A Night In The Old South

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Ellen heard muffled voices somewhere off in the darkness and froze in her tracks. The rutted path upon which she struggled to keep her footing had no doubt been recently trampled by soldiers on their way to and from the irregular picket-lines, which the tattered remnants of the Georgia Militia had stretched thinly through the woods northwest of Savannah to defend their retreat. The deep grooves impressed into the mud, which made walking so treacherous, were dug by heavy cannon wheels, she guessed, and the caissons which carried their magazines and munitions behind as they were pulled to the rear in redeployment from advancing Union lines. The distant murmur of voices had made her heart jump, and she was torn between ducking under the cover of the thorny brush which continually caught and tore her dress as she walked, and pressing on to reach the open lawns of the plantation house, even if it exposed her to some immediate danger in these shadowy woods. It could not be much farther, she hoped, before the light of coal-oil lamps burning in the kitchens of the slave-quarters would guide her towards the great house of the Garrett estate.

The specter of imminent defeat had re-made the once gracious world of the Old South into a frightening wasteland of ruined antebellum mansions and planter’s croplands, torn and scarred by battle, stripped by a foraging army in desperate retreat.  A pallor of death oppressed even the living, as first their sons were taken, then their dignity, and finally the gentile world itself upon which the gentry of the Old South had prided themselves for generations. The Garrett Plantation was once a finely manicured estate in which a grand Greek Revival temple of a home sat amongst groves of live oaks, draped majestically with Spanish moss. Ellen Pettigerald had visited here twice before in the company of her friend and hostess Regina-Lynn, the eldest daughter of the Mather family. She had sailed from England in the early spring of 1863 to visit her American cousin after the war had started, but the South, having won all of the early battles, was still intact, and confident that the dream of their prosperous cotton empire would prevail, along with the institution of slavery which for a century had made it possible. Ellen had skirted the blockade the Union Navy had established around the port of Savannah, and her clipper had finally harbored in Texas to escape the embargo of the Confederacy. After many delays and an arduous overland journey, she had finally reached Candler County by train and coach, only to find her young cousin Pamela sick with pneumonia.

Cooraclare had been her home in America for the first few months of her visit. Her uncle’s estate, named after their ancestral lands in Ireland, neighbored the plantations of both the Garretts and the Mathers. The startling news of Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg in mid-summer 1863 had shaken the confidence of the South and brought the first stirrings of fear to the lands below the Mason-Dixon line. Pamela’s father had hastily mustered a brigade to join the Army of Virginia in re-enforcement, as Lee’s forces regrouped. Pamela’s brother had left later to join his father’s battalion after he had moved his cousin and sisters to the Mather’s estate for safety. Pamela was bed-fast, and Ellen occupied a great deal of her time nursing her cousin as best she could, but the move had only made Pamela’s condition deteriorate. Dr. Mayweather was said to be at the Garrett Plantation, and Ellen knew Pamela needed medical attention quickly. She had left without having had time to tell Regina’s grandfather, and now in the dark thickets along the planter’s-lane in the remote groves skirting the Garrett lands, she realized that had been a foolish mistake.

She moved cautiously along the edge of the brambles trying not to make a sound, and the voices she had heard before were now silent. She quickened her pace and a patch of lighter ground loomed ahead through the overhanging branches of ancient trees. She began running towards the opening as the lane seemed dryer and firmer beneath her feet. The expanse of lawn which suddenly spread out before her was lit dimly in moonlight that waxed and waned through the broken clouds passing slowly across the Georgian night sky, and she could see her way ahead through a glade of widely-spaced oaks. The dark outline of a great house became visible beyond the trees as she crossed under their mossy shadow. After she had nearly traversed the outer lawn, oil-lamps twinkled ahead in the distance through sweeping curtains of the epiphytic moss bearding the great trees. She crossed a dirt lane and skirted a garden behind the out-buildings which now distinguished their shapes from the outline of the imposing mansion that rose behind them. The kitchens and the servants’ quarters seemed quieter than she remembered from her last visit to the Garrett estate, and she found the change unsettling, as if the mood of the entire South had grown somber and troubled.

The first face she met was startled by her unannounced appearance from the rear of the estate. He was dressed in the clothing of a house-servant and carried pails slung under each side of a yoke burdening his stooped shoulders. Ellen asked the gray-whiskered old darkie if the Mistress of the house was still awake, and after surveying her tattered hem and muddy shoes he said he’d take her to the rear porch where she could wait for the butler. She hoped someone in the house would recognize her soon and take her to Mrs. Garrett or her daughters, who had made her feel so welcome upon her last visit.

“Chaald! Whah choo out aloon in de daark aw bah yo-sayuf?” Ellen turned around and the familiar face of the Garrett’s old butler held the door open for her.

“Samuel! You startled me!” she answered.

“C’mown in!” he bellowed. She pulled in her billowing skirts and gave him a nod as she stepped past him and into the great rear hallway. “Mizz May and da twins will sho’nuff be gladz to see yas, Mizz Pettigerald.”

“Samuel! Is Doctor Mayweather here? He’s got to get to the Mather’s house right away!”

“Yaz’m. He he-uh. Y’all go on inta da pah-lor and Ah’ll see if he’ll come out from da lah-b’ry.” Samuel tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Miz Ellen, on secund thought maybe y’all shud wait raht he-yuh. D’ere’s reb soljuhs in dem rooms a-hayud… da-yun. Sum wit dey laygs ‘n ahrms chopped off. Tain’t no saght you wanna be seeyun, Miz Ellen.”

Ellen froze, and down from the doorways along the hall she now heard the muffled moans of men crying in pain. The war had come to the very doorsteps of these southern mansions that she had deemed so peaceful and free from cares only a few months ago. She waited by the door, turning to look out into the night, afraid of the world the Old South had now become. She longed to be back in England, to be anywhere that the troubles of war were far away. She thought of her poor cousin. She had known her when she was joyful and full of life. Now she struggled for breath, confined to her bed as the world she had grown up in crumbled outside her windows.

She heard footsteps coming down the hall and turned to see Dr. Mayweather approaching. A door opened halfway down the corridor and a nurse stepped out and spoke to him in hurried whispers. She was gesturing with her hands as she spoke, and the doctor shook his head and put his hand on her shoulder. She turned her palms up as if in doubt about something, and the doctor said something Ellen couldn’t make out, and then the nurse lowered her head and turned to go back into the room. The doctor just stood there as if unsure what to do, but looked up to see Ellen and roused himself, and shuffled down the hall to greet her.

“Miss Pettigerald!  So nice to see you again, but how did you get here at this time of night?”

“Doctor Mayweather, Pamela is very ill. I’m afraid for her. You must come to the Mathers’ tonight!” She pleaded.

“Child… There are rooms full of sick and wounded men right here. More are likely to be brought in before midnight!”

“Oh, but Doctor, she is so sick and feverish! We can’t let her die! Colonel McElwe is your best friend. Please go to his daughter before it is too late!” She pleaded. The tired old doctor visibly sagged under this new burden, and leaned his arm against the door-frame, as if it was all that was supporting him. He looked up at her and slowly nodded, patting her on the shoulder.

“You stay here! I’ll have one of the stable hands drive me. My buggy is too small for the three of us, and you shouldn’t have come out on a night like this in the first place! These woods are too dangerous now. Go tell one of the nurses I’ll be back as soon as I can. If there are any more amputations, tell them… tell them to have Alva do it. I’m sorry, child. This is a house of sorrows you’ve come to. Help if you can, and pray that no more wounded soldiers are brought in before morning.”

The doctor stepped into an enclosed veranda next to them, grabbing his coat from a hook, and hurried out the door with his bag in hand. She watched him shamble across the yard to the carriage house, collaring a stable-boy along the way. She was afraid to stay and she was afraid to go. She turned and went into the veranda, absently dragging her shoulders against the doorway. She sat in an old rocker and peered out into the night.

Musket shots echoed from far off and she thought again about her fear walking through the wooded back-trails between the two plantations in the darkness. She knew the doctor would be safer on the road, but had the fighting really come this close, or was the musket-fire just some hungry soldier at his picket-post, shooting at some food? Outside in the darkness she heard the jingle of the doctor’s buggy rounding the corner of the carriage house. She needed the company of someone familiar. All the daughters of the Garretts were younger than her. but she had met them at the spring socials and barbecues a few months ago, and they would remember her as Colonel McElwe’s niece.

She composed herself and rose to go tell the nurses that the doctor had left. She took a deep breath and opened the door where she had seen the doctor talking to the old nurse. Inside the large parlor, upon rows of blood-soaked cots, lay misery and suffering beyond comprehension. The horror of what she saw registered in just a glance. Nothing could have prepared her for the shock! Her legs wilted out from under her and she was out before she hit the floor.

She opened her eyes to darkness, and found herself lying in a bed alone. She looked around the room and dimly made out two sets of curtains, which were the only things in the room light enough for her to see. She remembered fainting, but had no recollection of being carried up to a bedroom, or having her dress removed. The room was quiet, so she must be upstairs on the far side of the house, away from the hospital ward. She had no idea what time it was, or whether everyone else in the house was asleep.

She sat up and found that all she had on was a slip. She felt around the foot of the bed to see if her clothes were laid out nearby, but she felt nothing but the quilt under which she was nestled. She had never seen the bedrooms of the Garrett girls, but she supposed she was in one of them now, or else in a guest room. The old mansion had many, she was sure. She laid back down on the pillow, but didn’t find herself particularly sleepy.

After some minutes, she sat up again, and this time she saw a dim line of light along the floor and decided it must be from a coal-oil lamp burning low in the room next to hers, spilling a pale glow under the crack beneath the door. She listened for any sounds, but all was quiet. She sat there for many minutes, wondering whether she should go exploring or stay put. She didn’t want to disturb any of the family in case they were all asleep. Then she heard something.

It might have been a soft giggle. She wasn’t sure, and it was a couple minutes before she heard it again, but it sounded even more like a giggle the second time. She pulled back the coverlet and stepped onto a rug, tip-toe-ing towards where she thought there must be a door above the soft glow of light spilling under the crack. She felt around with her hand where she guessed the door-knob should be, but couldn’t find it. Looking on the other side, she saw a pinpoint of light. She waved her hand in front of it and a spot of light tracked across her palm as she moved it in front of what she now realized was the keyhole.

She quickly stooped down and turned her head so she could peer her eye through the narrow aperture. She wasn’t sure what she was seeing at first, but she let her eye get accustomed to the light, and pressed her nose sideways to get her eye closer to the keyhole. She could make out the face of a slave-girl with wide, white eyes and coal black skin, her head propped up slightly on the headboard of an ornate rope-bed. Her eyes would close, and her head would roll back, and a big smile stretched across her ample lips, then she looked down at something and giggled, but whatever she was looking at was obscured by clothes hanging over the roller-board at the foot of the bed. After a few moments, she slunk down so her head was no longer visible, propped up against the headboard.

Ellen was completely bewildered. What was a slave-girl doing in an upstairs bedroom, where only the members of the family should be at this time of night? She peered through the hole again and there was no sign of the slave-girl, but she could still hear her giggling. Rising above the curtain of clothing draped over the foot-rail, she then made out two pale mounds bobbing up and down, just peeking up above the foot-rail enough for her to see. After watching in fascination for several minutes, she finally realized what she was seeing, and drew back in surprise, for what she saw was the bare derriere of another young girl, whose skin was decidedly white.

Ellen instantly cupped her hand over her mouth before a sound could slip out and be heard. She had never seen two girls engaged in sex before. She had never even heard of it, but she was certain she was seeing it now! But a slave-girl and a white girl naked in the same bed together? It was unheard of! She’d been told stories by her cousin after the coal-oil lamps had been extinguished about lecherous white overseers who forced young slave-girls to lie with them in the hay-mows, but never would a well-bred Southern girl expose herself to one of the darkies unless it was to have them pull her corset-strings tight.

She strained to see more, holding her eye up to the keyhole as long as she could before her neck started to get sore from holding her head in such an awkward angle. For many minutes nothing more happened, except that pretty, round bottom bobbing up and down with a steady rhythm; but then the black girl’s legs rose up into view and wrapped around the back of whomever was crouched between her legs. There were no longer any sounds of giggling. Instead, she heard whimpers and moans which grew in loudness until a blond curly-haired head popped up and said “Shhhhh!”

Ellen’s heart began to race and she rolled off her knees and sat down with her back to the door. It rattled with an unexpected plunk, as her weight pushed the heavy wooden-paneled door against its stop. She hadn’t meant to make a sound, but from behind the door she could hear hushed voices and the squeaking of stretched ropes, as the feather-tick upon which the two girls laid, shifted with their scurrying movements on the rope-bed. She heard the clink as the glass chimney on a coal-oil lamp was raised suddenly and the flame blown out. In a moment, she heard soft footsteps coming closer on the other side of the door, and she froze, knowing someone was now listening at the keyhole only inches away from her on the other side of the door which separated the two bedrooms.

She listened intently, fearing that at any moment the door would be pushed and blocked from opening by the dead-weight of her body leaning against it, but nothing happened. In a few minutes of breathless waiting, she heard the squeak of the rope-bed again and then silence. She sat quietly without daring to stir for what seemed an eternity, then quietly gathered herself up, and tip-toed back to bed. As she was softly kneeling on her own feather-tick, so as not to make a sound, she thought she heard the door out to the hallway in the next room opened quietly and closed again, with just as much stealth as she herself was trying to muster as she carefully crawled back into bed! She pulled up the quilt around her neck and tried to remember every detail of what she had seen.

The clandestine thrill of eaves-dropping on two girls having sex was making her very restless as she lay quiet as a door-mouse on the soft eider-down of her pillow. She pursed her lips and placed two fingers against her pouted lips, but knew the feeling could be nothing so soft as touching another girls lips to hers. She had never kissed another girl on the lips, and had never once thought about how it might feel doing it in a romantic way, until that moment, alone in the dark. As titillating as the thought of kissing another girl seemed, she then recalled what she had seen, or rather imagined was going on behind a screen of petticoats and crinolines in the next room. She fell asleep wondering what the fuzzy, black curls around the pussy of a slave-girl would feel like upon her lips.

She awoke the next morning to the sound of horses in the stable-yard below her window, and when she climbed from her bed and looked out, she saw Dr. Mayweather stepping out of a buggy before it was led off to the carriage-house by one of the stable-boys. She quickly dressed and hoped to find out from the doctor how her cousin was doing. Before she could lace up her shoes, her door was opened a crack and the face of one of the Garrett twins peaked into her room. She wasn’t sure if it was Isabelle or Annabelle until she smiled and walked in, sitting down on the bed beside her without saying a word. Annabelle was the shy, quiet one who had always attached herself to Ellen when she had visited the plantation before.

Ellen’s English accent was a source of fascination to Annabelle, who believed Ellen must be very sophisticated and worldly. Annabelle got down on the floor and pulled Ellen’s laces tight while Ellen tied up the lace on her other shoe. She pulled Annabelle up and together they walked towards the stairs to find Doc Mayweather. “He might be in the parlour,” whispered Annabelle. “There are sick soldiers in there!” They passed her sister May’s bedroom right next to Ellen’s, and Ellen looked in to see a young black girl glance up at her as she made up the bed. She turned away before Ellen could get a good look at her, but she had pretty eyes which looked familiar to her.

“Who’s that darkie-girl in your sister’s room?” Ellen asked Annabelle.

“Just one of the chamber-maids. C’mon!” She grabbed Ellen’s hand and hurried her down the staircase. As they rounded the ornately-turned newell post at the foot of the stairs, Annabelle was grabbed up by the collar and jerked to a halt by a sturdy old mammy Ellen recognized to be Alva, Mrs. Garrett’s chief house-keeper.

“Wassa matta wit chu, child?” Alva chided. “You want Miss Ellen he-yuh to think you got no mannahs?”

“How do you do, Alva?” Ellen smiled in greeting as politely as she could, and Alva looked her up and down with a worried look, and asked her if she was feeling better. “I’m sorry to be such a bother last night, Alva. Those men in the library… I…”

“Hush, Miss Ellen!” Alva reassured her. “That bizness was nuthin a lady like yuh-seff should evah be seeyun!” Alva told both of them to go into the morning room while she told Doctor Mayweather Ellen was awake.

In the sunny brightness of the morning room in the southeast corner of the Garrett mansion, plates were laid out on a large cherry table for breakfast, and two kitchen maids were hustling pancakes, and platters full of bacon and sausage in for the morning repast. Ellen laid out an embroidered napkin on her lap while one of the kitchen servants served up her breakfast. She felt the napkin sliding off her lap and pulled it up again, but it immediately began slipping down her dress again. When she grabbed it the second time, she was surprised to feel it being tugged back away from her. Startled, she pulled her chair back from the table and found Isabelle popping her head out from beneath the dining table with the lace tablecloth draped across her head. She giggled at Ellen and crawled out from underneath the table-linen, spreading her elbows across Ellen’s lap.

“Did I scare you?” she giggled.

“You most certainly did!” replied Ellen in her most refined English accent, which the Garrett girls loved so much. “What on earth are you doing down there?”

“Waiting for you and Pamela. Didn’t she come with you?” Isabelle asked hopefully. “She’s not sick again, is she?”

“Not again. Still!” Corrected Ellen, with her smile quickly waning. “I came last night to implore Doctor Mayweather to go to Regina’s house to see to her.”

“I wondered what was going on last night. I heard a noise, and peaked out my door and saw Sam carrying you up to the bedroom next to May’s. You didn’t get noo-monia too, did you?”

“No, sweetie.” Ellen reassured her. “I… well, I was just tired. I walked all the way here last night from the Mather’s Plantation.”

“And no decent girl should be outta bed nosin’ into otha folkses’ bizness, Miz Nosey-belle!” Alva scolded, as she walked into the room carrying more platters full of food. She glared down at Isabelle still sitting on the floor. “Now gitcha-sef back up to the table lahk a laydee, an’ eat up dis grub! Dem Yankees is comin and gwanna take evrathang! Eat as much as ya can. It maght be the last ya git fo’ awahle.” Isabelle gave the old mammy a sneer and sat herself down at the table next to Ellen.

Doctor Mayweather walked in the hall just outside the morning room, with the plantation overseer behind him, and they spoke together in hushed tones, just outside the doorway. The twins’ older sister May came in to breakfast from another door, and her personal maid followed, pulling out her chair as May sat down at the table across from Ellen and Isabelle. Annabelle gave an almost imperceptible nudge to the dark-skinned girl as she scooted May’s chair towards the table, and Ellen saw a curious smile flash across Isabelle’s face as she watched the pretty, young servant look down at her twin self-consciously, and then step back out of the way behind them. Alva told the girl to go to the scullery and get something to eat while the stoves were hot, and then to go upstairs to pack up May’s steamer trunk for a trip. The girl obeyed silently, and May watched her as she disappeared to the kitchens behind the main house.

“Are you traveling somewhere, May?” Ellen asked, as she offered the pretty teenaged girl a basket of golden biscuits.

“You all are.” Interrupted the overseer, as he appeared before them in the doorway. “Tomorrow morning we’re evacuating the household before the Yankees break through our boys’ lines. Pack what you can, but we only have two wagons and a buck-board, so be judicious, ladies.” Doctor Mayweather pulled out the empty chair on the other side of Ellen and sat down beside her to grab a quick breakfast. Before Ellen could ask about Pamela’s condition, the doctor pre-empted her, telling her to finish her breakfast first, after which they could talk about Pamela and other pressing matters.

Ellen worried that one of the nurses would call the doctor away to minister to the wounded soldiers at the other end of the great house before she had a chance to talk with him, but he showed no sign of letting his breakfast be interrupted. He looked famished and exhausted, and Ellen knew he had probably not gotten any sleep for a good long while.

“I do hope your cousin is getting better, Ellen.” May said politely. “Did you see her last night, Doctor?” Before he could reply, Alva told the eldest Garrett daughter to let the doctor eat in peace. She stood directly behind him with her arms folded across her ample bosoms, as if she were standing guard over him. Alva was an imposing figure in the household, even at the best of times, so both May and the twins kept their tongues quiet for the rest of the meal, with only please-and-thank-you’s as the bowls and plates of food were passed around.

After breakfast, May asked Ellen if she could stay awhile or if she had to get back to the Mather’s, and the doctor followed them into the parlor and told them both that it wasn’t safe for Ellen to be buggied back to the Mather’s. She’d be going with the rest of the Garrett family when they evacuated Candler County the next morning.  Ellen was beginning to feel like a lost sheep caught out in a thunderstorm, but Doc Mayweather reassured her that he had spoken to Regina’s grandfather, and her safety would be seen to before the onslaught that was coming from the northwest. Ellen finally asked the doctor if Pamela was OK.

“She was a mighty sick girl, Miss Ellen.” The doctor began with a heavy heart. “I had no quinine, opium, or anything else that could help her. The soldiers down the hall used up everything I had in my medical-bag before I even left last night! I would have cupped her, but young Regina wouldn’t hear of it, so I showed her how to apply a mustard-plaster to Pamela, and we both watched over her through the night. She’s breathing better, but I’m afraid for her when they have to evacuate her out before Billy-yank burns down the house around her!” Ellen shuddered and shook her head that even the men of the house seemed afraid of what was coming.

“How will Regina, Pamela and their grandfather be evacuated?” Ellen asked with concern. The overseer who was still standing nearby stepped towards her, hearing her concerns.

“Now don’t you worry about them, ma’am.” He assured. “I’ve sent a wagon for them with some hands to help them get Miss Pamela moved safely. We’ll join them tomorrow morning after we leave here.”

After breakfast, May asked Ellen to help her choose what dresses from her chiffarobe would be best to take on the road, and directed her maid in packing them in a trunk the house-servants had brought down from the attic. Ellen held them up to May to see how they looked, and May did the same to her, as Ellen had no other clothes to wear besides what she had come to the house in the night before. May offered to share whatever she could with Ellen since she would have to leave most of her fine clothes behind anyway. The servants carried the trunks from the girl’s bedrooms down to the wagons, and Alva kept the girls busy upstairs the rest of the afternoon so they wouldn’t see the wounded soldiers being mustered out of the house. Some could walk with crutches or canes but most had to be carried on stretchers.

When Alva was busy with the twins in the other room, Ellen would look out the window to see the hobbling column of wretched invalids, some with missing arms, others with missing legs, struggling down the carriage lanes to the road outside the plantation. Night came early in December, even in Georgia, and the girls huddled together in the one bedroom where coal-oil lamps were still left. Mrs. Garrett came upstairs to check on her daughters, and Ellen was shocked at how the sorrows of the South were etched into the lines of her face, which only months before had been careworn, but not utterly distraught. Ellen knew how serious things were just by looking at her face. Mrs. Garrett had tried to keep her daughters shielded from what might come should the South fail in its crusade against the might of the Union Army, but she had hoped it would never come to this.

She led the girls in a prayer and kissed them goodnight. She put her hand to Ellen’s cheek and then gave her a hug without a word. What comfort or promise could she offer that the young girl would see her family in England again. As cannon-fire echoed like distant thunder across the dusk, nothing could be assured this night.

After the approaching storm of war had quieted for the evening, and the lamps were turned low, Ellen could see May with her knees drawn up close, shaking with fear, glancing towards the door every few minutes. She wanted to comfort her somehow but the twins were both clinging to her already, one on each side. She thought of Regina and her poor cousin Pamela, and wondered if she would see them tomorrow, or would the confusion of the evacuation keep her from knowing whether her cousin had escaped before the Union Army burned Georgia to the ground. She drifted in and out of sleep.

The house was altogether too quiet. Half-awake, she looked over at May again, but was surprised to see she was gone. Ellen wanted to go look for her, but she didn’t want to rouse Annabelle and Isabelle who were still snuggled under her arms. After a few more minutes had passed, the door opened without a sound, and May tip-toed into the room with someone behind her, holding her hand. Ellen could only make out her clothes in the dim light, her face and hands were too dark to be seen.

May quietly opened the door to the small dressing room which lay to one side of the bedroom, and carefully picked up the lamp and held it up in the doorway so her companion could go in ahead of her. As she passed beneath the lamp, Ellen could discern the face of the pretty black girl she had seen the night before in May’s bedroom. Ellen was burning with curiosity, but she daresn’t wake the twins, especially if what she thought was about to happen was really happening. She tried to gently twist herself free from the grip of the young girls on either side of her, but their arms were wrapped around hers snugly. She suddenly felt trapped, when what she wanted to do most was get her eye up to that keyhole!

In the darkness Ellen strained her ears to hear any sound that might come from the dressing room beyond the door. She ached with curiosity, and with the frustration of not being able to know what was going on inside that little room. They had left clothing lying all over in there when Ellen had helped May pick out her dresses for the journey, so any sounds from inside were probably muffled by all the cloth, but Ellen listened attentively until she finally fell asleep.

A clap of thunder roused her suddenly, and for a moment she couldn’t imagine where she was or how she had gotten there. Rain was beating furiously against the window-panes, and when the lightning flashed, she could see the tops of the old trees out in the yard swaying to and fro with the storm. She reckoned it was late into the middle of the night, and she remembered the twins falling asleep clutching her arms, but her arms were now free. She carefully slid them out to each side of the feather-tick, feeling for the young girls under the coverlet, but they were no longer in the bed with her. She threw the covers off and quietly felt her way across the room with the help of intermittent flashes of lightning which illuminated the room briefly.

When she got to the door of the dressing room, she intended to peak through the keyhole, but the brightness of the lightning made her irises close up every few seconds, so nothing in the dimly-lit dressing room could she see when she kneeled down at the door. She turned the knob and opened the door a crack, but she knew she would be given away to whomever was inside when they saw the lightning through the crack, so she just pushed the door wide and looked in. The twins both turned around startled by her entrance, but smiled and motioned her into the room and told her to quick close the door. Four girls were on the floor with clothes strewn everywhere. The dark-skinned girl wheeled around and looked at Ellen with fear in her wide eyes, but the twins told her it was alright. She was naked. They were all naked!

“What are you all doing?” Ellen blurted, as she stood in the open doorway.

“We’re comforting Kissy!” Giggled Isabelle. “She’s afraid of the thunder!” Ellen looked at all four of them huddled together on the floor, sitting on top of May’s scattered closet of discarded clothes, and her look of surprise melted into a smile. She stepped forward and impulsively pushed the straps of her slip off her shoulders, feeling a surprising exhilaration as it fell to the floor around her bare feet.

“Well, maybe I need comforting too!” Ellen laughed. May peered out from around Kissy, who was kneeling between them, and her face glistened in the lamp-light, shining with a wet glaze. She looked at Ellen with a sheepish smile, her curled locks of hair disheveled, and quickly waved her to come join them on the floor. Ellen was transfixed by May’s bare breasts and the exposed triangle of wet hair between her legs. The insides of her thighs reflected the light from the flame as streamers of wetness were highlighted, running down the soft curves of her skin.

“Its okay!” Isabelle reassured Kissy, who stared up at Ellen’s naked body with her mouth open. “She’s one of us!”

Ellen felt as if she had been inducted into a secret-society as a sister conspirator, and she had no intention of betraying their trust. She thought of all the bloody misery, and brutality of men at war, killing and dismembering each other just beyond the borders of the plantation, and judged this innocent play as something utterly beautiful when compared to that ugliness. She found the girls’ bodies arousing in the soft coal-oil light, and none of them seemed the least bit conscious of their differences in age. But what she found strangely compelling, was the fact that in here, there were no differences drawn by prejudice either.

Outside, the world was turned on its head over the imagined gulf between white and colored, free-man and slave, but this slave-girl fascinated her in her nudity every bit as much as did her friends. She had never seen nipples so coal-dark before, and she couldn’t take her eyes off the lovely young servant as she kneeled on the floor to join them.

Thunder shook the narrow dressing room, and one of the twins got up and shut the door, closing them off from the storm. Kissy started at the sudden rumble, and Ellen pulled her into her arms and hugged her close, feeling her dark nipples poking into her own bare breasts. She kissed the younger girl and felt her tenseness relax, and finally dissolve in her embrace. Ellen tasted May’s juices on Kissy’s lips and found it exciting. She wanted to know that kind of intimacy with another girl herself, and knew that while outside the door the rest of the household was facing the long night in fear for the uncertain hardships tomorrow would bring, Ellen was about to embark on a night of tenderness with her beautiful companions, who cared nothing about the war, nor the troubles it threatened to visit upon their lives.

There was no fear left in her at all this night. For the first time in the many months she had felt a stranger in a foreign country, she now felt truly at home. The solace she gave to a frightened slave-girl was the same comfort and acceptance she now felt from all of them gathered around her. Kissy was her equal. However she had been treated by May’s parents, their overseers, or others of their generation of the Old South, and despite the unfulfilled promise of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the daughters of the Garrett family had already set their young servant free.

The twins gently laid her down on her back with Kissy still clinging to her. She reclined on a soft fur coat which now served as a rug beneath her, and May stretched out between their legs kissing her way up their thighs, one then the other as Ellen and Kissy both reeled from the sensations. Ellen pulled the young slave girl up and over her so her full breasts were dangling down above her face and she began kissing and suckling the swollen ebony nipples that intrigued her so. There was no fireplace nor stove to keep them warm in the small dressing room, but the heat of their bodies cozied in the billowing pile of clothes was more than enough to keep them warm on the rainy December night.

The twins caressed the curvaceous figure of the slave-girl as May hiked herself deeper into the cleft of their spread thighs, licking first Kissy and then Ellen, as the dark-skinned girl shook above her. Ellen was concerned that her moans might be audible throughout the house, but as May found the spot of her most intense pleasure, Ellen ceased to care. She had never before felt such delicious sensations, and she desired to learn how to return them.

As if sensing that Ellen was eager to taste another girl’s pussy, the twins pulled Kissy upright and guided her forward so she was straddling the English girl’s face, and Ellen pushed her mouth into the black girl’s wet sex for the first time. Kissy gave out a guttural moan so loud that the twins clapped their hands over her mouth lest the whole plantation should be roused. Ellen heard them giggling above her as she thrust her tongue inside their young servant’s inner folds and tasted her juices as they dripped down into her open mouth. Her own pussy was gushing freely too, as May continued to coax her to climax after climax.

Ellen learned quickly from May’s example, and used both her fingers and tongue on Kissy, just as May was using them on her. The great mansion which had housed the horrible suffering of dying soldiers only the night before was now filled with the immeasurable pleasures that five teenaged girls gave to one another one last night before the great house would be abandoned to war. In their secret hiding place, the girls forgot the uncertain fears that consumed the rest of the household and gave each other joyous respite from the concerns which would soon overtake them at dawn.

The long night of intimacy she shared with her friends would be the experience she always remembered when she finally returned to her home country. The hardship of their flight before Sherman’s army the next morning would fade in a jumble of confusing memories, but the night of shared passion would forever change her life. In the morning they awoke cuddled together, still naked with May’s discarded clothes piled around and over them for warmth. They hurriedly helped each other into their petticoats and dresses, as the sounds of wagons and horses filled the yard below their bedroom window. Alva came in to roust them in her usual huff, but they were already dressed and stuffing last-minute personal items into carpet-bags for the journey to safety, wherever that might take them.

Alva made Kissy carry their things downstairs, but Ellen lightened her load by taking a satchel or two in hand herself. In the distance, the sounds of battle echoed across the fields, and everyone made haste before the Yankees advanced to the borders of the plantation. By mid-morning they had joined the fleeing Mather household and Ellen was overjoyed to see her cousin sitting up in the back of her carriage looking for her. She climbed in to tend to Pamela and keep her warm on the journey, and Pamela noticed that her cousin’s reserved English manners seemed somehow changed. She wanted to know everything that had happened to her since they parted, and Ellen wondered with a wistful smile if by the end of their journey she would tell her.

(c) Christmas Eve, 2013 – Bethany Ariel Frasier

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A Night In The Old South, 5.4 out of 6 based on 2 ratings

2 thoughts on “A Night In The Old South

  1. Uffff.. no easy story, a whole bunch of historical background, war, death. But there was love, too… sex in time of war. Sometimes I think that Amerika was devided from the start… Thank you for this story!

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  2. Its no easy world! Especially in America where the wolves prey on the sheep with impunity. Against the backdrop of war, love is the only counterpoint that matters, and America has been at war for 214 years of its 235 years of existence.

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