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"Be keerful, Miss Virgie," advised the colored girl. "You's a-ticklin'
my nose. I'se gwine to sneeze ef yo' don't, and jes blow my beard all
"Oh, don't be such a baby," remonstrated the earnest Miss Virginia, with
a correcting slap. "S'pose you were a man an' had to wear one all the
time. Now! Stand up! Look, Mother!"
"I'm afraid of him already. He's so ferocious."
"Isn't he? Oh, won't _you_ play with us, Mother? I'll--I'll let you be
Mrs. Fatima." And then, as her mother's face showed signs of doubt as to
her histrionic ability, "If you were _my_ little girl, I'd do it in a
"All right, dear, of course I will; but I've just remembered a bit of
lace in your grandmother's trunk in the attic. I believe it will be
exactly enough for the neck and sleeves of your new dress." She smiled
courageously as she folded a piece of old silk she was remaking. "You
and--" she cast a glance at Sally Ann--"your respected brother-in-law
can wait a few moments, can't you? You might rehearse a little more.
With all this important audience of solemn oaks you wouldn't want to
make the slightest slip in your parts."
"That's so," agreed Virgie, raising her hands and clasping her tiny
fingers thoughtfully. "And I'll tell you what--we'll mark off the castle
walls around the bench where the window's going to be. We ought to have
a stage. Come on Sal--I mean Blue Beard, pick up some sticks quick."
Mrs. Cary started, but turned back an instant: "By the way, have either
of you seen Uncle Billy. I' must find him, too, and plan something for
"I seen 'im early dis mawnin'," piped Blue Beard, "makin' for de woods.
I reckon he be back pres'n'y."
"Very well," answered Virgie's mother, a shadow creeping into her face
as she went on toward the house. Could Uncle Billy possibly be leaving!
The most trusted negro of all! No--_never_! She would almost as soon
doubt the cause itself!
Three long years ago war had seemed a thrilling, daring necessity.
Caught in the dreadful net of circumstance she had vowed proudly in her
own heart never to be less brave than the bravest. In her ears still
rang the echo of that first ...
* * * * *
From far away a faint fanfare of trumpets, borne on brazen wings from
the distant clamor of the city's streets.
"What's that--a bugle?"
"And that--a drum?"
_Tramp--tramp--tramp_--the rolling thunder of ten thousand feet.
_War has been declared!_
From North to South, the marching lines fill the land--a sea of men
whose flashing bayonets glisten and glitter in the morning light. With
steady step and even rank, with thrill of brass lunged band and
screaming fife the regiments sweep by--in front, the officers on their
dancing steeds--behind them, line after line of youthful faces, chins
in, chests out, the light of victory already shining in their eyes.
In just this way the Nation's sons went forth to fight in those first
brave days of '61. Just so they marched out, defiant, from South and
North alike, each side eager for the cause he thought was right, with
bright pennons snapping in the breeze and bugles blowing gayly and never
a thought in any man's mind but that _his_ side would win and his own
life be spared.
And every woman, too, waving cheerful farewell to valiant lines of
marching gray or sturdy ranks of blue, had hoped the same for _her_
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