صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

hour's further travel, they came out upon mist which had succeeded the scarcely a little plateau of green, velvety verdure, more drenching rain of the night. embattled on one side by a steep bluff, out The scene was not without interest for of which gushed a living spring of pure Carleton and the pedler, who sat silently water, the leader ordered a halt, and all braced against an immense tree, their feet dismounted. The animals were relieved comfortably toward the glowing fire, of their saddles, and were soon comfort- while their captors busied themselves with ably engaged in feasting on the rich, in their work, or lounged on the ground, viting grass growing in abundance on the now carefully examining the broiling plateau, while preparations were made viands, and now engaging in conversation by the guerrillas for a morning meal. carried on in the rude and scarcely intel

A few of them immediately scattered ligible jargon, half negro and half poorinto the woods in search of game, the re- white, peculiar to that degraded class port of guns, at no great distance, soon which is stated, by a recent writer, to announcing their success. In less than compose more than two-thirds of the enhalf an hour, they one after another came tire white population of the South, in, one bringing a fine fat buck, another a class that can neither read nor write, and wild turkey, a third a brace or two of whose amount of intellectual attainments wild pigeons, until enough was provided is exceeded by most children of ten years for a sumptuous meal.

old who have attended our Northern Meanwhile, a roaring fire had been kin- schools. dled, of which Carleton and his compan- “ Luk sharp, ye Jake, and star dat ar ions, of whom he now saw that four, be- fire! de fixins'll be a yar 'fore dey's gone side the pedler, had been captured, were done." allowed to avail themselves, for the pur- “Star 't yesel', Bible, an' stop yer jaw pose of warming their chilled limbs and to onst! I can't bar to har the loikes o’ drying their wet garments. The wild you uns guvin' ords.” mountaineers, apparently scorning such “Guv a chap de stick, den; we uns effeminacy, busied themselves, instead, soon don hev breakfast.” with dressing the game and preparing for And with this, Bible gave the burning reakfast.

logs a rousing lift, which sent the sparks They were not particularly adroit, whirling up into the mist in millions of these men; for wild and uncivilized as stars, and the men lounging about it were their life in forest and mountain had been, glad to draw suddenly back from the inand low and poor as they were, belong tense heat. ing, as most of them did, to the class “ Haw! haw!” roared Bible, at the known as “poor whites,” they had still sudden movement. “ I'll mek ye start es generally contrived to avoid the disgrace ef forty yarthquakes were shucking the of performing any useful labor for them- yarth. Člar out my way, wile I don gin selves, by purchasing or hiring some idle anoder star to dese ere fixins. De turks or superannuated negro who could per- es mos don guv out watin' to be gobbled, form for them the narrow circle of tasks an' de pigions is drippin' grave fast as incident to their semi-savage life. But rain loike.” war had been a schoolmaster, and their The guerrilla might with justice be guerrilla life, always in the saddle, had satisfied with the result of his culinary comped them to learn something; and labors, and the nicely-browned meats were

venison was at lengthent in soon divided among as hungry a group of

[ocr errors]

appetite necessary to enable them to do up a steep ascent of twenty rods or more, full justice to its merits. They felt their they came upon another table, only much spirits rise ; for a long night's ride in the smaller than the first. Upon this, leandarkness and the rain came up to their ing against the mountain-side, was a huge minds as a capital foil to the gay and boulder, forty or fifty feet in height, back comfortable scene before them.

of which was the entrance to what seemed No unnecessary time was, however, to Carleton to be a cave, but of what wasted, the meats, and there was nothing magnitude he could not judge. It was a else, disappearing with marvellous celer- jagged, uneven aperture, with only a scene ity, when the horses were resaddled, of darkness beyond. and all were soon once more on their The pedler clutched the coat of Carleway.

ton, as the leader entered this opening, They plunged deeper into the moun- ordering the prisoners to follow. They tains, the path growing constantly wilder passed through a tunnel apparently varyand more difficult, but less dreary, for the ing little in height or width from the enmist began to lift, and soon the sun burst trance. It was profoundly dark, and forth in a blaze of glory that lent en- the were guided only by the sound of chantment to the scene. It was indeed a the leader's footsteps, who, when they had grand and beautiful one, and Carleton gone a few rods, halted, and striking a forgot his captivity in his admiration of match, lighted a pitch-pine torch. From its splendor. Trees of the most luxuri- a large receptacle in the wall he took two ant growth and verdure, rising to a mag- or three others, which he also lighted and nificent height, and of large circumference, passing them back to his followers, concovered the mountain slopes and reared tinued his walk. The tunnel soon began their vast forms in the ravines. Vines of to expand, and it was not long before the gigantic growth, climbing from tree to prisoners found themselves in a vast tree, swayed their superb festoons in the chamber, the extremities of which were morning wind, while rosy sheets of moun- lost in impenetrable gloom. The floor tain laurel covered vast tracks of moun- was quite dry and smooth and soon began tain-side with a gorgeous drapery. Even to descend. Through this vast room they the pedler, who for miles had ridden silent travelled many hundred feet, when the and downcast, was caught by the beauty walls suddenly contracted again to a space of the scene, and his color rose and his so narrow as to render it difficult for a eye kindled as he looked below and over single person to make his way through it all. Gradually, however, the scenery alone, and which, after a distance of grew less lovely and more savage, and twenty feet, seemed suddenly to termithey travelled for miles among crags and nate against a solid, blank wall. But cliffs along a winding path that was some- the leader, taking a key from his pocket, times almost too narrow for a foothold, applied it to a lock, when a door opened and which threatened to precipitate them inward, admitting them to a lofty and down the dizzy ravines. It was a tedious spacious apartment of unimaginable beauty ride up the rough, circuitous path, and and radiance. Its circular walls and the horses showed evident symptoms of domelike ceiling were hung with stalacgiving out, when the leader commanded a tites of marvellous purity and transparhalt. They were upon a broad table ency, their long, graceful pendants flashrock with a perpendicular descent of ing back the torch-lights like ten thousome hundreds of feet on one side, and sand diamonds, and dazzling the eyes by on the other, the mountain still towered their excessive splendor. in immeasurable grandeur above them. Carleton and his companions stood still,

Here they dismounted, the guerrillas mute and astonished, and incapable of leading the horses still further on around realizing what was before them. The a sharp turn, where they disappeared. guerrilla leader, however, seemed scarceThe prisoners followed the leader directly ly to notice the beauty of the scene, habit to the face of the rock, when, climbing having made it commonplace to his eyes, or a natually dull intellect unfitting him that the stalactites were dull and opaque, to appreciate its wonders.

and of a brownish hue. It was furnished The first few minutes of admiration with a few rude housekeeping articles, and surprise gone by, Carleton had time a rough pine table, blocks of wood for to examine the accessories of the apart- seats, a few cooking utensils, and an ment. Around the vast circumference of abundance of litter and dirt. Coarse its walls were stacked thousands of the cotton mattresses lay spread on the finest and most beautiful English rifles, ground around the walls, and everything their polished steel barrels gleaming in denoted that this was the living room of the reflected light of the stalactites with the guerrilla band. a wonderful brilliancy, the dry atmos- Everything in this apartment was of phere of the cave preserving their original mean character; yet the beautiful and polish without a stain. Sabres, also, in extensive armory he had just seen convast numbers, and of the same exquisite vinced Carleton that the man before him, polish were suspended from the projecting ignorant as he appeared, was a leader of crystals which coruscated the sides of note among the mountain raiders, and the apartment, while all along the walls, that he and his companions were in unin the little cell-like niches formed by scrupulous and most irresponsible hands. the crystallization, were stored kegs of But he betrayed nothing of his apprehenpowder, shot, and other ammunition in sions, and following the example of his vast quantities.

captor, who had dropped on one of the The surprise of Carleton and his com- rude seats of the apartment, sat down. panions at this formidable array of war- The leader soon commenced a converlike stores was even greater than that sation with him; but his range of subthey had first felt at the magnificence of the jects as well as language was narrow and grotto; and to this manifestation the low, consisting chiefly of a round of oaths guerrilla was not indifferent. He watched and vituperations against the “ Abolition the changing expression of their faces, as Yankees,” who were fighting for the freetheir senses took in the magnitude of his dom of the niggers and the ruin of the resources, with a look of proud triumph South, and egotistic boastings of his own that was not to be mistaken.


Carleton entered as little as "Ye see dem ar guns, does ye? I possible into these matters, and the pedreckon ye haint got none loiko 'em. Days ler preserved a profound silence. The English, day is.'

guerrilla, disappointed in eliciting neither • They are certainly remarkably fine argument nor contradiction, soon dropped guns,” said Carleton. Where did you the conversation and busied himself with procure so many, and how do you manage various matters about the room, which to keep them of so beautiful a polish ?” was well-lighted with torches and of a

"I golly! I reckon de blockade-run- singularly pure atmosphere, the smoke ners bring dem in. Ye can't whip we uns finding its way out of the grotto through long's de English bring us sich guns." a multitude of crevices between the sta

Carleton did not reply to this remark ; lactites. He occasionally varied his he did not like the savage light gleaming amusement by brutally cursing a negro, up in the leader's eyes, and deemed si- who stood waiting motionless behind him. lence the better part of valor. Turning Har, Josh, cuss ye! brung me tree the conversation to the beauty of the sta- fo' pipes out dat ar box dar.". lactites, he frankly expressed his admira- Josh looked in his master's face for a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Why, massa !” replied the black, his some one he knew ; but a moment's conwhite eyes rolling from side to side; “I sideration told him how absurd the idea don'oughter tol' ye dat de 'bacca bin don' was,-a lank, long-haired, sandy-whisgone; but I don' didn't tink on't.” kered pedler, — pshaw!

A billet of wood hurled at the head of “We are in for it, Abednego," said he, the black was his master's gentle comment with a rueful attempt at a little pleasanton his forgetfulness. Raging about the ry in keeping with the absurdity of the room amid oaths of untranslatable char- thought that had passed through his mind. acter, the brute undertook the search “ Don't look forlorn ; we must make the himself, and in one of the niches of the best of it. We'll contrive some way of rock soon found a quantity of the desired lightening our captivity, if we can't esarticle, when, much mollified, he sat cape from it. Perhaps the contents of down to smoke. Either the influence of


may buy our release.” the narcotic or a little sober reflection so There was a covert scorn in Carleton's far humanized him as to lead him to be-tones, which brought the color to the pedstow some attention on the comfort of his ler's cheek; but he smiled, as he pointed prisoners, which he attempted by offering to a niche in the wall where stood his each a pipe. . Carleton, it must be con- box, already appropriated by his captor. fessed, very willingly accepted it; but “ There it is, and little use would it be the pedler declined, saying he never to us, even if in my possession. But I smoked.

wouldn't care if only myself suffered by "Nebber smoke?” growled the guer- my captivity," said he, the tears starting rilla ; " I golly! you uns a darned Yankee to his eyes. “I could bear it for months, Abolitionist, blast ye!” and picking up a if it would benefit my country. But second billet of wood, motioned to hurl it there are others who"

He stopped, at the pedler, but finally, throwing it his lip quivering, and a flush mantling down with an oath, wrapped himself in his face. an old blanket and flung himself on one “You are loyal, my friend !” said of the dirty mattresses by the wall, and Carleton, kindly and respectfully holding was soon in a profound sleep.

out his hand to the pedler, his voice This period of rest Carleton and his showing how much he was touched by his companion spent in conversation on their evident emotion; "and loyalty helps us unfortunate condition, and in carefully to endure much for our country. Let us examining the apartment to see if it of- keep up heart; matters may not be so fered any possible means of escape. Sev- bad as they seem. Yonder fellow, snoreral little bays running back into the ing like an ox, is a brute, and wouldn't, I rock, some winding away for several feet, dare say, mind murdering us in cold they found; but they led nowhere, and blood; but we must avoid irritating him, were mostly employed for storing the and trust in God." plunder taken by the guerrillas, and as The pedler wrung the hand of the closets for their household utensils or young officer almost convulsively, as he their clothing.

exclaimed, in a stifled voice, « Thank It is as secure as a dungeon of the God, we are together!”. Bastille,” said Carleton, at last, returning Again, as those passionate tones rung to his seat; " and the probability is that in his ears, a feeling swept through Carleit may be a long time before we find our ton that the pedler was not what he

[ocr errors]

ye! or I'll ”

Before the pedler could reply, the ne- was not only excellent, but abundant. A gro, Josh, whoin they had not for some bottle of fiery whiskey succeeded, which time observed, came swiftly and stealthily both Carleton and the pedler declined, toward them, and stooping over, as he but which the guerrilla drank, undiluted, glanced at his master to see if he still with a decided relish. slept,

“ Make yersels at home!” said he, Mosy, massa,” he whispered, his face with a coarse laugh, as, after a third or beaming with a strange intelligence. fourth potation, he again pushed the bot"Dat's Mosy, de big rebel gin'ral. He's tle towards Carleton. orfal, massa, he is; but I reckon I kin “I thank you; I don't wish any,” help ye. I knows ye, massa ! I knows said Carleton, quietly moving the bottle ye! Ye're gwine to gib de nigger free; away. an' dis ole nig'll don''trive some way to “Drink, blast

He did gib ye free! Ony don' speak to I, massa, not say what; but the bowie-knife in his when massa gin'al wake. Mine, now, hand was a significant hint of what he massa ! don' you look at dis nig when dat meant. "Ye gwine t'insult a gen'l'man darn' ole massa see ye. Trus’to I, at his own table ? Blast ye! de Sothern massa !”

chivalry won't take dat ar!” He snatched The guerrilla stirred; the black slunk up a soiled tumbler, and filling it to the back to his stand by the wall; and as his brim with the raw, fiery whiskey, held it master opened his eyes, his face had as- out to Carleton. “ Har, ye white-livered sumed all the stupidity of a semi-idiot. puppy,

drink dat ar, I tells ye!” Har, you Josh!” growled the guer- Carleton still quietly but firmly resistrilla; "what ye stan'in' dar for? Come ed, and the wrath of the guerrilla grew Ploug, help me up!” He gave a great fierce and terrible. He attempted to yawn, kicking the shins of the negro as force the burning liquid down the throat he obeyed him, lifting him to his feet. of the young officer, his eyes menacing

" Wall, Yanks,” said he, brutally, stuf- and furious, as he felt the quiet firmness fing his hands in his pockets, and saunter- of the young man who held his arm with ing toward them,“ how d’e like yar squat- no mean grasp. tin'-place? Hope ye like it, cos ye don' A loud knock at this moment came on got to stay har till yer gray. Want any the door, and the guerrilla, setting down grub? Har, you Josh, brung out dat ar the glass and exclaiming with an oath that wenson."

he should drink it yet, went to open it. The negro placed the coarse pine table A hurried conversation took place, and in the centre of the room, laid it with after a minute, the guerrilla stepped back coarse, yellow platters and a single bowie- into the room, armed himself with pistol, knife. Then, from one of the innumer- sabre, and rifle, and left the apartment, able cells in the walls, brought out a locking and double-locking the door belarge dish of cold, well-cooked venison, hind him. which he placed upon the table. A few During all this scene, the pedler had heavy, cold corn-cakes were added, and shrunk away with terror and disgust. the dinner was complete.

“ Thank God, he is gone!” said he, as A gruff invitation to Carleton and the he heard the key withdrawn from the pedler to draw up to the table was accom- lock. panied by fresh oaths to Josh, and the The

laid his ear to the ground at meal commenced. Seizing the bone with the foot of the door to listen, and when one hand, the guerrilla sliced the venison the last receding footstep had ceased to with the bowie-knife, with no niggard be heard, he started to his feet. stint, it must be confessed, then bade his Now, massa ossifer,” said he, "time prisoners fall to and eat, - an order they to tink ’bout leaving dis yar place.” most willingly obeyed, eating with their "Leaving it!” exclaimed Carleton; fingers in lieu of knives and forks, for they “ that is not so easily done, unless we can were hungry and weary, and the venison go through the solid rock!”


« السابقةمتابعة »