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[472] and stealthily unloosed the stiletto from its sheath, for it stuck tightly in the silver scabbard, and still gazed at him with unflinching nerves and tense muscles.

Whether he saw and divined the movement, or whether he heard his companions galloping away, I know not; or if, indeed, any ‘means’ were necessary in this wonderful intervention of a protecting Providence; I only spoke these words very low, and my own voice was strange to me in its vibrating intensity: ‘What do you mean, sir? Open that door!’

One moment more his eye retained its fiendish brightness, then drooped. He turned, unlocked the door, and went down, I following.

Down stairs all was quiet. ‘They had gone to find Mr. DeG.,’ somebody told me. As the ‘big blonde’ threw himself into his saddle I remarked in a stage-aside to V., ‘I think I see some of Wheeler's men coming down the lane.’ This dashing corps had been lingering in our vicinity for several weeks, and were in some sort ‘household troops’ for us.

‘Who's afraid of Wheeler's men?’ he cried, adding an oath that made one's blood curdle. Then he sped after his comrades.

A brief season of grace was left us to collect our scattered senses and pacify, if possible, the still distracted wife and mother. The negroes came flying in from the fields, ashen and trembling. They had never seen the ‘Yankees’ before, and to their excited imaginations, visitors from the lower world could not be more appalling; though one little chap, a spoilt and petted page about the house, exclaimed to me in a relieved tone after they left: ‘Why, they is folk! I thought they was animals.’

We soothed the terrified darkies with the only available panacea, peach brandy, which is indigenous to this country, and was probably one of the main objects of the raid. Several demijohns of it were emptied upon the ground, the amber, oily, penetrating liquid bubbling out in the evening sunlight with a dozen regretful black faces bent above. Scarcely was this done when the clattering of hoofs was heard. Back dashed the blue-coats, more desperate and intent upon destruction than ever, having been baffled in their search for gold, which they had heard Mr. DeG. carried about with him in rouleaux. When they came upon him, superintending the hands at work in the field, they had rifled his pockets, finding only a roll of Confederate notes, which they tore up before his eyes in intense disgust and disappointment; then informed him that one of those ‘d—d ’


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