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XII THE NIGHT OF FEAR LATE in the afternoon, as the Governor neared the tavern, he was met by a messenger with the news; and at once turning his horse's head, he started back to Uplands. A dim fear, which had been with him since boyhood, seemed to take shape and meaning with the words; and in a lightning flash of understanding he knew that he had lived before through the horror of this moment. If his fathers had sinned, surely the shadow of their wrong had passed them by to fall the heavier upon their sons; for even as his blood rang in his ears, he saw a savage justice in the thing he feared - a recompense to natural laws in which the innocent should weigh as naught against the guilty. A fine rain was falling; and as he went on, the end of a drizzling afternoon dwindled rapidly into night. Across the. meadows he saw the lamps in scattered cottages twinkle brightly through the dusk which rolled like fog down from the mountains. The road he followed sagged between two gray hills into a narrow valley, and regaining its balance upon the farther side, stretched over a cattle pasture into the thick cover of the woods. As he reached the summit of the first hill, he saw the Major's coach creeping slowly up the incline, 243 The Battle-Ground and heard the old gentleman scolding through the window at Congo on the box. " My dear Major, home's the place for you," he said as he drew rein. "Is it possible that the news hasn't reached you yet?" Remembering Congo, he spoke cautiously, but the Major, in his anger, tossed discretion to the winds. "Reached me? - bless my soul! - do you take me for a ground hog?" he cried, thrusting his red face through the window. "I met Tom Bickels four miles back, and the horses haven't drawn breath since. But it's what I expected all along - I was just telling Congo so - it all comes from the mistaken tolerance of black Republicans. Let me open my doors to them to-day, and they'll be tempting Congo to murder me in my bed to-morrow." "Go 'way f'om yer, Ole l\1arster," protested Congo from the box, flicking at the harness with his long whip. The Governor looked a little anxiously at the negro, and then shook his head impatiently. Though a less exacting master than the Major, he had not the same childlike trust in the slaves he owned. " Shall you not turn back?" he asked, surprised. "Champe's there," responded the Major, "so I came on for the particulars. A night in town isn't to my liking, but I can't sleep a wink until I hear a thing or two. You're going out, eh?" " I'm riding home," said the Governor, " it makes me uneasy to be away from Uplands." He paused, hesitated an instant, and then broke out suddenly. " Good God, Major, what does it mean? " The Night of Fear The Major shook his head until his long white hair fell across his eyes. "Mean, sir?" he thundered in a rage. " It means, I reckon, that those damned friends of yours have a mind to murder you. It means that after all your speech-making and your brotherly love, they're putting pitchforks into the hands of savages and loosening them upon you. Oh, you needn't mind Congo, Governor. Congo's heart's as white as mine." "Dat's so, Ole Marster," put in Congo, approvingly . The Governor was trembling as he leaned down from his saddle. " We know nothing as yet, sir," he began, "there must be some - " "Oh, go on, go on," cried the Major, striking the carriage window. "Keep up your speechmaking and your handshaking until your wife gets murdered in her bed - but, by God, sir, if Virginia doesn't secede after this, I'll secede without her! " The coach moved on and the Governor, touching his horse with the whip, rode rapidly down the hill. As he descended into the valley, a thick mist rolled over him and the road lost itself in the blur of the surrounding fields. Without slackening his pace, he lighted the lantern at his saddle-bow and turned up the collar of his coat about his ears. The fine rain was soaking through his clothes, but in the tension of his nerves he was...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817388294
Related ISBN
9780817310417
MARC Record
OCLC
47010965
Pages
559
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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