Judith of the Cumberlands
by Alice MacGowan
JUDITH OF THE CUMBERLANDS
Author of The Wiving of Lance Cleaverage, The Last Word,
Huldah, Return, Etc.
With Illustrations in Colour by George Wright
[Illustration: The moonlight flickered on the blade in his hand as
he reeled backward over the bluff (page 145).]
Grosset &Dunlap Publishers, New York
Copyright, 1908 by Alice MacGowan
This edition is issued under arrangement with the publishers, G. P.
Putnam's Sons, New York and London
Chapter II. At
Chapter V. The
Red Rose and the
Chapter VI. The
Chapter VIII. On
Chapter X. A Spy
Chapter XI. The
Chapter XII. In
the Lion's Den
Chapter XIII. In
Chapter XIV. The
Council of War
Chapter XVI. A
The Old Cherokee
Chapter XX. A
Chapter XXI. The
The Dumb Supper
Chapter XXIV. A
Case of Walking
Chapter XXV. A
His Own Trap
To my mountain friends, dwellers in lonely cabins, on winding
horseback trails and steep, precarious roads; or in the tiny
settlements that nestle in the high-hung inner valleys; lean brown
hunters on remote paths in the green shadowed depths of the free
forest, light-stepping, keen-eyed, humorous-lipped, hitting the point
as aptly with an instance as with the old squirrel gun they carry;
wielders of the axe by many a chip pile, where the swinging blade rests
readily to answer query or offer advice; tanned, lithely moving lads
following the plough, turning over the shoulder a countenance of dark
beauty; grave, shy girls, pail in hand, at the milking-bars in dawn or
dusk; young mothers in the doorway, looking out, babe on hip; big-eyed,
bare-footed mountain children clinging hand in hand by the roadside, or
clustered like startled little partridges in the shelter of the
dooryard; knitters in the sun and grandams by the hearth; tellers and
treasurers all of tales and legends couched in racy old Elizabethan
English; I dedicate thistheir book and mine.
I have been so frequently asked how I, a woman, came by my intimate
acquaintance with life in the more remote districts of the southern
Appalachians, particularly in the matter of illicit distilling, that I
think it not amiss to here set down a few words as to my sources of
I have always lived in a small city in the heart of the Cumberlands,
and a portion of each year was spent in the mountains themselves. The
speech of Judith and her friends and kin has been familiar to me from
childhood; their point of view, their customs and possessions as well
known to me as my own. Then when I began to write, I was one summer at
Roan Mountain, on the North Carolina-Tennessee line, probably less than
two hundred miles from Chattanooga by the railway, and Gen. John T.
Wilder, who had campaigned all through the fastnesses of that
inaccessible region, suggested to me that I buy a mountain-bred saddle
horse, and ride such a route as he would give me, bringing up, after
about a thousand miles of it, at my home. To follow the itinerary that
the old soldier marked out on the map for me was to leave railroads and
modern civilisation as we know it, penetrate the wild heart of the
region, and, depending on the wayside dwellers for hospitality and
lodging from night to night, be forcibly thrust into an intimate
comprehension of a phase of American life which is perhaps the most
primitive our country affords.
I was more than eight weeks making this trip, carrying with me all
necessary baggage on my capacious, cowgirl saddle with its long and
numerous buckskin tie-strings. At first I shrank very much from riding
up to a cabina young woman, alone, with garments and outfit that must
challenge the attention and curiosity of these peoplein the dusk of
evening or in a heavy rain-storm, and asking in set terms for lodging.
But it took only a few days for me to find that here I was never to be
stared at, wondered at, nor questioned; and that, proffering my request
under such conditions, I was met by instant hospitality, and a grave,
uninquiring courtesy unsurpassed and not always equalled in the best
society, and I seemed to evoke a swift tenderness that was almost
During this journey I became acquainted with some features of
mountain life which I might never have known otherwise. My best friends
in the mountains in the neighbourhood of my own home had always been a
little shy of discussing moonshine whiskey and moonshiners; but here I
earned a dividend upon my misfortunes, being more than once taken for a
revenue spy; and in the apologetic amenities of those who had misjudged
me, which followed my explanations and proofs of innocence, I have been
shown in a spirit of atonement, illicit still and hideout. I have
heard old Jephthah Turrentine make his protest against the government's
attitude toward the mountain man and his blockaded still. I have
foregathered with the revenuers in the settlements at the foot of the
circling purple ranges, and been shown the specially made axes and
hooks they carry with them for breaking up and destroying the simple
appurtenances of the illicit manufacture. Knowing that Blatch
Turrentine's still must have cost him three hundred dollars, I cannot
wonder that a mountain man, a thrifty fellow like Blatch, should have
lingered, even in great danger, over the project of carrying it with
These dwellers in the southern mountain region, the purest American
strain left to us, hold the interest and appeal of a changing,
vanishing type. The tide of enlightenment and commercial prosperity
must presently sweep in and absorb them. And so I might hope that a
faithful picture of the life and manners I have sought to represent in
Judith of the Cumberlands would be the better worth while.
A. Mac G.
Judith of the Cumberlands
Chapter I. Spring
Won't you be jest dressed to kill an' cripple when you get that on!
Don't it set her off, Jeffy Ann?
The village milliner fell back, hands on hips, thin lips screwed up,
and regarded the possible purchaser through narrowed eyes of simulated
I don't know, debated the brown beauty, surveying herself in a
looking-glass by means of an awkwardly held hand-mirror. 'Pears to me
this one's too little. Hit makes me look like I was sent for and
couldn't come. But I do love red. I think the red on here is mightly
Instantly the woman of the shop had the hat off the dark young head
and in her own hands.
This is a powerful pretty red bow, she assented promptly. I can
take it out just as easy as not, and tack it onto that big hat you
like. I believe you're right; and red certainly does go with yo' hair
and eyes. Again she gazed with languishing admiration at her customer.
And Judith Barrier was well worth it, tall, justly proportioned,
deep-bosomed, long-limbed, with the fine hands and feet of the true
mountaineer. The thick dusk hair rose up around her brow in a massive,
sculptural line; her dark eyesthe large, heavily fringed eyes of a
dryadglowed with the fires of youth, and with a certain lambent
shining which was all their own; the stain on her cheeks was deep,
answering to the ripe red of the full lips.
In point of fact Mrs. Rhody Staggart the milliner considered her a
big, coarse country girl, and thought that a pair of stout corsets well
pulled in would improve her crude figure; but she dealt out compliments
without ceasing as she exchanged the red bow for the blue, and
laboriously pinned the headgear upon the bronze-brown coils,
admonishing gravely, Far over to one side, honeyjest the way they're
a-wearin' them in New York this minute.
The buyer once more studied her mirror, and its dumb honesty told
her that she was beautiful. Then she looked about for some human eyes
to make the same communication.
What's a-goin' on over yon at the Co't House? she inquired with
languid interest, looking across the open square.
They's a political speakin', explained the other. Creed Bonbright
he wants to be elected jestice of the peace and go back to the Turkey
Tracks and set up a office. Fool boy! You know mighty well an' good
they'll run him out o' tharor kill him, one.
Although the girl had herself ridden down from Turkey Track Mountain
that morning, and the old Bonbright farm adjoined her own, the news
held no interest for her. She wished the gathering might have been
something more to her purpose; but she solemnly paid for the hat, and
with the cheap finery on her stately young head, which had been more
appropriately crowned with a chaplet of vine leaves, moved to the door.
She hoped that standing there, waiting for the boys to bring her horse,
she might attract some attention by her recently acquired splendour.
She looked up at the Court House steps. The building was humbly in
the Greek manner, as are so many of the public structures in the South.
Between its great white pillars, flaking paint and half-heartedly
confessing their woodland genesis, stood a tall young man, bareheaded.
The doubtful sunlight of a March day glinted on his uncovered yellow
hair. He was speaking rapidly in a fervid fashion that seemed beyond
the occasion; in his blue eyes shone something of the fanatic's
passion; his bearing was that of a man who conceives himself to have a
mission and a message.
Judith looked at him. She heard no word of what he was sayingbut
him she heard. She heard the high, vibrant voice, saw the fair hair on
the upflung head, the rapt look in the blue eyes with their
quick-expanding pupils. Suddenly her world turned over. In a smother of
strange, uncomprehended emotions, she was gropingly glad she had the
new hatglad she had it on now, and that Mrs. Staggart herself had
adjusted it. On blind impulse she edged around into plainer view,
pushing freely in amongst the fringe of men and boys, an unheard-of
thing for a well taught mountain girl to do, but Judith was for the
moment absolutely unconscious of their humanity.
You never go a-nigh my people, cried Bonbright in that clear
thrilling tenor that is like a trumpet call, you never go a-nigh them
with the statutewith governmentexcept when the United States
marshal takes a posse up and raids the stills and brings down his
prisoners. That's all the valley knows of the mountain folks. The law's
never carried to anybody up there except the offenders and criminals.
The Turkey Track neighbourhoods, Big and Little, have got a mighty bad
name with you-all. But you ought to understand that violence must come
when every man is obliged to take the law into his own hands. I admit
that it's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth with us nowwhat
else could it be? And yet we are as faithful to each other, as
virtuous, and as God-fearing a race as those in the valley. I am a
mountain man, born and bred in the Turkey Tracks; and I ask you to send
me back to my neighbours with the law, that they may learn to be good
citizens, as they are already good men and women.
Upon the word, there broke out at the farthest corner of the square
an abrupt splatter of sound, oaths, cries, punctuated by the swift
staccato of running feet. The ringing voice came to a sudden halt. Out
of a little side street which descended from the mountain, a young
fellow burst into view, running in long leaping bounds, his hands up.
Behind him lumbered Dan Haley the United States marshal, a somewhat
heavy-set man, puffing and panting, yelling, Halt! halt! halt! and
finally turning loose a fusillade of shots aimed high over the fleeing
lad's head. There was a drawing back and a scattering in every
Hey, Bonbright! vociferated a man leaping up from the last step
where he had been sitting, pointing to where the marshal's deputy
followed behind herding five or six prisoners from the mountains, Hey,
Bonbright! There's some of your constituencysome God-fearing
Turkey-Trackersnow, but I reckon you won't own 'em.
I will! shouted Bonbright, whirling upon him, and one got suddenly
the blue fire of his hawk-like eye with the slant brow above. They
are my people, and the way they're treated is what I've been trying
to talk to you-all about.
Well, you better go and take them fellers some law right now,
jeered his interlocutor. Looks like to me they need it mighty bad.
That's just what I'm about, answered Bonbright. God knows they'll
get no justice unless I do. That's my job, and without another word or
a look behind him he made his way bareheaded through the group on the
steps and down the street.
Meantime the pursued had turned desperately and dodged into the
millinery store whence Judith Barrier had emerged a little earlier.
Instantly there came out to the listeners the noise of falling articles
and breaking glass, and the squeals and scufflings of the women. The
red-faced marshal dived in after his quarry, and emerged a moment later
holding him by one elbow, swearing angrily. Creed Bonbright came up at
the instant, and Haley, needing some one to whom he could express
himself, explained in voluble anger:
The damned little shoat! Said if I'd let him walk a-loose he'd give
me information. You can't trust none of them.
Bonbright laid a reassuring touch on the fugitive's shoulder as
Haley fumbled after the handcuffs.
I ain't been into no stillin', Creed! panted the squirming boy.
Well, don't run then, admonished Bonbright. You've got no call
to. I'll see that you get justice.
While he spoke there wheeled into the square, from a nearby
waggon-yard, two young mountaineers on mules, one leading by the
bridle-rein a sorrel horse with a side-saddle on it. At sight of the
marshal and those with him, an almost imperceptible tremor went through
the pair. There was a flicker of nostril, a rounding of eye, as their
glance ran swiftly from one to another of Haley's prisoners. They were
like wild game that winds the hunter.
St! You Pony Card, is that them? whispered Haley, sharply nudging
the prisoner he held. Turn him a-loose, Bonbright; I've got him
The boyhe was not more than sixteenchoked, reddened, held down
his head, studying the marshal's face anxiously from beneath lowered
Yes, them's Andy and Jeff Turrentine, Bonbright heard the husky,
reluctant whisper. Now cain't I go?
The newcomers were beyond earshot, but the by-play was ominous to
them. The lean young bodies stiffened in their saddles, the reins came
up in their hands. For a moment it seemed as if they would turn and run
for it. But it was too late. Without making any reply Haley shoved his
prisoner into the hands of the deputy and with prompt action
intercepted the two and placed them under arrest. Bonbright observed
one of the boys beckon across the heads of the gathering crowd before
he dismounted, and noted that some one approached from the direction of
the Court House steps and received the three riding animals. In the
confusion he did not see who this was. Haley spoke to his deputy, and
then drew their party sharply off toward the jail, which could be used
temporarily for the detention of United States prisoners. To the last
the young Turrentines muttered together and sent baleful glances toward
Bonbright, whom they plainly conceived to be the author of their
troubles. Poor Pony Card plodded with bent head mutely behind them, a
furtive hand travelling now and again to his eyes.
Such crowd as the little village had collected was following,
Bonbright with the rest, when he encountered the girl who had come from
the milliner's shop. She stood now alone by the sorrel horse with the
side-saddle on it, holding the bridle-reins of the two mules, and there
was a bewildered look in her dark eyes as the noisy throng swept past
her which brought himled in the hand of destinyinstantly to her
What's the matter? he asked her. Can I help you? And Judith who,
in her perturbation, had not seen him before, started violently at the
words and tone.
They've tuck the boys, she hesitated, in a rich, broken contralto,
that voice which beyond all others moves the hearts of hearers, II
don't know how I'm a-goin' to get these here mules home. Pete he won't
lead so very well.
Oh, were you with the men Haley arrested? ejaculated Bonbright.
Yes, they're my cousins. I don't know what he tuck 'em for, the
young, high-couraged head turned jailward; the dark eyes flashed a
resentful look after the retiring posse.
It looks like to me, from what Haley said, that there's nothing
against them, Bonbright reassured her. But they're likely to be held
as witnessesthat's the worst about this business.
I was going over there right now to see what can be done about
itbeing a sort of lawyer. But let me help you first. I'm Creed
Bonbrightreckon you know the nameborn and raised on Big Turkey
Judith's heart beat to suffocation, the while she answered in
commonplace phrase, I shorely do. My name is Judith Barrier; I live
with Uncle Jephthah Turrentine, on my farm. Hit's right next to the old
Bonbright place. We've been livin' thar more'n four years. I hate to go
back and tell Uncle Jep of the boys bein' tuck; and that big mule,
Pete, I don't know how I'm a-goin' to git him out o' the settlement,
he's that mean and feisty about town streets.
I reckon I can manage him, Bonbright suggested, looking about.
Oh, Givens! he called to a man hurrying past. When you get over
there ask Haley not to take any definite actionI reckon he wouldn't
anyhow. I'm going to represent the prisoners, and I'll be there inside
of half an hour. Now let me put you on your horse, Miss Judith, and
I'll lead the mules up the road a piece for you.
And so it came about that Judith sprang to the back of the sorrel
nag from Creed Bonbright's hand. Creed, still bareheaded, and wholly
unconscious of the fact, walked beside her leading the mules. They
passed slowly up the street towards the mountainward edge of Hepzibah,
talking as they went in the soft, low, desultory fashion of their
The noises of the village, aroused from its usual dozing calm, died
away behind them. Beyond the last cabin they entered a sylvan world all
their own. While he talked, questioning and replying gravely and at
leisure, the man was revolving in his mind just what action would be
best for the prisoners whose cause he had espoused. As for Judith, she
had forgotten that such persons existed, that such trivial mischance as
their arrest had just been; she was concerned wholly with the immediate
necessity to charm, to subjugate the man.
[Illustration: Creed walked beside her leading the mules.]
A rustic belle and beauty, used to success in such enterprises, in
the limited time at her command she brought out for Creed's subduing
her little store of primitive arts. She would know, Pete suggesting the
topic, if he didn't despise a mule, adding encouragingly that she did.
The ash, it seemed, was the tree of her preference; didn't he think it
mighty sightly now when it was just coming into bloom? His favourite
season of the year, his favoured colour, of such points she made
inquiry, giving him, in an elusive feminine fashion, ample opportunity
to relate himself to her. And always he answered. When all was spoken,
and at the first sharp rise she drew rein for the inevitable
separation, she could not have said that she had failed; but she knew
that she had not succeeded.
Ye can jest turn Pete a-loose now, she told him gently. He'll
foller from here on.
Bonbright, on his part, was not quite aware why he paused here, yet
it seemed cold and unfriendly to say good-bye at once, Again he assured
her that he would go immediately to the jail and find what could be
done for her cousins. There was no more to be said nowyet they
It was a blowy, showery March day, its lips puckered for weeping or
laughter at any moment, the air full of the dainty pungencies of new
life. Winged ants, enjoying their little hour of glory, swarmed from
their holes and turned stone or stump to a flickering, moving grey.
About them where they stood was the awakening world of nature. Great,
pale blue bird-foot violets were blooming on favoured slopes, and in
protected hollows patches of eyebright made fairy forests on the moss,
while under tatters of dead leaves by the brookside arbutus blushed.
Above their heads the tracery of branches was a lace-work overlaid with
fanlike budding green leaves, except where the maples showed scarlet
tassels, or the Judas tree flaunted its bold, lying, purple-pink
promise of fruitage never to be fulfilled.
Could two young creatures be wiser than nature's self? It was the
new time; all the gauzy-winged ephemeræ in the moist March woods were
throbbing with it, buzzing or flashing about seeking mates and nectar.
The earth had wakened from her winter sleep and set her face toward her
ancient, ardent lover, the sun. In the soul of Judith BarrierJudith
the nature womanall this surged strongly. As for the man, he had sent
forth his spirit in so general a fashion, he conceived himself to have
a mission so impersonal, that he scarce remembered what should or
should not please or attract Creed Bonbright.
Judith dreaded lest he make his farewells before she had from him
some earnest of a future meeting. He could not say good-bye and let her
leave him so! It seemed to her that if he did she should die before she
reached the mountain-top. Dark, rich, earth-born, earth-fast, material,
she looked down at Creed where he stood beside her, his hand on the
sorrel's neck, his calm blue eyes raised to hers. Her gaze lingered on
the fair hair flying in the March breeze, above a face selfless as that
of some young prophet. Her eager, undisciplined nature found here what
it craved. Coquetry had not availed her; it had fallen off him
unrecognisedthis man who answered it absently, and thought his own
thoughts. And with the divine pertinacity of life itself she delved in
the ancient wisdom of her sex for a lure to make him rise and follow
her. It was not bright eyes nor red lips that could move or please him?
But she had seen him moved, aroused. The hint was plain. Instantly
abandoning her personal siege, she espoused the cause of her bodiless
II heard you a-speakin' back there, she said with a little catch
in her breath.
Bonbright's eyes returned from the far distances to which they had
travelled after giving herJudith Barrier, so worthy of a blue-eyed
youth's respectful attentiona passing glance. She replied to his gaze
with one full of a meaning to him at that time indecipherable;
nevertheless it was an ardent, compelling look which he must needs
answer with some confession of himself.
You wouldn't understand what I was trying to tell about, he began
gently. Since I've been living in the valley, where folks get rich and
see a heap of what they call pleasure, I've had many a hard thought
about the lives of our people up yonder in the mountains. I want to go
back to my people withI want to tell them
The girl leaned forward in her saddle, burning eyes fixed on his
intent face, red lips apart.
Yeswhat? she breathed. What is it you want to say to the folks
back home? You ort to come and say it. We need it bad.
Do you think so? asked Bonbright doubtfully. Do you reckon they
would listen to me? I don't know. Sometimes I allow maybe I'd better
stay here where the Judge wants me to till I'm an older man and more
He studied the beautiful, down-bent face greedily now, but it was
not the eye of a man looking at a maid. His thoughts were with the work
he hoped to do. Judith's heart contracted with fear, and then set off
beating heavily. Wait till he was an old man? Would love wait? Somebody
else would claim himsome town girl would find the way to charm him.
In sheer terror she put down her hand and laid it upon his.
Don't you never think it, she protested. You're needed right now.
After a while will be too late. Why, I come a-past your old home in the
rain last Wednesday, and I could 'a' cried to see the winders dark, and
the grass all grown up to the front door. You come back whar you
belong she had almost said honeyand you'll find there is need
a-plenty for folks like you.
Well, they all allow that I'll be elected next Thursday, Creed
assented, busying himself over the lengthening of Beck's bridle, that
she might lead the mule the more handily. And if I am I'll be in the
Turkey Tracks along in April and find me a place to set up an office.
If I'm elected
Elected! An' ef yo'r not? she cried, filled with scorn of such a
paltry condition. What difference could it make whether or not he were
elected? Wouldn't his hair be just as yellow, his eyes as blue? Would
his voice be any less the call to love?
He smiled at her tolerantly, handing up the lengthened strap.
Well, I don't just rightly know what I will do, then, he debated.
But you're a-comin' up to the Turkey Tracks anyhow, toto see yo'
folks, persisted Judith with a rising triumph in her tone.
Yes, acquiesced Bonbright, I'll come up in April anyhow.
And with this assurance the girl rode slowly away, leading Beck, the
now resigned Pete following behind. All the sounds from the valley were
gathered as in a vast bowl and flung upward, refined by distance. A
moment she halted listening, then breasted the first rise and entered
that deep silence which waits the mountain dweller. The great forest
closed about her.
Creed Bonbright stood for a moment in the open road looking after
her. Something she had conveyed to him, some call sent forth, which had
not quite reached the ear of his spirit, and yet which troubled his
calm. He lifted his gaze toward the bulk of the big mountain looming
above him. He passed his hand absently through his fair hair, then
tossed his head back with a characteristic motion. It was good to know
he was needed up there. It was good to know he would be welcomed. So
far the girl had made her point. After this the mountains and Judith
Barrier would mean one thing in the young man's mind. As the shortest
way to them both, he turned and walked swiftly down toward the
settlement and to the undertaking which there awaited him.
Chapter II. At The Edge
The girl on the sorrel nag and the two riderless animals toiled
patiently up the broad, timbered flank of Big Turkey Track, following
the raw red gash in the greenery that was the road.
She gazed with wondering eyes at the familiar landmarks of the
trail. All was just as it had been when she rode down it at dawn that
morning, Andy and Jeff ahead on their mules whistling, singing,
skylarking like two playful bear cubs. It was herself that was changed.
She pushed the cheap hat off her hot forehead and tried to win to some
coherence of thought andso far had she already come on a new, strange
pathlooked back with wondering uncomprehension, as upon the beliefs
and preferences of a crude primitive ancestress, to the girl who had
cared that this hat cost a dollar and a half instead of a dollar and a
quarteronly a few hours since when she bought it at the store. She
went over the bits of talk that had been between her and Creed
Bonbright. What had he said his favourite colour was? Memory brought
back his rapt young face when she put the question to him. She trembled
with delight at the recollection. His eyes were fixed upon the sky, and
he had answered her absently, blue.
Blue! What a foolwhat a common thickheaded fool she had been all
her days! She let the sorrel take his own gait, hooked his bridle-rein
and Beck's upon the saddle-horn, and lifting her arms withdrew the
hatpins and took off the unworthy headgear. For a moment she regarded
savagely the cheap red ribbon which had appeared so beautiful to her;
then with strong brown fingers tore it loose and flung it in the dust
of the road, where Pete shied at it, and the stolid Beck coming on with
flapping ears set hoof upon it.
What vast world forces move with our movements, pluck us
uncomprehending from the station we had struggled for, and make our
sorrowful meat of our attained desires! The stars in their courses
pivot and swing on these subtle attractions, ancient as themselves.
Judith Barrier, tearing the gaudy ribbon from her hat and casting it
upon the road under her horse's feet, stood to learn what the priests
of Isis knew thousands of years ago, that red is the symbol of pleasure
and of mere animal comfort, while blue is the colour of pure reason.
Halfway up the trail they rode into a cloud that rested trembling on
the mountain-side, passed through it and emerged upon fitful sunlight.
Near the top there came a sudden shower which descended with the souse
of an overturned bucket. It won small attention from Judith, but Pete
and Beck resented it in mule fashion, with a laying back of ears and
lashing out of heels. These amenities were exchanged for the most part
across the intervening sorrel nag and his rider, and Selim replied
promptly and in kind, almost unseating Judith.
You Selim! she cried jerking the rein. You feisty Pete! You
no-account Beck! What ails you-all? Cain't you behave? and once more
she lapsed into dreaming. It was Selim who, wise and old, stopped at
Aunt Nancy Card's gate and gave Judith an opportunity to descend if
such were her preference.
On the porch of the cabin sat a tall, lean, black-eyed old man
smoking his pipe, Jephthah Turrentine himself. Nancy Card, a dry, brown
little sparrow of a woman, occupied a chair opposite him, and
negotiated a pipe quite as elderly and evil-smelling as his own.
The kerchief folded about her neck was notably white; her clean
check-apron rustled with starch; but the half-grey hair crinkling
rebelliously from its loose coil was never confined by anything more
rigorous than a tucking comb. In moments of stress this always slipped
down, and had to be vigorously replaced, so that stray strands were apt
to be tossing about her eyesfearless, direct blue eyes, that looked
out of her square, wrinkled, weather-beaten little face with the
sincere gaze of an urchin. Back of her chair lay a bundle of white-oak
splits for use in her by-trade of basket-weaver; above them hung
bundles of drying herbs, for Nancy was a sick-nurse and a bit of an
herb-doctor. She had made a hard and a more or less losing fight
against povertythe men folk of these hardy, valiant little women seem
predestined to be shiftless.
It came back to Judith dimly as she looked at themshe was in a
mood to remember such thingsthat her uncle had courted Nancy Card
when these two were young people, that they had quarrelled, both had
married, reared families, and been widowed; and they were quarrelling
still! Acrimonious debate with Nancy was evidently such sweet pain that
old Jephthah sought every opportunity for it, and the sudden shower in
the vicinity of her cabin had offered him an excuse to-day.
Nancy did not confine her practice to what she would have called
humans, but doctored a horse or a cow with equal success. One cold
spring a little chicken had its feet frozen in the wet barnyard so
badly that it lost one of them, and Nancy, who had taken the poor mite
into the house and nursed it till she loved it, constructed for it a
wooden leg consisting of a small, light peg strapped to the stump. And
thereafter Nicodemus, a rooster who must now belie the name since he
could not cling to a perch with his single foot, became an institution
in the Card household.
Jephthah Turrentine was a natural bone-setter, and was sent for far
and near to reduce a dislocation or bandage a broken limb. In the
pursuit of this which came to be almost a profession, he acquired a
good knowledge of tending upon the sick, and the bitterness of rival
practitioners was added to the score between him and Nancy. The case of
Nicodemus furnished the man with a chance to call the woman a chicken
doctor, and the name appealing to the humorous side of mountain
character stuck to her, greatly to her disgust.
Aunt Nancy's dooryard was famous for its flowers, being a riot of
pied bloom from March till December. Even now fire-in-the-bush and
bridal wreath made gay the borders.
Good land, Jude Barrier! called Nancy herself. You're as wet as a
drownded rat. 'Light and come in.
Old Turrentine permitted his niece to clamber from Selim, and secure
him and both mules.
Whar's the boys? he inquired in a great, sonorous bass, the deep,
true-pitched voice promised by the contours of strong bony arches under
heavy brows and the strong nose-bridge.
In jail, responded Judith laconically, turning to enter the gate.
Then, as she walked up the hard-trodden clay path between the tossing,
dripping heads of daffodils, Uncle Jep, did you know Creed Bonbright's
In jail! echoed Nancy Card, making a pretence of trying to
suppress a titter, and thereby rendering it more offensive. Ain't they
beginnin' ruther young?
Tall old Jephthah got to his feet, knocked the ashes from his pipe
and put it in his pocket.
Who tuck 'em? he inquired briefly, but with a fierce undernote in
his tones. What was they tuck fer?
I never noticed, said Judith, standing on the step before them,
wringing the wet from her black calico riding skirt. Nobody named it
to me what they was tuck fer. I was talkin' to Creed Bonbright, and he
'lowed to find out. He said that was his business.
Creed Bonbright, echoed her uncle; what's he got to do with it?
He's been livin' down in Hepzibah studyin' to be a lawyerdid he have
Jeff and Andy jailed?
Judith shook her head. He didn't have nothing to do with it, she
answered. He 'lowed they would be held for witnesses against some men
Haley had arrested. But he's goin' to come back and live on Turkey
Track, she added, as though that were the only thing of importance in
the world. He says we-all need law in the mountings, and he's a-goin'
to bring it to us.
Well, he'd better let my boys alone if he don't want trouble,
growled old Jephthah but half appeased.
I reckon a little touch of law now an' agin won't hurt yo' boys,
put in Nancy Card smoothly. My chaps always tuck to law like a duck to
water. I reckon I ain't got the right sympathy fer them that has
lawless young 'uns.
Yo' Pony was arrested afore Andy and Jeff, Judith remarked
suddenly, without any apparent malice. He was the first one I seen
comin' down the road, and Dan Haley behind him a-shootin' at him.
Jephthah Turrentine forebore to laugh. But he deliberately drew out
his old pipe again, filled it and stepped inside for a coal with which
to light it.
Mebbe yo' sympathies will be more tenderer for me in my afflictions
of lawless sons after this, Nancy, he called derisively over his
Hit's bound to be a mistake 'bout Pony, declared the little old
woman in a bewildered tone. Pone ain't but risin' sixteen, and he's
the peacefullest child
Jest what I would have said about my twin lambs, interrupted old
Jephthah with twinkling eye, as he appeared in the doorway drawing
mightily upon the newly lighted pipe, tossing his great beard from side
to side of his mighty chest. My chaps is all as peaceful as kittens;
but some old woman gits to talkin' and gives 'em a bad name, and it
goes from lip to lip that the Turrentine boys is lawless. Hit's a sad
thing when a woman's tongue is too long and limber, and hung in the
middle so it works at both ends; the reppytations hit can destroy is a
But a body's own childthey' son! They' bound to stan' up for him,
whether he's in the right or the wrong, maintained Nancy stoutly.
Huh, grunted Jephthah, offspring is cur'ous. Sometimes hit 'pears
like you air kin to them, and they ain't kin to you. That Pony boy of
your'n is son to a full mealsack; he's plumb filial and devoted
thataway to a dollar, if so be he thinks you've got one in yo' pocket.
The facts in the business air, Nancy, that you've done sp'iled him tell
he's plumb rotten, and a few of the jailings that you so kindly
ricommend for my pair won't do him no harm.
Nancy tossed up her head to reply; but at the moment a small boy,
followed by a smaller girl, coming around the corner of the house,
created a diversion. The girl, a little dancing imp with a frazzle of
flying red hair and red-brown eyes, catching sight of Judith ran to her
and flung herself head foremost in the visitor's lap, where Judith
cooed over her and cuddled her, rumpling the bright hair, rubbing her
crimson cheek against the child's peachy bloom.
Little Buck and Beezy, said Nancy Card, addressing them both, Yo'
unc' Pony's in jail. What you-all goin' to do about it?
The small brown man of six stopped, his feet planted wide on the
sward, his freckled face grave and stern as became his sex.
Ef the boys goes down for to git him out, I'm goin' along, Little
Buck announced seriously. Is they goin', granny?
I'll set my old rooster on the jail man, an' hit'll claw 'im,
announced Beezy, reckless of distance and likelihood. My old rooster
can claw dest awful, ef he ain't got but one leg.
Nancy chuckled. These grandchildren were the delight of her heart.
The rain had ceased for the moment; the old man moved to the porch
edge, sighting at the sky.
I don't know whar Blatch is a-keepin' hisself, he observed. Mebbe
I better be a-steppin'.
But even as he spoke a tall young mountaineer swung into view down
the road, dripping from the recent rain, and with that resentful air
the best of us get from aggressions of the weather. Blatchley
Turrentine, old Jephthah's nephew, was as brown as an Indian, and his
narrow, glinting, steel-grey eyes looked out oddly cold and alien from
under level black brows, and a fell of stiff black hair.
When the orphaned Judith, living in her Uncle Jephthah's family, was
fourteen, the household had removed from the old Turrentine
placewhich was rented to Blatchley Turrentineto her better farm,
whose tenant had proved unsatisfactory. Well hidden in a gulch on the
Turrentine acres there was an illicit still, what the mountain people
call a blockade still; and it had been in pretty constant operation in
earlier years. When Jephthah abandoned those stony fields for Judith's
more productive acres, he definitely turned his own back upon this
feature, but Blatch Turrentine revived the illegal activities and
enlisted the old man's boys in them. Jeff and Andy had a tobacco patch
in one corner where the ground suited, and in another field Jim Cal
raised a little corn. Aside from these small ventures, the place was
given over entirely to the secret still. The father held scornfully
aloof; his attitude was characteristic.
Ef I pay no tax I'll make no whiskey, he declared. You-all boys
will find yourselves behind bars many a time when you'd ruther be out
squirrel-huntin'. Ef you make blockade whiskey every fool that gits mad
at you has got a stick to hold over you. You are good-Lord-good-devil
to everybody, for fear they'll lead to yo' still; or else you mix up
with folks about the business and kill somebody an' git a bad name.
These here blockaded stills calls every worthless feller in the
district; most o' the foolishness in this country goes on around 'em
when the boys gits filled up. I let every man choose his callin', but I
don't choose to be no moonshiner, and ef you boys is wise you'll say
As Blatchley came up now and caught sight of the animals tethered at
the fence he began irritably:
What in the name of common sense did Andy and Jeff leave they'
mules here for? I can't haul any corn till I get the team and the
Looks like you've hauled too many loads of corn that nobody knows
the use of, broke out the irrepressible Nancy. Andy and Jeff's in
jail, and some fool has tuck my little Pone along with the others.
Blatch flung a swift look at his uncle; but whatever his private
conviction, to dishonour a member of his tribe in the face of the
enemy, on the heels of defeat, was not what Jephthah Turrentine would
The boys is likely held for witnesses, Jude allows, the elder
explained briefly. You take one mule and I'll ride 'tother, he added.
I'll he'p ye with the corn.
This was a great concession, and as such Blatchley accepted it.
All right, he returned. Much obliged.
Then he glanced unconcernedly at Judith, and, instead of making that
haste toward the corn-hauling activities which his manner had
suggested, moved loungingly up the steps. Beezy, from her sanctuary in
Judith's lap, viewed him with contemptuous disfavour. Her brother, not
so safely situated, made to pass the intruder, going wide like a shying
With a sudden movement Blatchley caught the child by the shoulders.
There was a pantherlike quickness in the pounce that was somehow
daunting from an individual of this man's size and impassivity.
Hold on thar, young feller, the newcomer remarked. Whar you
a-goin' to, all in sech haste?
You turn me a-loose, panted the child. I'm a-goin' over to my
Oh, she's yo' Jude, is she? Well they's some other folks around
here thinks she's their Judewhat you goin' to do about it?
All this time he held the small, dignified atom of humanity in a
merciless grip that made Little Buck ridiculous before his beloved, and
fired his childish soul to a very ecstasy of helpless rage.
I'llkillyou when I git to be a man! the child gasped, between
tears and terror. I'll thest kill youand I'll wed Jude. You turn me
a-loosethat's what you do.
Blatch laughed tauntingly and raised the little fellow high in air.
Ef I was to turn you a-loose now hit'd bust ye, he drawled.
I don't keer. I
Around the corner of the cabin drifted Nicodemus, the wooden-legged
rooster, stumping gravely with his dot-and-carry-one gait.
Lord, Nancy, thar comes the one patient ye ever cured! chuckled
old Jephthah. I don't wonder yo're proud enough of him to roof him and
affectionate him for the balance of his life.
I reckon you'd do the same, ef so be ye should ever cure one,
snapped Nancy, rising instantly to the bait, and turning her back on
the others. As 't is, ef they hilt the buryin' from the house of the
feller that killed the patient I reckon Jude wouldn't have nothin' to
do but git up funeral dinners.
Little Buck, despairing of granny's interference, began to cry. At
the sound Judith came suddenly out of a revery to spring up and catch
him away from the hateful restraining hands.
I don't know what the Lord's a-thinkin' about to let sech men as
you live, Blatch Turrentine! she said almost mechanically. Ef I was
a-tendin' to matters I'd 'a' had you dead long ago. Ef you're good for
anything on this earth I don't know what it is.
Oh, yes you do, Blatchley returned as the old man started down the
steps. I'd make the best husband for you of any feller in the two
Turkey Tracksand you'll find it out one of these days.
The girl answered only with a contemptuous glance.
Come againwhen you ain't got so long to stay, Nancy sped them
sourly. Jude, you'd better set awhile and get your skirts dry. She
looked after Blatch as he moved up the road, then at little Buck, so
ashamed of his trembling lip. Her face darkened angrily. She turned
slowly to Judith.
What you gwine to do with that feller, Jude? she queried
Do? Why, nothin'. He ain't nothin' to me, responded the girl
He ain't, hey? Well, he's bound to marry ye, honey, said the older
Huh, he ain't the firstand won't be the last, I reckon, assented
Ye'd better watch out fer that man, Jude, persisted Nancy, after a
moment's silence. He'll git ye, yet. I know his kind. He ain't
a-keerin' fer yo' rutherswhether you want him or no. He jest aims to
Well, I reckon he'll about have to aim over agin, observed the
An' Elder Drane? Air ye gwine to take him?I know he's done axed
ye, pursued Nancy hesitantly.
'Bout 'leven times, agreed Judith with perfect seriousness. NoI
wouldn't have the man, not ef he's made of pure gold. She added with a
sudden little smile and a catch of the breath: Them's awful nice chaps
o' his; I'd most take him to git them. The baby nowhit's the sweetest
thing! And she tumbled Beezy tumultuously in her lap, then suddenly
inquired, apparently without any volition of her own, Aunt Nancy, did
you know Creed Bonbright's folks?
Good Lord, yes! returned old Nancy. But come on inside and set,
Jude. This sun ain't a-goin' to dry yo' skirt. Come in to the fire.
Don't take that thar cheer, the behime legs is broke, an' it's apt to
lay you sprawling. I've knowed Creed Bonbright sence he wasn't
knee-high to a turkey, and I knowed his daddy afore him, and his
grand-daddy, for the matter of that.
Avoiding the treacherous piece of furniture against which she had
been warned, Judith slipped out of her wet riding-skirt and arranged it
in front of the fire to dry, turning then and seating herself on the
broad hearth at Nancy's knee, where she prompted feverishly,
And is all the Bonbrights moved out of the neighbourhood?
The old woman drew a few meditative whiffs on her pipe.
All gone, she nodded; some of 'em killed up in the big feud, and
some moved awaymostly to Texas. Presently she added:
That there Bonbright tribe is a curious nation of folks. They're
always after great things, and barkin' their shins against rocks in the
way. Creed's mammyshe was Judge Gillenwaters's sister, down in
Hepzibahdied when he was no bigger'n Little Buck, and his pappy never
wedded again. We used to name him and Creed Big 'Fraid and Little
'Fraid; they was always round together, like a man and his shadder.
Then the feuds broke out mighty bad, and the Blackshearses got Esher
Bonbright one night in a mistake for some of my kinor so it was
thort. Anyhow, the man was dead, and Creed lived with me fer a spell
till his uncle down in Hepzibah wanted him to come and learn to be a
Lived right herein this house? inquired Judith, looking around
her, as she rose and turned the riding-skirt.
Lord, yeswhy not? You would a-knowed all about it, only your
folks never moved in from the Fur Cove neighbourhood till the year
Creed went down to the settlement.
The girl sank back on the hearth, but continued to gaze about her,
and the tell-tale expression in her eyes seemed to afford Nancy Card
much quiet amusement.
Do you reckon he'll live with you again when he comes back into the
mountains? she inquired finally.
I reckon he'll be weddin' one of them thar town gals and fetchin' a
wife home to his own farm over by yo' house, suggested the inveterate
Judith went suddenly white, and then red. You don't know of
anybodyyou hain't heard he was promised, have you? she hesitated.
I ain't hearn that he was, and I ain't hearn that he wasn't,
returned Nancy serenely. The gal that gits Creed Bonbright'll be doin'
mighty well; but also she may not find hit right easy for to trap him.
I'll promise ef he does come up hyer again I'll speak a good word for
you, Jude. The Lord knows I don't see how you make out to live with
that thar old man. You'll deserve a crown and a harp o' gold sot with
diamonds ef you stan' it much longer.
Judith put on the now thoroughly dried riding-skirt, and the two
women went outside together.
Well, good-bye, Aunt Nancy, she said, as she led the sorrel nag to
the edge of the porch and made ready to mount. I'll be over and bring
the pieces for you to start me out on that Risin' Sun quilt
It was late afternoon as she took her homeward way across the level
of the broad mountain-top to the Turrentine place. She left the
main-travelled road and struck directly into a forest short-cut. After
the rain earth and sky were newly washed; the clear, sweetened air was
full of the scent of damp loam and new-ploughed fields; the colours
about her were freshened and glad, and each distant bird-note rang
clear and vivid. To Mrs. Rhody Staggart and her likes at Hepzibah she
might be a crude, awkward country girl; here she was a princess in her
own domain; and it was a noble realm through which she moved as she
went forward under the great trees that rose straight and tall from a
black soil, making pillared aisles away from her on every side. The
fern was thick under footit would brush her saddle-girth, come
midsummer. Down the long vistas under the greening trees, where the
moist air hung thick, her bemused eyes caught the occasional roseflash
of azalea through the pearly mist, her nostril was greeted by their
wandering, intensely sweet perfume, with its curious undernote of earth
She smiled vaguely at the first butterfly she had seen, and again as
she noted the earliest lizard basking in the sun-warmed hollow of a big
rock. Absently her gaze sought for cinnamon fern in low woods, sweet
fern in the thickets, and exquisite maidenhair just beginning to uncurl
from the black leaf mould of dripping brakes.
Like a woman in a dream she made her progress, riding through the
wonderful stillness of the vast wild land, an ocean on which each
littlest sound was afloat, so that each was given its true value almost
like a musical tone. An awful, beautiful silence this, brooding back of
every sound; nothing in such a place gives forth mere senseless noise;
the ripple of frogs in marsh and spring branch fall upon the sense as
sweet as bird-songs. The clamour of little falls, the solemn suggestion
of wind in the pines, the sweet broken jangle of cow-bells, a catbird
in a treea continuous yet zigzag sort of warble, silver and sibilant
notes alternating,the rare wild turkey's call along a deeply
embowered creekone by one all these came to Judith's dreaming ears,
clear, perfect, individual, on the majestic sea of silence about her.
She turned Selim's head at a little intersecting trail, and rode
considerably out of her way to pass the old Bonbright place and brood
upon its darkened windows and grass-besieged doorstone. Some day all
that would be changed. Still in her waking dream she unsaddled Selim at
the log barn, and turned him loose in his open pasture. She laid off
her town attire, put on her cotton working-dress, kindled afresh the
fire on the broad hearthstone and got supper. Her Uncle Jephthah and
Blatch Turrentine came in late, weary from their work of hauling corn
to that destination which old Nancy had announced as disreputably
indefinite. The second son of the family, Wade, a man of perhaps
twenty-four, was with them, and had already been told of the mishap to
Andy and Jeff.
Old Jephthah sat at the head of the board, his black beard falling
to his lap, his finely domed brow relieved against a background of
shadows. Judith needed the small brass lamp at the hearthstone, and a
tallow candle rather inadequately lit the supper-table. The corners of
the room were in darkness; only the cloth and dishes, the faces and
hands of those about the table showed forth in sudden light or motion.
Hung on the rough walls, and glimpsed in occasional flickers only,
were Judith's big maple bread-bowl, the churn-dash, spurtle,
sedge-broom, and a round glass bottle for rolling piecrust; cheek by
jowl with old Jephthah's bullet moulds and the pot-hooks he had forged
for Judith. There were strings of dried pumpkin, too, and of shining
red peppers. On a low shelf, scarce visible at all in the dense shadow,
stood a keg of sorghum, and one beside it of vinegar, flanked by the
butter-keeler and the salt piggin with its cedar staves and hickory
hoops. And there, too, was the broken coffee-pot in which garden seeds
What's all this I hear about Andy and Jeff bein' took? inquired a
plaintive voice from the darkened doorway whose door, with its heavy,
home-made latch, swung back against the wall on its great, rude, wooden
hinges, as abruptly out of the shadow appeared a man who set a plump
hand on either jamb and stared into the room with a round, white,
anxiously inquiring face. It was Jim Cal, eldest of the sons of
Jephthah Turrentine, married, and living in a cabin a short distance up
the slope. Who give the information? he asked as soon as he had
peered all about the room and found no outsider present.
Well, we hearn that you did, podner, jeered Blatch.
Come in and set, invited the head of the household, with the
mountaineer's unforgetting hospitality. Draw updraw up. Reach and
WellII might, faltered the fleshy one, sidling toward the
table and getting himself into a seat. Without further word his father
passed the great dish of fried potatoes, then the platter of bacon.
Judith brought hot coffee and corn pone for him. She did not sit down
with the men, having quite enough to do to get the meal served.
Unheedingly she heard the matter discussed at the table; only when
Creed Bonbright's name came up was she moved to listen and put in her
word. Something in her manner of describing the assistance Bonbright
offered seemed to go against Blatch's grain.
Got to look out for these here folks that's so free with their
offers o' he'p, he grunted. Man'll slap ye on the back and tell ye
what a fine feller ye air whilst he's feelin' for your
pocket-bookthat's town ways.
The girl was like one hearkening for a finer voice amid all this
distracting noise; she could hear neither. She made feverish haste to
clear away and wash her dishes, that she might creep to her own room
under the eaves. Through her open casement came up to her the sounds of
the April night: a heightened chorus of little frogs in a rain-fed
branch; nearer in the dooryard a half-dozen tree-toads trilling
plaintively as many different minors; with these, scents of growing,
sharpened and sweetened by the dark. And all night the cedar tree which
stood close to the porch edge below moved in the wind of spring, and,
chafing against the shingles, spoke through the miniature music in its
deep, muffled legato, a soft baritone note like a man's voicea
lover's voicecalling to her beneath her window.
It roused her from fitful slumbers to happy waking, when she lay and
stared into the dark, and painted for herself on its sombre background
Creed Bonbright's figure, the yellow uncovered head close to her knee
as he stood and talked at the foot of the mountain trail. And the voice
of the tree in the eager spring airs said to her waiting
heartwhispered it softly, shouted and tossed it abroad so that all
might have heard it had they been awake and known the shibboleth,
murmured it in tones of tenderness that penetrated her with blissthat
Creed was comingcomingcoming to her, through the April woods.
Chapter III. Suitors
April was in the mountains. All the vast timbered slopes and
tablelands of the Cumberlands were one golden dapple, as yet
differentiated by darker greens and heavier shadows only where some
group of pine or cedar stood. April in the Cumberlands is the May or
early June of New England. Here March has the days of shine and shower;
while to February belongs the gusty turbulence usually attributed to
March. Now sounded the calls of the first whippoorwills in the dusk of
evening; now the first mocking-bird sang long before day, very sweetly
and softly, and again before moonrise; hours of sun he filled with
bolder rejoicings, condescending in his more antic humour to mimic the
hens that began to cackle around the barn. Every thicket by the
water-courses blushed with azaleas; all the banks were gay with wild
Throughout March's changeful emotional season, night after night in
those restless vehement impassioned airs, the cedar tree talked
ardently to Judith. Through April's softer nights she wakened often to
listen to it. It went fondly over its first assurances. And the time of
Creed Bonbright's advent was near at hand now. Thought of it made light
her step as she went about her work.
Don't you never marry a lazy man, Jude.
The wife of Jim Cal Turrentine halted on the doorstep, a coarse
white cup containing the coffee she had come to borrow poised in her
hand as she turned to harangue the girl in the kitchen.
I ain't aimin' to wed no man. Huh, I say marry! I'm not studyin'
about marryin', promptly responded Judith in the mountain girl's
unfailing formula; but she coloured high, and bent, pot-hooks in hand,
to the great hearth to shift the clumsy Dutch oven that contained her
That's what gals allers says, commented Iley Turrentine
discontentedly. Huldy's forever singin' that tune. But let a
good-lookin' feller come in reach and I 'low any of you will change the
note. Huldy's took her foot in her hand and put outleft me with the
whole wash to do, and Jim Cal in the bed declarin' he's got a misery in
his back. Don't you never wed a lazy man.
Whar's Huldy gone? inquired Judith, sauntering to the door and
looking out on the glad beauty of the April morning with fond brooding
eyes. The grotesque bow-legged pot-hooks dangled idly in her fingers.
Over to Nancy Cyard's to git her littlest spinnin' wheelso she
said. I took notice that she had a need for that wheel as soon as
ever she hearn tell that Creed Bonbright was up from Hepzibah stayin'
at the Cyards's.
Had not Iley been so engrossed with her own grievances, the sudden
heat of the look Judith turned upon her must have enlightened her.
Huldy knowed him right well when she was waitin' on table at Miz.
Huffaker's boarding-house down at Hepzibah, the woman went on. I
ain't got no use for these here fellers that's around tendin' to the
whole world's businessthey' own chil'en is mighty apt to go hongry.
But thar, what does a gal think of that by the side o' curly hair and
For Judith Barrier at once all the light was gone out of the spring
morning. The bird in the Rose of Sharon bush that she had taken for a
thrushwhy, the thing cawed like a crow. She could have struck her
visitor. And then, with an uncertain impulse of gratitude, she was glad
to be told anything about Creed, to be informed that others knew his
hair was yellow and curly.
Gone? sounded old Jephthah's deep tones from within, as Mrs. Jim
Cal made her reluctant way back to a sick husband and a house full of
work and babies. Lord, to think of a woman havin' the keen tongue that
Iley's got, and her husband keepin' fat on it!
Uncle Jep, inquired Judith abruptly, did you know Creed Bonbright
was at Nancy Card'sstayin' there, I mean?
No, returned the old man, seeing in this a chance to call at the
cabin, where, beneath the reception that might have been offered an
interloper, even a duller wit than his might have divined a secret
cordial welcome. I reckon I better find time to step over that way an'
ax is there anything I can do to he'p 'em out.
I wish 't you would, assented Judith so heartily that he turned
and regarded her with surprise. An' ef you see Huldy over yon tell her
she's needed at home. Jim Cal's sick, and Iley can't no-way git along
I reckon James Calhoun Turrentine ain't got nothin' worse 'n the
old complaint that sends a feller fishin' when the days gits warm,
opined Jim Cal's father. I named that boy after the finest man that
ever walked God's green earthan' then the fool had to go and git fat
on me! To think of me with a fat son! I allers did hold that a
fat woman was bad enough, but a fat man ort p'intedly to be led out an'
Jude, whar's my knife, came the call from the window in a
masculine voice. Pitch it out here, can't you?
Judith took the pocket-knife from the mantel, and going to the
window tossed it to her cousin Wade Turrentine, who was shaping an axe
helve at the chip pile.
Do you know whar Huldy's gone? she inquired, setting her elbows on
the sill and staring down at the young fellow accusingly.
Nopean' don't care neither, said Wade, contentedly returning to
his whittling. He was expecting to marry Huldah Spiller, Iley's younger
sister, within a few months, and the reply was thus conventional.
Well, you'd better care, urged Judith. You better make her stay
home and behave herself. She's gone over to Nancy Card's taggin' after
Creed Bonbright. I wouldn't stand it ef I was you.
I ain't standin'I'm settin', retorted Wade with rather feeble
wit; but the girl noted with satisfaction the quick, fierce spark of
anger that leaped to life in his clear hazel eyes, the instant
stiffening of his relaxed figure. Like a child playing with fire, she
was ready to set alight any materials that came within reach of her
reckless fingers, so only that she fancied her own ends might be
served. Now she went uneasily back to the hearthstone. Her uncle,
noting that she appeared engrossed in her baking, gave a surreptitious
glance into the small ancient mirror standing on the high mantel, made
a half-furtive exchange of coats, and prepared to depart.
Up at the crib Blatch Turrentine was loading corn, and Jim Cal came
creeping across from his own cabin whence Iley had ejected him. He
stood for a while, humped, hands in pockets, watching the other's
strong body spring lithely to its task. Finally he began in his
plaintive, ineffectual voice.
Blatch, I take notice that you seem to be settin' up to Jude. Do ye
think hit's wise?
The other grunted over a particularly heavy sack, swung it to the
waggon bed, straightened himself suddenly, and faced his questioner
with a look of dark anger.
I'd like to see the feller that can git her away from me! he
I wasn't a-meanin' that, said Jim Cal, patiently but uneasily
shifting from the right foot to the left. I'll admitan' I reckon
everybody on the place will say the samethat she's always give you
mo' reason than another to believe she'd have ye. Not but what that's
Jude's way, an' she's hilt out sech hopes to a-many. What pesters me is
how you two would make out, once you was wed. Jude's mighty pretty, but
then again she's got a tongue.
Her farm hain't, chuckled Blatch, pulling a sack into place; and
I 'low Jude wouldn't have after her and me had been wed a short while.
I don't know, Blatch, maintained the fleshy one, timid yet
persisting. You're a great somebody for havin' yo' own way, an' Jude's
mighty high sperritywhy, you two would shorely fuss.
Not more than once, we wouldn't, returned Blatch with a meaning
laugh. The way to do with a woman like Jude is to give her a civil
beatin' to start out with and show her who's bosswouldn't be no
trouble after that. Jude Barrier has got a good farm. She's the best
worker of any gal that I know, and I aim for to have heran' this
Within the house now Judith, her cheeks glowing crimson as she bent
above the heaped coals, was going with waxing resentment over the
catalogue of Huldah Spiller's personal characteristics. Her hair, huh!
she was mighty particular to call it aurbu'n, but a body might as
well say red when they were namin' it, because red was what it was. If
a man admired a turkey egg he would be likely to see beauty in Huldah's
complexionsome folks might wear a sunbonnet to bed, and freckle they
would! A vision of the laughing black eyes and white flashing teeth
that went with Huldah Spiller's red ringlets and freckles, and made her
little hatchet face brilliant when she smiled or laughed, suddenly put
Judith on foot and running to the door.
Uncle Jep, she called after the tall receding form, Oh,
He turned muttering, I hope to goodness Jude ain't goin' to git the
hollerin' habit. There's Iley never lets Jim Cal git away from the
house without hollerin' after him as much as three times, and the thing
he'd like least to have knowed abroad is the thing she takes up with
for the last holler.
Uncle Jep, came the clear hail from the doorway, don't you fail
to find Huldy and send her straight home. Tell her Iley's nigh about
give out, and Jim Cal's down sick in the bedhear me?
He nodded and turned disgustedly. What earthly difference did it
make about Jim Cal and Huldah and Iley? Why should Judith suddenly
care? And then, being a philosopher and in his own manner an amateur of
life, he set to work to analyze her motives, and guessed obliquely at
The sight of his broad, retreating back evidently spurred Judith to
fresh effort. Uncle Jep! she screamed, cupping her hands about her
red lips to make the sound carry. Ef you see Creed Bonbright tell
The sound may not have carried to the old man's ears, but it reached
a younger pair. Blatch Turrentine was just crossing through the grassy
yard toward the big road, and Broyles's mill over on Clear Fork,
where his load of corn would be ground to meal with which to feed that
blockaded still on the old Turrentine place which sometimes flung a
delicate trail of smoke out over the flank of the slope across the
gulch. As he heard Judith's bantering cry, Blatch pulled up his team
with a muttered curse. He looked down at her through narrowed eyes,
jerking his mules savagely and swearing at them in an undertone. He was
a well-made fellow with a certain slouching grace about him as he sat
on his load of corn; but there were evil promising bumps on either side
of his jaws that spoke of obstinacy, even of ferocity; and there was
something menacing in his surly passivity of attitude. He looked at the
girl and his lip lifted with a peculiar sidelong sneer.
Holler a little louder an' Bonbright hisself'll hear ye, he
commented as he started up his team and rattled away down the steep,
Sunday brought its usual train of visitors. The Turrentine place was
within long walking distance of Brush Arbor church, and whenever there
was preaching they could count on a considerable overflow from that
direction. The Sunday after Creed Bonbright put in an appearance at
Nancy Card's, there was preaching at Brush Arbor, but Judith,
nourishing what secret hopes may be conjectured, refused to make any
preparation for attending service.
An' ye think ye won't go to meeting this fine sunshiny Sabbath
mornin', Sister Barrier? Elder Drane put the query, standing anxious
and carefully attired in his best before Judith on the doorstep of her
She shook her dark head, and looked past the Elder toward the
I jest p'intedly cain't git away this morning, she said
The Elder combed his sandy whiskers with a thoughtful forefinger.
Not thus had Judith been wont to reply to him. Always before, if there
had been denial, there were too, reasons adduced, shy looks from the
corners of those dark eyes and tender inquiries as to the health of his
Is theyis they some particular reason that you cain't go this
morning? the widower inquired cautiously.
There was, and that particular reason lay as far afield as the Edge
and Nancy Card's place, but Judith Barrier did not see fit to name it
to this one of her suitors, who had brought her perhaps more glory than
any other. She was impatient to be rid of him. Like her mother Earth,
having occupied her time for lo! these several years in the building of
an ideal from such unpromising materials as were then at hand, she was
ready to sweep those tentative makingsconfessed failures now that she
found the type she really wantedswiftly, ruthlessly to the limbo of
Elihu Drane stood high among his neighbours; he was a man of some
education as well as comfortable means. His attention had been worth
retaining once; now she smiled at him with a vague, impersonal
sweetness, and repeated her statement that she couldn't go to church.
I've got too much to do, she qualified finally. Looks like the
work in this house never is finished. And there's chicken and dumplin's
to cook for dinner.
The Elder's pale blue eyes brightened. Walk down to the gate with
me, won't you? he said hopefully, I've got somethin' to talk to you
When they were out of earshot of the house, he began eagerly,
Sister Barrier you're workin' yourse'f to death here, in the sweet
days of your youth. I did promise the last time that I never would beg
you again to wed me, but looks like I can't stand by and hold my peace.
If you was to trust yourse'f to me things would be different. I never
did hold with a woman killin' herse'f with hard work. My first and
second had everything that they could wish for, and I was good and
ready to do more any time they named what it was. I've got a crank
churn. None of these old back-breaking, up-and-down dashers for me. I
hired a woman whenever my wife said the word. I don't think either of
mine ever killed a chicken or cut a stick of firewood from the time
they walked in the front door as a bride till they was carried out of
it in their coffins.
He stared eagerly into the downcast face beside him, but somewhere
Judith found strength to resist even these dazzling propositions.
I ain't studyin' about gittin' wedded, she told him most
untruthfully. Looks like I'm a mighty cold-hearted somebody, Elder
Drane. I jest can't fix it no way but to live here with my Uncle Jep
and take care of him in his old days. Oh, would you wait a minute? as
they reached the horse-block and the Elder began to untie his mount
with a discouraged countenance. Jest let me run back to the houseI
won't keep you a second. I got some little sugar cookies for Mart and
Mart and Lucy were the Elder's children. He stood looking after her
as she ran lithely up the path, and wondered why she could love them so
much and him so little. She came back laughing and a bit out of breath.
I expect we'll have company to-day, she told him comfortably. We
always do when there's preaching at the church, and I 'low I'd better
stay home and see to the dinner.
The Elder had scarcely made his chastened adieux when the Lusk girls
came through the grove walking on either side of a young man.
The Lusk girls were Judith's nearest neighboursif you excepted
Huldah Spiller at Jim Cal's cabin, and at the present Judith certainly
was in the mind to make an exception of her. The sisters were seldom
seen apart; narrow shouldered, short waisted, thin limbed young
creatures, they were even at seventeen bowing to a deprecating stoop.
Their little faces were alike, short-chinned with pink mouths inclined
to be tremulous, the eyes big, blue, and half-frightened in expression,
and the drab hair drawn away from the small foreheads so tightly that
it looked almost grey. They inevitably reminded one of a pair of blue
and white night-moths, scarcely fitted for a daylight world, and
continually afraid of it.
Cousin Lacey's over from the Far Cove, called Pendrilla before
they reached Judith. Ain't it fine? Ef we-all can git up a play-party
he says he'll shore come ef we let him know in time.
The young fellow with them, their cousin Lacey Rountree, showed
sufficient resemblance to mark the family type, but his light eyes were
lit with reckless fires, and his short chin was carried with a defiant
What you foolin' along o' that old feller for, Judith? he asked
jerking an irreverent thumb after the departing Elder.
I wasn't fooling with him, returned Judith, her red lips demure,
her brown eyes laughing above them through their thick fringe of
lashes. Elder Drane was consulting me about church matterssech as
children like you have no call to meddle with.
Young Rountree smiled, I'll bet he was! picking up a stone and
firing it far into the blue in sheer exuberance of youthful joy. Did
he name anything about a weddin' in church?
Elder Drane is a mighty fine man, asserted Judith, suddenly sober.
Any gal might be glad to git him. But its my belief and opinion that
his heart is buried with his firstor his second, and she laughed out
suddenly at the unintentional humorous conclusion she had made.
See here, Jude, the boy put it boldly as the four young people
strolled toward the house, you're too pretty and sweet to be anybody's
thirdly. Next time old man Drane comes pesterin' round you, you tell
him that you're promised to mehear?
Again Judith laughed. It is impossible to talk seriously to a boy
with whom one has played hat-ball and prisoner's base, whose hair one
has pulled, and who has, in retort courteous, rolled one in the dust.
I'm in earnest if I ever was in my life, asserted Lacey, taking it
quite as a matter of course that Cliantha and Pendrilla should be made
party to his courting.
And the two little old maids of seventeen looked with wondering
admiration at Judith's management of all this masculine attentionher
careless, discounting smile for their swaggering young cousin, her calm
acceptance of imposing Elder Drane's humble and persistent wooing.
Chapter IV. Building
Judith awakened that morning with the song of the first thrush
sounding in her ears. Day was not yet come, but she knew instantly it
was near dawn, so soon as she heard the keen, cool, unmatched thrush
voice. Not elaborate the song like the bobolink, nor passionate like
the nightingale, nor with the bravura of the oriole; but low or loud,
its pure tones are always penetrating, piercing the heart of their
hearer with exquisite sweetness.
The girl lay long in the dark listening, and it seemed to her half
awakened consciousness that this voice in the April dawn was like Creed
Bonbright. These notes, lucid, passionless, that yet always stirred her
heart strangely, and the selfless personality, the high-purposed soul
that spoke in him, they were akin. The crystal tones flowed on; Judith
harkened, the ear of her spirit alert for a message. Yes, Creed was
like that. And her feeling for him too, it partook of the same quality,
a thing to climb toward rather than concede.
And then after all her tremulous hopes, her plannings, the dozen
times she had taken a certain frock from its peg minutely inspecting
and repairing it, that it might be ready for wear on the great
occasion, the first meeting with Creed found Judith unprepared,
happening in no wise as she would have chosen. She was at the milking
lot, clad in the usual dull blue cotton gown in which the mountain
woman works. She had filled her two pails and set them on the high
bench by the fence while she turned the calves into the small pasture
reserved for them and let old Red and Piedy out.
He approached across the fields from the direction of his own house,
and naturally saw her before she observed him. It was early morning.
The sky was blue and wide and high, with great shining piles of white
cloud swimming lazily at the horizon, cutting sharply against its
colour. Around the edges of the cow-lot peach trees were all in blossom
and humming with bees, their rich, amethystine rose flung up against
the gay April sky in a challenge of beauty and joy. The air was full of
the promises of spring, keen, bracing, yet with an undercurrent of
languorous warmth. There was a ragged fleece of bloom, sweet and alive
with droning insects, over a plum thicket near the woods,half-wild,
brambly things, cousin on the one hand to the cultivated farm, and on
the other to the free forest,while beyond, through the openings of
the timber, dogwood flamed white in the sun.
Judith came forward and greeted the newcomer, all unaware of the
picture she made, tall and straight and pliant in her simple blue
cotton, under the wonderful blue-and-white sky and the passionate
purple pink of the blossoms, with the scant folds of her frock
outlining the rounded young body, its sleeves rolled up on her fine
arms, its neck folded away from the firm column of her throat, the
frolic wind ruffling the dark locks above her shadowy eyes. There were
strange gleams in those dark eyes; her red lips were tremulous whether
she spoke or not. It was as though she had some urgent message for him
which waited always behind her silence or her speech.
I thought I'd come over and get acquainted with my neighbours,
Bonbright began in his impersonal fashion.
Uncle Jep and the boys has gone across to the far place ploughing
to-day, said Judith. They's nobody at home but Jim Cal and his
wifeand me. She forebore to add the name of Huldah Spiller, though
her angry eye descried that young woman ostentatiously hanging wash on
a line back of the Jim Cal cabin.
I won't stop then this morning, said Bonbright. I'll get along
over to the far place. I wanted to have speech with your uncle. He was
at Aunt Nancy's the other day and we had some talk; he knows more about
what I'm aiming at up here then I do. A man of his age and good sense
can be a sight of help to me.
Uncle Jep will be proud to do anything he can, said Judith softly.
Won't you come in and set awhile?
She dreaded that the invitation might hurry him away, and now made
hasty use of the first diversion that offered. He had broken a blooming
switch from the peach-tree beneath which he stood, and she reproached
Look at you. Now there won't never be no peaches where them
He twisted the twig in his fingers and smiled down at her, conscious
of a singular and personal kindness between them, aware too, for the
first time, that she was young, beautiful, and a woman; before, she had
been merely an individual to him.
My mother used to say that to me when I would break fruit blows,
he said meditatively. But father always pruned his trees when they
were in blossomthey can't any of them bear a peach for every bloom.
She shook her head as though giving up the argument, since it was
after all a matter of sentiment. Her dark, rich-coloured beauty glowed
its contrast to his cool, northern type.
At present neither spoke more than a few syllables of the spiritual
language of the other, yet so powerful was the attraction between them
that even Creed began to feel it, while Judith, the primitive woman,
all given over to instinct, promptly laid about her for something to
hold and interest him.
The young folks is a-goin' to get up a play-party at our house
sometime soon, she hazarded. I reckon you wouldn't come to any such
as that, would you?
I'd be proud to come, returned Creed at once. But he spoiled it by
adding, I've got to get acquainted with people all over again, it's so
long since I lived here; and looks like I'm not a very good mixer.
Will you sure come? inquired Judith insistently, as she saw him
preparing to depart.
I sure will.
You could stay over night in your own house thenain't you comin'
back, ever, to live there?
Why, yes, I reckon I might stay there over night, but it's too far
from the main road for a justice's office.
Well, if you're going to try to sleep in the house, it ort to be
opened up and sunned a little; you better let me have the key now,
observed Judith, assuming airs of proprietorship over his inept
Smiling, he got the key from his pocket and handed it to her. Help
yourself to anything you want for the party, or any other time, he
said in mountain fashion.
She looked down at that key with the pride of one to whom had been
given the freedom of a city. Its possession enabled her to bear it with
a fair degree of equanimity when Huldah Spiller, having jest slung her
clothes anyway onto that line, as Judith phrased it to herself, came
panting and laughing across the slope between the two houses and called
a gay Howdy! to the visitor. The lively little red haired flirt
professed greatly to desire news of certain persons in Hepzibah, and as
Creed was departing sauntered unconcernedly beside him as far as the
draw-bars, detaining him in conversation there as long as possible. She
had an instinctive knowledge that Judith, looking on, was deeply
Creed set his justice's office about a hundred yards from Nancy
Card's cabin, on the main road that led through the two Turkey Track
neighbourhoods out to Rainy Gap and the Far Cove settlement. The little
shack was built of the raw yellow boards which the new saw-mill was
ripping out of pine trees over on the shoulder of Big Turkey Track
above Garyville. Most of the mountain dwellers still preferred log
houses, and the lumber was sent down the mountain by means of a little
gravity railway, whose car was warped up after each trip by a patient
old mule working in a circular treadmill.
God knows with what high hopes the planks of that humble shanty were
put in place, with what visions sill and window-frame were shaped and
joined, Aunt Nancy going out and in at her household tasks calling good
counsel over to him; Beezy, the irrepressible, adding shaving curls to
her red frazzle; Little Buck, furnished with hammer and tacks, gravely
assisting, pounding his fingers only part of the time. Hens were coming
off. Old Nancy had a great time with notionate mothers hatching out
broods under the floor or in the stable loft, and the plaintive
cheep-cheep! of the weedies added its note to the chorus of sounds as
the children followed them about, now and then catching up a ball of
fluff to pet it, undeterred by indignant clucks from the parent.
As Creed whistled over his work, he saw a shadowy train coming down
the road, the people whom he should help, his people, to whose darkness
he should bring light and counsel. They knew so little, and needed so
much. True, his own knowledge was not great; but it was all freely at
their service. His heart swelled with good-will as he prepared to open
his modest campaign of usefulness.
To come into leadership naturally a man should be the logical
outgrowth of his class and time, and this Creed knew he was not. Yet he
had pondered the matter deeply, and put it thus to himself: The peasant
of Europe can only rise through stages of material prosperity to a
point of development at which he craves intellectual attainment, or
spiritual growth. But the mountaineer is always a thinker; he has even
in his poverty a hearty contempt for luxury, for material gain at the
expense of personality. With his disposition to philosophy, fostered by
solitude and isolation, he readily overleaps those gradations, and
would step at once from obscurity to the position of a man of culture
were the means at hand.
Bonbright, remonstrated Jephthah Turrentine, in the first
conversation the two held upon the subject, Ye cain't give people what
they ain't ready to take. Ef our folks wanted law and order, don't you
reckon they'd make the move to get it?
That's it exactly, Mr. Turrentine, responded Creed quickly. They
need to be taught what to want.
Oh, they do, do they? inquired Jephthah with a humorous twitch of
the lips. Well, ef you're a-goin' to set up to teach, hadn't you
better have a school-house, place of a jestice's office?
Maybe you're right. I reckon you areexactly right, Creed
assented thoughtfully. I'd studied about that considerable. I reckon
I'm a more suitable age for a schoolmaster than for a justice; and the
childrenbut that would take a long time; and I wanted to give the
help where it was worst needed.
Oh, well, 'tain't a hangin' matter, old Jephthah smiled at the
younger man's solemn earnestness. Ef this new fangled buildin' o'
yours don't get used for a jestice's office we can turn it into a
school-house; we need one powerful bad.
The desultory, sardonic, deep-voiced, soft-footed, mountain
carpenters who worked leisurely and fitfully with Creed were always
mightily amused by the exactness of the town feller's ideas.
Why lordy! Lookee hyer Creed, remonstrated Doss Provine, over a
question of matching boards and battening joints, ef you git yo' pen
so almighty tight as that you won't git no fresh air. Man's bound to
have ventilation. Course you can leave the do' open all the time like
we-all do; but when yo're a-holdin' co't and sech-like maybe you'll
want to shet the do' sometimesand then whar'll ye git breath to
I reckon Creed knows his business, put in the old man who was
helping Doss, but all these here glass winders is blame foolishness to
me. Ef ye need light, open the do'. Ef somebody comes that you
don't want in, you can shet it and put up a bar. But saw the walls full
o' holes an' set in glass winders, an' any feller that's got a mind to
can pick ye off with a rifle ball as easy as not whilst ye set by the
fire of a evenin'.
He shook a reprehending head, hoary with the snows of years, and
containing therefore, presumably, wisdom. He had learned the necessary
points of life in his environment, and as always occurs, the younger
generation seemed to him lavishly reckless.
It was only old Jephthah's criticisms that Creed really minded.
Uh-huh, allowed Jephthah, settling his hands on his hips and
surveying the yellow pine structure tolerantly; mighty sightly for
them that likes that kind o' thing. But I hold with a good log house,
becaze it's apt to be square. These here town doin's that looks like a
man with a bile on his ear never did ketch me. Ef ye hew out good oak
or pine timber ye won't be willin' to cut short lengths for to make
Creed would often have explained to his critics that he did not
expect to get into feuds and have neighbours pot-hunting him through
his glass windows, that he needed the light from them to study or read,
and that his little house was as square as any log hut ever
constructed; but they lumped it all together and made an outsider of
Word went abroad to the farthest confines of the Turkey Track
neighbourhoods, carried by herders who took sheep, hogs, or cows up
into the high-hung inner valleys of Yellow Old Bald, or the natural
meadows of Big Turkey Track to turn them loose for the season, recited
where one or two met out salting cattle, discussed by many a chip pile,
where the willing axe rested on the unsplit block while the wielder
heard how Creed Bonbright had done sot up a jestice's office and made
peace between the Shallidays and the Bushareses.
But you know in reason hit ain't a-goin' to hold, the old women at
the hearthside would say, withdrawing their cob pipes to shake
deprecating heads. The Bushareses and Shallidays has been killin' each
other up sence my gran'pap was a little boy. They tell me the Injuns
mixed into that there feud. I say Creed Bonbright! Nothin' but a fool
boy. He better l'arn something before he sets up to teach. He don't
know what he's meddlin' with. All this with a pride in the vendetta as
an ancient neighbourhood institution and monument.
The office of the new justice never became, as he had hoped it
would, a lounging place for his passing neighbours. He had expected
them to drop in to visit with him, when he might sow the good seed in
season without appearing to seek an occasion for so doing. But they
were shy of himhe saw that. They went on past the little yellow pine
office, on their mules, or their sorry nags, or in shackling waggons
behind oxen, to lounge at Nancy Card's gate as of old, or sit upon her
porch to swap news and listen to her caustic comments on neighbourhood
happenings. And only an occasional glance over the shoulder, a backward
nod of the head, or jerk of the thumb, told the young justice that he
was present in their recollection.
But there was one element of the community which showed no
disposition to hold aloof from the newcomer. About this time, by twos
and threesnever one alonethe virgins of the mountain-top sought
Nancy Card for flower seed, soft soap recipes, a charm to take off
warts, or to learn exactly from her at what season a body had better
divide the roots of day lilies.
Old-fashioned roses begin blooming in the Cumberlands about the
first of May, and when this time came round Nancy's garden was a thing
to marvel at. The spring flowers were past or nearly so, and the advent
of the roses marked the floral beginning of summer. In the forest the
dogwood petals now let go and fell silently one by one through the
shadowed green. But over Nancy's fence of weather-beaten, hand-rived
palings tossed a snow of bloom so like that here they were not missed
at all; and the mock orange adds to the dogwood's simple beauty the
soul of an exquisite odour. Small, heavily thorned roses, yellow as the
daffodils they had succeeded, blushing Baltimore Belles, Seven Sisters
all over the ricketty porchone who loved such things might well have
taken a day's journey for sight of that dooryard in May.
Well, I vow! said the old woman one day peering through her window
that gave on the road, ef here don't come Huldy Spiller and the two
Lusks. Look like to me I have a heap of gal company of late. Creed,
you're a mighty learned somebody, cain't you tell me the whys of it?
Creed, sitting at a little table deep in some books and papers
before him, heard no word of his friend's teasing speech. It was Doss
Provine, at the big fireplace heating a poker to burn a hole through
his pulley-wheel, who turned toward his mother-in-law and grinned
I reckon I know the answer to that, he observed. The boys is all
a warnin' me that a widower is mo' run after than a young feller. They
tell me I'll have to watch out.
I say watch outyou! cried Nancy, wheeling upon him with a
comically disproportionate fury. Jest you let me ketch you settin' up
to any of the galsyou, a father with two he'pless chaps to look
after, and nobody but an old woman like me, with one foot in the grave,
to depend on!
There was one girl however who, instead of multiplying her visits to
the Card cabin with Creed's advent, abruptly ceased them. Judith
Barrier was an uncertain quantity to her masculine household;
unreasonably elated or depressed, she led them the round of her moods,
and they paid for the fact that Creed Bonbright did not come across the
mountain top visiting, without being at all aware of where their guilt
lay. After that interview at the milking lot one thought, one emotion
was with her always. Always she was waiting for the next meeting with
Creed. Through the day she heard his voice or his footstep in all the
little sounds of the woods, the humble noises of the farm life; and at
night there was the cedar tree.
Now the cedar tree had affairs of its own. When, with the egotism of
her keen, passionate, desirous youth, the girl in the little chamber
under the eves listened to its voice in April, it was talking in the
soft air of the vernal night about the sap which rose in its veins,
spicy, resinous, odoured with spring, carrying its wine of life into
the farthest green tips, till all the little twigs were intoxicated
with it, and beat and flung themselves in joy. And the tree's deep note
was a song of abiding trust. There was a nest building within its
heartso well hidden in that dense thicket that it was safe from the
eye of any prowler. Hope and faith and a great devotion went to the
building. And the tree, rich and happy in its own life, cherished
generously that other life within its protecting arms. Its song was of
the mating birds, the building birds, the mother joy and father joy
that made the nest ready for the speckled eggs and the birdlings that
But to the listening girl the cedar tree was a harp that the winds
strucka voice that spoke in the night of love and Creed.
Finally one morning she saddled Selim and, with something in her
pocket for Little Buck and Beezy, set out for Hepzibahreckon they's
nothin' so turrible strange in a body goin' to the settlement when
they' out o' both needles an' bakin' soda!
As she rode up Nancy herself called to her to 'light and come in,
and finally went out to stand a moment and chat; but the girl smilingly
shook her head.
I got to be getting along, thank ye, she said. I can't stop this
mornin'. You-all must come and see us, Aunt Nancy.
Why, what's Little Buck a-goin' to do, with his own true love
a-tearin' past the house like this and refusin' to stop and visit?
complained Nancy, secretly applauding the girl's good sense and
Where is my beau? asked Judith. I fetched him the first
June apples off the tree.
Judy's brought apples to her beau, and now he's went off fishin'
with Doss and she's got nobody to give 'em to, old Nancy called as
Creed stepped from the door of his office and started across to the
cabin. Don't you want 'em, Creed?
The tall, fair young fellow came up laughing.
Aunt Nancy knows I love apples, he said. If you give me Little
Buck's share I'm afraid he'll never see 'em.
Judith reached in her pocket and brought out the shiny, small red
globes and put them in his outstretched hand.
I'll bring Little Buck a play-pretty from the settlement, she said
softly. He'll keer a sight more for hit than for the apples. I wish
I'd knowed you liked 'emI'd brought you more. Why don't you come over
and see us and git all you want? We've got two trees of 'em.
Chapter V. The Red Rose and the Briar
ALL through April Judith's project of a play-party languished. She
had to pull steadily against the elders, for not only were the men hard
at it making ready for the putting in of the year's crops, but it was
gardening time as well, when even the women and children are pressed in
to help at the raking up and brush piling. Wood smoke from the clearing
fires haunted all the hollows. Everybody was preparing for the making
of the truck patch. Down on the little groups would drop a cloud and
blot out the bonfire till it became the mere glowing point at the heart
of a shaken opalfor if you are wise you burn brush on a rainy day.
Old Jephthah opposed the plan for the girl's festivity on another
ground. I've got no objection to a frolic, Jude, he observed quietly,
on hearing the first mention of the matter, but I wouldn't have no
play-party at this house. Hit's too handy to that cussed still of
Blatch's. A passel of fool boys is mighty apt to go over thar an' fill
theirselves up with corn whiskey, an' the party will just about end up
in a interruption.
He said no more, and Judith made no reply. Though ordinarily she
would have hesitated to go against her uncle's expressed wishes, her
heart was too much set on this enterprise to allow of easy checking.
She made no reply, but her campaign on behalf of the merrymaking went
I wonder you can have the heart to git up play-parties and the like
when Andy and Jeff's a-sufferin' in the jail, Pendrilla Lusk plucked
up spirit to say when the plan was first mooted to her.
Andy and Jeff, the wild young hawks, with the glamour upon them of
lawless, adventurous spirits, and bold, proper lovers, equally
fascinated and terrified the Lusk girlstimid, fluttering pairand
were in their turn attracted to them by an inevitable law of nature.
I don't see how it hurts the boys for us to have a dance, rejoined
Judith with asperity. If we was all to set and cry our eyes out, it
wouldn't fetch 'em back on the mountain any quicker. Then with a
teasing flash, I'll tell 'em when they git home what you said,
Now, Jude, you're real mean, pleaded Cliantha Lusk sinking to her
knees beside Judith and raising thin little arms to clasp that young
woman around the waist. You ain't a-goin' to tell them fool boys any
sech truck as that, air ye? Pendrilly jest said it for a sayin'. We'd
love to come to yo' play-party, whenever it is. I say Andy and
Jeff! Let 'em git out of the jail the way they got in.
This is the approved attitude of the mountain virgin; yet Cliantha's
voice shook sadly as she uttered the independent sentiments, and
Pendrilla furtively wiped her eyes in promising to attend the
All this was in April. By the time May came in, that dread of a
belated frost which amounts almost to terror in the farmer of the
Cumberlands was ended; the Easter cold and blackberry winter were over,
and all the garden truck was planted. Everybody began whole-heartedly
to enjoy the time of year. The leaves were full size, but still soft;
the wind made hardly any noise among them. In the pasture lot and fence
corners near the house, meadow flowers began to star the green. The
frog chorus, so loud and jubilant in early spring, had subsided now
except at night, when their treble was accompanied by the bass
chug-chug of the bull-frogs. The mornings were vocal with the notes
of yellow hammer, cuckoos; the cooing of doves, the squawk of the jay,
and the drum of the big red-headed woodpecker sounded through the
summer woods; while always in the cool of the day came the thrush's
song. The early corn was in by mid April. About the first full moon of
May the main crop was planted.
Early in June Judith, walking in the wood, brought home the splendid
red wood lily, and a cluster too of ratsbane, with its flowers like a
little crown of white wax.
The spring restlessness was over throughout all the wild country;
life no longer stirred and rustled; the leaves hung still in the long
sunny noons. The air was clear, rinsed with frequent showers; the woods
were silent except for birds and cow bells. The crops were laid by. The
huckleberries ripened; the sarvices hung thick in the forest. Even
the blackberries were beginning to turn and Andy and Jeff had been back
at home more than a week, when Judith finally succeeded in getting her
forces together and her guests promised. Many of them would have to
walk four or five miles to sing and play for a few hours, tramping back
at midnight to lie down and catch what sleep they could before dawn
waked them to another day of toil. Thursday evening was set for the
event. On Wednesday the Lusk girls coming in to discuss, found Judith
with shining eyes and crimson cheeks, attacking the simple housework of
I wish't you'd sing while I finish my churnin', the girl said,
I'm so flustered looks like I can't sca'cely do anything right.
The sisters clasped hands and raised their childish faces. Cliantha
had a thin, high piping soprano like a small flute, and Pendrilla sang
counter to it. They were repositories of all the old ballads of the
mountainsballads from Scotland, from Ireland, from England, and from
Wales, that set the ferocities and the love-making of Elizabeth's time
or earlier most quaintly amidst the localities and nomenclature of the
Sing 'Barb'ry Allen,' commanded Judith as she swung the dasher
with nervous energy.
The July sunshine filtered through the leaves of the big muscadine
vine that covered and sheltered the tiny side porch. Bees boomed about
the ragged tufts of clover and Bouncing Bet that fringed the side yard.
The old hound at the chip pile blinked lazily and raised his head, then
dropped it and slumbered again. Within, the big room was dim and cool.
The high, thin, quavering voices celebrated the love and woe of cruel
Barbara Allen. Judith's dark eyes grew soft and brooding; the nervous
strokes of her dasher measured themselves more and more to the swing of
the old tune.
I don't see how anybody can be hardhearted thataway with a person
they love, she said softly as the song descended to its doleful end.
The next morning Judith hurried her work that she might get through
and go over to the Bonbright house, there to put in execution her
long-cherished plan of cleaning it and making it fit for Creed's
occupancy that night. Old Dilsey Rust, their tenant, came in to help at
the Turrentine cabin always on occasions like this, or with the
churning or washing; and penetrated with impatience the girl finally
left her assistant in charge of matters and set forth through the woods
and across the fields, the little key which she had carried ever since
that morning in early April in her pocket like a talisman. At last it
was to open her kingdom to her. Behind the bolt that it controlled lay
not only the home of Creed's childhood, but supposably the home of his
children. Judith's heart beat suffocatingly at the thought.
Halfway across she met Huldah Spiller coming up from the Far spring
with a bucket of sulphur water which was held to be good for Jim Cal's
Whar ye goin'? asked Huldah, looking curiously at the broom over
Judith's shoulder, the roll of cloths and the small gourd of soft soap
I'm a-goin' whar I'm a-goin', returned Judith aggressively. But
the other only smiled. It did not suit her to be offended at that
moment. Instead, What are you goin' to wear to-night, Judy? she
inquired vivaciously. It was one of the advantages of waiting on table
at a boarding house in the settlementpieced out perhaps by the
possession of red hairthat Huldah had the courage to address Judith
Barrier as Judy.
The hostess of the evening's festivities was half in the mind to
pass on without reply; then her curiosity as to Huldah's costume got
the better of her, and she compromised, with a laconic,
My white frockwhat are you?
Don't you know I went down to Hepzibah after you said you was goin'
to have a play-party? asked Huldah, tossing her head to get the red
curls out of her eyes. Well, Iley had give me fifty cents on my
wages Huldah worked as a servant in her sister's family, which is
not uncommon in the mountainsan' I tuck it and bought me ten yard of
five-cent lawn, the prettiest blue you ever put yo' eyes on.
Blue! A sudden shock went over Judith. She had forgotten; and here
Huldah Spiller would wear a blue dress, and sheoh, the stupidity, the
bat-like, doltish, blindness of it!would be in white, because it was
now too late to make a change. Out of the very tragedy of the situation
she managed to pluck forth a smile.
I was aimin' to wear blue ribbons, she said finally. It had just
come into her head that she could pull the blue bow from her hatthat
blue bow with which she had zealously replaced the despised and outcast
redand so make shift.
Blue's my best feller's favourite colour, contributed Huldah,
picking up the bucket which she had set down, and starting on. He
'lows it goes fine with aurbu'n hair.
Wade never said that, muttered Judith to herself as she took her
way to the Bonbright place.
But after all one could not be long out of tune with such a summer
day. The spicy odour of pennyroyal bruised underfoot, came to her
nostrils like incense. Even the sickly sweet of jimson blossoms by the
draw-bars of the milking lot was dear and familiar, while their white
trumpets whispered of childish play-days and flower-ladies she had set
walking in procession under the shadow of some big green leaf.
Bluethe soft stars of spider-wort opening among the rocks reminded
her of the hue; blue curls and dittany tangled at the path edge; but
the very air itself was beginning to wear Creed's colour and put on
that wonderful, luminous blue in which the Cumberlands of midsummer
melt cerulean into a sky of lapis lazuli. Creed's colourCreed's
colourher dark eyes misted as they searched the far reaches of the
hills and found it everywhere.
Jephthah Turrentine used to say that if a man owned enough mountain
land to set his foot on, he owned the whole of the sky above him; it
was a truer word than this old mountain dweller could have known, since
the mere possessor of a city lot, where other tall roofs cut the
horizon high, must content himself with less of the welkin.
Judith opened the door, went in, closed it behind her, and gazed
about. There lay over everything a fine dust; there was the look of
decay which comes with disuse; and the air bore the musty odour of a
shut and long uninhabited house. The Bonbright home had been a good one
for the mountains, of hewn logs, and with four rooms, and two great
stone chimneys. Inside was the furniture which Mary Gillenwaters
brought to it as a bride when her mountain lover came down to Hepzibah
and with the swift ardour of his tribethis Bonbright's fires of
eloquence were all kindled upon the altar of his mating
romancecharmed the daughter of its one merchant. These added to the
already fairly complete plenishings, many of which had come over the
mountains from Virginia when Sevier opened up the new State, gave an
air of abundance, even of sober elegance to the room.
Reverently Judith moved among the dumb witnesses and servitors of
Bonbright generations. Here was the spinning-wheel, here the cards, and
out in the little room off the porch stood the loom. She had dreams of
replacing these with a sewing machine. Nobody wove jeans any morebut
a good carpet-loom now, that might be made useful. Unwilling to
hang the bedding on bushes for fear of a chance tear from twig or
thorn, she rigged a line in the back yard, and spread quilt and
homespun blanket, coarse white sheets and pillowcases that were
yellowing with age, out for the glad gay wind to play with, for the
sunshine to sweeten.
What a lot of feather beds! she murmured as she tallied them over.
That there ticking is better than you can buy in the stores. My, ain't
these light and nice!
All the warm, sunny afternoon she toiled at her self-appointed
labour of love. She swept and dusted, she scrubbed and cleaned, with
capable fingers, proud of the strength and skill that made her a good
housewife; then bringing in the fragrant, homely fabrics, made up the
beds and placed all back in due order.
He's boun' to notice somebody's been here and put things to
rights, she said over and over to herself. If it looks sightly, and
seems like home, mebbe he'll give out the notion of stayin' at Nancy
Card's, and come and live here. She brooded on the bliss of the idea
as she worked.
Under the great mahogany four-poster in the front room was slipped a
trundle-bed that she drew out and looked at with fond eyes. No doubt
Creed's boyish head had lain there once. She wished passionately that
she had known him then, all unaware that we never do know our lovers
when they and we are children. Even those playfellows who are destined
to be mates find, all on a day, that the familiar companion who has
grown up beside each has changed into quite a different person.
She rolled the trundle-bed back into place and turned to lift a pile
of bedding that lay apparently on a chest. When it was raised it
revealed the clumsy old cradle that had rocked three generations of
Bonbrights. She stood looking down at it with quickening pulse, then
reached a fluttering hand and touched its small pillow tenderly. Here
had rested that golden head, so many years ago; beside it his mother
had sat and rocked. At the thought Judith was on her knees, her hands
falling naturally upon the side and rocking the small bed. In a strange
conflict of dreamy emotion, she swayed it back and forth a moment, and
thenwhat woman could resist it?began to croon an old mountain
cradle song. Suddenly the westering sun got to the level of a half
shrouded window and sent a beam in across Judith's bent head.
My land! she whispered, getting to her feet. I ain't got no call
to stay foolin' here all day. Dilsey'll jest about burn them cakes I
told her to bake, and I ain't fixed my blue bow for my hair yet.
She swept a glance around the speckless room, gathered up her
paraphernalia of cleaning, passed out, locked the door, and set her
face toward home.
In Mary Bonbright's garden, now given over to weeds as the gardens
of dead women are so apt to be, there had grown a singular, half wild
rose. This flower was of a clear blood red, with a yellow heart which
its five broad petals, flinging wide open, disclosed to view, unlike
the crimped and guarded loveliness of the more evolved sisters of the
green-house. Mowed down spring after spring by the scythe of Strubley,
the renter, the vigorous thing had spread abroad, and as Judith stepped
from the door its exultant beauty caught her eye. Flaming shields of
crimson, bearing each its boss of filagree gold, the hosts of the red
rose stood up bravely in the choking grass to which the insensate
scythe blade had so often levelled them, and shouted to the girl of
love and joy, and of youth which was the time for both. Wide petalled,
burning red, their golden hearts open to sun and bee, they were the
blossoms for the earth-woman. She ran and knelt down beside them.
He had said that his favourite colour was bluebut there are no
blue roses. She did not follow it far enough to guess that the man who
was content with the colour of the sky might not get his gaze down
close enough to earth to care for roses. She bent above them gloating
on their fierce, triumphant splendour. Was there ever such a colour?
But the stems were dreadfully short. A sudden purpose grew in her mind.
With hasty, tremulous fingers she gathered an apronful of the blossoms.
Once more she unlocked the front door, hurried back to that bed which
she had so lovingly spread, and on its white coverlet began arranging a
great, glowing wreath, fashioned by setting a circle of red roses petal
As she worked Cliantha Lusk's ballad came into her head, and she
sang it under her breath.
'And they grew and they grew to the old church top
Till they couldn't grow any higher,
And there they twined in a true lover's knot,
The red rose and the briar.'
Nothat ain't it
'And there they twined in a true lover's knot,
For all true lovers to admire.'
True loversshe crooned the word over and over. It was sweet to say
it. She thrilled through all her strong young body with the delight of
what she was doing.
He'll wonder who put 'em there, she whispered to herself. Ef
nothin' else don't take his eye, these here is shore to.
Chapter VI. The Play-Party
Long lanes of light crossed the grass from window and door of the
Turrentine house; Judith's play-party was in full swing. They were
dancing or playing in the big front room which was lit only by the rich
broken shimmer and shine from a fire of pine sticks in the cavernous
black chimney. Though it was early July the evening, in those
altitudes, had its own chill, and the heat from this was not
unpleasant, while its illumination became necessary, for all the lamps
and candles available were in use out where the tables were spread.
Old Jephthah held state in his own quarters, a detached log cabin
standing about thirty feet from the main structure, and once used
probably to house the loom or for some such extra domestic purpose.
Here too a fire smoldered on the hearthstone, for the head of the
Turrentine clan was tormented by rheumatism, that plague of otherwise
healthy primitive man. He lounged now on the doorstep, smoking, ready
to intercept and entertain any of the older men who might come with
their women folk. Occasionally somebody rode up, or came tramping down
the trail or through the woodsa belated merrymaker hurrying in to ask
who had arrived and who was expected.
To the father's intense disgust Jim Cal had elected to sit with the
elders that night, and obstinately held his place before the
hearthstone in the cabin room. Jephthah Turrentine's sons were none of
them particularly satisfactory to their progenitor. A man of brains, a
creature to whom an argument was ever more than the mere material thing
argued about, these male offspring, who took their traits naturally
after the spindle side, vexed him with resemblance to their handsome,
high-tempered, brainless mother. But Jim Cal was worse than a bore to
his father; the old fellow regarded a son who weighed above two hundred
pounds as a disgrace. And to-night the fact that the door of his room
commanded a sidelong view of the tables which were being spread, and
about which Iley circled and scolded, furnished so fair a reason for
James Calhoun's selection of it as an anchorage that his father was the
You thar, Unc' Jep? sounded Blatchley Turrentine's careless voice
from the dark.
I make out to be, returned his uncle lazily.
Blatchley came into the circle of dim light about the door, Andy and
Jeff at his shoulder. Wade followed a moment later.
Why ain't you-all boys down thar whar the gals is at, playin'?
inquired Jim Cal fretfully. Looks like to me ef I was a young feller
an' not wedded I wouldn't hang around whar the old men was.
Is Creed Bonbright comin' over here to-night? inquired Andy
abruptly, in obedience apparently to a nudge from Blatch.
I reckon he is, observed the old man dispassionately. Jude has
purty well bidden the whole top of the mountain.
Is Pone Cyard comin'? put in Jeff. The twins usually spoke
alternately, the sum of their conversation counting thus for one.
That I can't say, returned the old man with mildly ironic
emphasis. Mebbe him and the chaps and the lame roosterand
Nancywill come along at the tail of the procession.
Well, persisted Andy, breaking a somewhat lengthened silence in
which all the newcomers stood, and through which their breathing could
be distinctly heard, well I think Creed Bonbright has got the
impudence! He come to the jail, whar me and Jeff was at, an' he had
some talk with us, an' I let him know my mind. He stood in with that
marshalI know itand so does Jeff. Pone Cyard got out quicker becaze
Bonbright tipped the marshal the wink; but I don't hold with him nor
The parent of the twins regarded them both with sardonic black eyes
half shut. You don't? And who-all might you be, young fellers?
he asked. This here Bonbright man has come up on Turkey Track to give
us a show at law. If they's persons engaged in unlawful practices on
this here mountain top, mebbe he'll knock up against 'em. Them that
keeps the law and lives decent has no reason to fear the law. Ain't
that what you say, Blatch? turning suddenly to his nephew.
The big swart mountaineer drew up his shoulders with a sort of
Ef you stand in with Bonbright, Unc' Jep, he said, bluntly, we
might as well all go down to Hepzibah and give ourselves up. You've
done rented me the land, and yo' boys is in the still with meair ye
a-goin' to stand from under, and have the marshal forever keepin' us on
Old Jephthah looked wordless contempt at the nephew who knew little
enough to impute such a course to him.
That's what I say, put in Jim Cal's thin, querulous tones from the
back of the roomthe voice of a fat man in trouble; can anyone say why
the sorrows of the obese are always comic to the rest of the world? A
body cain't sleep nights for thinkin' what may chance.
Oh,air you thar, podner? inquired Blatch, with a sort of
ferocious banter in his tone which he frequently used toward his fleshy
associate. I thort ye was down in the bed sick.
I was, said Jim Cal sulkily; but Iley she saidIley 'lowed
Blatch burst into a great horse laugh, which the others joined.
I know'd in reason ye'd be down when they came any trouble at the
still, he commented. Hit always affects yo' health thataway; but I
didn't know Iley had seed reason to dig ye out. What you goin' to do
about Bonbright, Unc' Jepstand in with him?
Wellyou air a fool, observed the old man meditatively.
Who named standin' in with Bonbright, or standin' out agin' him? When
I rented you my farm for five year I had no thought of yo' starting up
that pesky ol' still on it. But I never was knowed to rue a trade. My
daddy taught me when I made a bad bargain to freeze the tighter to it,
and I've no mind to do other.
They'd been a still thar, said Blatch defensively.
The old man nodded.
Oh, yes, he agreed. Hit had been,I put it thar. I've made many
a run of whiskey in my young daysand I've seed the folly of it. I
reckon you fool boys'll have to see the folly of it too befo' yo've got
yo' satisfy. As for Creed Bonbright, he 'pears to think that if we have
plenty of law in the Turkey Tracks we'll all go to heaven in a
hand-basket. Mebbe he's right, and then agin mebbe he's wrong; but this
I know, ain't anybody goin' to jump on him in my house, and he gets a
fair show when fightin' time comes.
Well, if he ain't standin' in with the marshal, what does he
began Andy's high-pitched boyish voice, when somebody called, Good
evening, in pleasant tones, and Bonbright himself got off a
light-stepping mule, tethered him to the fence, and came toward the
He had just returned from a meeting of the County Court at Hepzibah,
where he did good service in representing the needs of his district,
fighting hard for more money for schoolsthe plan heretofore had been
to let them have only their own pro rata of the school tax.
It'll pay you a heap better to educate the mountain people than to
hire their keep in jail, he said to his fellow justices of the valley.
The blue-backed speller is the best cure for crime in the mountains
that I know of.
He failed to get this; but he succeeded in another matter, one less
near his heart, but calculated to appeal perhaps more strongly to his
constituents; he secured the opening of a highway for which the people
in the two Turkey Tracks had struggled and prayed more than twenty
years. It was with the pride of this victory strong in him that he had
set out for Judith's play-party. The young fellow might have been
pardoned a half wistful belief that this first success was the entering
wedge and would lead swiftly to that standing with his neighbours
lacking which he was helpless. Yet the sons of the house replied but
gruffly to his greeting, and, as though his coming had been a signal,
the younger group promptly disappeared in the direction of the main
At the old man's hearty invitation, Creed seated himself on the
doorstep, while his host went in for a coal from the smouldering hearth
to light his pipe, and joined the guest a moment later.
Well sir, and how's the law coming on these days? inquired old
Jephthah somewhat humorously.
I reckon it's doing pretty well, allowed Creed. The law's all
right, Mr. Turrentine; it's what our people need; and if there comes
any failure it's bound to be in me, not in the law.
That's right, old Jephthah commended him. Stand up for yo'
principles. Ef you go into a thing, back it. I never could get on with
these here good-Lord-good-devil folks. I like to know whar a man's
atcain't hit him unless 'n you do.
That's what I say, piped Jim Cal's reedy voice from the interior.
Is it true that you've done made up the Shalliday fuss over that thar
cow, Creed? I thort a jestice of the peace was to he'p folks have
fusses, place o' settlin' 'em up.
That's what everybody seems to think, replied Creed rather
dolefully. I can't say I'm very proud of my part in the Shalliday
matter. It seemed to be mighty hard on the widow; but the law was on
her brother-in-law's side; so I gave my decision in favour of Bill
Shalliday, and paid the woman for the cow. And now they're both mad at
Old Jephthah narrowed his eyes and chuckled in luxurious enjoyment
of the situation.
To be shore they air. To be shore they air, he repeated with
unction. Ain't you done a favour to the both of 'em? Is they anything
a man will hate you worse for than a favour? If they is I ain't met up
with it yet.
That's what I say, iterated Jim Cal. What's the use o' tryin' to
he'p folks to law and order when they don't want it, and you've got to
buy 'em to behave? When you git to be a married man with chaps, like
me, you'll keep yo' money in yo' breeches pocket and let other folks
fix it up amongst themselves about their cows an' sech.
I had hoped to get a chance to do something that amounted to more
than settling small family fusses, Creed said in a discouraged tone.
I hoped to have the opportunity to talk to many a gathering of our
folks about the desirability of good citizenship in a general way. This
thing of blockaded stills keeps us forever torn up with a bad name in
the valley and the settlement.
Old Jephthah stirred not a hair; Jim Cal sat just as he had; yet the
two were indefinably changed the moment the words blockaded still
Do you know of any sech? Air ye aimin' to find out about em?
quavered the fat man finally, and his father looked scornfully at him,
and the revelation of his terror.
No. I don't mean it in that personal way, Creed answered
impatiently. Mr. Turrentine, I wish you'd tell me what you think about
it. You've lived all your life in the mountains; you're a man of
judgmentis there any way to show our people the folly as well as the
crime of illicit distilling?
Jephthah surveyed with amusement the youth who came to an old
moonshiner for an opinion as to the advisability of the traffic. He
liked the audacity of it. It tickled his fancy.
Well sir, he said finally, the guv'ment sets off thar in
Washington and names a-many a thing that I shall do and that I shan't
do. Howsomever, they is but one thing hit will come here and watch out
to see ef I keep rules onand that's the matter o' moonshine whiskey.
Guv'ment, he repeated meditatively but with rising rancour, what has
the guv'ment ever done fer me, that I should be asked to do so much for
hit? I put the case thisaway. That man raises corn and grinds it to
meal and makes it into bread. I raise corn and grind hit to meal and
make clean, honest whiskey. The man that makes the bread pays no tax;
guv'ment says I shall pay a taxan' I say I will not, by God!
The big voice had risen to a good deal of feeling before old
Jephthah made an end.
Nor I wouldn't neither, bleated Jim Cal in comical antiphon.
In the light from the open doorway Creed's face looked uneasy.
But you don't thinkyou wouldn't he began and then broke off.
Old Jephthah shook his head.
I ain't got no blockade still, he asserted sweepingly. I made my
last run of moonshine whiskey many a year ago. I reckon two wrongs
don't make a right.
Creed's dismay increased. Inexperienced boy, he had not expected to
encounter such feeling in the discussion of this the one topic upon
which your true mountaineer of the remote districts can never be
anything but passionate, embittered, at bay.
You name the crime of makin' wildcat whiskey, the old man's deep,
accusing voice went on, after a little silence. It ain't no crimean'
you know itan' no guv'ment o' mortal men can make a crime out'n it.
As for the foolishness of it, he dropped his chin on his breast, his
black eyes looked out broodingly, his great beard rose against his lips
and muffled his tones, I reckon the foolishness of a thing is what
each feller has to find out for hisself, he said. Daddies has been
tryin' since the time of Adam to let their knowin' it sarve for their
sons; but ef one of 'em has made the plan work yit, I ain't heard on
it. Nor the guv'ment can't neither. A man'll take his punishment for a
meanness an' l'arn by it; but to be jailed for what's his right makes
an outlaw of him, an' always will. Good Lord, Creed! What set you an'
me off on this tune? Young feller, you ort to be down yon dancin' with
the gals, instead of here talking foolishness to a old man like me.
Creed arose to his tall young height and glanced uncertainly from
his host to the lighted room from which came the sounds of fiddle and
stamping feet. It was a little hard for a prophet on his own
mountain-top to be sent to play with the children; yet he went.
Chapter VII. Kisses
With the advent of the four Turrentine boys festivities had taken on
a brighter air, the game became better worth while.
Wade, you've got to fiddle, cried Judith peremptorily. A chair was
set upon a table in the corner, the rather reluctant Wade hoisted to
it, and soon Weevily Wheat, as the twitting tune comes from the
country fiddler's jigging bow, was filling the room.
I reckon I ought to have asked your ruthers before I took Wade out
of the game, Judith said to Huldah Spiller as they joined hands to
Like I cared! retorted Huldah, tossing her red head till the curls
bobbed. She was wearing the new blue lawn dress, made by a real store
pattern cut out of tissue paper, and was supremely conscious of looking
The Lusk girls in spotted calico frocks, the dots whereof were pink
on Cliantha's dress, and blue on Pendrilla's, had bridled and glanced
about shamefaced when Andy and Jeff came in; they now balanced
demurely with down dropped eyes as the game moved to the music.
Judith had left the supper preparations with the elder women, pieced
out by the assistance of old Dilsey Rust, and was most active in the
games. In the white muslin, washed and ironed by her own skilful,
capable fingers, with the blue bow confining the heavy chestnut braids
at the nape of her neck, her dark beauty glowed richly. Now the players
shifted to Drop the Handkerchief. Judith delighted in this game
because, fleeter of foot, quicker of hand and eye than the others, she
continually disappointed any daring swain who thought to have a kiss
from her. Her shining eyes were ever on the doorway, till Blatch
Turrentine left his seat at the back of the room and elected to lounge
there watching the play with the tolerant air of a man contemplating
the sports of children. It apparently gave him satisfaction that Judith
time after time eluded a pursuer, broke into the ring and left him to
wander in search of a less alert and resolute fair.
Cain't none of the boys kiss yo' gal, panted Huldah Spiller,
pausing beside him. I doubt mightily ef ye could do it yo'self 'less'n
she had a mind to let ye'.
Judith heard, and the carmine on her cheek deepened and spread,
while the dark eyes above gleamed angrily.
Come on and play, Blatch, called Wade, jigging away valiantly at
his fiddle. We all know who it is you want to kissmost of us is
bettin' that you're scared to try.
Play! echoed Blatchley in a contemptuous tone. I say play! When I
want to buss a gal, I walk up and take my rutherslike this.
Again that daunting panther quickness of movement from the big
slouching figure; the powerful lines seemed to melt and flow as he
flung himself in Judith's direction, and cast one arm firmly about her
in such a way that it pinioned both her elbows to her side.
You turn me a-loose! she cried, even as Little Buck had cried.
That ain't fair. I wasn't ready for ye, 'caze ye said ye wouldn't
play. You turn me a-loose or ye'll wish ye had.
No fairno fair! came the cries from the boys in the ring.
Either you stay out or come in. Jude's right.
Well, some of ye put me out, suggested Blatchley, significantly.
He had brought a jug of moonshine whiskey over from the still and it
was flowing freely, though unknown to Old Jephthah, in the loft where
most of his possessions were kept.
No man moved to lay finger on him. He held Judithscarlet of face
and almost in tearsby her elbows, and lowered his mocking countenance
to within a few inches of her angry eyes.
Now kiss me pretty, and kiss me all yo'self. I ain't got nothin' to
do with this; hit's yo' play. You been wantin' to git a chance to kiss
me this long while, he asserted with derisive humour. Don't you hold
off becaze the others is here; that ain't the way you do when we're
WadeJim Cal! Won't some o' you boys pull this fool man away,
appealed Judith. I wish somebody'd call Uncle Jep. You can hold yo'
ugly old face there till yo' hair turns grey, she suddenly and
furiously addressed her admirer. I'll never kiss ye.
Oh, yes you willyou always do, Blatchley maintained. Ef I was
to tell the folks how blame lovin' ye are when jest you and me is alone
He looked over his shoulder to enjoy the triumph of the moment.
Blatchley Turrentine's delight was to traverse the will of every other
human being with his own preference. Judith's gaze, tormented,
tear-blurred, followed his and saw across the shoulders of the others,
the shine of Creed Bonbright's fair hair, in the doorway. The sight
brought from her an inarticulate cry. It fired Blatchley to take the
kiss which he had vowed should be given him. As he bent to do so, Creed
stepped forward and laid a hand upon his shoulder. The movement was
absolutely pacific, but the fingers closed with a viselike grip, and
there was so sharp a backward jerk that the proffered salute was not
In the surprise of the moment Judith pulled herself free and stood
at bay. For an instant the two men looked into each other's eyes.
Creed's blue orbs were calm, impersonal, and without one hint of
yielding or fear.
If you don't play fair, he said in argumentative tone, there's no
use playing at all. Let's close up the ring and try it again.
All eyes in the room turned to Blatchley Turrentine, the women in a
flutter of terrified apprehension, the men with a brightening of
interest; surely he would resent this interference in some notable
manner. But Blatch was in fact too deadly to be merely high-tempered,
quick in anger. For a moment he stared at Bonbright, trying to look him
down; then those odd, whitey-grey eyes narrowed to mere slits. He laid
the matter up in his mind; this was not the time for settling ithere
before Judith Barrier and the women. He did not mean to content himself
with mere fisticuffs, or even a chance pocket-knife which might double
in his grasp and cut his own hand. To the immense surprise of everybody
he stretched out his long arms, caught carelessly at the fingers of a
player on either side of him, and, mending the line, began to move in
rhythmic time to the fiddle.
It was soon observable that Creed Bonbright's presence caused Huldah
Spiller's spirits to mount several notes in the octave. Whether it was
that her own betrothed was looking on, and this an excellent chance to
show him that even the town feller felt her charm, or merely Creed's
personal attractions could hardly be guessed.
Come on, she cried recklessly, let's play 'Over the River to Feed
my Sheep.' Strike up the tune, Wade.
The game she mentioned was also a forfeit play, with the difference
that the kiss was more certain, being taken of mere choicethough
delivered, of course, with due maidenly reluctance and a show of
resistingwhenever the girl facing one could be caught over the line.
All the young people played it; all the elders deprecated it. At the
bottom of Judith's heart lay one reason for making a play-party and
bidding Creed Bonbright to it; and now Huldah Spiller was blatantly
calling out the unconfessed, the unconfessable; Wade was sullenly
dropping into the old Scotch air; the long lines were forming, men
opposite the girlsand the red-headed minx had placed herself directly
across from Creed!
The laughing chains swayed back and forth to the measure of the
musicadvancing, retreating, pursuing, evading, choosing, rejecting,
in a gay parody of courtship. Voices were added to that of the fiddle.
Hit's over the river to feed my sheep,
Hit's over the river to Charley;
Hit's over the river to feed my sheep
An' to kiss my lonesome darling,
Shadows crouched in the corners, flickering, dancing, threatening to
come out and play, then shrinking back as the blaze leaped and the room
widened. The rough brown walls took the shine and broidered themselves
with a thread of golden tracery. In such an illumination the eyes shone
with added luster, flying locks were all hyacinthine, the frocks might
have been silks and satins.
In the movement of the game girls and boys divided. The girls tossed
beribboned heads in unwonted coquetry, yet showed always, in downcast
eyes and the modest management of light draperies, the mountain ideal
of maidenhood. Across from them the line of youthful masculinity
swayed; tall, lean, brown-faced, keen-eyed young hunters these, sinewy
and light and quick of movement, with fine hands and feet, and a lazy
pride of bearing. A very different type from that found in the
lowlands, or in ordinary rustic communities.
Judith noted the other players not at all; her hot reprehending eyes
were on the girl in the blue dress. She did not observe that she
herself was dancing opposite Andy, while Pendrilla Lusk dragged with
drooping head in the line across from the amiably grinning Doss
Provine. Finding herself suddenly in the lead and successful, Huldah
began to preen her feathers a bit. She withdrew a hand from the girl on
her right to arrange the small string of blue glass beads around her
Jest ketch to my skirt for a minute, she whispered loudly. I
reckon hit won't rip, though most of 'em is 'stitches taken for a
friend'I was that anxious to get it done for the party. Oh, Law!
And thennobody knew how it happenedshe was over the line, her
hold on the hands of her mates broken, she had tripped and fallen in a
giggling blue lawn heap fairly at Bonbright's feet. He was in a
position where the least gallant must offer the salute the game
demanded, but to make assurance doubly sure Huldah put out her hands
like a three-year-old, crying,
He'p me up, Creed, I b'lieve I've sprained my ankle.
The young fellow from Hepzibah was in a mood for play. After all he
was only a big boy, and he had been long barred out from young people's
frolics. Here was a gay, toward little soul, who seemed to like him. He
stooped and caught her by the waist, picking her up as one might a
small child, and holding her a moment with her feet off the floor.
Something in the laughing challenge of her face as she protested and
begged to be put down prompted him as to what was expected. He kissed
her lightly upon the cheek before he released her.
As he set her down he encountered Wade Turrentine's eye. A spark of
tawny fire had leaped to life in its hazel depth. The fiddler still
clung faithfully to his office. If he missed a note now and again, or
played off key, he might be forgiven. It is to be remembered that he
sawed away without a moment's pause throughout the entire episode.
Creed reached out to join the broken line and touched Jeff's arm.
The boy flung away from the contact with a muttered word. He looked
helplessly at Judith, but she would not glance at him; head haughtily
erect, long lashes on crimson cheeks, red lip curled to an expression
of offence and disdain, the young hostess mended the line by joining
the hands of the two girls on each side of her.
You-all can go on playin' without me, she said in a constrained
tone. I got to see to something in the other room.
See here, Mister Man, remarked Blatch, as Judith prepared to
leave. You're mighty free and permisc'ous makin' rules for kissin'
games, but I take notice you don't follow none of 'em yo'se'f.
Judith halted uncertainly. To stop and defend Creed was out of the
question. She was about to interpose with the general accusation that
Blatch was trying to pick a fuss and break up her play-party, when
Iley's voice, for once a welcome interruption, broke in from the
Jude, we ain't got plates enough for everybody an' to put the
biscuit on, called Jim Cal's wife. Ax Creed Bonbright could we borry
a few from his house.
Judith closed instantly with the diversion. She moved quickly toward
the door; Bonbright joined her.
Why yes, he said. You know I told you to help yourself. Let me go
over now and get what you want. Is there anything else?
That's mighty kind of you, Creed, Judith thanked him. I reckon I
better go along with ye and see. I don't think of anything else just
now. Iley, we'll be back quick as we can with all the plates ye need.
Together they stepped out into the soft dusk of the summer night,
followed by the narrowed gaze of Blatch Turrentine's grey eyes.
Chapter VIII. On the Doorstone
Behind them the play was resumed in the lighted room; the whining of
the fiddle, the thud and stamp of many feet, came to them softened and
refined by a little distance. They were suddenly drawn together in that
intimacy of two who leave the company and the lights on a special
expedition. Judith made an impatient mental effort to release the
incident of Huldah and the kiss, which had so unreasonably irritated
If we was to go acrosst fields hit would be a heap better, she
advised softly, and they moved through the odorous, myriad-voiced
darkness of the midsummer night, side by side, without speech, for a
time. Then as Creed halted at a dim, straggling barrier which crossed
their course and laid down a rail fence partially that she might the
more easily get over in her white frock, she returned to the tormenting
subject once more, opening obliquely:
You and Huldy Spiller is old friends I reckon. Don't you think
she's a powerful pretty girl?
Mighty pretty, echoed Creed absently. All girls were of an even
prettiness to him, and Huldah Spiller was a pleasant little thing. He
was wondering what he had done back there in the play-room that had set
them all against him.
Her and Wade is goin' to be wedded come September, put in Judith
Yo' cousin will be getting a mighty fine wife.
The mountain man is apt to make his comments on the marriages of his
friends with dignified formality, and Creed uttered the accustomed
phrase without heat or enthusiasm; but it seemed to Judith that he
might have said lessor more.
Well, I never did like red hair, the girl managed to get out
finally; but I reckon hit's better than old black stuff like mine.
My mother's hair was sorter sandy, Creed answered in his gentle,
tolerant fashion. Mine favours it. And he had not the wit to add that
dark hair, however, pleased him best.
Judith stepped beside him for some moments in mortified silence.
Evidently he was green wood and could by none of her old methods be
kindled. Then, their eyes becoming accustomed to the darkness, they
came out into a modified twilight in the clearing about the Bonbright
house. You better unlock the door and go in first, suggested Judith,
in a depressed tone.
Why, I ain't got the key, Creed reminded her. I left it with
youdidn't you bring it?
They drew unconsciously close together in the dark with something of
the guilty consternation of childish culprits. A mishap of the sort
ripens an acquaintance swiftly.
What a gump I was! Judith breathed with sudden low laughter. He
could see her eyes shining in the gloom, and the dim outline of her
figure. I knowed well an' good you didn't have the keyhit's in the
blue bowl on the fire-board at home.
I ought to have thought of it, asserted Creed shouldering the
blame. And I'm sorry; I wanted to show you my mother's picture.
An' I'm sorry, echoed Judith, remembering fleetingly the
swept and garnished rooms, the wreath of red roses; I had something to
show you, too.
Nothing was said of the dishes for the merrymakers at Judith's
house. Another interest was obtruding itself into the simple, practical
expedition, crowding aside its original purpose. The girl looked around
the dim, weed-grown garden, its bushes blots of deeper shadow upon the
darkness, its blossoms vaguely conjectured by their odour.
There used to be a bubby busha sweet-scented shrubover in that
corner, Creed hesitated. I'd like to get you some of the bubbies. My
mother used to pick 'em and put 'em in the bureau drawers I remember,
and they made everything smell nice.
He had taken her hand and led her with him, advancing uncertainly
toward the flowers. He felt her shiver, and halted instantly.
Yo' cold! he said. Let me take my coat off and put it around
yeI don't need it. You got overheated playing back there, and now
you'll catch a cold.
Oh, no, disclaimed Judith, whose little shudder had been as much
from excitement as from the sharp chill of the night air after the
heated play-room. I reckon somebody jest walked over my graveI ain't
But he had pulled off the coat while he spoke, and now he turned to
put it about her, and drew her back to the doorstep. Judith was full of
a strange ecstasy as she slipped her arms into the sleeves. The lover's
earliest and favourite artificethe primitive kindness of wrapping her
in his own garment! Even Creed, unready and unschooled as he was, felt
stir within him its intimate appeal.
A nebulous lightening which had been making itself felt behind the
eastern line of mountains now came plainly in view, late moon,
melancholy and significant, as the waning moon always is. By its dim
illumination Creed saw Judith Barrier standing at the door of his own
house, smiling at him tremulously, with the immemorial challenge in her
dark eyes. To that challenge the native man in himthe loverso long
usurped by the zealot, the would-be philanthropist, rose thrilling, yet
still bewildered and uncertain, to respond. Something heady and ancient
and eternally young seemed to pass into his soul out of the night and
the moonlight and the shining of her eyes. He was all alive to her
nearness, her loveliness, to the sweet sense that she was a young
woman, he a young man, and the loveliness and the dearness of her were
his for the tryingfor the winning. His breath caught in his throat.
Wait a minute, he whispered hurriedly, though she had not moved.
With eager hands he wrapped the coat close about her. Let's sit here
on the doorstep and talk awhile. There are a heap of things I want to
ask you aboutthat I want to tell you.
Young beauty and belle that she was, Judith had been sought and
courted, in that most primitive society, since she was fourteen. She
was love's votary by birthright, and her wit and her emotions were
schooled in love's game: to lure, to please, to exploit, to defend,
evade, deny; in each postulant seeking, testing, trying for the right
man to whom should be made love's final surrender. But Creed, always
absorbed in vague altruistic dreams, had no boyish sweethearting behind
him to have taught him the ways of courtship.
Fire-flies sparkled everywhere, thickest over the marshy places. A
mole cricket was chirring in the grass by the old doorstone. Sharp on
the soft dark air came the call of that woodland night bird which the
mountain people say cries chip-out-o'-white-oak, and which others
I he began, hesitated momentarily, then daunted, grasped at the
familiar things of his lifeI don't get on very well up here. I'm
afraid I've made a failure of it; buthe turned to her in a curious,
groping entreaty, his hat in his hands, the dim moonlight full on his
fair head and in his eager eyesbut if you would help mewith youI
think I ought to
I say made a failure! cooed Judith in her rich, low tones. You ax
me whatever you want to know. You tell me what it is that you're aimin'
to doI say made a failure!
Her trust was so hearty, so wholesale, she filled so instantly the
position not only of sweetheart but of mother to a small boy with an
unsatisfactory toythat would always be Judith Barrierthat Creed's
heartthe man's hearta lonely one, and beginning to feel itself
misunderstood and barred out from its kindmelted in his bosom. There
was silence between them, a silence vibrant with the coming utterance.
But even as the dark, fond, inviting eyes and the troubled, kindling
blue ones encountered, as Creed lifted the girl's hand timidly, and
essayed speech, the voice of that one who had stepped on her grave
harshly aroused them both.
I vowI thort it was thieves, an' I was a-goin' to see could I
pick off you-all, drawled Blatchley Turrentine's level tones from the
shadow of the garden. Mutely, with a sense of chill and disappointment
that was like the shock of a physical blow to each, the two young
creatures got to their feet and turned to leave the place, preparing to
go by the high road, without consultation. As they passed him near the
gate, Blatch Turrentine fell in on the other side of the girl and
walked with them silently for a time.
Iley sont me over, he said finally. She was skeered you-all
wouldn't bring any plates.
Neither Judith nor Creed offered any explanation. Instead:
Well, I don't see how you're goin' to help anything, said the girl
bitterlyany presence must have been hateful to her which interrupted
or forestalled what Creed would certainly have said, that for which her
whole twenty years had waited.
Oh, I've got the plates, chuckled Blatch, jingling a bulky package
under his arm.
Why, how did you began Judith in amazement.
Uh-huh, I've got my own little trick of gittin' in whar I choose to
go, declared Turrentine. He leaned around and looked meaningly at the
man on her other side, then questioned, How long do you-all reckon I'd
been thar? and examined them keenly in the shadowy half light.
But neither hastened to disclaim or explain, neither seemed in any
degree embarrassed, though to both his bearing was plainly almost
intolerable. Thereafter they walked in silence which was scarcely
broken till they reached the gate and Iley came shrilling out to meet
Did you get them thar plates from Miz. Lusk's, you Blatch
Judith looked at him with angry scorn. It was the old tyrannical
trick which she had known from her childhood up, the attempt to
maintain an ascendency over her by appearing to know everything and be
everywherelike he was the Lord-a'mighty Hisself, she muttered
indignantly, as Creed joined a group of young men, and she passed in to
her necessary activities as hostess.
Judith Barrier's play-party won to its close with light hearts and
light feet, with heavy hearts which the weary body would fain have
denied, with love and laughter, with jealousy and chagrin, with the
slanted look of envy, of furtive admiration, or of disparagement, from
feminine eyes at the costumes of other women, just as any ball does.
The two who had trembled upon the brink of some personal revelation,
a closer communion, were not again alone together that evening. Amid
the moving figures of the others, now to his eyes as painted
automatons, Creed Bonbright watched with strong fascination in which
there was a tincture that was almost terror, the beautiful girl who had
suddenly emerged from her class and become for him the one woman.
So adequate, so competent, Judith dominated the situation; passing
among her guests, the thick dark lashes continually lowered toward her
crimson cheeks. Some subtle sense told her that the spell was working.
Smiles from this sweet inner satisfaction curved her red lips. No need
to lookshe knew how his eyes were following her. The exultant
knowledge of it sang all through her being. Gone were her
perturbations, her chilling uncertainties. She was at once stimulated
Their good-byes were said in the most public manner, yet one glance
flashed between them which asked and promised an early meeting.
Chapter IX. Foeman's Bluff
It was near midnight when Creed sought his patient mule at the rack,
to find that Doss Provine had ridden the animal away.
He said you was a-goin' to stay at yo' own house to-night, an' he
'lowed ye wouldn't need the mule, an' he was mighty tired. He 'lowed
hit was a mighty long ja'nt out to the Edge whar he was a-goin',
contributed Blev Straley, who seemed to have been admitted to Provine's
Mighty long ja'ntI say long ja'nt! ejaculated old man Broyles,
who was engaged in saddling his ancient one-eyed mare. Ef I couldn't
spit as fur as from here to the Edge I'd never chaw tobacker agin!
Plain old fashioned laziness is what ails Doss Provine. I'd nacher'ly
w'ar him out for this trick, Bonbright, ef I was you.
Well, I did aim to stay over at my house to-night, said Creed,
But I can't. I've got a case to try in the morning, soon, that I've
got to look up some points on yet to-night. I reckon I'll have to foot
it out to Aunt Nancy's.
As Creed spoke a fellow by the name of Taylor Stribling, a sort of
satellite of Blatchley Turrentine's came slouching from the shadows of
the nearby smoke-house. He watched old man Broyles ride away, and Blev
Straley take a leisurely departure.
Mighty bad ye got to hoof it, Creed, he observed. Ef you've a
mind to come with me I can show you a short cut through the woods by
Foeman's Bluff. Hit's right on the first part of my way.
Creed had been long out of the mountains or he would have known that
a short cut which led by Foeman's Bluff would certainly be a strange
route toward Nancy Card's cabin; but it was characteristic of the man
that without question or demur he accepted the proffered friendly turn
at its face value, and he and Stribling at once took the way which led
across the gulch to the still. They walked for some time, Stribling
leading, Creed following, deep in his own thoughts.
Looks like this is a queer direction to be going, he roused
himself to comment wonderingly as they dipped into the sudden hollow.
The trail turns a piece up yon, explained the guide briefly.
Again they toiled on in silence, crossing the dry boulder-strewn bed
of a stream, travelling always in the dense darkness of the tall
timber, finally striking the rise, which was so abrupt and steep that
they had to catch by the path-side bushes to pull themselves up. It was
lighter here, as the trail mounted toward a region of rocky bluffs
where there was no big timber, running obliquely across the great
promontory that had got the name of Foeman's Bluff, from old Ab Foeman
whose hideout, still unknown, was said to be somewhere in its front.
Ain't it mighty curious to be goin' up so? Creed panted. Aunt
Nancy's place lies lower than the Turrentines'. By the road it's down
hill mighty near all the way.
Thishyer's a short cut, growled the other evasively. Mind how you
step. Hit's a fur ways down thar ef a body was to fall.
With the words they came out suddenly on the Bluff itself where the
trail widened into a natural terrace, and the great rock, solemn with
majestic peace, faced an infinity of sky with bared brow. As they
emerged into the light Creed took off his hat and lifted his
countenance, inhaling the beauty of the summer night. The late moon had
climbed a third of the way up the heavens; now she looked down with a
chastened, tarnished light, yet with a dusky, diminished beauty that
held a sort of mild pathos. Great timbered slopes, inky black in this
illumination, fell away on every hand down to where the mists lay
death-white in the valley; behind them was a low, irregular bulk of
brush-grown rock; and all about the whirr of katydids, a million voices
blended into one. From a nearby thicket came to them the click and
liquid gurgle, Chip-out-o'-white-oak! It sent Creed's heart and fancy
questing back to the past hour with the girl on the doorstone. What
would he have asked, she answered, if Blatch had not interrupted them?
He scarcely heard the wavering cry of a screech-owl that followed hard
upon the remembered notes. Stribling, however, noted the latter
promptly, and began edging toward the shadow as his companion spoke.
This is mighty sightly, said Creed, looking about him musingly; I
do love a moonshiny night.
For a moment there was only the noise of the katydids, backgrounded
and enfolded by the deep silence of the great mountains. Then someone
broke out into what was evidently a forced laugh, a long-drawn,
girding, mirthless haw-haw, the laboured insult of which stung Creed
into a certain resentment of demeanour.
What's the joke? he inquired dryly, turning toward Taylor
Stribling. But Stribling had silently melted away among the shadows of
distant trees along the trail. It was Blatchley Turrentine who stood
before him thrusting forward a jeering face in the uncertain half
light, while three vaguely defined forms moved and shouldered behind
him. The apparition was sinister, but if Blatch looked for
demonstrations of fear he was disappointed.
What's the joke? Creed repeated.
I couldn't hold in when I heared your pretty talk, drawled Blatch,
setting his hands on his hips and barring the way. Whar might you be
a-goin', Mr. Creed Bonbright?
Home, returned Creed briefly. Get out of my road, and I'll be
obliged to you.
Yo' roadyo' road! echoed Blatch. Well, young feller,
besides this here road runnin' acrosst the south eend o' the property
that I've rented on a five-year lease, ef so be that yo're a-goin' to
Nancy Cyard's house this is a mighty curious direction for you to be
I was told it was a short cut, said Bonbright controlling his
temper. A man who was justice of the peace, going home to get ready to
try a case on the morrow, must not embroil himself.
Good Lord! scoffed Blatch. You claim to be mountain raised, and
tell me you think this is a short cut from whar you was at to Nancy
Cyard's? I reckon you'll have to make up another tale.
Bonbright became suddenly aware that he was surrounded, two of the
men who were with Turrentine having slipped past him and appearing now
as blots of blacker shadow against the trees on either side of the path
by which he had come. Turrentine and the remaining man barred the way
ahead; on the one side was the sheer descent of the bluff; on the other
the rough, broken rise.
It was like a bad dream. With his usual forthright directness he
What is it you want of meall of you? This meeting never came
about by chance.
Blatch shook his head. Yo' mighty right it didn't, he said. Me
an' the boys has a word to speak with you, and when we ketch you
walkin' on our land in the middle o' the nightwith whatever
intentionswe think the time has come for talkin'.
Andy! Jeff! Is that you? Creed, the rash, called over his shoulder
to the two behind him.
An inarticulate growl answered, and then a boyish voice began,
Yo' mighty free with folks' names, you Creed Bonbright. Me and my
brother both told you what we thought o' you when you come to the jail.
I told you then you'd be run out of the Turkey Tracks ef you tried to
come up here. We don't want no spies.
Spies! echoed Creed with a rising note of anger in his voice. Who
said I was a spy? What should I be spying on?
Yo' friend Mr. Dan Haley might 'a' said you was a spy, suggested
Andy's higher pitched tones. As for what you'd be a-spyin' on you know
best. We're all mighty peaceable, law-abidin' folks in the Turkey
Tracks. I don't know of nothin' that we're apt to break the law about
'less'n it would be beatin' up and runnin' out a spy that
The childish bravado of this speech evidently displeased Blatch, who
wanted the thing done and over with. His heavier, grating tones broke
They's jest one thing to be said to you, Creed Bonbright. You've
got to get out of the Turkey Tracksand get quick. Air ye goin'?
No! Creed flung back at him. When I take my orders from you it
will be a mighty cold day. I came up here in the Turkey Tracks to do a
good work among my own people. I'm going to stay here and do it in my
own way. Is that you, Wade Turrentine? What have you got to say to me?
The second of the men who faced him stirred uneasily at the mention
of his name. It rankled in the expectant bridegroom's heart that all he
could complain of concerning Creed Bonbright was that Huldah had thrown
herself in his way and forced a kiss upon himnot that Bonbright had
been the amatory aggressor!
I say what Blatch says, growled Wade as though the words stuck in
More and more the whole thing was like a nightmare to Creed; he felt
as though with sufficient effort he might throw it off and wake. The
four men hung at the path-side eyeing him, motionless if he were still,
moving only if he stirred. Even this scarcely gave him a complete
understanding of the gravity of his situation.
Well, he said finally, I'm going on home. If any of you boys has
anything to say to me, to-morrow or any day afteryou know where to
He made as though to pass; but Blatch Turrentine stepped swiftly to
the middle of the pathway and stood breathing a little short.
No, by God, we don't! he panted. Ef we let you to go this
nightwe don't know whar we'll ever find you again. Mebbe you've got
yo' budget made upon yo' way to yo' friend Mr. Dan Haley right now.
Ye don't go from here!
Instinctively Creed fell back a step. It was out at lastthis was
neither more nor less than a waylaying. Did they mean to kill him?
Blatch Turrentine had crouched where he stood, and even as the question
went through the victim's mind, he launched himself with that sudden
frightful quickness bodily upon Creed.
It would seem that the slighter man must be borne down by the onset.
But Bonbright gathered himself, his arms shot out and gripped his
assailant midway. Struggling, panting, gasping, stamping, they wrenched
and swayed, the three who watched them holding aloof. Then with a sheer
effort of strength Creed tore the heavier man from his footing and
lifted him clear of the ground.
With a little sobbing oath Andy ran in. Bonbright could have heaved
the man he held over his shoulder in that terrific fall well known to
deadly wrestling. Wade's stern, Sst! Git back there! stopped the boy.
Even as Creed's muscles knotted themselves to the supreme effort came
sudden memory of what he must stand for to these people. It was his
right to defend his own life; he must not, in any extremity, take that
of another. His grip relaxed. Turrentine partially got his feet again;
his arms were free; the right made a swift movement, and Creed caught
the gleam of a knife-blade. Without volition of his own he flung all
his weight and strength into one mighty movement that hurled man and
weapon from him.
Plunging, staggering, clutching at the air, Turrentine gave ground.
The moonlight flickered on the blade in his upflung hand as, with a
strangled hoarse cry he reeled backward over the bluff.
There was a rending sound of breaking branches, a noise of rolling
rocks; then deadly silence. For a long moment the men left standing on
the cliff strained eyes and ears to where Blatch had gone down, then,
Keep off! shouted Creed as the three others began silently to
close in on him. Stand back, boys. We've had enough of this. Draw off
and let me get down and see what's happened to him. He kept slowly
backing away, striving not to be hemmed in against the rock behind him.
The others warily followed.
Let you down and finish him, ye meandon't ye? screamed Andy with
all a boy's senseless rage.
You're a fine one to bring law and order into the Turkey Tracks,
Wade taunted savagely. You've brought murderthat's what you've
He drew a knife on me, cried Bonbright. You all saw that. I only
shoved him away. I never meant to throw him over the bluff.
Nobody seen no knife but you, Creed Bonbright, Jeff doggedly
asseverated. All three of us seen you fling Blatch over the bluff. You
ain't in no court of law now. Yo' lies won't do you no good. Yo' where
we kill the feller that done the killin'.
How? said Creed, still backing, feeling his way slowly, seeking
for some break in the rise behind, the others coming a little closer.
By jumpin' on to him somewhere out at night, four to oneor even
three to one?
Yes, by God! thataway, ef we cain't do it no better way, panted
Years beforeheaven knows how manya little seep of water began to
gather between two huge stones in the small broken bluff behind Creed.
Winter after winter the crevice through which the trickle came
enlarged, the water caught in a natural basin and froze with all its
puny might to heave the stones apart. The winter before this slow
process had closed leaving a wedge of rock trembling upon its base,
ready to fall into a crevice. Yet the opening was masked with vine
leaves, and when the spring rains finally washed away the mould and the
crude doorway tottered and sank, the gap thus left was unnoted,
invisible to the sharpest eye.
Bonbright pressing close against the rock to pass, stepping warily
when it was forward, but hugging his barrier as a safety, missed his
footing, and slipped almost without a sound into this opening. For a
moment he sustained himself holding to tree roots, hearkening to the
voices of those above him.
Wadeyou fool! What did you let him get a-past you for?
And then Wade's heavier tones, I didn't. He run back yo' way.
He could hear their footsteps pounding to and fro, their hoarse
cries which finally settled down into a demand for a lantern.
We can't find Blatch nor do nothing for him, nor git on the track
of Bonbright nor nothin' else, without a lantern. You Jeff, run round
to the still; me and Andy'll go back and fetch pap.
Creed sought cautiously for footing, lost all hold, and began a
Low limbs thrashed his face and body; again and again his head was
dashed against rocks or tree stems; his forehead was gashed; the blood
poured into his eyes; he rolled and bounded and slid down and down and
down the crevice, and into the ravine, bruised, bleeding, breathless,
blinded and choked by blood and earth and gravel. He was more than half
unconscious when he brought up at last with a rib-smashing thump upon a
sapling, and there he clung like a dazed animal, gasping.
Slowly, as his breath came back to him, and he cleared the blood and
dust from his eyes, Creed became aware of a dim glow coming through the
bushes in one direction. For some time he watched it, making ready to
get away as quickly as possible, since this must be on Blatch
Turrentine's land, and the light came probably from some of Blatch's
party searching for Turrentine himself, or for Creed.
But when he noted that the illumination was steady and stationary,
he began to move hesitatingly in its direction. He had gone probably
two or three hundred feet when he came to a place whence he had an
unobstructed view. The light shone out from the cramped opening of a
cave. He went nearer in a sort of daze. There was nobody to intercept
him, Blatch and the boys, whom he had left on the bluff above, when he
so unexpectedly descended from it, being the only sentinels out. No
approach was looked for from the quarter where he now was, and he found
himself, gazing directly into Blatch Turrentine's blockaded still. He
could distinctly see Jim Cal and the fellow Taylor Stribling moving
about within the cave. They were attending to a run of whiskey. While
Bonbright stood motionless, not yet fully comprehending the sinister
colour his presence might wear, there was the thud of running
footsteps, Jeff Turrentine rounded the boulder on the other side of the
cave and called aloud to those within,
Jim Cal! Taylor! Buck! Creed Bonbright's killed Blatchflung him
clean over the bluffand got plumb away from us! Bring a lantern
you-all. We've got to hunt for Blatch in under Foeman's BluffI'll
show you whar.
Silently Creed drew back into the dense undergrowth. He knew where
he was, now. As he retreated swiftly in the opposite direction from
that in which Jeff had approached, he could vaguely hear the excited
voices at the still, questioning, replying, denouncing, exclaiming.
Presently he came out upon the main trail, rounded the Gulch, heading
for the big road and Nancy Card's cabin, his soul sick within him at
the events of the evening, bitterly regretting the explicit and
unwelcome knowledge of the secret still which had been forced upon him,
feeling himself now a spy indeeda spy and a murderer.
He walked with long nervous strides; beaten and bruised though he
was, he was unconscious of fatigue; the grief and regret that surged
within him were as an anodyne to physical pain, and it was less than
half an hour later that he opened the door of Nancy Card's cabin, his
white face scratched and bleeding, his torn hands, too, covered with
blood, his clothing rent and earth-stained, his eyes wild and
Good Lord, boy! What's the matter with ye? cried the old woman,
coming toward him in terror, both hands out. I sot up for ye, 'caze
Pony he jest come from Hepzibah an' said that spiled-rotten Andy an'
that feisty Jeff 'lowed ye was a spy an' they was a-goin' to run ye out
of the Turkey Tracks.
She laid hold of him and examined him with anxious eyes.
I was plumb werried about ye. I knowed in reason they was a-goin'
to be trouble at that fool play-party.
No, I ain't hurt, Aunt Nancy, said Creed desolately, and he stared
past her at the wall. But looks to me like I'm cursed. I meant so
well He choked on the word. I'd just had a talk withShe
saidweI thought that everything was about to come right. And
nowI've killed Blatch Turrentine, and I've just got away from the
others. They was all after me.
Chapter X. A Spy
Old Jephthah was winding the clock when the doorwhich he had
closed some time ago after the last retiring guestsflung violently
open, Andy paused, flying foot on the threshold, and gasped out
PapCreed Bonbright's killed Blatch and got away from us!
The Lusk girls had staid to help Judith clear up, intending to
remain over night unless Andy and Jeff returned in time to take them
home. The three young women working at the table lifted pale faces;
Pendrilla let fall the plate in her hand and broke it. Unconscious of
the fact, she stood staring with open mouth at the fragments by her
feet. Jephthah took one more turn mechanically, then withdrew the key
and laid it down.
Whar at? he inquired briefly.
Up on our place, said Wade who now appeared at the boy's side.
Bonbright throwed him over Foeman's Bluff.
How come it? queried the head of the tribe.
They was a fussin', began Andy, but his father interrupted him in
a curious tone.
Foeman's Bluff, he repeated. What tuck Bonbright thar at this
time o' night?
That's what I say, panted Jim Cal's voice in the darkness outside.
He had come straight from the still instead of going with Jeff and the
others to search; and for all his flesh he had overtaken his brothers.
But there was none now to demand sardonically why he fled the seat of
war and ran to the paternal shelter for re-enforcements. Ef folks go
nosin' around whar they ain't wanted, sometimes they git what they
don't like, he concluded.
Judith, very pale, had parted her lips to utter words of indignant
defence, and denial of this broad imputation, but before she could
speak Huldah Spiller irrupted into the room, her red curls flying, her
bodice clutched about her in such a fashion as to suggest she had been
undressing when the news reached her.
The mountain woman with temperament is reduced to the outlets of
such occasions as these, or revival seasons and funerals; and Huldah
Spiller, having abandoned the protesting Iley with her babies, whom the
mother could not leave alone, meant to make the most of the occasion.
You-all ain't got no right to talk the way you do about Creed, the
red-haired girl burst out. Him and me's been friends ever sence I went
to Hepzibah, and there ain't a better man walks the earth. Ef he done
anything to Blatch hit was becaze Blatch laywayed him an' jumped on
him, an' he had to. Oh, Lord! and she began to weep, I wish't my
daddy was hereI jest wish Pap Spiller was here. Pore Creed! Ef
you-all git yo' hands on him, mad thisaway, the Lord knows what will be
Jephthah regarded his postulant daughter-in-law from under lowered,
Kin you make her hush? he inquired of Wade.
I ain't got no interest in makin' her hush nor makin' her holler,
returned Wade contemptuously. Dishonoured before his clan, his male
dignity sadly shorn, his woman shrieking out the wrongs and excellences
of another manand that man a young and well-favoured enemyhis
bitterness may be forgiven.
Fetch the lantern, ordered Jephthah briefly. We-all have got to
git over thar and see to this business.
Well, I'll hushbut I'm goin' along, volleyed Huldah.
Le's us go too, Jude, pleaded Cliantha Lusk in a trembling
whisper. I'm scared to be left here in the house with the men all
gone. He might take a notion to come and raid the place and kill us.
They do thataway in feud times. My gran' mammy
Do hush! choked Judith. But she hurried out in the wake of the
departing men, Cliantha clinging to one arm, Pendrilla to the other.
They left the doors open, the candles flaring, and nobody to guard
but the toothless old hound who slept and snored on the chip pile.
The journey to Foeman's Bluff, following the flicker of the lantern
in Wade's hand, with the voices of the men coming back to her, hoarse,
fragmentary, ejaculatory, reciting Creed's offences asseverating that
they had expected nothing else, was like a nightmare to Judith. When
Cliantha screamed and clung to her and said she thought she saw Creed
Bonbright in the bushes by the path-side, Judith shook her off angrily,
but let the clamouring little thing creep back and make her peace.
I forgot about you and BlatchOh, po' Judy! moaned Cliantha. Ef
hit was me goin' to s'arch for the murdered body of my true love I
don't know as I could put foot befo' foot!
The trail's mighty narrow hereI'll go in front, said Judith. She
freed herself, and thereafter walked alone with bent head.
As they descended into the hollow Andy began to hoo-ee; and finally
he was answered from the neighbourhood of the bluff. Up this they
climbed, since on this side they were cut off from the region below it
by an impassable gulley. Halting on the top and looking down, they
could see a lantern moving about and catch faint sound of the men's
Who's down thar? Jephthah's big rolling bass sent out the call.
There was an ominous hesitation before Jeff's perturbed tones replied,
Hit's me, pap, me an' Buck Shalliday an' Taylor Stribling.
Andy found a tall tree at the bluffs edge, and began to descend
through its branches with the swiftness and agility of a monkey.
How is heis he alive?
The old man put the query at the edge of the gulf, stooping, peering
over. Jim Cal sat down suddenly and began wiping his forehead. The
moonlight showed his round face very pale under its beaded sweat.
Andy'll git hisself killed! whimpered Pendrilla.
And Huldah broke into loud hysteric weeping, on the tide of which
CreedPap SpillerBlatch Turrentine were cast up now and again.
Hush, cain't ye? demanded Jephthah, angrily; I cain't hear one
word they answer me down thar. Hello, boys. Is he livin'?
Andy had evidently reached the searchers at the foot of the cliff.
Loud, confused voices came up to those above. Finally,
W'y, Pap, we ain't never found him, Jeff called.
Ye what? demanded the father incredulously.
We ain'tneverfound him, reiterated Jeff doggedly.
The old man drew back sharply with a look of swift anger in his
Well, ef ye hain't found him by now ye better quit lookin', hadn't
ye? he suggested as he straightened to his full height and turned his
Creed Bonbright's jest about been here an' hid the body, that's
what he's done, Taylor Stribling clamoured after him in futile
explanation. But the old man gave no heed. Lantern in hand, he was
already addressing himself to a careful examination of the scene of the
struggle. The torn vines where Creed had fallen through the fissure
instantly caught his eye.
Come up here, you-all! he turned and shouted toward the gulf. He
swung his lantern far out over the crevice. Look at that, he said
quietly. Thar's whar yo' man got away from ye. He handed the lantern
to Wade, and swung himself lightly down where Creed had fallen.
Better let me go, Pap, said Wade, and Judith mutely stared after
the old man as he disappeared into the dark.
For fifteen minutes or more the watchers on the cliff waited and
trembled, straining ears and eyes. In that time they were joined by
those from the foot of the bluff, all but Stribling, who, the boys
said, had gone on home. Then they heard sounds of clambering in the
cleft, and the old man's face appeared in the well of inky shadow,
pale, the black eyes burning, the great black beard flowing backward to
join the darkness behind him. Wade held his lantern high. It lit a
circle of faces on which terror, anger, and distress wrought. Judith
could scarcely look at her uncle, and a great trembling shook her
limbs, so that she laid hold of a little sapling by which she stood,
and closed her eyes.
Well, said the old man on a falling note, and his voice sounded
hollowly from the cleft, well, I reckon this does settle itwhether
Blatch is hurt or no. How many of ye was a-workin' in the still
I was, quavered Jim Cal; me and Taylor Stribling and Buck
Shalliday. Blatch had left a run o' whiskey that had to be worked off,
and when he didn't come I turned in to 'tend to itwhy, Pap?
Ef Bonbright wanted to find out about the still he shore made it,
that's all, answered Jephthah. Ye can see right into it from whar he
went. Ef you-all boys wants to stay out o' the penitentiary I reckon
Creed Bonbright's got to leave the Turkey Tracks mighty sudden, and he
swung himself heavily to the level of the cliff.
That's what I say, whispered Jim Cal, pasty pale and quivering.
We've got it to do.
Old Jephthah looked darkly upon his sons.
Well, settle it amongst ye, how an' when. I'll neither meddle nor
make in this business. I don't know how all o' this come about, nor
what you-all an' Blatch Turrentine air up to. You've made an outsider
o' me, an' an outsider I'll stay. Ef ye won't tell me the truth, don't
tell me no lies. Come on, gals.
He strode into the homeward trail, the four girls falling in behind
his tall figure. Judith was sick with misery and uncertainty; the Lusk
girls looked back timidly at Andy and Jeff; even Huldah was mute.
Chapter XI. The Warning
Five o'clock Friday morning found Creed, pale, hollow-eyed, a strip
of Nancy's home-made sticking plaster over the cut on brow and cheek,
but otherwise composed and as usual, at the pine table in his little
shack, working over the references which applied to the case he was to
try that morning. But an hour later brought old Keziah Provine to the
door to borrow the threading of a needle with white thread.
I hearn they had an interruption, she began, pushing in past Nancy
and the two children, but tharyou kin hear anything these days and
times. They most gen'ally does find trouble at these here play-parties,
that's why I'm sot agin 'em.
Poor old soul, it was not on account of her rheumatic legs, her
toothless jaws, nor her half-blind eyes that she objected to
play-parties, of course.
I got no use for 'em, she pursued truthfully, specially when
they're started up too close to a blockade still. They named it to me
that Creed had done killed one of the Turrentine boysis that so?
No, returned Nancy stoutly. By the best of what I kin git out o'
Creed, him and Blatch was walkin' along, an' Blatch missed his footin'
and fell off o' Foeman's Bluff. Creed tried to he'p him, an' fell an'
got scratched some. I reckon the Turrentines'll tell it different, but
that's what I make out from what Creed says.
Lord, how folks will lie! admired Keziah, piously. Now they tell
that Blatch was not only killed up, but that some oneCreed, or some
o' them that follers himtuck the body away befo' they could git to
it. They say they was blood all over the bushes, an' a great drug place
whar Blatch had been toted off. One feller named a half-dug hole sorter
like a grave; but thar! I never went over to see for myse'f, an' ye
cain't believe the half o' what ye hear.
Well, I'd say not, snapped Nancy. Not ef hit was sech a pack o'
lies as that.
Thread in hand old Keziah lingered till Arley Kittridge came with
his mother's baking-pan and request for a little risin'. Arley it
seemed had been commissioned to find out what he could on behalf of the
Kittridge family. And so it went till breakfast-time.
How these things travel in a neighbourhood where there is no
telephone, postman, milkman, nor morning paper, and where the distances
are considerable, is one of the mysteries of the mountainsyet travel
they do, and when time came for court to open Creed found that he had a
crowd which would at any other juncture have been highly gratifying.
Every man that came in glanced first at the cut on his cheek,
swiftly noted the pale face, sunken, purple-rimmed eyes, the scratched
hands, then looked hastily away. Several made proffers of an alliance
with him, being at outs with the Turrentines. All reiterated the story
of the missing body.
You done exactly right, old Tubal Kittridge told him. With a man
like Blatchley Turrentine, hit's hit first or git hit. I wonder he ever
let ye git as far as Foeman's Bluff; but if you made good use o' yo'
time, I reckon you found out what you aimed to, and he winked
laboriously at poor Creed's crimsoning countenance.
I wasn't trying to find out anything, Mr. Kittridge. Blatch forced
the quarrel upon me. I was on my way home at the time.
Well, a lee-tle out of yo' way, wasn't ye? objected Kittridge,
slightly offended at not being offered Bonbright's confidence.
The case on the docket, one that had interested Creed deeply, being
the curious matter of a mountain creek which in the spring storms had
changed its direction, scoured off a good field and flung it to the
opposite side of the road, thus giving it to a new owner, dragged
wearily. Who cared about the question of a few rods of mountain land,
even if it had raised good tobacco, when the slayer of one of the
bullies of the neighbourhood sat before thema man who had not only
killed his victim but had, within fifteen minutes, hidden all traces of
the bodyand the opening of a new feud was taking place before their
At noon Creed, in despair, adjourned his court, setting a new date
for trial, explaining that this Turrentine matter ought to be looked
into, and he believed it was not a proper day for him to be otherwise
engaged. Then he sought old Tubal Kittridge.
There's something I want you to do for me, he said.
Shoreshore; anything in the world, Kittridge agreed eagerly.
Aunt Nancy won't hear of my going over to the Turrentines',
hesitated Creed. I looked for them to be heresome of themlong
Huh-uh; ah, Law, nothey won't come in the daytime, smiled
Creed looked annoyed.
They will be welcome, whenever they come, he asserted. What I
want you to do is to go to Jephthah Turrentine and say to him that I
thought I ought to go over, and that I'll do so now if he wants me
toor I'll meet him here at the office, or anywhere he says.
Huh-uhuh! Old Tubal shook his head, his eyes closed in quite an
ecstasy of negation. You cain't git Jep Turrentine in the trap as easy
as all that, he said half contemptuously. Why, he'd know what you was
at a leetle too quick.
Bonbright looked helpless indignation for a moment, then thought
better of it and repeated:
I want you to go and tell him that I'm right here, ready to answer
for anything I've done, and that I would like to talk to him about it.
Will you do it?
Oh,all right, agreed Kittridge in an offended tone. There's
plenty would stand by ye; there's plenty that would like to see the
Turrentines run out of the country; but if ye want to fix it some
new-fangled way I reckon you'll have to. And to himself he muttered as
he took the road homeward, I say go to the Turrentines with sech word
at that! That boy must think I'm as big a fool as he is.
* * * * *
At the Turrentine home life dragged on strangely. Jephthah in his
own cabin, busied himself overhauling some harness. The boys had been
across at the old place, presumably making a thorough inspection of the
scene of the trouble. Judith went mechanically about her tasks, cooking
and serving the meals, setting the house in order. Only once did she
rouse somewhat, and that was when Huldah Spiller flounced in and flung
herself tempestuously down in a chair.
How you come on, Judy? inquired the red-haired damsel.
About as usual, returned Judith coldly, and would fain have added,
none the better for seeing you.
I jest had to run over and see how you was standin' it, Huldah
pursued vivaciously. I cried all nightdidn't you?
What for? inquired Judith angrily.
OhI don't know. I'm jest thataway. Git me started an' thar's no
stoppin' me. But then I've knowed Creed so mighty longhim an' me was
powerful good friends, and my feelin's is more tenderer than some
Huldy, said Judith in a tone so rigidly controlled that it made
the other jump, ef you'll jest walk yo'self out of here I'll be
obliged to you. I've stood all I can. I don't want to say anything
plumb bad to you, but ef you set thar an' talk to me like that for
another minute I will.
Oh, you po' thing! cried Huldah, jumping to her feet. I declare
to goodness I forgot all about you an' Blatch. Here I've been carryin'
on over Creed Bonbrightand you mighty near a widder. You po' thing!
Judith faced around with such blazing eyes from the biscuits she was
moulding that Huldah beat a hasty retreat, dodged out of the door, and
ran up the slope. At Jim Cal's cabin she paused and looked about her
uncertainly. Iley had the toothache, and for various reasons was
proving a poor audience for her younger sister's conversation. The day
had been a trying one to Huldah's excited nerves, a sad anti-climax
after the explosions of the night before. It was five o'clock. The men
were all over at the old place. If she but had an excuse to follow
them, now. Why, the whole top of the Bald above Foeman's Bluff, and the
broad shelf below it, were covered with huckleberry bushes! She put her
head in at the door. Iley looked up from the hot brick which she was
wrapping in a wet cloth with ten drops of turpentine on it preparatory
to applying the same to her cheek above the swollen tooth.
Ef you say 'Creed Bonbright'or 'kill'or 'Blatch
Turrentine,'to me, I vow I'll hit ye, she warned shrilly. I ain't
never raised hand on ye yet sence ye was a woman grown, but do it I
I wasn't goin' to say nothin' about nothin', asserted Huldah
sweepingly. I was jest goin' to ax did ye want any huckleberries, and
git a pail to pick some.
She sought out a small tin lard bucket as she spoke, and Iley's
silence presumably assenting, within twenty minutes was picking away
eagerly on the Bald above the bluff.
Below her stretched meadows drunk with sunbreathless. A rain crow
called from time to time C-c-c-cow! cow! cow! The air was still heavy
with faint noon-day smells, the sky tarnished with heat.
I wonder where in all creation them boys has got theirselves to,
she ruminated as she peered about, dragging green berries and leaves
into her bucket, for which Mrs. Jim Cal would afterward no doubt scold
her soundly. 'Pears to me like I hearn somebody talkin' somewhars.
She pushed cautiously down to the edge of the rocks where the bushes
grew scatteringly, pretending to herself that she wanted a bit of wild
geranium that flourished in a crevice far below the top. Setting down
her pail she threw herself on her face, her arms over the edge, and
reached. But the fingers hung suspended, opened in air, her mouth open
too, and she listened greedily to faint sounds of men's voices.
I'll bet it's old Ab Foeman's hideout that nobody but him and the
Cherokees knowed of, she muttered to herself. Some one's found it
andLord, look at that!
From the bushes below her, coming apparently out of the living rock
itself, crept Andy, and then Jeff Turrentine. Now she could see the
narrow, door-like opening of the cave which had given them up, and
realised how, from below, it passed for a mere depression in the rock.
Huldah drew back silently, inch by inch, and instinctively pulled
her black calico sunbonnet over her red curls as she crouched down
among the huckleberry bushes. When she looked again Andy and Jeff had
disappeared, but she could see the head and shoulders of a man who
still lay at the cave's mouthand that man was Blatch Turrentine!
At first she shuddered, thinking that she had come upon the dead
body; then she noted a tiny trail of smoke, and, by craning a little
farther around, saw that Blatchley lay at ease with a pipe in his
The triflin', low-down, lyin' hound! she muttered to herself. I'm
a-goin' this very minute and tell Creed Bonbright.
She hesitated, glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the
Turrentine cabin, then bent dubiously and set up her overturned bucket.
Not a berry had spilled from it, yet the sight of its mishap gave her
an idea. Quietly slipping through the bushes till she was far enough
away to dare run, she hurried home to the cabin.
Iley, she gasped, as soon as she put her head in at the door, I
upsot my berry pail and lost most of the fruit. Can you make out with
that? and she set the little bucket on the table.
I reckon I'll have to, ef you've got so work-brickle ye won't pick
any more, returned Iley.
I wouldI'd git ye all ye need, protested Huldah with unexpected
meekness, but I'm jest obliged to go over to she had all but said
Creed Bonbright's, but she caught herself in time and concluded lamely.
I jest have obliged to run down to Clianthy Lusk's and see can she let
me have her crochet needle for to finish up my shawl.
She delayed for no criticism or demur on Iley's part, but was off
with the last word, and once out of sight of Jim Cal's cabin she took a
short cut through the woods and ran; but in spite of her best efforts
darkness began to gather before she won to the high road, for the
evening had closed in early, thick and threatening; a mountain
thunder-storm was brewing. Opposite a tempestuous, magnificent sunset,
there had reared in the eastern sky a tremendous thunder-head, a palace
of a thousand snowy domes, turning to gold, and then flushing from base
to crown like a gigantic many-petalled rose. It swept steadily up and
over, hiding the sky, and leaving the earth in almost complete
darkness. There were low rolls of thunder, at first mellow and almost
musical, crashing always louder and stronger as they came nearer. The
wind thrashed and yelled through the tossing forest; and as she
approached the Card cabin she heard the banging of barn shutters, the
whipping of tree boughs against the windows. There were the first
spears of rain flung at roof and door; and it was in the torrent itself
which followed fast that Huldah beat upon that closed door, giving her
name and demanding entrance. Within, Creed Bonbright sprang up from
where he sat with a book in his hand, his eyes fixed on vacancy, and
would have answered her, but Old Nancy put a hasty palm over his lips.
Hushfor God's sake, she whispered.
They stood in the lighted cabin, all on foot by this time, and
listened intently, tall Creed, the little grey-haired woman clinging to
him and restraining him, Doss with his light eyes goggling, and Little
Buck and Beezy hand in hand, studying their grandmother's face, not
Who is it? quavered Nancy. I'm all alone in here, and I'm scared
to let wayfarers in.
It's meHuldy SpillerAunt Nancy, called back the voice in the
Well, I vow! You know how things air, Huldywhat do ye want,
I want Creed Bonbright. I've got something to tell him.
Tharye see now, breathed the old woman, turning toward Creed.
Then she raised her voice.
He ain't here, honey, she lied unhesitatingly.
Why don't ye go to his officethat's whar he stays at.
Oh, for the Lord's sakeAunt Nancy! came back the girl's shrill,
terrified tones. I've done been to the office; I know in reason Creed
ain't there, or he'd a-answered me. Please let me in; I'm scared some
of the Turrentines'll come an' ketch me.
At this Creed strode to the door, Nancy dragging back on his arm and
Buck and Beezy seconding her with all their small might, while Provine
spluttered ineffectually in the background.
Hit's a lie, hissed Nancy. She's a decoy. Ef you open that thar
do' with the light on ye, they'll shoot ye over her shoulders. Hit was
did to my man thataway in feud times. Don't you open the do' Creed.
Why, Aunt Nancy, remonstrated Creed, almost smiling, this isn't
like you. There's nothing but a girl there in the rain. Keep out of
range if you're scared. I'm sure going to open that door.
[Illustration: They stood in the lighted cabin and listened
As he made ready to do so Nancy flew back to the table and blew out
the light, and the next minute Huldah Spiller, dripping like a mermaid,
was standing in the middle of the darkened room, and Doss Provine,
breathing short, was barring the door behind her.
Who's here? gasped the girl peering about the gloom. What air
you-all a-goin' to do to me?
Nancy relighted the lamp and set it on the table, and Huldah
discovered with a long-drawn sobbing sigh of relief that there was no
one save the immediate family present.
I came quick as I could, she began in the middle of her story,
grasping Creed by the arm and shaking him in the violence of her
emotion and insistence. Blatch Turrentine's alive. Andy and Jeff have
got him hid out. I seed him myse'f with my own eyes, in a hideout thar
below Foeman's Bluff, not more'n a hour ago. I'll bet he aims to layway
you, ef he cain't git ye hung for murderin' of him. You got to git out
o' here. It was as much as my life was worth to come over and tell ye.
I'm afraid to go back. I'm goin' right on down to Hepzibah and stay
Come up closeter to the fire, commanded Nancy, who had watched the
girl keenly throughout her recital. Doss, put some sticks on and git a
little blaze so she can dry herself. Huldy, you're a good girl to come
over and warn Creedwhen was you aimin' to go to Hepzibah? She looked
up from the hearth where she knelt with the frankest inquiring gaze.
To-nightright now, half whimpered Huldah. I'm scared to go
back. I'm scared to be here on the mountain at all.
And did ye aim to have Creed go along of ye? old Nancy questioned
Yesyeshe'd better, agreed Huldah hysterically. Hit's the
onliest way for him now.
Nancy caught Creed's eye above the girl's drenched head, and shook
her own warningly. Leaving Doss to look after the newcomer, she drew
the young justice into the kitchen.
Whatever ye do, she warned him hastily, don't you put out with
that red-headed gal in the dark. Things may be adzackly as she
sayslooks to me like she thinks she's a-speakin' the truth; but then
agin the Turrentines might a' sent her for to draw you out. They
wouldn't like to shoot ye in my cabin, 'caze they know me and my
kinfolks would be apt to raise a fuss; but halfway down the mountain
with this sweetheart of Wade'shuh-uh, boy; I reckon they could tell
their own tale then, of how you come by yo' death. Don't you go with
I wasn't aiming to, Aunt Nancy, said Creed quietly. As soon as I
heard that Blatch Turrentine was alive, I intended to go right over and
have a talk with old Jephthah. He's a fair-minded man, and if he is
informed that his nephew is living I think he and I can come to terms.
Fa'r-minded man! echoed Nancy contemptuously. Jephthah Turrentine
a fa'r-minded man! Well, Creed, ef I hadn't no better eye for a fat
chicken than you have for a fa'r-minded man, you wouldn't enjoy yo'
dinner at my table as well as you do. I say fa'r-minded! This thing has
got into a feud, boy, and in a feud you cain't trust nobodynobody!
Creed went back into the room, and Nancy reluctantly followed him.
Huldah was getting dry and warm, and that fluent tongue of hers was
impatiently silent. As soon as she saw the returning pair she began to
repeat again the details of her informationhow she had glimpsed the
hidden man through the bushes, how she knew in reason he could be none
other than Blatch. Nancy exchanged a glance of intelligence with Creed.
Ye see! she murmured, aside. Ef she ain't a decoy they've
sont, she don't know nothin' for sartin.
I'm scared of all the Turrentines, Huldah declared. They're awful
folks. From the old man down to Jude, they scare me. I reckon Jude's
had a big hand in this, she went on excitedly. Her and Blatch is
goin' to wed shortly, and she'd be shore to know any meanness he was
into. I'll be glad to git shet of sech. When you're ready to be
a-steppin' Creed, I am.
She looked up at the young fellow with a sort of unwilling worship.
I don't aim to go with you, Huldah, he said gently. You love Wade
Turrentine, and Wade loves you; you was to be wedded this fall. I don't
aim for any affairs of mine to part you two.
The girl hung her head, painfully flushed, her eyes full of tears.
I don't care nothin' about Wade, she choked. Him and me has
I reckon you've quarrelled said Creed, sympathetically. That
needn't come to anything. I'm going over and talk to Jephthah
Turrentine to-morrow morning, and I want you to come with me!
No, said Huldah getting to her feet and looking strangely at him.
The rain's about done now; the moon'll be comin' up in half a
hourI'm a-goin' on down to Hepzibah, like I said I was. Ef Wade
Turrentine wants me, he knows whar to come for me. Ef he thinks of me
as he said he did the last time we had speech togetherw'y, I never
want to put eyes on his face again. OhCreed, I wish't you'd come with
But it was me you quarrelled about, remonstrated Bonbright with
that sudden clear vision which ultra-spiritual natures often show, and
that startling forthrightness of speech which amazes and daunts the
mountaineer. I'm the last man you ought to leave the mountain with,
Huldah, if you want to make up with Wade.
Howhow did you know? whispered the girl, staring at him. Well,
anyhow, I ain't never a-goin' back thar.
She could not be prevailed on to go to bed with Aunt Nancy, when
Doss Provine and the children were asleep, and Creed had gone to his
quarters in the little office building, but sat by the fire all night
staring into the embers, occasionally stirring them or putting on a
stick of wood. At the earliest grey of dawn she waked Nancy, bidding
the elder woman fasten the door after her. Declining in strangely
subdued fashion her hostess's offer of hot coffee, she stepped
noiselessly out and, with a swift look about, dived into the steep
short-cut trail which led almost straight down the face of Big Turkey
Track, from turn to turn of the main road.
A cloud clung to the Side; the foliage of only the foremost trees
emerged from its blur, and these were dimmed and flatted as though a
soft white veil were tangled among their leaves. Into this white
mystery of dawn the girl had vanished.
Nancy looked curiously after her a moment, then glanced swiftly
about as Huldah had done, her eyes dwelling long on Creed's little
shack, standing peaceful in the morning mists. Softly she turned back,
and closed and barred the door.
Chapter XII. In the Lion's Den
At seven o'clock, despite entreaties and warnings, Creed mounted his
mule and set out for the Turrentine place.
Don't you trust nothin' nor nobody over thar, Nancy followed him
out to the gate to reiterate. Old Jephthah Turrentine's as big a
rascal as they' is unhung. NoI wouldn't trust Judith neither (hush
now, Little Buck; you don't know what granny's a-talkin' about); she's
apt to git some fool gal's notion o' being jealous o' Huldy, or
something like that, and see you killed as cheerful as I'd wring a
chicken's neck. (For the Lord's sake, Doss, take these chil'en down to
the spring branch; they mighty nigh run me crazy with they' fussin' an'
cryin'!) Don't you trust none on 'em, boy.
Why, Aunt Nancy, I trust everybody on that whole place, excepting
Blatchley Turrentine, said Creed sturdily. Even Andy and Jeff, if I
had a chance to talk to them, could be got to see reason. They're not
the bloodthirsty crew you make them out. They're good folks.
She looked at him in exasperation, yet with a sort of reluctant
approval and admiration.
Well, she sighed, as she saw him mount and start, mebbe yo' safer
goin' right smack into the lion's den, like Dan'el, than you would be
to sneak up.
Summer was at full tide, and the world had been new washed last
night. Scents of mint and pennyroyal rose up under his mule's slow
pacing feet. The meadow that stretched beyond Nancy's cabin was a green
sea, with flower foam of white weed and dog-fennel; and the fence row
was a long breaker with surf of elder blossom, the garden a tangle of
bean-vine arbours. The corn patch rustled valiantly; the pastures were
streaked with pale yellow primroses; and Bob Whites ran through the
young crops, calling.
Creed rode forward. A gay wind was abroad under the blue sky. Every
tiniest leaf that danced and flirted on its slender stem sent back
gleams of the morning sunlight from its wet, glistening surface. The
woods were full of bird songs, and the myriad other lesser voices of a
midsummer morning sounded clear and distinct upon the vast, enfolding
silence of the mountains.
It seemed beyond reason out in that gay July sunshine that anything
dark or tragic could happen to one. But after all man cannot be so
different from Nature which produces him, and the night before had
given them a passionate, brief, destructive thunder-storm. Creed noted
the ravages of it here and there; the broken boughs, the levelled or
uprooted herbage, the washed and riven soil, as his mule moved soberly
At the Turrentine cabin all was quiet. The young men of the house
had been out the entire night before guarding the trails that Creed
Bonbright should not leave the mountains secretly. A good deal of
moonshine whiskey went to this night guarding, particularly when there
was the excuse of a shower to call for it, and the watchers of the
trails now lay in their beds making up arrears of sleep. Jephthah stood
looking out of his own cabin door when, about fifteen minutes ahead of
Creed, Taylor Stribling tethered his half-broken little filly in the
bushes at the edge of the clearing, and ran across the grassy side
Bonbright's out an' a-headin' this way! he volleyed in a hoarse
whisper as he approached the head of the clan.
Who's with him? asked Jephthah, turning methodically back into the
room for the squirrel gun over the door.
Nobody. He ain't got no rifle. I reckon he's packin' a pistol,
though, of course. Nancy Cyard bawled an' took on considerable when he
started. Shall I call the boys?
No, returned Jephthah briefly, replacing the clean brown rifle on
its fir pegs. No, I don't need nobody, and I don't need Old Sister. I
reckon I can deal with one young feller alone.
He walked unhurriedly toward the main house. Stribling stood looking
after him a moment, uncertainly. The spy's errand was performed. He had
now his dismissal; it would not do to be seen about the place at this
time. He went reluctantly back to the waiting filly, mounted and turned
her head toward a high point that commanded the big road for some
distance. A little later Jephthah Turrentine sat in the open
threshing-floor porch of the main house smoking, Judith within was busy
looking over and washing a mess of Indian lettuce and sissles in a
piggin, when Creed rode into the yard.
The ancient hound thumped twice with a languid tail on the floor;
Judith, back in her kitchen, stayed her hand, and stared out at the
newcomer with parted lips which the blood forsook; Jephthah's
inscrutable black eyes rose to Creed's face and rested there; nothing
but that aspect, pale, desolate, ravaged, the strip of plaster running
from brow to cheek, marked the difference between this visit and any
Yet the old house seemed to crouch close, to regard him askance from
under lowering eyes, as though through all its timbers ran the message
that the enemy was here.
Good morning, he hailed.
Howdy. 'Light'light and come in, Jephthah adjured him, without
rising, I'm proud to see ye.
His own countenance was worn and haggard with sleeplessness and
anxiety, but with the mountaineer's dignified reticence he passively
ignored the fact, assuming a detached manner of mild jocularity.
Creed, under inspection from six pairs of eyes, though there was
only one individual visible to him, got from his mule, tethered the
animal, and came and seated himself on the porch edge.
Aunt Nancy didn't want me to come over this morning, he began with
that directness which always amazed his Turkey Track neighbours and put
them all astray as to the man, his real meaning and intentions.
Well, nowdidn't she? inquired the other innocently. Hit was a
fine mornin' for a ride, too, and I 'low ye' had yo' reasons for comin'
in this directionnot but what we're proud to see ye on business or on
Are any of the boys about? asked Creed, suddenly looking up.
I don't know adzackly whar the boys is at, compromised Jephthah,
soothing his conscience with the fiction that one might be lying in one
bed and another in some place to him unknown. Was there any particular
one you wanted to see?
I was looking for Wade, said Creed briefly, and a silent shock
went through one of the men kneeling on the bed inside the log wall,
peering through a chink at the visitor.
Judith could bear the strain no longer. Torn by diverse emotions,
she snatched up a bucket, ran out of the back door and down to the
spring. Returning with it, and her composure somewhat repaired, she
dipped a cool and dripping gourdful, walked swiftly through the front
room and stood abruptly before Creed, presenting it with almost no word
of greeting, only the customary, Would ye have a fresh drink?
Thank you, said Creed taking the gourd from her hand and lifting
his eyes to her face. He needed no prompting now; his own heart spoke
very clearly; he knew as he looked at her that she was all the world to
himand that he was utterly lost and cut off from her.
Jephthah, on the porch, and those unseen eyes within, watched the
two curiously, while Creed drank from the gourd, emptied out what water
remained, and returned it to Judith, and she all the while regarded him
with a burning gaze, finally bursting out:
What do you want to see Wade about? Is itis it Huldy?
Yes, Miss Judith, it's Huldah, Creed assented quietly.
I don't know as its worth while talkin' to Wade about that thar
gal, put in Jephthah meditatively. She sorter sidled off last night
and left the place, and I think he feels kinder pestered and mad like.
My boys is all mighty peaceful in their dispositions, but it ain't the
best to talk to any man when he's had that which riles him.
Whar is Huldy Spiller? demanded Judith standing straight and tall
before the visitor, disdaining the indirection of her uncle's methods.
Is she over at you-all's?
That's what I wanted to talk to Wade about, returned Creed
evasively. Huldah's a good girl, and I'm sorry if he thinksI'd hate
to be the one that
For a moment Judith stared at him with incredulous anger, then she
wheeled sharply, went into the house and shut the door. Creed turned
appealingly to the older man. He had great faith in Jephthah
Turrentine's good sense and cool judgment. But the young justice showed
in many ways less comprehension of these, his own people, than an
outsider born and bred. Jephthah Turrentine was no longer to be
reckoned with as a manhe was the head of a tribe, and that tribe was
I don't know as that thar gal is worth namin' at this time, he
vouchsafed, almost plaintively. Ef she had taken Jim Cal's Iley 'long
with her, I could fergive the both of 'em and wish ye joy. As it is,
she's neither here nor thar. Ef you had nothin' better to name to my
son Wade, mebbe we'd as well talk of the craps, and about Steve
Massengale settin' out to run for the Legislature.
Creed stood up, and in so doing let the little packet of papers he
held in his hand drop unnoted to the grass. He scorned to make an
appeal for himself, yet it seemed worth while to let his adversaries
know that he was aware what they would be at.
Who found Blatch Turrentine's body and removed it? he asked
Blatch's body,unknown to his uncle and Judithat that moment
reposing comfortably upon a bed in the loft room adjoining the porch,
heaved with noiseless chuckles.
Old Jephthah's eyes narrowed. We 'low that ye might answer that
question for yo'self, he said coolly. Word goes that you've done hid
the body, so murder couldn't be proved.
The visitor sighed. He was disappointed. He had hoped the old man
might have admittedto himthat Blatch had not been killed.
Mr. Turrentine, he began desperately, I know what you people
believe about mebut it isn't true; I'm not a spy. When I came upon
that still, I was running for my life. I never wanted to know anything
about blockaded stills.
Ye talked sort o' like ye did, here earlier in the evenin', said
the old man, rearing himself erect in his chair, and glaring upon the
fool who spoke out in broad daylight concerning such matters.
I didn't mean that personally, protested Creed. I wish to the
Lord I didn't know anything about it. I'm sorry it chanced that I
looked in the cave there and saw your son
You needn't go into no particulars about whar you looked in, nor
what you seed, nor call out no names of them you seed, cut in the old
man's voice, low and menacing; and around the corner of the house Jim
Cal, where he had stolen up to listen, trembled through all the soft
bulk of his body like a jelly; and into his white face the angry blood
Wish ye didn't know nothin? Yes, and you'll wish't it wuss'n that
befo' yo're done with it, he muttered under his breath.
I don't intend to use that or any other information against a
neighbour and a friend, Creed went on doggedly. But they can't make
me leave the Turkey Tracks. I'm here to stay. I came with a work to do,
and I mean to do it or die trying.
The old man's head was sunk a bit on his breast, so that the great
black beard rose up of itself and shadowed his lower face. Mighty
finemighty fine, he murmured in its voluminous folds. Ef they is
one thing finer than doin' what you set out to do, hit's to die
a-tryin'. The sort of sentiments you have on hand now is the kind I
l'arned myself out of the blue-backed speller when I was a boy. I mind
writin' em out big an' plain after the teacher's copy.
Creed looked about him for Judith. He had failed with the old man,
but she would understandshe would know. His hungry heart counselled
him that she was his best friend, and he glanced wistfully at the door
through which she had vanished; but it remained obstinately closed as
he made his farewells, got dispiritedly to his mule and away.
Judith watched his departure from an upper window, smitten to the
heart by the drooping lines of the figure, the bend of the yellow head.
Inexorably drawn she came down the steep stairs, checking, halting at
every step, her breast heaving with the swift alternations of her mood.
The door of the boys' room swung wide; her swift glance descried Wade's
figure just vanishing into the grove at the edge of the clearing.
The tall, gaunt old man brooded in his chair, his black eyes fixed
on vacancy, the pipe in his relaxed fingers dropped to his knee. Up
toward the Jim Cal cabin Iley, one baby on her hip and two others
clinging to her skirts, dodged behind a convenient smoke-house, and
peered out anxiously.
Judith stepped noiselessly into the porch; the old man did not turn
his head. Her quick eye noted the paper Creed had dropped. She stooped
and picked it up unobserved, slipped into the kitchen, studying its
lines of figures which meant nothing to her, caught up her sunbonnet
and, glancing warily about, made an exit through the back door. She ran
through a long grape-arbour where great wreathing arms of Virgin's
Bower aided to shut the green tunnel in from sight, then took a path
where tall bushes screened her, making for the short cut which she
guessed Creed would take.
Down the little dell through which she herself had ridden that first
day with what wonderful thoughts of him in her heart, she got sight of
him, going slowly, the lagging gait of the old mule seeming to speak
his own depression. The trees were all vigorous young second growth
here, and curtained the slopes with billows of green. The drying ground
sent up a spicy mingling of odoursdecaying pine needles, heart leaf,
wintergreen berries, and the very soil itself.
Bumblebees shouldered each other clumsily about the heads of
milk-weed blossoms. Cicada droned in long, loud crescendo and
diminuendo under the hot sun of mid forenoon. A sensitive plant, or as
Judith herself would have said, a shame briar, caught at her skirts
as she hastened. Dipping deeper into the hollow, the man ahead, riding
with his gaze upon the ground, became aware of the sound of running
feet behind him, and then a voice which made his pulses leap called his
name in suppressed, cautious tones. He looked back to see Judith
hurrying after him, her cheeks aflame from running, the sunbonnet
carried in her hand, and her dark locks freeing themselves in little
moist tendrils about her brow where the tiny beads of perspiration
You dropped this, she panted, offering the paper when she came
abreast of him.
For a moment she stood by the old mule's shoulder looking up into
the eyes of his rider. It was the reversal of that first day when Creed
had stood so looking up at her. Some memory of it struggled in her, and
appealed for his life, anyhow, from that fierce primitive jealousy
which would have sacrificed the lover of the other woman.
II knowed the paper wasn't likely anything you needed, she told
him. I jest had to have speech with you alone. I want to warn you. The
boys is out after you. They ain't no hope, ef the Turrentines gits
after you. Likely we're both watched right now. You'll have to leave
Creed got quickly from the mule and stood facing her, a little pale
and very stern.
Do you hold with them? he asked. I had no intention of killing
Blatch. The quarrel was forced on me, as they would say if they told
Well, they won't tell the truth, said Judith impatiently. What
differ does it make how come it? They're bound to run ye out. Hit's a
question of yo' life ef ye don't go. II don't know what makes me come
an' warn yebut you and Huldy had better git to the settlement as soon
as ye can.
Creed saw absolutely nothing in her coupling of his name with Huldah
Spiller's, but the fact that both were under the displeasure of the
Turrentines. She searched his face with hungry gaze for some sign of
denial of that which she imputed. Instead, she met a look of swift
I've got to see Wade about Huldah, Creed asserted doggedly. I
promised herI told her
Judith drew back.
Well, see Wade then! she choked. There he is, and she pointed to
the wall of greenery behind which her quicker eyes had detected a man
who stole, rifle on shoulder, through the bushes toward a point by the
What do I care? she flung at him. What is it to me?you and your
Huldy, and your grand plans, and your killin' up folks and a-gittin'
run out o' the Turkey Tracks! Settle it as best ye mayI've said my
Her breast heaved convulsively. Bitter, corroding tears burned in
her flashing eyes; rage, jealousy, thwarted passion, tenderness denied,
and utter terror of the outcomethe time afterall these tore her
like wild wolves, as she turned and fled swiftly up the path she had
The pale young fellow with the marred, stricken face, standing by
the mule, looked after her heavily. Those flying feet were carrying
away from him, out of his life, all that made that life beautiful and
blest. Yet Creed set his jaw resolutely, and facing about once more,
addressed himself to the situation as it was.
WadeWade Turrentine! he called. Come out of there. I see you.
Come out and talk to me.
With all the composure in life Wade slouched into the opening of the
You've got good eyes, was his sole comment. Then, as the other
seemed slow to begin, What might you want speech with me about? he
It's about Huldah, Creed opened the question volubly now. You
love her, and she loves you. She came over to warn me because we are
old acquaintances and friends, and I guess she don't want you to get
into trouble. Is it true that her life is not safe if she stays here on
Wade's pleasant hazel eyes narrowed and hardened.
You're a mighty busy somebody about things that don't consarn ye,
he remarked finally.
But this does concern me, Creed insisted. I can't be the cause of
breaking up a match between you and Huldah
He would have gone further, but Wade interrupted shaking his head.
NoI reckon you cain't. Hit'd take more than you to break up any
match I was suited with. Mebbe I don't want no woman that's liable to
hike out and give me away whenever she takes the notion.
Oh, come now, Wade, said Bonbright, with good-natured entreaty in
his voice. You know she wouldn't give you away. She didn't mean any
harm to you. I'll bet you've done plenty of things twice as bad, if
Huldah had the knowing of them.
Mebbe I have, agreed Wade, temperately, and suddenly one saw the
resemblance to his father. Mebbe I havebut ye see I ain't the one
that's bein' met up with right now. I ain't carin' which nor whether
about Huldy Spiller; but you've got to walk yo'self from the
Turkey Tracksand walk sudden and walk straight, Mr. Creed
Bonbrightor you'll come to more trouble with the Turrentines. I tell
ye this in pure good will.
Chapter XIII. In the Night
In dark silence Judith made ready a late breakfast for the boys,
leaving her coffee-pot as of custom on its bed of coals in the ashes,
hot bread in the Dutch oven, and a platter of meat on the table. Jeff
and Andy straggled in and ate, helping themselves mutely, with sidelong
glances at her stormy face.
During the entire forenoon Wade was off the place, but the twins put
in their time at the pasture over the breaking of a colt to harness.
Old Jephthah was in his room with the door shut. Jim Cal, almost
immediately on Creed's departure, had retired to the shelter of his own
four walls, and, sick and trembling, taken to his bed, after his usual
custom when the skies of life darkened.
Dinner was got ready with the same fury of mechanical energy. During
its preparation Iley stole to the door and looked in. The only women on
the place, held outside the councils of the men, she longed to make
some unformulated appeal to Judith, to have at least such help and
comfort as might come from talking over the situation with her. But
when the desolate dark eyes looked full into hers, and uttered as
plainly as words the question that the sister dreaded, Jim Cal's wife
turned and fled.
She might as well 'a' said 'Huldy,' whimpered the vixen, plucking
at her lip and hurrying back, head down, to her own cabin.
The day dragged its slow length. The sun in the doorway had crept to
the noon-mark, and away again. Flies buzzed. A cicada droned without.
The old hound padded in to lie down under the bed.
After dinner Jephthah went away somewhere, and the boys gathered in
their room, whence Judith could hear the clink and snap which advised
her that the guns were having a thorough overhauling, cleaning, and
oiling. She looked helplessly at the door. What could she do? Follow
Creed as Huldah had done? At the thought, all her bitterness surged
back upon her. What had she been able to accomplish when she stood face
to face alone with him on the woods-path? Nothing. She turned and
addressed herself once more savagely to her tasks. That was what women
were forwomen and mules. Men had the say-so in this world. Sheshe
the owner of this house, its real mistresswas to cook three meals a
day for the men folks, and see nothing and say nothing.
Supper was the only meal at which the entire family gathered that
day. It was eaten in an almost unbroken silence, the younger boys
plainly hesitating to speak to either Judith or their father. Save for
elliptical requests for food, the only conversation was when Wade
offered the opinion that it looked like it might rain before morning,
and his father replied that he did not think it would. Leaving the
table without further word, Jephthah returned to his own quarters; the
boys drifted away one by one giving no destination.
The light that used to wink out in friendly fashion from the smaller
cabin across the slope was darkened. Jim Cal had crawled out of bed
after a somewhat prolonged conversation with Wade. A little later he
had sullenly harnessed up a mule of Blatch's and, with Iley and the
children, started for old Jesse Spiller's, out at Big Buck Gap, the
sister maintaining to the last that Huldah must certainly have gone out
to pap's, and would be found waiting for them at the old home.
There was nobody left on the place but Judith and her uncle. The
girl went automatically about her Saturday evening duties, working
doggedly, trying to tire herself out so that she might sleep when the
time came that there was nothing to do but go to bed. As she passed
from her storeroom, which she had got Wade to build in the back end of
the threshing-floor porch, to the great open fireplace where a kettle
hung with white beans boiling that would be served with dumplings for
the Sunday dinner, as she took down and sorted over towels and cloths
that were not needed, but which made a pretext for activity, her mind
ground steadily upon the happenings of the past days. She could see
Creed's face before her as he had looked the night of the play-party.
What coarse, crude animals the other men were beside him! She could
hear his voice as it spoke to her in the dark yard at the Bonbright
place, and her breath caught in her throat.
She must be up and away; she must go to him and warn him, protect
him against these her fierce kindred.
Then suddenly came the vision of Creed's laughing mouth as he bent
to claim the forfeited kiss when Huldah Spiller had openly pushed
herself across the line and mighty nigh into his arms. Huldah had run
hot-foot to warn him. Arley Kittridge brought word of having seen her
dodge into the Card orchard on her way to the house on the evening
before, and nobody had had sight of her since.
Judith's was a nature swayed by impulse, more capable than she
herself was aware of noble action, but capable also of sudden,
irrational cruelty. Just now her soul was at war with itself,
embittered by rage, by what she had done, by what she had left undone,
by her helplessness, by what she desired to do. Finally, despairing of
any weariness bringing sleepshe had tried that the night before and
failedshe put by her work and went up to her room, undressed and lay
down in the dark.
For a long time she interrogated the blackness about her with wide
open eyes. The house was strangely still. She could hear the movement
and squawk of a chicken in one of the trees in the side yard when some
fellow lodger disturbed it, or a sudden breeze shook the limb upon
which it roosted. She wondered if the boys had come back yet and
slipped in quietly. Had she slept at all? About eleven o'clock there
arose an unquiet, gusty, yet persistent wind, that moved the cedar tree
against the edge of the porch roof and set it complaining. For a time
it moaned and protested like a man under the knife. Then its deep
baritone voice began to cry out as though it were calling upon her. The
tree had long ceased to mean anything other than Creed to Judith, and
now its outcry aroused her to an absolute terror. Again and again as
the wind the tree, so those tones shook her heart with their pain and
love and anguish of entreaty.
Finally she arose in a kind of torture, slipped on her clothes and
went through all the rooms. They were silent and empty. Not a bed had
been disturbed. She breathed loud and short in irrepressible
They're all over at the still, she whispered, clutching at the
breast of her dress, and shivering. But the old man never went near the
still, she knew that. For a while she struggled with herself, and then
she said, I'll just go and listen outside of Uncle Jep's door. That
won't do any harm. Ef so be he's thar, then the boys is shore at the
still. Ef he ain't
She left her mentally formed sentence unfinished and, on feet that
fear winged, stole through the side yard, across the long, lush, uncut
grass to her uncle's door.
The old man must have been a light sleeper, or perhaps he was awake
before she approached, for he called out while she yet stood
irresolute, her hand stretched toward the big wooden latch.
Startled, abashed, she replied in a choked, hesitating tone.
It's only meJude. I reckon I'm a fool, Uncle Jep. I know in
reason there ain't nothin' the matter. But I jest couldn't sleep, and I
got up and looked through the house, and the boys is all gone, and I
got sorter scared.
He was with her almost instantly.
I reckon they're all over 'crost the gulch, he said in his usual
unexcited fashion, though she noted that he did not go back into his
room, but joined her where she lingered in the dark outside.
Of course they air, she reassured herself and him. Whar else
could they be?
Now I'm up, I reckon I mought go over yon myself, the old man said
finally. My foot hurts me this evening; I believe I'll ride Pete. I
took notice the boys had all the critters up for an early start in the
Both knew that this was a device for investigating the stables, and
together they hurried to the huddle of low log buildings which served
to house forage and animals on the Turrentine place. Not a hoof of
anything to ride had been left. The boys would not have taken mules or
horse to go to the stillso much was certain. In the light of the
lantern which Jephthah lit the two stood and looked at each other with
a sort of consternation. Then the old man fetched a long breath.
Go back to the house, Jude, he said not unkindly, putting the
lantern into her hand; and without another word he set off down the
road running hard.
Chapter XIV. The Raid
Earlier that same Saturday evening, while Judith Barrier was
fighting out her battle, and trying to tire down the restless spirit
that wrung and punished her, Nancy Card, mindful of earlier experiences
in feud times, was getting her cabin in a state of defence.
You know in reason them thar Turrentines ain't a-goin' to hold off
long, she told Creed. They're pizen fighters, and they allus aim to
hit fust. No, you don't stay out in that thar office, as Creed made
this proffer, stating that it would leave her and her family safer. I
say stay in the office! Why, them Turrentines would ask no better than
one feller for the lot of 'em to jump onthey could make their brags
about it the longest day they live of how they done him up.
So it came to pass that Creed was sitting in the big kitchen of the
Nancy Card cabin while Judith wrought at her fruitless labours in her
own home. Despite the time of year, Nancy insisted on shutting the
doors and closing the battened shutters at the windows.
A body gets a lot of good air by the chimney drawin' up when ye
have a bit of fire smokin', she said. I'd ruther be smothered as to
be shot, anyhow.
Little Buck and Beezy, infected by the excitement of their elders,
refused peremptorily to go to bed. Let me take the baby, said Creed
holding out his arms. She's always good with me. She can go to sleep
in my lap.
Beezy won't go to sleep in nobody's lap, that young lady
announced with great finality. Beezy never go to sleep no
All right, agreed the young fellow easily, cutting short a futile
argument upon the grandmother's part. You needn't go to sleep if you
can stay awake, honey. You sit right here in Creed's lap and stay awake
till morning and keep him good company, won't you?
The red head nodded till its flying frazzles quivered like tongues
of flame. Then it snuggled down on the broad breast, that moved
rhythmically under it, and very soon the long lashes drooped to the
flushed cheeks and Beezy was asleep.
Aunt Nancy had picked up Little Buck, but that young man had the
limitations of his virtues. Being silent by nature he had not so much
to keep him awake as the loquacious Beezy, and by the time his father
on the other side of the hearth had dropped asleep and nearly fallen
into the fire a couple of times, been sternly admonished by the
grandmother, and gone to fling himself face down upon a bed in the
corner, Little Buck was sounder asleep than his sister.
The old woman got up and carried her grandson to the bed, laid him
down upon it and, taking basin and towel, proceeded to wipe the dusty
small feet before she took off his minimum of clothing and pushed him
in between the sheets.
Minds me of a foot-washin' at Little Shiloh, she ruminated.
Here's me jest like the preacher and here's Little Buck gettin' all
the sins of the day washed off at once.
She completed her task, and was taking Beezy from Creed's arms to
lay her beside her brother on the bed, when a taptaptapping,
apparently upon the window shutter, brought them both to their feet,
staring at each other with pale faces.
What's that? breathed Nancy. Hushhit'll come again. Don't you
answer for your life, Creed. Ef anybody speaks, let it be me.
Again the measured rapraprap!
You let my Nick in, murmured Beezy sleepily, and Creed laughed out
in sudden relief. It was the wooden-legged rooster, coming across the
little side porch and making his plea for admission as he stepped.
Something in the incident brought the situation of affairs home to
Creed Bonbright as it had not been before.
Aunt Nancy, he said resolutely, I'm going to leave right now and
walk down to the settlement. I've got no business to be here putting
you and the children in danger. It's a case of fool pride. They told me
down at Hepzibah that I'd be run out of the Turkey Tracks inside of
three months if I tried to set up a justice's office here. I felt sort
of ashamed to go back and face them and own up that they were
rightthat I had been run out. I ought to have been too much of a man
to feel that way. It makes no difference what they saythe only thing
that counts is that I have failed.
You let me catch you openin' that do' or steppin' yo' foot on the
road to-night! snorted Nancy belligerently. Why, you fool boy, don't
you know all the roads has been guarded by the Turrentines ever since
they fell out with ye? They 'lowed ye would run of course, and they
aimed to layway ye as ye went. I could have told 'em ye wasn't the
runnin' kind; but thar, what do they know about
She broke off suddenly, her mouth open, and stood staring with
fear-dilated eyes at Creed.
Hello! came the hail from outside.
Nancy let the baby slip from her arms to the floor, and the little
thing stood whimpering and rubbing her eyes, clinging to her
Hushhush! cautioned the old woman, barely above her breath.
Hello! Hello in thar! You better answerwe see yo' light. Hello in
Whosevoiceis that? breathed old Nancy.
It sounded like Blatch Turrentine's, Creed whispered back as
Hit do, she agreed with conviction.
Suddenly a shot rang out, and Doss Provine sat up on the edge of the
bed with a gurgle of terror. Little Buck wakened at the same instant,
and ran to his grandmother.
I ain't scared, Granny, he asseverated, I kin fight fer ye.
Hushhush! cautioned Nancy, bending to gather in the sun-burned
tow head at her knee.
Another shot followed, and after it a voice crying,
You've got Creed Bonbright in thar. You let him come out and talk
to us, or we'll batter yo' do' in.
You Andyyou Jeff! shouted the old woman in sudden rage. Ef you
want Creed Bonbright you know whar to find him. You go away and let my
You quit callin' out names, Nancy Cyard, responded the first,
menacing voice out of the darkness. We know Bonbright's in thar, and
we aim to have him outor burn yo' houseaccordin' to yo' ruthers.
Creed had parted his lips to answer them, when old Nancy sprang at
him and set her hand over his open mouth.
You hushand keep hushed! she whispered urgently.
I just wanted to call to the boys and tell them I'm here, Creed
whispered to her. Aunt Nancy, I'm bound to go out there and talk to
them fellows. I cain't stay in here and let you and the children suffer
Aw, big-mouthed, big-talkin' broodwhat do I keer for them?
demanded Nancy, tossing her head with a characteristic motion to get
the grey curls away from her fearless blue eyes; whereupon the tucking
comb slipped down and had to be replaced, You ain't a-goin' out thar,
she whispered vehemently from under her raised arm, as she redded back
the straying locks with it. Nancy had the reckless, dare-devil courage
those blue eyes bespoke. Presuming a bit, perhaps, on her age and sex,
she yet ran risks that many men would have shunned without deeming
themselves cowards. You ain't a-goin' out thar, I tell ye, she
reiterated. I wouldn't let ye ef they burnt the house down over our
heads. Pony'll be along pretty shortly from Hepzibah, and when he sees
'em I reckon he's got sense enough to git behind a bush and fire at
'emthat'll scatter 'em.
As if inspired to destroy this one slender hope, the voice outside
spoke again, tauntingly.
Nancy Cyard, we've got yo' son Pony herepicked him up on the
roadan' ef yo'r a mind to trade Creed Bonbright for him, we'll trade
even. Better dicker with us. Somepin' bad might happen this young 'un.
At the words, Creed wheeled and made for the door, Nancy gripping
him frantically but mutely.
Creedboyhoney!she breathed at last, they's mo' than one
kind o' courage. This is jest fool courageto go an' git yo'se'f
killed up. Them Turrentines won't hurt Pone. But youoh, my Lord!
I reckon ye better let him go, maw, Doss Provine chattered from
the bed's edge where he still crouched. Hit's best that it should be
one, ruther than all of us.
Old Nancy flung him a glance of wordless contempt. Beezy ran and
tangled herself in the tall young fellow's legs, halting him.
Creed, the old woman urged, still below her breath, holding to his
arm. Creed, honey, as soon as you open that do' and stand in the
light, yo'r no better than a dead man. Listen!
All caution had been thrown aside by the besiegers. Hoarse voices
questioned and answered outside, sounds of stumbling footsteps
surrounded the house.
Boys, called Creed in that clear, ringing voice of his that held
neither fear nor great excitement, I'm coming out to talk to you. Aunt
Nancy, take the children away. You've got it to do.
Well, come on, replied the voice without. Talkthat's all we
want. You'll be as safe outside as inand a damn' sight safer.
Nancy gathered up her youngsters, flung them in a heap into their
father's lap, and, overturning and putting out the candle as she went,
sprang to the hearth to quench a small flame which had risen among the
Ye might have some sense! she panted angrily. The idea of walkin'
yo'se'f into a lighted doorway for them fellers to shoot at! For God's
sake don't open that do' till I get the lights out!
But Creed was not listening. He had pulled the big pine bar that
held the battened door in place, and now flung it wide, stepping to the
threshold and beginning again,
He uttered no further word. A rifle spoke, a bullet sang, passed
through the cabin and buried itself in the old-fashioned chimneypiece.
Creed fell where he stood. As he went down across the threshold, Nancy
whirling around to the door, bent over his prostrate form.
Outside, the ruddy, shaken shine from a couple of lightwood torches
which stood alone, where they had been thrust deep into the garden
mould made strange gouts and blotches of colour on Nancy's flower beds.
A group of men halted, drawn together, muttering, just beyond the
palings. Each had a handkerchief tied across the lower part of his
face, a simple but effectual disguise.
Her groping hand came away from the prostrate man, red with blood;
she dashed it across her brow to clear her eyes of blowing hair. At the
moment a figure burst through the grove of saplings by the roadside, a
tall old man whose long black beard blew across his mighty chest that
laboured as he ran. His hat was off in his hand, his face raised; he
had no weapon. With a gasp of relief Nancy recognised him, yet rage
mounted in her, too.
Yescome a-runnin', she muttered fiercely. Come look at what you
and yo'rn have done!
As he leaped into the clearing the old man's great black eyes, full
of sombre fire, swept the scene. They took in the prone figure across
the threshold, the blood upon the doorstone, and on Nancy's brow and
Air ye hurt? Nancy, air ye hurt? he cried, in such a tone as none
there had ever heard from him.
Am I hurt?No! choked the old woman, trying to get a hold on
Creed's broad shoulders and drag him back into the room. I ain't hurt,
but it's no credit to them wolves that you call sons of yo'rn. They've
got Pone out thar, ef they hain't shot him yit. And they've killed the
best man that ever come on this here mountain. Oh, Creedmy pore boy!
You Doss Provine! Come here an' he'p me lift him. She reared herself
on her knees and glared at the group by the gate. He had no better
sense than to take ye for mento trust the word ye give, that he was
safe when he opened the do'. Don't you come a step nearer, Jep
Turrentine, she railed out at him suddenly, as the old man drew toward
the gate. I've had a plenty o' you an' yo' sons this night. They're
jest about good enough to shoot me while I'm a-tryin' to git this po'
dead boy drug in the house, an' then burn the roof down over me an' my
baby chil'en. You Doss Provine, walk yo'se'f here an' he'p me.
Doss, who found the presence of Jephthah Turrentine reassuring,
whatever his mother-in-law might say, slouched forward, and between
them they lifted the limp figure.
God knows I don't blame ye, Nancy, muttered the old man in his
beard, as the heavy door was dragged shut, and the bar dropped into
place. Then he advanced upon the men at the palings.
At Jephthah's first appearance the tallest of these had dropped
swiftly back into the shadows on the other side of the road and was
gone. Unsupported, the four or five who were left shuffled uneasily,
beneath the old man's fierce eye.
Where's Pone Cyard? he demanded.
We hain't tetched him, pap. We never seed him. We said that to draw
Huh! ejaculated Jephthah, as though further comment were beyond
him. Git yo' ridin' critters, he gave the short, sharp order. Fetch
Pete to me. And he whirled his back, and stalked out into the main
A hundred yards or so up, there was a sound of hoofs and tearing
bushes, as the boys came through the greenery with their mules. Pete
was led up and the bridle-rein presented in meek silence. By the dim,
presaging light of the little waning moon, delaying somewhere down
below the shoulder of Big Turkey Track, old Jephthah took it, set foot
in stirrup, and made ready to swing to saddle. Then he slowly withdrew
the foot and turned back.
Take them cussed rags off o' yo' faces! he burst out in a fury of
contempt. Now. Who laid out this night's work? Well, speak uphow
Dead silence answered. Of the three who faced him not onelacking
the leader who had skulked away at Jephthah's approachcould have
explained just why he was there. And none of them would betray the man
who had led them there and left them to answer as best they might for
their actions to the head of the tribe.
Uh-huh, I thort so, nodded the old man bitterly, as they yet stood
mute. Ain't got a word to say for yo'selves. No, and they ain't a word
to be said. Yo' sons in my house. I was tharI was standin' with ye
about this business. Why couldn't this be named to me? What call had ye
to sneak around meto make a fool o' me, an' shame me?
He waited. Receiving no response, he concluded as he got to the
You do me thisaway once mo'jest once mo'and hit will be a
With that he gave Pete the rein, and the mule's receding heels flung
dust in the dismayed countenances he left behind him.
Chapter XV. Council of War
The Turrentine clan was gathering for consultation, Judith knew
that. It was Sunday, and much of this unwonted activity passed as the
ordinary Sabbath day coming and going. But there was a steady tendency
of tall, soft-stepping, slow-spoken, keen-eyed males toward old
Jephthah's quarters, and Judith had got dinner for the two long-limbed,
black-avised Turrentine brothers, Hawk and Chantry, from over in Rainy
Gap; and old Turrentine Broyles, a man of Jephthah's age, had ridden in
from Broyles's Mill that morning.
With the natural freedom of movement that Sunday offers, information
from the Card neighbourhood came in easily. Inevitably Judith learned
all the details of last night's raid; and everybody on the place knew
that Creed Bonbright was alive, and that he was not even seriously
wounded. He had been observed through the open door of Nancy's cabin
moving about the rooms inside. Arley Kittridge declared that he had
seen Bonbright, in the grey of early morning, his head bound up and his
left arm in a sling, cross from Nancy's house to his office and back
Sunday brought the Jim Cals home, too. Iley, humiliated and savage,
bearing in her breast galling secret recollections of Pap Spiller's
animadversions on her management of Huldah, raged all day with the
toothache, and a pariah dog might have pitied the lot of the fat man.
All day, as Judith cooked, and washed her dishes, and entertained
her visitors, the events of last night's raid were present with her.
When at the table one of the boys stretched a hand to receive the food
she had prepared, she looked at it with an inward shuddering,
wondering, was this the hand that fired the shot?
All day as she talked to her women visitors of patchwork patterns,
or the making of lye soap, as she admired their babies and sympathised
with their ailments, her mind was busy with the inquiry what part she
should take in the final inevitable crisis. She remembered with a
remorse that was almost shame how, at their last interview, she had
plucked back from Creed her rescuing hand in jealous anger. That big
mother kindness that there was in her spoke for him, pleaded loud for
his life, when her hot passionate heart would have had revenge for his
Yes, she had to save Creed Bonbright if she could, and to be of any
use to him she must know what was planned against him. It was dark by
the time the women-folk had gone their ways and the men remaining had
assembled definitely in old Jephthah's separate cabin. No gleam of
light shone from its one window. Judith watched for some time, then
taking a bucket as a pretext walked down the path to the cow-lot, which
led her close in to the cabin. She could hear as she approached the
murmur of masculine voices. Secure from observation in the darkness,
she crept to the window and listened, her head leaned against the
wooden shutter. Old Jephthah was speaking, and she realised from his
words that she had chanced upon the close of their council.
The big voice came out to her in carefully lowered tones.
Well, Broyles, yo' the oldest, an that's yo' opinion. Hawk an'
Chantry says the same. Now as far as I'm concerned the commanding
accents faltered a littleI'm obliged to agree with you. The matter
has got where we cain't do no other than run him out. I admit it. I'll
say yes to that.
Judith trembled, for she knew they spoke of Creed.
Well, Jep, you better not put too many things in the way, came
accents she recognised as Turrentine Broyles's, or looks like
these-here boys is liable to find theirselves behind bars befo' snow
Huh-uh, agreed the old man's voice. I know whar I'm at. I ain't
lived this long and got through without disgrace or jailin' to take up
with it at my age; but they don't raid no more cabins. I freed my mind
on that last night; I made myself cl'ar; an' that's the one pledge I ax
for. Toll him away from the place and layway him, if you must, to run
him out. But they's to be no killin', an' no mo' shootin' up houses
whar they is women and chil'en. This ain't no feud.
All rightwe've got yo' word for it, have we? inquired Buck
Shalliday eagerly. You'll stand by us?
Suddenly a brand on the hearth flamed up, and Judith peering through
a crack of the board shutter had sight of her uncle standing, his
height exaggerated by the flickering illumination, tall and black on
the hearthstone. About him the faint light fell on a circle of eager,
drawn faces, all set toward him. As she looked he raised his hand above
his head and shook the clenched fist.
I've got obliged to, he groaned. God knows I had nothing against
Creed Bonbright. And I can't say as I've got anything against him yit.
But I've got a-plenty against rottin' in jail. I'd ruther die.
Will ye come with us, pap? Jim Cal instantly put the question, and
as he spoke the light went suddenly out.
No, returned old Jephthah doggedly. I won't make nor meddle. I've
give you my best advice; I sont for Hawk an' Chantry, here, an' for
Turn Broyles, to do the same. We've talked it over fa'r an' squar',
aimin' to have ye do this thing right He broke off, and then amended
sombrely, As near right as sech a thing can be did. But you-all boys
run into this here agin' my ruthers, an' you'll jest have to git out
yo'selves. All I say is, no killin', and no raidin' of folks' homes.
No mo' killin', ye mean,don't ye? asked Jim Cal. The fat
man, goaded beyond reason, was ready to turn and fight at last.
No, I don't, answered his father. When I mean a thing I can find
the words to say it without any advice. As for Blatch bein' killedyou
boys think yo' mighty smart, but you'd show yo' sense to tote fair with
me and tell me all that's goin' on. I wasn't born yesterday. I've seen
interruptions and killin's befo' I seen any of you. An' I'll say right
here in front o' yo' kinfolks that's come to he'p you out with their
counselsan' could do a sight better ef you'd tell 'em the truththat
I never did think it was likely that Creed Bonbright made away with a
body inside of fifteen minutes. That tale's too big for mebut I'm
askin' no questions. Settle it your own waybut for God's sake settle
it. Him knowin' what he does an' havin' been did the way you boys have
done him, he's got to go. Run him outan' run him out quick. Don't you
dare tell me how, nor when, nor what!
Judith started back as the sounds within told her that the men were
groping their way to the door. As she stood concealed by darkness, they
issued, made their quiet adieux, and went over to the fence where she
could hear the stamping of the tethered animals. Cut off from the
house, she retreated swiftly down the path toward the stable and would
have entered, but some instinct warned her back. As she paused
uncertain, hearing footsteps approaching from behind, indefinably sure
that there was danger in front, there sounded a cautious low whistle.
Those who came from the cabin answered it. She drew back beneath one of
the peach-trees by the milking-penthe very one from which Creed had
broken the blossoming switch, with which she reproached him. Flat
against its trunk she crouched, as six men went past her in the gloom.
Who's here? demanded a voice like Blatch Turrentine's, and at the
sound she began suddenly to shudder from head to foot. Then she pulled
herself together. This was no ghost talking. It was the man himself.
Me, answered Jim Cal's unmistakable tones, an' Wade, an' Jeff,
an' Andy. Buck and Taylor's both with usand that's all.
The man within opened the grain-room door, and the six newcomers
Whar's old man Broyles, an' Hawk an' Chantry? questioned Blatch.
They rid off home, said Shalliday.
Well, what does Unc' Jep say? demanded Blatch, plainly not without
Before anyone could answer,
Hark ye! came Jim Cal's tones tremulously. Didn't I hear somebody
outside? Tharwhat was that?
In her excitement and interest Judith had moved nearer with some
I vow, podner, came Blatch's rich, rasping tones. Ef I didn't
know it was you I'd be liable to think they was a shiverin' squinch-owl
in here with us. Buck, step out and scout, will ye? Git back as soon as
ye can, 'caze we're goin' to have a drink.
She heard the rattle of a tin cup against the jug. As she moved
carefully down the way toward the spring, Blatch's voice followed her,
Had to go through hell to get this stuffspies a-follerin' ye
about, an' U.S. marshals a-threatenin' ye with jailmight as well
She dipped her bucket in the spring branch, and bore it dripping up
the path a short way. If Buck Shalliday met her, she had an errand and
an excuse for her presence which might deceive him. When she came
within sight of the stables once more she set down her bucket and stood
listening long. Something moved outside the logs. They had posted their
sentry then. She groaned as she realised that what she had heard was
inadequate and insufficient. The knowledge was there to be had for a
little daring, a little cunning.
Just as she had become almost desperate enough to walk up to the
place and make pretence of being one with them, a stamp from the figure
outside the corner told her that it was a tethered mule instead of a
man. Emboldened she stole nearer, and found a spot where she could
crouch by the wall so hidden among some disused implements that she
might even have dared to let them emerge from their hiding-place and
pass her. Again Blatch was speaking.
Blatchley Turrentine had come to his uncle's house, a youth of
seventeena man, as mountain society reckons things. At that time Andy
and Jeff were seven-year-olds, Wade a big boy of thirteen; and even Jim
Cal, of the same years but less adventurous in nature, had been so
thoroughly dominated by the newcomer that the leadership then
established had never been relinquished. And now the artfully
introduced whiskey had done its work; these boys were quite other than
those who had gone in sober and grave less than half an hour before,
their father's admonitions and the counsels of old man Broyles and
their Turrentine kindred lying strongly upon them.
Judith heard no demur as Blatch detailed their plans.
They's no use to go to Unc' Jep with what I've been a-tellin' ye,
the voice of natural authority proclaimed. I tell ye Polk Sayles says
he's seen Bonbright meet Dan Haley about half way down the Sidethar
whar Big Rock Creek crosses the corner of the Sayles placemo' than
once sense he's been on the mountain. Now with what that man knows, and
with the grudges he's got, you let him live to meet Dan Haley once mo'
and even Unc' Jep is liable to the penitentiarybut tell it to Unc'
Jep an' he won't believe ye. He's got a sort of likin' for the feller.
That's what I say, Jim Cal seconded in a voice which had become
pot-valiant. Pap is a old man, and we-all that air younger have
obliged to take care on him.
At any other time these pious sentiments would have brought a volley
of laughter from Blatchley, but this evening Judith judged from the
sounds that he clapped the fat man on the shoulder as he said heartily:
Mighty right you air, James Calhoun. Unc' Jep is one of the finest
men that ever ate bread, but his day is pretty well over. Ef we went by
him and old man Broyles and Hawk and Chantry, we'd find ourselves in
trouble mighty shortly. They's but one way to toll Bonbright out to
whar we want him. We've got to send word that Unc' Jep will meet him at
moonrise and talk to him. The fool is plumb crazy about talkin' to
folks, and looks like he cain't get it through his head that Unc' Jep
ain't his best friend. It'll fetch him whar nothin' else will.
And we've got to hunt up something else for you to ride, Blatch, ef
Jim Cal an' me takes the mules, Jeff remarked. Jude mighty nigh tore
up the ground when she found we'd had Selim last night. She give it out
to each and every that nobody is to lay a hand on him day or night from
The girl outside heard Blatch's hateful laugh, and knew with a great
throb of rage who had ridden her horse the night before.
There was a stir among the men seated, Judith conjectured, on the
grain-room floor, and a little clinking, as the jug of corn whiskey was
once more brought into play by Blatch. Presently,
All right, said Buck Shalliday. I'll bring Lige's mule. And I'll
have a message got to Bonbright that Jephthah Turrentine wants to see
and talk with him out at Todd's corner at moonrise a-Monday night. Will
that suit ye?
Hit'll answer, returned Blatch. Let's see, he calculated;
that'll be about two o'clock. Ef he comes up to the scratch we'll git
Mr. Man as he goes by the big rock in the holler acrosst from the
spring. That rock and the bushes by it gives plenty of cover. They's
bound to be light enough to see him by, with the moon jest coming up,
and I want to hear from every man present that he'll shoot at the word.
I don't want any feller in the crowd that'll say he didn't pull trigger
on Bonbright. Ef we all aim and shoot, nary a one of us can say who
killed himand killed he's got to be.
The listening girl hoped for some demur, but Blatch Turrentine and
his potent counsellor, the jug, dominated the assembly, and there came
a striking of hands on this, a hoarse murmuring growl of agreement. She
doubled low to avoid being seen against the sky and hurried back toward
the cabin as she heard the men preparing to leave the grain-room.
Brave as any one of them there, enterprising and full of the spirit
of leadership, Judith addressed herself promptly to saving Creed
Bonbright. She went straight to her uncle's cabin. No mountaineer ever
raps on a door. Judith shook the latch, at first gently, then, getting
no response, more and more imperatively, at length opening and walking
in, with a questioning, Uncle Jep?
There was no answer, no sound or movement. With hasty fingers she
raked together the brands of the fire; they flickered up and showed her
an untenanted room. The bed was untouched, the old man's hat and coat
were gone. The pegs above the door where Old Sister always rested were
Instantly there flashed upon Judith the intuition that her uncle,
heartsick and ill-affected toward the quarrel, had silently withdrawn
until it should have been settled one way or another. Well, she must
Chapter XVI. A Message
When Judith stole noiselessly into the house and up to her room, she
could hear the boys preparing for bed in their own quarters, with
unwonted jesting and laughter, and even some occasional stamping about
which suggested horse-play; and her lip curled angrily as she recalled
Blatch's jug of corn whiskey.
She lay thinking, thinking; and at length there evolved itself in
her mind a plan for getting Creed safely out of the mountains by way of
an ancient Cherokee trail that ran down the gulch through a distant
corner of the old Turrentine place. By this route they would reach the
railroad town of Garyville, quite around the flank of Big Turkey Track
from Hepzibah. She could do that. She knew every step of the way. The
trail was a disused, forgotten route of travel, long fenced across in
several places, and scoured out of existence at certain points by
mountain streams; but she had known every foot of it in years past; she
could travel it the darkest night; and Selim was her own horse; she
need ask nobody.
When she got so far, came the pressing question of how to send word
to Creed. She must see and warn him before the men put their plan into
practice. But she was well aware that she herself was under fairly
close espionage, and that her first move in the direction of Nancy
Card's cabin would bring the vague suspicions of her household to a
certainty. Where to find a messenger? How to so word a message that
Creed would answer it? These were the questions that drove sleep from
her pillow till almost morning.
She rose and faced the dawn with haggard eyes. Unless she could do
something this was the last day of Creed's life. In a tremor of
apprehension she got through her morning duties, cooking and serving a
breakfast to the three boys, who made no comment on their father's
absence, and whose curious looks she was aware of upon her averted
face, her down-dropped eyelids. She felt alone indeed, with her uncle
gone, and the boys who had been as brothers to her almost since
babyhood suddenly become strangers, their interests and hers hostile,
destructive to each other.
Woman will go to woman in a pinch like this, and in spite of her
repugnance at the thought of Huldah, Judith late in the afternoon made
her way over to the Jim Cal cabin and asked concerning its mistress'
Hit's better, said Iley briefly. Her head was tied up in a medley
of cloths and smelled loud of turpentine, camphor, and a lingering
bouquet of assafoetida. She was not a hopeful individual to enlist in a
Huldy git back yet? Judith asked finally.
No, an' she needn't never git back, snapped Iley. Her and Creed
Bonbright kin make out best they may. I don't know as I mind her bein'
broke off with Wade. One Turrentine in the fambly's enough fer me.
Air her and Creed Bonbright goin' to be wedded? inquired Judith
scarcely above her breath.
Air they? echoed Xantippe, settling her hands on her hips
and surveying Judith with an angry stare, the dignity of which was
sadly impaired by a yellow flannel cloth-end which persisted in
dabbling in her eye. Well, I should hope so! I don't know what gals is
comin' to in this day an' timefollerin' 'round after the young men
like you do. Ef I'd a' done so when I was a gal my mammy'd have took a
hickory to me. That's what she would. Here's Jim Cal be'n rarin' around
here like a chicken with its head off 'caze Huldy run away with Creed
Bonbright, and here you air askin' me do I think Creed and Huldy
is apt to marry. What kind of women do ye 'low the Spiller gals is,
Judith turned away from so unpromising an ally. She was accused of
running after Creed Bonbright. When he got her message it would be with
Huldah Spiller beside him to help him read it. The thought was bitter.
It gave that passionate heart of hers a deadly qualm; but she put it
down and rose above it. Huldah or no Huldah, she could not let him die
and make no effort.
Leaving Jim Cal's cabin she walked out into the woods, and only as
she turned at the edge of the clearing and looked back to find Iley
furtively peering after her from the corner of the house did she
realise that the woman's words had been dictated because she had been
taken into the confidence of the men and set to keep an eye on Judith.
At the conviction a feeling of terror began to gain ground. She was
like a creature enmeshed in a net weak in its cordage, but
many-stranded and hampering; turn whichever way she would some petty
restriction met her. She moved aimlessly forward, reasonably sure that
she was not followed or observed, since she was going away from rather
than toward the Card place. About a mile from the cabin of old Hannah
Updegrove, a weaver of rag carpet, she suddenly came upon two little
creatures sitting at a tree-foot playing about one of those
druidical-looking structures that the childhood of the man and the
childhood of the race alike produce. It was Little Buck and Beezy come
to spend the day with old Hannah who, on their father's side, was kin
of theirs, and making rock play-houses in the tree-roots to put over
the time. Judith ran to the children, gathered them close, and hugged
them to her with whispered endearments in which some tears mingled.
Then for half an hour followed the schooling of Little Buck for the
message which he was to carry, and which Beezy must be so diverted that
she would not even hear.
Judith plaited grass bracelets for the fat little wrists, fashioned
bonnets of oak leaves, pinning them together with grass stems, and then
sending Beezy far afield to gather flowers for their trimming. On long
journeys the little feet trudged, to where the beautiful, frail, white
meadow lilies rose in clumps from the lush grass of the lowlands. She
fetched cardinal flowers from the mud and shallow water beyond them, or
brought black-eyed Susans from the sun of open spaces. And during these
expeditions Judith's catechism of the boy went on.
How you goin' to git home, Little Buck?
Pappy's a-comin' by to fetch us.
A little befo' sundown?
You goin' straight home?
Yes, Jude, we' goin' straight home to Granny, why?
Never mind, honey. Is Creed there at yo' house?
A silent nod.
Ishoney, tell Jude the truthis it true that he ain't bad hurt?
Could he ride a nag?
Little Buck looked all around him, drew close to his big sweetheart,
and pulled her down that he might whisper in her ear.
I know somethin' that Granny and Creed don't know I know, but I
mus'n't tell it to anybodyonly thest you. Creedno, he ain't so
awful bad hurthe walks everywheres mosthe's a-goin' to take the old
nag and go over to Todd's corner to see yo' Unc' Jep, about moonrise
to-night. They said thatGranny an' Creed. An' they fussed. Granny,
she don't want him to go; but Creed, he thest willhe's bull-headed,
Judith caught her breath. They had got the message to him then, and
he was going. Well, her appointment with him must be first.
Little Buck, honey, ef you love me don't you forget one word I say
to you now, she whispered chokingly, holding the child by both hands.
He rounded eyes of solemn adoration and acquiescence upon her.
You say to Creed Bonbright that Judith Barrier says he must come to
her at the foot of Foeman's Bluffon yon sideas soon after dark as
he can git there. Tell him to come straight through by the short cut;
hit'll be safe; nobody'll ever study about him comin' in this
direction. As soon after hit's plumb dark as he can git therewill ye
say that? Will ye shore tell Creed an' never tell nobody but Creed?
But he won't go, said Little Buck wisely. Granny's scared to have
him go to talk to yo' Unc' Jep, but she'd be a heap scareder to have
him come to you, 'caze you' one o' the Turrentines tooain't ye,
Judith's face whitened at the weakness of her position.
I would come, Judith, becaze I love you an' you love mebut Creed,
he won't, said the boy.
You tell him Little Buck, she whispered huskily, terror and shame
warring in her face, tell him that I do love him. Tell him I said for
God's sake to comeif he loves me.
The child's eyes slowly filled. He dropped them and stood staring at
the ground, saying nothing because of the blur. Finally:
I'll tell him thatef you say I must, he whispered. And loving,
tender Judith, in her desperate preoccupation, never noted what she had
done to her little sweetheart.
Chapter XVII. The Old Cherokee Trail
The supper's all ready for you boys, Judith called in to Wade
whose whistle sounded from his own room. Hit's a settin', kivered, on
the hearth; the coffee-pot's on the coals. Would you-all mind to wait
on yo'selves, an' would you put the saddle on Selim for me? I'm goin'
over to Lusks'. I'll eat supper there; I may stay all night; but I'll
be home in the mornin' soon to git you-all's breakfast.
Whywhy, pap 'lowed
Well, Uncle Jep ain't here. Ef you don't want to
Oh, that's all right Judith. Of course it's all right. But you say
you're goin' to ride to Lusks'?to ride? hesitated Wade uneasily.
Judith flung up her head and stared straight at him with angry eyes.
Yes, she said finally, when I leave this place for over night I'd
ruther know whar my hoss is at. I'll take him along.
Oh,all right, her cousin hastened to agree; I never meant to
make you mad, Jude. Of course I'd jest as soon saddle up for you. I
don't wonder you feel thataway. I never like to have anybody use my
Judith had made her point. She let it pass, and went sombrely on
with her preparation for departure. Wade still hesitated uneasily.
Finally he said deprecatingly,
Ef ye don't mind waitin' a minute I'll eat my supper, an' ride over
with yeI was a-goin' after supper anyhow; I want to see Lacey
Rountree ef he's not gone back home yit.
I'll be glad to have ye, answered Judith quietly. I don't mind
waitin'. And Wade, plainly relieved, hurried out to the stables.
They rode along quietly in the late summer afternoon; the taciturn
habit of the mountain people made the silence between them seem nothing
strange. Arrived at the Lusks', both girls came running out to welcome
their visitor. She saw Wade's sidelong glance take note of the fact
that Grandpap Lusk led away Selim to the log stable. Lacey Rountree was
gone home to the Far Cove, and Wade lingered in talk with Grandpap Lusk
a while at the horse-block, then got on his mule and, with florid
good-byes, rode back home, evidently at rest as to Judith.
The evening meal was over. Judith helped Cliantha and Pendrilla
prepare a bit of supper for herself, aided in the clearing away and
dish-washing, and after they had sat for a while with Granny Lusk and
the old man in the porch, listening to the whippoorwills calling to
each other, and all the iterant insect voices of a July night, went to
their own room.
Girls, said Judith softly, drawing the two colourless little
creatures to the bed, and sitting down with one on each side of her,
girls, and her voice deepened and shook with the strain under which
she laboured, I want you to let me slip out the back door here, put my
saddle on Selim, and go home, quiet, without tellin' the old folks. I
was goin' home by daylight in the mornin' anyhow, to get the boys'
breakfast, as the girls stared at her in wordless surprise. I've got
a reason why I'd ruther go nowand I'd ruther the old folks didn't
know. Will ye do this for me?
The sisters looked at each other across their guest's dark eager
face, and fluttered visibly. They would have been incapable of deceit
to serve any purpose of their own; they were too timid to have
initiated any actions not in strict accordance with household laws; but
the same gentle timidity which made them subservient to the rules of
their world, made them also abject worshippers at the shrine of
Judith's beauty and force and fire.
Shore, shore, they both whispered in a breath.
I hate to have ye go Jude began Cliantha; but Pendrilla
An' yit ef Jude would ruther goand wants to slip out unbeknownst,
why we wouldn't say nothin' about it, and jest tell granny and grandpap
in the mornin' that she left soon to git the boys' breakfast.
They watched her pass quietly out the back door and toward the log
stable, their big blue eyes wide with childish wonder and interest.
Judith with her many suitors, moving in an atmosphere of romance, was
to them a figure like none other, and she was now in the midst of
tragic doings; the glamour that had always been upon her image was
heightened by the last week's occurrences. They turned back whispering
and shut the door.
Thus it was that Judith found herself on Selim, moving, free from
suspicion or espionage, toward the point below Foeman's Bluff where she
had sent word to Creed to meet her.
The big oaks shouldered themselves in black umbels against the
horizon; pointed conifers shot up inky spires between them. The sky was
only greyish black, lit by many stars, and Judith trembled to note that
their dim illumination might almost permit one to recognise an
individual at a few paces distance. Without misadventure she came to
the spot designated, urged Selim in under the shadow of a tree,
dismounted, and stood beside him waiting. Would Creed come? Would
Huldah persuade him that the message was only a decoy? Would he come
too late? Would some of the boys intercept him, so that he should never
come at all?
At the last thought she started and leaned out recklessly to search
the dark path with desperate eyes. Perhaps she had better venture
forward and meet him. Perhaps after all it would be possible for her to
get closer to Nancy Card's. Then in the midst of her apprehensions came
the sound of shod hoofs.
She had chosen this point for two reasons: first the old trail she
meant to follow down the mountain passed in close to the spot; and
second it was the last place they would expect Bonbright to approach;
his way to it would never be guarded. But of course she ran the risk of
Blatch himself or some of his friends and followers appearing. And now
she held her breath in intense anxiety as the trampling came nearer.
There appeared out of the dense shadow of the bluff a man walking
and leading a mule by its bridle. She knew the mule, because she got
the silhouette of it against the sky, and directly after she saw that
the man who led it was tall, with a bandaged head, which he carried in
a manner unmistakable, and one shoulder gleaming whiteshe guessed
that that was because his coat was off where the bandages lay under his
white shirt and over the wound in his shoulder. It was Creed. With a
throb of unspeakable thankfulness she realised that she had till now
dreaded that if he came at all Huldah would be with him. She moved out
from the dense shadow.
Wharwhar's Huldy? she questioned before she would trust herself
to believe. But Creed, full of the wonder of her message, dropped the
mule's bridle and came toward her his uninjured arm outstretched. He
put the inquiry by almost impatiently.
Huldah? She went on down to Hepzibah soon Saturday morning, he
said. O Judith, did you mean itthat word you sent me by Little
He came swiftly up to her, snatching her hand eagerly, pressing it
hard against his breast, leaning close in the twilight to study her
You couldn't mean it, he hurried on passionately, tremulously,
not now; you just pity me. Little Buck cried when he told me what you
said, honey. He was jealous. But he needn't have beenneed he Judith?
You just pity me.
Creed's manner and his words were instant reassurance to Judith's
womanly pride. But immediately on the relaxation of that pain rose
clamouring her anxiety for his safetyhis life.
Yes, yes, Creed, she murmured vehemently. I did mean itI sure
meant every word of it. But we got to get right away from here. Do ye
reckon ye can stand it to ride as far as the foot of the mountain? Ye
got to goand I'm here to take ye.
They drew out of the path and into the deep blackness beneath the
trees. There was but a hundredth chance that anybody would be passing
here, or watching this point, yet that hundredth chance must be guarded
Poor Creed, he detained her, he clung to her hands hungrily, and
invoked the sound of her voice. So much hate had daunted him, the
strength and sweetness of her presence, the warm tenderness of her
tones, were like balm to his lacerated spirit.
I couldn't go to-nightdear he faltered, abashed that the
first word he uttered to her must be a denial. You're mighty sweet and
good to offer to take meI don't know what I have ever done that you
should risk this for mebut I'm to have a chance to talk to your Uncle
Jephthah at moonrise to-night, and I can't turn my back on that. He's a
fair-minded man and I'll make this thing right yet.
Judith shuddered. Don't you never believe it, she urged in a
panting whisper. Uncle Jep hadn't a thing on earth to do with that
word goin' to you. He's left home. I can't find him nowhars, or I'd
have went straight to him and begged him to help me out when I found
what the boys was aimin' to do. Hit was Blatch planned it all. I tell
ye Creed, Blatch Turrentine is aliveyou never killed him when you
flung him over the bluffand while he lives you can't stay here. He's
bound to kill ye.
Have you seen Blatch, yourself, Judith? Creed asked quickly.
Oh, laws, no. He's a layin' out in the woods somewheres, aimin' to
make Uncle Jep believe you killed him. But I heard him plain enoughI
heard him and the boys fix it all uphid out from Uncle Jep down in
the grain-room. There's to be seven of 'em a-waitin' down by the big
hollow, and when they git you betwixt them an' the sky at moonrise
they're all promised to shoot at once, so that nary man dast to go back
on the others when you're killed.
Wounded, appalled, the young fellow drew back from her and clung to
the saddle of the old mule, with a boyish desire to hide his face
against the arm which he threw over it.
How they hate me! he breathed at last. Oh, I've failedI've
failed. I meant so well by them alland I've got nothing but their
hate. But I won't run. I never ran from anything yet. I'll stay here
and take what comes.
Perhaps in his extremity the despair of this speech was but an
unconscious reaching out for Judith's expressed affection, the warmth
and consolation of her love. If this were so, the movement brought him
what he craved. In terror she laid hold upon him, holding to his
unwounded arm, pressing her cheek upon his shoulder, making her protest
in swift passionate sentences.
What good will it do for you to get yourself killedtell me that?
Every one of them men will be murderers, when you've stayed and seen it
through. Lord, what differ is it whether sech critters as them love you
or hate you? 'Pears to me I would ruther have their ill-will as their
good-will. Don't you have no regards for them that is good friends to
you? I care. I understand what it was you was tryin' to
do. I thort it was fine. Air you goin' to break my heart by stayin'
here to git yourself killed? Oh, don't do it, Creed. You let me take
you out of the mountains, or I'll never know what it is to sleep in
His arm slipped softly round her waist and drew her close against
his side, so close that the two young creatures, standing silent in the
midst of the warm summer night, could almost hear the beating of each
other's heart. In spite of their desperate situation they were
I thank my God for you, Judith, murmured Creed, bending to lay his
cheek timidly against hers. Never was a man in trouble had such a
sweet helper. It's mighty near worth it all to have found you. Maybe
you never would have cared for me at all if this hadn't come aboutif
I hadn't needed you so bad.
Judith's lavish heart would have hastened to break its alabaster jar
of ointment at love's feet with the impetuous avowal that he had been
dear to her since first she looked on him. But there was instant need
of haste; the situation was full of danger; that confession, with all
its sweetness, might well wait a more secure time and place. She got to
her horse glowing with hope, feeling herself equal to the dubious
enterprise before them.
Whatever you say honey, Creed assured her. Do with me as you
will. I'm your man now.
They had wheeled their mounts toward the open.
Hark! What's that? whispered Judith.
The quavering cry of a screech-owl came across the gulch to them.
The girl crouched in her saddle, shivering slightly, and stroking
Selim's nose so that he might make no stir nor sound.
They usethatfor a signal, she breathed at last. The boys is
out guardin' the trails. And 'pears like they're a-movin'. We got to go
They set forth in silence; Judith riding ahead, skirted at a
considerable distance the buildings on the old Turrentine place, then
followed down a rocky stream-bed, dry now and leading abruptly into a
ravine. Here the girl took her bearings by the summits she could see
black against the star-lit sky, and, avoiding the open, made for the
old Indian trail which would lead them directly down to Garyville. They
could ride abreast sometimes, and they began to talk together in these
And Little Buck cried when he told you, Judith said, in that
tender, brooding voice of hers. That was my fault. I'm mighty sorry. I
wouldn't 'a' hurt the child's feelings for anything; but I never
I fixed it up with him some, said her lover, quickly. I told him
you only said that because I was hurt and you was sorry for me. I
thought I was telling the truth.
Uncle Jep feels mighty bad about this business, she began another
time, hastening to offer what consolation she could. Nothin' would
have made him willin' to it, but the fear that when you brought the
raiders up he'd get took hisself. He ain't had nothin' to do with
stillin' for more'n six year, but of course hit's on his land, and the
boys is his sons. He says he's too old to go to the penitentiary.
Creed reached out in the gloom and got the girl's hand.
Oh, Judith, darling! he said eagerly. Let me tell you right now,
and make you understandI never had any more notion of bringing
raiders into the mountains than you have yourself. I do know that
blockaded stills and what they mean are the ruin of this country; but
honey, you've got to believe me when I say I never wanted to get any
information about them or break them up.
The girl harkened, with close attention to the manthe loverbut
with simple indifference to the gist of what he was saying. It was
plain that she would have loved and followed him had he been a revenue
I'll tell Uncle Jep, she said presently. He'll be mighty proud.
He does really set a heap of store by you, and they all know it. But I
ain't never goin' to let you talk like that to him, she added, the
note of proud possession sounding in her voice. Ef you're goin' to
live in the mountains you'll have to learn not to have much to say
about moonshine whiskey and blockaded stillsyou never do know who you
might be hittin'.
You'll take good care of me, won't you Judith? he said fondly,
pressing the hand he held. And I reckon I need itI surely do manage
to get into misunderstandings with people. But that wasn't the trouble
with Blatch Turrentinehe never thought any such thing as that I was a
spy. He was mad at me about something elseand I don't know yet what
Judith laughed softly, low in her throat, so far had they come from
the uncertainty, strain, and distress of an hour before. When next the
trail narrowed and widened again, she came up on his left, the side of
the injured arm, but which brought her nearer to him, leaned close and
laying her hand on his shoulder, whispered,
I reckon I know. I reckon you'll have to blame me with Blatch's
Why, of course that was it! exclaimed Creed. He looped the bridle
on his saddle horn, reached up and drew her hand across his shoulders
and around his neck. That's what comes of getting the girl that
everybody else wants, he said with fond pride. But nobody else can
have her now, can they? Say it Judithsay it to me, dear.
Judith made sweet and satisfying response, and they rode in silence
a moment. Then she halted Selim thoughtfully.
This path takes off to Double Springs, Creed, she said, mentioning
the name of a little watering place built up about some wells of
chalybeate and sulphur water. We mightdo ye think mebbe we'd better
Creed, who felt his strength ebbing, calculated the distance. They
had seen, as they made the last turn under the bluff, the lights
flaring at the Garyville station. Double Springs was more than a mile
farther. I reckon Garyville will be the best, dear, he returned
gently. Then, I wish I had cut a little better figure in this
businesson account of you, he added wistfully. You're everything
that a man could ask. I don't want you to be ashamed of me.
Ashamed of you! Judith's deep tones carried such love, such scorn
of those who might not appreciate the man of her choice, that he was
fain to be comforted.
If we had known each other better from the first I reckon you would
have kept me out of these fool mistakes I've made, the young fellow
You ain't made no mistakes, Judith declared with reckless loyalty,
Hit's the other folksBlatch Turrentine and them that follers himno
good person could git along with them. Are you much tired Creed? Does
yo' shoulder pain you?
No, dear, he said softly, laying his cheek against the hand which
he had drawn around his neck. Nothing pains me any more. I'm mighty
And together thus they rode forward in darkness, toward Garyville
Chapter XVIII. Bitter Parting
In the sickly yellow flare of the kerosene lamps around the
Garyville station Judith got her first sight of Creed's face: sunken,
the blood drained from it till it was colourless as paper, the eyes
wild, purple rimmed, haggardit frightened her. She was off of Selim
in a moment, begging him to get down and sit on the edge of the
platform with her, here on the dark side where nobody would notice
them, and they could decide what was to be done next.
He dismounted slowly, stumblingly, gained the edge of the platform,
and there sat with drooping head. Judith tied the two animals and ran
to sit beside him.
Ye ain't goin' to faint air ye? she asked anxiously. Lean on me,
Creed. I wish't I knew what to do for ye!
The young fellow, half unconscious indeed, put his head down upon
her shoulder with a great shuddering sigh.
I'll be better in a minute, dear, he whispered. I reckon I got a
little tiredriding so far.
For some time Judith sat there, Creed's head on her shoulder, the
black night all about them, the little lighted station empty save for
the clicking of the telegraph instrument, and the footsteps of the
station master who had opened up for the midnight train. She was
desperately anxious and at a loss which way to turn. And yet through
all her being there rolled a mighty undernote of joy. As to the dweller
on the coast the voice of the sea is the undertone to all the sounds of
man's activities, so beneath all her virginal hesitancies, her half
terror of what she had done, surged and sang the knowledge that Creed
was hers, her avowed lover. She, Judith, had him here safe; she had
brought him away out of the mountains, from those who would have harmed
himand those who would have loved him too well. In all her plannings
up to this time she had never quite been able to see clearly what
should come after getting Creed down into the valley. Over her stormily
beating heart now there rose and fell a little packet of bills, savings
above necessary expenditures on the farm, and her own modest expenses,
savings which had been accumulating since Uncle Jephthah rented the
place, and now amounted to some hundreds of dollars. These she had put
in the bosom of her frock when she set out on this enterprise, with, as
she now realised, the vaguest expectation of ever returning to her
Creed, she whispered, air ye better?
Yes, responded her charge, yesI'm better. But he made no
movement to raise his head, and with eyes long accustomed to darkness
she was able to see that his lids were still closed.
Creed, she began again, what shall I do for you now? Must I go
ask at the hotel will they give you a room? Have youhave you got
money with you?
Bonbright roused himself.
I'm all right now, he said in a strained tone. Yes, dear, I've
got some money with me, and a little more in the bank at Hepzibah. I
can get hold of that any time I want to. I don't know just what I'll
do, he looked around him bewildered. This had not been his plan, and
the long ride down the mountain, and above all the happiness of being
with Judith, of her avowals had made him forgetful of its exigencies.
I reckon I'll make out. You needn't worry about me any more, Judith.
I'm safe down here.
These words sounded dreadfully like a dismissal to the girl. She
locked her hands hard together in her lap and fought for composure. An
older or a more worldly woman would have said to him promptly that she
could not leave him in this case, and that if they were ever to be
married it must be now. But all the traditions of the mountain girl's
life and upbringing were against such a course. She gazed at him
I ain't got but one friend on this earth, looks like, began Creed
wearily, as he got to his feet, and now I'm obliged to send her away
It was more than Judith could bear. She lifted her swimming eyes to
him in the dusk; he was recovering self command and strength, but he
was still white, shaken, the bandaged head and shoulder showing how
close he had been to death. Her love overbore virgin timidity and
Don't send me away then, she said in the deepest tones of that
rich, passionate voice of hers. Ef hit's me you're namin' when you
speak of having but one frienddon't send me away, Creed.
He came close and caught her hand, looking into her face with
wondering half comprehension of her words. That face was dyed with
sudden, burning red. She hoped and expected that he would make the
proffer which must come from him. When he did not, she burst out in a
vehement, tense whisper,
Ifif you love me like you said you did
Creed hesitated, bewildered. He was too ill to judge matters aright,
but he knew one thing.
I do love you, he said with mounting firmness. I may be a mighty
poor sort of a fellowI've begun to think so of latebut I love you.
Judith put out both hands blindly toward him whispering,
And I love you. I don't want nothin' but to be with you an' help
you, an' take keer of you. I'll never leave you.
For a moment the young fellow felt only the dizzy rapture of her
frank confession. In that instant he saw himself accepting her
sacrifice, taking her in his arms; in anticipation he tasted the
sweetness of her lips. Then pure reason, that shrew who had always
ruled his days, spoke loud, as the bitterness of his situation rolled
back upon him.
Nono! he cried. JudithhoneyI can't do that. Why, I'd be
robbing you of everything in the world. Your kin would turn against
you. Your farm would be lost to you, I reckonI don't know when I'll
be able to go back and claim mine.
In the moment of strained silence that followed this speech, with a
sense of violent painful revulsion the girl pushed him back when he
would timidly have clung to her. What woman ever appreciated prudence
in a lover? It is not a lover's virtue. Her farmher farm! He could
listen to her confession of love for him, and speculate upon the
chances of her losing her farm by it! She had one shamed, desperate
instant when she would have been glad to deny the words she had spoken.
Then Creed, reading her anger and despair by the light of his own
sorrows, said brokenly:
You feelyou're offended at me nowbut Judith, you wouldn't love
me if I had taken you at your word, and ruined all your chances in
life. IJudithdearI'll make this thing right yet. I'll come
backand you'll forgive me then.
With a sudden flaring up of strength he took quiet mastery of the
situation. He kissed her tenderly, but sadly, not such a kiss as either
could ever have imagined their first would be.
I love you too well to let you wed a man that's fixed like I ama
man that's made such a failure of lifea fugitivea fellow that has
nothing to offer you, and no more standing with your people than a
hound dog. I love you better than I do myself or my comfortor even my
In anguished silence Judith received the caress; dumb with misery
she got to her horse. Creed stood looking up at her for their last
words, when, with a rattle and clang, the train from the North swept in
and halted. Selim jibed and fought the bit as any sensible mountain
horse feels himself entitled to do under similar circumstances; but
Judith heeded him almost not at all.
My Lordwho's that? she cried, staring toward the lighted train
where the figure of a man mounted the platform.
What is it? queried Creed.
Hit looked like Blatch, whispered the girl; but I reckon it
Blatch! echoed Creed, all on fire in an instantwhere now was her
poor invalid whose head she had pillowed, of whom she had thought to
take care? Blatch Turrentine!Good-bye, honeyyou mustn't be seen
with me. If Blatch is here I've got to find and face him. You see that,
don't you?You understand.
And he turned and left her so. Oh, these men, with their quarrels
and their nice points of honourwhile a woman's heart bleeds under the
She watched him hurry to the train, his staggering step advertising
how unfit he was for any such attempt, watched him mount the platform
where she had seen the man that looked like Blatch; and then the
conductor swung his lantern, the wheels began to revolve, she half
cried out, and Selim at the end of his patience, bolted with her and
never stopped running till he had topped the rise above the village.
Here, with some ado, she got him quieted, brought to a standstill,
got off and tightened the girth, for the saddle was slipping
dangerously. She climbed on once more, mounting from a fallen tree, and
was moving again up the trail when, down toward Garyville, someone
called her name.
She did not turn her head. She knew to whom the voice belonged. As
he rode up to her:
What you doin' here, Blatch Turrentine? she demanded fiercely,
an' what'll the boys say to you for slippin' away from 'em to-night?
He took her inferred knowledge of all his enterprises without a word
of comment. Bringing his mule up closer to her where she sat on Selim
The boys know whar I'm at. We got word last evenin' that the man I
sell to was waitin' for me in Garyville. He don't know nobody but me in
the business, and nobody but me could do the arrent. I hauled a load
down, an' I would have been back in plenty time, ef I hadn't met you
and Bonbright right thar whar that old Cherokee trail comes into the
Judith started, her face burned in the darkness, but she said
nothing. Blatch peered curiously at her as he went on:
I reckon you never took notice of the waggon that was under the
bluff thar by the turn, but that was my waggon, and I was a-settin' on
it. I wheeled myse'f round, when I seed 'twas Bonbright, and follered
you two down to Garyville, and put up my mules.
Again he peered sharply at her.
Jude, as she still sat silent, I won't tell the boys what kept
meI won't tell them nary thing about you. I'll just let on that I
happened to see Bonbright at Garyville.
You tell what you're a mind to, said Judith bitterly. I don't
keer what you say.
Blatchley took the retort coolly. But his light grey eyes narrowed
under the black brows.
Bonbright seemed mightily upsot, he commented. Went off on the
train an' left his mule a-standin'.
Went off on the train! Judith's heart leaped, then stood
Ye needn't werry about itI had Scomp put it up, 'long o' my other
'n. He'll send 'em both up a Wednesday. I reckon it ain't to be
wondered at Bonbright was flustered. Who do you 'low he went with on
the railroad train? Jude, air you so easy fooled as to think it was a
new notion for him to go to Garyville? Didn't he name it to you that it
was a better place than Double Springs?
Leaning close and watching her face, he saw in it confirmation.
Shore. They was a little somebody on the railroad train waitin' to
go on with himafter he'd done kissed you good-byeand left
Judith sat, head up, staring at him. Her less worthy nature was
always instantly roused by this man's approach. Savage resentment,
jealousy, hate, stirred in her crushed spirit; they raised their heads;
their movement crowded out grief and humiliation. It must be trueshe
had proposed Double Springs, and he had said Garyville would be better.
He had refused in so many words her offer of herself. He had kissed
No!no!no! she cried to the man before her, don't you look at
medon't you speak to me.
Why, Judith, he protested, hanging on Selim's flank and talking to
her as she whirled the sorrel into the road and put him at the slope at
a pace which that petted animal very much resented, why Judith, ef one
feller goes back on you thataway you be mad at himhe's the one to be
mad at. Here's me, I stand willin' to make it up. Creed Bonbright has
shamed youhe's left you; but you could make him look like a fool if
you would only say the wordand you and me would
Now you go back! Judith turned upon him as one speaks to a dog who
is determined to follow. I ain't nary 'nother word to say to you.
Leave me alone!
But Judith, hit ain't safe for you to be ridin' up here in the
night time, thisaway, Blatch insisted. Lemme jest go along with
I'll be a mighty heap safer alone than I'd be with you, Judith
told him, urging Selim ahead, and anybody that knows you well will say
Chapter XIX. Cast Out
Judith reached the Top in the grey, disillusioning light of early
dawn. The moon, a ghastly wraith, was far down in the west, the east
had not yet taken any hint of rose flush, but held that pallid line of
greyish white that precedes sunrise.
She clambered across the Gulch, her tired horse stumbling with
drooping head over the familiar stones, and rode slowly up to the home
place. The huddle of buildings looked gaunt, deserted, inhospitable.
There was light here enough to see the life which in daytime made all
homelike, but which now, quenched and hidden, left all desolate,
forbidding. As sleep takes on the semblance of death, so the sleeping
house took on the semblance of desertion. The chickens were still
humped on their perches in the trees, the cows had not come up to the
milking-pen, their calves lay in a little bunch by the fence fast
asleep. To the girl's heavy heart it seemed a spot utterly forlorn in
the chill, sad, ironic half-light of the slow-coming morning.
She rode directly to the barn, unsaddled, and put her horse out. As
she was coming back past her uncle's cabin, she saw the old man himself
sitting in the door. He was fully dressed; his hat lay on the doorstone
beside him, and against the jamb leaned Old Sister. He looked up at her
with a sort of indifferent, troubled gaze.
So you got back, Jude, he said quietly.
Yes, Uncle Jep, she returned as quietly.
He made no comment on her riding skirt which she held up away from
the drenching dew. He asked no questions as to where she had been, or
what her errand. She noted that he looked old and worn.
I'm mighty sorry it happened, he began abruptly, quite as though
he was continuing a conversation which they had intermitted but a few
moments, mighty sorry; but I don't see no other way. I've studied a
heap on it. Folks that stirs up trouble, gits trouble. I
He broke off and sat brooding.
I'm glad you ain't mad at me for the part I've tuck in it, Judith
Don't tell me. He raised a hasty, protesting hand. I don't want
to know nothin' about it. All is, I couldn't have things
according to my ruthers, and they had to go as they must. Hit ain't
what a man means that makes the differhit's what he does that we
count. Them that stirs up trouble, finds trouble.
I reckon so, Uncle Jep, said the girl, drooping as she stood.
They ain't been a roof between my head and the sky sence I left
this house, the old man's big voice rumbled on monotonously, hollowly.
I tromped the ridges over to'ds Yeller Old Bald. I left mankind and
their works behind me, and I have done a power of thinking; but I can't
make this thing come out no other way.
He ceased and sat looking down. The girl could fancy his solitary
meals where he cooked what he had killed and ate it, to lie down under
the sky and sleep. Women are denied this fleeing to the desert to be
alone with God and their sorrow. She envied him the privilege. She had
no heart to repeat to him Creed's statements that he was not a spy.
That was all pastwiped out by the parting between her and her lover.
Yes, Uncle Jep, she uttered low, and with bent head she moved
dejectedly on toward the house.
Here all the boys were sleeping noisily after their vigils of the
night before. About three o'clock, or a little after, they had come
home to find their father turning in at the gate. With their
disappointment fresh upon them they broke through his command of
silence, and Wade told him how they and Blatch had planned the ambush,
how Blatch had been called away, how they had waited in the hollow for
Creed, who had promised to come and talk to them, how he had never
come, but how Arley Kittridge a few minutes ago had ridden up to notify
them that Bonbright was gone from Nancy Card's, and that the mule was
gone with him. None of the watchers could say what direction he took,
except to give earnest assurances that he had not left by any trail
leading down the mountain. He's bound to be over here somewhars, Wade
concluded, and Blatch not havin' got back from Garyville, they two has
The old man listened in silence, and when his son had made an end
offered neither comment nor reply. He passed over without a word the
revelation of the deceit about Blatch's supposed killing. It was as
though, weary and foredone, he dismissed the young fellows to the logic
of eventsto life itselffor response, explanation, or punishment.
Judith changed her dress, bathed her pale face, and set about
preparing breakfast. And that was a strange meal when she had finally
put it on the table and bidden them to it. The sons sat in their places
like chidden schoolboys, furtively studying their father's ravaged
visage, looking at each other and muttering requests or replies. They
were all aware of the ugliness of their several offences. Creed's
strange disappearance, Blatch's failure to return, the utter collapse
of their errand, these had shaken them terribly.
About a third of the way through the meal Jim Cal shuffled in.
Do you mind givin' me some breakfast, Jude? he asked humbly. Iley
an' the chaps is all sound asleep. I hate to wake 'em, an' I never was
no hand to do for myse'f.
Set and welcome, said Judith, mechanically placing a chair for the
one who had been most resolute of all that Creed must die. So it was
that they were all seated about the board when Blatch Turrentine,
without a word, made his appearance in the door. Without moving his
head Jephthah turned those sombre eyes of his upon his nephew, and
regarded him steadily. The younger man stopped where he was on the
So ye ain't dead? inquired his uncle finally.
I reckon that ain't news to you, is it? asked Blatch, making as
though to come in and take his place at the table.
For a moment the loyalty of the tribal head, the hospitality of the
mountaineer, warred in old Jephthah's heart with deep, strong
resentment against this man. Then he said without rising,
Yes, hit's news. But you may take it that hit's news I ain't heard.
I reckon we'll just leave it that you air dead. The lease on the
ground over thar runs tell next spring. I'll not rue my bargain, but no
son of mine sets his foot on yo' land and stays my son, and you don't
put yo' foot in this house again. You give it out that you was
Oh, I see, said Blatch. Yo' a-blamin' the whole business on me,
air ye? Well, that's handy. What about them fine fellers that's settin'
at meat with ye now? I reckon the tale goes that I led 'em into all
Jim Cal dropped his head and stared at the bit of cornbread in his
pudgy fingers; Wade glanced up angrily; the twins stirred like young
hounds in leash; but Jephthah quieted them all with a look.
Blatch, began the head of the house temperately, even sadly, yo'
my brother's son. Sam and me was chaps together, and I set a heap of
store by him. Sam's been gone more than ten year, and in that time I've
aimed to do by you as I would by a son of my own. I felt that hit was
something I owed to Sam. But ef I owed hit hit's been paid out. Yo'
Sam's son, but also yo' a Blatchley, and I reckon the Blatchley blood
had to show up in ye. My boys is neither better nor worse than others,
but when I say that I don't aim to have you walk with 'em, I say what
is my right. What I owed yo' daddy, and my dead brother, has been paid
outhit's been paid plumb out.
Now that it was made plain, Blatch took the dismissal hardily.
Perhaps he had been more or less prepared for it, knowing as he would
have phrased it that his uncle wanted but half a chance to break with
him. He was aware, too, that the secret of his illicit traffic was safe
in the old man's hands, and that indeed Jephthah would strain a point
to defend him for the name's sake if for nothing else.
All right, he said, ef them's yo' ruthers, hit suits me. What do
you-all boys say?I reckon Unc' Jep'll let ye speak for
yo'selvesthis one time.
I say what pap says, came promptly from Wade. And, Jeff an' me
thinks it's about time pap's word went with his boys, put in the
younger and more emotional Andy.
All right, all right, agreed Blatch in some haste, finding the
battle to go thus sweepingly against him. I wont expect no opinions
from you, podner, tell you've had time to run home an' ax Iley what air
they. Ye ain't named Judith, Unc' Jep, he went on, glancing to where
the girl knelt on the hearthstone dishing up corn pones from the Dutch
oven. Cain't she come over and visit me when she has a mind?
Judith's her own mistress. She can use her ruthers, returned
Jephthah briefly, but I misdoubt that you'll be greatly troubled with
Help me git my things out of the cupboard thar, Jude, won't ye?
asked Blatch civilly enough.
Without reply, without glancing at him, Judith preceded him into the
fore-room, opened the doors and sought out his clean clothing, making
it into a neat pile on the table.
You come over and see me sometimes, won't ye, Judy? whispered the
tall man as he bundled these up. I won't tell who I seen you with.
Judith looked at him with wordless contempt. Her own pain was so
great that even anger was swallowed up in it.
Tell anybody you're a mind to, she said listlessly. I ain't
I may git word of him, Jude, persisted Blatch as he was departing.
Ef I do would you wish to hear it? Ef you say yes, I'll send ye
Again she glanced at him with that negligent disdain. What could he
do to her now who had lost all? She was beyond the reach of his love or
Chapter XX. A Conversion
And now Judith's days strung themselves on the glowing thread of
midsummer weather like black beads on a golden cord, a rosary of pain.
She told each bead with sighs, facing the morning with a heavy heart
that longed for darkness, lying down when day was over in dread of the
night and a weariness that brought no sleep. And the cedar tree, swayed
in the raw autumn air, talking to itself sombrely of the empty nest in
its heart, sounded upon her wakeful ears a note of desolation and
despair. For all the Turkey Tracks soon knew that Blatch Turrentine was
sound and whole; all Hepzibah knew it eventuallyand Creed Bonbright
neither returned nor made any sign.
The embargo being removed, Judith went straight to Nancy Card.
In the preoccupation of her sorrow, she might have forgotten Little
Buck's wounded heart; but when as of custom Beezy came rioting out to
meet her, the man child hung back with so strange a countenance that
she needs must note it.
Come here, honey, she urged tenderlyher own suffering made her
very pitiful to the childish grief.
Little Buck came slowly up to his idol, lifting doubtful eyes to her
face. The girl's ready arm went swiftly round the small figure.
Are you pestered about that word I sent Creed Bonbright by you?
The little boy nodded solemnly, and you could see the choke in his
Well, you don't need to be, she reassured him. I had to send jest
that word, Little Buckjest that very word; nothin' less would 'a'
Again the child nodded, twisting around to look in her face, his own
countenance clearing a bit.
But it don't make any differ between you an' me, does it, honey?
she pursued. You're Jude's man, jest the same as you ever was, ain't
ye? You wouldn't never need to be jealous of anybody; 'cause you know
all the time that Judy loves you.
Silently the small man put his arms round her neck and hugged her
hardan unusual demonstration for Little Buck. And during her entire
stay he hung close about, somewhat to Nancy's annoyance, seeming to
find plentiful joy in the contemplation of his recovered treasure.
The loss of Creed had meant a good deal to Nancy. More like a son
than a boarder in her house, he had brought with him a sense of support
and competence such as the hard-worked little woman had never known.
With his going, she was back again in the old helpless, moneyless
situation, with Pony on her hands a growing problem and anxiety, and
Doss Provine but a broken reed on which to lean. Such inquiries after
Creed as they managed to set afoot fetched no return.
Hit ain't like Creed to be scared and keep runnin', she would
repeat pathetically. I know in reason something awful has chanced to
that boy. Either that, or it's like they're all beginning to say, he's
wedded and gone to Texas same as his cousin Cyarter done. Cyarter
Bonbright run away with a gal on the night she was to have wedded
another fellertuck her right out of the country and went to Texas.
That's Bonbright nature: they ain't much on sweet-heartin' an' sech,
but when they git it, they git it hard.
She laid a loving hand on the girl's shoulder, and leaned around to
look frankly into the beautiful, melancholy, dark face with the direct,
honest grey eyes that would admit no concealments between herself and
those whom she really cared for.
I speak right out to you, Jude, she said kindly, 'caze I see how
hit's been between you an' Creed, an' hit'll hurt you less if you get
used to the idy of givin' him up. Him treated the way he was, I don't
know as I'd blame him.
But Judith could have blamed him. It was only when despair pressed
too hard that she could say she would be glad to know he was alive even
though he belonged to somebody else. Yet to credit Blatch's story for a
moment, to think he had gone that night with Huldah Spiller, was to
open the heart's door on such a black vista of treachery and
double-dealing in Creed's conduct, to so utterly discredit his caring
for herself, that she had no defence but to disbelieve the whole tale,
and this she was generally able to do.
But as far away as Hepzibah a small event was preparing that should
break the monotony of Judith's grievous days. Venters Drane, the
elder's twelve-year-old boy, going to school in the village, fell ill
of diphtheria. When word was brought to the fathera widower and
wisehe loaded his three younger children and their small belongings
into the waggon and drove over to the Turrentine place.
I jest p'intedly ain't got nary another place to leave 'em, Sister
Barrier, nor nary another soul on earth that I could trust 'em with
like I could with you, he said wistfully, after he had explained the
necessities of the case. I'm on my way down now to get Venters and
bring him homelook at that, will ye! as the baby made a dash for
Judith who stood by the wheel looking up.
They're mighty welcome, Elder Drane, Judith declared warmly,
receiving the little fellow in open arms. I'll be glad to do for 'em.
Martin and Lucy were old-fashioned, repressed, timid children, with
the pathetic outlook of young persons brought up by a melancholy,
ancient hireling. But the baby, glowing-eyed, laughing-mouthed rogue,
staggering valiantly on sturdy, emulous legs, taking tribute everywhere
with all babyhood's divine audacity, walked straight into her heart. He
slept beside her at night, for him she darkened and quieted the house
of afternoons, lying down with him to watch his slumbers, to brood with
mother fondness upon the round, rosy, small face, and the even, placid
Drane had brought such clothing as they had, but Judith found them
ill-provided, and set to work for them at once. Being a capable
needlewoman she soon had them apparelled more to her liking, and the
labour physicked pain. Sitting in the porch sewing, with the baby
tumbling about the floor at her feet and Mart and Lucy building
play-houses in the yard under the trees, Judith began dimly to realise
that life, somewhere and at some time, might lack all she had so
passionately craved, all she so piercingly regretted, and yet hold some
peace, some satisfaction. True she was still desolate, robbed,
despairing, yet with the children to tend there were hours when she
almost lost sight of her own sorrow, in the sweet compulsion of doing
Jim Cal shook his head over these arrangements. Looks like to me ef
I was a widower with chaps, trying to wed a fine lookin', upheaded gal
like Jude, I'd a' kep' the little 'uns out of her sight as much as I
could, 'stid of fetchin' 'em right to her. Hit seems now as though she
muched them greatly, but she's sartin shore to find out what a sight o'
trouble chaps makes, and ain't any woman wantin' more work than she's
'bleeged to have.
Lacking active concerns of his own, James Calhoun was always greatly
interested in those of the persons about him. Judith's doings, on
account of her reticence, beauty and high spirit, proved a theme of
unending, mild interest.
Jude, he opened out one day as he sat on the edge of the porch
while his cousin was busy with some sewing for her little visitors,
did ye hear 'bout Lace Rountree?
Judith never moved her eyes from her work. I know they's sech a
person, she said evenly, if that's what you mean.
No, but have ye heared of how he's a-doin' here lately? persisted
the fat man. I don't know as anybody has named anything special to me
about Lacey Rountree or his doin's, Judith returned with a rising
irritation. Why should they?
Jim Cal heaved a wheezy sigh. 'Caze yo' said to be the cause of
it, he expounded with lugubrious enjoyment. Lace Rountree is fillin'
hisse'f up on corn whiskey and givin' it out to each and every that
he's goin' plumb straight di-rect to the dav-il, an' all on yo'
accounts'caze you wouldn't have 'im. Now what do you make out o'
I make out that some folks are mighty big fools, retorted Judith
with asperity. Lace Rountree is no older than Jeff and Andyhe's two
years younger'n I amwhy, he's like a child to me. I never no more
thought of Lace Rountree than I'd think ofwell, not so much as I
would of Little Buck Provine.
Uh-huh, agreed Jim Cal shaking his head dolefully, that's the way
you talk; but you-all gals had ort to have a care how you toll fellers
on. Here's Huldy got Wade so up-tore about her that he's a-goin' to
dash out and git him a place on the railroad whar he's mighty apt to be
killed up; and you
I what? prompted Judith sharply, as he came to a wavering pause.
Wellthey was always one man that you give good reason to expect
you'd wed him. I myse'f have heared you, more'n forty times I reckon,
say to Blatch Turrentineor if not say it in so many words, at
Cousin Jim, broke in Judith, carefully ignoring this last charge,
so far as that Lace Rountree is concerned, did you ever know of a
reckless feller that come to no good but what he had some gal at whose
door he could lay it all? I vow I never did. They ain't a drinkin'
whiskey becaze they like it; they don't git into no interruptions
becaze they're madit's always 'count o' some gal that has give 'em
the mitten. I'll thank you not to name Lace Rountree to me again,
nornor anybody else, as she saw his eyes wander to the sewing in her
Well, Drane's old enough to look out for hisse'f, said Jim Cal,
rising and trying his joints apparently for a movement toward home. Ef
you choose to toll him on by takin' care of his chaps, that's yo'
lookout, and his lookout'taint mine; but 'ef I was givin' the man
advice, I'd say to him that he might about as well take 'em home, or
hunt up some other gal to leave 'em with, 'caze yo' apt to much the
chil'en and then pop the do' in the daddy's face.
The weeks brought piecemeal confirmation of Jim Cal's dismal
forebodings. Elihu Drane took advantage of every pretext to haunt about
the roof that sheltered his children. Though he was not with the sick
boy, he made the presence of a ketchin' town disease in his home,
reason for not coming near the little ones, but called Judith down to
the draw-bars to talk to him. When he had her there at such
disadvantage, he so pertinaciously urged his unwelcome suit that he
made her finally glad to be rid of the children, to see him, when
Venters was once more well, take them away with him and give her
respite from his importunities.
In the case of Wade, too, the fat man's pessimistic expectations
were realised; the young man did, early in August, dash out and secure
a place on the railroad. Mountain people write few letters. They heard
nothing from him after the first message which told them where he was
employed and what wages he was to have.
It was September when Iley announced to Judith that she had word
from some of Pap Spiller's kin who were living in Garyville, that
acquaintances of theirs from Hepzibah, coming down to the circus at the
larger town, had given them roundabout and vague news of Huldah. The
girl had delayed in Hepzibah but a few days. The story as it came up on
the mountain was that she had married some feller from Big Turkey
Track, and gone off on the railroad.
Them Tuels is mighty po' hands to remember names, Iley said. But
all ye got to do is to look around and take notice of anybody that's
gone from Big Turkey Track here lately. Ye can fix it to suit yo'se'f.
But I reckon Huldy has made a good match, and I'm satisfied.
Judith looked upon the floor in silence. In silence she left the
cabin and took her way to her own home. And that night, while the cedar
tree talked to her in the voice of loveCreed's voiceshe fought with
dragons and slew them, and was slain by them.
When Blatchley Turrentine had asserted this thing to her at
Garyville, she found somewhereafter her first gust of unreasoning
resentment was paststrength to disbelieve it utterly. But now it came
again in more plausible guise. It gained likeliness from mere
repetition. And hardest of all to bear, she was totally unsupported in
her trust. She knew Creed, knew his love for her; yet to cling to it
was to fly in the face of probabilities, and of everything and
everybody about her. The lover who is silent, absent from her who loves
him, at such a time, runs tremendous risks.
It was the set or turn of the year's tide; sunsets were full, rich,
yellow, and a great round, golden moon swung in the evening sky above
the purple hills. A soft, purring monotone of little tree crickets in
the night forest replaced the shriller insect chorus of midsummer.
Garden patches, about through their summer yield, were a tangle of
bubble-tinted morning glories, the open woods misty with wild asters,
bell flowers trembling from the crevices of rocks; and along fence-row
and watercourse turkey-pea, brook sunflower, queen of the meadow, and
joepye-weed made gay the land.
Such farm work as remained was only garneringfodder-pulling,
pea-hay and millet hay to gather; with a little sowing of wheat, rye,
or turf oats.
In late midsummer and early fall revivalists, preachers, and
exhorters go through the Cumberlands holding protracted meetings in the
little isolated churches. At this time of year the men as well as the
women are most at liberty. To a people who live scattered through a
remote and inaccessible region, who have few and scanty public
gatherings and diversions, this season of religious activity offers the
one emotional outlet which their conception of dignity permits them,
and it is proportionately precious in their eyes. In addition to the
women and the girls and boys, who usually make up the rank and file of
religious gatherings elsewhere, here at this favoured season old
fellows, heads of families and life-long pillars of the Church, give up
their entire time to the meetings. The family is put into the waggon
with a basket of dinner, and they make a day of it. Services hold as
late as twelve and one o'clock, and after them this contained, stoic
folk will go home through the woods, carrying pine torches, singing,
shouting, laughing, sobbing.
Hiram Bohannon came into the two Turkey Tracks this year and held
services at Brush Arbour church. He was very much in earnest, Brother
Bohannon, a practical man with a rough native eloquence that spoke loud
to his hearers.
Every afternoon the wild, sweet hymns rang out over the little
cup-like valley in which Brush Arbour church stood. The month was
extremely warm, and they used the outside brush arbour from which the
schoolhouse-church received its name.
Judith went day and night in a feverish attempt to get away from
herself and her sorrows. Even the fact that Elihu Drane was very much
to the fore in these gatherings could not deter her. Sitting in the
open there, her hands clasped upon her knee, her sombre eyes on the
ground, or interrogating the distance with an unseeing stare, she would
let hymn and sermon, prayer and the weeping and shouting which always
close night meeting, go past her ears well-nigh unheard. Before those
darkened, bereaved eyes, turn where they would, Love's ever-renewed
idyl of rustic courtship was enacting, since Big Meetin' was the time
and occasion of all the year for Corydon to encounter Phyllis, to
stroll or sit beneath the trees with her, possibly to carry her home.
Andy and Jeff began taking the Lusk girls to meeting, and within a
week's time two very pale young menthe twins always acted in
concertstumbled up the earthen aisle between the puncheon seats to
join the group at the mourners' bench and ask for the prayers of the
congregation. Brother Bohannon knew what quarry he had netted, and he
hurried down at once, half in doubt that this was another scheme of
these young daredevils to make game of his meeting. But both boys were
on their knees, and the tears with which they began confessing to him
past sins, the penitence of their shaking voices, proclaimed the
genuineness of their conversion.
Cliantha and Pendrilla left behindthey had been sober church
members since they were twelve years oldfluttered to Judith and
demanded her instant attention to the miracle.
Oh, Judith, ain't it jest too good to be true? panted little
Cliantha. Jeff never did lack anything of bein' the best man that ever
walked this earth except to jine the churchan' now look at him!
And Andy, too, put in Pendrilla jealously. I do believe Andy is a
prayin' the loudestI'm shore he is.
Judith roused herself. I'm mighty gladfor the both of ye, she
And then she looked at their tremulous, happy faces, at the kneeling
boys up among the press of figures about the pulpit, and burst into a
storm of weeping. Where was her lover? Where was Creed? Deador he had
Are you under conviction of sin, sister? inquired one of the
Judith let it pass at that, and flung herself on her knees beside
the bench to wait until the last hymn and the dismissal.
Brother Bohannon was an extremely practical Christian; his creed
applied to every day in the year and to the most commonplace acts. He
adjured his converts not only to quit their meanness, but to go and
acknowledge past errors, to repair such evil as they could, and if
possible to seek forgiveness from man, certain that God's forgiveness
would follow. Such counsel as this brought the twins to their father's
cabin early on the morning after their conversion at Brush Arbour
Pap, began Andy standing before his parent with an odd suggestion
of the small boy caught in mischief, me and Jeff are aimin' to join
That's right, son, said the old man rising and clapping a hearty
hand on each young shoulder. I'm mighty proud to hear it. Hit's a good
way for fellers like you to start out in this world.
Well, befo' we do so, Jeff took up the burden, the preacher says
we ort to confess our sins and git forgiveness from them we have done
wrong by. Creed Bonbright ain't here. Mebbe he's never goin' to be back
any mo'. We talked it over and 'lowed we'd better come tell you, pap.
At Creed Bonbright's name a pathetic change went over old Jephthah's
pleased countenance. He had received the opening words with
satisfaction, not untinctured by the mild, patronising indulgence we
show to children. But when Bonbright was mentioned he sat back in his
chair, nervously knocking the ash from his pipe, anxiously staring at
I'm mighty proud, he repeated, to hear what you say. He spoke
gravely and with dignity; but a note of uncontrollable eagerness stole
into his voice, as he added in a lower tone, What mought you-all have
to tell me about Creed Bonbright?
Pap, we done you a meanness in that business, hastened Jeff. We
had no call to lie to you like we done, and send the feller word in yo'
Wade, he was mad about his gal, agreed Andy thoughtfully, but
what possessed me and Jeff I'll never tell ye. Spy or no spy, we done
that man wrong.
Jephthah looked expectantly and in silence from one young face to
Blatch let on to you hit was the still; but of course we knowed hit
was Jude that ailed him. He got Taylor Stribling to toll Creed to
Foeman's Bluff that night, Jeff supplied. Blatch picked the quarrel,
and drawed a knife when they was wrastlin', and when Bonbright pushed
Blatch away from him, he fell over the cliff. That's God's truth about
the business, pappy, ef I ever spoke it. Me an' Andy an' Wade was all
The boyish countenance was pale, and Jeff drew a nervous hand across
his brow as he concluded. There followed a lengthened silence. Old
Jephthah sat regarding his own brown right hand as it lay upon his
Ye tolled him thar, he said finally. Ye tolled him thar. Then
Creed Bonbright wasn't no spy. He lifted his head. I never could make
it figure up right for that feller to be a spy. Curious he was, and he
had some idees that I couldn't agree with; but a spy
He broke off suddenly, and one saw how strong had been the bond
between him and the young justice, how greatly he cared that the memory
of the man even should be cleared.
The boys looked at each other, and with a gulp Jeff began again:
I reckon you knowed well enough we stood in with Blatch when he hid
out and let folks believe the killin' had been did. We knowed you seen
through it all; but when ye git started in a business like that, one
thing leads on to another, and befo' you're done with it, ye do a
plenty that you'd ruther not.
Well, hit's over and cain't be he'ped, but you've done what's right
at last, Jephthah assured them. The church is a mighty good thing for
young fellers like you. A good wife'll do a sight to he'p along.
He looked at them kindly. He had never liked his boys half so well.
I'm mighty proud of the both of ye, he concluded heartily. Ef
Creed Bonbright ever does come back in the mountains, we'll show him
that the Turrentines can be better friends than foes to a man.
Chapter XXI. The Baptising
October had led forth her train across the Cumberlands. One night
the forest was fairly green, but early risers next morning found that
in the darkness while they slept the hickories had been touched to
gold, the oaks smitten with a promise of the glowing mahogany-red which
was to be theirs. Sourwood and sumach blazed; the woodbine flung its
banner of blood, chestnuts were yellow where the nuts dropped through
them from loosened burs. The varying dark greens of balsam and fir,
pine and cedar, heightened by contrast the glow of colour, while the
dim blue sky above set its note of tender distance and forgetfulness.
On a thousand mountain peaks smoked and smouldered, flared and flamed
the altar fires of autumn.
After that each day saw a deepening of the glory in the hills. It
was like a noble overture a multitudinous chorus made visible. The
marvel of it was that one sense should be so clamorously challenged
while the other was not addressed. The ear hearkened ever amid that
grand symphony of colour for some mighty harmony of sound. But even the
piping song-birds were gone, and the cry of a hawk wheeling high in the
blue, the voice of a woman calling her cow, these sounded loud in the
The streams were shrunken to pools whose clear jade reaches
reflected the blazing banners above them, and offered mimic seas for
the sailing of painted argosies when the wind shook the leaves down.
There was a fruity odour of persimmon and wild grape forever in the
air. The salmon-pink globes stood defined against the blue on leafless
twigs, while the frost sweetened them to sugary jelly, and the black
wild grape by the water-courses yielded an odour that was only less
material than the flavour of its juices. Every angle of the rail fences
became a parterre with golden-rod, cat-brier, and the red-and-yellow
pied leaves of blackberries, while a fringe of purple and white asters
thrust fragile fingers through the rails below, or the stout iron-weed
pushed its purple-red blooms into view at the head of tall, lance-like
Judith walking in the woods one day found a great nest of Indian
pipe. She bent listlessly to pick the waxen mystic blossoms, thinking
to herself that they were like some beautiful dead thing; and then she
came upon a delicate flush on the side of their clear, translucent
pearl, and wondered if it were an omen.
It was a gorgeous October Sabbath when the boys were baptised.
Baptisms always took place from Brush Arbour in a sizable pool of Lost
Creek which flows through one corner of the little valley that holds
the church building. The sward which ran down to its clear mirror was
yet green, but the maples and sourwoods above it were coloured
splendidly. Among their clamant red and yellow laurel and rhododendron
showed glossy green, and added to the gay tapestry. The painted leaves
let go their hold on twig or bough and dropped whispering into the
water, like garlands flung to dress the coming rite.
Morning meeting was over. The women-folks who had come far spread
dinner on the grass near the church, joining together occasionally, the
children wandering about in solemn delight with a piece of corn pone in
hand, whispering among the graves in the tiny God's acre, spelling out
the words upon some wooden head-board, or the rarer stone.
The Big Spring was the customary gathering place of the young people
before church, and during intermissions, about its clear basin, on the
slopes above the great rock from under which it issued, might be seen a
number of couples, the boys in Sunday best of jeans or store-bought
clothing, the girls fluttering in cheap lawns or calicoes, and wearing
generally hats instead of the more becoming sunbonnet. Judith had been
used to lead her following here, and the number of her swains would
have been a scandal in any one else: but there was a native dignity
about Judith Barrier that kept even rural gossip at bay. This morning,
however, when Elder Drane gave her the customary invitation to walk
down there for a drink, she refused, and all during the first service
the widower had sat tall and reproachful on the men's side and reminded
her of past follies. She was aware of his accusing eyes even when she
did not look in his direction, and uncomfortably aware too that others
saw what she saw.
Throughout the pleasant picnic meal, shared with its group of
neighbours, the sight of Andy and Jeff with Cliantha and Pendrilla
aggravated a dull pain which dragged always in her heart, and when
dinner was over and they had packed the basket once more, and set it in
the back of the waggon, she left them, to wander by herself on the
farther side of Lost Creek, sitting down finally in the shade of a
great sourwood, and looking moodily at the water. All afternoon she sat
there wrapt in her own emotions, forgetful of time and place. The
congregation straggled back into the little log church, and the second
service was begun. The preacher's voice came floating out to her
softened by distance, and with it the sound of singing; as the meeting
drew to its close an occasional more vociferous Amen! or Glory! or
Praise God! made itself heard. The sun was beginning to slant well
from the west when she got suddenly to her feet with the startled
realisation that afternoon preaching was over, the people were pouring
from the church door, streaming across the green toward the baptising
pool. They were in the middle of a hymn.
Oh, wanderer returnreturn,
came their musical tones across the water. The grey-haired old
preacher was in the lead, his black coat blowing about him, the
congregation spreading out fan-wise as they followed after, Andy and
Jeff arm in arm, the half-dozen others who were to be baptised walking
Her fretted, pining spirit had no appreciation left for the appeal
of the picture. She gazed, and looked away, and groaned. Oh, wanderer
return, they sangalmost her heart could not bear the words.
She sighed. Ought she to cross the foot-log and be with them when
the boys were dipped? But while she hesitated the singers struck up a
different hymn, a louder, more militant strain. Brother Bohannon was at
the water; he was wading in; he was up to his knees nowup to his
Send 'em in, Brother Drane, she heard him call. This is about
deep enough. That's rightgive me the young men first. When the others
see them dipped they'll have no fear.
Elihu Drane took Andy's arm, and another helper laid hold of Jeff.
Singsing brethren and sisters, admonished the preacher. Make a
joyful noise unto the Lord. This is the time for Hallelujahs. Ef ye
don't sing now, when will ye ever?
Andy spoke low in the elder's ear, whereupon he was released, and
turned to his brother; hand-in-hand the two stepped into the water
alone. Judith saw the pale, boyish faces, strangely refined by the
exaltation of spirit which was upon them, as the twins waded out toward
the preacher. Bohannon called to Jeff, shook hands with him, shouted,
Praise God, brother. Glory! Glory! Nowmake yo'se'f right stiff. Let
me have ye. Don't be scared. I won't drop ye. I've baptised a many
before you was born, son. His right hand was lifted dripping above the
dark head. I baptise ye, Thomas Jefferson Turrentine, in the name of
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
AmenAmen! came the deep chorus from the bank, the high,
plaintive women's voices undertoned by the masculine bass.
The black coat sleeve went around the white-clad shoulders, the
preacher dropped his new convert gently backward into the shining
water, dipped him, and Jeff who was not an excellent swimmer for
nothing, came up quiet, smiling, and stood aside to wait for his
Singsing! cried the preacher. Here goes another soul on its way
to glory, and he reached forth to take Andy. A moment later he sent
him, drenched, but washed clean of his sins, so far as mountain belief
goes, after his twin. The hallelujahs burst forth to greet the boys:
joyful shouts, amens, and some sobbing when, hand-in-handeven as they
had gone inthey came up out of the water.
Mighty pretty to look at, ain't it? said a voice at Judith's
She turned to find Blatch Turrentine standing behind her.
I reckon Andy and Jeff is goin' to be regular little prayin'
Sammies from this out, jeered the newcomer.
Granny Lusk has given her consent for them and the gals to be
wedded, remarked Judith softly. To herand perhaps to Cliantha and
Pendrilla alsothe main importance of the twins' conversion was in
this permission, which had been withheld so long as they were wild and
had a bad name.
I heared of another weddin' that might interest ye, Blatch
insinuated. Want to come and walk a piece over by the Big Spring,
Judith turned uncertainly. The boys had passed on up to the sheds to
get on dry clothing. It was nearly time for her to be going back to the
waggon. Bohannon was dipping Doss Provine's sister Luna. A group of
trembling, tearful candidates, mostly young girls, were being heartened
and encouraged for the ordeal by the helpers on the bank.
Tell me herecain't ye? she said listlessly.
I heared from a feller that got it from another feller, Blatch
began smilingly, that Huldy Spiller an' Creed Bonbright was wedded and
gone to Texas. I reckon hit's true, becaze the man that told me was
aimin' to buy the Bonbright farm.
Judith did not cry out. She hoped her colour did not change very
much, for Blatch's eyes were on her face. After a while she managed to
say in a fairly steady voice,
Does Wade know? Have ye sent any word to him?
No, drawled Blatch. Unc' Jep aimed to break off with me, and he
left you the only one o' the family that dared speak with me. Mebbe you
would like to write an' tell Wade?
I don't know, sighed Judith hopelessly. What's the use?
Farewell, said Blatch, using a common mountain form of adieu. I
reckon Unc' Jep won't want to see me standin' around talkin' to ye. You
tell Wade, significantly. The sooner he gets Huldy out of his head
the better for him. No use cryin' over spilt milk. They's as good fish
in the sea as ever come out of it.
He looked long at her downcast face.
Jude, the man that told me that about Bonbright, he said, speaking
apparently on sudden impulse, 'lowed that the feller had left
yougive ye the mitten. You're a fool ef ye let that be said, when his
betters is wantin' ye.
Without another word, without a glance, he turned and slouched
swiftly away down the path behind the fringe of bushes by the creek
The baptising was over. Judith, crossing the stream, saw her uncle's
waggon, Beck and Pete already hitched to it, being loaded with Jim Cal
and his tribe. Andy and Jeff were horseback with the Lusk girls. She
hurried forward to join them and make ready for departure when, to her
dismay, she encountered Drane at the foot of the slope coming toward
Wasn't that thar Blatchley Turrentine? inquired the elder.
The girl nodded.
I didn't see him in the church, Drane pursued.
I reckon he wasn't there, assented Judith lifelessly, making as
though to pass on.
He jest came here to have speech with you, did he? inquired the
man, nervously, brushing his sandy whiskers with unquiet fingers.
I reckon he did, acknowledged Judith without coquetry, without
Jude! burst out the widower, I promised you I never would again
ax you to wed; but I'm obliged to know ef you're studyin' about takin'
No, said Judith, resenting nothing, I never did aim to wed Blatch
Turrentine, and I never will.
The elder stood directly in her path, blocking the way and staring
down at her miserably for a long minute.
That's what you always used to tell me, he remarked finally with a
heavy sigh. Back in them days when you let me hope that I'd see you
settin' by my fireside with my children on your knees, you always
talked thataway about BlatchI reckon you talked thataway of me to
Judith's pale cheek slowly crimsoned. She looked upon the ground.
I'm mighty sorry, she said slowly.
Elihu Drane's faded eyes lighted with fresh fires. He caught the
hand that hung by her side.
Oh, Judedo you mean it? he cried. Do you care? You don't know
how the chaps all love ye and want ye. That old woman I've got doin'
for 'em ain't fittin' to raise 'em. Everybody tells me I've got to
marry and give 'em a mother, but I cain't seem to find nobody but you.
If you feel thatawayif you'll
Judith drew her hand away with finality, but her eyes were full of
pitying kindness. She knew now what she had done to this man. By the
revealing lamp of her own suffering she read his. Back in the old days
she had counted him only one more triumph in her maiden progress.
No, she said gravely, I ain't studyin' about marryin' anybody.
I'm mighty sorry that I done thataway. I'm sorry, and ashamed; but I
have to say no again, Elder Drane. There ain't never goin' to be no
Hit's that feller Bonbright, declared the elder sternly as he
stood aside to let her pass. Good Lord, why ain't the man got sense
enough to come back and claim his own!
Chapter XXII. Ebb-Tide
Life closed in on Judith after that with an iron hand. She missed
sorely the children's demands upon her, their play and prattle and
movement about the place. Huldah was gone. Wade was gone. She could get
no news of Creed. The things to love and hate and be jealous of seemed
to have dropped out of her existence, so that the heart recoiled upon
itself, the spirit wrestled blindly in darkness with an angel which was
but its own self in other guise.
Day by day she turned from side to side for an exit from the fiery
path she trod, and cried out to Heaven that she could not bear itshe
could not stand itthere must be some way other than this!
The Lusk girls and the Turrentine twins were to have a double
wedding. The preparations for this event were torture to Judith.
Everybody, it seemed, could be happy but her own poor self. Even the
fact that Jeff and Andy were changed, kinder to her, more considerate,
better men in every way, had its own sting. If this could have been so
before, the wreck of her world need not have come about.
Blatch kept rigorously to his own side of the Gulch, yet once in a
while Judith met him on the highroad; and then, while he approached her
with the carefullest efforts toward pleasing, he showed the effects of
anxiety, the hard life, and the fact that he had begun to drink
heavilya thing he had never done before.
Spring would terminate his lease of the Turrentine farm, and then he
must seek other quarters for his illicit traffic. His situation was
doubled in danger by the fact that it could not be disguised how his
uncle had turned upon him. Now that one did not, supposably, incur the
displeasure of the Turrentines by giving information concerning Blatch
and his still, the enterprise was a much safer one, and he trembled in
hourly terror of its being undertaken by some needy soul. This terror
gave a certain ferocity to his manner. Also the man who had come in
with him to take Jim Cal's place in the partnership was a more
undesirable associate even than Buck Shalliday.
Judith watched all these things with an idle lack of interest that
was strangely foreign to her vivid human temperament. As time passed
and she could hear nothing from Creed Bonbright, nor of him beyond what
Blatch had told her, and the connection she made between it and Iley's
report of Huldah's marriage, the inaction of her woman's lot was almost
more than she could endure. Of an evening after her milking was over
she would stand at the draw-bars under the wide, blue, twilight sky,
and stare with her great, black, passionate eyes into the autumn dusk,
and her whole being went forth with such an intensity of longing that
it seemed some part of it must find Creed, wherever he was, and speak
for her to him.
After Iley's announcement in September Judith never approached her
nor talked to her again, though the shrew was growing strangely mild
and disciplined since Jim Cal had broken with Blatch Turrentine and was
become a partner in his father's affairsa husband who is out of the
good books of other people is a scold-maker with the type of woman Jim
Cal had married. To go near Pendrilla and Cliantha was to be
overwhelmed instantly with the joyous details of their wedding
preparations. Judith flinched from bringing her troubles before such
happy eyes. She had but Aunt Nancy.
It was bitter hard times at the little cabin on The Edge. Doss
Provine had begun actively looking for a second, and his courting
operations sorely interfered with the making of the small crop. Nancy
took the field behind the plough; but her efforts came late and availed
little. There was scarcely food for their mouths; she was continually
harassed by anxiety concerning Pony, who had got to running with a bad
crowd in Hepzibah. And finally the thing happened which had not been
since Big Turkey Track was a mountain and Nancy Card was born in that
small cabin. At her wit's end, she took Little Buck and Breezy and went
away to visit a married daughter whose husband worked in a machine-shop
in a valley settlement, leaving Doss Provine to stay with his kin for
the time. There was plenty at her daughter's table, and a warm welcome
awaiting her and the children; besides, the man of the house had
promised to find a job for her spoiled boy, and give him the masculine
oversight and discipline he needed. At Hepzibah she gathered up that
rather astonished young man, exerting for once the real authority that
was in her, and with him set out on this formidable journey.
Just once old Jephthah went past that closed door. Just once he
looked on the little front yard spilling over its rived palings with
autumn blossoms. And he came home so out of joint with life, in so
altogether impossible a mood, that it was fairly unsafe to mention as
innocent a matter as the time of day to him. Up to now perhaps he had
not known what a very large place in his life those almost daily
quarrels with his old sweetheart filled. Now the restlessness which had
come with the trouble over Creed Bonbright was renewed; he wandered
about aimlessly, with a good word for nothing and nobody, and opined
darkly that his liver was out of order.
Aunt Nancy told me one time that she would almost be willin' to wed
you to get a chance to give you a good course of spring medicine for
that thar liver, remarked Judith casually. And then she looked up with
a wan little smile, to find an expression in her uncle's eyes that set
Oh, dear Heavenwas it like that? Would she grieve for Creed all
her life long, till she was an old, old woman? She declared it should
not be so. Love would never be within her reachwithin the reach of
her utmost effortsand escape her, leave her an empty husk to be blown
by the wind of years to the dust pile of death. One day in this mood
she broke down and talked to the Lusk girls.
He said he'd shore come back, she concluded hopelessly. Well,
anyhow, he named things that would be done when he come back. I call
that a promise. I keep thinking he'll come back.
Pendrilla sat, her great china-blue eyes fixed on Judith's tense,
pale, working face, and the big tears of pure emotional enjoyment began
to slip down her pink cheeks. In the glow of Judith's splendid, fiery
nature, the two pale little sisters warmed themselves like timid
children at a chance hearth. As the full, vibrant voice faltered into
silence, Cliantha went forward and took her favourite position on her
knees beside Judith, her arms raised and slipped around the taller
Oh, she began, with a sort of frightened assurance. Ef my lover
had gone from me thataway, and I didn't know whar he was at, an'
couldn't git no news to him nor from him, I know mighty well and good
what I'd do.
What? whispered Judith, young lioness that she was, reduced to
taking counsel from this mouse, what would you do, Clianthy?
I'd make me a dumb supper and call him, asserted the Lusk girl
with tremulous resolution.
A dumb supper! echoed Judith, and then again, on a different key,
a dumb supper. I never studied about such as that.
She brooded a moment on the thought, and the girls said nothing,
watching her breathlessly.
Do you reckon hit'd do me any good? she questioned then,
half-heartedly. Why, dumb suppers always seemed to me jest happy
foolishness for light-hearted gals that had sweethearts.
Oh, no! disclaimed Pendrilla, joining her sister on the floor at
Judith's feet. They ain't nothin' like foolishness about a
shore-enough dumb supper. Why, Judith, Granny Peavey, our maw's mother,
told us oncet about a dumb supper that her and two other gals made when
she was but sixteen year old, and her sweetheart away from her in
Virginny, and she didn't know whar he was at, an' they brought her
tales agin him.
Well? prompted Judith feverishly. Did it do any good? Did she
find out anything?
Her and two others went to a desarted house at midnightyou know
that's the way, Jude.
Judith nodded impatiently.
They tuck 'em each some bread an' salt, an' a candle to put the
pins in and name. They done everything backwardsye have to do
everything backwards at a dumb supper. I don't know what happened when
the candle burned down to the other girls' pinsI forget somehowbut
when the pin Granny had stuck in the candle an' named for her lover was
melted out and fell, the do' opened and in he walked and set down
beside her. They wasn't a word said betwixt 'em. He tasted her salt,
an' he et her bread; and then he was gone like a flash! And at that
very same identical time that thar young man was a-crossin' the
mountains of Virginny. It drawed himdon't you see, Judith?it drawed
him to Granny. He came back to her, shore enough, three months after,
and they was wedded. He was our grandpap, Adoniram Peaveyand every
word of that's true.
Judith sank lower in her splint-bottomed chair, looking fixedly
above the flaxen heads at her knees, out through the open door, across
the chip pile, and away to the bannered splendours of the autumn
Cliantha laid her head in Judith's lap and began to whimper.
They's awful things chanced at them thar dumb suppers, she
shivered. I hearn tell of one gal that never had no true-love come,
but jest a big black coffin hopped in at the do' and bumped around to
her place and stopped 'side of her. My law, I believe I'd die ef sech
as that should chance whar I was at!
Judith's introverted gaze dropped to the girl's face.
I reckon that gal died, she suggested musingly, I don't know as
I'd care much ef the coffin come for me. Unlesshewas to come, I'd
ruther it would be the coffin. Pendrilly, with a sudden upflash of
interest, what is it that comes? Is it the man hisselfor a ghost?
'T ain't a ghosta shore-enough ha'nt, argued Pendrilla soberly,
sitting back on her heels, not unless 'n the man's dead, hit couldn't
be. Hit wasn't no ha'nt of Grandpap Peaveyand yet hit wasn't grandpap
hisself. I reckon it was a sort of seemin'jest like a vision in the
Bible. Don't you, Jude?
I 'low, put in Cliantha doubtfully, that if the right feller is
close by when he's called by a dumb supper, he comes hisself. But ef
he's away off somewhars that he cain't git to the place, then this here
seemin' comes. An' ef he's dead and gonewhy you'll see his ha'nt.
They's jest three of us, whispered Pendrilla. Three is the right
numberbut I know in my soul I'd be scared till I wouldn't be no
manner of use to anybody.
Hit's comin' close to Hollow Eve, suggested Cliantha. That's the
time to hold a dumb supper ef one ever should be held. Hit'll work
then, ef it wouldn't on no other night of the year.
It has to be held in a desarted house, Pendrilla reiterated the
condition. Ef you was to hold a dumb supper, Jude, we could go to the
old Bonbright house itse'fef we had any way to git in.
I've got the key, said Judith scarcely above her breath. Creed
left it with me away last April, to get things for thefor the
Chapter XXIII. The Dumb Supper
It was the thirty-first of October, All Souls' eve, that mystic
point of contact between the worlds when quick and dead are fabled to
walk the ways of earth together, to meet eye to eye, and hold converse.
A web of mountain legend clings dimly about this season.
The spirit of itweird, elfinwas abroad, the air was full of it
as, alone out in the gusty darkness of the autumn night, at eleven
o'clock, Judith walked swiftly toward the Lusk place. Wrapped in a
little packet she carried bread and salt, and a length of candle. She
went across fields, and thus cut down the distance till it was possible
to walk it in fifteen minutes.
As she approached the house, Speaker, a barely grown hound-pup, came
rollicking out to meet her, leaping about her shoulder-high, frisking
back toward the porch and waiting for her, all the while barking
My Lord! said Pendrilla's sleepy small voice when Judith tapped on
their window in the wing of the building where the girls roomed. Ef
that thar fool hound-pup ain't loose! I hope he don't wake up Grandpap.
Cain't you make him hush, Judith?
Judith stooped and caressed the dog for a moment, quieting him. The
girls presently appeared in the doorway fully dressed and, as it
seemed, with their packets made, in addition to which Cliantha carried
an old lantern unlighted in her hand.
I'll light it as soon as we get out in the road, she announced
When they would have secured the dog that he might not follow them,
they found that he, wise for his age, had disappeared.
I bet he's run down the road apiece; he'll be a-hidin' in the
bushes waitin' for us, Cliantha opined pessimistically. But there was
nothing to be done about it, and they set out, to be intercepted in
just such manner as she foretold.
I vow, I ain't so mighty sorry Speaker's along of us, Pendrilla
said after they had vainly browbeaten, threatened, and stoned the hound
to drive him back through the gate. He's a mighty heap of company and
protection out thisaway in the night.
Girls, said Judith, suddenly halting them all in the little byroad
which they were travelling, don't you think we'd better cut across
here? Hit'll be a lot nearer.
Grandpap's jest ploughed that thar field to put in his winter
wheat, objected Pendrilla. Hit'll make mighty bad walkin'.
But we'll get there quicker, urged Judith feverishly, and that
closed the argument. Between them the Lusk girls had succeeded in
lighting the old lantern; by its illumination the party climbed the
rail fence, and struggled for some distance across the loose hillocks
of ploughed ground.
Hit wouldn't make such awful walkin' if it had been drug, Cliantha
murmured. In the mountains they hitch a horse to a log or a large piece
of brush and, dragging this over the ploughed ground, make shift to
smooth it without a harrow.
They had hobbled about one third of the toilsome way when there came
a rush of galloping hoofs, the girls had barely time to crouch and cry
out, Speaker barked loud, and suddenly half a dozen young calves ran
almost into them.
Oh landy! cried Pendrilla. Ef them thar calves ain't broke the
fence again! Grandpap will be so madand we don't darst to tell him
that we know of it.
Come on, urged Judith. We've got to get over there.
But it was found when they would have moved forward that they could
not shake off their unwelcome escort. The calves had been tended
occasionally in the dusk by a man with a lantern, and they hailed this
one as a beacon of hope. Finally even Judith, desperately impatient to
be gone, agreed that they would have to turn back and put the
meddlesome creatures into their pasture and lay up the fence before
they could make any progress.
Hit'll save time, she commented briefly, as though time were the
only thing worth considering now.
At last, one after the other, they climbed the fence at the side of
the Bonbright place. The air was soft, heavy with coming rain. Up
through the weed-grown yard they went, greeted and beckoned by the
odours of Mary Bonbright's garden, thyme and southernwood, herbs by the
path-side, clumps of brave chrysanthemums, a wandering spray or two of
late-blooming honeysuckle. Judith trembled and locked her teeth
together in anguish as she remembered that other night in the odorous
dusk when she and Creed had stood under these trees and sought in the
darkness for the bush of sweet-scented shrub.
The empty house bulked big and black before them in the gloom. She
took the key from her pocket and opened the front door, Pendrilla and
Cliantha clinging to her in an ecstasy of delicious terror. She stepped
into the front room, struck a match, and lighted her candle. It was
half-past eleven by the small nickel alarm-clock which she carried. Its
busy, bustling, modern tick roused strange, incongruous echoes in the
old house, and reproved their errand.
Speaker made himself at home, coming in promptly, seeking out the
corner he preferred, and turning around dog-fashion before he lay down
and composed himself to half-waking slumbers.
I reckon in here will be the best place, murmured Cliantha,
seeking a candlestick from the mantel for their light. We could set
around this table.
It's more better ef we-all set on the flo', reminded Pendrilla
doubtfully. Don't ye ricollect? all the dumb suppers we ever hearn
tell of was held thataway. Set on the flo' and put yo' bread and salt
on the flo' in front of you.
Mebbe that's becaze they was held in desarted houses, and most
generally desarted houses don't have no tables nor chairs in 'em,
From the moment the lantern revealed the room to them, Judith had
stood drawn back against the wall curiously rigid, her hand at her lip,
her over-bright eyes going swiftly from one remembered object to
another. This fleeting gaze fixed itself at last on the inner door.
I'll go in the other room a minute forfor something, she
whispered finally. You gals set here. I'll be right back. I've got two
She lighted the second candle, left the girls arranging the dumb
supper, and stole, as though some one had called her, into that room
which she had made ready for Creed's occupancy on the night of the
play-party. It had reverted to its former estate of dust and neglect.
She looked about her with blank, desolate eyes which finally found upon
the bed a withered brown something that held her gaze as she crept
toward itthe wreath of red roses!
There it was, the pitiful little lure she had put forward to Love,
the garland she had set in place to show Creed how fine a housewife she
was, how grandly she would keep his home for him. The brave red roses,
the bold laughing red roses, their crimson challenge was shrivelled to
darkened shreds, each golden heart was a pinch of black dust; only the
thorny stems remained to show what queen of blossoms had been there.
She knelt beside the bed, and when the Lusk girls, frightened at her
long absence, crept timidly in to look for her, they found her
strangling passionate sobs in its white covering.
It's most twelve o'clock, Jude, whimpered Cliantha.
Hit's come on to rain, supplied Pendrilla piteously, and a gusty
spatter on the small-paned window confirmed her words, as the three
girls went back into the room where the candle stood in the middle of
the floor with the three portions of bread and salt about it.
The pale little sisters glanced at each other, and then at Judith,
wistfully, timorously, almost more in terror of her than of their
anomalous situation, this new, unknown Judith who scarce answered when
she was spoken to, who continually failed them, who looked so strangely
about her and wept so much.
Pendrilly an' me has done put our pins in close to the bottom,
Cliantha explained deprecatingly. Hit wouldn't do any good to have
Andy an' Jeff come trompin' in herethough I shore would love to see
either or both of 'em this minute, she concluded forlornly, as they
set the door ajar and the long slanting lines of rain began to drive
obliquely in at the opening.
Push the candle back whar the draught won't git a fair chance at
it, quavered Pendrilla. We're obliged to have the do' open, or what
comes cain't git in. An' we mustn't ne'er a one of us say a word from
now on, or hit'll break the charm.
Judith moved the candle and bent to thrust her pin in, close to the
top where the melting wax might soon free it, concentrating all her
soul in a passionate cry that Creed should come to her or send her some
sign. Then she crouched on the floor next to Pendrilla and nearest to
the door, and the three waited with pale faces.
The wavering light of the candle, shaken by gusts which brought
puffs of mist in with them, projected huge, grotesque shadows of the
three heads, and set them dancing upon the walls. The hound-pup raised
his head, cocked his ears dubiously, and whined under his breath.
What's that? gasped Cliantha. Didn't you-all hear somethin'?
Judith was staring at the candle flame and made no reply. Her big
dark eyes had the look of one self-hypnotised.
Oh, Lordy! Ye ortn't to talk at a dumb supperbut I thort I hearn
somebody walkin' out thar in the rain! chattered Pendrilla.
The old house creaked and groaned in the rising autumn storm, as old
houses do. The rain drummed on the roof like fingers tapping. The wind
stripped dry leaves from the bough, or scooped them up out of the
hollows where they lay, and carried them across the window, or drove
them along the porch, in a gliding, whispering flight that was
In their terror the girls looked to Judith. They saw that she was
not with them. Her gaze was on the pin in the candle. Back over her
heart swept the sweetness of her first meeting with Creed. She could
see him stand talking to her, the lifted face, the blue eyesshould
she ever see them again?
Then suddenly the flame twisted and bent, the tallow melted swiftly
on one side, and Judith's pin fell to the floor.
Hit's a-comin'! hissed Cliantha frantically.
Oh, Lord! I wish 't we hadn't Pendrilla moaned.
The dog uttered a protesting sound between a growl and a yelp. He
raised on his forelegs, and the hair of his head and neck bristled.
Outside, a heavy stumbling step came up the walk. It halted at the
half-open door. That door was flung back, and in the square of dripping
darkness stood Creed Bonbright, his face death white, his eyes wide and
fixed, the rain gemming his uncovered yellow hair.
A moment he stood so, and the three stared at him. Then with a swish
of leaves in the wind and a spatter of rain in their faces, the candle
blew out. The girls screamed and sprang up. The hound backed into his
corner and barked furiously. Whatever it was, it had crossed the
threshold and was in the room with them.
JudeJude! shrieked Cliantha. Run! Come on, Pendrilly!
Judith felt a wavering wet hand fumbling toward her in the darkness.
It clasped hers; the arm went around her; she raised her face, and the
cold lips of the visitant met her warm tremulous ones.
For an instant she had no thought but that Creed had returned from
the dead to claim herand she was willing to go. Then she was aware of
a swift rush, as the fleeing girls went past them, and the patter of
the hound's feet following. Slowly the newcomer's weight sagged against
her; he crumpled and went to the floor, dragging her down in his fall.
Girls! Clianthy! Pendrilly! she cried as she crouched there,
clinging to the prostrate form. Don't leave meit's Creed himself.
You got to he'p me!
[Illustration: The door was flung back and in the darkness stood
But the girls were gone like frightened hares. As she got to her
feet in the doorway she could hear the sound of their flying footsteps
down the lane. All was dead still in the room behind her, yet only an
ear as fine as hers could have distinguished those light, receding
footfalls that finally melted into the far multitudinous whisper and
rustle of the storm.
She turned back in the dark and knelt down beside him, passing a
light, tender hand over his face and chest. He breathed. He was a
Creed, she whispered loud and desperately. There was no movement
Creed, raising her voice. O my God! Creed, darlin' cain't you
hear me? It's me. It's Judepoor Jude that loves you socain't you
There came no reply. She lifted the cold hand, and when she let go
of it, it fell. She leaped to her feet in sudden fear that he might die
while she delayed here. With trembling fingers she struck a match and
lit her candle. Her eye fell on the two pins the girls had thrust in it
and named for Andy and Jeff. With a swift motion she plucked them out
and threw them on the floor. She looked from the prostrate figure to
the bed in the corner. Noshe couldn't lift him to lay him there; but
she ran and brought pillows and covers, raising his head upon the one,
lapping him softly in the other.
When all was done that she could do, there was the instant need to
hurry home for help. She hated terribly to leave him alone in the dark,
yet a lighted candle with a man so ill was a risk that she dared not
runhe might move about and set the house on fire. When she closed the
darkened room with its stark figure lying under the white covers, her
heart sank and sank. She must turn the key upon him. There was no good
in hesitating. Only her strong will, her high courage, sustained her as
she locked the door, and turning ran, with feet that love and terror
winged, toward her own home. The rain drenched her; the darkness seemed
a thing palpable; she slipped and fell, got to her feet and ran on.
Jephthah Turrentine, asleep in his own cabin, heard the sound of
beating palms against his door, and a voice outside in the dark and the
rain that cried upon him.
Uncle Jep! Uncle Jep! For God's sake get up quick and help me.
Creed Bonbright's come home to his house, and I think he's dead or
dyin' over there.
Chapter XXIV. A Case of Walking
Uhhuh! said the old man as he straightened up after a
long examination of Creed. I thort so. He's got a case o' walkin'
typhoid, an' looks like he's been on his feet with it till hit's plumb
wore him out.
He stood staring down at the prostrate figure, which had neither
sound nor movement, the fluttering breath of which seemed scarcely to
stir the chest.
Walkin' typhoid, he repeated. I've met up with some several in my
lifetime. Cur'ous things. His wound looks to be healed. Reckon he's
been puny along ever sence he got that ball in his shoulder, and hit's
ended up in this here spell of fever.
Will he die, Uncle Jep? whispered Judith, crouching beside him,
her dark eyes roving desperately from the still form to her uncle's
countenance. What must we do for him?
N-noI reckon he has a chance, hesitated Jephthah. Then, glancing
at her white, miserable face, an' ef he has, hit's to git him away
from here an' into bed right. Lord, I wish 't the boys had been home to
he'p us out. Well, we'll have to do the best we can.
As he spoke he put the word into action, getting a length of
home-made carpet to put in the bottom of the waggon before he should
lay in the feather-bed upon which Creed was to rest. As he worked,
despite the look of acute anxiety, the old man's eye was brighter, his
step was freer, his head was borne more erect, than Judith had seen it
since the trouble came.
Silent, efficient, careful, experienced, he managed with her help to
lift the unconscious man into the waggon and place him, his head in
Judith's lap, for the journey home.
You mind now, Judy, he admonished, almost sternly, ef he comes to
hisse'f you speak to him mighty quiet and pleasant-like. Don't you set
to cryin'don't you make no fuss. 'Tain't every gal I'd trust
thisaway. Nothin' worse for a sick man than to get him excited. He
took the lines and drove with infinite care and caution, walking beside
But his warning was unnecessary; Creed never roused from the
lethargy in which his senses were locked. They got him safely home, the
old man undressed him and laid him comfortably in that big show-bed in
the front room that was given to any guest of honour.
Morning was breaking when Judith, coming into the kitchen, found
Andy and Jeff sitting by the fire, and Dilsey Rust in charge.
Yo' uncle sont fer me, the old woman said. He 'lowed he needed
yo' he'p takin' keer o' Bonbright.
Judith sat with Creed while the others had breakfast. When her uncle
went out, closing the door softly behind him, leaving her alone with
her recovered treasure, she went and knelt down by the bed, and looked
at its silent occupant with a bursting heart.
Here was Creed, Creed for whom she had longed and prayed. He had
come back to her. She stared at the wasted face, the transparent
temples where the blue veins showed through, the black circles beneath
the lashes of the closed eyes. No, no, this was not Creed, this dying
man who mocked her longing with a semblance of her lover's return!
There was a sound at the door. Andy and Jeff came awkwardly in, and
while they all stood looking, Creed's eyes opened suddenly upon them.
Andy put out a hand swiftly.
I'm mighty sorry forfor all that chanced, he said huskily.
So 'm I, Jeff instantly seconded him.
Creed looked at them both with a little puzzled drawing of the
brows; then the ghost of a smile flickered across his lips, and his
hand that lay on the covers moved weakly toward theirs.
It's all right, he said, scarcely above a whisperthe first words
he had uttered. I toldAunt Nancyyou were goodboys he faltered
to a hesitating close, his eyelids drooped over the tired eyes; but
they flashed open once more with a smile that included Judith and her
uncle standing back of the two.
You're allmightygoodto me, said Creed Bonbright. And again
he sank into that lethargic sleep.
As the day advanced came the visitors that are the torment of a
sick-room in the country. It would scarcely have been thought that a
bare land like that could produce so many. Finally Judith went to her
uncle and begged that Creed be no longer made a show of, and that old
Dilsey set out food in the other room and entertain those who came,
without promising that they should see the sick man.
Uhhuh, agreed Jephthah, understandingly, I reckon yo' about
right, Jude. Creed's obliged to lay there like a baby an' sleep ef he's
to have any chance for his life. I don't want to fall out with the
neighbours, but we'll see if we cain't make out with less visitin'.
But this prohibition was not supposed to apply to Iley Turrentine, a
member of the family. About eight o'clock that morning, having then for
the first time heard of the arrival at the cabin, she came hurrying
across the slope with the baby on her hip. Long abstinence had made
keen that temper of hers, and here was a situation where virtue itself
cried to arms. She was eager to give Creed Bonbright a piece of her
You cain't go in unless'n you'll promise to be plumb quietnot to
open yo' mouth, Judith told her sharply. Uncle Jep ain't here right
nowbut that's what he said.
Don't Bonbright know folks? Cain't a body talk to him? Is he plumb
outen his head? demanded Iley, somewhat taken aback.
He knew some of us a while ago, admitted Judith, but mostly he
doesn't notice nothingjest stares right in front of him, and Uncle
Jep said we mustn't let him be talked to nor werried.
The big red-headed woman, considerably lowered in note, stepped
inside the door of the sick-room, hushing the child in her arms. A
moment she stood staring at the bed and its single occupant, at the
pale face on the pillow, then she burst suddenly into tempestuous sobs
Judith followed her out.
What's the matter, Iley? You never set much store by Creed
Bonbrightwhat you cryin' about? she asked.
Hit'sHuldy, choked the sister. I reckon you thort I talked
mighty big about the business the last time you an' me had speech
consarnin' hit; but the facts air that I don't know a thing about whar
she's at, nor how she's doin'. Judy, ef yo' a-goin' to take keer o' the
man, cain't ye please ax him for me when did he see Huldy last,
an'an' is they wedded?
Judith assented. She knew what her uncle would think of such an
inquiry being put to the sick man, yet her own heart so fiercely
demanded knowledge on this point that she promised Iley she would ask
the question as soon as she dared.
The week that followed was a strange one to active Judith Barrier,
used to out-door life under the sky for such a large part of her days.
Now those same days were bounded by the four walls of a sick-room, the
sole matter of importance in them whether the invalid took his gruel
well, whether he had seemed better, whether her uncle spoke
encouragingly of the eventful outcome of this illness. Old Jephthah
himself nursed Creed, and Judith was but a helper; yet, such was her
torture of uncertainty, of anxiety, that she often left to go to her
own room and get some sleep, only to return and beg that she might be
allowed to sit outside the threshold for the rest of the night and be
ready if she were needed.
Ain't no use wearin' yourself out thataway, her uncle used to say
kindly. That won't do Creed no good, nor you neither. I wish to the
Lord I had Nancy here to he'p me!
For in this day of real need he dropped all banter about Nancy's
value in sick-room practice, and longed openly for her assistance.
Creed had been in the house nearly a week and was showing marked
improvement, when Judith got a message from Blatch TurrentineWould
she be at the draw-bars 'long about sundown? He had something to tell
She paid no attention to the request, but it put her in mind to do
finally what she had long contemplatedwrite to her cousin Wade. It
was but a short scrawl, stating that Creed Bonbright was sick at their
house, and not able to tell them anything concerning Huldah, and that
Iley and the others were troubled. Would Wade please ask information in
Hepzibah, and write to his affectionate cousin.
Every day Iley made a practice of coming up and sitting dejectedly
in the kitchen till Judith entered the room, when she would draw her
mysteriously to one side and say:
Have ye axed him yet? What did he tell ye? I'm plumb wo' out and
heart-broke' about it, Jude.
Though Judith realised fully just how much of this display proceeded
from a desire on Iley's part for notice, yet her own passionate,
rebellious heart seconded the idle woman, and allowed the continual
harping on that string to finally drive her to the set determination
that, as soon as Creed could talk to her at all, she would ask him
Had she lacked resolution, the patient himself would have supplied
and hardened it. About this time he developed a singular form of low
delirium in which he would lie with closed eyes,
murmuringmurmuringmurmuring to himself in a hurried, excited
whisper. And always the burden of his distress was:
I must get to her. Where is she? It's a long ways. Oh, I've got to
get to herthere's nobody else.
Kneeling by his bed, her burning gaze upon his shut eyes and moving
lips, Judith racked her soul with questioning. Often she heard her own
name in those fevered whisperings; once he said with sudden
determination, I'm going home. But she listened in vain for mention
And what might that mean? All that she hoped? Or all that she
dreaded? Oh, she could not bear this; she must know; she
mustmustmust ask him.
The Evil One, having provided the counsel, was not slow in following
it up with the necessary opportunity. Judith was sitting with Creed
alone, on a Wednesday nighthe had come to them the preceding Tuesday.
Her uncle being worn out had planned to sleep till midnight, thus
dividing the watch with her. About eleven o'clock Creed opened his eyes
and asked in what seemed to her a fairly natural tone for a drink. She
brought it to him, and when he had drank he began speaking very softly.
I'm glad I came back to the mountains, he said in a weak,
whispering voice. I promised you I'd come, and I did come, Judith.
Yes, answered Judith, putting down the glass and seating herself
at the bedside, taking his hand and stroking it softly, studying his
face with intent, questioning eyes. You know where you are now, don't
He smiled at her.
I'm in the front room at your house where we-all danced the night
of the play-party, he said. I loved you that night, Judithonly I
hadn't quite found out about it.
The statement was made with the simplicity of a childor of a sick
man. It went over Judith with a sudden, sweet shock. Then her jealous
heart must know that it was really all hers. Nerve racked as only a
creature of the open can be after weeks of confinement in a sick-room,
torn with the possessive passion of her earth-born temperament, she
stood up suddenly and asked him in a voice of pain that sounded harsh
Creed, whar's Huldy?
I don't know, returned Creed tremulously. The blue eyes in their
great hollows came up to her face in a frightened gaze. Instantly they
lost their clearness; they clouded and filmed with that look of
confusion which had been in them from the first.
You're married to herain't you? choked Judith, horrified at what
she had done, loathing herself for it, yet pushed on to do more.
Yes, whispered Creed miserably. Sit down by me again, Judith.
Don't be mad. What are you mad about? I forgetthere was awful
trouble, and somebody was shotoh, how they all hate me!
The fluttering moment of normal conditions was gone. The baffled,
confused eyes closed; the thin hands began to fumble piteously about
the covers; the pale lips resumed their rapid motion, while from
between them flowed the old, swift stream of broken whispers.
Judith had quenched the first feeble flame of intelligence that
flickered up toward her. She remained a moment staring down at her
handiwork, then covered her face, and burst out crying. An ungentle
grasp descended upon her shoulder. Her uncle, standing tall and angry
behind her, thrust her from the room.
Thar now! he said with carefully repressed violence, lest his
tones should disturb the sick man. You've raised up a pretty
interruption with my patient. I 'lowed I could trust you, Jude. What in
the world you fussin' with Creed about? For God's sake, did you see
him? You've nigh-about killed him, I reckon. Didn't I tell you not to
name anything to him to werry him?
He says he's married Huldy, said Judith in a strangled voice.
Say! He'd say anythinglike he is now, retorted her uncle,
exasperated. An' he'd shore say anything on earth that was put in his
mouth. I don't care if he's married forty Huldy's; what I want is for
him to get well. Lord, I do wish I had Nancy here, and not one of these
fool young gals with their courtin' business and their gettin' jealous
and having to have a rippit with a sick man that don't know what he's
talkin' about, he went on savagely.
But high-spirited Judith paid no attention to the cutting
Do you think that's trueoh, Uncle Jep, do you reckon he didn't
mean it? was all she said.
I don't see as it makes any differ, retorted her uncle, testily.
Marryin' Huldy Spiller ain't no hangin' matterbut hit'll cost that
boy his life ef you fuss with him and git him excited and all worked
Judith turned and felt her way blindly up the steep little stair to
her own room. That night she prayed, not in a formulated fashion, but
to some vague, over-brooding goodness that she hoped would save her
from cruelty to him she loved.
The next morning Creed was plainly set back in his progress toward
sound rationality, though there seemed little physical change. He
recognised no one, and was much as he had been on those first days.
While this condition of affairs held, and it lasted nearly a week,
there was no need for Jephthah to repeat his caution. But one morning
when Judith went in to relieve her uncle, Creed smiled at her again
with eyes that knew.
As soon as they were alone together, he asked her to come and sit by
him, and told her with tolerable clearness how he had followed Blatch
Turrentine onto the train at Garyville, how he had fainted there, and
only recovered consciousness when they were halfway to the next
I was too bad off for them to leave me anywhere, and they carried
me plumb to Atlanta. I was in the hospital there a long while. Looks
like I might have written to youbut I thought the best I could do was
to let you aloneI'd made you trouble enough, he ended with a
wistful, half-hopeful glance at her face.
Judith, taught by bitter experience, tried to meet this with the
gentle, reassuring cheerfulness of the nurse. It was all right. He
mustn't talk too much. He was here now. They didn't need any letter.
But strive as she might she could not keep out of her voice a certain
alien tone; and afterward the bitter thought dogged her that he had
told her nothing definite. She knew nothing, after all, about his
relations with Huldah; the girl might even, as Blatch declared, have
been on the train, and gone to Atlanta with him, and he have held back
Perhaps, considering her temperament, Judith did as well as could
have been expected in the three days that followeddays in which Creed
seemed to make fair physical gain, but to grow worse and worse
mentally. Never once did she put into words the query that ate into her
very soul, quite innocent of the fact that it spoke in every tone of
her voice, in every movement of her head or hand, and kept the ailing
mind to which she ministered at tremble with the strain to answer.
On the fourth day, fretted past endurance by the situation, Judith
permitted herself some oblique hints and suggestions, on the heels of
which she left to prepare his breakfast. Returning to the sick-room
with the bowl of broth, she met the strange, unexpected, unsolicited
reply to all these withheld demands. Creed greeted her with a
Did you meet her goin' out? he asked.
Did I meet who, Creed? inquired Judith, setting the bowl down on a
splint-bottomed chair, spreading a clean towel across the quilts, and
preparing for his breakfast. Has there been somebody in here to see
It was only Huldah, deprecated Creed. You saidyou askedand
she just slipped in a minute after you went out.
Judith straightened up with so sudden a movement that the chair
rocked and the contents of the bowl slopped dangerously.
Which way did she go? came the sharp challenge.
Out that door, indicating with an air of childlike alarm the front
way which led directly into the yard.
Judith ran and flung it open. Nobody was in sight. Heedless of the
sharp wintry air that blew in upon the patient, she stood searching the
way over toward Jim Cal's cabin.
I don't see her, she called across her shoulder. Mebbe she's in
the house yet.
She closed the door reluctantly and came back to the bedside.
No, said Creed plaintively, lifting a doubtful hand to his
confused head, she ain't here. She allowed you-all were mad at her,
and I reckon she'll keep out of sight.
But she had to come to see youher wedded husband, accused Judith
He nodded mutely with a motion of assent. He seemed to hope that the
admission would please Judith. The broth stood untouched, cooling on
Is she stayin' down at Jim Cal's? came Judith's next question.
She never named it to me where she was stayin', returned Creed
wearily. As before, Judith's ill-concealed anger and hostility was as a
sword of destruction to him; yet now he had more strength to endure
with. She just comeand now she's gone. He closed his eyes, and
leaned his head back among his pillows. The white face looked so sunken
that Judith's heart misgave her.
Won't you eat your breakfast now, Mr. Bonbright? she said stiffly.
I don't want any breakfast, thank you. I can't eat, returned Creed
Judith pressed her lips hard together to refrain from mentioning
Huldah again. She knew that she had injured Creed, yet for the life of
her she could not get out one word of kindness. Finally she took her
mending and sat down within sight of the bed, deceiving herself into
the belief that he slept.
The next day an almost identical scene pushed Judith's strained
nerves to the verge of hysteria. In the afternoon when the old man came
to relieve her he returned almost immediately from the sick-room,
called her downstairs once more, and complained of Creed's progress.
What's the matter? he asked. Look like somethin' has went wrong
here right lately. Ever sence you got that fool notion in yo' head that
Creed and Huldy was man and wife, he's been goin' down in his mind
about as fast as his stren'th come up. The best thing you can do is to
put it out of yo' head.
Well, they air wedded, returned Judith passionately. They
ain't no use to fergit it, 'caze she's done been hereshe's down at
Jim Cal's right now; and when we-all are out of the room he says she
slips in to visit him.
The girl stood trembling; her rounded cheeks that used to blush with
such glowing crimson were white; she was a figure to move any one who
loved her to pity; but the old man regarded her with strong contempt.
Good Lordis that what's ailin' ye? he burst out. You
might at least have had the sense you was born with, and asked somebody
is Huldy here. You know in reason it shows that Creed's out of his
headwhen he tells you a tale like that. The Lord knows there's no
fool in the world like a jealous woman. Do ye want to kill the boy?or
run him crazy?
Judith struggled with her tears.
Uncle Jep, she finally choked out without actually sobbing. I
won't say another wordnow that I know. I ain't got nothin' agin'
Creed Bonbright, nor his wifewhy should I have?
Some ruth came into the scornful glance those old black eyes bent on
You're a good gal, Jude, Jephthah said softly, ef ye air
somethin' unusual of a fool in this business. But I reckon I got to
take this boy out o' yo' hands someway. I'm obliged to leave Creed with
ye for one short whilean' agin' my grain it goes to do itan' go
fetch him a nurse that won't take these tantrums. But mind, gal, it's
Creed's reason I'm leavin' with you; mebbe his lifebut sartain shore
his reason. I won't be gone to exceed two days. Ye can hold out that
long, cain't ye?
I'll do the best I can, Uncle Jep, said Judith with unexpected
mildness. An' ef Huldy 's here
My Lord! broke in Jephthah. Why don't ye go to Iley an' set yo'
mind at rest about Huldy?
Hit is at rest, returned Judith darkly. When Creed come here,
Iley was at me every day to ask him whar was Huldy; but I take notice
that sence that day he named Huldy visitin' him Iley ain't been a-nigh
The old man heaved a heavy sigh.
Well, ye say ye'll do yo' best? Hit's apt to be a good best, Jude.
In two days, ef I live, I'll be back here, an' I'll bring he'p.
Chapter XXV. A Perilous Passage
It was a strange thing to Judith to be left alone in the house, in
charge of it and the sick man. Old Dilsey did the cooking and all the
domestic labour. Had Wade been at home, and the patient any other than
Creed Bonbright, she would have had a capable assistant at the nursing.
Andy and Jeff tried to be as kind as they could. But they were an
untamed, untrained pair, helpless and hapless at such matters, and
their approaching wedding kept them often over at the Lusk place. From
Iley Judith held savagely aloof.
It was on the second morning of her uncle's absence that Dilsey Rust
brought again that message from Blatch, and Judith caught at it. She
had done her best; she had refrained from any questions; but the night
before Creed told her without asking that Huldah had been in to see him
twice again. As her patient's physical strength notably increased, his
appeal to her tender forbearance of course lessened, and the raw insult
of the situation began to come home to her.
She put a shawl over her head and ran swiftly down through the chill
November weather to the draw-bars, where in the big road outside
Turrentine slouched against a post waiting for her. The man spoke over
Howdy, Judeyou did come at last.
Ef yo' goin' to say anything to me, you'll have to be mighty quick,
Blatch, she notified him, shivering. I got to get right back.
They's somebody newand yet not so newa-visitin' in the Turkey
Tracks that you'd like to know of, he prompted coolly. Ain't that
Huldy, she gasped, her dark eyes fixed upon his grey ones.
I 'lowed you'd take an intrust in that thar business, an' I thort
as a friend you ort to be told of it, he added virtuously.
Where's she at? demanded Judith.
Over at my house, announced Turrentine easily, with a backward
jerk of his head.
At yo' house! echoed Judith; at yo' house! Why, hit
Huh, laughed Blatch. I don't know about decent. She was out thar
takin' the rain; she had nobody to roof her; an' I bid her in, 'caze
I'm in somewhat the same fix myse'f.
No one to roof her, repeated Judith. What's henderin' her from
comin' over this side the Gulch?
Well, seein' the way she's done Wade I reckon she 'lows she'd
better keep away from his pap's house. She's at the outs with IleyJim
Cal's lady sont her word she needn't never show her face thar agin. She
gives it out to everybody that'll listen at her talk that she's skeered
o' you 'count o' Bonbright.
Judith studied his face with half-incredulous eyes.
How long has she been there? she interrogated keenly.
Turrentine seemed to take time for reflection.
Lemme see, he ruminated, she come a Wednesday night. Hit was
rainin', ef you remember, an' I hearn something outside, and it scairt
me up some, fer fear it was revenuers. When I found hit was Huldy, I
let her in, an she's been thar ever sence.
Wednesday night! It was Thursday morning that Creed had first
announced the visit of his wife. Oh, it must be true! Judith trembled
all through her vigorous young body with a fury of despair. As always,
Blatchley had found the few and simple words to bid her worser angel
forth. She even felt a kind of hateful relish for the quarrel. They had
tricked her. They had made a fool of her. She had suffered so much. She
longed to be avenged.
Judy, murmured Blatch softly, bending toward her but not laying a
hand upon her, you white as a piece o' paper, an' shakin' from head to
foot. That's from stayin' shet up in the house yonder nussin' that
feller Bonbright night an' day like a hirelin'. W'y, he never did care
nothin' for ye only becaze ye was useful to him. Ye stood betwixt him
an' danger; ye he'ped him out when he needed it wust. An' he had it in
mind to fool ye from the first. Now him and Huldy Spiller has done it.
Don't you let 'em. You show 'em what you air. I've got a hoss out thar,
and Selim's down in the stable. I'll put yo' saddle on him. Git yo'
skirt, honey. Let's you and me ride over to Squire Gaylord's and be
wedded. Then we'll have the laugh on these here smart folks that tries
to fool people.
He leaned toward her, all the power of the man concentrated in his
gaze. Perhaps he had never wanted anything in his twenty-seven years as
he now wanted Judith Barrier and her farm and the rehabilitation that a
union with her would give him. Once this girl's husband, he could
curtly refuse to rent to Jephthah Turrentine, who had, he knew, no
lease. He could call into question the old man's stewardship, and even
up the short, bitter score between them. He could reverse that scene
when he was sent packing and told to keep his foot off the place.
Judy, he breathed, deeply moved by all this, don't ye remember
when we wasbefo' ever this feller comeWhy, in them days I used to
think shore we'd be wedded.
Judith rested a hand on the bars and, lips apart, stared back into
the eager eyes of the man who addressed her. Blatchley had always had
some charm for the girl. Power he did not lack; and his lawlessness,
his license, which might have daunted a feebler woman, liberated
something correspondingly brave and audacious in her. He had been the
first to pay court to her, and a girl does not easily forget that.
For a moment the balance swung even. Then it bore down to Blatch's
side. She would go. Yes, she would. Creed might have Huldah. The girl
might be his wife, or his widow. She, Judith Barrier, would show
themshe would show them. Her parted lips began to shape to a reckless
yes. The word waited in her mind behind those lips all formed. Her
swift imagination pictured to her herself riding away beside Blatch
leaving the sick man who had been cause of so many humiliations to her
to die or get well. Blatch, watching narrowly, read the coming consent
in her face. His hand stole forward toward the draw-bars.
Her salvation was in a very small and commonplace thing. The picture
of herself riding beside Blatch Turrentine brought back to her, with an
awakening shock, the recollection of herself and Creed riding side by
side, her arm across his shoulder, his drooping head against it. How
purely happy she had been thenhow innocenthow blest! What were
these fires of torment that raged in her now? No, no! That might be
lost to her; but even so, she could not decline from its dear memory to
a mating like this. Without a word she turned and ran back to the
house, never looking over her shoulder in response to the one or two
cautious calls that Blatch sent after her.
Judith's day was mercifully full of work. When Creed did not require
her, Dilsey demanded help and direction, and one or two errands from
outside kept her mind from sinking in upon itself. It was night-fall,
Andy was lending her his awkward aid in the sick-room, when Jeff came
in and beckoned the two of them out mysteriously.
How's Bonbright this evenin', Jude? Do you reckon I could have
speech with him? he asked in a troubled tone.
Judith shook her head. Her own near approach to absolute failure in
her charge that morning made her the more punctilious now.
No. She spoke positively. Uncle Jep said he wasn't to be werried
Why, he's settin' up some, ain't he? said the boy in surprise. I
thort he looked right peart.
Yes, agreed Judith dejectedly, he's gettin' his strength all
right; he does look well. But you ax him questions, or name anything to
him to trouble him, an' it throws him right back. Uncle Jep says hit's
more his mind than his body now. What is it ye want from Creed? Cain't
I tend to it?
I don't reckon a gal like you could he'p any, Jeff said
doubtfully. His eye wandered toward his twin. I reckon this is men's
business. I've got word that Huldy Spilleror some say Huldy
Bonbrightis over at Blatch's cabin, and he's got her shut up.
Judith's heart gave a great leap as of terror; the thing was out at
lastpeople knew it. Then that heavily beating heart sank sickeningly;
what difference to her, though all the world knew it? Yet she held to
Oh, shore not, Jeff. You cain't nigh talk to him about
nothin' like that, she maintained. Uncle Jep made me promise that
nothin' should be named to him to excite him.
Well, then, pursued Jeff, pappy not bein' here, nor Wade, and Jim
Cal over at Spiller's, an' the gal not havin' no men folks in reach, me
an' Andy has got to look after this thing. Fact is, Blatch sent word
that ef we wanted her we could come over and git her.
I don't know as we do want herI don't know as we do, put in
Andy. And we both promised pappy that we wouldn't set foot on the land
whilst Blatch had it rented.
Then ag'in, debated JeffOh, no, buddy, we cain't leave the gal
thar. We're plumb obliged to find out if she wants to come away,
Andy turned to his cousin.
What do you say, Jude? Ort we to go?
Judith locked her hands hard together and held down her head,
fighting out her battle. She longed to say no. She longed to shout out
that Huldah Spiller might take care of herself, since she had been so
unwomanly as to run after men and bring all this trouble on them. What
she did say, at the end of a lengthened struggle, was:
Yes, I think both of you ort to go. Can it be did quiet? You got to
think of her good name.
Well, how air we goin' to be sure that gal's over there? inquired
Andy, still half reluctant.
Oh, she's there, returned Judith heavily; and when the boys
regarded her with startled looks, I ain't seen her, but she's been on
the mountain since Thursday. She's been slippin' over to
visitherCreed named it to me then.
Well that does settle it, Andy concluded. Reckon Blatch has shut
her up for pure meanness. When was we to go? Was there any time sot?
To-night, Jeff informed them. Any time after ten o'clock'll
dothat was the word I got.
Well, that'll be all right, agreed Andy; I can fix Creed up for
the night, and ef we git Huldy away in the dark nobody need know of the
businessnot even Bonbright.
A slow flush rose in Judith's pale cheeks. But she offered no
comment on this aspect of the case. She only said:
Just do what you think best, and don't name it to me again,
please. Then, as both boys looked wonderingly at her, she added
haltingly, I've got enough to werry overwith a sick man here on my
hands, an' Uncle Jep gone.
She went to her room. When at midnight she slipped down as of custom
to see how all fared in the sick-room, she found the patient sleeping
quietly, and Andy ready for the trip across the Gulch. The boys were
going unarmed; they felt no fear of treachery on Blatch's partit
could profit him nothing to injure either of them in so public a way,
and indeed he had never shown them any ill-will.
Chapter XXVI. His Own Trap
I reckon that'll about do for you, my pretty young men, remarked
Blatchley Turrentine as he put the last knot in the line with which he
was securing Andy to a splint-bottomed chair.
His concluding words were the refrain of a familiar old ballad, and
he continued to hum this as he straightened up and set his hands on his
hips, regarding the twins through wickedly narrowed eyes. He was
flushed with drink and inclined, as always at such times, to swagger
with a sort of savage playfulness.
Scalf, you ain't got yo' feller half tied, he broke out, jerking
the cord around Jeff. Why, Lord A'mighty! I could pull myse'f a-loose
from that mess o' rope inside o' five minutes, and he set to work to
make his cousin secure.
Do yo' own dirty work, growled Scalf. Yo' the only one that's
a-goin' to profit by it.
It was after midnight. When the two boys had approached Blatch's
cabin as agreed, they had been set upon from behind, pinioned, and
taken to the cave where the still was. Here they now sat bound and
What do you aim to make out of it, Blatch? asked Jeff, offering
the first remark that had come from either of them since their capture.
Isuh Andy glanced at Scalf, and strove to keep Huldah's name
out of itis what we come for here yet?
Blatch burst into a great horse laugh and slapped his thigh.
What you come after, he repeated enjoyingly. LordLord! What you
come after! You was easy got. I counted on Jude to set you on, and I
see I never counted none too much.
What do you aim to make out of it? persisted Andy.
The light from the fire built at the back of the cave, whose smoke
went up a cleft and entered the chimney of the cabin far above,
illuminated the dark interior flickeringly. Blatch went to a jug on a
shelf, noisily poured a drink into a tin cup, swallowed it, and then
addressed himself to his cousins.
Yo' pappy ordered me off his land. My lease is up next month. I got
to git out of here anyhow, and I aimed to raise a stir befo' I went.
This here town podner what I got after you-all quit me, glancing
negligently at Scalf, has many a little frill to his plans, and he
knows Dan Haley, the marshal, right well. Sometimes I misdoubt that he
come up on Turkey Track to git in with me and git the reward that I'm
told Haley has out for the feller that can ketch me stillin'.
He wheeled and looked fully at Scalf with these words, and the town
man made haste to turn his back, warming his hands at the blaze. Blatch
laughed deep in his throat.
Scalf's on the make, he asserted with grim humour. He needed
somebody to give up to Dan Haley, and as I hain't got no likin' for
learnin' to peg shoes in the penitentiary, I 'lowed mebbe the trade
would suit you-all boys, an' I sont over for ye.
The twins writhed in their chairs as much as their tight bandings
would permit. How simple they had been to trust the mercy of a
desperate man. And they knew Blatch Turrentine. In days past, they had
been on the inside, pupils and assistants in such work as this. They
stole sheepish looks at each other. But the message he had sent them
was yet to be explained. If Huldah was not with him, how had he known
she was on the mountain at all?
What made you send the word you did? burst out Andy wrathfully.
Blatch had moved over by the fire.
Oh, I hearn through old Dilsey Rustthat I've had a-listenin' at
key-holes and spyin' through chinksabout Bonbright's talk concernin'
Huldy, and I thort
At these words ancient Gideon Rust, posted as sentinel outside the
cave's entrance, keeping himself warily from view of the prisoners,
craned forward and stared with fallen jaw, reckless of observation.
Humble tenants, pensioners of Judith and the Turrentines, with these
words Blatch had wantonly stripped the poor roof from above their grey
heads, and turned them out defenceless, to the anger of that strong
family. Come what would, he must protest.
Now Blatch, he whined, you ort not to go a-namin' names like you
do. You said that Dilsey nor me, nary one, needn't be known in this
In his excitement he came fully into the light.
I hope you-all boys understand that I didn't aim to do ye a
meanness. Yo' papII hope he won't hold this agin' us. The
Turrentines has been mighty good friends to Dilseyand here's Blatch
lettin' on to 'em like she was a spy.
Well, what else is she? asked Blatch with an oath. What else are
any of ye? The last one of ye would sell yo' own fathers and mothers.
Don't I know ye? A man's only chance is to get ye scared of him, or
give ye somebody else to tell tales onand that's what I've done.
He turned his attention once more to Andy and Jeff, and left the old
man staring aghast, plucking at his beard.
I've bought me a good team, an' I'm goin' to move my plunder out of
here, he told them. I've done picked me a fine place over yon,
jerking his head vaguely in the direction of the Far Cove. Every stick
and ravellin' that belongs to me I'll take, exceptin' the run of
whiskey that I'll leave in the still here for to make the marshal shore
he's got the right thing. You might expect him any time to-morrow. Old
Gid here will lead him in, or Scalf, and the testimony they stand ready
to give means penitentiary to you two.
I reckon you-all won't deny that you have made many a run of
blockaded whiskey right here in this cave, put in Scalf, nervously.
That's sothat's so, boys, I've seed ye many a time, whimpered
Gideon Rust, almost beside himself with terror. I hope ye won't hold
it ag'in us that we he'ped to have ye took instead of Blatch here.
Blatch is a hard man to deal withhe's been too much fer meand hit
wouldn't do you all no manner of good ef he was took along with ye. I
don't see that yo' any worse off ef he goes free.
The twins looked at each other and forebore to reply. Blatch moved
over to Scalf, and after some muttered parley with the town partner
strode away into the dark. Scalf himself waited only long enough to be
sure that Blatch had left, then slipped away, posting the old man down
the path as lookout.
Alone in the cave, it was long before either boy spoke. Then came a
rush of angry comment and bitter reflection which interrogated the
situation from all sides, tending always to the conclusion that it was
mighty hard, when a man had given up his evil courses, when he had just
joined the church and was about to get married, to have the whole ugly
score to pay. They sat cramped and miserable in their splint-bottomed
chairs and the hours wore away till dawn in this dismal converse. Pappy
was righthe was mighty right. If they ever got out of thisBut
there, Blatch wasn't apt to make a failure.
It was broad daylight when at last Blatch Turrentine brought his
team up and as close to the cave's mouth as he dared. It was loaded
already with a considerable amount of furniture and clothing from the
cabin, and he climbed down the steep approach to take from the cave the
jugged whiskey, and the keg or two which was aging there. His eyes were
reddened; but the dark flush which had been on his face had now given
place to a curious pallor. There was a new element in his mood, a
different note in his bearing, a suggestion of furtive hurry and
He was not afraid of the marshal. Haley could not be on the mountain
before noon. But he had left that behind in the little log stable from
which his team came that cried haste to his going.
Gord Bosang from whom he was to buy the horses was a man somewhat of
Blatch's own ilk. Cavalierly called out of bed after midnight and
offered only a partial cash paymentall that Blatch had been able to
raisehe had angrily refused to let the team be taken off the place.
Turrentine's situation was desperate. He must have the horses. In the
quarrel that followed, he struck to clear this obstacle from his path;
but whether he had left a dead man lying back there on the haywhether
it was a possible charge of murder he was now fleeing fromhe had not
stopped to find out. He had got back to his cabin with all haste,
pitched his ready belongings into the wagon, and now he came down to
the still to get the last, and see that all there was working out
As his foot reached the opening he uttered a loud exclamation, then
leaped into the cave. Both chairs were empty, the ropes lying cut
beside them. He sprang back to the rude doorway and gave the usual
signalthe screech-owl's cry. It was inappropriate at this time, yet
he could not risk less, and he sent it forth again and again.
Getting no answer he ventured cautiously to call Gideon Rust's name,
and when this failed he looked about him and came to a decision. The
boys were gone. The fat was in the fire. Yethe returned to itthe
marshal could not be there before noon. He had time to remove the
whiskey if he worked hard enough. He glanced at the still. The worm and
appurtenances were of value. He had saved money for nearly two years to
buy the new copper-work. He wondered if he might empty and take it
For half an hour he toiled desperately, carrying filled jugs up the
steep and hiding them carefully in his loaded wagon. The kegs he could
not move alone, and set to work jugging the fluid from them. Sweat
poured down his face, to which, though he drank repeatedly from the tin
cup, no flush returned. His teeth were set continually on his under
lip. His breath came heavily as he lifted and stooped. In the midst of
his labours a slight noise at the cave entrance brought him to his
feet, staring in terror. The sight of trembling Gideon Rust in the
opening reassured him.
Come in here, you old davil, and help me jug this whiskey, he
cried out. Whar's Scalf? How come you an' him to let them boys git
away? What do you reckon I'm a-goin' to do to you for it?
Why, is them fellers gone? quavered the old man, craning his neck
to look gingerly in. I never seen nothin' movin' up here, butthey
was a gal or so come norratin' past on the path; I 'lowed when I seed
calicker that it mought be Huldy, you named her so free.
Well, shut yo' fool mouth and get yo'se'f to work, ordered Blatch.
I've got to be out o' this.
He turned his back on old Gid and forgot him.
Ef I thort I had time I'd take my still with me, he ruminated,
going close to it and laying a fond touch upon the copper-work. I'm a
mind to try it.
Hands up, Turrentine! came a short sharp order from outside.
Blatch whirled like a flash, and looked past Gideon Rust in the
doorway. Over the old man's shaking shoulders, he saw the levelled
rifles of the marshal and his posse.
Thar, whispered ancient Gideon fairly weeping, as they closed in
on Turrentine and snapped the handcuffs on his wrists, now mebbe ye
won't name a pore old woman's name so free, ef you have bought
her to yo' will, and set her to spy on them that's been good friends to
Chapter XXVII. Love's Guerdon
When Judith left Andy in charge of her patient and mounted the
ladderlike stair to her own small room under the eaves, she felt no
disposition to sleep. She did not undress, but sat down by the window
and stared out into the black November night. Despite everything, there
had come a sort of peace over her tumult, a stilling that was not mere
weariness. She was like a woman who has just been saved from a
shipwreck, snatched away from the imminent jaws of doomchastened, and
wondering a little. Intensely thankful for what she had escaped, she
sat there in the dark, cold little room, Judith Barrier, safe from the
sin of a godless union, from the life that would have been hers as
Blatchley Turrentine's wife.
In the light of her danger, familiar things took on a new face,
strange, yet dear and welcome. She turned and gazed with childish eyes
up at the decent beams of her rooftree, glad that they still sheltered
her a maid, glad that the arms of her home were about her.
With remorseless honesty she went back over her years. Always in the
past months of suffering she had blamed this or that extraneous
circumstance with her undoing; now she saw and recognised and
acknowledged that nothing and nobody had brought disaster upon her but
herself. It was not because Blatchley Turrentine was a bad, lawless
man, not because the boys were reckless fellows, led and influenced by
him, that all this trouble had come. If she, Judith Barrier, had dealt
fairly and humbly by her world, she might have had the lover of her
choice in peace as other girls hadeven as Cliantha and Pendrilla had.
But no, such enterprises as contented these, such stir as they made
among their kind, would not do her. She must seek to cast her spells
upon every eligible man within her reach. She must try her hand at
subjugating those who were difficult, pride herself on the skill with
which she retained half a dozen in anxious doubt as to her ultimate
intentions concerning them.
Her forehead drooped to the window pane and her cheeks burned as she
recollected times and seasons and scenes that belonged to the years
when Blatch was building up his firm belief that she loved him, and
would sometime marry him. It had been a spirited, dangerous game to her
then, nothing more.
Her passionate, possessive nature was winning to higher ground,
leaving, with pain and travail of spirit, the plane on which her twenty
years had been lived. The past months of thwarting, failure, and
heart-hunger had prepared for this movement, to-night it was almost
consciously making. She was coming to the place where, if she might not
have love, she could at least be worthy of it. The little clock which
had measured her vigils that night of the dumb supper slanted toward
twelve. She got to her feet with a long sigh. She did not know yet what
she meant to do or to forbear doing; but she was aware, with relief, of
a radical change within her, a something awakened there which could
consider the right of Creedeven of Huldah; which could submit to
failure, to rejectionand be kind. Slowly she gathered up her
belongings and took her way downstairs.
When the door of the sick-room closed behind the boys, she went and
knelt down beside the bed and looked fixedly at the sleeper. With the
birth of this new spiritual impulse the things Blatch Turrentine had
said of Creed and Creed's intentions dropped away from her as fall the
dead leaves from the bough of that most tenacious of oak trees which
holds its withered foliage till the swelling buds of a new spring push
it off. He was a good man. She felt that to the innnermost core of her
heart. She loved him. She believed she would always love him. As for
his being married to Huldah, she would not inquire how that came about,
how it could have happened while she felt him to be promised to
herself. There wasthere must bea right way for even that to befall.
She must love him and forgive him, for only so could she face her life,
only so could she patch a little peace with herself and still the
gnawing agony in her breast. Long she knelt thus.
Who that knows even a little the wonders of the subjective mind, who
that has tested the marvellous communication between the mood of nurse
and patient, will doubt that the sick man, lying passive, receptive,
got now Judith's message of peace and relaxation. The girl herself,
powerful, dominating young creature, had been fought to a spiritual
standstill. She was at last forced to her knees, and the atmosphere
which her passionate struggles had long disturbed grew serene about
her. Even a wavering note of something more joyous than mere peace, a
courage, a strength that promised happiness must have radiated from her
to him. For Creed's eyes opened and looked full into hers with a wholly
rational expression which had long been absent from their clear depths.
Judithhoney, he whispered, and fumbled vaguely for her hand upon
Yes, Creedwhat is it? What do you want? she asked tremulously,
taking the thin fingers in her warm clasp.
Nothingso long as I've got you, he returned contentedly. Can't
I sit upand won't you sit down here by me and talk awhile?
Gently smiling, Judith helped him to sit up, and piled the pillows
back of his head and shoulders, noting almost with surprise how well he
looked, how clear and direct was his gaze.
I've been sick a long time, haven't I? he asked.
Yes, the girl replied, drawing up a chair and seating herself.
Hit's more'n six weeks that Uncle Jep an' me has been takin' care of
He lifted her hand and stroked it softly.
A body gets mighty tired of a sick fellow, he said wistfully.
Judith's eyes filled at the pitiful little plea, but she could not
offer endearments to Huldah's husband.
I ain't tired of you, she returned in a low, choked voice. I most
wisht I was. Creed
She slipped from her chair dropping on her knees beside him.
Creed, I want to tell you now while I can do it that the boys is
gone to get Huldy. She can take care of you after thisbut I'll help.
I ain't mad about it. I was aimin' to tell you that the next time she
come in you should bid her stay. God knows I want ye to be
happywhether it's me or another.
Bewilderment grew in the blue eyes regarding her so fixedly.
Huldah? he repeated. And then again in a lower, musing tone,
Yesyo' wife, Huldy Spiller, Judith urged mildly. Don't you mind
namin' it to me the first time she slipped in to visit you?
An abashed look succeeded the expression of bewilderment. A faint,
fine flush crept on the thin, white cheek.
II do, Creed whispered, with a foolish little smile beginning to
curve his lips; but there wasn't a word of truth in itdear. I've
never seen the girl since she left Aunt Nancy's that Saturday morning.
What made you say it then? breathed Judith wonderingly.
II don't know, faltered the sick man. It seemed like you was
mad about something; and then it seemed like Huldah was here; and
thenI don't know Judithdidn't I say a heap of other foolishness?
The simple query reproved his nurse more than a set arraignment
would have done. He had indeed babbled, in his semi-delirium, plenty of
other foolishness, this was the only point upon which she had been
Oh Creedhoney! she cried, burying her face in the covers of his
bed, I'm so 'shamed. I've got such a mean, bad disposition. Nobody
couldn't ever love me if they knew me right well.
She felt a gentle, caressing touch on her bowed head.
Jude, darling, Creed's voice came to her, and for the first time
it sounded really like his voice, I loved you from the moment I set
eyes on you. I didn't sense it for a spell, but I come to see that you
were the one woman in the world for me. There never was a man done what
went more against the grain than I the night I parted from you down at
the railroad station and let you go back when you would have come with
meso generousso loving
He broke off with a choking sigh, and Judith raised her head in a
sort of consternation. Were these the exciting topics that her Uncle
Jep would have banished from the sick-room? she wondered. But no, Creed
had never looked so nearly a well man as now. He raised himself from
Don't! she called sharply, as she sprang up and slipped a capable
arm under his shoulders, laying his head on her breast. You ort not to
do thataway, she reproached him. When you want anything I'll git it.
I don't want a thing, but this, whispered Creed, looking up into
her eyes. Nothing, only
Judith read the mute prayer aright, and tears of exquisite feeling
blinded her. As she looked at him, there was loosed upon her soul the
whole tide of passionate tenderness which had gathered there since
first she saw him standing, eager, fearless, selfless, on the Court
House steps at Hepzibah. The yellow head lay on her arm now; those blue
eyes which, in many bitter hours since that time, had seemed as
unattainable to her love as the sky itself, were raised to her own,
they were pleading for her kiss. She bent her face; the full red lips
met Creed's. The weary longing was satisfied; the bitterness was washed
They remained quietly thus, Creed drinking in new life from her
nearness, from her dearness. When she would have lifted her head, his
thin hand went up and was laid over the rounded cheek, bringing the
sweet mouth back to his own.
I'll need a heap of loving, Judith, he whispered,a heap. I've
been such a lone fellow all my days. You'll have to be everything and
everybody to me.
[Illustration: They had forgotten all the world save themselves and
Judith's lavish nature, so long choked back upon itself, trembled to
its very core with rapture at the bidding. It seemed to her that all of
Heaven she had ever craved was to do and be everything that Creed
Bonbright needed. She answered with an inarticulate murmur of
tenderness, a sound inexpressibly wooing and moving. All that she had
felt, all that she meant for the future, surged strong within herwas
fain for utterance. But Judith was not fluent; she must content herself
with doing and beingCreed could speak for her now. She cherished the
fair hair with loving touch, nestling the thin cheek against her soft,
The beautiful storm-rocked craft of Judith's passion was safe at
last in Love's own harbour; the skies were fair above it, and only
Love's tender airs breathed about its weary sails.
We'll be wedded in the spring, Creed's lips murmured against her
own. I'll carry home a bride to the old place. Oh, we'll be happy,
All through the latter part of the night, while the two lovers were
drawing out of the ways of doubt and pain and misunderstanding, into so
full and sweet a communion, the November breeze had been rising; toward
dawn it moved quite steadily. And with its impulse moved the cedar
tree, a long, smooth swaying, that set free that tender, baritone
legato to which Judith's ears had harkened away last March, when she
came home from Hepzibah after first seeing Creed Bonbright. It was the
voice which had talked to her throughout the spring, the early summer,
through autumn's desolate days, when the waiting in ignorance of his
whereabouts and of his welfare seemed almost more than she could bear;
it was the voice which had called upon her so tragically, so
insistently, the night of the raid on Nancy Card's cabin. But Creed
himself was here now; Creed's own lips spoke close to her ear. The
cedar tree had its song to itself once more; she no longer needed its
music. Its sound was unheard by her, as the flame of a candle is unseen
in the strong light of the sun.
Chapter XXVIII. A Prophecy
Over the shoulder of Yellow Old Bald up came the sun, bannered and
glorious; the distant ranges glowed in his splendours; the sere fields
about the place were all gilded. The small-paned eastern window of the
sick-room let in a flood of morning light. Gone was the bird choir that
used to welcome his earliest rays, swept south by the great tide of
migration. Those that remained, snowbird, cardinal, and downy
woodpeckerthe checkerbacker of the mountaineer,harboured all
night and much of the day in the barn loft and in Judith's cedar tree.
Their twittering sounded cheerily about the eaves.
Back and forth in the puncheon-floored kitchen trudged old Dilsey
Rust's heavy-shod foot, carrying her upon the appointed tasks of the
In the quiet sick-room, where the low, alternating voices had
subsided into an exchange of murmured words, suddenly Creed dropped his
head back to stare at his companion with startled eyes.
Judith! he exclaimed. Where are the boys?
He glanced at the window, then about the room.
It's broad day. That word Blatch sent was a decoy; Huldah Spiller
isn't on the mountain. Somebody must go over there.
Judith rose swiftly to her feet.
My Lord, Creed! I forgot all about 'em, she said contritely. Ye
don't reckon Blatch would harm the boys? And yet yo' rightit does
look bad. I don't know what to do, honey. They ain't a man on the place
till Uncle Jep comes. But maybe he'll be along in about an hour.
She hurried to the window and stared over toward the Gulch; and at
the moment a group of people topped the steep, rising into view one
after the other out of the ravine, and coming on toward the house.
Here they are now, she said with relief in her tones. Thar's
AndyJeff, Pendrillywhy, whateverThe Lusk girls is with 'em!
They's anotherCreed, they have got Huldy! And that last
fellerno, 'tain't Blatchof all thingsit's Wade! They're comin'
straight to this door. Shall I let them in?
Yes, said Creed's steady voice. Let them right in.
She ran swiftly to slip an extra pillow under her patient's
shoulders, straighten the covers of the bed, and put all in company
trim. Her eye brightened when she saw him sitting so erect and alert
almost like his old self. Somebody rattled the latch.
Come in, folks, Creed called, speaking out with a roundness and
decision that it did her heart good to hear.
They all pushed into the room, the men shouldering back a little,
glancing anxiously at the sick man, the Lusk girls timid, but Huldah
leading the van.
How's Creed? cried the irrepressible one, bounding into the room
and looking about her. Wade got yo' letter, Cousin Judy, an' I says to
him that right now was the time for us to make a visit home. Wade's got
him a good place on the railroad, and I like livin' in the settlement;
but bridal towers is all the go down thar, and we 'lowed we'd take
Every inch of her raiment bespoke the bride, and it did not take
Creed many moments to understand the situation, put out a thin white
hand and, smiling, offer his congratulations. Wade received them with
some low-toned, hesitating words of apology.
Law, Cousin Creed's ready to let bygones be bygones, Wade, honey!
his wife admonished him.
Cousin Creed? echoed the obtuse Jeff.
Wade's wife whirled to put a ready arm around Judith's waist. Why,
you an' him is a-goin' to be wedded, ain't you Judy? I always knowed,
and I always said to everybody that I named it to, that you was cut out
and made for each other. We heared tell from everybody in the Turkey
Tracks that you an' Creed was goin' to be wedded as soon as he got
wellthen I reckon he'll be my cousin, won't he?
Creed looked past the whispering girls to where Andy and Jeff stood.
As the boys moved toward the bed.
Did you find Blatch? he asked, with a man's directness. How did
you-all make out?
Andy opened his lips to answer, when there was a clatter of hoofs
outside. As they all turned to the window, Jephthah Turrentine's big
voice, with a new tone in it, called out to somebody.
Hold on thar, honeylemme lift ye down.
Ain't Uncle Jep goin' to be proud when he sees how well you air?
Judith, stooping, whispered to Creed. He went off to get somebody to
he'p nurse you, because he said I done you more harm than good.
Your Uncle Jep don't know everything, returned Creed softly.
No mountaineer ever knocks on a door, but Jephthah Turrentine made
considerable racket with the latch before he entered the room.
Ohyou air awake, he said cautiously, then, looking about at the
others, an' got company so airly in the mornin'. He glanced from the
newcomers to his patient. You look finefine! he asserted with high
satisfaction; then turning over his shoulder, Come right along in,
honeyCreed'll be proud to see ye.
He paused on the threshold, reaching back a hand and entered,
pulling after him Nancy Cardwho was Nancy Card no longer. A wild-rose
pink was in her withered cheeks under the frank grey eyes. She smiled
as Judith had never imagined she could smile. But even then the young
people scarcely fathomed the situation.
Creed, cried the old man, I've brung ye the best doctor and nurse
there is on the mountings. Nancy she run off and left us, and I had to
go after her, and I 'lowed I'd make sartain that she'd never run away
from me again, so I've jestwe jest
Ye ain't married! cried Judith, sudden light coming in on her.
We air that, announced old Jephthah radiantly.
Well, Jude, I jest had to take him, apologised Nancy. Here was
him with the rheumatics every spring, an' bound and determined that
he'd lay out in the bushes deer-huntin' like he done when he was
twenty, and me knowin' in reason that a good course of dandelion and
boneset, with my liniment well rubbed in, would fix him upwhy, I jest
had to take him.
She looked about her for support, and she got it from an unexpected
Well, I think you done jest right, piped up Huldah, who had been a
silent spectator as long as she could endure it, I'm mighty glad I've
got a new mother-in-law, 'caze I know Pap Turrentine's apt to be well
taken keer of in his old days.
His old days! Nancy looked indignantly from the red-haired girl to
her bridegroom who, in her eyes, was evidently still a sprightly youth.
Huh! she remarked enigmatically. Then with a sudden change; Yit
whilst we are a-namin' sech, honey, won't you jest run out to my saddle
and bring me the spotted caliker poke off'n hithit's got my bundle of
yarbs in it. I'll put on a drawin' of boneset for you befo' I set
All right, Nancybut I reckon I'll have to clear these folks out
of this sick-room fust, responded old Jephthah genially. We're apt to
have too much goin' on for Creed.
But as they were marshalled to leave, the noise of a new arrival in
the kitchen brought the curious Huldah to the door and she threw it
wide to admit Iley, into whose arms she promptly precipitated herself
with voluble explanations, which covered her career from the time she
left Jim Cal's cabin till that moment.
You an' Wade are wedded? Why couldn't you let a body know?
inquired Iley wrathfully, grasping her by the shoulder, holding her off
for somewhat hostile inspection.
That's what I say, echoed Jim Cal's voice from the doorway where
he harboured, a trifle out of sight. Ef you-all gals would be a little
mo' open an' above-bo'd about yo' courtin' business hit would save lots
of folks plenty of trouble. Here's Iley got some sort o' notion that
Huldy was over at Blatch's, an' she put out an' run me home so fast
that I ain't ketched my breath till yit.
Over at Blatch's? old Jephthah looked angrily about him, and
Judith made haste to explain the whole matter, detailing everything
that had led up to the trouble.
We-all talked it over, Uncle Jep, and as you wasn't here we made
out to do the best we could, and the boys went.
After me! crowed Huldah. An' thar I was on the train 'long o'
Wade comin' to Garyville that blessed minute.
Well, Blatch had us hog-tied an' waitin' for the marshal to come
an' cyart us down and send us to the penitentiary, Jeff set forth the
case. But you know how Blatch is, always devilin' folks; he made old
Gid Rust mad, an' when Clianthy an' Pendrilly met the old man out on
the road soon this mornin', he told 'em to take a knife and come up to
the cave an' they could keep what they found.
I never was so scairt in my life, Cliantha asseverated. Her
china-blue eyes had not yet resumed their normal size or contour, and
the assertion was easily believed.
Nor me neither, agreed Pendrilla. I says to him, says I, 'Now
you, Gid Rust, do you 'low we're crazy? We're a-lookin' for old Boss
and Spot, an' we ain't a-goin' up yon nary step.' An' he says to us,
says he, 'Gals, you never mind about no cows,' he says. 'Hit'll shore
be the worse for Andy and Jeff Turrentine ef you don't git yo'selves up
thar an' git up thar quick.' An' with that he gives us his knife out of
his pocket, 'caze we didn't have none, and we run the whole blessed
way, and cut the boys a-loose.
I was that mad when I seen 'em tied up thataway, chimed in
Cliantha, that I wouldn't a 'cared the rappin' o' my finger ef old
Blatch Turrentine hisself had been thar. I'd 'a' stood right up to him
an' told him what I thort o' him an' his works. There are conditions,
it is said, in which even the timid hare becomes militant, and doves
will peck at the intruder.
Well, I reckon I got to get you folks out of here now for sartain,
said Jephthah as she made an end. Nancy, honey, is the yarbs you
wanted for Creed in with them you're a-goin' to use on me?
The little old woman felt of Creed's fingers, she laid a capable
hand upon his brow. Then she flashed one of her quick, youthful smiles
at her husband.
You named it to me about Jude and Creed being at the outs, she
said frankly; but I see they've made up their troubles. The boy don't
need no medicine.
Jephthah stared at his transformed patient, and admitted that it was
Well he does need some peace and quiet, the head of the house
maintained as he ushered his clan into the adjoining room.
Uncle Jephthah, called Creed's quiet voice, with the ring of the
old enthusiasm in it, as his host was leaving the room. Do you
remember telling me that the trouble with my work on the mountain was,
I was one man alone? Do you remember saying that if I was a member of a
big familya great big tribethat I'd get along all right and
accomplish what I set out for?
I say sech a lot of foolishness, son, I cain't ricollect it all.
Likely I did say that. Hit mought have some truth in it.
Well, said Creed, carrying the hand he held to his lips, I reckon
I'll be a member of a big tribe now; maybe I can take up the work yet,
and do some good.
The old man looked at him. Here was the son of his heartof his
mind and naturethe congenial spirit; the welcome companion,
interested like himself in abstractions, willing to stake all on an
idea. Days of good comradeship stretched before these two. He reached
down a brown right hand, and Creed's thin white one went out to meet it
in a quick, nervous clasp.
Son, spoke out Jephthah in that deep, sonorous voice of his,
Creed, boy, what you set out to do was a work for a man's lifetime;
but God made you for jest what you aimed then to do and be. Yo' mighty
young yet, but you air formed for a leader of men. To the last day of
its life an oak will be an oak and a willer a willer; and yo' head
won't be grey when you find yo' work and find yo'self a-doin' it
Pap Turrentine! called Huldah from the kitchen, Maw wants ye out
The door swung wide; it showed a vision of Nancy Turrentine,
flushed, bustling, capable, the crinkled grey hair pushed back above
those bright eyes of hers with a prideful hand, entering upon the
administration of her new realm. Oh, it had not been easy for one of
her spirit to be a poor little widow, living out on the Edge, with
nobody but slack Doss Provine to do for her, hardly dishes enough to
set the table, often not much to put in them, eking out a scanty living
by weaving baskets of white-oak splits. When Judith rode up to the
cabin on the Edge that evening of late March, it was the hardest time
of the year; now was the mountaineer's season of cheer and
abundancehis richest month. Outside, nuts were gathering, hunting was
good, and she had for her provider of wild meat the mightiest hunter in
the Turkey Tracks. Jephthah Turrentine's home was ample and well
plenished. There was good store of root crops laid up for winter.
Judith had neglected such matters to tend on Creed, but Nancy was
already putting in hand the cutting and drying of pumpkins, the
threshing out of beans. Here were milk vessels a-plenty to scald and
sunand filling for them afterward. Oh, enough to do with!the will
to do had always been Nancy'sand for yokefellow in the home, one who
would carry his share and pull truea real manthe only one there had
ever been for Nancy.
Pap, called Huldah's insistent voice again.
All rightI'm a-comin', declared Jephthah, then, with the door in
his hand, turned back, meaning to finish what had been in his mind to
say to Creed.
Jephthah Turrentine was himself that day a bridegroom, wedded to the
one love of his life; he appreciated to the full that which had come to
Creed. He had thought to say to the boy that now was the opening of
great things, to remind him that one must first live man's natural
life, must prove himself as son, brother, husband, father, and
neighbour, before he will be accepted or efficient in the larger
calling. He would have said that life must teach the man before the man
could teach his fellows.
But the words of homely wisdom in which he would have clothed this
truth remained unspoken. He glanced back and saw the dark head bent
close above the yellow one, as Judith performed some little service for
Creed. The girl's rich brown beauty glowed and bloomed before the
steady, blue fire of her lover's eyes. She set down her tumbler and
knelt beside him. Their lips were murmuring, they had forgotten all the
world save themselves and their love. Jephthah looked at the rapt young
faces; these two were on the mount of transfiguration; the light
ineffable was all about them.
Lord, what's the use of a old fool like me sayin' I, ay, yes or no
to sech a pair as that? he whispered as he went out softly and closed