Shawn of Skarrow
by James Tandy
SHAWN OF SKARROW
JAMES TANDY ELLIS
Author of Sprigs O' Mint, Kentucky Stories,
Awhile in the Mountains, etc.
THE C. M. CLARK PUBLISHING CO.
THE C. M. CLARK PUBLISHING CO.,
Frontispiece Shawn and Coaly
You'll be a great fisherman, some day, Shawn 24
Burney begin to take out the shells 36
De Prodegale Son 52
I'll give you ten dollars to set us over 62
You and the doctor got your birds 82
They were nearing the last hundred yard flag 90
W'y, Jedge, you know my name 106
The Cabin of the American fell with a crash 126
Lallite ran up to Shawn, giving him both her hands 139
[Illustration: Shawn and Coaly.]
SHAWN OF SKARROW
It was a shrill voice calling from the bank above the river.
You can holler till dark, but I ain't goin' to answer you while a
blue-channel cat is nibblin' at this line.
Through the short and chubby fingers a stout sea-grass line was
running out to the accumulated driftwood in the eddy below the
wharf-boat. Suddenly there came a spasmodic jerk of the line.
He bluffed that time.
The front finger tapped the line, as an expert telegraph operator
taps his key.
He's coming back for that crawfish tail now. The line went taut.
The freckled arms executed a series of lightning-like movements and the
catfish lay on the shore, a five-pounder, beating the sands with his
I'm a-comin' now; come on, Coaly. The little brown dog wagged his
tail and got up from his resting place in the sand. They went up the
hill toward the little frame building on the bank.
The boy's mother met him at the door. She was a frail-looking woman,
upon whose face was a sorrowful and melancholy expression.
Shawn, Mrs. Alden has sent for you, and wants you to come up to the
big house; get on your cottonade pants and wash your face and comb your
hair, and when you go up there, don't scratch your shins together, and
don't forget to say yes mam.
It was a matter of but a few moments for Shawn to array himself in
his best clothes. As he turned to go, his mother wearily took his face
between her hands and kissed him on the lips. The black eyes beamed
tenderly upon her, and over the sun-tanned features flashed a smile of
cheerfulness and love.
Take that fish to Mrs. Alden, Shawn.
It's for you, mammy.
No, take it to her.
Shawn climbed the hill and went up through the alley, going around
to the side entrance of the Alden home. There was something about the
great house which always filled him with a spirit of awe, and as he
glanced over toward the long garden and orchard, there came into his
heart a yearning such as he had never known before.
A servant opened the door, and Shawn held up his fish: This is for
Mrs. Alden; she sent for me. The servant took the fish and said, You
will find Mrs. Alden in the next room. Leave your dog outside. Shawn
walked into the room. A woman with a sweet spiritual face sat in an
Extending her thin white hand to Shawn, she bestowed upon him a
smile of tenderness.
I am glad you came, Shawn; take that chair. Shawn was striving
hard to remember his mother's parting injunction in regard to his
How old are you, Shawn?
Yes, mam, fourteen past in March.
How long have you attended school? The black eyelashes fell and
the smile vanished. I went to old 'fesser Barker up to Christmas
Why did you stop?
I put red pepper on his plug tobacker!
Did you go to any other school?
Yes, mam, I went to Miss Julie Bean six months.
Did you quit that school?
Yes, mam, I put cuckle burrs in her bonnet.
Weren't you sorry for it?
Yes, mam, but too late.
You spend a good part of your time fishing, don't you?
Yes, mam, but I catches them.
Isn't there anything you would rather do than fish? A long silence
followed, then the eyes suddenly brightened:
What is it?
I'd rather blow up hog bladders with a quill and bust 'em!
Shawn, have you ever thought of what you would like to do in life;
what you would like to make of yourself as you grow to manhood?
Yes, mam, I'm goin' to be a doctor!
Yes, mam, indeed, I help doctor Hissong roll pills now, and he
helps me in my books more than I learned at school.
Shawn, I am going to ask you to begin with the term of school which
opens soon. I will furnish you with books and tuition and will help you
in every way.
Will it help me to be a doctor?
It will help you in everything.
Could I take Coaly with me?
I hardly think so.
Shawn gazed out of the window. The fleecy clouds were moving
majestically above the river, along the old haunts he loved so well,
but something in the kind blue eyes of the good woman sitting there
with folded hands, touched his innermost being, and he arose and
turning squarely to face his benefactress, said: I'll do it, Mrs.
I thank you, Shawn.
Yes, mam, but I did not ketch that fish I brought you for niggers
to eat; they never told you I brought it.
Mrs. Alden rolled her chair near him, and placing her hand on his
shoulder, said, I appreciate your bringing it very much and will
As Shawn left the porch he turned to his little dog and said, Oh,
Lord, Coaly, we're goin' to school!
DOCTOR HISSONG'S OFFICE
So you are going to school, Shawn?
Yes, sir, I promised Mrs. Alden.
That's the best promise you ever made, and to the best woman that
God ever made.
Old Doctor Hissong sat in his big armchair, his spectacles tilted
high on his nose as he looked at Shawn, who was leaning against the
mantel-board. Old Brad, a negro who had been the doctor's servant for
many years, sat in a hickory chair near the back door. Brad, aside from
taking care of the doctor's office, gave some of his time to preaching,
although it was a matter of some speculation as to whether his general
habits warranted his ministerial fulfillments.
The old office was dingy with its medicine bottles ranging along the
shelves, and cobwebs and dust were in evidence all about them. Over in
the corner was a pair of saddlebags, and a pair of jean legging hung
over a chair. In another corner was a tall book-case, the glass front
broken out, and the books scattered about on the shelves. On the top of
the book-case was an object which had long been a source of discomfort
to Shawn and Brada grinning skull.
A doctor's office, in the old days, without a skull peering out from
some hidden recess, was not considered completeit contributed a kind
of mysterious power to the man of medicine, and lent the impression
that he had dipped deeply into the science of healing.
Look at the slate, Shawn.
Shawn went out and took down the slate which hung by the office
door. Old man Stivers has been writing on the slate, said Shawn.
Huh, said Brad, I reckun he 'cided to cum an' git you to cum out
an' see his wife, now dat he done rin up a bill wid ole doc' Poleen,
an' carn't git him to cum no mo'.
Yes, Brad, it's strangethe man who loses sleep and health to save
others has a hard time getting his pay. They look to the doctor mighty
anxiously in the hour of trouble, and in the hour of suffering and
death the doctor is a power of comfort.
I see dat Bill Hugers scratchin' on de slate las' night, said
Brad, yo' hain' gwine to see him no mo', is yo', wid him owin' yo' a
Bill was one of my best friends when I made the race for the
Legislature, said the doctor.
Brad scratched his head. He recalled the time when the doctor went
to Frankfort as the representative of his county, and he remembered the
scuffling he had to do during the doctor's absencethe yearning for
many comforts which did not come. He recalled how the doctors picked up
old Hissong's practice while he was away, and he had not forgotten the
mean things they had said about him when he returned to be nursed
through a spell of too much liquor.
Yo' hain' never gwine run no mo', is yo', doc?
I can't say, Brad.
Brad, didn't you hear somebody holler outside? Go out and see who
it is. Brad opened the door.
Is the doc in thar?
Yes, sah, cum in.
A tall, double-jointed farm-hand came blustering into the room, his
face covered with a yarn comforter. He slowly unwound the rag and
brought to view the side of his face, swollen to a frightful size.
Done busted me wide open; kin you pull her, doc?
The old doctor examined the tooth and said, You've got a tooth like
a hossfix the chair in the back room, Brad.
Brad brought a washpan and placed it beside the chair. Doctor
Hissong opened a drawer and brought forth an instrument that resembled
a cant-hook, one of those tools used in overturning logs. This tooth
extractor had a handle about six inches long, and a sort of steel hook
on the end, and it would draw the tooth, if the jawbone did not break.
The suffering patient looked on with an expression on his face
anything but pleasant.
Looks like fixin' fer hog-killin', doc!
Well, I've known 'em to die under it, complacently said the old
doctor as he shuffled about. Give him a drink, Brad, and put him in
The patient stretched his long legs and rested his feet on a soap
Fifty cents, said the doctor, as he approached with his instrument
in his hand.
Hafter have it beforehand, doc?
Yes, sir, that's my rule, for nine cases out of ten are so mad when
I get through that they won't pay.
The money paid, the doctor carefully leaned over and fitted the hook
over the tooth.
Clinch him, Shawn!
O-r-r-r-r-r-wow! leggo! leggo!
Choke him, Brad!
All four of them were on the floor, the farm-hand had smashed the
wash-stand with his feet, and the water pitcher had gone with the
Hold his feet, Shawn!
Shawn jumped straddle-ways on the legs, and the old doctor made
Rising with the strength of a desperate man, the farmer dragged all
of them into the front room, but the old doctor did not lose his hold
on the tooth. The last remaining glass in the bookcase was smashed and
the lower sash of the front window caved in.
Throw him, Brad!
The tooth-key slipped off and the farmer let out a yell and tried to
get out of the door.
Nail him, Brad!
I don't want that tooth pulled, doc.
Yes, you do, and you had just as well make up your mind to get back
in that chair.
By Gosh, you had better get a mule to kick it out!
Brad and Shawn got him in the chair again and the doctor tried for
another hold on the tooth. The back of the chair gave way with a crash.
What's that? said the doctor.
I think it wuz my backbone come uncoupled, said the farmer. Brad
grabbed him by the left leg and the struggling group went down in a
heap, but the doctor came up with a gleam of triumph on his face, and
holding aloft the terrible molar. Brad was panting, over by the door.
As the farmer turned to leave, he walked over to doctor Hissong and
said, Doc, if you air as good at doctorin' other diseases as you air
at pullin' teeth, thar hain't much prospect of this community enlargin'
Doctor Hissong glanced over toward the bookcase where Shawn was
Shawn, do you still want to be a doctor?
Not a tooth doctor, said Shawn.
The varying routine of school was a trying ordeal to Shawn. The
spelling classes, the reading and the terrible arithmetic were as a
nightmare to his mind which yearned for the freedom of the river and
the woods. Afar off yonder was the stream, where the white gulls were
soaring lazily above the channel. Through the windows he could see the
tall sycamores and the white-graveled beach, where he and Coaly had
spent so many happy hours. In his fancy he could see the cool crystal
water oozing out from the spring which he had dug in the sand, and
which he had lined with white boulders. Oh, to be down there, breathing
the sweet air as he paddled his john-boat about the stream. He turned
from the enrapturing viewturned to the hateful books. The children
around him were bending over their studies, happiness reflected from
their faces, but gloom sat on the countenance of Shawn. Oh, for Coaly
and freedom. All might have gone well had it not been for Coaly. To
leave Coaly chained up at home through the long hours; to be separated
from this companion, who yelped and begged so hard to be taken along,
was becoming more unbearable each day, and there came a day when the
pleading eyes brought his release, and together they marched into the
The story of Mary's Little Lamb was not associated with Coaly in
Shawn's mind. Shawn put his books on his desk, and Coaly lay down, as
peacefully accepting the new turn of affairs. Mrs. Wingate, the
teacher, came over to Shawn's desk and quietly said: Shawn, you must
put your dog outside.
Can't he stay if he keeps quiet?
No, we cannot have any dogs in the school-room.
Shawn gazed out upon the river and then down at Coaly.
Come on, Coaly, he said as he started to the door. He passed out
into the hallway, Coaly following. Just as Coaly started through the
doorway, a boy gave him a vicious kick, which set him to howling. Shawn
sprang into the room.
Who kicked my dog?
A little girl said, Henry Freeman did it!
Good resolutions and books were forgotten. Farewell to every
ambition. Freeman tried to free himself from the enraged boy by
climbing over the desks and calling to the teacher. The little girls
were screaming and books and slates were scattered all about the room.
Mrs. Wingate finally succeeded in getting her hands on Shawn and drew
him away as he planted a parting blow on Freeman's nose. Shawn turned
and facing the school, tragically exclaimed, Where I go, Coaly goes.
Where Coaly goes, I go!
Henry Freeman followed Shawn to the door. Shawn turned for battle
again, but Freeman used a more malicious weapon by saying, Who's your
daddy? Who's your daddy?
And then Shawn burst into tears.
The next morning a servant found on Mrs. Alden's porch a bundle
containing the books and clothes which she had given Shawn. Pinned to
the bundle was a note. In a scrawling hand was written, I am much
abliged. I tride to keep my promise. I am going away. I have kept the
little testament. Shawn.
Oh sing your praise of the bounding craft;
And the merry sloops afloat,
But for easy space, both fore and aft,
I'll bunk on the shanty-boat.
Jump out there, Shawn, and take a hitch around that cottonwood with
that linewe're at the mouth of Salt River, an' no better fishin' on
John Burney was standing on the bow of his shanty-boat, with a long
steering-oar in his hand.
Jump, Shawn! Shawn leaped to the shore and made the line fast to
Haul out that aft gang-plank and stake her deep on the shore,
there, steady, boy; she lays good and snug an' weather-shapenow git
to your breakfast.
Inside of the boat a wood fire was burning in the stove. The
fragrant aroma of coffee and fried fish came over the morning air.
Shawn took off one of the stove-lids, and over the burning coals
toasted two or three slices of bread. The first primrose bloom of the
glowing day came over the hills. The sunbeams rioting on the water lent
an enchantment to the autumn scene.
Further back from the river, on the hills, were the claret hues of
young oaks, and the scarlet of young maples. The morning rays sifting
through the little windows of the boat revealed the arrangement of this
river habitation. The two sleeping bunks were near the rear end of the
boat; two chairs, the stove and a rough table were in the forward end.
Near the door hung great coils of fishing line and tackle, and in the
corner was a dip-net and gig.
As Shawn sat eating his breakfast, his thoughts wandered back to
Skarrow and his mother in the little frame house on the river bankto
Mrs. Alden and doctor Hissong. He thought of the many kindnesses shown
him by these friends, and, perhaps, wondered how his mother might have
missed him since the night he stole away with old John Burney, who made
these shanty-boat trips every autumn. It had been the dream of his life
to go down the river with Burney, for how often had he sat on the
wharf-boat at Skarrow listening to Burney's tales of shanty-boat life
on the lower Ohio. And here he was at last; he and Coaly!
Shawn, said Burney, I want to drop a fish-basket just below that
willer. The channel is fine up here, and I might walk up town and see
if I can get a ham-hock and some beef lights, while you look over the
hooks on the jugsthere ain't no bait like a ham-hock for juggin', fer
a channel-cat wants a meat that won't turn white in water.
In the early days of jugging on the Ohio, the outfit was a matter
of considerable expense, as half-gallon stone jugs were used, but as
time went on, some ingenious fisherman substituted blocks of wood,
painted in white or conspicuous colors. A stout line, some six or seven
feet long, is stapled to the block of wood, and with a good, heavy hook
at the end of the line, the outfit is complete. The jugs, some twenty
or thirty, are put out at the head of the channel, and are followed by
the fishermen in a skiff or john-boat. When a channel-cat takes the
bait, the jug stands on end and begins to scud through the water. The
fisherman pursues in his boat, and coming up, pushes his dip-net under
the fish as he draws him to the surface. It is the most exciting and
fascinating method known in river fishing.
Burney came from town with the bait. Shawn had the jugs ready and
together they rowed to the head of the channel. Shawn placed the jugs
in the water, and they floated away in a line, ranging some four or
five feet apart, Burney and Shawn lingering behind with silent oars.
Suddenly a jug stood upon end.
Down atter him, Shawn!
Shawn skilfully sent the boat toward the bobbing jug.
He's heading for shoal water! yelled Burney, Slack your right
oarnow come aheadhold herease her up to himlook at that jug!
The jug was racing for deep water again, and disappeared from the
surface for at least half a minute.
He's a whopper, Shawn! Yonder he goes, thirty yards away! Give me
the oars and take the dip-net. Great Hirum, boy! yonder is another jug
Burney sent the boat with a bound after the whirling jug. Shawn
stood in the bow of the boat with the dip-net ready to swing. They went
to the lower side of the jug, and just as Shawn reached out for the
line, Burney, unintentionally, brought the boat to a sudden stop, and
Shawn, losing his balance, went over board, dip-net and all. Burney
sprang to the stern of the boat, and as Shawn came up he held out an
oar to him, and Shawn grasped the side of the boat. Burney took the
dip-net and paddled the boat toward the jug, and catching the line,
raised the fish to the top of the water. Shawn swam around to the other
side as Burney raised the fish. For land sake! Look at him, boy! He's
the biggest one I ever hookedI can't get him in this boatwe'll have
to tow him ashore!
They fastened a stout line through the gills of the big fish and
towed him to the shore and pulled him out on the beacha blue
channel-cat of forty pounds. Go and get some dry clothes, while I go
after the jugs, said Burney. Shawn went down to the boat and rummaged
around for a change of clothes. He found a suit of Burney's heavy
underclothing, and rolling them up to suit his size, got into them;
then came Burney's old corduroy trousers, and Shawn buckled them up
until they hung directly under his armpits. Building a fire in the
stove and hanging his wet clothes before it, he left the boat and ran
back to the spot where they had left the big fish. Burney returned with
the jugs and threw out another smaller fish which he had taken off.
We'll eat this one, Shawn, and sell the other one and divide the
money, and as Shawn stood before him in the loose-fitting clothes, old
Burney laughed and said, Well, if he ain't growed to a man since that
They hung the big fish to the side of the boat. I'll show you how
to skin a channel-cat, said Burney as he drew forth his steel pincers.
We'll peddle him out this evening. It was a joyous pair that climbed
the hill leading to the little town, the big fish swinging on a pole
between them. There were plenty of buyers, and as they returned to the
boat, Burney said to Shawn, You'll be a great fisherman some day,
Shawn, and Shawn said, I'm goin' to be a doctor.
What kind of a doctor, Shawn? steam or hoss doctor?
Neither one. I'm goin' to be a reg'ler doctor, like Doctor
[Illustration: You'll be a great fisherman, some day, Shawn"]
Shawn, this doctorin' business is a good deal like hoss tradin';
you've got to take your chance on a short hoss and blemishes, and some
of the doctors look like they interfere powerfully with themselvesyou
know how a hoss interferes. I calkerlate that a good doctor is
mighty rare, and after all, it's a good deal more in his encouraging
talk than his medicine. You never knowed old Doc' Felix Simpsonhe was
away before your time and practiced in the country four miles above
Skarrow. Doc' Simpson would have his joke, and to hear him laugh would
cure 'most any case of ailment. Lawse! how I used to love to hear him
tell about old P'silly Orton and the time she played dead. Doc' Simpson
said that aunt P'silly took a notion that she wanted her old man to
raise her some money to take a trip down to the city, and as the money
wa'nt raisable, P'silly took on and 'lowed that she was goin' to die,
and she kept on havin' sinkin' spells and such, and bye and bye she
lays on the bed and wauls up her eyes and breathes her last, to all
appearances. Uncle Buck gits skeered and digs out for Doc' Simpson, and
when Doc' Simpson gits thar, thar was the old neighbor wimmen tryin' to
comfort uncle Buck and sayin', 'Ba'r your burden, Buck; the Lord has
give and the Lord has tuck away.' Doc' Simpson goes up to P'silly, who
was layin' with folded hands, and feels her pulse, and says, 'Yes, she
is dead, pore soul'; and they all bust out cryin' and the hounds begin
to howl, and Doc' comes up to the bed and says, 'Bein' she is dead,
I'll pour a little of this nitric acid in her yeer to make shore.' And
as he took the stopper out of the bottle, P'silly opens one eye an'
says, 'Doc' Simpson, if you pour that in my yeer, you'll never straddle
that hoss of yourn again.'
There's another sort of doctor, Shawn, the magic-healers, the sort
as cures by the layin' on of hands and rubbin'. Pelican Smith was one
of this sort. He practiced up on the Kentucky river and made a sort of
circuit down in our country. Sometimes thar would come a report of
somebody gittin' well, but when anybody died, Pelican always said, 'The
Lord loved him best.' You never knowed Pelican. He was all sorts of a
charactergot his nickname from his nosethey weren't no other one
like it, and him and that nose made history in the river country. His
first marriage was to Addie Stringer, up at Ball's Landing, and it was
all right as fer as it went. They started on their honeymoon from
Ball's Landing on the steamer Little Tiger. They was goin' down to Wide
Awake, some thirty miles. The boat caught fire, Pelican swum out on a
crackerbox, and when they found the body of his wife next day, Pelican
thumped the side of his nose with his thumb and said, 'Hit's a dam pity
she couldn't swim'.
It wasn't long before he got into business by starting a 'blind
tiger', and he worked up several war dances in the community, but one
night thar was started a mild argument as to whether the Methodists or
the Baptists was the chosen of the Lord. The argument was in Pelican's
place, and he had to close up the joint, for nearly all of his best
customers passed out with the close of the argument. Pelican told me
afterward that over three hundred shots was fired, and said to me, 'I
reckon the only reason I was saved was that I didn't belong to either
denomination, as I am a Campbellite.'
Pelican moved down on the Ohio after this, and it was there I met
him. There is always considerable interest, Shawn, in a stranger when
he moves into a community, especially if there is some mystery about
him. Pelican didn't have much to sayhe had no desire to mention his
past. He was wise. It was rumored that he had left a good farm at
Ball's Landing and had moved down on the Ohio for asthma trouble that
bothered him. About the only disease he ever had was the whiskey habit,
but he did not dispute any of the statements made by an interested
community. His stock went up with the talk about the farm. He was
invited to take supper with Bill Bristow. Bill owned twenty acres of
hill land, with a small house and a mortgage on it. Old Bill's
daughter, Lettie, set next to Pelican at the table, and old Bill looked
on with satisfaction at the headway they was making. Old Bristow was
thinking of the farm up at Ball's Landing; Pelican was thinking of the
one he was on. After a time, Pelican and Lettie was married. Bristow
give a dance and ice cream supper and charged fifty cents admission.
There was dancing, singing and a cuttin' scrape and the couple felt
that the occasion had been one of success. Pelican certainly married
into old Bristow's family for he never made any move toward looking for
another home, and it wasn't long before Bristow begin to screw up his
Time passed and then come the twins, a boy and a girl, and Pelican
was proud of the boy, for he had the Pelican nose, but old Bristow rose
up in his wrath and said that they would have to go, and so Pelican and
his wife come down into my neighborhood to live in a shanty-boat on the
river, but they didn't git along, and fit and cussed from mornin' till
night. Bristow come down to patch up matters. Pelican knocked him off
the boat with an oar, and as he floundered out to the shore and wrung
the water out of his whiskers he said, 'Fix yer own
troublesfar'well.' Two weeks after the fight Mrs. Pelican Smith went
back to live with her father and Pelican went into the fishin' and
'blind tiger' business. I had two new nets and a set of trot lines, and
we bunched into a sort of partnership. I couldn't git him to say
anything about his family or whether he wanted to see them again. But
one night we set together on the shore. We had run out of bait and was
tryin' to make plans to git some, as the lines was dry upon the shore
and the fish would be runnin' with the gentle rise comin' in the river.
We set on an old sycamore log together. The moon had just swung over
the hill and I could see the white rim of it above the edge of
'Pelican,' I said, 'why don't you go back to your wife and children
and try to live happy with them?' He made no answer and I pressed on
him, 'Pelican, them two little twins air dependent on you, and if you
had a little home to yourself, where the vines could run over your
doorway and the birds sing in your own trees, with your wife and
children beside you, your life would be happythink of them, Pelican,
your wife and children.'
Pelican rose up, his face turned to the river. Ah, I had him at
last thinking of his dear ones.
'What are you thinkin' of, Pelican?'
'I was thinkin' wher'n the hell we'd git that bait' said he.
Did you ever eat a mussel, Shawn?
No, sir, I didn't think they were good to eat.
Well, lots of things are made good to eat by the way you cook 'em.
I want you to bale out the boat and we'll go up to the head of the bar
and drop the grab-hooks along in shoal water and after we get a good
dozen, small broilin' size, I'm goin' to show you how to cook 'em. A
mussel, my boy, is a sort of lefthanded cousin to an oyster, only he
lacks the salt water and a good many of the finer points; a right smart
like a good many men, and I want to tell you another thingone of the
finest pearls that sold in a jewelry store in Cincinnati for fifteen
hundred dollars, was taken from a mussel that come out of the Ohio
Luke Walters found it at Craig's bar, said Shawn.
The same, said Burney.
We might boil a bushel or two down and run a chance of finding
somethin'; there's no tellin'. Git one of them lemons out of the box
and the wire broiler and a stew-pan.
Shawn came around with the boat, Burney came out with the
drag-hooks. Shawn sat at the oars and they started up the stream. The
white pebbles on the shore gleamed in the rosy sunlight. A kingfisher
perched on a rock by the stream, tilted his head to the side in a
quizzical way and watched the boat approach. The leaves from the tall
sycamores and cottonwoods came tumbling down to the edge of the water
as if seeking to embark upon a journey southward. A little creek came
pouring its crystal waters into the great river. Just above the mouth
of the creek, some boy had built a miniature mill-race, and the water
coursing over the little wheel murmured tenderly and soothingly upon
Shawn, there's many a boy in the city would like to have a
plaything like that. Did you notice how nice and keerful-like he has
made that dam and the shoot? I'll tell you, a country boy knows how to
look out for his fun. You'll see the day when the old water-mill will
be a thing of the past; steam will run 'em out, as it has run out the
flat-boat. In the old days I used to make the flat-boat trip to New
Orleans and walk all the way back and help cordelle the boat,
they brought back their flat-boats in them daysthink of doing that
now. But I hate to see the water-mills go. There's one out on Eagle
that has been run by five generations, and they can't make flour by
steam as good as Amos Kirby's flour. Amos' father had the process down,
it seems, better than any of them. The old man was knowed all over that
country, not only for his good flour, but for his good deeds and his
kindness to the poor, and that's a mighty good name to leave behind. He
always had a houseful of company, and always got drunk fust, so that
the rest of his company would feel at home. I et dinner thar once, and
they wound up with some cake they called egg-kisses. You didn't have to
chaw 'emyou just throwed 'em up in the roof of your mouth and let 'em
meltpull over thar to the head of the bar.
Shawn took off his shoes, and bare-footed, with trousers rolled to
his knees, began the hunt for mussels around the bar, as Burney threw
out the drag-hooks in deeper water. Burney was drifting slowly down the
stream and Shawn could see him bringing up the hooks and putting the
mussels inside the boat. Shawn found them plentiful around the edge of
the bar, and when Burney came back they had the boat well filled.
Now, Shawn, we're goin' over to the shore and I am goin' to give
you a feast. Burney made a wood fire, and after taking the mussels
from the shell, put them in the stew-pan and let them boil for a short
time, then putting them on the broiler, he held them over the live wood
coals. Squeeze a little of that lemon juice over them, Shawn, and
season 'em upnow try one. Shawn took one of them and nibbled it
gingerly around the edges.
What do you think of 'em?
Did you ever drink out of a cow-track, Mr. Burney?
Well, you never missed much, said Shawn.
They rowed down to the shanty-boat and Burney built a big fire on
the shore. He got out his big kettle and said, We're goin' to boil
these out and look for a pearl.
Under the roaring fire the kettle began to sing. Shawn watched
Burney as he filled the big pot with mussels. You've got to boil them
until the meat comes away from the shell and is boiled all to
smithereens, before you've a chance to git a pearl.
It was late afternoon before the kettle was taken off. Burney began
to drain off the water and take out the shells. All of the substance in
the bottom of the kettle was subjected to a careful inspection as he
drew it forth.
[Illustration: Burney began to take out the shells.]
Suddenly Burney held his hand up toward the sun and exclaimed, Come
here, quick, Shawn, I've found oneI don't know how good, but it's a
pearl! He rubbed it between his hands and wiped it off carefully on
his sleeve. That tiny pink spot on the side of it is a blemish that
will never come out, but I think it is a pearl of some value. I'm goin'
to give it to you; maybe you can sell it or give it to some girl some
dayleastwise, Shawn, we'll put in the spare time boilin' down a few
more of 'em.
Shawn took the pearl, his cheeks were aglow under the stress of the
find. Oh, Mr. Burney, I'll keep it always for a luck stone.
Shawn was clearing away the supper dishes. Burney tilted his hickory
chair against the wall and puffed at his short pipe. Coaly was asleep
in the corner. Shawn, when you git through I want you to read me some
more out of your TestamentI'm gittin' to like it.
Shawn carefully wiped his hands before taking up the little book.
Seating himself by the table, and drawing the lamp nearer, he opened
the book at random. The chapter was Revelation, XIII.
Shawn began reading in a halting and uncertain voice: And I stood
upon the sands of the sea and saw a beast rise out of the sea having
seven heads and ten horns.
Hold on there, Shawn, said Burney, Is that in the Bible?
Yes, sir, you can see for yourself.
I can't read to no account, said Burney, but air you certain
that's in the Bible?
Burney scratched his head and crossed his legs. Well, all I've got
to say is, that there must a been a leak some'ers around a distillery
when that feller got to writin'. I don't read much, but I read in the
Bible once about an old feller by the name of Job, who comes up to a
feller by the name of Amasa, and Job pertendin' to be his friend, took
him by the whiskers, like he was going to kiss him, and Job said,
'How's your health, brother Amasa?' and before Amasa could answer, Job
cut him in the fifth rib with a corn-knife or sunthin'. Maybe times
have changed since them days, but it still pays to watch a man who
comes up to you with his hand behind him, and there ain't no man goin'
to take me by the whiskers when he says howdyI've larn't that
much from the Biblebut you stick to that Book, Shawn, even if some of
the stories do make you set up and take notice, it's a good Book to
live by and a better one to die by. Stick to it, ShawnI'm goin' to
Shawn went out and sat on the bow of the boat. The night was
beautiful. Along the shore the willows were rustling as the south wind
kissed their foliage. The moon was coming over the hill, a full, round,
voluptuous moon. The tiny reflections of the stars quivered in the
depths of the stream. From the head of the bend came the long and
deepened breathing of a coal boat. A bell clangs in the engine-room,
the great wheel stops as welcoming rest, the bell clangs again and the
boat swings on, standing for the channel. Afar up the river, Shawn saw
a lurid light against the sky. The heightened colors came and went in
flashes and spurts. That light could not come from the headlight of a
steamer. Shawn went quietly to the door and called Burney. Burney came
to the door of the boat, rubbing his eyes. Must be a house burning,
from the looks of it. They stood on the shanty-boat until the light
began to diminish and then went to bed. Burney was unable to sleep.
Presently he got up and turned up the wick of the lamp. Coaly went over
and nestled by his feet. Suddenly Burney heard the sound of approaching
footsteps. Coaly began to growl and moved nearer the door. Shawn was
peering out of his bunk. Burney opened the door as two men came up the
gang-plank. They were breathing hard and looked as though they had been
running. One of them was untying the chain of the john-boat, and said,
We want your boat to get across the river; we're in a hurry.
Let go of that chain, said Burney, as he raised a musket to his
shoulder. You can't have that boat, and I want you to get off of this
boat at once.
The men drew back, they were desperate looking characters, but they
heard the determined tone of Burney's voice and they stepped ashore and
made off down the beach. Burney turned to Shawn and said, Somethin' is
wrong; them fellers have done somethin'. What's that? They could hear
the deep baying of a hound. My God, they's bloodhounds!
There is something strangely weird in the sound of a bloodhound's
voice coming across the nightsomething that seems to tell of death.
The trail was fresh and the dogs were coming under full yelp.
Put on your shoes and come out front, Shawn, said Burney. Eight or
ten men came down through the willows, one man in front and holding the
hounds by a leash. Each man was armed with a shotgun. The dogs came to
the gang-plank, and stopped at the water, and lapped it with their
long, yellow tongues.
Whose boat is this, and who's here? asked one of the men. Old John
answered in a clear and unshaken voice, I am John Burney, and this is
my boat. One of the men came forward and extending his hand, said, I
know John Burney; there's nothing wrong with him, but Burney, can you
throw any light on these tracks leading here? Burney told them of the
two men, of their wanting his boat to cross the river. They went down
the shore, said Burney, about twenty minutes ago; your dogs oughtn't
to have much trouble in locating the track, but tell me what's wrong?
The man holding the dogs answered, Casper Daniel's country store was
robbed and burned just after he had gone to bed, and Daniels was either
murdered or lost in the fire.
Shawn shuddered and crept back into the boat. The men put the dogs
on the trail. Shawn heard them baying as they went down through the
deep cottonwood grove. No sleep for me to-night, said Burney. The
voices of the hounds came in faint baying. Burney restlessly paced the
shore until the first streaks of dawn. About five o'clock he heard the
men coming back. They came down to the boat. Handcuffed together were
the two criminals, their haggard faces bore the look of despair. They
were sullen and silent, and as Shawn stood gazing at them, he could not
repress a feeling of pity, although their hands were stained with human
blood. They were taken up the road to the little town and placed in the
jail. Shawn and Burney followed the men. Around the jail was a crowd of
excited men and loud voices were heard on every side. Men were coming
out of the saloon on the corner just beyond the jail. They stood around
in groups and angry mutterings were heard. Suddenly there seemed to be
a concerted move in front of the jail. A young lawyer sprang upon a box
and pleaded with the crowd to let the law take its course.
Law! exclaimed a black-whiskered man, we've never had any law
that money couldn't buy!
Hang 'em! Hang 'em! yelled the crowd. A rush was made for the
jail. The jailor was making a feeble pretense of protecting his
prisoners. A heavy sledge crashed against the door, the jailor was
knocked down and the keys taken from him.
There they are! Bring 'em out!
The poor wretches were dragged out, moaning piteously and begging
for their lives. Shawn turned away, sick at heart, but something seemed
to hold him to the spot.
Don't kill us, men, for God's sake don't kill us! pleaded one of
the criminals but his voice was drowned in the uproar of the maddened
That lower limb will do, boys, everybody pull!
A cloud afar off in the sky seemed to float across the sun. They cut
the two rigid bodies down at noon. Shawn and Burney returned to the
boat. A rain-crow was calling softly from a willow tree, and the
ripples murmured sorrowfully on the shore. Shawn touched Burney on the
arm as they stood by the boat: Mr. Burney, there's a Memphis packet
due up here to-night. I don't like to leave you, but I'm goin'
homeI've just got to go.
It was after midnight when the boat upon which Shawn took passage
reached Skarrow. As they climbed the hill, Coaly instinctively turned
toward Shawn's home, but Shawn had determined to first visit old Brad
and make inquiry as to the kind of welcome he might expect from his
mother. He knocked gently on the door of old Brad's cabin.
Who dar? called Brad.
It's Shawn, uncle Brad; I've come home.
Great Lawd! exclaimed the old darkey, Wait er minnit tell I
strack a lightcome in hyar, boy. Shawn went in as Brad threw a chunk
of wood on the fire. Set down thar, boy, and lemme put dis coffee-pot
on de coals an' brile yo' a piece uv bacon. Lawse, chile! some say yo'
done drown, an' some say yo' rin away wid race-boss men, en yo' mammy
jes' 'stracted an' axin' me ef I heerd frum yo' ev'ry day. Is yo' seen
yo' mammy yet?
No, said Shawn, I felt like
Out wid it, said old Brad, Dat's right, an' say dat yo' felt like
yo' wuz ershamed uv yo'self en had done wrong, but yo' go down thar
jes' as soon ez yo' kin an' see yo' mammy. Yo' hain' no wicked boy,
Shawn, but des kinder ramshackel an' loose-jinted in yo' constitushun,
but yo' hain' wicked. I know what wickedness is, but even de wicked hez
got de chance to tu'n frum de errer uv dey ways befo' hit is too late.
De wickedes' man I ever knowed, honey, wuz Captain Monbridge, down in
Louisiana. He wuz de wickedes' an' han'sumest man en de richest man in
dat secshun, en when he got drunk an' got on his big black hoss, he
would shoot de fust nigger whut crossed his path, en when he wuz drunk,
de niggers wuz mi'ty skase eround. He fell off'n his hoss one night an'
wuz kilt, en de folks all say dat he went straight ter hell, but de
naix spring after he wuz daid, a strange flower cum peepin' outer his
grave, en hit wuz de mos' curios flower dat wuz ever seen 'roun' dara
kine uv red dat nobody ever see befo', en hit kep' a-comin' an'
a-comin', en purty soon de people all cum to see dat flower on Captain
Monbridge's grave. Byme bye de flower grow to a big stalk, en down in
de center uv de stalk wuz a leaf, en when dey tuck out dat leaf, dar
wuz writ on hit dese words:
'Betwix de stirrup an' de groun'
He mercy axed an' mercy foun.'
Yassir, he wuz saved. Uncle Brad took the coffee-pot from the
glowing coals and poured a steaming cup of coffee for Shawn. Shawn,
I'm gwine tuh preach at de chutch Sunday mawnin' an' I want yo' to heah
me. I'm gwine preach on de Prodegale Son, an' hit's gwine tuh be a
I'll be there, said Shawn.
Shawn and Coaly went down the hill. Coaly gave a yelp of delight and
stood barking before the door. Shawn's mother sprang from bed, opened
the door and clasped her son to her breast. Oh, Shawn, bless God,
you've come! And Shawn's home had never looked so inviting before.
Mammy, I'll never leave you again.
He went to sleep in his little room overlooking the river, and he
heard again the night wind crooning through the trees and the night
owl's tones echoing through the distant wood. His heart was warm again
in the glow of sweet memories. He was in his old home.
The next day found Shawn enjoying the surprising event of being
cordially welcomed by the inhabitants of the town. The worst sort of
straggler is often astonished at the kindly interest accorded him upon
returning to his old home. Old Doctor Hissong greeted him by saying,
Hello, been seeing the world, have you? When he went up to the Alden
home, he found the same good friend there; the same sweet smile and the
kind words, and Mrs. Alden still anxious to help him and guide him to
better pathways, urging upon him the great need of an education, and
Shawn promised to return to school.
Don't fergit about dat sarmon, said old Brad, I'm gwine tuh look
fer yo' at de chutch termorrer.
DE PRODEGALE SON
Shawn found a seat on one of the benches reserved for the white
people. Uncle Brad was in the pulpit. He arose, in all of the dignity
of the occasion. The little church was well filled with colored people.
After a song and prayer, uncle Brad came forward and began reading, to
all appearances, from the last half of the fifteenth chapter of Luke.
Closing the Bible, he began, I have read fo' yo' heahin' de story uv
de Prodegale Son. Dis hyar boy, han'sum an' smart, bergin to git tired
uv de fawmhe heer'd de boys frum de city tellin' erbout de great
doin's down dar, en de mo' he look eroun' de mo' de ole place los'
hit's chawm, en fine'ly he goes to hi' daddy en says, says he, 'Pap, I
dun git to de age when I waun' see sum uv de wurl, en' ef yo' gwine do
ennything fo' me, do hit now.' Yessir, he lit a seegar en blow de smoke
thru hi' nose en say, 'Do hit now!'
De boy dun fergit how his daddy fotch him up an' feed him an'
clothe him, but dat doan' count wid chillun. Dey kine er reason hit dis
way: 'Yo' 'sponsibul fo' my bein' heah, en yo' bleeged to teck keer uv
me'. De ole man kiner swole up, but he drawed his check on de bankde
Bible doan' say how much, but hit mus' ter been a pile, fer de Bible
doan' fool wid little things. De boy wen' 'roun' to tell 'em all
good-bye, an' his mammy jes' fell on his neck an' wep'. He wuz de black
sheep, an' hit seem dat de mammies allus love dese black sheep de best.
When he cum to tell his brother good-bye, de brother kiner put hi' han'
to hi' mouf en say, 'Doan' yo' write back to me when yo' git busted,'
en de Prodegale Son he say, 'Pooh, pooh, yo' clod-hopper.'
Dar wuz de ole folks sottin' on de poach as he wen' down de road.
Dey could see him ergin crowin' in de craddle; dey could see him
larnin' how to teck his fust step, en back in de years, dey could heah
de fust word he ever saidde fust one mos' uv us says, mammy.
[Illustration: De Prodegale Son.]
He rech de city, en dere wuz frens waitin' him by de score, en dey
say, 'Whut a fine genermun! Whut a spote! All wool en a yahd wide!'
Yassir! An he smile an' swole up an' say, 'Le's have sunthin!' Dey go
inter de bar, en de barkeeper smile en say, 'Whut's yourn, gents?' Some
say ole fashun toddy, some say gin, en' so on. De young man res' hi'
foot on de railin' uv de bar, en look at hi'sel' in de glass, en he see
de dimun rings on his fingers jes' glis'nin', an' when de licker gits
to workin' inside him, he look in de glass ergin, en 'lows to hi'sel',
'I reckon I'se jes' about de wahmest thing in dis hyar town,'an' he
wuz! He foots all de bills. Lawse! how he meck frens. He tell er story,
en dey all jes' laff fit ter bust, an' say, 'Hain' he great!' De ladies
uv de town, some uv 'em, dey roll dey black eyes at him an' say, 'Hain'
he sweet!' He done fergot de little girl wid de blue eyes an' de gold
ha'r blowin' in de win'. De gamblers tuck a crack at him, toodey kin
tell a sucker three miles off. Dey showed him how to handle de kyards
an' roll de bones, en he rar'd back in a sof' cheer wid a black seegar
in hi' mouf an' see his money slip erway. Lawse! yo' oreter see his
room whar he stay. He slep' in a feather-tick nine foot deep, an'
show-nuff goose feathers, mine yo'; a red lam' wool blanket, en
lookin'-glasses all over de wall, so ez he could see hi'sel' whichever
way he tu'n. Nobody to scole him erbout gittin' up in de mawnin' en he
had his breakfas' fotch up on a silver waiter by a shiny nigger, but
somehow, de vittels got so dey didn't tase ez good ez dey did down on
de ole fawm. City grub looks mi'ty temp'in at fust, but after while
when yo' git down ter kinder pickin' ovah hit, yo'll find dat hit's
lackin' in de juice er sunthin', en yo' long to lay yo' gums on de
things jes' whar dey grow.
Byme-byehit allus comes, he see dat he's gittin' low in cash, en
'fore long yo' see him slippin' 'roun' to de pawn shop. De ole
pawn-shop man he scowl at him an' fix ter bleed him good en strong. His
dimun shirt-stud wen' fust, en one by one de rings on hi' fingers, tell
dey look ez bare ez a bean-pole in de wintah time.
He move his bo'din' house, en purty soon he move ergin, tell he
fine'ly cum ter a house whar dey didn't have much mo' den liver hash.
Oh, Lord! Liver hash! Whar wuz his frens? Ef enny uv yo' hez ever been
dar, good an' busted, yo' know whar dey wuz. Dey tu'n erway frum him
lack he wuz a polecat.
One mawnin' when ever'thing wuz gone, he started frum de city. Whut
a change! One shurt wuz all he had, en dat hadn' seen de wash fer two
weeks. He wuz seedy en his heart wuz sore; he wuz down an' out, en
clean out, en didn't even have chawin' terbacker. He look lack a turkey
buzzard ez had lost his wing-feathers. He wundered on; he stop by de
bridge whar de water wuz tricklin' down belowhe see de picture uv
hi'sel' in de water, en' hit meck de cole chills run up hi' back.
'Shamed er himsel'? He dun got so ershamed dat he look lack he cum
out'n a hole in de groun'. Byme-bye he cum to a fawm house, en ast fer
a job. Yo' know he mus' er been awful hongry to think erbout wuk, but
he dun got so hongry dat he et yarbs en sapplin' bark er ennything. De
fawmer look at him en say, 'I cudden' hev yo' erbout de house; de
wimmen wouldn' stan' fer hit, but I got some hawgs up de holler yo' kin
feed, but yo'll hev to stay erway frum hyar, ez I doan' wan' my chillun
He wen' up de holler. De win' sigh en groan thru de poppaw bushes,
en he wuz sad, en de dark drap down en hit wuz so lonesome; nobody but
de katydids en de screech-owl en dem hawgs. Doan' yo' feel sorry fer
him, frens? I doI feel sorry fer ennybody in dat sort er fix, but
feelin' sorry hain' gwine ter holp much when yo' git yo'se'f tied up in
sech a box. He fed dem hawgs, he et what dem hawgs et, he slep' close
to dem hawgs, he wuz suttenly on de hawg, but dey wuz better
company en dem gamblers en some dem wimmen in de cityyes, dey wuz.
Byme-bye, one night, ez he see de moon comin' over de hill, en de
stars winkin en blinkin' in de sky, he got ter thinkin' uv de ole home,
uv de chitlins en de spare ribs, de fat biskits en de sweet milk, de
persarves en de yaller butterhe jes' cudden' stand hit. He walk down
to de hawg-pen en throw over some cawn en say, 'Far'well, my frens,
I'se done de bes' I kin fer yo', but I'm gwine home!'
He struck out, fust in a kine er foxtrot, but de mo' he thought er
home, de faster he got. Erlong time hit seem, over dat lonesome road.
De little chillun cum out ter look at him, but fly back inter de house,
he look so awdashus, en ef he meet a hawg in de road, he cudden' look
him in de face. He could smell de ham and hominy fryin' in de skillet
at de houses whar he pass, en' hit meck hi' mouf water lack a hoss wid
Fine'ly he see erway down yondah, de ole place frum de top uv de
hillde ole house sottin' back in de cool shade. He tuck a hitch on
his rotten britches an' hit de grit.
Ez he cum up to de yahd gate, his dawg bark at him, an' his daddy
cum down de yahd wid his big gold-headed cane, en he never knowed hi'
son whatsomever, tell de boy kiner drag up en say, 'Pap, fo' Gawd sake,
gimme sunthin' ter eat!'
Ole Miss, his mammy, sot by de big winder, lookin' kinder sad-like,
doin' fancy wuk wid her needle, en singin' sorter sof 'In De Sweet Bye
en' Bye,' en' presen'ly she hear her boy's voicea mammy kin hear de
voice uv her boy a long wayen' she jump up en' thode her sewin' erway
en' cried out ez de tears stream down her cheek, 'Praise Gawd, my boy
done cum back!'
De ole genermun knowed de black sheep dun cum home, en he holler
out en say, 'Bring de bes' robe en put hit on him, but wash him in de
pon' fust!' Den he say, 'Bring de fattes' calf, de one fed on de bran'
mash!' Dey wuz merry, en his mammy wep' on his neck, arfter hit wuz
washed, en when he sot down to de table, en she give him de veal
cutlets en de light rolls, he des hook his laig 'roun' a cheer 'roun'
an' lay to, en he des kin er roll frum side ter side, layin' in de
grub, en licken' his fingers, en passin' up hi' plateen dey think
he's thru, en gwine set back, but he jes' teck a fresh holt en square
hi'se'f erway en des roam eroun' in glory, en he smile, en de grease
jes' a-shinin' on hi' chin.
But de brother wuz mad. He 'low dat he stay at home, en ack a
puffeck genermun, en dis hyar skalawag jes' play de devil ginerally, en
den cum back lack er skunk en dey tu'n de ole house upside down fer
him. He chaw de rag monstrous fer a spell, but de ole man fine'ly tell
him ef he doan' lack hit, he better go out en try de wurl hi'se'f, en
de brother look at de Prodegale, en kiner shiver en simmer down.
Dat night when de Prodegale got inter de feather-bed, whar he done
hid a ham-bone under de piller, en hi' mammy tucked him in en kiss him
good night, he strotch hi'se'f en say, 'When I goes erway frum heah
ergin, I goes erway daid!' En he drap to sleepde sweetes' sleep fo'
many er long time, en dream uv de little gal wid de blue eyes, who wuz
still er waitin' fer him.
Young men, all I wan' ter say tuh yo' by de way uv windin' up is
disEf yo' got a good home, er enny sort uv home, stay dar!
And Shawn, sitting by the window, clasped his little Testament and
fervently said, Amen!
Shawn had been at home for several days. One night when the waves
were rolling high on the stream, he sat in the office of the hotel,
which stood on the bank of the river. A cheerful log fire glowed in the
old fireplace. Pence Oiler, the ferryman, sat in the corner puffing at
a cob pipe. Suddenly, came the loud cry of Hello! When the door was
opened, a young man and woman came into the office. They had hurriedly
gotten out of a buggy and both seemed very much agitated, and the young
man quickly informed them that they were eloping from a neighboring
county and were being hotly pursued by an angry father and brother.
Shawn's gaze was fixed on the young woman, for never before had he seen
such a beautiful face, such lustrous, dark eyes, lit up by the flame of
love, seemed to shed a glow upon the dingy walls of the old room.
Where can I find the ferryman? asked the young man.
I am the ferryman, said old Pence, but you can't cross the river
to-night; the wind is too high.
But I must cross, said the young man, as a wild glance shot from
his eye. I'll give you ten dollars to set us over!
I'm feer'd to resk it, said Pence, but the beautiful girl went up
to him, and with a smile which seemed to melt into the very soul,
softly said, I am not afraid. Won't you take us?
Old Pence hesitated for a moment and then turned and asked, Who
will go with me?
Let me go, Mr. Oiler, said Shawn, never thinking of danger
connected with the river.
Can you hold the rudder? asked old Pence as he turned to Shawn.
I'll hold it, Mr. Oiler, said Shawn. Down to the shore they went,
the sweet woman calm and undisturbed, while the young man at her side
was trembling and uneasy. The wind was blowing a gale, and the waves
were beating angrily upon the shore.
[Illustration: I'll give you ten dollars to set us over.]
After several attempts, Shawn and Oiler succeeded in launching the
boat and getting up sail. The spray and water came drenching the young
woman, but she quietly took her seat.
Hold her dead on Ogman's hill! yelled Oiler to Shawn. The wind
bellowed into the stout sail and they shot into the foam, Shawn leaning
back with a firm grasp on the tiller, and his eye fixed on Oiler.
Keep her quartered, with stern to the wind, and don't give her a
chance to sheer! shouted Oiler.
Is there much danger? asked the bridegroom, as his teeth
chattered. Oiler did not answer him but yelled to Shawn, Hold her
steady and fast!
I'm trying to, said the groom, clutching his fair companion.
I wasn't talking to you, said Oiler.
They were nearing the Indiana shore. Oiler shouted to Shawn, Turn
her down a few points, then lift her out on the shore! and beautifully
did they mount high on the pebbled beach. Oiler turned to Shawn and
said, We'll not go back to-night. They went to the hotel. The
proprietor found the county clerk and a minister, and there in the
little hotel parlor, Shawn saw their passengers take the marriage vows.
Wasn't he scared comin' over? said Shawn to Oiler as they went to
Yes, said Oiler, but wimmen always has the best grit when it
comes to a showdown, and when a woman makes up her mind to do a thing,
'spesh'ly to git married, thar ain't no river or anything else can stop
her. I've seed a good many couples cross this streamsome of 'em, I
reckon, wish they had never made the trip. I fetched old Joe Davis over
here with his third wife. He run away with old Dodger Spillman's girl.
Old Dodger killed a plug hoss tryin' to beat them to the river. We was
about forty yards from shore when old Dodger run down and hollered for
me to come back, but his girl stood up in the skiff and hollered to
him, 'Go back, pap and cool offhit's my last chance!'
I started across with a young couple once, but the girl's daddy
beat 'em to the river, and drawed down on the young man with a
hoss-pistol. The young man didn't flinch, but folded his arms and
looked that old galoot in the eye as cool as ever I see. The father
ordered his girl to come back with him, but she ketched holt of her
lover's arm and said, 'If you are goin' to shoot, I bid for the fust
fireI'm goin' to have this man!' Her old daddy swelled up and bust
out cryin' and begged them to go back home and git married, but they
wouldn't do it, and he went across with us, and after he got four or
five drinks, he like to bought out the town for them. Don't never run
off to git married, Shawn. As for myself, they ain't no sort of weddin'
to my likin'. I never got sot on but one girl, but I got sot on her for
all time to come, and dad-scat her, she run away with another feller
just about a week before we was to be hitched. Wimmen is curious. Some
say as how we couldn't git along without 'em, and it looks like it's
mighty hard for some to git along with 'em, an' seems as after some
people gits the ones they's after, that somethin' comes along to take
away their happiness before it has begun. There was Ann Coffee. Her and
Eli Travis must a courted nigh onto ten year. It was away back yonder
in '52, but I can see 'em now settin' out thar on the bank, holdin'
hands. They went down to Madison and was married at last. They took the
Redstone for Cincinnati. The boat was full of people; it was in the
spring, and a happy crowd was aboard, with music and dancin', and
people come out all along the shore to see the boat pass. Just four
miles below here, on the Kentucky side, the Redstone landed to take a
young preacher aboard. His name was Perry Scott, and he come up the
swingin'-stage wavin' his han'kerchief to his father and mother on the
shore. Suddenly, there comes a mighty roar on the air. The steamer was
hid from view as the explosion shook the earth and splashed water
everywhere. The b'ilers of the Redstone had bust, and all around you
could hear the groans of the dyin'. The young preacher was never heard
of again, and nothin' but his white han'kerchief, hangin' in a tree,
was ever found. There was over seventeen people killed outright. Eli
Travis went down to death, and strange to say, Ann, his wife, who was
standin' by his side, was saved. She was blowed high up in the air, but
come down close to shore. Her hair turned white after that, Shawn, and
she used to set out thar on the bank, where they had set so often,
lookin' away down to the bend of the stream whar Eli had been took away
The next morning when Oiler and Shawn started to the river, Oiler
slipped a five dollar gold piece in Shawn's hand. He give me two of
'em, and one of them belongs to you. What are you goin' to do with
Give it to my mammy, said Shawn.
Doctor Hissong sat by the fireplace in his office. Brad was blacking
a pair of shoes. Shawn, said the old doctor, I'm going up to Old
Meadows this afternoon to hunt quail, and I want you to go along. Go
down and get ready while Brad hitches up the buggy.
The first snow of the season was gently sifting from the November
skies as Doctor Hissong and Shawn drove along the river road. Scattered
flocks of wild-geese and ducks were flying above the cottonwoods and
sycamores. The honk, honk of the geese as they circled
above the stream, their white wings flashing in the veiled sunlight,
lent a delicious touch to the winter scene. Shawn was watching the
curling smoke from a tall chimney at the bend of the river. As they
drew nearer, he saw the old house nestling behind the tall pine trees,
the white columns of the broad porch standing out in stately grandeur.
Doctor Hissong drove through the orchard, coming up to the lower
entrance to the house. Major LeCroix came down the yard, his long,
silvery hair waving beneath his broad-brimmed hat, his ruddy
countenance beaming a cordial welcome. Just behind him, his hat in his
hand, was Horton, a colored gentleman of the old school, brought up in
the LeCroix service, and staunch in his devotion to the family. Major
LeCroix led the way to the house. The guineas began calling a chorus of
pot-racs and ran fluttering through the drifting snow. They are
giving us a song of welcome, said Doctor Hissong. Horton showed his
gleaming teeth and said, No, sah, it's a song uv sorrow, for my ole
woman, Mary, hez got two uv 'em in de yuven, bakin' fo' yo' suppah.
As Shawn passed the old stone kitchen, he caught the fragrance of
the good things in Aunt Mary's oven, and Aunt Mary, in her white cap
and apron, was bending over the stove.
Major LeCroix and Doctor Hissong were standing on the porch. Shawn
paused for a moment to gaze fondly to where the stream wended its way
among the tall hills. The Major opened the low colonial door, and stood
aside as his guests entered the beautiful old family room. A back-log
blazed cheerfully in the open fireplace.
Over the fireplace was the mantel, with its rich hand-carving of the
French coat of arms. On the walls of the room were family portraits,
some of them brought from the provinces of old France. Doctor Hissong
stood before one portrait, a face sweet in its Madonna-like innocence
and purity. A tear-drop stole down the Major's cheek.
Leading Doctor Hissong over to the window, he pointed to the family
burying-ground, and said, The dear wife sleeps under that tallest
pine. The snow had covered the mound, but again the Major could see
April days out there, and the heavy bloom of the orchardthe redbird
and the catbird were pouring out symphonies of melody; the
silver-winged pigeons were bending through the golden skies, and again
he could hear a mother's voice calling in happiest tones to her
Horton, call Lallite, said Major LeCroix.
Shawn turned suddenly to see a young girl come into the room. She
came up coyly, greeting Doctor Hissong, and when she came over toward
Shawn, he felt a hot flush coming to his cheek. He had seen this young
girl before, with her father in town, but now as she came before him,
with her merry, flashing eyes and radiant color, he stood with downcast
eyes, and the old desire to run off to the woods came over him again.
She gave him her soft hand as her musical voice said, I am so glad you
came with the doctor. He stood as one entranced before this girl of
such sweet and simple beauty, and unconsciously, he was led into an
easy attitude and relieved from his painful embarrassment.
Horton came into the room, bearing a tray and glasses. He turned to
the Major and asked, De white er de red, Major?
Horton took the keys which hung at the end of the mantel. Returning,
he placed two bottles of grape wine on the tray. He filled the glasses,
but the Major observed that Shawn did not take his glass.
Do you want the wine, boy?
No, sir, I thank you, said Shawn, hesitatingly.
It's all right, Major, said Doctor Hissong, Mrs. Alden is looking
after him, you know.
Raising his glass, Major LeCroix said, Welcome to Old Meadows, and
a health to pleasant memories. You find things sadly changedmy dear
companion gone; my boy a soldier in a distant land, Louise long married
and never returning until she comes with the children to spend the
summerbut I have Lallite with her dear, happy heart, and I have Mary
The winter day was fast drawing to its close. Horton again
appearing, quietly said: Supper is sarved.
The old dining-room with its mahogany side-board and dining-table,
the heavy brass candle-sticks, the tall clock in the corner, were all
familiar objects, and the presence of Aunt Mary and Horton, standing
behind the chairs, was a picture of a happier time, with the background
of many glad faces to be filled only with memory.
Shawn sat beside Lallite at the table, and deep down in his heart,
he felt that it was good to be there, and that life was opening to
something dearer than the general happenings of his narrow sphere had
ever given hope for.
With bowed head the Major asked the table blessing. Aunt Mary
brought in the delicious baked apples and poured over them the rich
cream. The Major was carving the guineas. Lallite, help Shawn to one
of those corn-pones; I'll venture that you'll never get them any better
in town. The last time I was in the city, they brought me something
they said was cornbread, but it was mixed up with molasses,
baking-powder and other things. There are different kinds of cornbread,
as you know. There is a bread called egg-bread, made with meal,
buttermilk, lard, soda and eggs, and there is a mush-bread, made by
scalding the mealsome call it spoon-bread; but the only corn-bread is
the pone, and the only way to make them is to get white flint corn,
have it ground at a watermill, if you can, where they do not bolt the
life out of it, scald your meal with hot water, adding salt, then drain
off the water thoroughly and mix your meal with good, rich, sweet milk,
then shove 'em in a hot oven, and you'll have cornbread that is
cornbread. Take one and butter it while it is hotdon't cut it, break
it. There you are. Let me help you to this guinea breast. Did you ever
know anyone who could get the crisp turn that Mary gets on them?
Never, sir, said Doctor Hissong, I never knew but one woman who
could come anyways near Mary's cooking, and that was Joel Hobson's
wife, Lucy. They used to say that her cooking was her only redeeming
feature, for she had a temper like a wildcat, and vented it upon poor
Joel and made life so miserable for him that he finally took to drink.
One night, so the boys tell it, Joel got too much and was lying out
under the big elm tree, afraid to go home. One of the boys rigged
himself out in a white sheet and came up to Joel, tapping him on the
shoulder. 'Who are you?' said Joel. 'I am the devil,' answered the deep
voice. 'Come right over and give me your hand; we're kinfolks. I
married your sister.'
I suppose you remember Lucy's mother, Major? Her name was Sahra
Turner; she was a good woman but powerful curious. She had married off
all of her girls but Mary Ellen, and Tip Jennings was paying court to
her. It seems that Sahra had kept close track of the courtship and the
headway of all her girls, and one night when Tip was in the parlor with
Mary Ellen, Sahra had a small kitchen table set by the parlor door and
was standing on it, looking over the transom to see how Tip was coming
on. Tip had gotten down on his knees and was making his declaration to
Mary Ellen. They were somewhat out of Sahra's range of vision. The
crucial moment had come, and Sahra leaned over to see the climax, but
she leaned too far, and one of the table-legs broke. Well, they got her
up with two ribs broke and laid up in bed for a long spell. Tip never
came back, and Mary Ellen married some fellow, who took her out to
They sat long at the table, the Major rising again into the spirit
of old days, Shawn laughing at the quaint jokes and stories. Lallite's
sweet laughter rang out, bringing the glow into the Major's eyes. She
had heard the stories so often, but they never grew dull with the
years, and they seemed to mellow as beautifully as did the sunset of
the Major's life.
Shawn listened again as he sat by the blazing fire to tales of the
warof charges, victories and defeats. Above the piano hung the
Major's sword, presented to him by his soldiers after the battle of
Major, said Doctor Hissong, I want to hear some music before we
What do you say, Lally? said the Major.
Lallite went to the piano and gently touched the yellow keys. Major
LeCroix drew forth his beloved clarionet. As he took the instrument
from its case, he said, I'm getting rusty nowadays, but Lally keeps me
from getting entirely out of tune. We'll try 'Sounds From Home'.
Lallite played the introduction and the Major joined in, the
clarionet breathing forth a deep rich melody. The Major seemed to throw
his very soul into the music, and Lallite followed him with a tender
accompaniment. The blaze from the fireplace flickered and threw
changing shadows over the old room. The Major and his daughter played
on. They were living again in the past, and the strains were bringing
memories sacred and sweet. Shawn sat as one transported to a heavenly
sphere, his eyes fixed on the delicately graceful figure swaying to and
fro under the changing cadences of the melody. It was the sweetest
music that had ever floated into the portals of Shawn's heart,
awakening a thrill of tenderness and love.
The tall clock in the dining-hall pealed forth the hour of ten.
Horton came with a lighted candle, and Shawn followed him to the south
room overlooking the river. A cozy fire burned in the grate, the moon
swinging above the stream touched the hills and valley to silvery
softness. He stood near the window and gazed long upon the water, the
stream running through every association of his life. On the table was
a daguerrotype; it was Lallite's face, and the eyes seemed smiling just
Doctor Hissong and Major LeCroix sat long into the night. Major,
said the old doctor, I'm going to make the race for the Legislature
again. John Freeman wants it, but I want to represent the county just
once more. Can you hold this end of the county for me?
I think I can, said the Major.
Then I'll announce. Freeman is a bitter man to go against, but I'm
not afraid to try him out. I'm getting worn out in the practice of
medicine, and will probably retire whether elected or not. I have my
affairs in good shape; a bachelor doesn't require much. I want to put
Shawn into the practice some day, God bless him. A tear-drop glistened
on the old doctor's cheek, and Major LeCroix knew the secret of this
Who does not recall the joyous thrill that comes with the
preparation for a huntthe powder-horns and shot pouches scattered
here and therethe cleaning of guns, the glances at the sky to
determine whether wind and weather are propitious, the barking of the
dogs as their eyes gleam in anticipation of the day's sport.
Major LeCroix critically examined Dr. Hissong's gun: Too much choke
in the barrel for quail. Shawn, don't you load that rusty piece of
yours too heavily. Reaching above the doorway, he brought down his
muzzle-loading gun, with its silver mounted hammers and lock shields,
and as he caressingly drew his coat-sleeve along the barrels, he said,
They don't know how to make them like this nowadays.
They went forth into the frosty, bracing air. They walked leisurely
along the bank of the little creek, where a crust of ice fringed the
shore. Major, said Horton, de las' time I see dat big flock uv
birds, wuz in de stubble de uther side de orchid. The Major worked the
dogs toward the stubble-field. Sam, the old English setter, began to
trail, halting occasionally to sniff the breeze.
I think we will locate them in the sorghum patch, said the Major.
Sam was creeping cautiously through the sage grass just above the
sorghum field. Presently he came up erect and rigid, Bess, the trim
little Irish setter, behind him at back-stand. Steady, there! Ho,
steady! Can you beat that, doctor? cried the Major. Get to the lower
side of them, Shawn, so we can drive them to the orchardflush, Sam!
The old setter sprang forward and the birds arose from the ground with
an exciting flutter. The guns roared and two birds fell. Doctor Hissong
was reloading, ramming the charge home with a long hickory ramrod. With
trembling hand, Major LeCroix drew the cork from his powder-horn, and
endeavored to pour the powder into the barrel.
Let me load for you, said Shawn.
No, indeed, I'm not too old to load my gun. He stood for a moment
looking at the shot-pouch. Here, boy, maybe you had better load for
me. A tinge of sadness crept over his features, but gave way to an
expression of joy when Shawn said, You and the doctor got your birds
that time, I missed. Horton gave Shawn a grateful glance. They got
into the scattered birds, the Major and Doctor Hissong thoroughly
enjoying the sport. As each bird came from cover, Shawn held his fire,
and followed closely after the shots of doctor Hissong and Major
LeCroix, and as each bird fell, he would shout, Good shot, Major! or
Good shot, doctor! They got into the lower bottoms, and by noon
Horton showed a fine bag of game. Shawn modestly refused to claim but a
few of the birds, but Horton knew of his unerring marksmanship, and
wondered at his unselfishness. Major LeCroix and Doctor Hissong were in
jubilant spirits as they turned homeward. Old Sam, the setter, limped
painfully behind the doctor.
[Illustration: You and the doctor got your birds.]
What crippled Sam? asked the Major.
I loaned him to a young fellow from Ohio last winter, said the
doctor, I reckon about the greenest young man that ever went into the
field. He told Brad that he didn't know when nor how to shoot at the
birds, and the old black rascal said, 'Jes' shoot whar de dawg sets,'
and unfortunately Sam got tired and sat down, and got a load of
bird-shot in his hind-legs.
As they put their guns away that afternoon, Major LeCroix again
examined Shawn's cheap gun. Then came the supper of broiled birds,
cooked as only Mary could cook them, and at the table-board they went
over the field again, the work of the dogs, the Major meanwhile waxing
eloquent over the trueness of his gun.
Shawn lay again in the old Empire bed, watching the dying embers in
the fireplace. Softly the door openedthe Major entered, a lighted
candle in one hand, and his beloved muzzle-loader in the other. Shawn,
I have been thinking it all over; I will hunt no more, but there are
many days for you in the field, but you must have a gun, and I
am giving you mine. He paused at the door, held the candle aloft, the
soft light falling on his silvery hair, Good night and pleasant
And the night was filled with pleasant dreams for Shawn, for that
afternoon as he and Lallite stood upon the porch, gazing upon the
wintry stream, she drew near him and said, It will be so lonesome
tomorrow when you are gone, and something in the tone of the voice
echoed the same words in his heart.
It was midwinter, and the river was frozen over. The boats had not
been running for many days, and the happiest time of all the happy days
for the young people of the river towns had come. The ponds and creeks
were forgotten in the great event of skating on the river, and for
miles the smooth surface was a speedway over which the skaters made
merry excursions. In front of Skarrow the ice was firm, and with that
buoyancy so dear to the lovers of this sport. In the afternoons the
young people from the town of Skarrow and Vincent on the opposite side,
all met on the river. All classes were therethe darkey with his big
crook-runner skates, and the young beau, with his latest style polished
runners. The two races voluntarily divided the skating grounds, the
white people above, and the colored folks below.
The merry jingle of sleigh-bells could be heard amid this happy
throng, and glad voices rising in a splendid chorus, echoed throughout
the valley, and many a love dream had its first awakening and sweet
realization in this joyous time. How the crisp, frosty air brought the
glow of health and beauty to the cheek; how sweet the music of maiden
voices rising upon the wintry air, and the tumbling of glossy curls
underneath the hoods and sealskin caps as they sped through the
delightful hours. Tullie Wasson was out there with his string
bandTullie with his old black fiddle, and Jim Grey with his cornet,
and his son with his wondrous bass violin, and Tullie knew all the good
old tunes, and a few fancy waltzes and polkas, but he was at his best
in the Virginia Reel, and it was a pretty sight to see the joyous
couples ranging off to their positions for the ice dance, and what
great bursts of laughter and cries of happiness swelled up when Tullie
shouted, Git yer pardners fer a Reel! The movements of the dance were
executed with a grace that would have done credit to the ball-room,
Jimmy Dunla, the master of ceremonies, occasionally leaving the lines
to give an exhibition of fancy skating and cutting his name on the ice.
Then came the races. The towns of Vincent and Skarrow gave a cup
each skating year for the winner of the Ice Race. The race was for one
thousand yards, the starting point was at the big hay barn, and a red
flag marked the post at the end of the course. Four young men from each
side of the river were entered in this race, the event of the season.
Indiana held the cup. It had been three years since the last race.
Among those entered by the Kentucky boys was Shawn. He had been
practicing for many days, and somehow, the hopes of Kentucky were
centered in him. The winner of the last race was also entered again. He
was one of the most popular boys of the Indiana town, and the betting
was strongly in his favor. He was of magnificent build, with a long,
graceful stroke, and came skating out before the crowd with the easy
confidence of one who felt that the race was won. He closely watched
the Kentucky boys as they circled about the crowd preparatory to
starting for the head of the course. His eyes were fixed on Shawn.
Turning to a friend, he said, If I am beaten to-day, there's the young
fellow who will get the cup. He skated over toward Shawn, and
extending his hand, with the utmost good will, he said, I'm afraid
that I will have to beat my old record to win out to-day. Shawn
smilingly took his hand and answered, We are going to do our best, but
if Indiana keeps the cup, I know of no one who would deserve it more
than you, Danner.
The starter announced the race, and ordered the contestants to the
head of the course. As they gracefully swung away, Lallite waved her
hand toward Shawn, and the tender glance from her blue eyes sent a
thrill into his bosom.
They were forming for the start, sixty yards beyond the flag which
marked the line of starting. All was excitement in the crowd gathered
on each side near the finishing line. It seemed that every voice was
hushed as they saw the red flag at the head of the course suddenly
fall, and heard the cry, Go! They could see the flash of steel
against the ice as the skaters bent every effort toward the goal. After
the first hundred yards, Danner and Shawn were seen to be in the lead,
Danner almost erect and coming like a whirlwind. Shawn was bending
over, but close on Danner's heels, and with a shorter but much faster
stroke. Swish, swish, swishthey could hear the
sound of the skates on the ice.
The Indiana crowd set up a mighty shout. Come on, Danner! Look at
Come, Shawn, yelled the Kentucky boys. Old Brad ran out and threw
up his hat and shouted, Down to it, my Shawnbust yo'se'f wide open,
Shawn was just behind Danner. They were nearing the last hundred
yard flag. Danner threw all his energy and power into the last effort;
every nerve and muscle was strained to its utmost.
Danner wins! went up the cry, but suddenly like a rush of wind,
Shawn shot past him and the flag went down with Shawn a good five yards
in the lead.
And such a mighty shout that went up on that frozen stream was never
heard before. Old Brad was rubbing Shawn's face and chest. Shawn heard
the loud huzzas and heard Danner's voice praising his wonderful race,
but best of all, Lallite came up, and with her own hand, presented him
the cup. On the shoulders the boys of Skarrow he was carried in
triumph. It was a proud day for Shawn. He had brought the cup back to
[Illustration: They were nearing the last hundred yard flag.]
The winter had passed away. Shawn had been working hard in school,
and under the encouragement of Mrs. Alden, was making fair progress,
but Sunday afternoons found him in his row-boat, wandering about the
stream and generally pulling his boat out on the beach at Old Meadows,
for Lallite was there to greet him, and already they had told each
other of their love. What a dream of happiness, to wander together
along the pebbled beach, or through the upland woods, to tell each
other the little incidents of their daily life, and to pledge eternal
fidelity. Oh dearest days, when the rose of love first blooms in
youthful hearts, when lips breathe the tenderest promises, fraught with
such transports of delight; when each lingering word grows sweeter
under the spell of love-lit eyes. Oh, blissful elysium of love's young
They stood together in the deepening twilight, when the sun's last
bars of gold were reflected in the stream.
Oh, Shawn, it was a glad day when you first came with Doctor
Hissong to hunt.
Yes, said Shawn, as he took her hand, it was a hunt where I came
upon unexpected game, but how could you ever feel any love for a poor
I don't know, said Lallite, but maybe, it is that kind that some
girls want to fall in love with, especially if they have beautiful
teeth, and black eyes and hair, and can be unselfish enough to kill a
bag of game for two old men, and let them think that they did the
Lally, when they have love plays on the show-boats, they have all
sorts of quarrels and they lie and cuss and tear up things generally.
Well, Shawn, there's all sorts of love, I suppose, but mine is not
the show-boat kind.
Thank the Lord, said Shawn.
He drew out a little paste-board box. Nestling in a wad of cotton,
was the pearl given to him by Burney.
Lally, this is the only thing I have ever owned in the way of
jewelry, and it's not much, but will you take it and wear it for my
It will always be a perfect pearl to me, said the blushing girl.
Doctor Hissong was announced as a candidate for the Legislature.
John Freeman, his opponent, was making a vigorous canvass for the
nomination before the democratic primary. Freeman, unfortunately, saw
fit to inject personalities into the campaign, and sought to throw the
old doctor into a violent passion, possibly leading him to his old
weakness of resorting to liquor, but Doctor Hissong made his canvass
upon a high plane, appealing to the voters from a standpoint of the
duties and responsibilities involving this honor, and ignoring the
petty thrusts of his opponent.
Major LeCroix gave a burgoo at his locust grove on the river, to
which all the candidates were invited. It was an occasion which brought
out an immense crowd of farmers and town-people. Turkle Thompkins had
been engaged to make the burgoo, and the river country could not boast
of another such burgoo maker as Turkle", for the making of burgoo soup
requires an experience born of long practice and care. Thompkins always
selected the best meats, of beef, mutton, chickens and squirrels, and
vegetables of corn, tomatoes, onions, cabbage and potatoes. The boiling
of this delicious soup was begun the night before. Darkies were
stirring the great kettles as Turkle went quietly around, adding some
new ingredient here and there. Others could make burgooa certain
kind, but not the Thompkins kind, for there was a lusciousness about
his burgoo that filled you with a satisfaction never known beforea
something that soothed your aching pangssomething that seemed to put
your heart at rest with all the world, and recall the words, Fate
cannot harm me; I have dined to-day.
Above the smoke of the kettles, the sky was blue and dreamy; the
river was winding like a thread of silver through the quiet valley. The
long table of rough boards, with the row of tin cups and great stacks
of bread, was an inviting spectacle. The farmers stood around in
groups, discussing political questions and cropping prospects until
Turkle Thompkins announced dinner. Then came a merry clattering of
tin cups as Turkle came by with buckets of burgoo, dipping it out
with a long ladle. What an appetite each individual seemed to develop
for this open-air repast. After the dinner, preparations were made for
the speaking. The spot selected for the speaking was below the grove,
where an elm stump answered for a platform.
The candidates for the county offices were called for, and each one
made a short talk, asking the support of the voters. Doctor Hissong's
name was shouted. Unbuttoning his long blue coat, he drew forth a large
red silk handkerchief and wiped the gathering beads of perspiration
from his forehead. Pulling down his black velvet vest, he made a
courtly bow, took a drink of water from a gourd and began:
Gentlemen and fellow citizensIt gives me transcendent happiness
and unalloyed pleasure to lend my humble presence to this sublime and
significant occasion, and I cannot permit this occasion to pass without
availing myself of the opportunity that this magnificent and
intelligent audience affords of presenting myself to you as the
candidate for the democratic nomination for the office of
representative in the Kentucky Legislature. It has been the pride of my
life to proclaim myself as a patriot; that I am a descendent of one who
helped to make this country free'decori decus addit avoto,' and I
have felt that the realization of this patriotism and its dream that
has clung to me through life, would be in getting a system of locks and
dams on the Kentucky riverthat river that winds through an
enchantment of rocky cliffs and hanging foliage; by mountains,
cedar-tipped and mossy-green; by rolling meadows, where the velvet
softness of the blue-grass enriches this idyllic picturethis stream
that is famed in song and story, a perfect Switzerland of enrapturing
and delicious beauty. Here a thundering waterfall and fragile foliage
bending over the foam. Here cool and shady ravines leading up to
tranquil Edens, the voluptuous bends through an enchantment of bloom
and wildwood, losing themselves among the rock-ribbed hills. This
stream, bathed in the effulgence of the dropping sunthe mingling
afterglow of sunset and the primrose bloom of the first stars, unfolds
then with its majestic splendors to the enraptured gaze. We are held
spell-bound, my friends, as we see the bright moon riding the hilltops
and shining overhead,
'The bright moon shining overhead,
The stream beneath the breeze's touch,
Are pure and perfect joys indeed,
But few are they who think them such.'
The rough and rocky points are softened under the magic and seem to
lean lovingly toward the stream. Ah, to keep all of this loveliness
stored from human eyeI mean to lock and dam this stream for all
humanity who wish to journey thence and revel amid these splendors.
'Sic passem; semper idem.' Not one measly lock and dam, but a system of
locks by which navigation could be advanced from the mountains to the
Ohio, developing the great resources of that wonderous possibility,
wherein the bema procliamus of nature we might find another Arch of
Hadrian, or the Tower of the Winds; where mountain peaks may rise like
unto the temple of Olympian Zeus, or the far away monument of
Philopappos. Yes, gentlemen, I stand for locking and damming the
Kentucky river! 'Civis Romanus Sum' was the proud utterance of the
noble Roman, and the proudest of that proud and conquering race never
proclaimed himself such with greater delight than I, that I am an
American and a Democrat. With my feeling of patriotism runs my devotion
to the democratic party. But, gentlemen, in saying that I am a
Democrat, brings forward the great existing issues between the two
leading parties of the country. I might go into a long discussion of
the principles of those two parties, but in a nutshell I can define the
differences of such vital import to the voters of this land. The
principles of the Democratic party representer, well, they represent
the principles which that great party stands for, and the principles of
the Republican party, ahem! Yes, sir, gentlemen, the principles of the
Republican party represent the principles for which the Democratic
party won't stand! So there you have it, and I defy any man to dispute
this argument. I will not go into discussion of its principles here. I
have sought public preferment at the hands of my party, but 'Ego,
spembat pretio nionemonio,' sometimes that preferment was accorded, at
least, upon one occasion. No man has a right to complain when, under
any form of government, the people withhold their indorsement, but
every citizen has a right to complain if the downfall of an aspirant is
accomplished by foul and unfair means, (this last statement was made
while looking toward Freeman). I have passed practically all of my
life in your midst. A man should be honest, with a courage to face the
great truths opening to him.
Freeman interrupted him at this point, A man should be courageous
enough to own his own children!
You sneaking hypocrite! shouted Doctor Hissong, You let one of
your own sisters die in poverty and distress!
You are a damned liar! said Freeman.
Doctor Hissong leaped from the stand, a derringer in his hand. The
crowd fell back. Freeman fired point-blank at Hissong, but missed, then
turned to run. Doctor Hissong brought up his derringer and pulled the
trigger. Old Brad shouted, You got him in de laig, doctah, but he
runnin' yit! Freeman's son, Henry, the one who kicked Coaly that day
in school, caught up his father's pistol which had fallen to the
ground, but as he turned toward Doctor Hissong, Shawn sprang forward,
knocking the revolver from his hand.
The older men separated the younger combatants, and the crowd broke
up and turned homeward.
The town marshall of Skarrow was a very busy man the next morning
after the burgoo, serving warrants on Doctor Hissong and Freeman,
summoning witnesses and a jury, and getting men to serve on a jury in a
small town, where two of its foremost citizens are to stand trial, is a
matter of considerable difficulty. Freeman had only received a slight
flesh wound, and was not confined to his home.
Court was held in the office of Judge Budlong, who acted as
prosecuting attorney, magistrate, writer of wills and general collector
of accounts and rents. An occasional runaway couple, seeking the
marriage bond, added a few dollars to his bank account, for the Judge
had a happy-go-lucky ceremony which did not impress nor detain a
restless lover too seriously with the sanctity of the occasion. There
were a few law books on the table, a heavy tool-chest, where the Judge
kept a jug of white corn whiskey under lock and key. The police Judge,
a sort of hanger-on about town, put a coal of fire in his pipe and
said, Gentlemen, air you ready to try this case?
Budlong arose and balanced his ponderous form against the table,
holding a law-book in his hand. The tuft of whiskers on his chin seemed
to quiver into an accompaniment to his words. He began reading in a
deep voice: Gentlemen of the jury, to enlighten you as to the nature
of this case, I shall read to you under Subdivision V, Section 1165,
Kentucky Statutes: 'If any person shall by fighting, or otherwise
unlawfully pull or put out an eye, cut or bite off the tongue, nose,
ear or lip, or cut or bite off any other limb or member of another
person, he shall be confined in the penetentiary for not less than one,
or more than five years'.
That law don't seem to apply to this case, said the police-Judge.
Shut up, said Budlong, I ain't through. What do you know about
I ain't very strong on tecknickelties, said the police-Judge,
duly elected by the voters of this town, I am the Court, and as such I
perpose to perside, and I demand, sah, your respectful recognition of
Duly elected, said Budlong, because nobody else would have it.
But, gentlemen of the jury, I shall read you Section 1166, which is as
follows, 'If any person shall draw and present a pistol, loaded with
lead or other substance, or shoot at and wound another with the
intention to kill him, so that he does not die thereby, he shall be
confined in the penetentiary not less than one, or more than five
years. There's your law, gentlemen. Call the first witness!
Bill Shonts! called the marshall. Bill came to the chair.
What's your name?
W'y, Jedge, you know my name.
Answer my question. What's your name?
Where do you live?
Sho, Jedge, you've knowed me all my life!
That ain't the question. You answer accordin' to the custom of the
I want you to state what you know about this case.
Directly, or indirectly, Jedge?
Where was you when this difficulty started?
Well, sir, I was not in any one certain spot, directly, but
indirectly, I was jest beginnin' to
State where you was at! thundered Budlong.
Well, sir, jest at the time of this difficulty, I was jest
beginning to take a nap
Do you mean to say that you was asleep?
Not directly, Jedge, but
[Illustration: W'y, Jedge, you know my name.]
Where was you when the damn lie passed?
Jest beginning to move.
Did you see Doctor Hissong draw a pistol?
No, sir, not directly.
Did you hear a shot?
Where was you then?
Ramblin' away, sir.
What do you mean by ramblin' away?
Runnin', flyin', hittin' the dust.
Then you don't know who fired first?
No, sir, not directly.
Call Jerry McManus, said Budlong. A red-faced, jovial-looking
Irishman took the chair.
Where were you when this trouble started, Jerry?
Under a sycamore tree, asleep.
Had you been drinkin'?
Yis, sor, thot is to say, accordin' to the liberties av a mon
injoyin' the soshabilities av good company.
Did you hear the dam lie pass?
No, sor, I heard no footsteps av iny sort.
Did you hear a shot from where you lay?
There wor no shot from where I lay. If there wor iny shot from
where I lay, thin I wor already half-shot.
Wasn't you in a state of intoxication?
I wor in the state of Kintucky.
Stand aside, said Budlong, Call the next witness. One by one the
witnesses gave their testimony, varying according to the friendly
feeling for the men on trial. At last, Budlong said, Call Brad
Jackson. Old Brad got in the witness chair and gazed listlessly at the
Brad, was you present when this difficulty started?
Where was you?
In de grove, eatin' soup.
Where was you when the lie passed?
On my way to Doctor Hissong.
State to the jury what you know about this case.
Yassir, genelmun, hit remine me uv de time when Kernel Poindexter
an' Mistah Fontaine had a quarrel ovah a fox-chase down in
Confine yourself to the case, said Budlong.
Yassir, thankee, Jedge, en Kernel Poindexter he 'low dat his dawg,
Watercress wuz in de lead, full yelp at de crossin' 'buv de bayou
I don't care nothin' about that fox-chase, shouted Budlong, You
tell the court what you know about this case.
Yassir, I'm tryin' to, Marse Jimen Mistah Brandon Fontaine, you
know, he want one er de ole quality in dat naberhood, he sorter drap in
dar, en pick up a lot er money by sorter tradin' en watchin' 'roun' de
edges, en a kine uv cotton swapper, en wo' fine duds en' de bigges'
watch-chain yo' ever see
Judge, will you pull that old nigger back to this case? said
In due time, sah, in due time, said the police-Judge, who wanted
to hear the outcome of Brad's story.
Yassir, en Mistah Brandon Fontaine en Kernel Poindexter, dey met in
front uv de post-office, en Mistah Brandon Fontaine he smokin' a long,
black seegar, en one foot crossed on tuther, en when Kernel Poindexter
come up, Mistah Fontaine say, 'Yo' dawg cut thru en got in de lead,' en
Kernel Poindexter, he look jes ez cool ez a cabbage-leaf, en he say,
'Hit's a scan'lous lie, frum low trash!' Kernel Poindexter done turned
white en his eye wuz all glitter
I told you, for the last time, to tell what you know about this
Yassir, easy, Marse Jim. Gimme a chanst. En Mr. Brandon Fontaine
kinder thode hi han' behine him, en' Kernel Poindexter crac' erway at
him en bust a bottle uv whiskey inside his pocket en dis hyar Mistah
Fontaine, he showed de yaller jes' lak Mr. Freeman did yestiddy,
en he rin so fas' dat yo' could play checkers on his coat-tail!
Stand aside, roared Budlong.
The case went to the jury. That august body retired to deliberate.
The stragglers near the window heard hot words and wrangling in the
jury-room. In the course of an hour, the door opened and the jury filed
Have you reached a verdict, gentlemen?
We have, said the foreman.
What is it?
We don't find no evidence to convict nobody.
So help me, Caesar! said Budlong.
John Burney was clearing away the wreck of a coal-barge that had
drifted under the lower edge of the wharfboat. The water had fallen,
leaving part of the barge on shore. Burney had used every known method
in trying to remove the wreckage. Old Pence Oiler came by and walked up
to the heavy mass of timbers and called to Burney, John, she's too wet
to burn, and there ain't but one way to git her off, an' that's to lay
a stick of dynamite under the front end, give her a slow fuse and blow
Burney called to Shawn, who was on the bank, and asked him to go
down to Bennett's mill and get a stick of dynamite, and Shawn, desirous
of seeing the blast, hastened on the errand.
Be careful how you handle that goods, said Bennett, I knowed a
feller once who left some of it layin' around, and a hog et it, and the
man kicked the hog and lost a leg!
Shawn helped Burney to place the stick, unmindful of one of Coaly's
never-failing traits. Shawn had taught him, as a young dog, to carry
things from the boat in his mouth, and faithful Coaly could be sent
back for his glove or any small article left behind. The little dog
stood watching Shawn and Burney as they placed the stick and touched
the fire to the fuse.
Run, Shawn! yelled Burney.
Old man Oiler backed his boat out into the stream, and Shawn and
Burney ran up the shore.
Horror of horrors! When Burney turned to look back toward the
wreckage, he saw Coaly coming after them with the dynamite stick in his
mouth, the fire slowly creeping up the fuse.
Go back, Coaly! Go back! yelled Burney. He threw a boulder at the
little dog, but he came on. Burney ran for the willows under the bank
as Coaly quickened his pace. Shawn had taken refuge in an old saw-mill
and peered out, wringing his hands in an agony of suspense. Burney was
breaking down the dry willows and yelling, Go back, Coaly!
Suddenly, there was a loud report that shook the earth. The ground
was torn up and bark and driftwood were scattered everywhere. Shawn and
Burney ran up, but there were no signs of Coaly, not even a trace of
bone, hide nor hair. Coaly had returned to the original atoms of
atmosphere and nothingness.
Shawn sat upon a log and wept. Pence Oiler came up, cut a piece of
tobacco from his plug and said, There's nothin' to burynot even a
THE STATES AND THE AMERICA
The winter days had come again, and the year was fast drawing to its
close. Doctor Hissong had been elected to the Legislature, and was
making arrangements to leave for Frankfort the first of January. Shawn
was in school, growing into a handsome and athletic young man of
eighteen years, with the light of health glowing in his eyes, and with
an honest purpose in his heart.
One morning Mrs. Alden sent word to him to call at her home after
the school hour. Shawn went up there in the afternoon. The good woman
greeted him with a smile and bade him be seated by the library fire.
Shawn, I have sent for you, purposely, to ask a great favor.
The black eyes beamed the sincere impulse of his heart, as he turned
to her and said, Mrs. Alden, it would make me happy to do something
I am going to Cincinnati on the boat to-night, Shawn. I am going
there to see a great specialist, and I would like very much for you to
go with me.
It will give me pleasure to go, said Shawn.
Shawn met Mrs. Alden's carriage at the wharfboat, and exerted
himself to make her as comfortable as possible until the arrival of the
up-stream boat. At 8.30 o'clock the wharfmaster came into the little
waiting-room and said, The America will soon be here.
In a short time the great steamer drew up to the wharf, and Shawn,
supporting Mrs. Alden's frail form with his strong arms, went up the
steps and into the cabin. The chambermaid placed Mrs. Alden's chair in
the ladies' cabin, and Shawn went off to select a convenient and
The cabin presented a scene of merriment. Under the gleaming lights
were a hundred happy couples, dancing away the gladsome hours. The
strains of music swelled and floated far out into the night, and the
joyous voices mingled with the changing melodies.
Shawn sat near Mrs. Alden, and together they gazed upon the gay
throng and enjoyed the inspiriting music. Far below, in the
engine-room, the lights glimmered over the polished machinery. The
engineer glanced occasionally at his steam-gauge and water-cocks. The
negro firemen were singing a plantation melody as they heaved shovels
of coal into the glaring furnace under the boilers. Roustabouts and
deck-hands were catching short rounds of sleep in their bunks back of
the engine-room. Sitting on either side of the boiler, were deck
passengers, those too poor to engage passage in the cabin, and here
and there, tired children lay asleep across their mothers' knees.
In the pilot-house, Napolean Jenkins, the head pilot, stood with his
hand on the spokes of the wheel, gazing with the eyes of a night-bird
on the outlines of shore and hill. Mann Turpin, his steersman, stood at
the right of the wheel. Jenkins knocked the ashes from his cigar, and
the glow from the deep red circle of tobacco fire momentarily radiated
the gloom of the pilot-house. The night was serene and clear, the full
moon shining and shedding her dreamy light over the sleeping, snow-clad
valley, and the silvery rays filtered through the clustering branches
of the towering trees. As the great boat swung along past a farm-house,
Jenkins heard the shrill, alarming cry of a peacock. Strains of music
came floating upward from the cabin. The grim, black smoke-stacks were
breathing heavily, and the timbers of the Texas trembled as the boat
came up under the high pressure of steam.
The lights of Wansaw were just around the bend. Jenkins blew a long
blast for the little town. The sound echoed and re-echoed among the
wooded hills. The farmer in his bed on the silent shore turned on his
pillow as the deep, sonorous sound fell upon his earthe sweet, weird
music of the stream.
Jenkins made the landing, and heading his boat for the middle of the
river, made a long crossing for the Indiana shore.
It's a fine night, said Turpin.
Beautiful, said Jenkins.
He turned and gazed toward the stern of his boat as she swung into
the clear and squared herself for the point of the bend. The moonbeams
glittered and danced on the waves in the wake of the steamer, and the
rays touched the snow on the hills with diamond sparks. The tall
sycamores on either side stood clearly outlined against the wintry sky,
and the white corn-shocks on the distant ridge were silhouetted like
Indian wigwams. Here and there a light glimmered from some cabin
window, and a dog barked defiance at the boat as it sped up stream.
The States ought to be about due, said Turpin.
I think I hear her now, said Jenkins.
When they got up to the point of the bend where they could see up
the river, they saw the States coming down. From her forward
smoke-stacks were the signal lights of emerald green and ruby red,
trembling in delicate brilliancy against the background of silvery sky.
The splash of her ponderous wheels as they churned the water, seemed to
vibrate into a song of gathering power. When the two boats were about
eight hundred yards apart, Jenkins turned to Turpin and said, Blow two
blasts; I'll take the left side. Turpin sounded the blasts, and
Jenkins headed for the Indiana shore. Jacob Remlin, the pilot on the
States, blew one blast of his whistle just as Turpin sounded the first
signal on the America. Jenkins on the America, did not hear Remlin's
one signal, because it sounded at the same time of the first signal
from the America. Remlin on the States, heard the last one of the
signals from the America, taking it for an answer to his own signal,
and he also headed his boat for the Indiana shore. Both men violated
the rules of signals. Remlin should not have blown any signal until he
heard from the up-stream boat, and Jenkins, not hearing any signal from
the States, should have stopped his boat. Jenkins was standing on the
starboard side, that placing him behind the chimney, and he did not see
the States until she came out across his bow.
My God! shouted Turpin, as he saw the States bearing down upon
them like some ferocious monster, We're lost!
The boats came together with a fearful crash. The smoke-stacks
groaned and hissed, and great clouds of smoke rolled over the scene.
The first shock of the collision brought a sudden check to the dancing
on the America, throwing many to the floor and mixing up the whole
assembly into a confused mass. Heads were peering through the transoms
of the staterooms and voices excitedly calling, What's the matter?
John Briscoe, the watchman, came hurriedly through the cabin and said,
The States and the America have run into each other!
The strains of music had ceased giving way to anxious inquiries on
every side. The officers of the boat were running to and fro, giving
orders, the negro cabin-boys adding to the chaos of the scene by loud
and far-reaching cries.
On the roof, the Captain was giving orders to Jenkins: Come ahead,
outside! Jenkins pulled the bell-rope and the brave engineer responded
to the order. The boats had swung a short distance apart, the States
rapidly sinking. Jenkins put the America up between the States and the
shore. The States was carrying, as freight, a lot of barrels of
coal-oil and gasoline, and in the collision these were smashed and the
gasoline caught fire and in a few moments the sinking boat was all
Jenkins groaned as he saw the fire, for the flames had already swept
over upon the America, and he saw that his boat was also doomed. The
bow of the America was almost touching the gravel, and believing that
he had his boat safely on shore, Jenkins hurriedly left the
pilot-house. Charles Ditman, the other head pilot of the America, off
watch, ran up into the pilot-house and catching the wheel, rang for
reversed engines, and backed the boat out into the river, away from the
States, but his action was miscalculated, for fire had broken out on
the America, and great sheets of flame were leaping from her forward
decks and guards. Had the boat held the position in which Jenkins had
placed her, all the passengers might have escaped. Officers and crew
were cutting away timbers with axes and dashing water upon the fire,
but the great crackling tongue of flame licked up everything in its
pathway. The heavens shone like a great, golden mirror under the
spreading blaze. The burning oil flowed out over the water and flamed
up across every avenue of escape. From out the black clouds of smoke,
great sheets of flame burst through, rolled heavenward, and leaped down
again like some devouring demon.
In such a transformation from pleasure to horror, who can discern
the turning impulses within the human breastof fear, of hope or of
heroic self-control? To some, such a moment brings hopeless despair, or
frantic terror, which will crush women and children and crowd them from
places of safety, and oftimes in such an hour there comes to those of
otherwise timid dispositions, a grandeur of heroism never evidencing
itself before; some latent, slumbering power of soul that can only be
awakened by some fearful test of human tragedy.
From the burning boats came wild cries, shrieks and screams. Some
were kneeling in prayer, others cursing and bemoaning their plight. Dr.
Fannastock, a millionaire manufacturer from Philadelphia, clasped his
beautiful daughter in his arms and cried, I will give one hundred
thousand dollars to the one who saves my child! Both were lost. Ole
Bull, the famous violinist, who had taken passage at Louisville, stood
quietly holding his violin case, calmly endeavoring to reassure the
frightened women and children. The fire was fast approaching the rear
Shawn stood by Mrs. Alden's side, buckling a life-preserver around
her body. I'm trusting in God, Shawn, said the good woman, as a
ghastly pallor overspread her face.
Put a little of that trust in me, said Shawn as he bore her in his
arms to the aft guards. Hurriedly passing down the back stairs, he went
through the engine-room to the rear end of the boat. They were lowering
the trailing-yawl, which swung on a level with the floor of the lower
cabin. As the yawl touched the water, a score of roustabouts started to
leap into it.
Stand back there! shouted Shawn. These women and children must go
Shawn lowered himself into the yawl, and catching Mrs. Alden with
both hands, placed her on a seat in the stern of the boat. The fire was
gaining headway and black volumes of smoke were rolling from the
engine-room. Ole Bull, with a countenance pale, but noble in its
expression of high courage, tenderly lowered the women and children
into the boat. Shawn took each one and placed them as closely as
possible on the seats.
Get aboard, he said to the musician. Shawn pushed the yawl away
from the burning boat, and seating himself with the oars, began the
fight for the shore. Great sparks from the burning timbers fell about
them. The cabin of the America toppled and fell with a crash, and as
the burning portions struck the water the waves seemed to hiss as if
seeking some struggling soul. The clamor had become deafening; men were
leaping into the water and hoarse cries rang out above the flames.
Shawn was bending to the oars, his long boating practice now
standing him in good stead. The fumes from the burning oil were almost
unbearable, threatening to suffocate the occupants of the yawl. Thirty
yards away was the shore. The muscles in Shawn's arms were straining to
their utmost. The heavily laden boat was almost dipping water.
[Illustration: The Cabin of the America fell with a crash.]
Sit steady, everybody! cried Shawn. He turned and gazed toward the
shore, and then put all his strength into the oars and ran the boat
upon the shore. The occupants leaped out, giving joyful expressions for
their safety. Shawn wrapped Mrs. Alden in his coat and carried her from
the boat. On the bank was a log-cabin, from which a light shone.
Hastening thither, he found the door open and a wood-fire burning in
the fireplace, the family having gone to the scene of the disaster.
Shawn placed Mrs. Alden in a chair and said, Try to make the best of
it until I return; I'm going back to save all I can.
May God watch over you, sobbed Mrs. Alden.
Shawn sprang into the yawl and pushed out into the stream, and the
work he did that night in saving struggling beings, is still talked
about along that river. The boats were burning to the water's edge, and
along the shore were sobs and groans from those who had reached land;
cries of anguish from those who had lost their loved ones. Oh, the
suffering of that winter night! Children with blistered limbs, crying
for mothers whose voices were hushed beneath the stream; old men
writhing in cruel pain, moaning in piteous tones; young men with folded
arms hearing again the last sad cries of sweethearts as they were torn
Shawn went back to the log-house and found Mrs. Alden in tears.
Oh, my dear boy, if I were only strong enough to go among those
suffering ones. God has been kind to give me strength to pass through
this ordeal, but I am helpless to aid others.
Shawn stood by her chair; the frost had coated his dark hair, his
cheeks seemed aflame from the exertion through which he had passed.
The news of the disaster traveled fast.
The Alice Lee, coming up from Madison, stopped at all of the
villages and took aboard doctors and those volunteering to help. At
midnight they arrived at the scene of the terrible catastrophe. One of
the first passengers to step ashore was Doctor Hissong, Brad Jackson
just behind him. The old doctor had his saddle-bags and instrument
case, and Brad carried a roll of bandages.
I wonder if they're still alive, Brad? said Doctor Hissong. Old
Brad's heart was heavy with forebodings, but suddenly he gave vent to a
yell that nearly upset the nerves of Doctor Hissong: Fo' Gawd, doctah,
Shawn came up, and the old doctor threw his arms around him and
cried for joy. Is Mrs. Alden alive, Shawn?
All right, said Shawn, as he pointed toward the cabin. Doctor
Hissong hastened to the cabin, and when he came up to Mrs. Alden he
bent over her hand and kissed it with a beautiful reverence.
Thank God for saving you, he said.
And Shawn, gently added Mrs. Alden.
The survivors went aboard the Alice Lee and the injured and the dead
were also taken on board. Doctor Hissong and the other doctors gave all
their time toward alleviating the sufferings of the unfortunate ones.
When the boat reached Skarrow, it found Mrs. Alden's carriage at the
wharf. Shawn and Brad carried her to it. She turned to Doctor Hissong
and said, Bring as many of the injured as you can to my home, and
those in need of clothes or assistance in any way.
The passing of five years over a country village generally brings
but little change in the existing conditions, but even in this prosaic
atmosphere of easy going methods and action, the calendar marks some
days and events of more than passing notice.
Doctor Hissong had served his term in the Legislature, and proudly
pointed to his record in passing the bill for the construction of extra
locks and dams on the Kentucky river.
Shawn was attending lectures at the Medical College in Louisville,
Doctor Hissong acting as his preceptor and paying all the expenses
necessary to his medical education, and now that he had been two years
in school and was nearing the end of the course, Shawn felt that life
held out a hope for him far beyond the dreams of his earlier years, and
his breast swelled with gratitude to those who had shown him such
friendship and confidence; to the kind old doctor, who trusted him to
his every word and deed, and to Mrs. Alden, who wrote him such
beautiful and touching letters, reminding him of his duty to God and
his fellow-men, and as he laid each one of her letters aside, it seemed
that a newer strength and some higher motive filled his heart.
And there were other letters whose coming he anxiously awaited. The
small, round handwriting on the envelope sent the glow of happiness
into his eyes; the dear, sweet letters from Lallite, with marginal
notes in every conceivable nook and corner of the page; the dainty
tid-bits of love. When these letters came, Shawn took them and wandered
down to the stream he loved so well. Lallite seemed associated with the
murmuring ripples, the tiny pebbles of the beach, and the shimmering
bosom of the river. As he sat near the drowsy rumbling falls with her
letter in his hand, it seemed that the river flowing past breathed some
tender message from the village above and linked his heart into a
closer and fonder memory of sweeter hours. And these letters laden with
love's tender offerings, with here and there some whisperings of
loneliness, some unlooked-for digression embracing the gossip of the
neighborhood, or some delicious speculation as to his fidelity and
One day, just about three weeks before his graduation, as he sat at
the dinner table, a servant came in and placed a telegram beside his
plate. Shawn opened the envelope and read, Come home at once. Dave
Something seemed to almost paralyze his heart-strings; some terrible
apprehension took possession of him. His mother? Mrs. Alden? Lallite?
Through the long, dragging hours which followed until the evening
mail-boat started up the river, he wandered in an agony of suspense.
The river had lost its charm, and the strains of music from the
orchestra on the boat, fell on his ears in saddened tones. He walked
the hurricane deck, and bent his gaze upon the distant river bends, as
counting the dragging miles. At midnight the boat reached Skarrow. Dave
Budlong, the old lawyer, was there to meet Shawn. Shawn grasped his
hand and eagerly asked, Tell me what is the matter!
Doc' Hissong is very low and has been calling for you ever since
last night, said Budlong.
They went up the hill to the office. Old Brad met them at the door,
Praise Gawd, you've come, Shawnhe gwine mi'ty fas'he nearin' de
Valley uv de Shadder. Shawn went in, and as he saw the old doctor's
white head on the pillow, the tears gushed from his eyes. He went to
the bedside and took the old physician's hand.
Doctor, it's Shawn; I've come.
A glad beam came into the fast-closing eyes, and the feeble voice
struggled into a fitful tone, Shawn, my boy, God has forgiven meI
don't know how it may beI've tried to think it out, but somehow I
feel that in the long journey I must now take alone, that God will let
the light burn for meI've remembered you, Shawn.
The head sank back upon the pillow. Old Brad was sobbing in the
corner. From the hill came the weird tones of a whip-poor-will, and
from the far-away bend of the river, the echoes of a steamer's wheel.
The moon shot a beam of light through the window and the rays seemed to
rest tenderly upon the calm and gentle face. Doctor Hissong's spirit
Clear the room, said Budlong, I want to speak in private with
Taking a paper from his pocket he said, Shawn, Doctor Hissong told
me to read you this, his will. I am here to do it. I drew it up.
The old lawyer stood by the mantlepiece, and by the flickering
In the name of God, Amen. Realizing the uncertainty of life and
the certainty of death, I, Radford J. Hissong, being of sound
and disposing mind and memory, do hereby publish this to be my
last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills and
1stI give to the old negro Brad Jackson the sum of $500.00 and
intrust him to the care of the young man known as Shawn
2dI desire that $1,000.00 of my estate be distributed among
the poor of Skarrow.
3rd.I give, devise and bequeath to the young man, known as
Shawn Collins, but whom I hereby acknowledge to be my son, my
river-bottom farm, consisting of 387 acres. I bequeath to him
hill farm, consisting of 187 acres. I bequeath to him my town
property, consisting of two dwellings and one store-room, my
office, bank stock and all other properties found, outside of
the first two clauses of this will. This property to belong to
the said Shawn, to be used or disposed of according to his
pleasure. I desire a modest stone above my grave, and ask that
be buried in the cemetery on the hill, overlooking the river.
In witness whereof I have hereby set my hand, this 18th day of
Radford J. Hissong.
Witness: Dave Budlong,
After the funeral, Shawn appeared as one upon whom had fallen a
great and strange sorrow. He felt as though some dark curtain had
suddenly been lowered between him and all prospects of future
happiness. There now seemed a lingering consciousness which separated
him from his old individuality; something that awakened a flame of
anguish within his heart and sent a tingling rush of blood to his
cheek, but Mrs. Alden came, with her gracious and charitable heart and
sought to soothe the troubled spirit, and her words fell as a blessed
benediction into his soul.
I'm going to Old Meadows, Mrs. Alden, and there bid farewell to
every hope and joy that I have in this world.
He rode his horse slowly through the old orchard again, where he and
Doctor Hissong had driven that winter morning, but what a change had
now come into his heart. He heard the guineas call again, but every
sound was teeming with sadness.
[Illustration: Lallite ran up to Shawn, giving him both her hands.]
Horton took his horse at the gate, and Major LeCroix met him at the
porch, and his voice had the old-time ring of welcome. Horton, call
Lally; Shawn has come.
Shawn went into the old family room, Doctor Hissong's will in his
hand. Lallite came down the stairs and ran up to Shawn, giving him both
her hands. Her eyes were beaming the joy of his return, but Shawn stood
with downcast gaze and trembling limbs.
Lally, here is Doctor Hissong's will. It is fair and just that you
read it, and afterward, I am willing to release you from any
With a frightened glance, the beautiful girl began to read the will.
Shawn leaned against the old piano and buried his face in his hands.
Presently he felt two soft arms steal about his neck and a gentle voice
saying, Shawn, would it be the nobler course of a love that should
change or turn against one, who was in no way responsible for the
conditions of birth; to turn against one who has raised himself above
every stigma by his high principle and courage, by tenderness and
unselfishness? No, Shawn, some better spirit guides me, and no matter
what the world may say, I can face it as the woman who loves you, and
that love shall shed its light in such radiance that all the shadows
will flee away.
Oh, Lally, said Shawn, as he caught her in his arms, Through all
of this darkness you have been my guiding star. I will start in at the
old office next month. And above the softened glow of the mussel-pearl
in the pin on her breast, two pairs of eyes beamed with the love which
never grows dim with advancing years.