She had sent this letter to him three weeks before, and now she stood caressing the beautiful Rocket, who sometimes proudly arched his long neck, and then looked wistfully at the sad group gathered around him, as if he knew that was no ordinary parting. Colonel Tiffton, who had heard what was going on, had ridden over to expostulate with Mrs. Worthington against sending Rocket North. “Better keep him at home,” he said, “and tell Hugh to come back, and let those who had raised the muss settle their own difficulty.”
The old colonel, who was a native of Virginia, did not know exactly where he stood. “He was very patriotic,” he said, “very, but hanged if he knew which side to take—both were wrong. He didn’t go Nell’s doctrine, for Nell was a rabid Secesh; neither did he swallow Abe Lincoln, and he’d advise Alice to keep a little more quiet, for there was no knowing what the hotheads might do. He’d heard of Harney’s threatening vengeance on all Unionists, and now that Hugh was gone he might pounce on Spring Bank any night.”
“Let him!” and Alice’s blue eyes flashed brightly, while her girlish figure seemed to expand and grow higher as she continued: “he will find no cowards here. I never touched a revolver in my life. I am quite as much afraid of one that is not loaded as of one that is, but I’ll conquer the weakness. I’ll begin to-day. I’ll learn to handle firearms. I’ll practice shooting at a mark, and if Hugh is killed I’ll—oh, Hugh! Hugh—”
She could not tell what she would do, for the woman conquered all other feelings, and laying her face on Rocket’s silken mane, she sobbed aloud.
“There’s pluck, by George!” muttered the old colonel. “I most wish Nell was that way of thinking.”
It was time now for Rocket to go, and ’mid the deafening howls of the negroes and the tears of Mrs. Worthington and Alice he was led away, the latter watching him until he was lost to sight beyond the distant hill, then, falling on her knees, she prayed, as many a one has done, that God would be with our brave soldiers, giving them the victory, and keeping one of them, at least, from falling.
Sadly, gloomily the autumn days came on, and the land was rife with war and rumors of war. In the vicinity of Spring Bank were many patriots, but there were hot Secessionists there also, and bitter contentions ensued. Old friends were estranged, families were divided, neighbors watched each other jealously, while all seemed waiting anxiously for the result. Toward Spring Bank the aspersions of the Confederate adherents were particularly directed. That Hugh should go North and join the Federal army was taken as an insult, while Mrs. Worthington and Alice were closely watched, and all their sayings eagerly repeated. But Alice did not care. Fully convinced of the right, and that she had yet a work to do, she carried out her plan so boldly announced to Colonel Tiffton, and all through the autumn months the frequent clash of firearms was heard in the Spring Bank woods, where Alice, with Mug at her side, like her constant shadow, “shot at her marks,” hitting once Colonel Tiffton’s dog, and coming pretty near hitting the old colonel himself as he rode leisurely through the woods.