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   Chapter 14 JULIUS IN TROUBLE.

Marcy the Blockade Runner By Harry Castlemon Characters: 21473

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


By the time the overseer was out of hearing sailor Jack came up, followed by two negroes, who carried blankets on their arms. They were the ones who had been selected to watch the schooner during the night, and the first words they uttered in Marcy's hearing seemed to indicate that they were not very well pleased with the duty that had been imposed upon them. Having learned from their companions that the Stars and Bars were to be hoisted at her peak on the following morning, they did not want to have anything to do with her.

"I couldn't find Julius, but I heard of him," said Jack. "He is mad clear through, and hopes some Union man will walk off with the Fairy Belle as soon as we rebels turn our backs upon her. I never knew him to talk as spitefully as I heard he did when he took his bundle back to the quarter. Now, boys, tow her out to her moorings and look out for her till we come again. Good-night."

"But, Marse Jack, Ise mighty jubus about dis business; I is for a fac'.

Sposen some of de Union men in de settlement--"

"Well, if any Union folks come here before morning, it will be because some of you black ones have posted them," interrupted Jack. "The people in this settlement know our business as well as we know it ourselves, or think they do, and some of you boys are to blame for it."

"Now, Marse Jack--" began the negroes, with one voice.

"I am not accusing either one of you," exclaimed the sailor. "But if the shoe fits you, you can wear it. There's one among you who runs to a certain person with everything that is done in and about the house that he can get hold of. I know who he is," Jack added, to Marcy's great amazement, "and can put my hand on him in less than ten minutes. But I'm not going to do it. I shall let somebody else punish him; and some dark night, when the ghosts come out of the church-yard and walk around the quarter--"

"Oh, Marse Jack," cried the frightened blacks throwing down their blankets and moving closer to the boys for protection. "Don't say dem unrespec'ful words. If you do, yo' boat sink wid you to-morrer, suah."

"Well, you know it to be a fact, don't you? At any rate I have often heard some of you say that white things do walk around of nights. I know it, whether you do or not; and some night, when you are all asleep in the quarter, and I am away on the water fighting for the flag I believe in, something, I don't know just how it will look, will walk into a certain cabin down there and take a man out: and it will be a long time before you will hear of him again. You'll be astonished when you wake up the next morning. But you two will be all right if you keep still tongues in your head. If you don't, I'll not answer for the consequences."

"But, Marse Jack--" began one of the negroes.

"I can't waste any more time with you," said the sailor impatiently. "Haven't I told you that I don't know how the thing will look when it gets ready to go to work? I don't even know when it is coming; but it is coming. You may depend upon that. Now take the schooner out to her moorings and keep an eye on her till morning."

The astonished Marcy, who did not understand the situation any better than the frightened blacks did, fully expected so hear them refuse duty; but Jack had so worked upon their feelings that they were afraid to do it. Out of pure mischief he had often done the same thing before, by telling them of the wonderful adventures he had met at sea. He had seen lots of mermaids riding on the waves and dressing their hair with the combs they had taken from the pockets of drowned sailors; had often listened to the entrancing music of sirens, who, seated on submerged rocks in mid-ocean, had played their harps for all they were worth in the hope of drawing his ship to destruction; and once the vessel on which he was sailing had a two weeks' race before it could get away from the whale that swallowed Jonah. This whale got hungry once every hundred thousand years; and whenever that happened he sunk the first ship he came to and made a meal off the crew. But Jack himself always came off safe by reason of the powers of a charm which he carried in his ditty-bag. This wonderful charm not only brought him good luck in everything he undertook, but enabled him to give a wide berth to those who sought to do him harm, and to turn the tables upon them whenever he saw fit to do so. Without saying another word in protest, the two negroes stepped into the skiff and made ready to tow the schooner to her moorings, while the boys faced about and started for the house.

"Jack, what in the name of sense are you up to now?" demanded Marcy, when he could speak without fear of being overheard.

By way of reply the sailor laughed heartily but silently, and poked his brother in the ribs with his finger.

"I know you have made the darkeys afraid of you by telling them your ridiculous stories, and I am ashamed to say that I have backed up all you have said to them," continued Marcy. "But I don't see why you stuffed them up that way to-night. It wasn't true, of course."

"All sailors are strictly truthful," replied Jack. "But seriously, Marcy, I never told a straighter story than I told those blacks a while ago, when I warned them that some morning they would find a man missing.

"Jack," said Marcy, suddenly, "what is it that has been taking you out of the house so much of nights during the last two weeks? Mother and I have often thought we would ask you, but have as often come to the conclusion that when you were ready to let us know, you would tell us."

"And a very wise conclusion it was," answered Jack. "By leaving me entirely alone, you have thrown no obstacles in my way."

"But if you were working up anything, why didn't you take me into your confidence?" said Marcy reproachfully.

"Because one can hide his movements better than two. Besides, I did not see my way clearly, and I didn't want to raise any false hopes. But I think the thing is cut and dried now, and as sure as you live," here he sunk his voice to a whisper, "there'll be the biggest kind of a rumpus in the quarter some morning; and if mother happens to be awake, she will wonder why she doesn't hear the horn."

"Why won't she hear it?"

"For the very good reason that there will be no one there who has a right to blow it."

"Jack!" Marcy almost gasped.

"Well, you wait and see if I don't know what I am talking about," replied the sailor.

"Where will Hanson be on that particular morning?"

"I can't tell. I only know that he will be gone, that he will not be likely to trouble you and mother any more, for a while at least, and that the whole thing will be so very mysterious that such fellows as Shelby and Allison will be frightened out of their boots; and, Marcy," added Jack, speaking in a still lower whisper, "you needn't go back to the Hattie if you don't want to."

"Jack, I wish you would tell me just what you mean," said Marcy impatiently.

"All right. Give me a chance and I will. But, in the first place, what was Bose barking at while I was gone? He acted as though he was getting ready to bite something or somebody. Was it Hanson?"

"That's just who it was," replied Marcy.

"And did Bose hold him until you had opportunity to speak to him!" continued Jack. "All right. That was what I left him for. I don't care now what Hanson told you, for I don't suppose there was a word of truth in it; but what did you think when you spoke to him?"

"I said to myself that one eavesdropper had been brought to light, and that the next thing would be to find out who it is that carries news to him from the house," replied Marcy.

"Exactly. Well, there's no one that carries news, but there is a little nig who used to take him a pack of lies every day," replied Jack, "and I know who it is. That was what I meant when I told those two darkeys awhile ago that I could put my hand on the talebearer in less than ten minutes. It's Julius."

"Jack, you are certainly dreaming," exclaimed Marcy, growing more and more amazed.

"If you should try to take my measure on the ground right here, you might find that I am tolerably wide awake," replied the sailor, with a laugh. "I have had several talks with the overseer, all unbeknown to you and mother, and by taking it for granted that he was a good rebel, I caught him off his guard a time or two (but that wasn't a hard thing to do), and learned, to my surprise, that somebody was keeping him very well _mis_informed regarding the doings in the house. Of course that excited my curiosity, and after thinking the matter over I took Julius by the neck one day when I happened to catch him alone, and frightened the secret out of him."

And this was the secret, which Jack told in as few words as possible, for he knew that his mother was anxiously awaiting his return. Julius was one of the few servants who were allowed the freedom of the house; but, like many others of his race, he was somewhat given to laying violent hands upon things that did not belong to him. He was rarely detected, and when he was he generally succeeded in lying out of it, and of course this made him bolder; so when he saw Mrs. Gray's valuable breastpin lying exposed on her dressing-table, he slipped it into his pocket, made his way from the house without being seen, and went behind one of the cabins to admire it. But, as bad luck would have it, the overseer, who never did things openly and above board as other folks do them, came "snooping" along the lane and caught him in the act.

"What's that you've got there?" he demanded.

"Wha-what thing, Marse Hanson?" stammered Julius.

"That thing you're putting in your pocket," replied the overseer. "Hand it out, or I'll wear this rawhide into slivers on your black hide."

"Look a yer, Marse Hanson," exclaimed Julius. "My missus don't 'low no white trash of a oberseer to whop de house servants. I tell you dat." And before the words were fairly out of his mouth the little darkey took to his heels and ran like a deer.

"All right," shouted Hanson. "Run away if you want to, and I will go to the missus and tell her that you've got something of hers-some of her gold things. You won't lie me down, either, like you done the last time, for I seen you have 'em."

This dreadful threat reached the ears of the thief and stopped his flight. He turned about and faced the overseer.

"And then do you know what the Missus will say to me?" the latter went on. "She'll say, 'Mister Hanson, take this boy to the field and put him to work. He ain't fitten to stay about the house.' And when I get you into the field," he added, shaking his riding-whip at the culprit, "won't I see that you

handle them hoes lively? I reckon not. Come here and give me that, I tell you."

"You'll lick me if I come back," said Julius.

"No, I won't tech hide nor hair of ye. Honor bright."

"And won't ye tell de Missus, nuther?"

"Well, that depends on whether I do or not," replied Hanson evasively. "If you'll mind every word I say to you and jump the minute you hear the word, I won't tell her. Come here, now."

Not being able just then to discover any other way out of the scrape, Julius tremblingly obeyed. When the overseer took the stolen pin in his hands his eyes seemed ready to start from their sockets.

"Do you know what you've went and done, you thieving nigger?" he said, in a mysterious whisper. "What do you reckon these yer things is scattered round 'mongst this gold?"

"Glass, ain't they?" faltered Julius.

"Glass, you fule! They're diamonds. They cost more'n a hundred thousand dollars, and that's more'n a dozen such niggers as you is worth," said Hanson, who was not very well versed in figures.

This incident happened at the beginning of the troubles between the North and South, and about the time that everybody was supposed to be "taking sides." All the people in that part of the country, with but a single exception, had declared for secession (whether they were sincere or not remains to be seen), and that single exception was Mrs. Gray, who could not be coaxed, cajoled, or surprised into saying a word in favor of one side or the other. Of course this did not suit the red-hot rebels in the vicinity, and as they could not find out anything themselves, they bribed Hanson to try his luck; but he was at fault, too. The trouble with him was, he did not live in the great house, but close to the quarter, which was nearly half a mile away; he had nothing whatever to do with the house servants; and he was pretty certain that those he found opportunity to question, did not always take the trouble to tell him the truth. He must have a reliable ally in the house-some one who was in a position to hear and see everything that was said and done by the inmates, who must not, of course, be given reason for believing that they were watched. Until this episode of the breastpin occurred, Hanson did not know how he was going to get such an ally; but he thought he had found him now.

"I'll keep these yer diamonds till I find out whether or not you are going to do Jest like I tell you," said the overseer, putting the jewelry into his pocket.

"But, Marse Hanson," protested the darkey, "it ain't right for you to keep dat thing."

"Now listen at you," said the overseer angrily. "Wasn't you going to steal it? I ain't. I'm only going to hold fast to it a little while to see if you are going to do like I tell you. If you do, the Missus will get her pin back, and she won't never know who took it; but if you don't, I'll have you in the field where I can find you every time I retch for you. Now listen. I reckon you know that Mister Marcy is coming home from school one of those days, don't you? Well, when he comes, I want you to find out if he's Union or secesh. What's the Missus anyway?"

"She's jes' the same that you be," replied Julius.

"Look here, nigger," said the overseer, in savage tones, "that won't go down. You're Union, ain't you?"

"Oh, yes sar. Ise Union if you is."

Hanson raised his whip and Julius dodged like a flash.

"'Tain't what I want, and you know it well enough," the man shouted. "I want to know for a fact-for a fact, mind you-what them folks up to the great house is; which side they leans to, Union or Confederate. And if you don't come down to my house this very night after dark with some news of some kind, I'll take these yer diamonds straight to the Missus and tell her where I got 'em. You know what I mean, so cl'ar yourself."

Glad to escape the whip with which the overseer constantly threatened him while he was talking, Julius lost no time in making his way to the great house; but he did not go near Mrs. Gray till she summoned him into her presence to ask him if he had been in her room that day. Of course he hadn't been upstairs at all, not even to "tote up de wash-watah, kase dat was de gals' work and not his'n."

"I never heard that mother lost a breastpin," said Marcy, when Jack had got this far with his narrative. "Did she find it again? Did Hanson give it up?"

Instead of replying in words, Jack took hold of a small cord that encircled his neck, and pulled his ditty-bag from beneath the bosom of his flannel shirt. This he opened with great deliberation, taking from it a small vial and a package wrapped in a piece of newspaper.

"What have those things to do with mother's breastpin?" demanded Marcy.

"What's in that bottle?"

"That vial contains my charm; and a most potent one it is," said the sailor gravely.

"If you don't quit your nonsense and come to the point, I will leave you and go into the house," said Marcy angrily.

"I'll bet you won't. This thing is getting interesting now, and it will not be long before it will be more so," answered Jack. "Look at that!"

He had been unwrapping the newspaper while he was talking, and Marcy was struck dumb with astonishment when he saw him bring the lost breastpin to light.

"Jack," he faltered, "where did you get it?"

"The charm brought it. Hold on, now," exclaimed Jack, when his brother turned away with an ejaculation indicative of the greatest annoyance and vexation. "It helped bring it, and a little common sense, backed by an insight into darkey nature, did the rest. Now, don't break in on me any more. Mother will begin to wonder what's keeping us."

When Julius came to ponder the matter, he found that he was in the worst scrape of his life. A house servant considered it an everlasting disgrace to be sent to the field, and Julius thought he would about as soon die or take to the swamps, one being as bad as the other in his estimation. But there was one thing that could be said in his favor: He was loyal to every member of the family in whose service his father and mother had grown gray. Although he could not possibly tell the truth, and found it hard to keep his nimble fingers off other people's property, the tortures of the whipping post, if there had been such a thing on the plantation, could not have wrung from Julius a word or a hint that could be used to their injury. He didn't like to work, but he knew he would have to if he was not ready with "some news of some kind" that very night. But what could he do when there wasn't any news? In his extremity he bent his steps toward the barn where old Morris was busy washing the carriage.

"Say," he began.

"Look here, nigger," replied Morris, straightening up as quickly as a jack in the box, "who you calling 'Say'? If you can't put a Mister to my name, cl'ar yourself and don't bother me no more."

"Say, Mistah Morris," repeated Julius, taking another start.

"That's better," said the coachman approvingly. "What was you going to deserve?"

"Say, Mistah Morris, we uns is all Union, ain't we?"

"Jest listen at the chile. G'long, honey. What you know 'bout politicians? Course we is all Union; all except the overseer, and he ain't fitten to live. Run along, now."

Julius was quite willing to obey, for he had learned all he wanted to know. If Hanson was a rebel, it followed, as a matter of course, that it would afford him satisfaction to learn that the inmates of the great house were rebels also; accordingly when the time came for him to make his report, he was on hand and eager to unburden himself. The overseer, who was waiting for him, took him into a room and carefully locked the door behind him. This not only made the darkey feel a little uneasy, but it stimulated his inventive faculties as well.

"What do you know?" Hanson inquired, taking his pipe from the mantel over the fireplace. "Have you heard anything?"

"Well-I-yes, sar," stammered Julius, as if he did not know how to begin. "I-oh, yes, sar. Is you Union?"

"Of course I am," replied Hanson. "Every white man is."

"Den you ain't got no call to have truck wid de Missus. If she find out dat you is Union, she chuck you off'n de place quick's a cat kin bat her eye. She don't like Linkum. I hearn her say so dis bery day."

"Are you telling me the truth?" asked Hanson, looking sharply at the darkey, who met his gaze without flinching.

"If I ain't telling you de fac's ob de case, you kin w'ar dat rawhide o' your'n out on me quick's you please," said the boy, earnestly. "If you's Union you best dig out, kase de Missus put de secesh on you suah," added Julius, hoping that the man would act upon the suggestion and leave before morning.

"But I don't want to give the Missus warning till I know that she's got money enough to pay me."

"Oh, yes, sar; she got plenty ob money," declared Julius, whereupon Hanson began pricking up his ears. "I seen her have as much as a dollah dis bery day. I seen it wid my own two eyes."

"A dollar," sneered the overseer. "She owes me more'n that, and she's got more'n that. She's got a bushel basketful hid away somewhere; and Julius, if you will find out where it is, and tell me and nobody else, I will give you a piece of money just like that."

As he said this he put his hand into his pocket and brought out a twenty-dollar gold piece-a portion of the liberal sum Colonel Shelby had given him for spying upon the family whose bread he ate. Julius declared, with much earnestness, that he didn't believe Mrs. Gray had concealed any money, but if she had he could find it out if anybody could, and he would bring the news straight to the overseer.

When his supposed ally took his departure Hanson was obliged to confess to himself that he did not know any more about Mrs. Gray and the money she was thought to have in the house than he did before. And we may add that he never did learn anything through the boy Julius. That astute darkey was altogether too smart for the overseer, and brought him only such news as he thought the man wanted to hear; and more than half of that had not a word of truth in it. In the first place his only thought and desire was to keep the overseer from telling his mistress that he stole the breastpin; but as Hanson became more communicative and stood less on his guard, and the boy's eyes were opened to the startling fact that Mrs. Gray had an enemy in the overseer, he threw the fear of punishment to the winds, and set himself at work to defeat all the man's plans. How he managed to keep his secret was a mystery, for never before had the negro been known to hold his tongue. But he kept it, and kept it well until sailor Jack frightened it out of him.

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