Friday, January 1, 2016

Yankee Reconstructed: A Sneak Peek, Part 2.

 Did yesterday's preview of Yankee Reconstructed make you hungry for more?
Here's the rest of Chapter One.

Jonathan found he could not move as he watched this small band of troublemakers move down the street. They kept to the shadows and peered furtively into empty yards. Then they turned a corner and were gone. Jonathan felt the terror drain from his body, only to realize he was trembling and sweating at the same time. I can’t let Susan see me like this, he thought. I must calm down, or I will frighten her beyond reason. He drew several deep breaths and tried to stretch his muscles.
He froze again as another dark figure emerged from the shrubbery and climbed the stairs. This man had no torch, yet he moved surefooted across the piazza. “You may not be ready to believe this, Mr. Grenville, but I am your friend.” He spoke in falsetto, making his voice unidentifiable.
“Do I know you?”
“You’ve seen me many a time. If you saw my face, you would know me.”
“Then take off the mask and reveal yourself.”
“I cannot do that. I took a solemn oath to keep my identity a secret from all with whom I have Klan dealings. We don’t even know the others in the Klan. That’s for our own protection. We are strangers, but we move with a single purpose—to rescue the South from the horrible injustices that have been committed against her.”
“There was no injustice. The South started the war by seceding and pursued it long after all hope of victory was lost. The bloodshed of those horrible years must rest on your own shoulders.”
“This is not an argument I want to have with you. I like you. I know you to be a good man. I know how many students have profited from their time in your classroom. But I know more about you than that. You are a Yankee—born, raised, and educated in Massachusetts, of all places.”
“I’ve never denied it.”
“Some would call you a carpetbagger, although I wouldn’t. Still, you came down here to make your living by teaching our young men, and then, as I recall, you lost your teaching job because you taught them some of your abolitionist views. You hoped to change our attitudes and our business practices to suit yourself. You married a young Southern belle to get your greedy hands on her inherited property.”
“See here! I had no such . . .”
“I know. I wouldn’t say that, but some will, and those who do will call you a carpetbagger. Others—those who believe you once made an honest attempt to learn the ways of the South—will label you a scalawag.”
“Which is, according to your definition?”
“A scalawag is a Southerner who turns against his own land and traditions. You have to admit you—”
“I have to admit nothing. I am a simple man only trying to live a quiet life here in my wife’s ancestral home. I am not a political creature. I vote as a civic duty but not as an outspoken advocate of one party or another. I do not meddle with such things. Why will you not leave me alone?”
“Because you do not yet understand the gravity of your position. And as your friend, I want to help you to do that.”
“You have a strange way of showing friendship.”
“This is the only way I have. But I pray you will listen to me further. The Klansmen who were here tonight also call you a nigger-lover. The story of you freeing your slaves on the night of the Great Fire is well-known. A certain judge who helped draw up the formal emancipation papers for you now moves with us. He will speak against you, if it should ever come to that.”
“Why should it ever come up? I have done nothing wrong, while you—you have invaded my property and brought threats against me and my family. You have come under cover of darkness and in disguise. I challenge you once again to stand and reveal yourself if you are so sure of the rightness of your cause.”
“And I have told you I will not do that. Ever. I may never have another chance to speak to you so freely. I’m risking punishment as it is. But as I told you, I am your friend, and I would like to see you avoid further difficulty with the Klan. I urge you to take this warning to heart—if Hector Moreau comes to you for protection, you must turn him over to the authorities. If you do not, the Klan will come after him with a rope. And then, my friend—and then—they will come after you. Take care!” With the same light-footed step that marked his arrival, he moved down the piazza stairs and was lost into the darkness.
Still stunned by this turn of events, Jonathan moved to the door, determined only to reclaim the safety of his home. As he closed the door behind him and dropped the heavy safety bar, he heard Susan’s voice, as if from a far distance.
She stood in the doorway to the dining room, down the hall from the twin parlors that flanked the front door. In the flickering gaslight, her eyes were huge, and her hands cupped her cheeks as if to hold herself together. “Jonathan?”
“Everything’s all right, Susan. You don’t need to fret yourself.”
She shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. They’re here.”
“Who’s here? That unruly mob has gone on their way. I’m sorry if you heard part of their accusations, but they’re gone now.”
“No, not them. Him. Hector’s here—and Sarah. They’re belowstairs right now. What are we going to do?”

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