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   Chapter 13 No.13

Two Little Confederates By Thomas Nelson Page Characters: 9094

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It was now nearing the end of the third year of the war. Hugh was seventeen, and was eager to go into the army. His mother would have liked to keep him at home; but she felt that it was her duty not to withhold anything, and Colonel Marshall offered Hugh a place with him. So a horse was bought, and Hugh went to Richmond and came back with a uniform and a sabre. The boys truly thought that General Lee himself was not so imposing or so great a soldier as Hugh. They followed him about like two pet dogs, and when he sat down they stood and gazed at him adoringly.

When Hugh rode away to the army it was harder to part with him than they had expected; and though he had left them his gun and dog, to console them during his absence, it was difficult to keep from crying. Everyone on the plantation was moved. Uncle Balla, who up to the last moment had been very lively attending to the horse, as the young soldier galloped away sank down on the end of the steps of the office, and, dropping his hands on his knees, followed Hugh with his eyes until he disappeared over the hill. The old driver said nothing, but his face expressed a great deal.

The boys' mother cried a great deal, but it was generally when she was by herself.

"She's afraid Hugh'll be kilt," Willy said to Uncle Balla, in explanation of her tears,-the old servant having remarked that he "b'lieved she cried more when Hugh went away, than she did when Marse John and Marse William both went."

"Hi! warn't she 'fred they'll be kilt, too?" he asked in some scorn.

This was beyond Willy's logic, so he pondered over it.

"Yes, but she's afraid Hugh'll be kilt, as well as them," he said finally, as the best solution of the problem.

It did not seem to wholly satisfy Uncle Balla's mind, for when he moved off he said, as though talking to himself:

"She sutn'ey is 'sot' on that boy. He'll be a gen'l hisself, the first thing she know."

There was a bond of sympathy between Uncle Balla and his mistress which did not exist so strongly between her and any of the other servants. It was due perhaps to the fact that he was the companion and friend of her boys.

That winter the place where the army went into winter quarters was some distance from Oakland; but the young officers used to ride over, from time to time, two or three together, and stay for a day or two.

Times were harder than they had been before, but the young people were as gay as ever.

The colonel, who had been dreadfully wounded in the summer, had been made a brigadier-general for gallantry. Hugh had received a slight wound in the same action. The General had written to the boy's mother about him; but he had not been home. The General had gone back to his command. He had never been to Oakland since he was wounded.

One evening, the boys had just teased their Cousin Belle into reading them their nightly portion of "The Talisman," as they sat before a bright lightwood fire, when two horsemen galloped up to the gate, their horses splashed with mud from fetlocks to ears. In a second, Lucy Ann dashed headlong into the room, with her teeth gleaming:

"Here Marse Hugh, out here!"

There was a scamper to the door-the boys first, shouting at the tops of their voices, Cousin Belle next, and Lucy Ann close at her heels.

"Who's with him, Lucy Ann?" asked Miss Belle, as they reached the passage-way, and heard several voices outside.

"The Cunel's with 'im."

The young lady turned and fled up the steps as fast as she could.

"You see I brought my welcome with me," said the General, addressing the boy's mother, and laying his hand on his young aide's shoulder, as they stood, a little later, "thawing out" by the roaring log-fire in the sitting-room.

"You always bring that; but you are doubly welcome for bringing this young soldier back to me," said she, putting her arm affectionately around her son.

Just then the boys came rushing in from taking the horses to the stable. They made a dive toward the fire to warm their little chapped hands.

"I told you Hugh warn't as tall as the General," said Frank, across the hearth to Willy.

"Who said he was?"

"You!"

"I didn't."

"You did."

They were a contradictory pair of youngsters, and their voices, pitched in a youthful treble, were apt in discussion to strike a somewhat higher key; but it did not follow that they were in an ill-humor merely because they contradicted each other.

"What did you say, if you didn't say that?" insisted Frank.

"I said he looked as if he thought

himself as tall as the General," declared Willy, defiantly, oblivious in his excitement of the eldest brother's presence. There was a general laugh at Hugh's confusion; but Hugh had carried an order across a field under a hot fire, and had brought a regiment up in the nick of time, riding by its colonel's side in a charge which had changed the issue of the fight, and had a sabre wound in the arm to show for it. He could therefore afford to pass over such an accusation with a little tweak of Willy's ear.

"Where's Cousin Belle?" asked Frank.

"I s'peck she's putting on her fine clothes for the General to see. Didn't she run when she heard he was here!"

"Willy!" said his mother, reprovingly.

"Well, she did, Ma."

His mother shook her head at him; but the General put his hand on the boy, and drew him closer.

"You say she ran?" he asked, with a pleasant light in his eyes.

"Yes, sirree; she did that."

Just then the door opened, and their Cousin Belle entered the room. She looked perfectly beautiful. The greetings were very cordial-to Hugh especially. She threw her arms around his neck, and kissed him.

"You young hero!" she cried. "Oh, Hugh, I am so proud of you!"-kissing him again, and laughing at him, with her face glowing, and her big brown eyes full of light. "Where were you wounded? Oh! I was so frightened when I heard about it!"

"Where was it? Show it to us, Hugh; please do," exclaimed both boys at once, jumping around him, and pulling at his arm.

"Oh, Hugh, is it still very painful?" asked his cousin, her pretty face filled with sudden sympathy.

"Oh! no, it was nothing-nothing but a scratch," said Hugh, shaking the boys off, his expression being divided between feigned indifference and sheepishness, at this praise in the presence of his chief.

"No such thing, Miss Belle," put in the General, glad of the chance to secure her commendation. "It might have been very serious, and it was a splendid ride he made."

"Were you not ashamed of yourself to send him into such danger?" she said, turning on him suddenly. "Why did you not go yourself?"

The young man laughed. Her beauty entranced him. He had scars enough to justify him in keeping silence under her pretended reproach.

"Well, you see, I couldn't leave the place where I was. I had to send some one, and I knew Hugh would do it. He led the regiment after the colonel and major fell-and he did it splendidly, too."

There was a chorus from the young lady and the boys together.

"Oh, Hugh, you hear what he says!" exclaimed the former, turning to her cousin. "Oh, I am so glad that he thinks so!" Then, recollecting that she was paying him the highest compliment, she suddenly began to blush, and turned once more to him. "Well, you talk as if you were surprised. Did you expect anything else?"

There was a fine scorn in her voice, if it had been real.

"Certainly not; you are all too clever at making an attack," he said coolly, looking her in the eyes. "But I have heard even of your running away," he added, with a twinkle in his eyes.

"When?" she asked quickly, with a little guilty color deepening in her face as she glanced at the boys. "I never did."

"Oh, she did!" exclaimed both boys in a breath, breaking in, now that the conversation was within their range. "You ought to have seen her. She just flew!" exclaimed Frank.

The girl made a rush at the offender to stop him.

"He doesn't know what he is talking about," she said, roguishly, over her shoulder.

"Yes, he does," called the other. "She was standing at the foot of the steps when you all came, and-oo-oo-oo-" the rest was lost as his cousin placed her hand close over his mouth.

"Here! here! run away! You are too dangerous. They don't know what they are talking about," she said, throwing a glance toward the young officer, who was keenly enjoying her confusion. Her hand slipped from Willy's mouth and he went on. "And when she heard it was you, she just clapped her hands and ran-oo-oo-umm."

"Here, Hugh, put them out," she said to that young man, who, glad to do her bidding, seized both miscreants by their arms and carried them out, closing the door after them.

Hugh bore the boys into the dining-room, where he kept them, until supper-time.

After supper, the rest of the family dispersed, and the boys' mother invited them to come with her and Hugh to her own room, though they were eager to go and see the General, and were much troubled lest he should think their mother was rude in leaving him.

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