by Opie Read
The neighbors and our family began to laugh at me about as far back
as I can remember, and I think that the first serious remark my father
ever addressed to me was, Bill, you are too lazy to amount to anything
in this life, so I reckon we'll have to make a school teacher of you.
I don't know why he should have called me lazy; I suppose it must have
been on account of my awkwardness. Lazy, why, I could sit all day and
fish in one place and not get a bite, while my more industrious
companions would, out of sheer exhaustion of patience, be compelled to
move about; and I hold that patience is the very perfection of
In the belief that I could never amount to anything I gradually
approached my awkward manhood. I grew fast, and I admit that I was
always tired; and who is more weary than a sprout of a boy? My brothers
were active of body and quick of judgment, and I know that Ed, my
oldest brother, won the admiration of the neighborhood when he swapped
horses with a stranger and cheated him unmercifully. How my father did
laugh, and mother laughed, too, but she told Ed that he must never do
such a thing again. With what envy did I look upon this applause. I
knew that Ed's brain was no better than mine; and as I lay in bed one
night I formed a strong resolve and fondly hugged it unto myself. I
owned a horse, a good one; and I would swap him off for two horsesI
would cheat some one and thereby win the respect of my fellows. My
secret was sweet and I said nothing. By good chance a band of gypsies
came our way; I would swindle the rascals. I went to their camp,
leading my horse, and after much haggling, I came home with two horses.
It was night when I reached home, and I put my team into the stable,
and barred up my secret until the sun of a new day could fall upon it.
Well, the next morning one of the horses was dead, and the other one
was so stiff that we had to shove him out of the stall. My father
snorted, my poor mother wept, and for nights afterward I slipped out
and slept in the barn, burrowed under the hay that I might not hear the
derisive titter of my brother Ed.
We lived in northern Alabama, in a part of the country that boasted
of the refinement and intelligence of its society. When I was alone
with boys much younger than myself I could say smart things, and I had
a hope that when I should go into formal company I would, with one
evening's achievement, place myself high above the numbskulls who had
giggled at me. The time came. There was to be a party at the house of
a neighbor, and I was invited. I had a suit of new clothes, and after
dressing myself with exceeding care, I set out, strong of heart, for
the field of victory. But I weakened when I saw the array of blooded
horses hitched without, and heard the gay laughter within, a merriment
rippling and merciless; and I stood on the porch, sick with the sense
of my awkwardness. I was too big, and I knew that I was straining my
clothes. Through the window I could see a trim fellow laughing with a
girl, and I said to myself, If I can catch you out somewhere I will
maul you. I was not acquainted with him, but I hated him, for I knew
that he was my enemy. To an overgrown young fellow, ashamed of his
uncouth, steer-like strength, all graceful youths are hateful; and he
feels, too, that a handsome girl is his foe, for girls with pretty
mouths are nearly always laughing, and why should they laugh if they
are not laughing at him? Long I stood there, stretching the seams of my
clothes, angry, wishing that the house might catch fire. I heard
footsteps, and looking about, recognized a member of the household, an
old and neglected girl. I was not afraid of her, and I bowed. And I
felt a sudden looseness, a giving away of a part of my gear. She called
me Mr. Hawes, the very first time that any one had called me anything
but Bill; she opened the door and bade me go in. I had to duck my head
as I stepped forward, and there I was inside the room with the light
pouring over me. I took one step forward, and stumbled over something,
and then a tittering fool named Bentley, exclaimed: Hello, here comes
little Willie. I don't know how I got out. I heard a roar of laughter,
I saw grinning faces jumbled together, and then I was outside, standing
with my hot hand resting in the frost on the top rail of a fence. Some
one was urging me to come backthe neglected girlbut I stood there
silent, with my hot hand melting the frost. I went out into the
moon-lighted woods, seized a sapling and almost wrenched it from the
ground. Down the road I went toward home, but I turned aside and sat on
a log. I felt a sense of pain and I opened my handsI had been cutting
my palms with my nails. But in this senseless fury I had made up my
mind. I would waylay Bentley and beat him. Hour after hour I sat there.
Horses began to canter by; up and down the road there was laughter and
merry chatting. The moon was full, and I could plainly see the
passers-by. Suddenly I sprang from the log and seized a bridle rein. A
girl shrieked and a man cut my hand with a whip, and I jerked the horse
to his knees. Bentley shouted that he would kill me if I did not let
go, but I heeded not; I jerked him off his horse, kicked his pistol
across the road, mashed his mouth, slammed him against the ground. The
shrieking girl cried out that I was a brute, and I told her that I
could whip her whole family, a charming bit of repartee, I thought, but
afterward I remembered that her family consisted of herself and an aged
grandmother, and I sent her an abject apology. Bentley's horse cantered
away, and I left the fellow lying in the road, with the girl standing
over him, shrieking for help. It was all done in a minute, and with
jolting tread I stalked away before any one came up. Of course there
was a great scandal. My poor mother was grieved and humiliated, ashamed
to meet any of the neighbors; and my father swore that instead of
becoming a school teacher I ought to turn out as a highwayman. My
brothers thought to have some fun with me, but I frightened them with a
roar, and for a time they were afraid to smile in my presence. I was
almost heartbroken over my disgrace. Without undue praise I can say
that I was generous and kindhearted; even as a child I had shown almost
a censurable unselfishness; I had given away my playthings, and my
sensibilities were so tender that I could not bear the sight of a
suffering animal, and I remember that an old man laughed at me because
I could not cut the throat of a sheep when the poor thing had been hung
up by the heels. And now I was put down as a heartless brute. Bentley's
face constantly haunted me. I was afraid that he might die, and once
when I heard that he was not likely to get well, I was resolved to go
to him, to beg his pardon. Two weeks had passed; it was night and rain
was pouring down, but I cared naught for the wetting. I found Bentley
sitting up with his face bandaged. His mother frowned at me when she
opened the door and saw me standing there under the drip, and it was
some time before she asked me to come in, and I have thought that she
would have driven me off had not the sight of me, wet and debased,
aroused her pity. Bentley held out his hand when I entered the room,
and he said, I don't blame you, Bill. It was mean of me, but I wanted
to be smart. I was so full, so choked with emotion, that it was some
time before I could say a word. But after a time I spoke of the rain,
and told him that I thought that I had heard a wildcat as I came along,
which was a lie, for I had heard nothing save the wind and the rain
falling on the dead leaves. He laughed and said that he did not suppose
that I would have been very much frightened had the cat jumped at me.
Then I told him that I was the biggest coward on earth, and sought to
prove it by offering to let him kick me as long as he might find it
amusing. I told him that everybody despised me for the way I had beaten
him, everybody, including my own family, and that I deserved the
censure of all good people. We talked a long time, and he laughed a
great deal, but when I told him that I was coming over to work for him
three weeks, his eyes grew brighter with tears. This filled me up again
and I could do nothing but blubber. After a long time I asked him if he
would do me a favor, and he said that he would. Then I took out a watch
that I had brought in a buckskin bag, and I said, Here is a thing that
used to belong to my grandfather, and it was given me by mother when I
was ten years old. It is a fine time-piece and is solid. Now, I want
you to take it as a present from me. You said you would do me a favor.
But he declared that he could not take it. Why, I would despise myself
if I did, said he. I told him that I would despise myself if he did
not. His mother, who had left us alone, came in, smiling, and said that
I must not think of parting with so valuable a watch, the mark of my
grandfather's gentility, but I put the watch on the table and plunged
out into the rain and was gone. Bentley's mother returned the watch the
next day, and then there went about the neighborhood a report that I
was so much afraid of Bentley's revenge that I had tried to buy him off
with a watch. Bentley had said that I should not work for him, but when
the time for breaking up the land came, I went over and began to plow
the field. His mother came out and compelled me to quit, but I went
back at night and plowed while other people slept; and thus I worked
until much of his corn-land was broken up. The neighbors said that I
had gone insane, and a few days afterward, when I met a woman in the
road, she jerked her old mare in an effort to get away, and piteously
begged me not to hurt her. I made no further attempt to get into
company, and thus, forced back upon myself, I began to form the
habits of a student; and to aid me in my determination to study law, I
decided to teach school. So, when I was almost grownor, rather, about
twenty-three years old, for I appeared to keep on growingI went over
into another neighborhood and took up a school. And they called me
Lazy Bill. I couldn't understand why, for I am sure that I attended
to my duties, that I played town ball with the boys, that I even cut
wood all day one Saturday; but confound them, they called me lazy. I
spoke to one of the trustees; I called his attention to the fact that I
worked hard, and he replied that the hardest working man he had ever
seen was a lazy fellow who worked merely as a blind. To sleep after
the sun rises is a great crime in the country, and sometimes I sat up
so late with my books that I had to be called twice for breakfast. And
no amount of work could have offset this ignominy. I taught school
during three years, and found at the end of that time that I was no
nearer a lawyer's office. Once I called on an old judge, the leading
lawyer in a neighboring village, and told him that if he would take me
I would work for my clothes, and the humorous old rascal, surveying me,
replied: I have not contemplated the starting of a woolen mill. Why
don't you go to work? he asked. I told him that I was at work, that I
taught school, but that I wanted to be a lawyer. He laughed and said
that teaching school was not workdeclared it to be the refuge of the
lazy and the shiftless. I then ventured to remark that the South would
continue to be backward as long as the educator was put down as a piece
of worthless rubbish. I went away, and a few days later one of the
trustees called on me and said that I had declared their children to be
ignorant rubbish, and that therefore they wanted my services no longer.
I returned home. My brothers were gone, and my parents were in feeble
health. My father died within a year, and soon my mother followed him.
The farm was poor and was mortgaged, and empty-handed I turned away. I
heard that a school teacher was wanted up in North Carolina, near the
Tennessee line, and I decided to apply for the place. I walked to the
railway station, twenty miles distant. I have said that I went away
empty-handed. I did not; I carried a trunk, light with clothes and
heavy with books. I had put my trunk on the railway platform and was
striding up and down when I saw two men, well-dressed, rich-looking,
standing near. This amounted to nothing, and I would not mention it but
for the fact that it was at this moment that I received my first
encouragement. One of the men, speaking to his companion, remarked:
Devilish fine-looking fellow. I'd give a great deal to be in his
shoes, to have his strength and his youth. I turned away, eager to
hear more, yet afraid lest the other man might say something to spoil
it all. But he did not. Yes, he replied, but he doesn't know how
fortunate he is. Gad, he looks like an imported bull.
The train came and I was whirred away, over streams, below great
hanging rocks; but I thought not of the grandeur of the rocks nor of
the beauty of the streams, for through my mind was running the
delicious music of the first compliment that had ever been paid me. And
I realized that I had outgrown the age of my awkwardness, that strength
was of itself a grace to be admired, that I should feel thankful rather
than remember with bitterness the days of my humiliation. I observed a
woman looking at me, and there was interest in her eyes, and I knew
that she did not take kindly to me simply because she was an old and
neglected girl, for she was handsome. Beside her sat a man, and I could
see that he was eager to win her smile. He hated me, I could see that,
but he couldn't laugh at me. I noticed that my hands and feet were not
over large, and this was a sort of surprise, for I recalled hearing a
boy say that my foot was the biggest thing he ever saw without a liver
in it. I reached back and wiped out the past; I looked out at a radiant
cloud hanging low in the west, and called it the future. Fool? Oh, of
course. I had been a fool when a boy, and was a fool now, but how much
wiser it was to be a happy fool.
I was to leave the train at Nagle station, and then to go some
distance into the country, which direction I knew not. I made so bold
as to ask the handsome lady if she knew anything of the country about
Nagle, and she smiled sweetly, and said that she did not, that she was
a stranger going South. I had surmised as much, and I spoke to her
merely to see what effect it would have on the man who sat beside her.
Was my new-found pride making me malicious? I thought it was, and I
censured myself. The lady showed a disposition to continue the talk,
but the man drove me into silence by remarking: I suppose there is
something novel about one's first ride on the cars. How I did want to
reach out and take hold of his ear, but I thought of Bentley and
subsided. When I arose to get off at my station, I thought that the
lady, as I passed her, made a motion as if she would like to give me
her hand. This might simply have been the prompting of my long famished
but now over-fed conceit, my bloating egotism, but I gave the woman a
grateful thought as I stood on the platform gazing at the train as it
faded away in the dusk that appeared to come down the road to meet it.
I had expected to alight at a town, but the station was a lonely
place, a wagon-maker's shop, the company's building and a few shanties.
I asked the station master if he knew where the school teacher was
wanted, and he answered that from the people thereabouts one must be
needed in every household.
And I should think, I replied, giving him what I conceived to be a
look of severe rebuke, that a teacher of common decency and politeness
is most needed of all.
I reckon you are right, he rejoined. Is he the man you are
I don't want to get into trouble here, said I, but I insist upon
fair treatment and I'm going to have it.
All right, sir. Now, what is it you want to know?
Why, I was told that there was an opening for a school teacher in
And so there is, but don't you know that no neighborhood could be
proud of such a fact? Therefore, you ought to be more careful as to how
you make your inquiries.
I saw that he wanted to joke with me and I joked with him. And I
soon found that this was the right course, for he invited me into his
office and insisted upon my sharing his luncheon, cold bread and meat
and a tin bucket of boiling coffee. I soon learned that he was newly
graduated from a school of telegraphy, and that this was his first
position. He had come from a city and he gave me the impression that he
was buried alive; he said that he had entered an oath in his book that
if some one didn't get off at his station pretty soon he would set the
whole thing on fire and turn train robber. Don't you think that would
be a pretty good idea? he asked, laughing.
It would be a pretty dangerous one, at least, I answered.
Yes, but without danger there is never any fun. My old man insisted
upon my taking that night-school course; and the professor of the
institution held out the idea that I could be a great man within a
short time after graduating; led me to believe I could get charge of a
big office in town, but here I am stuck up here in these hills. No rags
about here at all.
Rags, calico, womencatch on?
You mean no society, to speak of.
That's it. Oh, away off in the country it's all right, but I can
never go more than three miles from this miserable place. You'll have
to go about fifteen miles.
How do you know?
Why, an old fellow from a neighborhood about that far away came out
here the other day and sent off a dispatch, telling some man off, I
don't remember where, to send a teacher out there.
And one might have come by this time, I suggested, with a sense of
No, you are the only one that has put in an appearance, and the
only one that is likely to come. I understand that they don't treat
teachers very well out there.
The boys have a habit of ducking them in the creek, I hear.
Oh, is that all? Be fun for me.
You won't think so after you see those roosters. Let me see. Take
the Purdy road out there, and go straight ahead to the east, and when
you think you have gone about fifteen miles, ask for the house of Lim
Jucklin. The last teacher, I understand, boarded at his house.
You appear to know a good deal about it.
Well, the truth of it is, I do, for the last teacher came and went
this way. And he told me like this: 'The thing opened up all right,
plenty of rags, but that evening some of the young fellows came to me
and said that unless I brought some sort of treat the next morning they
would put me in the creek; said that they hated to do it, but that
time-honored customs must be observed. I didn't bring any treat and I
went into the creek. Then I left.' Yes, that's what he said, and I
concluded that as for me I would rather be here. It isn't so lively,
but it is a good deal dryer. But you can't get there to-night. Better
take a shake-down here with me till morning, and then you may catch
some farmer going that way with a wagon.
I thanked him for this courtesy, and readily accepted it. And the
next morning, with my trunk on my shoulder, I set out upon what I
conceived to be my career in life.
The month was April, and the day was blithe, with no blotch in the
sky. The country was rough, the road was pebbly in the bottoms and
flinty on the hills, but there was a leaping joy everywhere; in the
woods where the blue-jays were shouting, down the branch where the
woodpecker tapped in an oak tree's sounding board. It must have been a
low-hanging ambition to be thrilled with the prospect of teaching
school, or was it buoyant health that made me happy? I eased down my
trunk, and boyishly threw stones away off into an echoing hollow. A
rabbit ran out into the road and stopped, and with a stone I knocked it
over. Tenderly I picked it up, felt its fluttering heart, and groaned
inwardly when the little heart was stilled. I called myself a murderer,
an Anglo-Saxon brute, to kill a harmless creature merely upon a
devilish impulse, and in the gravelly ground I began to dig a grave
with my knife, and I was so much taken up with this work and with my
grief, that I heeded not the approach of a wagon.
What are you doing there? some one called.
I looked up. A farmer had stopped his blowing horses and was looking
at me. I'm digging a grave, I answered.
Diggin' a grave? Why, who's dead?
A rabbit. He moved uneasily, and gave me a searching look. And I
saw that he took me to be insane. I killed the poor thing, I
explained, killed it out of mere wantonness, and I am so
grief-stricken that I am going to do the best I can for the poor
thinggoing to give it a Christian burial.
The man laughed. I wish you would kill the last one of them, he
said. Set out as nice a young orchard as you ever saw last winter, and
the devilish rabbits killed every one of the trees.
Then I am not so much of a murderer after all, I replied. I might
have known that rabbits are not altogether harmless. How far do you go
on this road?
About ten miles.
Will you let me ride with you?
Yes, be glad to have you.
I put the rabbit into his grave, raked the dirt on him with my
foothardly a Christian-like way, I admitplaced my trunk into the
body of the wagon, and took a seat beside the man. And there was
something about him that at once interested me. His hat was off and the
breeze was stirring his grizzly hair. His nose was large and thin, and
when he turned his face square upon me, I saw that his eyes were gray
and clear. He wore no coat, his shirt sleeves were rolled back, and
though he must have been more than fifty years old, I could see that he
had enormous strength in his arms. And he was looking at me admiringly,
for he said, You must be pretty much of a man.
I am not a child except in my lack of wisdom, I answered.
Gad, you talk like a preacher. Which way are you going?
Over to Lim Jucklin's house.
He gave me another square look and remarked, That's my name.
You don't tell me so?
Didn't you hear me tell you so?
Well, then, I did tell you so.
I am delighted to meet you, sir. I am a school teacher, and I hear
that one is wanted in your neighborhood.
He looked at me from head to foot, and replied: I shouldn't wonder
but you are the right man. What's your name?
I told him and after a few moments of silence he asked, Any kin to
the Luke Hawes that fought in the Creek war?
He was my grandfather.
Ah, hah, and my daddy fit with himwas a lieutenant in his
company. Let's shake hands. Whoa, boys. He stopped his horses, got up,
shook down the wrinkled legs of his trousers and reached forth his
You are a stranger in North Caroliny, he said when he had clucked
to his horses.
Yes, I am a stranger everywhere you might put it, I answered. I
am from Alabama, but the people made so much fun of me in the community
where I was brought up that I am even a stranger there.
What did they make fun of you about?
Because I was overgrown and awkward.
Whoa, boys! Let's shake hands again. I got it the same way when I
was a boy, and I come in one of never gettin' over it.
We drove on and had gone some distance when he asked: Do you know
all about 'rithmetic?
I at least know the multiplication table.
It's more than I do. Get up there, boys. And down in my country
they think that a man that don't know all about 'rithmetic is a fool. I
have often told them that there wan't no record of the fact that the
Saviour was good at figgers, except figgers of speech, but they won't
have it that a man is smart unless he can go up to a barn and cover one
side of it with eights and sevens and nines and all that sort of thing.
I've got a daughter that's quicker than a flashtook it from her
mother, I reckonand I have a son that's tolerable, but I have always
been left in the lurch right there. But I can read all right, and I
know the Book about as well as the most of them, but that makes no
difference down in our neighborhood. The pace down there is set by Old
General Lundsford. He knows all about figgers and everything else, for
that matter, but figgers is his strong holt. He owns nearly everything;
is a mighty 'ristocrat and don't bend very often; lives in the house
that his grandfather built, great big brick, and never had no respect
for me at all until I wallowed him in the road one day about thirty odd
years ago. And along about ten years after that he found out that he
had a good deal of respect for me. What do you know about game
Not very much; I simply know that they are about the bravest things
He gave me another one of his square looks and replied: There is
more wisdom in such talk as that than there could be crowded into a
wheat bin. But, do you know that people make fun of me because I admire
a game rooster? They do. I don't want to fight 'em for money, you know;
I'm a good church member and all that sort of thing; I believe the Book
from one end to the other; believe that the whale swallowed Jonah, I
don't care if its throat ain't bigger than a hoe-handle; believe that
the vine growed up in one night, and withered at mornin'; believe that
old Samson killed all them fellers with the jaw-bonebelieve
everything as I tell you from start to finish, but I'll be blamed if I
can keep from fightin' chickens to save my life. And I always keep two
beauties, I tell you. Not long ago my wife ups and kills Sam and fed
him to a preacher. Preacher was there, hungry, and the other chickens
were parading around summers on the other side of the hill, but my wife
she ups and kills Sam, a black beauty, with a pedigree as long as a
plow-line. And, sir, while that man was chawin' of my chicken he gave
me a lecture on fightin' roosters.
You spoke of your son and daughter. Do they attend school?
Oh, no; they are grown long ago.
Then how is it that the teacher usually boards at your house?
I don't know; but they do. Reckon they jest fell into the habit. My
house is handy, for one thing; ain't more than three miles from the
schooljest a nice, exercisin' sort of walk. Whoa, boys! Sorter have
to scotch 'em back goin' down here. Saw a man get killed down there one
day; horse kicked him, and do you see that knob over there where them
hickory trees are? I had a hard time there one night. A lot of
foot-burners come to my house one night durin' the war and took me out
and told me that if I didn't give them my money they would roast my
shanks. I didn't have any money and I told them so, but they didn't
believe me; and so they brought me right over there where them
hickories are, tied me, took off my shoes and built up a fire at my
feet; but about the time they had got me well blistered, along come
some Yankee soldiers and nabbed 'em. And a few minutes after that there
wasn't anything agin their feet, I tell you, not even the ground. Well,
we are gettin' pretty close to home now.
But we haven't come fifteen miles from the station, have we?
Well, you had come about five mile before I overtook you and we
have come nearly ten since then. These hosses are travelers. Oh, I
reckon we've got about three more miles to go yet.
The country was old, with here and there a worn-out and neglected
field. A creek wound its way among the hills, deep and dark in places,
but babbling out into a broad and shiny ford where we crossed. One
moment the scene was desolate, with gullied hill-sides, but further on
and off to the right I could see poetic strips of meadow land, and
further yet, upon a hill-top, stood a grim old house of brick and
stone. We turned off to the right before coming abreast of this place,
and pursued a winding course along a deep-shaded ravine, not rough with
broken ground, but graceful with grassy slopes and with here and there
a rock. My companion pointed out his house, what is known as a double
log building, with a broad passage way between the two sections. A
path, so hard and smooth that it shone in the sun, ran down obliquely
into the ravine, and at the end of it I saw a large iron kettle
overturned, and I knew that this marked the spring. I liked the place,
the forest back of it, the steep hills far away, the fields lying near
and the meadow down the ravine. I hate a new house, a new field, a wood
that looks new; to me there must be the impress of fond association,
and here I found it, the spring-house with moss on its roof, the path,
a great oak upon which death had placed its beautiful marka bough of
You hop right out and go in and make yourself at home, while I take
care of the horses, said the old man. Go right on, he added, for he
saw that I was hesitating. You don't need an introduction. Jest say
that you are Whut'sname and that you are the new school teacher.
But I don't know yet that I am to be the teacher.
Well, then, tell 'em that you are Whut'sname and that you don't
know whether you are to be the teacher or not.
But won't you stop long enough to introduce me?
Oh, I reckon I mout. Come on. There is wife in the door, now.
He did not go as far as the door; he simply shouted: Here's a man,
Susan. He can tell you his name, for blamed if I ain't dun forgot.
Into this household I was received with open-handed graciousness.
Nothing can be more charming than the unconscious generosity of simple
folk. To this family I applied the word simple and cut myself with a
cool smile at my own vanity. Was I not a countryman and as
rustic-minded as they? But I had come from another community, had
crossed a state line and the lines of several counties, and besides I
took to myself the credit of having read many a cunning book, and
therefore these people were surely more simple than I. Traveling
unquestionably gathers knowledge, but the man who reads has ever a
feeling that he is the proper critic of the man who has simply
Mrs. Jucklin gave me a strong grasp of welcome, apologized for the
lack of order that I must surely find in the house and conducted me to
the sitting-room, a large apartment, with a home-woven carpet on the
floor. A turkey wing, used for a fan, hung beside the enormous
fire-place, and on the broad mantelpiece, trimmed with paper cut in
scollops, an old Yankee clock was ticking. The woman shook a cat out of
a hickory rocking chair and urged me to sit down. She knew that I must
be tired after my long ride, and she said that if I would only excuse
her for a moment she would go down to the spring-house and get me a
glass of milk, to give me strength wherewith to wait until she could
stir about and get something to eat. And above all, I must pardon
Limuel's abruptness of manner. But really he meant nothing by it, as I
would find out when I should become better acquainted with him. She was
a little, black-eyed woman, doubtless a descendant of a Dutch family
that had come to the colony at an early date, for she reminded me of my
mother, and I know that mother's grandfather was a Dutchman. I begged
Mrs. Jucklin not to go after the milk, but she ran away almost with the
lightness of a girl. In truth, to think of the milk made me shudder; I
couldn't bear the thought of it. During the hard times at the close of
the war, when I was a child, we had to drink rye coffee, and I remember
that once the cows got into the rye field and gave rye milk. The coffee
and the milk together had made me sick, and ever since then I had
looked upon milk with a reminiscent horror. But there she came with it.
My dear madam, I pleaded, I would much rather not drink it.
Oh, but you must, for I know you are tired out.
But I don't drink milk.
And it is because you can't find any like this. Just taste it,
The old man came stalking into the room and I gave him an appealing
look. I gad, Susan, said he, let him alone. Don't you reckon he's
got sense enough to know what he wants? Take the stuff away.
With a sigh of disappointment she placed the tumbler upon the
mantelpiece. Where's Alf? the old man asked.
Gone over to the General's to help about something.
She's about somewhere. That's her in the passage, I think. Guinea?
There was no reply, save of hastening footsteps, and a moment later a
young woman entered the room. She was not very tall, but she was
graceful, and her dark eyes were dashed with mischief. She reminded me
of the woman whom I had seen on the train; her smile was the same, but
her eyes were brighter. She had a peculiar laugh, a musical cluck, and
at first sight I was glad that I had met her, but a moment later I was
afraid that she was going to laugh at me. The old man did not introduce
me; his wife did not know my name, and I sought to speak my name, but
had lost it just at that moment and could merely splutter something. I
was not much embarrassed, though; I recalled what I had heard the two
men say, and behind me was the strong brace of a woman's kindly regard.
We are glad to see you, said the girl, looking straight at me. I
replied that I was glad to see her, and then we both laughed; she with
her musical cluck and I with a goat-like rasp, it seemed to me. We all
drew up about the fire-place, a habit in the country, and it was then
that I thought of the open-handed graciousness of the household. Had I
correctly caught this girl's name, Guinea? And with a countryman's
frankness I asked if that were her name.
Well, no, said Mrs. Jucklin, speaking for her, it ain't her sure
enough name, but it's all that she goes by. And it came about in this
way: A long time ago, when she was a little bit of a girl, she was
toddlin' about the yard with a checked dress on, and one of the
neighbors lookin' at her said that she looked exactly like a little
guinea chicken, and ever since then we have called her Guinea. Her
right name is Angeline.
Her right name is what? the old man asked, looking up.
Angeline, I said.
Well, it's the first time I ever heard of it.
Now, Limuel, why do you want to act that way? A body would think
that you don't know anything about your own family.
Never heard of it before, said the old man.
You are surely the most provokin' man I ever saw, Limuel. You know
the very day we named the child, and now you pretend
Pretend? I don't pretend nothin'. Can't blame a man for never
hearin' of the name, can you?
Mister, she said, turning to me, please don't pay any attention
to him. He'd pester me nearly to death if I'd let him. But come,
Guinea, we must stir about and get something to eat.
The mother and the daughter went out into a kitchen detached from
the main part of the house, and the old man looked at me and laughed.
And after a moment of chuckling he said: I reckon that I've got two of
the finest in the world.
Children? I asked.
No, game roosters. One's named Sam and the other's named Bob.
I thought you said that Sam had been eaten by the preacher.
Oh, that Sam was, but I've got another one. I always have a Sam and
a Bob. When a Sam dies I get another Sam, and likewise with a Bob. But
you know what's a fact? I never allow 'em to fight to a finish. If I
did the sport would be gone. You must never let one rooster know that
the other one can whip him, for if you do there won't be any fight
after thatyou must always keep each one believin' that he is the best
man. I reckon I've had more than a hundred, but I never let 'em fight
to a finish. My folks here don't care nothin' about funthey even
frown on it, Alf with the rest, and I hold that he ought to know
better, bein' a man, but so it is. I've got a chicken house back here,
with a high picket fence around it, and I keep it locked, I tell you.
Have to, or the preachers would eat up my sport, and this ain't findin'
no fault with their doctrine, for I believe the Book from kiver to
kiver. After we get a snack we'll slip off and have a set-to. What do
I hardly knew what to say. I was afraid to decline, lest I might
lose his good opinion, and I was loth to accept the invitation, fearing
that I might lower myself in the estimation of the women; but while I
was casting about the old man relieved me by saying: However, we've
got plenty of time before us. It's always well to hold a good thing in
reserve, you know. After dinner we'll go over and see Old Perdue and
find out if you can arrange with him about the school. He's got the
whole thing in charge. General Lundsford has charge of nearly
everything else, but he don't take much stock in free schools. He
argues that nothin' that's free is any good, and in the main he's about
right; but we've had some pretty good schools here, the only trouble
bein' to keep the teachers out of the creek. What education my son Alf
has he picked up about home, here, but Guinea was sent off to school,
way over at Raleigh.
I am glad to see that you thought so much of the importance of
training her mind, I remarked.
He gave me a troubled look, moved uneasily, as I had seen him move
when I told him that I was burying a rabbit, ran his fingers through
his upright, bristling hair and for a long time was silent. And as I
looked at him I fancied that he was trying to think of something to
say, something to lead my mind away from what he had already said. I
had seen the quaint, half-comical side of his nature, and now I saw
that he could be thoughtful, and in his serious mood his face was
strong and rugged. His beard, cropped close, reminded me of scraps of
wire, some of them rusted; and when he wiped his mouth with the back of
his hand I wondered that he did not scratch the skin off.
Guinea came to the door and told us that the meal was ready. The old
man got up, with a return of his comical air, and told me to follow
him. The girl continued to stand near the threshold and as I drew near
unto her she said: This door wasn't cut quite high enough for you, was
it? Look, father, he has to duck his head. The boys may have a time
putting him into the creek. She was now talking to her father, but was
looking at me, so I took it upon myself to answer her. Yes, for you
have called attention to the fact that my legs are long and the rascals
may have hard running with trying to catch me.
Oh, she replied, but I was thinking of your strength rather than
your swiftness. Come this way. Father has run off and left you.
The old man had stepped down out of the passage and had gone some
distance toward a small house surrounded by a picket fence.
You go with her, he called, looking back, and I'll be there
No telling when he will come now, the girl remarked, walking close
beside me. He's got two of the most spiteful chickens out there you
ever saw, and whenever anything goes wrong with him he bolts right out
there, no matter who is here, and makes those vicious things peck at
each other. Mother and I try hard to reform him, but we can't.
It was Mrs. Jucklin's time-grayed privilege to apologize for the
scantiness of her fare, and this she did with becoming modesty and
regret. She had not expected company; the regular dinner hour was over
long ago, and somehow she never could understand why she couldn't get a
meal out of the regular time. But if I would only give her a chance she
would reclaim herself. She called my attention to the corn bread;
declared that it was not fit to be eaten, and she didn't know what made
the stove act that way. But the milk she knew was good. Oh, she had
forgotten that I didn't drink milk. Guinea smiled at me and clucked at
her mother. Don't pretend that you like anything just to please her,
she said, when Mrs. Jucklin had turned about to keep a hoe-cake from
burning. All you've got to do is to say nothing until she gets
throughthat, and simply to remember that she enjoys it.
While we were eating we heard a voice crying: Hike, there, Sam; get
him down, Bob! Hike there!
They are warming up to their work, Guinea remarked, and her mother
sighed; and then she began to talk louder than was her wont, striving
to drown the old man's voice. It isn't any use, mother, said the
girl. The gentleman will find it out sooner or later.
And I suppose, said I, that you think that you may find out my
name sooner or later. Please pardon me for not introducing myself. My
Hike, there, Bob! Get him down, Sam! Now you are at it! Hike,
My name is Hawes, William Hawes, and I am from Alabama.
And you have come to teach the school? said the girl.
Yes, if I can make the arrangements.
But is there anything very satisfying in such an occupation? she
I felt then that she placed no very high estimate upon my worth, and
on her part this was but natural, for among country people
school-teaching is looked upon as a lazy calling.
I have not chosen teaching as my real vocation, I answered.
Hike, there, I tell you! Hike!
It is my aim to be a lawyer, to be eloquent, to stir emotions, to
be strong in the presence of men. My earlier advantages, no matter how
I sought to turn them about, gave me no promise of reaching the bar; I
had good primary training, but in reality I had to educate myself, and
in the work of a teacher I saw a hope to lead me onward.
Came within one of letting them fight to a finish, said the old
man, stepping into the room.
Limuel, why will you always humiliate me? his wife asked, placing
a chair for him.
Humiliate you! Bless your life, I wouldn't humiliate you. The only
trouble is that you are tryin' to make me fit a garment you've got,
ruther than to make the garment fit me. I ain't doin' no harm, Susan,
and it's my way, and you can't very well knock the spots off'en a
leopard nur skin an Etheopian. Here comes Alf.
The son was a young fellow of good size, shapely, and with his
mother's black eyes. Guinea introduced me to him, and at once I felt
that I should like to win his friendship. The old man explained my
presence there. And now, said he, I want you to go over to old
Perdue's with him after dinner and see if any arrangements can be made.
He's goin' to board with us, and I want to tell you right now that he
is from good stock; his grandaddy was the captain of the company that
my daddy fit in durin' the Creek war, and from what I learn I don't
reckon there was ever sich fightin' before nor since. What are they
doin' over at the General's?
Nothing much, Alf answered. They started to plow this morning,
but it is still most too wet.
Was Millie at home? Guinea asked.
I think so, but I suppose you know that Chid isn't.
Never mind that, the old man spoke up. Leave all cuttin' and
slashin' to folks that ain't no kin to each other. You've been to
dinner, have you, Alf? Well, hitch the mare to the buckboard and go
with this gentleman over to old Perdue's.
At the end of the passage, facing the ravine, I stood and talked to
Guinea, while Alf was hitching the mare to the buck-board. The sun was
well over to the west, pouring upon us, and in the strong light I noted
the clear, health-hue of her complexion. A guinea chicken, swift and
graceful, ran round the corner of the house, and, nodding toward the
fowl, I said: I am talking to her namesake and she is jealous.
I thought that the shadow of a pout crossed her lips, but she smiled
and replied: If my real name were not so ugly I'd insist upon people
calling me by it. I hate nicknames.
But sometimes they are appropriate, I rejoined.
But when they are, she said, laughing, they never stick. It's the
disagreeable nickname that remains with us.
Is that the philosophy you learned at Raleigh? I asked.
She shrugged her shapely shoulders, laughed low in her throat and
answered: I haven't learned philosophy at all. It doesn't take much of
a stock of learning for a girl who lives away out here.
But she might strive to learn in order to be fitted for a better
life, believing that it will surely come.
How encouraging you are, Mr. Hawes. After a while you may persuade
me that I am really glad that you came.
You have already made me glad, I replied.
Have I? Then mind that I don't make you sorry. Alf's waiting for
As we drove toward Perdue's I wondered what could have caused old
man Jucklin's change of manner at the time he had spoken of sending his
daughter away to be educated. Surely, he could not deplore the grace
and refinement which this schooling had given her. Would it be well to
ask Alf? No; he could but regard such a question as a direct
The mare trotted briskly and the rush of cool air was delicious. The
road was crooked, holding in its elbows bits of scenery unsuspected
until we were upon them, moss growing under great rocks, weeping in
eternal shade, a bit of water blazing in the sun, a hickory bottom,
where squirrels were barking; and from everywhere came the thrilling
incense of spring.
Alf, though a farmer, had not the stoop of overwork, nor that
sullenness that often comes from a life-long and close association with
the soil; he was chatty, talked to his mare, talked to me and whistled
to himself. He pointed out a cave wherein British soldiers had been
forced to take refuge to save themselves from the pursuit of victorious
patriots, but what they had supposed was a refuge was, indeed, a trap,
for the patriots smoked them out and took them to General Green's camp.
We drove upon a hill top, and, looking across a valley, I saw a large
brick house on a hill not far beyond. And I recognized it as a place
that I had seen earlier in the day. It's where General Lundsford
lives, said Alf, following my eyes with his own. We go by there. He
used to own a good many negroes and some of them still hang about him.
Most of his land is poor, but enough of it is rich to make him well
off. And proud! He's proud as a blooded horse. Most of the very few
old-timers that are left in this part of the country. We are getting
somewhat Yankeefied, especially away over to the east where so many
northern people come of a winter. But he doesn't take much to itstill
cuts his wheat with a cradle.
We drove down into the valley, crossed a rude stone bridge, and
slowly went up the other side. The mare, brisk from having been pent
up, showed a disposition to quicken her pace, but Alf held her back,
searching with his strong eyes the yard, the summer house in the garden
hard by and the orchard off to the left. I looked at him and his face
was eager and hard set, but his eyes, though strained, were soft and
glowing. I spoke to him, but he heeded me not, but just at that moment
he drew himself straighter and gazed toward the house. And I saw a
woman crossing the yard. The road ran close to the low, rough stone
wall, and when we had come opposite the gate Alf stopped the mare and
got out to buckle a strap. But I noticed that he was looking more at
the house than at the strap. A broad porch, or gallery, as we term it,
ran nearly half way round the house, and out upon this a girl stepped
and stood looking over us at the hills far away. I saw Alf blush, and
the next moment he had sprung upon the buck-board and was driving off
almost furiously. I wondered why he should be afraid of her. He was not
overgrown, not awkward, but lithe, and I knew that he loved her and
that his own emotion had frightened him.
Perdue lived but a short distance beyond the General's place, and
soon we were there, talking to the old fellow out at the fence. When I
told him my business he looked sharply at me, appearing to measure me
from head to foot; and he said I was, no doubt, the man he had been
longing to see. And now, said he, after we had talked for a time, if
you are willing to take this school and go ahead with it, all right. I
am determined that the boys and girls of this community shall get an
education even if they choke the creek with teachers. If I had full
swing I'd raise a lot of men and go around and club the big boys. Oh,
it hasn't been this way very long. We've had first-rate schools here,
but those devilish Aimes boys are so full of the old Harrybut we'll
fix 'em. The ground will be all right for plowin' to-morrow, and the
big boys will have to work until the corn is laid by, but I reckon
you'll get a pretty fair turn-out. There's enough money appropriated to
have a rattlin' good school, and if you'll stick by me we'll have it.
I told him that I would stick by him. All right, said he, see
that you do. Let me see. This is Friday. You hold yourself in readiness
to begin Monday mornin', and to-morrow I will ride around the
neighborhood and spread the news.
So that was settled. Briskly we drove away, and again upon nearing
the house of the old General, Alf pulled the mare back into a walk.
This time, though, he did not stop, but as we slowly passed he swept
the house and the yard with his eager glance. The sun was down when we
reached home. How long the day had been, what a stretch of time lay
between the going down of the sun now and its rising, when I had
shouldered my trunk at the railway station!
As I was getting down in front of the door I heard Mr. Jucklin
calling me, and when I answered he came forward out of the passage and
said that he wanted to see me a moment. He led the way and I followed
him into the dark shadow of a tree. I forgot to tell you not to say
anything about that, said he.
About what? I asked.
About wallowin' himthe old General. He requested me not to
mention it, bein' so proud, and I told him that I wouldn't, and I don't
know what made me speak of it to-day, but I did.
Oh, I won't mention it, I spoke up rather sharply, for I was
disappointed that he had not told me something of importance.
All right. And I am much obleeged to you. He is one of the proudest
men in the world and he don't want anybody to suspect that any feller
ever wallowed him; but I want to tell you right now that I have
wallowed a good many of 'em in my time. Are you goin' to teach the
Yes, the arrangements have been made, and I am to begin work Monday
Good enough. Well, we'll go on in now and eat a snack, for I reckon
the women folks have got it about ready.
We went early to bed. The house was but a story and a half high, and
I was to room with Alf, up close to the clap-board roof. I could not
stand straight, except in the middle of the apartment, but I was
comfortable, for I had a good bed, and there was plenty of air coming
in through two large windows, one on each side of the chimney at the
end, toward the south. While the dawn was drowsiest, just at the time
when it seems that one moment of dreamy dozing is worth a whole night
of soundest sleep, Alf got up to go afield to his plow, and as the
joints of the stairway were creaking under him as he went down I turned
over for another nap, thankful that after all the teaching of a school
was not the hardest lot in life. And I was deliciously dreaming when
Guinea called me to breakfast.
I spent the most of the day in my room, getting ready for my coming
work. Against the chimney I built a shelf and put my books upon it; I
turned a large box into a writing table, and of a barrel I fashioned an
easy-chair. My surroundings were rude, but I was pleased with them;
indeed, I had never found myself so pleasantly placed. And when Alf
came up at night he looked about him and with a smile remarked: You
must own that lamp that we read about. Wish you would rub it again and
get my corn out of the grass. He looked tired and I wondered why he
did not go to bed, but he strode up and down the room, smoking his
pipe. He was silent and thoughtful, refilling his pipe as soon as the
tobacco was burned out; but sometimes he would talk, though what he
said I felt was aimless.
I've some heavier tobacco than that, I said.
This will do, though it is pretty light. Raised on an old hill.
He sat down and continued to pull at his pipe, though the fire was
out. He leaned with his elbow on the table; he moved as if his position
were uncomfortable; he got up, went to the window, looked out, came
back, resumed his seat and after looking at the floor for a few moments
said that he thought that it must be going to rain.
Perhaps so, I replied, but that's not what you wanted to say.
He gave me a sharp glance, looked down and then asked: How do you
I know because I can see and because I'm not a fool.
Anybody ever call you a fool? he asked, with a sad laugh. He
leaned far back and looked up at the clapboards.
That has nothing to do with it, Alf. Pardon me. Mr. Jucklin, I
should have said. The truth is, it seems that I have known you a long
And when you feel that way about a man, he quickly spoke up, you
make no mistake in accepting him as a friend. Call me Alf. What's your
first name? I told him, and he added: And I'll call you Bill. No; the
truth is I didn't care to say that I thought it was going to rain; I
don't give a snap for rain, except the rain that is pouring on my
heart. You remember that girl that came out upon the gallery. I know
you do, for no man could forget her. You know that Guinea asked me if
Millie was at home. Well, that was Millie Lundsford, the old General's
daughter. We have lived close together all our lives, but I have never
known her very well, and even now I wouldn't go there on a dead-set
visit. She and Guinea went off to school together and are good friends.
Guinea tries to plague me about her at times, not knowing that I really
love her. I couldn't go off to school, didn't care any too much for
education, but since that girl came home and I got better acquainted
with her I have felt that I would give half my life to know books, so
that I could talk to her; and since then I have been studying, with
Guinea to help me. And you don't know how glad I was when I heard that
you had come here to teach school, for I want to study under you. But
secretly, he added. I can't go to the school-house; I don't want her
to know that I am so ignorant.
I reached over and took hold of his hand. Alf, to teach you shall
be one of my duties. But don't put yourself down as ignorant, for you
He grasped my hand, and, looking straight into my eyes, said: I
wish I knew as much and was as good-looking as you. Then I wouldn't be
afraid to go to her and ask her to let me win her love, if I could.
To-morrow you go over to the General's, pretending that you want to get
his advice about the school, and I will go with you. Hang it, Bill, you
may be in love one of these days.
Why, Alf, I don't see why either of us should be afraid to go to
the General's house. Go? Of course, we will. But you make me laugh when
you say that if you were only as good-looking as I am. Let me tell you
something. I briefly told him the uneventful story of my life, that
ridicule had found me while yet I was a toddler and had held me up as
its target. You might have grown too fast, he remarked when I had
concluded, but you have caught up with yourself. To tell you the
truth, you would be picked out from among a thousand men. Where did you
get all those books? I don't see how you brought them with you in that
trunk, and with your other things.
The other things didn't take up much room, I answered, and,
turning to the books, I began to tell him something about them, but I
soon saw that his mind was far away. Yes, we will go over there
to-morrow, said I, and his mind flew back.
And walk right in as if we owned half the earth, said he, but I
knew that he felt not this lordly courage, knew that already he was
quaking. Oh, I'll go right in with you, he said. You lead the way
and I'll be with you.
When I had gone to bed a remark that he had made was sweeping like a
wind through my mind: Hang it, Bill, you may be in love one of these
days. I was already in lovein love with Guinea.
Alf was still asleep when I arose from my bed the next morning. I
stood at the head of the stairs and looked back at his handsome, though
sun-browned face, and I felt a strange and strong sympathy for him, but
I had not begun to agonize in my love; it was so new that I was
dazzled. When I went down stairs Guinea was feeding the chickens from
the kitchen window, and the old man was walking about the yard, with
his slouch hat pulled down to shut out the slanting glare of the sun.
But he saw me and, calling me, said that he would now show me his
beauties. And just then I heard Guinea's voice: If he starts to make
them fight you come right away and leave him, Mr. Hawes, she said. We
don't allow him to fight them on Sunday.
Miss Smartjacket, the old man spoke up, I hadn't said a word
about makin' 'em fight. Hawes, these women folks don't want a man to
have no fun at all. As long as a man is at work it's all right with the
women; they can stand to see him delve till he drops, but the minit he
wants to have a little fun, why, they begin to mowl about it. Of
course, I'm not goin' to let 'em fight on Sunday. But a preacher would
eat one of 'em on Sunday. All days belong to 'em. It's die dog or eat
the hatchet when they come round. And yet, as I tell you, I believe in
the Book from kiver to kiver. Step out here, Hawes.
I thought that I received from Guinea a smile of assent, and I
followed him. The enclosure wherein he kept his chickens was almost as
strong as a stockade. The old man unfastened a padlock and bade me
enter. I stepped inside, and when the master had followed me he was
greeted with many a cluck and scratching, the welcome of two game cocks
in a wire coop, divided into two apartments by a solid board partition.
I jest wanted you to look at 'em and size 'em merely for your own
satisfaction, said the old man, fondly looking upon his shimmering
pets. This red one over here is Sam, and that dominecker rascal is
Bob. Ah, Lord, you don't know what comfort there is in a chicken, and
how a preacher can eat a game rooster is beyond my understandin'. But
I'm with him, you understand, from kiver to kiver. Keep quiet there,
boys; no fight to-day. Must have some respect, you know.
He took a grain of corn from his pocket, placed it between his
teeth, and with a grin on his face got down on his knees and held his
mouth near the bars of Sam's cage. The rooster plucked out the grain of
corn, and Bob, watching the performance, began to prance about in
jealous rage. Never you mind, Bob, said the old man, getting up and
dusting his knees. I know your tricks. Held one out to you that way
not long ago, and I wish I may never stir agin if you didn't take a
crack at my eye, and if I hadn't ducked I'd be one-eyed right now. But
they are callin' us to breakfust. Bound to interfere with a man one way
It was with great care that Alf prepared himself to go with me to
the General's house. Out under a tree in the yard he placed a mirror on
a chair and there he sat and shaved himself. Then he went upstairs to
put on a suit of clothes which never had been worn, and anon I heard
him calling his mother to help him find buttons and neckwear that had
been misplaced. And he shouted to me not to be impatient, that he was
doing the best he could. Impatient! I was sitting in the passage,
leaning back against the wall, and near the steps Guinea stood, looking
far out over the ravine. She had donned a garb of bright calico, with
long, green-stemmed flowers stamped upon it, and I thought that of all
the dresses I had ever beheld this was the most beautiful and becoming.
She hummed a tune and looking about pretended to be surprised to see me
sitting there, and for aught I know the astonishment might have been
real, for I had made no noise in placing my chair against the wall.
I ought not to be humming a dance tune on Sunday, she said,
stepping back and standing against the opposite wall, with her hands
I don't see how the day can make music harmful, I replied.
The day can't make music harmful, she rejoined. But I can't sing.
Sometimes when I can't express what I am thinking about I hum it. How
long are you and Alf going to be away?
As long as it suits him, I answered. I have decided to have no
voice as to the length of our stay.
Then you are simply going to accommodate him. How kind of you. And
have you always so much consideration for others? If you have you may
find your patience strained if you stay here.
To stand any strain that may be placed upon our patience is a
virtue, I remarkedsententious pedagogueand she lifted her hands,
clasped them behind her head, looked at me and laughed, a music sweet
and low. Just then Alf came out upon the passage, looking down at
himself, first one side and then the other; and it was with a feeling
of close kinship to envy that I regarded his new clothes. He apologized
for having kept me waiting so long, but in truth I could have told him
that I should have liked to wait there for hours, looking at the
graceful figure of that girl, standing with her hands clasped behind
her brown head.
The distance was not great and we had decided to walk, and across a
meadow, purpling with coming bloom, we took a nearer way. I said to Alf
that one might think that he was a stranger at the General's house, and
he replied: In one way I am. I have been there many a time, it is
true, but always to help do something.
Is the family so exclusive, then? I asked.
Oh, they are as friendly as any people you ever saw, but, of
course, I naturally place them high above me. The old General doesn't
appear to know that I have grown to be a man; always talks to me as if
I were a boywants to know what father's doing and all that sort of
thing. He doesn't give a snap what father's doing.
And the girl. How does she talk to you? It was several moments
before he answered me.
I was just trying to think, he said. To tell you the truth, I
don't know how she talks to me. I can't recall anything she has ever
said to me. She calls me Alf and I call her Miss Millie, and we laugh
at some fool thing and that's about all there is to it. But I know that
the old man would never be willing for me to marry her. He is looking
pretty high for her or he wouldn't have spent so much money on her
But, of course, the girl will have something to say, I suggested.
I don't know as to that, he replied; but, of course, I hope so.
You can't tell about girlsat least, I can't. The old General married
rather late in life and has but two children. His wife died several
years ago. Chydister, the boy, or, rather, the manfor he's about my
ageis off at a medical college. He doesn't strike me as being so
alfired smart, but they say that he's got learning away up in G. The
old man says that he is going to make him the best doctor in the whole
country, if colleges can do it, and I reckon they can. He and I have
always got along pretty well; he used to stay at our house a good
We crossed the creek, by leaping from one stone to another, and
pursued a course along a rotting rail fence, covered with vines. And
from over in the low ground came the sqush of the cows as they strode
through the rank and sappy clover. We crossed a hill whereon stood a
deserted negro quarterthe moldering mark of a life that is now
dreamy and afar offand after crossing another valley slowly ascended
the rounding bulge of ground, capped by the home of the General. Alf
had begun to falter and hang back, and when I sought gently to
encourage him he remarked: But you must remember that this is the
first time that I have ever been here with new clothes on, and I want
to tell you that this makes a big difference.
It has been some time since I went anywhere with new clothes on, I
replied, which set him laughing; but his merriment was shut off when I
opened the gate. Behind the house, where the ground sloped toward the
orchard, there were a number of cabins, old, but not deserted, for
negro children were playing about the doors and from somewhere within
came the low drone of a half-religious, half-cornshucking melody. An
old dog got up from under a tree, but, repenting of the exertion, lay
down again; a turkey loudly gobbled, a peacock croaked, and a tall,
bulky, old man came out upon the porch.
Walk right in, he called, and shouting back into the hallway he
commanded some one to bring out three chairs. And even before we had
ascended the stone steps the command had been obeyed by a negro boy.
Glad to meet you, sir, he said when Alf had introduced me. You have
come to teach the school, I believe. Old man Perdue was over and told
me about it. Sit down. What's your father doing, Alf?
Can't do anything to-day, Alf answered, glancing at me.
I suppose not. All the folks well? Glad to hear it, he added
before Alf could answer him. It's been pretty wet, but it's drying up
He wore a dressing gown, befigured with purple gourds, was
bare-headed and I thought that he wore a wig, for his hair was thick
and was curled under at the back of his neck. His face, closely shaved,
was full and red; his lips were thick and his mouth was large. I could
see that he was of immense importance, a dominant spirit of the Old
South, and my reading told me that his leading ancestor had come to
America as the master of a Virginia plantation.
Henry! the old General called. Fetch me my pipe. Henry!
Comin', a voice cried from within. His pipe was brought and when
it had been lighted with a coal which Henry carried in the palm of his
hand, rolling it about from side to side, the General puffed for a few
moments and then, looking at me, asked if I found school-teaching to be
a very profitable employment.
The money part of it has been but of minor consideration, I
answered. My aim is to become a lawyer, and I am teaching school to
help me toward that end.
He cleared his throat with a loud rasp. I remember, said he, that
a man came here once from the North with pretty much the same idea. It
was before the war. We got him up a school, and by the black ooze in
the veins of old Satan, it wasn't long before he was trying to persuade
the negroes to run away from us. I had a feather bed that wasn't in use
at the time, and old Mills over here had a first-rate article of tar on
hand, and when we got through with the gentleman he looked like an
arctic explorer. Where are you from, sir?
I told him, and then he asked: The name is all right, and the
location is good. My oldest brother knew a Captain Hawes in the Creek
He was my grandfather, I replied. He looked at me, still pulling
at his pipe, and said: Then, sir, I am, indeed, glad to see you. Alf,
what's your father doing?
Nothing, sir; it's Sunday, Alf answered, blushing. The old General
looked at him, cleared his throat and said: Yes, yes. Folks all well?
I heard the door open and close and I saw Alf move, even as his
father had moved when he came upon me in the road. I heard light
foot-falls in the hall, and then out stepped a girl. She smiled and
nodded at Alf and the General introduced me to her. Alf got up, almost
tumbled out of his chair and asked her to sit down. Oh, no, keep your
seat, she said. I'm not going to stay but a minute. She walked over
to a post and, leaning against it, turned and looked back at us. She
wore a flower in her hair, and in her hand she held a calacanthus bud.
She was rather small, with a petulant sort of beauty, but I did not
think that she could be compared with Guinea, for all of Alf's raving
over her. Her cheeks were dimpled, and well she knew it, for she smiled
whenever anything was said, and when no word had been spoken she smiled
at the silence.
Alf, what has become of Guinea? she asked. It seems an age since
I saw her.
She was over here last, I think, Alf answered.
Ahemm came from the General. You'll be counting meals on each
other, like the Yankees, after a while, he said. Why don't you quit
your foolishness; and if you want to see each other, go and see. I
don't know what your feelings are in the matter, sir, he added,
turning to me, but I don't see much good in this so-called public
school system. And of all worthless things under heaven it is a negro
that has caught up a smattering of education. God knows he's trifling
enough at best, but teach him to read and he's utterly worthless. I
sent a negro to the postoffice some time ago, and he came along back
with my newspaper spread out before him, reading it on the horse. And
if it hadn't been for Millie I would have ripped the hide off him.
He didn't know any better, the girl spoke up. Poor thing, you
scared him nearly to death.
Yes, and I immediately gave him the best coat I had to square
myself, not with him, but with myself, said the old man. But I hold
that if the negro, or anyone else, for that matter, is to be a servant,
let him be a servant. I don't want a man to plow for me simply because
he can read. Confound him, I don't care whether he can read or not. I
want him to plow. When I choose my friends it is another matter. Your
father go to church to-day, Alf?
I don't know, sir, Alf answered, moving about in his chair, and
then in his embarrassment he got up and stammeringly begged the girl to
Why, what's all this trouble and nonsense about, the General
asked, looking first at the girl and then at Alf. 'Od zounds, there
oughtn't to be any trouble about a chair. Fifty of them back in there.
Alf dropped back and the girl laughed with such genuine heartiness
that I thought much better of her, but still I did not think that she
was at all to be compared with Guinea. The General yelled for Henry to
bring him another coal, and when his pipe had been relighted he turned
to me and said: You don't find the old North State as she once was,
sir. Ah, Lord, the ruin that has gone on in this world since I can
remember. And yet they say we are becoming more civilized. Zounds, sir,
do you call it civilization to see hundreds of fields turned out to
persimmon bushes and broom sedge? Look over there, he added, waving
his hand. I have seen the time when that was almost a garden. What do
you want? The last remark was addressed to the negro boy who had
suddenly appeared. Dinner? Yes, yes. Come, Mr. Hawes, and you, Alf.
This way. Get out! A dog had come between him and the door. Devilish
dogs are about to take the place, but they are no account, not one of
them. Lie around here and let the rabbits eat up the pea vines. Even
the dogs have degenerated along with everything else.
I walked with the General, and, looking back, I was pleased to see
that Alf had summoned courage enough to follow along beside the girl.
We were shown into a long dining-room, with a great height of ceiling.
The house had been built in a proud old day, and all about me I noted a
dim and faded elegance. The General bade us sit down, and I noticed
that his tone was softened. He mumbled a blessing over a great hunk of
mutton and, broadly smiling upon me, told me that he was glad to
welcome me to his board. The school-teacher, said he, modifies and
refines our native crudeness. Yes, sir, you have a great work, a work
that you may be proud of. Had education more broadly prevailed, had the
people North and South better understood one another, there would have
been no bloody disruption. Now, gentlemen, I must request you to help
yourselves, remembering that such as I have is freely yours. When age
comes on apace there is nothing more inspiring than to see the young
and the vigorous gathered about us. And it is thus that the evening of
live is brightened. Henry, pass the bread to Mr. Jucklin, and the peas,
the very first of this backward season, I assure you. Mr. Hawes, can
you recall the face of your noble grandfather?
No, General; he died many years before I can remember.
A pity, I assure you, for what is more spurring to our ambition
than to recall the features of a noted relative. Some of this lettuce,
Mr. Hawes? A sleepy, but withal a soothing, dish. My daughter, I must
request you to help yourself. Charming weather we have, Mr. Hawes, with
the essence of youth and hope in the air.
How completely had his manner changed. His eyes, which had seemed
hard and cold when he had waved his hand and looked out over the yellow
sedge grass, were beaming now with kindly light, and his voice, which I
had thought was coarse and gruff, was vibrant with notes of stirring
sympathy. Alf, heartened by the old gentleman's streaming courtesy,
spoke a low word to the girl who sat beside him, and she nodded,
smiling, but with one ear politely lent to the familiar talk of her
After dinner we were shown into the library, wherein were many law
books, and the General, catching the longing glance that I shot at
them, turned with bewitching patronage, bowed and said:
You have expressed your determination to become acquainted with the
law and to practice the wiles of its logic; and so, if you can make no
better arrangements, I pray, sir, that you make this room your office.
Alf's eyes bulged out at this, doubtless looking upon me as the most
fortunate man alive, and in my country bluntness I blurted: You are
the kindest man I ever saw.
In this room we talked for two hours or more, and the afternoonor
the evening, as we say in the Southwas well pronounced when I
declared that it was time for us to go. Alf looked up surprised, and in
a voice sad with appeal, he asked if it were very late. I could have
given him the exact time, but was afraid to take out my grandfather's
watchafraid that the General and his daughter might think that I was
seeking to make a display, so I simply said: Yes, time that we were
Don't be in a hurry, gentlemen, the General protested; don't let
a trivial matter rob us of your society.
Alf pulled back, but I insisted, and so we took our leave. The old
gentleman came out upon the porch with us. Henry! he yelled, turning
about, who the devil left that gate open? Go and shut it, you lazy
scoundrel. Those infamous new-comers over on the creek take my place
for a public highway. And I hope to be hung up by the heels if I don't
fill the last one of them full of shot.
I'll never forget you, Alf remarked as we walked along, down
through the meadow. You have stood by me, and you bet your life I
don't forget such things. Of course, I have known the old man ever
since I can remember, but he never treated me so well before. And when
the time comes, if I can get him in that dining-room I don't believe
he'll refuse me. It's a blamed big pity that I can't talk as you can,
but you just stick to me and I will talk all right after a while.
Oh, I'll stick to you, I replied, but I didn't notice that I
talked in a way to amount to anything. I felt as stupid as an ass
looks. What did the girl say? You were talking to her very earnestly
over by the window.
To save my life, I can't recall anything she said, Bill, but I know
that every word she spoke was dripped honey. I'd almost give my life to
take her in my arms and hug her just once. Ever feel that way about a
I was beginning to feel just exactly that way, but I told him no,
whereupon he said: But you may one of these days, and whenever you do,
you call on me to help you, and I'll do it, I don't care who the girl
is or how high up she may stand. Many a night I have lain in bed and
wished that Millie might be going along the road by herself and that
about three men would come up and say something out of the way to her,
just so I could spring out and wipe the face of the earth with them.
I'm not as big as you are, but for her I'll bet I can whip any three
men you ever saw. By the way, don't even speak Millie's name at home.
The folks don't know that I'm in love with her. There's one thing that
stands in my favor.
What is it? I asked. He looked up at me, but was silent, and
becoming interested by his manner I was about to repeat the question,
when he said: I'm not at liberty to speak of it yet. You've noticed
that Guinea has more education than I have. Well, her education has
something to do with the point that's in my favor, but I've said too
much already and we'd better drop the subject.
I was burning to know more, for I recalled the change of manner that
had come over Mr. Jucklin at the time he spoke of having sent his
daughter away to school, and I was turning this over and over in my
mind, when Alf said: A young fellow named Dan Stuart often goes to see
Millie, and I don't know how much she thinks of him, but some of his
people are high flyers, and that may have an influence in his favor.
Doc Etheredge, out here, is his cousin, and old man Etheredge owned
nearly a hundred and fifty negroes at one time. But when that girl
stands up at the altar to marry some one else, they will find me there
putting in my protest.
When we reached home I found Guinea sitting under a tree, reading,
and I had joined her when the old man called me. Looking about I saw
him standing at the end of the house, beckoning to me. I want to see
you a minute, he said, as I approached him. I wondered whether he was
again going to show me his chickens, and it was a relief when he
conducted me in an opposite direction. He looked back to see if we were
far enough away, and then, coming closer to me, he said: This is the
way I came to do it.
Do what? I asked, not over pleased that he should have called upon
me to leave the girl.
Wallow him, the old General. He claimed that my hogs had been
gettin' into his field, and I told him that I didn't feel disposed to
keep my hogs up when everybody else's were runnin' at large, and then
he called me a scoundrel and we clinched. I took him so quick that he
wasn't prepared for me, and I give a sort of a hem stich and down he
went, right in the middle of the road. And there I was right on top of
him. He didn't say a word, while I was wallowin' him, but when I let
him up, he looked all round and then said: 'Lim Jucklin, if I thought
anybody was lookin' I'd kill you right here. You are the first man that
ever wallowed a Lundsford and lived, and the novelty of the thing
sorter appeals to me. You know that I'm not afraid of the devil, and
keep your mouth shut about this affair, and we'll let it drap.' And he
meant just what he said, and I did keep my mouth shut, not because I
was afraid of his hurtin' me, but because I was sorry to humiliate him.
Ever hear of John Mortimer Lacey? Well, shortly after that him and
Lundsford fit a duel and Lacey went to New Orleans and died there. So,
don't say anything about it.
About what? Lacey's going to New Orleans and dying there?
No, cadfound it all, about my wallerin' the General.
I won't, I answered, and then I thought to touch upon a question
that had taken a fast hold upon me. By the way, you spoke of having
sent your daughter to school at Raleigh
The devil I did! Well, what's that got to do with you or with
anyone else, for that matter? I'll beyou must excuse me, sir, he
quickly added, bowing. I'm not right bright in my mind at times.
Pecked right at my eye, and if I hadn't dodged I'd be one-eyed this
minuteyes, I would, as sure as you are born. But here, let us drop
that wallowin' business and that other affair with it, and not mention
it again. Don't know why I done it in the first place, but I reckon it
was because I'm not right bright in my mind at times. You'll excuse my
snap and snarl, won't you? Go on back there, now, and talk about your
I am the one to ask pardon, Mr. Jucklin. I ought to have had better
sense than to touch upon something that didn't concern me. I guess
there must be a good deal of the brute in me, and it seems to me that I
spend nearly half my time regretting what I did the other half.
Why, Lord love your soul, man, you haven't done nothin'. But you
draw me close to you when you talk of regrettin' things. I have spent
nearly all my life in putty much that fix. After you've lived in this
neighborhood a while you'll hear that old Lim has been in many a fight,
but you'll never hear that anybody has ever whupped him. You may hear,
though, that he has rid twenty mile of a cold night to beg the pardon
of a man that he had thrashed. We'll shake hands right here, and if you
say the word we'll go right now and make them chickens fight. No, it's
Sunday. Kiver to kiver, you understand. Go on back there, now.
With Guinea I sat and saw the sun go down behind a yellow gullied
hill. From afar up and down the valley came the lonesome pig-oo-ee!
of the farmers, calling their hogs for the evening's feed. We heard the
flutter of the chickens, flying to roost, and the night hawk heard
them, too, for his eager, hungry scream pierced the still air. On a
smooth old rock at the verge of the ravine the girl's brother stood,
arms folded, looking out over the darkening low land, and from within
the house, where Mrs. Jucklin sat alone, there came a sad melody:
Come, thou fount of every blessing.
The girl's eyes were upward turned. Every evening comes with a new
mystery, she said. We think we know what to expect, but when the
evening comes it is different from what it was yesterday.
And it is thus that we are enabled to live without growing tired of
the world and of ourselves, I replied. And I wish that I had come
like the eveningwith a mystery, I added.
I heard her musical cluck and even in the dusk I could see the light
of her smile. But why should you want to come with a mystery? she
To inspire those about me with an interest regarding me. Even the
stray dog is more interesting than the dog that is vouched for by the
appearance of his master. I never saw a pack-peddler that I did not
long to know something of his life, his emotions, the causes that sent
him adrift, but I can't find this interest in a man whom I understand.
She laughed again. But haven't you some little mystery connected
with your life? she asked.
None. I have read myself into a position a few degrees above the
clod-hopper, but that's all. If there were a war, I would be a soldier,
but as there is no war, I am going to be a lawyer.
It would be nice, I should think, to stand up and make speeches,
she said. But wouldn't you rather be a doctor?
I don't know why I said it, but I replied that I hated doctors, and
she did not laugh at this, but was silent. I waited for her to say
something, but she uttered not a word. It was now dark, and I could
just discern Alf's figure, standing on the rock. The song in the house
I don't really mean that I hate doctors, I said, seeking to right
myself, if, indeed, I had made a mistake; and she simply replied: Oh.
I mean that I should not like to practice medicine, I added, and
again she said: Oh. A lamp had been lighted in the sitting-room, and
thither we went, to join Old Lim and his wife, who were warm in the
discussion of a religious question. The Book said that whatever a man's
hands found to do he must do, and, therefore, he held that it was right
to do almost anything on Sunday.
Even unto the fighting of chickens? his wife asked.
Oh, I knowed what you was a-gittin' at. Knowed it while you was
a-beatin' the bush all round. When a woman begins to beat the bush,
it's time to look out, Mr. Hawes. I came in here just now, and I knowed
in a minute that wife, there, was goin' to accuse me of havin' a round
with Sam and Bob, but I pledge you my word that I didn't. Just went in
and exchanged a few words with 'em. Man's got a right to talk to his
friends, I reckon; but if he ain't, w'y, it's time to shut up shop.
Alf came in and, with Guinea, sang an old song, and their father sat
there with the tears shining in his eyes. He leaned over, and I heard
him whisper to his wife: Did have just a mild bit of a round, Susan,
and I hope that you and the Lord will forgive me for it. If you do I
know the Lord will. I'm an old liar, Susan.
No, you are not, Lemuel, she answered, in a low voice. You are
the best man in the world, and everybody loves you.
I saw him squeeze her wrinkled hand.
I could not sleep, but in a strange disturbance tossed about. Alf
was talking in a dream. I got up and sat for a time at the window,
looking out toward the gullied hill that had turned out the light of
the sun. On the morrow my work was to begin. And what was to be the
result? Was it intended that I should reach the bar and win renown, or
had I been listed for the life of a pedagogue? Was my love for the girl
so new that it dazzled me? No, it was now a passion, wounded and sore.
But why? By that little word, Oh. I put on my clothes, tip-toed down
stairs and walked about the yard. The moon was full, low above the
scrub oaks. A streak of shimmering light ran down toward the spring,
and over it I slowly strode. I heard the water gurgling from under the
moss-covered spring-house, and I saw the leaf-shadow patch-work moving
to and fro over the smooth slabs of stone. Long I stood there, looking
at the pictures, listening to the music; and turning back toward the
house, I had gone some distance when I chanced to look up, and then,
thrilled, I slowly sank upon my knees. At one of the large windows, in
the northeast end of the house, stood Guinea, in a loose, white robe,
the light of the full moon falling upon her. Behind her head her hands
were clasped, and she stood there like a marble cross. Her face was
upward turned, and the low yellow moon was bronzing her brown haira
glorified marble cross, with a crown of gold, I thought, as I bowed in
my worship. My forehead touched the path, and when I lifted my
headthe cross was gone.
We ate breakfast early the next morning, while the game cocks were
yet crowing in their coop. When I went down I heard the jingling of
trace chains, and I knew that the old man was making ready to plow the
young corn. I had insisted upon walking to the school-house, telling
Alf that all I wanted was to know the direction, but he declared that
it was no more than just that I should be driven over the first morning
of the session. So, together we went on the buck-board. Guinea had
laughingly told me not to be afraid of the creek, that the large boys
were at home, plowing, and as we were skirting the gullied hill I
glanced back and saw her standing in the yard, looking after us. The
road lay mostly through the woods, with many a turn and dip down among
thick bushes to cross a crooked stream. Sometimes we came upon small
clearings, where tired-looking men were grubbing new-land for tobacco,
and I remember that a half-grown boy, with a sullen look, threw a chunk
at us and viciously shouted that if we would stop a minute he would
whip both of us. I imagined that he was kept from school by the
imperious demand of the tobacco patch, and I sympathized with him in
his wrath against mankind. A little further along we came within sight
of an old log house, and then the laughter of children reached our
ears. We had arrived at the place where my work was to begin. Alf put
me down, and, saying that he must get back home, drove away; and a hush
fell upon the children as I turned toward the house. Inside I found a
cow-bell, and when I had rung the youngsters to their duties, I made
them a short speech, telling them that I was sure we should become
close friends. I had some difficulty in arranging them into classes,
for it appeared that each child had brought an individual book. But I
was glad to see that old McGuffy's readers prevailed, for in many parts
of the South they had been supplanted by books of flimsy text, and now
to see them cropping up gave me great pleasure. There they were, with
the same old lessons that had fired me with ambition, the words of
Shakspeare and the speeches of great Americans.
By evening my work was well laid out, and as I took my way homeward,
with Guinea in my mind, there was a strong surge within my breast, the
leaping of a determination to win her.
As I neared home, coming round by the spring, I saw the girl running
down the path, the picture of a young deer, and how that picture did
remain with me, and how on an occasion held by the future, it was to be
Oh, you have got back safe and dry, she cried, halting upon seeing
me. Why, I thought you would come back dripping. No, I didn't, she
quickly added. Don't you know I told you that all the large boys were
at work? Wait until I get the jar of butter and I'll go to the house
Let me get it for you, I replied, turning back with her.
You can't get it, she said, laughing; you'll fall into the
spring. But, then, you might hold it as a remembrance to temper the
severity of the ducking yet to come.
Miss Guinea, I made bold to say, standing at the door of the
spring-house, do you know that you talk with exceeding readiness?
Oh, do you mean that I am always ready to talk? I didn't think that
I reached out and took the jar from her. You know I didn't mean
that, I said; and, looking up, with her eyes full of mischief, she
asked: What did you mean, then?
I mean that you talk easily and brightlylike a book.
You'd better let me have the jar, she said, holding out her hands.
I'm afraid that you'll fall and break it, after that. You know that a
man is never so likely to slip as he is when he's trying to compliment
No, I don't know that, but I do know that a Southern woman ought to
know the difference between flattery and a real compliment.
Why a Southern woman? she asked. She looked to me as if she were
really in earnest and I strove to answer her earnestly.
Because Southern women are not given to flirting; because they
place more reliance in what a man says, and
I think you've got yourself tangled up, she said, laughing at me,
and I could but acknowledge that I had; and then it was, in the
sweetest of tones, that she said: But if I had thought you really were
tangled I would not have spoken of it. Now tell me what you were going
to say, and I promise to listen like a mouse in a corner.
No, I'm afraid to attempt it again. I was in advance of her, for
the path was narrow and the dew was now gathering on the grass, but she
shot past me, and, looking back, said beseechingly: Won't you,
please? The sun was long since down and the twilight was darkening,
but I could see the eagerness on her face. Do, please, for I like to
hear such things. I'm nothing but the simplest sort of a girl, as easy
to amuse as a child, and you must remember that you are a great big
man, from out in the world.
Come on with that butter! the old man shouted, and with a laugh
the girl ran away from me. I wondered whether she were playing with me,
but I could not believe that she was. In those eyes there might be
mischief, but there could not be deceit.
Bed time came immediately after supper. The old man did not go out
to look after his chickens, so tired was he, and there was no song in
the sitting-room. I sat in the passage, where the moonlight fell, and
hoped that the girl might join me, but she did not, and I went to my
room, where I found Alf, half undressed, sitting on the edge of the
bed. I had sat down and had filled my pipe before he took notice of me,
but when I began to search about for a light he looked up and remarked:
Matches on the corner of your library.
Here's one, I replied, and had lighted the pipe when he said: Saw
her to-day, Billsaw her riding along the road with Dan Stuart. She
didn't even look over in the field toward me, but he waved his hand,
and I saw more hatred than friendship in it. Blame it all, Bill, I'm
not going to follow a plow through the dirt all the time. I can do
something better, and after this crop's laid by I'm going to do it. I
don't think that she wants to marry a farmer.
What does Stuart do? I asked. How can he afford to be riding
about when other men are at work?
Oh, I guess he's pretty well fixed. He's got a lot of negroes
working for him and he raises a good deal of tobacco. No, sir, she
didn't even look toward me.
But haven't you passed her house when you were almost afraid to
look toward the porch when you knew that she was standing there?
Of course I have! he cried. Yes, sir, I've done that many a
timejust pretended that I had business everywhere else but on that
porch. Ain't it strange how love does take hold of a fellow? It gets
into his heart and his heart shoots it to the very ends of his fingers;
it gets into his eyes, and he can't see anything but love, love
everywhere. It may catch you one of these days, Bill, and when it does,
you'll know just how I feel.
I looked at this strong and honest man, this man idolizing an image
that he had enshrined in his soul, and I thought to tell him that, with
my forehead touching the ground, I had worshiped his sister, but no, it
was too delicate a confidenceI would keep it to myself.
We were astir in the dawn the next day, ate breakfast by the light
of a lamp, but Guinea was not at the table, and I loitered there after
the others were gone out, hoping to see her, but she did not come, and
then I remembered that Mrs. Jucklin was also absent, and that the
services of the meal had been performed by a negro woman.
When I returned at evening, with the droning of the children's
voices echoing in my ears, it seemed to me that I had been gone an age.
I came again by the spring, but Guinea was not there, but I heard her
singing as I drew near to the house. She was in the passage, gleefully
dancing, with a broom for a partner. When she saw me she threw down the
broom and ran away, laughing; but she came back when she found that I
had really discovered her. You must think that I am the silliest
creature in the world, she said, and I don't know that I can dispute
you. Millie Lundsford has just gone home. She and I have been going
through with our old-time play, when, with window curtains wound about
us to represent long dresses, and with brooms to personate the brave
knights who had rescued us from the merciless Turks, we danced in the
castle. And I was just taking a turn with a duke when you came. What a
knight you would have been.
And what an inspiration I should have had to drive me onward and to
set my soul aflame with ambition, I replied, looking into her eyes.
It must have been my look rather than my words that threw a change
over her; my manner must have told her that I was becoming too serious
for one who had known her so short a time, but be that as it may, a
change had come upon her. She was no longer a girl, gay and airy, with
a romping spirit, but a woman, dignified.
Has your work been hard to-day? she asked.
It has been more or less stupid, as it always is, I answered,
slowly walking with her toward the dining-room.
When we had sat down to the table Alf came in with his new clothes
on, and whispering to me when his sister had turned to say something to
her mother, he said: Got something to tell you when we go up stairs.
Mrs. Jucklin was afraid that I did not eat enough; she had heard
that brain workers required much food; her uncle, who had been a
justice of the peace, had told her that it made but small difference
what he ate while engaged in getting out saw logs, but that when he
began to meditate over a case in court he required the most stimulating
provender. And now, she said, if there's anything that I can fix for
you, do, please, let me know what it is. Now, Guinea, what are you
titterin' at? And that negro woman doesn't half do her work, either. I
declare to goodness I'd rather do everything on the place than to see
her foolin' round as if she's afraid to take hold of anything; and her
fingers full of brass rings, too. I jest told her that she'd have to
take 'em off, that I didn't want to eat any brass. Laws a massy,
niggers are jest as different from what they was as day is from night.
Talk to me about freedom helpin' 'em. But the Lord knows best, she
added, with a sigh of resignation. If He wants 'em to be free, why, no
one ought to complain, and goodness knows I don't. Yes, they ought to
be free, she went on after a moment of reflection. Oh, it was a sin
and a shame to sell 'em away from their children. But it's all over
now, thank God. Now, I wonder where your father is, Alf. Never saw sich
a man in my life. Looks jest like he begrudges time enough to eat.
There he comes now.
The old man came in, covered with dirt. Alf, is the shot gun
loaded? he asked, brushing himself.
Yes, sir. Why? We looked at the old fellow, wondering what he
meant, but he made no explanation. Alf repeated his question. Why?
And the old man exclaimed: Oh, nothin'. Jest goin' to blow that red
steer's head off, that's all. Confound his hide. I wish I may die this
minute if I ever had sich a jolt in my life. Went along by him, not
sayin' a word to him, and if he didn't up and let me have both heels
I'm the biggest liar that ever walked a log. Hadn't done a thing to
him, mind you; walkin' along 'tendin' to my own business, when both of
his heels flew at me. And I'll eat a bite and then go and blow his head
Oh, Limuel, his wife protested; a body to hear you talk would
think that you don't do anything at all but thirst for blood. If the
Lord puts it in the mind of a steer to kick you, why, it ain't the poor
The old man snorted. And if the Lord puts it in my mind to kill the
steer it ain't my fault, muther. Conscience alive, what are we all
dressed up so about? he added, looking at Alf. So much stile goin' on
that a body don't know whuther he's a shuckin' corn or is at a picnic.
Blow his head off as soon as I eat a bite.
I could see that Alf was anxious to tell me something, and
immediately after supper I went up stairs with him. He took off his
coat, and after dusting it carefully hung it up and sat down. He looked
at me as if he were delighted with the curiosity that I was showing,
and then as he reached for his pipe he began: I was a-plowing out in
the field about three hours by sun, when I saw Millie come out of the
valley like a larkspur straightening up in the spring of the year, and
after waiting a while, but always with my eye on the house, I quit
work, slipped up here and dressed myself so as to be ready to walk home
with her. I was rather afraid to ask her at first, knowing that this
was breaking away from all my former strings and announcing my
determination of keeping company with her, out and out, and I don't
know exactly how I got at it, but I did, and the first thing I knew I
was walking down the road with her. And this time I do remember what
she said, but there wasn't anything so encouraging in it. The fact is
she had something to tell me about you.
About me? What can she know about me? Probably she was giving you
her father's estimate of me.
No, but somebody else's estimate, he replied. You recollect a
fellow named Bentley?
Bentley? Of course, I do. We lived on adjoining farms, and I have a
sore cause to remember him. But how could she have heard anything about
Well, I'll tell you. Mrs. Bentley is old man Aimes' sister, and
she's over here now on a visit, and when she heard that you were
teaching school in the neighborhood she declared that it would be a
mercy if you didn't kill somebody before you got through. And then she
told that you had waylaid her son one night and come mighty nigh
killing him. She said that she was perfectly willing to forgive you
until she saw the scar left on her son's forehead, and a woman can't
very well forgive a scar, you know. Old Aimes and all his sons are
slaughter-house dogs, and they appeared to take up a hatred against you
at once. Don't you remember as we drove to the school a boy threw a
chunk at us as we were passing a clearing and swore that he could whip
us both? Well, that was the youngest Aimes, and the trick now is, as I
understand it, to send him to school with instructions to do pretty
much as he pleases and to take revenge on you in case you whip him.
Millie said that her father swore that it was a shame and that if you
wanted any help from him you could get it. Nobody likes the Aimes
family. Came in here several years ago, and have been kicking up
disturbances ever since.
I told Alf why I had snatched Bentley off his horse, nor in the
least did I shield myself. I even called myself a brute. But I told him
of the season of sorrow and humiliation through which I had passed,
that I had insisted upon giving Bentley the only valuable thing I
possessed, that against his mother's command I had striven to work for
him during the time he was laid up, and that I had even plowed his
field at night.
I don't know that you were so far wrong in beating him in the first
place, said Alf, but if you were, your course afterward should have
more than atoned for it. By gracious, I feel that if some one would
plow for me I'd let him maul me until he got tired. Millie said that
she was afraid that something might happen to get you into trouble. She
seemed a good deal concerned about it, for I reckon she's got the
noblest and purest heart of any human being now in the world, and she
said that she thought that if you were to give up the school her father
could make some arrangements for you to study law in Purdy, the county
seat. I told her that you would be delighted to quit teaching under
ordinary circumstances, but that just at present you'd teach or die.
Was I right?
Surely, and I thank you for having defined my position. I wonder if
we can commit an innocent error, an error that will lie asleep and
never rise up to confront us? Now, I shall have a fine reputation in
Oh, don't let that worry you, Bill. It'll come out all right. I'd
be willing to have almost any sort of name if it would influence that
girl to talk in my favor as she did in yours. I don't know what to
think; somehow I can't find out her opinion of me. I slily spoke about
that fellow, Dan Stuart, but she didn't say a word. Confound it, Bill,
can't a woman see that she's got a fellow on the gridiron? They can't
even bear to see a hog suffer, but they can smile and look unconcerned
while a man is writhing over the coals. I don't understand it.
Nor do I, Alf, but I've been over the coalsI mean that I can well
imagine what it is to be there.
He lay down, and with his head far back on the pillow, looked upward
as if with his gaze he would bore through the roof and reach the stars.
He was silent for a long time, but when I had blown out the light and
had gone to bed, thinking that he was asleep, I heard him muttering.
Talking to me, Alf? He turned over with a sigh and answered: No,
not particularly. I was just wondering whether a man ought to try to
outlive a disappointment in love or kill himself and end the matter. We
are told that God is love, and if God is denied to a man, what's the
use of trying to struggle on? I suppose the advantage of knowledge is
that it enables a man to settle such questions at once, but as I am not
learned, having grabbed but a little here and there, I have to worry
along with a thing that another man might dismiss at once. What's your
My idea is that a man ought never to give up; but, of course, there
are times when he is so completely beaten that to fight longer is worse
than useless. But learning cannot settle questions wherein the heart is
involved. The philosopher may kill himself in despair, while the
ignorant man may continue to fight and may finally win. The other day
you spoke of something that was in your favorsomething that has to do
with your sister's education. Would you think it impertinent if I ask
you what that something is?
No, I'd not think that, he answered. I had risen up in bed and was
straining my eyes, trying to find his face, to study his expression,
but darkness lay between us. Not impertinent in the least, but I can't
tell you just now. After a while, if you stay here long enough, you'll
know all about it. Bill, if that young Aimes comes to school and begins
any of his pranks, take him down and I'll stand by you, and people that
know me well will tell you that I mean what I say. The old man has
never been whipped yet, I mean my father, and nobody ever saw his son
The next morning, when with quick stride, to make up for an anxious
lingering in the passage way, I hastened toward the school, I heard the
gallop of a horse, and turning about, saw old General Lundsford coming
like a dragoon. Upon seeing me he drew in his horse and had sobered him
to a walk by the time he reached a brook, on the brink of which I
halted to let him pass.
Why, good morning, Mr. Hawes. Beautiful day, sir. I am going your
way a short distance, and if you'll get up here behind me, sir, you
I thanked him, telling him that I much preferred to walk. All
right, sir, and I will get down and walk with you until duty, sir, he
said sonorously, with a bow; until duty, sir, shall call us apart.
I urged him not to get down, telling him that I could easily keep
pace with his horse, but he dismounted even before crossing the stream,
preferring, he said, with another bow, to take his chances with me. And
thus we walked onward, the horse following close, now and then nosing
his master's shoulder to show his preference and his loyalty. The
season was mellowing and the old gentleman was airily dressed in white,
low shoes neatly polished and a Panama hat. He was delighted, he said,
to hear that I was getting along so well with the school, and he knew
that I would be of vast good to the community. I have heard of the
Aimes conspiracy, said he, and I am glad that I met you, for I wanted
to talk to you about it. The truth of it all is, not that you once
larruped that fellow Bentley, but that old Aimes wishes to put a sly
indignity upon me by misusing one who has been entertained at my house.
That's the point, sir. He heard that I had given you countenance at my
board, and what his sister afterward told him was an excuse for the
exercise, sir, of his distemper. But, byI came within one of
swearing, sir. I used to curse like an overseer, but I joined the
church not long ago, and I've been walking a tight rope ever since. But
as I was about to say, you are not going to let those people humiliate
I am going to do my duty, I answered, and my duty does not tell
me to be humiliated.
Good, sir; first-rate. As a general thing, we do not look for the
highest spirit in a school-teacherpardon my frankness, for, as you
know, one who is dependent upon a whole community, one who seeks to
please many and varied persons, is not as likely to exhibit that
independence and vigor of action which is characteristic of the man who
stands solely upon honor, with nothing to appease save his own idea of
right. But I forgot. The grandson of Captain Hawes needs no such
homily. The Aimes family is a hard lot, sir, but a gentleman can at all
times stand in smiling conquest above a tough. Scott Aimes, a burly
scoundrel, and, therefore, the pet of his father, at one time
threatened to chastize my son Chydister, who is now off at college. And
I said not a word in reply, when my son told me of the threat. I merely
pointed to a shot-gun above the library door and went on with my
reading of the death notices in the newspaper. That gun is there now,
sir, and whenever you want it, speak the word and it shall be yours.
I laughed to myself and thought that I must be getting on well with
the old Generalfirst the offer of his library and now of his gunand
I thanked him for the interest which he had shown in me, a mere
stranger. A well-bred Southerner is never a stranger in the South,
said he. We are held together by an affection stronger than any tie
that runs from heart to heart in any other branch of the human family.
But, he added, sadly shaking his head, I fear that this affection is
weakening. Our young men are becoming steeped in the strong commercial
spirit of the North. I should like to continue this pleasant and
elevating conversation, but here's where I am compelled to leave you.
Can I assist you to mount? I asked, hardly knowing what else to
say. He shoved his hat back and looked at me in astonishment. You are
kind, sir, but I am not yet on the lift. But he instantly recognized
that this was harsh, and with a broad smile he added: Pardon me for my
shortness of speech, but the truth is that a man who has spent much of
his life in the saddle contemplates with horror the time when he must
be helped to his seat.
General, I am the one to ask pardon, I replied, bowing in my turn.
Oh, no, I assure you! he exclaimed, mounting his horse with more
ease than I had expected to see. It was your kindness of heart, sir; a
courtesy, and though a courtesy may be a mistake, it is still a virtue.
Look at that old field out there, he broke off. Do you call that an
advancement of civilization. Bythe tight rope, againit is
It seemed that while walking he had regarded me as his guest, but
that now, astride his horse and I on foot, he looked upon me as a man
whom he had simply met in the road.
A return of prosperity, he said, gathering up his bridle rein, a
fine return, indeed. About another such a return and this infernal
world won't be fit to live in. I wish you good morning, sir.
That very day there came to school the sullen-looking boy whom I had
seen in the tobacco patch. I asked him his name and he answered that he
had forgotten to bring it with him. Perhaps, said I, it would be
well to go back and get it.
If you want it wus'n I do I reckon you better go atter it.
This set the children to laughing. My humiliation was begun.
I understand why you have come, said I, and I must tell you that
you must obey the rules if you stay here. What is your name?
Gibblits, he answered. The children laughed and he stood regarding
me with a leer lurking in the corners of his evil-looking mouth.
All right, Mr. Gibblits, where are your books? He grinned at me
and answered: Ain't got none.
Well, sit down over there and I'll attend to you after a while.
Won't set down and won't be attended to.
Well, then, I'll attend to you right now. I grabbed him by the
collar, jerked him to me and boxed his jaws. He ran out howling when I
turned him loose, and for a time he stood off in the woods, throwing
stones at the house. The war was begun. And I expected to encounter the
Aimes forces on my way home, but saw nothing of them as I passed within
sight of the house. I hoped to see a look of sweet alarm on Guinea's
face, when I should tell her of the danger that threatened me, and
there was sweetness in her countenance, when I told her, though not a
look of alarm, but a smile of amusement. Was it that she felt no
interest in me? The other members of the family were much concerned,
but that was no recompense for the girl's apparent indifference. The
old man snorted, Mrs. Jucklin was so wrought upon that she strove to
prepare me a soothing dish at supper, but Guinea remained undisturbed.
I could not help but speak to Alf about it when we had gone up to our
room. Oh, you never can tell anything about her, he said. It's not
because she isn't scared, but because she hates to show a thing of that
sort. I'm mighty sorry it has come about. But there's only one way
outfight out if they jump on you. I don't know how soon they intend
to do anything, but I'll nose around and come over to the school this
evening if I hear anything. Don't let it worry you; just put it down as
a thing that couldn't be helped.
It did not worry methe fact that I might be on the verge of
serious trouble, did not; but the thought of Guinea's careless smile
lay cold upon my heart, and all night I was restless under it. And when
I went down stairs at dawn I met her in the passage way, carrying a
light. She looked up at me, shielding the light with her hand to keep
the breeze from blowing it out, and smiled, and in her smile there was
no coolness, and yet there was naught to show me that she had passed an
anxious night. Ah, love, we demand that you shall not only be happy,
but miserable at our wish. We would dim your eye when our own is
blurred; we would smother your heart when our own is heavy, and would
pierce it with a pain. Upon her children this old world has poured the
wisdom of her gathered ages, and could we look from another sphere we
might see the minds of great men twinkling like the stars, but the
human heart is yet unschooled, yet has no range of vision, but chokes
and sobs in its own emotion, as it did when the first poet stood upon a
hill and cried aloud to an unknown God.
Away across the valley and over the hills the peeping sun was a
glaring scollop when I came out to take my course through the woods
toward the school. I knew that the girl stood in the door behind me.
Alf and the old man were already in the field; I could hear them
talking to their horses; and Mrs. Jucklin was up stairsGuinea and I
were alone. I turned and looked at her and again she smiled.
The world seems to be holding its breath, waiting for something to
happen, she said. To me it always appears so when there is a lull in
the air just at sunrise.
What a fanciful little creature you are, I replied.
Little! Oh, you mustn't call me little. I'm taller than mother. I
don't want to be little, although it is more appealing. I want to be
But what can be more commanding than an appeal? I asked.
Yes, when the appeal is pitiful, but I don't want any one to pity
me, she said, laughing. You big folks have such a patronizing way.
You don't look well this morning, Mr. Hawes. Is it because you have
been worrying over those wretched Aimes boys? Won't you please forgive
me? she quickly added. I don't know why I said that, for I ought to
know that you are not afraid of them.
I didn't sleep very well, I answered, but I was not thinking of
the Aimes boys. Shall I tell you what worried me?
It may require almost an unwarranted frankness on my part, but I
will tell you. It seemed to me that I hesitated. Go on, she
said. Well, it seemed that you were strangely unconcerned when I told
you that I was likely to have trouble with those people.
She stood with her head resting against the door-facing. I looked
hard at her, striving to catch some sign of emotion, but I saw no
evidence of feeling; she was cool and reserved.
I don't know why you should have thought that, she said. Why
should I be so uncharitable. I was very sorry that anything was likely
to interrupt the school.
Oh, I replied, and perhaps with some bitterness, it really
amounts to but littlethe threat of those ruffians, I meanand to
speak about it almost puts me down as a fool. I hope you will forgive
I hastened away, with a senseless anger in my heart, and I think
that it is well that I saw no member of the Aimes family that morning
on my way to school.
Everything went forward as usual; play-time came, and the children
shouted in the woods, and the hour for dismissal had nearly arrived
when in stalked Alf with a shot-gun. He nodded at me and took a seat
far to the rear of the room, as if careful lest he might interrupt the
closing ceremonies. And when the last child was gone my friend came
forward, shaking his head.
What's the trouble now? I asked, taking down my hat.
Put your hat right back there, unless you want to wear it in the
house, he said. I have found out that those fellows are laying for
you, and it won't be safe to start home now; we'll have to wait until
dark. Oh, they'll get you sure if you go now. They have been to town, I
understand, and have come back pretty well loaded up with whisky. Oh,
they are as bold as lions now. But we'll fix them all right. We'll wait
until dark and not go by the road, and to-morrow morning we'll go over
and see what they've got to say.
Alf, I don't know how to express my thanks to you. You are running
a great risk
Don't mention that, Bill. You stood by me, you understandwalked
right into the General's house with me, and I said to myself that if
you ever got into a pinch that I'd be on hand and stand with you. Did
you bring a pistol?
Yes, and I am very glad that I didn't meet one of those fellows as
I came along. However, I should not know one of them if I were to meet
him in the road.
But you'll know them after a while. Do these doors lock?
I think not, or, at least, they could be easily forced open. Do you
think they are likely
They are likely to do anything now, he broke in. And there are
just four of them big enough to fightof the boys, I mean, for the old
man has sense enough to keep out of it.
It is a wonder, then, said I, that he hasn't sense enough to keep
his sons out of it, as he must know that no good can be the result.
That's all true enough, Alf replied, but I have heard that you
can't argue with the instinct of a brute, and I know that it is useless
to argue with red liquor. Here, let's shove the writing desk against
this door, he added. Once more, shove again. That's it. Now we'll
pile benches against the other one. We can't do anything with the
windows, but must simply keep out of the way of them.
Do you think they will shoot through them? I asked.
He halted, with the end of a bench in his grasp, and looked at me.
Bill, if I didn't know better I'd swear that you are not of the South.
Don't you know that if you enrage white trash it is likely to do
anything? Don't you know that consequences are never counted?
I know all that, I replied, but I was considering the incentive.
I know that if you give the Cracker a cause he will do most anything,
but have I given him a cause?
You have given him all the excuse he wants. One more bench. That's
it. And now the fury of their fight will depend upon the quantity of
liquor they have with them. I didn't tell any of the home folks that I
was coming heretold them that I might meet you and that we might not
be home until late. I wouldn't be surprised
Out in the woods there was the blunt bark of a short gun, the window
glass was splintered in a circle, a sharp zip and a piece of the clay
chinking flew from the opposite wall.
What did I tell you? said Alf, looking at me as if pleased with
the proof of his forecast. You get over on that side and I'll stay
here. Get down on the floor and look through between the logs if you
can find a place, and if you can't punch out the dirt, but be easy;
they might see you. There he is again. The glass in the other window
was shattered. That's all right, said Alf. They may charge on us
after a while, and then we'll let them have it. Have you found a
I have made one, I answered, lying flat on the floor, gazing out.
No shot had been fired from my side, and I had begun to think that the
entire force was confronting Alf when in the sobering light I saw a man
standing beside a tree not more than fifty yards distant. He appeared
to be talking to some one, for I saw him look round and nod his head. I
did not want to kill him, although the law was plainly on my side, but
a man may stand shoulder to shoulder with the law and yet wound his own
conscience. Another figure came within sight, among the bushes,
appearing to rise out of the leafy darkness, and then there came a loud
shout: Come out of there, you coward!
Don't say a word, said Alf. They are trying to locate you. I
don't see anybody yet, and it's getting most too dark now. But I reckon
we'd both better fire to let them know that there is more than one of
us. We don't want to take any advantage of them, you know, he added,
It doesn't look as if we were, I answered. I could kill one of
The devil you could! Then do it. Here, let me get at him.
No, I replied, waving him off from my peep-hole. It is better not
to kill him until we are forced to.
But we are forced to now, don't you see? They've shot at us. There
you are! They had fired a volley, it seemed. Let me get at him, said
I'll try him, I replied. And I poked the barrel of my pistol
through the crack, pretended to take a careful aim and fired.
Did you get him? Alf asked.
Don't know; can't see very well.
Well, if I find one of them he's gone, he replied, returning to
his own look-out. And a moment later the almost simultaneous discharge
of both barrels of his gun jarred the house. Don't know whether I got
him or not, he said, as he drew back and began to reload, for I
couldn't see very well, but I'll bet he thinks a hurricane came along
through the bushes. It's too dark now to see anything and all we can do
is to wait.
Wait for what? I asked.
Wait for them to try to break in. They'll try it after they have
had a few more pulls at the bottle, I think. Now let's keep perfectly
quiet and watch.
The moon had not yet risen and the woods stood about us like a black
wall. No wind was abroad, the air in the house was close, and I could
hear my own heart beating against the floor. There was scarcely any use
to look out now, for nothing could be seen, and I arose and sat with my
back against the wall, taking care to keep clear of the small opening
which I had made. It was so dark in the room that I could not see Alf,
but I could hear him, for softly he was humming a tune: Hi, Bettie
Martin, tip-toe fine. For days he had been heavy with the melancholy
of his love, but now in this hour of danger his heart seemed to be
light and attuned to a rollicking air. I have known many a man to
breathe a delicious thrill in an atmosphere of peril, to feel a leap of
the blood, a gladness, but it was at a time of intense excitement, a
sort of epic joy; but how could a man, lying in the dark, waiting for
he knew not whathow could he put down a weighty care and take up a
Down in the hollow a screech owl was crying, and his mate on the
hill-top replied to his call, while in the room near me was the whif of
a bat. And Alf was now so silent that I thought he must have fallen
asleep, but soon I heard him softly whistling: Hi, Bettie Martin,
You seem to be enjoying yourself, said I. If you had brought a
fiddle we might have a dance.
I heard him titter as he wallowed on the floor. This is fun, he
said, the only real fun I've had sinceI was going to say since the
war, but I was too young to go into society at that time.
What do you think they are up to now, Alf? I asked.
Blamed if I know. Getting tired?
Well, I don't want to stay here all night. What are we waiting
It's hard to tell just at present, and if we don't get a more
encouraging report pretty soon we'll break the engagement and go home.
I listened and at first heard nothing, and was just about to say
that it must be the screech-owl come closer, when from a corner of the
house there came a distant and sharp crackle. I heard Alf scuffle to
his feet. We are in for it!
It was true, for now we could see the light glaring on the bushes
and a moment later a spear of light shot inward, revealing my friend
standing there with his hands buried deep in his pockets. Those old
logs are as dry as a powder horn, he carelessly remarked. Won't take
long to burn the thing down.
But what are we going to do? I cried. And now the room was aglow,
and shadows were dancing on the wall.
I was just thinking, said he, looking about. They'll begin
shooting in here as soon as that end is burned out. Wish I had seen
that rascal when he slipped up here to kindle this fire. Helloa, it's
spread to the roof.
I strove to show him that I could be as calm and as careless as he,
but now I was startled, and excitedly exclaimed: We shall be burned up
like rats in a barn!
Oh, I reckon not. Here, let's pull up a plank out of the floor and
crawl under and if we can get into the bushes we'll be all right.
Here's a crack. But I can't move it, he added, after straining at the
board. See if you can get your fingers through here.
I dropped upon my knees and thrust my fingers through the crack. The
fire had now gained such headway that the air was hot and a glare
danced on the wall where the shadow had crept; and we heard the Aimes
boys yell in the woods a short distance off. With all my strength I
pulled at the board; I got off my knees and braced myself, and with a
quick jerk the board came up with a loud rip and I fell backward on the
Go ahead, said Alf, quietly standing there, with his gun under his
arm. Get down through and work your way toward the other end.
You go first, Alf.
I'm in no hurry. But may be I know of an opening where the sheep
come under in winter. Follow me, then.
Down we went into the fine and suffocating dust. Here and there the
sheep and the hogs had dug deep beds in their restlessness, when nights
had been cold, but in places the floor was so close to the ground that
I could scarcely crawl through. We heard one end of the roof fall in,
and then a volley was fired from the woods.
What did I tell you? said Alf. We understand their tactics, any
way. Don't believe you can get through here, Bill. Wait, I can dig down
this lump with my gun. Wish I had a hatchet. Ever notice how handy a
For God's sake, let me get at it, Alf. I can feel the heat. The
whole thing will fall down on us in a minute. That'll do; I can squeeze
Alf crawled into one of the deep beds and reached back to help pull
me through. Bill, looks like this place was made for you, only I wish
they had made it a trifle bigger. Once more.
And there I struggled and there he pulled. I am gone, Alf; I can't
get out. Save yourself if you can.
If you can't get out I know you are not gone, Bill, he replied
with a laugh, but it was a laugh of despair rather than of merriment.
Don't give up. Once more. You are coming. What did I tell you? And
again he laughed, but not in despair. We were now at the wall, at the
very hole through which the sheep were wont to come in. You first,
this time, Bill. Sheer off to the left. The bushes are not more than
fifteen feet away.
With but little difficulty I squeezed through the opening. And now I
was in a hot and dazzling glare. A breeze had sprung up with the
flames, and behind me was a roar, and a crash of the falling beams. I
looked not about me, but straight ahead toward the thicket, now waving
as if swept by a strong wind; and within a minute after reaching the
outer air I was crawling through a thick clump of blackberry briars,
with Alf close upon my heels. We soon came upon a sheep-walk covered
with briars, and now we could make faster time. The Aimes boys were
still firing into the burning house, and it was evident that they had
not discovered our escape.
We can walk now, Alf whispered. Turn down here to the right and
keep the shumac bushes between us and them. Now we are all right.
Not another word was spoken until we had reached a knoll, some
distance away. Then we halted and looked back. And now the old house
was but a blazing heap. Alf was peeping about through the trees, and
suddenly his gaze was set. He cocked his gun and brought it to his
No, I said. You will only regret it. I grasped the gun and both
hammers fell upon my hand. Get back! he commanded.
No, I said, my hand still under the hammers. You must not.
He looked hard at me for a moment and then suffered me to take the
gun. The fire was now dying, and, looking to the left, whence the
firing had come, I saw two of the Aimes boys standing under a tree.
Bill, I could kill both of them, Alf said, in a sorrowful voice.
I know, my dear boy, but you must not. You would always regret it.
We will let the law take charge of them to-morrow.
Not to-morrow, Bill, but to-night. To-morrow they will be gone.
All right; just as you say. Where is the nearest officer?
A deputy sheriff lives about two miles from here, off to the right
of our road home. Come on.
We came into the road after making a circuit through the woods, and
hastened onward. And we must have gone nearly half the distance to the
deputy's house when we heard the Aimes boys coming behind us, drunk and
whooping. They think we are burnt up, said Alf; but we'll show them.
Let's get aside into the bushes, and when they come along we'll let
them have it.
We will get aside into the bushes, said I, but we will not let
them have it. Come over this side. Let me have your gun.
He let me take the gun, and as he stood near me, waiting for the
ruffians to pass, I thought that he made an unseemly degree of noise,
merely to attract their attention so that he might have an opportunity
to fire at them. Keep still, Alf, I whispered.
They came down the road, singing a bawdy song. For a moment I was
half inclined to give Alf his gun, but that early lesson, the waylaying
of Bentley, restrained me. We heard the scoundrels talking between
their outbursts of song. Piece of roast hog wouldn't go bad jest about
now, Scott. I feel sorter gnawish after my excitement of the evenin'.
Wall, if you air hongry and hanker atter hog, why don't you go back
yander and git a piece that we've jest roasted?
Alf's hand closed about the barrels of his gun, and strongly he
pulled, but I loosened his grip and whispered: Let them go. There is
no honor and very little revenge in shooting a brute.
I reckon you are right, he replied, but he did not whisper, and
out in the road there was a quick scuffling of feet and then a halt. I
threw one arm about Alf and pressed one hand over his mouth.
What was that, Scott?
I didn't hear nothin'.
Thought I heared somebody a-talkin'.
Yes, you thought like Young's niggersthought buck-eyes was
biscuits. Come on, boys. We'll go over and wake old Josh up and git
They passed on, and when I had given Alf the opportunity to speak he
said: Good. They are going over to a negro's house and we'll get there
about the time they do, and if we can't get anybody but the deputy to
help us we'll have to kill one or two of them. Now keep up with me.
Off through the woods he went at a trot, leaping logs and splashing
through a brook where it was broad; and I kept well up with him.
Already my mind had ceased to dwell upon the narrowness of our escape;
I was thinking of Guinea as she had stood, shielding the light with her
We were not long in reaching the house of the deputy sheriff. A loud
call brought him out to the fence. And when we had quickly told him
what was wanted, he whistled to express his gratification or his
surprise and I fancied that I saw his hair bristling in the moonlight,
for he had come out bareheaded.
Now let me think a minute, boys, said he. I have been an officer
long enough to know that it ain't much credit to take a fellow after
he's deadmost anybody can do that. What we want is to capture them
and to do that we've got to have more men. Alf, I tell you what you do.
You and your friend slip over to old Josh's and keep watch to see that
they don't get away, and I'll ride as fast as I can and get General
Lundsford and your daddy. What do you say?
I say it's a first-rate plan, Alf answered. I don't think the
General would like to be left out and I know that father wouldn't. Come
The negro's house was not far away, and hastening silently through
the woods we soon came within sight of it, on the side of a hill, at
the edge of a worn-out field. We softened our foot-steps as we drew
near unto the cabin, and we could hear the ruffians within, singing,
swearing, dancing. We halted at the edge of the woods, within ten feet
of the door, and listened. Let us slip up and take a peep at them,
said Alf; and carefully we climbed over the old fence, taking care not
to break any of the rotting rails lest we might sound an alarm. We made
not the slightest noise, but just as we were within touching distance
of the cabin, a dog sprang from behind a box in the chimney corner. I
don't know how much noise it might have been his intention to make or
whether he belonged to the stealthy breed of curs whose delight it is
to make a silent lunge at the legs of a visitor, but I do know that he
made not a sound, for I grabbed him by the throat and the first thing
he knew his eyes were popping out between their fuzzy lids. I choked
him until I thought he must be dead, and then, with a swing, I threw
him far over the fence into the woods. We listened and heard him
scrambling in the dried leaves and then he was still. The cabin was
built of poles and was old. Many a rain had beaten against the
chinking and we had no trouble in finding openings through which we
could plainly see all that went forward within. Just as I looked in I
heard the twang of a banjo, and I saw the old negro sitting on the edge
of a bed, picking the instrument, while two white men were patting a
break-down and two others were trying to dance. At the fire-place a
negro woman was frying meat and baking a hoe-cake.
Generman, said the negro, twanging his strings and measuring his
words to suit his tune, don't want right now to be so pertinencebe
so pertinence; but, yes, I'd like to know, hi, hi, hi, yes, like to
know whut you gwine gimme fur dis yere, yes, whut you gwine gimme fur
all dis yere?
The patting ceased instantly, and the two men danced not another
shuffle, and one of them, Scott, I afterward learned, cried out: What,
you old scoundrel, air you dunnin' us already?
Oh, naw, sah, skuze me, said the old negro, I ain't doin' dat,
fur I dun tole you dat I didn' want ter be pertinence, but dar's some
things, you know, dat er pusson would like ter un'erstan', an' whut I
gwine git fur all dis yere is one o' 'em. I has gib you licker an' I
has gib you music, an' wife, dar, is cookin' supper fur you, an' it
ain' no mo' den reason dat I'd wanter know whut we gwine git fur it.
Well, we'll pay you all right enough, replied Scott Aimes. You've
always treated us white, and you are about the only man in this
neighborhood that has.
I thankee, sah, the negro rejoined; yas, I thankee, sah, fur I
jest wanted ter be satisfied in my mine, an' I tell you dat when er
pusson is troubled in his mine he's outen fix sho nuff. Hurry up dar,
Tildy, wid you snack, fur deze genermen is a-haungry.
I hope she won't get it ready any too soon, I whispered to Alf,
and he, with his face close to mine, replied: You can trust an old
negro woman for that. It won't take Parker very long to ride over to
the General's house, and they can pick up father on the way back.
Won't your mother andand Guinea be frightened?
Not much. They've seen the old man go out on the war path more than
once. Let's see what they are doing now.
Scott had taken the banjo and was turning it over, looking at it. We
saw him take out a knife and then with a twang he cut the strings.
Good Lawd! exclaimed the negro, and his wife turned from the fire
with a look of sorrow and reproach, for the distressful sound had told
her accustomed ear that a calamity had befallen the instrument. Now
jest look whut you done! the negro cried, and his wife, wiping her
hands on her apron, looked at Scott Aimes and said: Ef dat's de way
you gwine ack, I'll burn dis yere braid an' fling dis yere meat in de
fire. Er body workin' fur you ez hard ez I is, an' yere you come er
doin' dat way. It's er shame, sah, dat's whut it is. It's er plum
shame, I doan kere ef you is white an me black.
Scott roughly tossed the banjo into a corner and laughed. Sounds a
blamed sight better in death than in life, said he.
But who gwine pay fur dat death music? the negro asked.
Pay for it! Scott turned fiercely upon the negro and Alf caught up
his gun. Wait! I whispered.
Pay for it! Scott raved. Why you infernal old scoundrel, do we
have to pay every time we turn round? But we'll make it all right with
you, he added, turning away; and Alf lowered his gun.
I hopes ter de Lawd you will, said the woman, fur we needs it bad
You do? Scott replied. Well, you'd better be thankful that we
don't blow on you for sellin' whisky without license.
Dar ain' no proof o' de fack dat I has sol' none ter-night, said
the old negro, shaking his head.
What's that? Scott demanded, wheeling round.
Skuze me, sah, nothin' er tall. Jest er passin' de time o' de day,
Didn't I tell you that we would pay you for everything we got?
Yas, sah, an' you's er generman, sah; yas, I thanks you fur gwinter
Yo' supper is done an' ef you'll jest gib me room I'll fix de
table, the woman remarked, taking the bread off the griddle.
I hear them coming! Alf whispered. I looked round and saw them at
the fence. They had tied their horses in the woods. We stepped out from
the shadow and held up our hands to enjoin care.
I'll go first, and you boys follow me, said the General, cocking
his pistol and letting the hammer down to see if it worked well.
Oh, I reckon not, Lim Jucklin replied. I'm older than you are and
you know it. Come on, boys.
Older! the General exclaimed, with such force that we had to tell
him to make less noise. I am eight months older than you are, and you
know it. Come on, boys.
Old Lim took hold of him. This ain't altogether your picnic; the
invertations come from my house, and
What the devil difference does it make? the deputy spoke up. I'm
the only officer present and I'll go first.
I thought that it was my time to act, and, telling them to follow
me, I reached the door almost at a stride and threw my full weight
against it. The door flew off its hinges and fell on the floor
broad-side, and the Aimes brothers, now seated at a table, were
covered with guns and pistols before they had time to stir in their
chairs. They appeared to be horror-stricken at seeing Alf and me, and
in a moment their hands were in the air.
Josh, the deputy commanded, bring us a plow line. Never mind, you
haven't time for that. Take off that bed cord.
The woman had squeezed herself into a corner, between a cubbord
and the wall, but she came out and protested against the use of her bed
cord. Get that cord! the deputy commanded. Move that hand again,
Scott Aimes, and I'll kill you. Here we are, he added, when the negro
had tumbled off the bed-clothes and unfastened the cord. Now cut it in
Fur de Lawd's sake! the woman shouted, you ain' gwine treat er
pusson datter way, is you? Fust da cuts de banjo strings an' den yere
come de law an' cuts de bed cawd. Laws er massy whut got inter dis
worl' no how.
Keep quiet, said the deputy. Here, big man, tie their wrists and
don't be afraid of hurting them. I've had my eye on you gentlemen for
some time. That's it, give it to them hard. Tie their ankles, too. But
we have only four pieces of rope. Go now and get a plow-line, Josh.
We put back the table and the chairs and stood our prisoners in the
center of the room, sullen and coarse-featured brutes, and waited for
the negro to come with the plow-line, and presently he appeared with a
new grass rope. That's just exactly what we want, said the deputy.
Cut it in four pieces, and, big man, he continued, speaking to me, I
must again call on you. Tight around the shank and no feelings
considered. That's it; you go at it in the right waymust have tied
chickens for the market. I must really beg pardon of these gentlemen
for not getting a warrant; we were pushed for time and, therefore, we
are a trifle irregular, but my dear sirs, I promise you that you shall
have a warrant just as soon as we get into Purdy. You should be
satisfied with my admitting that I am irregular.
The General roared with a great laugh. Your apology is of the
finest feather, the most gracious down, said he, but our friends must
remember that in an irregularity often lie some of the most precious
merits of this life.
If we hadn't been huddled round this here table you wouldn't be
havin' sich fun, said Scott Aimes, quivering under my strong pull at
the rope. We never did ask nothin' but a fair show, but we didn't git
it this time, by a long shot.
Silence, brute, the General commanded. As low as you are, you
should know better than to break in upon the high spirits of a
gentleman. Oh, I have understood you all along. You were working your
courage toward me. Hush, don't you speak a word.
Got them all strung? the deputy asked, examining the ropes. Good.
Now, Josh, you run over to my house as fast as you can and tell my wife
that you want the two-horse wagon. And hitch it up and come back here
as fast as you can. Go on; I'll pay you for everything.
Thankee, sah, I'm gone. It loosens er ole pusson's feet, sah, ter
know dat he gwine be paid. Hard times allus comin' down de big road, er
kickin' up er dust.
Are you going? the deputy stormed. Confound you; I'll put you in
jail for selling whisky if you are not back here in fifteen minutes.
Gone now! exclaimed the negro, bounding from the door and striking
a trot. Gone! we heard him repeat, as he leaped over the fence.
Mr. Parker, said Scott Aimes, stretching his neck toward the
officer, I've jest got one favor to ask of you. Git that bottle over
thar an' give us fellers a drink. It was licker that got us into this
here muss, an' you ought to let licker help us a little now.
Old fellow used to keep a grocery over at Blue Lick, the deputy
remarked, looking at me rather than at the prisoner, and when a man's
money was all gone he used to say: 'Lord love you, honey, I couldn't
think of letting you take another drop; I'm so much interested in your
welfare that I don't want to see you hurt yourself.' No,
Scottfieldand now he looked at the prisonerI am too much
interested in you to see you throw yourself away. Don't be impatient.
'Just wait for the wagon,' says the old song.
The old General had sat down, but old Lim continued to stand there,
his arms bare and his teeth hard-set. On his countenance lay the shadow
of a regret, and I have thought that he was grieved at the spoiling of
the fight that he thought should have taken place to reward him for the
trouble of leaving home. The prisoners winced under his gaze, as his
eyes leaped about from one to another. But he said not a word; just
stood there, with his teeth hard-set.
Soon we heard the wagon, rumbling along the road that skirted the
old field, and we began to set our prisoners near the door, picking
them up and putting them down like upright sticks. The wagon drew up
near the door, the woman held a light for us and we began our work of
loading. And I was glad when the deputy said that he no longer needed
our assistance; I was afraid that he would ask me to drive to town with
Well, he said, gathering up the lines and glancing back at his
load, a pretty good haul for these hard times. Whoa, wait a minute.
Say, General, I suppose you have heard some talk of my candidacy for
the office of sheriff, and I reckon you have seen to-night whether or
not I am worthy of the trust. It's always well to put in a word in
time, you know. I reckon I've got you all right, Alf, and, big man,
wish you could vote with us this time. Well, I'll let you gentlemen
know when you are wanted at court.
Old Lim and the General led their horses and walked with Alf and me;
and we heard many a grunt and snort as we told of the burning of the
school-house. Old Lim swore that I ought to have let Alf kill Scott
Aimes, but the General sided with me. That would have done no good,
Lim, said he. It's far better as we now have it. I am glad to see,
Mr. Hawes, that you have so much discretion, a most noble quality, sir.
Now as to the loss of the house, that amounts to nothing. It ought to
have been set afire long ago. And I'll tell you what shall be done: A
new building shall be put up at once, not of logs, but of frame, and it
shall be neatly painted to show people that we are keeping up with the
times. Every neighborhood about us has a fine school-house; the old log
huts have disappeared, and we are going to march right in the van, sir.
But I want to tell you right now that it was in those log school-houses
that the greatest men in the nation have been taught; and when I see a
pile of logs out in the woods I fancy that I can hear the classics
Gentlemen, said old Lim, if it was day time instead of night I
would invite you to see some of the finest sport you ever run across,
for I'm in the humor for it right now. But chickens have a prejudice
agin fightin' at night. Many a time when I had trouble on my mind and
couldn't sleep I've got up and tried to stir their blood, but they want
to nod; that's what they want to do at nightnothin' but nod, unless
you've got light enough, and then if you stir 'em up they'll git so mad
that they'll go it smack to a finish.
Talking about those chickens? the General asked. Confound them,
they'd have no attraction for me if it were mid-day. But pardon me. I
mean simply that I take no interest in such things.
Old Lim grunted. Right here is where I git on my horse, said he.
And he mounted and rode on ahead in moody silence.
I was now walking beside the General and Alf was just behind me.
Several times the young man sighed distressfully and I knew that
something heavy had fallen upon his mind. Presently he pulled at my
coat and as I dropped back he took my place. General, you said just
now that Bill was right in not letting me shoot that fellow, Scott
Aimes. He hesitated and was silent for a few moments, striding beside
the General, and the General said nothingwas waiting for him to
continue. Said that I was wrong, Alf repeated, and I reckon I was,
but I hope you won't say anything about itat home.
Why not at home, sir? Hah, why not at home? 'Od zounds, can't a
gentleman talk in his own house?
Alf began to drop back. What he means, General, said I, taking his
place, is that he has so much respect for you that he does not want
you to think ill of him when you are alone, meditating in your own
Ha, now, a fine whim, but it's a respectful whim and shall be
honored, sir. I don't understand the young men of this day and
generation, but I know what respect means. I don't know that I
condemned you, Alf; I spoke for the most part of the discretion of your
friend. Well, gentlemen, here is where I leave you.
He threw the bridle reins over the horse's neck and was preparing to
mount, when Alf started forward as if to help him, but I clutched him
so vigorously that he turned upon me and asked what I meant. Keep
still, I whispered. I'll tell you after a while.
By this time the old gentleman was astride his horse. He took off
his hat, bowed with the air of a cavalier, and, bidding us good-night,
galloped off down the road. Then I told Alf why I had held him back,
that I had almost insulted the old man by offering to assist him in
mounting his horse; and Alf stood there actually trembling at the
narrowness of his escape. I know that we should have been burned up had
he been half so badly frightened while we were in the school-house.
The nights were shortened by the season's approach to the first of
May. It seemed a long time since the twilight had glimmered on the
leaves, and it was past midnight when we reached home. Old Lim had put
up his horse and was standing at the draw-bars, waiting for us.
For a smart man, said he, I reckon the General's got about as
little sense as any human now alive. By jings, he's a crank; that's
what's the matter with him; and the first thing he knows people will be
keepin' out of his way.
A light flashed from the passage and we saw Guinea and her mother
standing on the log step, gazing toward us.
It's all right! the old man cried. Go on to bed, and don't be
standing around this time of night.
Alf and I, leaving the old man at the bars, went to the house. Oh,
I'm so glad you've all got back, said Mrs. Jucklin, striving to be
calm, but whimpering. Are you sure that you are all safe and sound?
Guinea began to laugh. Of course, they are, mother, don't you see?
But what's your father still standin' out yonder for? I jest know
he's crippled. Limuel, are you hurt? she cried.
Yes, I am hurt, and by a man that prefers to be a crank. Said that
he wouldn't care anything about 'em even if it was daylight.
Oh, but you are not shot, are you? his wife exclaimed, starting
Go in now, Susan, and don't come foolin' with me. Who said I was
shot? Go on to bed, everybody, and I'll come when I git ready.
But you must be hungry, Limuel?
Hungry, the devilexcuse me, ma'm. I'll eat a snack mebby between
now and mornin'.
It's no use to talk to him, she said, with a sigh, and, turning to
me, she added: You and Alf must be nearly starved. We've kept the
coffee warm. Guinea, go and pour it out for 'em.
Will you tell me all about the fight? the girl asked when we
entered the dining-room. I like to hear about such things.
I strove to make light of it, but, seeing that this would not
satisfy her, I told of the burning of the house and of the capture of
the Aimes brothers, colored our danger in the house, to see her lips
whiten and her eyes stare; pictured myself as I must have looked when I
seized the dog, to choke him, and to throw him far into the woodstold
her all, except that I had caught the hammers of Alf's gun.
I don't see how you kept from killing them when you got the
chance, she said, leaning with her elbows on the table and her chin in
her hands, musing: I don't understand how you could keep from it.
Alf threw down his knife and fork and struck the table with his
fist. I wanted to kill Scotthad a bead on him, but Bill grabbed my
gun. Guinea, I'm glad you stand by me, you and father; but the General
thinks I was wrong, and I was just about to think that everybody's
heart was right but mine. I am glad you are with me, Guinea.
I looked at her as she sat there, musing; her hair was tangled as if
a storm of thought had swept through her head, and sorely I wondered
whether a care for me had been borne through the storm. I forgot the
presence of Alf; I forgot everything except that I would have given my
blood and my soul to please her, and with bitterness I said: Oh, if I
had known that you wanted him killed I would not only have let Alf kill
himI would have killed him myself.
She looked up from her attitude of musing and met my outbreak with a
quiet laugh. The bigger a man is the sillier he is, she said, still
laughing. Why, I don't want him dead. I wouldn't like to have anyone
killed. I merely wondered how, having come so close to being burned up,
you could keep from killing him. I thought that I understood most men,
but I don't understand you, Mr. Hawes.
Yes, you do! I cried; you understand me too well, and that is why
you torture me.
What! exclaimed Alf, springing to his feet, are you on the
gridiron? Has she got you where somebody has got me? Bythere comes
I looked back as I passed out of the room, and Guinea sat there,
musing. Alf put his arm about me as we went up the stairs. We did not
light the lamp, but sat down in the dark, sat there and for a long time
Bill, oh, Bill.
Yes, I answered.
Bill, don't ask me anything. Father may tell you something
to-morrow. God bless you, Bill. You have stood by me. Good-night.
It must have been daylight before I worried my way into a sleep that
seemed jagged and sharp-cornered with many an evil turn; and when I
awoke the sun was shining. I looked out, and far across the field I saw
Alf, walking behind his plow. The hour was late for one to rise in the
country, for the sun was far above the tops of the trees. But I cared
not for any impression that might be made by my apparent laziness; my
head was heavy and my heart was crushed. No sound came from below, and
after dressingand how mean my clothes did lookI sat down at my
writing desksat and mused, just as I had seen Guinea sitting, with
her elbows on the table and with her chin in her hands. And Alf would
ask the old man to tell me something. Tell me what?
I went down stairs. Mrs. Jucklin was sweeping the yard. She put down
her broom upon seeing me and came forward, wiping her hands. I began to
apologize for being so late. Oh, that makes no difference, she said.
Alf told us not to wake you. I will go in and fix you something to
Now, don't put yourself to any trouble, for, really, I couldn't eat
a bite; I'm not very well. Where is Mr. Jucklin?
Why, you must eat something. He's gone to the blacksmith shop broke
the point off his plow against a rock and had to go and get it fixed.
He ought to be back by now. It ain't but a little ways down the road.
Are you goin' over there? Well, if you see him tell him that Guinea and
I are goin' to see Mrs. Parker and won't be back till evenin'. Tell him
that we'll leave everything on the table.
Down the road I went, looking for the blacksmith shop, and I had not
gone far before I saw the old man coming, with his plow on his
shoulder. He was talking to himself and did not see me until I spoke to
him. Let me take that plow, I said. Give it to me. I'm stronger than
I reckon you are right, he replied, looking up at me with a grin,
but I can tote it all right enough.
But I took the plow from him, and walked along with it on my
shoulder, waiting for him to say something.
You haven't seen Alf this mornin', have you? he asked.
No; I was asleep when he got up. Why?
Well, jest wanted to know. Alf takes some strange notions into his
head once in a long while, and he had one this mornin'. Told me to tell
you suthin' that very few folks know. Don't know why, unless he thinks
more of you than he does of any other young man. Never saw him take to
a person as he has to you. And I reckon I better tell you. But I hate
to talk about it.
We walked on in silence, and in my impatience I shifted the plow
from one shoulder to the other. I'll take it when you git tired of
it, he said. Now, it may be putty hard for you to understand the
situation, and I'm free to say that I can't make it so very plain, but
I'll do the best I can. One day, a long time ago, old General Lundsford
came to melong after I had wallowed him, you understand. And now as
to that wallowin', why, he could have killed me if he had wanted to.
He's game. Well, he came to me, and about as nearly as I can ricollect
said this: 'My son Chydister, strong-headed little rascal that he is,
vows an' declares that when he grows up he is goin' to marry your
daughter Guinea. I'll be frank with you and tell you that I didn't
approve of it, and I scouted the idea, not that your daughter ain't as
good as any girl, but because I don't mind tellin' you, I've got a
family name to keep up. I told him this, but he was so young and so
headstrong that he swore that it made no difference to him. You know
they have played together, up and down the branch, and he thinks there
aint nobody like her. Well, sir, he kept on talkin about it until I
knowed that he was set, and that there wasn't any use to try to turn
him, so I began to think it over seriously. That boy is my life's
blood, and I want to please him in every way I can, and I don't want
him to marry beneath him. I'm goin' to make a doctor out of him, the
very best that can be made, and his companion must be an educated
woman. They are goin' to marry when they grow up in spite of anything
we can do, and now I've got a request to make of you. I know that you
wouldn't let me give you a cent of money, but as an honest man you
can't refuse to let me lend you enough money to send your daughter to
school along with my own daughter; and whenever you think that you are
able to pay me back, all right, and if you never are able, it will
still be all right.'
The old man paused, and now I walked, along carrying the plow in
front of me, stumbling, seeing no road, caring not whither my feet
might wander. I'll take it now, he said, reaching for the plow. You
don't know how to tote it, nohow.
I pushed him back and said: Go on with your story.
I was walking so fast that he was almost trotting to keep up with
me. Right there I was weak, he said. I thought of what a bright
creature my girl was, thought of what education would do for her,
thought that I could soon pay back the money, and I agreed. And I want
to tell you that it has been hot ashes on me ever since. They are goin'
to marry all right enough, but it galls me to think that I had to send
her out to have her educated at another man's expensecuts me to think
that she wasn't good enough for any man just as I could give her to
him. And I'm goin' to pay back that money if I have to sell this strip
of poor dirt, that's what I'm goin' to do. Yes, sir, even if it's ten
years after they are married. Chyd is off at school now, and has been
for a long time; only comes home for a while at vacation, and it seems
to me that if he's goin' to be a doctor it's time he was at it. But I
understand that they are goin' to send him to another place after he
gits through with this one. I don't know much about him, but they say
that he's a first-rate sort of a fellow. Oh, I knowed him well enough
when he was little, but I haven't seen so very much of him since he
growed up. Guinea thinks all the world of him, of course, and says that
they were born for each other. Gimme that plow here. You don't know how
to tote it nohow. I'm not goin' right straight back to the field; I'm
goin' to the house. Them hot ashes is on me an inch thick.
I let him take the plow; I left him at the draw bars, and with heavy
and dragging feet I climbed up to my room. I sat down to my desk, but
not with elbows resting on the board, not with my chin in my hands; I
couldn't bear to think of that attitude. Now, I understood why she had
said Oh with such coolness when I had declared that I hated doctors.
My heart was freezing, my head was hot, and in a fevered fancy I saw
Guinea and that boy playing up and down the rivulet. I saw them wading
in the water; heard him tell her that when they grew up she must be his
wife, and I saw her, holding her dress about her ankles, look up at him
and smile. I knew that he had never been awkward, I knew that he looked
like Bentley, knew that he would have made fun of me, and down in my
heart there was a poisonous hatred, yellow, green, venomous. I am
seeking to hide nothing; I cannot paint myself as a generous and
high-minded man. When stirred, I seem to have more rank sap than other
menless reason, more senseless passion. I roared at the picture,
sitting there gripping the desk, and frightened it away; and to myself
I acknowledged the faults which I now set forth, but an acknowledgment
of a fault is not within itself virtue. The fool's recourse is to call
himself a fool, to upbraid himself, curse himself and then in
graciousness to pardon himself. You might as well reason with a
rattlesnake, striking at youmight as well seek to temporize and argue
with a dog drooling hydrophobic foam, as to tell the human heart what
it ought to do. Reason is a business matter and it can make matches,
but it cannot make love.
Long I sat there, gripping the desk, gazing at the rafters overhead,
groaning in the lover's conscious luxury of despair. Should I go away?
No; I would stay and see it out. I would be light and gaya bear's
waltz. I would laugh and rebuke fate; I would punish Guinea for having
played with that boy up and down the brook; I would be all sorts of a
The old man's voice came ringing through the air. Hike, there, Sam;
hike, there, Bob. Get him down. Hike, there!
He was having a round with his chickens, to fan off the atmosphere
of humiliation, to blow away the hot ashes that were so thick upon him.
I remembered that I had not delivered Mrs. Jucklin's message, and I
hastened out to the stockade, and knocked at the gate. Hike, there,
boys! Who's that? Whoa, boys, that'll do! Go in there, Sam! Ho, it's
you, eh? he said, opening the gate. Sorry, but you didn't git here
quite in time. You had the opportunity, but you flung it away. What,
gone over to Parker's? That's all right. Well, I must be gettin' back
to the field. Looks like the grass will take me in spite of everything
I can do. You'll help until they get the school-house built? Now, I'm
much obleeged to you, but we can't rig up another outfit. Why, yander
you go already, he added, pointing to a wagon load of lumber drawn
along the road. It's Perdue's wagon. Yander comes another one, with
Ren Bowles, the carpenter, on board. Oh, they are goin' to rush things.
I've heard that already this mornin'. You never saw a neighborhood
stirred up much worse than this one is over that affair, and there is
strong talk of lynchin' them fellers; and this mornin' a party went
over to see old Aimes and told him that if he wan't gone by 10 o'clock
they would string him up, and I reckon he's gone by this time. They are
makin' great heroes oute'n you and Alf, I tell you. A number of 'em
wanted to see you, but Alf wouldn't let 'em wake you up. I saw Parker
while I was down at the shop; he'd jest got back from town; and he told
me that the grand jury that's now in session would indict them fellers
to-day, and as court is already set they may be brought to trial for
murderous assault and arson right away, and I want to tell you that
they'll do well if they save their necks. Parker said that he reckoned
you and Alf better go over to Purdy to-morrow. Well, I must git back,
for that grass is musterin' its forces every minute I'm away.
I worried through the day, saw Guinea in a haze, heard her voice
afar off, and at night I went to bed worn out and limp. Alf did not
come up until some time after I lay down. He came softly whistling a
doleful air to prove that his sympathies were with me, sat down upon
the edge of my bed and remained there a long time motionless and
silent. I knew not what to say to him and he was evidently puzzled as
to what he ought to say to me. Out of the fullness of the heart the
mouth may speak, but out of the heart's fullness there also flows a
Bill, he said, reaching over and turning down the light which I
had left brightly burning, I killed a snake to-day that I reckon must
be six feet long. Came crawling across the field as if he had important
business over in the woods, but he didn't get there. Ever kill many big
Not very many, I answered, but I am well acquainted with them and
I have been bitten by a big snake that lies coiled about the universe,
striking at a heart whenever he sees it.
He got up, blew out the low blaze of the lamp, and sat down on his
own bed, I could tell from the creaking of the slats; and after a time
he said something about the gridiron on which a man was compelled to
wallow. Ordinarily I would have laughed, hot ashes on the father and
hot coals under the son, but now I sighed deeply.
Bill, you know, the other day I said that there was something in my
favor, an outgrowth of my sister's education. A family union, don't you
see? But I had no idea when I said it that this very thing would put
the fire under a man that has stood by me. I'm awfully sorry that
things had to be shaped that way. You know what I mean; father told you
all about it. Is it bad, Bill? I won't say a word about it and the old
folks don't suspect a thing, but do you love her much? Tell me just as
if she wasn't any kin to me.
Did the martyrs who stood in the fire love their God? I asked.
He sighed. She's got you, Bill. The time has been so short that I
didn't think it could be so bad, but love doesn't look at the clock nor
keep a calendar. Are you going to try to keep on living, Bill?
Yes, I'm going to study law when I get through with this school,
and I'm going to make the law of divorce a specialty. If I can't do I
may undo; I'm going to be a wolf, and whenever I see a man aiming a gun
at another man, I'm not going to catch the hammers. Why, yesterday my
heart was tender because it thought to please her. Discretion! I've got
no discretion. I'm a brute. I murdered an innocent rabbit on my way to
your homekilled it just because I could; and what man is as innocent
as a rabbit? Yes, Alf, I am going to live.
But you won't hate Guinea, will you? She couldn't help it.
Oh, I couldn't hate her. No, I won't hate her; I'm going to stand
by, ready to give her my life whenever I think she needs it.
And thus we talked, senseless creatures, sighing in the dark. But so
it is with human life everywherea foolish chatter and in the dark a
Several days passed and yet we were not summoned to appear at court.
I did not avoid Guinea, neither did I seek her. But often we were
together, sometimes alone, on the oak bench under the tree, at the
spring, on the old and smooth rock at the brink of the ravine; and her
smile none the less bright, was warmer with sympathy. A Sunday had gone
by and Alf had seen Millie, but she was riding to church with Dan
One evening Parker sent us word to be in Purdy early the next day.
And at dawn the next morning the buck-board stood ready for the
journey. Mrs. Jucklin had worked nearly the night through, baking bread
and roasting chickens to tide us over the trip. Alf complained at the
load we were expected to carry, and this grieved her. You know there's
nothin' fitten to eat there, she said. You know that Lum Smith stayed
there three days year before last and come home and was sick for a
month. Mr. Hawes, I appeal to youmake him take it.
And off we drove with our bread and roasted chickens. The women
stood on the step and shouted at us, and we waved our hands at them as
we turned a bend in the road. Ours was an important journey, and many
of the neighbors came out as we passed along and cried words of
encouragement. On a hill-top we heard the gallop of a horse, and out of
a lane dashed a girlMillie. She smiled at us, nodded as her horse
jumped, and gave us a gleam of her white hand as she sped off down into
They tell us that the Savior rode an ass, said Alf, but we have
seen heaven gallop by on a horse. He stood up and gazed toward the
woods. Our horse gradually came to a standstill, but Alf stood there,
gazing, shading his eyes with his hand. It ain't the sun that
dazzles, he said. It's her smile.
She'll make a poet of you, Alf.
She could do more than that; she could make a man of me.
I don't know of a more dingy and desolate-looking town than Purdy.
The houses are old, and the streets are rutted. The court-house, in the
center of the squaremy temple of fameis mean and rain-streaked. And
this is what I saw at a glance: An enormous wooden watch, with its
paint cracking off, hanging in front of a jeweler's; the mortar and
pestle of a druggist on top of a post; a brick jail, with a pale face
at the bars; lawyers' signs; doctors' signs; a livery stable, with a
negro in front, pouring water on the wheels of a buggy; a red-looking
negro, with a string of shuck horse collars; a dog in front of the
court-house sniffing at a hog; the tavern, with its bell outside on a
pole; men pitching horse-shoes in the shade; a woman, with her arms on
a gate; a girl trying to pull a dirty child into a yard; a man in front
of a store stuffing straw into a box; horses tied to racks about the
square; men lolling about the court-housethese features made the face
We had put up the horse, Alf had gone to see a friend of his and I
was walking past a vacant lot when some one shouted at me, and, turning
round, I saw a man coming toward me. Helloa, there, he said, coming
up, smiling. You ought not to forget your old friends.
Oh, I replied, recalling his face, you are the agent at the
station where I got off the train.
Yes, used to be, he said, shaking hands with me, but I'm over
here now, but not as a railroad agent, for there's no road here. I am
the honored and distinguished telegraph operator of this commercial
emporium. Couldn't stay over yonder any longer. No caliconot a rag
there. Got to see the flirt of calico. See that? A woman was passing.
You can stand here and see it going along all the time, and you've got
to be mighty respectful toward it, I tell you, for there's a shot-gun
in every house and a father or a brother more than ready to pull both
triggers at once. That's right, I suppose; but it does hamper a fellow
mightily. Ever in St. Louis? That's the place. Muslin and soft goods
everywhere and nine chances to one there ain't a gun in the house.
Might be, you know, but there is so much mull and moriantique and all
that sort of thing that there ain't guns enough to go round, so you can
smile and nod on the street; but you can't do it here. Here you've got
to have a three-ply, doubled and twisted introduction before you can
smile even at cottonade. I've been here a week, and hold about the most
responsible position in the town, and society hasn't taken me up yet,
but I reckon it will after a while. I reckon you could get in all
right. They have heard all about your fightknow that you are game,
and nothing counts more than that, for they have an idea that a game
fellow is always a gentleman.
Just then a boy came up and told him that there was a call. I'll be
there after a while, the operator replied. Go on back. I've been
pitching horse-shoes with some fellows, he continued, speaking to me,
and ain't quite through yet. I'll have to teach him so that he will be
able to tell them that I'm busy when I'm not there. I've found out that
what we want in this life is leisure. People are getting too swift.
There's no need of half the telegraphing that's done. Why don't they
write and save trouble and expense? There goes a nice piece of calico.
I must get acquainted with it, too, I tell you. Well, believe I'll
stroll on back. Come in while you're here. The trial won't take up much
of your time. It's all pretty much cut and dried, anyway.
At 10 o'clock the Aimes brothers were brought before the bar. The
jury was already selected and the trial was at once taken up. I was put
upon the stand and instructed to tell my story without any fear of
reflecting too much credit upon myself. I could see that they wanted a
thrilling recital and I gave it to them. And when Alf followed, he
found them eager for more. The prosecuting attorney made a speech, as
red as the fire that had burned the school-house; the lawyer appointed
for the defence made a few cool remarks, and the case was closed. We
were anxious to take the verdict home with us, and we had made
preparations to remain over night, but the jury came to an agreement
without leaving the box, so we had nothing to do but to return home.
The Aimes brothers were given a term of fifteen years each in the
The sun was down when we got upon the buck-board, and over the road
we drove, under the stars, our stars, for in sympathy they looked down
upon us. The moon was late, but we preferred the darkit was sadder.
I wonder how it's all going to end, said Alf. If we could only
rip apart that black thing down the road and look into the future.
And if you could rip it, I replied, if you could and were about
to do so, I would grab your hand with a harder grip than I gave the gun
when I caught the hammers.
Then you don't want to know? You'd rather continue to writhe on the
gridiron than to turn over and fall into the fire and end the matter?
Alf, said I, does it strike you that we are a couple of as big
fools as ever drove along a county road?
Whoa! he shouted, pulling upon the reins and stopping the horse.
And then he laughed. Fools; why, two idiots are two Solomons compared
with us. Let's stop it; let's be sensible; let's be men.
I'm with you, Alf. Shake hands.
We drove along in silence. After a long time he said: Here's where
she crossed the road; and do you see that? he asked, pointing to the
Milky Way. That was done by the waving of her hand. I wish to the Lord
I knew just how much she thinks of Dan Stuart.
Ah, but that wouldn't relieve you, I replied, for I know how much
Guinea thinks of Chyd Lundsford and feel all the worse for it. There
are always two hopes, walking with a doubt, one on each side, but a
certainty walks alone.
I reckon you are right, he rejoined with a sigh. How many strange
things love will make a man say, things that an unpoisoned man would
never think of. Poisoned is the word, Bill; and I'll bet that if I'd
bite a man it would kill him in a minute.
What sort of a fellow is young Lundsford? I asked, with my teeth
set and my feet braced against the dashboard.
Oh, he ain't a bad fellow; he ain't our sort exactly, but he's all
Smart and full of poetry, isn't he?
I never heard him say anything that had poetry in it. Don't think
he knows half as much about books as you do. Oh, about certain sorts of
books he does, books with skeletons in them, but knowing all about
skeletons don't make a man interesting to a woman. I have read enough
to find that out. Why, I have more than held my own with men that are
well up in special bookshave held my own with all except that fellow
Stuart. Now there's Etheredge, that I told you about one daykin to
Dan Stuart. He's a doctor, and they tell me that he is well educated,
but I never heard him say a thing worth remembering. I reckon old Mrs.
Nature has a good deal to do with it after all.
They were sitting up waiting for us at home, although it was past
the midnight hour when we drove into the yard. Old Lim snorted when he
learned that the Aimes boys were not to be hanged, but his wife,
merciful creature, was saddened to think that even more mercy had not
been shown them. And then she anxiously inquired whether we had found
ourselves short in the matter of provisions. We told her that we had
brought back nearly all the load which her kindness had imposed upon
us, and then with disappointment she said: Goodness alive, why didn't
you give it to those poor fellows to take to the penitentiary with 'em,
for I know that there's nothin' there fitten to eat.
The old man stood looking at her, with his coat off and with his
shirt-sleeves rolled up. Susan, said he, I don't want to git mad, I
don't want to go out yander, snatch them chickens out of the coop an'
make 'em nod at each other in the dark, but when you talk that way you
almost drive meby jings, you almost drive me out there agin that
tree, hard enough to butt the bark off. Do you reckon they are takin'
them fellers down there to feed 'em, to fatten 'em up and then turn 'em
loose? Hah, is that your idee? 'Zounds, madam, they are lucky to get
there with their necks. And here you are lamentin' that there's nothin'
at the penitentiary fitten to eat. Go on to bed, Susan, for if you
don't I'm afeered that I'll have to say somethin' to hurt your
feelin's, and then I'd worry about it all night.
Now Limuel, what is the use in snortin' round that way? Can't a
body say a word?
It do look like a body can, he rejoined; and I'm afeered that a
body will, and that's the reason I want you to go to bed.
Old Lim sat down and the subject was dropped. I noticed his wife
looking anxiously at me, and just as I was about to leave the room she
said: Mr. Hawes, you'll please pardon me for mentionin' it, but
there's a button off your coat, and I'll be glad to sew it on if you
will be so kind as to leave it down here.
No, I will sew it on, Guinea spoke up. Give me your coat, Mr.
I will not be the means of keeping you up any longer, I replied,
looking into her eyes, and feeling the thrill of their sweet poison; I
will do it myself.
And rob me of a pleasure? she asked.
No, relieve you of a drudgery. Come on, Alf.
Two fools went to bed in the dark and sighed themselves to sleep,
and two fools dreamed; I know that one diddreamed of eyes and smiles
and a laugh like a musical cluck.
More than a month passed and they were still working on the
school-house. The simple plan had been drawn with but a few strokes of
a pencil, the sills had been placed without delay, but they had to
plane the boards by hand and that had taken time. Alf and I had again
sat at the old General's table, had listened to his words so rounded
out with kindliness, and upon returning to the porch had heard him
storm at something that had gone amiss. Millie showed her dimples and
her pretty teeth, smiling at Alf and at me, too, but I saw no evidence
that she loved him. Indeed, she had been so much petted that I thought
she must be a flirt, and yet she said nothing to give me that
impression. Guinea was just the same, good-humored, rarely serious. One
Sunday I went to church with her, walked, though the distance was two
miles; stood near the cave wherein the British soldiers had hidden
themselves, and talked of everything save love. I cannot say that I had
a sacred respect for her feelings; I think that I should have liked to
torture her, but something closed my heart against an utterance of its
One Saturday afternoon I was told that the school-house would be
ready on the following Monday. I had been out many times to view the
work, but I decided to go again to see that everything was complete. I
expected that Alf would go with me, for the corn was laid by, but I
could not find him. His mother told me that he had put on his Sunday
clothes and that she had seen him going down the road. And so I went
alone. The house was done, and what a change from the pile of old logs!
The walls were painted white and the blinds were green. The bushes were
cleared off, and the scorched trees had been cut down, split up and
hauled away. I have never seen a neater picture, and in it I saw not
only the progress of the people, but the respect in which they held me.
I had come out of the woods on my way home and was on a high piece
of grazing land not far from the house when I saw a man ride up to the
yard fence, dismount, tie his horse and go into the house. This within
itself was nothing, for I had seen many of the neighbors come and go,
but a sudden chill seized upon me now, and there I shook, though the
heat of June lay upon the land; and it was some time before I could go
forward, stumbling, quaking, with my eyes fixed upon the horse tied at
the fence. In the yard behind the house I came upon Mrs. Jucklin,
gathering up white garments that had been spread to dry upon the althea
bushes. Chyd Lundsford has come, she said, and I replied: Yes, I
I stepped upon the passage and passed the sitting-room door without
looking in; I sat down in a rocking chair that had been placed near the
stair-way, sat there and listened to a girl's laugh and the low mumble
of a man's voice. Let us go out where it's cooler, I heard Guinea
say, and I got up with my head in a whirl.
Mr. Hawes, this is Mr. Lundsford.
Glad to meet you, sir, I said, taking hold of somethinghis hand,
I suppose. I was urged to sit down again; Guinea said that she would
bring two more chairs, and when I had dropped back between the arms of
the rocker I looked at the man standing there, and a sort of glad
disappointment cleared my vision and placed him before me in a strong
light. He was short, almost fat, and in his thin, whitish hair there
was a hint at coming baldness. The close attention that he had been
compelled to give practical things, the sawing of bones, the tracing of
nerves, the undoing of man's machinery, had given him the cynical look
of a hard materialist. But when he stepped back to take the chair which
Guinea had brought I saw that he moved easily, that he was cool and
knew well how to handle himself. And this drove away the meager joy of
my glad disappointment.
I hear you are going to take up school Monday, he said. Rather
late to begin school just now, I should think.
Under ordinary circumstances it would be regarded as late in the
season, I answered, but we have been so interrupted that we now
decide to have no vacation.
I guess you are right. Had a pretty close shave with those fellows,
didn't you? Ought to have killed them right there. I've seen Scott.
Thought he was a pretty bright fellow, naturally; rather witty. Would
make a first-rate subject on the slab.
Because you thought him witty, sir? I asked.
Of course not; but because he is a good specimenbig fellow. He
looked at me and I thought that he was measuring my chest. Yes, he
continued, ought to have killed them. Man's got to take care of
himself, you know, and he can't make it his business to show mercy.
Most all the virtues now are back-woods qualities.
I don't believe that, Guinea spoke up. Every day we read of the
generosity of the world.
Oh, he said, passing his short fingers through his thin hair, you
read about it, and people who want to shine as generous creatures take
particular pains that you shall read about it. You've a great deal to
learn, my dear little woman.
And perhaps there is a great deal that she doesn't care to learn,
I ventured to suggest; and I quickly looked at her to see whether I had
made another mistake. I had not, her quiet smile told me, and I felt
bold enough to have thrown him over the fence.
What we wish to know and what we ought to know are two different
matters, he said. But I hold that we ought to know the truth, no
difference what the truth may be. I want facts; I don't want paint. I
don't want to believe that the gilt on the dome goes all the way
But, said I, the gilt on the dome doesn't prove that the dome is
rotten; it may be strong with seasoned wood and ribs of iron.
Yes, he drawled, that's all very good, very well put, but it
means nothing. By the way, before we get into a discussion let me
invite you over to our house to-night. Quite a number of young people
will drop in. Not exactly the night, you know; but the old idea that
white people shouldn't go out of a Saturday night, the night reserved
for negroes, is all nonsense. So, I have asked them to come. Alf will
come, I suppose, and so will our little spring branch nymph.
I didn't suppose that you believed in nymphs, now that you have
gone out and learned that everything is false, Guinea spoke up.
I don't believe in painted ones, he replied, but you are not
I shall be pleased to come, I remarked, and then I asked him how
long he expected to remain at home.
Oh, about a month, I should think. I am gradually getting along and
I don't want to go to school all my life. I want to begin practice next
In this neighborhood? I asked, and he gave me a contemptuous look.
Well, not if I have any sense left, he answered. I might ride around
here a thousand years and not win anything of a name. Look at Dr.
Etheredge, fine physician, but what has he done? No, I'm going to a
city, north, I think.
He stayed to supper and this angered me, for I had set my heart on
walking to the General's house with Guinea. Alf had not returned and we
wondered whither he could have gone. And when the time came to go, that
impudent sprig of a doctor asked me if I would ride his horse around by
the road, said that he wanted to walk across the meadows with Guinea.
How I should have enjoyed knocking him on the head, but I thought that
Guinea supplemented his request with a look, and I consented.
There were many horses tied at the General's fence, and there was
laughter within, when I rode up, and I was reminded of the night when I
had stood with my hot hand melting the frost on the fence. But I
thought of what the men had said on the railway platform, of the woman
whom I had seen on the train, and boldly I walked in. The General met
me with a warm grasp, and was asking me if I had seen his son, when in
walked the young fellow himself, with Guinea beside him. The parlor and
the library, opening one into the other, were well filled with
good-humored young folk, and among them were old people, none the less
good-humored. I was surprised to find myself so much in demand, for
every one asked for an introduction, but with bitterness I knew that it
was because I had come near being burned up in an old house. They
played games, but of this they soon tired; they sang and one of the
ladies plucked a sparkling fandango, and then Chydister Lundsford was
called upon for a speech. He was not at all embarrassed and he talked
fairly well; and when he was done they called upon me. I got up with
one hand resting on the piano, and stood there, nervous at first, but
strangely steady later on. I told them that I could not make a speech,
but that with their permission I would tell them a story, one of my
own. They cried out that they would rather have a story than a speech,
and I gave them a half humorous, half pathetic sketch, something that
had long been running in my head and which I intended to write. What a
strong confidence came upon me as I noted the effect of my words! I was
drawing a picture and they were eager to see it; I was playing on a
strange, rude instrument, and how they bent to catch every vibration. I
was astonished at myself, thrilled with myself. And when the climax
came, chairs were tipped over as if in a scramble, and a wild applause
broke out. Every hand was stretched out toward me, every eye was bright
with a tear. The old General grabbed me and, throwing back his great
head, almost bellowed a compliment; and through it all I saw Guinea
sweetly smiling. They urged me to give them another story, were almost
frantic in their entreaty; they had heard the heart-beat of their own
life and they must hear it again. I told another story, one over which
I had fondly mused, and again the hands came out toward me, and again
the General bellowed a compliment. I can scarcely recall anything else
that passed that evening. Yes, I remember that as I was taking my
leave, to walk across the meadows with Guinea and Chyd, Millie stood in
front of me. Once or twice I thought that she had something that she
would tell me, for her lips moved, but she said nothing except to bid
And where was Alf all this time? No one had spoken his name; Millie
had not asked me about him. I walked briskly in advance, half happy,
but, of course, with my mind on Guinea, whose low voice reached my ears
through the quiet that lay on the grass-land.
Why don't you wait for us? she cried. I turned about and waited,
and as she came up, holding Chyd's arm, she said: I hope your success
to-night hasn't turned your head.
And I hope that I don't deserve such a suspicion, I answered, not
with bitterness, but with joy to think that she had felt my apparent
Oh, I don't see anything to cause a spat, said Chyd, straining
himself to take long steps. Good stuff, of course, but nothing to turn
a man's heada mere bit of fancy paint. But you ought to write it.
Good many people like nonsense. I mean something light, you know.
Two-thirds of the human family make it their business to dodge the
truth. But it is a good thing for a school-teacher to make himself felt
in that way.
Perhaps Mr. Hawes doesn't intend to be a teacher all his life,
Guinea replied, speaking in kindliness, but with no interest, as to
whether or not I was to remain a pedagogue.
God forbid, I replied. And the young doctor gave me a sarcastic
cough. Man ought to do what he's best fitted for, said he. Trouble
is that a man generally thinks that he's fitted for something that he
isn'thates the thing that he can do best.
Your knowledge of the practical fortifies you against any advance
that I might make, I replied. I don't pretend to be practical.
Hum, I should think not, he rejoined. Good deal of a dreamer, I
take it. And you are in the right place. Everything dreams here, the
farmers and even the cattle. Going to pull down the fence, eh?
Guinea'll be over by the time you get it down. What did I tell you?
Regular fawn, eh?
We had passed out of the meadow. They waited in the road until I
replaced the rails which I had let down. The road ran along the ravine
and home was in sight. I looked across toward the smooth old rock and
saw a dark object upon it. We went down into the ravine and as we were
coming out, a voice cried: Is that you, Bill? And instantly Guinea
answered for me. Yes, Alf. And here's Chyd.
How are you, Chyd? he shouted, and then he added: Bill, I want to
see you a minute. Stay where you are and I'll come down.
I halted to wait for him. He stopped a moment to shake hands with
Chyd, and then he hastened to me. Old man, I've got something to tell
you, he said. Let's walk down this wayno, not over in the road, but
up the hollow. He gripped my arm tightly, walked fast, then slowly and
then stopped. Let's sit down here, Bill. We seated ourselves on a
rock. You have been over to the General's, along with Chyd and Guinea,
haven't you? Of course, you havewhat's the use of asking that? Do you
know what I did to-day? Not long after dinner I went over there
determined to find out how I stood. I was brave until I got nearly to
the house and then my courage failed. I stood by the fence in the
blackberry briars and gazed at the house. After a while I saw her come
out and start down the Ebeneezer road. And then I whipped round and met
her. And as I stood beside the road, waiting for her to come up I
noticed for the first time that the sun was nearly down. For hours I
had been standing in the briars. I pretended not to see her; let on
like I was hunting for a squirrel up in a tree, until she came up. Then
I spoke to her and she started as if she was scared. She said that she
was going over to Lum Smith's to tell the young people to come over at
night, and I asked her if I might walk along with her. She said with a
laugh that I might go part of the way, and then I knew that she was
ashamed for any one to see her with me. This cut me to the red, but I
walked along with her. I felt that I had nothing to say that would
interest her, but I kept on talking, and once in a while she would look
up at me and laugh. At last, and it was just as we came within sight of
Smith's place, I asked her what she really thought of Dan Stuart. I
knew that this was a fool's break, and if it hadn't been I don't
suppose I would have made it. She looked up at me, but she didn't laugh
this time. I begged her pardon for my rudeness, and she reminded me
that I was only to come a part of the way with her. I then told her
that I would wait for her to come back. She said that she might not
come back that way. I replied that no matter which way she came back I
would see her. She went on, laughing now, and I waited, but I didn't
have to wait long before I saw her coming. As she came up I asked her
if she was ready to grant my pardon and she wanted to know what about.
We walked along together and she began to tell me about her brother,
how smart he was and all that, and I said that I didn't think that he
was as smart as you, Bill; I wanted to take credit for a friendship I
had formed, you see? But a moment later I was sorry, for I was afraid
that she might say something against you, but she didn't. She said that
you were a smart mana distinguished-looking man, and that she liked
you ever so much. At first I was pleased, but a second afterward I was
jealous of you, Bill. Did you ever see as blamed a fool as I am? But I
didn't hate you, Bill. No, my heart was warm toward you even while she
was praising youeven while I was jealous. I again asked her what she
thought of Dan Stuart, and she looked up at me and wanted to know if I
knew what he thought of her. I told her that everybody loved her, and
that I didn't suppose he was mean enough not to love her. She said that
she knew people who didn't love her, and I told her that if she would
show them to me I would butt their heads together for being such
idiots. We were now almost within sight of the General's home and I was
not getting along very fast. I was determined to make a break. We were
on a hill, where the trees were tall, almost over-lapping the road. To
the right ran a path through the briars, a nearer way home. I asked her
to wait and she stopped. The sun was down and it was now almost dark.
And it was then that I told her that I loved her. I don't know how I
acted or what I said, but I know that I was down in the dust at her
feet. She stood there, pale and trembling, looking around as if she
would call for help. I asked her to marry me, and she laughed,
Billlaughed at me and darted down the path. Then I went into the
woods and roamed about I don't know where; and that is the reason I
wasn't at the gathering to-night. I'm bruised and crippled, Billmy
heart is sore, but I want to tell you that when she's standing on the
floor with that fellow Stuart, with the preacher in front of her, I'll
be there, putting in my plea. I won't give up as long as there is a
fighting chance left. Don't say a word about it. Forgive me for
dragging you off down here. God knows you've got a deep trouble of your
own. And I wish my word could settle itI'd speak it, though it might
hurt my chances at the General's. Well, let's go to the house.
Guinea and Chyd, old Lim and his wife went to church the next day,
leaving Alf and me alone. Alf held himself in reasonable restraint
until the old people were gone, and then he broke out so violently that
I really feared for his reason. And it was mainly my fault for I read
him a passionate poem, the outcry of a maddened soul, and he swore that
it had been written for him, that it was his, and I caught his spirit
and fancied that he might have written it, for I believed then, as I
believe now, that great things do not come from a quiet heart, that
quiet hearts may criticise, but that they do not create, that genius is
a condition, an agony, a tortured John Bunyan.
I went to the spring to get a bucket of fresh water, and when I
returned Alf was nowhere to be found. I went out and shouted his name,
but no answer came back. I went out into the woods, walked up and down
the road, but could see nothing of him. The shadows fell short and the
old people and Guinea and Chyd returned from church, and the noon-tide
meal was spread, but Alf came not. But save with me there was no
anxiety, as he was wont to poke about alone they said. Evening,
bed-time came. Chyd went home, and I went up to my room. I heard the
old man locking the smoke-house doorheard his wife singing a hymn,
heard Guinea's faint foot-steps as she returned from the gate, whither
she went to bid her lover good-night, and her little feet fell not upon
the path, but upon my heart. I went to bed, leaving the lamp burning
low, and was almost asleep when I heard Alf on the stairs. He ran into
the room with both hands pressed against his head. I sprang up. He ran
to me and dropped upon his knees at the bed-side, dropped and clutched
the covering and buried his face in it. I put my arm about him, knelt
beside him, heard his smothered muttering, and put my face against his.
Bill! he gasped in a shivering whisper, Bill, I have killed him!
Merciful God! I cried, springing back. He reached round, as if to
draw me down beside him. Hush, don't let them hear down stairs. Come
I lifted him to his feet, turned him round so that I could see his
face. It was horror-stricken. I have killed Dan Stuart.
He stood with both hands on my shoulders looking into my eyes.
Wait a minute and I'll tell you. It wasn't altogether my fault. He
ought to be dead. He tried to kill me. I left here without any thought
of seeing him; didn't want to see him. I went away over yonder into the
woods. I heard you calling me. Later in the day I came out near the
wagon-maker's shop, and several fellows were sitting there, and I
stopped to answer a question somebody asked me, and pretty soon here
came Stuart. He grinned at me, but this didn't make me want to kill
him. Do they hear me down stairs?
Go on, for God's sake! I urged. Why did you kill him? Didn't you
I knew everything, Bill. But I didn't want to kill him. I turned
away, and walked up the road, and he came along after me on his horse.
And when we were some distance away he made a slighting remark about
Millie. I wheeled around and he snatched out a pistol and pointed it at
me. I hadn't a thing, and there he was on a horse and with a pistol
pointed at me. There was not a stone, nothing within reach. I was cool,
I had sense, and I told him that he might have his fun, but that I
would see him again. And when he had cursed me and abused me as much as
he liked he rode away, leaving me standing there. I ran over to
Parker's and told him that I wanted a pistol to shoot a dog with, and
he gave it to me. Then I went back to the road and waited. He had gone
over to the General's, I thought, and I knew that he would come back
that way. I would make him swallow his wordsI knew that he didn't
mean what he said about Millieknew that he simply wanted to stir me
up and have an excuse to kill me. So I waited in the road not far from
Doc Etheredge's, waited a long time and at last I heard some one coming
on a horse. I didn't hide; I stood in the middle of the road. A man
came up, but it wasn't him; it was Etheredge. He spoke to me, asked me
good-naturedly why I was standing there, and I told him that I was
waiting for a dog that I wanted to kill. He turned into his gate, a
short distance off, and I stood there. After a while I heard another
horse, and I knew his gaitsingle-foot. It was Stuart. He was singing
and he didn't appear to see me until he was almost on me. His horse
shied. 'Who is that?' he asked, and I told him. 'And you are going to
take back what you said,' I remarked as quietly as I could, 'or I'm
going to kill you right here.' He didn't say a wordhe snatched at his
pistol and then I fired, and he fell forward on his horse's neck. The
horse jumped and I sprang forward and caught the body and eased it to
the groundstretched it in the road and left it. But I went up to
Etheredge's house and hallooed, and when he answered I told him that
the dog had come and that his name was Dan Stuart, and that he would
find him lying in the road. I heard him shout something, but I didn't
wait for him to come out, but went into the woods and came on home. And
now I've got to go.
Go where? I asked, facing him round as he strove to turn from me.
To town to give myself up. Don't tell the old folks to-night. Tell
them in the morningtell them that they'll find me in jail.
I strove to restrain him; I could scarcely believe what he had told
me. I asked him if he had not been dreaming. He shook his head, pulling
away from me. If you are my friend, Bill, do as I tell you. It's all
over with me now, and all I can do is to answer to the law. He caught
up his hat. Tell them at morning; make it as soft as you cantell
them how I love that girltell them that I am crazy. Don't hold me,
Bill. I must go. God bless you.
He pulled away from me and went down stairs so easily that he made
scarcely a sound. I followed him, begged him to let me go with him,
but, creeping back half way up the stairs, he said: You can be of more
service to me here. Tell them and to-morrow you can see me in jail. I
don't want them to come and take me there. Do as I tell you, Bill.
Don't let the folks see me in jail. Go on back.
I went back to the room and sat there all night, and at morning I
heard the old man unlock the smoke-house, heard his wife singing a
hymn. I knew that they expected me at early breakfast, so that I could
reach the school-house in time, for my new session was to begin that
morning. So the sun was not risen when I went down stairs. But nature
held up a pink rose in the east, and the hilltops were glowing, while
the valleys were yet dark. Guinea came out of the sitting-room, and
seeing me in the passage, walking as if I were afraid of disturbing
some one, laughed at me. Why, what makes you slip along that way? You
act as if you were the first one up. Why, I have already gathered you
some flowers to take to school. And you won't even thank me. Why, Mr.
Hawes, what on earth is the matter?
I held up my hand. There will be no school to-day, I said. Don't
say a word, please.
But what's the matter? she asked, with a look of fright.
Come out here under the tree. Will you promise not to scream if I
tell you something?
But what can you tell me to make me scream? Oh
I'm not going to speak of myself, I broke in, fearing that she
might think that I was going to tell her of my love. Come out here,
She followed me to the bench under the tree and she stood there
nervously gazing at me as I sat down, waiting for me to speak and yet
afraid to hear me.
What is it, please? But don't tell me anything badI don't want to
hear anything bad.
But you must hear this. AlfAlf has had a quarrel with Dan Stuart.
It was worse than a quarrel, and has
Killed him? she said, gazing at me. Don't tell me anything.
She sat down beside me and hid her face. Alf has gone to town to
give himself up, and we must tell your father and mother. It wasn't
murderit was self-defence. You go and tell your mother, tell her as
quietly as you can. I see your father out yonder. I will tell him. Tell
her that they got into a quarrel last night.
She went away without looking back at me, without letting me see her
face, and as I passed the corner of the house I heard her talking and
before I reached the old man I heard a cry from that poor old woman.
Old Lim was at the door of his stockade, oiling the lock.
Devilish thing don't work well, he said. A padlock is generally the
best lock or the worst; you never can tell which. If I could jest git a
drap of the grease into the key-hole I'd soon fix it. But it won't go
in, you see. By jings, the devil has his own way about half the time,
and his influence is mighty powerful the other half. Now, we're gittin'
at it. I reckon we'd better go on to breakfast, though. I almost forgot
that you had to go to your school. Why, man, what the deuce is the
matter with you this mornin'?
He dropped the chain to which the lock was fastened and looked
steadily at me. What's gone wrong, man?
I'm not going to school to-day, I answered, endeavoring to be
What's the matter? House burnt down again?
Worse than that, Mr. Jucklin. Alf
What about him? he broke in, nervously grabbing the chain.
Did you know that he was in love with Millie Lundsford? I asked,
now determined to be calm.
Well, what of it? Young folks are in and out of love with each
other mighty nigh every day in this neighborhood. Is that Susan callin'
me? Be there in a minute! he shouted. Hasn't had a row with the old
General, has he?
No, but with Dan Stuart. They quarreled last night and fought and
Dan was killed.
His shoulders drooped; he spoke not, but he jerked the chain, the
gate flew open and he stepped inside and shut it with a slam; and I
heard him fumbling with the fastening that held the door of the coop. I
strode away as fast as I could, went to the school-house to dismiss the
children and to tell them that I knew not when the session would be
resumed. And when I returned everything was quiet. The old man was
slowly walking up and down the spring-house path, evidently waiting for
Tell me all about it, he said, when I came up; tell me from
beginnin' to end.
And I told him just as Alf had told me. He listened with his mouth
half open, rolling up his shirt-sleeves and then rolling them down
again, as if he knew not what to do with himself.
Well, he said, when I was done, I don't know that I can blame
him, poor feller, but they'll hang him.
Do you think so? I cried, with a start, for I had not dwelt upon
that possibility; it had not occurred to me, so wrapt had I been in
thinking of his own mental distress and the heart-breaking grief of his
mother. Do you really think so?
I know itjust as clear to me as that sunshine. Stuart's kin folks
have got money and they'll spend every cent of it to put Alf on the
gallows. Etheredge don't like Alf and will spend every cent he's got;
and here we are without money. Yes, they'll hang him.
But General Lundsfordwon't he stand as Alf's friend?
The old man shook his head. He can't, and I don't know that he
would if he could. I mean that he can't and still be true to himself.
Ever since our agreement, the one I told you about, he has been putty
open in talkin' to me, and I know that he wanted Millie to marry
Stuart. No, he's too proud to help us.
But can he for family reasons afford not to help us? His son
Don't speak of that now, if you please, sir. Are you goin' to the
I don't know. I am almost afraid to meet his mother.
Don't be afraid of that. She won't reproach you; she knows that you
had nothing to do with itknows that he never would have killed him if
he had asked your advice and followed it.
I don't mean thatI mean that I cannot bear to look upon her
She is a Christian, sir. She is praying to her God, and whatever
comes she will trust in Him. The stock that she is from has stood at
the stake, sir.
We were slowly walking toward the house. Suddenly he clutched my arm
with a grip that reminded me of Alf, and in a voice betraying more
emotion than I had known him to show, asked whether I intended to leave
him. I put my arm about him and pressed him to me, just as if he were
Alf telling me of the love-trouble that lay upon his heart.
I understand you, God bless you, he said. Don't say a word; I
understand you. Git on the mare and go to town and find out all you
can. I won't go jest nowcan't stand to see my son in jail. But don't
say a word, for I understand you. I reckon the neighborhood is pretty
well alive over it by this time. See if they'll let him go about on
bail, but I don't reckon they will, even if he did give himself up.
They'll think that he done it because he must have knowed that they
were bound to catch him. Go on and do whatever your jedgment tells you,
and I know it will be all right.
Over the road I went, toward Purdy, and the people who had come out
of their houses to speak words of encouragement to Alf and me when we
were on our way to see the Aimes boys tried, now stood about their
doors, gazing stupidly. At the wagon-maker's shop a crowd was gathered,
and I was recognized as I drew near by young men who had met me at the
General's house the night beforenow so long ago, it seemedand they
came out into the road and urged me to tell them all I knew. I felt
that Etheredge had already stirred in his own coloring, but I told the
story of the tragedy just as I had told it to the old man; and I had
gathered rein to resume my journey when a man rode up. I'm going back
to town! he shouted, waving his hand to a man who stood in the door of
the wagon-maker's shop. I rode on and he came up beside me.
Are you Mr. Hawes? he asked, and when I had answered him he said:
I am Dr. Etheredge.
I bowed and he nodded with distinct coolness. He was not of happy
appearance; he was lean and angular, gray beyond the demand of his
years, and it struck me that he must be given to drink, not because he
was gray, but because there were puffs under his eyes and broken veins
where his skin was stretched over his high cheek-bones.
A devil of an affair, this, he said. Man met in the public
highway and murdered.
Don't put it that way, I spoke up, for perhaps you are not yet
acquainted with the causes that led to it.
No cause, sir, should lead to murder.
I agree with you there, but many a man has been compelled to kill
in order to save his own life.
He sneered at me. But has many a man been compelled to stand for
hours in a public road, and in order to save his own life shoot down an
innocent person? I always held that Alf Jucklin was a dangerous and a
desperate man, and everybody knows that he comes of that breed. I never
did like him; and he took a dislike to me without cause. Stood near a
church in a crowd of men one day when I seemed to be under discussion
and declared that a man to be a doctor ought to be smart and to be
smart a man must say something to prove the thought within him; and
then he asked if any one had ever heard me say anything worth
I felt that he wanted to quarrel with me, and I was in the humor to
gratify him. And did anyone ever hear you say a thing worth
remembering? I asked.
Sir! he snarled.
You heard what I said. And I take a degree of cool pleasure in
telling you before we go further that you can't ride a high horse over
A pedagogue's pedantry, he muttered.
A man's truth, I replied. And by the way, I added, you appear
to be well horsed. Suppose you ride on ahead.
Does this road belong to you, sir? he demanded, turning a severe
brow upon me.
A part of it does, and I am going to ride over that part without
annoyance. Do you understand?
Sir, I can understand impudence even if I can't say a thing worth
remembering. But rather than have words with you I will ride on, not to
accommodate you, but to preserve my own dignity and self-respect.
Good! I mockingly cried, and if you continue to improve in
expression I shall after a while be forced to believe that Alf's
estimate of you was placed too low.
I thank you, sir, for giving me the opportunity to say that a
jury's estimate will hereafter most influence your friend, and that he
will be placed high enough.
You continue to improve, Doctor, and I believe that your last
remark is worth remembering. At least, I shall remember it, and when
this trouble is over, no matter what the result may be, I will hold you
to account for it. And to prove that I am in earnest I'll lend you the
weight of this. And with that I cut at his face with a switch. His
horse shied and the apple tree sprout whistled in the air. He said
something about hoping to meet me again and rode off at a brisk canter.
I knew that I had acted unwisely, felt it even while the impulse was
rising fresh and strong within me, but I was in no humor to bear with
him. I rode along more slowly than I was disposed, to let him pass out
of my sight, for every time I looked up and saw him I felt a new anger.
And I was relieved when a turn in the road placed him beyond my view. I
heard a galloping behind, and, looking round, I saw the old General
coming with a cavalryman's recklessness. He dashed up and did not draw
rein until he was almost upon me.
Whoa! I have been trying to overtake you, Hawes. What did I tell
you? Didn't I say that the country was gone? I'll swear I don't know
what we are coming to when a man is shot down in the road like that.
General, did you overtake me to ride to town with me?
I did; yes, sir.
Then you mustn't talk that way.
I beg your pardon, sir. Perhaps I should not have expressed myself
in that manner. Let us ride along and discuss it quietly. Tell me what
It were better, General
Never mind about your grammar and your bookish phrasing. Tell me
what led up to it.
Must I tell you that your daughter is
By G, sir, what do you mean?
You needn't turn on me, sir.
Surely not. Pardon me. What about it?
I don't know that I ought to tell youa man of more judgment
wouldn'tbut I suppose I must now that I have gone so far. Alf is in
love with your daughter, and on that account Stuart insulted him,
abused him at the point of a pistol.
Then I told him all that I could, all but the fact that Stuart had
spoken slightingly of the girl, for I knew that this would only enrage
him and, indeed, set him harder against Alf, as he would doubtless
believe that my friend had simply forged a mean excuse. For some
distance after I had told him the story, he rode along in silence,
troubled of countenance and with his head hanging low. But just before
we came into the town he looked up and said: Poor fool, I can't help
But you can see that justice is done.
Mr. Hawes, in this instance we may take different views of justice.
Pardon me, but your friendshipand, indeed, I can but honor you for
ityour friendship may cry out against justice.
I admit, General, that my friendship is strong, although I have
known the young man but a short time, yet I think that I respect
We all think so until justice pinches us, he replied, placing
himself in firm opposition to me, yet doing it kindly. I am more
concerned in this, Mr. Hawes, than you can well conceive. I can say
this, but I cannot follow it up with an explanation. But the fact that
he stood waiting there in the road is what will tell most against him.
Had he met him at another time, under almost any other conditions, it
would have been different, would have taken away the aspect of
calculated murder. Yes, I am deeply concerned and on two accounts. But
I cannot mention them. Dan Stuart was near to me; I had known him all
his life and he was a young man of promise, was popular throughout the
communitymore popular than Alf, and this will have its effect.
But wasn't he more popular because he had more money? I asked, and
the old General gave me a look of reproof.
Money does not make so much difference in the South, sir. You have
been filling your head with Northern books. It is refinement, sir, real
worth that weighs in the South.
I hope not to antagonize you, General, but I am of the South and I
have cause to hold an opposite opinion. Have I not seen the most vulgar
of men held in high favor because they were rich? The mere existence of
a state line does not change human nature. Man is not changed even by
the lines drawn about empires.
I admit, sir, that the South has undergone a change, but in my day
a man was measured according to his real worth, not in gold, but in
It is but natural to look back with the prejudiced eye of
affection, General, and it is respectful that I should not argue with
you. I turn here to the livery-stable. Good-morning.
I honor you for your consideration, sir, he replied, bowing. Let
us hope for the best, but I must stand by justice.
When I had put up my horse I went directly to the jail. A crowd hung
about the doors, eager to see the prisoner. When I told the jailer who
I was he admitted me without a word. Alf sprang from a bench, seeing me
enter the corridor, and came forward to the bars of his cell.
Not much room for shaking hands here, Bill, he said, smiling
sadly. It is already an age since I left home. How are you, old man?
Tell me how they took it. No, don't. I know. Well, I gave myself up and
the sheriff wouldn't believe me at first, but he got it through his
head after a while. He was very kind and when he had locked me in here
he went to see whether I could be let out on bail, but I understand
that I can't. It's all right; I might as well be in here. Bill, I have
tried to feel sorry for killing him, but I can't. I reckon I must be
about as mean as they make them. And it will all come out pretty soon,
for court is still in session and all they've got to do is to rig up
their jury after the inquest and go ahead. I'm going to make the best
of it. The worst feature is the disgrace and suffering at home, and, of
course, that almost tears my heart out when I let it. But to tell you
the truth, I'd rather be hanged than to be on the grid-iron all the
time. Who's that?
Etheredge came into the corridor. He leered at Alf and Alf sneered
at him. I suppose you found the dog that I told you was lying in the
roadthe dog that tried to bite me, said Alf, with a cold smile.
Jucklin, I didn't come in here to be insulted.
All right, there's the door. Say, there, jailer, you have just let
in a gray rat and I wish you'd come and drive him out.
I turned to Etheredge and pointed to the door. I must respect your
wish, he said, speaking to me. I've an engagement with youyou are
to be my guest, and without another word he strode away.
I remained with Alf as long as the jailer thought it prudent to let
me stay, and then I went about the town to gather its sentiment. And I
was grieved to find that every one declared it to be cold-blooded
murder. My heart was heavy as I rode toward home, for the old people
were looking to me for encouragement. Guinea met me at the gate. She
tried to smile, but failed.
Don't try to look pleased at seeing me, I said. It is too much of
an effort. And if she could not smile she could give me a look of
gratitude. She went with me to the stable, saying not a word; and when
I had turned the horse loose she followed me to the sitting-room. At
the door I faltered, but Mrs. Jucklin's voice bade me enter. She was
sitting in a rocking-chair, with the Bible in her lap, and placing her
hand upon the book, she thus spoke to me: Don't hesitate to talk, for
His rod and His staff shall comfort me.
I had not noticed the old man, so bent were my eyes upon his wife,
but now he arose into view, and, coming to me, he whispered: From the
stock that stood at the stake.
I told them all I knew, which was not much; and then knelt down and
prayed with them.
Stuart was buried the next day, and the mourners passed our house.
Mrs. Jucklin was sitting at the window when the hearse and the buggies
came within sight, and her chin was unsteady as she reached for her
book. And there she sat, holding the old leather-covered Bible in her
I had thought that Chyd Lundsford would come, with words of
encouragement, but we saw him not, neither that day nor the next. But
four days later I came upon him as I was going to town. He had a gun,
was followed by a number of squirrel-dogs and came out of the woods
near the spot where Alf had eased Stuart from his horse to the ground.
I stopped and bluntly asked him why he had not been over, and he
answered that he was busy preparing for a rigid examination. I asked if
they were going to examine him on the art of killing game, and he
laughed and replied: No, on the science of killing men. By the way,
he added, looking up into the top of a tree, how is Alf getting along?
Does he appear to be hopeful?
He is more desperate than hopeful, I answered.
Yes, I should think so. Is that a squirrel's nest? I have heard it
hinted that a love-affair had something to do with itan affair pretty
close, at that. Well, I've got nothing to do with it. Can't drive out
of my mind what I have had so hard a time driving into it. Sorry, and
all that sort of thing. That's no squirrel's nest. But if people
persist in being romantic they must expect to have trouble. I'm sorry
for the old folksmust take it rather hard. Good-hearted and simple
enough to worry over it, surely. Well, if you happen to think of it,
give Alf my regards.
The coroner's jury had returned an expected verdict, influenced
largely by what Etheredge had to say. I had given my testimony, but I
could not make it sound as I wanted itAlf's own words were against
him, as I repeated them that day. The preliminary trial, the mummery
before a justice of the peace, also went against Alf; the grand jury
had brought in its finding, and the next step was the formal
arraignment before the circuit judge. And I was now on my way to town
to engage additional legal help, as the lawyer whom we had retained
appeared to be luke-warm and half-hearted. I had heard many stories
relating to the great force and ability of an old ex-judge named
Conkwright, and I called at his office, though I had been warned that
his price was exceedingly high. He met me gruffly, I thought, but I
soon discovered that he had a heart. I told Alf's story, now so
familiar to my own ears that I fancied that I could give it with
effect, and I must have touched him, for he said: Oh, well, I'll go
into it and we'll say nothing about the price. I've been working for
nothing all my life, and I don't see why I should change now. Why, of
course, he ought to have killed him, and his old eyes shone as he said
it. Had to kill him. It strikes me that they are rushing things pretty
fast, especially as the docket is covered with murder cases that have
been put over from time to time. That Stuart set has lots of influence.
Beat me for re-election, I know that. But we'll show them a few things
that are not put down in the books. And you don't want the young lady's
name mentioned. Of course, not. Wouldn't be gallant, eh? Well, I'll go
down and see the young fellow some time to-day. They'll take it up in
about a week from now, that is, if we are ready, and we'll be there.
Tell old Jucklin not to fret. He's an old lion-tamer, I tell you, and
if I had any interest in that fellow Etheredge I'd advise him to walk
pretty straight. But the old man has quieted down mightily of late
Alf had undergone no change. He was glad to know that Conkwright
took an interest in him, but he shook his head when I told him that we
were sure to win.
I don't believe it, Bill; don't believe it because I don't feel it.
But don't tell the old folks that I'm not hopeful. Have you seen
No, and have seen Chyd but once, and then I came upon him in the
What, hasn't he been to the house? A fine husband he'll make for
Guinea. Tell her that I say she must forbid his coming near her again.
No, don't, he added. It's better to wait. I wish she loved you, Bill,
but I'm afraid she doesn't.
I know she doesn't, I replied.
Has she said so?
No, but she seems always afraid that I may tell her of my love.
And I would if I were you, Bill. No, not yet. Tell father not to
come near me yet a while. He couldn't stand it.
He had written home, begging his parents and his sister not to think
of seeing him, had actually commanded them not to come near the jail.
Mother can stand more than he can, for she's more religious. How
about your school?
Oh, it's all right. The people know that I couldn't teach now, even
if I should try ever so hard, and they are very considerate. They say
that they are willing to wait.
God bless them for that, any way. And this reminds me of a preacher
that came in yesterday to pray for me. I thanked him for his kindness,
but told him that some one was at home praying, and that one of her
words had more influence in my behalf than all the prayers he could
utter in a life-time. I merely mention this to show what sort of an
atmosphere I'm in. I didn't like the fellow's looksunderstand that he
hasn't been a preacher but a week. Still on suspicion, as they say,
Bill. I was almost crazy, but my mind has cooled wonderfully. A
fellow's mind generally does after he's done the worst he can.
I hope that my reading of the poem didn't start you off.
Oh, no, that had nothing to do with itrelieved me, if anything;
set me to thinking that some one else had been in the same fix. By the
way, a telegraph operator here brings me something nearly every day.
Says that he's a life-long friend of yours. Told me to tell you that he
was about to pick up a piece of calico and take it home with himsaid
that you would understand. Now, you go on home and stay there until the
trial. You have almost worn yourself out. You and the General are still
on good terms, I suppose. Wish you could slip over there and see
Millie. Do you know what Chyd's waiting for? He's waiting to see how
the trial goes. Bill, I'm beginning to feel sorry for Stuart. But his
face doesn't come up before me at night with a death-look. There's a
good deal of nonsense about that sort of thing. When I see him he's
always sitting on his horse, cursing me. And that's not very pleasant.
Go on, Bill. I have kept you too long. It's nearly night.
Old man Jucklin was smartly encouraged when I told him what the
ex-judge had said, and he related a number of anecdotes of the old
fellow's early days on the circuit.
Oh, help is comin' our way, old Limuel said, and his wife,
pointing to her book, replied: It has always been with us.
At the stake, he whispered.
I did not speak of having seen Chyd. I had no right to do so, for I
knew that he was now an additional distress. But the next morning when
Guinea and I were alone at the breakfast table she asked me if I had
not met him down the roadsaid that she had seen him crossing the
meadows with his dogs. I began to quibble and she spoke up spiritedly:
Oh, you shouldn't hesitate to tell me. It amounts to nothing, I'm
I must manage some way to see Millie, I remarked, determined to
say no more about Chyd lest I should lose my temper.
I hope you won't go to the house, she replied, her face coloring.
I won't, but I didn't know but that I might see her going to a
neighbor's house and then
No, she broke in, I hope you won't even do that. She must know
how we feel, and if she had any interest in us she would come over
here. No, I won't say that. I don't know what she may have to contend
with. But her brother could come if he wanted to, but it makes no
difference, I'm sure.
Suppose I meet Millie in the road; shall I speak to her?
Surely, but don't ask her why she hasn't been to see us. What did
Not much of anythingsaid that so long as people were romantic
they must expect trouble.
She frowned and thus replied: A good authority on the evils of
Why not an expert on the thrills of romance? I asked. Hasn't he
played up and down the brook?
So have the ducks, she answered, with a return of her smile. But
let us not talk about himI would rather not think about him.
I could not play the part of a hero; I was not of the stock that had
stood at the stake glorifying the deed with a hymn. I had wanted to
drop the subject, not because it was painful to her, but because it
pressed a spike into my own flesh; but her wish to dismiss him from her
mind urged me to keep him there, to torture her with him. Brute?
Surely; I have never denied it, but I loved her, and in love there is
no generosity. The lover who seeks to be liberal is a hypocrite, a
sneak-thief robbing his own heart.
But how can you put him out of your mind if he is worthy of your
love? I asked. You did not place him therein, nor can you take him
She looked at me a long time, looked at me and read me; she did not
frown, she smiled not, but searched me with her eyes until I felt that
my motive lay bare under her gaze. You would help Alf in his trouble,
she said, but you would throw a trouble at me.
How sadly she spoke those words, and my heart fell under them and
lay at her feet in sorrow and in humiliation. I strove to beg for
pardon, but I stammered and my words were almost meaningless.
Oh, you have my forgiveness, if that is what you are trying to ask
for. Now, please don't say anything more. I know you didn't mean to
make me feel bad.
I think I'd better cut my throat! I replied, taking up a table
She laughed at me. How can a big man be so silly? Cut your throat,
indeed. Why, what have you done to deserve it?
What have I done? I cried, leaning over the table and making a
fumble, as if I would take her handwhat have I done? I have wantonly
wounded the divinest creature
She was on her feet in an instant; she put her hands to her ears and
shook her head at me. No, you must not say that. Don't you see I can't
hear what you say? So, what is the use of saying anything? Think you
are a brute? No, I don't; but you must not talk like that. I can't hear
youI won't hear you. Oh, don't worry about Mr. Lundsford. He will
kneel at my feet.
The next day I took a turn of corn to the water-mill, far down the
stream. The old man had not been off the place since Alf went to jail,
and the office of attending to all outside affairs was conferred upon
me. Guinea came out to the corn-crib and stood at the door, looking in
upon me as I tied the mouth of the bag. The old man was not far off,
calling his hogs; a sad cry at any time, but growing sadder, it seemed
to me, as the days wore along.
Old Moll will have a load, the girl said; you and that bag.
Yes, if I were to ride on the bag like a boy, but I'm going to walk
and lead her.
Oh, that will be nice, she cried. Nice for Moll. I wish I could
go with you. It's beautiful all down that way; high rocks and pools
with fish in them. It isn't so awfully far, either. I have walked it
many a time.
Alone? I asked, tugging at the string.
That doesn't matter. It's the distance I'm talking about. Why, you
haven't asked me to go.
But I ask you now, I said, dragging the bag toward the door.
No, I won't go now, she replied, making way for me to come out.
Won't you, please?
No, not since I have come to think about it. I'd have to walk along
all the time with my hands to my ears, for I just know you'd say
something I don't want to hear. You are as cruel as you can be,
I had taken up the bag to throw it across the mare, but I dropped it
upon the log step.
You'll burst it if you don't mind, Mr. Hawes.
But I handle it more tenderly than you do my heart! I cried. You
have thrown my heart down in the dust and are trying to burst it.
Her hands flew to her ears. Oh, I knew you were going to say
something mean. But I can't hear you now. Isn't it an advantage to say
what you please and not hear a word? You can do this way if you want
to. No, I won't goreally, I can't. I mustn't leave mother.
She ran away toward the house, and I stood watching her until she
was hidden behind the old man's stockade. Torturer she was, sometimes
with her dignity, but worse with her whimsical, childish ways, when she
seemed to dance on the outer edge of my life, daring me to catch her in
my arms. But was it not my size that made her feel like a child? It
must have been, for whenever she spoke of Chyd she was deeply serious.
I was resentful as I led the old mare toward the mill. Oh, I understood
it all. She had seen that I sought to punish her, had read me as we sat
together at the table, and now she was torturing me. Well, I would give
her no further opportunity; I would let her lead young Lundsford into
her mind and out again, just as it suited her fancy.
The coves and nooks and quiet pools that lay along the stream were
dreamful; there was not a mighty rock nor bold surprising bluff to
startle one with its grandeur, but at the end of every view was the
promise of a resting place and never was the fancy led to
disappointment. Now gurgle and drip, now perfect calm, the elm leaf
motionless, the bird dreaming. And had history marched down that quiet
vale a thousand years ago and tinged the water with the blood of man,
how sweetly verse would sing its beauty, from what distances would come
the poet and the artist, the rich man seeking restall would flock to
marvel and to praise. Ah, we care but little for what nature has done,
until man has placed his stamp upon it.
I loitered and mused upon going to the mill and upon returning home.
And when I came within sight of the house I halted suddenly, wondering
whether I had forgotten something. Yes, I had. I had forgotten my
resolve to be cool and dignified under the reading eyes of that girl. I
led the mare to the rear end of the passage and had taken off the bag
of meal when Guinea came out.
Mr. Hawes, she said, I wish you would forgive me for the way I
acted last night and this morning. Now let us be good friends, friends
in trouble, and let us hereafter talk with sense and without restraint.
I am going to be frank with you, for I don't see why I should be
cramped. I am not going to pretend not to knowknow something, and you
must wait; we must all wait forfor anything that is to come. I hardly
know what I am saying, but you understand me.
She held out her hand, and I took it, tremulously at first, but I
held it with a firm and manly honesty as I looked into her eyes. Yes,
I understand you, and it shall be as you say. I have been strong with
every one but you, and I am going to show you that I can be your
friend. Wait a moment. You know what I think, but I will not hint at it
again. It was mean of meyes, I must say itit was mean of me to jibe
you. But I'll not do it again. If you only knew what my early life was.
I was the victim of size, an awkward boy, the jest of a neighborhood;
and while I might have outlived some of my awkwardness, I am still
sensitive, for I carry scars.
Awkward, she laughed. Why, I don't see how you could have been
called awkward. Everybody at the General's spoke of how graceful you
were, and really it would make you vain if I were to tell you all that
The old man came round the house, and Guinea sprang back. I was
still holding her hand. Hah, he grunted. Got home all right, eh?
Parker was over here just now and said that the trial had been set for
next Thursday, not quite a week from now, you understand. He seems to
think we are goin' to pull through all right; said that you've made
friends with everybody in the town. That's good, both for now and also
for after a while, when you set in as a lawyer. I tell you, Parker's
visit helped us mightily, and Susan has eat a right smart snack, and I
didn't know how hungry I was till right then. You better go to town
I went in early the next morning and found nothing to serve as a
basis for the hopefulness that Parker had given the old people.
Conkwright was busy with the case, frowning over his papers, but he had
no words of encouragement, except to say that he was going to do the
best he could. But after a while he flashed a gleam of hope by
remarking that there was one important factor in our favor. And eagerly
I asked him what it was.
It won't do to talk it around, said he, but we can count on the
judge doing the square thing. He is comparatively new in our district,
and the Stuart influence hasn't taken hold on himhas had no cause to.
His favor, or, at least, his lack of a cause to be directly against us,
will mean a good deal; it will enable us to secure a new trial at any
As I entered the corridor of the jail I saw Alf's face brighten
behind the bars. Have you seen Millie? he asked.
No, your sister commanded me not to go near the General's house.
His countenance fell, but he said: I reckon she's right. And I
didn't mean that you should make a dead-set call, you knowdidn't know
but you might happen to meet her. That preacher, the one I told you
about, has been round again, and he declares that I must come into his
church. They do pull and haul a fellow when they get him into a corner,
don't they? Well, I don't see what else can be done now except to go
into court and have the thing over with. I know as well as I know my
name that he would have killed me if I hadn't killed him; not that
night, of course, but some time. I am sorry, though, that I stood there
in the road, waiting for him, for that does look like murder, Bill. But
look how he had drawn his sight between my eyes and abused me for
everything he could think of. And whenever I see him now, there he sits
on his horse, with one eye half shut and the other one looking down the
barrel of his revolver at me. I can see his lips moving and can hear
every word he says.
I went home that day earlier than usual, resolved to keep the old
people in the atmosphere of encouragement which the deputy sheriff had
breathed about them, and I told them that the presiding judge was our
friend, and that old woman put her worn hands in mine and gave me a
look of trustful gratitude. God rewards the man that seeks to ease an
old mother's heart, she said; and the old man, standing there, with
his sleeves rolled up, threw the droop out of his shoulders, the droop
that had remained with him since that early morning when he stood at
the gate of his stockade, fumbling with the chain. And, Susan, he
spoke up, if we've got two judges on our side we're all right. Let him
set down there, now. Let him set down, I tell you. When a woman gets
hold of a man she never knows when to turn him loose. I'm tempted now
to go and see him. No, he added, shaking his head, can't do
itcouldn't bear to see a son of mine locked up like a thief. But it
won't be for long. That judge will say, 'turn that boy loose,' and
thenoh, it's all right, Susan, and a year from now we'll almost
forget that it ever took place.
His wife began to cry, for in this trouble her heart demanded that
he should lean upon her for support, and it appeared to me that
whenever he straightened up to stand alone, she felt that her office
Susan, don't take on that way. Jest as we see our way clear of the
woods, you act like you are lost. Smile, till you find the path, and
then you want to cry. Act like you want the Lord to do it alldon't
want the circuit jedge to do nothin'. That's it, brighten up there now,
and, Guinea, you go out and tell that nigger woman to cook enough for a
dozen folks. Hawes, I've got them chickens down to a p'int that would
make your eyes bulge out.
I believe that Bob came very near making one of yours bulge out, I
Ah, didn't he, the old scoundrel. But Sam pecked a grain of corn
out of my mouth this mornin' and never teched a tooth. That's what they
call art, ain't it? Come out with me.
Limuel, let him stay with me, won't you? his wife pleaded.
Of course, Susan, but don't you reckon a man wants to unstring
himself once in a while? They can't understand us, Hawes. Women know
all about the heart, but they are sometimes off on the soul.
You think more of those old chickens than you do of me, anyhow,
his wife whimpered, still resentful that he was not leaning upon her
Did you hear that, Hawes? By jings, sir, you've got to be foolish
or a woman will think you've ceased to love her. The minute you are
strong she thinks you have forgotten her. About the happiest woman I
ever saw was one that had to support a bed-ridden husband. Fact, as
sure as I'm standin' right here. She was the kindest and sweetest thing
you ever saw, but when the feller got up finally and got strong enough
to go about, blamed if she didn't jump on him every time he come in
Now, Limuel, you know you are makin' up every word of that.
It's the truth, I tell youknowed the man well.
Well, who was he?
Oh, he lived away over yonder on the branch, out of your range.
He didn't live anywhere; that's the truth of it.
But, Susan, he might have lived anywhere. His name is man and his
wife's name is woman. What, you goin' to cry about it? Now, there, it's
all right. No, there never was such a man. I'm an old liar, that's
what's the matter with me. Never was a man fitten to live with a good
woman. Why, bless your life, what would I be without you? Why, you've
been the makin' of me. And a long time ago, when I used to drink licker
and fight, you'd set up and wait for me and you never scolded me, and
that very fact turned me agin licker, for I jest nachully thought that
it was too much work for you to keep up a show of good humor all the
time. Yes, it's all right, and that boy's comin' out of there without a
scar on him, and I'll pay back the money that I owe the General He
hastened out of the room, and we heard him yelling at his chickens.
I went to town every day, and every night I returned, self-charged
with hope; and now the trial was at hand. When the work of impaneling
the jury was begun, old Conkwright was there with his challenges. How
shrewd he was, how sharp were his eyes. And when night came the panel
was far from complete.
It will take a long time at this rate, I said, as we were leaving
I don't care if it takes a thousand years; they sha'n't ring in a
stuffed toad on me, replied the ex-judge. Did you notice that fellow
with a long neck? They've fixed him all right and I knew it. I am not
altogether easy about that short fellow we've got, but I hope he is man
enough to be honest. There is no more trickery anywhere than there is
in a murder trial in this country. Well, they've put their worst men
forward, and I think we shall have better material to-morrow.
And it appeared that we had, for the jury was sworn in the next
afternoon. The testimony was so short and so direct, the witnesses were
so few that the trial could not last long; and when at home I gave this
as an opinion, the old people were glad, for they declared that it
shortened the time of their son's absence. On the day set for the
opening of the argument hundreds of the farmers gave over their work
and rode to town, for the Southerner loves a passionate speech, and the
court-house is still his theater.
The old man walked down the road with me, but he stopped before we
reached the place where Stuart had been stretched upon the ground.
Well, he said, turning back, I reckon to-day'll finish it. At
least they'll give it to the jury and it oughten't to take 'em long
after what the judge says in his charge to 'em. I feel that it's goin'
to be all right. Don't you?
The truth was that I did not, but kindness is not always the truth;
so I said: Everything looks that way. Conkwright is as sharp as a
thorn and he'll be in their flesh from the beginning to the end.
By jings, jest say that again. That ought to settle it right now,
hah? Stay with 'em till they git through, and you'll find us waitin'
for you when you git back.
I nodded, waved my hand at him and galloped away, and from a
hill-top I looked back and saw him still standing there in the road.
Parker caught up with me and we in turn overtook a man whom I did not
care to encounterEtheredge. I had seen him every day during the
trial, had caught his blurred eye as I was giving my testimony on the
stand, had heard him tell his damaging story.
Ho, there, he said, as I was about to pass him. Haven't forgotten
me, have you?
My memory is unfortunately so good that it retains many
objectionable things, I answered.
Glad to hear it; pleased to know that you haven't forgotten our
He rode along with me. The way was just broad enough for two horses
abreast, and the deputy dropped back. We need not wait for the
termination of the trial, I replied.
That so? Strikes me that you are pretty keen, especially as there
is an officer right behind you. Say, you seem to blame me for the
interest I am taking in this affair. Have you stopped to think of the
interest you are taking in it? Jucklin's no relation of yours and
probably never will be. Did you hear what I said? Probably never will
Unfortunately I haven't an apple tree sprout with me to-day, Mr.
And it's a good thing for you that you haven't. Do you reckon I'd
let you lash at me while so many people are riding along the road?
I don't suppose you would let me do so at any time if you could
Oh, I don't know. Might let you amuse yourself if there were no one
in sight. But I've got nothing against you, young man. I've lived long
enough to forgive an over-grown boy's impulses.
He could not have cut me deeper; and his sleepy old eyes saw the
blood and he laughed. Got under your hide a little that time, eh?
We've all got a thin place somewhere in our skin, you know. You needn't
look back; the officer is right behind us.
I wish he were not in sight, I replied.
You don't like him, eh? Why, I always thought, he was a pretty good
fellow. But, of course, I am willing to accept your judgment of him.
But if you don't like him why do you wait for him to come up?
I am waiting for you to go on, sir, I replied. And if you don't I
will knock you off that horse.
Very well. I see a man on ahead who is doubtless better company. I
trust, though, that I shall have the pleasure of a closer association
with you at some future time. Good-morning.
I waited until Parker came up. Did you get enough of him? he
asked, laughing. I knew you wouldnearly everybody does. Under the
circumstances it was an insult for him to offer to ride with you.
And he and I will have a trouble as soon as this one is settled, I
Oh, I reckon not. I don't see why any man of sense should want to
have trouble with you. Just look how they are flocking to town. Hope
they'll turn out this way and vote for me at the next election for
sheriff. Women, too. See them coming out of that gate?
When we rode into the town the streets were thronged and horsemen,
wagons and buggies were thick on the public square. The ginger cake and
cider vender was there, with his stand near the court-house steps, and
the neigh of the colt and the distressful answer of his mother, tied to
the rack, echoed throughout the town. Dogs, meeting one another for the
first time, decided in their knowing way that they were enemies, but
suddenly became allies in a yelping chase after one of their kind that
came down the street with a tin can tied to his tail.
I went at once to Conkwright's office and found him with his feet on
a table, contentedly smoking a cob pipe.
I was just thinking over some points that I want to make, he
remarked as I entered.
And I hope, sir, that you are in the proper humor to make them.
Can't tell about that. Oratory is as stealthy and as illusive as a
weazel at night. You never know when he's coming.
But do you feel well? I anxiously inquired.
Oh, feel first-rate, but that doesn't make any particular
difference. Sometimes a man may think that he feels well, but when he
gets up to speak he finds that he is simply sluggish. Reckon I'll get
through all right. Do the best I can, any way, and if I fail it can't
be helped. Guess we'd better go over.
An anxious day that was for me. I looked at Alf, now beginning to
grow pale under his imprisonment, and I saw his resentment rise and
fall as the state's attorney pictured him, waiting, listening with
eagerness for the sound of a horse's hoofs. I was to be a lawyer, to
defend men and to prosecute them for money, and yet I wondered how that
bright young fellow, with the seeming passion of an honest outcry,
could stand there and tell the jury that my friend had committed the
foulest murder that had ever reddened the criminal annals of his state.
Old man Conkwright sat, twirling his thumbs, and occasionally he would
nod at the jurymen as if to call their attention to a rank absurdity.
But I did not see how he could offset the evidence and the blazing
sentences of that impassioned prosecutor. At last Conkwright's time had
come, and when he arose and uttered his first word I felt the chill of
a disappointment creeping over me. He was slow and his utterance was as
cold as if it had issued from a frost-bitten mouth. I went out and
walked round the town, to the livery-stable, where a negro was humming
a tune as he washed a horse's back; to the drug-store, where a doctor
was dressing a brick-bat wound in a drunken man's scalpI walked out
to the edge of the town, where the farming land lay, and then I turned
back. I was thinking of my return home, of the sorrow that I should
take with me, of those old peopleof Guinea.
Some one called me, and facing about I recognized the telegraph
operator coming across a lot. Glad to see you, he said, coming up and
holding out his hand. Didn't hear about her, did you?
Hear about whom? I asked, not pleased that he should have broken
in upon my sorrowful meditation.
No, I've heard nothing. What about her?
Why, there's everything about her. She's my wifemarried night
before last. Know that piece of calico I pointed out that day, the time
I said I had to be mighty careful? Well, she's it. I'll walk on up with
you. Run it downrun in panting, you might say. Said I had to have her
and she shied at first, but that didn't make any difference, for I was
there three times a day till she saw it wasn't any use to shy any
longer; so she gave in and I caught the first preacher that happened to
be hanging around and he soon pronounced us one and the same
kindsomething of the same sort. Go right down that street and you'll
see calico on my clothes line most any time. Say, it will be a pity if
they hang that young fellow. And I'll tell you what I'll do. If they
send anything off to any of the newspapers I'll spell his name wrong.
Get even with them some way, won't we? Yonder comes my boy and I reckon
there's a call for me at the office. They are rushing me nowseems to
be the busy season. I've been to the office twice already to-day.
Long before I reached the court-house I heard old Conkwright
bellowing at the jury. The windows were full of people and outside men
were standing upon boxes, straining to see the old fellow in his mighty
tirade. I could not get into the room, but I squeezed my way to the
door and stood there, with my blood leaping. Now I could see why they
had called him powerful. His face was aglow, his gray hair was upon end
and his eyes were shooting darts at the jury. I know not how long he
spoke, but I know that suddenly he was silent, looking upward, and
then, spreading his hands over the jury, said: May God in his infinite
mercy influence your decision. He sat down, and I noticed then that
the air was cooler with a breeze that sprang up when the sun had set.
The state's attorney made a few remarks, and then the judge delivered
his charge to the jury, an address short, but earnest. Now there was a
shoving and a crushthe jurymen were filing out. I saw them leading
Alf back to the jail, but I did not go to him, so pulled and hauled I
was by hope and fear. But I made my way to the old lawyer, and asked
him what he thought.
I don't know, he answered. Don't you see the disposition there is
to rush everything? I don't think they will be out long.
You made a great speech, sir.
Wasn't bad, considering the material. We were at a disadvantage. He
stood there in the road, you know, and that is a hard thing to get
But the judge must have felt your speech.
Why, my son, I don't suppose he heard it.
I went away and again I walked about the town. It was dusk and the
tavern bell was ringing. On the court-house steps and on the public
square men were discussing the trial and venturing their opinions as to
the result. I heard one man say: The old soldier made a great fight,
but the odds were against him. Bet ten dollars they find him guilty.
There's his friend over there, another man spoke up. Don't talk
Can't help who's there listening; money's here talkin'. Any
Not far away there was a wooden bridge over a small stream and
thither I went and leaned upon the rail, listening to the murmur of the
water. I thought that this must be the brook that rippled past our
house, and I went down to the water's edge and bathed my aching head.
Then I remembered that I had eaten nothing since early morning, and I
thought that I would better go to the tavern, and was turning away when
I heard some one cry: The jury is in and court has met again! I
scrambled up and hastened toward the court-house, and at the steps I
met a number of men coming out. It's all over, one of them said to
me. Imprisonment for life. Conkwright has moved for a new trial and
the judge has granted it.
I hastened to the jail, whither they had taken Alf. I found him
seated on his bed. He got up when he saw me.
Bill, he said, in a voice low and steady, I am not going to the
penitentiary if you are my friend.
And you know that I am, Alf.
Then you will lend me your knife.
No, Alf, I can't do thatnot now. Remember that we have another
I don't mean nowI mean if that last chance fails. Now I want you
to do something for me. You tell father that he must sell his farm
immediately and leave here. Tell him that I'll hate him if he doesn't
do as I say. You can stay here and write to him, and if I don't come
out at the next trial, all right, and if I do, I can go to him. It may
seem hard, but he's got to do it. He wouldn't live here, any way. Will
you do it?
I will, for I don't know but it is a good plan. No, he wouldn't
live here. He will do as you request.
Well, go on home now and rest. Hanged if you don't look as if
you've been on trial for your life, he added, laughing. Tell him that
I'm not crushedthat it has come out better than I expected.
The night was dark, the road was desolate, and I heard the lonesome
lowing of the cattle. And now and then a horseman passed me, for I was
not eager to get home. At a gate near the road-side some one was
standing with a lantern, and just behind me came the rattle of an old
vehicle. I turned aside to let it pass, and as I did the light of the
lantern fell upon me and a voice asked: That you, Mr. Hawes?
Yes, I answered, turning back into the road and following a buggy.
I 'lowed so, said a man in the buggy, for we don't grow many of
your size about here. I have heard that they used to, but they don't
now. Good many things have happened since that day you come over to see
me about the school. I'm Perdue. And, by the way, there's a hundred
dollars at my house waitin' for you, and if you don't come after it
I'll send it over.
But you don't owe me anything yet, I replied.
Yes, the money's there and it's yourn. You couldn't help not bein'
in a fix to teach. As I say, it's there for you, and you might as well
have it. Sorry for the old folks, tell 'em, but it can't be helped.
On he drove, shouting back that he would send the money the next
day, and my protest, if, indeed, I entered one, was weak and faltering,
for of all men in that neighborhood I thought that I stood most in need
of a hundred dollars.
Now I was nearing the house. The hour was late, but a light was
burning in the sitting-room. No one came out, though my horse's hoofs
fell hard enough upon the stones to tell them of my coming; and when I
got down at the gate I found a horse tied to the fence. Some person,
eager to bear evil tidings, had forestalled me. I led my horse to the
stable, went to the house, and had just stepped into the passage when
Parker, the deputy sheriff, came out of the sitting-room. I thought
you'd go on back to the jail to stay a while, so I came on over to tell
them. No trouble, you knowonly a short distance out of my way.
All within was silent. I stepped inside. The old man was standing
with his back to the fire-place; the old woman sat with her book in her
lap and Guinea stood at the window, looking out into the darkness. I
sat down in silence, for I knew not what to say, and in silence for a
time we remained. The old woman sobbed, clutching more tightly her
book, and the old man looked at her sharply and then almost flung
himself out of the room. And a few moments later I heard him shouting:
Hike, there, Sam! Hike, there, Bob! There's plenty of light; you've
got three lanterns. Hike, there! To a finish, to a finish!
Mrs. Jucklin, it is no time for despair, I said, and Guinea turned
from the window. We have already secured a new trial, and the next
time it will surely go in our favor. That is the history of nearly all
such cases. Be strong just a little while longer. You have been our
prop, and now you must not let us fall.
She arose and with an old-time courtesy bowed to me, and Guinea came
forward and held out her hand, and she must have seen a sudden light
leap into my eyes, for she said: I am Alf's sister and yours, too.
This came as a repulse to my heart's eager yearning; no sister's
confidences could answer the call that my nature was shouting to her.
But I gulped down a rising soreness of the heart and I said: I thank
The old man, with heavy tread, strode into the room. It was to a
finish, he whispered. His hands were covered with blood. It was to a
finish, and they are both dead.
There was a sharp rap at the door. Guinea opened it and in came the
old General. Mr. Jucklin, can I speak to you in private? he asked,
bowing to the women.
No. What you've got to say, out with it here.
I would rather say it in private. Why, what's the matter with your
It was to a finish, sir, and let what you say be to a finish, even
if it is three times as bloody.
Oh, I have come out of no hard feelings, sir. Ladies, would you and
our friend, Mr. Hawes, mind retiring?
They are goin' to stay here, sir, the old man replied, rolling up
All right, just as you will, sir. Mr. Jucklin, years ago we entered
into an arrangement
And I have cursed myself ever since! the old man exclaimed.
Just wait until I get through, if you please. We entered into an
arrangement, prompted by a boy's fancy and warmed by a father's over
indulgence. I know that this is a sore time to come to you, and I don't
want to appear unkind, for my aim is tender, though my determination is
just. Young hearts may whisper to each other, and that whispering may
be music, sir; but in this life there are duties too stern to be melted
and turned aside by a melody. And, sir, one of the most sacred duties
that can fall to the trust of a man is to see that the family name,
which is to survive after he has folded his hands in eternal
stillnesspardon my devious methods, for I assure you that my windings
proceed from a kindness of heartI say that my duty now is to those
who may bear my name in the future. I trust that I am now sufficiently
started to speak plainly. I don't doubt the real worth and sterling
integrity of your stock, Mr. Jucklin, but an agreement that we once
made must be set aside.
He stood with his broad hat in his hand and out of it he grabbled a
handkerchief and wiped his face. Old Lim gazed steadily at him. My
words sound cold and formal, the General continued, and I wish that
they might be warmer and more at ease, but in vain have I tempered with
them. The short of it all is, and I have striven not to say it
bluntlyis that the engagement which has held us in prospective
relationship is hereby broken; but by this I do not mean that your son
is guilty of murder, for in his heart he may see himself justified, but
a decision of court hasand I wish I could find a softer means of
saying itcourt has pronounced him guilty, and that places the
marriage out of the question. Bear with me just a moment more, for I
assure you that I am suffering keenly with you, that my heart is in
sorrowful unison with your own. Family pride may be regarded a hobby in
this day when refinement and respectability are sneered at, but it is a
virtuous hobby, and I have held it so long that I cannot put it down.
And now, in so far as there is any question of a financial obligation,
we will turn our backs upon it and forget that it ever existed.
He put his handkerchief into his hat, changed his hat to his other
hand and stood looking at Jucklin; and I had expected to see the old
man leap off the floor in a rage, but I cannot recall ever having seen
a cooler show of indifference. I put gaffs on 'em early this mornin'
an' kept 'em waitin' for the finish, and when it come it come soon, he
Mr. Jucklin, I had hoped to make myself sufficiently clear. I have
come, sir, to break the engagement that was foolishly arranged by us to
bind your daughter and my son.
Bob died first, but Sam could jest stagger, and he fluttered
against me and covered my hands with his blood; and I must apologize
for not washin' 'em, but it is not too late to make some sort of
amends. I will wipe 'em on your jaws, sir!
He sprang forward, but I caught him. You must be perfectly cool and
perfectly sensible, Mr. Jucklin, I said, as quickly as I could,
holding him. Remember that he is in your house.
And this quieted him. Even the most pronounced backwoodsman in the
South is sometimes graced with a sudden and almost marvelous courtesy,
the unconscious revival of a long lost dignity; and this came upon the
old man, and, bowing low, he said:
I humbly beg your pardon, sir.
And I should be a brute not to grant it, the General replied,
bowing in turn. But I hope that reason rather than the fact of my
being under your roof will govern your conduct.
During this time, and, indeed, from the moment when the General had
entered the room, Guinea stood beside the rocking-chair in which her
mother was seated; no change had come over her countenance, but with
one hand resting on the back of the chair she had remained motionless,
with the exception that she placed her hand on her mother's head at the
moment when I caught the old man in my arms. I saw this, though her
motion was swift, for I was looking at her rather than at her father.
And now the General turned to the girl.
My dear, he said. She frowned slightly, but her lips parted with a
cold smile that came out of her heart.
My dear child, it is hard for me to say this to you, for I feel
that you can but regard me a feelingless monster that would rend an
innocent and loving heart, and God knows that I now beg your
forgiveness, but in this life cruel things must be done, done that
those who come after us may feel no sting of reproach cast by an
exacting society. I am an old man, my dear, and shall soon be taken to
the burial ground where my fathers sleep in honor. They left me a proud
name and I must not soil it. The oldest stone there is above a breast
that braved old Cromwell's pikementhe noble heart of a cavalier beat
in that bosomand can you ask
I have asked nothing, General.
You are a noble young woman.
But your son will come to me and kneel at my feet.
A flush flew over the General's face. No, it is with his full
consent that I have come. Indeed, I would have put off my coming until
a more befitting day, but he knew his duty and bade me do mine.
He will kneel at my feet, she said; and he had not replied when we
heard footsteps in the passagewild footsteps. There was a moment of
sharp clicking at the door latch, as if a nervous hand had touched it,
and then Millie broke into the room. Her face was white, her hair hung
about her shoulders.
You have kept me away! she cried, stamping her feet and frowning
at her father. Yes, you have kept me away, but I have come and I hate
The old General was stupefied. You may tell your cold-blooded son
what to do, she went on, but my heart is my own. He asked me to marry
him and I willI will break into the penitentiary and marry him. And
you would have had me marry Dan Stuart. Just before he was killed he
told me he would kill Alf if I said I loved him. I will go to the jail
and marry him there.
She ran to Guinea, and they put their arms about each other and
wept; and the old woman pressed her book to her bosom and sobbed over
it. Through old Lim's wire-like beard a smile, hard and cynical, was
creeping out, and the General was fiercely struggling with himself. He
had bitten his lip until his mouth was reddening with blood.
Come, you are going home with me, he said.
I am not! his daughter cried, with her arms tight about Guinea. I
am not; I am going to the jail.
Then I will take you home.
Don't touch me! she cried, shrinking back into a corner. Don't
touch me, for I am almost mad. What do I care for your pride? What do I
care for the old graveyard? You have tried to break my heart, but I
will marry him. He is worth ten thousand such men as your cold-blooded
son. Don't you touch me, father. Mr. Hawes! she screamed, don't let
him touch me.
The old General had stepped forward as if to lay hands upon her, but
he stepped back, bowed and said: You are a lady and I am a gentleman,
and these facts protect you from violence at my hands, but I here
denounce youno, I don't, my daughter. I cannot denounce my own flesh
and blood. I will leave you here to-night, hoping that when this fit of
passion is over reason will lead you home. Good-night.
Long we sat there in a calm, after the General left us; and the two
girls, on a bench in a corner, whispered to each other. How wild had
been my guessing at the character of Millie! How could one so shy, so
gentle, so fond of showing her dimples, cast off all timidity and set
herself in opposition to her father's authority and pride? I could but
argue that she was wrong, that she had forgotten her duty, thus to
stand out and violently defy him, and yet I admired her for the spirit
she had shown. And I believed that Guinea was just as determined, just
as passionate. But she was wiser.
I told the old man what Alf had requested me to tell him, that he
must sell his farm and go away, and he replied that he would. I don't
think, though, that I can get very much for it. Parker's land joins
mine, and may be I can strike a trade with him. Of course, I don't want
to live here any longer, for no matter what may come now we've got the
name. Susan, I never saw a woman behave better than you have to-night.
The old stockand I'm with the book from kiver to kiver. And now,
Millie, let me say a word to you. Of course, I know exactly how you
feel, and all thathow that you couldn't help yourselfbut to-morrow
mornin' after breakfast I would, if I was in your place, go right home
and ask my father's forgiveness. I say if I was in your place, for if
you do you won't have half so much to be sorry for, and in this life I
hold that we're doin' our best when we do the fewest things to regret.
What do you think?
I'm sorry I talked that way, and he's getting old, too. But I had a
cause. He made me stay in the house, and he ought to remember that I am
of the same blood he is and that it's awful to be humiliated. But
there's one thing I'm going to do. When Alf's tried again, I'm going to
tell them what Stuart said. I would have done it this time, but I was
ashamed to say anything about it. I have been nearly crazy, but I'm
awfully sorry that I talked that way. And, oh, suppose he were to die
to-night? I never could forgive myself. I must go home now, Mr.
Jucklin. Yes, I can't stay another minute. You'll go with me, won't
you, Mr. Hawes?
I will gladly do so, I answered.
And I will go, too, said Guinea.
We took a lantern, but the night was so dark that we went round by
the road, rather than over the meadows. Millie said that she scarcely
remembered how she had come, but she thought that she had run the most
of the way. And over and over as we walked along she repeated: I'm
As we came out of the woods, where the road bent in toward the big
gate, we saw a light burning in the library. Millie stopped suddenly
and clutched my arm. Suppose he won't let me come back? she said. I
don't know in what sort of a humor I may find him. Mr. Hawes, you go on
and see him first, please?
And I will wait out here, Guinea spoke up, and her voice trembled.
Of course, I can't go into the house after what has happened. Nobody
must know that I am here.
I left them standing in the dark, and when I stepped upon the porch
I heard some one walking heavily and slowly up and down the library. On
the door was a brass knocker, and when I raised it and let it fall, the
foot-steps came hastily to the door. A hanging lamp was burning in the
hall, and I saw that the old General himself had opened the door.
Oh, it's you Mr. Hawes. I couldn't tell at first. My old eyes are
getting flat, sir. Step into the library.
No, I thank you. I have but a moment to stay.
Step in, sir, he insisted, almost commanded, and I obeyed. Chyd
was under a lamp, reading a sheep-skin covered book. He looked up as I
entered, nodded, and then resumed his reading.
Sit down, said the General.
No, I thank you, for, as I say, I have but a moment to remain. Your
daughter is exceedingly sorry that she acted
Where is she, sir?
She has come with me, but fearing that your resentment
What, is she out there waiting in the dark? What, my child out
there waiting to know whether she can come into her father's house? I
will go to her, sir. Come, Chyd, let us both go.
I stepped to the door and stood confronting the old man and his son.
You can go, General, if you will, but your son must remain where he
What, I don't understand you, sir. How dare youwhat do you mean,
Your son must not come with us. That is what I mean.
Not go to welcome his sister home. Get out of my way, sir!
Wait, General. He should not go out there, for the reason that some
one else, out of kindness, has accompanied your daughter and me.
Ah, I beg your pardon, said the old man, bowing. Chyd, stay where
Millie was inside the yard, but Guinea was in the road, standing at
the gate. Come, my child! the old man called. Millie ran to him and
he took her in his arms. And he lifted her off the ground, slight
creature that she was, and carried her up the steps.
Guinea took my arm and homeward we went, and not a word was spoken
until we entered the dark woods.
You saw Chyd? she said.
Yes, and the old gentleman wanted him to come out.
To kneel at my feet so soon?
No, to welcome his sister. Are you so anxious for the time to
Yes, she answered, without hesitation.
And is it because you love him? I asked bitterly.
You and I are to be the best of friends, Mr. Hawes, and you must
not reproach me.
Forgive me if I have hurt you, I said, stupidly.
But you must not keep on wounding me merely to be forgiven. I said
that he would kneel at my feet, and this may sound foolish to you, but
he will. How do I know? I feel it; I don't know why, but I do. And we
are to leave the old home if father can sell the land. It's better to
go, but it will be still better to come back, and we will. Do you think
that I am merely a simple girl without ambition? I am not; I dream.
I know that you are a noble woman.
Oh, don't flatter me now. It's first reproach, and then flattery.
But have you thought of the real nobility of some one elseyourself?
I strove to laugh, but I know that it must have been a miserable
croak. I have done nothing to merit that opinion, I replied.
Oh, it is a part of your nature to suppress yourself. Do you know
that I expect great things of you? I do.
I know one thing that I'm going to doI am going to buy the old
house and a narrow strip of landthe path and the spring. That's all I
wantthe house, the path and the spring, with just a little strip
running a short distance down the brook where the moss is so thick. I
have the promise of money from Perdue, and I think that I can borrow
some of Conkwright. Yes, I must have the house and the path and the
spring and the strip of moss-land that lies along the branch. It will
be merely a poetic possession, but such possessions are the richest to
one who has a soul; and no one with a soul will bid against me. It is a
mean man that would bid against a sentiment.
You must be nearly worn out, she said, when for some distance we
had walked in silence.
I may be, but I don't know it yet. And so long as I don't know it,
why, of course, I don't care.
For a long time we said nothing. Her hand was on my arm, but I
scarcely felt its weight, except when we came upon places where the
road was rough; and I wished that the way were rougher, that I might
feel her dependence upon me. Once she stepped into a deep rut, and I
caught her about the waist, but when I had lifted her out, she gently
released herself. She said that the road was rougher than she had ever
before found it, and I was ready to swear that it was the most
delightful highway that my feet had trod; indeed, I did swear it, but
she warned me not to use such strong language when I meant to convey
but a weak compliment.
Let us walk faster, she said. It is away past midnight. I do
believe it's nearly day. Can you see your watch?
Yes, but I can't see the time.
Nobody can see time, Mr. Teacher of Children.
But I could not tell the time even if I were to hold the lantern to
Oh, of course you could. Why do you talk that way?
I am moved to talk that way because I know that the watch, being in
sympathy with me, refuses to record time when I am with youit
frightens off the minutes in an ecstasy.
Nonsense, Mr. Hawes. I do believe daylight is coming. What a night
we have passed, and here I am unable to realize it, and mother is
heart-broken over our disgrace. But I suppose it will fall upon me and
crush me when we have gone away. My brother sentenced to the
penitentiary! To myself I have repeated these words over and over and
yet they don't strike me.
Perhaps it is because your mind is on some one else, I replied,
with a return of my feeling of bitterness.
With a pressure gentle and yet forgetful her hand had been resting
on my arm, but in an instant the pressure was gone like a bird
fluttering from a bough, and out in the road she was walking alone.
I earnestly beg your pardon. I scarcely knew what I was saying.
Won't you please take my arm?
To be compelled to drop it again before we have gone a hundred
No, to drop it when we have reached the gate. Won't you, please? I
don't deny that I am a fool. I have always been a fool. My father said
so and he was right. Everybody made fun of me because I was so easily
cheated; and you ought to be willing to forgive a man who was born a
failure. Whenever there has been a mistake to be made I have made it.
Once I was caught in a storm and when I came in dripping, my father
said that I hadn't sense enough to come in out of the rain. But I am
stronger with every one else than I am with you, and
She was laughing at me; but it was a laugh of sympathy, of
forgiveness, and I caught her hand and placed it upon my arm. And so we
walked along in silence, she pressing my arm when the road was rough.
Daylight was coming and we could see the house, dark and lonesome
beyond the black ravine.
What a peculiar man the General is, I said, feeling the growing
heaviness of the silence. I can hardly place him; but I believe he has
a kind heart.
Yes, she replied, he is kind and brave and generous, but over it
all is a weakness.
And he is of a type that is fast disappearing, said I. A few
years more and his class will be but a memory, and then will come
almost a forgetfulness, but later on he will reappear as a caricature
from the pen of some careless and unsympathetic writer.
We had crossed the ravine and were now at the gate, and here I
halted. What, aren't you going in? she asked, looking up at me, and
in the dim light I could see her face, pale and sad.
No, I answered, I am going to town.
At this hour, and when you are so tired?
The horse is rested, and as for myself, my duty must give me
I don't understand you. What can you do in town?
I can bear the divinest of tidingsI can tell Alf that Millie
She stood looking down, and, bending over her, I kissed her hair,
and oh, the heaven of that moment, at the gate, in the dawn; and oh,
the thrilling perfume of her hair, damp with the dew brushed from the
vine and the leaf of the spice-wood bush. And there, without a word, I
left her, her white hands clasped on her bosom; and over the roadway I
galloped with a message on my lips and incense in my soul.
The sun was an hour above the tree-tops when I rode up to the
livery-stable, and the town was lazily astir. Merchants were sprinkling
the brick pavements in front of their stores, and on the public square
was a bon-fire of trash swept from the court-house. I hastened to the
jail, and for the first time the jailer hesitated when I applied for
admission. My eagerness, apparent to every one, appeared to be
mistrusted by him, and he shook his head. I told him that he might go
in with me, that my mission was simply to deliver a message.
The man has been sentenced, said he, and I don't know what good a
message can do him. I am ordered to be very strict. Some time ago a man
was in this jail, sentenced to the penitentiary, but he didn't goa
friend came in and left him some pizen. And are you sure you ain't got
no pizen about you.
You may search me.
But I don't know pizen when I see it. Man's got a right to kill
himself, I reckon, but he ain't got no right to rob me of my position
as jailer, and that's what it would do. Write down your message and
I'll take it to him.
That would take too long. The judge has granted him a new trial and
surely he wouldn't want to kill himself now.
Well, I reckon you're right, but still we have to be mighty
particular. I don't know, either but you might be taking him some
whisky. Man's got a right to drink whisky, it's true, but it don't
speak well for the morals and religious standin' of a jailer if he's
got a lot of drunken prisoners on hand; so, if you've got a bottle
about you anywhere you'd better let me take it.
I've got no bottle.
That so? Didn't know but you might have one. Prohibition has struck
this town putty hard, you know. Search yourself and see if you hain't
got a bottle.
Don't you suppose I know whether I've got one or not? But if you
want one you shall have it.
S-h-e-e! Don't talk so loud. There's nothin' that sharpens a man's
ears like prohibition. Say, he whispered, a good bottle costs about a
Here's your dollar. It's my last cent, but you shall have it.
Oh, it ain't my principle to rob a man, he said as he took the
money. But I do need a little licker this mornin'. Why, I'm so dry I
couldn't whistle to a dog. No pizen, you understand, he added, with a
wink, as he opened the door.
The drawing of the bolts must have aroused Alf from sleep, for when
I stepped into the corridor he was sitting on the edge of his bed,
rubbing his eyes.
Helloa, is that you, Bill? What are you doing here this time of
day? Why, I haven't had breakfast yet.
I have come to tell you something, and I want you to be quiet while
I tell it.
That's all right, old man. Go ahead. I can stand anything now.
I told him of the scene in the sitting-room, of the walk to the
General's housetold him all except that kiss at the gate. He uttered
not a word; he had taken hold of the bars and was standing with his
head resting upon his armshad gradually found this position, and now
I could not see his face. Long I stood there, waiting, but he spoke
not. Suddenly he wheeled about, fell upon his bed and sobbed aloud. And
so I left him, and ere I reached the door I knew that his sobbing was a
prayer, that his heart had found peace and rest. Upon a pardon from the
governor he could have looked with cool indifference, for without that
girl's love he cared not to live; but now to know that through the dark
she had fled from her home, rebellious against her father's pride, wild
with loveit was a mercy granted by the Governor of governors.
I went to see Conkwright and told him of the threat that Stuart had
made, and the old man's eyes glistened. We ought to have had that girl
on the stand in the first place, he said. But it was a delicate
matter and, of course, we didn't know that she could bear so strongly
upon the case. It's all rightbetter as it is, and that boy will get
off as sure as you are sitting there. That threat was worse than his
standing in the road, waiting. Yes, sir, it's all right, and you may
take up your school again and go ahead with your work.
I don't want to go ahead with it, Mr. Conkwright. I want to study
law with you. The school was only a makeshift, any way. You are getting
old and you need some one to do the drudgery of your office. I will
come in and work faithfully.
Don't know but you are right, Billy.
I wish, sir, that you wouldn't call me Billy.
All right, Colonel.
And I don't care to be called Colonel. You may call me Bill, if you
want to, but Billy
A little too soft, eh? All right. I don't know but you are the very
man I want. You are faithful and you've got a good head. Call again in
a day or two. It has been a long time since I had a partner. Yes, come
in again, and I think we can arrange it.
There is something else that I want to speak about, and to me it is
of more importance than
Love! the old man broke in, winking at me.
I'll tell you, if you'll wait a moment. Then you may place your own
estimate upon it.
I told him of the broken engagement, of Chyd's indifference, of the
old couple's plan to leave the community, and I unfolded my sentimental
resolve to buy the old house. And now I must ask a favor, I
continued. Old man Perdue told me that he would pay me for the
timetime I have not taught, but as I am not going to fill out the
term it wouldn't be right to take the money.
Ah, and it is law you want to study?
Why, of course. Didn't I make that plain?
Oh, yes. And you don't think it would be right to take the money?
Go ahead, though.
I know it wouldn't be right. And what I want to ask of you is this:
The investment will require about two hundred dollars. Won't you lend
me that amount?
He scratched his head, scratched his chin, bit off a chew of
tobacco, stretched himself and said: Well, I have been lending money
all my life, and I don't see why I should stop now. Did you ever hear
of anybody paying back borrowed money except in a poker game? I never
did. Do people really pay back? I don't know what the custom is over in
the part of the country you came from, but the rules are very strict
here, and they are not violated very oftenthey rarely pay back. And
they never violate the rule with me.
My dear sir, I will pay you
Yes, I know. Oh, you've got the formula down pretty fine. Make a
good lawyer. I've got some money in that safe, that is, if nobody has
robbed me. Let me see if I've been robbed.
He opened the safe and took out a package of banknotes. Don't
believe I've been robbed. Rather singular, too, he went on, counting
the money. Two hundred, you said. Better take two-fiftyyou need some
clothes. Pardon me for being so keen an observer. It really escaped my
notice until this moment. But what you want with the old house is more
than I can understand. No, BillyBill, I meanno, I understand it and
it is a noble quality.
He rolled up the money, handed it to me and continued to talk.
After all, sentiment is the only thing in life, but you'd better not
tell this about townI'd never get another case. Yes, sir, and the
poet is the only man who really lives. Now go on and buy your acre of
sentiment, and when you have closed the bargain, lie down upon your
possessions and go to sleep. Tell the old man that he is a fool for
going away, but tell him also that I don't blame him for being a fool.
Yes, sir, I love a fool, for it's the wise man that puts me to trouble.
Give my warmest regards to that old woman. Let me tell you something:
Many years ago I was a poor young fellow working about the court-house.
And the clothes you've got on now are wedding garments compared with
what mine were. Well, one day I stopped at Jucklin's house to get out
of the rainhe hadn't been married longand soon after I went into
the sitting-room, the wife began to whisper to the husband, and when
she went out, which she did a moment later, Jucklin turned to me and
said: 'Go up stairs, take off your britches and throw 'em down here,
and I'll bring 'em back to you after a while.' I was actually out at
the knees, sir, and I did as he told me, and when he brought my
trousers back they were neatly patched. Yes, sir, give my warmest
regards to that old woman, for if she isn't a Christian there never was
one. Well, what are you hanging around here for? Trying to thank me? Is
that it? Well, just go on, my boy, and we'll attend to that some other
You know what I feel, Mr. Conkwright, and I will not attempt to
thank you, but I must say that I was never more surprised in a man. I
was told that you were hard and unsympathetic.
Sorry you found me out, sir. Let a lawyer get the name of being
kind and they say that he is emotional, but has no logic. Blackstone
had to give up poetry. Well, good-day. I'm busy.
I ate breakfast at the tavern, nodding over the table; and I was so
sleepy that I could scarcely sit my horse as I rode toward home. The
day was hot and drowsy was the air, in the road and on the hill-side,
where a boy, weary and heavy with the leg-pains of adolescence, was
dragging himself after a plow. Once I dozed off to sleep and awoke
under a tree, the wise old horse knowing that he could take advantage
of my sleepiness to bat his eyes in the shade, and when I spoke to him
he started off at a trot as if surprised to find that he had turned
aside from his duty. I was nearly home and was riding along half asleep
when the frightful squealing of a pig drew my attention down a lane
that opened into the road. The animal was caught under a rail fence and
his companions were running up to him, one after another, and were
raking him with their sharp teeth. I got down and fought off the
excited beasts, knocked one of them down for his cruelty, and lifted
the fence to liberate the prisoner; and when he was free his
companions, the ones that had been ripping his hide, ran up to
congratulate him upon his good fortune; and in the whole performance I
saw a heartless phase of human life, musing as I rearranged the rails
that had been lifted away, and when I straightened up there stood
Etheredge looking at me.
These are my hogs, he said.
I didn't know that, I replied, but I might have known that they
were members of your family.
Yes, you might have known a great many things that you have never
been wise enough to find out. But I don't want to lash words with you,
Mr. Hawes. I simply stopped to tell you that a man who would go out of
his way to lift a heavy fence to help a hog is not a bad fellow; and I
want to apologize for anything that I have said to anger you. I have
nothing against you and I don't blame you for sticking to a friend. One
of these days you'll find that I'm not half as bad a fellow as you have
had cause to think me. Let us call off our engagement. Is it a go?
Doctor, I have no desire to kill you, and I think that your death
would be the result of our keeping that engagement.
Pretty confident sort of a man, I take it. And after all, bravery
is nothing but a sort of over-confidence. But I don't believe that you
would kill me; I believe that it would be the other way, and it is not
out of fear that I propose a setting aside of our indefinite agreement
to meet each other. But be that as it may, we will call it off unless
you insist, and if you do, why, as a gentleman I shall be compelled to
meet you. I am brave enough to confess that I can't help but admire you
morally and physically. In a small way, I was once a demonstrator of
anatomy, and from an outside estimate I must pronounce you as fine a
specimen of manhood as I ever saw. And if you'll come over to the house
we'll take a long drink on the strength of it.
The spirit of your hospitality is not lost upon me, Doctor, but the
truth is, I never drink. But with a cheerful willingness I accept your
other propositionto set aside our engagement. It was no more your
fault than mine.
Yes, it was, Mr. HawesI wantonly nagged at you. But we will let
it drop. Under present conditions we can't be very good friends, but
there will come a time when you must acknowledge that malice may know
what it is to be honest, if not generous.
Don't go now, Doctor; you have interested me. Tell me what you
I wish you good-day, Mr. Hawes, was his reply, as he strode off
down the lane. And he left me holding him in a strange sort of regard;
he had flattered me and had hinted at a future generosity. Could it be
that he intended to modify his evidence when again he should appear
against Alf? A demonstrator of anatomyand he could soothe a nerve as
well as expose a muscle. I felt kindly toward him as I rode along,
though blaming myself for my weakness. But I have never known a very
large man who had not some vital weaknessof vanity, egotism,
over-generosity, foolish tendernesssomething in ill-keeping with a
well-poised morality. With old Sir John we have more flesh, and,
therefore, more of frailty.
As I came within sight of the house I saw three men slowly walking
about in the yard, and, upon reaching the gate, I recognized them as
Parker, Jucklin and Perdue. I turned the horse into a lot and joined
Well, said Jucklin, it's all over and I have sold out to Parker.
Not the house, too! I cried in alarm.
The old man smiled and winked at Parker. Well, not quite, he said.
Guinea told me what you wanted, and sir, you can have it, though I
tell you right now that it ain't worth much.
Will you take two hundred dollars?
Not from you, Bill. You may have the house and the path and the
spring and the strip of moss, for if you haven't earned that and
Hold on, Mr. Jucklin. I want the property made over to me in
regular form when I have paid you for it. I will accept of no
concession; want to pay as much as Mr. Parker would have paid, and I
have borrowed money enough to close the deal. You are going away and
you will need every cent you can possibly raise; and I demand that you
take the two hundred dollars that I have collected for you. It will be
of no use to say that you will not, for I am determined, and, although
you have been very kind, you will find me a hard man to fight. And
remember that there is a debt to be paid.
He held out his hand and looked over toward the General's house as I
gripped his rough palm.
I have buried 'em over by the edge of the woods, he said; buried
'em with their gaffs on. I couldn't help itthey had to fight to a
finish. Yes, it shall be as you say. I will pay what I owe and still
have money enough to get away off somewhere. We'll draw up the papers
in town and have it over with at once.
Mr. Hawes, I've got a hundred dollars that's yours, said old man
Perdue. I have brought the money, and here it is.
I can't take it, Mr. Perdue. I haven't earned it, and shall not
earn it. I am not going to teach your school.
The deuce you say! Why, my grandson thinks there ain't nobody in
the world like yousays you can whip any livin' man. You must teach
No, I am going to study law with Judge Conkwright.
What, with him? Don't you do it. Why, there ain't a harder hearted
man on the face of the earth than he is. Smart as a whip, but he don't
go to church once in five years. Oh, you needn't smile, for it's a
fact. Not once in five years, and what can you expect from a man like
that? Oh, he'll grind you into the very ground. Ain't got a particle of
I expect him to teach me the law and I can get along with my
present stock of religion. But even if he were to offer me his
religion, I would accept it. I know him better than you can ever know
him. But we have no cause to discuss him. No, I can't take your money.
But you have earned some of it. Twenty-five dollars, at least.
Well, I will take that much.
Take it all, said Parker.
No, twenty-five, I replied.
You are your own boss, Perdue observed; you know best. Here's
your twenty-five, and I'll make it fifty if you'll send out word that
the new man, whoever he may be, mustn't go into the creek. You are the
sort of a reformer that this community has needed. Well, gentlemen,
I've got to get home. Issue your proclamation, sir, and send for the
Parker said that it was time for him to go, and, adding that he
would meet Jucklin in town, left us at the door.
Mrs. Jucklin was brighter than I had expected to find her, and when
I told her what Conkwright had said, that Alf would surely be
acquitted, the light of a new hope leaped into her eyes.
I told Limuel that God would not permit such a wrong, she said.
Didn't I, Limuel?
You said something about it, Susan; I have forgot exactly what it
was. It's all right if the judge says he knows it. Yes, sir, it's all
right. But we'll leave here all the same. Don't reckon we'll ever come
back; can't stand to be p'inted at. Fight a man in a minit if he p'ints
Oh, Limuel, don't talk about fighting when we are in so much
Fight a man in a minit if he p'ints at me. Knock down a sign-post
if it p'ints at me. Well, we want a little bite to eat. Been about six
weeks since I eat anything, it seems like.
All this time I was wondering where Guinea could be, and was
startled by every sound. The mother asked me how Alf looked and how he
had acted when I had pictured Millie's leaving home; and I told her
mechanically, wondering, listening; and I broke off suddenly, for I
thought there was a footstep at the door. No, it was a chicken in the
passage. They asked me many questions and I answered without hearing my
own words. Mrs. Jucklin went out to the dining-room and the old man
began to talk about his chickens. He had found them bloody and stiff,
and had buried them in a box lined with an old window curtain. And now
there was a step at the door. I looked up and Guinea stood there,
looking back, listening to her mother. And thus she stood a long time,
I thought, and yet she must have known that I was in the room. Mr.
Jucklin spoke to her and she came in, walking very slowly. Her face was
pale, with a sadness that smote my heart. She sat down and looked out
of the window. Mrs. Jucklin called the old man, and when he was gone I
told Guinea that I had left Alf in a convulsive joy; and, still looking
out of the window, she said: You are the noblest man I ever met.
I sprang to my feet, but quickly she lifted her hand and motioned me
back, though she still looked away. Sit down, please. Don't you
remember our agreement to be frank with each other?
Yes, I remember it, but frankness means the opposite of restraint.
Yes, but frankness should always have judgment behind it.
Guinea! She looked at me. Guinea, you say that after a while he
will kneel at your feet.
Yes, after a while, Mr. Hawes.
But let melet me kneel at your feet now!
Slowly she shook her head. No, Mr. Hawes, you must never do that.
Sometime we may kneel together, but you must never kneel to me. Now we
are frank, aren't we? We may go to church together and hear some one
pray a beautiful prayer, a prayer that may seem the echo of our own
heart-throbs. Sweet is confidence, and I ask you to have confidence in
me. Let me have my way, and when the time is ripe, I will come to you
with my hands held out. Yes, when the time is ripe. And then there will
be no reproaches and nothing to forgive, but everything to worship and
to bless. Oh, I am a great talker when once I am started, Mr. Hawes,
and I think all the time. I thought this morning as I stood at the
gate, just as you left me standing; I heard you galloping down the
road. And do you know what I thought of? It was almost profane, but I
thought of the baptizing at the river of Jordan, when the spirit came
down like a dove; and I knew what must have been the thrilling touch of
that spirit, for the holiness of love had touched my hair. No, Mr.
Hawes, not now. There, sit down again and let me talk, for I am started
now. Oh, and you thought that I was dumb and feelingless? You mustn't
weep; but as for me, why, I am a woman and tears are a woman's
inheritance. There, I have said enough, and after this we must speak to
each other as friendsuntil the time when I shall come to you with my
hands held out; and then I am going to tell you of a woman who loved a
man, not with a halting, half-hearted love, but with a love as broad as
God's smile when the earth is in bloom. You didn't know that I was so
persistent, did you? Isn't it time for a woman to be persistent? No
woman has ever kept silence, they tell us, but women have been
constrained to talk around the subject, festooning it with their
insinuating fancies. But women are more outspoken now and are permitted
to be truer to themselves. Yes, you must have confidence in me; let me
indulge my dream a while longer, and then I will come to you, but until
then let us be friends.
But won't you let me tell you something now? Won't you let me tell
you that in the moonlight I bowed until my head touched the dust,
worshiping you as you stood
No, not now; not until I come. And won't you respect my wishes,
even if they are foolish?
Now and forever, angel, your word shall be a divine law unto me.
They are calling us, she said. Come on.
In the afternoon I went to town with the old man, to attend upon the
transfer of the property, and I slept in the wagon, conscious of Guinea
when the road was rough, and sweetly dreaming of her when there was no
jolt to disturb my slumber. It was long after midnight when we
returned. I was resolved to go early to bed, for Guinea and her mother
were sadly engaged packing a box with the bric-a-brac upon which time
and association had placed the seal of endearment.
Now, I wonder what has become of that old lace curtain, said Mrs.
Jucklin. I have looked everywhere and can't find it, and I know it was
in the chest up stairs.
The old man began to scratch his head.
I don't know who could have taken it, Mrs. Jucklin went on. It
couldn't have walked off, I'm sure. Limuel?
Do you know what has become of that old curtain?
What, that ragged old thing that wan't worth nothin'?
Worth nothin'! Why, it belonged to my grandmother.
I never heard of that before.
Oh, yes, you have, and what's the use of talkin' that way? You've
known it all the time.
News to me, said the old man.
It's not news to you, anything of the sort; but the question is, do
you know what has become of it?
Susan, in this here life many things happen, things that we wish
hadn't happened. I am not sorry that they fit to a finish, for that had
to be; but I am sorry that I wrapped 'em in that curtain when I buried
Gracious alive, what has possessed the man! Oh, you do distress me
so. How could you do such a thing, Limuel? I do believe you have gone
daft. But you go right out there now and dig up them good-for-nothin'
chickens and bring me that curtain. Go right on this minit.
What, Susan, and rob the dead and the brave? You wouldn't have me
Go on, I tell you, or I'll go myself, and throw the fetchtaked
things over to the hogs. The idee of wrappin' up them cruel,
good-for-nothin' things in a curtain like that. Oh, I never was so
provoked in my life.
The old man got up and stretched himself. Bill, said he, I am
sometimes forced to believe that the women folks are lackin' in human
sympathy. Ma'm, I'll fetch your curtain, but I've got to have somethin'
to wrap around the dead and the brave.
Don't you take that apron. Why, if he wouldn't take the best apron
I've got, right out from under my very eyes. And you can't have that
stand cover, either.
Well, but, by jings, what can I have? Am I a traveler that has jest
stopped here to stay all night? There's no use in talkin'; I'm goin' to
have 'em put away decent. Take me for a barbarian?
He went out, and just as I was going up to bed I met him in the
passage way, with a roll of white stuff in his bare arms, and as he
stepped into the room I heard his wife exclaim: Mercy on me, if he
hasn't taken his best shirt. And what he is goin' to do for somethin'
to wear the Lord only knows.
I heard Guinea laughing, and then I heard the old man say that what
a man happened to wear would make but little difference with the Lord.
I was so worn that my sleep that night was dreamless, but when early
at morning they called me to breakfast I knew that during the hours of
that deep oblivion I had been vaguely conscious of a dim and shadowy
happiness; and a vivid truth came upon me with the first glimpse of
The old man was waiting at the foot of the stairs. Bill, we are
goin' over to the station right after we eat a bite, he said. We
can't take but a few things, and we'll leave the most of our trumpery
till we git settled somewhere. Take care of that horse you've been
ridin'he don't belong to us; was left here by a man some time ago,
feller that had to go away off somewhere to see his folks. So, you jest
keep him till he's called for; and I've left you plenty of corn out
there to feed him on. You can study your books here about as well as
you can in town, and I wish you'd sorter look after the things. Parker
will drive us over to the station.
And am I to go also? I asked.
No, I believe not. It's Guinea's arrangement and not mine. Let her
have her own way. All women have got their whims, the whole kit an'
b'ilin' of 'em, and you might as well reason with a weather cock. Wait
a minit before we go in. As soon as we git half way settled Guinea will
write to you. I have no idee where I'm goin', but it will be away off
somewhere. It makes me shudder every time I meet a man that I know, and
I'd bet a horse that if I was to meet a cross-eyed feller I'd fight
him. If Alf gits clear he can come to us. And youI'm sorry you have
decided to go in with Conkwright, for I wanted you to come with Alf.
I will come. Nothing shall stand in the way. Mr. Jucklin, have you
Yes, I've noticed everything. And it's all right. And Susan has
noticed everything and it's all right with her. There never was a
prouder human than Guinea, sir; the old General's pride is rain water
compared to her'n. And she's got an idee in her headI don't exactly
understand it, but she's got it there and we'll have to let her keep it
till she wants to throw it aside. I was over to the General's before
sun up this mornin'. He swore that he wouldn't take the money, but I
left it under a brick-bat on the gate post and come away. Well,
everything is settled, and all I can say now is, God bless you.
We were silent at breakfast, and we dared not look at one another. A
wagon came rattling through the gate, and Parker shouted that he was
ready. No one had said a word, but the old man struck the table with
his fist and exclaimed: I insist on everybody showin' common sense. I
don't want anybody to speak to me. I'll fight in a minit. Git in that
wagon without a word. Hush, now.
I wanted to lead Guinea to the wagon, to feel again her dependence
upon me, but she pretended to be looking away when I attempted to take
her hand, and so she walked on alone; but I helped her into the
vehicle, and I kissed her hand when she took hold of the seat. She gave
me a quick look and a smile; and the wagon rolled away. I stood on the
log step, watching it, and as it was slowly sinking beyond the hill I
saw the flutter of a handkerchief.
I went up to my room and sat down, sad that I had seen her going
away from me, yet happy to know that she had left her heart in my
keeping. But the foolishness of this separation struck me with a force
that had been lacking until now, and for a time I felt toward the old
man a hardness that not even a keen appreciation of his kindness and
his drollery could soften. Gradually, however, the truth came to me
that Alf had drawn the plan, and with my arms stretched out toward the
hill-top that had slowly arisen between me and the fluttering
handkerchief I foolishly apologized to the old man. I did more foolish
things than that; I improvised a hymn and sang it to Guineaa chant
that, no doubt, would have been immeasurably funny to the cold-hearted
and the sane, but it brought the tears to my eyes and rendered the
rafters just above my head a work of lace, far away. And at these
devotions I might have remained for hours had not a sharp footfall
smote upon my ear. I hastened down stairs, and at the entrance of the
passage stood Chyd Lundsford, looking about, slowly lashing his leg
with a switch.
Helloa! Where are all the folks?
They are gone, sir, I answered, stiffly bowing to him.
Gone? I don't know that I quite catch your meaning.
If it be illusive you have made it so. I said that they were gone,
which means, of course, that they are not here.
I understand that all right enough, but do you mean that they are
not in at present or that they have really left home?
They have no home, sir.
He gave himself a sharp cut with the switch. It can't have been so
very long since they left, for the old man was over to see father this
morning. Which way did they go? I may overtake them.
That would be greatly against their wish, sir.
I am not asking for an opinion. I want to know which way they
I am not at liberty to tell you that. They have gone out into a
world that is as strange to them as America was to Columbus.
Rot. There isn't a smarter woman anywhere than Guinea. She has read
everything and she knows the world as well as I do. But why are you not
privileged to tell me which way they went? I have something to say that
concerns them closely. Did they go toward town?
Do you suppose that they would go away without first seeing their
Then you mean that they went to town. Why the devil can't you speak
out? Why should you stand as a stumbling block?
Why should I stand as a sign post?
Now here, you needn't show your selfishness in this matter. She
wouldn't wipe her feet on you.
No, but she would wipe them on you.
What! He took a step forward, but he stepped back again and stood
there, lashing himself with the switch. My father tells me that you
are a gentleman, he said.
And you may safely accept your father's opinion of me, I answered.
But you are not striving, sir, to make that opinion good.
A good opinion needs no bolstering up.
This bantering is all nonsense. I've got nothing against you; I
have simply asked you a civil question.
And I hope to be as civil as you are, but out of regard for the
feelings of those old people and their daughter I cannot tell you which
way they went. You couldn't overtake them, any way.
But I can try.
Yes, you could have tried yesterday and the day before, and a week
ago, when they needed your sympathy.
He dropped his switch, but he caught it up again, and his face was
red. I might say, sir, that what I have done and that which I have
failed to do is no business of yours, but I feel that there is a
measure of justice in what you say, and I acknowledge that I have been
wrong. That is why I am here nowto set myself right.
In matters of business we may correct an error, Mr. Lundsford; we
may rub out one figure and put down another, but a mark made upon the
heart is likely to remain there.
I will not attempt to bandy sentimentalities with you, sir. I am a
practical man, a scientist, if you wish; and I came here to tell that
girl that my breaking off the engagementyou must know all about
itwas wrong. I told my father to come, for just at that time I didn't
feel that as a man who looks forward to something a little more than a
name I could afford to marry her. But I was wrong; any living man could
afford to marry her. I was wrong, and that ought to settle it.
And I think, sir, that it does settle it as far as you are
Do you mean that she won't marry me? Oh, yes, she will, not out of
any foolish love, but because she would be proud of my success. Well, I
may not overtake her, but I will write to her. Yes, that will do as
well. She will want to know how things are getting along here, and will
write to you, and when she does I wish you would show me her letter.
What are you laughing at? Haven't you got any sense at all?
I hope so, but I am not so much of a scientist that I am a fool.
No, but you are so much of a fool that you are not a scientist, by
a dd sight.
He had me there, and it was his time to laugh, and he did. He was so
tickled that he roared, walking up and down the passage; and he was so
pleased that he held out his hand to shake upon the merit of his joke.
I was not disposed to be surly and I shook hands with him, and he
clapped me on the shoulder, still laughing, and declared that it was a
piece of wit worthy of the dissecting-room, and that he would jolt his
fellows with it.
I am glad you are so much pleased, I remarked.
Why, don't you think it's good, eh? Of course, you do. Well, it's
better to part laughing, anyway.
You are not too much of a scientist to be a philosopher, I said.
And I expected him to continue his line of deduction and to say that I
was too much of a philosopher to be a scientist, but he did not; he
sobered and gravely remarked:
Yes, I am devilish sorry that this thing came about, and I hope
that Guinea will not take a romantic view of it. I guess they'll be
back after a while, if Alf is cleared, and from what I hear I suppose
he will be.
May I ask how your sister is?
Certainly. She's all right; doesn't eat much, but her pulse is
normallittle excited, but hardly noticeable. Loves that fellow,
doesn't she? Strong, good-looking boy, but not very practical. Hope
he'll come out all right. Ah, I was going to say something, but it has
escaped me. Oh, yes, you are in love with Guinea. Be frank, now.
Yes, I worship her.
Hardly the word, but it will do, on an impulse. I think a good deal
of her myself. I said just now that she wouldn't wipe her feet on you,
and I beg your pardon. She may wipe them on you. You are going to stay
here, eh? Well, come over to the house. No reason why there should be
any ill-will between us. Good-day.
I sat down on the step and watched him until he had ridden out of
sight, and I was pleased that he went toward his home, not that I was
afraid of a renewal of the engagement; I knew that it was forever set
aside. But I felt that his overtaking the wagon would bring an
additional trouble to the father and the mother; indeed, I was afraid
that the old man might kill him. Strange fellow Chyd was, and I liked
him as an oddity, as something wholly different from myself or from any
impulsive being. He was not cruelhe simply had no heart.
I walked about the old place until nearly noon, and then I went to
town. The jailer met me with a doubtful shaking of his scheming head,
and I knew that again he had received orders to be rigid in his
discipline, but I was resolved that the old rascal's appetite for
liquor should not play a second prank upon me; so when he hinted at
another bottle I told him that I had spent so much of my life as a
temperance lecturer that it was against my conscience to buy a favor
with whisky. I looked steadily at him, and he began to wince.
Why, to be sure, said he, but, my dear sir, I didn't buy whisky
with that dollarbought a ham with it. If I didn't I'm the biggest
liar in the world; and I don't reckon there's a family in this town
that needs another ham right now worse than mine does.
That may be, but I can't afford to pay so heavy a price every time
I enter this place. You know that I am associated with the prisoner's
lawyer, but we'll waive that rightI'll go to the sheriff and get an
order from him.
Why, my dear sir, that's unnecessary. Walk right in; but remember
your promise not to say anything about that ham. There are a lot of
vegetarians in this town, and if they hear of my eating meat they'll
hold it against me. Walk in, sir.
I found Alf in high spirits. Conkwright had called and had assured
him that his day of liberty was not far off. I told him that the old
house was deserted, and he stood musing, looking at me dreamily, as if
his mind were hovering over the scenes of his boyhood. I let him dream,
for I knew the sweetness of a melancholy reverie. Sometimes the soul is
impatient of the body's dogged hold on life, and steals away to view
its future domain, to draw in advance upon its coming freedomnow
lingering, now swifter than a hawkand then it comes back and we say
that we have been absent-minded. Alf startedhis soul had returned.
And weren't you surprised to see them drive toward town? he asked.
Who, your parents and Guinea? They didn't; they drove toward the
But they came to town, my dear boywere here in this jail. They
must have driven round to deceive you, for they knew that you would
want to come with them, and they deceived you to spare you the pain of
seeing us together. And I'm glad you were spared, though mother stood
it much better than I expected. But this was because she firmly
believes I'll be cleared. They haven't been gone a great whilethere's
a station not far from this town. Father played another trick on you.
Yesterday, when he came to town to deed over the land, he left you
dozing in the wagon and slipped off round here. I was surprised, for I
had positively ordered him not to come. But he set me to laughing
before he got in. 'Open that door by the order of the sheriff!' he
cried at the jailer. 'Here's the order; look at it, but don't you look
at me. Fight you in a minit.' And then he came in, and the first thing
he told me was that they had gaffs on. He said that he had fought hard
to keep mother from coming, at night when the rest were asleep; and I
swore that she must not come, but she did. Bill, you brought me a
message that sent me to heaven; and now let me ask if you know that
Guinea loves you? There, don't say a wordyou know it. She told me,
standing where you are nowtold me everything, and what a talker she
is when once she is started. But you must let her have her way, and she
will come to you, holding out her hands. Have you seen Millie?
No, not since that night. But I am going to see her.
Then I told him that Chyd had come to the houseI reproduced the
scene, and Alf's merriment rang throughout the jail.
Yes, he said, you can go over there all right enough. The General
likes you, anyway. I don't know what he thinks of mestill sizes me as
a boy, I suppose; and if he were to come in here now I believe he would
ask me what father was doing. But it makes no difference what he
thinks. The judge tells me that you are going to study law with him.
Jumped into an interesting case right at once, didn't you?
We talked a long time and we laughed a great deal, for we were in a
paradise, although in a jail. And I left him with a promise that I
would soon bring him a direct word from Millie.
I found Conkwright in his office, with his slippered feet on a
table. He bade me come in, and he said nothing more, but sat there
pressing his closed eye-lids with his thumb and fore-finger. How square
a chin he had and how rugged was his face, trenched with the deep ruts
of many a combat. His had been a life of turmoil and of fight. He was
not born of the aristocracy. I had heard that he was the son of a
Yankee clock peddler. But to success he had fought his way, over many
an aristocratic failure.
Judge, have you finally decided that I may come into your office?
Thought we settled that at first, he replied, without opening his
eyes. Yes, you may come in; glad to have you, and, by the way, I've
got some work I want you to do right now. A woman was in here to-day to
see if I could get her husband out of the penitentiary. I don't know
but I helped put him therebelieve I did. I was busy when she came in,
and when she went away I remembered how poorly she was dressed, and I
am afraid that I didn't speak to her as kindly as I should have. She
lives at the south end of the street behind the jail, left hand side, I
believe. Look in that vest hanging up there and you'll find twenty
dollars in the pocket, right hand side, I think. Take the money and
slip down to that woman's house and give it to her. But don't let
anyone see you and don't tell her who sent it. Might tell her that the
State sent it as wages due for overtime put in by her husband. And you
needn't come back this evening, for it's time to close up.
I looked back at him as I stepped out. He had not changed his
position and his eyes were still closed. And this was my first work as
a student of the lawa brave beginning, the agent of a noble design. I
found the place without having to make inquiry, and a wretched hut it
was. The woman was shabby and two ragged children were lying on the
floor. I gave her the twenty dollarsI did more, I gave her a part of
the money which Perdue had given me. I explained that her husband had
worked overtime and that the State, following an old custom, had sent
her the wages of his extra labor. She was not a very good-natured
woman; she said that the State and the rest of us ought to be ashamed
of ourselves for having robbed her of her husband, and she declared
that if she ever got money enough she would sue old Conkwright and the
sheriff and everybody else. I was glad enough to quit that wretched and
depressing scene; and in the cool of the evening I strolled about the
town. The business part of the place was mean, but further out there
were handsome old residences, pillared and vine-clad. And in front of
the most attractive one I halted to gaze at the trees and the
shrubbery, dim in the twilight.
A boy came along and I asked him who lived there and he answered:
He deserves to live in even a better house, I mused, as I turned
away; and just then I was clapped upon the shoulder with a Helloa, my
old friendthe telegraph operator. I shook hands with him, and at
once he began to tell me of his affairs. Getting along all right, he
said. Haven't got quite as much freedom as I used to have, but I
reckon it's better for me. Wife thinks so much of me that she's jealous
of the boysdon't want me to stay out with them at night. Don't reckon
there's anything more exacting than a rag. But I had to have one.
Without calico there ain't much real fun in this life. But enough of
calico's society is about the enoughest enough a man can fetch up in
his mind. Tell you whatI'll run on home and come back, and then you
can go with me.
No, I couldn't think of putting you to so much trouble.
Won't be any trouble. Simply don't want to surprise her, you know.
I'll call on you before long, but now I must go to the tavern.
All right, and if I can get off I'll come over to see you. And I'll
tell you what we'll do along about 11 o'clock. We'll go over to
Atcherson's store with a lot of fellers and cook some eggs in the top
of a paste-board hat box. Ever cook them that way? It's a world beater.
Just break the eggs in the lid of the box and put it on the stove and
there you are. Finest stuff you ever eat. But while you're eating you
mustn't let them tell that jug story. Couldn't eat a bite after that.
Well, I leave you here.
Fearing that the operator's rag might fail in the strict
enforcement of the regulations that had been thrown about the
night-time movements of her husband, that he might break out of the
circle of his wife's fondness and call on me at the tavern, I left that
place soon after supper and resumed my walk about the town. In some
distant place where the land was dry a shower of rain had fallen, for
the air was quickened with the coming of that dusty, delicious smell,
that reminiscent incense which more than the perfume of flower or shrub
takes us back to the lanes and the sweet loitering places of youth.
Happiness will not bear a close inspection; to be flawless it must be
viewed from a distancewe must look forward to something longed for,
or backward to some time remembered; and my happiness on this night was
not perfect, for a sense of loneliness curdled it with regret, but here
and there, as I walked along, I found myself in an ecstasymy nerves
thrilled one another like crossed wires, electrified. I knew that it
might be a long time before I should hear from Guinea, but I was still
drunk with the newness of the feeling that she loved me.
Prayer-meeting bells were ringing, and old men and old women came
out of the dark shadow of the trees, into the light that burned in
front of a churchhearts that with age were slow and heavy, praying
for the blessing of an Infinite Mystery. I entered the church and knelt
down to pray, for I am not so advanced a thinker as the man who
questions the existence of God; but I must admit that my thoughts were
far away from the mumblings that I heard about me, far, indeed, from
the mutterings of my own lips; and so I went out and sniffed the prayer
of nature, the smell of rain that came from far off down the dusty
Early the next morning I went to Conkwright's office, to tell him
that for a time I preferred to study in the country. The old man was
walking up and down the room, with his hands behind him.
Did you find that woman? he asked.
Yes, and I let no one see me.
Good. You gave her the twenty dollars, andis that all you gave
Why, that was all you told me to give her.
Yes, I know, but didn't you give her some of your own money? Speak
out now. No shilly-shallying with me.
Well, she was so wretched that I gave her five dollars of my own
You did, eh? The money you borrowed from me, you mean?
No, money that old Perdue thinks I earned. He insisted upon my
taking twenty-five dollars.
It's all right, my boy. Yes, it's all right, but you'll have to be
more careful. It is noble to give, but it is not wise to look for an
opportunity. It is better to give to the young than to the old, for the
good we do the youth grows with him into a hallowed memorystimulates
him to help otherswhile the memory of the aged is fitful. Whenever
you see a boy trying to amount to something, help him, for that is a
direct good, done to mankind. Now to business. Have you read
Yes, but not thoroughly. I have never owned his book.
There he is on my desk. I keep him near me. The lawyer who outgrows
that bookwell, I may be an old fogy on the subject, so I'll say
nothing more except to commend the treatise to a lawyer as I would the
multiplication table to a student of mathematics. And now let me say
that when you have been with me one year we will begin to talk about
other matters, the question of money, for instance. Don't be
extravagantdon't give money because you don't know what else to do
with itand I will see that you shall not want for anything. Oh, yes,
I know you are thinking of getting married, but it won't cost much to
keep your wife. We'll fix all that, and if I don't make a lawyer out of
you I am much fooled. You are in love and are mighty sappy just at
present, but you'll come round all right; yes, sir, all right after a
I think, Judge, that I can study much better out at the old house,
and if you have nothing for me to do I should like to spend several
days at a time out there.
Why, is that the way to assist me? What good can you do me by
poking off out there in the woods? Well, you may for a while. Three
days a week for a time, eh? All right. You are as hard to break in as a
steer. What about those stories you told at the General's house. I hear
that they were great. But don't let people put you down as a story
teller, for when a lawyer gets that reputation, no matter how profound
he may be, the public looks upon him as a yarn-spinner, rather than a
thinker. You might put them in print, but not under your own name.
Billcame within one of calling you Billya great many men succeed in
law not because they are bright, but because they are stupid. I never
see a jackass that I don't think of a judgesome judges that I know.
Well, now, the first and one of the most important things to do is to
go over to that tailor and have yourself measured for a suit of
clothes. Did I say measured? Surveyed is the word, he added, looking
at me from head to foot and then laughing. Yes, I think that's the
word. Well, go on now.
When the tailor had completed his survey I went to the jail,
talked for a few moments with Alf and then straightway rode to the
General's house. The old man was sitting on the porch, with one foot
resting on a pillow, placed upon a chair. Get down and come right in!
he shouted; and as I came up the steps he motioned me away from him and
said: Don't touch that hoof, if you please. Buttermilk gout, sir. Look
out, you'll tip something over on me. It's a factevery time I drink
buttermilk it goes to my foot. Too much acid. How are you, anyway?
He cautiously reached out his hand and jerked it away when I had
merely touched it. Didn't sleep a wink last night; and every dog in
the county came over here to bark. I am very glad you have called; glad
that you are too liberal to hold a foolish resentment. And the old
folks are gone. 'Od 'zounds, the way things do turn out. The first
thing I know I'll swear myself out of the church. It was my pride,
sirbut by all the virtues that man has grouped, must we apologize for
our pride? Hah, sir! Must I grovel and beg pardon because I honor my
own name? I'll see myself blistered first. It wasn't old Lim's fault.
Confound it all, it wasn't anybody's fault. Then, sir, must I go
crawling around on my belly like alike alike an infernal lizard,
sir? I hope not. But it will come out all right, I think. After Alf is
cleared the old people will come back and all will be well again. What
do you want?
A negro boy had poked his head out of the hall door and was looking
on with a broad grin. Dinner! cried the old man. But is that the way
to announce itgrinning like a cat? Come back here. Now what do you
Dinner is ready, sah, said the boy.
Well, that's all right. But don't come round here grinning at me.
Hand me that stick. Oh, I'm not going to hit you with it. Come, Mr.
Hawes. No, I don't want you to help me. I can hobble along best by
Millie was in the dining-room, and she turned to run when she saw
me, but the old man hobbled into her way, so she came toward me with
reddening face, and held out her hand. I am glad to see you, she
said. Sit over here, please. That's Chyd's seat and he's so
The son came in, said that he was pleased to see me, sat down,
opened a pamphlet that looked like a medical journal and began to read.
Mr. Hawes, said the General, I understand that you have made
arrangements to study law with Judge Conkwright. And a most fortunate
arrangement, I should think. Smart old fellow, sir; smart, and a good
man to have on your side, but a mighty bad man to have against
youhalf Yankee by parentage and whole Yankee by instinct. Millie, is
that cat under the table?
I think not, father, the girl answered, after looking to see if
the cat were there; but this did not satisfy the old man. You must
know, not think, he said. There should be no doubt about the matter,
for I must tell you that if he touches my foot I'll kill him. A cat
would travel ten miles and swim a riverand a cat hates waterto claw
a gouty foot. Chyd, just put that book aside if you please.
The young man folded the pamphlet and shoved it into his pocket.
I've struck a new germ theory, he said.
Yes, replied the General, and you'll strike a good many more of
them as you go on. I should think that you want facts, not theories.
But theories lead to facts, the young man rejoined. The theory of
to-day may become the scientific truth of to-morrow.
And it may also be the scientific error of the day after
to-morrow, I remarked.
He looked at me, spoke a word which I did not catch and then was
silent, seeming to have forgotten what he had intended to say. I think
that the word he uttered was hah, or something to indicate that he
had paid but slight heed to my remark. I did not repeat it, and the
talk fell away from the germ theory.
Now, Mr. Hawes, said the General, I want you to help yourself
just as if you were alone at your own board. It is a pleasure to have
you with us, and an additional pleasure to know, sir, that you are to
become a permanent citizen of this county. Men may think themselves
wise when they apprentice their sons to a trade, averring that the
professions are overcrowded, but that has always been the case, and
yet, professional men have ever been the happiest, for they achieve the
most, not in the gathering of money, but in the uplifting of mankind.
My daughter, you don't appear to be eating anything. I hope that you
have not permitted the timely, though unexpected, visit of Mr. Hawes to
affect your appetite. Chydister, another piece of this mutton? Most
nutritious, I assure you; a fact, however, which is, no doubt, well
known to you. Mr. Hawes, I should think that you would prefer to sleep
here at night, rather than to stay alone in that old house. You are
more than welcome to a room here, sir. And I should like to hear
anecdotes of your grandfather, the Captain.
I shall be in the country but a part of the time during the week,
and my coming and going will be irregular. But for this I should gladly
accept your generous offer. As to my grandfather, I must admit that I
know but little regarding his life.
A sad error in your bringing up, sir. In that one particular we
Americans are shamefully at fault. A buncombe democracy has insisted
that it is not essential to look back, but simply to place stress upon
our present force and consequence. That is a self-depreciation, a
half-slander of one's self. Of course, it is not just to despise a man
who has no ancestry, but it is a crime not to honor him if he has a
And thus he talked until the rest of us sat back from the table, and
then, gripping his cane and getting up, he said that he would like to
talk to me privately in the library. Upon entering the room he filled a
clay pipe, handed it to me, gave me a lighted match, filled a pipe for
himself, and then lay down upon an old horse-hair sofa. I placed a
cushion for his foot and he raised up and bowed to me. I thank you,
sir, he said. I don't believe that Chyd would have thought of that. I
believe that he will make of himself one of the finest of physicians,
but a man may be a successful doctor and yet a thoughtless and an
indifferent companion. You will please put the right construction upon
what may appear as an over-frankness on my part, for the fact is I have
never regarded you as a stranger; and I feel that what I say to you
will go no further.
He was silent and I nodded to him, waiting for him to continue. He
moved his shoulders as if to work himself into an easier position, and
then he resumed his talk. Of my own volition I would not have gone
over to Jucklin's house to break that engagementI would have
waitedbut my son told me to go, and after I had gone, why, of course,
I had to act my part. But it was simply acting, for my heart was not in
it. And I tell you, sir, that if old Lim had wiped his bloody hands in
my face I would not have struck him. Chydister is proud, but his pride
and mine are not of the same sort. With him everything must bear upon
his future standing as a physician, and to me that has too much the
color of business. I admit that I was grieved to discover that my
daughter was in love with Alf. I don't say that he is not morally
worthy of her or of any young woman, but he is poor and is
indifferently educated, with no prospects save a life of hard work. And
I don't believe that I need to apologize for desiring to see my
daughter well situated. Now, my son regrets the step which he took and
which he urged me to take, and at the earliest moment he will renew the
engagement. I think almost as much of Guinea as I do of my own
daughter. Although she is a country girl, who has led a most simple
life, I hold her a remarkable womanan original and a thinking woman,
sir. And now what I request you to do is thissoften her resentment,
if you can. There are matches at the corner of the mantelpiece.
My pipe was out. I lighted it, and did not resume my seat, but stood
looking at him.
General, said I, Guinea will never marry your son.
The devil you say! Pardon me. I didn't mean to be so abrupt. But
why do you think she will not marry him?
General, it is now your turn to pardon me, sir. She is to be
married by a man who worships her, not a scientist, but a man with a
heartshe is going to be my wife.
The old man sprang up and in a moment he stood facing me. There was
a footstep at the door and Chydister entered the room.
Go ahead with your emotional oratory, but pardon me while I look
for my stethoscope, he said. I want to see what effect an hour's run
will have on the hearts of a hound and an ordinary cur.
Sir! cried his father, turning upon him, this is no time to talk
of the hearts of hounds and curs. The hearts of men are at stake.
That so? What's up?
What's up, indeed, sir? This man says that Guinea Jucklin will not
Yes, so he told me. Now I almost know that I put that thing right
'Zounds, man, will you listen to me!
Yes, sir, go ahead. He says she won't marry me. That's his opinion,
undemonstrateda mere assertion; he has given me no proof.
Ah, have you any proof, Mr. Hawes? the old man asked.
I have, but it cannot very well be set forth in words; and with
much respect for you, General, I must say that I prefer not to
You see it's rather vague, father. Let me ask if she has said
positively that she will be your wife?
Her lips may have made no promise beyond a figure of speech, and
yet her heart
Ah, more vague than ever, the young man broke in, looking at his
father as if he were impatient to get away. I must have left it
somewhere else, he added, and the old General frowned upon him.
Chydister, if you lose that woman it is your own fault.
Well, no, I can hardly agree with you there, father. If I lose her
it will be the fault of circumstances. Are you done with me?
Yes, you can go, said the General. He stooped, reached back for
the lounge and laboriously stretched himself upon it. Chyd went out and
I remarked that it was time for me to go. The old man made no reply,
seeming not to have heard me, but as I turned toward the door he raised
up and said:
I would be a fool, sir, to blame you; and I trust that you will not
blame me for hoping that you are mistaken.
He lay down again, and I left him. Millie was standing at the gate
when I went out, and she pretended not to see me until I had passed
into the road, and then, with the manner of a surprise, she said: Oh,
I didn't think you were going so soonthought you and father were
having an argument. Do you seesee him very often?
There was a tremulous tenderness in her voice, and I knew that there
were tears in her eyes, and I looked far away down the road, as I stood
there with the gate between us.
I have seen him every day, I answered.
And does he look wretched and heart-broken?
No, he is happy, for he knows that you love him.
She caught her breath with a sob and I looked far away down the
You told himtold him that I did. And I am so thankful to you; I
would do anything for you. I dream of him all the time, and I see you
with him. How terrible it is, shut up there and the sun is so bright
for everyone else. Sometimes I go into the closet and stay there in the
dark, for then I am nearer him. When will you see him again?
I am going back to town to-morrow.
Will you please give him this?
I reached forth my hand and upon my palm she placed a locket.
I know that if you study law, Mr. Hawes, you will get him out. You
are so strong that you can do most anything. Good-bye, and when you
write to Guinea, send her my love.
Four weeks passed and heavy were the days with anxiety, for I had
received no word from Guinea. I thought of a hundred causes that must
have kept her from writing, but, worst of all, I feared that she had
written and that the letter had gone astray.
One afternoon, having thrown my book aside, weary of causes,
reasonings and developments of law, I sat on a rock near the spring,
musing, wondering, when suddenly I sprang to my feet, with Guinea in my
mind, with Guinea before me, I thought. But this was only for an
instant. A young deer came down the path, gracefully leaping, and my
mind flew back to the time when I had first seen her running down that
shining strip of hard-beat earth. Yes, it was a deer, and it ran down
the brook, and presently I heard the hounds yelping in the woods. I
returned to my room and again I strove to study, but the logical
phrasing was harsh to me, and I threw down the book. I would fish in
the pools that lay along the stream toward the mill. The ground in the
yard and about the barn was so dry that I could find no angle worms,
and I decided to dig in the damp moss-land near the spring. The hoe
struck a hard substance and out came something bright. I stooped to
examine it, and at first I thought that it was silver, but it was
notit was mica. I scraped off the moss and the thin strata of earth,
and there I found a great bed of the ore. I dug deeper and it came up
in chunks, and it was fine and flawless. My reading taught me that it
was valuable, and I was rejoiced to find that it was on my own land. I
got out as much as I could carryindeed, I filled a trunk with it, and
then carefully replaced the moss, smoothed it down and made it look as
if it had not been displaced. My blood tingled with excitement and I
was afraid that some one might have seen me. I took the trunk to my
room and split off thin sheets of the mica, and the more I looked at it
the more I was thrilled at the prospect that now lay, not in the
future, but under my touch. And I was not long in resolving upon a
course to pursue. I remembered that into our neighborhood had come from
Nashville, Tenn., a large stove with mica in the doors, and I thought
it would be wise to take my trunk to that city and by exhibiting its
contents induce some one to buy the mine. I hastened to town, after
hiding the trunk, and told Conkwright and Alf that unexpected business
called me away for a few days, and then I returned home and hired a man
to drive me to the railway station. I was afraid to trust the trunk out
of my sight, but I had to let the baggage man take it, but I charged
him to be particular with it, telling him that it was full of iron ore.
He gave it a jerk and declared that it must be full of lead. When I had
come into that community I fancied that the train was on wings, but now
it appeared to be crawling. Night came and I was afraid that robbers
might assail the train and expose my secret; but at last I reached
Nashville, and then came a worry. How was I to find the man who had
made the stove? I took my trunk to a hotel, wrapped a chunk of the mica
in a handkerchief and set out to look for a stove dealer. I soon found
a hardware establishment, and in I walked with the hardened air of
business, and asked for the proprietor. A pleasant-looking man came
forward, and I asked him what mica was worth. He looked at me sharply
and answered that he was not thoroughly informed as to the state of the
market, but that he thought it was worth all the way from five to
twenty-five dollars a pound. But mica of the first quality is scarce,
said he, and then he asked if I wanted to buy mica.
No, sir, I want to sell it. Is this of good quality?
I unwrapped the handkerchief and his eyes stuck out in astonishment.
Where did you get it? he asked.
Off my land in North Carolina.
Have you very much of it? he asked, scaling off thin sheets with
Tons of it.
You don't say so! Then you've got a fortune. We are not very large
manufacturers and don't use a great deal. How much did you bring with
Only a trunk full.
Well, I guess we can take that much. Bring it around.
I did so, and I could scarcely believe that I had correctly caught
his words when he offered me five hundred dollars, though now I know
that he paid me much less than it was worth. He talked a long time with
his partner, and then came back to me with the money, asked my name and
a number of other questions. Young man, said he, if we had the ready
means we would buy that mine, but we haven't. Now, I tell you what you
do: Take a samplethis pieceand go at once to Chicago. I know of
some capitalists there who are making large investments in the South,
and I have no doubt that they will be pleased to make you an offer for
your property. Here, I'll write their names on a card. To tell you the
truth, we are to some extent interested with them. Now, don't show this
sample to anyone else, but go straight to Clarm &Ging, Rookery
building, Chicago. Anybody can tell you where it is. Here's the card.
We'll telegraph them that you are coming, so you are somewhat in honor
bound, you understand, not to go elsewherewe have in some degree
sealed the transaction with a part purchase, you see.
I walked out of that house, dazed, bewildered with my own luck. And
I took passage on the first train for Chicago. If money could clear
Alf, he would now be cleared, and proudly I mused over the great
difference that I would make between his first and his last trial. But
during all this time I was conscious of a heavinessthe silence of
The train reached Chicago at morning. And now I was in the midst of
a whirl and a roara confused babbling at the base of Babel's tower.
And as I walked up a street I thought that a tornado had broken loose
and that I was in the center of it. I called a hackman, for my reading
taught me what to do, and I told him to drive me to the Rookery. He
rattled away and came within one of being upset by other vehicles, and
I yelled at him to be more particular, but on he went, paying no
attention to me. After a while he drew up in front of a building as big
as a lopped-off spur of a mountain range; and when I got out I found
that the vitals of the hurricane had shifted with me, for the roar and
the confusion was worse, was gathering new forces. But no one laughed
at me, no one pointed me out, and I really felt quite pleased with
myselfa school-teacher, a lawyer's assistant, expected by a
capitalist! I went under a marble arch-way, and asked a man if he knew
Clarm &Ging, and he pointed to an elevatorI knew what it wasand
shouted a number. I got in and was shot to the eighth floor. I knocked
at a door, but no one opened it. There was no bell to ring, so I
knocked louder and still no one opened the door. This was hardly the
courtesy that I expected. But while I was standing there a man came
along and went in without knocking. I thought that he must be one of
the men I was looking for, and I followed him, but he simply looked
round after going in and then went out again without saying anything. I
saw a man sitting at a desk, and I handed him the card which the
hardware dealer had given me. He looked at it and said: Yes, you are
Hawes, eh? Where's your mica.
I gave it to him, and he looked at it closely through a microscope.
How deep have you gone?
Not more than six inches.
That so? Much of this size?
Train loads, I should think.
Ah, hah. How much land does it cover?
Don't know exactly. Haven't investigated.
And this question set me to thinking. The mine was well on my land,
but it might spread out beyond my lines. It was important that I should
buy several acres surrounding the stretch of moss, and I decided to do
this immediately upon my return home.
Let's see, said the capitalist. This is Friday. Mr. Clarm is out
of town and will not be back until Mondayhas a summer home in St. Jo,
Mich., and is over there. It's just across the lake. Suppose we go over
there to-morrow morning. Boat leaves at nine. Be a pleasant trip. All
He resumed his work as if my acceptance of his proposition was a
foreshadowed necessity. How did you happen to find it? he asked,
without looking up from his work.
I was digging for angle worms.
He grunted. Didn't find any worms, did you?
No, I don't think I did.
I know you didn't. Worms and mica don't exist in the same soil.
Rocks on each side.
I was determined to be business-like, not to give him information
unless he asked for it; and I sat there, studying him. He was direct
and this pleased me, for it bespoke a quick decision. But after a time
I grew tired of looking upon his absorption, for his mood was
unvarying, and he held one position almost without change, so I began
to walk about, looking at the pictures of factories and of mines, hung
on the walls. The day was hot and the windows were up, and I looked
down on the ant-working industry in the street. How different from the
view that lay out of my window in the old log house; but I was resolved
to draw no long bow of astonishment, for in a man's surprise is a
reflex of his ignorance.
What business? the capitalist asked, still without looking up.
None, you might say. Have taught school, but of late I have
employed my time with studying law.
He looked round at me and then resumed his work. A long time passed.
I heard his watch snap and then he got up.
We'll go out and get a bite to eat, he said. Any particular
No, I answered, pleased that he should presume that I was
acquainted with the eating houses of the town.
We stepped out into the hall and he yelled: Down! He shoved me
into an elevator among a number of men and women, and though we were
all jammed together no one appeared to notice me; but when we got out a
boy whistled at a companion and yelled: Hi, Samson! Mr. Ging darted
out under the arch, and I almost ran over him, when he halted on the
sidewalk to talk to a man. They walked along together for quite a
distance, nodding and making gestures, and when they separated Ging
said to me that he had just bought a subdivision of real estate. At
this I appeared to be pleased, but I was not; I was afraid that before
the close of the deal he might entangle himself in so many transactions
that he could not afford to pay cash for the mica mine. The further we
went the faster he walked, and suddenly he darted through a wall, and
the swinging doors came back and slapped me in the face. We sat down to
a table and Mr. Ging said that I might take whatever I desired, but
that he wanted only a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie. I was
hungry, had eaten no breakfast and felt as if I could devour a beef
steak as big as a saddle skirt, but I said that coffee and apple pie
would do me. He asked me a number of questions concerning the mine, its
distance from a railway, condition of the wagon roads, and especially
did he want to know whether the local tax assessor made it a point to
discriminate against the non-resident property owner. I caught the
spirit of his quick utterances, and blew out my words in a splutter,
striving to be business-like, but before I could cover all his points
he had eaten his pie and was impatiently waiting for me.
Want to go round to-night? he asked, and before I could tell him
that I did want to go round, having but a vague idea as to what he
meant, he added: And if I can get off this afternoon I'll take you out
to the stock-yards.
I would much rather see your finest library, I replied.
I guess you've got me there; don't know where it is, but I suppose
we can find it in the directory.
I have read of the Art Institute here. You know where that is, I
Y-e-slow building over on the lake front. But I've never had time
to go into it. Well, suppose we get back to the office.
I raced with him, but he beat me by a neck, being more accustomed to
the track; and he shouted Up! as he darted under the marble arch. I
grabbed him and held him for a moment, told him that I did not care to
go up again so soon, that I would stroll about for a time and see him
after a while.
Yes, but you'll come back, eh? I guess we'll take that mine if we
can agree upon terms. We own one in Colorado. Don't fail to come back.
I went out into the center of the maelstrom and laughed at hima
capitalist keeping pace with indigestion, racing against time. Little
wonder that he was bald and pinched.
I thought that I would find a leisurely place and slowly eat a
dinner, and I did find many places, but none of them was leisurely. I
went to a hotel, and there I ate a meal without running the risk of
having my chair thrown over, and then I returned to the Rookery. Mr.
Ging was lost in his work, and in a room which opened into his
apartment two girls were hammering a race on writing machines. I walked
into this room, and the girls went on with their work as if I were at
home looking over toward the General's house instead of looking down at
them. A bell tinkled in Ging's room. One of the girls went to him and I
heard him talking rapidly to her, and presently she came back with a
pad of paper in her hand, and furiously attacked her machine. Ging
rushed out into the hall and both machines stopped, and the girls began
to nibble at bon-bons, but a moment later they dashed at their work,
for Ging had returned. I went back into his room, and, glancing round,
I saw one of the girls look up at the ceiling and then down at the
floor. I knew that she was making fun of me, and in my heart I
confessed myself her enemy.
I'm sorry, said Ging, but I don't believe I can get off this
afternoon. Clarm's being out of town puts double work on me. But we'll
go round to-night. You've been here quite often, I suppose.
Well, not lately, I replied.
No? Then we can find a good many things to interest you.
I went out again and walked about, but I did not venture far beyond
the shadow of the Rookery, for I knew that should I get turned round I
would be ashamed to inquire the way back. I saw a man standing on a box
selling pens. He had a most fluent use of words, though I could see
that he was not educated. He interested his hearers with humorous
stories, as if his business were first to entertain the public and then
to pick up a living, and for the first time it struck me that
book-knowledge did not embrace everything, that people who simply read
get but a second-hand experience. We must observe form and recognize
the rules which good taste has drawn, but after all the finest form and
the most nearly perfect rule is an inborn judgment. The merest accident
may thrill a dull man with genius. I knew a young man who was
commonplace until he was taken down with a fever, and when he got up
his business sense was gone, but he wrote a parody that made this
country shout with laughter. Thus I mused as I looked at that fellow
selling pens. He was a rascal, no doubt, but I was forced to admire his
vivid fancy, his genius.
When I returned to the Rookery I found Ging waiting for me. Now,
said he, we'll go out for a while and then eat dinner. Would you mind
going out about twelve miles? Train every few minutes. I've got some
real estate that I'd like to show youmight cut an important figure in
I don't want it to cut any figure in our transaction, I replied.
I want to sell the mine for money.
Yes, of course, but you might double your money on the real
That may be true, but I am not a speculator; and if you are not
prepared to pay money, why, it is useless to waste further time.
Of course. No time has been wasted and none shall be. You may trust
me when it comes to the question of wasting time. I didn't know but you
might like a home out at Sweet Myrtle. Beautiful placegas, water,
side-walks, sewers. But if you don't want to go, it's all right. Let me
tell you right now that we are prepared to pay cash for your mine. We
represent millions in the East. Well, we'll go.
That night we went to a theater, and to me Mr. Ging was a dull
companion. He yawned and stretched through Shakspeare's mighty play,
while I was in a tingling ecstasy. He said that the fellow could not
act, and that may have been true, but to me there was no actor, but a
real Hamlet; no stage, but the court at Elsinore. He said that he would
call at the hotel in time to catch the boat, and I was glad when he
left me to my own thoughts. At 9 o'clock the next morning we went on
board a great white boat, so fresh, so full of interest to me that I
was in a state of delight, of new expectancy, and when we steamed out
into the lake I could scarcely repress a cry of joy so thrilling was
the view. I had never seen a large body of water, had striven to
picture the majesty of a wave, and now I stood with poetry rolling
about menow a deep-blue elegy, now a limpid lyric, varying in hue
with the shifting of a luminous fleece-work, far above. To have been
born and brought up amid great scenes were surely a privilege, but to
come upon them for the first time when the mind is ripe, when the
senses are yearning for a new impression, is indeed a blessing. Short
were the sixty miles of our journey, it seemed to me, but Ging was
bored and impatiently he snapped his watch, and said that we were at
least fifteen minutes late. After having lost all view of the land, how
strangely novel was the sight of the shore, and to fancy myself in a
foreign harbor was the most natural of conceits.
At the wharf we took a carriage and were driven through the town,
out by many a dreamy orchard side, up a bluff-banked river to a large
frame house, high on a hill. Clarm was walking about in the yard, and
with an ease and politeness which I had not expectedhaving permitted
Ging to influence my preconception of his partner's characterhe shook
hands with me and invited me into the house. The sample of mica was
closely inspected, numerous questions were asked, and after a time Mr.
Clarm said that it would be well for Mr. Ging to go home with me. I had
kept in mind the determination to buy a few more acres of land, and I
knew that this might not be an easy transaction if Ging should
accompany me, thereby exciting a suspicion in Parker's mind, so I
replied that I was not going straightway home, being compelled by other
business to stop for a day in Kentucky. But it is, of course,
necessary for Mr. Ging to see the mine, and he can start the day after
I leave and reach Purdy on the day I arrive, I added.
They agreed to this, as Ging was the principal in another deal that
must be brought to a close; and after declining an invitation to
dinner, I took my leave, feeling that I was a liar, it is true, but I
thought that my deception was not only pardonable, but, indeed, a
commendable piece of fore-sight. I am free to say that a man, in order
to protect his commercial interests, must be an easy and a nimble liar;
and I do not hold that a man who permits himself to be cheated simply
that he may snatch the chance to tell a truthI say that I could not
regard him a prudent husband or a wise father. Divide the last cent
with a friend, harden not thy heart against the distressed, but in the
warfare of business seek to steal an enemy's advantage. It was with
this argument that I sought to appease my conscience as I strolled
about the town, but more than once I halted, thinking to tell them the
truth. But judgmentpermit me to term it judgmentfinally influenced
me to let the false statement stand.
Out from the town were numerous lanes, soft with turf, and with
orchards on every side. Amid the darkened green I saw the yellowing
pear, the red flash of the apple; and from amid the bushes blackberries
peeped like the eyes of a deer. At the end of a lane was a deep ravine,
one side a grassy slope, the other a terraced vineyard, and up this
romantic rent I walked, in a Switzerland, a France. On the green slope
was a cottage, with a high fence behind it, and as I drew near I
thought that it would be a soothing privilege to enter the house and
talk with the humble people who lived therein. Suddenly there came a
shout that sent a spurt of blood to my heart
Hike, there, Sam! Hike, there, Bobhike, there!
I ran to the fence, grasped the top, drew myself up and looked over
into the small inclosure; and there was old Lim Jucklin, down on his
knees, beating the ground with his hat. I let myself drop and ran round
the gate, opened it without noise and stepped inside. The old man now
held one of the chickens by the neck and was putting him into a coop.
Oh, it would suit you to fight to a finish, wouldn't it? And you
may, one of these days, as soon as I hear from down yander. Git in
there. Come here, Bob. You've got to go in, too. Caught you on the
top-knot, didn't he? Well, you must learn to dodge better. Ain't quite
as peart as one of the other Bobs I could tell you about. Now, boys,
you are all right, but I want you to understand-well, since Moses hit
the rock! he cried, scrambling to his feet. Hold on, now, don't you
tech medon't know whether you are Bill or Bill's ghost. By jings, if
it ain't Bill, I'm a calf's rennet. Since Moses hit the rock!
He grabbed me and hung upon me, and I put my arm about him. Don't
tell me nuthin' now, Bill. Don't want to hear a word, for I'm deefer
than a horse block.
You have nothing to fear, Mr. Jucklin. I bring good news. Alf isn't
out yet, but he will be. I have other news
But don't tell me. Deefer than a horse-block. What did I do with
that dd handkerchief? Take that backkiver to kiver. Had it in my
hat a minit ago. Sand from this here lake shore gits in a feller's
eyes. Ain't got used to it yet. Hope the Lord will excuse me for
cussin' like a sailor. Must have got it from them fellers down on the
lake shore. Kiver to kiver. Now let us go into the house. Door's round
there facin' the holler. Let me go in first; you stand outside. Sand's
blowin' up from the lake and gits in their eyes, too. Ain't used to it
yet. Come on.
There were hollyhocks in front of the house and among them I stood
waiting for the old man to open the door.
Susan, he said, as he stepped into the room, this here
worldthis one right hereis as full of surprises as a chicken is
withwithI don't know what. Now, don't you take on none, butcome
The old woman started forward with a cry and threw her arms about
me. There now, old Lim protested, wiping his eyes, don't take on
that way. Everything's all right. Set down here now and let's be
sensible. That's it. Oh, she's all right, Billher folks stood at the
stake. Guinea's comin' down stairs.
Toward the stairway I looked, and Guinea stepped down into the room.
And oh, the smile on her lips as she came toward me! But she did not
hold out her handsshe came close to me, and her bended head almost
touched me, but her hands were held behind her, clasped, I could see.
Not yet, she said, looking up with a smile. But you must not think
ill of me, must not be provoked. Let me have my whimsical way until my
whole life shall be yours.
She's talkin' like a book! the old man cried. Let her talk like
one, Bill. Don't exactly grab her drift as I'd like to, but I know it's
all right. Gracious alive, why don't you women folks git him something
to eat? And, me, too, for I'm as hungry as the she bear that eat up the
children. I wish you'd all set down. Turn him loose, Susan. Ain't
nothin' the matter with himhungry as a wolf, that's all. Now we are
gettin' at it.
With the door open and with a cool breeze blowing, with the
sweetness of ripening fruit in the air, with the hollyhocks nodding at
us, we sat in that modest room, at home in a strange place. I told them
all that had befallen me. I gradually led up to the discovery of the
mine. And now, I added, we go back there, not poor, but rich. There
is no telling how many dollars they may give us.
Not us, Bill, the old man interposed, slowly shaking his head;
not us, but you. It's yours, all yours. You bought the land and all
that's on it or under it belongs to you.
No, Mr. Jucklin, it belongs to you, to Alf and to me. There will be
enough for us all, but no matter how little, you and Alf shall share
it. I am just beginning fully to realize itbut I know that we are
rich. It is necessary for me to get back at once, I added. I'll have
to buy some land from Parker, but I told Clarm &Ging that I was going
to stop for a day in Kentucky. I didn't want them to know that I
intended to buy more land. It's none of their business, anyway. So I
must be in Purdy one day ahead of Ging. I've got money with me and
we'll all start this evening.
The old man sadly shook his head. I can't do it, Bill; can't go
back yet. If he comes clear, without a scratch on him, I'll go back,
but if he don't I'll never see that state again. So we'll wait right
here till after the next trial. Won't settle on anything until then.
You go ahead and attend to everything and let me know how it all comes
out. I've been scared ever since I left there, afraid that I'd hear
something by some chance or other; and I wouldn't let Guinea write to
you. Every day I'd tell her 'not yet.' She wanted to, but I wouldn't
You shall have your own way, for I know that everything will come
out right. Conkwright says so, and he knows. How did you happen to find
The old man laughed. Well, sir, we got on the train, and when the
man asked where we wanted to go I told him we'd go just as far as he
did, it made no difference how far that might happen to be; and every
time we'd change cars I'd tell the other man the same thing. But
finally they got so stuck up that they wouldn't let us get on without
tickets, and at Louisville I bought tickets for Chicago. I didn't know
what to do when I got to Chicagodidn't know what to do when I got to
any place, for that matter; but we poked around, gettin' a bite to eat
every once in a while, and slept in the slambangin'est place I ever
saw. The lake caught me, and I found out how soon the first boat went
out, and we got on her and here we are. When I told these here folks
where I was from I braced myself, expectin' to have a fight right
there, but I want to tell you that I was never better treated in my
life. All the good folks ain't huddled together in one community, I
tell you; and this knockin' round has opened my eyes mightily. Why, I
rickollect when they sorter looked down on Conkwright because his
father wa'n't born in the South. Yes, sir, and they gave me work right
offthat is, they call it work, but I call it playgatherin' fruit.
Why, with us, when a feller wanted to rest he'd go out and gather
fruit, if he could find any. Yes, sir, and I'm goin' to stay right here
till the cat makes her final jump one way or another.
How fondly they listened as I talked about the old place, of
well-known trees, of the big rock on the brink of the ravine. I even
told them that the General lamented the breaking of the engagement,
that he had come as an agent, that his son was at fault. Guinea smiled
at this, and I thought that her eyes grew darker.
I learned that my train was not to leave until night. I was glad of
this, for it gave me a sweet lingering time; and in the afternoon
Guinea and I went down to the river.
We will get a boat and row up past the island, away up to the
beautiful hills, she said. But can you row? she asked, with a look
I have pulled a boat against a swifter current than this. I
answered. I lived near the bank of a rapid stream.
We got into a graceful boat and skimmed easily over the water. Now
it was my time to wonder and to muse over the changes that had cometo
dream as I looked at her, as she sat, trailing her hand in the water,
her hand, my hand, though she had not let me take it to help her into
the boat. With her a swamp would have been attractive, but here we were
in a paradise. Boats up and down the river; lovers went by, singing. On
one shore the scene was quiet, with easy slopes and with houses here
and there; but the other shore was wild with bluffs, with tangled vines
and monstrous trees that storms had gnarled and twisted. Here a spring
gushed out with a gleeful laugh, and lovers paused to listen, and in
its flow the city oarsman cooled his blistered hands.
Guinea, do you see that high bluff up there among the pine trees?
Yes, and isn't it a charming place?
I'm glad you think so?
Why are you glad of that?
Because youI mean a woman who has had her waybecause she may
live there. When at last she is tired of that way, and when she has
gone to a man with her hands held out, he will take her to a house
built on that bluff, a summer home. I'm not joking. Next year there
will be a beautiful home up there. Don't you see, the land is for sale?
And in the house a man is going to write a history of a woman who had
her way and of a man whowell, I hardly know what to say about him,
but I am not going to hide his faults nor cover up his weaknesses.
Are you really in earnest, Mr. Hawes?
Yes, I mean every word of it. Wouldn't youI mean, wouldn't the
woman who had persisted in having her waywouldn't she like a home up
In her voice was the musical cluck that so often had charmed me.
She would be happy anywhere with the man who had permitted her to have
her way, and I know that she would be delighted to live up there. And
youI mean the man-wouldn't have any of the trees cut down, would
Not one. He would build the house in that open place.
Charming, she said. How sweet a religion could be made of a life
up there, with the river and the hills and the islandbeautiful.
Guinea, I wish you would tell me something. Did you ever really
When I have come to you as I told you I would come, you will not
have to ask me anything.
But can you give me some idea as to how long I may have to wait? My
confidence in you is complete, but you must know that to wait is
painful. Suppose that a certain something that you are waiting
forsuppose that nothing should come of it? What then?
No matter what takes place, I will come to you. I know that it must
appear foolish, I know that I am but vague in what I try to make you
understand, butyou will wait a while longer, won't you?
Her voice was so pleading, her manner was so full of distress, that
I hastened to tell her that I would wait no matter how long she might
deign to hold me off, and that never again could she find cause to
reprove my impatience. She thanked me with a smile and with many an
endearing word, and onward we went, the boats passing us, the songs of
lovers reaching us from above and below. We landed and climbed the
bluff, and I selected the exact spot whereon the house was to be; we
loitered in the shade and counted the minutes as they flew away like
pigeons from a trap, but we could not shoot them and bring them back;
so they were gone, and it was soon time for us to go, for the light of
the sun was weakening. Down the river we went, singing Juanita, she
rippling the water with her hand, I half-hearted in my rowing, dreamily
wishing that the train might leave me.
Close to me at the door she stood. The old man was outside, waiting
to go with me to the railway station. She bowed her head and I kissed
The sun had just gone down, and a man was beating a triangle to
announce that it was lodge-night, when I stepped upon the sidewalk in
front of Conkwright's office. The old man was locking his door. I spoke
to him and he turned about, and, seeing me, merely nodded, threw open
the door and bade me go in. Mighty glad you've got back, he said.
They are going to bring that trial on right away, and it will be none
too soon for us, I assure you. Let me open this window. Been about as
hot a day as I ever felt. Well, what have you got to say?
So much that I scarcely know how to begin.
He grunted. The prelude to an unimportant story. But, go on.
Long before I was done with my recital he sat with his eyes wide
open, seeming to wonder whether my reason had slipped a cog.
Wonderful, he said. No, it is not wonderful, nothing is
wonderful. The mere fact that a thing happens proves that there is
about it no element of the marvelous. It is the strange thing that does
not occur. When it does occur it ceases to be strange. And you say he
will be here to-morrow? Now, you let me take charge of him as soon as
he arrives. If you don't he will not only get the mine for nothing, but
will go away with your eye teeth. I'll go home to-night and study up
this question, and by to-morrow night I'll know more about it than he
does. Yes, sir, a good deal more, or at least make him think so. You
were long-headed in deciding to slip out there and buy more land, and
by the way, Parker is in town. No, sir, there is no telling what may
happen. See Parker to-night and meet me here to-morrow morning.
I found Alf reading a letter which Millie had contrived to send him.
Under the light of the smoky lamp his face looked sallow and thin, but
his eyes were full of happiness. She's got the noblest spirit that
ever suffered, and noble spirits must suffer, he said as he handed me
the letter. See, she begs my forgiveness for having kept me on the
gridiron. But doesn't one letter atone for a whole year of broiling?
Ah, and you have been broiled, too, haven't you, Bill? Now let them put
the balm on us. The Judge tells me that I am soon to be turned out, and
I'll come out wiser than I was when I came in, for I have improved my
time with reading. Have you heard from the folks?
I told him my story, and I told it quietly, but it greatly excited
him, and time and again he thrust his hands through the iron lattice to
grasp me. So you will go out not only wiser, but a richer man, I
said. You will not have to go into a field and plow in the blistering
heat while other men are sitting in the shade. All our trouble has been
for the best, and with deep reverence we must acknowledge it. And soon
we will go together out to the old place and peacefully smoke our pipes
up under the rafters. Well, I have left you the subject for a pleasant
dream, and I must go now to look for Parker. As I said to your father,
there is no telling how much money we may get, but whatever comes we
Not if it's very much, Bill. I don't need much; I wouldn't know
what to do with it. But if you could only do one thing it would make me
the happiest man that ever lived.
Tell me what it is. It can surely be done.
Why, if I could only get the old Morton place. It's about three
miles from the General's, and it used to belong to his grandfather. One
of his aims in life has been to get it back into the family, and if you
could get it for me
You shall have it.
Don't say so, Bill, unless you think there's a chance.
It's not a chance, but a certainty. You shall have the place. And
what a delight it will be to the General to visit his daughter there.
Now, don't speculatelet it be settled. Well, I'll see you to-morrow
and tell you how it's all to turn out, but have no fears about getting
I found Parker at the tavern. He told me that I might have a few
acres of land down about the spring, but that I would have to pay a
little more for it than he had paid. We can't afford to trade for the
mere fun of it, he said. My father used to do such things and they
came mighty nigh having to haul him to the poor house.
I offered him a sum that pleased him, that must, indeed, have
delighted him, for he offered to go out and set up a feast of cove
oysters and crackers, a great and liberal ceremony in the country; and
over the tin plates in a grocery store the transaction was celebrated.
I met him again early at morning, and before the day was half-grown I
saw our transaction spread upon the records. And at night Ging arrived.
I introduced him to Conkwright. The Judge will represent me, said I,
and I will stand by any agreement he may enter into with you.
All right, Ging replied. How far is it out to the mine?
About five miles.
Better go out to-night. Haven't any time to lose. Get a rig and
we'll go out.
Might as well wait until morning, said the Judge. We can't do
I know, but by staying there to-night we'll be there right early in
the morning. Get a rig.
They drove away and I went round to the jail to tell Alf that the
old Morton place was rapidly coming his way. I slept but little that
night and I was nervous the next day, as I sat in the Judge's office
waiting for him to return. At 11 o'clock he drove up alone.
Where is Ging? I asked as the old man got out of the buggy.
Gone to the telegraph office. Come in and I'll tell you all about
We entered the office and I stood there impatient at his delay, for
instead of telling me, he was silent, walking up and down the room with
his hands under his coat behind him.
Did you say he had gone to the telegraph office?
Yes; said he had to communicate with his partner. Think he must
have been somewhat startled at my knowledge of mica; but if he should
spring the subject on me a week from now he would be still more
startledat my ignorance. In this instance I have been what is termed
a case lawyer.
And still I waited and still he continued to walk up and down the
room, his hands behind him.
Communicate with his partner. Did he make an offer?
Well, he hunted around in that neighborhood, but his gun hung fire.
The truth is I set the price myself. There is no doubt as to the value
of the minefinest in the world, I should think.
What did you tell him he could have it for?
Well, I suppose we could get more for it, but I told him that he
might have it for six hundred thousand dollars. Iwhy, what's wrong
with that offer? Isn't it enough?
Enough! It is more than I dared to dream! I cried.
Ah, hah. And because you don't know anything about mica. It didn't
startle him; simply remarked that he would telegraph to his partner.
He'll take it. He'll give you a check and I'll send it over to
Knoxville, Tenn.don't want this little bank to handle that amount.
What are you going to do with the money?
I'm going to buy the old Morton place for Alf, give the old man as
much as I can compel him to take, and I'm going to build a home on a
high bluff overlooking the St. Jo river, in Michigan. And I don't know
yet what else I may do. It is so overwhelming that my mind is in a
tangle. But I am going to give you
I don't charge you anything for my services, he broke in,
humorously winking his old eyes. You are to be my law partner, you
Ah, that was reserved for time to bring about, in the event that I
should ever become a lawyer, but that possibility is now removed. I'm
not going to study law. The law is very forcible and very logical, but
it is too dry for me. I don't believe that I am practical enough for a
lawyer. I would rather read poetry and luminous prose than to study
rules of civil conduct. I am going to bejewel my house with books and
then I am going to live. I heard you say that the poet was the only man
who really lives, but he is notthose who worship with him live with
him. Yes, I am going to buy old booksI don't like new onesand in my
library I will rule over the kingdoms of the earth. But I am going to
give you ten thousand dollars.
You wouldn't make a very good lawyer, Bill. I suspected it, and now
you prove it. My dear fellow, I have no children, and am getting old,
therefore I have no use for money. Wait a minute. I believe there is a
five thousand dollar mortgage on my house. Well, you may lend me ten
thousand, but I don't believe I'll ever pay it back. I can't afford to
violate the rule. When a man lends me money it's gone. And that's
right, for if I thought I had to pay it back I might dodge you. Yes,
sir. As I was driving back to town I came within one of permitting
myself to look upon this happening as a strange affair, but it is not;
it's perfectly natural. Yes, sir. And as soon as the news spreads
around, nearly every man in the community will turn out to hunt for
mica, and not a speck of it will be found. A reminder of the imitators
that clamor when the clear voice of a genius has been heard. If I keep
on fooling with this subject I will regard it as strange, after all.
Just think of the ten thousand things that led to the discovery of that
mine. Suppose we could trace any occurrence back to its source. Take my
sitting here, for instance. Caused, we will say, by a dead cat. My
father, a very young fellow at the time, found a dead cat lying on his
father's door-steps, and he threw it over into a neighbor's yard. The
neighbor saw him, came over and demanded that he be whipped. He was
whipped, according to the good, old religious custom, and he ran away
from home, went to many places, came into this state as a clock
peddler, fell in love, married, and here I am, sitting hereall caused
by a dead cat. My mother was the daughter of a very proud old fellow.
She ran away with my father and never again was she received at home. I
may have dreamed it, but it seems that I remember my mother holding me
in her arms, pointing to an old brick house and telling me that my
grandfather lived there. Yes, sir, if we permit our minds to drift that
way, everything is strange. Here comes our man.
Ging stepped in, mopping his face with a handkerchief. I'll take
it, he said, and it seemed to me that the room began to turn round.
Let us fix it up at once, he added. I have engaged a man to drive me
to the station and I want to take the next train.
Evening came. The day had been filled with tremors and whirls, so
dazed was I, dreamily listening to details, now startled, now seeming
to be far awayshaking hands, signing papers; and now it was all
settled, and I, on a horse, rode toward home to seek a night of rest in
the country. The moon was full. I heard the sharp clack of hoofs, and,
looking back, I saw a man riding as if it were his aim to overtake me.
I jogged along slowly and Etheredge came up.
How are you, Mr. Hawes? I have heard of your wonderful luck and I
congratulate you. I intended to see you in town to-night, but learned
that you had come out here, so I rode fast to overtake you. I have sold
out and will leave here to-morrow morning.
What! Then you won't be here at the trial?
I shall not be needed, sir. Now I am going to tell you something
and I hope that in your mind, and in the mind of the public, the good
which it will do may in some measure atone for the wrong
His horse stumbled, and he did not complete the sentence. I was
afraid to say anything, was afraid that eagerness on my part might stir
the vagaries of his peculiar mind and drive him into stubborn silence.
So I said nothing. He rode close to me, reached over and put his hand
on my arm. Mr. Hawes, he said, leaning toward me, and in the
moonlight his face was ghastly, Mr. Hawes, Alf Jucklin did not kill
What! I cried, bringing my horse to a stand-still and seizing his
Let us be perfectly calm now, and I'll tell you all about it. Turn
loose my bridle-rein and let us ride on slowly.
Down the moon-whitened road the horses slowly walked. I waited for
him to continue. No, sir, Alf didn't kill him. I found him in the
road, after Alf had called me, and I took him into my house and there
was not a mark on him, not one. I stripped him and nowhere was his skin
broken. Dan was born with organic disease of the heart, and for years I
had been treating him. He was sensitive and never spoke of his ailment
and I was the only one who knew the extent of it. Two years ago I told
him that he was likely to die at any minute, and I repeatedly warned
him against fatigue or any sort of agitation. And it was rage that
killed him when Alf's pistol fired. The hammer of Dan's pistol caught
in his pocket and his failure to get it out threw him into a rage and
he died. I told the coroner that he was shot through the breast, and I
slyly contrived not to be placed upon my oath. They had Alf's
confession, and that was enough. And no one cared to strip the dead man
to examine the wound. It was a piece of humbuggery, as all coroners'
inquests are, and so the verdict was given. I am a mean man; I
acknowledge itI am narrow and vindictive, but I would have made a
confession of the manner of Dan's death rather than to see Alf hanged.
I knew that there would be a new trial; I intended to leave the
community and I resolved to defer my statement until just before going.
That about covers the case, I think.
Will you go with me to a justice of the peace, write out your
statement and swear to it? I asked, striving to be calm.
Certainly. Old Perdue is a justice. We'll go over there.
The moon was still high as I galloped toward town with the statement
in my pocket. I went straightway to Conkwright's house and with the
door-knocker set every dog in the town to barking.
Why, what on earth is the matter? the Judge asked as he opened the
door. Oh, it's you, is it, Bill? I've got a negro here somewhere, but
Gabriel might blow a blast in his ear and never stir his wool. Come
into the library.
He lighted a lamp, and I handed him the doctor's statement. He read
it without the least show of surprise; and, putting the paper into his
pocket, he sat down, closed his eyes, and with his thumb and forefinger
pressed his eye-lids.
Etheredge is going to leave in the morning, I said.
He ought to be sent to the penitentiary. But let him go.
Penitentiary is better off without him. In the morning we will have
several of our leading doctors exhume the body to verify the statement.
I'll attend to it. Yes, sir. A certain form must be observed. A jury
will be impaneled, the statement will be read, and the judge will, in a
sort of a charge, declare that the prisoner is innocent. Some things
are strange after all. A venomous scoundrel, but let him go. Yes, I'll
attend to everything in the morning. You'd better sleep here.
No, I'm going to the jail and then to the telegraph office.
How soft had been the day, how tender the tone of every voice. The
road under the moon was white and from a persimmon tree in an old field
came the trill of a mockingbird. Two happy men were riding toward an
And here is where he fell, said Alf. I am tempted to get down and
pray. Bill, you don't know what it is to be freed from the conviction
that you have killed a man. He might not have died then if it had not
been for me, but, thank God, I didn't kill him. Yes, here is where I
eased him down. I remembered afterward that I had not seen a drop of
his blood and I was deeply thankful for it. We can almost see the
General's house from here. You saw the old man to-day when he came up
and shook hands with me. He hardly knew what he was about, and he said,
'Alf, what's your father doing?' But his eyes were full of tears and he
had to wipe them when I told him that I was going to buy the old Morton
place. He thinks you are a great man, Bill, and I honor him for it.
To-night we will sleep in our room and early to-morrow morning I'm
going over to see Millie. Do you think I ought to go to-night? No, I
will wait and dream over it.
In the old room we sat and peacefully smoked our pipes. And after I
had gone to bed, and when I thought Alf was asleep, I heard him talking
to himself. No, it was not talk, it was a chant, and it reminded me of
his mother. I said nothing and I sank to sleep, and strange, mystic
words were in my ears, soothing me down to forgetful slumber.
We were aroused early at morning by the rattle of a wagon at the
door. The old peopleGuinea had come back. Alf dressed quickly and ran
down stairs, and I stuffed my ears that I might hear no sound from
below. After a long time, and while I sat looking out of the window,
the old man came up.
By jings, I must have got that dispatch of yourn before you sent
it. Mighty glad to see you again. But don't go down stairs yet.
Everybody down there is as foolish as a chicken with his neck wrung. I
tell you the Lord works things out in his own way. Sometimes we may
think that we could run things better, but I don't believe we could!
and, thurfore, I say, kiver to kiver. Ah, Lord, what a time we have
had. Yes, sir, a time if there ever was one. Alf has jest told me what
you intend to do, but if you think that you are goin' to crowd a lot of
money off on me you are wrong. Give us this old house and see that we
don't need nothin'but, of course, you'll do that. I thought I'd let
'em fight to a finish up yander, but I didn't. They looked at me so
pitiful that I called an old feller that happened to be passin' along
and told him that he might have 'em. I've got to have a Sam and a Bob.
Old Craighead, that lives about ten miles from here, has some of the
finest in the world. Always wanted 'em, but they were so high that I
couldn't tip-toe and reach 'em. Reckon you could fix it so I could git
You shall have as many as you wantall of them.
I'm a thousand times obleeged to you. Yes, sir; sometimes we think
we could run things better than He does, but I don't reckon we could.
We seen young Lundsford as we driv along jest now. And I think he'll be
over here putty soon, but don't you worry. No, sir, we ain't got
nothin' to worry about now. Believe it would push us to scratch up a
worry, don't you? By jings, though, I hardly know what to do; I step
around here like a blind sheep in a barn, as the feller says. Well,
it's gettin' pretty quiet down there now. Alf got away as soon as he
could, and has gone over to the General's. Hush a minit. Thought I
heard Chyd's voice. Well, I'm going to poke round a little, and it's
not worth while to tell you to make yourself at home.
He went out, and I heard him humming a tune as he tramped slowly
down the stairs. I took a seat near the window. Voices reached me, and,
looking down through the branches of a mulberry tree, I saw Guinea
sitting on a bench, and near her stood Chyd Lundsford. In his hand he
held a switch and with it he was slowly cutting at a bloom on a vine
that grew about the tree. He was talking. Guinea's face was turned
upward and her hands were clasped behind her head. I could look down
into her eyes, but she did not see me, and I felt a sense of
self-reproach at thus watching her, listening for her to speak, and I
thought to get up, but my legs refused to move, and I sat there,
looking down into her eyes. Her face was pale and her lips, which had
seemed to me in bloom with the rich juice of life, were now drawn thin.
Of course, I was wrong, he said, but I'm not the first man that
ever did a wrong. And I should think that as a broad-minded and
generous woman you could forgive me. I don't think that you can find
any man who would take any better care of you than I would. I've got no
romance about me, and why should I have? I can just remember seeing the
trail of that monster called advancementthat mighty thing called
progress, though in the guise of war, and that thing swallowed the
romance of this country. I say that I can remember seeing the fading
trail, but I know its history and I know that if it did not swallow
romance it should have done so. I don't suppose I could ever think as
much of any woman as I do of you, and I know that no woman could make
my house so bright and cheerful. I was afraid of any complication that
might hurt my prospects as a physician, my standing in the opinion of a
careful and discriminating public; so, influenced by that sense of
self-protection, I broke our engagement. But now I beg of you to renew
On your knees! she said, without looking at him.
Now, Guinea, that's ridiculous. I am willing to make all sorts of
On your knees! she said.
I see that there is no use to appeal to your reason. I suppose,
however, that the way to reason with a woman is to gratify her whim and
then appeal to her sense. It is a foolish thing to do, but in order to
secure a hearing I will do as you say.
He sank upon his knees. She glanced down at him and then looked up
at the sky. He began to talk, but she stopped him with a motion of her
You have heard the preacher say that we must be born again, she
said. I have been born againborn into the kingdom of love, and I
find myself in a rapturous heaven. Get up. He obeyed, and she
continued. And you are so far from this kingdom that I cannot see
youyou are off somewhere in the dark, and to me your words are cold.
But there is one who stands in the light and I must go to him.
I sprang from my seat and hastened down the stairs. My heart beat
fast, and I trembled. I was frightened like a child, like a timid
overgrown boy, who is called to the table to sit beside a girl whom he
slyly worships; and I ran awaydown the path to the spring. I heard
her calling me, and I stood there trembling, waiting for a holy spirit
that was searching for me; and worship made me dumb. She came down the
path, and, seeing me, hastened toward me with her head bent forward and
her hands held out. And I caught her in my arms, swept her off the
ground and held her to my beating heart.
And over the stones the water was laughing, and the strip of green
moss-land flashed in the sun. I saw the old man walking up the ravine,
with his hands behind him, and I caught the faint sound of a tune he
was humming. Slowly her arms came from about my neck, and hand in hand
we walked toward the house, she in the shining path, I on the green
sward; and as we drew near we saw Alf and Millie, standing under a
tree, waiting for us.