy Blood again

BOOK FOURTH

THE RETURN OF THE VANQUISHED

I. The Ragged Army II. A Straggler from the Ranks III. The Cabin in the Woods IV. In the Silence of the Guns V. "The Place Thereof" VI. The Peaceful Side of War. VII. The Silent Battle VIII. The Last Stand IX. In the Hour of Defeat X. On the March again XI. The Return

BOOK FIRST

GOLDEN YEARS

I

"DE HINE FOOT ER A HE FRAWG"

Toward the close of an early summer afternoon, a little girl came running along the turnpike to where a boy stood wriggling his feet in the dust.

"Old Aunt Ailsey's done come back," she panted, "an' she's conjured the tails off Sambo's sheep. I saw 'em hanging on her door!"

The boy received the news with an indifference from which it blankly rebounded. He buried one bare foot in the soft white sand and withdrew it with a jerk that powdered the blackberry vines beside the way.

"Where's Virginia?" he asked shortly.

The little girl sat down in the tall grass by the roadside and shook her red curls from her eyes. She gave a breathless gasp and began fanning herself with the flap of her white sunbonnet. A fine moisture shone on her bare neck and arms above her frock of sprigged chintz calico.

"She can't run a bit," she declared warmly, peering into the distance of the long white turnpike. "I'm a long ways ahead of her, and I gave her the start. Zeke's with her."

With a grunt the boy promptly descended from his heavy dignity.

"You can't run," he retorted. "I'd like to see a girl run, anyway." He straightened his legs and thrust his hands into his breeches pockets. "You can't run," he repeated.

The little girl flashed a clear defiance; from a pair of beaming hazel eyes she threw him a scornful challenge. "I bet I can beat you," she stoutly rejoined. Then as the boy's glance fell upon her hair, her defiance waned. She put on her sunbonnet and drew it down over her brow. "I reckon I can run some," she finished uneasily.

The boy followed her movements with a candid stare. "You can't hide it," he taunted; "it shines right through everything. O Lord, ain't I glad my head's not red!"

At this pharisaical thanksgiving the little girl flushed to the ruffled brim of her bonnet. Her sensitive lips twitched, and she sat meekly gazing past the boy at the wall of rough gray stones which skirted a field of ripening wheat. Over the wheat a light wind blew, fanning the even heads of the bearded grain and dropping suddenly against the sunny mountains in the distance. In the nearer pasture, where the long grass was strewn with wild flowers, red and white cattle were grazing beside a little stream, and the tinkle of the cow bells drifted faintly across the slanting sunrays. It was open country, with a peculiar quiet cleanliness about its long white roads and the genial blues and greens of its meadows.

"Ain't I glad, O Lord!" chanted the boy again.

The little girl stirred impatiently, her gaze fluttering from the landscape.

"Old Aunt Ailsey's conjured all the tails off Sambo's sheep," she remarked, with feminine wile. "I saw 'em hanging on her door."

"Oh, shucks! she can't conjure!" scoffed the boy. "She's nothing but a free nigger, anyway--and besides, she's plum crazy--"

"I saw 'em hanging on her door," steadfastly repeated the little girl. "The wind blew 'em right out, an' there they were."

"Well, they wan't Sambo's sheep tails," retorted the boy, conclusively, "'cause Sambo's sheep ain't got any tails."

Brought to bay, the little girl looked doubtfully up and down the turnpike. "Maybe she conjured 'em _on_ first," she suggested at last.

"Oh, you're a regular baby, Betty," exclaimed the boy, in disgust. "You'll be saying next that she can make rattlesnake's teeth sprout out of the ground."

"She's got a mighty funny garden patch," admitted Betty, still credulous. Then she jumped up and ran along the road. "Here's Virginia!" she called sharply, "an' I beat her! I beat her fair!"

A second little girl came panting through the dust, followed by a small negro boy with a shining black face. "There's a wagon comin' roun' the curve," she cried excitedly, "an' it's filled with old Mr. Willis's servants. He's dead, and they're sold--Dolly's sold, too."

She was a fragile little creature, coloured like a flower, and her smooth brown hair hung in silken braids to her sash. The strings of her white pique bonnet lined with pink were daintily tied under her oval chin; there was no dust on her bare legs or short white socks.

As she spoke there came the sound of voices singing, and a moment later the wagon jogged heavily round a tuft of stunted cedars which jutted into the long curve of the highway. The wheels crunched a loose stone in the road, and the driver drawled a, patient "gee-up" to the horses, as he flicked at a horse-fly with the end of his long rawhide whip. There was about him an almost cosmic good nature; he regarded the landscape, the horses and the rocks in the road with imperturbable ease.

Behind him, in the body of the wagon, the negro women stood chanting the slave's farewell; and as they neared the children, he looked back and spoke persuasively. "I'd set down if I was you all," he said. "You'd feel better. Thar, now, set down and jolt softly."

But without turning the women kept up their tremulous chant, bending their turbaned heads to the imaginary faces upon the roadside. They had left their audience behind them on the great plantation, but they still sang to the empty road and courtesied to the cedars upon the way. Excitement gripped them like a frenzy--and a childish joy in a coming change blended


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