A Chilhowee Lily by Charles Egbert Craddock
Tall, delicate, and stately, with all the finished symmetry and
distinction that might appertain to a cultivated plant, yet sharing
that fragility of texture and peculiar suggestion of evanescence
characteristic of the unheeded weed as it flowers, the Chilhowee lily
caught his eye. Albeit long familiar, the bloom was now invested with a
special significance and the sight of it brought him to a sudden pause.
The cluster grew in a niche on the rocky verge of a precipice
beetling over the windings of the rugged primitive road on the slope of
the ridge. The great pure white bloom, trumpet-shaped and crowned with
its flaring and many-cleft paracorolla, distinct against the densely
blue sky, seemed the more ethereal because of the delicacy of its
stalk, so erect, so inflexibly upright. About it the rocks were at
intervals green with moss, and showed here and there heavy ocherous
water stain. The luxuriant ferns and pendant vines in the densely
umbrageous tangle of verdure served to heighten by contrast the keen
whiteness of the flower and the isolation of its situation.
Ozias Crann sighed with perplexity as he looked, and then his eye
wandered down the great hosky slope of the wooded mountain where in
marshy spots, here and there, a sudden white flare in the shadows
betokened the Chilhowee lily, flowering in myraids, holding out lures
bewildering in their multitude.
They air bloomin' bodaciously all over the mounting, he remarked
rancorously, as he leaned heavily on a pickaxe; but we uns hed better
try it ter-night ennyhows.
It was late in August; a moon of exceeding lustre was in the sky,
while still the sun was going down. All the western clouds were aflare
with gorgeous reflections; the long reaches of the Great Smoky range
had grown densely purple; and those dim Cumberland heights that, viewed
from this precipice of Chilhowee, were wont to show so softly blue in
the distance, had now a variant amethystine hue, hard and translucent
of effect as the jewel itself.
The face of one of his companions expressed an adverse doubt, as he,
too, gazed at the illuminated wilderness, all solitary, silent, remote.
'Pears like ter me it mought be powerful public, Pete Swolford
objected. He had a tall, heavy, lumpish, frame, a lackluster eye, a
broad, dimpled, babyish face incongruously decorated with a tuft of
dark beard at the chin. The suit of brown jeans which he wore bore
token variously of the storms it had weathered, and his coarse cowhide
boots were drawn over the trousers to the knee. His attention was now
and again diverted from the conversation by the necessity of aiding a
young bear, which he led by a chain, to repel the unwelcome
demonstrations of two hounds belonging to one of his interlocutors.
Snuffling and nosing about in an affectation of curiosity the dogs
could not forbear growling outright, as their muzzles approached their
shrinking hereditary enemy, while the cub nestled close to his master
and whimpered like a child.
Jes' so, jes' so, Honey. I'll make 'em cl'ar out! Swofford replied
to the animal's appeal with ready sympathy. Then, I wish ter Gawd,
Eufe, ye'd call yer dogs off, he added in a sort of aside to the
youngest of the three mountaineers, who stood among the already
reddening sumac fringing the road, beside his horse, athwart which lay
a buck all gray and antlered, his recently cut throat still dripping
blood. The party had been here long enough for it to collect in a tiny
pool in a crevice in the rocky road, and the hounds constrained to
cease their harassments of the bear now began to eagerly lap it up. The
rifle with which Eufe Kinnicutt had killed the deer was still in his
hands and he leaned upon it; he was a tall, finely formed, athletic
young fellow with dark hair, keen, darkly greenish eyes, full of
quickly glancing lights, and as he, too, scanned the sky, his attitude
of mind also seemed dissuasive.
'Pears like thar won't be no night, ez ye mought call night, till
this moon goes down, he suggested. 'Pears nigh ez bright ez day!
Ozias Crann's lank, angular frame; his narrow, bony face; his nose,
long yet not large, sharp, pinched; his light grey eyes, set very
closely together; his straggling reddish beard, all were fitting
concomitants to accent the degree of caustic contempt he expressed.
Oh, to be sure! he drawled. It'll be powerful public up hyar in the
mounting in the midnight,that's a fac'!an' moonlight is mighty
inconvenient to them ez wants ter git spied on through totin' a lantern
in cur'ous places.
This sarcasm left the two remonstrants out of countenance. Pete
Swofford found a certain resource in the agitations of his bear, once
more shrinking and protesting because of the dogs. Call off yer
hound-dogs, Rufe, he cried irritably, or I'll gin 'em a bullet ter
Ye air a plumb fool about that thar bar, Pete, Kinnicutt said
sourly, calling off the hounds nevertheless.
That thar bar? exclaimed Swofford. Why, thar never war sech a
bar! That thar bar goes ter mill, an' kin fetch home grist,ef I
starts him out in the woods whar he won't meet no dogs nor contrairy
cattle o' men he kin go ter mill all by his lone!same ez folks an'
the bes' kind o' folks, too!
In fact the bear was even now begirt with a meal-bag, well filled,
which although adding to his uncouth appearance and perhaps unduly
afflicting the sensibilities of the horse, who snorted and reared at
the sight of him, saved his master the labor of packing the heavy
Swofford had his genial instincts and in return was willing to put
up with the cubbishness of the transport,would wait in the
illimitable patience of the utterly idle for the bear to climb a tree
if he liked and pleasantly share with him the persimmons of his
quest;would never interfere when the bear flung himself down and
wallowed with the bag on his back, and would reply to the censorious at
home, objecting to the dust and sand thus sifting in with the meal,
with the time honored reminder that we are all destined to eat a peck
of dirt in this world.
Whenst ye fust spoke o' digging said Kinnicutt, interrupting a
lengthening account of the bear's mental and moral graces, I 'lowed ez
ye mought be sayin' ez they air layin' off ter work agin in the
Ozias Crann lifted a scornful chin. I reckon the last disasters
thar hev interrupted the company so ez they hain't got much heart todes
diggin' fur silver agin over in Tanglefoot Cove. Fust, he checked off
these misfortunes, by laying the fingers of one hand successively in
the palm of the other, the timbers o' one o' the cross cuts fell an'
the roof caved in an' them two men war kilt, an' thar famblies sued the
company an' got mo' damages 'n the men war bodaciously wuth. Then the
nex' thing the pay agent, ez war sent from Glaston, war held up in
Tanglefoot an' robbedsome say by the miners. He got hyar whenst they
war out on a strike, an' they robbed him 'cause they warn't paid
cordin' ter thar lights, an' they did shoot him up
cornsider'ble. That happened jes' about a year ago. Then sence, thar
hev been a awful cavin' in that deep shaft they hed sunk in the tunnel,
an' the mine war flooded an' the machinery ruintI reckon the company
in Glaston ain 't a-layin' off ter fly in the face o' Providence and
begin agin, arter all them leadin's ter quit.
Some believe he warh't robbed at all, Kinnicutt said slowly. He
had turned listlessly away, evidently meditating departure, his hand on
his horse's mane, one foot in the stirrup.
Ye know that gal named Loralindy Byars? Crann said craftily.
Kinnicutt paused abruptly. Then as the schemer remained silent he
demanded, frowning darkly, What's Loralindy Byars got ter do with it?
Mighty nigh all! Crann exclaimed, triumphantly.
It was a moment of tense suspense. But it was not Crann's policy to
tantalize him further, however much the process might address itself to
his peculiar interpretation of pleasure. That thar pay agent o' the
mining company, he explained, he hed some sort'n comical nameoh, I
remember now, RenfrowPaul Renfrowwaalye know he war shot in the
knee when the miners way-laid him.
I disremember now ef it war in the knee or the thigh, Swofford
interposed, heavily pondering.
Kinnicutt's brow contracted angrily, and Crann broke into open
wrath: an' I ain't carin', ye foolwhat d' ye interrupt fur like
Wall, protested Swofford, indignantly, ye said 'ye know' an' I
An' I ain't carin'the main p'int war that he could neither ride
nor walk. So the critter crawled! Nobody knows how he gin the strikers
the slip, but he got through ter old man Byars's house. An' thar he
staid till Loralindy an' the old 'oman Byars nussed him up so ez he
could bear the pain o' bein' moved. An' he got old man Byars ter wagin
him down ter Colb'ry, a-layin' on two feather beds 'count o' the rocky
roads, an' thar he got on the steam kyars an' he rid on them back ter
whar he kem from.
Kinnicutt seemed unable to longer restrain his impatience. He
advanced a pace. Ye appear ter 'low ez ye air tellin' newsI knowed
all that whenst it happened a full year ago!
I reckon ye know, too, ez Loralindy hed no eyes nor ears fur
ennybody else whilst he war hyarbut then he war good-lookin'
an' saaft-spoken fur true! An' now he hev writ a letter ter her!
Crann grinned as Kinnicutt inadvertently gasped. How do you uns
know that! the young man hoarsely demanded, with a challenging accent
of doubt, yet prescient despair.
'Kase, bubby, that's the way the story 'bout the lily got out. I
was at the mill this actial day. The miller hed got the letterhevin'
been ter the post-office at the Crossroadsan' he read it ter her,
bein' ez Loralindy can't read writin'. She warn't expectin' it. He writ
of his own accord.
A sense of shadows impended vaguely over all the illuminated world,
and now and again a flicker of wings through the upper atmosphere
betokened the flight of homing birds. Crann gazed about him absently
while he permitted the statement he had made to sink deep into the
jealous, shrinking heart of the young mountaineer, and he repeated it
as he resumed.
She warn't expectin' of the letter. She jes' stood thar by the
mill-door straight an' slim an' white an' still, like she always
beter my mind like she war some sort'n sperit, stiddier a sure enough
galwith her yaller hair slick an' plain, an' that old, faded, green
cotton dress she mos' always wears, an' lookin' quiet out at the water
o' the mill-dam ter one side, with the trees a-wavin' behind her at the
open doorjes' like she always be! An' arter awhile she speaks slow
an' saaft an axes the miller ter read it aloud ter her. An' lo! old man
Bates war rej'iced an' glorified ter the bone ter be able ter git a
peek inter that letter! He jes' shet down the gates and stopped the
mill from runnin' in a jiffy, an' tole all them loafers, ez hangs round
thar mosly, ter quit thar noise. An' then he propped hisself up on a
pile o' grist, an' thar he read all the sayin's ez war writ in that
letter. An' a power o' time it tuk, an' a power o' spellin' an'
bodaciously wrastlin' with the alphabit.
He laughed lazily, as he turned his quid of tobacco in his mouth,
recollecting the turbulence of these linguistic turmoils.
This hyar fellerthis Renfrowhe called her in the letter 'My
dear friend'he didan' lowed he hed a right ter the word, fur ef
ever a man war befriended he hed been. He lowed ez he could never
fur-get her. An' Lord! how it tickled old man Bates ter read them
sentimentsthe pride-ful old peacock! He would jes' stop an' push his
spectacles back on his slick bald head an' say, 'Ye hear me, Loralindy!
he 'lows he'll never furget the keer ye tuk o' him whenst he war shot
an' ailin' an' nigh ter death. An' no mo' he ought, nuther. But some do
furget sech ez that, Loralindysome do!'
An' them fellers at the mill, listenin' ter the letter, could
sca'cely git thar consent ter wait fur old man Bates ter git through
his talk ter Loralindy, that he kin talk ter every day in the year! But
arter awhile he settled his spectacles agin, an' tuk another tussle
with the spellin,' an' then he rips out the main p'int o' the letter.
This stranger-man he 'lowed he war bold enough ter ax another favior.
The cuss tried ter be funny. 'One good turn desarves another,' he said.
'An' ez ye hev done me one good turn, I want ye ter do me another.' An'
old man Bates hed the insurance ter waste the time a-laffin' an'
a-laffin' at sech a good joke. Them fellers at the mill could hev fund
it in thar hearts ter grind him up in his own hopper, ef it wouldn't
hev ground up with him thar chance o' ever hearin' the end o' that thar
interestin' letter. So thar comes the favior. Would she dig up that box
he treasured from whar he told her he hed buried it, arter he escaped
from the attack o' the miners? An' would she take the box ter Colb'ry
in her grandad's wagin, an' send it ter him by express. He hed tole her
once whar he hed placed itan' ter mark the spot mo' percisely he hed
noticed one Chilhowee lily bulb right beside it. An' then says the
letter, 'Good bye, Chilhowee Lily!' An' all them fellers stood
A light wind was under way from the west Delicate flakes of red and
glistening white were detached from the clouds. Sailssails were
unfurling in the vast floods of the skies. With flaunting banners and
swelling canvas a splendid fleet reached half way to the zenith. But a
more multitudinous shipping still swung at anchor low in the west,
though the promise of a fair night as yet held fast.
An' now, said Ozias Crann in conclusion, all them fellers is
Whut's in the box! demanded Swof-ford, his big baby-face all in a
pucker of doubt.
The gold an' silver he ought ter hev paid the miners, of course.
They always 'lowed they never tuk a dollar off him; they jes' got a
long range shot at him! How I wish, Ozias Crann broke off fervently,
how I wish I could jes' git my hands on that money once! He held out
his hands, long and sinewy, and opened and shut them very fast.
Why, that would be stealin'! exclaimed Kinnicutt with repulsion.
How so? 't ain't his'n now, surehe war jes' the agent ter pay it
out, argued Crann, volubly.
It belongs ter the mine owners, thenthe company. There was a
suggestion of inquiry in the younger man's tone.
'Pears notthey sent it hyar fur the percise purpose ter be paid
out! the specious Crann replied.
Then it belongs ter the miners.
They hedn't yearned itan' ef some o' them hed they warn't thar
ter receive it, bein' out on a strike. They hed burnt down the
company's office over yander at the mine in Tanglefoot Cove, with all
the books an' accounts, an' now nobody knows what's owin' ter who.
Kinnicutt's moral protests were silenced, not satisfied. He looked
up moodily at the moon now alone in the sky, for only a vanishing
segment of the great vermilion sphere of the sun was visible above the
western mountains, when suddenly he felt one of those long grasping
claws on his arm. Now, Rufe, bubby, a most insinuating tone, Crann
had summoned, all them fool fellers air diggin' up the face of the
yearth, wharever they kin find a Chilhowee lilylike sarchin' fur a
needle in a haystack. But we uns will do a better thing than that. I
drawed the idee ez soon ez I seen you an' Pete hyar this evenin' so
onexpected. 'Them's my pardners,' I sez ter myself. 'Pete ter holp dig
an' tote ef the box be heavy. An' you ter find out edzac'ly whar it be
hid.' You uns an' Loralindy hev been keepin' company right smart, an'
ye kin toll Loralindy along till she lets slip jes' whar that lily air
growin'. I'll be bound ez she likes ye a sight better 'n that
Renfrowleastwise ef 't warn't fur his letter, honeyin' her up with
complimints, an' she hevin' the chance o' tollin' him on through doin'
him sech faviors, savin' his life, an' now his moneyshucks it's mo'
our money 'n his'n; 't ain 't his 'n! Gol-darn the insurance o'
this Renfrow! His idee is ter keep the money his own self, an' make her
sen' it ter him. Then 'Good-bye, Chilhowee Lily!'
The night had come at last, albeit almost as bright as day, but with
so ethereal, so chastened a splendor that naught of day seemed real. A
world of dreams it was, of gracious illusions, of far vague distances
that lured with fair promises that the eye might not seek to measure.
The gorgeous tints were gone, and in their stead were soft grays and
indefinite blurring browns, and every suggestion of silver that metal
can show flashed in variant glitter in the moon. The mountains were
majestically sombre, with a mysterious sense of awe in their great
height There were few stars; only here and there the intense lustre of
a still planet might withstand the annihilating magnificence of the
Its glamour did not disdain the embellishment of humbler objects. As
Rufe Kinnicutt approached a little log cabin nestling in a sheltered
cove he realized that a year had gone by since Renfrow had seen it
first, and that thus it must have appeared when he beheld it. The dew
was bright on the slanting roof, and the shadow of oak trees wavered
over it. The mountain loomed above. The zigzag lines of the rail fence,
the bee-gums all awry ranged against it, the rickety barn and
fowl-house, the gourd vines draping the porch of the dwelling, all had
a glimmer of dew and a picturesque symmetry, while the spinning wheel
as Loralinda sat in the white effulgent glow seemed to revolve with
flashes of light in lieu of spokes, and the thread she drew forth was
as silver. Its murmuring rune was hardly distinguishable from the chant
of the cicada or the long droning in strophe and antistrophe of the
waterside frogs far away, but such was the whir or her absorption that
she did not perceive his approach till his shadow fell athwart the
threshold, and she looked up with a start.
Ye 'pear powerful busy a-workin' hyar so late in the night, he
exclaimed with a jocose intonation.
She smiled, a trifle abashed; then evidently conscious of the
bizarre suggestions of so much ill-timed industry, she explained,
softly drawling: Waal, ye know, Granny, she be so harried with her
rheumatics ez she gits along powerful poor with her wheel, an' by night
she be plumb out'n heart an' mad fur true. So arter she goes ter bed I
jes' spins a passel fur her, an' nex' mornin' she 'lows she done a
toler'ble stint o' work an' air consider'ble s'prised ez she war so
easy put out.
She laughed a little, but he did not respond. With his sensibilities
all jarred by the perfidious insinuation of Ozias Crann, and his
jealousy all on the alert, he noted and resented the fact that at first
her attention had come back reluctantly to him, and that he, standing
before her, had been for a moment a less definitely realized presence
than the thought in her mindthis thought had naught to do with him,
and of that he was sure.
Loralindy, he said with a turbulent impulse of rage and grief;
whenst ye promised to marry me ye an' me war agreed that we would
never hev one thought hid from one anotherain't that a true word!
The wheel had stopped suddenlythe silver thread was broken; she
was looking up at him, the moonlight full on the straight delicate
lineaments of her pale face, and the smooth glister of her golden hair.
Not o' my own, she stipulated. And he remembered, and wondered that
it should come to him so late, that she had stood upon this reservation
and that hepoor foolhad conceded it, thinking it concerned the
distilling of whisky in defiance of the revenue law, in which some of
her relatives were suspected to be engaged, and of which he wished to
know as little as possible.
The discovery of his fatuity was not of soothing effect. 'T war
that man Renfrew's secretI hearn about his letter what war read down
ter the mill.
She nodded acquiescently, her expression once more abstracted, her
thoughts far afield.
He had one moment of triumph as he brought himself tensely erect,
shouldering his gunhis shadow behind him in the moonlight duplicated
the gesture with a sharp promptness as at a word of command.
All the mounting's a-diggin' by this time! He laughed with ready
scorn, then experienced a sudden revulsion of feeling. Her face had
changed. Her expression was unfamiliar. She had caught together the two
ends of the broken thread, and was knotting them with a steady hand,
and a look of composed security on her face, that was itself a flout to
the inopportune search of the mountaineers and boded ill to his hope to
discover from her the secret of the cache. He recovered himself
Ye 'lowed ter me ez ye never keered nuthin' fur that man, Renfrow,
he said with a plaintive appeal, far more powerful with her than scorn.
She looked up at him with candid reassuring eyes. I never keered
none fur him, she protested. He kem hyar all shot up, with the miners
an' mounting boys hot foot arter himan' we done what we could fur
him. Gran'daddy 'lowed ez he warn't 'spon-sible fur whut the
owners done, or hedn't done at the mine, an' he seen no sense in
shootin' one man ter git even with another.
But ye kep' his secret! Kinnicutt persisted.
What fur should I tell it't ain't mine?
That thar money in that box he buried ain't his'n, nuther!
There was an inscrutable look in her clear eyes. She had risen, and
was standing in the moonlight opposite him. The shadows of the vines
falling over her straight skirt left her face and hair the fairer in
the silver glister.
'Pears like ter me, he broke the silence with his plaintive
cadence, ez ye ought ter hev tole me. I ain't keerin' ter know
'ceptin' ye hev shet me out. It hev hurt my feelin's powerful ter be
treated that-a-way. Tell me nowor lemme go forever!
She was suddenly trembling from head to foot. Pale she was always.
Now she was ghastly. Rufe Kinnicutt, she said with the solemnity of
an adjuration, ye don't keer fur sech ez this, fur nuthin'. An'
He noted her agitation. He felt the clue in his grasp. He sought to
wield his power, Choose a-twixt us! Choose a-twixt the promise ye made
ter that manor the word ye deny ter me! An' when I'm goneI'm gone!
She stood seemingly irresolute.
It's nuthin' ter me, he protested once more. I kin keep it an'
gyard it ez well ez you uns. But I won't be shet out, an' doubted, an'
denied, like ez ef I wan't fitten ter be trested with nuthin'!
He stood a moment longer, watching her trembling agitation, and
feeling that tingling exasperation that might have preceded a blow.
I'm goin', he threatened.
As she still stood motionless he turned away as if to make good his
threat. He heard a vague stir among the leaves, and turning back he saw
that the porch was vacant.
He had overshot the mark. In swift repentance he retraced his steps.
He called her name. No response save the echoes. The house dogs, roused
to a fresh excitement, were gathering about the door, barking in
affected alarm, save one, to whom Kinnicutt was a stranger, that came,
silent and ominous, dragging a block and chain from under the house.
Kinnicutt heard the sudden drowsy plaints of the old rheumatic
grandmother, as she was rudely awakened by the clamors, and presently a
heavy footfall smote upon the puncheons that floored the porch. Old
Byars himself, with his cracked voice and long gray hair, had left his
pipe on the mantel-piece to investigate the disorder without.
Hy're Rufe! he swung uneasily posed on his crutch stick in the
doorway, and mechanically shaded his eyes with one hand, as from the
sun, as he gazed dubiously at the young man, hain't ye in an' about
finished yer visit tor yer visitation, ez the pa'son calls it He, he,
he! Wall, Loralindy hev gone up steers ter the roof-room, an' it's
about time ter bar up the doors. Waal, joy go with ye, he, he, he! Come
off, Tige, ye Bose, hyar! Cur'ous I can't 'larn them dogs no
A dreary morrow ensued on the splendid night. The world was ful of
mists; the clouds were resolved into drizzling rain; every perspective
of expectation was restricted by the limited purlieus of the present.
The treasure-seekers digging here and there throughout the forest in
every nook in low ground, wherever a drift of the snowy blossoms might
glimmer, began to lose hope and faith. Now and again some iconoclastic
soul sought to stigmatize the whole rumor as a fable. More than one
visited the Byars cabin in the desperate hope that some chance word
might fall from the girl, giving a clue to the mystery.
By daylight the dreary little hut had no longer poetic or
picturesque suggestion. Bereft of the sheen and shimmer of the
moonlight its aspect had collapsed like a dream into the dullest
realities. The door-yard was muddy and littered; here the razor-back
hogs rooted unrebuked; the rail fence had fallen on one side, and it
would seem that only their attachment to home prevented them from
wandering forth to be lost in the wilderness; the clap-boards of the
shiny roof were oozing and steaming with dampness, and showed all awry
and uneven; the clay and stick chimney, hopelessly ont of plumb, leaned
far from the wall.
Within it was not more cheerful; the fire smoked gustily into the
dim little room, illumined only by the flicker of the blaze and the
discouraged daylight from the open door, for the batten shutters of the
unglazed window were closed. The puncheon floor was grimythe feet
that curiosity had led hither brought much red clay mire upon them. The
poultry, all wet and dispirited, ventured within and stood about the
door, now scuttling in sudden panic and with peevish squawks upon the
unexpected approach of a heavy foot. Loralinda, sitting at her spinning
wheel, was paler than ever, all her dearest illusions dashed into
hopeless fragments, and a promise which she did not value to one whom
she did not love quite perfect and intact.
The venerable grandmother sat propped with pillows in her arm-chair,
and now and again adjured the girl to show some manners an' tell the
neighbors what they so honed to know. With the vehemence of her
insistence her small wizened face would suddenly contract; the tortures
of the rheumatism, particularly rife in such weather, would seize upon
her, and she would cry aloud with anguish, and clutch her stick and
smite her granddaughter to expedite the search for the primitive
remedies of dried yarbs on which her comfort depended.
Oh, Lord! she would wail as she fell back among the pillows. I'm
a-losin' all my religion amongst these hyar rheumatics. I wish I war a
man jes' ter say 'damn 'em' once! An' come good weather I'll sca'cely
be able ter look Loralindy in the face, considering how I hector her
whilst I be in the grip o' this misery.
Jes' pound away, Granny, ef it makes ye feel ennywise better,
cried Loralinda, furtively rubbing the weales on her arm. It don't
hurt me wuth talkin' 'bout. Ye jes' pound away, an' welcome!
Perhaps it was her slender, elastic strength and erect grace, with
her shining hair and ethereal calm pallor in the midst of the storm
that evoked the comparison, for Ozias Crann was suddenly reminded of
the happy similitude suggested by the letter that he had heard read and
had repeated yesterday to his cronies as he stood in the road. The
place was before him for one illumined momentthe niche in the cliff,
with its ferns and vines, the delicate stately dignity of the lilies
outlined against the intense blue of the sky.
The reminiscence struck him like a discovery. Where else could the
flower have been so naturally noticed by this man, a stranger, and
remembered as a mark in the expectation of finding it once more when
the bulb should flower againas beside the county road? He would have
been hopelessly lost a furlong from the path.
Crann stood for a moment irresolute, then silently grasped his
pickaxe and slunk out among the mists on the porch.
He berated his slow mind as he hurried invisible through the vast
clouds in which the world seemed lost. Why should the laggard
inspiration come so late if it had come at all? Why should he, with the
clue lying half developed in his own mental impressions, have lost all
the vacant hours of the long, bright night, have given the rumor time
to pervade the mountains, and set all the idlers astir before he should
strike the decisive blow!
There, at last, was the cliff, beetling far over the mist-filled
valley below. A slant of sunshine fell on the surging vapor, and it
gleamed opalescent. There was the niche, with the lilies all a-bloom.
He came panting up the slope under the dripping trees, with a dash of
wind in his face and the odor of damp leafage and mold on the
He struck the decisive blow with a will. The lilies shivered and
fell apart The echoes multiplied the stroke with a ringing metallic
The loiterers were indeed abroad. The sound lured them from their
own devious points of search, and a half dozen of the treasure-seekers
burst from the invisibilities of the mists as Ozias Crann's pickaxe
cleaving the mold struck upon the edge of a small japanned box hidden
securely between the rocks, a scant foot below the surface. A dangerous
spot for a struggle, the verge of a precipice, but the greed for gain
is a passion that blunts the sense of peril. The wrestling figures,
heedless of the abyss, swayed hither and thither, the precious box
among them; now it was captured by a stronger grasp, now secured anew
by sheer sleight-of-hand. More than once it dropped to the ground, and
at last in falling the lock gave way, and scattered to the wind were
numberless orderly vouchers for money already paid, inventories of
fixtures, bills for repairs, reports of departmentsvarious details of
value in settling the accounts of the mine, and therefore to be
transmitted to the main office of the mining company at Glaston. Ef I
hed tole ye ez the money warn't thar, ye wouldn't hev believed me,
Lora-linda Byars said drearily, when certain disappointed wights, who
had sought elsewhere and far a-field, repaired to the cabin laughing at
their own plight and upbraiding her with the paucity of the cache. I knowed all the time what war in that box. The man lef' it thar in
the niche arter he war shot, it bem' heavy ter tote an' not wuth much.
But he brung the money with him, an' tuk it off, bein', he said,
without orders from the owners, the miners hevin' burnt down the
offices, an' bruk open the safe an' destroyed all the papers, ceptin'
that leetle box. I sewed up the man's money myself in them feather beds
what he lay on whenst he war wagined down 'ter Colb'ry ter take the
kyars. He 'lowed the compn'y mought want them papers whenst they went
into liquidation, ez he called it, an' tole me how he hed hid 'em.
Rufe Kinnicutt wondered that she should have been so unyielding. She
did not speculate on the significance of her promise. She did not
appraise its relative value with other interests, and seek to qualify
it. Once given she simply kept it. She held herself no free agent. It
was not hers.
The discovery that the lure was gold revealed the incentive of her
lover's jealous demand to share the custody of the secret. His
intention was substituted for the deed in her rigid interpretation of
integrity. It cost her many tears. But she seemed thereafter to him
still more unyielding, as erect, fragile, ethereally pure and pale she
noted his passing no more than the lily might. He often thought of the
cheap lure of the sophisms that had so deluded him, the simple obvious
significance of the letter, and the phrase, Goodbye, Chilhowee Lily,
had also an echo of finality for him.