“Marion,” said grandmamma, “let us have supper and prayers.”
The meal was scarcely touched. Aunt Marcia put Bible and prayer-book by the lamp and barred all the front shutters. When grandmamma had read we knelt, but the prayer, was scarcely finished when Aunt Marcia was up, crying: “The signal! Hear the signal!”
Out in the still night a high mournful note on a bamboo pipe was answered by a conch, and presently the alarm was ringing from point to point, from shells, pipes and horns, and now and then in the solemn clangor of plantation bells. It came first from the south, then from the east, swept around to the north, and answered from the western cliffs, springing from hilltop to hilltop, long, fierce, exultant. We stood listening and, I fear, pale. But by and by grandmamma took her easy chair.
“I will spend the night here,” she said.
Aunt Anna took a rocking-chair beside her. Aunt Marcia chose the sofa. Aunt Marion spread a pallet for me, lay down at my side, and bade me not fear but sleep. And I slept.
(REVOLT AND RIOT)
Suddenly I was broad awake. Distant but approaching, I heard horses’ feet. They came from the direction of the fort. Aunt Marcia was unbarring the shutters and fastening the inner jalousies so as to look out unseen.
“It’s nearly one o’clock,” some one said, and I got up, wondering how the world looked at such an hour. All hearkened to the nearing sound.
“Ah!” Aunt Marcia gladly cried, “the troopers!”
There were only some fifty of them. Slowly, in a fitful moonlight, they dimly came, hoofs ringing on the narrow macadam, swords clanking, and dark plumes nodding over set faces, while the distant war-signal from shell, reed, and horn called before, around, and after them.
Still later came a knock at the door, and Mr. Kenyon was warily readmitted. He explained the passing of the troopers. They had hurried about the country for hours, assembling their families at points easy to defend and then had come to the fort for ammunition and orders; but the captain of the fort, refusing to admit them without the governor’s order, urged them to go to their homes.
“But,” Mr. Kenyon had interposed, “a courier can reach the governor in an hour and a half.”
“One will be sent as soon as it is light,” was the best answer that could be got.
Our friend, much excited, went on to tell us that the town militia were without ammunition also. He believed the fort’s officers were conniving with the revolt. Presently he left us, saying he had met one of our freed servants, Jack, who would come soon to protect us. Shortly after daybreak Jack did appear and mounted guard at the front gate. “Go sleep, ole mis’s. Miss Mary Ann” [Marion], “you-all go sleep. Chaw! wha’ foo all you set up all night? Si’ Myra, you go draw watah foo bile coffee.”