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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 28. Pall-Bearers Of The Lost Cause
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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 28. Pall-Bearers Of The Lost Cause Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :John Fox Date :May 2012 Read :2161

Click below to download : The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 28. Pall-Bearers Of The Lost Cause (Format : PDF)

The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 28. Pall-Bearers Of The Lost Cause

The rain was falling with a steady roar when General Hunt broke camp a few days before. The mountain-tops were black with thunderclouds, and along the muddy road went Morgan's Men--most of them on mules which had been taken from abandoned wagons when news of the surrender came--without saddles and with blind bridles or rope halters--the rest slopping along through the yellow mud on foot--literally--for few of them had shoes; they were on their way to protect Davis and join Johnston, now that Lee was no more. There was no murmuring, no faltering, and it touched Richard Hunt to observe that they were now more prompt to obedience, when it was optional with them whether they should go or stay, than they had ever been in the proudest days of the Confederacy.

Threatened from Tennessee and cut off from Richmond, Hunt had made up his mind to march eastward to join Lee, when the news of the surrender came. Had the sun at that moment dropped suddenly to the horizon from the heaven above them, those Confederates would have been hardly more startled or plunged into deeper despair. Crowds of infantry threw down their arms and, with the rest, all sense of discipline was lost. Of the cavalry, however, not more than ten men declined to march south, and out they moved through the drenching rain in a silence that was broken only with a single cheer when ninety men from another Kentucky brigade joined them, who, too, felt that as long as the Confederate Government survived, there was work for them to do. So on they went to keep up the struggle, if the word was given, skirmishing, fighting and slipping past the enemies that were hemming them in, on with Davis, his cabinet, and General Breckinridge to join Taylor and Forrest in Alabama. Across the border of South Carolina, an irate old lady upbraided Hunt for allowing his soldiers to take forage from her barn.

"You are a gang of thieving Kentuckians," she said, hotly; "you are afraid to go home, while our boys are surrendering decently."

"Madam!"--Renfrew the Silent spoke--spoke from the depths of his once brilliant jacket--"you South Carolinians had a good deal to say about getting up this war, but we Kentuckians have contracted to close it out."

Then came the last Confederate council of war. In turn, each officer spoke of his men and of himself and each to the same effect; the cause was lost and there was no use in prolonging the war.

"We will give our lives to secure your safety, but we cannot urge our men to struggle against a fate that is inevitable, and perhaps thus forfeit all hope of a restoration to their homes and friends."

Davis was affable, dignified, calm, undaunted.

"I will hear of no plan that is concerned only with my safety. A few brave men can prolong the war until this panic has passed, and they will be a nucleus for thousands more."

The answer was silence, as the gaunt, beaten man looked from face to face. He rose with an effort.

"I see all hope is gone," he said, bitterly, and though his calm remained, his bearing was less erect, his face was deathly pale and his step so infirm that he leaned upon General Breckinridge as he neared the door--in the bitterest moment, perhaps, of his life.

So, the old Morgan's Men, so long separated, were united at the end. In a broken voice General Hunt forbade the men who had followed him on foot three hundred miles from Virginia to go farther, but to disperse to their homes; and they wept like children.

In front of him was a big force of Federal cavalry; retreat the way he had come was impossible, and to the left, if he escaped, was the sea; but dauntless Hunt refused to surrender except at the order of a superior, or unless told that all was done that could be done to assure the escape of his President. That order came from Breckinridge.

"Surrender," was the message. "Go back to your homes, I will not have one of these young men encounter one more hazard for my sake."

That night Richard Hunt fought out his fight with himself, pacing to and fro under the stars. He had struggled faithfully for what he believed, still believed, and would, perhaps, always believe, was right. He had fought for the broadest ideal of liberty as he understood it, for citizen, State and nation. The appeal had gone to the sword and the verdict was against him. He would accept it. He would go home, take the oath of allegiance, resume the law, and, as an American citizen, do his duty. He had no sense of humiliation, he had no apology to make and would never have--he had done his duty. He felt no bitterness, and had no fault to find with his foes, who were brave and had done their duty as they had seen it; for he granted them the right to see a different duty from what he had decided was his. And that was all.

Renfrew the Silent was waiting at the smouldering fire. He neither looked up nor made any comment when General Hunt spoke his determination. His own face grew more sullen and he reached his hand into his breast and pulled from his faded jacket the tattered colors that he once had borne.

"These will never be lowered as long as I live," he said, "nor afterwards if I can prevent it." And lowered they never were. On a little island in the Pacific Ocean, this strange soldier, after leaving his property and his kindred forever, lived out his life among the natives with this bloodstained remnant of the Stars and Bars over his hut, and when he died, the flag was hung over his grave, and above that grave to-day the tattered emblem still sways in southern air.

. . . . .

A week earlier, two Rebels and two Yankees started across the mountain together--Chad and Dan and the giant Dillon twins--Chad and Yankee Jake afoot. Up Lonesome they went toward the shaggy flank of Black Mountain where the Great Reaper had mowed down Chad's first friends. The logs of the cabin were still standing, though the roof was caved in and the yard was a tangle of undergrowth. A dull pain settled in Chad's breast, while he looked, and as they were climbing the spur, he choked when he caught sight of the graves under the big poplar.

There was the little pen that he had built over his foster-mother's grave--still undisturbed. He said nothing and, as they went down the spur, across the river and up Pine Mountain, he kept his gnawing memories to himself. Only ten years before, and he seemed an old, old man now. He recognized the very spot where he had slept the first night after he ran away and awakened to that fearful never-forgotten storm at sunrise, which lived in his memory now as a mighty portent of the storms of human passion that had swept around him on many a battlefield. There was the very tree where he had killed the squirrel and the rattlesnake. It was bursting spring now, but the buds of laurel and rhododendron were unbroken. Down Kingdom Come they went. Here was where he had met the old cow, and here was the little hill where Jack had fought Whizzer and he had fought Tad Dillon and where he had first seen Melissa. Again the scarlet of her tattered gown flashed before his eyes. At the bend of the river they parted from the giant twins. Faithful Jake's face was foolish when Chad took him by the hand and spoke to him, as man to man, and Rebel Jerry turned his face quickly when Dan told him that he would never forget him, and made him promise to come to see him, if Jerry ever took another raft down to the capital. Looking back from the hill, Chad saw them slowly moving along a path toward the woods--not looking at each other and speaking not at all.

Beyond rose the smoke of the old Turner cabin. On the porch sat the old Turner mother, her bonnet in her hand, her eyes looking down the river. Dozing at her feet was Jack--old Jack. She had never forgiven Chad, and she could not forgive him now, though Chad saw her eyes soften when she looked at the tattered butternut that Dan wore. But Jack--half-blind and aged--sprang trembling to his feet when he heard Chad's voice and whimpered like a child. Chad sank on the porch with one arm about the old dog's neck. Mother Turner answered all questions shortly.

Melissa had gone to the "Settlemints." Why? The old woman would not answer. She was coming back, but she was ill. She had never been well since she went afoot, one cold night, to warn some YANKEE that Daws Dillon was after him. Chad started. It was Melissa who had perhaps saved his life. Tad Dillon had stepped into Daws's shoes, and the war was still going on in the hills. Tom Turner had died in prison. The old mother was waiting for Dolph and Rube to come back--she was looking for them every hour, day and night She did not know what had become of the school-master--but Chad did, and he told her. The school-master had died, storming breastworks at Gettysburg. The old woman said not a word.

Dan was too weak to ride now. So Chad got Dave Hilton, Melissa's old sweetheart, to take Dixie to Richmond--a little Kentucky town on the edge of the Bluegrass--and leave her there and he bought the old Turner canoe. She would have no use for it, Mother Turner said--he could have it for nothing; but when Chad thrust a ten dollar Federal bill into her hands, she broke down and threw her arms around him and cried.

So down the river went Chad and Dan--drifting with the tide--Chad in the stern, Dan lying at full length, with his head on a blue army-coat and looking up at the over-swung branches and the sky and the clouds above them--down, through a mist of memories for Chad--down to the capital.

And Harry Dean, too, was on his way home--coming up from the far South--up through the ravaged land of his own people, past homes and fields which his own hands had helped to lay waste.

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