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Elsie Singmaster - Emmeline - Chapter 2

Elsie Singmaster was a local author. We will be selectively republishing some of her stories on the #15SouthBlog. You can learn more about Singmaster's work here.




Mrs. Schmidt's brother lived on a lane that branched from the Emmitsburg Road, a mile beyond the road that led to the farm of Grandfather Willing. If Emmeline had not had to travel in Mrs. Schmidt's company, she would have been spared some of the ignominy of her departure. Not only was she going away from all excitement, all possibility of distinguishing herself, but she was journeying in Mrs. Schmidt's outrageous cart. She was accustomed to associate with the Schmidts, not as an equal, but as a superior. While she was dressing, she could see lame Mr. Bannon and Mrs. Schmidt putting the Schmidts' ancient horse between the shafts of the springless wagon. Into that wagon they had thrust already a feather bed, numerous chairs, a few of the six young Schmidts, and a quacking duck in a coop. Wildly Mrs. Schmidt flew about, frantically she commanded. 

"Get the boondles, Mary! Sally, get the tarpet sack!" Thus did Mrs. Schmidt's tongue trip in its haste. "Hurry yourself, Peter!" 

Emmeline wept as she braided her hair. "O mother!" she wailed again. 

But her mother was not at hand to hear. With swift steps Mrs. Willing went about the house, now waiting on Bertha, now packing a luncheon for Emmeline. 

In the lower hall Emmeline burst once more into tears. Across the street the pyramid on the Schmidt wagon was growing higher and higher. Mrs. Schmidt evidently expected the utter destruction of Gettysburg. Several soldiers had come to her aid. They helped to stow her goods on the wagon; they teased her with all sorts of predictions, to which she could reply only with a feeble "Ach!" 

"If the rebs get you, they'll eat you, lady!" 

"Ach!" cried Mrs. Schmidt. 

"Yes, sir! Now, Johnny, give me your hand and climb up here. Whoa, there!" 

The soldier leaped frantically to the drooping and motionless head of Whitey. 

"Ach!" cried Mrs. Schmidt. "I am a poor, poor woman!"

‘Some of the rebs are looking for sweethearts, missis." 

To that Mrs. Schmidt was not even able to say "Ach." She tried to explain that she was married, that she considered such a remark insulting; but before she could make her meaning plain, the soldiers had hoisted her aboard and had put the reins into her hands. Then a bright light flashed in the eyes of Mrs. Schmidt. 

"Ach, Emmy, you are going with!" 

To her mother Emmeline cast one more piteous glance. 

"O mother," begged Emmeline earnestly, "do not make me go!" 

Mrs. Willing turned from the soldier with whom she had been talking and looked down upon Emmeline. It was evident that her glance rested upon the most precious creature in the world. Her tears had fallen into the satchel that she had packed for Emmeline. It was with an anxious heart that she was sending her away. The soldier had answered her questions kindly, and had advised her to get the sick person away also; but it was impossible to get Bertha away. Then, said the soldier, she should be moved to the cellar as soon as the shooting began. Mrs. Willing, in a voice too low for Emmeline to hear, said something to the soldier, to which he answered, "God help her, lady!" Emmeline's mother was not able to suppress a groan. 

"O mother," said Emmeline again, "do let me stay here!" 

For answer, Emmeline's mother led her across the street and helped her to climb into the wagon. 

“I am in great trouble, Emmeline," said she earnestly, "and this is the way you can help me. Go and take care of Mrs. Schmidt and the baby. Grandfather will bring you back as soon as it is safe. Pray for us all, Emmeline."

Awed by her mother's expression, Emmeline tried to gulp down her tears. As the wagon gave a preparatory jerk before getting under way, she lifted the Schmidt baby from Mrs. Schmidt's knee to her own, and was rewarded by a little brightening of her mother's face. 

Mrs. Schmidt chirruped to her horse, and they were finally off. Few persons except the soldiers noticed them, for each house along the street had its own anxiety. Other horses were being harnessed, other families stood about in fright. Once a group of soldiers rode toward Emmeline and her friends. Their warlike appearance terrified Mrs. Schmidt. 

"Now we will be killed at last!" she cried. 

"We will be nothing of the kind," answered Emmeline. "Please try to drive straight, Mrs. Schmidt." 

As the soldiers passed, they advised Mrs. Schmidt in a friendly way to tie her children in, at which Mrs. Schmidt at once began to crane her neck backward to count her offspring. The soldiers seemed as gay as if they were on a journey of pleasure. Riding from house to house, they rapped on the doors with their swords; their petted horses sometimes put their noses in at the windows. The soldiers ordered people to stay in their cellars. If only Emmeline could stay in a cellar—an adventure in itself unspeakably delightful. 

"Ach, Emmy," cried Mrs. Schmidt, "will we ever get to your gran'pop and my brother?" 

"I hope not," answered Emmeline, at which cryptic remark Mrs. Schmidt sank into silent gloom. 

Just before they reached the Evergreen Cemetery, with its tall pine trees, Mrs. Schmidt turned old Whitey aside, and drove into a country road that ran between pleasant fields. Some were cultivated, and others were carpeted with daisies; on all the fences wild roses bloomed. It was now eight o'clock, and the July sun shone hotter and hotter. Mrs. Schmidt panted, and grew red in the face, and tried to fan herself with her old sunbonnet. 

At any other time Emmeline would have enjoyed the excursion. Before her, but still several miles away, the two Round Tops rose against the hazy horizon. The Emmitsburg Road which they traveled lay between two long ridges of varying height, named Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge. Presently they would turn to the west, and cross Seminary Ridge. Beyond it, about half a mile, lay Emmeline's grandfather's farm, where she was always welcomed with great joy, and where there was good fishing, and a little calf, and a litter of new kittens, and the companionship of a venturesome girl, Ellen Watson by name, from the next farm. 

But Emmeline did not want to go to Round Top, and she did not care to see the kittens and the calf; she wanted to stay in Gettysburg. Eliza Batterson would stay, and would have a hundred boastful things to tell her. It was bitterly disappointing to be sent away. If Bertha had not been there to be taken care of she might have stayed. She agreed with Mrs. Bannon that Bertha could rise if she would. 

The little Schmidts made no sound on the journey. Terrified by their mother's fright, they huddled in their various uncomfortable positions in the body of the wagon. Once Emmeline, hearing a gentle whimper, looked round, and saw that a chair had fallen upon Betsy, and that she looked out from between the rungs as if from a cage. Scrambling back to rescue her, Emmeline observed a long line of wagons like their own coming from Gettysburg. 

Giving the sleeping Carl to his mother, Emmeline now took the reins herself, and in the pleasure of managing old Whitey forgot that she was an aggrieved and disappointed person. She clucked sharply to him and switched him with the reins. When all methods of hurrying his lagging gait proved futile, she proposed that she and the older children should walk, and thus relieve him for a while of their weight. Only Mrs. Schmidt remained in the cart, with Carl in her arms. 

"We are emigrants," said Emmeline, forgetting her disappointment for a moment. "We are emigrants marching o'er the plains. We—" 

Then Emmeline stopped, and all the little Schmidts stopped, and old Whitey lifted his head. 

"What is that noise over there, say?" asked Mrs. Schmidt. 

"Listen!" commanded Emmeline. 

"What is that noise?" demanded Mrs. Schmidt in a louder tone. 

"Listen!" commanded Emmeline more sharply. 

Old Whitey lifted his head a little higher. Away to the north, beyond the seminary building, toward the dim line of blue hills on the horizon, there was a sharp crack! crack! crack! 

"Somebody is gunning," said Mrs. Schmidt with conviction. "I wonder what they are gunning?" 

"They are shooting men!" cried Emmeline excitedly. "Our soldiers are shooting down the rebels! I—" 

A deeper, heavier sound crashed upon the air and interrupted Emmeline's sentence. The first great boom of cannon lengthened into a rumble—long, low, echoing, ominous. Whitey shivered and gave a strange snort; with a cry, Mrs. Schmidt seized the reins in both hands. But Whitey would not advance. 

"Get in by me, Emmy!" cried Mrs. Schmidt. "Children, get in! Emmy, get in!" 

Emmeline helped the numerous little Schmidts into the wagon, and then, climbing in after them, took the reins from Mrs. Schmidt. She assured herself that there was nothing to be afraid of. The shooting, loud as it sounded, was far away. 

"We will hurry, Mrs. Schmidt. We will soon be there. Get up, Whitey! Get up, I say!" 

With strange, jerky motions, Whitey started; but Whitey's efforts were exerted more in an upward than a forward direction. He pranced, if the word can be used to describe a motion so stiff; he tossed his head, he snorted again. His progress became even slower than before. The heat seemed to grow each moment more intense, but the travelers did not dare to stop in the shade. 

To the north there now appeared puffs of white smoke and flashes of light. The roar became continuous; before one rolling echo was more than well begun, another hollow boom had started other echoes. Mrs. Schmidt grew pale and the baby began to cry. Emmeline became impatient with the Schmidts, impatient with the dancing horse, impatient with the rough road. They had come now to a region which had recently been drenched with heavy rains. The wheels sank deep into the mud. Several times the travelers had to dismount while Whitey pulled the wagon out of a hole. Still the booming grew heavier and the white clouds thicker; but they were far away—far beyond the seminary building. 

Emmeline and her party gazed so intently in the direction of the sound that they neglected to look ahead. At a sudden turn in the road, Emmeline gave a cry and pulled at Whitey's reins, although Whitey had already stopped, paralyzed. The road before them was no longer open; it was filled from fence to fence with marching troops. To Emmeline they numbered millions. Whitey snorted again; Mrs. Schmidt and her children almost ceased to breathe. To Emmeline it seemed that she and Mrs. Schmidt and the children and the duck faced the combined armies of the world. 

The approaching troops made no amused comments, as the soldiers in Gettysburg had done. They were marching swiftly; some one shouted to the travelers to get out of the way, and Mrs. Schmidt tugged first at the right rein and then at the left, thinking that if Whitey would not go in one direction, he might in the other. But vainly she tugged, and vainly she adjured her steed with weeping and with strange German exclamations. At last Emmeline had to lead him to the roadside. 

A corps of soldiers marched past, tramping with even, hasty step; caissons rattled by; great cannon rumbled along; huge wagons drawn by mules lumbered through the mud. On and on marched the thousands of men, with eyes fixed before them, as those deeper, wilder eyes of the enemy had been. 

Emmeline shrank behind the broad body of Mrs. Schmidt. These were Emmeline's own soldiers, but they seemed grim and terrible. Surely they could whip all the other soldiers in the world! When they were almost past, Emmeline thought of Henry, and looked after them in dismay. Then she realized that, even if Henry had been among them, he could not have spoken to her. She suddenly began to long for the shelter of her grandfather's house. 

When the corps had passed, Whitey was with difficulty restored to the road—a horrible road, in which the ruts were now much deeper and the stones more protruding. At a snail's pace he crept. Stragglers following the soldiers passed constantly—here a man leading a string of lame horses, there a man in charge of a line of ambulances or a damaged cannon. These stragglers were not so set upon advancing that they did not have a word for Mrs. Schmidt and her children and her duck. 

Finally, when the sun was almost directly overhead, Whitey stopped at the entrance of the byroad on which the elder Willings lived. Mrs. Schmidt must drive on another half mile, and then leave the Emmitsburg Road in the opposite direction. She wept at parting from Emmeline, and the children wept, and Emmeline kissed the sleeping baby. The road was now clear; the house of Emmeline's grandparents was in sight, half a mile away. 

Carrying her little satchel, Emmeline started to run. She was hungry, for she had forgotten to eat the luncheon her mother had put up for her, and she was anxious to tell her grandparents, who always listened to her with close attention, of the condition of affairs in Gettysburg. The booming sound had ceased; the battle was certainly over. Perhaps this afternoon her grandfather would drive into Gettysburg with her. That would be glorious indeed! 

She opened the gate at the foot of the lane, and then, swinging it shut behind her with a slam, waved her hand toward the porch. Her grandmother knew that slam; it always brought her hurrying out to greet her darling. Emmeline hastened toward the house. 

"Hello!" she called eagerly. "Where are you?" 

When no one answered, she called a little louder:— 


Still there was no response. Emmeline stopped in the grassy lane, startled. 

"Grandmother!" she called again. Still there was no answer. Emmeline approached the door with hesitation. Here the dog and the cat usually met her; but now no friendly animals were to be seen. Moreover, the shutters were closed and there were no familiar crocks sunning themselves on the fence. 

"Grandmother!" called Emmeline again, as she put her hand on[the latch. "Grandmother, where are you?" 

The latch did not yield. The door was locked! Emmeline shook it, pressed her body against it, and called again. It seemed to her suddenly that everything was mysteriously still, that the woods beyond the house were strangely dark, and that the sky was very far above her. 

"Where are you?" she called. When no answer came, she ran down the slope to the barn. 

The horse and the old-fashioned buggy were gone. Returning to the house, Emmeline sat down on the bench beside the door and thought. 

"They are over at the Watsons'," she said aloud, with great relief. "They drove over for something. They will soon be back again." 

At that moment Emmeline remembered her luncheon. When she had eaten the last crumb, she felt better. She rose and started across the fields to the Watsons'. But there only deaf Grandmother Watson was at home. She had seen nothing of Emmeline's grandparents, and had evidently heard no unusual sound. Emmeline started back across the fields. It seemed to her much later than it was. Surely they would have to come back before night! The cows would have to be milked, the chickens fed. Probably they would be back by now! 

Then on a rising bit of land, Emmeline stood still. The Emmitsburg Road was again filled with troops. Apparently all the armies of the world were once more gathered there; but these were new troops, marching in the same direction as the others had gone. She could distinguish the mounted officers, the box-like caissons, the great cannon, all moving swiftly. 

Across the fields drifted urgent cries. With trembling, Emmeline ran on. 

But the farmhouse was still deserted. Again Emmeline tried the door. There was a window above the shed into which she could climb, but she was afraid to enter alone. Again she heard the booming of cannon. It grew heavier, more ominous. 

Perhaps her grandparents had gone to the Hollingers', to the south. She could reach the Hollingers' by a circuitous route through the fields. 

Again she set forth. She was now too tired to walk rapidly, and her journey consumed almost an hour. But the Hollinger house was also deserted. Too frightened to cry, Emmeline started back once more to her grandfather's farm. She was footsore and exhausted by the heat; she gasped with weariness. The heavy roaring sound of the cannon filled the air and deafened her. She remembered those fixed, staring eyes of the soldiers who had marched by. 

Suddenly fear of the enemy oppressed her. She remembered stories she had heard about the cruelty in prisons, about the burning of houses, the torturing of women and children. She thought with aching heart of her mother and her home. How patiently she would sit by Bertha's bed, how obedient she would be! 

Again she started to run. If the cows were at home in the stable or the pasture, then her grandparents must surely return. But Emmeline remembered that she had seen nothing of the cows either in the stable or in the pasture! Down near the woodland the chickens had been busily scratching, but there had been no other sound or sign of animal life on the place. Perhaps the cows were down near Willoughby Run. In this great heat they would naturally have sought the shade and the cooling waters of the stream. They must surely be there! 

The path lay partly in the thick woodland above the farmhouse. Coming out of it, with the farmhouse and garden immediately before her, Emmeline gave a cry of joy. The house was no longer deserted; there was a man on the porch; there was some one opening the doors of the barn. 

"Grandfather!" called Emmeline. "Where have you been?" 

Then Emmeline stood still. So did the man on the porch. So did other men down by the lane, by the gate, in the road. They were strangers, and there were scores of them, multitudes of them. They were soldiers in worn uniforms. 

Of soldiers, as soldiers, Emmeline was not afraid; but the color of these soldiers' uniforms was gray! 


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