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He and Anse loped in the forefront. Behind them came Gonzales, Ellen, and a dozen picked young Khazaki. They wove through a maze of alleys and streets and deserted market squares, working around behind the castle. The roar of battle came to them out of the gray mist of rain; otherwise there was only the padding and splashing of their own feet, the breath rasping harsh in their lungs, the faint clank and jingle of their harness. All Krakenau not at the storming of the citadel had withdrawn into the mysterious shells of the houses, lay watching and waiting and whetting knives in the dark.
Under a hot sullen sky, the windless sea swelled in long slow waves that rocked the tangled kelp and ocean-grass up and down, heavenward and hellward. To starboard, the dark cliffs of a small jungled island rose from an angry muttering surf, but there were no birds flying above it.
The familiar sight of the machines was at once steadying and unnerving. There were powers here which could smash planets! It looked barbaric, this successor culture, and in any event the decision as to the use of this leashed hell had to be his. His head lifted in unconscious arrogance. His! For he was the last man of Vwyrdda, and they had wrought the machines, and the heritage was his.
The cows of the great horned tyrs from Killorn were for meat and milk and leather, and trudged meekly enough behind the wagons. But the huge black bulls were wicked and had gored more than one man to death. Still Kery had gotten the idea of using them in battle. He had made iron plates for their chests and shoulders. He had polished their cruel horns and taught them to charge when he gave the word. No other man in the army dared go near them, but Kery could guide them with a whistle. For the men of Broina were warlocks.
They had gone steadily eastward and were now camped near a ruined farmhouse. A fire was crackling and one of the score or so of enemy warriors was roasting a haunch of meat over it. The rest stood leaning on their weapons and their cold amber eyes never left the two prisoners.
Traffic streamed through. No one gave him any heed. But it was black as hell in the tunnel and only a Ganasthian could find his way. Blindly Kery walked ahead, bumping into people, praying that none of the angry glances he got would unmask his pretense.
Sathi crept forth. She was behind the player, the hell-tune did not strike her so deeply, but even as his senses blurred toward death Kery saw how she fought for every step, how the bronze lamp almost fell from her hand. Mongku had forgotten her. He was playing doom, watching Kery die and noting how the music worked.
Luck had been with them, of a sort. Game animals had appeared in more abundance than one would have thought the region could support, deer-like things which they shot for meat to supplement their iron rations. They had stumbled on the old highway and followed its arrow-straight course southward. Many days and many tumbled hollow ruins of great cities lay behind them, and still they trudged on.
So I dismissed Dan, whipped up my horse,and raced Charlie along the old Jerusalem PlankRoad - that historic thoroughfare by which theUnion troops first threatened Petersburg, andnear which Fort Hell and Fort Damnation are stillvisible. We ran our horses past the old brickchurch, built of bricks brought from England toerect a place of worship for the aristocraticcolonists, past the quiet graves in Blandford; andturning our horses into Washington Street,slackened their pace and, chatting merrily thewhile, rode slowly into the city toward the goldensunset. A few years later I was to run along thisstreet in abject terror from bursting shells.
I found our tired army in Culpeper trying torest and fatten a little before meetingMcClellan's legions. Then - I am not historianenough to know just how it happened - McClellan's head fell and Burnsidereigned in his stead. Better and worse for ourarmy, and no worse for our women and children,for Burnside was a gentleman even as McClellanwas and as Pope was not, and made no warupon women and children until the shelling ofFredericksburg.
It seems that young Bailey had been shot atthe battle of Cedar Mountain and left on the fieldfor dead. An old negro, his bodyservant, hadcarried him off by stealth to a hut in the woods,and there, with such simple resources as he had,had dressed and bandaged the wound. The hutwas a mere shell of a house, a habitation for batsand owls; it had been unused so long that nopaths led to it, and Uncle Reuben's chief objectin carrying his master there was to hide him fromthe Yankees. He had no medicine, no doctor, nohelp, the master was ill for a long time from hiswounds and with a slow fever, and through it allUncle Reuben never left him except at night toforage for both. Food in the Confederacy wasfar from plentiful, and under the circumstancesalmost impossible to get. The hardships theyendured seem inconceivable today. Afraid toshow himself lest in doing so he should turn hismaster over into the hands of the dreadedYankees, the faithful old servant saw no way ofcommunicating with the family. He was in astrange country; he could not leave his charge,alone and desperately ill, long enough to seekadvice and assistance, and, besides, how was heto know the friend who would help him from theman who might betray him? He knew but onetoken - the Confederate uniform, and that wasnot always to be trusted, for spies wore it.
I called on another widowed friend. Herhusband - a captain, too - had been sent home,his face mutilated past recognition by the shellthat killed him. Her little ones were around her,and the captain's sword was hanging on thewall. When I spoke to her of it as a proudpossession, her eyes filled. His little boy saidwith flashing eyes:
How thankful I was to the provost forconfiscating my tea and coffee and sugar andcrackers and ginger-cakes! Each of our partyhad something to add. Down upon the lower deckwe had seen an immense pile of loaves of bread,and near them a large stove. We coaxed thesailor in charge to get us a clean loaf from thecenter of the pile and to put our tea on his stoveto draw. In a few moments we disappeared toenjoy in our stateroom the luxury of a cup of tea!How others fared I do not know. We were theonly people, I think, who had saved any tea.Almost every one had brought a few crackers, orcakes of some kind which they had managed tokeep, and these they must have lived on with theabominable coffee.
In crystal dishes gleamed the rich, clear redand amber of preserved fruits, and crystal-clearsweetmeats were set before us in crystaldishes. These were cut in designs of leaf andflower, fish and bird, squirrels, rabbits, andacorns - really too elaborately cut and toobeautifully transparent to be eaten. And then there was Virginia fried chicken - of sucha delicate rich brown! and such juicy sweetness!At last we each lay covered up in a great downybed, and went to sleep, and slept as if we neverexpected to wake up.
Whoever has rowed an Indian skiff mayhave some idea of what a cockle-shell it wasthat took us across the Chickahominy. I sat inone end, Milicent in the other, and LieutenantJohnston in the middle, paddle in hand, while ourlittle craft switched andwriggled and rocked itself about in a manner thatwas as extraordinary as it was dangerous, andthat was nearer perpetual motion than anythingI ever saw.
ONE lovely morning mother sat at an upperwindow shelling peas for dinner. The windowcommanded a view of the Petersburg heights andbeyond. Presently she stopped shelling peas, andgazed intently out of the window.
A few days after - mother was shelling peasagain - whiz! whack! a shell sung through the air,striking in Bolling Square. Whiz! whack! cameanother, and struck Mrs. Dunlop's house two doorsfrom us. Mrs. De Voss, our neighbor on one side,and Mrs. Williams and her two daughters who livedon the other, ran in, pale with terror, and clamoredto go down into our cellar. We were like frightenedsheep. I half laugh, half cry now with vexation tothink how calmly and stubbornly mother sat shellingpeas in that window. She was bent on finishing herpeas before she moved. Finally we induced her to gowith us, and we all went down into the cellar. Therewe huddled together for the rest of the day, and untillate into thenight, not knowing what went on above oroutside, little Bobby asleep in his mother's lap,and the rest of us too frightened to sleep. At last,when we had heard no guns for a long time, wecrept upstairs and lay down on our beds andtried to sleep. The next morning the shellingbegan again. Shells flew all around us. Onestruck in the yard next to ours; another horrid,smoking thing dropped in our own yard. Wedecided that it was time to abandon the house.
Zip! a shell passed over my head and burst afew yards away. I didn't wait to say good-by,but ran along Washington Street for my life. Atlast we got to Mr. Venable's house, which wasout of the range of the guns, and there westopped with others. Many people had passed uson our way, and we had passed many people, allrunning through Washington Street for dear life.Everybody seemed to be running; in Mr.Venable's house quite a crowd was gathered.His family were from home, but their friendsfilled the house. We watched from doors andwindows, and talked of our friends who hadfallen, of the Ninth of June, and of how Fort Helland Fort Damnation got their names. We spokeof a friend who had kissed wife and childrengoodby, and gone out that fateful Ninth with themilitia up the Jerusalem Plank Road to Fort Hell.Later in the day a wagon had come lumberingup to the door, blood dripping from it as it joltedalong. In it lay the husband and father, literallyshot to pieces.His little boy walked weeping behind it. Hiswidow had shrouded him with her own hands,and trimmed his bier herself with the fragrantJune flowers that were growing in heryard - flowers which he had loved and helped totend. She had a house full of little ones aroundher. She had never known how to work, andnow she was going about finding tasks to do,bearing up bravely and strengthening herchildren, she who had been as dependent uponher husband for love and tenderness as hischildren were upon her. 2b1af7f3a8