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- Miss Lou - 5/64 -
reck'n she spen' all you eber mek. You bettah boos' de Linkum man into dat ar lof sud'n, kase ef Marse Perkins cotch 'im yere we all ain' feelin' berry good bimeby."
"Dat ar truer'n preachin'," admitted Chunk, with alacrity. "Des you tek hoi' ob dem ladder rouns, mars'r, an' put yo' foots on my sho'lers. Dat's hit. Nobody tink ob fin'in' you yere. I'se study how ter git yo' hoss out of sight 'gin mawnin'."
"You stand by me, Chunk," said the soldier, "and you won't be sorry. There's a lot of us coming this way soon, and I can be a good friend of yours and all your people if you help me out of this scrape."
"I'se gwine ter stan' by you, boss. I'se mek up my min' ter be free dis time, sho! Hi! w'at dat?"
He was wonderfully agile, for his arms were nearly as long as his legs. In an instant he descended, drawing a trap-door after him. Then he sauntered to the door, which he opened wide. A troop of horsemen were coming single file by a path which led near the cabin, and the foremost asked in a voice which the negro recognized as that of Lieutenant Whately, "Is that you, Chunk?"
"Dat's me, mars'r. My 'specs."
"Be off, you skeleton. Make time for the house and help get supper for me and the men. If you don't run like a red deer, I'll ride you down."
"Good Lawd! w'at gwine ter hap'n nex'?" groaned Chunk, as he disappeared toward the mansion. He burst like a bombshell into the kitchen, a small building in the rear of the house.
"Did you eber see de likes?" exclaimed Zany. "What yo' manners--"
"Hi, dar! talk 'bout manners! Marse Whately comin' wid a army, en want supper fer um all in des one minute en er haf by de clock!"
Great, fat Aun' Suke threw up her hands in despair, and in the brief silence the tramp of horses and the jingling of sabres were plainly heard. They all knew Mad Whately, and it needed not that Mrs. Baron, desperately flurried, should bustle in a few moments later with orders that all hands should fly around. "What you doing here?" she asked Chunk, sharply.
"I'se here ter hep, mistis. Dem's my orders from Marse Whately. He come ridin' by granny's."
"Then go and kill chickens."
A few moments later the dolorous outcry of fowls was added to the uproar made by the barking dogs.
With a chill of fear Miss Lou, in her chamber, recognized her cousin's voice, and knew that he, with his band, had come to claim hospitality at his uncle's hands. What complications did his presence portend? Truly, the long months of monotony on the old plantation were broken now. What the end would be she dared not think, but for the moment her spirit exulted in the excitement which would at least banish stagnation.
In his secret heart Mr. Baron had hoped that his nephew would go on to his own home, a few miles further; for applauding him as a hero was one thing, and having him turn everything upside down at that hour another. Routine and order were scattered to the winds whenever Mad Whately made his appearance, but the host's second thoughts led him to remember that this visitation was infinitely to be preferred to one from the terrible Yankees; so he threw wide open the door, and, with his wife, greeted his nephew warmly. Then he shouted for Perkins to come and look after the horses.
"Ah, mine uncle," cried Whately, "where on earth is to be found a festive board like yours? Who so ready to fill the flowing bowl until even the rim is lost to sight, when your defenders have a few hours to spare in their hard campaigning? You won't entertain angels unawares to-night. You'd have been like Daniel in the den with none to stop the lions' mouths, or rather the jackals', had we not appeared on the scene. The Yanks were bearing down for you like the wolf on the fold. Where's my pretty cousin?"
Mr. Baron had opened his mouth to speak several times during this characteristic greeting, and now he hastened to the foot of the stairs and shouted, "Louise, come down and help your aunt entertain our guests." Meanwhile Whately stepped to the sideboard and helped himself liberally to the sherry.
"You know me must maintain discipline," resumed Whately, as his uncle entered the dining-room. "The night is mild and still. Let a long table be set on the piazza for my men. I can then pledge them through the open window, for since I give them such hard service, I must make amends when I can. Ah, Perkins, have your people rub the horses till they are ready to prance, then feed them lightly, two hours later a heavier feed, that's a good fellow! You were born under a lucky star, uncle. You might now be tied up by your thumbs, while the Yanks helped themselves."
"It surely was a kind Providence which brought you here, nephew."
"No doubt, no doubt; my good horse, also, and, I may add, the wish to see my pretty cousin. Ah! here she comes with the blushes of the morning on her cheeks," but his warmer than a cousinly embrace and kiss left the crimson of anger in their places.
She drew herself up indignantly to her full height and said, "We have been discussing the fact that I am quite grown up. I will thank you to note the change, also."
"Why, so I do," he replied, regarding her with undisguised admiration; "and old Father Time has touched you only to improve you in every respect."
"Very well, then," she replied, coldly, "I cannot help the touch of Father Time, but I wish it understood that I am no longer a child."
"Neither am I, sweet cousin, and I like you as a woman far better."
She left the room abruptly to assist her aunt.
"Jove! uncle, but she has grown to be a beauty. How these girls blossom out when their time comes! Can it be that I have been absent a year?"
"Yes, and your last visit was but a flying one."
"And so I fear this one must be. The Yanks are on the move, perhaps in this direction, and so are we. It was one of their scouting parties that we ran into. Their horses were fresher than ours and they separated when once in the shadow of the woods. They won't be slow, however, in leaving these parts, now they know we are here. I'm going to take a little well-earned rest between my scoutings, and make love to my cousin. Olympian humbugs! how handsome and haughty she has become! I didn't think the little minx had so much spirit."
"She has suddenly taken the notion that, since she is growing up, she can snap her fingers at all the powers that be."
"Growing up! Why, uncle, she's grown, and ready to hear me say, 'With all my worldly goods I thee endow.'"
"But the trouble is, she doesn't act as if very ready."
"Oh, tush! she isn't ready to throw herself at the head of any one. That isn't the way of Southern girls. They want a wooer like a cyclone, who carries them by storm, marries them nolens volens, and then they're happy. But to be serious, uncle, in these stormy times Lou needs a protector. You've escaped for a long time, but no one can tell now what a day will bring forth. As my wife, Cousin Lou will command more respect. I can take her within our lines, if necessary, or send her to a place of safety. Ah, here comes my blooming aunt to prepare for supper."
"Welcome to The Oaks," she again repeated. "Never more welcome, since you come as defender as well as guest."
"Yes, aunt; think of a red-whiskered Yank paying his respects instead of me."
"Don't suggest such horrors, please."
The gentlemen now joined Miss Lou in the parlor, while under Mrs. Baron's supervision Zany, and Chunk, as gardener and man-of-all- work, with the aid of others soon set the two tables. Then began a procession of negroes of all sizes bearing viands from the kitchen.
AUN' JINKEY'S POLICY
Allan Scoville, for such was the Union soldier's name, fully realized that he was in the enemy's country as he watched through a cranny in the cabin the shadowy forms of the Confederates file past. Every bone in his body ached as if it had been broken, and more than once he moved his arms and legs to assure himself that they were whole. "Breath was just knocked right out of me," he muttered. "I hope that's the worst, for this place may soon become too hot for me. My good horse is not only lost, but I may be lost also through him. That queer-looking darky, Chunk, is my best hope now unless it is Miss Lou. Droll, wasn't it, that I should take her for an angel? What queer thoughts a fellow has when within half an inch of the seamy side of life! Hanged if I deserve such an awakening as I thought was blessing my eyes on the other side. From the way I ache, the other side mayn't be far off yet. Like enough hours will pass before Chunk comes back, and I must try to propitiate his grandam."
He crawled painfully to the trap-door and, finding a chink in the boards, looked down into the apartment below. Aun' Jinkey was smoking as composedly it might seem as if a terrible Yankee, never seen before, was not over her head, and a band of Confederates who would have made him a prisoner and punished her were only a few rods away. A close observer, however, might have noticed that she was not enjoying languid whiffs, as had been the case in the afternoon. The old woman had put guile into her pipe as well as tobacco, and she hoped its smoke would blind suspicious eyes if any were hunting for a stray Yankee. Chunk's pone and bacon had been put near the fire to keep warm, and Scoville looked at the viands longingly.
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