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Story: Follow The Drinking Gourd II

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FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD


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Peter T. 14 Oct 01 - 11:45 AM
Peter T. 14 Oct 01 - 11:54 AM
Amos 14 Oct 01 - 02:46 PM
Peter T. 14 Oct 01 - 03:45 PM
JenEllen 14 Oct 01 - 10:26 PM
Lonesome EJ 15 Oct 01 - 12:10 AM
JenEllen 15 Oct 01 - 02:04 AM
katlaughing 15 Oct 01 - 03:02 AM
Peter T. 15 Oct 01 - 12:35 PM
JenEllen 15 Oct 01 - 03:45 PM
Lonesome EJ 15 Oct 01 - 03:50 PM
JenEllen 16 Oct 01 - 04:02 AM
Lonesome EJ 16 Oct 01 - 01:56 PM
Peter T. 16 Oct 01 - 06:52 PM
katlaughing 16 Oct 01 - 07:52 PM
Lonesome EJ 16 Oct 01 - 09:18 PM
JenEllen 16 Oct 01 - 11:09 PM
Peter T. 17 Oct 01 - 11:02 AM
katlaughing 17 Oct 01 - 02:18 PM
Amos 17 Oct 01 - 03:30 PM
Amos 17 Oct 01 - 05:04 PM
Lonesome EJ 17 Oct 01 - 06:21 PM
Amos 17 Oct 01 - 08:03 PM
Lonesome EJ 17 Oct 01 - 10:06 PM
JenEllen 18 Oct 01 - 12:27 AM
katlaughing 18 Oct 01 - 01:32 AM
Peter T. 18 Oct 01 - 11:47 AM
Lonesome EJ 18 Oct 01 - 12:24 PM
Lonesome EJ 18 Oct 01 - 03:13 PM
JenEllen 18 Oct 01 - 03:30 PM
Lonesome EJ 18 Oct 01 - 03:53 PM
Lonesome EJ 18 Oct 01 - 04:00 PM
katlaughing 18 Oct 01 - 07:16 PM
Peter T. 19 Oct 01 - 09:53 AM
Amos 19 Oct 01 - 11:01 AM
katlaughing 19 Oct 01 - 01:55 PM
JenEllen 19 Oct 01 - 03:48 PM
Lonesome EJ 19 Oct 01 - 04:55 PM
JenEllen 20 Oct 01 - 12:29 AM
Lonesome EJ 20 Oct 01 - 01:35 PM
katlaughing 20 Oct 01 - 05:24 PM
Lonesome EJ 20 Oct 01 - 06:35 PM
katlaughing 20 Oct 01 - 09:20 PM
Amos 21 Oct 01 - 11:05 AM
Amos 22 Oct 01 - 12:27 PM
JenEllen 22 Oct 01 - 02:06 PM
Peter T. 22 Oct 01 - 02:42 PM
JenEllen 22 Oct 01 - 05:34 PM
Lonesome EJ 22 Oct 01 - 07:39 PM
Crazy Eddie 23 Oct 01 - 09:51 AM
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Subject: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 11:45 AM

This story continues here.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 11:54 AM

Part I can be found here.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 02:46 PM

Two hours before dawn, in the icy darkness when the trees are as black as the sky and there is no safety in the land of night, the riders came. They crashed at a canter down the wagontrail that led from the river road down to the mill, and counted on surprise, hatred, terror and anger to carry their mission.

Five men, wide-girthed, massive and armed, their faces covered, wheeled their mounts into the clearing in front of Sawyer's Mill on a mission of death,. Four leapt down from their mounts, while the leader, heavier than the others with a steel-gray mane of his own half hidden by bandanna and widebrimmed hat, gave silent commands by gesture; two of the men moved to the entry of the mill, silent in the frozen night, and two stood back to cover them.

They pounded on the door, guns drawn and whiskey-breaths couding in the air, sweating with their own urgency and anger. They heard nothing.

"Break it down!!".

The four on foot fanned out, returned dragging large deadwood trunk and carried it to the door. The leader, keeping tight rein with one hand on the tall bay stallion he rode, drew a long-barreled Colt from his belt holster and fired it twice in the air. The cold of the night sucked the noise up before it had echoed, and the men rammed the giamt trunk into the mill door, sweating and cursing. One the fourth impact the inside bar gave way with a splintering shreik and the men forced the door open the rest of the way, spilling through the doorway with their eyes glazed with strain and anger, staring into the still darkness of the disused millroom ready to fight and finding no target except burlaps sacks.

"Get a light in here!!"

One of the men grabbed a fatwwod bundle from his saddlebag and fired it with a tinderbox, bringing the flickering starting torch back into the mill room. Dust, age, time, old stone and burlap bags. He ran up the worn and rickety steps waving his torch around. The bed was empty, made up and unused. No sign of life. The large man with the torch cursed and ran back down the stair.

"Nothin'!!"

"Damn n**lovers flown the coop!!"

The men flooded back out through the door, cursing the cold night, the absent victim, and life in general.

The man on the horse stared around the clearing.

"Torch it!" he commanded, in a gravelly bass voice.

The man with the torch lit a second bundle from his own and handed it to the short of the other three.

The two of them, torches high, painted in unholy colors by the flickers of flame, strode up to the mill door.

Two explosions tore through the dark air, panicking the horseman's mount briefly. The rider sawed viciously, wheeling the giant stallion into a tight circle, heaving his giant sculptured head in close, forcing him back under control. When the horse came to a halt, sides heaving and eyes white, the leader looked back to his men. All four of them were prone on the ground, the torches guttering in the beaten frosted earth of the clearing. Two of them scrambled back to their feet, scanning the frozen trees for a sign of the enemy, guns drawn and swinging wildly at shadows. Two of them lay quiet on the hardpacked soil.

Two more shots rang out from the forest, and the two men on the ground fired wildly, running for their mounts. Both had felt the breeze of lead coming uncomfortably close. Nothing would stop them as they scrambled into their saddles, awkward with fear, guns waving uncertainly into the darkness; three riders galloped back up the dark path to the river road.

Silence again settled on the mill, until only the muffled sound of the running water just beyond the building disturbed the blanket of predawn darkness. A muffled gasp, a rattle of final departure, escaped from one of the dark, cold forms bleeding into the cold earth. Stillness and cold resumed.

From the black edges of the forest Adam Goodenough emerged, the large six-shot Griswold & Gunnison pistol in his hand. Behind him, a young black man emerged, carrying the squirrel gun Adam had leant him.

"Good Lord, forgive us!", Adam whispered, staring down at the two fallen bodies in their congealing pools of cooling blood. "Isaac, you'd best get out of sight. There is no telling who will be back or when. Keep the gun with you. Remember the knock."

Isaac, no last name, runaway property, sweating in his thin shirt despite the frigid air, looked down as well at his handiwork for the night. A white man with the back of his skull missing and his life-blood staining the frozen leaves and earth under him. He shook his head.

"I can't get any more wanted than I is now, suh."

"No; but you're hard evidence, for one thing. For another, if they take me you can still find your way alone, as I've told you. The Drinking Gourd... ". Isaac nodded.

That makes two good reasons."

Isaac took a deep breath, as if to argue again; but he acquiesced, and headed into the mill.

Adam turned the first the corpse over with a booted foot. He recognized it -- a whiskey-addled layabout from the tavern in town, a good-for nothing without family or repute except as a maker of trouble and idle brags.

The second was Nathan Crump, and he, too, was as dead as a stone.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 03:45 PM

and elsewhere through the night the words on fire race, igniting along the excited nerves and reddening the faces and catching and spreading, and the nerves and the faces spreading the excitement and the quickening, the urgency of now, and through the night the sparks leap out of the darkness and flames lick against a hard-earned barn amid fiery howls and the orange beast crackles and dances and tramples, and close to its heart, the worshippers revel, and farther away, beyond the circle where the glow gives out, Clary and Winston Warren crouch together in what remains of their lives.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Into a dawn crossroads pouring with rain, two black men on plunging horses blur, and slicing across their path four white men, blur and then coalesce into a barricade of rifles. "You, halt, Federal marshalls!" And they halt, and they produce their freedman papers, and the desperate story of a botched birth in the next township, and there is a buzz clogged with official words like Slave Act, magistrates, and then another rider comes hurtling through the rain, and they are reluctantly waved on.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Elsewhere, somewhere in the same night, or the next, it all blurs, two others slide down the gulleys, splash over the streams, faces bleeding from the whip of branches they do not have time to duck, sidestepping onto little known roads, along which there are trees beginning to bud into a spring they have no time to see, or feel, or hear, or taste, only the feel of green somewhere back in the churning unconscious of the two riders, leaning forward in their saddles against the wind of seconds, minutes, hours, whistling away in agonizing swiftness past their heads.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Negro woman stands in the middle of the icy river, crying, the water eddying around her waist, as the horsemen plunge backwards and forwards in their delight at having cut her off from the other bank. She carries a child, flung over her back, and were it not for the child, she would fling herself down in the river, and drown. Finally, resisting to the end, she is forced back, taunted, and she slowly wades back to the near shore, shivering and hunched. And now she sees that her children have been caught as well, downstream, and are being herded together, and she falls down on the sloping river bank and for a second, out of control, she beats her head against the wet, unforgiving earth in her mad grief.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Early in the evening of the second day, Vashti McCallister and her mother Constance finally lay their dresses away, they have kept them out for twenty four hours, just to keep the memory alive. They speak in low tones, and when their servant comes in and tells then that Eston Hemings has come, Constance turns and asks if her husband is at home, and she says yes, and Constance says, then we must go down and say prayers together, and they go downstairs, and Chauncey is there, and all the household, and Eston Hemings, and the clock strikes six, and they all go down on their knees, and pray the Lord for all those in need this night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The argument goes on, amid laughter and some flasks of whiskey, and they finally decide that according to the laws of Man and God, and taking into account the need to both punish the wrongdoer, but not to get everyone too riled up, and that they will only tar and feather Simeon Bagley's backside, and not "the whole hog" as one wag puts it, pointing at the bound figure in his underclothes, and having agreed on that, the drunken warlocks are stirring the potent brew when a wave of demons rush in howling and shooting, and the drunken warlocks make a rhetorical defence for a few absurb seconds, and then scatter into the woods, tripping and cursing and flailing as they go. And the wave of demons becomes two men, who unbind Simeon Bagley, and hand him to a third, who becomes Mrs. Bagley, and the two men race off again into this demented world, this warlock's Sabbath.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 14 Oct 01 - 10:26 PM

She stood at the bottom of the sloping hill, and raised her head to watch the summer storm clouds gather on the horizon. The wind grew stronger, dusting the tall grass around her feet, and increased it's strength as the clouds darkened. She watched as the grass began it's hypnotic wave, the rolling blanket of green rippled around her in its flight from the wind. She was startled by the first flash of lightning well up on the hill, it shot from the sky in a jagged line to the ground, and even from this distance, she felt the earth quiver underneath her bare feet. The thunder rolled across the sky, and she thought to herself how odd, thunder not diminishing? not growing quiet before the next blast of light from the sky? No, that's where it came from, as she looked up again. The herd of horses crested the hill, slicing the ripples of grass in their path. They galloped down the hill toward her, chased by the storm. Her feet remained fixed to the ground, despite every effort and signal from her brain to run, run, run. The frightened animals screamed as the lightning filled every space from the earth to the sky. Their eyes rolled white in their heads, and the foam from their flanks sprayed her as the first of the herd streamed past. The dark clouds above boiling and choosing their next target, light not unlike the blast from a rifle, and still they ran. Hooves cracked to the coronas, legs broken and dragging, the herd split and ran around her, the thunder of their movement shaking her, but still she could not run, their eyes mirroring her panic and their sweat mixing with her tears and the rain that whipped them all mercilessly...

"Miz Dolly!" Samuel shook her, "Miz Dolly, you got to come on!" Elizabeth jerked back to consciousness, gasping and clutching the arm in front of her. Her eyes met Samuel's, he grabbed the rifle from her lap, and she leapt to follow him from the porch. She ran behind him as he fled across the yard, her blanket shaken loose from her shoulders, it fell to the wet ground. Samuel was a good two heads taller than she, with a stride to match, and he was giving her no quarter. Her bare feet pounded the ground and she squinted in the rain, trying to keep sight of the lumbering back in front of her. When they reached the edge of the woods, they ran along a deer trail, and the trees grabbed at her gown and hair, but she had not the breath to call Samuel to wait. Blood from the slashes on her arms, legs, and face, mixed with the rain and stained her, she ran.

When she reached the end of the wooded ground, seeing the clearing before her and the mill road to the side, she wondered a moment in her flight where Samuel was, then a strong arm shot from the depths of the darkness and caught her.
"Miz Dolly," he panted "Here, be quiet, look..." he motioned towards the left of the clearing, and she saw them all. Three saddled horses danced nervously under the trees, her trees, William's trees. The men astride them lighted eerily with the glow from swinging lanterns, and the fourth horse was held suspended in the bouncing orbs of light. On the fourth horse sat a terrified young man. Centaurian, they appeared as one creature with two pairs of frightened white eyes as the lantern bearers swung around them. There, in the light, a rope, twisted from the neck of the youth to the limb of the tree.

"Dear God," thought Elizabeth, she crouched low beside Samuel, taking the rifle back from him as he withdrew his pistols. As she steadied herself to take aim, she jumped at the noise from behind. Three rapid gunshots echoed in the night. Elizabeth turned back towards the source of the sound, her farm, then whirled as she heard the screams in the clearing. The riders acknowledged the gunshot signal by taking the reins of the fourth horse and running with it. She saw the young man fall against the slack of the rope, almost slowly, like a feather falling from a hawk's wing to the ground, then the jerk and snap that traveled the length of the young man, a wave that ended in a flip of his feet, shaking him free of his earthly tether.

"NOOO!" she screamed, standing against the rain and riders. Samuel reached out to grab her, but it was too late. The rain had made her slick and by the time he reached, there was nothing to hold but air. She ran to the edge of the mill road, shouldering her rifle as she ran, then she saw him. Matthew Stanford led the group of three, and as the horses lumbered towards her on the road, he looked Elizabeth in the eye, smiled, and tipped his hat as his horse ran past her towards the Miller farm.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 12:10 AM

August walked behind the plow, the cold earth stubborn against the blade but breaking and crumbling along the furrow. The mule grunted against the resistant soil, muscles straining, shaking against the harness and traces. "Come on, Sal" Gus coaxed, and the mule bent neck and burst the solid earth. Behind Gus, Millie and Lucius worked with hoe and spade to break down the big clods. The sun was getting high now on this hardworking Saturday, and Gus was sweating and thirsty. He stopped and Millie brought him the flask of chicory. "Next time I plow a March field, it won't be to plant no cotton. And it won't be for nothing. Maybe it be our own field Millie." He drank deep of the coffee.

"Who that by the house?" Millie said. Several men sat horses near the house, and a burden was brought down from another horse, Crump's horse, and carried into Crump's quarters. "You see Mr Crump dis mornin, Lucius?"

"No suh. Cook say he didnt come home at all last night." Gus pondered for a second, whistled between his teeth and said "get on Sal!"

At noon, Billy brought the wagon by with the corn porridge and warm bread, and the family sat on a hemp sack on the ground to eat. Billie climbed back into the seat and then said "they brought Crump back dis mawnin. Dead as a doornail and twice as ugly." Billy grinned but then his smile vanished. "This not gonna make it easy for y'all."

Gus put his spoon back in the porridge and said "how you mean not easy fo us?" Billy laughed softly and said "I know you gonna run." Millie gasped and put her hands over her mouth. "Look," said Billy, "dont nobody else know. Well, one other, but she wont tell. I gonna help get you to the first place where the trees dance. But we got to leave tonight. Its a quarter moon, and tomorrow Sunday. Folks be sleepin late. They won't miss you til the sun's way up."

"You goin to, Billy?" said Gus with some nervousness.

"Just to the first stop. I be back here by mawnin. I ain't runnin yet, now Crump dead. I got a little girl, too and she need me," Billy smiled. "But you folks be ready. When all the lights go out in the big house, I'll come to yo door. Make sure Willis there too." He lumbered off in the wagon.

The family worked until sunset, then walked the dirt road toward their home. On the way, they passed Willis' place. He motioned Gus over and said "you hear bout Crump?"

"Yes," said Gus. "We goin tonight Willis." He watched Willis swallow hard, then nod.

When Millie opened the cabin door, she stopped in shock : There on the table were three pairs of new boots. The family walked to the kitchen table, and Millie picked up a piece of paper from inside one boot. There on the paper was a drawing of an angel, a Christmas Tree, and the Big Dipper. She held the paper to her face, breathing in the faint fragrance from it.

"Thank you," she whispered.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 02:04 AM

Elizabeth held the young man's legs, wrapping her arms around his thighs and holding him to her as Samuel cut the rope that hung him from the dancing tree. She felt the rope give way and loosened her grip. The young man's lifeless body slid down the length of hers, and she convulsed, barely fighting off the urge to vomit as she helped Samuel lay him gently on the ground. They stood helpless for a moment, neither sure of what to do next.
"We should say something." Elizabeth whispered and began to look around her feet, "Or at least cover him up?"
"There's nothing we can do for him now, Miz Dolly." offered Samuel. "Ain't nothin' gonna bother him tonight. I'll get the wagon and take him someplace proper."

The two stood over the prone form of the young man, a stranger, and the rain dripped from their bodies on to him with no promise of turning back time to erase this horror for all of them. Scarcely a minute had past when the next reports of gunfire filled their ears. Elizabeth startled, and looked toward the sounds, towards home. A faint glow lit the clouds above the Miller farm, and her heart fell. "Oh, Jesus," she cried.

In reverse, it was Samuel now who had trouble keeping time with Elizabeth. Within seconds, her white nightgown was a flickering shadow in the distance. Her plaintive cry of 'nonononoooo' filtered back with the wind that whistled past Samuel's ears as he chased her. She ran along the mill road towards the farm, watching the glow grow ever brighter in the sky. As she rounded the last copse of trees, she stopped still for a moment as the view overcame her. Samuel ran up panting behind her just as she bolted again. The barn and house were engulfed in flame. The roar of the twin blazes drowned out the sound of the thunder as the fires fed smoke to the growing clouds.

As they passed the barn, the screaming began. Whether it was the travelers in the cellar, or the animals in the stalls, or the dry timbers that made up the barn itself, who were keening for fresh air, they didn't know. They had seen the shadows near the house, and ran to them. Esther lay at the foot of the stairs, her body flung down, arms and legs at rakish angles. Elizabeth reached her, crying out in the heat that rolled over them from the burning house, and began to pull her into the yard. She had been shot through the chest, and Elizabeth couldn't help but remember how much Esther had loved that dress with the little patterned flowers on it. Samuel's furious coughing drew her attention away again to the house. Behind him, lying in the doorway in silhouette from the blaze, lay another body. Panicked, she ran to it, the flames easily beat she and Samuel back into the yard. Helpless, they watched as the Miller farm burned to the ground.

Bessie had done her duty by her mistress. She had seen the men out in the yard and wrapped the baby up in a blanket to muffle his cries. She had heard the glass of the windows crashing downstairs, heard the gunshots, but she stayed upstairs with the baby until the smoke became too much to bear. Jacob was screaming and coughing, and she coughed with him, fighting her way down the stairs and to the door, the glass on the floor slicing wide her bare feet. She had flung the door wide, and taken one last clean breath of air before the shot traveled through the blanket, the child, and then through her body. She fell in the doorway, watching the flames lick the roof above her head. I'm sorry.

Near dawn, the rains overcame the blaze. Samuel and Elizabeth looked with horror over the smoldering skeletons of the house and barn, at the bare blackened timbers that were pointing their accusing fingers at the sky. Elizabeth felt as if she were back in her dream, her feet leaden, the world turning all together too slow.
"Miz Dolly, you know they gonna come back for you."
"Let them"
"Miz Dolly, we gots to do like Cousin Joe said. You know we gots to go."
There was nothing left to take, no supplies to gather, no wagon to load. Elizabeth shivered uncontrollably in her sodden nightgown and unholy grief as she followed Samuel back into the trees.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 03:02 AM

Patience knew they were leaving this night. She had to keep Ephraim distracted. He was worried about the trouble brewing up, but she also believed he was starting to come round to her way of thinking. She'd told Cook to pack a few things in a basket and Patience, herself, had dropped it off in Gus' shack, earlier in the day.

Now, she stood at the window of the library, waiting for Ephraim to come in from locking up for the night. As she gazed out at the night sky, she saw the lightening, then the thunderclap that followed made her jump. Rubbing her arms, she felt the very air was alive, tingling with unspent energy of the sulphurous clouds. Suddenly, she saw another strike hit, but it didn't stop. Looking more closely, she saw that the lights travelled up from the ground, up through the trees in the distance, as far away as the Miller farm it looked. As she watched, the light grew brighter and climbed higher. Weird patterns danced towards the sky, outlining the tree branches. She knew there was evil afoot this night and turned to look for Ephraim just as he walked in.

"Oh, Mr. Locke, I beg of you look out this window and tell me I am not hallucinating. It looks as though the whole world has been consumed in an inferno of dmanation. I fear we are about to be visited by the devil himself for our sins, sir!"

"Mrs. Locke, get ahold of yourself, let's see what nonsense you've taken a notion to," he said as he strode over to the window. Keeping his own emotions under check, he dare not let her see what fear broiled in his heart, for he now knew what Crump had been up to and he knew now was the time. They would either risk all to do as Patience's conscious said they must, and his as well, or they must continue the charade and he would have to join in the night terrors.

He walked back over to where Patience stood and put his arms around her. In a calm, cool voice, he said, "My dear, your god is an exacting one and I am afraid he is demanding payment this night. Now listen to me very carefully. You are to take the youngsters, Cook, and the rest of the house slaves and go down cellar as I've told you to do in the past in an emergency. You must stay there, my beloved, until I return."

"But, Ephraim! You cannot go out into this night, it is too dangerous!"

"No, my lovely, dearheart. I must see if there is anything we can do to help the Widow Miller and also alert the other of your converts. Oh, yes, my dear, you and your friends have been quite persuasive; there are a few of us who have begun to see the error of our ways."

"Ephraim, I love you, but I cannot let you go to the MIller's by yourself. I will tell Cook, now, to gather the children and make it a game for them to sleep below, this night. Give me just a moment to gather some things for Mrs. Miller and the baby and we shall go!" With that, she almost ran out of the room, her heart beating quickly, fearing he would follow her and forbid what she knew she must do.

Giving Cook instructions for the children, she also sent word to August and his family that murder rode the night and to godspeed with care.

Returning to the front hall, she found the door wide open, her husband astride his horse and holding the reins of her swift little mare. "Mrs. Locke," he said, "I am proud to have you at my side this evening. Stay low in your saddle and quiet." Pride and fear filled his voice as he handed her a loaded pistol. "Just point and shoot, darling, remember the practice when we were courting?" As he wheeled his horse and set off down the long drive, he flung over his shoulder, "I love you, Mrs. Locke!" and away they rode, into a night lit by eerie unnatural lights and sounds. Patience gripped with her knees, no gentlewoman riding for her this night, and held the reins with a sure grip. The little mare flared her nostrils, excited by the air and voices of her master and mistress, as well as that of the stallion taking the lead. Swiftly they broke into a smooth gallop, the miles quickly passing.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 12:35 PM

They got lost twice, retracing, cursing themselves for having to rely on map and memory, because Hez and Theo had not made it to the juncture, were they all right?, and still there was this clock ticking, and its voice saying, so far so fast, it will go so far, not go so far, go so far, in his head, and everything beginning to wind down as the rhythm of the horses slowed at the limits of their endurance. They had been held up for good cause at the Brook House, piling families into makeshift transports, and some into the woods for temporary hiding holes, and reluctantly Tom left Gerald there, with a promise to come within an hour or two at most. And Tom sped on in the late night as the rain came on, and the bright image in his mind said, it is all right, there is time, this cannot go on, these are isolated incidents, you have but to come into the homestead, deliver the message, and see to the defences, she is smart, she will be clear about what has to be done; and then the dark image eclipsed the bright, and said, it is too late, they all rose together, it will be a fight, or worse, it will be too late, and his mind would not go any further, blocking the possibilites.

About ten miles away from the farm, dawn came, which dawn was it, he could not say, and the rain poured down, and he saw the low rain clouds ahead, and the soothing image came into his mind through his exhausted brain, it is dawn, it is allright, the rain, it is spring, everything needs rain, and the green is coming, and then he looked closer and they were not just lowering rain clouds ahead but smudges of gray smoke, curling, and the dark image flooded over him, that it was all too late, and he fought down the shaking.

The smell came through the dawn woods towards him, envelopping him as he rode the last mile, and his stomach turned over, and he saw the black charcoal beams and the coils of smoke through the budding woods, and then broke out into the open.

Oh, he thought crazily, Oh, I know this place. That was where the barn was, that was where the house was, all those animals lying there came out of there, I stood over there once, and there was a porch --

And then the full horror hit him, and he flung himself off his horse in panic and ran to the ruins of the porch. He saw the door frame, all hanging bent, skewed, and he stepped through and in a dream saw everything black and gray and brown, smashed, burnt. Oh, he thought, in his craziness, that is what was behind that curtain, all that time, all that terrible time, waiting. Death was behind that curtain, and that little fire was his dark lamp, the lamp that extinguishes the light of the world.

But where was Mrs,. Miller, where was anyone? He tottered back over the debris, and into the barnyard littered with burnt animals, and it came into his mind that she must be dead, she would not leave such a place, she was not that kind of woman, she would bury her dead, she would bury the living who did this. He headed to the barn, desperation heaving timbers aside, and shouldering past remnant walls, and he found himself over a cellar that had fallen in, and he looked down, and for the rest of his life wished that he had not looked down.

He stumbled out into the yard, and was sick.

After a time, he raised his head again, and thought, no, this is Hell. Welcome to Hell, Tom. And then he thought: perhaps. Perhaps she is on the run, or they have taken her. Whoever they are. Maybe they are near. Maybe. No one had shot at him so far, it was as if he were at the world's end, it was so quiet apart from the cracking of wood, no, you fool, not at the world's end, Hell, remember. Oh, yes. Maybe she has another bolt hole, out in the woods, another secret place like that cellar -- and he bent over and was sick again.

He stood up shakily, and went over to his horse, and pulled the rifle out. He had nothing to lose.

He walked around to the side of the fallen house, ashen puddles everywhere, splittering with the endless rain. And then off to one side, he saw the mounds, the fresh wet earth, the discarded shovel, what must be temporary graves, no markers, no crosses, nothing, one small one. A child? Someone did this: someone was in a hurry: mother? servant? with no time to deal with what was in the barn, or the animals. Not someone trying to cover up. Someone who was there, who would know. He moved further into the field behind the house, his rifle at the ready. When in hell, do as the devils do. He began to shout: "Hello?? Mrs. Miller!! Anyone??"


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 03:45 PM

Nearly a half-mile in, the trail widened a bit, and Samuel turned to face her. "Miz Dolly, you go on to the mill. I'll go back to..." his immense shoulders shook as he looked at her.
"No, Sam, we'll go back together."

When their feet found the trail again, almost an hour later, Elizabeth was shaking. The entire trip Samuel could hear her chattering teeth and ragged breath, and had no doubt she was close behind, yet he occasionally cast the unneeded glances over his shoulder to see her, yet the small hope that he might see something in her face that wasn't black and close to death was quashed each time he looked. They continued up the trail, along the wash, and along the Tombigbee, each lost in thought and forward movement, when they heard the faint echo of a voice calling from the Miller farm. Samuel spun like a snake, narrowing his eyes and looking back down the trail. "They ain't gonna give us no peace, Miz Dolly." as he struggled to move past her. "Here," he handed her one of his pistols, "get on up there to Sawyer's and I'm gonna finish this once and for all." Elizabeth didn't argue. The world had taken on the false clarity of fever, every edge sharpened in her sight, so that it appeared the trees were cut out and laid on top of each other in a picture.

It took numerous tries, and all of her strength to climb the bank near the mill. Adam sat in his post in the trees, unable to move to help her. Some small part of his mind refused to believe that Elizabeth Miller and all of her brass, was reduced to a filthy, shivering pile of flesh and bones in the rain. He shook free of his thoughts, and slid down from behind the trees, reaching the mill door roughly the same time she did. She looked at him oddly, as if she'd never met him, yet the pistol hung barrel-down in her hand. He took her inside the mill, and thinking Damn the riders, he squatted down and built a roaring fire in the stove. He turned to see her, standing still and lost in the middle of the room, and he went rummaging through some wooden crates, returning with dry clothing. He gently took the pistol out of her hand, and gave her the clothes before he turned around to tend to the fire.

When he looked again, she stood in the same place, clutching the pile of clothes to her chest. The blank look on her face had been replaced by one that held the smallest hint of embarrassment. It had been a long time since Adam Thoroughgood's wife, or any woman for that matter, had stood before him, but he knew modesty when he saw it. "Well, that fire looks about right." he muttered "I'm thinking I'll go check around to make sure you wasn't followed..." He returned a few minutes later to find her in his cast-off shirt and patched leggings, sitting on a wooden crate, leaned low to the fire. She was briskly rubbing her hair with one of the burlap sacks in an effort to dry it, and she stopped as she caught sight of him.
"Any sign of Samuel?" she asked
"No ma'am." Adam replied. He pulled his chair over to the window and took turns watching the trail and her. He started telling her about the attack on the mill the evening before, the death of Crump, and the mysterious absence of Matt Stanford.
"I saw him..:" she broke in . "He was at my place. Jesus, Adam, they must have gone along the whole line..." She told him of the night at the Miller farm, and Adam watched her shake in fear and anger as she talked. It was more than simple fever that darkened the skin beneath her eyes and brightened the cheeks on her pale face to a rosy red. He rose, took the blanket from his bed, gave it a few shakes, and placed it around her shoulders. "...and they were dead, Adam. All of them...and I can't see how anyone could have made it out of the barn..."

Elizabeth sat, staring at the flames a while longer. She pulled the blanket tight and thought to herself that no matter how much fire there was in the world, she was sure she'd never be warm again. Adam's voice finally broke through to her: "Missus Miller, we can't wait much longer for him. Our visitors from yesterday are sure to be back, and we need to move along. If...when...Samuel gets here, he'll know to move along to the cavern. We have to go." They quickly doused the fire and saddled the horses. Elizabeth constantly stared down the trail for any sign of Samuel.

It wasn't until they reached the main road that they saw a horse trotting up to meet them. It snorted heavily from exhaustion and the load of two riders. Elizabeth could make out Samuel's bulk jouncing along behind, but the first rider? It couldn't be? As the horse drew alongside hers, Tom Eaton nodded curtly, "Ma'am."
Shocked and floundering, she realized his was the voice that had carried up the river to them that morning. She answered him sharper than she intended to: "I'm surprised that Samuel didn't kill you."
To which he answered brusquely, "He very nearly did." before urging his tired horse up the road and alongside Adam's.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Oct 01 - 03:50 PM

The five figures had stayed out of the thin light of the quarter moon. Billy had told them they must avoid the road, and so their path led along the bank of the shallow ditch called Frog Creek for nearly a mile. Soon a light breeze had sprung up, and a mass of cloud snuffed the moon and stars.

Billy motioned a halt near a small farmhouse and whispered "we got to cross behind this house. Watch me and when you cant' see me no more, follow my way." He rose cautiously then, loped across the field, soon disappearing near where a magnolia tree stood against the sky. Lightning suddenly flashed, and they saw Billy by the tree, gesturing them to come along. They ran across in a string : Gus, then Millie and Lucius, then Willis. They were directly behind the cabin, when Lucius' foot smacked into an empty pail, which gave a sharp clang and rolled toward the building, where it struck the porch with a resonant report. They stopped when the door creaked open, and a figure bearing a rifle thumped down the steps and into the clearing. The four stood still, the figure holding the rifle at aim. "Who's there?" said the voice of a boy. Willis was closest to him, and as he stared, he began to make out the figures of the teenaged youth who held the gun. It was Stephen Bradley, the son of one of Locke's white sharecroppers. As Willis stared, wondering if his own shape could be seen by the boy, the lightning flashed again, the boy's eyes widened, and the hammer clicked back on the weapon. A voice came from the house. "Who's out there Stephen?" The boy came close to Willis, the gun still aimed. Then he saw the others, moving the barrel to cover each of them. Gus thought he could make the tree, but his wife and son were too close. Maybe Willis could disarm the boy.

The youth eased the hammer down and lowered the weapon. He whispered to Willis "Go! Go quick!" then he glanced at the others and said "now!" They ran quickly toward the tree. "Damn it boy! Is there somebody there or not?" came the voice again. "No Paw," said Stephen. "Jus an old fox. Couldn't get a clear shot at him though." He placed the bucket on the porch and cast a glance at the magnolia where the people had vanished, and went into the house.

***

They had gone perhaps another mile when Billy stopped at the crest of a sharp rise. He raised his hand, finger pointing at an orange glow in the sky. "The farm! It's on fire." The five watched for some moments, Billy repeating "Oh Lord." Then a voice was heard . "Billy! Over here!" Daniel crept toward them. "You got to get back!" he said "I'll lead them from here!" Billy nodded, then was gone. "Stay close," said Daniel. The rain began to fall heavily now. He led them a twisting, slippery path through brambles and willows, then up a steep slope and down into a limestone rimmed basin toward a blank wall of stone. He moved some brush and a cave entrance was revealed. "It's Daniel!" he whispered, and a woman's voice said "enter!" They entered the pitch blackness of the cave's maw, and heard Daniel shifting something heavy, then the hiss of a sulphur match as it rose to light a candle. There stood a white woman and a white man, their clothes grimy and tattered, the woman's face tear-stained. "I'm Mrs Miller and this is Adam Thoroughgood. Your guide is Daniel." The slaves muttered hellos and thanks, but she interrupted. "We cannot stay here, and my home has been burned. You've chosen a bad night to seek freedom, but I suppose it couldn't be helped. The Lord finds our way for us." The man named Adam said "if you've got your breath, we'll be leaving now. There is a deserted cabin 2 miles from my home at the mill. We can just make it before dawn." The candle was exinguished, and without another word they departed into the dark and rain.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 16 Oct 01 - 04:02 AM

Just outside the cavern, the travelers stood hunched in the rain. As they milled around, gathering brush to cover the entrance, Tom and Samuel came up behind.
"There ain't no one following." said Samuel.
Adam Thoroughgood and Tom had a brief and hushed discussion, after which Tom untied his horse from the trees and climbed into the saddle. Elizabeth had scattered the last of the branches over the cavern entrance when Adam drew her aside and spoke to her in a hushed voice, "Missus Miller, Mister Easton is going on to find the remainder of his men, but he has agreed to escort you as far as the cabin. There are blankets to black the windows with, and small provisions as well, but we can't make it there on foot and still have time to make it ready by sun-up. You go on. Samuel, Daniel and I will follow behind shortly, ma'am..."

Elizabeth nodded tiredly and took this excuse to put as much distance between herself and the farm as she could. She moved to untie another horse when Easton's mount sidestepped into her path. Startled, she slid on the wet limestone and caught her balance just before she fell. She then looked up to see Easton's arm extended to her. Silently, she grabbed his arm, he pulled, and she swung up cleanly behind him. Her arms slid around his waist and she turned her head to look at Adam and Samuel as the horse began to move off, "Be careful." she called.
Samuel nodded, and Adam replied, "See you soon." and sent the horse off with a solid swat to its rump.

The road was deserted. They rode on for miles, the only sound being the chuff of horse's breath, and the occasional snap of a rock being scuffed by hooves. The rain had decreased from a steady pour to a drizzle. Elizabeth unlaced her fingers, and brought one hand back to wipe the rain-soaked hair from her forehead. When she put her arm back, Tom made a small noise clearing his throat and turned his head back slightly towards her. "I'm sorry.." he said.
"Hmm?" asked Elizabeth.
"About your farm, your family...I'm sorry. I wish I'd gotten there sooner."
Elizabeth shifted slightly, "Thank you, but had you come earlier, you'd most likely be dead too..."

The weight of this certainty settled on Tom uneasily, and he turned back to the road ahead. Elizabeth slowly began to fall to exhaustion and the lulling pace of their walking horse. She yawned, and not having the strength to bring her hand back, buried her face in Tom's shoulder. The resultant warm spot from her exhalation made a welcoming place for her to rest her cheek, and a few minutes passed before she drowsily mumbled, "I hated you, you know."
Tom stiffened slightly, "Hmm?"
"Mm-hmm, Christmas. Here was this poor, hurt man, and you wouldn't let a body help him. Vain and selfish, you dragging him off into the night to die.."
"Hezekiah is alive." Tom interjected, "In no small part thanks to you, of course. With any luck I'll be meeting up with him tomorrow, er, today.."

They rode on a minute more before Elizabeth spoke again, "Still, you have to admit you weren't very pleasant."
"And you were ever the soul of good-will to all mankind?" Tom smiled grimly. "I seem to remember differently..."
"I wanted to brain you with a rock."
"I know."

When they reached the cabin, Elizabeth hurriedly lit the lantern and went inside. In a few minutes, they had blanketed all the windows and were standing outside in the trees, looking for any sign of light. The cabin appeared deserted. They quickly discussed the path for the following night, and Tom, anxious for news of his friends, once again readied himself.
"You'll be safe here?"
"I'll be fine."
"I'll be back." He once again mounted the tired horse, and rode off up the road. Elizabeth blew out the lantern and darkness fell over the cabin.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Oct 01 - 01:56 PM

Locke reined up as they crested the hill overlooking Layton Crossroad, his horse skidding in the mud. He caught the bridle of Patience's mare, and turning to her, placed his forefinger upon his lips indicating silence. A group of horsemen were standing in the crossroad. The Lockes walked their horses off the road, approaching through thick woods until they could hear the voices, distinguishing Matt Stanford's brash tone among them.

"Stay here!" said Ephraim. "At any sign of trouble, make all speed to the house!"

He walked back into the road and approached the men, who seemed to be unaware of his approach, perhaps due to the darkness and rain. He was nearly beside them when they fell silent, and he saw several pistols raised in his direction. "It is me, Ephraim Locke!" he cried out. The gun barrels dropped, and he heard Matt's voice say "it's alright. He's with us!" A deep voice came from a heavy, cloaked figure. "What brings you out on a hellish night like this, Mr Locke?"

Locke could not make out the facial features, and then he saw that the figure was masked from nose to chin with a black handkerchief. "We saw the fire from my home!" said Locke. "I was concerned. Is it Miller's Farm?" One of the figures gave a low laugh, and the masked man said "It was Miller's Farm. It's too late, Locke. It burned to the ground."

Locke glanced at Matt Stanford, who averted his eyes. "What about Mrs Miller?" Locke asked.

"Dead," said the figure, "dead along with those darkies she shacked up with."

"She had a newborn baby," said Locke, and unconsciously he turned to where Patience was concealed.

"Are you deaf?" said the figure. "I said they are all dead. We couldn't save them." This last comment elicited another laugh from one of the men, then Locke smelled it ; the hard odor of kerosene on someone's clothing. "The sheriff should be notified," said Locke.

"We've taken care of that," said the man. "Go on home. We've taken care of everything." Locke wheeled his horse. Ahead he saw Patience in the shadows waiting for him. The bullet from Stanford's rifle caught him in the back, toppling him from the horse. He lay in the mud and watched as the horse galloped away. He saw Patience's face fill with shock and anguish as he mouthed "go" to her. "Villains!" she shouted, firing a shot at them from the cap and ball pistol she held, a shot that went wide. A volley of shots answered hers, and her horse spooked and ran with her back the road toward the plantation. "Get her!" growled the figure. One of the men made off at a run.Then the big man swung off of his horse and went to Locke, turning him over, "He's dead. What the hell were you thinking, Stanford?" Matt stammered "he knew me! He knew we did it!" The man stood still then said "Alright. We saw the fire and went to help. We saw a group of men, black and white, and gave chase. Locke blundered into the pursuit and they shot him. Now go to your homes. I'll see the sheriff."

***

Patience tried to rein in the mare, but the horse was panicked and it reared up, then bucked her off. She scrambled to her feet and called to it, but the horse was headed for the house. She heard more hoofbeats behind her and crouched behind the limestone wall that lined the road. In seconds, a rider galloped past, one hands on the reins, the other with a pistol raised.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 16 Oct 01 - 06:52 PM

It was late morning when he came back, with Gerald, but with no Hezekiah or Theo. They bustled about outside for awhile, and then Tom knocked on the cabin door.

"Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Miller."

She pulled herself out of complete blackness into the strange unknown space, and she was engulfed by everything for a moment, and then pushed through it like a ship breaking through black ice. "Yes," she said, "Yes", as if she were saying words.

"I have some coffee for you. We have made a fire out here."

She suddenly realized that it was icy cold, and wrapped the blanket around her. "You can come in."

He came in with the coffee, one cup, she noted with some part of her mind, and behind him she could see that there was daylight, and movement.

"Thank you," she said, taking the cup: "Did you find your friends, Mr. Eaton?"

"Tom," he said.

"Tom", she replied, "Elizabeth".

"Elizabeth. One, " Tom said, "My friend Gerald. The two others are still out there somewhere. Heaven knows what has happened to them."

Elizabeth said: "I won't say that I am sure they are all right."

"No," he said, "Nothing is all right." He stood and looked out at the morning, and then turned back again.

"I –" and he stopped, and started again. "I went back, and met Gerald. We, we --" And he stopped, and she said, "For God's sake, sit down." He sat in a chair. There was a long moment of silence.

"After, I went back into your -- the house, what was left of it, and I brought what I could find, in my bags, a few things, unburnt from the house, a book, Walter Scott, and some clothes, and what I thought were likely keepsakes. There – there wasn't much. Would you like me to bring them in to you?"

She shook her head: "I can't look at them now. I can't." She looked up at him: "Nothing but Sir Walter Scott?"

"There are some fragments of other books, but they came apart in my hand like -- like pie crust."

"I never much liked Walter Scott."

"Always happens that way, doesn't it." He smiled a bit.

She sipped her coffee. He felt awkward, and moved to go.

"Tom" she said, "What now?" and it struck him, because he had never heard any note of uncertainty in her voice.

He stood at the door. "I thought about some of it, here and there. This is your world, Elizabeth. You need to decide what you wish to do. If it were up to me I would seek justice in the ordinary way. If you know the people who did this, if they are neighbours, you can accuse them. What happened last night was a spasm, an outrage against life and property that even this state cannot ignore."

She was stunned. "Justice? Property?"

He said, "Please, please, I was only saying that this is wild work, even for the South. It cannot be hushed up, all this damage, all up and down the state. And, I hate to say this, but apart from everything else, your baby is dead. A white baby. You have recourse, you have but to name the perpetrators if you know them, what can they do to you now, and what do you owe them, do you want to live with these people any more?"

She looked at him with a hard look on her face. "Jacob, his name was Jacob, and what you say is truly hateful."

He turned around and came back, and stood by her bed. "I am speaking a truth. You know it's true: all those people in that cellar don't add up to one white child. You can go to the law. They will accuse you of all the things you have done, and probably others besides, but what does it matter? What is there left for you to lose?

There are other truths however. Neither I nor my friend are strangers to killing, and if you tell us to go and kill the man or men who did this, we will. If you ask us to help, we will. I have seen what they did, and have no qualms. Your friend Adam, he is also agreed."

Her face softened slightly. "Tom, I thank you, and I thank you for your advice, your help, but you should go, you should find your friends."

"That is the kind of thing I would say, please, it is ridiculous, no playacting, I do enough of it myself. I will find my friends in good time."

She said, mostly to herself, wearily: "Sorry. And playacting is another truth, I suppose. I become a symbol for the cause, the imperilled widow and her lost child?"

He said, "Yes, certainly. This could be emblazoned throughout the North, some of it will be anyway, whatever you say, and might help overturn this horrible law. Who will speak for the dead, if not you?"

"Oh God," she moaned, putting her head in her hands, and then she raised her head for a moment and stared at her hands as if they were on fire, as if she had held something that would not be effaced, and she cried out, "Oh, God, Oh, God!" and turned her face to the wall. There was a long silence as she wept, and he made ready to get up, and as he did, there came into his mind out of nowhere another of those long buried questions, what does she do when she wakens? He was completely surprised by it, in the midst of this terrible scene, when he was supposed to be thinking of other things. This is what she does when she awakens. That is the answer. Today.

She heard him move, and turned around again, her face stained with tears. "So, so," she struggled, "they must be coming back for me, as Samuel said, surely? I do know."

Tom said, "We are here, and they will have to kill us all first."

"Oh God, more playacting," she said.

"Absolutely. Sheer playacting," he replied, firmly, and he went out and left her alone.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 16 Oct 01 - 07:52 PM

Patience quietly crept over to where her husband's body lay crumpled and unnatural on the side of the road. She had a piece of her blouse between her teeth, sobbing into it, trying not to scream out in rage and despair; disbelief engulfed her face.

"Ephraim! Oh, my darlin', Ephraim, no! Oh, my God, how could you let this happen?!"

Another part of her mind, thinking beyond the shock, realised the danger she was in. She began to tug at his body, now such dead weight, she thought. Another part of her mind went off in a paroxysm of hysterical giggling, silent, gibbish. Finally, she was able to get him into the bushes, to a small gully, where she rolled his body, then covered it with dry branches, fallen from winterkill. She left his face exposed until last. Gasping with sobs wrenching her body, she leaned over and kissed him gently on his marble cold lips. She then took her soft linen handkerchief, a monogrammed one given her for her wedding day, out of her pocket and placed it over his face. She gently touched his hair, ran her fingers down his chin and a sudden memory of their lovemaking, touches filled with heat and tenderness, clenched her and filled her body and mind with insurmountable sadness. She put her head down on his chest and hugged him, sobbing with abandon.

As the sun rose in the sky, some sanity returned and Patience also arose. Thinking ahead, she was grateful for the good solid boots she wore, along with her eldest son's trousers, hitched up by rope to fit her small waist. Keeping to the shelter of the trees and shrubs, she followed the road towards their planatation, towards home. Her mind reeled at the thought of telling their children what had happened, she scarce could fathom it herself. Finally, the terror of the night with no sleep took over, deep fatigue stilled her mind except to order the automatic one-step-in-front-of-the-other until she came to the long driveway of home.

Once more aware of her surroundings, Patience looked ahead, up the long drive to their home. She saw nothing. A few puffs of smoke, here and there, no one, no animal, no verandah, no summer kitchen house. Her home was gone, too, just as Widow Miller's! Running, with small gasps of "No, no, nonononono!" she sreamed over and over, "Cook?! My babies? Where are you!!?" She ran around the yard, frantically looking for the cellar door. Finding a scrap of the metal ring, she grasped it, only to drop it in pain. It was still hot. There was not a sound come from the cellar.

She fell back and sat amongst the rubble, gibbering over and over, the names of her children, cursing her husband for leaving her, cursing God and all men who caused such things to happen. She howled like a wild animal, long wails that would curdle the blood of any night straggler, banged her fists on the burnt timbers until they bled. Her face streaked with soot and tears, she started laughing hysterically. "Come on, Biddie! I told you to get the children ready, you stupid cow. Mr. Locke will be home in a few moments. Now, do as I say. Clean their faces and get them dressed for supper. Biddie!! You HEAR ME, GIRL!? Where are you Biddie?!"

She continued to sit on the rubble, muttering and yelling orders, while the silence of the place contrasted sharply, a testament to a night when terror reigned supreme.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Oct 01 - 09:18 PM

Montgomery had slept fitfully, and when the knock came he growled "what the hell is it?" His maidservant called through the door "a man to see you, Marse Montgomery." Oh Christ I've overslept, he thought, and glanced at the wall clock. No, it was only 9:30, and the sheriff wasn't due until 10. He struggled into a pair of trousers and pulled on a shirt, smoothed his thin hair back and said "come in." In walked a sooty apparition. For a second Montgomery's heart had leapt, thinking it was one of his still-smoking victims. "Mr Montgomery," it said and he recognized the voice as that of Lem Curtis, the man he had sent after Patience. He grabbed Curtis by the sleeve and yanked him in, shutting the door. "What in the Devil are you doing? Its broad daylight and I expect the sheriff any minute!" Lem glanced at a beaker of whiskey on the table and ran to it, guzzling it before Montgomery could pull him away. "I burnt the Locke place," he gasped. "I follered her like you said, but she musta went in the house. I beat on the door but they wouldn't come out. So I yelled I'd burn em out! I started a fire on the bushes around the porch, and then the darkies all come out shoutin and runnin at me, so I fired my pistol at 'em, chased 'em into the fields, and when I come back, the whole house was on fire! I went to the back and broke a winder and yelled for 'em to come out, but they didn't. I rode around the place, and there was this big glass room, and inside this glass room was all these trees, and they started on fire, and then the glass broke like a bomb!"

"Lem!" shouted Montgomery. "It was abolitionists! Not you! Not You! We chased some people, whites and niggers, from the Miller Place. They killed Locke, and they burned his place! Understand?" Lem nodded his head. "Here!" said Montgomery, forcing Lem's face into a wash basin and scrubbing with his heavy hand. "wash that soot off! Put this on." He took an overcoat from the closet and guided Curtis out the back door. "Keep to the alleys, and go right home and git in your bed!"

The sheriff came promptly at 10, and Montgomery gave him the story of the abolitionists' raid. Sheriff Brandt listened quietly, then said "I been out to Locke's and Millers already. All Locke's slaves've come back. They found the little boy and the old woman's bodies. They found her laying in the ashes. I took her to stay with my missus. Miller's place is deserted, but I found graves there. You think the abolitionists buried 'em?" Montgomery shrugged and ,inappropriately, grinned. The sheriff stood up, then ran his forefinger through a grimy handprint on the whiskey bottle. He stood for a moment looking at the inky surface of the basin water, then smiled at Montgomery. "I'll be on my way then, sir. We'll talk again."


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 16 Oct 01 - 11:09 PM

Elizabeth lay down and turned to face the wall. Overcome with loss and exhaustion, she cried. Her sobs leaked out of the room, colouring the faces of all outside, and the smell of frying potatoes crept back in under the door. Her stomach growled and Elizabeth lay on her back, letting the last of her teardrops roll down her cheeks and into her ears, before she sat up, rubbed her face, and went to the door.

Opening it, her first thought was an odd one. For a tense moment she wondered if Maisie ever got a good look at the 'six brawn gentlemen' that took her to her grave, and decided if she hadn't, she was a very lucky woman. Gus was sitting on the floor, looking concerned over Millie and the boy, but the eyes of Willis, Tom, Gerald, Adam, Daniel, and Sam all riveted on her. Merciless, they stared as she walked to the table. She made conscious effort to put one foot in front of the other, no weakness, as regal as possible, and hoping not to trip over a sunbeam on the floor. She sat at the table, joined in the collective sigh, and thanked Samuel as he slid her a plate.

The other, Mister Owen?, sat beside her, he smiled at her kindly and began to offer his condolences, when the wave hit again. "Grief? What do you mean my grief? How long was Samuel married? Sam? Fifteen years? You don't treat him as such! Do I appear weak and infirm to you, Mister Owen? I assure you I am not!" Gerald Owen sat bolt upright at the onslaught, looking like a man who'd just dropped his cigarette near a powderkeg, and stammered slightly. Elizabeth quickly retreated, and quieting, she apologized to Gerald. "Oh, I am truly sorry..." she offered him a hand and a warm smile, "Surely your Mister Eaton has told you that I am a vile creature, and generally horribly company.." Gerald glanced momentarily at Tom, then smiled weakly back at her.

Elizabeth's tone was softer as she continued: "You have no idea, Mr. Owen."
"Please, Gerald."
"Thank you, Gerald. But you were born in a place...oh...fate saw fit to give you a safe place to return home to. Some of us were not that lucky. I understand you position, after Mr. Eaton was gracious enough to speak to me, but we are still very different people. You wanted to help us, correct?" Gerald nodded politely. "That is noble enough, but you did come down here like we are foxes in a trap and you would nobly help us chew our own leg off to be free. It's not as simple as that, and you cannot imagine me grateful for having you chew on my flesh."

Tom stood silent by the window, glaring at the scene before him. Felt the gaze, and turned to look at him before continuing with Gerald. "No playacting. Your Mister Eaton challenged me, you know. Truthfully, he made my blood boil, but that is easy enough in most instances." To this, Samuel coughed, and Adam tactfully hid his grin behind a coffee cup.

"My house is gone, true enough, as is my family, but it's no different than anyone else's loss. Samuel also lost a good deal of his life, and he's managed to remain upright. I can do the same. If he wishes to go back to that farm, he is more than welcome, and that is his business, but I cannot. There is nothing for me there, and I can't see fit right now to rise phoenix from the ashes. It is done." She turned towards Tom, "It was never the house, you know. I thought it was, at first, but I was wrong. I realize that now. I was only there for the 'reason'. And you sir," she looked at Gus "I will see you in Philadelphia or I will go to hell in the attempt."

"As for seeking 'justice'? Here is where your Mister Eaton showed his ignorance." Tom began to protest but she lightly waved her hand. "No no no, it's easy enough to forgive, Reynard. Once again, you don't know any better. You seem to think that someone here will listen. Think about it. I know for a fact that it was Matt Stanford who tipped his hat to me last night. I know it as sure as I'm sitting here, but you know what they are going to say?" Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and stuck her thumbs through the rope that was holding up her borrowed pants, and affected a deep drawl as she continued: "You know, that Widda Miller, she been fightin' wit Stanford for a coon's age....what? He had him a big neckerchief on his face? Well, then how can you be shuah it was him? 'Cause the mayor had Stanford over to dinner last night, yessuh, he stayed late, and shure couldn't have done nuthin like that....Must have been some outlaws, Ma'am, yup...outlaws.." She collapsed in her chair, "Then they will hunt me down and see me dead. That is what your justice will get down here Mister Eaton. And the fact that my baby died? That my darling Jacob was shot and murdered?? That was a sad thing indeed, and most likely the cause for my evident hysteria and finger-pointing at good, honest, upstanding white men like Matthew Stanford."

She rose and walked over to Tom: "You asked me what I owe them? I owe them nothing. By all rights, by Law, I am stealing their property and taking off across the country with it. I am a thief. And as for the question of if I want to live with them? I never did."

"Now," she said, turning back to the table and placing a hand on each Gerald and Adam, "as for the kind offer to kill them all, I feel grateful to count you as friends, but please take me at my word: I never wanted any blood shed to begin with. If they want to try and fight, fine, but if you chase them out of revenge or spite, you are no better than they are. They will, of course, chase us like the hounds of hell. I can't believe last night was a singular occurrence, but that little boy over there, sleeping on the floor? He deserves a chance too, and if his parents are willing to take it now, then I am as well. I'd have done the same for Jacob. Now...I suggest we rest and get ready for tonight?" Elizabeth gathered her, by this time, cold plate, and went to sit outside.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 11:02 AM

A long time later, Tom came out of the cabin, and saw her sitting under a budding tree some distance away over the broken ground. He took a breath, and went over.

"I came to ask if you would like anything else. More coffee?"

"You must think I swim in coffee, Tom, no thank you."

He said: "Well we flipped for who would ask, and I lost."

"Truly?"

"No." He took the occasion to sit down. She looked at him and said: "You are well on your way to overstaying your welcome, sir."

"I missed that. Which welcome was that?"

"I thought the British were notable for their courteous manners, and would know when someone wants to be alone."

"Well, I would have thought the existence of the United States of America was disproof of that theory. In any case, I am simply offering you some company. Sometimes people need it, sometimes they don't."

She sighed. "Oh, what does it matter."

He took that as a neutral response, and kept sitting. There was movement around the cabin, and Gerald came out with Samuel, and Adam went to collect wood, and time passed. They sat there for twenty minutes or so.

Finally, Elizabeth said: "It is a fine morning." She paused. "Do you think Nature cares one whit about our troubles?"

Tom said: "No."

Elizabeth said: "I have seen horrible things on beautiful days, and beautiful things on horrible days."

Tom stretched out his legs, and thought for a moment, and then said: "But there is something going on, I think."

"What do you think?"

"There is beauty, which does signify. What it signifies, I do not know. And the beauty comes interlaced with a kind of cruelty or indifference."

She said nothing. He went on. "I will admit something I have not admitted to anyone else. I am something of an artist. My mother and father both died in the cholera epidemic in 1840, and when my mother was on her death bed, I thought, how beautiful she is, how horrible, there, nothing left but her skull and some little life; and I got out my sketch pad and drew her. It was not sentimental, not a keepsake: it was ruthlessness. I touched something there of Nature's kind of beauty, I think."

She replied: "Perhaps our committments are where the divine enters the world. Another possibility. Another beauty. Certainly we can be ruthless in search of the good."

"Yes," he said. "And in search of justice."

"Oh," she said, "justice again."

He sat for a few moments in silence again. Then he said: "To speak of practical matters. I would urge you to consider the hospitality of the McCallisters in Virginia. They would take you in without question, and would assist in the speeding of your young charge on his way further north. We could be there in less than a week."

"If we didn't get killed first."

"If we didn't get killed first."

"I will consider it, Tom. We can't sit here and talk theology all day. We must be up and doing."

And they got up, and moved back towards the cabin.

"


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 02:18 PM

Alex Goodbetter pulled up on the reids, stopping the wagon in front of Sheriff Montgomery's house. Unlike his petite sister, Patience, he was a tall man, with broad shoulders. His face held a harsh grimace as though he was disgusted with most that he saw or was bitter in mind and heart. He hollered over his shoulder at Biddie, sitting in the back, "Go on, girl, get round in back there and take care of your mistress. Be ready to go in one hour. I ain't goin' to miss meeting up with the folks taking ya both back home."

With that, he tied off the lines, and in one long-legged jump, he was clear of the wagon and climbing the one step, banging on Montgomery's front door. A terrified maid opened it. He pushed right past her, saying "Patience! Patience, where are you?"

A startled Mrs. Montgomery came down the front staircase, looking at him in scant horror. "Sir! Who are you to come into our home this way, yelling at the top of your lungs for an invalid, a mourning one at that?!"

She was a formidable looking woman, severely dressed in black with graying dark hair tied back in a tight bun. She had called his bluff. "I beg yer pardon, Ma'am. My anxiety about my dear sister, Mrs. Locke, has me fergittin' mah mannehs. Please accept mah apologies. I am, Madam, Patience Locke's older bruther, Alexander Goodbetter," and with that, he held out his hand in a gesture of reconciliation.

Ignoring his offer and coming down the stairs on her own, Hypatia Montgomery smiled with tempered relief. She really didn't know what else she could do for the poor lost soul, Patience. She was grateful her family had sent someone so quickly. "Mr. Goodbetter, how do you do, sir. I expect you'd like some refreshment after your long ride?"

"Well, no, ma'am, meaning no disrespect, we are most grateful for your hospitality and care for mah sistuh, but she and her late husband's bastard daughter are to get on their way immediately. They've a carriage going to meet in less than an hour which will take them back home."

"Oh? You won't be taking her back, yourself?" she said with a slight arch of her dark eyebrows.

"No, ma'am, I am staying here to oversee the restoration of the Locke place and make sure no more shenanigans take place over to there."

"Oh, I see. You brought Biddie to escort Mrs. Locke to home, then? Where is she?" She turned from him for a moment and called to her maid, "Julia, find Biddie, bring her to me at once, then go upstairs with her and help ready Mrs. Locke for a journey."

Goodbetter stood awkwardly, turning his hat in his hand. Impatience filled his demeanor. "Well, Miz Montgomery, if you don't mind, I think I will wait out at the wagon, check the traces and water mah horses. If you could just make sure Patience and that girl come out right quick?"

"Certainly, you will find a watering trough on the side of the house, towards the barn."

***

Biddie followed Julia up the stairs to a back bedroom. They opened the door slowly and Biddie saw her. She was sitting in a rocking chair, near the window, shawl draped over her shoulders. Her hair had gone completely white and she looked a hundred years old. Biddie clenched her fist to her mouth to keep from crying out in shock.

Julia whispered, "Don't move too quick or you'll scare her."

Biddie softly said, "Miz Patience? It's me, Biddie, remember?" She took a few steps closer, slowly, and knelt down in front of Patience. "I've come to take you home to your momma, Miz Patience. You'll like that, won't you? Come on, now, let's get you up. Your brother, Alex, is here and he don't wait for no one, madwomen nor chil'ren."

Patience stared past her, locked in a world of silence, away from terror and memories.

"She don't talk," Julia said. "Ain't spoke a word since they brung her over. Found her just sitting there on the burnt out pile. All her chil'ren gone, her husband, everything she ever owned. It's a shame, she and that Widow Miller, lost all the fine stuff and famblies they ever had!"

Biddie glared at Julia and said, "Wst! Help me with her and hold your tongue!"

She was docile enough as Bidde and Julia raised her up from the chair. She wore a balck taffeta dress borrowed from Mrs. Montgomery. Much too large for her, especially as she'd lost weight since the night of the fire. Biddie carefully placed a bonnet over her soft hair, clucking to herself about the shock and shame. Why, wasn't it Biddie's own father who died, but did her hair turn white? Well, now, Biddie loved Miz Patience too much to feel too much resentment, so she just put her arm around her shoulders and urged her towards the door.

Making it to the front door, Mrs. Montgomery handed a small parcel to Biddie. "It's all they could find at the house, a few papers and one picture of her children and Mr. Locke. Maybe they will help her get better if she has them. You take care of her Biddie, ya hear?!"

"Yes'm," Biddie said, lowering her eyes, "Thank you, ma'am. I guess we's be off now."

Out the door and they stepped down to the wagon, where Alexander was already perched, ready to leave. Biddie led Patience to the back where they'd made a bed of straw and blankets for her. After getting her in and lying down, Biddie covered her, just as if she was tucking a small child in, then climbed up beside her. She took Patience's hand in hers and told her, "It goin' be alright now, Miz Patience. Your momma and papa, they's looking forward to seeing you and they's got yer old room fixed up again real nice and I'll be there to he'p you out, too." The wagon jerked making her fall back slightly as Goodbetter set the horses off at a good pace.

Biddie watched for the longest time, watched all of the old places fall away in the distance, until she couldn't see anything but blurred outlines. A tear or two made their way down her face. She'd always dreamt about her daddy recognising her for his own someday and offering to take her back in. She knew Miz Patience hadn't minded her and even didn't want her sent away. The longing in her heart for a place to call home now centered around Patience Locke, the only fmaily Biddie had left and the only connection Patience had to her late husband, if only she'd come to and realise, thought Biddie and she began to sing a low, quiet lullabye, "Go to sleep you little baby..."


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 03:30 PM

Adam Goodenough watched the sun tracing the treeline on its way to evening. A light breeze played over the packed dirt in front of the cabin, making the leaves and the air whisper, carrying a vestige of afternoon's warmth, and a thin counterpoint of cold nights to come. It was not the cold ahead which unnerved him, however, but the darkness. Darkness had been undone in his life, its meaning violently slewed from rest to harm and destruction, from sleep to terror. He reflected on the pounding of his heart, marching ahead without let in spite of the terror, anger, grief and loss which had been suddenly deposited there, unexpectedly sudden, brutish, pain and a sense of loss as deep as his soul could see.

He thought bitterly of the night -- only a few months ago? Un believable! -- when he had learned of young Jacob's arrival in the world and thought with warmth about Mrs. Miller -- Elizabeth's -- kind remark about visiting him with the baby in a gentler time. All that was displaced by the dark river in his heart, which would not subside. He thought of past choices. What if he had never put his hand to assist in this madness, this "underground" which was in fact not hidden but completely vulnerable. Was he wrong? Disloyal? Was the South so deep in his nature, then, that he had betrayed his own being by turning against it?

He went back to the doorway and went over to the crude lopsided table where Elizabeth sat staring blankly into time. She looked up at him, somewhat startled.

"I have to go back and tend to some things at the mill before I leave. But I would like to accompany you. That is, if you do not object. I could catch up with you upstream -- I think I know the song well enough by now."

She smiled wanly, but he noticed that her eyes brightened in spite of her emotional and physical exhaustion.

"I would be honored, Mister Goodenough. And thank you. It will make our trip that much safer."

He nodded, returning her smie with the best that he could muster, amazed at the sheer resilience and spine of the woman. Death's hand had withdrawn from her face, although its scars still showed in every line. But he could see that life was in her, and determined to move her forward, and he dropped his head in a wave of relief, a huge compound tension of fear and agony that he had not even known he was carrying unwinding in a rush from his shoulders and his stomach and his very breath. Some small hope, there was. All that he asked, and it was there.

He turned and busied himself with saddling, stroking Thunderbolt's broad flanks more to comfort himself than the big stallion; he kept himself turned toward the horse's side, hoping she had not seen the flood of emotion that had crossed his face or the wet tracks it had left there.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 05:04 PM

The hour had turned ten by the time Thunderbolt carried him down the ridge that rises on the flank of the Tombigbee opposite the mill, and as he wended his way down the wooded side of the ridge toward the stream in moonlight, slowly and cold, he blinked hard. He could barely make out the line where the waters broadened at the mill's pond, but a large dark shadow seemed to have been added to the line at the spillway, as thoush some huge person was standing up in the stream. He could not make it out clearly -- deadwood? Some kind of logjam? A bear? None of these flitting concepts made any sense. A few minutes later he closed his eyes, letting Thunderbolt carry on in his intelligent walk down the incline toward the bank, letting his pupils expand and dilate, and stared again. A sudden shock of breath hit his half-numbed body as he realized what he was looking at among the shadows on the other side of the river; it was the upended carcass of his great-grandfather's mill-wheel, its corroded and rotted limbs splayed at wild angles and a large section of its driving shaft, a huge piece of now-charred oak, pointing wraithlike to the stars. The wind, coming down the ridgline at his back, had carried the smell away, and there had been no blaze by the time he had been close enough to sense it. He urged the horse forward down to the fording piont, and splashed across the chilled night stream with cold sweat forming across his forehead and a freshet of new fear and anger forming in his gut. The stones of the mill were blackened, its timbers fallen baulks of half-eaten charcoal; the roof was ashes over the gutted floor, and a rich, awful stench of hell-charred life sank like a cloud over the whole, as though time itself had been burned at some insane stake and given up the ghost. He stood, frozen in his tired saddle, staring at the ashes of his life, long and long.

The sound of brush and hooves startled him awake; hauling back on the reins he quietly backed his mount into the woods, disappearing in the nightdark lines of the forest as two large horses carrying two large men, their faces covered with black cloth, down the rutted trail from the river road and into the clearing. He held his breath and drew out his pistol, praying that Thunderbolt would not speak, glad that the wind still bore downstream.

The large of the men, a huge shadowy figure with a voice like a gravel-sieve at work, spoke loudly, asthough to fend off doubts and gremlins in the forest.

"We'll lose no more property to that meddling fool. The question now is tracking them.. He's probably run off with that damned widder to stir up more trouble."

"We can't track him in this light, dammit." Adam recognized the nasal baritone whine of Matthew Stanford, and flinched in spite of himself. "We'll have to come back at sun up. There's some cold beef and some proper whiskey back in my kitchen. Why don't you join me?"

The gravelly bass voice rumbled agreement and the two horsemen wheeled and trotted back up the dark path. Adam Goodenough nudged Thunderbolt out of his retreat among the trees, the huge, futile pistol drawing a useless bead on the darkness into which they had disappeared.

He had not much time. He would have to show them where to go.....


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 06:21 PM

"What did you find out?" said the gravel-voiced man, through bites of a turkey leg. Lem smiled and said "she don't remember nothin. The Sheriff has been tryin to get sense outta her, but she jus' rambles on about her husband and her boy. She don' remember us, nor anything about that night."

"Stroke o' luck", said Montgomery. "That means there's nobody can pin it on us. I think the sheriff suspects, but he's got nothing."

"New feller in town, don't know if you heard. Name of Tate Hartung?"

Montgomery paused in his eager chewing of the turkey leg, "don't say? I know who he is. He's the top coon-catcher in this part of the country."

Lem continued "well, Miz Locke's brother hired him. I guess some of the darkies didn't come back after the fire. There's wanted posters for 'em all over town. And Locke and Hartung's payin' ten dollars a man to go after 'em. Locke's gonna double that if they're caught."

Montgomery put the turkey leg back on his plate. "Don't say? You could use ten bucks, hey Lem? I'll talk to this Hartung feller. You let the boys know we got hunting to do."

"What about Sheriff Brandt?"

"Oh, we'll be helpin him. Maybe we'll cross the track o' them murdering abolitionists." Lem grinned and tipped his hat, and left.

***

Hartung was a tall lean fellow, with an angular face and high cheekbones, and skin as dark as his Cherokee ancestors. His hair was sandy, though, and his eyes blue. "We riding tonight. Make sure your men have a bedroll and two days rations. I found the trail and followed it to a limestone cave yesterday."

"That'd be Miller's Cave," said Montgomery.

"Yeah. There's at least six of em, one of em is the kid. Some are on horseback. I didn't follow no further, but there's a thin trail north from there. We got to figure they got guns. You said there was a bunch of armed men in the neighborhood settin' slaves free?"

"Right. It was them that burned the Locke and Miller places."

"Funny they'd burn Millers out," said Hartung. "I heard that was a railway stop. How many men did you see?"

"Five or six" lied Montgomery, and Hartung nodded. "We'll be at least a dozen. But I don't want anybody crowdin' after em. I'll ride ahead, you keep the others back. Be here tonight at nine." Hartung turned and entered the hotel, leaving Montgomery standing on the steps. "Man of business," he smiled to himself.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 08:03 PM

Adam Goodenough slipped back through the dark trees walking Indian style, avoiding the soft spots, finding the firm places, brushing the leaves gently back where they had been disturbed, leaving his back trail invisible to the eye from the high open face of the limestone cave back to the heavy trail marks he had made with heavy footsteps and a large deadwood stick from the mill to the cave. He glaced at the chill stars and saw he had two more hours before dawn. Maybe three or four before Stanton and the gravel-voiced man he was with returned.

Swinging from a low branch he lifted himself clear of the trail onto a series of rock outcroppings that formed a spin half-complete trail to the left of the cave toward the ridgetop, and balanced his way up the safe stone surfaces until he was level with the top of the cave. It was far enough above the last part of his intentional trail that he felt it would not be observed, and he quit his caution and got to work, hauling stout fallen limbs and dead trunks into a complex maze of pressures and angles and dependencies.

Scrambling even higher to the ridgepeak, he began the tedious job of moving large decomposed granite chunks down the grade to his intricate web of tree parts, propping them here and there, adjusting weights and angles. He moved up and down the steep ridge face over and over, his eyes glazed and his body screaming in protest, but his mind numb to anything except his task. As he filled the webwork of limbs and boulders with more and more stones large and small, balancing and testing them, he heard the first calls of the dove sound over the dark and quiet river valley, and he speeded himself up again, driving against pain and fatique. Another climb, another rock, easily fifty pounds, rolled and wrestled. Mpre small ones. Another large one. Another. Small ones to fill in here. A ten-pound piece for that niche there. Again, and several more.

When it was done the skyline of the forest had mottled from black to a deep gray with traces of silver glinting here and there, and the shapes of the trees were becoming visible.

He limped carefully back down the way he had come, rejoined his heavy-footed original trail, and retraced his steps to the cave mouth, stepping carefully around the two stout tree trunks he had raised along the edge of the cave, trunks as thick as your arm and over eight feet in length. A bad wind might have left them there, tangled in the deadwood on the caves roof where it extended slightly from the ridge face.

Adam crawled over the lip at the mouth of the cave and curled up against the limestone wall, his pistol at his side, closed his eyes in pain, and waited.

As it turned out the riders came later than he had feared. The sun was above the trees, filling the forest with golden bands of shadow and light, illuminating the dustmotes and the leaftops, when he first heard them approaching. They were louder than they had been in the night, clumping heavily along the trail where it wound by the edge of the stream, watching the ground where his fat-footed strides in the night had left unmistakeable traces. They came to the point where he had moved off the trail, climbing the steep grade almost vertically toward the cave above. They drew together -- not two but eight men!! Sweet Jesus!! He moved back into the shadows where he would not be seen and watched them far below, gathering their intention to overcome their reluctance to exert themselves on foot, fighting their way up the steep face to reach the cave. He could hear the sound of arguing between the three that seemed to be leading the expedition -- the two from last night, and another lean man with darkly tanned features. Finally the largest one, the bass-voiced heavyweight with the wide-brimmed hat, seemed to dominate the conversation. Four of the men dismounted -- the three leaders and another one carrying a rifle -- and began the hard work of scaling the long steep grade upward toward Adam's perch.

They scrambled, seeking handholds to help them haul their overweight massy bodies upward toward him, always gravitating back toward the centerline of the approach up to the cave, where the natural slope of the face seemed to present an easier path. They drew closer and he could hear them grunting and swearing as their feet slipped on loose leaves coating the sharp inclines.

The four of them came upward to the last stage of the climb, almost hidden below the lip of the cave, when Adam reached his hand out carefully to his old beaten and scarred leather belt, which lay carefully draped on the cave floor just behind the lip. He held his breath and prayed, hearing them knotting together at the only point where they could start the last part of their climb. He gave a sharp pull on the belt. The butt end of one of the stout tree trunks shifted, wobbled, and gave way. Its sudden removal caused the second to fall, taking with it a series of carefully pinned logs and limbs along the cave's roof and unleashing a growling, thudding, hammering,scraping, slamming thunder of wood and stone leaping to answer the call of gravity.

Matthew Stanford, half-blinded with sweat, looked up sharply as the deadfalls began to give way, and stared for a terrified second before he could make sense of what he saw. As the first stones and logs started falling around him, he threw his entire body to one side, as far as he could geyt from the path of the vicious avalanche. A boulder the size of a seachest, flying from a gargantuan bounce, caught his right hip and buttock as he threw himself threw the air, pulverizing bone and muscle. Stone large and small played a symphony of vengeful chaos around him, battering his ribs and head; the pain was overpowering and could no longer hold on to his own body, which was screaming in protest from every nerve. He slumped to the earth and let the blackness release him.


It was nearly two minutes before the crashing and rattling of small material chasing after Goodenough's deadfall avalanche had ceased. Raw earth stared out in patched here and there on the face of the incline, and dust and leaves whirled earthward in the aftermath of a violent interruption. Adam Goodenough lay against the cave wall with his eyes closed, listening to the silence of the birds and the fading echo of falling stone from the vally floor.

Finally, after many long minutes, the faint sounds of human voices roused him, and he stood carefully. Far below, the four men who had stayed back from the climb were speaking loudly in deep, frightemed assertive voices. Two of them were hauling a large tree trunk away from the pile of rubble at the base of the face, uncovering a black-garbed leg. The other two were gesticulating wildly. The four of them paused and stared at the ugliness uncovered by their efforts, and then as a man they ran for their mounts and fled down stream, trying to canter on the rough uneven riverside trail, despite the best efforts of their mounts to walk sanely.


Adam Goodenough steadied himself at the edge of the cave and lowered himself down to the steep, scarred ridgeface where his handiworl hand so recently smashed its way through. Boulders, deadwood and earth littered the edges of the main path, and it was there, about thirty feet downslope from the edge of the cave, that Adam found Matthew Stanford's broken form. He stood over it, studying. Stanfords hip and bled profusely and was smeared with dust and debris; his leg splayed off at the wrong angle, and he looked torn and ripped and lacerated on every face. He lay barely breathing, the stained earth under his leg moist from his own blood, and as Adam watched, Stancroft's eyes fluttered open briefly.

A croak came out of the bloodied face. "Wat.......er?"

Adam made his way down to the river, and brought back a hatfull of water. Stanford had lapsed into unconsciousness but the moisture on his face brought him suddenly awake, flinching in agony.

"Get...me to....house. Leg's broken. Helllllp me....." the croak came.

Adam Goodenough stood from his ministrations, the water gone down Stanton's torn face and ravenous throat.

"I don't think so, Matthew".

As the sun over the trees reached its warmest height, the small valley echoed with the sound of Thunderbolt's footsteps, fading upstream along the bank of the Tombigbee.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 17 Oct 01 - 10:06 PM

The party had broken the first rule of the Underground Railroad : Always travel at night. But they had decided that the imperative issue was to get as far from the cabin and their pursuers as possible. Tom had purchased several mules from a farmer for an exorbitant fee and his vow on the Bible to keep quiet, and this had allowed them to cover more ground. Tom had then straggled nearly a mile in the rear, watching their trail and keeping an eye out for Adam. Gerald rode ahead some quarter of a mile, keeping them on a deer path that paralleled the river, but almost a mile to the east. The going was hard, the trail dying and picking up again, the saplings and shrubs a constant annoyance. They stopped at noon, and they saw Tom climb onto a rock outcropping south of them. He peered downriver through a small sighting scope he carried, the turned and waved to them. Gerald smiled and said "he sees Adam." Gus and Millie ate a little cold cornpone, and looked about them at the thick pine forest, and at the rolling hills that were starting to dominate the river valley. The farms were becoming fewer, the roads rougher, and ahead seemed to lie a dark, anonymous forest. Willis asked Gerald, "we in Tennessee now?" And Gerald smiled and said "no. Maybe in nine, ten days, if we have luck."

They had finished their ration when Adam and Tom came through the trees. Elizabeth ran to Adam and hugged him, and he gave a weary smile. "I slowed them down some. They'll have to reorganize. That'll take a day at least. Matt Stanford is back there. I believe he's dead, God help him. God help him 'cause I couldn't." Gerald cleared his throat and said "let's keep pushing. We'll stop for sleep when we enter the river narrows. We'll make them by tonight." Millie gently shook Lucius, who awakened, rubbed his eyes and said "time to feed the hens I reckon. " They shared a quiet laugh before they pushed off again.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 12:27 AM

The sound of the narrowing river carried through the forest to the travelers. The mules plodded along steadily, and they rode as before. Gerald walked the trail ahead, and Tom and Adam lingered behind. Elizabeth dozed on her mule, and when she raised her head, she noticed everyone doing the same, chins dropped, lost in thought. Even little Lucius seemed someplace that the green of the forest couldn't touch him.

Gerald reached the small clearing ahead of everyone else. As they rode in, they saw him dismounted and judging the clearing safe for a rest stop, he waved to the others to pull up and dismount. Samuel, Gus, and Lucius tied up their mules, and Elizabeth and Millie shared a grin as they groaned in tandem as they got off theirs.
"A body ain't built for this Miz'Lizbeth."
"I agree completely." The two women walked for a moment in bowlegged exaggeration, to the delight of Lucius, who tugged Samuel's arm and pointed to the agonized pair. They readied the clearing, Samuel and Gus sat by a makeshift fire-pit, showing Lucius how to start a blaze, as Gerald watched the trail behind him. Eventually, the trail produced the tired horses and bodies of Adam and Tom Eaton. Elizabeth stood, and went to hold the bridle of Adam's horse as he swung down. Tom cast a glance over his shoulder towards the two as he went to talk with Gerald.

Elizabeth stroked the horse's nose as Adam tied the reins to a tree. "You must be tired." she stated plainly
"Yes ma'am." he answered, avoiding her gaze
"Adam, is he really dead?"
"Yes ma'am."
"Did you see him?" she asked, Adam nodded, busying himself with taking the saddle off the horse. "Did you do it?" He paused for a second while removing the saddle, and still avoiding her gaze, left her to make her own conclusions.
"Everything changes, Missus Miller. It can't stay the same. The world would get too tired of everything the same. We just have to adapt and change along with it." he said, choosing to ignore the questioning look on her face, and went to join the men at the fire.

With the fear of capture still hanging over them, the travelers talked in hushed tones over the small fire, ate a bit, and settled in to rest. An hour had passed, and still Elizabeth couldn't sleep. She finally gave up, sighed, and rose to stoke the fire a bit. She squatted down, poking the embers when Tom spoke: "Can't sleep?" He thought for a second it was strange she didn't jump at the sound, she couldn't have known he was awake as well. He watched her as she stared into the embers, shook her head 'no', and slowly and deliberately added small bits of wood and moss to the coals, bending low and blowing softly until they caught, then added a few more pieces of wood to the growing blaze.

She then took her blanket from the ground, wrapped it around her shoulders, and moved to sit by him at the fire. They sat in silence, each lost in thought for a few minutes, when Tom finally spoke: "Nice night.." Elizabeth gave him an odd look, then took her gaze back to the fire as she smiled. "What?" he asked. "I was only saying..since the rain had stopped.."
"Enough, Mister Eaton. I only thought it amusing that without our playacting we are reduced to talking about the weather." Tom looked stunned for a moment, then smiled as well.

"I would like to thank you, however." she said. "Watching the trail is a great risk to you. You would be much safer elsewhere..." He started to protest, but she cut him off "Earlier today, you shared a confidence with me. I would share one with you as well. Whether you choose to believe it or not, I've never been frightened before in my life. I've always known just where I came from, and always knew just where I was to go. And now, I am, against my will, slowly becoming aquainted with fear. You saw what they did to my home?" Tom, glaring into the fire, nodded. "You saw the graves?" He nodded again. "It was Samuel. We both went back, but I reached the edge of the woods and couldn't go any further. He buried his family, and he buried mine. I sat and cried. I was scared, I was weak. I've never felt that before. But you, you went back there. You must be braver than I. For that small part of you, I thank you."
"There are much braver things," he said, "I assure you."
"Yes, and much dumber." she paused for a moment before asking: "You were riding behind with Adam today, did he tell you what happened at the mill?"
"Yes, he did" sighed Tom. "He wouldn't tell me."
"Maybe he thought it was better that you didn't know." Tom said sternly, expecting a fight that never materialized.

The two sat a moment longer, lost in themselves, when Elizabeth spoke again. "Tom," she whispered "You said you had...things from the house? Can I see them?" He rose quietly, and went to retrieve the saddlebags. When he returned, he saw that Samuel had joined Elizabeth in sitting by the fire. Tom walked to them, gently set the bags down, and turned to leave. "Tom? You don't have to go.." she said.
Tom motioned towards the trees and said, "Um..yes I do." to which Elizabeth and Samuel grinned at each other.

When he returned, Elizabeth had opened the pack. The clothing was Bessie's, she noticed. She balled it up and Samuel set it by Millie's sleeping head. The book, she threatened to throw in to stoke up the fire, but Samuel stopped her. "Miz Dolly, that boy. He wants to learn to read." Elizabeth solemnly handed it to Sam. At the bottom of the pack was a scorched pocketwatch. Elizabeth held it in her hand for quite some time, turning it over, running her fingers across the clasp, and finally bringing it to her nose and smelling it. "It was William's," she muttered, her voice thick, "Samuel, would you like to have it?" Samuel nodded a quiet thanks, and quickly excused himself to return to his bedroll.

Tom sat silently, watching this person take stock of her existence. The dark look on his face when she looked at him had completely unnerved Elizabeth, and quietly she went back to tending the now dying fire. She sat again just as Lucius, in the grip of some dream, sat bolt upright on his blanket. He looked around for a moment, frightened and lost, and upon seeing Tom and Elizabeth did what all grown men do, he nodded nonchalantly.
"If he says 'Nice night'" Elizabeth whispered to Tom, "I do believe I'll have a fit." Tom gave her a scolding glance before noticing that Lucius was looking worriedly into the flames.

Elizabeth broke the silence. Shivering and drawing the blanket around her, she said aloud: "Why, Mister Eaton. I can't believe the chill this place has taken on! Do you know what I most dearly need?" Tom found himself almost afraid to answer, and grinning, he shook his head. "I need a young man, yessir. I wish we had one around here.." she looked across the fire-pit to Lucius, "Why, Lucius, I nearly forgot! You'll do, my dear. Come here." She sat cross-legged and patted her lap. The boy came over, sat on her legs, and snuggled into the blanket as she wrapped her arms around him and rested her chin on his head. "Ah, there!" she whispered. "Much warmer."

"Missus Miller?" Lucius asked, and Elizabeth dropped her head to the side to look at him. "I'm sorry about your family. My daddy tole me." Elizabeth gave him a light hug in thanks and he continued. "That's why we's leaving. We come from Locke's, you know where Locke's is?" She nodded. "Mama and Daddy said that ol'PegLeg said it was time to go, so we gots to go. You know ol'PegLeg?" Elizabeth nodded again. Lucius began to fall to the spell of warmth and a woman's arms, and he yawned before continuing, "They say we gots to go up North. You ever been up North?"
"No, I haven't" she replied softly. She heard a light snoring and looked over to see that Tom Eaton had fallen asleep, and by the odd weight of Lucius in her arms, he wasn't far from it himself. She marveled for a minute the way that children seem to get heavier as they sleep, as she slowly wriggled from beneath him, laying him beside Tom, and covering him with her blanket. She then crawled to the empty bed between Millie and Gus, and stared up to the stars until the sun rose.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 01:32 AM

So that's how great-great grandma 'Lizbeth got started on that journey, Maddie thought to herself. Here it was over 100 years later, it was her 19th birthday and her mam had given her Great-great Grammie Elizabeth's handwritten journal. It was bound in some kind of leather dyed dark blue, with marbled edged pages. The handwriting was a fine, bold script, easily read once one got the hang of it. There was a bright yellow ribbon and bow tied around it.

"You mind this well, child. It's the beginning of our family history, starting with the great bravery of your great-great Gramdmother Elizabeth and how she helped save the lives of many slaves just before and during the Civil War. It was passed down to the oldest daughter of each generation, on their 19th birthday and we've all been good caretakers of this precious relic as I know you will."

"Oh, why, Mama, thank you! I've heard you tell little bits here and there and I've always wanted to know more about her! I promise I will treasure it forever, until my first born daughter reaches her 19th!"

Mama waved her hand at her as though to dismiss the thought of ever having grandchildren of her own. "Well, honey, when you read it, you will understand more why I say you remind me so much of her. Even though I never knew her, you will see she was quite a gal and even though it is hard to read of some of the terror and woe she and the others went through, it will make you proud to know her blood runs through your veins. Now, Happy Birthday and good night, dear child."

With that, Maddie climbed into bed, propped up the pillows and began to read of the night the Widow Elizabeth lost everything and wound up running through the woods, one step ahead of the bounty hunters.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 11:47 AM

It happened that in their second day riding that Elizabeth found herself alongside Gerald, and their conversation strayed here and there....

Gerald said, "I know that you and she would become the best of friends, she is so genial, so warm-hearted, even upon slight acquaintance."
"Certainly yours does not seem like slight acquaintance, " she said smiling.
"Oh, we only had a day together, but I have lived off it since. You must know of this, you are a woman, you have loved, how one can be instantly beyond acquaintance."
"Well," she replied with a smile, "Every situation is different."
"But she is so like you, or not like you at all, I mean in any sense other than her committment to the cause, she is the sweetest of creatures."
"As I am not?"
"Oh heavens, I did not mean to insinuate – I mean--"
"Don't concern yourself, Gerald. She lifted her reins, "I am a widow woman, I have licence to be cantankerous."
"You have every right to be an avenging fury, should you choose."
"We were talking about your sweetheart. It takes my mind off what we are up to, it is like reading a novel. Tell me more about the mysterious Mr. Eaton. Be literary."
Gerald shrugged, "I am hopeless at the literary. Tom. He is the best of friends, we have been friends since our collegiate days, though he has changed, as have I over the past few months, and then even more in the last few days, last few hours. More him than me."
"How so?"
"He has always been up-and-down, sparkling, melancholic, but, how can I put it, planned his life so as to stay in the brightly lit streets, because the dark ones were to be avoided. He lost his parents at a young age from illness, he watched them die, and he had been terribly fawned over by them, the apple of their eye, they were much closer to him as the youngest son than they were to the older, Charles, serious, now a minister. He lost his faith over their loss. He and his brother have fought terribly over God. But I think more recently it became a kind of playacting, Hamlet, you know, a posture –"
"Playacting again."
"I think that he thought this would be a grand gesture, the kind you excoriated us for at the cabin, and then it wasn't anything remotely like the flash of the British army, or heroics, but small and grim, what the Spanish in the Peninsular war referred to as guerilla actions. What he has seen over the past weeks and days has made him face true blackness of a sort that he has tried to avoid, and he struggles with it. I think also he is ashamed."
"Ashamed of what?"
"Ashamed of playacting at suffering, when you have suffered so much in reality -- you and the others. You hit him home with what you said. If it were not so serious, it would be amusing."
"Why amusing?"
Gerald paused, and said, "Well, he has always been a strong favourite with the ladies, always the cynosure of all eyes. I have not seen him so disconcerted before. But I am telling tales."
She laughed, "I would imagine that he is not used to being silent."
He laughed as well, "No, ma'am. It is eloquent testimony to your power over him."
She said: "Now you are playacting."
Gerald said: "Yes, I am, I am afraid I am. When one is in love one imagines everyone else to be in love as well."
"Or wishes they were."

Gerald said, "I cannot say why he is so silent; perhaps he does not know himself. I have occasionally wondered if, when nocturnal creatures are born, they open their eyes, look around them and say, Ah, darkness at last! Now I can see to live. I am waxing metaphoric, I do not know what I am groping for in his defence, What else can I tell you, at least something in his defence."
"You need not defend him to me."
"No, no. Just to get the living touches, as he says about his paintings, the living touches. Well, short of temper, but you know that. What else. He prides himself on owning and using the best, whatever it might cost. For example, you see that rifle he carries. It is a new machine, it is a Colt revolver rifle, hardly any of them made as yet. He made sure that he had the best new armament money could buy, also, our horses. He seeks out the experts. Very thorough. It is his Army training."
At that precise moment, up ahead, Tom pulled his rifle out of its holster, and signalled quiet all along the line.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 12:24 PM

Hartung watched the horseman pull his rifle from its sheath, and he flattened himself on the forest floor. He had been watching the main party about 800 yards south when he had suddenly caught movement out of the corner his left eye. He had sprung down cat-like from the boulder he had been crouching on, and now crawled downhill from behind it. Tom quietly dismounted and wrapped the reins of his steed around a low tree limb. He crept forward to the edge of the thick woodland that dropped gradually to the river. He heard the jostle of Adam, Gerald and Samuel come up by him. "What is it?" whispered Gerald. "I thought I saw someone, just there by that rock. Gerald...stay with the folks. Adam, can you flank back about 100 feet left and start down the hill? Samuel do the same on the right. I'll start down the center. Perhaps we can flush him out." As they entered the growth of pine and the deep shadows they held, Tom thought that several times he heard noise below, but when he paused, it was gone. They reached a high bank at last that overlooked the Tombigbee, but there was no one to be seen.

"Did you hear that?" said Samuel. "It sounded like the whinny of a horse." But whatever noise they then heard was generated by the rush and bubble of the river along the shore, and nothing else.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 03:13 PM

Montgomery stood atop the old oak bar in the White Mule Tavern. The promise of free whiskey had drawn a large crowd of local farmers, tradesmen, and layabouts. Sheriff Brandt stood by, puffing thoughtfully on a brougham pipe.

"Now listen! None of you, none of your families, your wives are safe! If these villains can burn the Locke Farm, Miller's Farm, the Mill... they can burn any of us out! If they can murder Locke, Mrs Miller, and Matt Stanford, they can murder any of you! Right now, while we stand here, they are making for the North with a large number of stolen slaves. The slaves that remain here are restless, insolent and ready to rebell! We must track them down and stop them, before every farm is in flames and every slave rises in bloody revolution!" Montgomery sipped his whiskey as the crowd applauded amid shouts of "Hear! Hear!"

"Now we have Mr Tate Hartung, one of the best trackers in the South, hot on their trail, but we need a body of men to pick up the pursuit. Who will go with me? You will be paid for it, but I hope you will go because you want to defend your homes and families!" Two dozen hands shot up. "Good! Mr Goodbetter..."

Patience's brother stood on the bar. "You know what these men did to my sister and her family! I ask you to avenge them! Bring these white men back to hang! Bring the blacks back as examples to their fellow slaves! You leave in an hour from here! You loyal sons of the South must prepare to chase them all the way to Canada if need be!"


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 03:30 PM

Elizabeth sat comfortably on her mule. She smiled to herself, thinking Gerald Owen was a good man, and considered herself lucky for his company. When Tom waved ahead on the trail, it was a struggle for her to not stay Gerald and his blanket of seemingly infinite patience, and fear gripped her again as she watched him ride ahead.

She quickly turned her mule, and slid from it's back, grabbing the bridle of the mule behind her. "Willis, get down!" she barked, "Ya'll come over here." She took them to a dense stand of bushes and told them to stay there no matter what they saw her do. She then led the string of mules back down the trail and tied them to a tree.

When Gerald returned to the clearing, there was no sign of the travelers except for the many scuffed hoofprints on the ground. He heard a slight hissing noise, and looked overhead to see Elizabeth handing him her battered flintlock from the tree over his head. She climbed down, giving him a solemn glance, and asked, "What is going on?"
"I'm not exactly sure," Gerald replied. "Tom saw something, he's having them fan out to see if someone is there." He wondered to himself what right a young woman had to look that way, noticing the terrified look on her face and he then softly added, "I'm sure it's fine.. Tom is just being cautious."
Elizabeth noted the hint of pity in his voice and quickly composed herself. She knew the three men before them were different, but the one thing they all seemed to share was the fact that they had precious little to lose. "I was only concerned, Mister Owen, because it seems three of our handsomest mules have broken free of the herd." Gerald stared at her a moment and nodded.

She squatted down, resting the rifle across her knees, and watched the trail ahead while Gerald leaned against a tree to watch the trail behind. They watched in silence a moment before Elizabeth spoke: "Samuel, he's a good man, a true gentleman. I don't care what color you paint a man, you'd be hard pressed to find one finer. Adam is the same way."
"Well, he certainly has an eye for you.." Gerald teased.
Elizabeth palmed a small rock, and skipped it dangerously near his toes before she chuckled, "And you, my dear Gerald, are hopeless. I certainly hope for our sakes whatever it is you've got isn't contagious.."

"When my husband was ill," she continued, " Adam would find some excuse to come by every day or so. I couldn't do a thing to persuade him otherwise. When my husband finally died, he and Samuel were the ones who spent the day chipping at the frozen ground to bury him..."
"How awful.."
"Oh no! It wasn't always rending our clothes and pulling out our hair, Mister Owen. We had a lot of very fine times as well. That what makes them so special, they are equally capable of both laughter and tears."

They smiled at each other, and then silence fell again. Gerald broke it this time by turning to her from the trail and telling her: "You know, Tom is that way too.."
"If you'd mentioned that before thismorning, Mister Owen, I do believe I'd have been inclined to disagree." she grinned. Gerald looked at her questioningly and she continued. "You woke early, same as myself, and while you were tending to the horses, I went over to start the coffee?" Gerald nodded, still curious. "Tom lay there still sleeping, his arm draped across little Lucius. Oh, Gerald, it was angelic. I couldn't bring myself to look away. I was watching him as he stirred. It danced right across his face and it was all I could do to not laugh: first that grin of a fox in a henhouse, then the 'dear god what have I done', then his eyes popped open in terror until he realized it was only the boy beside him."

Gerald turned to her, amused, and she continued: "It wasn't so much that...but he sat up and saw me looking at him, and I'll be damned if he didn't look positively sheepish. Your friend, Mister Owen, is another man who is equally capable of both." With the smile of shared confidence between them, the two went back to peering down their respective trails, not turning to talk until they heard the branches crack behind them.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 03:53 PM

For a map of the Tombigbee click here


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 04:00 PM

(Sorry. From there click "world map" then the North America area, then the US, then Alabama)


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Oct 01 - 07:16 PM

Her eyes were rheumy and milky-white. She saw things, but not with them. She heard things, too, but nothing that mortal ears could hear. She moved through the woods with a stout walking stick and talked while she listened.

"Now, I hear tell they's anothah batch comin' thro soon, yes, suh, uhum," she muttered. She reached down every once in awhile, picking a leaf here and there, sniffing it, rubbing it between her fingers. If it smelled and felt right, she would add it to the slouch bag she had slung over her old hunched shoulders.

Her hair was long and scraggly, white as her eyes. Her skin was old and mottled either with age or old worn out freckles, it was hard to tell. She was stooped with age, but moved quite sprightly.

She stopped, suddenly, sniffed the air like a dog, cocked her head and listened to the physical world. "Thet you, Janey Sue?" she hollered out. "Did you bring them supplies I asked for?" She walked on out into the clearing where a small cabin, mostly a shack, sat squat and ramshackle like a toad.

"Yes'm, I'se did and I'se got ta go, now." Janey Sue said as the old woman stepped inside her cabin.

She cackled and mimicked the terrified young girl, "Yes'm, I'se got ta go!" She took her bag off and plopped it on the rough-hewn table, reaching out first to dislodge a cat. "You jest hang on a bit, now take thet bucket," she waved her hand off towards the corner, "and fetch me some watah, afore ya go. Go on, now do it!"

Janey Sue grabbed the pail and almost ran from the shack. She hated coming out to the old witch's place. She didn't know why her Massah made her do it, what kind of hex the old hag had put on him, but here she was again, terrified. She knew the old lady knew things a proper soul just shouldn't know. Things like if a girl was fooling 'round and who it was with and she told stories about the moon making men crazy and such things. Janey Sue even heard that some people had their fortunes told by the old woman. She filled the bucket down at the river, just a few feet from the cabin, and hurriedly brought it in and set it down.

"I'se goin' now, Miz Tingsley," and before she could say anything, Janey Sue was out the door, running, trying to make it back the four miles to her Master's farm before it got dark.

Abigail Tingsley chuckled to herself, picked up the cat and sat down in her rocking chair, stroking its soft fur until it began to purr. As she rocked back and forth, in a timeless rhythm, she closed her sightless eyes and let the visions come. They would tell her how many, what injuries, how she could help and how long before they made it this far north.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 09:53 AM

Towards the end of the third day, when there had been incessant stops and starts, and everyone was getting more and more anxious, Lucius began acting particularly odd. He became very attentive to Elizabeth, holding her horse when she dismounted, taking it away to groom it, and then, while she was riding, he would run or walk along beside, as if taking charge of the whole scene. Eventually, Elizabeth called him over. "Lucius, what are you up to?"

"Can't say, ma'am."

This went on until just about dusk, and then she called him over again, and said: "Lucius, you being very sweet and kind."

"Yes'm. Can I take your horse, we are camping fo' the night, ma'am."

"Has someone told you to help me like this?"

"No'm, he never said nothing about that."

"Who said?"

"Can't say, ma'am."

"Why not?"

"A knight never says, ma'am."

"Oh, and you have become a knight, have you, Lucius?"

He looked at her, and shook his head: "No'm. I am in trainin'."

"Lucius?" She looked at him sternly.

"Aw, ma'am." He took the battered book from under his arm. "See, I was walking along by Mistah Eaton, and he started talkin' about this here book, called Ivanhoe, it is called Ivanhoe, and he said that it was kind of like another Bible, fo' knights in shinin' armour, and that I should take care of it, that I was a prime candidate for being one of those if I put my mind to it. Sounded fine to me, ma'am."

Elizabeth laughed. "And did you get any instruction along these lines."

"Oh, yes, Miz Miller, heaps. He said that we was at this time in a dark woods, under a curse, and that knights thrived plenty in such sit'iations, and that I had a leg up on all the previous knights that there ever was because there was many knights who went to the ends of the earth hunting down their treasure, and I had found it first day I had taken up this trade, so I was pretty special."

"Well, you certainly are, Lucius, you certainly are."

"Yes'm, an' he said that many knights had pined away without even a glimpse of their treasure, and that I had been held in the arms of my plum first day out, and that was real fine."

"I don't understand."

"He talks sort of confusedly, but he said that you were my fair damson in distress, and that you had hung on to me, and that knights always made beelines for damsons in distress who they never got to hang on to, because of magic spells and fire-eating dragons."

"Fire-breathing, probably."

"Fire-breathin', ma'am. Fire-breathin'." He paused. "Do you think there is such things?"

"Don't know, Lucius, Mr. Eaton is an artist and has a large imagination."

"Yes'm. Dragons, whooh. And he said that I should e-mu-late, that is, do what knights do, and that one day I would become one. He said that Mistah Owen was a real knight, and that Mistah Goodenough was a real knight, and that I should watch them real close."

"And Mr. Eaton?"

"Oh, no, ma'am, he said he was definite and for sure not a knight. He said what he was, but I don't remember. Something lower, sure."

"Well, Lucius, if you are going to work on this some more, you should know that the first rule of knightdom is that you follow your damson's orders without question."

"Yes'm. Mr. Eaton said that too, along with not ever tellin', which I have --". He looked at her somewhat pained.

"Well, I forgive you; but Lucius, you are being so obvious you are letting everyone else into the secret."

"Oh."

"You know, Lucius, you need to be less big about being helpful. I can take care of myself."

"Like pretend that I am not a knight?"

"Just be yourself, Lucius. I'll know."

"O.K. Miz Miller. I guess I can do that, I guess I can pretend to be myself, I guess. But can I take your horse, anyway, Miz. Miller?"

"Yes, Lucius, please."

And he trotted off, pretending with some success to be himself.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 11:01 AM

Tombigbee River map


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 01:55 PM

Some historical background on the Tombigbee, featuring the port of Columbus, plus links to other pages.)


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 03:48 PM

The deserted cabin cast shadows in the moonlight, and the faintest wisp of smoke came from the chimney as Samuel stood on watch. He had been there for an hour or so when he heard footsteps coming up from behind. He saw Elizabeth pause for a moment, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness, before she spotted him and walked over.
"I can sit out a while," she offered "I can't sleep anyways.."
"Thank you, Miz Dolly."

The moon was starting it's descent as Adam left the table in the cabin. He paused in the same manner, allowing the night to fill his vision, then he walked toward the stand of trees to relieve Samuel. He had gone but a few paces into the bushes when he felt the nudge of cold metal just behind his left ear.
"Sam?" he asked, "It's me, come to take over.." he sighed as the barrel of the flintlock whistled past his ear.
"Dear God, you about got yourself killed, you know.." Elizabeth whispered in relief. "What are you doing sneaking up like that? Scared me half to death."
"Well, it didn't exactly add years to my life." snapped Adam, and the two giggled nervously. "Here, give me that rifle, and go back in and get yourself some rest." As she opened the door, the faces around the table looked up at her, briefly lit, skeletal and haggard in the lamplight. They quickly returned to their work. She walked over and sat as well.
"Adam said he's not been out this far before." said Gerald. "We're going to have to follow the pegfoot signs for a while now."
"Yes," replied Tom, "And it won't be long before the Tennessee line."
They drew out possible maps and plans in the dust, and Elizabeth's eyelids grew heavy. "Makes me wish I knew what was going on out there." she sighed.
They looked questioningly at her, in the light of this new dawn, before Gerald replied: "We talked about that. It's too risky. You can discount Samuel, Willis, or Gus and his family on colour alone. Someone might know Adam or yourself, and Tom and I, well, our military expertise is needed here."
"Well, I've not ever been this far north in my life," she said. "I can't imagine a soul who would know me. And we do need supplies...If you keep your mouth shut, Gerald, no one will have any idea that you aren't from these parts...you just smile and nod and carry heavy things.." she leaned forward on the table with a daring smile on her face.

"I won't hear of it." said Gerald, Elizabeth turned to look towards the now-silent Tom.
"Now, Gerald. You know that all of the military history in the world, none of it compares to the wealth of information held in five minutes of women gossiping..." he looked at her condescendingly as he continued, "the worst that can happen is that she gets herself killed." He followed them out into the dawn as they went to saddle up their horses. He gave Elizabeth a leg up and then turned to Gerald, "Do be careful."
"Yes, Gerald." Elizabeth said, digging her heels into the horse's sides, "Do be careful. There are fire-breathing dragons everywhere."

There was no trace of that joviality as the pair rode back into sight of the cabin. Elizabeth slid from her horse, unsaddled it, and walked woodenly past Lucius and Willis swordfighting and wrestling in the grass. She walked into the cabin, saw the wealth of faces again, and turned around and left. Gerald entered shortly after she had, and was nearly as grim.
"What happened?" asked Tom.
"Reconnaissance was a success, dear friend. Apparently we are our own murderers; at the same time, victims and perpetrators of these hideous acts. There is a supposed bounty of an exorbitant sum for the slaves, and one as well for the outlaws who helped them escape. Not only is this mad band responsible for the burning of the Miller farm, but also the murder of the Widow Miller herself -you can imagine how pleased Elizabeth was to hear she was dead- and the further murder of Mister Locke and the burning of the Locke plantation." At this, Gus and Millie quietly came over to the table, Lucius between them. "Yes," Gerald nodded to them, "The plantation was burned to the ground, Missus Locke lost her mind from the grief and was taken away. Her brother is the one who has posted the greater portion of the bounties on our heads."

"That does it then." Tom said. "We stay long enough to get rested, then we go. We can count on these people being relentless, and we can endure being chased, but if they somehow manage to get ahead of us, doubling back and coming from both sides...we can't risk it, Gerald." Gerald nodded his agreement as Tom turned to Samuel and Gus. "No one goes alone, anywhere, only in pairs. At least one gun between you. Mules in sight of others at all times unless you are told differently, understand?" The men nodded quickly as he turned back to Gerald. "If we can make it as far as Savannah, we could avail ourselves on the LaFontaines. They have helped in the past, and the place is certainly large enough and secluded enough to rest for a day or so."
"Provided we get that far?" Gerald asked, Tom nodded his reply.

Samuel quickly cooked some rabbits he'd caught in a snare, and the travelers ate in a silence only broken when Gerald remembered the peppermintstick he'd brought for Lucius, and the boy thanked him. Adam had gone out with a plate for Elizabeth, and returned with it untouched. They gathered their things and saddled the horses again as the afternoon began to give way to evening, and started northward once again.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 04:55 PM

Hartung followed the band of fugitives through the length of the warm April day. Still wary from his close-call in being detected, he kept well to the rear of them, but close enough to detect any sudden deviations from the path they had chosen. Occasionally, he stopped to build a small cairn of stones to keep Montgomery and his mob on the trail. Hartung was surprised at how close to the river they kept. He knew that they would be concerned about pursuit, but they appeared to be more concerned with haste than elusiveness. Hartung hoped that the posse would catch up before they left the track of the Tombigbee, because the hills were wild and raw north of the headwaters. If they hadn't caught up to them by then, Montgomery's mob would likely lose interest when confronted by the difficulties of a wilderness pursuit.

By the end of the day, they were well into Mississippi and the group made camp in the last high ground before the river widened into a wide alluvial valley. Hartung watched them as they tied the horses to a line between two trees, and two of the white men walked out from the camp to keep a watch. They had started a low cooking fire before Hartung dropped back and set up his own camp. He found a patch of lush grass by a stream that fed the river and fed and watered his pony there. Then he took some water and deer jerkey for himself, which was his habitual meal while on the hunt. He believed it kept him hard in spirit and body. As the sun dropped slowly down to the flat Western horizon, he removed a small beaded bundle from his saddle pack and took it to a place where a pile of driftwood made a grotesque structure that resembled a twisted ball of serpents. Here he drew a circle in the sand and sat inside it. He took three pieces of a red-brown material from the bundle and ate them. He called this stuff snakeheart, but a naturalist might have recognized it as Fly Agaric mushroom, a psychoactive drug sometimes used as poison. Hartung used it for vision.

He crossed his legs and chanted softly, and gradually the dropping night underwent a change. The sky turned from blue-black to crimson, the gray shapes of rocks and trees to purple or orange glowing objects. The river itself was transparent to his sight, and he saw numerous grotesque creatures moving through the water or crawling on the slimy bed. At last, he saw what he was waiting for, and a brief glistening flash announced the arrival of the spirit animal, a large Cottonmouth snake, which slithered quietly past. He felt an infusion of strength and power move from the snake to him, and he rose slowly to his feet. Hartung removed his clothing, and taking two handsfull of the river mud, he covered himself in it. He then tied the knife-sheath to his thigh, and stalked up the trail until he saw the low light of a cooking fire. He then slid off the trail, moving silently but swiftly through the trees, like a spirit. At last, he came upon a pair of pine trees that grew from a common bole, and he stepped into the split, a moccasin on each trunk, and worked himself some ten feet up into the tree. There he had a good view of the camp, and could see both lookouts. He watched the figures as they scraped up the last of their food, as one of the women gathered the cookware, as the little black boy charged about in the close light of the small fire, battling some imaginary demon. He watched until the people by the fire slept, and watched as the nearer lookout sat, then lay down and breathed deeply. Silently, Hartung slipped out of his hiding place and crept up on the sleeping watch guard. He pulled the long blade from the sheath and crouched over the man, watching his face for several minutes. Then he did a strange thing : He drew the knife slowly across the tip of his forefinger, and softly touched his fingertip to the man's face. There, on Gerald's forehead, Hartung softly scribed a circle with a cross within it. Then, as quietly as he had come, he disappeared.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 12:29 AM

Elizabeth woke in the early light of dawn to see Adam Goodenough sitting by the fire. She stood up, stretched her arms above her head for a moment, and yawned as she went to sit beside him.
"Sleep well?" he asked
"Are you joking with me, sir?" she replied. "Don't you know we Southern women require at the very least a handful of servants and an enormous feather bed to get a good night's sleep?" She flashed Adam a tired grin, and received the same in return. She then sat, lazily stretching her neck and shoulders, as she fixed a plate of their meager breakfast and a cup of Adam's strong coffee.

She gathered herself and stood, Adam followed.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"Oh, you heard what Tom said. We shouldn't go anywhere alone.." he said, with grin still lingering.
"Mister Goodenough, I believe I am perfectly capable of walking the hundred feet or so to relieve our night watchman."
"And I believe I am perfectly capable of walking with you." Elizabeth sighed in mock annoyance and began walking to the edge of the clearing, with Adam close beside.

Gerald Owen was startled from his dreams by the sound of a plate clattering to the ground. He scrabbled upright, and saw Adam and Elizabeth standing before him. The plate and cup lay at Elizabeth's feet, and the hands that had previously held them were covering her mouth. Her face pale, her eyes wide, she muttered a steady string of 'deargoddeargoddeargod', as she crouched down beside him. Terror also flitted through the eyes of Adam Goodenough, as he knelt before him. Adam took the handkerchief from his back pocket, wet it in the remains of the coffee in the quickly draining cup, and handed it to Gerald. Sternly he said, "Wash your face."

Shocked and still ignorant, Gerald did as he was told. Adam then turned to Elizabeth, "And you, get back to camp." she started to protest, more out of habit than inclination, when he said, "Back to camp, be quiet, say nothing to anyone, just tell Tom to come here."

Elizabeth crept to the quiet camp and knelt beside the sleeping form of Tom Eaton. She leaned low, shaking his shoulder and whispering in his ear, "Tom....Tom, wake up." He opened his eyes and looked at her. His gaze, at first soft and sleepy, quickly hardened as he saw her tears and shaking pallor. "Tom, it's Gerald. Adam is with him, you have to go..." Tom leapt from his bedroll and ran to the edge of the campsite. She watched nervously as the three men talked, but soon busied herself as the rest of the camp started to wake.

Lucius was the first to reach the fire, and Elizabeth tried to remain calm. She tended to the embers with shaking hands, and Lucius looked concerned at her.
"You all right, Miz Elizabeth?" he asked
"Why of course, Sir Lucius." she tried to speak as lightly as possible.
"You don't look all right, ma'am. You sleep okay?"
"Yes, and thank you for asking, that is very kind." she replied. "And yourself, did you sleep well?"
"No ma'am." said Lucius, his face growing fierce. "Had me some bad dreams.."
"Oh, really? About what?"
"I can't rightly recall all of it, just that there was a mess of snakes. Yes ma'am," he said, poking the fire with the branch he'd been using for a sword the day before, "a big mess of snakes."


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 01:35 PM

The party had followed the river's course into the flatland, but Tom had suggested they cut diagonally across at a point where the Tombigbee looped far to the West. This course required a certain amount of trail blazing that ultimately became a chore of picking their path along high ground that penetrated a huge marsh east of the river. It was an eerie landscape of tall cypress trees and spindly conifers hung with cascades of gray spanish moss that sometimes hung thirty feet to the ground. The area held a myriad of varieties of waterfowl, particularly wood ducks and geese. Adam made several attempts to shoot the geese, but they were flighty, and he wasted several shots without taking a bird. At last they agreed that the risk of being heard was a greater danger than hunger, and Adam suggested they try fishing for dinner when they made camp.

Throughout the day, Lucius had amused himself by pretending to hunt the many small animals they encountered on their route, stalking in and out of the woodland despite Millie's efforts to keep him near. At one point, Lucius spotted a large hare that had frozen in position watching their approach. Lucius quietly crept up on it from the side, shielded by a large cypress. It seemed to sense his approach, and hopped some twenty feet into a grove of pine, with Lucius in pursuit, unheeding of his Mother's call. The hare paused, its ears pricking in response to immediate danger. As Lucius watched, the hare gathered itself to leap, leapt, and was suddenly driven sideways by an arrow. It fell, cleanly skewered, kicked, and was still. Lucius, mouth open in surprise, looked up to see a boy of perhaps twelve,clad in feathers, beads, and flannel shirt and trousers. The youth's hair was jet black and tied in a long braid. His hands held a bow, still extended, string still vibrating as he quickly plucked another arrow from the quiver and braced it. Then the boy looked at Lucius and grinned, saying something the black child didn't understand. Lucius backed up, then ran for his life back to his mother.

The party stopped as Lucius babbled about his encounter. Willis looked toward the cypress tree, then pointed silently. The young Indian boy stood there smiling as he slowly raised the hare in his outstretched hand. "Paheeta," he said.

***

At the point where the swamp again intersected the river, the small timber lodge stood. The lodge sat amid a small cultivated area that held dried cornstalks from the previous season. When the fugitives arrived with the young Indian, he motioned them to wait in the trees while he went forward. He entered the lodge, then emerged with an older boy and a grown man. The boy also carried a bow, but the man had a Flintlock rifle. Tom tapped Willis and Elizabeth on the shoulders, then the three walked into the clearing, unarmed. The Indians lowered their weapons when they saw the woman. The boy said a few more words, then his brother and father smiled and bowed their heads to the strangers. A woman appeared, carrying an infant, and busied herself cleaning the hare. The older man smiled at the strangers, touched his lips, and said "eat."


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 05:24 PM

Ole' Abigail Tinglsey set about to make up a mess of greens, only they were not the usual fare; they were greens of herbs, for making poultices; brownish brackens for clearing lungs of the foul spirits; and the bright red wine of St. john's wort to soothe the tired and bruised among those whom she knew were on their way.

She hummed and cackled as she went about her brewing, thinking of the sillyness most people thought of her. Newt's toes and dragon wings, virgin babies' hearts, and heads of snakes, she'd never even seen such things, let alone use them. But, it suited her fancy for solitude to let them think she was that kind of witch. The people who mattered knew bettr. She brushed back her stark white hair, her high cheekbones glinting in the firelight, steam moisture wetting her brow.

Last night, the day after the girl Janey, had been by, wuthluss gerl thet she was, Granny Abigail had sat up all night, watching the moon. She had dragged her table over by the wondow. Once in the night, she very carefully unwrapped her scrying mirror, a polished piece of some rare stone, no more that 6 inches across, from the folds of her softest, black cloth. The lone candle she'd lit on the table cast faint and feeble shadows behind her, but when it was close and reflected on the scrying mirror, it flared up proudly, emitting a brilliantly golden glow, stretching to do its part.

She drew one long bony finger from beneath the lace edge of a too long sleeve, her right index finger, and began to run it round and round the edge of the seer's plate, just slightly concave in the center; one could see faint rings running to its center. If one were to know, this would be what marked it as a precious and not easily found specimen of rainbow obsidian. It was given her by a great shaman from the tribe which had captured and raised her as a child. She had earned her freedom and the witching stone as they recogised her great gift.

Closing her milky white eyes, as though to see even more clearly with her mind's eye, her finger slowed and finally stopped at one edge. A frown creased her brow as she concentrated in seeing clearly. Suddenly, she saw the one they called Hartung, a whitehide version of "Hard Tongue" as the People knew him, the stealer of souls! She watched in dread as he snuck up and painted his symbol on the forehead of the sleeping man. He had a wickedness of icy cold and she knew his only concern was death and destruction, usually in the most painful and long-drawn out manner for all involved.

As she watched him leave the innocents, unware even of his visit, she incribed symbols of her own in the air, lightening flashing from the tips of her fingers, lingering like sparklers in their wake. "Yes'm, o' Great One, we gots a bad one on our hands this time, we's gots to stop him now. Oh, Great One, give me strength and guidance, show me what this old fool of a woman can do to deliver your lambs from the slaughter." She prayed in a mishmash of what she remembered from early childhod before capture and what she'd learned in her heart from the Indians who'd adopted her.

Carefully, running her hand in the other direction on the mirror, she negated all which had come through, cleaned the mirror by dipping it in salt in a basin beside her, then passing it through the flame. She then put it away, again folded very carefully in the old cloth, and tucked away into one of her myriads of pockets among the layers of petticoats, skirts, and aprons covering her wizened body.

She settled back in her chair, drew the candle slightly closer, lit a stick of homemade incense which instantly permeated the air with calm sage, sweet cedar, and tall grass, traded from some travellers from far West. Stilling herself, taking long deep breaths and blowing them out slowly, she felt for the cat, anchored in her lap. Feeling all was well and truly protected, she slipped off her old body, as if an old comfy blanket and travelled across her piney woods, to among the cyprus and swamps now, their knees sticking up out of the water. There she found the band she was looking for and the young one she could entice. "O, little one, heed me well, I speak for the Great One who wishes your service. There are those with great hunger, in great danger. You must feed them, bring them to me. Washemeneto! Do that which is good in the eyes of the Great Spirit!"

With that, Abigail found herself home, in the old comfort of four limbs, chest, aching shoulders and head and a cat that now seemed to weight 20 pounds, having acted well as the grounding force for her travelling. She snuffed the candle, her chin fell to her chest, and, exhausted she slept.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 06:35 PM

The travelers ate well that night. They found out, through a lot of lines drawn in the dirt and complicated, hilarious pantomimed motion, that their hosts were a Kickapoo family originally from southern Kentucky, where the tribal hunting ground had been. Most of their people had moved on, or died from the small pox epidemics, and they too had come to this place by the Tombigbee. They lived by hunting, growing small crops, and fishing, much the way their ancestors had. Most of the people in the valley were aware of these scattered bands, but they let them be, sometimes trading goods with them for fish and game during lean times. As they sat, the grown man, whose name was Wahkeeny, shared his stash of tobacco with them, and they brewed chicory for the Indians. The fire was dying, and Lucius, who now was armed with bow and arrow and sported an eagle feather protruding from a thin strap of leather round his forehead, had settled down in his Mother's lap. The Indian boy, Lucius' new playmate, sat nearby fashioning several arrows for Lucius' quiver.

Suddenly Wahkeeny stopped in the middle of a long and rambling declamation in Kickapoo, and put his pipe down upon a rock. He muttered something to the teenage boy, and they both loped out into the darkness. Tom slipped a cartridge into his Colt and moved further from the fire. In a few minutes the man and boy had returned, the man's face betraying some anxiety. But at last he said "sleep now. Morning you go safe with Pali," Pali being the young boy's name. Wahkeeny then bid the goodnight and went into the lodge with his wife and Pali. The teenager, however, merely smiled and strolled out into the darkness, saying "sleep." And they did. For the first time in many days, they all slept soundly and long.

In the morning, Pali led them up the river to a place where stood a very ramshackle cabin. The cabin's chimney emitted a dark smoke, filling the air with an odor of strange and pungent spice. "You go there," said Pali. "Abigail, she waiting." Pali took each of them by the hand, bowing his head, and last of all Lucius. He smiled into Lucius' eyes, and slowly removed a beaded necklace that he wore, tying it around Lucius' neck. Then Pali turned and trotted into the forest.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 09:20 PM

When they reached the cabin-shack, after knocking and hollering out, they didn't get an answer. The smells emanating from within seemed twinged with odd spices, ones they could not identify. They also seemed compelling, as suddenly Elizabeth stepped up at the same time Lucious did and started to push open the door. Giggling at each other, Lucious cautiously stepped over the rough log lintel and peered around in the gloom, calling out, "Miz Abigail? Pali tole us you'd be waitin' fer us? Miz Abiga..! OH!" Lucious jumped back, almost knocking over Elizabeth, as a black raven flew down from the rafters and out the door.

"Well," said Elizabeth, "Must have been hiding up there in all those herbs hanging to dry, just like my grannie used ta do. I reckon a woman after my own heart won't mind us warming by the fire a bit. Let's go in and wait for this Mrs. Abigail."

With her, Lucious, Adam, Tom, Millie, and Gus, the place suddenly looked rather samll. The men had to duck to keep from brushing their heads against lavender, rue, tansy, thistle, boneset and other things Elizabeth didn't recognise.

"Oh, so it's too small is it, Missy?" a voice cackled at her, in the farthest corner from the door, a corner so dark they couldn't see into it.Actually, as the old woman held up a light, it seemed to be more like a corridor, which led off to more rooms. "C'mon, it be alright. I heard the boy tell me Pali sent you. He's always been such a good boy, always doing as he's told." She beckoned them near her, then turned her back and bade them follow.

They looked in wonder at the walls of logs and leaves and moss and seemingly growing things. Here and there a little water glistened as she passed by with the lantern. The air was fresh, but they seemed to be descending a bit. Finally, the hall opened up into a large, bright room with several cots with blankets and pillows. A table in the center stood piled high with fruits and vegetables, completely out of season and region.

If you've a mind to, you may stay here for a few days. It is completely underground, so you can burn a candle without fear of being seen, but mind the pipes and 'baccy' as the smell will travel right up the vent shaft. Tell them right where you are!!" And, with that,she smiled and started to cackle more.

Suddenly her whole demeanour changed. She stood taller and a mantle of authority protected her shoulders. In an ominous tone, she pointed to Gerald, "You, there, come over here and sit down."

They were all still in a state of shock at this apparently blind old woman and her obvious resources, so without even thinking about it, Gerald walked over to the table and sat down.

She raised her gnarled hands to his head, grasping them with surprising strength, and rubbed over and over on his third eye region, with her thumbs. "Yes," she said lowly," You're the one he marked." Elizabeth let out a gasp. "You have been marked by the minion of the Devil himself, sir, by the stealer of souls and there is nought anyone can do for you. If this night passes safely, ye might have a chance."

Gerald's face was frozen in astonishment as he looked around at the others. Then, she quickly walked past each one of them, seeming to count their measure. She stopped at Elizabeth and held her hand out. Tracing the lines of her palm, feeling her pulse, she closed her eyes and seemed to listen. "You, like the rest, have lost much, Yes'm, like all this world has plumped right down on yourn shoulders, don't it feel like, but though it be dark now, the spirits watch over you. If any are to make it, you must. A trial awaits you, yet, watch for the four-legged, companion to the soul stealer."

Elizabeth quickly withdrew her hand, with a barely suppressed shudder she turned toward the others. Seeing them before the fire and near Gerald at the table, she turned back to thank the old lady for the food and shelter, but no one was there. A cat jumped down from a carved ledge, twined about her legs and walked down the long corridor where Abigail should have been. In the distance, she thought she hear the plaintive scold of a raven.

"well, I am not going to sit her and wiat to die just 'cause of some old blind woman," Gerald said indignantly. "Next thing ya know, we'll be like Persephone and have to spend half the year here if we eat any of her fruit!" And, with that, he reached out for a red juicy apple and bit down.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 21 Oct 01 - 11:05 AM

Traces of unease stirred their way into the depth of sleep, as though a distant troubled calling of his name was penetrating the night.  Adam Goodenough stirred, woke, and sat up on the crude cot; memories marched up reminding him of where he was, how he arrived, thoughts of Sir Lucius and Faire Elizabeethe making him smile.  But the troubled call that had reached his foggy brain did not leave, although he had no sense of what it was, or from where.  He slipped on his boots and rose, walking quietly along the row of sleeping companions, and picked up the flintlock percussion rifle standing by the door.

Quietly he made his way through the strange slanting hall, into the dark cabin and out into the night, drawn by some sense he could not name.  He checked the percussion cap, and stared into the night.

A brilliant moon was flooding the small clearing, making piercing black shadow along the forest edge, and a faint breeze was blowing toward him.  He stepped cautiously into the clearing, feeling his way, alert for something, but not certain what.

As he approached the faint trail that had brought them to this weird woman's hideaway, he heard a faint scratching in the high pines along the edge of the clearing.  He stepped  further in.   The moon-made shadows played impossible games with his eyes, and he decided he should go back.  Then a guttural gravely sound froze him in his tracks.

The painter was twice as big as any he had ever seen.  It was not tawny, but a silver color, with a sort of iridescence to its coat -- must be the moonlight, he thought quickly, that's not what it would like in daylight.  It was twelve feet above his head, perched on a broad limb, crouched to spring.

He stared, rifle raised, and fell in to its eyes.  For a brief second, he was immersed in a melding whirl of images, of tracking, smell, hunting, and killing by the power of jaws.  He snapped back to himself as the huge catamount coiled to spring and fired.  In the strange manner of such moments, time froze down to his view, and he saw the Minie bullet penetrating the silver coat, saw the traces of red blood appear at the thick joint of shoulder and chest, saw the giant shadow unwind from its perch and launch itself toward him, one leg hanging from the damaged shoulder but the other stretched straight for him, the mouth wide and the sound of the guttural scream filling the endless moonlit night.  An awful weight pounded into his chest, the smell of hot animal breath in his face, slamming him back and to one side, the rifle flying from his grip, his head slamming backwards against the bole of a tree, sparks as bright as the moon and a black and pain free silence flooding through all his thoughts.


He came to from a far dark place to the smell of crushed mint leaves being held under his nose.  The weird woman who had put them up was there in the night, kneeling by his head waving leaves at him.  Pains shot through his head as he struggled to a sitting position, wincing and mumbling.

"What?  What happened?  The painter?"

"He's gone fer now, young man.  You have protection in your blood, Ah guess.  Ye wounded the GRay Ghost, ye did -- the soul-stealer's companion.  Otherwise you would be in blackness forever, about now.  Thank your stars, thank your guards...heh!!  Cain't make it out, but I reckon your friend yonder may owe you some thanks.  His shadow's a trifle shorter because of this.  But he's not out of harm's way yet.  Oh, no....."

With that she thrust the herbs into her apron pocket and turned back to the shack.  Adam slowly mustered his senses, gathered the flintlock, and followedher through the blazing moonlight,, among black shadows, in the cool nightbreeze, back to a dreamless sleep.
 
 
 


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Amos
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 12:27 PM

He awoke again from black sleep to find Elizabeth dabbing at his left shoulder with a cloth dipped in strong-smelling hot liquid, a strong odor that seemed to penetrate his darkened brain -- an acidic smell like parsley, a faint tint of sage or attar of rose -- he didn't recognize all of it, but it felt strengthening.

"Abigail told me what happened. You have a couple of nasty scratches from that painter along your shoulder. She gave me something to stop it getting infected."

"I tried to shoot him before he jumped, but I guess I only wounded him. My god, what a terrifying moment that was, Elizabeth! It was as though time itself had slowed and all I could see was that animal anger and those teeth..."

"Hush, Adam. You need to rest up. Now that you have saved us all from durance vile...."

She smiled at him, lifted his head up from behind to finish swabbing the long deep scratches from his neck to his shoulder, and gently lowered his head back onto the crude bolster.

"Fair ladye...", he whispered, feeling a little dizzy for several reasons, "That I mought be so honoured, my life would I gladlye lay downe in stout defense of thy faire nayme....".

"Oh, hush that tongue, Adam Goodenough! We have mor eimportant htings to defend around here than a name already deeper in mud than a catfish. But thank you for the sweet thought...".

She leaned over impulsively and placed a soft kiss on his forehead, and the very touch seemed to fill his darkness like sunlight pouring into an old, long-closed warehouse whent he doors a re flung open after long disuse.

"Yes, my ladye. We have freedom to provide to our charges. Our first importance is their lives and safe arrival. For my own part, I cannot see the future except for those two holy vows -- to deliver them, and to safeguard you. Perhaps, beyond that, there is more than one kind of freedom a body can find for a hurt soul..."

She smiled again, touched and warmed in her eyes. "That remains to be seen, Mr Goodenough. All in its own time. For now, you are to sleep."

And she reached up and with two gentle fingers closed his eyes, and he fell back into a warmer rest than he had known in many years.

She stood, taking up her bowl and cloth, and left his cot, smiling to herself.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 02:06 PM

Elizabeth left Adam to his rest, and looked in at the sleeping bodies of Gus and Millie as she set her bowl on the table. Lucius sat at the table, restlessly twanging the string on his bow, and she motioned him to come outside with her. They walked outside, squinting a bit in the sunlight, and saw Gerald and Sam standing together. The two men faced each other, and by the way Samuel was clenching and unclenching his fists, Elizabeth knew Gerald was about to be pounded into dust.

"Go play, honey." she said to Lucius. "Stay where we can see you." As Lucius ran for the trees, Elizabeth ran to place herself between the two gentleman. "Well," she said brightly, "Adam looks well. Nasty cuts, though.."
The two men glared at each other a moment more before Sam finally acknowledged her. "Yes'm, Miz Dolly. At least he has a safe place to stay while he recovers."
"Yes, but for how long?" snapped Gerald. Sam took a step forward, but when Elizabeth firmly placed her hand on Samuel's arm, he gave her a pained look, then nodded and walked back towards the cabin.

She watched Samuel walk off, then turning, she linked her arm through Gerald's. "Come, let's go sit down, shall we?" They walked to a patch of meadow grass and flowers and rested. Elizabeth finally spoke: "You didn't believe that old woman did you?" she asked.
"Of course not!" he barked. "What do you mean? Mythical garbage, that's all it is. Useless nonsense.."
"So," she asked, "You aren't afraid of her, just her garbage?"
"Elizabeth!" came a scolding voice from behind her, and she turned to see Tom standing at the edge of the clearing. He came over and sat beside so that she was flanked by the two men.

"I am sorry," Elizabeth said to Gerald. "But you do have to admit that there have been some strange goings on.."
"If I have any discomfort, Missus Miller, it is not from that old woman." Gerald leaned low and hissed at her: "It would more likely be from the fact that some person crawled up to me in my sleep and painted on me in blood. That is the thing we need to fear right now. The men following us? The fact that they feel secure enough in their hunt to toy with us."
Shocked at his outburst, Elizabeth stared at the ground. Her skin flushed, she picked at a flower in a subconscious game of 'he'll kill me- he'll kill me not' as tears began to well in her eyes.
"Gerald," said Tom, "That's enough. You are not giving us any new information, Missus Miller knows..." Gerald glared at him for a second, then quickly rolled to his feet and left them to go and play with Lucius.

They watched the two at play for a while, Elizabeth occasionally sniffling, when Tom asked uncomfortably, "How's Adam?"
"Lucky that cat didn't rip his throat wide open." she sighed. "Abigail gave me a wash to clean it up, I think he'll heal all right."
"We can't stay here much longer, Elizabeth. We aren't safe yet."
"I know." she replied, and dropped her head to watch her hands begin mutilating flowers once again.

Tom reached out and brushed away the hair hanging in her downturned face. "Then what are you thinking?"
"Don't be foolish, Tom. You aren't and idiot and neither am I." she glared at him, "Our brave knights are in trouble. One physically wounded, and the other..." she drifted off to look at Gerald once more.

Tom stared fiercely at Elizabeth, until he saw the mist gather in her eyes again. Somewhat uncomfortably, he put his arm around her and let her fall for a moment before he said: "Now, now. No tears. Everything will be just as it should be. You heard old Missus Mumbo-Jumbo in there" he motioned toward the cabin, "nothing to worry about..."
Elizabeth hiccuped a small laugh as she sat up and wiped her face. "Be quiet!" she chuckled "If she hears you, she's liable to turn you into a toad or something.." Tom smiled at her and she continued, "Oh yes, it would improve your personality immensely, but it doesn't bode well for our travels north, now does it?"

The two sighed, and looked up from their conversation to see Lucius looking concerned. "Miz 'Lizbeth? You all right?"
"No fear, young man" spoke Tom. "Your fair damson is a bit bruised perhaps, but still as sour as ever." He tried to look innocent under Elizabeth's withering glare, and stood to place his hand on Lucius shoulder. "Where is Mister Owen?"
"That's what I come to tell you Mistah Eaton. Mistah Owen done lef'. He tole me to get back here, that it wasn't none of my business, but he din't look right."
"I'll go find him." said Tom. "You two get back below and tend to Adam, all right?"


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Peter T.
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 02:42 PM

He found Gerald ahead, sitting on the river bank, watching, worrying. They talked briefly. Gerald said: "Apart from whoever is stalking us, others, if there were any, would begin to falter once they passed the headwaters of the Tombigbee -- and we are approaching that divide."

Tom agreed, and they further agreed to double the watch that night. Gerald moved back to the camp, and Tom decided to sit and take advantage of the late afternoon, and he pulled out his sketchbook. The spring had begun to flower in earnest, and he was itchy to capture some of it on paper, though he mourned the necessity that had made him leave his paints behind in Charlottesville.

As the sun began to decline, he broke off from his drawing to see Adam approaching. Adam sat down beside him, and did not seem immediately to have anything to say, so Tom went back to his work.

After a minute or so, Adam said: "I have watched you drawing, Tom, and it sure got me to wondering if you, well, could show me a thing or two."

"You mean what I have done? Just sketches, Adam, nothing worth showing."

"No", he said shyly, "To draw. I always had a kind of inkling towards it, but it was never any use, so I never got the chance. Used to scribble on the sides of things, nothing much, but always had an interest."

"Well, of course, Adam, nothing easier, here," and he handed over his stubby pencil and the sketch pad.

"What'll I do?"

"Simplicity first, why don't you try and draw that fine tree over there, starting with the trunk." Adam fumbled for a second, and then drew a cartoonish tree.

"Not a bad start," said Tom, "Now draw the tree the way it really looks, not as you think it looks."

"I did that --"

"No, look at it. Forget what you imagine it looks like, what you have seen in pictures, look at that line there, yes there, now draw that."

Adam looked, looked again, and slowly drew a line. Then another.

"Splendid," said Tom, "Now, see, at this point you really were looking, and then you stopped looking here, and then you looked again. Here you cheated. Try again."

Adam tried again. And again. He screwed up his eyes, and drew. After about five minutes he stopped. "I can't go on, it is too exhausting."

"I know, hard work isn't it. Drives you crazy. But that is a good start. Your eyes and your hands must work in concert. But you have the knack. Start looking about. For instance, you see that mist of green over there. Notice how it goes blue, even as the light is going orange, purple in the gathering dusk. The colours are affected by the distance from the eye."

Adam, somewhat humbled, said: "I will."

"Well," said Tom, "hand it back over, I can get another ten minutes sketching in before night falls."

Tom continued to work, making a comment here and there, with Adam watching. Eventually Adam cleared his throat, and said, haltingly: "There is something else we should maybe talk about."

"Yes?"

"Do you have honourable intentions towards Elizabeth?"

"If you mean am I a gentleman, of course."

Adam looked down at his boots. "I think she favours you over me. Makes sense."

"My dear Adam, why would it make sense? You seem to me to be well favoured, intelligent, obviously smitten like a hound."

"You are a foreigner, been many places, an artist, an Army man, you have a way with words, you have everything. "

"Adam, the lady is strong minded, and is more than likely to make a perverse choice just to defy convention."

Adam looked unhappy.

"I meant me, Adam. You lack courage, mon brave. Were she an ordinary woman, I am sure that tricks and fripperies would be worth rummaging around in, but she is not, nor are these ordinary circumstances. She is capable of telling us both to go hang, and choosing neither, or indeed forswearing the company of men forever."

"Becoming a -- nun?"

Tom laughed, "Oh, I doubt it, but perhaps she is of the Sapphic persuasion, but lacks opportunity."

Adam was lost in new terrain. "Sapphic?" he softly inquired.

"A denizen of Lesbos. Perhaps she will find happiness in the arms of another woman. A loss to mankind certainly, but --"

Adam's eyes widened. "But -- but -- that is --"

"My dear Adam, I must invite you to France, really I must."

Adam shuffled uneasily, and began to get to his feet.

"No, no, Adam, don't go. I do have a confession to make."

Adam sat back down.

"The truth is, Adam, apart from whatever designs I have on her, I do confess to having a desperate desire to see Mrs. Miller's naked body."

"Wha --?"

"You see, Adam, now that you are a fellow artist, you can appreciate this. " Tom took out a new sheet of paper. "The fact is that I think she has the most extraordinary torso, those slim hips, even for one who has been a mother, she moves quite finely, so from the back, one often wonders about these points, here" -- and he drew a lower back -- "where the muscles about the sacrospinalis create these classic dimples just above the entrance to the buttocks" -- Adam sat mesmerized at this spectacle, but simultaneously growing beet red -- "Truly, Adam, I have been thinking about her in a Corot style, perhaps a maiden in one of these Tennessee wilderness scenes, the graygreen filtering across the flesh tones, and she would be perfect." He started another drawing, "It requires a frontal pose, of course, something like this. You see, Adam, here, the bowl formed by the hipbones is tilted quite differently in the female, and there is this frisson with the slimmer female, the haunch line telling a quite different story, that is what I admire in her form, the way the drapery hangs low on her hips, even in her rough gown, have you not noticed it?" Adam slowly began to get to his feet, backing away, while Tom continued his drawing, merrily chatting away, "And look here, then there is this ligament here, as one moves down the bowl of the belly towards -- very hard to draw, what you really need here is the lightest, softest featherlike touch of the pencil as you limn these complex shadows and hollows down --" Adam turned and ran like a large moose through the woods, and did not stop until he nearly ran over the campfire.

At his fleeing Tom lay back and laughed and laughed, the first great laugh he had had in months. He was unable to stop for several minutes.

The sound of Adam's crashing through the woods, and the sound of laughter were picked up by the hunters, who had been nearby for hours, but had not known how near they were.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: JenEllen
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 05:34 PM

Elizabeth went back to the cabin and passed Samuel in the doorway.
"He ain't down there, Miz Dolly. He done went walking."
"Walking?" she asked "Well, I suppose he's feeling better then?" Samuel shrugged noncommittally.

She stood in exasperated silence for a minute or so before Samuel cleared his throat and spoke. "Miz Dolly, I been meaning to talk wit' you."
"Yes, Sam. What is it?" she asked, looking out the door and scanning for sign of Adam.
"No ma'am, I mean really talk wit' you."
The edge that crept into his voice made her turn around to face him. "Is this about outside? You and Gerald?" she asked. Samuel nodded and motioned her to sit at the table with him.

She waited patiently as Samuel gathered his courage to speak. He started, stopped, looked at his hands and sighed, then took a deep breath as he locked his eyes to hers. "Miz Dolly, you an' I been friends for a long time."
"Yes, Sam." she encouraged
"Well," he sighed heavily. "Last night, when we was getting around wi' Miz Abigail? She said some things to Gerald, an' she said some things to you.."
"Sam," she reached across the table and cradled his hands in hers, "I was there, remember? Now what is the trouble?"

"After she said them things, I was awful angry, her upsettin' you like that. I went out to talk wit' her and then she said some things to me too."
"Such as?"
"Such as she knowed that I been wit' you for a very long time. She knowed about Esther, Elijah, and what happen to Bessie too." his shoulders sagged a bit as he continued. "She said I had a lot of pain in this life, but that I had it all for a reason. To make me strong."
"What does this have to do with outside today, Sam? I can hardly see how Mister Owen would dispute that."
"No ma'am. I was talking to Mistah Owen about what Miz Abigail said after that."
"Which was?" Elizabeth asked impatiently
"She said I have a bit of that sight myself. That if'n I wanted to, I could stay here and learn wit' her. Carry on, that's what she said, carry on."

Elizabeth dropped his hands as if she'd been burned by them, almost throwing them to the table. "Jesus, Samuel! You can't be serious?"
Samuel looked crestfallen. "I thought you'd see it that way Miz Dolly. I knowed you would. Abigail, she kinda knowed it too. I seen you talking to Mister Owen, an' thought he might help me find a way to ask you if it was all right to stay, seeing as I stayed wit' you so long already."
"Stayed?" Elizabeth asked "Stayed? As in past tense, as in 'used to stay'?" Her voice grew sharp, and when she looked at his sorrowful expression, she quieted again.

"Damn, Sam. This puts us in an awful spot."
"Yes ma'am, that what Mister Owen said. That I was bein' selfish and scared by stayin' here. It ain't that way Miz Dolly. It ain't."
Elizabeth stood up and embraced Samuel. "Well, it sounds to me like you've already made up your mind."
"That ain't so Miz Dolly, I can stay wit' you easy."
"Yes, but you deserve to be happy, same as anyone else. If you think that this is the way to do it, we'll manage."
"I won't forget what you done for me Miz Dolly. I won't."
"You'd better not," she scolded. "And when you learn those good spells, I expect to be rolling in money, men and moonshine. You hear me? Money, men and moonshine."

The two sat laughing sadly together as Adam Goodenough came blundering through the brush. He barely avoided a collision with the firepit, came to a skidding halt, and composed himself when he saw the pair watching him.
"Y'all right Adam?"
"Yes ma'am. Fine ma'am." he looked sheepishly at the two, then busied himself tending to the horses. Elizabeth and Samuel shared an amused glance between them, then went to find Abigail Tingsley.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 22 Oct 01 - 07:39 PM

Montgomery's party had followed the markers left by Hartung up the river to the place where the trail dropped into the broad valley, then had seen a cairn and an arrow made of stones that pointed through the marsh. They had made one camp in the marshland, and several men had built a rude blind by a large pond and shot several geese in the act of landing on its surface. They had feasted on roast goose and whiskey that night, and the festivities were at their height when Tate Hartung suddenly appeared, scaring Abner Thicke so bad he fell into the fire. "Where's Montgomery?" said Hartung.

Montgomery, jug in hand, approached the scout. "Hartung! Have a goddamn drink, boy! You did a fine job of laying trail for us!" Hartung's look froze Montgomery in his tracks. "And now," said the scout, "you want to alert them with your brouhaha and your bonfire. Put the fire out." Montgomery grinned, and pointed at Abner. "You heard the man! Make it snappy!" Hartung said "a word in private," and walked near the moon-lit pond. Montgomery saw the scout suddenly wince and grip his shoulder, and said "are you hurt?" Hartung sat upon a fallen cypress trunk. "It's nothing. I was clumsy," said Hartung, and Montgomery tried vainly to imagine the man doing anything "clumsy".

"Listen," said Hartung. "They are two miles ahead in a ramshackle cabin belonging to an old witch woman. We could try to take them there, but they are armed and the cabin is solid log. We'd have to lay seige, and the old lady has a month of supplies inside. So here's the plan : Four miles upstream, the river narrows as it comes out between two hills. The only path is along the stream and between cliffs on either side. It's very steep, and heavy with trees and fallen timber. We can hide ten men in there easy. I'll take this group and arrange an ambush. We'll leave tonight. There is an Indian lodge between here and the witch's house. We need to give it a wide berth, or they may tip off our prey. In the morning, I want you to head up the trail, making all the ruckus you can. Question the Indians at the lodge. Fire your rifles. I want the fugitives to run, and I want you to stay on their heels. When they reach the two hills, they'll be caught in a vise. They won't get past me. Make sure they don't escape past you."

Hartung picked the ten most sober men and left with them. They had ridden hard, and reached the two hills by sun up. Montgomery's men ate breakfast and broke camp, loading pack horses, strapping cookware on cookware to create maximum noise. The men were happy to fire at birds and rabbits they encountered on the trail through the swamp, since Montgomery commanded it. In several hours of slow traveling, they reached the Kickapoo lodge, deserted except for Wahkeeney, who had sent his family away, although his teenage son sat in a pine with rifle trained on the rowdy group's leader. Montgomery halted the men and walked his gray stallion up to Wahkeeney. "We are lookin for some people. Whites and blacks." The Indian smiled and shook his head, saying "no English!" Montgomery grinned back and produced a folded "wanted" poster with pictures of Gus, Millie, Willis and Lucius. He noted the sudden recognition in the Indian's eyes, even as the brave shook his head no. Montgomery said "that so?" and produced a Colt Navy Revolver, which he leaned over and pressed against Wahkeeney's forehead. He cocked it and said "take another look." The Indian closed his eyes, then calmly looked back at Montgomery and said "no slave, no see." The big man laughed and holstered his pistol, turning to holler "hear that boys? No slave, no see!" He spurred his horse, the others following. In the pine tree, his eldest son exhaled a deep breath and slung his rifle, climbing quickly down.

The posse rode slowly down the trail, and had gone scarcely a mile when they heard the sound of laughter. "We're too near" said Montgomery, and they backtracked several hundred yards before Lem was ordered to fire his shotgun in the air.


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Subject: RE: Story:Follow The Drinking Gourd II
From: Crazy Eddie
Date: 23 Oct 01 - 09:51 AM

Don't stop! Brilliant stuff! Eddie


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