Crisis by Will Nathaniel Harben
They were expecting Jim Trundle at the Cross-Roads that spring
morning. His coming had been looked for even more anxiously than that
of Sid Wombley, the wag of the “Cove.” Sid himself, when he dragged his
long legs into the store, forgot to think of anything amusing to say as
he looked the crowd over to see if Jim had preceded him.
It was on the end of his tongue to ask if Trundle had come and gone,
but for once he said nothing. He seated himself on the head of a
soda-keg and began to whittle the edge of the counter. Sid Wombley,
quiet, suited the humor of the group better on this occasion than the
same voluble individual in his natural element, so no one spoke to him,
and all continued to watch the road leading to Trundle's cabin.
The silence and the delay were too much for the patience of Wade
Sims, a bold, dashing young man in tight-fitting trousers, sharp heeled
boots, and a sombrero like an unroped tent. He was, as he often
expressed it, “afraid o' nothin' under a hide,” and if “the boys” had
seen fit to give Jim Trundle notification, in the shape of a letter he
would shortly receive, that he was a disgrace to the community, he saw
no reason for so much secrecy. He wasn't afraid of the verdict of any
jury that could be impaneled in the three counties over which he openly
traded horses and secretly disposed of illicit whisky.
“I reckon thar's no doubt about the letter bein' ready fer 'im,” he
remarked to Alf Carden, who stood in the little pigeon-holed pen of
upright palings which was known as “the post office.”
“I reckon not,” was the reply, “when it's about the only letter I
got on hand.”
“I could make a mighty good guess who drapped it,” said Sims, with a
grin at a one- armed man who had once held the position of book-keeper
at a cotton-gin, and who wrote letters and legal documents for half the
illiterate community, “but I wouldn't give 'im away if I was under
“I have an idee who's gain' to drap it,” spoke up Sid Wombley from
his soda-keg, and his sudden return to his natural condition evoked the
first laugh of the morning. At that moment a little boy, the son of the
storekeeper, who had been playing on the porch, came in quickly. His
words and manner showed that he knew who was in request, if his
intellect could not grasp the reason for it.
“Mr. Trundle is comin' acrost the cottonpatch behind the store,” he
announced, out of breath. Then silence fell on the group, a silence so
complete that Jim Trundle's strides over the plowed ground outside were
distinctly heard. The next moment Trundle had crawled over the low rail
fence at the side of the store, and with clattering, untied brogans was
coming up the steps.
The doorway, as his tall, lank figure passed through it, framed a
perfect picture of human poverty. His shirt, deeply dyed with the red
of the soil, was full of slits and patches worn threadbare. The hems of
his trousers had worn away, revealing triangular glimpses of his
ankles, and a frayed piece of a suspender hung from a stout peg in the
He greeted no one as he entered. A silent tongue was one of Jim
Trundle's peculiarities. Few people had ever gotten a dozen consecutive
words out of him. He strode to the end of the store, thrust his hand
into an open cracker-box, bit into a large square cracker, and sent his
eyes foraging along both counters for something to eat with it—
cheese, butter, a bit of honey, or a pinch of dried beef. He was
violating no rule of country store etiquette, for Alf Carden's
customers all understood that those things left on the counters were to
be partaken of in moderation. I think the habitues of the place had
gradually introduced this custom themselves years before, when Carden
was so anxious to draw people from the store across the river that he
would willingly have given a customer bed and board for an indefinite
time if by so doing he could have deprived his rival of the profit on a
bag of salt.
Jim Trundle wasn't going to ask if there was any mail for him, that
was plain to the curious onlookers; and their glances began to play
back and forth between Carden and the cracker consumer, making demands
on the former and condemning the latter for not more readily walking
into the trap set for him.
Wade Sims winked when he caught the storekeeper's eye, and nodded
toward the gaunt robber, who had squatted at the faucet of a
syrup-barrel and was cautiously trailing a golden stream over an
“So you didn't git no letter fer me, Alf,” said Sims, significantly.
“Seems like no mail don't come this way here lately hardly at all. I
hope all the rest'll have their ride fer nothin' too.”
Alf Carden understood, having given Sims a letter half an hour
before, and he smiled. “No,” he said, “thar hadn't nothin' fer any of
you except Jim Trundle; has he come along yet?”
Jim stood up quickly, and laid his besmeared cracker on the barrel.
“Me?” he ejaculated, and a white puff shot from his crunching jaws; “I
—I reckon yo're mistaken.”
“I reckon I kin read,” replied Carden, still acting his part
nonchalantly, and glancing askance at Sims to see how that individual
was taking it. “It is jest Jim Trundle in plain A B C letters. It is
either from somebody that cayn't write shore 'nough writin' ur is
tryin' to disguise his handwrite.”
Carden threw the letter on the counter. It lay there fully a minute,
while Jim Trundle wiped his hands on his trousers, gulped down a
mouthful of cracker, and stared helplessly round at the upturned faces.
Then he reached for the letter, and with trembling fingers tore it open
and read as follows:
“Jim Trundle. This is to give you due notic. We the reglar organized
band of Regulators of this settlement hav set on yore case an decided
what we are goin to do about it. Time and agin good citizens have
advised you to change yore way of livin, but you jest went along as
before, in the same old rut.
“You are no earthly account, an no amount of talkin seems to do you
any good. Yore childern are in tatters an without food, an you jest
wont do nothin fer them. This might hav gone on longer without action,
but last Wednesday you let yore sick wife go to the field in the hot
brilin sun, an she was seed by a responsible citizen in a faintin
condition, while you was on the creek banks a fishin in the shade.
“To night exactly at eight oclock we are comin after you in full
force to give you a sound lickin. Yore wife an childern would be better
off without you, and we advise you to leave the country before that
time. If we find you at home at eight oclock you may count on a sore
Yours truly, the secretary.”
The spectators observed that Jim Trundle had read every word of the
communication. His eyes, in their sunken sockets, darted strange,
hunted glances from face to face, as if seeking sympathy; then, as if
realizing the futility of the hope, he looked down at the floor. He
leaned back against the counter so heavily that Carden's thread-case
rattled its contents and the beam of the scales wildly swung back and
The group furtively feasted themselves on his visible agony, but
they got nothing more, for Jim Trundle did not intend to talk. Talking
was not in his line. He knew that at eight o'clock that night he was
going to be punished in a way that would be remembered against the
third and fourth generation of his descendants—that is, if he did not
desert his family and leave the country.
“Kin I do anything fer you in the provision line, Jim?” asked
Carden, for the entertainment of his customers. “I've got some fresh
bulk pork. Seems to me you hain't had none lately.”
Trundle refused to answer. He only stared out into the golden
sunshine that lay on the road to his home. He saw through Carden's
remarks, and his heart felt heavier under the thought that before him
were some of the faces which would be masked later on. He wondered if
those men knew that a lazy, worthless vagabond could feel disgrace as
keenly as they could.
There was nothing left for him to do except to go home. He wanted to
turn his mind- pictures of his wife and children into helpful
realities. Somehow they had always comforted him in trouble. Oh, God!
if only he could have foreseen the approach of this calamity! As he
moved out of the store he felt vaguely as if his arms, legs, and body
had nothing to do with his real, horrible self except to hinder it, to
detain it near its spot of torture.
Outside he drew a long, deep, trembling breath. His breast rose and
expanded under his ragged shirt and then sank like a collapsed balloon,
and lay still while he thought of himself. He was a dead man alive, a
moving, breathing horror in the sight of mankind.
He was sure that it was his strange nature that had brought him to
it. Nature had, indeed, made him happy in rags, oblivious to material
things. Had he been endowed with education he might have become a poet.
He saw strange, transcendent possibilities in the blue skies; in the
green growing things; in the dun heights of the mountains; in the
depths of his children's eyes; in the patient face of his wife.
What an awakening! A shudder ran over him. He felt the lash; he
heard Wade Sim's voice of command; then his lower lip began to quiver,
and something rising within him forced tears into his eyes. He had
begun to pity himself. If only those men really understood him they
would pardon his shortcomings. No human being could knowingly lash a
man feeling as he felt.
The road homeward led him into the depths of a wood where mighty
trees arched overhead and obscured the sky. He envied a squirrel
bounding unhindered to its sylvan home. Nature seemed to hold out her
vast green arms to him; he wanted to sink into them and sob away the
awful load that lay upon him. In the deepest part of the wood, where
tall, rugged cliffs bordered the road, there was a spring. He paused,
looked round him, and shuddered anew, for something told him it was at
this secluded spot that he would receive his castigation.
He passed on. The trees grew less dense along the way, and then on a
rise ahead of him he saw his cabin, a low, weather-beaten structure
that melted into the brown plowed fields about it. He was anxious to
see his wife. Could it be true that she had almost fainted while at
work? If so, why had she not mentioned it to him? He had noted nothing
unusual in her conduct of late; but how could he? She was as
uncommunicative as he, and they seldom talked to each other.
As he passed the pig-sty in the fence-corner even the sight of the
grunting inmate seemed to remind him that he was going to be whipped by
his neighbors. He shuddered and felt his blood grow cold. He shuddered
with the same thought again, as if he were encountering it for the
first time, when he dragged open the sagging gate and looked about the
bare yard. In one corner of it he had once started to grow some
flowers, but his neighbors had laughed at his attempt so much that he
allowed the bulbs to die and be uprooted by his chickens. His mind now
reverted to that period, and he decided it was this and kindred
impulses that had always kept him from being a good husband, father,
and citizen like his sturdy, more practical neighbors.
Well, to-morrow he was going to turn over a new leaf—that is, if—
but he could not look beyond the torture set for eight o'clock. He had
imagination, but it could picture nothing but every possible detail of
his approaching degradation—the secluded spot, the masked circle of
men, a muffled talk by Wade Sims, the baring of his back,—the lash!
His wife was in the cabin. She held a wooden bowl in her lap and was
shelling peas. As he towered up in front of her in the low- roofed
room, for the first time in his life he noticed that she looked pale
and thin, and as he continued to study the evidences against him in
growing bewilderment he felt that even God had deserted him.
She looked up.
“What's the matter?” she asked, in slow surprise.
“Nothin'.” But he continued to stare. How thin her hair seemed since
she had recovered from the fever! Perhaps if he had insisted on having
a doctor something might have been done for her then that was
neglected. Poor Martha! how he had made her suffer! The whipping would
not be so hard to bear now, except that—if she were to know—if she
were to witness it. Ah, he had not thought of that! Yes, God had left
him wholly at the mercy of Wade Sims and the rest of his neighbors.
Her eyes held a look of deep concern.
“What are you lookin' at me that-a-way fer?” she asked.
He made no answer, but turned to a stool in the chimney-corner and
sat down. She must not suspect what was going to happen. He would not
escape it by deserting her, for he was going to be a better man,
beginning with the next day. He would stay with her and protect her,
but she must never hear of the whipping. He understood her proud spirit
well enough to know that she could never get over such a disgrace.
Then out of the black flood of his despair a plan rose and floated
into possibility before his mind's eye. Sims' men would gather at the
store, and just before the appointed hour would march along the road he
had just traversed. He would make some excuse to his wife for being
obliged to absent himself for a little while and go to meet them. If he
told them he had voluntarily come to be whipped, they might agree to
keep the fact from his wife. Yes, God would not let them refuse that,
for even Wade Sims would not want to pain an unoffending woman when he
was told how Martha would take it. Then a sob broke from him, and he
realized that his head had fallen between his knees, that tears were
dripping from his eyes to his hands, and, moreover, that Martha was
looking at him as she had never looked before. She wanted to ask him
what was the matter, but she could not have done it to save her life.
“Are you ready fer dinner?” she asked, still with that look in her
“Yes, I reckon, ef—ef you are. Whar's the children?”
“Behind the house, hoein' the young corn. Do you want 'em?”
“No; jest thought I'd ask.”
She emptied the peas from her apron into the bowl, and put it on a
shelf. Then she walked across the swaying puncheon floor to a little
cupboard, and began to busy her hands with some dishes, keeping furtive
eyes the while on him. He evidently thought himself unobserved, for he
allowed his head to fall dejectedly again, and stared fixedly at the
hearth. Surely, thought Mrs. Trundle, Jim had never acted so peculiarly
before. Wiping a plate with a dishcloth, she moved across the floor
till she stood in front of him. He looked up. The gleaming orbs in
their deep hollows frightened the woman into speech she might not have
“Look y' heer, Jim, has anythin' gone wrong?”
“No.” He drew himself up, and rubbed his eyes. “Did you say dinner
“You know the table hain't set. Look y' heer, are you sick, Jim
“No.” His eyes rested on her. There was much that he wanted to ask
her, if only he could have found the words. She turned away
unsatisfied. The next moment she fanned him with the cloth she was
spreading for the meal, then she put a plate of fried bacon and a pan
of corn bread on the table, went to the back door, and called the
children from their work.
He studied them one by one with fresh horror as they filed in,
wondering what this one or that one would think if they should learn
that their father had been whipped for neglecting them and their
mother. At the table, however, he studied his wife chiefly. The
children were young and healthy, and devoured their food like famished
animals, but she was only making feeble pretenses with the piece of
bread she was daintily breaking and dipping into bacon-grease. The
“Regulators,” as they called themselves, were right; he had allowed a
sick wife to go into the hot sun to do work he ought to have done. He
thought now of the lash again, but not with a shudder. It could never
pain him more than the agony at his heart.
He spent that long afternoon under an apple-tree behind the cabin,
mending a harrow that was broken, stealing glances at his wife, longing
to open his heart to her, watching the progress of the sun in its slow
descent to the mountain-top, and feeling the threatening chill of the
lengthening shadows. All nature seemed mutely to announce the coming
horror. At sundown he went to the shelf in the entry, filled a tin pan
with fresh springwater, and washed his face and hands. Then he went in
to supper, but he did not eat heartily.
“Don't you feel no better, Jim?” asked his wife, her manner softened
by a vague uneasiness his actions had roused. A suggestion of his mute
suppressed agony seemed to have reached her and drawn her nearer to
“No, I hain't sick; I'll be all right in the mornin'.”
Through the open door he watched the darkness thicken and heard the
insects of the night begin to chirp and shrill. He had the curse of
introspective analysis, and resolved that they were happy. He used to
whistle and sing himself when his youth rendered it excusable. How very
long ago that seemed!
All at once he rose, pretended to yawn, and said something to his
wife about going over to Rawlston's a little while; he would be back by
bedtime. She wondered in silence, and after he had passed through the
gate she tiptoed to the door and looked after him uneasily.
The landscape darkened as he went along the road toward Carden's
store. It was quite dark in the wooded vale. When he reached the spring
he stopped to await the coming of Wade Sims and his followers. He
wondered if the spot was far enough from the cabin to prevent Martha
from hearing the blows that were to fall. He hoped it was, and, more
than anything else, that “the regulators” would not be drinking. They
would be more apt to listen to his request if they were perfectly
sober. The rising moon in the direction of the store now made the
arched roadway look like a long tunnel.
It would soon be eight o'clock. He sat down on the root of a tree
and tried to pray, but no prayer he had ever heard would come into the
chaos of his mind, and he could not invent one to suit the occasion. By
and by he heard voices down the road, then the tramp, tramp of
footsteps. A dark blur appeared on the moonlit roadway at the mouth of
the tunnel, and grew gradually into a body of men.
Jim Trundle stood up. They should find him ready.
“Hello! what have we heer?” It was the undisguised voice of Wade
Sims. The gang of twenty men or more paused abruptly. There was a
hurried fitting on of white cloth masks.
“Who's that?” called out the same voice, peremptorily, and the
hammer of a revolver clicked.
“Huh!” Wade's grunt of surprise was echoed in various exclamations
round the group. “On yore way out'n the county, eh? Seems to me yore
time's up. We'll have to put it to a vote. It's a little past eight
o'clock, an' you've had the whole day to git a move on you. Whar you
“I ain't on my way nowhar. I come down heer a half-hour ago to meet
you-uns, an' I've jest been a-waitin'.”
“To meet we-uns? Huh! Jeewhilikins!” It sounded like Alf Carden's
“I—I 'lowed you-uns would likely want to do it heer, bein' as it
was whar you-uns tuck Joe Rand last fall.”
Silence fell—a silence so profound, so susceptible, that it seemed
to retain Trundle's words and hold them up to sight rather than to
hearing for fully half a minute after they had ceased to stir the air.
Even Wade Sim's blustering equipose was shaken. His mask appealed
helplessly to other masks, but their jagged eye-holes offered no
“Well, we are much obleeged to you,” said Wade, awkwardly; and he
laughed a laugh that went little farther than his mask. “Boys, he looks
like he's actu'ly itchin' fer it; you needn't feel at all squeamish.”
“I've been studyin' over it,” said Trundle, furnishing more
surprise, “and I've concluded that I ort to be whipped, an' that sound.
In fact, neighbors, the sooner you do it an' have it over the better
I'll feel about it.”
The silence that swallowed up this clear-cut assertion was deeper
than the one which had followed Trundle's other remark. Seeing that no
one was ready to reply, he went on, “I did come down heer, though, to
see ef I couldn't git you-uns to do me a sorter favor, ef you-uns jest
“Ah!” Wade Sims was feeling better. “I must say I was puzzled about
yore conduct in sa'nterin' out to meet us. Well, what do you want?”
“I'm ready fer my whippin',” said Trundle, “becase I think I deserve
it. I've been so lazy an' careless that I never once noticed till I got
yore letter that my wife was a sick woman. I did let her go to the
field in the hot sun when I was a-fishin' on the creek- bank in the
shade. I thought her an' all of us would like some fresh fish, an' I
forgot that our corn-patch was sufferin' fer the hoe. But she didn't.
She 'tended to it. An'—now I come to the favor I want to ask. She
hain't done a speck o' harm to you-uns, an', as foolish as it may seem,
it would go hard with her in her weakly condition to heer about me
a-goin' through what I'll have to submit to. She has got a mighty sight
of pride, an' it's my honest conviction that she would jest pine away
an' die ef she knowed about it. I ain't a-beggin' off from nothin',
understand; it's only a word fer her an' the childern. You kin all take
a turn an' whip me jest as long as you want to, but when it's over an'
done with I 'lowed you mought consent to say nothin' to nobody about
it. Besides, I've made up my mind to lead a different sort of a life,
friends, God bein' my helper, an' it would be easier to do it if I
knowed Martha had respect fer me; an', neighbors, I am actu'ly afeered
she won't have it if she diskivers what takes place to-night. I—I
think you-uns mought agree to that much.”
Masks turned upon masks. Some of them fell from strangely set
visages into hands that quivered and failed to replace them. It was
plain to the crowd that they had not elected a leader who could
possibly do justice to the infinite delicacy of the situation. In fact,
something was struggling in Wade Sims that was humiliating him in his
own eyes, making him feel decidedly unmanly.
“I think yore proposition is—is purty reasonable,” he managed to
blurt out, after an awkward hesitation. “We hain't none of us got
nothin' ag'in yore wife; an' ef she is sick, an' hearin' about this—”
But his inability to continue was evident to his most sincere
admirers. Trundle sighed in relief. He knew that not one in the gang
could possibly be harder of heart than their blustering leader. “I
wish, then, gentlemen,” he said, calmly, “that you'd git it over with.
I don't know how long it's a-goin' to take—that's with you-uns; but
Martha thinks I've gone over to Rawlston's to set till bedtime, an'
it'll soon be time I was back.”
“That's a fact,” admitted Wade Sims, slowly, as if his mind were on
something besides the business in hand, and he looked round him. The
band stood like rugged, white-capped posts.
Then it was proved that Sid Wombley, the wag of the valley, had more
courage of his convictions than had ever been accredited to him. It
sounded strange to hear him speak without joking. His seriousness
struck a sort of terror to the hearts of some of the most backward.
There was a suspicion of a whimper in the tone he manfully tried to
straighten as he spoke.
“Looky' heer, Jim,” he said, and he stepped forward and tore off his
mask, “I've got a sorter feelin' that I want you to see my face an'
know who I am. Sence I heard yore proposal, blame me ef I hain't got
more downright respect fer you than fer any man in this cove, an' I
want to kick myself. You've got the sort o' meat in you that ain't in
me, I'm afeered, an' I take off my hat to it. I'm a member o' this
gang, an' have agreed to abide by the vote of the majority but they'll
have to git a mighty move on theirselves an' reverse the'r decision in
yore case, ur I'll be a deserter. I'd every bit as soon whip my mammy
as a body feelin' like you do.”
“That's the talk.” It was the voice of Alf Carden. All at once he
remembered that Jim Trundle, after all that had been said against him,
did not owe him a cent, while nearly every other man present had to be
dunned systematically once a week. “Boys, let 'im go,” he said; “I'm
a-thinkin' we hadn't fully understood Jim Trundle.”
“I hain't the one that got up this movement,” said Wade Sims, in a
tone of defense. Where sentiment was concerned he was out of his
element. “Ef you was to let 'im off with a word of advice, it wouldn't
be the fust time we conceded a p'int.”
That settled it. With vague mutterings of various sheepish kinds the
crowd began to filter away. Some went down the road, and others took
paths that led from it.
Sid Wombley lingered with Jim a moment. Not being able to turn the
matter into a jest, and yet being a thorough man, he felt very awkward.
“Go on home, Jim,” he said, gently, his hand on Trundle's arm. “Your
wife'll never know a thing about it; they'll all keep it quiet, an' the
boys'll never bother you ag'in. I—I'll see to that.”
They shook hands. Trundle started to speak, but simply choked and
coughed. Sid turned away. An idea for a joke flitted through his mind,
but he discarded it as unworthy of the occasion.
Jim went slowly up the hill to his cabin. The moon was now higher
up, and as he neared the gate he saw his wife walking about in the
entry. She was not alone. A woman sat on the step. It was old Mrs.
Samuel, the aunt of Wade Sims, a neighbor, who sometimes dropped in to
spend the evening. Was it an exclamation of glad surprise that he heard
as he opened the gate, and did his wife stand still and stare at him
excitedly, or was the sound the voice of one of the children turning in
its sleep? Was her cast of countenance a trick of the moonlight and
The eyes of both women fell as he approached them.
“Good evenin', Jim,” was Mrs. Samuel's greeting.
He nodded and sat down on the steps, his back to his wife. They were
all silent. Mrs. Trundle stepped to the water-shelf at one side, and
peered at his profile through the shadows, her face full of vague
misgivings. Then she sat down in a chair behind him, and studied his
back, his neck, the way his shirt lay, her hands clinched on her knees,
the fury of a tiger in her eyes.
Ten minutes passed. Then Trundle roused himself with a start. He
must not be so absent- minded; they must suspect nothing.
“Whar's the children?” he asked, not looking toward his wife.
“In bed a hour ago.”
Her tone struck him dumb with apprehension. He stared over his
shoulder at her. Her face was hidden in her hands. He glanced at the
visitor, and saw her avert her eyes. Could she have heard of the plan
to whip him, and revealed it to his wife? He felt sure of it; Wade Sims
could not keep a secret. His wife thought he had been punished. No
matter; it was the same thing. His heart was ice.
Mrs. Trundle bent nearer him. She was trying surreptitiously to see
if there were any marks on his neck above his shirt-collar.
Presently her pent-up emotions seemed to overwhelm her. She began to
sob and rock back and forth. Then she glared at Mrs. Samuel.
“I'd think you'd have the decency to go home,” she said, fiercely,
“an' not set thar an'—an' gloat over me an' him like a crow. It's our
“Why, Martha, what's the—” Trundle stood up in bewilderment.
“I was jest gettin' ready to go,” stammered the visitor, humbly, and
she hastened away. Trundle sank back on his seat. What was to be done
now? He had never seen his wife that way, but he loved her more than
ever in his life before. She watched Mrs. Samuel's form vanish in the
hazy moonlight; then she sat down on the step beside her husband.
“Jim,” she faltered, “I want you to lay yore head in my lap.” She
had put her thin, quivering arm round his neck, and her voice had never
before held such tender, motherly cadences.
“What do you want me to do that fer?'
“Jest becase I do. I hain't never in all my life loved you like I do
at this minute. I'd fight fer you with my last breath; I'd die fer you.
Jim, poor, dear Jim! you needn't try to hide it from me. Mis' Samuel
had jest told me what the Regulators was goin' to do when you turned
the corner. I know you went down to the spring to meet 'em so me an'
the childern wouldn't know it. Many a man would 'a' gone away an' left
his family ruther than suffer such disgrace. Oh, Jim, I'd a million
times ruther they'd whipped me! I'll never git over it. I'll feel that
lash on my back every minute as long as I live. They hain't none of 'em
got sense enough to see what a good, lovin' man you are at the bottom.
I'd ruther have you jest like you are than like any one o' that layout.
We must move away somewhars an' begin all over. I don't want the
childern to grow up under sech disgrace.”
Her hand passed gently round to the front of his shirt. She
unfastened it, and began to sob as she turned the garment down at the
neck. “Oh, Jim, did they hurt you? Does it—”
“They didn't tetch me, Martha,” he said, finally recovering his
voice. “Sid Wombley kinder tuk pity on me an' stood up fer me, an' they
all concluded to give me another trial. I hain't lived right, Martha, I
kin see it now, an' to-morrow I'm a-goin' to begin different. These
fellows have got good hearts in 'em, an' after the way they talked an'
acted to-night I hain't a-goin' to harbor no ill-will ag'in' 'em.”
Mrs. Trundle leaned toward him. She began to cry softly, and he drew
her head over on his shoulder and stroked her thin hair with his coarse
hands. Then they kissed each other, went into the cabin, and went to
bed in the dark, so as not to wake the children.