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A ROADSIDE ENCOUNTER.
They called him a Yankee,” said one of the young women.
“But you are not a Yankee.”
“ I was born in Tennessy, and have lived either in Tennessy or Massissippi all my days. But I never was a secessioner; I went agin the war; and I had two son-in-law's in the Federal army. Both these girls' husbands was fighting the Rebels, and that 's what made 'em hate me. They was determined to kill me ; and after that last attempt on my life, I refugeed. I went to the Yankees, and did n't come back till the war wound up. There 's scoundrels watching for a chance to bush whack me now.”
“Old Lee'd go up mighty quick, if they wa’n't afeared," remarked one of the daughters.
“I'm on hand for 'em," said the old man, — and now I understood that wicked sparkle of his eye. Killing is good for 'em. A lead bullet is better for getting rid of 'em than any amount of silver or gold, and a heap cheaper ! ”
Two miles north of Old Lee’s I came to the State boundary. While I was still in Mississippi, I saw, just over the line, in Tennessee, a wild figure of a man riding on before me. He was mounted on a raw-boned mule, and wore a flapping gray blanket which gave him a fantastic appearance. The old hero's story had set me thinking of bush whackers, and I half fancied this solitary horseman — or rather mule-man — to be one of that amiable gentry. He had pursued me from Corinth, and passed me unwittingly while I was sitting in Old Lee's kitchen. He was riding fast to overtake me. Or perhaps he was only an innocent country fellow returning from town. I switched on, and soon came near enough to notice that the mule's tail was fancifully clipped and trimmed to resemble a rope with a tassel at the end of it; also that the rider's face was mysteriously muffled in a red handkerchief.
I was almost at his side, when hearing voices in the woods behind me, I looked around, and saw two more mounted men coming after us at a swift gallop. The thought flashed through my mind that those were the fellow's accomplices. One to
one had not seemed to me very formidable ; but three to one would not be so pleasant. I pressed my iron gray immediately alongside the tassel-tailed mule, and accosted the rider, determined to learn what manner of man he was before the others arrived. The startled look he gave me, and the blue nose, with its lucid pendent drop, that peered out of the sanguinary handkerchief, showed me that he was as harmless a traveller as myself. He was a lad about eighteen years of age. He had tied up his ears, to defend them from the cold, and the bandage over them had prevented him from hearing my approach until I was close upon him.
“It's a kule day,” he remarked, with numb lips, as he reined his mule aside to let me pass at a respectful distance, — for it was evident he regarded me with quite as much distrust as I had him.
At the same time the two other mounted men came rushing upon us, through the half-frozen puddles, with splash and clatter and loud boisterous oaths; and one of them drew from his pocket, and brandished over the tossing mane of his horse, something so like a pistol that I half expected a shot.
“ How are ye?” said he, halting his horse, and spattering me all over with muddy water. “Right cold morning ! Hello, Zeek!” to the rider of the tassel-tailed mule. “I did n't know ye, with yer face tied up that fashion. Take a drink?" Zeek declined. “ Take a drink, stranger ?” And he offered me the pistol, which proved to be a flask of whiskey. I declined also. Upon which the fellow held the flask unsteadily to his own lips for some seconds, then passed it to his companion. After drinking freely, they spurred on again, with splash and laughter and oaths, leaving Zeek and me riding alone together.
“DID n't I see your horse tied to Old Lee's gate ?” said Zeek. And that led to a discussion of the old hero's character.
“ Is he a Union man?”
“I kain't say ; but that 's the story they tell on him. One of the men he killed was one of our neighbors; a man we used to consider right respectable ; but he tuke to thieving during the wa', and got to be of no account. That was the way with a many I know. You may stop at a house now whur they 'll steal your horse, and like as not rob and murder
Zeek told me he lived on the edge of the battle-field; and I engaged him to guide me to it. He thought I must be going to search for the body of some friend who fell there. When I told him I was from the North, and that my object was simply to visit the battle-field, he looked at me with amazement.
“I should think you 'd be afraid to be riding alone in this country! If 't was known you was a Yankee, and had money
about you, I allow you'd get a shot from behind some bush."
“ I think the men who would serve me such a trick are very few.”
“ Thar was right smart of 'em befo'e the wa' closed. They 'd just go about robbing, — hang an old gray-haired man right ap, till he'd tell whur his money was. They called themselves Confederates, but they was just robbers. They ’ve got killed off, or have gone off, or run out, till, as you say, there an't but few left."
one had not seemed to me very formidable :
mars 2 had tied up his ears, to defend
15 fortunate bandage over them had prev proach until I was close upo
> or hopped along “It's a kule day,” he
; and I noticed one reined his mule aside to ]
hyere only in winter," — for it was evident he trust as I had him.
w on the leafless brown trees, At the same time trn woods in winter. “It's a ing upon us, throug}
said Zeek. “It just grows on clatter and loud be .: no rute, nor nothing. It's a rare his pocket, and by ..chills; it grows mostly on the bottoms something so lik
... visture in the air.” It was a beautiful “ How are
under its verdant tufts, sometimes so low me all over w halda by rising in the stirrups, I could pluck Zeek!" to .-tch their translucent pearly berries, as I passed. know
ye, ng in saying it had no root. It is supposed Zeek dec
by birds wiping their bills upon the limbs of me the venge the berries. A stray seed thus deposited clined
ehk the penetrating root feeds upon the juices that ** the dark and the wood of the tree. w due few farm-houses, and those were mostly built
Ww Vad heavy lines of Beauregard's breastworks; Www Superes traced the route of the great armies by the
is horned cattle, and mules we saw whitening in With or the roadside. A crest of hilly fields showed
sweep of level wooded country on the west and www Say * dewwa wavy sea, with tossed tree-tops for
Minha e que se along hyere,” observed Zeek. When I
to the saw-mill, to get pay for a yoke of i sold. “I started by sun-up, and got thar k.” It was now afternoon, and he was hungry .Le therefore proposed to me to go home with him
arm, before visiting the battle-field. as after two o'clock when we came to a hilly field covd with rotting clothes. “Beauregard's troops come plumb up this road, and slept hyere the night befo'e the battle. They left their blankets and knapsacks, and after they got brushed out by the Yankees, the second day, they did n't wait to pick 'em up again."
We entered the woods beyond, directing our course towards the western edge of the battle-field ; and, after riding some distance, forded Owl Creek, - a narrow, but deep and muddy stream. Zeek's home was in view from the farther bank; a log-house, with the usual great opening through the middle ; situated on the edge of a pleasant oak-grove strewn with rustling leaves, and enclosed, with its yard and out-houses, by a Virginia rail-fence.