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Harper's Weekly 02/01/1862


ON THE KENTUCKY BORDER.

I.

You've lived too long at the North, Maurice!
You ought never to have left Old Kentucky!”


“Well, perhaps so. I might then have been a
fellow of about six feet three (I should have grown
at least five inches taller, of course), with my hair
very badly in want of cutting, my teeth dyed of a
good permanent yellow with tobacco, my pants
thrust in my boot-tops, and my homespun suit
rather out at elbows. I should be a crack shot at
turkeys, deer, or 'possum, and count it a disgrace
not to bring down a squirrel as dead as a hammer
with the wind of my bullet. I should loaf about
all day talking horse, with a whip under my arm
and half a dozen dogs at my heels, or fighting cocks
at Jones's tavern. At night I should chew my-
self sleepy by a wood fire, dream about euchre, and
wake up crying out `I'll go it alone!' as you did
only last evening!”


The young man whose personal appearance and
characteristics were thus described eyed his half-
brother with an expression indicative of resentment
at his raillery and incapacity to answer it in kind.


“You kin talk right peart, you kin, Maurice!”
he said; “on'y I wouldn't wake snakes, if I were
you. It don't take much to raise a fight out here,
you know.”


Maurice Byrne laughed. “I don't want a fight
with you, Dan,” he said; “you'll get enough of
that, if you're going to volunteer, which I should
be sorry to see.”


“Well I am, then, and Andy too; the game's
made up, and there's no backing down about it!”


“Don't take the boy, Dan, whatever you do
yourself. His father would rather see him dead
than fighting against the Union; besides, he's too
young.”


“He kin knock the head off a turkey at a hun-
dred yards, and I reckon that's further than any
of Linc'ln's nigger-stealin' abolishioners 'll like to
come within sight of a Kentuck rifle!”


“Dan! Dan! why will you talk such nonsense?
The abolitionists, as you call them, haven't set foot
on our soil, though we, under the treacherous pre-
text of neutrality, are organizing a `State Guard'
which, as every body knows, is Secesh to the back-
bone. Don't you see that invasion is threatened
only from the other side?”


“The Tennessee men are our friends, and fight-
in' for Southern rights. You can't rub that out,
no way you kin fix it! And me and Andy are
bound to join them!”


“I'm sorry to hear it. What would you say
to me if I were to join the Union men?”


“But you won't?” And Dan Byrne looked
equally surprised, puzzled, and indignant.


“I don't know. If I acted on my convictions,
I should. I was captain of a company in Illinois,
and they'd be glad to get me back again, I've no
doubt. Only I wouldn't like to have to fight
against Kentuckians any how.”


“Or to leave Harry!” added his half-brother,
knowingly. The name, we may remark, notwith-
standing its masculinity, designated a girl of eight-
een, cousin to the speakers; nor was it used as an
abbreviation. In accordance with a practice not at
all uncommon half a century ago, nor yet extinct
among the rougher denizens of Kentucky and Ten-
nessee, it had been bestowed in jocular defiance of
the trammels of custom, as were not unfrequently
those of women upon infants of the opposite sex.


Maurice took the remark in good part. “Well,
yes,” said he; “you don't object to that, Dan, do
you?”


“No! I wish you'd jes' marry the gal, and set-
tle right down among us, as you might do for all
I kin see to prevent it; for she's as good a Union
woman as any out of jail, let the next come from
where she will.”


“That's so, Dan Byrne; and she's not ashamed
of it either!” And the person alluded to unex-
pectedly looked forth from the window on to the
wooden piazza, the scene of the preceding dialogue.
She was a brilliant brunette, with magnificent
black hair and eyes, ripe scarlet lips, and a face
whose bold, symmetrical beauty of feature and
ruddy health seemed in part to justify her mas-
culine appellation. Not too neatly dressed, with
her fell of tangled curls put back behind her ears;
her bare, brown, handsome arms crossed on the
window-sill, and a half-resentful blush upon her
cheeks at what she had overheard, she stood re-
garding the cousin who had spoken of her with
friendly defiance.


He laughed, and affectionately tried to twitch
her by the ear. “I'm right, Harry, ain't I?” he
said; “you'd stop me and Andy going if you
could—wouldn't you?”


“Father would, if he were here,” she answered,
emphatically.


“I have been trying to persuade Dan not to take
him,” put in Maurice, in whose cheek an answer-
ing flush of emotion had welcomed Harry's appear-
ance. “The lad is altogether too young for it.
Think of uncle's anger and distress if he comes to
any mischief.”


“He kin take care of himself; and if he can't,
I'll take care of him,” said the intended volunteer,
doggedly; “and he will go!”


“Can't you stop him? I have tried my best, and
the boy really seems bent on it,” appealed Maurice
to Harry, who, twisting one of her long tangled
curls very much as an impatient or meditative
man might his mustache, looked from one to the
other, in sympathy with Maurice and anger at
Dan, blended with apprehension for her younger
brother. “Both had better remain at home, I am
sure; and I'd give every thing I have in the world
to keep them there. At least let us save the boy,
who will join this infernal rebellion—don't scowl,
Dan, for it is a rebellion, and nothing else, as sure
as you live—without a thought of the conse-
quences.”


That for consequences!” cried Dan Byrne,
with an emphatic expectoration of tobacco-juice.


“You want Andy killed, then?” inquired Har-
ry, with exasperated affection.


“I'd rather be killed myself, and you know it.”

“I don't! If you cared for him, as you say,
you'd never tempt him away from us—for it's all
your doing! Father is against it, and Maurice is
against it, and I am against it; yet, because he's a
boy, and knows no better, and has got his head full
of nonsense about Southern rights, and Yankees,
and invasion, and Heaven knows what—as all the
boys around here have—you'll take him with you!”


“Listen to me once more, Dan,” interposed
Maurice, checking a choleric reply on the part of
his cousin; “you are going to take up arms against
your country in entire misconception of the state
of things. If it comes to a fight here—which God
forbid!—it won't be with Yankees, but Kentucki-
ans against Kentuckians. Our State has voted
herself neutral, because there was then no alterna-
tive between that and secession. We had traitors
for rulers, and loyal men could only temporize to
gain time. But Kentucky is for the Union at
heart; I'm sure of it. Wasn't I up at Louisville
only a week ago, and don't I know what's brewing
there? Here, on the borders, secesh is rampant
enough, but it don't amount to any thing compared
with the love for and loyalty to the Union which
Harry Clay—God bless him!—taught us long ago.
I wish we had all learned the lesson.”


“I don't believe it!” shouted Dan Byrne, en-
raged at the statement, and at what he considered
merely as his lack of argumentative ability to con-
fute it; “we b'long to the South, don't we? and
when she's in for a fight—for her rights by—! for
her rights!—hain't we to be counted in? or are
we to stan' roun' shivering in our boots like a lot
of corn-shucking souled Yankees? You are bound
to get me mad, Maurice, so you are, though I cau-
tioned you not to!”


“Ira furor brevis est!” quoted his cousin, who
had “taught school” in Illinois among other mis-
cellaneous employments, at which the irascible
Dan sniffed and spat; “let there be peace between
us; and if you are determined to go, don't take
Andy.”


“You kin both talk with him if you like; I han't
persuaded him!” And the tall volunteer—he was
a fine, though rough-looking fellow of three-and-
twenty, Maurice's junior by five years—took his
rifle from its corner behind the door, whistled to
his dogs, and departed, his homely-attired but man-
ly figure soon disappearing among the luxuriant
summer foliage of the wild Kentucky woodland
which surrounded the house. Maurice watched it
until he was out of sight, and then turned to Har-
ry, who, quitting her post at the window, emerged
on the piazza. Tall in stature, like her race, her
proportions were yet so exquisitely symmetrical,
even in their dress of blue homespun, that she could
not appear otherwise than strikingly handosme, and
might have sat for a model for Spenser's Britomart
or Tasso's Clorinda. I have said that her arms were
bare and brown: if her feet were also, their beauty
and that of her ankles made their nudity a matter
of congratulation to the masculine spectator. The
only looker-on at present, however, had his eyes
bent on her face, in which frank regard for him
and concern for her brother were equally manifest.


“Harry, dear,” Maurice said, taking her hand,
“I can't tell you how this persistence of Dan's
pains me; I don't wonder at his opinions, recollect-
ing what I was before I left home, only because I
aspired to better the rough fortune into which our
family has decayed, and to win her whom I loved
almost as a boy—whom I find increased in beauty,
yet possessing the same brave, earnest nature as
ever. Loving her as I do, I would fain save her
brother from this miserable rebellion if I can not
rescue my own. Is there no way to effect it?”


“If father were at home he would soon stop An-
dy's going. They both know that. I am afraid
Dan will hurry him off before father's return.”


“And I too. But you know what took him
away at such a time?”


“He didn't tell me, though I have my suspi-
cions. You know, Maurice, of course?”


“I do. He went to procure arms that we may
be able to defend ourselves against traitors when
the evil day comes. He is as loyal as he is brave,
and swears that the dear old flag he fought under
at New Orleans shall be hoisted over this house
never to be hauled down by rebel hands while he
lives to protect it. In that resolution I am with
him heart and soul, failing to persuade him to re-
move to a place of safety. Only on his and your
account do I linger here, otherwise I should be do-
ing a man's duty in defense of the Union now.”


“Never let that prevent you. If I were a man
I'd shoulder a musket beside you!”


II.

Three months have proved the correctness of
Maurice Byrne's judgment, and the Kentucky bor-
der, subjected to all the horrors and miseries of
a devastating civil war by invasion from the South,
seems again deserving of its ancient ominous title,
“the dark and bloody ground.” I resume my
story toward the close of the latter part of Septem-
ber, when the wild woods of that wild part of the
State are in all their autumnal glory, and when
the hot noontide sun shines down in unclouded
splendor on their leafy loveliness, lighting up the
“fall fashions” of the hamadryads—their purples,
reds, oranges, yellows, their necklaces of ruby
sumach berries—like a veritable fairy orchard. A
pity that men's evil passions should be there to
desecrate it!


There is no more wind than cloud stirring in the
bright blue sky, otherwise the flag surmounting
the time-stained homestead of old Jasper Byrne
would not hang so straight and heavily as it does.
Every day since the State election in August (when
Kentucky, with its “State Guard” in full opera-
tion, its power in the hands of traitors, with rebel-
lious Virginia, Tennessee, and the worst part of
Missouri inclosing her borders, yet chose, deliber-
ately and unconditionally, to adhere to and share
the fate of the Union), every day, at sunrise, has
the flag been hoisted by a hand that once pulled a
deadly trigger on a certain memorable Eighth of
January, to be lowered only at sunset. It is the
only flag of its kind within a score of miles on the
soil of Kentucky; there are bastard, hostile ones
all around, yet up to the present time it has flouted
and defied them.


To this house, then, at noontide, on an autumn
day, comes riding through the woods, over the
stony road, the gaunt, wasted, cadaverous figure
of a young man on a sorry hack of a horse, which
has evidently traveled far, fared miserably, and
been used unscrupulously. But miserable as is
the aspect of the animal, that of its rider far ex-
ceeds it in wretchedness. Clad in a tattered, semi-
military costume, stained with mire and dust, with
an empty coat-sleeve pinned to his breast, a blood-
stained rag binding his brow, surmounted by a
torn hat, haggard, hollow-eyed, emaciated, un-
shorn, unshaven, faint with wounds and exhausted
with hunger and lack of sleep, so returned Dan
Byrne to the family homestead.


Its appearance is unlike the careless, open-doored,
open-windowed aspect familiar to him, and at once
suggestive of the insecurity of the times and the
resolution of its owner. Two or three trees in front
have been cut down, probably as a precaution
against their affording shelter to enemies; the door
is shut, and the windows of the upper and lower
stories are defended with strong planks, nailed per-
pendicularly, with interstices of the width of a
rifle-barrel between them. Except a couple of
dogs, sleeping under the sunny piazza, nothing
living is visible. These, awakened by the arrival,
come frisking about the horse's heels barking a
clamorous recognition.


The rider dismounts, hesitates, and adds his
voice to the din. Not, however, until he has beat-
en repeatedly upon the door is any reply vouch-
safed. Then a footstep approaches from within,
and a stern voice questions him as to his name and
purpose.


“It's me, uncle! your nephew, Dan Byrne.”

A surprised ejaculation from a woman follows,
and an indistinctly-heard colloquy. And again the
stern voice addresses him, this time in deeper tones
than before:


“Go your ways, young man! You were my
nephew, and are a rebel! What have you done
with my son?”


“Open, uncle, and I will tell you.” And the
applicant covered his face with his one hand, shud-
dered all over, and leaned against the door-post as
if to preserve himself from fainting. The dogs,
meanwhile, caper and whine around him, some of
them scratching at the portal as though seconding
the wretched young man's request for admission.


Another whispered dialogue occurs—the woman's
voice being heard in supplication—a heavy wooden
bar is removed, and the door opens. A tall, reso-
lute-featured man of seventy-five, with iron-gray
hair, appears on the threshold, and behind him the
handsome, anxious countenance of Harry Byrne.


“Dan!”“Harry!”“Uncle, he's wounded—dy-
ing!” With these and similar expressions of pity
and sympathy the sufferer is borne into the house,
and the old man, after a wary glance outside, sets
the door open, permitting the sunlight to stream
into the darkened passage between the two main
rooms of the ground-floor. Here, on a rough settle,
the returned rebel volunteer addresses his anxious
listeners.


“Uncle,” he says, “you kin take and shoot me
just as soon as you've heard what I've got to tell.
You'll never see Andy again—he's dead and
buried!”


His cousin clasped her hands over her breast as
if to check the violent pulsations of her heart, and
then hiding her face, wept aloud with all her im-
pulsive woman's nature. Old Jasper Byrne grew
deadly pale, turned aside, and, with his head against
the wall, strove to hide his emotion. There was a
miserable pause, broken only by the sobbing of
Harry. At last her uncle spoke in a hoarse, con-
strained voice, curiously interrupted by a sort of
tremulous quaver, inexpressibly painful to listen to:


“It's better as it is,” he said; “he was my only
boy and I loved him, God knows! but he turned
traitor and fout agin his country—and I named
him arter Jackson, too! Ah! I'm glad the old
woman never lived to see this day! Dan! Dan'l!
the lad's blood cries out aginst you!”


“God forgive me if I've done wrong! I lost
this arm tryin' to save him!”


“Tell us all about it. Harry, girl! quit cryin'.
'Tain't of no use. 'Twon't bring back the dead or
wipe out shame from the living, else you might
cry on, for there's a heavy score of it come on our
family. Let us hear the whole story.”


It may be condensed into a paragraph. Young
Andrew Byrne had met his fate in one of the many
bloody fratricidal skirmishes following the invasion
of Kentucky from the South, being bayoneted in
a night-surprise on the part of the loyalists. His
cousin, wounded, mutilated, and a prisoner, had
contrived to escape and to rejoin the Tennessee regi-
ment which both cousins had belonged to. It was
now defeated, dispersed, broken, retreating in scat-
tering handfuls toward the border. Anticipating
the arrival of one of these, Dan had hurried on to
tell his doleful story, to warn his uncle of the com-
ing danger, and to afford him what protection
might accrue from his presence.


“They'll be h'yar before sun-down, I reckon,”
he concluded. “Uncle, if you don't want to risk
the house being burned over your head, you'd bet-
ter haul that flag down, if but for an hour or two.”


The old soldier folded his arms, knitted his
brows, and smiled grimly. He was yet tremu-
lous with suppressed grief at the tidings of his
son's death, but the prospect of immediate danger
seemed to relieve him. “I'll see them— first!”
said he, with energy sufficient to place his determ-
ination beyond the reach of entreaty or argument.
“They've took my boy; they've got him killed in
the wickedest cause that ever man shouldered a
rifle for; now let 'em come and receive a father's
thanks. I wish Maurice was here now.”


“I hearn tell of his joinin' the abolition—the
Federalists,” Dan remarked. “I'm glad we didn't
have to fight agin his regiment.”


His uncle made no reply. He was pacing with
long strides up and down the passage, nervously,
expectantly. Presently he paused, and addressed
Harry:


“Gal,” he said, “tell Pete to hitch up the old
mare and wagon, and do you clear out to Brod-
nax's—I reckon you'll be safe enough thar. And
you may jist tell him—”


But Harry, in her turn, folded her arms with a
look of resolution not inferior to that expressed in
the countenance of her father.


“I'm going to stop with you,” she said, briefly.

“You're better away; it's no woman's work we've
got on hand, and I can't be scared with the thought
of what these devils may do to you, supposin' I aren't
able to beat 'em off, as I intend tryin'! Likely
they'll burn the shanty down, as Dan says, and
you've got too many fair years of life before you,
gal, to die like that. Go away! take my blessing
and go away, where you'll be out of danger!”


“I shall stop with you, father; I can load your
rifle for you, if I can do nothing else. Don't ask
me to leave you now, for I won't do it!”


He looked into her eyes, read there her determ-
ination and love stronger than death or the fear of
it, bent over and kissed her, and abruptly turned
away. “You're true grit, gal!” he murmured.
“Now then, let's git ready to receive 'em.”


III.

Sunset has come and gone, and darkness rests
upon the wild Kentucky woods, shrouding their
autumnal glories until the birth of a new day. It
is a black, moonless night, threatening rain, and a
strong wind has arisen, making melancholy music
among the boughs and branches of the forest, driv-
ing its foliage fiercely in one direction, as if in em-
ulation of the great wet-looking clouds which are
moving rapidly and continuously athwart the face
of the heavens. No sound but that of the wind
and the occassional startled cry of an owl is audible,
the more harmonious night-birds and forest creat-
ures have sought covert in anticipation of the com-
ing storm. And within the house of Jasper Byrne
its inmates prepare to meet the scarcely less unrea-
sonable and more harmful tempest of man's pas-
sions.


The old soldier has sent away the two negroes
forming part of his household, bidding them secure
their safety by flight, and in consequence obtained
an unexpected auxiliary in the neighbor to whose
dwelling he had proposed sending his daughter.
Alarmed at the report of the slaves, Dave Brodnax
comes to remonstrate with his ancient comrade,
hoping to dissuade him from his rash, perhaps su-
icidal intention, but failing utterly, resolves, with
characteristic Kentucky daring and hardihood, to
remain and share his fate. He brings confused
rumors confirming Dan Byrne's representations.
A roving band of defeated Tennesseeans will, in
all probability, pass by the homestead. There re-
mains only the hope that their haste may prove
greater than their inclination for mischief and de-
sire for wreaking vengeance upon the isolated home
of a known loyalist, or that Dan's services, wounds,
and mutilation may purchase his uncle's safety, of
which he himself is not too sanguine.


Slowly and heavily the night draws on, as, in
an upper room, the four inmates of the house wait
and listen. Mattresses are placed between the
windows, the fire-arms stand loaded and ready,
and Harry, with a pale, resolute face, is tempora-
rily relieving Dan in the task of casting bullets.
The two old soldiers converse together earnestly.
Dan, perturbed and expectant, walks to and fro,
or seating himself, assumes a calmness which any
transient sound discomposes.


“If it comes to the worst we kin clear out down
the slope at the back of the house,” says Brodnax;
“for I reckon they won't risk their necks in attack-
ing us that side. Then there's the cave not two
rods off”—alluding to one of those natural excava-
tions, popularly known in Western vernacular as
“sink-holes,” which undermine all this portion of
Kentucky—“would hold a hundred of us easy.”


“I've thought of that,” Byrne rejoins, “and
there's a ladder handy to its mouth. But, mind,
I intend to fight this place just as long as I kin
hold it.”


“Sartain!” replied his comrade, who in ceasing
to combat the other's resolution seemed to have
adopted his readiness, if not his eagerness, for the
expected fight; “have you left the flag flying?”


“It's thar still. I wish there was a moon that
they could see it.”


“Well, I don't care so much about that; if they
take it for the `Stars and Bars' it's no matter.
You won't open the ball unless they begin it, I
reckon?”


“No!” answered Jasper Byrne, relapsing into
silence, in which the party remained for perhaps
ten minutes, listening to the stormy music of the
wind in the forest.


“Come to the door; we shall have plenty of
time to fix it and get back,” suggests Brodnax.
And the two men descend the stairs, unfasten the
door, and look out from the shelter of the little
piazza into the night and the wild landscape.


Another pause, and a long one. Then through
the blustering and soughing of the wind, the dash-
ing of the leaves, and now the patter of the angry
rain, a sound, at first faint and distant, rising and
falling, a dull, hollow murmur. Anon only the
wind and rain. Then the murmur, increasing or
lessening with the atmospheric tumult and the
windings of the road. Presently an unmistakable
sound, resolving itself into the scrambling, disorder-
ly approach of a body of men.


“At last!” The two old soldiers draw back
into the house, and are about to close and barricade
the door when Dan Byrne stands before them.


“Let me go out, uncle!” he says; “I shall be
of more use there than within.” His request is
granted without a word, and in another minute he
stands outside with the door bolted and barred be-
hind him.


The tramp grows louder and louder, the murmur
swells into voices; lights, torches, and musket-
barrels flash through the wet foliage. In another
minute the approaching body, imperfectly seen in
the darkness, emerges from the black covert of the
woods and comes toward the house. It may com-
prise between twenty and thirty men, some of them
wounded, half of them weaponless. Ragged, dirty,
shoeless, savage, weary, and intoxicated, defeat is
written in their demeanor and aspect.


Dan Byrne watches them narrowly. Espying
his figure by the lights they carry, some of them
set up a shout, half-inquiry, half-menace. He ad-
vances and confronts them, and is at once recog-
nized by certain of the group.


“What now, boys?” he asks, as they crowd
about him with inquiries as to how he came there.


“We've been whipped by the Lincolnites,—
'em, and they're after us!” is the cry, blended with
demands for liquor and refreshment, which the
more unruly spirits are about to enforce by a rush
toward the house, when Dan raises his voice in
vigorous remonstrance:


“Boys!” he cries, “you know me as your com-
rade, and that I lost this arm in fighting for South-
ern Rights, and that I wouldn't have cared if it had
ben my life. Now, I ask you in return jes' to
keep right straight on, without touchin' this house.
It belongs to my uncle, and he's an old man, and I
don't want him troubled. His only son got killed
on our side in the skrimmage up to Edmondson's,
and he wants to be let alone.”


There was a confused clamor of voices, some in
approval, some in dissent. Then a voice shouted,
“We've heard of him! he's a d—d Unionist and
Yankee, and has got their — flag flying! Let's
have it down, boys!” A partial hurrah followed.


“I know you, Mat Green,” said Dan Byrne,
bitterly, in the direction of the last speaker; “the
biggest coward in the regiment! Come here, and
for all I've got but one arm I'll whip you, and do
it easy!”


Some of the Tennesseeans set up a laugh at this,
and for a moment the young Kentuckian thought
he had prevailed. Only for a moment: in another
he found himself hustled to and fro, half in drunk-
en sport, half in earnest, and heard four or five of
the party, who had ascended the piazza, beating on
the door and clamoring for admission and speech
with the inmates. Very soon, in reply, an upper
window was raised behind the planking, and the
strong stern voice of old Jasper Byrne demanded
the cause of the tumult.


“Give us some whisky!”“Let us in!”“Haul
down that —— flag!” These and more con-
fused outcries were the answers of the crowd in
front of the house, while the men immediately be-
low continued their clamor.


“Go to him who sent you hither, the father of
all evil!” said the Kentuckian; “not one of ye
shall set foot over my threshold while I have pow-
er to prevent it, pack of rebels that ye are!”


“Beat down the door!”“Set fire to the house!”
And the blows of musket-butts began to rain on
the portal, mingled with execrations and bloody
threats. Dan Byrne meanwhile strove furiously
with those about him; but his struggles were use-
less, his voice unheard amidst the uproar.


“Hear me once more,” his uncle shouted; and
the tumult slackened, the besiegers probably an-
ticipating some capitulation involving compliance
with their demands. “You have murdered my
boy, now clear out before I am tempted to revenge
his death upon ye!”


Almost as he spoke a pistol-shot was fired at him,
followed by the irregular explosion of half a dozen
muskets in the same direction. The sharp crack
of a rifle answered this—another—and two of the
foremost of the cluster in front fell to the ground,
mortally wounded.


Then uprose a wild shout of rage and desire for
vengeance, scarcely uttered before two simultane-
ous and equally fatal discharges sent their leaden
messengers of death through the heart or brain of
others; and scatter as their comrades might, in
temporary panic from that group which afforded so
certain an aim to the practiced marksmen within,
yet a fifth and a sixth victim was added to the list
before they gained cover in which to gnash their
teeth and concert measures of reprisal. Even there,
wherever the gleam of a torch or lantern indicated
their presence, so sure did a bullet follow them, not
always unsuccessfully.


“We might drive 'em off,” said Dave Brodnax,
grim with smoke and gunpowder, yet with the
light of battle illuminating his rough features, “if
it weren't for the villains below; they'll be up to
mischief before long, I reckon. S'pose we go down
and give 'em a shot or two by way of a scare?”


Jasper Byrne assented. “They're creeping
round among the thickets, I know by their si-
lence,” said he, after a glance outward; “we shall
have 'em trying the door and windows directly.
What's that?” He paused abruptly in his speech
and listened as to a distant sound.


“Only the rain,” suggested Brodnax, whose
sense of hearing was not so acute as that of his
companions. The storm had increased and the
rain now descended in torrents.


“I wish that was all,” answered Byrne; “that's
on our side, but I reckon those who are coming
won't be so. Do you hear any thing, girl?”


“I hear a sound in the distance, but can not dis-
tinguish what it is,” Harry replied. Steadfast
and resolute as the two men, she had kept her word
in loading their rifles for them throughout the at-
tack, not even blenching when a chance bullet cut
its way between the stout oak planks and through
her black fell of hair—the only shot which had pen-
etrated the apartment.


“It's horses and men coming this way,” pro-
nounced her father; “we shall soon know what
for. Harry, you're dressed and ready, if we have
to run for it? Now, Dave, down stairs with you,
and let's at 'em agin!” And, bearing the arms
and ammunition, the three noiselessly descended
the staircase.


The sound of voices heard through the wind and
rain on the other side of the door at once confirmed
Jasper Byrne's suspicions. The besiegers had re-
inforced the party sheltered by the piazza, and
while some explored the sides and rear of the prem-
ises, in the hope of effecting an entrance, the ma-
jority were audibly engaged in tearing up the ad-
jacent rails and planking and piling it against the
door, evidently with the intention of setting it on
fire, for without such appliances the dampened
wood-work had refused to ignite.


Just as the inmates of the house stood listening
to the devilish intentions avowed within a few feet
of them, the accents changed into surprise and in-
dignation, a sudden fall was heard, as of a man
stricken to the ground, followed by the kicking
asunder of the materials of the intended bonfire,
and Dan Byrne's voice, crying,


“You shall kill me first! Come on, all of you,
cowards that you are, and see if I can't use this
bowie to some effect, maimed as I am! Come on,
I say!”


A storm of invectives, of threats, and orders to
stand aside answered the challenge. “Not while
I live!” the young Kentuckian rejoined, in tones
well-nigh as savage as those about him. His uncle
looked anxiously, first into the face of his old com-
rade, then at his daughter.


“They'll butcher the lad in five minutes, the
blood-thirsty hounds! They will, I know, unless
we help him. He brought it on us; but he knew
no better, and he's gwine to die for us. Dave!
Dave! what shall I do? Think of Harry, if they
prove too many for us!”


“Open the door, father!” the girl replied; “save
Dan if you can! We're in God's hands, and in
Him lies our safety!” And, intent on her cousin's
rescue, she rushed to the door and began undoing
its fastenings.


Jasper Byrne laid his hand on her arm. “Leave
it to us,” said he. “Do you go up stairs. Wait
and see what happens; and if the time comes, and
there's nothing left for it, mind my last word and
fly—you know how.”


Snatching up a gun, the girl obeyed him with-
out a word. Then with bowie-knives between their
teeth, and revolvers in hand, the two old soldiers
unshot the fastenings of the door.


They were just in time. The Tennesseeans, in-
furiated by the opposition of their late comrade,
had attacked and beaten him to his knee, in which
position he still defended himself desperately, hav-
ing already slain one and wounded two men. As
the door opened—which it did so suddenly as to
be entirely unanticipated by the besiegers—a cry
was raised to brain him, to trample him to death.
Quick as the utterance he was snatched from be-
neath the uplifted musket-butts and dragged into
the house by the strong arm of his uncle, while
Brodnax attempted, but in vain, to close and re-
fasten the door. The lumber piled against it had
fallen inward.


With yells of rage and exultation the Tennes-
seeans rushed forward to improve their fancied op-
portunity. They were met by so deadly and rapid
a discharge of revolvers that seven of their number
bit the dust, and the rest wavered and might have
recoiled but for those in the rear pressing on them.
So on they came tumultuously, thirsting for blood
and howling like so many fiends. Then the portal
and passage became the scene of a conflict I want
words to do justice to.


Steadfastly, sternly, and desperately, fighting
inch by inch, did the three Kentuckians—for Dan
Byrne soon sprang to his feet and repaid his deliv-
erance by as effectual use of sword and pistol as
ever one-armed man achieved—contest the ground,
rendered slippery with the blood of the fallen. The
narrow passage was sulphureous with smoke, res-
onant with oath and death-shriek, ghastly with
human suffering. Inch by inch the brave defend-
ers of hearth and home are borne backward, wound-
ed but undaunted, to the foot of the staircase, from
the upper portion of which has more than once
come sudden destruction to the enemy in the shape
of a musket-shot. The three are overmatched by
numbers, and fight apparently with no hope but
that of selling their lives as dearly as possible—


When a tumult arises without, the tramp of
horses' feet, cries of alarm, a volley of musket-
shots, and, clear above the storm which has con-
cealed the approach of the new-comers, a ringing
cheer for the Union, blended with, “Down with
the seceshers!” who find themselves suddenly at-
tacked in the rear by the troop of loyal Kentucki-
ans from which they had fled in defeat and disgrace
only that morning.


* * * * * * *

It were needless to protract our story by the re-
lation of the particulars of the conflict. It was
short, sharp, and bloody, terminating in the cap-
ture of the majority of the rebels, the dispersion
and flight of the remainder. When Captain Mau-
rice Byrne returned from the pursuit, wiping his
ensanguined sword upon his horse's mane, it was
to congratulate those whom his timely arrival had
rescued from death, and to embrace her whom he
loved dearer than life itself, and, in due time, to
receive at once the reward of his love and loyalty.



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