CAPTAIN ROACH LAYS DOWN THE LAW.

Of course the principal topic of conversation at the enrolling office
during the rest of the day was Mr. Gray’s unexpected interference in
behalf of Ned Griffin, the conscript. It frightened Captain Roach,
enraged and disgusted Tom Randolph, and put Lieutenant Lambert into a
very anxious frame of mind. The latter was obliged to confess that his
chances for keeping out of the army were very slim indeed.

“That’s the way the thing stands, and if you want to stay at home you
and your men had better be doing something,” he kept saying to himself
as he galloped along the dusty road on his way home. It was easy enough
for Captain Roach to talk, but what was there that the Home Guards
could do to distinguish themselves, seeing that the Federal troops were
so secure in their position at New Orleans that the whole Confederate
Army could not drive them out, and that the gunboats in the river in
front of Baton Rouge could not be whipped by men who were armed only
with squirrel rifles and shot guns? Lambert had been turning the matter
over in his mind ever since Mr. Gray left the enrolling office in the
morning, and now he did something which he had declared he never would
do as long as he lived. He went out of his way to ask the advice of a
Confederate veteran who had just returned from the Army of the Centre
disabled by wounds received in battle.

There were several of these crippled veterans in the neighborhood,
and they had been so many thorns in Tom Randolph’s side ever since
they first began straggling home from the front. To begin with, they
turned up their noses at the Home Guards, and made all manner of sport
of their finely uniformed captain when they saw him riding along the
road slyly pricking his horse with his spurs to make the animal prance
and go sideways, as an officer’s horse ought to do. They laughed, too,
when they heard the Home Guards tell of their fight with that gunboat,
and some of them went so far as to declare that, disabled as they
were and half dead with camp fever besides, they could arm themselves
with corn-stalks and drive Tom Randolph and his warriors into the
Mississippi River.

In the next place, almost all these veterans had brought home with
them a goodly supply of Yankee relics and trophies in the shape of
uniform coats, pants, caps, and overcoats that had been picked up on
the field, and which, for some reason or other, they seemed anxious
to get off their hands. So they offered them to the Home Guards in
exchange for citizens’ clothing of equal or less value, and the latter
were always found willing to trade. Captain Tom was disgusted and angry
when first one man and then another appeared at the enrolling office
clad in some portion of a shabby uniform that had once belonged to a
Federal trooper or infantry-man, and ordered the wearers to clear out
and never come there again unless they could come properly dressed; but
the Home Guards paid no sort of attention to him. They were soldiers,
they said, and since their own government did not think enough of
them to provide them with uniforms they felt at liberty to obtain them
where they could. Besides, their new clothes, even though they were
well worn and had once belonged to Lincoln’s hirelings, were warm and
comfortable, and the blue overcoats would keep out next winter’s cold
as effectually as gray ones. Much against his will Tom finally appealed
to the enrolling officer; but the latter could not help him, for he had
no authority over the Home Guards.

“But you might threaten to conscript them if they don’t obey my
orders,” suggested Tom.

“I shouldn’t like to do it for a little thing like that,” replied
Captain Roach. “They’ve got the uniforms, and I don’t see how you are
going to keep them from wearing them. What difference does it make,
anyway? You don’t have to go on dress parade.”

“No matter for that,” replied Tom. “I didn’t enter the service to
command a lot of Yankees, and I won’t do it. Suppose a general officer
should happen along and order them out for drill and inspection! I’d
feel so ashamed of myself that I know I should take to my heels.”

“Make your mind easy on that score,” was the captain’s answer. “If you
don’t take to your heels until that happens you will never run. Judging
from what I have learned since I have been here, the government cares
no more for companies of this kind than it does for so many wild hogs
in the woods. If it were not for you and your mother I would conscript
the last one of them.”

“But what do you suppose makes the returned veterans so anxious to get
rid of these Yankee uniforms and things?” continued Tom. “It looks to
me as though there might be something back of it.”

“That’s the way it looks to me, too,” replied Captain Roach. “They
don’t want to have a Yankee scouting party ride up on them suddenly and
say: ‘Look here, Johnny; have you been robbing some wounded or captive
Yank? If not, where did you get those blue clothes?'”

“But the Yankees are not here,” cried Tom.

“I know they are not here now, but they’re coming; and if they keep
on besting us at every point, as they are doing at this minute, they
will be here before long, too. You needn’t think that Farragut is going
to remain idle down the river, or that Flag-Officer Davis is going to
keep on doing nothing up the river while we are fortifying Vicksburg.
There’s going to be fun here one of these days.”

And sure enough there was. It came much sooner than Captain Roach
had any reason to think it would, and Lieutenant Lambert of the Home
Guards, whom we saw on his way to ask advice of a Confederate veteran,
was the man who did the most to help it along. He found the soldier
of whom he was in search at his home. He was sitting on the gallery
enjoying his after supper smoke; but when he saw the Home Guard alight
at his gate he staggered to his feet, laid hold of the crutch that
leaned against the house behind his chair, and said, in mock alarm:

“The man you want to see don’t live here no more. He done moved outen
the country two year ago come next July. Clear yourself. I’m that
skeared of gray-back soldiers that I can’t sleep none fur a week after
seein’ one of ’em.”

“Aw! Quit your nonsense,” growled Lambert, “or, by gum! I’ll come there
and lick ye even if you aint got but one leg to defend yourself with.”
He hitched his horse at the fence, shook hands with the veteran, then
seated himself on the porch close by his chair and continued: “Me and
you have always been the best kind of friends, Abner, and I don’t want
you to sniff at me just kase you’ve been shot by the Yankees and I
aint.”

“I won’t, Sile; I won’t never do the like no more. But a Home Guard!
And lickin’ a gunboat that’s got ‘leven inches of iron on her sides and
four foot of solid oak back of that, with nothing in the wide world
but popguns!” said the veteran, taking his pipe from his mouth to
indulge in a hearty peal of laughter. “_And_ Tom Randolph fur a cap’n.
That there is a leetle the worst I ever heard of. Hey-youp! Steady on
the left centre!” he yelled, dropping his crutch upon the gallery and
grasping with both hands the stump of his leg, which he had wrenched
a little too severely during his paroxysms of merriment. “I almost
disremembered that I aint got only part of a leg on this side. I left
the rest up to Shiloh. I’m glad to see you again, Sile; I am so. But I
would be a heap gladder if me and you had chawed hard-tack and fit the
Yanks together. Then you wouldn’t be no such triflin’ thing as a Home
Guard.”

“But I don’t want to fight no Yanks,” said Lambert truthfully.

“Don’t you want to fight no Yanks? Well, I don’t know’s I’m blamin’ you
fur that. They aint by no means the easy fellers to lick that we uns
thought they was goin’ to be, and when they set up that yell of theirn
to let we uns know they was comin’ fur us—I tell you, Sile, my hair
always riz when I heard that yell, and I wisht I was to home grabblin’
fur taters.”

“Then what makes you poke fun at me fur?” demanded Lambert. “I am to
home now and I want to stay; but Cap’n Roach he allows that if we uns
don’t do something pretty sudden we’re liable to be conscripted.”

“Like enough. Then why don’t you uns do something?”

“That’s what I come here to see you about. What is they, I’d like to
know, that we can do? If the Yanks would only come where we be [you
will notice that Lambert did not say “Yankees” any more. He copied the
veteran and used the shorter word], we uns could show the folks about
here that we Home Guards aint by no means the useless truck they take
us to be; but we can’t go all the way to New Orleans fur the sake of
fightin’ ’em.”

“You uns will see Yanks enough if you stay right where you be,” said
the veteran, with another laugh. “I aint spilin’ fur a sight at any
more of ’em, but all the same I look to see them ridin’ right along
this road while I am settin’ on my gallery watchin’ of ’em. They aint
come this clost to Mooreville to go away without seein’ it. They’re
hoppin’ us right along, and we had oughter be whopped.”

“Now, just listen at you!” said Lambert reproachfully.

“I’m only tellin’ you what I know,” said the veteran in earnest
tones. “Look at the way they’re doin’! When the law was passed that
everybody must be conscripted, why didn’t they go to work and conscript
everybody? Why didn’t they put the old soldiers ahead and shove the
Johnny Raws into the ranks? Steader that they let the old soldiers
stay in the ranks, and put over them fur officers a lot of new chaps
who couldn’t a’told a Yank from a ground-hog if they had seed the two
standin’ in one place. We uns aint a goin’ to whop nobody with a lot of
greenhorns to command us, and although I aint by no means glad to go
hobblin’ through the world on one leg, I am mighty glad of an excuse to
get outen the army. Now, there’s that there Rodney Gray.”

“By gum! I wish he was here to be conscripted,” exclaimed Lambert.

The veteran took his pipe from his mouth, blew a cloud of smoke into
the air, and looked at his companion with an expression on his face
which seemed to say that he did not know whether to laugh or get angry.
But finally he concluded to laugh, and he did so most uproariously,
rolling about on his chair as if he were in danger of falling out of
it, but all the while taking good care not to give his wounded leg
another wrench.

“Why, man, he’s a soldier, Rodney is,” he said as soon as he could
speak, “and a mighty good one, too. He’s been in more battles than me,
and that’s useless. He fit all through Missoury with Daddy Price, and
then they brung him over to the Army of the Centre, and that’s where
I seen him. They wanted to make a big officer of him, but Rodney he
wouldn’t have it so, kase he’s plum sick of the war, same as I be, and
allows to come home soon’s his extry three months is out. You can’t
tech Rodney Gray.”

“I know that well enough, but I wish we could. You see, Tom
Randolph——”

“You needn’t say no more,” laughed the veteran. “Rodney got an office
in Cap’n Hubbard’s Rangers and Tom didn’t, and Tom is mad about it and
wants to spite Rodney in some way. But he can’t do it, and if he tries
it ole man Gray will make him wish he hadn’t.”

“And ole man Gray is another chap I’d like mighty well to see sent to
the front,” exclaimed Lambert angrily; “but we can’t touch him neither.
He showed his hand when he come into the office this morning and told
Roach that he’d have to let that Griffin boy go free, kase he allowed
to buy him off with bacon and beef; and Roach was that skeared that he
dassent open his mouth.”

“What was he skeared of?”

“That ole man Gray would report him fur leavin’ the names of Tom
Randolph’s friends off’n the conscript list, when he had oughter put
them on like he found them in the poll-books.”

“Like enough,” replied Abner. “And then you and Tom Randolph and all
the rest of the Home Guards would have stood as fine a chance of goin’
to the front as Ned Griffin. It would serve you just right fur trainin’
under such a no account cap’n as you have got. Why don’t you cut loose
from him and do something on your own hook? That would be me if I was
you.”

“‘Taint safe,” replied Lambert, who had not yet forgotten that he
brought himself into trouble the last time he tried to do something on
his own hook. “Somehow our folks have got to be mighty tender of the
Union men about here and don’t like to have them pestered.”

“You let your Union neighbors alone and pester them that’s got we’pons
into their hands,” said the veteran indignantly. “You uns aint got no
call to fight them that can’t fight back; but there’s them gunboats
down to the river.”

“Well, what of ’em?” demanded Lambert, trembling at the bare thought of
again venturing within gunshot of one of those black monsters. “They’ve
got cannons on ’em, and they shoot balls bigger’n your head. Don’t I
know? Aint I been in a fight with one of ’em?”

“Shucks!” sneered Abner. “You stand about as much chance of bein’ hit
by one of them big balls as you do of bein’ struck by lightnin’. I have
seed me on the skirmish line lyin’ fur hours behind a stump that wasn’t
no bigger’n a plug hat, while shell and solid shot was tearin’ up the
ground all around me. They don’t do damage once a week less’n they’re
drapped into a line of battle or into a fort that is packed full of men.”

“But how can we lick ‘leven inches of iron and four foot of solid oak?”
protested Lambert.

“Shucks!” exclaimed the veteran. “I aint talkin’ about lickin’ on ’em.
I’m talkin’ about pesterin’ of ’em—drivin’ their row-boats back when
they start to come to the shore, and pickin’ off the officers as fast
as they come outen their holes in the cabin. You uns could lay behind
the levee and do that, and be as safe as you be to home; kase the
shells they would send at you would all fly over your heads, and when
they bu’st they would be a mile to your rear.”

The lieutenant of the Home Guards was overjoyed to hear these
encouraging words fall from the lips of a man who had faced the Yankees
in battle and knew what he was talking about. He had given his friend
Abner to understand that he was one of the few who followed Captain
Tom when the latter rode out with a handful of brave men to see if
the Union Army was advancing upon Mooreville from Baton Rouge, but
there was not a word of truth in his story. He was one of the majority
who excused themselves and stayed behind, and all he knew about that
desperate fight with the gunboat and the concealed battery that opened
on the rear of the Home Guards was what his comrades told him. The
veteran did not seem to think that the big guns on the war vessels were
so very dangerous, and Lambert began to pluck up courage.

“‘Pears to me that Cap’n Roach said something like that the first time
I talked with him,” said the latter.

“Like enough; and if he did you can bet that that is what he would do
if he had as many Home Guards under his command as you have got. I
can’t fur the life of me see what makes them Baton Rouge folks so very
friendly with the Yanks, anyhow. They take ’em into their houses and
visit with ’em, and feed ’em, dog-gone it all, and I say such doings
aint right. If ole Daddy Bragg was here fur about five minutes he’d put
a stop to all that friendship business, I bet you, and like as not
he’d have some of you Home Guards shot fur lettin’ it go on as long as
it has. Anyway, he’d kick Tom Randolph into the ranks and put a soldier
in his place. That’s the way they do things up in the Army of the
Centre.”

The result of this interview was that when Lieutenant Lambert took
leave of the veteran and rode home to a late supper he was fully
satisfied in his own mind that Tom Randolph was totally unfit for the
responsible position he held, that the Home Guards, who under proper
leadership might have made themselves known throughout the length and
breadth of the Confederacy, had been kept in check too long already,
and that he (Lambert), being second in command of the company, had
a perfect right to take matters into his own hands without saying a
word to anybody about it. But it was a somewhat delicate task, he told
himself. Although Lambert looked upon the friendly relations existing
between the crews of the Union war vessels and the Baton Rouge people
as a burning disgrace, he did not relish the idea of trying to bring
them to an end, for the citizens might not like it, and, worse than
that, they might make him trouble on account of it; but something must
be done or he would be compelled to go into the army, seeing that
he had no rich and influential friend like Mr. Gray to purchase his
release with bacon and beef. So Lambert’s mind was made up, and before
he reached home his campaign was fully planned.

“I’ll raise a big squad and start for the city to-morrow night,” he
soliloquized, flourishing his riding-switch in the air to give emphasis
to his thoughts. “And if I once gain a footing behind the levee I’ll
put a stop to that friendship business, I bet you. I’ll give the
folks to understand that we uns don’t like the way they’re giving aid
and comfort to the enemies of their country, and make them Yankee
gun-boatmen stay on board their ships where they belong. I’ll take
pains, too, to see that the Gov’nor hears of it, and perhaps he’ll
say that I had ought to be cap’n of the Home Guards in place of Tom
Randolph.”

That was an encouraging thought, and the longer Lambert dwelt upon
it the more excited he became. He did not sleep much that night,
and after an early breakfast mounted his horse and rode through the
country to muster his men; but as fast as he found them and unfolded
to them the details of his campaign he was met by the same excuses and
refusals that Tom Randolph had vainly tried to combat. The fighting
member of the company, the one who was always eager to shoot or hang
the defenceless Union men he assisted in robbing, was feeling so very
poorly on this particular morning that he was thinking strongly of
riding over to a neighbor’s to see if he could not borrow a dose or
two of quinine; the second had promised to go to a log rolling; the
third had a lame horse and didn’t rightly know where he could go to
get another; and not more than three or four out of the fifty men whom
Lambert summoned to follow him to Baton Rouge had the courage and
honesty to tell him that they did not like to do it.

“I wouldn’t mind hiding behind the levee and shooting a few Yankees,”
said Lieutenant Moseley, “but they’ll shoot back, and like as not
that’ll make the Baton Rouge folks mad at us. Ask somebody else. You
can get all the men you want and I don’t reckon I’ll go.”

Whenever a Home Guard talked to him in this way Lambert always said in
reply:

“Well, then, if you don’t want to go and win a name fur yourself you
can stay to home till Roach gets ready to conscript you. If you were in
Kimberly’s store yesterday you must have seen fur a fact that we uns
aint safe from going into the army just kase we happen to belong to the
Home Guards. Cap’n Roach he has said time and again that we was liable
to go if we didn’t wake up and do something, and that if he had been
our commander he wouldn’t have let them city people get on such amazing
good terms with the Yanks. Le’s go down there and make ’em quit it
right now, and say nothing to nobody till the thing is done. Remember,
I don’t ask every man, but only just them that we want to have stay in
the company. When we get back I’ll give Cap’n Roach a list of them that
went with me, and if he wants to conscript the others—them that was
afraid to face the enemies of their country—and send them to the camp
of instruction, he can do it and welcome. Now, what do you say?”

It was by the use of such arguments as these that Lieutenant Lambert
succeeded in inducing some of his particular friends to believe that it
might be policy for them to join his expedition, and that night they
secretly gathered at a designated place outside the town and started
for Baton Rouge. When they arrived within sight of the church spires
at daylight they did not attract attention to themselves by entering
the city in a body, for Lambert was afraid that some Union man or
converted rebel might suspect the object of their visit and interfere
with their designs by signalling to the fleet. They separated and went
in by different roads and in small parties, and came together again
in the neighborhood of the landing at which the boats from the fleet
always touched the shore, taking care to leave their horses behind some
warehouses out of sight.

“Now be careful, everybody,” commanded Lambert, placing a fresh cap on
his rifle and waving his hand toward the levee as a signal to his men
to advance and conceal themselves behind it. “We can’t do ’em no damage
from here—it’s too fur; so we must wait till some of their row-boats
come off.”

The Home Guards bent themselves almost double and stole across the
clear space that intervened between the warehouses and the levee;
and so cautious were they in their movements that the quartermasters
on watch on the decks of the different gunboats, who were constantly
sweeping the banks on both sides of the river with their long-distance
spyglasses, saw no signs of them, and so silent that when they crept
to the top of the levee on their hands and knees and looked over it,
the negroes gathered at the landing below did not know that there was
anyone near them. There were probably a dozen men, women, and children
in the group, and they were lying at their ease on the ground or
walking slowly back and forth; but all of them turned their gaze toward
the gunboats now and then, as if they were waiting for somebody to come
ashore. There were several covered baskets and pails near by, and the
sight of them was enough to enrage Lieutenant Lambert, who whispered to
the man who lay next him behind the levee:

“Pass the word along the line fur everybody to keep under kiver. We’ve
ketched them niggers red-handed in the very act, fur there’s grub in
them buckets and things; now you just watch and see if there aint.”
Then he raised his voice a little and said to the nearest darkey: “What
you folks doing there? Who you looking fur?”

“Waiting for Mr. Wilcox, sah,” was the negro’s prompt answer. He looked
up and saw two or three heads above the top of the levee, but thought
nothing of it. There were a good many whites in Baton Rouge who did not
dare show themselves as freely to the Yankee sailors as the people of
his own color did.

“Who’s Mr. Wilcox?” demanded Lambert.

“He’s de cater ob de steerage mess, sah; de man what buys de breakfus’
fur some of de officers on dat fust boat,” was the reply; and although
Lambert did not understand the words any better than the negro did
himself, he gathered from them the idea that somebody on the gunboat
would come ashore for his breakfast very shortly, and that he and his
warriors had reached the levee just in the nick of time.

This cheering intelligence was passed along the line in a whisper, and
the Home Guards pulled off their hats and were settling themselves
into comfortable positions behind the levee to await the coming of the
caterer’s boat, when they were startled by hearing someone close beside
them say, in frightened and protesting tones:

“Gentlemen, _gentlemen_, what are you going to do?”

Lambert faced quickly around and saw a couple of citizens standing
at the base of the levee where they could observe all that was being
done by the Home Guards; but whether they had come upon his ambush by
accident or design the lieutenant did not know or care to ask. He saw
the necessity for prompt action.

“Scrooch down right where you stand, so that the Yanks can’t see you,”
he commanded.

“But what are you gentlemen going to do?” inquired one of the
citizens, both of whom obeyed Lambert’s order and sank upon their
heels with alacrity when they saw the black muzzles of three or four
double-barrels swinging in their direction.

“Well, if you can’t see fur yourselves what we uns are going to do
I reckon I’ll have to tell you,” replied the lieutenant of the Home
Guards, turning part way around so that he could watch both negroes and
citizens at the same time, and see that no signals passed from them to
the fleet. “We’re goin’ to break up the visitin’ and tradin’ that’s
been going on between this town and the Yanks till we are teetotally
sick and tired of it. The folks back in the country, who are all good
Confederits, don’t like it; and me and my men have come in here to say
so in a way that both you and the Yanks will understand.”

“Merciful Heaven!” exclaimed the man, who seemed to be almost overcome
with astonishment and alarm. “You are not going to fire into those war
vessels?”

“What’s the reason I aint?” said Lambert coolly. “You just wait till
one of their row-boats starts to come ashore and I’ll show you.”

“But consider for a moment——” began the citizen, his excitement
bringing him to his feet.

“Down you go again,” interrupted Lambert, drawing his cocked rifle
to his shoulder. “We uns have considered the whole business. We know
that we can’t hurt ‘leven inches of iron and four foot of solid oak
back of that with we’pons like these we’ve got, but we can make them
blue-jackets mighty jubersome about comin’ ashore and being so very
friendly with you Baton Rouge folks; and that’s what we allow to do.”

“In the name of God and humanity I protest against such an outrage!”
said one of the men, whose pale face and firmly set lips showed that
he would not have stopped with a mere protest if he had possessed the
power to do anything else.

“You must not think of it, you madman!” cried the other. “Don’t you
know that the boats will return your fire, and that they can knock our
town to pieces with a single broadside? There is no telling how many
innocent women and children will be killed or maimed through your act
of folly.”

“Well, then, why didn’t you think of all them things before you made
friends with the enemies of your country?” answered Lambert. “But the
gunboats won’t fire on women and children. Leastways they didn’t in New
Orleans, and the folks in that burg were about as sassy as they could
well be.”

“If you are determined to carry your crazy scheme into execution, I beg
that you will give us a little time to remove our families to a place
of safety before you begin,” said one of the citizens as he and his
companion arose to their feet and turned to go away.

“Not much as anybody knows of, I won’t,” replied Lambert in savage
tones.

“Just five minutes,” pleaded the citizen. “Perhaps we can take our
wives and little ones into the cellar before you will find it necessary
to open fire.”

“Not one minute—not one second nor a half of one,” snarled the
lieutenant, once more raising his weapon to his shoulder. “I aint
a-goin’ to have you shakin’ a handkercher at them boats to warn the
Yanks that there’s something wrong here behind the levee. You just
squat down where you are till this thing is over, and then you can go
any place you please.”

“Watch out, Sile,” said one of the Home Guards suddenly. “There comes
that feller after his grub.”

Lieutenant Lambert flopped over on his face as if he had been shot, and
saw a small boat, with four men at the oars and two officers sitting in
the stern-sheets, come into view from behind one of the war vessels and
turn toward the landing.

The time for him to win a name for himself had arrived.

“I wouldn’t take ten gold dollars fur my chance of being made cap’n
of this company of Home Guards, who would have been conscripted to
the last man if it hadn’t been fur me,” thought Lieutenant Lambert
as he rolled over on his face and watched the cutter rounding the
stern of the nearest war vessel. “Look wild, there!” he whispered
almost fiercely to his men. “Be sure and hold your fire till they
come clost in to the shore so that every shot will tell. I don’t want
to hear another word outen you two,” he went on, addressing himself
to the citizens, who implored him to stop where he was and not bring
destruction upon their town and death to innocent people in it, as
he surely would do if he commanded his Home Guards to fire upon that
unarmed boat. “You’re too big cowards to fight the enemy yourselves,
and so we uns had to come in here and do it fur you. Hold steady,
everybody!”

Although Lambert’s men were all hunters and good shots, they were not
disciplined soldiers, and that was all that saved the cutter’s crew
from annihilation. They would have been steady enough if they had been
in the woods watching a runway for deer, but watching for Yankees was
a different matter altogether; and just as the Home Guards had pushed
their guns over the top of the levee, making use of every clod and
piece of driftwood and inequality of the ground that came handy for
a screen, and Lieutenant Lambert was cautiously lifting his head to
observe the progress the small boat was making toward the landing, a
deafening roar rang in his ear, and the man at his side sprang to his
feet, stood bewildered for a moment, and then dropped back to his place
again. In pushing his double-barrel over the levee with nervous hands
the valorous Home Guard had accidentally discharged the piece, and
the unexpected report frightened him and threw his comrades into some
confusion. For an instant or two a few of them looked and acted as
though they wanted to take to their heels; but the voice of Lieutenant
Lambert, who was the first to recover himself, checked them.

“Shoot! Fire!” he yelled. “Massy knows ‘twon’t do no good, and that is
something we can thank you fur, Ike Spencer. A man that’ll lay flat on
the ground and let his gun shoot itself off without orders can’t be
conscripted any too quick to suit me, and I’ll introjuce you to Cap’n
Roach soon’s I get home. Fire, I tell you!”

And the Home Guards fired—not all together like trained soldiers, but
one after another, just as it happened; but the distance was so great
and their aim so bad that not a man in the boat was injured. It stopped
instantly, however, and came no nearer the landing; and on being hailed
by the officer of the deck, it turned about and went back to the vessel
to which it belonged. Then came the very thing which the frightened
citizens had predicted and Lieutenant Lambert had scouted.

No sooner had the small boat disappeared around the stern of the war
ship than a heavy cloud of smoke rolled over the dark, muddy surface of
the river, a cannon roared, and the embankment behind which Lieutenant
Lambert and his men were lying was jarred perceptibly, as if some heavy
body had been dashed with violent force against it. The instant’s
profound silence that followed was broken, first by shouts and cries of
terror from the negroes on the bank, who scattered in all directions,
then by a muffled sound something like the puff of a tired locomotive
on an up grade, and Lambert’s view of the river was shut off by a cloud
of dirt and smoke that was thrown high into the air by the explosion
of the shell that had buried itself in the ground at the base of the
levee. That was enough for the Home Guards, who could not stand so much
noise at such close quarters. They jumped to their feet, and fairly
tumbled over one another as they fled for safety behind the warehouses
where they had left their horses; but even here vengeance pursued
them, for the next shell that came from the war vessel crashed through
the walls of the nearest house, scattering bricks and mortar about
their ears, creating a panic among their untrained steeds, and finally
exploding in the edge of the woods half a mile away.

“By gum, boys! Jump on and get outen here!” shouted Lambert, who wished
from the bottom of his heart that he could be the first to obey his own
order. “Beats the world how straight they can shoot with them big guns
of theirn. They’d win more turkeys at a shooting match than the best
man among us.”

For a few brief, perilous moments the terrified horses refused to
stand still long enough for their equally terrified owners to mount;
but when, after many fruitless efforts, the Home Guards succeeded in
placing themselves in their saddles, the stampede that followed was
something we cannot describe. They galloped frantically along the road
that ran behind the levee, through the streets of the town, which
were by this time filled with pale and excited citizens, who could
not imagine what the trouble was about, and did not know which way
to run for safety, and so out into the country, where the avenging
shells could not reach them. A Confederate veteran who was present
and witnessed the bombardment told the writer that the Home Guards
“deliberately rode into the midst of the fleeing inhabitants, selecting
groups of terrified women and children, into whom they galloped,
trampling many of them under the feet of their horses, trusting that
the humane and chivalrous blue-jackets, who had been so lenient with
the insulting rabble at New Orleans, would not follow them with their
fire.” We believe this to be nothing but the truth; but whether it is
or not the fact remains that Lambert and his men kept to the crowded
streets as long as they could, and the bursting shells followed them
through every turn they made, but unfortunately without doing them the
least damage. Those who ought to have been severely punished got off
scot free, while the innocent inhabitants suffered in wounds and loss
of property, for their town was set on fire in half a dozen different
places.

The Home Guards spread the utmost consternation among the farmers who
lived along the line of their hurried flight, and who ran out to
the road and vainly implored the frantic horsemen to draw rein long
enough to tell them what the firing was about, and if the Yankees were
coming at last to burn them out of house and home. But it was not until
the roar of the big guns ceased entirely, and the Home Guards were
satisfied that they had ridden beyond the reach of any stray shell
which might be sent after them, that those who were leading in the
retreat recovered their courage sufficiently to slacken their speed so
that their comrades in the rear could come up. Then they were willing
to talk to the planters along the road, but it is doubtful if they gave
them much reliable information. In response to one frightened citizen’s
hurried inquiries, Lieutenant Lambert said:

“We uns have been in just the worst fight we ever was in before in all
our born days, and if anybody but me had been in command the most of us
would have left our bones there behind the levee. It was awful to see
the way them Yanks fired into them women and children.”

“But what started the rucus in the first place?” asked the planter,
who, rebel that he was, could not believe that the blue-jackets had
turned demons all on a sudden. “What have you Mooreville ruffians, who
haven’t any business in this part of the country anyway, been doing in
the city?”

“You better ask what them Baton Rouge Yankees been doing?” retorted
Lambert hotly. “We’re State troops, and we’ve got business in every
part of the country that we please to go; and when it pleases the Baton
Rouge people to start a nest of Yankee sympathizers in there, it’s
our bounden duty to go in and break it up. And that’s just what we
have done. We’ve drove the enemy away, and the Mississippi between New
Orleans and Memphis belongs to we uns once more. We’d a’ whopped ’em
worse’n we did if it hadn’t been for Ike Spencer, who let his gun shoot
itself off before the rest of us were ready. I reckon he feels kinder
sneakin’ over it, fur I aint seen him since.”

“I should think you would all feel sneaking,” answered the planter, as
he turned on his heel and moved away. “If you have kicked up a row on
the river I hope you will suffer for it. We’ve had peace and quiet in
this part of the country for a few weeks back, and now you have gone
and brought war and all its miseries on us again. The last one of you
ought to be hanged.”

Lieutenant Lambert and his Home Guards were amazed to find that this
angry citizen voiced the sentiments of all the people who lived on
the Mooreville road; and after a few more planters had talked to them
in this plain fashion their eyes were opened to the disagreeable fact
that they had damaged their own cause a great deal more than they had
hurt the enemy; and that if their friends and neighbors felt the same
way toward them the fire that had been poured into their ranks by the
gunboats was nothing to what they would have to stand when they reached
home. When they came to think it all over they were the maddest lot of
men that had ever been seen in that part of the country. They blamed
their lieutenant for being the cause of it, and swore at him so lustily
that he fell behind and rode alone, putting in his time by wishing
a good many heavy penalties to the address of his one-legged friend
Abner, who, after the experience he had had with Yankees, ought to have
known better than to advise him to “pester” the gunboats. All the Home
Guards rode slowly, so as to reach the outskirts of Mooreville a little
after nightfall, and then they separated and slunk away toward their
respective homes like school-boys who had been playing truant. But the
news had got ahead of them, and an indignation meeting was being held
in the dining room of the hotel. Some of the Mooreville people, Captain
Randolph among the number, had seen and talked with men who lived down
the river road and had heard the roar of the big guns, and mounted
messengers had been sent to the city to learn what the firing was
about. These men, who had fast horses and went across lots, rode all
the way at top speed, and to such good purpose that they returned to
Mooreville about two hours before the Home Guards came straggling in;
and the story they told to the crowd at the hotel raised such a storm
of indignation that for a while things looked serious.

In the meantime, and to make matters worse, the news spread through
the country round about and armed planters came flocking in to lend
assistance in driving back the force that was supposed to be advancing
upon Mooreville; and the climax was reached when wagons began arriving
from the direction of the river, drawn by panting mules that had been
driven until they were almost exhausted, and loaded with the families
and household effects of the frightened owners who were fleeing before
the invading Federals. Of course the very meagre information these
people brought added to the excitement and alarm, for there were not
two among them who told the same story. They expected to find the town
deserted by its inhabitants, and were much surprised to discover that
it was not.

“It’s no use for you fellows to think of standing against them,”
exclaimed one trembling driver, who carried in his hand a frayed ox-gad
which he had worn out over his mules’ backs. “Butler is coming with
his whole army.”

“Did you see them?” inquired Mr. Gray, who had ridden in with Ned
Griffin for a companion. They were both armed, and although they did
not believe in shooting at those who carried the Old Flag, they were
ready to do what they could to protect their homes.

“Yes, sir; I saw them,” replied the man earnestly. “I hadn’t left my
house a quarter of a mile behind before I discovered some of their
cavalry riding along one of my lanes. I suppose my house is in ashes by
this time.”

“Were they burning things as they came?” asked one of Mr. Gray’s
neighbors.

“There was the blackest smoke over toward the river that I ever saw
in my life,” was the answer. “Baton Rouge is gone up. You’d better
leave while you can. You may save your lives, but you can’t save your
property. Get along there, mule! Me and mine will take to the brush.”

Every story to which Mr. Gray and Ned Griffin listened was more
thrilling than the one that came before it. Among others they found a
man who lived in the outskirts of the city, and who, standing in his
back door, had seen a bench which supported twenty-five stands of bees
demolished by a shell from the gunboats. Still another had fled from
his house just in time to escape capture by Butler’s advance infantry,
which was moving up the road in platoon front; and more than that, the
highway was blue with Federals as far as his eye could reach. Of course
such tales as these frightened some of the Mooreville people, but Mr.
Gray assured his young companion that he put very little reliance upon
them.

“These folks are not responsible for what they tell us, because they
are scared out of their wits,” was what he said to Ned Griffin more
than once. “What would the Federals gain by capturing or destroying two
little towns like Baton Rouge and Mooreville? If there was a fort or a
body of Confederate troops here I might put some faith in these rumors;
but now I don’t. When our couriers return we shall have the straight of
the story, and not before. Have you seen anything of our Home Guards,
who ought to be mustering for our defence?”

No, Ned hadn’t seen them; and when he came to ride about the town and
make inquiries he could not find anybody else who had seen them. The
truth was they were too badly frightened to show themselves, for they
were afraid that they might be called upon to do something. Captain
Tom’s uniform was in its old hiding place in the garret, and Tom
himself was stretched out on the lounge in his mother’s room, eager for
news and dreading to hear it, but too ill to mount his horse and muster
his men for the defence of the town.

At length two of the Mooreville messengers returned, and then the
citizens got “the straight of the story.” When they learned that
General Butler’s army had not moved out of New Orleans at all, that
not a Federal soldier had stepped upon the sacred soil of Louisiana
in the neighborhood of Baton Rouge during the whole of that day, and
that the city had been shelled and partially burned because Lieutenant
Lambert of Tom Randolph’s Home Guards had tried to gain a little
cheap notoriety for himself by firing upon an unarmed boat—when the
citizens heard this their fear give way to the wildest rage; and if
they could have got their hands upon Lambert at that moment it is more
than probable that they would have handled him roughly. With one accord
the crowd surged up the steps that led to the hotel porch and through
the wide hall into the dining room, which was quickly filled with men
who had about made up their minds that the Home Guards had made them
trouble enough, and that it would be a good plan to get rid of them
without loss of time.

“Of all the senseless acts I ever heard of this last one of Lambert’s
is the beat,” shouted an excited individual who had perched himself
upon one of the tables. “Those Baton Rouge people knew what they
wanted, and if it suited them to make friends with the Yankees and
trade with them we planters have no business to find any fault with
them for it. I would have done the same thing myself.”

“Oh, you traitor!” shouted a voice from the farther end of the dining
room. “Would you hold communication with the enemies of your flag?”

“Yon shut up, Bill Cummings,” retorted the speaker. “If I am a traitor
you’re another. You’ve got a sack of Federal salt and some Federal tea
and coffee hidden in one of your corn cribs at this moment, and I can
prove it. You got them by trading a beef to one of the gunboats down
there at Baton Rouge, and you brought them home in your wagon at dead
of night, when you thought all your neighbors were fast asleep.”

This raised a shout of laughter at the expense of Bill Cummings, but
no one said a harsh word to him, for probably there were not a dozen
men in the room who would not have been glad to get some of that salt
and tea and coffee. Mr. Gray himself was standing in a pair of Federal
brogans, and the man next him wore a straw hat that looked exactly like
those that Uncle Sam issued to his sailors every month.

“Now, then,” continued the man who had taken possession of the table,
“I am in favor of taking that ruffian Lambert out of his bed, if he
has had time to get there, and giving him such a whipping that he won’t
get over it as long as the war lasts.”

“Let’s hang him and be done with him,” cried another.

“And while we are dealing with Lambert, don’t let’s forget Tom
Randolph,” shouted a third.

“Tom Randolph is in no way to blame for what happened at Baton Rouge,”
said Mr. Gray, who was one of the few cool and reasonable men there
were in the crowd. “He has no more authority over the Home Guards than
I have.”

“Then I say let’s lick him because he hasn’t some authority over them
so that he can make them behave themselves. What did he organize the
company for, anyhow?”

“That is what I should like to know. Now mark my words: there will be
a Yankee garrison in Baton Rouge in less than a week, and then our
trading will be up stump, for we can’t go there any more.”

“That’s so. What excuse has that man Lambert for living, I’d like to
know? Let’s bu’st him and the Home Guards up right here and now.”

Uttering wild yells of approval, with which were mingled loud calls for
ropes and dire threats against the peace of mind and bodily comfort of
Captain Tom Randolph, the crowd made a rush for the door, and it was
several minutes before Mr. Gray and the cool-headed men who sided with
him could make themselves heard above the tumult.

“Be reasonable, gentlemen,” urged the former. “Don’t let your
excitement lead you to do something you will be heartily ashamed of and
sorry for to-morrow. You cannot touch those men in the way you suggest,
especially Tom Randolph, who is a State officer. Whoop and yell about
it all you please,” he continued, after the angry shouts of dissent
which these words called forth had subsided, “but it is a fact that
Tom holds a commission from the Governor, and if you put your hands on
him you will go to jail to pay for it. Confederate officers might deal
with him, though on that point I am not sure; but private citizens
certainly cannot.”

These warning words caused a dissension in the ranks of the would-be
lynchers at once, and the hubbub that arose all over the room, as well
as from the outside, where there was a respectable gathering that
had not been able to gain admittance to the dining hall, was almost
deafening. Mr. Gray looked troubled as he saw his angry neighbors
swaying back and forth and shaking their clenched hands in one
another’s faces, and presently he stooped and whispered a few hasty
words to Ned Griffin, who, after a terrific struggle, managed to work
his way through the crowd to the nearest window, by which he made his
exit from the building. He was charged with an important duty, and he
was anxious to discharge it without loss of time; but the men on the
outside insisted on detaining him until he told what was going on in
the dining room.

“Honor bright, there isn’t anything going on in there that would
interest you or anybody else,” declared Ned, who knew full well that it
would never do to say that there was some talk of lynching Lieutenant
Lambert and “bu’sting up” Tom Randolph. “Mr. Gray has been quoting some
law, that’s all. Let me go, please. I want to tell Mrs. Gray that the
excitement is all over.”

The men released him and Ned made his way to the hitching rack where
he had left his horse, mounted, and galloped off. He made a great show
of riding down the road toward Mr. Gray’s house, but as soon as he
thought he could do so without attracting attention he turned back, and
went at top speed toward the plantation on which Lieutenant Lambert
found employment as overseer. Paying no heed to the small army of dogs
that came out to dispute his advance he rode close to the door of the
overseer’s house, there being no porch to bar his way, and tapped
lightly upon it with the handle of his riding-whip. If he had made a
good deal of noise it is probable that he would not have received any
response from the solitary occupant of the building, who was thoroughly
frightened at what he had done, but totally ignorant of the fact that
his life would be in danger if Mr. Gray and his friends failed in
their efforts to control the mob at the hotel. The cautious way in
which his visitor strove to attract his attention told him that there
was something afoot, and he thought it best to answer.

“Who’s there?” he demanded, his voice sounding as if it came from under
the bedclothes.

“It’s I—Ned Griffin,” was the reply. “Come to the door so that I can
say a word to you without fear of being overheard, and be quick about
it. There’s not an instant to lose.”

This startling announcement brought Lambert out of bed and to the door,
which he opened just wide enough to make sure that his visitor was Ned
Griffin, and nobody else; and then he opened it so that he could put
his head out and look up and down the lane that ran by the house to the
negro quarter.

“I am alone,” Ned assured him without waiting to be questioned, “and
I am here because Mr. Gray sent me. Do you know what you have done by
this day’s work? You have destroyed a good portion of Baton Rouge and
got every white man in the settlement down on you.”

“I never——” began Lambert, who was profoundly astonished.

“I am not here to argue the matter,” interrupted Ned, “but to tell you
that there is a mob in the hotel who are talking strongly of laying
violent hands on you. They would have been here before this time if it
hadn’t been for Mr. Gray and a few others who don’t believe in such
things; but the gang was about equally divided when Mr. Gray sent me to
warn you, and you had better dig out. They are as likely to decide on
one thing as another, and you are not safe in this house.”

“Great smoke!” gasped Lambert when he began to comprehend the
situation. “Where shall I go?”

“Get into your duds and draw a bee-line for the nearest patch of
timber. Mr. Gray may be able to hold the mob and he may not; so I say
again that you had better dig out.”

[Illustration: NED GRIFFIN WARNING LAMBERT.]

“I never looked for you to be so good to me, Ned,” faltered Lambert,
who seemed to be so dazed that he did not realize the necessity of
acting quickly.

“Don’t thank me; thank Mr. Gray,” said Ned hastily. “If it had not been
for him I am afraid I should have left you to look out for yourself;
for I know how you and Tom Randolph have been working against me. But
you can’t injure me now, and so I can afford to be magnanimous. Are you
going to clear out or not?”

Yes, Lambert thought he had better take a friend’s advice and seek
safety in flight while the way was open to him; and when Ned heard him
say that he wheeled his horse and set off post-haste to carry the same
warning and advice to another party whose name had that night been
rather unpleasantly mentioned in connection with a sound thrashing.
This one was Tom Randolph, who heard his ring at the door but lacked
the courage to answer it, for something told him that he would hear
disagreeable news if he did. Mr. Randolph answered the bell himself,
and the words he listened to almost drove him frantic. Ned did not tell
him that the mob had threatened to whip Tom, for, as he afterward
said, he couldn’t get his consent to go as far as that; but he said
enough to put Mr. Randolph into a terrible state of mind. He stamped
his feet on the gallery, shook his fists over his head, and wished
from the bottom of his heart that every member of the Home Guards had
been sent to the front and killed off long ago, and then he went in to
tell his wife about it, and leave her to break the news to Tom in any
way she thought best. To say that the young man was utterly confounded
would be putting it very mildly. He was terribly frightened, of course,
and angry as well; but for some reason or other he did not seem to
stand so much in fear of personal violence as he did of losing his
commission. When his mother had repeated word for word the conversation
that took place between Ned Griffin and Mr. Randolph, and Tom had asked
a question or two, he jumped to his feet and charged about the room
like a caged wild animal.

“There isn’t a man in the world who has half the trouble I do,” he
said, almost tearfully. “That idiot Lambert has broken up the company
as completely as though the Yankees had come in and captured every
member of it.”

“And think of the misery he has brought upon the Baton Rouge people,”
suggested his mother.

“I don’t care a picayune for the Baton Rouge people,” said Tom
in savage tones. “They ought to have known that they would bring
themselves into trouble by being so friendly with the Yankees; but
all the same Lambert showed himself a born fool when he fired on that
gunboat. I should be glad to see him and every man who went with him
conscripted and put where they would have to behave themselves, if I
could only get others to fill their places; but that is something I
can’t do. And if I lose my men I shall have to throw up my commission
or go into the army. When I meet them at the enrolling office in the
morning I will talk to them in a way they will remember.”

But when morning dawned upon his sight after a restless and sleepless
night, the captain of the Home Guards had several other things
to occupy his mind. First came a committee of twelve stalwart men
appointed by the indignant citizens of Baton Rouge, who called at
Mr. Randolph’s house to inquire what Tom meant by sending a gang of
ruffians to their peaceful city to bring destruction upon it, and death
and wounds to its quiet inhabitants, in that wanton, useless, and
outrageous manner. The scathing denunciation and threats that Captain
Tom was obliged to listen to before he and his mother could convince
the visitors that he was in no way to blame for it, that he did not
know the first thing about it until it was all over, and that the Home
Guards had acted on their own responsibility and without orders from
him, were things he never forgot; and the only way he could pacify
the committee, who seemed determined to have revenge upon somebody
before they left town, was by promising to turn his company over to the
conscripting officer as soon as he could get to his office. Tom knew
when he said it that his Home Guards would refuse to be disposed of
in that way, but he was so much afraid of the Baton Rouge men and so
anxious to see the last of them, that he would have promised more than
that for the sake of inducing them to leave the house.

Although Tom did not know it until afterward, the committee took a
little responsibility from his shoulders by calling at Kimberly’s store
before they went home and telling Captain Roach, in the hearing of some
of the Home Guards, that if he did not at once conscript every man
who was in any way concerned in Lambert’s mad act they would petition
the Governor to remove him and put in his place an officer who would
attend to his business. And this threat of theirs was what brought some
of the Home Guards to Captain Tom’s house, where we found them at the
beginning of the first chapter.

As soon as the Baton Rouge men with their lowering looks and big
revolvers were fairly out of sight of the house Captain Tom, feeling
much the worse for the exciting ordeal through which he had just
passed, went into his mother’s room and flung himself down on the
lounge with the air of a man who had nothing in the world to live for.
There wasn’t another captain in the Confederacy, he told himself, whose
ambition to do something great for his country had been balked and
defeated at every turn as his had been ever since he took command of
the Home Guards. In no single instance that he could think of had his
men conducted themselves as he thought they ought, or as he was sure
Captain Hubbard’s Rangers would have conducted themselves if they had
been situated as the Home Guards were, and it was a sad disappointment
and trial to him. Already he repented of his rash promise to turn his
company over to the enrolling officer, for by such a proceeding he
would place himself right where he was before the Governor honored him
with his commission—that is to say, without any standing at all in the
community. Now he had influence and he was not ignorant of the fact. It
was very gratifying to his vanity to have men who were his superiors
in every point of view, who had seldom invited him to their houses or
treated him with anything more than ordinary civility—it was very
gratifying to have such men go out of their way to speak to him, and to
see them listen attentively while he discussed the issues of the hour,
and told how the war ought to be conducted on the Confederate side. The
most of these men in their hearts despised him, and Captain Tom knew
it; but they were aware that through his intimacy with Captain Roach he
was able to hasten or postpone their conscription, just as the humor
seized him, and for this reason thought it prudent to treat him with
some show of respect. But if he gave his company over to the enrolling
officer, or if Captain Roach were relieved and a new and stricter man
put in his place——

“Ow! _Ow!_” yelled the persecuted and furious captain of the Home
Guards when these dispiriting reflections passed through his mind;
and with the words he sprang from the lounge to the middle of the
room, where he swung his arms and danced about like one demented. “No
matter what I decide to do I am in a fix. But I’ll never give up my
company—never in this world. I am the biggest toad in the puddle now
and I am going to stay that way, or else I’ll go to Baton Rouge and
curry favor with the Yankees, as other good Confederates have done to
keep out of trouble. Jeff Davis can’t reach inside their lines and
take me by the collar and drag me into his army. And as for Roach, if
he gets up on his dignity and says ugly things to me on account of
Lambert’s foolishness, I’ll let him know who he is talking to. I’ll
report him myself for—for incompetency and general worthlessness. He’s
about as fit to be an enrolling officer as Adam’s off ox. At any rate
he shall never sit at my mother’s table again, and he can bet on that.”

At this moment Mrs. Randolph, who had done so much to help Captain Tom
through his trying interview with the Baton Rouge committee, hastened
into the room looking very much excited and distressed.

“My dear,” said she nervously, “I am afraid we are going to have more
trouble. There is a score or more of Home Guards in the road coming
toward the house, and they are talking loudly and shaking their fists
at one another as if they are very angry.”

“I don’t care if they are,” shouted Captain Tom. “I am mad too, as I
have good reason to be. Stand by me and see how I will talk to them.”

Money would not have induced Captain Randolph to go out on the gallery
alone to meet his mutinous soldiers, and even with his fearless mother
at his side to support and encourage him he felt like running back into
the house when he saw them coming through the gate and heard their
loud, angry voices. Whether they intended to do him personal injury
Tom never knew for certain, though he afterward heard it hinted that
they did; but he was much gratified and relieved to observe that they
ceased all hostile demonstrations when they saw his mother standing
by his side on the gallery; and that emboldened him to go on with the
programme he had laid out for himself.

“You are a pretty lot of soldiers—a very pretty lot indeed,” was
the way in which he went at them. “I am heartily ashamed of you
and disgusted with myself to think I ever consented to act as your
commanding officer. Do you know that you have done us and our glorious
cause more injury than Farragut ever did? Men have been shot to death
in the Army of the Centre for doing less than you have done, and now
I am going to put you where you will be served in the same way the
first time you misbehave yourselves. I shall stand your foolishness no
longer. The field is the place for you, and there’s where you are going
as soon as Captain Roach can send you.”

“Cap’n Roach can’t send us there, nor you neither,” shouted Lambert,
who of course was expected to act as spokesman for the Home Guards.
“We are swore into the service of the State, we are, and Confedrit
officers can’t touch us. Didn’t Bob Hubbard’s Rangers——”

“I can send you to the front to pay you for what you did yesterday, and
I will,” interrupted Captain Tom. “There are no such useless things as
States troops any longer, and I am glad of it. Ask Captain Roach and
he will tell you that you are here only because I asked him to let you
stay, and that if the camp of instruction we are waiting for had been
established I could have sent you there any day I pleased. I have been
standing between you and him all along, and this is the way you repay
me, you ungrateful blackguards! I’ll teach you to play the part of
fools without my orders.”

Lieutenant Lambert rubbed his hands nervously together, shaking his
head and swearing softly to himself the while, and fairly ached to make
a suitable rejoinder; but the presence of Tom’s mother, of whom he had
always stood somewhat in awe, restrained him.

“We uns thought you was dead set agin the Yankees, and that you would
be sorter glad to see them sailors made to stay on their boats,” one of
the Home Guards ventured to say at length.

“What business had you to think anything of the kind?” demanded Captain
Tom. “A soldier’s whole duty is to obey. He is nothing but a machine
and his captain does his thinking for him. If I had wanted you to go to
the city and fire on those gunboats I should have led you there myself.
Lambert, you alone are to blame for this miserable state of affairs,
and I will tell you for your satisfaction that you have killed your
chances for a lieutenant’s commission deader than a smelt. I’ll never
recommend you to the Governor.”

“By gum! I won’t stand no such talk as that!” yelled Lambert.

He sprang into the air and knocked his heels together, dashed his hat
upon the ground and placed his foot upon the lower step, as if he were
about to rush up to the gallery where Tom was standing. The latter’s
face grew as white as a sheet, but he could not think of yielding
ground to a mutinous subordinate while his mother was looking on. In an
instant the sword that hung at his side flashed from its scabbard.

“I haven’t drawn it without a cause,” said he, shaking the weapon over
the railing almost in Lambert’s face, “and I warn you that I shall not
sheathe it with dishonor. That is my motto, and I shall live up to it,
no matter what happens to me. Any more such actions on your part will
shut you up in the guard-house on a bread and water diet.”

It is not likely that the sight of Tom’s sword or the threat which he
could not have carried out had any effect upon Lieutenant Lambert,
who was a noted rough and tumble fighter, but a glance at the face of
the resolute woman who stood quietly on the porch above cowed him at
once. Mrs. Randolph did not say a word, nor did she move an inch when
Lambert acted as though he was about to charge up the steps, but there
was something in her eye that brought the angry man to his senses. He
backed away from the steps, picked up his hat, and remarked that he
had always supposed a first lieutenant had a right to harass the enemy
in any way he could; but he was rebuked and silenced before he had
uttered half a dozen words because he forgot his manners and addressed
his commanding officer by his Christian name.

Captain Tom was not slow to improve the advantage he had gained, and
the way he scolded, threatened, and even insulted the Home Guards would
have made a regular soldier open his eyes. He showed them that they
did wrong when they followed Lambert to Baton Rouge without orders
from their captain, and drew so harrowing a picture of the dangers and
privations of the army life to which they had doomed themselves by
their acts of disobedience and folly that he frightened the bravest of
them; and when he thought he had impressed them sufficiently he wound
up by declaring that nothing short of a solemn promise on their part
to do better in future would induce him to break the agreement he had
made with the Baton Rouge men. If they would take orders from him and
nobody else he would stand between them and all harm.

“And mark my words, this is the very last warning I shall give you,”
said Captain Tom in conclusion. “The last one of you ought to be
court-martialled and shot.”

To his great surprise and his mother’s, Lieutenant Lambert stepped
forward, assumed the position of a soldier as near as he could get it,
touched his battered hat respectfully, and said:

“We’ll do it, cap’n, and there’s my hand on to it, if Miss Randolph
will take it. From this time on you’re boss and don’t nary one of you
forget it.”

Lambert’s object was to restore himself to the favor of Tom’s mother;
and so he went on to declare, with some emphatic language to make it
more binding, that he spoke for the company and would take it upon
himself to see that the promise was kept. He was sure he had succeeded
in his object when Mrs. Randolph smiled and shook hands with him over
the railing, but all the same Lambert meant something very different
from what he said. Captain Tom made a life-long enemy when he drew
his sword on his second officer, and all the latter wanted was an
opportunity to show it. Tom then dismissed his men with the assurance
that he would do the best he could for them, and went into the house
congratulating himself on having won a complete victory.

“I have had the narrowest escape of my life this morning,” were the
first words he said to his mother. “The next time I come so near to
going into the army I shall go; and that will be the last you will
ever see of Tom Randolph. Didn’t I bring Lambert to time when I drew
my sword on him? He’s had an idea that he could run things to suit
himself, but I think I showed him his mistake. Of course it will not be
safe for me to go near Baton Rouge, for I believe the citizens would
mob me; but I can’t be sent to a conscript camp so long as I have men
to command, and that is what I am figuring on now.”

Half an hour later, and before Captain Tom had finished telling his
mother and himself that he was well out of the scrape into which his
officious lieutenant had brought him, one of the Home Guards rode into
the yard with a note from Captain Roach, in which the latter requested
Tom to come to his office at once on business of the last importance.
The young man was frightened again; but the idea of talking over
matters with Captain Roach while his mother was not by to support him
was not to be entertained for a moment. He passed the note over to her
after he had read it, and said almost fiercely to the bearer:

“Tell Captain Roach that he has forgotten himself—that I am his
senior; and if he is so anxious to see me he must come where I am. At
the present time I am not dancing attendance upon him or anybody else.”

“One moment, my dear,” Mrs. Randolph interposed. “A written invitation
demands the courtesy of a written reply. Permit me to answer the
captain. I will show you the note before sending it away.”

His mother went into the house and Captain Tom said to the Home Guard,
who sat on his horse at the foot of the steps:

“Have you any idea what Roach wants of me?”

“I reckon it’s something or ‘nother about them men from Baton Rouge,
who acted like they wanted to bu’st things,” replied the messenger.
“Looks to me like the cap’n feels sorter shook up over what they said
to him, and that he’s got himself into some kind of a muss that nobody
but you can help him out of. He talks like he’s going to send we uns to
camp. Can you shet him off on that, do you reckon?”

“It depends entirely upon the way you Home Guards conduct yourselves
from this time on,” answered Captain Tom impressively. “Roach would
have conscripted you long ago if I hadn’t stood your friend, and he may
do it yet if you follow Lambert on any more of his crazy expeditions.”

“I didn’t foller,” said the man hastily, “and I don’t want you to think
I did. I was to home all the blessed time. I aint caring to bother the
Yankees so long as they let me be. And Lambert, he won’t go off that
away agin. He was purty bad skeared last night.”

“What at?” inquired Tom.

“Why, don’t you know? Some of our folks went down to the river
yesterday to see what all that shooting was about, and when they come
back and told what Lambert had been a-doing, ole man Gray and the rest
of ’em was that mad that they talked of hanging Lambert up to a tree
and licking you like you was a nigger.”

Captain Tom reeled as if the man had struck him with the handle of the
heavy riding whip he carried in his hand, and grasped at the veranda
railing for support.

“I am telling you nothing but the gospel truth,” continued the
messenger, not a little surprised at the effect his words had produced
upon his commanding officer, “and I thought you had had time to hear
all about it. They was a tol’able mad lot of men down to the hotel last
night, and when I seen ’em going on I was mighty glad I hadn’t went
with Lambert and the rest.”

“Do you mean to say that old man Gray dared to talk of whipping _me_?”
exclaimed Tom, who could hardly believe his ears. “Wasn’t it Lambert he
spoke of?”

“No, it was you; and he wasn’t the only one who spoke of it, nuther,”
replied the Home Guard. “They was all mad, I tell you, and some of them
was for hanging Lambert.”

“I wish to goodness they had,” said Captain Tom, speaking before he
thought. “That is to say, I wish they had done something to him before
he brought me into all this trouble. Was that what frightened him?”

“You’re mighty right, and he took to the bresh as soon as he got wind
of it. But he come out this morning and we all have promised to stand
by him. If they put a ugly hand on one of the company we uns allow to
burn them out.”

“That’s the idea!” cried Tom, who never would have thought of such a
thing himself. “I see very plainly that we’ve got to do something to
protect ourselves. We are State troops, and if these cowardly citizens
drive us to it we will treat them as we would the armed enemies of our
country if we could only get at them. We’ll begin on old man Gray and
never let up until we’ve destroyed everything he’s got. No man who
dares to threaten me and those who serve under me shall hold up his
head as high—— Sh! Here comes my mother. Don’t say a word in her
hearing, but tell Lambert I’ll see him after a while and arrange a plan
of operations with him.”

Just then Mrs. Randolph came out on the porch with the note she had
written, and which she presented for Tom’s approval. It was not written
in his name, but in her own. She said she regretted that her son did
not feel able to accept the captain’s kind invitation, owing to the
excitement and distress of mind into which he had been thrown by the
unfortunate occurrences of the last few hours, but if Captain Roach
would honor her by coming up to dinner at the usual hour she hoped he
would find Captain Randolph so far recovered that he would be able to
talk over with him the very important business to which Captain Roach
had referred in his note.

The result of this piece of strategy was that an open rupture between
Captain Tom and the conscript officer was avoided; and when the
latter, who had been so frightened and angered by the threats of the
Baton Rouge committee that he was several times on the point of doing
something desperate, came up to dinner “at the usual hour,” he was
the same pleasant and agreeable fellow he had always been. But he
found Captain Tom lying on the sofa in dressing-gown and slippers, and
looking the picture of misery. Before he advanced to take the limp palm
that Tom languidly extended he stopped in the middle of the room and
asked if someone had been laying violent hands upon him. To be candid
he thought it would be a good thing for Tom if the citizens would shake
him up a little.

“No, sir,” was the very dignified reply. “Physical pain would not do a
Randolph up in this way. It is purely mental anguish; and my honor has
been touched. I little thought that I should ever permit living men to
talk as those Baton Rouge ruffians talked to me this morning without
promptly calling them to account for it. But my Home Guards were
clearly in the wrong when they fired upon that boat without my orders,
so what could I say or do?”

Captain Roach, who had had plenty of time to cool off and recover his
courage since he wrote that note, smiled pleasantly, gave Tom’s hand a
cordial shake, pulled up a chair, and said that the committee had been
quite as savage with himself as they had been with his friend Tom, and
that he had thought it the part of wisdom to comply with their demands
when he saw that they carried revolvers in their coat-pockets, and were
in just the right mood to use them. He said that he had conscripted all
the Home Guards except Tom, as he had agreed to do, because he did not
see how he could help himself. It would be very little trouble for the
Baton Rouge people, with the aid of Rodney Gray’s father and a score of
others whose names the captain could mention, to keep watch of the way
things were done at the enrolling office, and if he failed to keep his
promise they would be sure to find it out; but he had conscripted the
Home Guards conditionally. If they would behave themselves in future
and take orders from their captain instead of their first lieutenant
he would not send them to camp until the last minute, and not at all if
he could help it; but the first man who kicked out of the traces would
be the first to be sent to the front. Lambert and the rest understood
this perfectly, and had agreed to be bound by his decision.

“That’s the idea!” cried Captain Tom, delighted to learn that at last
he had his refractory men right where he wanted them. “That’s the way
to bring mutineers to time. There will be no more trouble of this kind,
I assure you, for I talked to some of my troops very plainly this
morning, and made Lambert knuckle in a way that would have surprised
you if you could have seen it. Of course I shall have to steer clear
of Baton Rouge, but I don’t care much for that; although I confess it
nettles me to feel that I cannot go and come when I please, as I have
always been in the habit of doing.”

Mrs. Randolph remained in the room long enough to assure herself that
the relations existing between Captain Roach and her son had not been
strained by the events of the morning, and then, bestowing an approving
smile upon each, she arose and went out; whereupon Captain Tom got upon
his feet and carefully closed the door behind her.

“Say!” he whispered when he came back and resumed his position on the
sofa, “did you know that the town was in possession of a mob last
night, and that some Yankee sympathizers among them had the impudence
to threaten me and my man Lambert?”

“I know all about it,” replied Captain Roach, an expression of anxiety
settling on his face. “But they were not Yankee sympathizers, for men
of that stamp would not dare open their heads in this community. They
were as good Confederates as you or I.”

“Don’t you believe any such stuff,” exclaimed Tom. “There isn’t a word
of truth in it. I know that Rodney Gray is a lowdown private in our
army (he isn’t considered worthy of a commission), but his father’s
loyalty has always been suspected, and last night he proposed that his
gang of blackguards should whip me and hang Lambert. Now I tell you
that a man who talks that way about me——”

“Somebody has told you what isn’t so,” interrupted Captain Roach. “Such
a proposition was made last night, but Mr. Gray would not hear to it.
He and a few others talked it down on the spot.”

“Well, it’s a good thing for old Gray that he did, and if he knows when
he is watching his own interests he will take pains to keep it talked
down,” said Captain Tom fiercely. “I was ready for him, and if you
hadn’t told me what you have he would have lost some of his buildings
this very night.”

The enrolling officer had seldom been so surprised and startled. He
looked fixedly at Tom to see if he was in earnest, and then cried out
in alarm:

“Do you know what you are saying? Are you crazy?”

“I know what I am saying and I am not crazy,” was Tom’s answer. “I have
been threatened with a nigger’s punishment, and I never will rest easy
until the man who proposed the thing suffers for it.”

“But you don’t know who proposed it and neither do I.”

“No matter. I’ll make it my business to find out.”

“And if you succeed are you going to burn some buildings?”

“I am, most decidedly.”

“You have fully made up your mind to that, have you?”

“I have.”

“Please present my compliments to your mother when she returns, and
say to her that I could not stop to dinner,” exclaimed Captain Roach,
rising to his feet and reaching for his cap.

“What is the matter with you? Where are you going in such a hurry?” Tom
almost gasped.

“I am going to my office, and the first hard work I shall do after I
get there will be to put it out of your power to ruin yourself and your
father and mother, as you seem bent on doing,” answered the captain;
and there was a look of quiet determination on his face that Tom had
never seen there before. “Of course you do not intend to do this
incendiary work alone (you haven’t got pluck enough for that,” the
captain added to himself), “so I shall make all haste to send your men
into the army where they can’t help you. They will be the death of you
if I don’t.”

“And must I let a man talk about whipping me as if I were a nigger and
never do or say the first thing about it?” cried Tom, throwing himself
back upon the pillow and covering his face with his hands. “I am not
made of that sort of stuff, and I did not think a Confederate officer
would advise me to such a cowardly course.”

“What would you call a thing in the shape of a man who would sneak up
on another’s property, in the dead of night when there was no one to
oppose him, and touch a match to it?” exclaimed Captain Roach hotly.
“Would you call him a coward or not?”

“I don’t care,” whined Tom. “I am bound to have revenge on the man who
dared to say that I ought to be whipped, and I won’t give up my plan.”

“You’ll have to take the consequences; and if you don’t promise right
here and now that you will be governed by me in future, I will go out
of this house and never enter it again; and you know well enough what
that means. I am not going to let you send me to the army in disgrace
if I can help it.”

“Sit down a minute,” said Tom, seeing that the captain stood ready to
carry out his threat to leave the house. “I don’t see how the burning
of a cotton-gin or two will disgrace you or anybody else.”

“Yes, you do; for I have explained it to you more than a hundred
times. Mr. Gray and some others are almost ready to report me now for
my failure to make you and your worthless men take your chances with
the other conscripts, and the minute somebody begins to lose property
that minute I shall be ordered away from here and into the army; and
wouldn’t that put me in disgrace, I’d like to know?”

“What’s the use of my being captain of the Home Guards if I can’t call
upon my men to protect me?” cried Tom, who would have given something
to be alone for about five minutes so that he might have found relief
in a flood of tears.

“There isn’t a bit of use in it,” replied the enrolling officer
bluntly, “except that it keeps you out of the army with my help. Your
commission gives you no authority to call upon the members of a State
organization to avenge your supposed private wrongs.”

“Well—why don’t you sit down?” repeated Tom.

“I will when I have your promise, and not before. If you have laid your
plans to get me into a muss with the Governor, I must head you off if I
can.”

“Then I will make no effort to wipe out the disgrace that has been put
upon me as long as you remain in town,” said Tom very reluctantly. “But
after you leave I’ll make some people I know of wish they had spoken of
Captain Randolph with more respect. Now sit down and act like yourself.”

“You ought to go straight to Mr. Gray and thank him; for if he and
his friends had not stood by you last night you might have been badly
treated,” answered Captain Roach, placing his cap on the table again
and resuming his seat by Tom’s side. “You and I do not want to go into
the army, and you must see that, in order to keep out of it, it will be
necessary for you to follow a different course from the one you have
marked out for yourself. If I am reported for neglect of duty the jig
will be up with you.”

“Then I must lie around and do nothing, must I?”

“Is there anything else you can do with safety? You can ride about the
country at the head of your Home Guards occasionally, just to let the
Union men see that you are keeping up your organization, and after I
receive word that the camp of instruction has been established, you
can take the conscripts there as fast as I can get them together; and
that’s about all you can do.”

“It’s a dog’s life compared with what I thought a partisan’s life would
be,” growled Tom, “and perhaps it isn’t safe for me to ride about the
country. The threats that were made against me last night——”

“Will amount to nothing, I assure you,” interrupted Captain Roach.
“The hot-heads who made them and who seemed to be so fierce for a fuss
are few in number, and have had time to recover their senses since
then. You can’t find a man in town who will say that he was willing to
go with the rabble last night; and more than that, the order-loving
people in the community would not stand by and see a mob run things to
suit themselves. You saw Lambert this morning, didn’t you? Well, he
goes around as freely as he ever did, and no one says a word to him.”

Captain Tom thought of the compact that Lambert and the rest of the
Home Guards had made to stand by one another in case of trouble with
the citizens, but thought it best to say nothing about it to his friend
Roach. Of course he had to give the required promise over and over
again before the conscript officer became satisfied of his sincerity,
and he did it with apparent willingness; but all the while he was
telling himself that the men who had threatened to whip him as if he
were a nigger, no matter who they were, would hear from him some day,
and in a way they would not like. It took a great load off his mind
to know that he would not be mobbed as soon as he showed himself in
Mooreville. In fact it cured his “excitement and distress of mind” in
a very few minutes; and when his mother returned at the end of half an
hour he had discarded his gown and slippers, and was sitting up dressed
in his full uniform.

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