Nancy fought another tremor of rising panic. She was so tightly wedged into this position that the cloth pressed against her nose and mouth. Like bein’ in a shroud—the thought had her suffocating again. She could see nothing, but she could hear everything. Someone entered the room. The door latched closed. Then the reassuring voice of Will, “I’ll have to go inta town, Mary. They want me to speak in favor of the new state ordinance at the rally tomorra’ mornin’.”
Mary spoke in an indignant whisper. “They can’t make you speak fer somethin’ you don’t believe in! We’re Virginians!”
“Mary darlin’,” Will spoke back softly, “I have no choice. They’re here with their men and their weapons. I have to go in order to protect you and the young’uns and the farm.”
Heavy footsteps bounded up the stairs and moved through the room above. Mary’s back stiffened against Nancy. “What are they doin’ in the girls’ room?” she asked, no longer whispering.
Before Will could speak, the door swung open abruptly, banging against the wall. A gruff voice responded, “Looking, ma’am. We’re looking for any renegade that might have a reason to come visiting.”
“You have no right to burst in here!” Mary said in outrage. “And you’ve wakened my child.” Margaret was now wailing in fright.
“Mary, darlin’, don’t get riled.” Will spoke in his ever calm voice. “Colonel, I’ll thank you not to walk in on my wife and my child. I said I’ll go with you to speak fer the ordinance, but let a man git his boots and coat.”
Disregarding Will’s statement, the colonel said, “Men, in here. Check under the bed, all the cupboards and chests, and don’t forget the outhouse. Now, Ma’am, I have reason to believe that your sister, a Miss Nancy Hart, is living among those bushwhacking murderers of Perry Conley’s. When was the last time you had occasion to see her?”
Nancy tried not to tremble. I gotta be still. I gotta be still. She could feel Mary’s back stiff and hard against her, as if to say, they’ll have to go through me to get to you, little sister.
“It’s been nigh onta four months now, Colonel,” Will spoke for her, and Mary crooned to Margaret, rocking back and forth and swaying the bed.
The sounds of cupboard doors slamming open, the sounds of shattering crockery, and the pounding, pounding of boots rang throughout the house as Nancy huddled in the dark, with her eyes closed, jaw set, expecting that at any time she would be torn from her dark hiding place…