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III THE CABIN IN THE WOODS AT daybreak they took up the march again, Dan walking slowly, with his musket striking the ground and his arm on Big Abel's shoulder. Where the lane curved in the hollow, they came upon a white cottage, with a woman milking a spotted cow in the barnyard. As she caught sight of them, she waved wildly with her linsey apron, holding the milk pail carefully between her feet as the spotted cow turned inquiringly. " Go 'way, I don't want no stragglers here," she cried, as one having authority. Leaning upon the fence, Dan placidly regarded her. " My dear madam, you commit an error of judgment ," he replied, pausing to argue. With the cow's udder in her hand the woman looked up from the streaming milk. " Well, ain't you stragglers?" she inquired. Dan shook his head reproachfully. " What air you, then?" " Beggars, madam." "I might ha' knowed it!" returned the woman, with a snort. "Well, whatever you air, you kin jest as eas'ly keep on along that thar road. I ain't got nothing on this place for you. Some of you broke 405 The Battle-Ground into my smokehouse night befo' last an' stole all the spar' ribs I'd been savin'. Was you the ones?" " No, ma'am." "Oh, you're all alike," protested the woman, scornfully, "an' a bigger set 0' rascals I never seed." " Huh! Who's. a rascal?" exclaimed Big Abel, angrily. "This is the reward of doing your duty, Big Abel," remarked Dan, gravely. "Never do it again, remember. The next time Virginia is invaded we'll sit by the fire and warm our feet. Good morning, madam." "Why ain't you with the army?" inquired the woman sharply, slapping the cow upon the side as she rose from her seat and took up the milk pail. " An officer rode by this morning an' he told me part of the army was campin' ten miles across on the other road." " Did he say whose division?" "Oh, I reckon you kin fight as well under one general as another, so long as you've got a mind to fight at all. You jest follow this lane about three miles and then keep straight along the turnpike. If you do that I reckon you'll git yo' deserts befo' sundown ." She came over to the fence and stood fixing them with hard, bright eyes. "My! You do look used up," she admitted after a moment. " You'd better come in an' git a glass of this milk befo' you move on. Jest go roun' to the gate and I'll meet you at the po'ch. The dog won't bite you if you don't touch nothin'." " All right, go ahead and hide the spoons," called The Cabin in the Woods 407 Dan, as he swung open the gate and went up a little path bordered by prince's feathers. The woman met them at the porch and led them into a clean kitchen, where Dan sat down at the table and Big Abel stationed himself behind his chair. " Drink a glass of that milk the first thing," she said, bustling heavily about the room, and browbeating them into submissive silence, while she mixed the biscuits and broke the eggs into a fryingpan greased with bacon gravy. Plump, hellrty, with a full double chin and cheeks like winter apples, she moved briskly from the wooden safe to the slow fire, which she stirred with detennined gestures. "It's time this war had stopped, anyhow," she remarked as she slapped the eggs up into the air and back again into the pan. "An' if General Lee ever rides along this way I mean to tell him that he ought to have one good battle an' be done with it. Thar's no use piddlin' along like this twil we're all worn out and thar ain't a com-field pea left in Virginny. Look here (to Big Abel), you set right down on that do' step an' I'll give you something along with yo' marster. It's a good thing I happened to look under the cow trough yestiddy or thar wouldn't have been an egg left in this house. That's right, tum right in an' eat hearty - don't mince with me." Big Abel, cowed by her energetic manner, seated himself upon the door step, and for a half-hour the...


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