NOVEMBER 4th, 1855.
My Dear Mother:-This is the first Sabbath in November, and we are having a pouring, beating, east-wind rain,--quite an unusual quarter from which to "scare-up" a rain, or a wind even, in this region of the world. Our roof does not leak; but the east side of the cabin is its weak side. The shakes are not so closely packed; and the newspapers which we pasted on so carefully are loosening with the united action of wind and rain. I am already sliding off the papers, scattered in such profusion by Mr. C____'s friends about him, so as to have some to fall back upon when the sun comes out again, and the wind, getting weary, falls asleep. The inmates of the cabin are all dressed to-day. Night-gowns have rolled themselves up meekly and vanished under imaginary pillows. The contents of the dressing-gown, packed into the great rocking-chair with giddy head and shaking hand, strives to get up a magnetic grasp of your hand and a breath of the repose which, ever and always, hovers over the room where my mother lives.
I could not write any more yesterday. We had a great many callers, gentlemen to see Mr. C_____, and we all grew too weary to make ourselves agreeable, either by talking or writing. E. has been in quite early this morning to attend to poor Mr. Hadley. From E.'s account, I think he must be near the last of his journey. I hoped in a day or two to go to see him, he is so very near. But now, while I write, there comes a tap at the door, which (we all being invalids), I answer, with a cheerful "Come." The door is opened by a young lad about E.'s age; a stranger. He asks, "Is this Mrs. R.? "To which I respond, "Yes." He steps in, bringing a clean shirt in his hand, and, laying it upon my lap, asks if I will "Please put buttons to it, as it is wanted for Mr. Hadley's shroud." The work-basket is lifted down from a nail on the beam over my head; and, while I select the proper buttons, the young man tells me he was alone with the dying man, and that he lived but a few moments after E. came away. And now I sit here seeing the men of years, who should not have left these young hands to the sad work of closing dying eyes, go to prepare the poor, worn-out body for its safe and last repose.
Poor Hadley! and poor everybody who comes away from home to die among strangers. I am glad he had so little consciousness, and I give thanks that heaven is as easily reached from Kansas as from any other point under the sun. I never, in feeding the poor creature, could forget that somewhere, perhaps, he had a mother, or a wife, or a daughter, whose heart would wither from never knowing his final end. So long as I have known him, he has never had clearness of mind sufficient to tell his own story.
Now the picture changes again. The door opens to admit Grove L____, the Governor's private secretary. He is always welcome, with his pleasant smile, showing a wealth of teeth, and his ringing voice, full of the elements of music. He throws off his blanket, and says he is "bound to stay." I look at him with a bewildering stare, which he answers back by saying he is sick, and his death, (should he fail to impress the necessity on his part, and the duty on mine) must be inevitable. I point up to the loft, as the only resort at night. He gives a spring up the bars, looks about, and comes down quite satisfied. At night he brings his buffalo, chair, and some books. The great chair is drawn near enough to the stove to tend the toasting-folks, and the bread, nicely browned, is passed from one to another, till those who drink milk, and those who content themselves with Kansas tea, are all supplied. Night settles down upon us. The pinched and faded cheeks of little Alice are the first to be laid away behind the piano cover,-which indeed makes a nice bedroom of that corner of the cabin. Then Mr. C_____, broken to the merest wreck of manhood by his protracted and exciting sickness, is established in the warm corner near the stove. Dressing-gown hangs itself, with tall dignity, upon a nail, while night-gowns have their turn. The cabin is still. Good Uncle Jeff has taken care for us all, and at last drawn out his pillow of wood, rolled himself up in his buffalo, and is sleeping, as the honest soul always should, the even sleep of child hood.
There is peace in the cabin, my dear mother. "The angels of the Lord encamp around about those who fear him." Far off across the river, in my wakefulness, I hear the whoop of the Indian, or the echo of a rifle; or quite as often, the quarreling sound of angry and hungry wolves. We accustom ourselves to new and disagreeable things with wonderful facility. The mouse, that I have just ordered off my bed, is no longer an object of terror, but simply a disagreeable fact, such as one meets with, in some form, every day of one's life.
I now calculate the amount necessary for breakfast, for the fastidious little company in the cabin; remember with relief the large loaf of light bread not yet encroached upon; the beef, from which the best steak can be cut, if needed; the corn-cake which can be stirred in a moment if begged for; and sleep, so coveted, comes in and puts out my lamp.
Nov. 8th.--We are having a very soft air, and the most charming weather: no frosts and as warm as your June. It gives no strength to invalids, however, and they get sad under it. There is but little to interest minds weakened by long disease. No pleasant suites of rooms to walk through; no book-shelves to look over, or books of plates, to beguile the time hanging so heavily; no seats out doors to sit upon and chat; no daily mail to stir one's blood, when the announcement is, that the "mail is open."
But here comes Typhoid, tall beyond any woman I ever saw. An Indian head and hair, and a fine set of teeth. She has a brown veil tied under her chin, and a shawl thrown about her person. We always welcome Typhoid. She comes with an earnest message this time. One of the party who arrived from the East, that bitter cold week, has been there sick ever since; no one has taken particular care of him, and now the Doctor pronounces his disease, which is Congestion of the Lungs, so she said, incurable. Could I go over and see him? To be sure I would if possible. The hood is drawn on, the dressing gown exchanged for the dark print like yours, my shawl twisted tightly, by the zealous boy, around me, and with him for a body-guard, we start out.
We prefer to go into the main street, so long unseen, and mark the progress of things. Every step or two I stop and take an observation and give vent to an emotion of surprise that so much is doing. A city, just one year old, working up so many nice little stone dwelling-houses and more ambitious stores! A hotel, too, with its windows all glazed, and its black-walnut doors shining with the polish of oil! I have to scramble over great piles of sand, and heaps of the homesick-looking limestone. All sorts of merchantable matters hang and lie about all sorts of curious looking shops. Plenty of Missouri market-wagons stand up and down the street. "Ned," said I, "has anybody dug a well?" "Haven't heard," was the boy's reply. When shall the want of water be met? Will this generation produce no "Jacob," who has philanthropy enough to do so praisworthy an act? I'm sure he would deserve to have for his epitaph those concise words: "He digged a well."
But here we are at the door of the sick man. He is in the chamber we occupied during our first week in Kansas--a thin, woman featured face; light hair in profusion, clammy with perspiration; not more than twenty-three years old. To my inquiries, he said with politeness, he was very well, "a little crowded, just a little; it's choking-like to be crowded;" and he looked about the room. "What crowds you?" I said. He shook his head and said: "Beds, Beds--very little room--great many beds!"
"To wet his mouth and smooth the clothes was all that could be done; and we came away from him. He has a brother somewhere in the territory; but, so far, no clue whereby to find him has been discovered. If we could only borrow a telegraph wire from you who are so rich in means and appliances of intercommunication, or an express-train, just for one day, then this poor youth should receive the care and love of his brother. What can I do for him? is the question unanswered, as we take a cross-way home, no longer cognizant of the outer working of poor human hands upon mortar, lime-stone and timber. This poor youth, "crowded," as he says; looking with dim and wistful eyes over his shoulder, with the weight on his breaking faculties of crowding beds in his sick-room, which should be so orderly and peaceful. What has the poor fellow done, that thus in his last hours he should be so thrust out of home and place? It is so pleasant to give the departing, the outward semblance of a Saturday-evening readiness and peace, in the arrangements of their rooms and persons, so that "early," to one so weary, "ere the day begins to dawn," the sweet repose of the Sabbath may be entered upon by anticipation.
William Dillon, what can I do for thee? poor, tired, dying emigrant! "Crowded!" crowded indeed! I come home to think of this new type of suffering. "If his brother--if his brother could only be found!" I say, as in my powerlessness I come in to the care of my own slowly- recovering invalids. I excite their sympathies by telling them the story of tired, crowded, dying William Dillon, of Michigan. They forget their own miserable feelings, in view of his more desolate condition, and begin to recount the riches of the cabin.
Nov. 10th.--You will be glad with me, my dear mother, when I announce the sudden arrival of Mr. Dillon. Do you remember a favorite expression of grandmother, that "Man's extremity is God's opportunity!" No one here knew where Mr. Dillon went. The two brothers arrived here as travellers, with a crowd of emigrants, in a most severe "spell" of weather. William, being slightly unwell, remained; the other went his way. Three weeks passed. People came and went again from the little hotel; the reserved and quiet sick man attracted no one to him enough to communicate his history; so that, when he became very much worse and his mind broke down, he could only tell what was known before, that he had an elder brother who went up further into the Territory. To-day this brother suddenly appeared. He is wholly overcome to find his brother so low. Says he had an impression so strong that his cold had become a serious sickness, that he could not remain where he was, at St. Joseph's, and came back to learn the truth. William recognized him, and seemed to rally so much that even the physician thought he might recover. But it was only the sudden light and warmth stirred by the emotion of family affection, giving a glow to brighten his last hours. At twelve he ate quite freely from the hand of his brother, and talked pleasantly. At five he closed his eyes peacefully, to open them on scenes where he will never "chill" any more, or feel that smothering crowdedness he so significantly expressed in his manner, when he looked at the number of beds about him.
It seems to me now, as though it was not so much the things there were about him, as the discordant, unsympathizing atmosphere, which would most naturally arise from the ever-shifting occupants of those travellers' berths.
Nov. 15th.--Our life is a November day, tearful, lowering, and uncertain; promising faintly, and never renewing earnestly our faith in a clean and genial sky. My little Alice is not so well. It does not seem to be the result of a cold, or in any way a relapse. There is an entire change of symptoms. For three weeks past she has simply been laid aside with some fever. She has had bright red cheeks a portion of the day, and no appetite, together with a total loss of her usual animation. The getting up was, like her going down, not very decided; but she went out to look after her pets with some of her former interest. I do not think I have ever told you about a dog which came here quite of his own accord. One day a Missourian called with his market-cart, to sell apples and potatoes. He had a fine dog with him, which, as he was hot, walked into the next cabin, which was quite unfinished, and laid down to sleep. That cabin is owned by a wicked-looking man from Alabama, and occupied by another fellow of much less capacity, from Illinois. The last-mentioned man was the one who came and finished out the floor, which I think I wrote you about. This man took possession of the dog till Missouri had gone home; or, to use his own words, he "stole him." The dog would not, however, acknowledge him as master; but, as soon as he was turned out, came and joined himself to Alice. It seemed a genuine first love on both sides. Wherever she went, he followed; and at night laid himself down close to the cabin door of cloth, and kept faithful watch till morning. No creature could come near without his giving the alarm, in a deep and terrible growl. He is very large, marked from nose to the end of his tail in rings of two shades of tan color, most beautifully shaded. So we gave him the name of "Tiger."
In process of time, Alabama came to live with Illinois; and as they were in the habit of slaughtering cattle, he took up Tiger, and tied him near the meat, to protect it. All night long the poor fellow howled so as to disturb the whole house. The greatest cruelty was shown to the dog, because he would not stay with them; as though there was a royal road along which love and devotion could be driven! Ten days since, Alabama turned himself east as far as the old home of Illinois, they having made an exchange of some property; and our loving, beautiful, brave Tiger was tied into the wagon and transported also. Alice has never talked about him, since he was hopelessly gone. But now my little mountain daisy is very sick; she cannot turn herself in bed; and I watch by her, feeling as though I had brought her into this strange country to wither and die! In her fever-turns, her mind wanders back to old and pleasanter objects, and she says continually, "Please take me home; oh, I want to go so much!" At times, it seems quite impossible for her to recover; but then, again, she brightens up, seems more comfortable, and the utter impossibility to conceive of myself trudging along in the world without her, gives me temporary faith to believe that she will recover.
For two months we have slept upon straw, with our skirts folded at night, to make pillows, and every garment within reach spread about us, to keep off the piercing winds, which, from the non-arrival of our boxes, put our lives in peril.
There is one impression to which my friends, in writing, often allude: it is this--that I looked too much on the bright side of Kansas life, and should thus suffer more in the reality. Mother, I don't believe YOU see me in that light. There must be a defect in me, whereby I sometimes give an impression quite opposite to what I intend. I suppose, if I was going to have a limb amputated, instead of looking forlorn, and uttering sighs and moans, I should be more likely to joke and laugh over the matter; quite as much to keep up my own spirits, as those who might chance to be with me. You would understand, from instinct, that it was simply one way of "putting the best foot forward."
How strange it is, to be sitting here, holding in my hand a pen, wherewith I relieve myself by saying anything I please to you; laying aside, very often, this same pen, which seems to my spirit to actually touch you, that I may moisten the parched lips lying close by my side, powerless to do anything more than accept the cooling draught. The kind physician comes in often and sits awhile; but gives no medicine. She has taken nothing but the drops of water for nine days; and all her requests are, "Please take me home; please take me home." Mr. C____, slowly recovering, sits down by her, and promises to take her home before Christmas. She believes in him. Man is ever a gospel to woman from her earliest youth. But how shall he redeem his promise?
Nov. 21st.--My dear mother, to-day's mail brought your invaluable letter, which has been read very often, in curious little scraps of time; coming out from my pocket while waiting for the boiling of the tea-kettle, or between the turnings of the toasting bread, the frying griddle-cakes, the handing up a hot meal from the fire to the hungry sitters around the table, or the waiting upon the faded blossom stretched away in the tented corner--now giving hope of a slow return to health, pleading no longer simply for water, but bread, too. Poor little blossom, what wanted I for thee here, that you are coming again upon the feverish track, where all wear out a weary or disastrous life? She has taken your little note and read it very carefully. Now she talks much about you, and your nice room, and of all the family. What strong affections she has! what shall we do with them?
You will be glad to hear that Mr. C____ is sufficiently recovered to go up into the Territory. If I supposed it would interest you half much to hear of the progress of State matters, as I flatter myself it does to hear about our domestic arrangements, I'm sure I would pay more attention to all that is going on outside the cabin.
Since the fall elections Missourians have kept very quiet, coming up here to supply us with plenty of very fine apples, potatoes, poor butter, and ordinary flour; making quite a thriving business out of it, and, as I have supposed, settling down into the conclusion which we all do, when we learn to know people--that they are better than we expected. Last week, however, a man living about six miles from here upon a claim, while walking towards a blacksmith's shop, was shot down by a party of Missourians, without any provocation. The border Missourians are a horseback people; always off somewhere; drink a great deal of whiskey, and are quite reckless of human life. There is no necessity for hard work to those who have long lived in this country, the earth yields so very abundantly. They ride fine horses, and are strong, vigorous- looking animals themselves. To shoot a man is not much more than to shoot a buck. After killing this poor Yankee, they stood around him till they saw a man approach, and then rode deliberately away. He who first came to the dying man went immediately to Mr. Branscome's, where the man had boarded. The two carried the body home. Nothing was done about it, any way, to my knowledge. This week, on Tuesday night, some one knocked at Branscome's cabin-door. He asked, "Who is there?" The reply was, "A friend." This again was replied to with a cheerful "Come in, then," though it was in the night-time, after people had retired. Immediately the little cabin was filled with armed men; the foremost one, going close to the bed, presented a loaded pistol to the head of Branscome, commanding him to rise and dress quickly, for he was a prisoner. Of course, the man did as he was commanded; left his poor wife, and was mounted upon a horse found ready for him by the party. Meanwhile the party, consisting of less than twenty, were full of expressions of regret that no "Yankees" were there to have some fun with. Officer Jones and his men took first one road, then another. Branscome became fully persuaded that his days were numbered, but sat quietly upon his horse, knowing resistance was quite in vain. It was not long before the oft-expressed wish of the Missourians was most singularly gratified. A portion of the Wakarusa militia company had been over to see about the murdered man, and were riding home quietly, by the usual route, when they met the Missourians, asked "Who goes?" and were answered, "We have a prisoner."
"Who is it?"
The captain of the company said, "Mr. Branscome, ride out here." Mr. Branscome rode forward-- the sheriff protesting against the order, but refusing to give any reason for the arrest; at the same time swearing he would shoot him if he moved. Mr. Abbot then replied, "We are all armed, and shall take Mr. Branscome into our ranks." He then ordered him off the horse, if it was not his own. Branscome immediately dismounted. Capt. Abbot commanded him to fall into his ranks and "march." The party from Missouri, wholly discomfited, and having had quite enough of "fun" with the Yankees, offered no farther resistance.
In the short hours of the night, the sound of a drum came from afar to my wakeful ears, nearer and nearer, but still not like the rapid call of a company together. It was simply one beat, then a pause. The young man who calls the drum-roll was asleep in the loft over my head. I was not kept long in suspense, for he "beat" quite early, to call a citizens' meeting. Lawrence was up and dressed early, and as wide awake as his ancestors of Seventy-six.
The prisoner, and those who came to the rescue, were called upon to state the facts, after which my two young friends, Grove L____ and M. F. C_____, made most effective speeches. I learn that they did themselves much credit.
I dare say you may have heard Lawrence spoken of as an ultra, headstrong young sprig, who is always treading upon his neighbors' corns, or otherwise exciting to a fuss. But there never was a greater mistake. Lawrence is a hard-working, mind-his-own-business, money-loving fellow. If he hits your toes, it is not from design, but because his boots are stiff and clumsy and his manner anything but graceful or fascinating. Lawrence has seen hard times in his youth; has been laughed at by his more prosperous neighbors, till the ragged urchin made a bad matter worse by wasting some considerable emotion upon the subject; looked round fearfully and almost imploringly, to see if "Uncle Sam," or some other relative, would not give a hand to help him out on better footing. But Uncle Sam has grown old, gouty, and unfeeling. Much prosperity and too high living puts him to nodding in his chair. Alas for his far-off frontier children, when they have only him to look to! And New England, dear New England, the very dust of which is most precious to Lawrence! the whir of her looms, the rattle of her mills, the steam of her numberless engines, make such a noise that poor, awkward Lawrence's cry for help is quite unheeded, except, perhaps, in the passing of a few well-sounding resolutions, which remind one of champagne, long exposed to the air, from which the life and sparkle is gone forever.
Lawrence sits down in his cabin. His floor is of cotton-wood, rough and unwashed; his venison and beef hang upon the wall; his vegetables in baskets over his head. Lawrence listens, with ears sharpened by intense longing for sympathy and aid where nature's great heart prompts him to look for it,--from his kin. He reads how New England thrusts her hand into well-filled pockets, and, with self-gratulation, not to say pharasaical pride, takes out thousands to send to the sick at Norfolk, who are surrounded with cities rolling in wealth, where a sacrifice of any trifling pleasure would supply many such sorely tried and afflicted cities with any amount of assistance. Lawrence lifts his eyes from the cotton-board floor, with a new light in them. He thinks of all his suffering brothers and sisters, from this to the Rocky Mountains, sick and in want of all things,--no nurses, no water, no comfortable shelter, no pleasant sounds of church-bells, or busy marts of thrifty trade, to bring back receding life, and, more than all, no ever-returning word of cheer and remembrance from the home that was first and most dear; and, as he reflects, Lawrence is startled by the sound of violence within his own precincts. He sat down a homesick, disheartened youth. He had asked help from the agent of his great uncle at Washington, without success. Now the hour for action has come, and he rises, passes out of his cabin, armed like a man, ready to defend his rights like a man,--and may Heaven speed the RIGHT!
My dear mother, this is Saturday evening. I am alone in the cabin with the faded Daisy. She has been up for the first time to-day, and borne her weight by taking hold of different objects to support her. Now she gladly takes her place again upon her couch, close by the stove, and sleeps quietly. Her mind is still very weak and child-like;--child-like, to be sure, it always is; and the exciting condition of the town, our own wakeful nights, do not affect her with any emotion of fear. How strange it will seem to you to hear that I have loaded pistols and a bowie-knife upon my table at night, three of Sharp's rifles, loaded, standing in the room, and two or three men in the cabin beside Edward, except when it is their turn to keep guard through the little town. All the week every preparation has been made for our defence; and everybody is worn with want of sleep.
The Missourians have taken awful oaths to destroy this Yankee town, and a price is set upon the heads of some of our most honored citizens. Already they have assembled to the number of two hundred at Franklin, a little town south of us, and many more at Douglas, a village farther up the river. They are moving with great secretiveness; but when was a Yankee "caught napping," in the faintest prospect of danger?
Last night our watch were cheered by the arrival of fifteen armed men from Ottoman Creek, who heard of the threatened danger and travelled till midnight to offer their aid. And to-day twice that number marched in with a flag, from Palmyra, another settlement fifteen miles from this. Paschal Fish, too, who lives ten miles nearer Missouri than Lawrence, has heard the rumors, watched with his Indian keenness the Missourian movement, mounted his pony, ridden up to see us, and offered to muster out some of his tribe, to be on the spot to-morrow. The Wyandott tribe have sent in one of their number to offer assistance, which is most thankfully accepted.
Your Thanksgiving evening, while you were, I am sure, talking and thinking of us, I sat here alone, watching by Alice, pale and faint, with the sounds of fire-arms coming every few moments from some direction. Standing at my door, C____'s little black pony, saddled, ready for any moment, has kept me company all the week. He puts his nose against me in the most kindly manner every time I have occasion to go out; and we talk long talks together, he always seeming to end the matter by saying, "Keep heart, I can take you anywhere you wish to go."
To-night everybody is at the hall. My orders are, if fire-arms sound like battle, to place Alice and myself as near the floor as possible, and be well covered with blankets. We already have one bullet in the wall, and, since that, one struck the "shakes" close by the bed's head and glanced off. Now, for the first time, I begin to take an interest in Lawrence, as a city; and, prospectively, her destiny is almost as my own. How well her men bear themselves, in the settlement of every question which is pressed upon them, now so important as a matter of national history. I can but hear and know of their plans, because Lieut. C___ and Grove L____ are a part of our family, and are among the most active workers. They come in to talk, consult with others, and write, if need be. Sometimes things assume a most amusing aspect; as when, after a serious charge to be sure and wake them up if the drum beats, I, hardly daring to close my eyes, at last, half-asleep, hearing the most fiendish outcry ever borne upon the moon-lit night air, call aloud, "Wake up, quickly! there is trouble of some kind, for nothing but a Missourian could utter such sounds this side of the infernal regions!" and the cabin is astir in an instant,--only to laugh at me, because the unearthly sounds are only those of a party of wolves taking a survey of the city at midnight.
Dec. 5th--Mother of mine, I can hardly settle down to the details of our own matters. Everything over the town, and every rumor borne in to us from outside of it, is more and more dark and fearful. We now have an armed force of five hundred men, who are under the command of Dr. Robinson, now commander-in-chief, and Col. Lane, both of whom have had experience in actual battle, in Mexico and California. Out of my south window I can see them drilling; far off it is, on the prairie; but you know we have a wide scope of observation. There is not a tree anywhere to be seen; and, as I look, the expected Indian tribe rides in, single file, at full gallop. How well they ride! It is difficult to imagine them man and horse. They seem to be one, so closely does each rider cling to the well-trained animal he loves so well and passes so much of his life with.
The sun is just putting on his night-cap, and smiles back on the terraced hills ere he sinks to rest. Now the militia march back into the little town which they have come to defend. Alice is asleep; Ned busy at the door. I put on my hood and slip across to a nearer point, that I may see better. It is the first time out doors since she sickened; or rather, since I went to see William Dillon. I enter the little hotel where Dillon died. The landlady takes me by both hands, with a pocket-full of questions, drawn out one after another in quick succession, giving me no time to answer. Her gentle heart is fluttered with fear and kindness, too! She does not want anybody hurt, and she does not want her house torn down over her head. She believes, still holding my hands, I can settle the matter for her; which is in a measure done by pleasant jokes, a hearty laugh at her fears (hypocrite that I am, holding at the same moment my own troubled and faint heart,) and, last of all, by reference to the better guidance which does not forget or forsake us in the hour of need, but, if trusted, keeps us in the hollow of His hand, and guides us with His eye. We draw close to the window as the soldiers pass by to the tune played long, long ago by the military band in our native village, far off from this; but not farther than this woman who writes to you is from the little girl who used to hang out of her bed-room window and listen to the march, believing it the finest music in the world.--Mother, how fast I am catching up to you! almost as old now--don't you see? We will live together when we are old, won't we? But what a long line of men it is! Not noisy; and there is no rabble of boys at the roadsides. Boys there are in the ranks; but the soberness of manhood is upon them, and the determination of "Seventy-six" in their step. The blood warms in my veins as I look. The commander and his aids (one of whom is Grove L____, as brave and noble a heart as ever strode a horse for battle) look well. And now,--yes, it can be no other,--passes the prophet-head and flowing beard. I accept it as a good omen, slip out of the door in the side of the "wen" and am at home in a moment. L____ is close upon my path, with another officer, by the name of Deitzler. C____ is sitting with Alice; Ned is cutting up a pumpkin for the cow's supper. But my presence scares them all up, with the remark, "Shall we have any supper?" "To be sure you shall have some supper, in fifteen minutes." My tea-kettle is in my hand as I speak, and filled and placed in the stove before I take off my hood, a pan of biscuits thrust into the oven as I unpin it, and, when it is laid aside with my shawl, I uncover my wash-boiler, and draw up from its capacious depths a piece of corned beef. This is cut thin, and a plate of butter and a sheet of gingerbread are brought out, and your cups are spread out on the black-walnut board. The tea-pot is steaming, on the top of the stove, and a pot of cocoa. My fifteen minutes are not out; but the family are ready and the officers in haste. There is to be a council of war at seven o'clock; and they say every token indicates action.
Teams coming up from Kansas City to-day, loaded with freight for our merchants, have been stopped by the mob tented near Franklin, and looked over; all bags of powder and other ammunition taken out, receipted for, and the teams allowed to go on; and teams of provision--apples, flour, and potatoes, stopped entirely. You see, mother, Lawrence is a very forbearing fellow, not to go down to Franklin and drive the brutes home about their business. But our people all say, we prepare for a defensive war not an aggressive one.
So, then, supper is over. L____ takes up his constant companions, his belt with pistols and his rifle; he lingers in the cabin-door for a moment, comes back to say "good night; everybody sleeps on their arms to-night in the hall."
"Take your buffalo, then."
"Yes, thank you, good night. Sleep the first part of the night; you may be called."
I shut the door. C____ is already nodding in his chair. I rouse him, send him up to his buffalo. Sleepy as he is, he does not forget to say, "call me if there is a drum-roll. I want to have a hand at the threshing of those rascals if they pounce upon us in the night."
"Ah, Uncle Jeff, you won't say your prayers, I fear. You were cut out for a cruel soldier."
Uncle Jeff mounts up the wall-slats, saying, "I've written to my mother, that I can't say them, and she must keep saying them for me!" Little Daisy is slipping herself out of her shoes and stockings; saying, she is "so tired, so very tired; can she ever ride all the way to St. Louis? and will I make a calico bag for her cakes, so that they will not soil her carpet-bag? and how soon do I think Uncle Jeff's brother will be back to go home with her? If she could only get there before Christmas!"--"Before Christmas!" O, where will this persecuted people be before Christmas! Daisy does not know the creeping chill coming over me. She did not hear my question. She is fast asleep. Everybody is asleep. It is a long time since I undressed really. My dressing-gown bears me company nights, now, instead of days; because I like to be ready. Lucky that I am to-night. The door opens, and I open my eyes from my final nap. It is L____'s cheerful voice, asking me as he strikes a light, to help him off on a very dangerous express-ride, to present a letter to Governor Shannon, at Westport. I am up in a moment. L____ looks sober, and as though the weight of years had rolled over him in one week. But he speaks up brightly, showing his fine teeth, which of themselves are a smile. I put him up a big paper of luncheon, for he is to pass into the heart of the enemy's country, who would see him die before they would give him a crumb of bread or a drop even of "cold water." He tells me of the council of war; how nobly all the wise and great men of the Territory had assembled; and how firmly they stood by each other. The first step to be taken, was, to address a letter of inquiries to Governor Shannon, to know why these tents of armed men were infesting our borders, committing depredations upon our people and harassing travellers who were going about their business; and requesting him to order their removal. The commander-in-chief appointed L____ to be the bearer of this despatch; and Babcock, the post master, goes with him, probably with other despatches.
It is nearly twelve; a cloudy, lowering night, with gusts of chilly wind sweeping over the country. Our out-posts bring in word that our enemies are in a drunken row at Franklin. L____ must go past them. He knows their password; but it is a dangerous trip. Perhaps no better person could have been chosen. But he seems like my own boy, and my selfishness wishes they had chosen some one I did not know. I have this satisfaction, he will do himself honor wherever he goes and whatever is the result. I give him my blessing; while he says, quite in a short-hand, "You will write to them all, if I do not return." I promise, and he passes out into the starless, moaning night.
Every one in the cabin has slept through it all; but my eyes are set open for the rest of the night. I hear the mounted guard ride round our cabin, with slow steps, as though they did not wish to wake the inmates. I listen as they advance out into the now dreary country. I hear distant fire-arms and then more near. I know, now, that Missourians are just mean and cowardly enough to creep in upon us in the night; or to fire, as they have done, upon our watch, riding off as soon as they have done it. I wish Frank Pierce had to stand on an open prairie and take his chance with better men. But that is not a good spirit to go to sleep on--so I dismiss it. I will close this, as there is a chance to send by express.
Yours devotedly, H. A. R.