GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
CHARLES EGBERT CRADDOCK
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS.
ALWAYS enwrapped in the illusory mists, always
touching the evasive clouds, the peaks of the
Great Smoky Mountains are like some barren ideal,
that has bartered for the vague isolations of a higher
atmosphere the material values of the warm world
below. Upon those mighty and majestic domes no
tree strikes root, no hearth is alight; humanity is an
alien thing, and utility set at naught. Below, dense
forests cover the massive, precipitous slopes of the
range, and in the midst of the wilderness a clearing
shows, here and there, and the roof of a humble log
cabin; in the valley, far, far lower still, a red spark at
dusk may suggest a home, nestling in the cove. Grain
grows apace in these scanty clearings, for the soil in
certain favored spots is mellow; and the weeds
grow, too, and in a wet season the ploughs are fain to
be active. They are of the bull-tongue variety,
and are sometimes drawn by oxen. As often as
otherwise they are followed by women.
In the gracious June mornings, when winds
are astir and wings are awhirl in the wide spaces
of the sunlit air, the work seemed no hardship to
Dorinda Cayce, - least of all one day when
another plough ran parallel to the furrows of her
own, and a loud, drawling, intermittent
conversation became practicable. She paused
often, and looked idly about her: sometimes at the
distant mountains, blue and misty, against the
indefinite horizon; sometimes down at the
cool, dense shadows of the wooded valley, so far
below the precipice, to which the steep clearing
shelved; sometimes at the little log cabin on the
slope above, sheltered by a beetling crag and
shadowed by the pines; sometimes still higher at
the great "bald" of the mountain, and its mingled
phantasmagoria of shifting clouds and flickering
sheen and glimmering peak.
"He 'lowed ter me," she said, suddenly, "ez
he hev been gin ter view strange sights a many
a time in them fogs, an' sech."
The eyes lifted to the shivering vapors might
never have reflected aught but a tropical sunshine,
so warm, so bright, so languorously calm were
they. She turned them presently upon a
young man, who was ploughing with a horse
close by, and who also came to a meditative halt
in the turn-row. He too was of intermittent
conversational tendencies, and between them it
might be marveled that so many furrows were
already run. He wore a wide-brimmed brown
wool hat, set far back upon his head; a mass of
straight yellow hair hung down to the collar of
his brown jeans coat. His brown eyes were slow
and contemplative. The corn was knee-high, and
hid the great boots drawn over his trousers. As
he moved there sounded the unexpected jingle
of spurs. He looked, with the stolid, lack-lustre
expression of the mountaineer, at the girl, who
continued, as she leaned lightly on the plough-
"I 'lowed ter him ez mebbe he hed drempt
them visions. I knows I hev thunk some toler'ble
cur'ous thoughts myself, ef I war tired an'
sleepin' hard. But he said he reckoned I hed
drempt no sech dreams ez his'n. I can't holp
sorrowin' fur him some. He 'lowed ez Satan
hev hunted him like a pa'tridge on the
The young man's eyes dropped with sudden
significance upon his plough-handles. A pair of
pistols in their leather cases swung
incongruously there. They gave a caustic
suggestion of human adversaries as fierce as
the moral pursuit
of the Principle of Evil, and the girl's face fell. In
absence of mind she recommended her work.
"Waal," she gently drawled, as the old ox
languidly started down the row, "'pears like ter me ez
it ain't goin' ter be no differ, nohow; it won't hender
Her face was grave, but there was a smile in her
eyes, which had the lustre and depth of a sapphire,
and a lambent glow like the heart of a blue flame.
They were fringed by long, black lashes, and her hair
was black, also. Her pink calico sun-bonnet, flaring
toward the front, showed it lying in moist tendrils on
her brow, and cast an unwonted roseate tint upon the
clear, healthful pallor of her complexion. She wore a
dark blue homespun dress, and, despite her coarse
garb and uncouth occupation and the gaunt old ox,
there was something impressive in her simple beauty,
her youth, and her elastic vigor. As she drove the
ploughshare into the mould she might have seemed
the type of a young civilization, - so fine a thing in
itself, so roughly accoutred.
When she came down the slope again, facing him,
the pink curtain of her bonnet waving about her
shoulders, her blue skirts fluttering among the blades
of corn, a winged shadow sweeping along as if
attendant upon her, while
a dove flew high above to its nest in the pines, he
raised his hand with an imperative gesture, and she
paused obediently. He had flushed deeply; the
smouldering fire in his eyes was kindling. He leaned
across the few rows of corn that stood between
"I hev a word ter ax right now. Who air under
conviction hyar?" he demanded.
She seemed a trifle startled. Her grasp shifted
uncertainly on the plough-handles, and the old ox,
accustomed to rest only at the turnrow, mistook her
intention, and started off. She stopped him with some
difficulty, and then, "Convicted of sin?" she asked,
in a voice that showed her appreciation of the
solemnity of the subject.
"I hev said it," the young man declared, with a
half-suppressed irritation which confused her.
She remained silent.
"Mebbe it air yer granny," he suggested, with a
She recoiled, with palpable surprise. "Granny
made her peace fifty year ago," she declared, with
pride in this anciently acquired grace, - "fifty year
"The boys air convicted, then?" he asked, still
leaning over the corn and still sneering.
"The boys hev got thar religion, too," she
faltered, looking at him with wide eyes, brilliant
with astonishment, and yet a trifle dismayed.
Suddenly, she threw herself into her wonted confiding
attitude, leaning upon her plough-handles, and with an
appealing glance began an extenuation of her spiritual
poverty: "'Pears like ez I hev never hed a call ter tell
you-uns afore ez I hev hed no time yit ter git my religion.
Granny bein' old, an' the boys at the still, I hev hed ter
spin, an' weave, an' cook, an' sew, an' plough
some, - the boys bein' mos'ly at the still. An' then, thar
be Mirandy Jane, my brother Ab's darter, ez I hev hed
ter l'arn how ter cook vittles. When I went down
yander ter my aunt Jerushy's house in Tuckaleechee
Cove, ter holp her some with weavin', I war plumb
cur'ous ter know how Mirandy Jane would make out
whilst I war gone. They 'lowed ez she hed cooked the
vittles toler'ble, but ef she had washed a skillet or a
platter in them three days I couldn't find it."
Her tone was stern; all the outraged housekeeper
was astir within her.
He said nothing, and she presently continued
discursively, still leaning on the plough-handles: "I
never stayed away but them three days. I war n't
sati'fied in my mind, nohow, whilst I bided down thar
in Tuckaleechee Cove. I hankered cornsider'ble arter
the baby. He air three year old now, an' I hev keered
ever sence his mother died, - my brother Ab's wife,
ye know, - two year ago an' better. They hed fedded
him toler'ble whilst I war away, an' I fund him fat ez
common. But they hed crost him somehows, an' he
war ailin' in his temper when I got home, an' hed ter
hev cornsider'ble coddlin'."
She paused before the rising anger in his eyes.
"Why air Mirandy Jane called ter l'arn how ter
cook vittles?" he demanded, irrelevantly, it might
She looked at him in deprecating surprise. Yet she
turned at bay.
"I hev never hearn ez ye war convicted yerself,
Rick Tyler!" she said, tartly. "Ye war never so
much ez seen a-scoutin' round the mourner's bench.
Ef I hev got no religion, ye hev got none, nuther."
"Ye air minded ter git married, D'rindy Cayce," he
said, severely, solving his own problem, "an' that's
why Mirandy Jane hev got ter be l'arned ter take yer
place at home."
He produced this as if it were an accusation.
She drew back, indignant and affronted, and with a
rigid air of offended propriety. "I hev no call ter
spen' words 'bout sech ez that, with a free-spoken
man like you-uns," she staidly asseverated; and
then she was about to move on.
Accepting her view of the gross unseemliness
of his mention of the subject, the young fellow's
anger gave way to contrition. "Waal, D'rindy," he
said, in an eager, apologetic tone, "I hev seen
that critter, that thar preacher, a-hangin' round
you-uns's house a powerful deal lately, whilst I
hev been obleeged ter hide out in the woods.
An' bein' ez nobody thar owns up ter needin'
religion but ye, I reckoned he war a-tryin' ter git
ye ter take him an' grace tergether. That man
hev got his mouth stuffed chock full o'
words, - more 'n enny other man I ever see," he
added, with an expression of deep disgust.
Dorinda might be thought to abuse her
opportunities. "He ain't studyin' 'bout'n me, no
more 'n I be 'bout'n him," she said, with scant
relish for the spectacle of Rick Tyler's jealousy.
"Pa'son Kelsey jes' stops thar ter the house
ter rest his bones awhile, arter he comes down
off'n the bald, whar he goes ter pray."
"In the name o' reason," exclaimed the
young fellow petulantly, "why can't he pray
somewhar else? A man ez hev got ter h'ist
hisself on the bald of a mounting ten mile high -
except what's lackin' - ter git a purchase on
prayer hain't got no religion wuth talkin' 'bout.
Sinner ez I am, I kin pray in the valley - way
down yander in Tuckaleechee Cove - ez peart
ez on enny bald in the Big Smoky. That critter
air a powerful aggervatin' contrivance."
Her eyes still shone upon him. "'Pears like ter
me ez it air no differ, nohow," she said, with her
consolatory cadence. As she again started down
the row, she added, glancing over her shoulder
and relenting even to explanation, " 'T war
granny's word ez Mirandy Jane hed ter be
l'arned ter cook an' sech. She air risin' thirteen
now, an' air toler'ble bouncin' an' spry, an'
oughter be some use, ef ever. An' she mought
marry when she gits fairly grown, an'," pausing
in the turn-row for argument, and looking with
earnest eyes at him, as he still stood in the midst
of the waving corn, idly holding his plough-handles,
where the pistols swung, "ef she did marry,
'pears like ter me ez she would be mightily
faulted ef she could n't cook tasty."
There was no reasonable doubt of this proposition,
but it failed to convince, and in miserable
cogitation he completed another furrow, and met
her at the turn-row.
"I s'pose ez Pa'son Kelsey an' yer granny air
powerful sociable an' frien'ly," he hazarded, as
they stood together.
"I dunno ez them two air partic'lar frien'ly.
Pa'son Kelsey air in no wise a sociable critter,"
said Dorinda, with a discriminating air. "He
ain't like Brother Jake Tobin, - though it
'pears like ter me ez his gift in prayer air
manifested more survigrus ef ennything." She
submitted this diffidently. Having no religion,
she felt incompetent to judge of such matters.
"'Pears like ter me ez Pa'son Kelsey air more
like 'Lijah an' 'Lisha, an' them men, what he
talks about cornsider'ble, an' goes out ter meet
on the bald."
"He don't meet them men on the bald; they
air dead," said Rick Tyler, abruptly.
She looked at him in shocked surprise.
"That's jes' his addling way o' talkin',"
continued the young fellow. "He don't mean fur
true more 'n haffen what he say. He 'lows ez
he meets the sperits o' them men on the bald."
Once more she lifted her bright eyes to the
shivering vapors, - vague, mysterious, veiling,
in solemn silence the barren, awful heights.
An extreme gravity had fallen upon her
face. "Did they live in thar life-time up hyar
in the Big Smoky, or in the valley kentry?"
she asked, in a lowered voice.
"I ain't sure 'bout'n that," he replied, indifferently.
"'Crost the line in the old North State?"
she hazarded, exhausting her knowledge of the
"I hearn him read 'bout'n it wunst, but I
Still her reverent, beautiful eyes, full of the
dreamy sunshine, were lifted to the peak. "It
must hev been in the Big Smoky Mountings
they lived," she said, with eager credulity, "fur
he told me ez the word an' the prophets holped
him when Satan kem a-huntin' of him like a
pa'tridge on the mounting."
The young fellow turned away, with a gesture
of angry impatience.
"Ef he hed ever hed the State o' Tennessee
a-huntin' of him he would n't be so feared o'
Satan. Ef thar war a warrant fur him in the
sher'ff's pocket, an' the gran' jury's true bill fur
murder lyin' agin him yander at Shaftesville,
an' the gov'nor's reward, two hunderd dollars
blood money, on him, he would n't be a-humpin'
his bones round hyar so peart, a-shakin' in his
shoes fur the fear o' Satan." He laughed, - a
caustic, jeering laugh. "Satan's mighty active,
cornsiderin' his age, but I 'd be willin'
ter pit the State o' Tennessee agin him when
it kem ter huntin' of folks like a pa'tridge."
The sunshine in the girl's eyes was clouded.
They had filled with tears. Still leaning on
the plough-handles, she looked at him, with
suddenly crimson cheeks and quivering lips.
"I dunno how the State o' Tennessee kin git
its own cornsent ter be so mean an' wicked ez
it air," she said, his helpless little partisan.
Despite their futility, her words comforted
him. "An' I hev done nuthin', nohow!" he
cried out, in shrill self-justification. "I could
no more hender 'Bednego Tynes from shootin'
Joel Byers down in his own door'n nuthin' in this
worl'. I never even knowed they hed a grudge.
"Bednego Tynes, he tole me ez he owed Joel a
debt, an' war goin' ter see him 'bout'n it, an'
wanted somebody along ter hear his word an'
see jestice done 'twixt 'em. Thar air fower
Byers boys, an' I reckon he war feared they
would all jump on him at wunst, an' he wanted
me ter holp him ef they did. An' I went along
like a fool sheep, thinkin' 'bout nuthin'. An'
when we got way down yander in Eskaqua
Cove, whar Joel Byers's house air, he gin a
hello at the fence, an' Joel kem ter the door.
An' 'Bednego whipped up his riffle suddint an'
shot him through the head, ez nip an' percise!
An' thar stood Joel's wife, seein' it all. An'
'Bednego run off, nimble, I tell ye, an' I war
so frustrated I run, too. Somebody cotched
'Bednego in the old North State the nex' week,
an' the gov'nor hed ter send a requisition arter
him. But sence I fund out ez they 'lowed I
war aidin' an' abettin' 'Bednego, an' war goin'
ter arrest me 'kase I war thar at the killin',
they hev hed powerful little chance o' tryin'
me in the court. An' whilst the gov'nor hed
his hand in, he offered a reward fur sech a
lawless man ez I be."
He broke off, visibly struggling for composure;
then he recommenced in increasing indignation:
"An' these hyar frien's o' mine in the
Big Smoky, I 'll be bound they hanker powerful
arter them two hunderd dollars blood
money. I know ez I 'd hev been tuk afore this,
ef it war n't fur them consarns thar." He nodded
frowningly at the pistols. "Them's the
only frien's I hev got."
The girl's voice trembled. "'Pears like ye
mought count me in," she said, reproachfully.
"Naw," he retorted, sternly, "ye go round
hyar sorrowin' fur a man ez hev got nuthin' ter
be afeard of but the devil."
She made no reply, and her meekness
"D'rindy," he said, in an altered tone, and
with the pathos of a keen despair, "I hed fixed
it in my mind a good while ago, when I could
hev hed a house, an' lived like folks, stiddier
like a wolf in the woods, ter ax ye ter marry
me; but I war hendered by gittin' skeered
'bout'n yer bein' all in favor o' Amos Jeemes,
ez kem up ter see ye from Eskaqua Cove, an' I
did n't want ter git turned off. Mebbe ef I hed
axed ye then I would n't hev tuk ter goin' along
o' Abednego Tynes an' sech, an' the killin' o'
Joel would n't hev happened like it done.
Would ye - would ye hev married me then?"
Her eyes flashed. "Ye air fairly sodden
with foolishness, Rick!" she exclaimed, angrily.
"Air you-uns thinkin' ez I 'll 'low ez I would
hev married a man four month ago ez never
axed me ter marry, nohow?" Then, with an
appreciation of the delicacy of the position and
a conservation of mutual pride, she added,
"An' I won't say nuther ez I would n't marry
a man ez hev never axed me ter marry, nohow."
Somehow, the contrariety of the proprieties,
as she translated them, bewildered and baffled
him. Even had he been looking at her he
might hardly have interpreted, with his blunt
perceptions, the dewy wistfulness of the eyes
which she bent upon him. The word might
promise nothing now. Still she would have
valued it. He did not speak it. His eyes
were fixed on Chilhowee Mountain, rising up,
massive and splendid, against the west. The
shadows of the clouds flecked the pure and
perfect blue of the sunny slopes with a dusky
mottling of purple. The denser shade in the
valley had shifted, and one might know by this
how the day wore on. The dew had dried from
the long, keen blades of the Indian corn; the
grasshoppers droned among them. A lizard
basked on a flat, white stone hard by. The old
ox dozed in the turn-row.
Suddenly Rick Tyler lifted his hand, with
an intent gesture and a dilated eye. There
came from far below, on the mountain road, the
sound of a horse's hoof striking on a stone,
again, and yet again. A faint metallic jingle -
the air was so still now - suggested spurs.
The girl's hand trembled violently as she
stepped swiftly to his horse and took off the
plough-gear. He had caught up a saddle that
was lying in the turn-row, and as hastily
buckled the girth about the animal.
"Ef that air ennybody a-hankerin' ter see
me, don't you-uns be a-denyin' ez I hev been
hyar, D'rindy," he said, as he put his foot in
the stirrup. "I reckon they hev fund out by
now ez I be in the kentry round about. But
keep 'em hyar ez long ez ye kin, ter gin me a
He mounted his horse, and rode noiselessly
away along the newly turned mould of the
She stood leaning upon her plough-handles,
and silently watching him. His equestrian
figure, darkly outlined against the far blue
mountains and the intermediate valley, seemed
of heroic size against the landscape, which was
reduced by the distance to the minimum of
proportion. The deep shadows of the woods,
encompassing the clearing, fell upon him
presently, and he, too, was but a shadow in the
dusky monochrome of the limited vista. The
dense laurel closed about him, and his mountain
fastnesses, that had befriended him of yore,
received him once again.
Then up and down the furrows Dorinda
mechanically followed the plough, her pulses
throbbing, every nerve tense, every faculty
alert. She winced when she heard the frequent
striking of hoofs upon the rocky slopes
of the road below. She was instantly aware
when they were silent and the party had
stopped to breathe the horses. She began
accurately to gauge their slow progress.
"'T ain't airish in no wise ter-day," she said,
glancing about at the still, noontide landscape;
"an' ef them air valley cattle they mus' git
blowed mightily travelin' up sech steep
mountings ez the Big Smoky." She checked her
self-gratulation. "Though I ain't wantin' ter
gloat on the beastis' misery, nuther," she stipulated.
She paused presently at the lower end of the
clearing, and looked down over the precipice,
that presented a sheer sandstone cliff on one
side, and on the other a wild confusion of
splintered and creviced rocks, where the wild rose
bloomed in the niches and the grape-vine swung.
The beech-trees on the slope below conserved
beneath their dense, umbrageous branches a
tender, green twilight. Loitering along in a
gleaming silver thread by the roadside was a
mountain rill, hardly gurgling even when with
slight and primitive shift it was led into a hollow
and mossy log, that it might aggregate sufficient
volume in the dry season to water the
horse of the chance wayfarer.
The first stranger that rode into this shadowy
nook took off a large straw hat and bared his
brow to the refreshing coolness. His grizzled
hair stood up in front after the manner
denominated "a roach." His temples were deeply
sunken, and his strongly marked face was long
and singularly lean. He held it forward, as if
he were snuffing the air. He had a massive
and powerful frame, with not an ounce of
superfluous flesh, and he looked like a hound in
the midst of the hunting season.
It served to quiet Dorinda's quivering nerves
when he leisurely rode his big gray horse up to
the trough, and dropped the rein that the animal
might drink. If he were in pursuit he evidently
had no idea how close he had pressed the
fugitive. He was joined there by the other
members of the party, six or eight in number,
and presently a stentorian voice broke upon the
air. "Hello! Hello!" he shouted, hailing the
Mirandy Jane, a slim, long-legged, filly-like
girl of thirteen, with a tangled black mane, the
forelock hanging over her wild, prominent eyes,
had at that moment appeared on the porch.
She paused, and stared at the strangers with
vivacious surprise. Then, taking sudden fright,
she fled precipitately, with as much attendant
confusion of pattering footfalls, flying mane,
and excited snorts and gasps as if she were a
troop of wild horses.
"Granny! Granny!" she exclaimed to the
old crone in the chimney corner, "thar's a man
on a big gray critter down at the trough, an' I
ain't s'prised none ef he air a raider!"
The hail of the intruders was regarded as a
challenge by some fifteen or twenty hounds that
suddenly materialized among the beehives and
the althea bushes, and from behind the ash-hopper
and the hen-house and the rain-barrel.
From under the cabin two huge curs came,
their activity impeded by the blocks and chains
they drew. These were silent, while the others
yelped vociferously, and climbed over the fence,
and dashed down the road.
The horses pricked up their ears, and the
leader of the party awaited the onslaught with
a pistol in his hand.
The old woman, glancing out of the window,
observed this demonstration.
"He'll kill one o' our dogs with that thar
shootin'-iron o' his'n!" she exclaimed in
trepidation. "Run, Mirandy Jane, an' tell him our
dogs don't bite."
The filly-like Mirandy Jane made great speed
among the hounds, as she called them off, and
remembered only after she had returned to the
house to be afraid of the "shootin'-iron" herself.
The old woman, who had come out on the
porch, stood gazing at the party, shading her
eyes with her hand, and a long-range colloquy
"Good-mornin', madam," said the man at
"Good-mornin', sir," quavered the old crone
on the mountain slope.
"I'm the sher'ff o' the county, madam, an'
I 'd like ter know ef" -
"Mirandy Jane," the old woman interrupted,
in a wrathful undertone, "'pears like I hev hed
the trouble o' raisin' a idjit in you-uns! Them
ain't raiders, 'n nuthin' like it. Run an' tell
the sher'ff we air dishin' up dinner right now,
an' ax him an' his gang ter' light an' hitch, an'
eat it along o' we-uns."
The prospect was tempting. It was high
noon, and the posse had been in the saddle
since dawn. Dorinda, with a beating heart,
marked how short a consultation resulted in
dismounting and hitching the horses; and then,
with their spurs jingling and their pistols belted
about them, the men trooped up to the house.
As they seated themselves around the table,
more than one looked back over his shoulder at
the open window, in which was framed, as
motionless as a painted picture, the vast
perspective of the endless blue ranges and the great
vaulted sky, not more blue, all with the broad,
still, brilliant noontide upon it.
"Ye ain't scrimped fur a view, Mis' Cayce,
an' that's the Lord's truth!" exclaimed the
"Waal," said the old woman, as if her
attention were called to the fact for the first time,
"we kin see a power o' kentry from this spot
o' ourn, sure enough; but I dunno ez it gins us
enny more chance o' ever viewin' Canaan."
"It's a sight o' ground ter hev ter hunt a
man over, ez ef he war a needle in a haystack,"
and once more the officer turned and surveyed
The room was overheated by the fire which
had cooked the dinner, and the old woman
actively plied her fan of turkey feathers, pausing
occasionally to readjust her cap, which had a
flapping frill and was surmounted by a pair of
gleaming spectacles. A bandana kerchief was
crossed over her breast, and she wore a blue-and-
white-checked homespun dress of the same pattern
and style that she had worn here fifty years
ago. Her hands were tremulous and gnarled
and her face was deeply wrinkled, but her interest
in life was as fresh as Mirandy Jane's.
The great frame of the warping-bars on one
side of the room was swathed with a rainbow of
variegated yarn, and a spinning-wheel stood
near the door. A few shelves, scrupulously
neat, held piggins, a cracked blue bowl, brown
earthenware, and the cooking utensils. There
were rude gun-racks on the walls. These
indicated the fact of several men in the family. It
was the universal dinner-hour, yet none of them
appeared. The sheriff reflected that perhaps
they had their own sufficient reason to be shy
of strangers, and the horses hitched outside
advertised the presence and number of
unaccustomed visitors within. When the usual
appetizer was offered, it took the form of
whiskey in such quantity that the conviction
was forced upon him that it was come by very
handily. However, he applied himself with
great relish to the bacon and snap-beans, corn
dodgers and fried chicken, not knowing that
Mirandy Jane, who was esteemed altogether
second rate, had cooked them, and he spread
honey upon the apple-pie, ate it with his knife,
and washed it down with buttermilk, kept cold
as ice in the spring, - the mixture being calculated
to surprise a more civilized stomach.
Not even his conscience was roused, - the
first intimation of a disordered digestion. He
listened to old Mrs. Cayce with no betrayal of
divination when she vaguely but anxiously
explained the absence of her son and his boys in
the equivocal phrase, "Not round about ter-day,
bein' gone off," and he asked how many miles
distant was the Settlement, as if he understood
they had gone thither. He was saying to himself,
the brush whiskey warming his heart, that
the revenue department paid him nothing to
raid moonshiners, and there was no obligation
of his office to sift any such suspicion which might
occur to him while accepting an unguarded hospitality.
He looked with somewhat appreciative eyes
at Dorinda, as she went back and forth from
the table to the pot which hung in the deep
chimney-place above the smouldering coals.
She had laid aside her bonnet. Her face was
grave; her eyes were bright and excited; her
hair was drawn back, except for the tendrils
about her brow, and coiled, with the aid of a
much-prized "tuckin' comb," at the back of
her head in a knot discriminated as Grecian in
civilization. He remarked to her grandmother
that he was a family man himself, and had a
daughter as old, he should say, as Dorinda.
"D'rindy air turned seventeen now," said
Mrs. Cayce, disparagingly. "It 'pears like ter
me ez the young folks nowadays air awk'ard
an' back'ard. I war married when I war
sixteen, - sixteen scant."
The girl felt that she was indeed of advanced
years, and the sheriff said that his daughter
was not yet sixteen, and he thought it probable
she weighed more than Dorinda.
He lighted his pipe presently, and tilted his
chair back against the wall.
"Yes'm," he said, meditatively, gazing out
of the window at the great panorama, "it's a
pretty big spot o' kentry ter hev ter hunt a
man over. Now ef 't war one o' the town folks
we could make out ter overhaul him somehows;
but a mounting boy, - why, he's ez free ter
the hills ez a fox. I s'pose ye hain't seen him
"I hain't hearn who it air yit," the old
woman replied, putting her hand behind her ear.
"It's Rick Tyler; he hails from this deestric.
I won't be 'stonished ef we ketch him this time.
The gov'nor has offered two hunderd dollars
reward fur him; an' I reckon somebody will find
it wuth while ter head him fur us."
He was talking idly. He had no expectation
of developments here. He had only stopped
at the house in the first instance for the question
which he had asked at every habitation
along the road. It suddenly occurred to him
as polite to include Dorinda in the conversation.
"Ye hain't seen nor hearn of him, I s'pose,
hev ye?" inquired the sheriff, directly addressing
As he turned toward her he marked her
expression. His own face changed suddenly.
He rose at once.
"Don't trifle with the law, I warn ye," he
said, sternly. "Ye hev seen that man."
Dorinda was standing beside her
spinning-wheel, one hand holding the thread,
the other raised to guide the motion. She looked
at him, pale and breathless.
"I hev seen him. I ain't onwillin' ter own
it. Ye never axed me afore."
The other members of the party had crowded
in from the porch, where they had been sitting
since dinner, smoking their pipes. The officer,
realizing his lapse of vigilance and the loss of
his opportunity, was sharply conscious, too, of
their appreciation of his fatuity.
"Whar did ye see him?" he asked.
"I seen him hyar - this mornin'." There
was a stir of excitement in the group. "He
kem by on his beastis whilst I war a-ploughin',
an' we talked a passel. An' then he tuk Pete's
plough, ez war idle in the turnrow, an' holped
along some; he run a few furrows."
"Which way did he go?" asked the sheriff,
"I dunno," faltered the girl.
"Look-a-hyar!" he thundered, in rising
wrath. "Ye'll find yerself under lock an' key
in the jail at Shaftesville, ef ye undertake ter
fool with me. Which way did he go?"
A flush sprang into the girl's excited face.
Her eyes flashed.
"Ef ye kin jail me fur tellin' all I know, I
can't holp it," she said, with spirit. "I kin
tell no more."
He saw the justice of her position. It did
not make the situation easier for him. Here
he had sat eating and drinking and idly talking
while the fugitive, who had escaped by a hair's
breadth, was counting miles and miles between
himself and his lax pursuer. This would be
heard of in Shaftesville, - and be a candidate
for reëlection! He beheld already an exchange
of significant glances among his posse. Had
he asked that simple question earlier he might
now be on his way back to Shaftesville, his
prisoner braceleted with the idle handcuffs that
jingled in his pocket as he moved.
He caught at every illusive vagary that might
promise to retrieve his error. He declared that
she could not say which way Rick Tyler had
taken because he was not gone.
"He's in this house right now!" he exclaimed.
He ordered a search, and the guests,
a little while ago so friendly, began exploring
every nook and cranny.
"No, no!" cried the old woman, shrilly, as
they tried the door of the shed-room, which
was bolted and barred. "Ye can't tech that
thar door. It can't be opened, - not ef the
Gov'nor o' Tennessee war hyar himself,
a-moan-in' an' a-honin' ter git in."
The sheriff's eyes dilated. "Open the door, -
I summon ye!" he proclaimed, with his
imperative official manner.
"No! - I done tole ye," she said indignantly.
"The word o' the men folks hev been gin ter
keep that thar door shet, an' shet it's goin' ter
The officer laid his hand upon it.
"Ye must n't bust it open!" shrilled the old
woman. "Laws-a-massy! ef thar be many
sech ez you-uns in Shaftesville, I ain't s'prised
none that the Bible gits ter mournin' over the
low kentry, an' calls it a vale o' tears an' the
valley o' the shadder o' death!"
The sheriff had placed his powerful shoulder
against the frail batten floor.
"Hyar goes!" he said.
There was a crash; the door lay in splinters
on the floor; the men rushed precipitately
They came back laughing sheepishly. The
officer's face was angry and scarlet.
"Don't take the bar'l, - don't take the
bar'l!" the old woman besought of him, as
she fairly hung upon his arm. "I dunno how
the boys would cavort ef they kem back an'
fund the bar'l gone."
He gave her no heed. "Why n't ye tell me
that man war n't thar?" he asked of the
"Ye did n't ax me that word," said Dorinda.
"No, 'Cajah Green, ye did n't," said one of
the men, who, since the abortive result of their
leader's suspicion, were ashamed of their mission,
and prone to self-exoneration. "I 'll stand
up ter it ez she answered full an' true every
word ez ye axed her."
"Lor'-a'mighty! Ef I jes' knowed aforehand
how it will tech the boys when they view
the door down onto the floor!" exclaimed the
old woman. "They mought jounce round
hyar ez ef they war bereft o' reason, an' all
thar hope o' salvation hed hung on the hinges.
An' then agin they mought 'low ez they hed
ruther hev no door than be at the trouble o'
shettin' it an' barrin' it up ez they come an' go.
They air mighty onsartin in thar temper, an' I
hev never hankered ter see 'em crost. But fur
the glory's sake, don't tech the bar'l. It 's been
sot thar ter age some, ef the Lord will spare it."
In the girl's lucent eyes the officer detected
a gleam of triumph. How far away in the
tangled labyrinths of the mountain wilderness,
among the deer-paths and the cataracts and the
cliffs, had these long hours led Rick Tyler!
He spoke on his angry impulse: "An' I
ain't goin' ter furgit in a hurry how I hev fund
out ez ye air a-consortin' with criminals, an'
aidin' an' abettin' men ez air fleein' from jestice
an' wanted fur murder. Ye look out; ye 'll
find yerself in Shaftesville jail 'fore long, I'm
"He stopped an' talked ez other folks stop
an' talk," Dorinda retorted. "I could n't hender,
an' I hed no mind ter hender. He took
no bite nor sup ez others hev done. 'Pears like
ter me ez we hev gin aid an' comfort ter the
off'cer o' the law, ez well ez we could."
And this was the story that went down to
The man, his wrath rebounding upon himself,
hung his head, and went down to the
trough, and mounted his horse without another
The others hardly knew what to say to
Dorinda. But they were more deliberate in
their departure, and hung around apologizing
in their rude way to the old woman, who
convulsively besought each to spare the barrel,
which had been set in the shed-room to "age
some, ef it could be lef' alone."
Dorinda stood under the jack-bean vines,
blossoming purple and white, and watched the
men as they silently rode away. All the pride
within her was stirred. Every sensitive fibre
flinched from the officer's coarse threat. She
followed him out of sight with vengeful eyes.
"I wish I war a man!" she cried, passionately.
"A-law, D'rindy!" exclaimed her grandmother,
aghast at the idea. "That ain't manners!"
The shadows were beginning to creep slowly
up the slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains,
as if they came from the depths of the earth.
A roseate suffusion idealized range and peak to
the east. The delicate skyey background of
opaline tints and lustre made distinct and definite
their majestic symmetry of outline. Ah!
and the air was so clear! What infinite lengths
of elastic distances stretched between that
quivering trumpet-flower by the fence and the azure
heights which its scarlet horn might almost
seem to cover! The sun, its yellow blaze
burned out, and now a sphere of smouldering
fire, was dropping down behind Chilhowee,
royally purple, richly dark. Wings were in
the air and every instinct was homeward. An
eagle, with a shadow skurrying through the
valley like some forlorn Icarus that might not
soar, swept high over the landscape. Above
all rose the great "bald," still splendidly
illumined with the red glamour of the sunset,
and holding its uncovered head so loftily against
the sky that it might seem it had bared its
brow before the majesty of heaven.
When the "men folks," great, gaunt, bearded,
jeans-clad fellows, stood in the shed-room
and gazed at the splintered door upon the floor,
it was difficult to judge what was the prevailing
sentiment, so dawdling, so uncommunicative,
so inexpressive of gesture, were they.
"We knowed ez thar war strangers prowlin'
roun'," said the master of the house, when he
had heard his mother's excited account of the
events of the day. "We war a-startin' home ter
dinner, an' seen thar beastises hitched thar
a-nigh the trough. An' I 'lowed ez mebbe they
mought be the revenue devils, so I jes' made
the boys lay low. An' Sol war set ter watch,
an' he gin tile word when they hed rid away."
He was a man of fifty-five, perhaps, tough
and stalwart. His face was as lined and seamed
as that of his mother, who had counted nearly
fourscore years, but his frame was almost as
supple as at thirty. This trait of physical
vigor was manifested in each of his muscular
sons, and despite their slow and lank uncouthness,
their movements suggested latent elasticity.
In Dorinda, his only daughter, it graced
her youth and perfected her beauty. He was
known far and wide as "Ground-hog Cayce,"
but he would tell you, with a flash of the eye,
that before the war he bore the Christian name
Nothing more was said on the subject until
after supper, when they were all sitting, dusky
shadows, on the little porch, where the fireflies
sparkled and the vines fluttered, and one might
look out and see the new moon, in the similitude
of a silver boat, sailing down the western
skies, off the headlands of Chilhowee. A
cricket was shrilling in the weeds. The vague,
sighing voice of the woods rose and fell with a
melancholy monody. A creamy elder blossom
glimmered in a corner of the rail fence, hard by,
its delicate, delicious odor pervading the air.
"I never knowed," said one of the young
men, "ez this hyar sher'ff - this 'Cajah
Green - war sech a headin' critter."
"He never teched the bar'l," said the old
woman, not wishing that he should appear
blacker than he had painted himself.
"I s'pose you-uns gin him an' his gang a bite
an' sup," remarked Ground-hog Cayce.
"They eat a sizable dinner hyar," put in
Mirandy Jane, who, having cooked it, had no
mind that it should be belittled.
"An' they stayed a right smart while, an'
talked powerful frien'ly an' sociable-like," said
old Mrs. Cayce, "till the sher'ff got addled with
the notion that we hed Rick Tyler hid hyar.
An' unless we-uns hed tied him in the cheer or
shot him, nuthin' in natur' could hev held him.
I 'lowed 't war the dram he tuk, though D'rindy,
thinks differ. They never teched the bar'l,
"An' then," said Dorinda, with a sudden
gush of tears, all the afflicted delicacy of a young
and tender woman, all the overweening pride
of the mountaineer, throbbing wildly in her
veins, her heart afire, her helpless hands trembling,
"he said the word ez he would lock me
up in the jail at Shaftesville, sence I hed owned
ter seein' a man ez he war n't peart enough ter
ketch. He spoke that word ter me, - the jail!"
She hung sobbing in the doorway.
There was a murmur of indignation among
the group, and John Cayce rose to his feet with
"He shell rue it" he cried, - "he shell rue
it! Me an' mine take no word off'n nobody.
My gran'dad an' his three brothers, one hunderd
an' fourteen year ago, kem hyar from the
old North State an' settled in the Big Smoky.
They an' thar sons rooted up the wilderness.
They crapped. They fit the beastis; they fit
the Injun; they fit the British; an' this last
little war o' ourn they fit each other. Thar
hev never been a coward 'mongst 'em. Thar
hev never been a key turned on one of 'em, or
a door shet. They hev respected the law fur
what it war wuth, an' they hev stood up fur
thar rights agin it. They answer fur thar
word, an' others hev ter answer." He paused
for a moment.
The moon, still in the similitude of a silver
boat, swung at anchor in a deep indentation in
the summit of Chilhowee that looked like some
lonely pine-girt bay; what strange, mysterious
fancies did it land from its cargo of sentiments
and superstitions and uncanny influences!
"Drindy," her father commanded, "make a
mark on this hyar rifie-bar'l fur 'Cajah Green's
word ter be remembered by."
There was a flash in the faint moonbeams,
as he held out to her a long, sharp knife. The
rifle was in his hand. Other marks were on it
commemorating past events. This was to be a
"No, no!" cried the girl, shrinking back
aghast. "I don't want him shot. I would n't
hev him hurted fur me, fur nuthin'! I ain't
keerin' now fur what he said. Let him be, -
let him be."
She had smarted under the sense of indignity.
She had wanted their sympathy, and perhaps
their idle anger. She was dismayed by the
revengeful passion she had roused.
"No, no!" she reiterated, as one of the
younger men, her brother Peter, stepped swiftly
out from the shadow, seized her hand with the
knife trembling in it, and, catching the moonlight
on the barrel of the rifle, guided upon it,
close to the muzzle, the mark of a cross.
The moon had weighed anchor at last, and
dropped down behind the mountain summit,
leaving the bay with a melancholy waning
suffusion of light, and the night very dark.
THE summer days climbed slowly over the
Great Smoky Mountains. Long the morning
lingered among the crags, and chasms, and
the dwindling shadows. The vertical noontide
poised motionless on the great balds. The evening
dawdled along the sunset slopes, and the
waning crimson waited in the dusk for the
So little speed they made that it seemed to
Rick Tyler that weeks multiplied while they
It might have been deemed the ideal of a
sylvan life, - those days while he lay hid out
on the Big Smoky. His rifle brought him food
with but the glance of the eye and a touch on
the trigger. "Ekal ter the prophet's raven, ef
the truth war knowed," he said sometimes,
while he cooked the game over a fire of
deadwood gathered by the wayside. A handful
of blackberries gave it a relish, and there were
the ice-cold, never-failing springs of the range
wherever he might turn.
But for the unquiet thoughts that followed
him from the world, the characteristic sloth of
the mountaineer might have spared him all sense
of tedium, as he lay on the bank of a mountain
stream, while the slow days waxed and waned.
Often he would see a musk-rat - picturesque
little body - swimming in a muddy dip. And
again his listless gaze was riveted upon the
quivering diaphanous wings of a snake-doctor,
hovering close at hand, until the grotesque, airy
thing would flit away. The arrowy sunbeams
shot into the dense umbrageous tangles, and
fell spent to earth as the shadows swayed.
Farther down the stream two huge cliffs rose on
either side of the channel, giving a narrow view
of far-away blue mountains as through a gate.
In and out stole the mist, uncertain whither.
The wind came and went, paying no toll. Sometimes,
when the sun was low, a shadow - an antlered
shadow - slipped through like a fantasy.
But when the skies would begin to darken
and the night come tardily on, the scanty incidents
of the day lost their ephemeral interest.
His human heart would assert itself, and he
would yearn for the life from which he was
banished, and writhe with an intolerable anguish
under his sense of injury.
"An' the law holds me the same ez' Bednego
Tynes, who killed Joel Byers, jes' ter keep his
hand in, - hevin' killed another man afore, -
an' I never so much ez lifted a finger agin him!"
He pondered much on his past, and the future
that he had lost. Sometimes he gave himself
to adjusting, from the meagre circumstances
of their common lot on Big Smoky, the future
of those with whose lives his own had heretofore
seemed an integrant part, and from which
it should forevermore be dissevered. All the
pangs of penance were in that sense of
irrevocability. It was done, and here was his choice:
to live the life of a skulking wolf, to prowl, to
flee, to fight at bay, or to return and confront
an outraged law. He experienced a frenzy of
rage to realize how hardily his world would roll
on without him. Big Smoky would not suffer!
The sun would shine, and the crops ripen, and
the harvest come, and the snows sift down, and
the seasons revolve. The boys would shoot for
beef, and there was to be a gander-pulling at
the Settlement when the candidates should
come, "stumpin' the Big Smoky" for the
midsummer elections. And when, periodically,
"the mountings" would awake to a sense of sin,
and a revival would be instituted, all the people
would meet, and clap their hands, and sing, and
pray, and that busy sinner, D'rindy, might find
time to think upon grace, and perhaps upon the
man whom she likened to the prophets of old.
Then Rick Tyler would start up from his bed
of boughs, and stride wildly about among the
bowlders, hardly pausing to listen if he heard a
wolf howling on the lonely heights. An owl
would hoot derisively from the tangled laurel.
And oh, the melancholy moonlight in the
melancholy pines, where the whip-poor-will
moaned and moaned!
"I 'd shoot that critter ef I could make out
ter see him!" cried the harassed fugitive, his
every nerve quivering.
It all began with Dorinda; it all came back
to her. He drearily foresaw that she would
forget him; and yet he could not know how
the alienation was to commence, how it should
progress, and the process of its completion.
"All whilst I'm a-roamin' off with the painters
an' sech!" he exclaimed, bitterly.
And she, - her future was plain enough.
There was a little log-cabin by the grist-mill:
the mountains sheltered it; the valley held it
as in the palm of a hand. Hardly a moment
since, his jealous heart had been racked by the
thought of the man she likened to the prophets
of old, and now he saw her spinning in the door
of Amos James's house, in the quiet depths of
This vision stilled his heart. He was numbed
by his despair. Somehow, the burly young
miller seemed a fitter choice than the religious
enthusiast, whose leisure was spent in praying
in the desert places. He wondered that he
should ever have felt other jealousy, and was
subacutely amazed to find this passion so elastic.
With wild and haggard eyes he saw the day
break upon this vision. It came in at the great
gate, - a pale flush, a fainting star, a burst of
song, and the red and royal sun.
The morning gradually exerted its revivifying
influence and brought a new impulse. He
easily deceived himself, and disguised it as a
"This hyar powder is a-gittin' mighty low,"
he said to himself, examining the contents of his
powder-horn. "An' that thar rifle eats it up
toler'ble fast sence I hev hed ter hunt varmints
fur my vittles. Ef that war the sher'ff a-ridin'
arter me the day I war at Cayce's, he's done
gone whar he b'longs by this time, - 't war
two weeks ago; an' ef he ain't gone back he
would n't be layin' fur me roun' the Settlemint,
nohow. An' I kin git some powder thar, an'
hear 'em tell what the mounting air a-doin' of.
An' mebbe I won't be so durned lonesome when
I gits back hyar."
He mounted his horse, later in the day, and
picked his way slowly down the banks of the
stream and through the great gate.
The Settlement on a spur of the Big Smoky
illustrated the sacrilege of civilization. A number
of trees, girdled years ago, stretched above
the fields their gigantic skeletons, suggesting
their former majesty of mien and splendid
proportions. Their forlorn leafless branches rattled
together with a dreary sound, as the breeze
stirred among the gaunt and pallid assemblage.
The little log-cabins, five or six in number,
were so situated among the stumps which
disfigured the clearing that if a sudden wind
should bring down one of the monarchical spectres
of the forest it would make havoc only in
the crops. The wheat was thin and backward.
A little patch of cotton in a mellow dip served
to show the plant at its minimum. There was
tobacco, too, placed like the cotton where it
was hoped it would take a notion to grow.
Sorghum flourished, and the tasseled Indian
corn, waving down a slope, had aboriginal
suggestions of plumed heads and glancing quivers.
A clamor of Guinea fowls arose, and geese and
turkeys roved about in the publicity of the
clearing with the confident air of esteemed citizens.
Sheep were feeding among the ledges.
It was hard to say what might be bought at
the store except powder and coffee, and sugar
perhaps, if "long-sweetenin'"might not suffice;
for each of the half dozen small farms was a
type of the region, producing within its own
confines all its necessities. Hand-looms could
be glimpsed through open doors, and as yet the
dry-goods trade is unknown to the homespunclad
denizens of the Settlement. Beeswax,
feathers, honey, dried fruit, are bartered here,
and a night's rest has never been lost for the
perplexities of the currency question on the Big
The proprietor of the store, his operations
thus limited, was content to grow rich slowly,
if needs were to grow rich at all. In winter he
sat before the great wood fire in the store and
smoked his pipe, and his crony, the blacksmith,
often came, hammer in hand and girded with
his leather apron, and smoked with him. In
the summer he sat all day, as now, in front of
the door, looking meditatively at the scene before
him. The sunlight slanted upon the great
dead trees; their forms were imposed with a
wonderful distinctness upon the landscape that
stretched so far below the precipice on which
the little town was perched. They even touched,
with those bereaved and denuded limbs, the far
blue mountains encircling the horizon, and with
their interlacing lines and curves they seemed
some mysterious scripture engraven upon the
It was just six o'clock, and the shadow of a
bough that still held a mass of woven sticks,
once the nest of an eagle, had reached the verge
of the cliff, when the sound of hoofs fell on the
still air, and a man rode into the clearing from
the encompassing woods.
The storekeeper glanced up to greet the
newcomer, but did not risk the fatigue of rising.
Women looked out of the windows, and a girl
on a porch, reeling yarn, found a reason to stop
her work. A man came out of a house close
by, and sat on the fence, within range of any
colloquy in which he might wish to participate.
The whole town could join at will in a municipal
conversation. The forge fire showed a
dull red against the dusky brown shadows in
the recesses of the shop. The blacksmith stood
in front of the door, his eyes shielded with his
broad blackened right hand, and looked
critically at the steed. Horses were more in his
line than men. He was a tall, powerfully built
fellow of thirty, perhaps, with the sooty aspect
peculiar to his calling, a swarthy complexion,
and a remarkably well-knit, compact, and
muscular frame. He often said in pride, "Ef I hed
hed the forgin' o' myself, I would n't hev welded
on a pound more, or hammered out a leader
Suddenly detaching his attention from the
horse, he called out, "Waal, sir! Ef thar ain't
Rick Tyler!" This was addressed to the town
at large. Then, "What ails ye, Rick? I hearn
tell ez you-uns war on yer way ter Shaftesville
along o' the sher'ff." He had a keen and
twinkling eye. He cast it significantly at the man
on the fence. "Ye kem back, I reckon, ter git
yer hand-cuffs mended at my shop. Gimme
the bracelets." He held out his hand in affected
"I ain't a-wearin' no bracelets now." Rick
Tyler's hasty impulse had its impressiveness.
He leveled his pistol. "Ef ye hanker ter do
enny mendin', I 'll gin ye repairs ter make
in them cast-iron chit'lings o' yourn," he said,
He was received at the store with a distinct
accession of respect. The blacksmith stood
watching him, with angry eyes, and a furtive
recollection of the reward offered by the
governor for his apprehension.
The young fellow, with a sudden return of
caution, did not at once venture to dismount;
and Nathan Hoodendin, the storekeeper, rose
for no customer. Respectively seated, for these
diverse reasons, they transacted the negotiation.
"Hy're, Rick," drawled the storekeeper,
languidly. "I hopes ye keeps yer health," he
The young man melted at the friendly tone.
This was the welcome he had looked for at the
Settlement. Loneliness had made his sensibilities
tender, and "hiding out " affected his spirits more
than dodging the officers in the haunts of men,
or daring the cupidity roused, he knew,
by the reward for his capture. The blacksmith's
jeer touched him as cruelly as an attempt upon
his liberty. "Jes' toler'ble," he admitted, with the
usual rural reluctance to acknowledge full health.
"I hopes ye an' yer fambly air thrivin'," he drawled,
after a moment.
A whiff came from the storekeeper's pipe;
the smoke wreathed before his face, and floated
"Waal, we air makin' out, - we air makin'
"I kem over hyar," said Rick Tyler, proceeding
to business, "ter git some powder out'n
yer store. I wants one pound."
Nathan Hoodendin smoked silently for a moment.
Then, with a facial convulsion and a physical wrench,
he lifted his voice.
"Jer'miah!" he shouted in a wild wheeze.
And again, "Jer'miah!"
The invoked Jer'miah did not materialize
at once. When a small tow-headed boy of ten
came from a house among the stumps, with that
peculiar deftness of tread characteristic of the
habitually barefoot, he had an alert, startled
expression, as if he had just jumped out of a
bush. His hair stood up in front; he had wide
pop-eyes, and long ears, and a rabbit-like aspect
that was not diminished as he scudded
round the heels of Rick Tyler's horse, at which
he looked apprehensively.
"Jer'miah," said his father, with a pathetic
cadence, "go into the store, bub, an' git Rick
Tyler a pound o' powder."
As Jeremiah started in, the paternal sentiment
stirred in Nathan Hoodendin's breast.
"Jer'miah," he wheezed, bringing the forelegs
of the chair to the ground, and craning
forward with unwonted alacrity to look into the
dusky interior of the store, "don't ye be foolin'
round that thar powder with no lighted tallow
dip nor nuthin'. I 'll whale the life out'n ye ef
ye do. Jes' weigh it by the winder."
Whether from fear of a whaling by his active
parent, or of the conjunction of a lighted tallow
dip and powder, Jeremiah dispensed with the
candle. He brought the commodity out presently,
and Rick stowed it away in his saddlebags.
"Can't ye 'light an' sot a while 'an talk,
Rick?" said the storekeeper. "We-uns hev
done hed our supper, but I reckon they could
fix ye a snack yander ter the house."
Rick said he wanted nothing to eat, but,
although he hesitated, he could not finally resist
the splint-bottomed chair tilted against the wall
of the store, and a sociable pipe, and the
"What's goin' on 'round the mounting?"
Gid Fletcher, the blacksmith, came and sat
in another chair, and the man on the fence got
off and took up his position on a stump hard
by. The great red sun dropped slowly behind
the purple mountains; and the full golden moon
rose above the corn-field that lay on the eastern
slope, and hung there between the dark woods
on either hand; and the blades caught the
light, and tossed with burnished flashes into the
night; and the great ghastly trees assumed a
ghostly whiteness; and the mystic writing laid
on the landscape below had the aspect of an
uninterpreted portent. The houses were mostly
silent; now and then a guard-dog growled at
some occult alarm; a woman somewhere was
softly and fitfully singing a child to sleep, and
the baby crooned too, and joined in the vague,
drowsy ditty. And for aught else that could
be seen, and for aught else that could be heard,
this was the world.
"Waal, the Tempter air fairly stalkin' abroad
on the Big Smoky, - leastwise sence the summer
season hev opened," said Nathan Hoodendin.
His habitual expression of heavy, joyless
pondering had been so graven into his face that
his raised grizzled eyebrows, surmounted by a
multitude of perplexed wrinkles, his long,
dismayed jaw, his thin, slightly parted lips, and
the deep grooves on either side of his nose were
not susceptible of many gradations of meaning.
His shifting eyes, cast now at the stark trees,
now at the splendid disk of the rising moon,
betokened but little anxiety for the Principle
of Evil aloose in the Big Smoky. "Fust, -
lemme see, - thar war Eph Lowry, ez got inter
a quar'l with his wife's half-brother's cousin, an'
a-tusslin' 'roun' they cut one another right
smart, an' some say ez Eph 'll never hev his
eyesight right good no more. Then thar war
Baker Teal, what the folks in Eskaqua Cove
'low let down the bars o' the milk-sick pen, one
day las' fall, an' druv Jacob White's red cow
in; an' his folks never knowed she hed grazed
thar till they hed milked an' churned fur butter,
when she lay down an' died o' the milksick.
Ef they hed drunk her milk same ez
common, 't would hev sickened 'em, sure, 'an
mebbe killed 'em. An' they've been quar'lin'
'bout'n it ever sence. Satan's a-stirrin', - Satan's
a-stirrin' 'roun' the Big Smoky."
"Waal, I hearn ez some o' them folks in
Eskaqua Cove 'low ez the red cow jes' hooked
down the bars, bein' a turrible hooker," spoke up the
man on the stump, unexpectedly.
"Waal, White an' his folks won't hear ter no sech
word ez that," said the blacksmith; "an' arter jowin'
an' jowin' back an' fo'th they went t'other day an'
informed on Teal 'fore the jestice, an' the Squair fined
him twenty-five dollars, 'cordin' ter the law o'
Tennessee fur them ez m'liciously lets down the bars
o' the milk-sick pen. An' Baker Teal hed ter pay, an'
the county treasury an' the informers divided the
money 'twixt 'em."
"What did I tell you-uns? Satan's a-stirrin', -
Satan's a-stirrin' 'roun' the Big Smoky,"
said the storekeeper, with a certain morbid pride in
the Enemy's activity.
"The constable o' this hyar deestric'," recommenced
Gid Fletcher, who seemed as well informed
as Nathan Hoodendin, "he advised 'em ter
lay it afore the jestice; he war mighty peart 'bout'n
that thar job. They 'low ter me ez he hev tuk up a
crazy fit ez he kin beat Micajah Green fur sher'ff, an'
he's a-skeetin' arter law-breakers same ez a rooster
arter a Juny-bug. He 'lows it'll show the kentry what
a peart sher'ff he'd make."
"Shucks!" said the man on the stump. "I'll vote
fur 'Cajah Green fur sher'ff agin the old boy; he hev
got a nose fur game."
"He hain't nosed you-uns out yit, hev be, Rick?"
said the blacksmith, with feigned heartiness and a
"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Nathan Hoodendin.
"What war I a-tellin' you-uns? Satan's a-stirrin',
- Satan's surely a stirrin' on the Big Smoky."
Rick sat silent in the moonlight, smoking his pipe,
his brown wool hat far back, the light full on his
yellow head. His face had grown a trifle less square,
and his features were more distinctly defined than of
yore; he did not look ill, but care had drawn a sharp
line here and there.
"One sher'ff's same ter you-uns ez another, ain't
he, Rick?" said the man on the stump. "Any of 'em 'll
do ter run from."
"They tell it ter me," said the storekeeper, with so
sudden a vivacity that it seemed it must crack his
graven wrinkles, "ez the whole Cayce gang air
a-goin' ter vote agin 'Cajah Green, 'count o' the way he
jawed at old Mis' Cayce an' D'rindy, the day he run
you-uns off from thar, Rick."
"I ain't hearn tell o' that yit," drawled Rick,
desolately, "bein' hid out."
"Waal, he jawed at D'rindy, an' from what I hev
hearn D'rindy jawed back; an' I dunno ez that's
s'prisin', - the gal-folks ginerally do.
Leastwise, I know ez he sent word arterward
ter D'rindy, by his dep'ty, - ez war a-scoutin'
'roun' hyar, arter you-uns, I reckon, Rick, - ez
he would be up some day soon ter 'lectioneer,
an' he war a-goin' ter stop ter thar house an'
ax her pardin'. An' she sent him word, fur
God's sake ter bide away from thar."
A long pause ensued; the stars were faint
and few; the iterative note of the katydid
vibrated monotonously in the dark woods; dew
was falling; the wind stirred.
"What ailed D'rindy ter say that word?"
asked Rick, mystified.
"Waal, I dunno," said Hoodendin, indifferently.
"I hev never addled my brains tryin'
ter make out what a woman means. Though,"
he qualified, "I did ax the dep'ty an' Amos
Jeemes from down yander in Eskaqua Cove, -
the dep'ty hed purtended ter hev summonsed
him ez a posse, an' they war jes' rollickin' 'roan'
the kentry like two chickens with thar heads
off, - I axed 'em what D'rindy meant, an'
they 'lowed they did n't know, nor war they
takin' it ter heart. They 'lowed ez she never
axed them ter bide away from thar fur God's
sake. An' then they snickered an' laffed, like
single men do. An' I up an' tole 'em ez the
Book sot it down ez the laffter o' fools is like
the cracklin' o' bresh under a pot."
Rick Tyler was eager, his eyes kindling, his
breath quick. He looked with uncharacteristic
alertness at the inexpressive face of the
"They capered like a dunno-what-all on the
Big Smoky, them two, - the off'cer o' the law
an' his posse! Thar goin's on war jes' scandalous:
they played kyerds, an' they consorted with
the moonshiners over yander," nodding his
head at the wilderness, "an' got ez drunk ez
two fraish biled owels; an' they sung an' they
hollered. An' they went ter the meetin'-house
over yander whilst they war in liquor, an' the
preacher riz up an' put 'em out. He's toler'ble
tough, that thar Pa'son Kelsey, an' kin hold
right smart show in a fight. An' the deputy,
he straightened hisself, an' 'lowed he war a
off'cer o' the law. An' Pa'son Kelsey, he 'lowed
he war a off'cer o' the law, an' he 'lowed ez his
law war higher 'n the law o' Tennessee. An'
with that he barred up the door. They hed a
cornsider'ble disturbamint at the meetin'-house
yander at the Notch, an' the saints war tried in
"The dep'ty 'lows ez Pa'son Kelsey air crazy
in his mind," said the man on the stump. "The
dep'ty said the pa'son talked ter him like ez ef he
war a onregenerate critter. An' he 'lowed he
war baptized in Scolacutta River two year ago
an' better. The dep'ty say these hyar mounting
preachers hain't got no doctrine like the
valley folks. He called Pa'son Kelsey a
"Laws-a-massy!" exclaimed Nathan
"He say it fairly makes him laff ter hear
Pa'son Kelsey performin' like he hed a cutthroat
mortgage on a seat 'mongst the angels.
He say ez he thinks Pa'son Kelsey speaks with
more insurance 'n enny man he ever see."
"I reckon, ef the truth war knowed, the
dep'ty ain't got no religion, an' never war in
Scolacutta River, 'thout it war a-fishin'," said
the blacksmith, meditatively.
The fugitive from justice, pining for the simple
society of his world, listened like a starveling
thing to these meagre details, so replete
with interest to him, so full of life and spirit.
The next moment he was sorry he had come.
"That thar Amos Jeemes air a comical critter,"
said the man on the stump, after an interval
of cogitation, and with a gurgling reminiscent
laugh "He war a-cuttin' up his shines
over thar ter Cayce's the t'other day; he war
n't drunk then, ye onderstan'" -
"I onderstan'. He war jes' fool, like he
always air," said the blacksmith.
"Edzactly," assented the man on the stump.
"An' he fairly made D'rindy laff ter see what
the critter would say nex'. An' D'rindy always
seemed ter me a powerful solemn sorter
gal. Waal, she laffed at Amos. An' whilst
him an' the deputy war a-goin' down the
mounting - I went down ter Jeemes's mill ter
leave some grist over night ter be ground - the
dep'ty, he run Amos 'bout'n it. The dep'ty
he 'lowed ez no gal hed ever made so much fun
o' him, an' Amos 'lowed ez D'rindy did n't
make game o' him. She thunk too much o'
him fur that. An' that bold-faced dep'ty, he
'lowed he thought 't war him ez hed fund
favior. An' Amos, - we war mighty nigh
down in Eskaqua Cove then, - he turned
suddint an' p'inted up the mounting. 'What kin
you-uns view on the mounting?' he axed. The
dep'ty, he stopped an' stared; an' thar, mighty
nigh ez high ez the lower e-end o' the bald, war
a light. 'That shines fur me ter see whilst I'm
'bleeged ter be in Eskaqua Cove,' sez Amos.
An' the dep'ty said, 'I think it air a star!'
An' Amos sez, sez he, 'Bless yer bones, I think
so, too, - sometimes!' But 't war n't no star.
'T war jes' a light in the roof-room window o'
Cayce's house; an' ye could see it, sure enough,
plumb to the mill in Eskaqua Cove!"
Rick rose to go. Why should he linger, and
wring his heart, and garner bitterness to feed
upon in his lonely days? Why should he look
upon the outer darkness of his life, and dream
of the star that shone so far for another man's
sake into the sheltered depths of Eskaqua Cove?
He had an impulse which he scorned, for his
sight was blurred as he laid his hand on the
pommel of his saddle. He did not see that one
of the other men rose, too.
An approach, stealthy, swift, and the sinewy
blacksmith flung himself upon his prisoner with
the supple ferocity of a panther.
"Naw - naw!" he said, showing his strong
teeth, closely set. "We can't part with ye yit,
Rick Tyler! I'll arrest you-uns, ef the sher'ff
can't. The peace o' Big Smoky an' the law
o' the land air ez dear ter me ez ter enny other
The young fellow made a frantic effort to
mount; then, as his horse sprang snorting away,
he strove to draw one of his pistols. There
was a turbulent struggle under the great silver
moon and the dead trees. Again and again the
swaying figures and their interlocked shadows
reeled to the verge of the cliff; one striving to
fall and carry the other with him, the other
straining every nerve to hold back his captive.
Even the storekeeper stood up and wheezed
out a remonstrance.
"Look-a-hyar, boys" - he began; then,
"Jer'miah," he broke off abruptly, as the
hopeful scion peered shyly out of the store
door, "clar out'n the way, sonny; they hev got
shootin'-irons, an' some o' em mought go off."
He himself stepped prudently back. The
man on the stump, however, forgot danger in
his excitement. He sat and watched the scene
with an eager relish which might suggest that
a love of bull-fights is not a cultivated taste.
"Be them men a-wrastlin'?" called out a
woman, appearing in the doorway of a
"'Pears like it ter me," he said, dryly.
The strength of despair had served to make
the younger man the blacksmith's equal, and
the contest might have terminated differently
had Rick Tyler not stumbled on a ledge. He
was forced to his knees, then full upon the
ground, his antagonist's grasp upon his throat.
The blacksmith roared out for help; the man
on the stump slowly responded, and the
storekeeper languidly came and overlooked
the operation, as the young fellow was disarmed
and securely bound, hand and foot.
"Waal, now, Gid Fletcher, ye hev got him,"
said Nathan Hoodendin. "What d' ye want
The blacksmith had risen, panting, with wild
eyes, his veins standing out in thick cords,
perspiring from every pore, and in a bounding
"What do I want with him? I want ter
put his head on my anvil thar, an' beat the
foolishness out'n it with my hammer. I want
ter kick him off'n this hyar bluff down ter the
forge fires o' hell. That air what I want. An'
the State o' Tennessee ain't wantin' much
"Gid Fletcher," said the man who had been
sitting on the stump, - he spoke in an accusing
voice, - "ye ain't keerin' nuthin' fur the law
o' the land, nor the peace o' Big Smoky, nuther.
It air jes' that two hunderd dollars blood money
ye air cottonin' ter, an' ye knows it."
The love of money, the root of evil, is so rare
in the mountains that the blacksmith stood as
before a deep reproof. Then, with a moral
hardihood that matched his physical prowess,
he asked, "An' what ef I be?"
"What war I a-tellin' you-uns? Satan's
a-stirrin', - Satan's a-stirrin' on the Big
Smoky!" interpolated old Hoodendin.
"Waal, I 'd never hev been hankerin' fur
sech," drawled the moralist.
A number of other men had come out from
the houses, and a discussion ensued as to the
best plan to keep the prisoner until morning.
It was suggested that the time-honored
expedient in localities without the civilization
of a jail - a wagon-body inverted, with a rock
upon it - would be as secure as the state
"But who wants ter go ter heftin' rocks?"
asked Nathan Hoodendin, pertinently.
For the sake of convenience, therefore, they
left the prisoner bound with a rope made fast
around a stump, that he might not, in his
desperation, roll himself from the crag, and
deputing a number of the men to watch him by
turns, the Settlement retired to its slumbers.
The night wore on; the moon journeyed
toward the mountains in the west; the mists
rose to meet it, and glistened like a silver sea.
Some lonely, undiscovered ocean, this; never a
sail set, never a pennant flying; all the valley
was submerged; the black summits in the
distance were isolated and insular; the moonlight
glanced on the sparkling ripples, on the long
reaches of illusive vapor.
At intervals cocks crew; a faint response,
like farthest echoes, came from some neighboring
cove; and then silence, save for the drone
of the nocturnal insects and the far blast of a
"Jer'miah," said Rick Tyler, suddenly, as
the boy crouched by one of the stumps and
watched him with dilated, moonlit eyes, -
when Nathan Hoodendin's vigil came the little
factotum served in his stead, - "Jer'miah, git
my knife out 'n the store an' cut these hyar
ropes. I'll gin ye my rifle ef ye will."
The boy sprang up, scudded off swiftly, then
came back, and crouched by the stump again.
The moon slipped lower and lower; the silver
sea had turned to molten gold; the stars
that had journeyed westward with the moon
were dying out of a dim blue sky. Over the
corn-field in the east was one larger than the
rest, burning in an amber haze, charged with
an unspoken poetical emotion that set its heart
of white fire aquiver.
"I 'll gin ye my horse ef ye will."
"I dassent," said Jer'miah.
The morning star was burned out at last, and
the prosaic day came over the corn-field.
TWILIGHTwas slipping down on the Big
Smoky. Definiteness was annihilated, and
distance a suggestion. Mountain forms lay
darkening along the horizon, still flushed with
the sunset. Eskaqua Cove had abysmal
suggestions, and the ravines were vague glooms.
Fireflies were aflicker in the woods. There might
be a star, outpost of the night.
Dorinda, hunting for the vagrant "crumply
cow," paused sometimes when the wandering
path led to the mountain's brink, and looked
down those gigantic slopes and unmeasured
depths. She carried her milk-piggin, and her
head was uncovered. Now and then she called
with long, vague vowels, "Soo - cow! Soo!"
There was no response save the echoes and the
vibrant iteration of the katydid. Once she
heard an alien sound, and she paused to listen.
From the projecting spur where she stood,
looking across the Cove, she could see, above
the forests on the slopes, the bare, uprising
dome, towering in stupendous proportions
against the sky. The sound came again and
yet again, and she recognized the voice of the
man who was wont to go and pray in the desert
places on the "bald" of the mountain, and
whom she had likened to the prophets of old.
There was something indescribably wild and
weird in those appealing, tempestuous tones,
now rising as in frenzy, and now falling as with
exhaustion, - beseeching, adjuring, reproaching.
"He hev fairly beset the throne o' grace!"
she said, with a sort of pity for this insistent
piety. A shivering, filmy mist was slipping
down over the great dome. It glittered in the
last rays of the sunlight, already vanished from
the world below, like an illuminated silver
gauze. She was reminded of the veil of the
temple, and she had a sense of intrusion.
"Prayer, though, air free for all," she remarked,
as self-justification, since she had paused
She did not linger. His voice died in the
distance, and the solemnity of the impression
was gradually obliterated. As she went she
presently began to sing, sometimes interpolating,
without a sense of interruption, her mellow
call of "Soo - cow! Soo!" until it took the
semblance of a refrain, with an abrupt crescendo.
The wild roses were flowering along the paths,
and the pink and white azaleas, - what
perfumed ways, what lavish grace and
beauty! The blooms of the laurel in the darkling
places were like a spangling of stars. Dew
was falling, - it dashed into her face from the
boughs that interlaced across the unfrequented
path, - and still the light lingered, loath to
leave. She heard the stir of some wild things
in the hollow of a great tree, and then a faint,
low growl. She fancied she saw a pair of
bright eyes looking apprehensively at her.
"We-uns hev got a baby at our house, too, an'
we don't want yourn, ma'am; much obleeged,
all the same," she said, with a laugh. But she
looked back with a sort of pity for that alert
maternal fear, and she never mentioned to the
youngest brother, a persistent trapper, the little
family of raccoons in the woods.
She had forgotten the voice raised in importunate
supplication on the "bald," until, pursuing the path,
she was led into the road, hard by a little bridge,
or more properly culvert, which had rotted long ago;
the vines came up through the cavities in the timbers,
and a blackberry bush, with a wren's nest, flourished in
their midst. The road was fain to wade through the
stream; but the channel was dry now, - a
narrow belt of yellow sand lying in a long curving
vista in the midst of the dense woods. A
yoke of oxen, drawing a rude slide, paused to
rest in the middle of the channel, and beside
them was a man, of medium height, slender
but sinewy, dressed in brown jeans, his trousers
thrust into the legs of his boots, a rifle on his
shoulder, and a broad-brimmed old wool hat
surmounting his dark hair, that hung down to
the collar of his coat. Her singing had prepared
him for her advent, but he barely raised
his eyes. That quick glance was incongruous
with his dullard aspect; it held a spark of fire,
inspiration, frenzy, - who can say?
He spoke suddenly, in a meek, drawling
way, and with the air of submitting the
"I hev gin the beastises a toler'ble hard
day's work, an' I 'm a favorin' 'em goin'
A long pause ensued. The oxen hung down
their weary heads, with the symbol of slavery
upon them. The smell of ferns and damp
mould was on the air. Rotting logs lay here
and there, where the failing water had stranded
them. The grape-vine, draping the giant oaks,
swayed gently, and suggested an observation to
break the silence.
"How air the moral vineyard a-thrivin'?"
she asked, solemnly.
He looked downcast. "Toler'ble, I reckon."
"I hearn tell ez thar war a right smart passel
o' folks baptized over yander in Scolacutta
River," she remarked, encouragingly.
"I baptized fourteen."
She turned the warm brightness of her eyes
upon him. "They hed all fund grace!" she
"They 'lowed so. I hopes they'll prove it
by thar works," he said, without enthusiasm.
"Ye war a-prayin' fur 'em on the bald?" she
asked, apprehending that he accounted these
converts peculiarly precarious.
"Naw," he replied, with moody sincerity;
"I war a-prayin' for myself."
There was another pause, longer and more
awkward than before.
"What work be you-uns a-doin' of?" asked
Dorinda, timidly. She quailed a trifle before
the uncomprehended light in his eyes. It was
not of her world, she felt instinctively.
"I hev ploughed some, holpin' Jonas Trice,
an' hev been a-haulin' wood. I tuk my rifle
along," he added, "thinkin' I mought see
suthin' ez would be tasty fur the old men's
supper ez I kem home, but I forgot ter look
There was a sudden sound along the road, -
a sound of quick hoof-beats. Because of the
deep sand the rider was close at hand before
his approach was discovered. He drew rein
abruptly, and they saw that it was Gid Fletcher,
the blacksmith of the Settlement.
"Hev you-uns hearn the news?" he cried,
excitedly, as he threw himself from the saddle.
The man, leaning on the rifle, looked up,
with no question in his eyes. There was an
almost monastic indifference to the world
suggested in his manner.
"Thar 's a mighty disturbamint at the Settlemint.
Las' night this hyar Rick Tyler, -
what air under indictment fur a-killin' o' Joel
Byers, - he kem a-nosin' 'roun' the Settlemint
a-tryin' ter buy powder" -
Dorinda stretched out her hand; the trees
were unsteady before her; the few faint stars,
no longer pulsating points of light, described a
circle of dazzling gleams. She caught at the
yoke on the neck of the oxen; she leaned upon
the impassive beast, and then it seemed that
every faculty was merged in the sense of hearing.
The horse had moved away from the
blacksmith, holding his head down among the
bowlders, and snuffing about for the water he
remembered here with a disappointment almost
"War he tuk?" demanded the preacher.
"Percisely so," drawled the blacksmith, with
a sub-current of elation in his tone.
There was a sudden change in Kelsey's manner.
He turned fiery eyes upon the blacksmith.
Light and life were in every line of his
face. He drew himself up tense and erect; he
stretched forth his hand with an accusing
"T war you-uns, Gid Fletcher, ez tuk the
"Lord, pa'son, how 'd you-uns know that?"
exclaimed the blacksmith. His manner
combined a deference, which in civilization we
reccognize as respect for the cloth, with the easy
familiarity, induced by the association since
boyhood, of equals in age and station. "I hed
n't let on a word, hed I, D'rindy?"
The idea of an abnormal foreknowledge,
mysteriously possessed, had its uncanny
influences. The lonely woods were darkening
about them. The stars seemed very far off.
A rotting log in the midst of the debris of the
stream, in a wild tangle of underbrush and
shelving rocks, showed fox-fire and glowed in
"I knowed," said Kelsey, contemptuously
waiving the suggestion of miraculous forecast,
"bekase the sher'ff hain't been in the Big
Smoky for two weeks, an' that thar danglin'
shadder o' his'n rid off las' Monday from
Jeemes's Mill in Eskaqua Cove. An' the
constable o' the deestric air sick abed. So I
'lowed 't war you-uns."
"An' why air it me more 'n enny other man
at the Settlemint?" The blacksmith's blood
was rising; his sensibilities descried a covert
taunt which as yet his slower intelligence failed
"An' ye hev rid with speed fur the sher'ff -
or mebbe ter overhaul the dep'ty - ter come
an' jail the prisoner afore he gits away."
"An' why me, more 'n the t'others?"
demanded the blacksmith.
"Yer heart air ez hard ez yer anvil, Gid
Fletcher," said the mind-reader. "Thar ain't
another man on the Big Smoky ez would stir
himself ter gin over ter the gallus or the
pen'tiary the frien' ez trested him, who hev
done no harm, but hev got tangled in a twist of
a unjest law. Ef the law tuk him, that's a
"'T ain't fur we-uns ter jedge o' the law!"
exclaimed Gid Fletcher, his logic sharpened by
the anxiety of his greed and his prideful self-esteem.
"Let the law jedge o' his crime."
"Jes' so; let the law take him, an' let the
law try him. The law is ekal ter it. Ef the
sher'ff summons me with his posse, I'll hunt
Rick Tyler through all the Big Smoky" -
"Look-a-hyar, Hi Kelsey, the Gov'nor o'
Tennessee hev offered a reward o' two hunderd
"Blood money," interpolated the parson.
"Ye kin call it so, ef so minded; but ef it
war right fur the Gov'nor ter offer it, it air
right fur me ter yearn it."
He had come very close. It was his nature
and his habit to brook no resistance. He
subdued the hard metals upon his anvil. His
hammer disciplined the iron. The fire wrought
his will. His instinct was to forge this man's
opinion into the likeness of his own. His
conviction was the moral swage that must
shape the belief of others.
"It air lawful fur me ter yearn it," he repeated.
"Lawful!" exclaimed the parson, with a
tense, jeering laugh. "Judas war a law-abidin'
citizen. He mos' lawfully betrayed his
Frien' ter the law. Them thirty pieces o' silver!
Sech currency ain't out o' circulation yit!"
Quick as a flash the blacksmith's heavy hand
struck the prophet in the face. The next moment
his sudden anger was merged in fear.
He stood, unarmed, at the mercy of an assaulted
and outraged man, with a loaded rifle in his
hands, and all the lightnings of heaven quivering
in his angry eyes.
Gid Fletcher had hardly time to draw the
breath he thought his last, when the prophet
slowly turned the other cheek.
"In the name of the Master," he said, with
all the dignity of his calling.
As the blacksmith mounted his horse and
rode away, he felt that the parson's rifle-ball
would be preferable to the gross slur that he
had incurred. His reputation, moral and spiritual,
was annihilated; and he held this dear, for
piety, or its simulacrum, on the primitive Big
Smoky, is the point of honor. What a text!
What an illustration of iniquity he would furnish
for the sermons, foretelling wrath and vengeance,
that sometimes shook the Big Smoky to its
foundations! He was cast down, and
"Fur Hi Kelsey ter be a-puttin' up sech a
pious mouth, an' a-turnin' the t'other cheek,
an' sech, ter me, ez hev seen him hold his own
ez stiff in a many a free-handed fight, an' hev
drawed his shootin'-irons on folks agin an' agin!
An' he fairly tuk the dep'ty, at that thar
disturbamint at the meet'n'-house, by the scruff
o' the neck, an' shuck him ez ef he hed been a
rat or suthin', an' drapped him out'n the door.
An' now ter be a-turnin' the t'other cheer!
An' thar 's that thar D'rindy, a-seein' it all, an'
a-lookin' at it ez wide-eyed ez a cat in the dark."
Dorinda went home planning a rescue.
Against the law this probably was, she thought.
"Ef it air - it ought n't ter be," she concluded,
arbitrarily. "It don't hurt nobody."
How serious it was - a felony - she did not
know, nor did she care. She went on sturdily,
debating within herself how best to tell the
news. With an intuitive knowledge of human
nature, she reckoned on the prejudice aroused
by the recital of the blacksmith's assault upon
the preacher and the forbearance of the man of
God. She began to count those who would be
likely to attempt the enterprise when it should
be suggested. There were the five men at
home, all bold, reckless, antagonistic to the
law, and at odds with the sheriff. She paused,
with a frightened face and a wild gesture as if
to ward off an unforeseen danger. Send them
to meet him! Never, never would she lift her
hand or raise her voice to aid in fulfilling that
grimly prophesied death on the muzzle of the
old rifle-barrel. She trembled at the thought
of her precipitancy. His life was in her hand.
With a constraining moral sense she felt that
it was she who had placed it in jeopardy, and
that she held it in trust.
She was cold, shivering. There was a change
in the temperature; perhaps hail had fallen
somewhere near, for the rare air had icy
suggestions. She was seldom out so late, and
was glad to see, high on the slope, the light that
was wont to shine like a star into the dark
depths of Eskaqua Cove. The white mists
gathered around it; a circle of pearly light
encompassed it, like Saturn's ring. As she came
nearer, the roof of the house defined itself, with
its oblique ridge-pole against the sky, and its
clay and stick chimney, also built in defiance of
rectangles, and its little porch, the curtaining
hop-vines, dripping, dripping, with dew. In
the corner of the rail fence was the "crumply
cow," chewing her cud.
The radiance of firelight streamed out through
the open door, around which was grouped a
number of shadows, of intent and wistful aspect.
These were the hounds, and they crowded
about her ecstatically as she came up on the
She paused at the door, and looked in with
melancholy eyes. The light fell on her face,
still damp with the dew, giving its gentle
curves a subdued glister, like marble; the dark
blue of her dress heightened its fairness. A
sudden smile broke upon it as she leaned forward.
There were three men, Ab, Pete, and Ben, seated
around the fire; but she was looking at none of
them, and they silently followed her gaze.
Only one pair of eyes met hers, - the eyes
of a fat young person, wonderfully muscular
for the tender age of three, who sat in the
chimney-corner in a little wooden chair,
and preserved the important and impassive air
of a domestic magnate. This was hardly impaired
by his ill-defined, infantile features, his
large tow-head, his stolid blue eyes, his feminine
garb of blue-checked cotton, short enough
to disclose sturdy white calves and two feet
with the usual complement of toes. He looked
at her in grave recognition, but made no sign.
"Jacob," she softly drawled, "why n't ye go
But Jacob was indisposed for conversation on
this theme; he said nothing.
"Why n't you-uns git him ter bed?" she
asked of the assemblage at large. "He 'll git
stunted, a-settin' up so late in the night."
"Waal," said one of the huge jeans-clad
mountaineers, taking his pipe from his mouth,
and scrutinizing the subject of conversation,
"I 'low it takes more 'n three full grown men
ter git that thar survigrus buzzard ter bed
when he don't want ter go thar, an' we war n't
a-goin' ter resk it."
"I did ax him ter go ter bed, D'rindy," said
another of the bearded giants, "but he 'lowed
he would n't. I never see a critter so pompered
ez Jacob; he ain't got no medjure o' respec'
The subject of these strictures gazed unconcernedly
first at one speaker, then at the other.
Dorinda still looked at him, her face
transfigured by its tender smile. But she was
fain to exert her authority. "Waal, Jacob," she
said, decisively, "ye mus' gin yer cornsent ter
go ter bed, arter a while."
Jacob calmly nodded. He expected to go to
bed some time that night.
The hounds had taken advantage of Dorinda's
entrance to creep into the room and adjust
themselves among the family group about the
fire. One of them, near Jacob, lured by the
tempting plumpness, put out a long red tongue,
and gave a furtive lick to his fat white leg.
The little mountaineer promptly doubled his
plucky fist, and administered a sharp blow on
the black nose of the offender, whose yelp of
repentant pain attracted attention to the canine
intruders. Ab Cayce rose to his feet with an
oath. There was a shrill chorus of anguish as
he actively kicked them out with his great
"Git out'n hyar, ye dad-burned beastises!
I hev druv ye out fifty times sence sundown;
now stay druv!"
He emphasized the lesson with several
gratuitous kicks after the room and the porch
were fairly cleared. But before he was again seated
the dogs were once more clustered about the
door, with intent bobbing heads and glistening
eyes that peered in wistfully, with a longing
for the society of their human friends, and a
pathetic anxiety to be accounted of the family
There was more stir than usual in the interval
between supper and bedtime. During the
three memorable days that Dorinda had
sojourned in Tuckaleechee Cove Miranda Jane's
ineffective administration had resulted in
domestic chaos in several departments. The
lantern by which the cow was to be milked was
nowhere to be found. The filly-like Miranda
Jane, with her tousled mane and black forelock
hanging over her eyes, was greatly distraught
in the effort to remember where it had been
put and for what it had been last used, and
was "plumb beat out and beset," she declared,
as she cantered in and cantered out, and took
much exercise in the search, to little purpose.
One of the men rose presently, and addressed
himself to the effort. He found it at last, and
handed it to Dorinda without a word. He
did not offer to milk the cow, as essentially
a feminine task, in the mountains, as to sew or
knit. When she came back she sat down among
them in the chair usually occupied by her
grandmother, - who had in her turn gone on a
visit to "Aunt Jerushy" in Tuckaleechee Cove, -
and as she busied herself in putting on her needles
a sizable stocking for Jacob she did not
join in the fragmentary conversation.
Ab Cayce, the eldest, talked fitfully as he
smoked his pipe, - a lank, lantern-jawed man,
with a small, gleaming eye and a ragged beard.
The youngest of the brothers, Solomon, was like
him, except that his long chin, of the style
familiarly denominated jimber-jawed, was still
smooth and boyish, and, big-boned as he was,
he lacked in weight and somewhat in height
the proportions of the senior. Peter was the
contentious member of the family. He was
wont to bicker in solitary disaffection, until he
seemed to disprove the adage that it takes two
to make a quarrel. He was afflicted with a
stammer, and at every obstruction his voice
broke out with startling shrillness, several keys
higher than the tone with which the sentence
commenced. He was loose-jointed and had a
shambling gait; his hair seemed never to have
outgrown the bleached, colorless tone so common
among the children of the mountains, and
it hung in long locks of a dreary drab about his
sun-embrowned face. His teeth were irregular,
and protruded slightly. "Ez hard-favored ez
Pete Cayce," was a proverb on the Big Smoky.
His wrangles about the amount of seed necessary
to sow to the acre, and his objurgation
concerning the horse he had been ploughing
with that day, filled the evening.
"Thar ain't a durned fool on the Big Smoky
ez dunno that thar sayin' 'bout 'n the beastises: -
white huff - buy him;
white huffs - try him;
white huffs - deny him;
white huffs an' a white nose -
off his hide an' feed him ter the crows.' "
Outside, the rising
wind wandered fitfully
through the Great Smoky, like a spirit of unrest.
The surging trees in the wooded vastness
on every side filled the air with the turbulent
sound of their commotion. The fire smouldered
on the hearth. The room was visible in the
warm glow: the walls, rich and mellow with
the alternate dark shade of the hewn logs and
the dull yellow of the "daubin';" the great
frame of the warping-bars, hung about with
scarlet and blue and saffron yarn; the brilliant
strings of red pepper, swinging from the rafters.
The spinning-wheel, near the open door,
revolved slightly, with a stealthy motion, when
the wind touched it, as though some invisible
woodland thing had half a mind for uncanny
Dorinda told her news at last, in few words
and with what composure she could command.
As the listeners broke into surprised ejaculations
and comments, she sat gazing silently at
the fire. Should she speak the thought nearest
her heart? Should she suggest a rescue?
She was torn by contending terrors, - fears for
them, for the man in his primitive shackles at
the Settlement, for the enemy whose life she
felt she had jeopardized. She had a wild vision -
half in hope, half in anguish - of her brothers, in
the saddle, armed to the teeth and riding
like the wind. They had not moved of their
own accord. Should she urge them to go?
Oh, never had the long days on the Big
Smoky, never had all the years that had visibly
rolled from east to west with the changing seasons,
brought her so much of life as the last few
hours, - such intensity of emotion, such swiftness
of thought, such baffling perplexity, such
KELSEY trudged on with his slide and his
oxen, elated by his moral triumph. He glorified
himself for his meekness. He joyed, with
all the turbulent impulses of victory, in the
Yet he was cognizant of his own deeper,
subtler springs of action. There was that within
him which forbade him to take the life of an
unarmed man, but he piqued himself that he
forbore. He had withheld even the return of
the blow. But he knew that in refraining he
had struck deeper still. He dwelt upon the
scene with the satisfaction of an inventor. He,
too, could foresee the consequences: the
bloodcurdling eloquence; the port and pose
of a martyr; the far-spread distrust of the
blacksmith's professions of piety, under which
that doughty religionist already quaked.
And as he reflected he replied, tartly, to the
monitor within, "Be angry and sin not."
And the monitor had no text.
Because of the night drifting down, perhaps,
drifting down with a chilling change;
because of the darkened solemnity of the dreary
woods; because of the stars shining with a
splendid aloofness from all that is human;
because of the melancholy suggestions of a
will-o'-the-wisp glowing in a marshy tangle, his
exultant mood began to wane.
"Thar it is!" he cried, suddenly, pointing at
the mocking illusion, - "that's my religion: looks
like fire, an' it 's fog!"
His mind had reverted to his wild
supplications in the solitudes of the "bald," -
his unanswered prayers. The oxen had paused of
their own accord to rest, and he stood looking at
the spectral gleam.
"I 'd never hev thunk o' takin' up with religion,"
he said, in a shrill, upbraiding tone, "ef I hed been
let ter live along like other men be, or
ef me an' mine could die like other folks be let
ter die! But it 'peared ter me ez religion war
'bout all ez war lef', arter I hed gin the baby the
stuff the valley doctor hed lef' fur Em'ly, - bein'
ez I could n't read right the old critter's cur'ous
scrapin's with his pencil, - an' gin Em'ly the stuff
fur the baby. An' it died. An' then Em'ly got
onsettled an' crazy, an' tuk ter vagrantin' 'roun',
an' fell off'n the bluff. An' some say she flunged
herself off'n it. And I knows she flunged herself
off'n it through bein' out'n her mind with grief."
He paused, leaning on the yoke, his dreary
eyes still on the ignis fatuus of the woods. "An'
then Brother Jake Tobin 'lowed ez religion war
fur sech ez me. I hed no mind ter religion. But
the worl' hed in an' about petered out for me.
An' I tuk up with religion. I hev served it five
year faithful. An' now" - he cast his angry
eyes upward - "ye let me believe that thar is no
So it was that Satan hunted him like a partridge
on the mountains. So it was that he went out into
the desert places to upbraid the God in whom he
believed because he believed that there was no
God. There was a tragedy in his faith and his
unfaith. That this untrained, untutored mind
should grope among the irreconcilable things, -
the problems of a merciful God and his afflicted
people, foreordained from the beginning
of the world and free agents! That to the
ignorant mountaineer should come those
distraught questions that vex polemics, and try
the strength of theologies, and give the wise men
an illimitable field for the display of their agile
and ingenious solutions and substitutions! He
knew naught of this; the wild Alleghanies
intervened between his yearning, empty despair
and their plenished fame, the splendid
superstructure on the ruins of their faith. He
thought himself the only unbeliever in a
Christian world, the only inherent
infidel; a mysteriously accursed creature,
charged with the discovery of the monstrous
fallacy of that beneficent comfort, assuaging
the grief of a stricken world, and called an
overruling Providence. Again his flickering
faith would flare up, and he would reproach
God who had suffered its lapse. This was his
secret and his shame, and he guarded it. And
so when he preached his wild sermons with a
certain natural eloquence; and prayed his
frantic prayers, instinct with all the sincerities of
despair; and sang with the people the mournful
old hymns in the little meeting-house on
the notch, or on the banks of the Scolacutta
River, where they went down to be baptized,
his keen introspection, his more dissent, which
he might not forbear, yet would not avow,
were an intolerable burden, and his spiritual
life was the throe of a spiritual anguish.
Often there was no intimation in those sermons
of his of the quaint doctrines which delight
the simple men of his calling in that region, who
are fain to feel learned. His Christ, to judge from
this mood, was a Paramount Emotion: not the Christ
who confuted the wise men in the temple, and read
in the synagogues, and said dark allegories; but he
who stilled the storm, and healed the sick, and raised
the dead, and wept, most humanly, for the friend whom
he loved. Kelsey's trusting heart contended
with his doubting mind, and the simple humanities
of these sermons comforted him. Sometimes he
sought consolation otherwise; he would
remember that he had never been like his fellows.
This was only another manifestation of
the dissimilarity that dated from his earliest
recollections. He had from his infancy peculiar gifts.
He was learned in the signs of the weather,
and predicted the mountain storms;
he knew the haunts and habits of every beast
and bird in the Great Smoky, every leaf that
burgeons, every flower that blows. So deep
and incisive a knowledge of human nature had
he that this faculty was deemed supernatural,
and akin to the gift of prophecy. He himself
understood, although perhaps he could not have
accurately limited and defined it, that he exercised
unconsciously a vigilant attention and an
acute discrimination; his forecast was based
upon observation so close and unsparing, and a
power of deduction so just, that in a wider
sphere it might have been called judgment, and,
reinforced by education, have attained all the
functions of a ripened sagacity.
Crude as it was, it did not fail of recognition.
In many ways his "word" was sought and
heeded. His influence yielded its richest effect
when his confrére of the pulpit would call
on him to foretell the fate of the sinner and the
wrath of God to the Big Smoky. And then
Brother Jake Tobin would accompany the
glowing picture by a slow rhythmic clapping
of hands and a fragmentary chant, "That dreadful
Day air a-comin' along!" - bearing all the time
a smiling and beatific countenance, as if
he were fireproof himself, and brimstone and
flame were only for his friends.
Rousing himself from his reverie with a sigh,
Hiram Kelsey urged the oxen along the sandy
road, which had here and there a stony interval
threatening the slide with dissolution at
every jolt. They began presently to quicken
their pace of their own accord. The encompassing
woods and the laurel were so dense that no gleam
of light was visible till they brought up suddenly
beside a rail fence, and the fitful glimmer of
firelight from an open door close at hand revealed
the presence of a double log cabin. There was an
uninclosed passage between the two rooms, and in this
a tall, gaunt woman was standing.
"Thar be Hi now, with the steers," she said,
detecting the dim bovine shadows in the
"Tell Hiram ter come in right now," cried a
chirping voice, like a superannuated cricket.
"I hev a word ter ax him."
"Tell Hiram ter feed them thar steers fust,"
cried out another ancient voice, keyed several
tones lower, and also with the ring of authority.
"Tell Hiram," shrilly piped the other, "ter
hustle his bones, ef he knows what air good fur
"Tell Hiram," said the deeper voice, sustaining
the antiphonal effect, "I want them thar
steers feded foreshortly."
Then ensued a muttered wrangle within, and
finally the shriller voice was again uplifted:
"Tell Hiram what my word air."
"An' ye tell Hiram what my word air."
The woman, who was tall as a grenadier, and
had a voice like velvet, looked meekly back
into the room, upon each mandate, with a nod
of mild obedience.
"Ye hearn 'em," she said softly to Kelsey.
Evidently she could not undertake the hazard
of discriminating between these coequal authorities.
"I hearn 'em," he replied.
She sat down near the door, and resumed her
occupation of monotonously peeling June apples
for "sass." Her brown calico sunbonnet, which
she habitually wore, in doors and out, obscured
her visage, except her chin and absorbed mouth,
that now and then moved in unconscious sympathy
with her work. There was a piggin on one
side of her to receive the quartered fruit, and
on the other a white oak splint basket, already
half full of the spiral parings. On the doorstep
her husband sat, a shaggy-headed, full-bearded,
unkempt fellow, in brown jeans trousers
reaching almost to his collar-bone in front,
and supported by the single capable suspender
so much affected in the mountains. His
unbleached cotton shirt was open at the throat,
for there was fire enough in the huge chimney-place
to make the room unpleasantly warm, despite
the change of temperature without. Now
and then he stretched out his hand for an apple
already pared, which his wife gave him with
an adroit back-handed movement, and which he
ate in a mouthful or two. He made way for
Kelsey to enter, and asked him a question,
almost inarticulate because of the apples, but
apparently of hospitable intent, for Kelsey said
he had had a bite and a sup at Jonas Trice's, and
did not want the supper which had been
providently saved for him.
Kelsey did not betray which command he
had thought best to obey.
"I hed ter put my rifle on the rack in the
t'other room, gran'dad," he observed meekly,
addressing one of two very old men who sat on
either side of the huge fireplace. There were
cushions in their rude arm-chairs, and awkward
little three-legged footstools were placed in
front of them. Their shoes and clothing, although
coarse to the last degree, were clean and
carefully tended. They had each long ago lived
out the allotted threescore years and ten, but
they had evidently not worn out their welcome.
One had suffered a paralytic attack, and every
word and motion was accompanied with a
convulsive gasp and jerk. The other old man
was saturnine and lymphatic, and seemed a
trifle younger than his venerable associate.
"What war ye a-doin' of with yer rifle?"
mumbled "gran'dad," in wild, toothless haste.
"I tuk it along ter see, when I war a-comin'
home, ef I mought shoot suthin' tasty for
"What did ye git?" demanded gran'dad,
with retrospective greed; for supper was over,
and he had done full justice to his share.
"I never got nuthin'," said Kelsey, a trifle
"Waal, waal, waal! These hyar latter times
gits cur'ouser ez they goes along. The stren'th
an' the seasonin' hev all gone out'n the lan'.
Whenst I war young, folks ez kerried rifles ter
git suthin' fur supper never kem home a-suck-in'
the bar'l. Folks ez kerried rifles in them
days didn't tote 'em fur - fur - a ornamint.
Folks in them days lef' preachin' an' prophecy
an' sech ter thar elders, an' hunted the beastis
an' the Injun', - though sinners is plentier
than the t'other kind o' game on the Big Smoky
these times. No man, in them days, jes' turned
thirty sot hisself down ter idlin', an' preachin',
an' convictin' his elders o' sin."
Kelsey bore himself with the deferential
humility characteristic of the mountaineers
toward the aged among them.
"What war the word ez ye war a-layin' off
ter say ter me, gran'dad?" he asked, striving
to effect a diversion.
"Waal, waal, look-a-hyar, Hiram!" exclaimed
the old man, remembering his question
in eager precipitancy. "This hyar 'Cajah
Green, ye know, ez air a-runnin' fur sher'ff -
air - air he Republikin or Dimmycrat?"
"Thar's no man in these hyar parts smart
enough ter find that out," interpolated Obediah
Scruggs in the door, circumspectly taking the
apple seeds out of his mouth. He was the son
of one of the magnates, and the son-in-law of
the other; his matrimonial venture had resulted
in doubling his filial obligations. His wife had
brought, instead of a dowry, her aged father to
" 'Cajah Green," continued the speaker, "run
ez a independent las' time, an' thar war so many
bolters an' sech they split the vote, an' he war
'lected. An' now he air a-runnin' agin."
The old man listened to this statement, his
eye blazing, his chin in a quiver, his lean figure
erect, and the pipe in his palsied hand shaking
till the coal of fire on top showed brightening
"Waal, sir! waal!" exclaimed the aged
politician, with intense bitterness. "The stren'th
an' the seasonin' hev all gone out'n the lan'!
Whenst I war young," he declared dramatically,
drawing the pitiable contrast, "folks knowed
what they war, an' they let other folks know,
too, ef they hed ter club it inter 'em. But
them was Old Hickory's times. Waal, waal,
we ain't a-goin' ter see Old Hickory no more -
no - more!"
"I hopes not," said the other old man, with
sudden asperity. "I hopes we 'll never see no
sech tormentin' old Dimmycrat agin. But law!
I need n't fret my soul. Henry Clay shook all
the life out'n him five year afore he died.
Henry Clay made a speech agin Andrew Jackson
in 1840 what forty thousan' people kem ter
hear. Thar war a man fur ye! He hed a
tongue like a bell; 'pears like ter me I kin
hear it yit, when I listens right hard. By
Gum!" triumphantly, "that day he tuk the
stiffenin' out'n Old Hickory! Surely, surely,
he did! Ef I thought I war never a-goin' ter
hear Old Hickory's name agin I'd tune up my
ears fur the angel's quirin'. I war born a
Republikin, I grow'd ter be a good Whig, an' I 'll
die a Republikin. Ef that ain't religion I
dunno what air! That's the way I hev lived
an' walked afore the Lord. An' hyar in the
evenin' o' my days I hev got ter set alongside
o' this hyar old consarn, an' hear him jow
'bout'n Old Hickory from mornin' till night.
Ef I hed knowed how he war goin' ter turn out
'bout'n Old Hickory in his las' days, I would n't
hev let my darter marry his son, thirty five year
ago. I knowed he war a Dimmycrat, but I
never knowed the stren'th o' the failin' till I
war called on ter 'speriunce it."
"Ye 'lowed t'other day, gran'dad," said Kelsey,
addressing the aged paralytic in a propitiatory
manner, "ez ye war n't a-goin' ter talk
'bout'n Old Hickory no more. It 'pears like
ter me ez ye oughter gin yer 'tention ter the
candidates ez ye hev got ter vote fur in August,
- Cajah Green, an' sech."
But it must be admitted that Micajah Green
was not half the man that Old Hickory was,
and the filial remonstrance had no effect. The
acrimonies of fifty years ago were renewed
across the hearth with a rancor that suggests
that an old grudge, like old wine, improves with
time. No one ventured to interrupt, but Obediah
Scruggs, still lounging in the door, commented
in a low tone: -
"The law stirs itself ter sot a time when a
man air old enough ter vote an' meddle with
politics ginerally. 'Pears like ter me it ought
ter sot a time when he hev got ter quit."
"Waal, Obediah!" exclaimed the soft-voiced
woman, the red parings hanging in concentric
circles from her motionless knife. "That ain't
religion. Ye talk like a man would hev ter be
ez sensible an' solid fur politics ez fur workin'
on the road. They don't summons the old men
fur sech jobs ez that. They mought ez well
enjye the evenin' o' thar days with this
foolishness o' politics ez enny other."
"Shucks!" said Obediah, who had the courage
of his convictions. "These hyar old folks
hev hed ter live in the same house an' ride in
the same wagin thirty-five year, jes' 'kase, when
we war married, they agreed ter put what they
hed tergether; an' they hev been a-fightin' over
thar dead an' gone politics ev'y minit o' the
time sence. Thar may be some good Dimmycrats,
an' thar may be some good Republikins;
but they make a powerful oneasy team, yoked
tergether. An' when it grows on 'em so, the
law oughter step in, an' count 'em over age, an'
shet 'em up. 'Specially ez dad hev voted fur
Andy Jackson fur Presidint, outer respec' fur
his memory, ev'y 'lection sence the tormentin'
old critter died."
But he said all this below his breath, and
presently fell silent, for his wife's face had
clouded, and her soft drawling voice had an
intimation of a depression of spirit.
"The kentry hev kem ter its ruin," exclaimed
the paralytic, "when men - brazen-faced buzzards
- kin go an' git 'lected ter office 'thout
no party ter boost 'em! Look-a-hyar," - he
turned to his grandson, - "ye air always
a-prophesyin'. Prophesy some now. Air
'Cajah Green a-goin' ter be 'lected?"
He thumped the floor with his stick, and fixed
his imperative eye upon Hiram Kelsey's face.
"Naw, gran'dad. He won't be 'lected," said
The old man's face was scarlet because of
this contradiction of his own dismal
"'Cajah Green will be 'lected," he cried.
"The kentry's ruined. Folks dunno whether
they air Republikins or Dimrnycrats! Lor'
A'mighty, ter think o' that! The kentry's
ruined! An' yer prophesyin' don't tech it.
They hed false prophets in the old days, an'
the tribe holds out yit."
He struck the floor venomously with his stick.
Its defective aim once or twice brought it upon
A rough black bundle that lay rolled up in front
of the fire like a great dog. A slow head was
lifted inquiringly, with an offended mien, from
the rolls of fat and fur. Twinkling small eyes
glared out. When another blow descended, with
a wild disregard of results, there was a whimper,
a long low growl, a flash of white teeth, and
with claw and fang the pet cub caught at the
stick. The old man dropped it in a panic.
"Look a-yander at the bar!" he shrieked.
But the cub had crouched on the floor since
the stick had fallen, and was whimpering again,
and looking about in cowardly appeal.
The old man rallied, "What d'ye bring the
savage beastis home fur, Hiram, out'n the woods
whar they b'long?" he vociferated.
"Kase he 'lowed he hed killed the dam, an'
the young 'un war bound ter starve," put in
the other old man actuated, perhaps, by some
sympathy for the grandson, whose strength and
youth counted for naught against this adversary.
"What air ye a-aimin' ter do with it? Ter
kill sech chillen ez happen ter make game o'
ye? That's what the prophets of old cited thar
bars ter do, - ter kill the little laffin' chillen."
Kelsey winced. The cruelties of the old
chronicles bore hard upon his wavering faith.
The old man saw his advantage, and with
the wantonness of tyranny followed it up:
"That's it, - that's it! That would suit Hiram,
like the prophets, - ter kill the innercent
The young man recoiled suddenly. The
patriarch, a wild terror on his pallid, aged face,
recognized the significance of his words. He
held up his shaking hands as if to recall them,
to clutch them. He had remembered the
domestic tragedy: the humble figure of the little
mountain child, all gayety and dimples and
gurgling laughter, who had known no grief and
had wrought such woe, who had left a rude,
empty cradle in the corner, a mound - such a
tiny mound! - in the graveyard, and an
imperishable anguish of self-reproach,
unquenchable as the fires of hell.
"I furgot, - I furgot!" shrieked the old
man. "I furgot the baby! When war she
buried? - las' week or year afore las'? The
only one, - the only great-gran'child I ever
hed. The frien'liest baby! Knowed me jes'
ez well!" He burst into senile tears. "Don't
ye go, Hiram. What did the doctor say ye gin
her? Laws-a-massy! 'Pears like 't war jes'
yestiddy she war a-crawlin' 'roan' the floor,
stiddier that heejus beastis ez I wisht war in
the woods - laffin' - Lord A'mighty! laffin' an
takin' notice ez peart. Hiram, don't ye go, -
don't ye go! Peartes', pretties' chile I ever see
- an' I had six o' my own - an' the frien'lies'!
An' I hed planned fur sech a many pleasures
when she hed got some growth an' hed l'arned
ter talk. I wanted ter hear what she hed ter
say, - the only great-grandchild I ever hed, -
an' now the words will never be spoke. 'Pears
like ter me ez the Lord shows mighty little
jedgmint ter take her, an' leave me a-cumberin'
Then he began once more to wring his hands
and sob aloud, - that piteous weeping of the
aged! - and to mumble brokenly, "The
The woman left her work and took off her
bonnet, showing her gray hair drawn into a
skimpy knot at the back of her head, and leaving
in high relief her strong, honest, candid features,
on which the refinements of all benign
impulses effaced the effects of poverty and
ignorance. She crossed the room to the old man's
chair; her velvety voice soothed him. He suffered
himself to be lifted by his son and grandson,
and carried away bodily to bed in the room
across the passage. In the mean time the
woman filled a tin cup with lard, placing in its
midst a button tied in a bit of cloth to serve as
a wick, and lighted it at the fire, while the cub
presided with sniffing curiosity at the unusual
proceeding, pressing up close against her as she
knelt on the hearth, well knowing that she was
not to be held in fear nor in any special respect
by young bears.
"I 'm goin' ter gin him a button-lamp ter
sleep by, bein' ez he hev tuk the baby in his
head agin," she said to her father in explanation;
"he won't feel so lonesome ef he wakes up."
He had looked keenly after his venerable
compeer as the paralytic was borne across the
uninclosed passage between the two rooms.
"He's breaking some. He's aging," he said
critically; not without sympathy, but with a
stalwart conviction that his own feebleness was
as strength to the other's weakness. "He's
breaking some," he repeated, with a physical
vanity that might have graced a prize-fighter.
The next moment there came sharp and
shrill through the open door the old man's
voice, high and glib in cheerful forgetfulness,
conversing with his attendants as they got him
"Whenst I war young," he cried, "I went
down to Sevierville wunst. 'T war when they
war a-runnin' of Old Hickory."
"Thar it is again!" exclaimed the ancient
Republican. "Old Hickory war bad enough
when he war alive; but I b'lieves he's wusser
now that he is dead, with this hyar old critter
a-moanin' 'bout him night and day. I 'd feel
myself called ter fling him off'n the bluff, ef it
war n't that he hev got the palsy, an' I gits
sorry fur him wunst in a while. An' then, I
b'lieves that ennybody what is a Dimmycrat
air teched in the head, an' ain't 'sponsible fur
thar foolishness, 'kase sensible folks ain't
Dimmycrats. That's been my 'speriunce fur
eighty year, en' I hev hed no call ter change my
mind. So I hev to try my patience an' stan' this
hyar old critter's foolishness, but it air a mighty
THE shadows of the great dead trees in the
midst of the Settlement were at their minimum
in the vertical vividness of the noontide. They
bore scant resemblance to those memorials of
gigantic growths which towered, stark and
white, so high to the intensely blue sky;
instead, they were like some dark and leafless
underbrush clustering about the sapless trunks.
The sandy stretch of the clearing reflected the
sunlight with a deeply yellow glare, its poverty
of soil illustrated by frequent clumps of the
woolly mullein-weeds. The Indian corn and
the sparse grass were crudely green in the
inclosures about the gray, weather-beaten
loghouses, which stood distinct against the dark,
restful tones of the forest filling the background.
The mountains with each remove wore every
changing disguise of distance: shading from
sombre green to a dull purple; then overlaid
with a dubious blue; next showing a true
and turquoise richness; still farther, a
delicate transient hue that has no name; and
so away to the vantage-ground of illusions,
where the ideal poises upon the horizon, and
the fact and the fantasy are undistinguishably
blended. The intermediate valleys appeared
in fragmentary glimpses here and there:
sometimes there was only the verdure of the tree
tops; one was cleft by a canary-colored streak
which betokened a harvested wheatfield; in
another blazed a sapphire circle, where the
vertical sun burned in the waters of a blue salt
The landscape was still, - very still; not the
idle floating of a cloud, not the vague shifting
of a shadow, not the flutter of a wing. But
the Settlement on the crags above had known
within its experience no similar commotion.
There were many horses hitched to the fences,
some girded with blankets in lieu of saddles.
Clumsy wagons stood among the stumps in
the clearing, with the oxen unyoked and their
provender spread before them on the ground
Although the log-cabins gave evidence of
hospitable proceedings within, family parties
were seated in some of the vehicles, munching
the dinner providently brought with them. All
the dogs in the Great Smoky, except perhaps
a very few incapacitated by extreme age or
extreme youth, were humble participants in
the outing, having trotted under the wagons
many miles from their mountain homes, and
now lay with lolling tongues among the wheels.
About the store lounged a number of men,
mostly the stolid, impassive mountaineers. A
few, however, although in the customary jeans,
bore the evidence of more worldly prosperity
and a higher culture; and there were two or
three resplendent in the "b'iled shirt and store
clothes" of civilization, albeit the first was
without collar or cravat, and the latter showed
antique cut and reverend age. These were
candidates, - talkative, full of anecdote, quick
to respond, easily flattered, and flattering to
the last degree. They were especially jocose
and friendly with each other, but amid the
fraternal guffaws and exchanges of "chaws o'
terbacco" many quips were bandied, barbed
with ridicule; many good stories recounted,
charged with uncomplimentary deductions;
many jokes cracked, discovering the kernel of
slander or detraction in the merry shell. The
mountaineers looked on, devoid of envy, and
despite their stolidity with an understanding of
the conversational masquerade. Beneath this
motley verbal garb was a grave and eager
aspiration for public favor, and it was a matter
of no small import when a voter would languidly
glance at another with a silent laugh, slowly
shake his head with a not-to-be-convinced
gesture, and spit profusely on the ground.
In and out of the store dawdled a ceaseless
procession of free and enlightened citizens;
always emerging with an aspect of increased
satisfaction, wiping their mouths with big bandanna
handkerchiefs, and sometimes with the more
primitive expedient of a horny hand. Nathan
Hoodendin sat in front of the door, keeping
store after his usual fashion, except that the
melancholy wheeze "Jer'miah" rose more
frequently upon the air. Jer'miah's duties
consisted chiefly in serving out whiskey and
applejack, and the little drudge stuck to his
work with an earnest pertinacity, for which the
privilege of draining the very few drops left in
the bottom of the glass after each dram seemed
hardly an adequate reward.
The speeches, which were made in the open
air, the candidate mounted on a stump in front
of the store, were all much alike, - the same
self-laudatory meekness, the same inflamed
party spirit, the same jocose allusions to opponents,
- each ending, "Gentlemen, if I am
elected to office I will serve you to the best of
my skill and ability. Gentlemen, I thank you
for your attention." The crowd, close about,
stood listening with great intentness, each
wearing the impartial pondering aspect of an
On the extreme outskirts of the audience,
however, there was an unprecedented lapse of
attention; a few of the men, seated on stumps
or on the wagon-tongues, now and then
whispering together, and casting excited glances
toward the blacksmith's shop. Sometimes one
would rise, approach it stealthily, stoop down,
and peer in at the low window. The glare
outside made the interior seem doubly dark,
and a moment or two was needed to distinguish
the anvil, the fireless hearth, the sooty hood.
A vague glimmer fell through a crevice in the
clapboard roof upon a shock of yellow hair
and gleaming eyes, two sullen points of light in
the midst of the deep shadows. None of the
mountaineers had ever seen a wild beast caged,
but Rick Tyler's look of fierce and surly despair,
of defiance, of all vain and vengeful impulses,
as he sat bound hand and foot in the
forge, was hardly more human. The faces
multiplied at the window, - stolid, or morbidly
curious, awe-struck, or with a grinning display
of long tobacco-stained teeth. Many of them
were well known to Rick Tyler, and if ever he
had liked them he hated them now.
There was a stir outside, a clamor of many
voices. The "speaking" was over. Footsteps
sounded close to the door of the blacksmith's
shop. The sheriff was about to enter,
and the crowd pressed eagerly forward to
catch a glimpse of the prisoner. Arriving this
morning, the sheriff had been glad to combine
his electioneering interests with his official
duty. The opportunity of canvassing among
the assemblage gave him, he thought, an ample
excuse for remaining a few hours longer at the
Settlement than was necessary; and when he
heard of the impending diversion of the
gander-pulling he was convinced that his horse
required still more rest before starting with his
prisoner for Shaftesville jail.
He went briskly into the forge, carrying a
pair of clanking handcuffs. He busied himself
in exchanging these for the cord with which the
young fellow's wrists were bound. It had been
drawn brutally tight, and the flesh was swollen
and raw. "It seems ter me, ez 't was the
blacksmith that nabbed ye, he might hev done
better for ye than this, by a darned sight," he
said in an undertone.
He had not been reluctant at first that the
crowd should come in, but he appreciated
unnecessary harshness as an appeal for sympathy,
and he called out to his deputy, who had
accompanied him on his mission, to clear the
"We 're goin' ter keep him shet up fur a
hour or so, an' start down the mounting in the
cool of the evenin'," he explained; "so ef ye
want ter view him the winder is yer chance."
The forge was cleared at last, the broad light
vanishing with the closing of the great
barn-like doors. Rick heard the lowered voices
of the sheriff and deputy gravely consulting
without, as they secured the fastenings with a
padlock which they had brought with them in
view of emergencies. They had taken the
precaution, too, to nail strips of board at close
intervals across the shutterless window; more,
perhaps, to prevent the intrusion of the curious
without than the escape of the manacled
prisoner. The section of the landscape glimpsed
through the bars, - the far blue mountains
and a cluster of garnet pokeberries, with a leaf
or two of the bush growing close by the wall -
sprang into abnormal brilliancy at the end of
the dark vista of the interior. It was a duskier
brown within for that fragment of vivid color
and dazzling clearness in the window. Naught
else could be seen, except a diagonal view of the
porch of one of the log-cabins and the corn-field
Curiosity was not yet sated; now and then a
face peered in, as Rick sat bound, securely, the
cords still about his limbs and feet and the
clanking handcuffs on his wrists. These
inquisitive apparitions at the window grew
fewer as the time went by, and presently ceased
altogether. The bustle outside increased: it
drowned the drowsy drone of the cicada; it
filled the mountain solitudes with a trivial
incongruity. Often sounded there the sudden
tramp of a horse and a loud guffaw. Rick
knew that they were making ready for the
gander-pulling, which unique sport had been
selected by the long headed mountain
politicians as likely to insure the largest
assemblage possible from the surrounding region to
hear the candidates prefer their claims.
Electioneering topics were not suspended
even while the younger men were saddling and
bridling their horses for the proposed festivity.
As Micajah Green strolled across the clearing,
and joined a group of elderly spectators who
in their chairs sat tilted against the walls of
the store, which began to afford some shade, he
found that his own prospects were under
"They tell me, 'Cajah," said Nathan Hoodendin,
who had hardly budged that day, his
conversational activity, however, atoning for his
physical inertia, "ez ye air bound ter eend this
'lection with yer finger in yer mouth."
"Don't know why," said Micajah Green, with
a sharp, sudden effect as of an angry bark, and
lapsing from the smiling mien which he was
wont to conserve as a candidate.
"Waal, word hev been brung hyar ter the
Settlemint ez this prophet o' ourn in the Big
Smoky, he say ye ain't goin' ter be re'lected."
The sheriff laughed scornfully, snapping
his fingers as he stood before the group, and
whirled airily on his boot-heel.
Nevertheless, he was visibly annoyed. He
knew the strength of a fantastic superstition
among ignorant people, and their disposition to
verify rather than disprove. There were voters
in the Big Smoky liable to be controlled by a
morbid impulse to make the prophet's word
true. It was an unexpected arid unmeasured
adverse influence, and he chafed under the
"An' what sets Pa'son Kelsey agin me?" he
"He ain't in no ways sot agin you-uns ez I
knows on," discriminated Nathan Hoodendin,
studious impartiality expressed among the
graven wrinkles of his face. "Not ez it war
sot agin ye; but he jes' 'lows ez that air the
fac'. Ye ain't goin' ter be 'lected agin."
"The pa'son hev got a gredge agin the old
man, hyar," said the deputy. He was a
stalwart fellow of about twenty-five years of
age. He had sandy hair and mustache, a broad
freckled face, light gray eyes, and a thin-lipped,
defiant mouth. He bore himself with an air of
bravado, which conveyed as many degrees
of insult as one felt disposed to take up.
"He lit out on me fust, - I war with Amos
Jeemes thar, - an' the pa'son put us out'n the
meet-n'-house He did! He don't want no
sorter sher'ffs in the Big Smoky. An' he called
Gid Fletcher, the blacksmith, 'Judas' fur
arrestin' that lot o' bacon yander in the shop,
when he kem hyar ter the Settlemint fur powder,
ter keep him able ter resis' the law! Who sold
Rick Tyler that powder, Mister Hoodendin?"
he added, turning his eyes on the proprietor of
Old Hoodendin hesitated. "Jer'miah," he
His anxious eyes gleamed from out their
perplexed wrinkles like a ray of sunlight
twinkling through a spiderweb.
There was an interchange of glances between
the sheriff and his deputy, and the admonished
"'T war jes' the boy, eh; an' I reckon he
war afeard o' Rick's shootin'-irons an' sech."
"'Twar Jer'miah," repeated the storekeeper,
his discreet eyes upon the bosom of his
blue-checked homespun shirt.
"Waal, the pa'son, ez I war sayin', he called
the blacksmith 'Judas' fur capturin' the
malefactor, an' the gov'nor's reward 'blood money,' "
continued the deputy, expertly electioneering,
since his own tenure was on the uncertain
continuance of the sheriff in office. "An' now
he's goin' 'round the kentry prophesyin' ez 'Cajah
Green ain't goin' ter be 'lected. Waal, thar war
false prophets 'fore his time, an' will be agin,
There was a sudden clamor upon the air; a
vibrant, childish voice, and then a great
horselaugh. An old crone had come out of one of
the cabins and was standing by the fence, holding
out to Gid Fletcher, who seemed master of
ceremonies, a large white gander. The fowl's
physiognomy was thrown into bold prominence
by a thorough greasing of the head and neck.
His wings flapped, he hissed fiercely, he
dolorously squawked. A little girl was running
frantically by the side of the old woman,
clutching at her skirt, and vociferously claiming
the "gaynder." Hers it was, since "Mam gin me
the las' aig when the gray goose laid her ladder
out, an' it war sot under the old Dominicky
hen ez kem off'n her nest through settin' three
weeks, like a hen will do. An' then 't war
put under old Top-knot, an' 't war the fust aig
hatched out'n old Top-knot's settin'."
This unique pedigree, shrieked out with a
shrill distinctness, mixed with the lament of
the prescient bird, had a ludicrous effect.
Fletcher took the gander with a guffaw, the
old crone chuckled, and the young men laughed
as they mounted their horses.
The blacksmith hardly knew which part he
preferred to play. The element of domination
in his character gave a peculiar relish to the
rôle of umpire; yet with his pride in his
deftness and strength it cost him a pang to
forego the competition in which he felt himself
an assured victor. He armed himself with a whip
of many thongs, and took his stand beneath a
branch of one of the trees, from which the
gander was suspended by his big feet, head
downward. Aghast at his disagreeable situation, his
wild eyes stared about; his great wings flapped
drearily; his long neck protruded with its peculiar
motion, unaware of the clutch it invited.
What a pity so funny a thing can suffer!
The gaping crowd at the store, on the cabin
porches, on the fences, watched the competitors
with wide-eyed, wide-mouthed delight. There
were gallant figures among them, shown to
advantage on young horses whose spirit was not
yet quelled by the plough. They filed slowly
around the prescribed space once, twice; then
each made the circuit alone at a break-neck
gallop. As the first horseman rode swiftly
along the crest of the precipice, his head high
against the blue sky, the stride of the steed
covering mountain and valley, he had the
miraculous effect of Prince Firouz Shah and the
enchanted horse in their mysterious aerial
journeys. When he passed beneath the branch
whence hung the frantic, fluttering bird, the
blacksmith, standing sentinel with his whip of
many thongs, laid it upon the flank of the horse,
and despite the wild and sudden plunge the rider
rose in his stirrups and clutched the greased
neck of the swaying gander. Tough old fowl!
The strong ligaments resisted. The first hardly
hoped to pluck the head, and after his hasty
convulsive grasp his frightened horse carried
him on almost over the bluff. The slippery
neck refused to yield at the second pull, and the
screams of the delighted spectators mingled with
the shrieks of the gander. The mountain colt, a
clay-bank, with a long black tail full of
cockle-burrs, bearing the third man, reared
violently under the surprise of the lash. As the
rider changed the balance of his weight, rising
in his stirrups to tug at the gander's neck, the
colt pawed the air wildly with his fore feet, fell
backward, and rolled upon the ground, almost
over the hapless wight. The blacksmith was fain
to support himself against the tree for laughter,
and the hurrahing Settlement could not
remember when it had enjoyed anything so
much. The man gathered himself up sheepishly,
and limped off; the colt being
probably a mile away, running through the
woods at the height of his speed.
The gander was in a panic by this time. If
ever a fowl of that gender has hysterics, that
gander exhibited the disease. He hissed; he
flapped his wings; he squawked; he stared; he
used every limited power of expression with
which nature has gifted him. He was so funny
one could hardly look at him.
As Amos James was about to take his turn,
amid flattering cries of "Amos 'll pull his head!"
"Amos 'll git his head!" a man who had
suddenly appeared on horseback at the verge of
the clearing, and had paused, contemplating the
scene, rode swiftly forward to the tree.
"Ye can't pull out'n turn, - ye can't pull out'n
turn, pa'son!" cried half a dozen voices from
the younger men. The elders stared in amaze
that the preacher should demean his calling by
engaging in this public sport.
Kelsey checked his pace before he reached
the blacksmith, who, seeing that he was not
going to pull, forbore to lay on the lash. The
next moment he thought that Kelsey was going
to pull; he had risen in his stirrups, with uplifted
"What be you-uns a-goin' ter do?" demanded
Gid Fletcher, amazed.
"I 'm a-goin' ter take this hyar critter
His words thrilled through the Settlement
like a current of electricity. The next phrase
was lost in a wild chorus of exclamations.
"Take the gaynder down?"
"Hi Kelsey hev los' his mind; surely he
Then above the angry, undistinguishable
tumult of remonstrance the preacher's voice rose
clear and impressive: "The pains o' the beastis
he hev made teches the Lord in heaven; fur he
marks the sparrow's fall, an' minds himself o'
the pitiful o' yearth!" He spoke with the
authority appertaining to his calling. "The
spark o' life in this fow-el air kindled ez fraish
ez yourn, - fur hevin' a soul, ye don't generally
prove it; an' hevin' no soul ter save, this
gaynder hain't yearned the torments o' hell, an'
I 'm a-goin' ter take the critter down."
" 'T ain't yer gaynder!" conclusively argued
the blacksmith, applying the swage of his own
"He air my gaynder!" shrieked out a childish
voice. "Take him down, - take him down!"
This objection to the time - honored sport
seemed hardly less eccentric than an exhibition
of insanity. To apply a dignified axiom of
humanity to that fluttering, long suffering tumult
of anguish familiarly known as the "gaynder"
was regarded as ludicrously inappropriate. To
refer to the Lord and the typical sparrow in this
connection seemed almost blasphemy.
Nevertheless, with the rural reverence for spiritual
authority and the superior moral perception
of the clergy, the crowd wore a submissively
balked aspect, and even the young men who had
not yet had their tug at the fowl's neck succumbed,
under the impression that the preacher's fiat had
put a stop to the gander-pulling for this occasion.
As Kelsey once more lifted his hand to liberate
the creator of the day's merriment, the
blacksmith, his old grudge reinforced by a new
one, gave the horse a cut with his whip. The
animal plunged under the unexpected blow, and
carried the rider beyond the tree. Reverence
for the cloth had no longer a restraining influence
on the young mountaineers. They burst into yells
"Cl'ar out, pa'son!" they exclaimed, delightedly.
"Ye hev hed yer pull. Cl'ar out!"
There was a guffaw among the elders about
the store. A clamor of commenting voices
rose from the cabin porches, where the feminine
spectators stood. The gander squawked
dolorously. The hubbub was increased by the
sudden sharp yelping of hounds that had started
game somewhere near at hand. Afterward,
from time to time, canine snarls and yaps rose
vociferously upon the air, - unheeded, since the
inherent interests of a gander-pulling were so
enhanced by the addition of a moral discussion
and the jeopardy of its conclusion.
The next man in turn, Amos James, put his
horse to a canter, and came in a cloud of yellow
dust toward the objective point under the
tree. In another moment there was almost a
collision, for Kelsey had wheeled and ridden
back so swiftly that he reined up under the
bough where the fowl hung as Amos James,
rising in his stirrups, dashed toward it. His
horse shied, and carried him past, out of reach,
while the blacksmith stepped precipitately
toward the bole, exclaiming angrily, "Don't ride
me down, Hi Kelsey!"
He recovered his presence of mind and the
use of his whip immediately, and laid a stinging
lash upon the parson's horse, as once more
the champion of the bird reached up to release
it. The next instant Gid Fletcher recoiled
suddenly; there was a significant gesture, a
steely glimmer, and the blacksmith was gazing
with petrified reluctance down the muzzle of a
six-shooter. He dared not move a muscle as
he stood, with that limited field of vision, and
with more respectful acquiescence in the opinion
of another man than he had ever before been
brought to entertain. The horseman looked at
his enemy in silence for a moment, the
broad-brimmed hat shading his face, with its
melancholy expression, its immobile features, and
its flashing eyes.
"Drap that lash," Kelsey said.
Gid Fletcher's grasp relaxed; then the parson
with his left hand reached up and contrived
to unloose the fluttering gander. He handed
the bird down to the little girl, who had been
fairly under the horse's heels at the tree since
the first suggestions of its deliverance. She
clutched it in great haste, wrapped her apron
about it, and carrying it, baby-wise, ran fleetly
off, casting apprehensive glances over her
So the gander was saved, but in its fright, its
woe, and the frantic presage in whatever organ
may serve it for mind, the fowl had a pretty
fair case against the Settlement for exemplary
The sport ended in great disaffection and a
surly spirit. Several small grievances among
the younger men promised to result in a
disturbance of the peace. The blacksmith, held
at bay only by the pistol, flared out furiously
when relieved of that strong coercion. His
pride was roused in that he should be publicly
balked and terrorized.
"I'll remember this," he said, shaking his
fist in the prophet's face."I'll save the gredge
But he was pulled off by his brethren in the
church, who thought it unwise to have a
member in good standing again assault the apostle
Amos James - a tall, black-eyed fellow of
twenty three or four, with black hair, slightly
powdered with flour, and a brown leans suit,
thus reminiscent also of the mill - sighed for
the sport in which he had hoped to be
"Pa'son talked like the gaynder war his
blood relation, - own brothers, I 'm a-thinkin',"
he drawled, disconsolately.
The sheriff was disposed to investigate prophecy.
"I've heard, pa'son," he said, with a smile
ill-concealing his vexation, "ye have foreseen
I ain't goin' ter be lucky with this here 'lection;
goin' ter come out o' the leetle eend o' the
The prophet, too, was perturbed and out of
sorts. The sustaining grace of feeling a martyr
was lacking in the event of to-day, in which
he himself had wielded the coercive hand. He
marked the covert aggressiveness of the sheriff's
manner, and revolted at being held to account
and forced to contest. He fixed his gleaming
eyes upon the officer's face, but said nothing.
"I 'm a-hustlin' off now," said Micajah Green,
"an' ez I won't be up in the Big Smoky agin
afore the 'lection, I 'lowed ez I 'd find out what
ails ye ter set sech a durned thing down as a
fac'. Why ain't I goin' ter be 'lected?" he
reiterated, his temper flaring in his face, his
eyes fierce. But for the dragging block and
chain of his jeopardized prospects he could
not have restrained himself from active insult.
With his peculiar qualifications for making
enemies, and the opportunities afforded by the
difficult office he had filled for the past two
years, he illustrated at this moment the justice
of the prophecy. But his evident anxiety, his
eagerness, even his fierce intolerance, had a
touch of the pathetic to the man for whom
earth held so little and heaven nothing. It
seemed useless to suggest, to admonish, to
"I say the word," declared the prophet. "I
can't undertake ter gin the reason."
"Ye won't gin the reason?" said the sheriff'
between his teeth.
"Naw," said the prophet.
"An' I won't be 'lected, hey?"
"Ye won't be 'lected."
The deputy touched the sheriff on the
shoulder "I want ter see ye."
"In a minute," said the elder man,
"I want ter see ye."
Something in the tone constrained attention.
The sheriff turned, and looked into a changed
face. He suffered himself to be led aside.
"Ye ain't goin' ter be 'lected," said the
deputy, grimly, "an' for a damned good reason.
They had walked to the blacksmith's shop.
The deputy motioned to him to look into the
"Damn ye, what is it?" demanded Micajah
The other made no reply, and the officer
stooped, and looked into the dusky interior.
THREE sides of the blacksmith shop, the
door, and the window were in full view from
the little hamlet; the blank wall of the rear
was close to a sheer precipice. The door was
locked, and the key was in the sheriff's pocket.
The prisoner, bound with cords around his
ankles and limbs, and with his wrists manacled,
Every detail was as it had been left, except
that at the rear, the only point secure from
observation, there were traces of burrowing in
the earth. In the cavity thus made between the
lowest log and the "dirt floor" a man's body
might with difficulty have been compressed, -
but a man so shackled! Undoubtedly he had
had assistance. This was a rescue.
Only a moment elapsed before the great barn-like
doors were widely flaring and the anxious
care of the officers and the eager curiosity of
the crowd had explored every nook and cranny
within. The ground was dry, and there was
not even a footprint to betoken the movements
of the fugitive and his rescuers; only in the
freshly upturned earth where he effected escape
were the distinct marks of the palms of his
hands, significantly close together. Evidently
he was still handcuffed when he had crawled
"He's a-wearin' my bracelets yit!"
exclaimed the sheriff, excitedly. "Him an' his
friends warn't able ter cut them off, like they
done the ropes."
A search was organized in hot haste. Every
cabin, the corn-fields, the woods near at hand,
were ransacked. Parties went beating about
through the dense undergrowth. They climbed
the ledges of great crags. They hovered with
keen eyes above dark abysses. They pursued
for hours a tortuous course down a deep gorge,
strewn with gigantic bowlders, washed by the
wintry torrents into divers channelings,
overhung by cliffs hundreds of feet high,
honeycombed with fantastic niches and rifts.
What futile quest! What vastness of mountain
The great sun went down in a splendid suffusion
of crimson color and a translucent golden
haze, with a purple garb for the mountains and
a glamourous dream for the sky, and bestowing
far and near the gilded license of imagination.
The searchers were hard at it until late into
the night; never a clew to encourage them,
never a hope to lure them on. More than once
they flagged, these sluggish mountaineers, who
had passed the day in unwonted excitement,
and had earned their night's rest. But the
penalties of refusing to aid the officer of the law
spurred them on. Even old Hoodendin - not
so old as to be exempt from this duty, for the
sheriff had summoned every available man at
the Settlement to his assistance - hobbled from
stone to stone, from one rotting log to another,
where he sat down to recuperate from his
exertions. The search degenerated into a mere
form, an aimless beating about in the brush,
before Micajah Green could be induced to
relinquish the hope of capture, and blow the horn
as a signal for reassembling. The bands of
fagged-out men, straggling back to the Settlement
toward dawn, found reciprocal satisfaction in
expressing the opinion that 'Cajah Green had
"keerlessly let Rick git away, an' warn't a-goin'
ter mend the matter by incitin' the mounting
ter bust 'round the woods like a lot o' crazy
deer all night, ter find a man ez warn't
They wore surly enough faces as they gathered
about the door of the store, or lounged on
the stumps and the few chairs, waiting for a
mounted party that had been ordered to extend
the search down in the adjacent coves and along
the spurs. The agile Jer'miah scudded about,
furnishing such consolation as can be contained
in a jug. Had the quest resulted differently,
they would have laughed and joked and
caroused till daybreak. As it was, their talk was
fragmentary; slight and innuendo were in every
word. The sheriff had supplemented his own
negligence by a grievous disregard of their
comfort, and the sense of defeat, so bitter to an
American citizen, completed the æsthetic misery
of the situation.
The wagons still stood about in the clearing;
here and there the burly dark steers lay
ruminant and half asleep among the stumps.
Among them, too, were the cattle of the place;
the cows, milked late the evening before, had not
yet roamed away. Against a dark background
of blackberry bushes a white bull stood in the
moonlight, motionless, the lustre gilding his
horns and touching his great sullen eyes with a
spark of amber light. In his imperious stillness
he looked like a statue of a masquerading
A sound. "Hist!" said the sheriff.
The moon, low in the west, was drawing a
seine of fine-spun gold across the dark depths of
the valley. In that enchanted enmeshment
were tangled all the fancies of the night; the
vague magic of dreams; vagrant romances, dumb
but for the pulses; the gleams of a poetry, too
delicately pellucid to be focused by a pen. The
mountains maintained a majesty of silence. All
the world beneath was still. The wind was
laid. Far, far away, once again, a sound.
So indistinct, so undistinguishable, - they
hardly knew if they had heard aright. There
was a sudden scuffle near at hand. Over one
of the rail fences, gleaming wet with dew, and
rich with the loan of a silver beam, there
climbed a long, lean old hound; with an
anxious aspect he ran to the verge of the crag.
Once more that sound, alien alike to the
mountain solitudes and the lonely sky, then the
deep-mouthed baying broke forth, waking all
the echoes, and rousing all the dogs in the cove
as well as the canine visitors and residents at
"Dod-rot that critter!" exclaimed the sheriff,
angrily. "We can't hear nuthin' now but
his long jaw."
"Jes' say 'Silence in court!' " suggested
Amos James from where he lay at length in
The sheriff nimbly kicked the dog instead,
and the night was filled with wild shrieks of
pain and anger. When his barking was
renewed it was punctuated with sharp,
reminiscent yelps, as the injustice of his treatment
ever end anon recurred to his mind. The sound of
human voices grew very distinct when it could
be heard at all, and the tramp of approaching
horses shook the ground.
Every eye was turned toward the point at which
the road came into the Settlement, between
the densities of the forest and the gleaming array
of shining, curved blades and tossing plumes,
where the corn-field spread its martial
suggestions. When an equestrian shadow suddenly
appeared, the sheriff saluted it in a tremor of
"Hello!" he shouted. "Did ye ketch him?"
The foremost of the party rode slowly forward:
the horse was jaded; the rider slouched in the
saddle with an aspect of surly exhaustion.
"Ketch him!" thundered out Gid Fletcher's
gruff voice. "Ketch the devil!"
The bold-faced deputy was brazening it out.
He rode up with as dapper a style as a man
may well maintain who has been in the saddle
ten hours without food, sustained only by the
strength of a "tickler" in his pocket, whose
prospects are jeopardized and whose official
prestige is ruined. The demeanor of the other
riders expressed varying degrees of injured
disaffection as they threw themselves from their
The blacksmith dismounted in front of the
cumbersome doors of his shop, on which still
hung the sheriff's padlock, and with the stiff
gait of one who has ridden long and hard he
strode across the clearing, and stopped before
the group in front of the store.
He looked infuriated. It might have been a
matter of wonder that so tired a man could
nourish so strong and active a passion.
"Look-a-hyar, 'Cajah Green!" he exclaimed,
with an oath, "folks 'low ter me ez I ain't got
no right ter my reward fur ketchin' that thar
greased peeg, - ez ye hed ter leave go of, -
kase he warn't landed in jail or bailed. That
air the law, they tells me."
"That 's the law," replied the sheriff. His
chair was tilted back against the wall of the
store, his hat drawn over his brow. He spoke
with the calmness of desperation.
"Then 'pears-like ter me ez I hev hed all my
trouble fur nuthin', an' all the resk I hev tuk,"
said the blacksmith, coming close, and
mechanically rolling up the sleeve of his
The blacksmith turned on him a look like that,
of a wounded bear. "An' ye sit thar ez peaceful
ez skim-milk, an' 'low ez ye hev let my two
hunderd dollars slip away?" he demanded.
"Dadburn yer greasy soul!"
"I hopes it air all I hev let slip," said the
sheriff, quietly. There was so much besides
which he had cause to fear that it did not
occur to him to be afraid of the blacksmith.
Perhaps it was the subacute perception that
he shared the officer's attention with more
engrossing subjects which had the effect of
tempering Gid Fletcher's anger.
The rim of the moon was slipping behind the
purple heights of Chilhowee. Day was
suddenly upon them, though the sun had not yet
risen, - when did the darkness flee? - the day,
cool, with a freshness as of a new creation, and
with an atmosphere so clear that one might
know the ash from the oak in the deep green
depths of the wooded valley. The hour had not
yet done with witchery: the rose-red cloud was
in the east, and the wild red rose had burst its
bud; a mocking-bird sprang from its nest in a
dogwood tree, with a scintillating wing and a
soaring song, and a ray of sunlight like a magic
wand fell athwart the landscape.
Gid Fletcher sat vaguely staring. Presently
he lifted his hand with a sudden gesture
"Ye ain't goin' ter be 'lected, air ye, 'Cajah
The sheriff stirred uneasily. His ambition,
a little and a selfish thing, was the index to his
soul. Without it he himself would not be able
to find the page whereon was writ all that there
was of the spiritual within him. He writhed
to forego it.
"Naw," he said, desperately, "I s'pose I
ain't." He pushed his hat back nervously.
He heard, without marking, the sudden
rattling of one of the wagons that had left some
time ago: it was crossing a rickety bridge near
the foot of the mountain; the hollow
reverberations rose and fell, echoed and died
away. One of the cabin doors opened, and a man
came out upon the porch. He washed his face
in a tin pan which stood on a bench for the
public toilet, treated his head to a refreshing
souse, and then, with the water dripping from
his long locks upon the shoulders of his shirt,
the bold-faced deputy, much refreshed by a
snack and his ablutions, came lounging across
the clearing to join them.
Suddenly Micajah Green noted that the
blacksmith was looking at him, with a
significant gleam in his black eyes and a flush
on his swarthy face.
"Who said ye warn't goin' ter be 'lected?"
"Why, this hyar prophet o' yourn on the
"Why did he 'low ez that warn't comin' ter
"He would n't gin no reason."
"He lef' ye ter find that out. An' ye fund
The sheriff said nothing. He was
"An' he met me in the woods, an' 'lowed ez
Rick Tyler ought n't ter be tuk, an' hed done
no wrong; an' he called the gov'nor's reward
blood money, an' worked hisself nigh up ter the
shoutin' p'int; an' called me 'Judas' fur takin'
the boy, sence me an' him hed been frien'ly,
an' 'lowed ez them thar thirty pieces o' silver
warn't out o' circulation yit."
"An' then," the bold-faced deputy struck in,
"he rode up yestiddy, a-raisin' a great
wondermint over a gaynder-pullin', ez if thar'd never
been one before; purtendin' 't war wicked, like
he'd never killed an' eat a fowel, an' drawin'
pistols, an' raisin' a great commotion an' excitin'
an' destractin' the Settlemint, so a man
handcuffed, an' with a rope twisted round his arms
an' legs, gits out of a house right under thar
nose, an' runs away. Rick Tyler could n't hev
done it 'thout them ropes war cut, an' he war
gin a chance ter sneak out. Now, I ain't a
prophet by natur, but I kin say who cut them
ropes, an' who raised a disturbament outside ter
gin him a chance ter mosey."
"Whar's he now?" demanded the sheriff,
rising from his chair and glancing about.
"He was a-huntin' with the posse, las' night,"
said the deputy. "He never lef' till 'bout an
hour ago. He never wanted nobody ter 'spicion
nuthin', I reckon. Mebbe that 's him now."
He pointed to a road in the valley, a tawny
streak elusively appearing upon a hilltop or
skirting a rocky spur, soon lost in a sea of
foliage. Beside a harvested wheat-field it was
again visible, and a tiny moving object might
be discerned by eyes trained to the long stretches
of mountain landscape. The sun was higher,
the dew exhaled in warm and languishing
perfume, the mocking-bird filled the air with
ecstasy. The men stood among their elongated
shadows on the crag staring at the moving
object until it reached the dense woods, and so
passed out of sight.
DOWN a precipitous path, hardly more
civilized of aspect than if it were trodden by the
deer, filled with interlacing roots, barricaded by
long briery tangles, overhung by brush and
overshadowed by trees, - down this sylvan way
Dorinda, followed by Jacob and one or two of
the companionable old hounds, was wont to go
to the spring under the crag.
The spot had its fascinations. The great
beetling cliff towered far above, the jagged line
of its summit serrating the zenith. Its rugged
face was seamed with many a fissure, and here
and there were clumps of ferns, a swaying vine,
a huckleberry bush that fed the birds of the air.
Below surged the tops of the trees. There was
a shelving descent from the base of the crag,
and Jacob must needs have heed of the rocky
depths beneath in treading the narrow ledge
that led to a great cavernous niche in the face
of the rock. Here in a deep cleft welled the
never-failing spring. It always reminded
Dorinda of that rock which Moses smote;
although, of course, when she thought of it, she
said, she knew that Mount Horeb was in Jefferson
County, because a man who had married her
brother's wife's cousin had an aunt who lived
there. And when she had abandoned that
unconscious effort to bring the great things
near, she would sit upon the rock and look with
a sigh of pleasure at that pure, outgushing
limpidity, unfailing and unchanging, and say
it reminded her of the well-springs of pity.
One day, as she sat there, her dreaming head
thrown back upon her hands clasped behind it,
there sounded a sudden step close by. The old
hounds, lying without the cavernous recess,
could see along the upward vista of the path,
and their low growl was rather in surly
recognition than in active defiance. Dorinda
and Jacob, within the great niche, beheld naught
but the distant mountain landscape framed in
the rugged arch above their heads. The step
did not at once advance; it hesitated, and then
Amos James came slowly into view. Dorinda
looked up dubiously at him, and it occurred to
him that this was the accepted moment to
examine the lock of his gun.
"Howdy," he ventured, as he turned the
She had assumed a more constrained attitude,
and had unclasped her hands from behind her
head. The seat was a low one, and the dark
blue folds of her homespun dress fell about her
with simple amplitude. Her pink calico
sunbonnet lay on the rock under her elbow.
The figure of the pudgy Jacob in the foreground
had a callow grotesqueness. He, too, undertook
the demeanor he had learned to discriminate
as "manners." Outside, the old dog snapped
at the flies.
Amos James seemed to thinly an account of
"I hev been a-huntin'," he said, his grave
black eyes on the ride and his face in the
shadow of his big white hat. "I happened ter
pass by the house, an' yer granny said ez ye
hed started down hyar arter a pail o' water,
an' I 'lowed ez I 'd kem an' fetch it fur ye."
Dorinda murmured that she was "much
obleeged," and relapsed into silent propriety.
Extraordinary gun! It really seemed as if
Amos James would be compelled to take it to
pieces then and there, so persistently did it
require his attention.
Jacob, whose hearing was unimpaired, but
whose education in the specious ways of those
of a larger growth was as yet incomplete, got
up briskly. Since Amos had cone to fetch the
pail he saw no reason in nature why the pail
should not be fetched, and he imagined that
the return was in order. He paused for a moment
in surprise; then seeing that no one else
moved, he sat down abruptly. But for her
manners Dorinda could have laughed. Amos
James's cheek flushed darkly as he still worked
at the gun.
"I s'pose ez you-uns hev hearn the news?"
he remarked, presently. As he asked the
question he quickly lifted his eyes.
Ah, what laughing lights in hers, - what
radiant joys! She did not look at him. Her
gaze was turned far away to the soft horizon.
Her delicate lips had such dainty curves. Her
pale cheek flushed tumultuously. She leaned
her head back against the rock, the tendrils of
her dark hair spreading over the unyielding
gray stone, which, weather-shielded, was almost
white. In its dead, dumb finality - the memorial
of seas ebbed long ago, of forms of life
extinct - she bore it a buoyant contrast. She
"I hev hearn the news," she said, her long
lashes falling, and with quiet circumspection, at
variance with the triumph in her face.
He looked at her gravely, breathlessly. A
new idea had taken possession of him. The
rescue, - it was a strange thing! Who in
the Great Smoky Mountains had an adequate
temptation to risk the penalty of ten years
in the state-prison for rescuing Rick Tyler
from the officers of the law? His brothers? -
they were step-brothers. His father was dead.
Affection could not be accounted a factor.
Venom might do more. Some reckless enemy
of the sheriff's might thus have craftily
compassed his ruin. Then there suddenly came
upon Amos James a recollection of the Cayces'
grudge against Micajah Green, and of the fact
that they had already actively bestirred
themselves to electioneer against him. Once,
before it all happened, Rick Tyler had hung
persistently about Dorinda, and perhaps the
"men-folks" approved him. Amos remembered
too that a story was current at the gander-pulling
that the reason the Cayces had absented
themselves and were lying low was because a
party of revenue raiders had been heard of on the
Big Smoky. Who had heard of them, and
when did they come, and where did they go?
It seemed a fabrication, a cloak. And Dorinda, -
she was the impersonation of delighted
"Agged the men-folks on, I reckon," he
thought, - "agged 'em on, fur the sake o'
A sense of despair, quiet, numbing, was
creeping over him.
"'T ain't no reg'lar ail, I know," he said to
himself, "but I b'lieve it'll kill me."
Conversation in the mountains is a leisurely
procedure, time being of little value. The
ensuing pause, however, was of abnormal
duration, and at last Amos was fain to break it,
"This hyar weather is gittin' mighty hot,"
he observed, taking off his hat and fanning
himself with it. "I feel like I hed been dragged
bodaciously through the hopper."
From the shaded coolness of the grotto the
girl admitted that it was "middlin' warm."
Despite the slumberous sunshine here, all
the world was not so quiet. Over the valley
a cloud was hovering, densely black, but with
a gray nebulous margin; now and then it was
rent by a flash of lightning in swift zigzag
lines, yet the mountains beyond were a tender
blue in the golden glow of a sunshine yet more
" 'Pears like they air gittin' a shower over
yander, at the furder eend o' the cove,"
Dorinda remarked, encouragingly. "Ef it war
ter storm right smart, mebbe the thunder
would cool the air some."
"Mebbe so," he assented.
Then he marked again the new beauty
abloom in her face, and his heart sank within
him. His pride was touched, too. He was a
man well to do for the "mountings," with his
own grist-mill, and a widowed mother whose
plaint it was, night and day, that Amos was
"sech a slowly boy ter git married, an' the
Lord knows thar oughter be somebody roun'
the house spry'r 'n a pore old woman mighty
nigh fifty year old, - yes, sir! a-goin' on fifty.
An' I want ter live down ter Emmert's Cove
along o' Malviny, my married darter," she
would insist, "whar thar air chillen, an' babies
ter look arter, an' not sech a everlastin' gang
o' men, a-lopin' 'round the mill. But I dunno
what Amos would do ef I lef' him."
Evidently it was a field for a daughter-in-law.
Amos felt in his secret soul that this was
not the only attraction. He was well favored
and tall and straight, and had a good name in
the county, despite his pranks, which were
leniently regarded. He honestly thought that
Dorinda might do worse. Whether it was tact
or whether it was delicacy, he did not allude
to the worldly contrast with the fugitive from
"I s'pose they won't ketch Rick agin," he
"I reckon not," she said, demurely, her long
black lashes again falling.
He leaned uneasily on his gun, looked down
at his great boots drawn over his brown jeans
trousers to his knees, adjusted his leathern belt,
and pulled his hat a trifle farther over his eyes.
"D'rindy," he said, suddenly, "ye set a heap
o' store on Rick Tyler."
Then he was doubtful, and feared he had
Her sapphire eyes, with their leaping blue
lights and dark clear depths, all blended and
commingled in the softest brilliancy, shone
upon him. The bliss of the event was supreme.
"Mebbe I do," she said.
He turned and looked away at the storm,
seeming ineffective as it surged in the distance.
The trees in the cove were tossed by a wind
that raged on a lower level, as if it issued from
Æolian caverns in the depths of the range. It
was a wild, aerial panorama, - the black clouds,
and the rain, and the mist rolling through the
deep gorge, veined with lightnings and vocal
with thunder, and the thunderous echoes among
Not a leaf stirred on the mountain's brow,
and the great "bald" lifted its majestic crest
in a sunshine all unpaled, and against the
upper regions of the air, splendidly blue. There
was an analogy in the scene with his mood and
A moment ago he had been saying to himself
that he did not want to be "turned off" in
favor of a man who was hunted like a wild
animal through the woods; who, if his luck and
his friends should hold out, and he could evade
capture, might look forward to naught but
uncertainty and a fearful life, like others in the
Big Smoky, who dared not open their own
doors to a summons from without, skulking in
their homes like beasts in their den.
The dangers, misfortunes, and indignities
suffered by his preferred rival were an added
slur upon him, who had all the backing of
propitious circumstance. Since there was nothing
to gain, why humble himself in vain?
This was his logic, - sound, just, approved
by his judgment; and as it arranged itself in
his mind with all the lucidity of pure reason,
he spoke from the complex foolish dictates of
his unreasoning heart.
"I hev hoped ter marry ye, D'rindy, like I
hev hoped fur salvation," he said, abruptly.
He looked at her now, straight and earnestly,
with his shaded, serious black eyes. Her
rebuking glance slanted beyond him from
under her half-lifted lashes.
"I thought ye war a good church member,"
she said, unexpectedly.
"I am. But that don't make me a liar ez I
knows on. I 'd ruther hear ye a-singin' 'roun'
the house in Eskaqua Cove, an' a-callin' the
chickens, an' sech, 'n ter hear all the angels in
heaven a-quirin' tergether."
"That ain't religion, Amos Jeemes," she said,
with cool disapproval.
"Waal," he rejoined, with low-spirited
obstinacy, "mebbe 't ain't."
There was a delicate odor of ferns on the air;
the cool, outgushing water tinkled on the stones
like a chime of silver bells; his shadow fell
athwart the portal as he leaned on his rifle,
and his wandering glance mechanically swept
the landscape. The sudden storm had passed,
the verge of the cloud hovering so near that
they could hear the last heavy raindrops
pattering on the tops of the trees in Eskaqua Cove.
Vapors were rising from the ravine; the sun
shone upon them, throwing a golden aureole
about the opposite mountains, and all the
wreathing mists that the wind whirled down
the valley had elusive, opalescent effects. The
thunder muttered in the distance; the
sharp-bladed lightnings were sheathed; a rainbow
girdled the world, that had sprung into a magic
beauty as if cinctured by the zone of Venus.
The arch spanned the blue sky, and on the
dark mountains extended the polychromatic
reflection. The freshened wind came rushing
up the gorge, and the tree-tops bent.
"Look-a-hyar, D'rindy," said Amos James,
sturdily, "I want ye ter promise me one thing."
Dorinda had risen in embarrassment. She
looked down at Jacob.
"It air about time fur we-uns ter be a-goin'
ter the house, I reckon," she said.
But Jacob sat still. He was apt in "takin'
l'arnin'," and he had begun to perceive that his
elders did not always mean what they said.
He was cool and comfortable, and content to
"I want ye ter promise me that ef ever ye
find ez ye hev thunk: too well o' Rick Tyler, an'
hev sot him up too high in yer mind over other
folks, ye 'll let me know."
Her cheek dimpled; her rare laughter fell on
the air, a fervid faith glowered in her deep,
"I promise ye!"
"Ye think Rick Tyler air mighty safe in that
promise," he rejoined, crestfallen.
But Dorinda would say no more.
THE disappointment which Amos James
experienced found expression in much the same
manner as that of many men of higher culture.
He went down to his home in Eskaqua Cove,
moody and morose. He replied to his chirping
mother in discouraging monosyllables. In
taciturn disaffection he sat on the step of the
little porch, and watched absently a spider
weaving her glittering gossamer maze about an
overhanging mass of purple grapes, with great
green leaves that were already edged with a rusty
red and mottled with brown. A mockingbird
boldly perched among them, ever and anon, the
airy grace of his pose hardly giving, in its
exquisite lightness, the effect of a pause. The
bird swallowed the grapes whole with a mighty
gulp, and presently flew away with one in his bill
for the refreshment of his family, whose
vibratory clamor in an althea bush hard by
mingled with the drone of the grasshoppers in
the wet grass, louder than ever since the rain,
and the persistent strophe and antistrophe of the
frogs down on the bank of the mill-pond.
"Did they git enny shower up in the mounting,
Amos?" demanded his mother, as she
sat knitting on the porch, - a thin little woman,
with a nervous, uncertain eye and a drawling,
"Naw 'm," said Amos, "not ez I knows on."
"I reckon ye 'd hev knowed ef ye hed got
wet," she said, with asperity. " Ye hain't got
much feelin', no ways, - yer manners shows it,
- but I 'low ye would feel the rain ef it kem
down right smart, or ef ye war streck by lightnin'."
There was no retort, and from the subtle
disappointment in the little woman's eye it might
have seemed that to inaugurate a controversy
would have been more filial, so bereft of
conversational opportunity was her lonely life,
where only a "gang o' men loped 'round the
She knitted on with a sharp clicking of the
needles for a time, carrying the thread on a
gnarled fourth finger, which seemed unnaturally
active for that member, and somehow officious.
"I 'll be bound ye went ter Cayce's house,"
she said, aggressively.
There was another long pause. The empty
dwelling behind them was so still that one
could hear the footsteps of an intruding rooster,
as he furtively entered at the back door.
"Shoo!" she said, shaking her needles at
him, as she bent forward and saw him standing
in the slant of the sunshine, all his red and
yellow feathers burnished. He had one foot
poised motionless, and looked at her with a
reproving side-glance, as if he could not believe
he had caught the drift of her remarks. Another
gesture, more pronounced than the first,
and he went scuttling out, his wings half spread
and his toe-nails clattering on the puncheon
floor. "Ye went ter Cayce's, I'll be bound,
and hyar ye be, with nuthin' ter tell. Ef I
war free ter jounce 'round the mounting same
ez the idle, shif'less men-folks, who hev got
nuthin' ter do but eye a mill ez the water
works, I'd hev so much ter tell whenst I got
home that ye 'd hev ter tie me in a cheer ter
keep me from talkin' myself away, like
somebody happy with religion. An' hyar ye be,
actin' like ye hed no mo' gift o' speech 'n the
rooster. Shoo! Shoo! Whar did ye go, ennyhow,
when ye war on the mounting?"
"A-huntin'," said Amos.
"Huntin' D'rindy Cayce, I reckon. An' ye
never got her, ter jedge from yer looks. An' I
ain't got the heart ter blame the gal. Sech a
lonesome, say-nuthin' husband ye 'd make!"
The sharp click of her knitting-needles filled
the pause. But her countenance had relaxed.
She was in a measure enjoying the conversation,
since the spice of her own share atoned for the
lack of news or satisfactory response.
"Air old Mis' Cayce's gyarden-truck suff'rin'
There was a gleam of hopeful expectation
behind her spectacles. With her reeling
"gyarden-spot" dripping with raindrops, and
the smell of thyme and sage and the damp
mould on the air, she could afford some pity as
an added flavor for her pride.
"Never looked ter see," murmured her son,
between two long whiffs from his pipe.
His mother laid her knitting on her lap.
"I'll be bound, Amos Jeemes, ez ye never tole
her how 'special our'n war a-thrivin' this season."
"Naw 'm," said Amos, a trifle more promptly
than usual, "I never. 'Fore I'd go a crowin'
over old Mis' Cayce 'bout'n our gyarden-truck
I'd see it withered in a night, like Jonah's
"It's the Lord's han'," said his mother
quickly, in self-justification. "I ain't been
prayin' fur no drought in Mis' Cayce's
Another long pause ensued. The sun shining
through a bunch of grapes made them seem
pellucid globes of gold and amber and crimson
among others darkly purple in the shadow. The
mocking-bird came once more a-foraging. A
yellow and red butterfly flickered around in
the air, as if one of the tiger-lilies there by
the porch had taken wings and was wantoning
about in the wind. On the towering bald of
the mountain a cloud rested, obscuring the
dome, - a cloud of dazzling whiteness, - and
it seemed as if the mountain had been admitted
to some close communion with the heavens.
Below, the color was intense, so deeply green
were the trees, so clear and sharp a gray were
the crags, so blue were the shadows in the
ravines. Amos was looking upward. He looked
upward much of the time.
"See old Groundhog?" inquired his mother,
"Whar?" he demanded with a start, breaking
from his reverie.
"Laws-a-massy, boy!" she exclaimed, in
exasperation. "Whenst ye war up ter the Cayces',
"Naw 'm," said Amos. He had never
admitted, save by indirection, that he had been
to the Cayces'.
"War he gone ter the still?"
"I never axed."
"I s'pose not, bein' ez ye never drinks nuthin'
but buttermilk, do ye?" - this with a scathing
She presently sighed deeply. "Waal, waal.
The millinium an' the revenue will git thar
rights one of these days, I hopes an' prays.
I 'm a favorin' of ennythink ez 'll storp sin an'
a-swillin' o' liquor. Tax 'em all, I say! Tax
She had assumed a pious aspect, and spoke
in a tone of drawling solemnity, with a vague
idea that the whiskey tax was in the interest of
temperance, and the revenue department was
a religious institution. The delusions of
"Thar ain't ez much drunk nohow now ez
thar useter war. I 'members when I war a gal
whiskey war so cheap that up to the store at
the Settlemint they 'd hev a bucket set full o'
whiskey an' a gourd, free fur all comers, an'
another bucket alongside with water ter season
it. An' the way that thar water lasted war
surprisin', - that it war! Nowadays ye ain't goin'
ter find liquor so plenty nowhar, 'cept mebbe
at old Groundhog's still."
Amos made no reply. His eyes were fixed
on the road. A man on an old white horse had
emerged from the woods, and was slowly
ambling toward the mill. The crazy old structure
was like a caricature; it seemed that only by a
lapse of all the rules of interdependent timbers
did it hang together, with such oblique disregard
of rectangles. Its doors and windows
were rhomboidal; its supports tottered in the
water. The gate was shut. The whir was
hushed. A sleep lay upon the pond, save
where the water fell like a silver veil over the
dam. Even this motion was dreamy and
somnambulistic. On the other side off the stream
the great sandstone walls of the channel showed
the water-marks of flood and fall of past years,
cut in sharp levels and registered in the rock.
They beetled here and there, and the verdure
on the summits looked over and gave the deep
waters below the grace of a dense and shady
reflection. Above the dark old roof on every
hand the majestic encompassing mountains rose
against the sky, and the cove nestled sequestered
from the world in this environment.
The man on the gaunt white horse suddenly
paused, seeing the mill silent and lonely; his
eyes turned to the little house farther down the
"Hello!" he yelled. "I kem hyar ter git
some gris' groun'."
"Grin' yer gris' yerse'f," vociferated the
miller, cavalierly renouncing his vocation. "I
hev no mind ter go a-medjurin o' toll."
Thus privileged, the stranger dismounted,
went into the old mill, himself lifted the gate,
and presently the musical whir broke forth. It
summoned an echo from the mountain that was
hardly like a reflection of its simple, industrial
sound, so elfin, so romantically faint, so fitful
and far, it seemed! The pond awoke, the water
gurgled about the wheel, the tail-race was
billowy with foam.
Presently there was silence. The gate had
fallen; the farmer had measured the toll, and
was riding away. As he vanished Amos James
rose slowly, and began to stretch his stalwart
"I 'm glad ye ain't palsied with settin' so
long, Amos," said his mother. "Ye seem ter
hev los' interes' in everything 'ceptin' the
doorstep. Lord A'mighty! I never thunk ez ye 'd
grow up ter be sech pore comp'ny. No wonder
ez D'rindy hardens her heart! An' when ye
war a baby, - my sakes! I could set an' list'n
ter yer jowin' all day. An sech comp'ny ye
war, when ye could n't say a word an' hed n't a
tooth in yer head!"
He lived in continual rivalry with this
younger self in his mother's affections. She
was one of those women whose maternal love
is expressed in an idolatry of infancy. She
could not forgive him for outgrowing his
babyhood, and regarded every added year upon
his head as a sort of affront and a sorrow.
He strode away, still gloomily downcast, and
when the woman next looked up she saw him
mounted on his bay horse, and riding toward
the base of the mountain.
"Waal, sir!" she exclaimed, taking off her
spectacles and rubbing the glasses, on her
blue-checked apron, "D'rindy Cayce 'll hev ter
marry that thar boy ter git shet o' him. I hev
never hearn o' nobody ridin' up that thar
mounting twict in one day 'thout they hed suthin'
'special ter boost 'em, - a-runnin' from the
sher'ff, or sech."
But Amos James soon turned from the road,
that wound in long, serpentine undulations to
the mountain's brow, and pursued a narrow
bridle-path, leading deep into the dense forests.
It might have seemed that he was losing his
way altogether when the path disappeared
among the bowlders of a stream, half dry. He
followed the channel up the rugged, rock-girt
gorge for perhaps a mile, emerging at length
upon a slope of outcropping ledges, where his
horse left no hoof-print. Soon he struck into
the laurel, and pressed on, guided by signs
distinguishable only to the initiated: some
grotesque gnarling of limbs, perhaps, of the
great trees that stretched above the almost
impenetrable undergrowth; some projecting crag,
visible at long intervals, high tip and cut sharply
against the sky. All at once, in the midst of
the dense laurel, he came upon a cavity in the
side of the mountain. The irregularly shaped
fissure was more than tall enough to admit a
man. He stood still for a moment, and called
his own name. There was no response save the
echoes, and, dismounting, he took the bridle and
began to lead the horse into the cave. The
animal shied dubiously, protesting against this
unique translation to vague subterranean
spheres. The shadow of the fissured portal fell
upon them; the light began to grow dim; the
dust thickened. As Amos glanced over his
shoulder he could see the woods without suffused,
with a golden radiance, and there was a freshness
on the intensely green foliage as if it were
newly washed with rain. The world seemed
suddenly clarified, and tiny objects stood out
with strange distinctness; he saw the twigs on
the great trees and the white tips of the
tail-feathers of a fluttering bluejay. Far down the
aisles of the forest the enchantment held its
wonderful sway, and he felt in his own ignorant
fashion how beautiful is the accustomed light.
When the horse's stumbling feet had ceased to
sound among the stones, the wilderness without
was as lonely and as unsuggestive of human
occupation or human existence as when the Great
Smoky Mountains first rose from the sea.
AMOS and his steed made their way along a
narrow passage, growing wider, however, and
taller, but darker and with many short turns,
- an embarrassment to the resisting brute's
Suddenly there was a vague red haze in the
dark, the sound of voices, and an abrupt
turn brought man and horse into a great
subterranean vault, where dusky distorted
figures, wreathing smoke, and a flare of red fire
"Hy're, Amos!" cried a hospitable voice.
A weird tone repeated the words with
precipitate promptness. Again and again the
abrupt echoes spoke; far down the unseen
blackness of the cave a hollow whisper announced
his entrance, and he seemed mysteriously welcomed
by the unseen powers of the earth. He was not
an imaginative man nor observant, but the
upper regions were his sphere, and he had all the
acute sensitiveness incident to being out of
one's element. Even after he had seated
himself he noted a far, faint voice crying, "Hy're,
Amos!" in abysmal depths explored only by the
sound of his name.
And here it was that old Groundhog Cayce
evaded the law, and ran his still, and defied the
revenue department, and maintained his right
to do as he would with his own.
"Lord A'mighty, air the corn mine, or no?"
he would argue. "Air the orchard mine or the
raiders'? An' what ails me ez I can't make
whiskey an' apple-jack same ez in my dad's
time, when him an' me run a sour mash still
on the top o' the mounting in the light o' day,
up'ards o' twenty year, an' never hearn o' no
raider? Tell me that 's agin the law, nowadays!
Waal, now, who made that law? I never; an'
I ain't a-goin' ter abide by it, nuther. Ez sure
ez ye air born, it air jes' a Yankee trick fotched
down hyar by the Fed'ral army. An' ef I hed
knowed they war goin' ter gin tharse'fs ter sech
persecutions arter the war, I dunno how I'd hev
got my consent ter fit alongside of 'em like I
done fower year fur the Union."
A rude furnace made of fire-rock was the
prominent feature of the place, and on it
glimmered the pleasing rotundities of a small
copper still. The neck curved away into the
obscurity. There was the sound of gurgling water,
with vague babbling echoes; for the never-failing
rill of an underground spring, which rose
among the rocks, was diverted to the unexpected
purpose of flowing through the tub where
the worm was coiled, and of condensing the
precious vapors, which dripped monotonously
into their rude receiver at the extremity of the
primitive fixtures. The iron door of the furnace
was open now as Ab Cayce replenished the fire.
It sent out a red glare, revealing the dark
walls; the black distances; the wreaths of
smoke, that were given a start by a short chimney,
and left to wander away and dissipate
themselves in the wide subterranean spaces;
and the uncouth, slouching figures and
illuminated faces of the distillers. They lounged
upon the rocks or sat on inverted baskets and
tubs, and one stalwart fellow lay at length upon
the ground. The shadows were all grotesquely
elongated, almost divested of the semblance of
humanity, as they stretched in unnatural
proportions upon the rocks. Amos James's horse
cast on the wall an image so gigantic that it
seemed as if the past and the present were
mysteriously united, and he stood stabled beside
the grim mastodon whom the cave had
sheltered from the rigors of his day long before
Groundhog Cayce was moved to seek a refuge.
The furnace door clashed; the scene faded;
only a glittering line of vivid white light, emitted
between the ill-fitting door and the unhewn
rock, enlivened the gloom. Now and then, as
one of the distillers moved, it fell upon him, and
gave his face an abnormal distinctness in the
surrounding blackness, like some curiously cut
"Waal, Amos," said a voice from out the
darkness, "I 'm middlin' glad ter see you-uns.
Hev a drink."
A hand came out into the gleaming line of
light, extending with a flourish of invitation a
jug of jovial aspect.
"Don't keer ef I do," said Amos, politely.
He lifted the jug, and drank without stint. The
hand received it back again, shook it as if to
judge of the quantity of its contents, and then,
with a gesture of relish, raised it to an unseen
"Enny news 'round the mill, Amos?"
demanded his invisible pot companion.
"None ez I knows on," drawled Amos.
"Grind some fur we-uns ter-morrer?" asked
"I 'll grind yer bones, ef ye 'll send 'em down,"
said Amos, accommodatingly. "All's' grist ez
goes ter the hopper. How kem you-uns ter git
the nightmare 'bout'n the raiders? I waited fur
Sol an' the corn right sharp time Wednesday
mornin'; jes' hed nuthin' ter do but ter sot an'
suck my paws, like a b'ar in winter, till 't war
time ter put out an' go ter the gaynder-pullin'."
"Waal" - there was embarrassment in the
tones of the burly shadow, and all the echoes
were hesitant as Groundhog Cayce replied in
Ab's stead: "Mirandy Jane 'lowed ez she hed
seen a strange man 'bout'n the spring, an'
thought it war a raider, - though he'd hev
been in a mighty ticklish place fur a raider, all
by himself. Mirandy Jane hev fairly got the
jim-jams, seein' raiders stiddier snakes, we-uns
can't put no dependence in the gal. An' mam,
she drempt the raiders hed camped on
Chilhowee Mounting. An' D'rindy, she turned
fool: fust she 'lowed ez we-uns would all be
ruined ef we went ter the gaynder-pullin', an'
then she war powerful interrupted when we
'lowed we would n't go, like ez ef she wanted
us ter go most awful. I axed this hyar Pa'son
Kelsey, ez rid by that mornin', ef he treed enny
raiders in his mind. An' he 'lowed, none, 'ceptin'
the devil a-raidin' 'roun' his own soul. But
'mongst 'em we-uns jest bided away that day.
I would n't hev done it, 'ceptin' D'rindy tuk ter
talkin' six ways fur Sunday, an' she got me,
plumb catawampus, so ez I did n't rightly know
what I wanted ter do myself."
It was a lame story for old Groundhog Cayce
to tell. Even the hesitating echoes seemed
ashamed of it. Mirandy Jane's mythical raider,
and mam's dream, and D'rindy's folly, - were
these to baffle that stout-hearted old soldier?
Amos James said no more. If old Cayce
employed an awkward subterfuge to conceal
the enterprise of the rescue, he had no occasion
to intermeddle. Somehow, the strengthening of
his suspicions brought Amos to a new realization
of his despair. He sought to modify it by
frequent reference to the jug, which came his
way at hospitably short intervals. But he had
a strong head, and had seen the jug often before;
and although he thought his grief would be
alleviated by getting as drunk as a "fraish b'iled
owel," that consummation of consolation was
coy and tardy. He was only mournfully frisky
after a while, feeling that he should presently
be obliged to cut his throat, yet laughing at
his own jokes when the moonshiners laughed,
then pausing in sudden seriousness to listen to
the elfin merriment evoked among the lurking
echoes. And he sang, too, after a time, a merry
catch, in a rich and resonant voice, with long,
dawdling, untutored cadences and distortions of
effect, - sudden changes of register, many an
abrupt crescendo and diminuendo, and "spoken"
interpolations and improvisations, all of humorous
The others listened with the universal greedy
appetite for entertainment which might have
been supposed to have dwindled and died of
inanition in their serious and deprived lives.
Pete Cayce first revolted from the strain on
his attention, subordination, and acquiescence.
It was not his habit to allow any man to so
completely absorb public attention.
"Look-a-hyar, Amos, fur Gawd's sake, shet
up that thar foolishness!" he stuttered at last.
"Thar's n-no tellin' how f-f-fur yer survigrus
bellerin' kin be hearn. An' besides, ye 'll
b-b-bring the rocks down on to we-uns d-d'rectly.
They tell me that it air dangerous ter f-f-f-fire
pistols an' jounce 'round in a cave. Bring the
"That air jes' what I 'm a-aimin' ter do,
Pete," said Amos, with his comical gravity.
"I went ter meetin' week 'fore las', an' the
pa'son read 'bout Samson; an' it streck my
ambition, an' I'm jes' a-honin' ter pull the roof
down on the Philistine."
"Look-a-hyar, Amos Jeemes, ye air the
b-b-banged-est critter on this hyar m-mounting!
Jes' kem hyar ter our e-still an' c-c-call me a
The jug had not been stationary, and as Pete
thrust his aggressive face forward the vivid
quivering line of light from the furnace showed
that it was flushed with liquor and that his eyes
were bloodshot. His gaunt head, with long
colorless hair, protruding teeth, and homely,
prominent features, as it hung there in the
isolating effect of that sharp and slender gleam, -
the rest of his body canceled by the darkness, -
had a singularly unnatural and sinister aspect.
The light glanced back with a steely glimmer.
The drunken man had a knife in his hand.
"Storp it, now," his younger brother drawlingly
admonished him. "Who be ye a-goin' ter cut?"
"Call m-m-me a Philistine! I'll bust his
brains out!" asseverated Pete.
"Ye're drunk, Pete," said old Grounhog
Cayce, in an explanatory manner. There was
no move to defend the threatened guest.
Perhaps Amos James was supposed to be able
to take care of himself.
"Call me a Ph-Philistine - a Philistine!"
exclaimed Pete, steadying himself on the keg
on which he sat, and peering with wide, light
eves into the darkness, as if to mark the
whereabouts of the enemy before dealing the blow.
"Jes' got insurance - c-c-c-call me a Philistine!"
"Shet up, Pete. I'll take it back," said
Amos, gravely. "I 'm the Philistine myself;
fur pa'son read ez Samson killed a passel o'
Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, an' ez
long ez ye be talkin' I feel in an' about dead."
Amos James had bent close attention to the
sermon, and had brought as much accurate
information from meeting as was consistent with
hearing so sensational a story as Samson's for
the first time. In the mountains men do not
regard church privileges as the opportunity of
a quiet hour to meditate on secular affairs, while
a gentle voice drones on antiquated themes.
To Amos, Samson was the latest thing out.
Pete did not quite catch the full meaning of
this sarcasm. He was content that Amos should
seem to recant. He replaced his knife, but sat
surly and muttering, and now and then
glancing toward the guest.
Meantime that vivid white gleam quivered
across the dusky shadows; now and then the
horse pawed, raising martial echoes, as of
squadrons of cavalry, among the multitudinous
reverberations of the place, while his
stall-companion, that the light could conjure up,
was always noiseless; the continuous fresh sound
of water gurgling over the rocks mingled with the
monotonous drip from the worm; occasionally a
gopher would scud among the heavily booted
feet, and the jug's activity was marked by the
shifting for an interval of the red sparks which
indicated the glowing pipes of the burly
shadows around the still.
The stories went on, growing weird as the
evening outside waned, in some unconscious
sympathy with the melancholy hour, - for in
these sunless depths one knew nor day nor
night, - stories of bloody vendettas, and
headless ghosts, and strange previsions, and
unnamed terrors. And Amos James recounted the
fable of a mountain witch, interspersed with a
wild vocal refrain: -
Cu-vo! Kil-dar! Kil-dar! Kil-dar!
Thus she called her
hungry dogs, that fed on
human flesh, while the winds were awhirl, and
the waning moon was red, and the Big Smoky
lay in densest gloom.
The white line of light had yellowed,
deepened, grown dull. The furnace needed fuel.
Ab suddenly leaned down and threw open the
door. The flare of the pulsing coals resuscitated
the dim scene and the long, dun-colored
shadows. Here in the broad red light were the
stolid, meditative faces of the distillers, each
with his pipe in his mouth and his hat on his
head; it revealed the dilated eye and
unconsciously dramatic gesture of the story-teller,
sitting upon a barrel in their midst; the horse
was distinct in the background, now dreaming
and now lifting an impatient fore-foot, and his
gigantic stall-mate, the simulacrum of the
mastodon, moved as he moved, but softly, that the
echoes might not know, - the immortal echoes,
who were here before him, and here still.
And behind all were the great walls of the
vault, with its vague apertures leading to
unexplored recesses; with many jagged ledges,
devoted to shelf-like usage, and showing here a
jug, and here a shot-pouch, and here a rat -
fat and sleek, thanks to the plenteous waste of
mash and grain - looking down with a
glittering eye, and here a bag of meal, and here
Suddenly Amos James broke off. "Who 's
that?" he exclaimed, and all the echoes were
There was a galvanic start among the
moonshiners. They looked hastily about, -
perhaps for the witch, perhaps for the frightful
dogs, perhaps expecting the materialization of
Mirandy Jane's raider.
Amos had turned half round, and was staring
intently beyond the still. The man lying
on the ground had shifted his position; his soft
brown hat was doubled under his head. The
red flare showed its long, tawny, tangled hair,
of a hue unusual enough to be an identification.
His stalwart limbs were stretched out at length;
the hands he thrust above his head were
unmanacled; as he moved there was the jingle of
"Why, thar be Rick Tyler!" exclaimed
"Hev ye jes' fund that out?" drawled the
man on the ground, with a jeering inflection.
"W-w-w-why n't ye lie low, Rick?" demanded
Pete, aggressively. "Ef ever thar war a
empty cymblin', it' s yer head. Amos an' that
thar thin-lipped sneak ez called hisself a dep'ty
air thick 'n thieves."
There was no hesitation in Amos James's
character. He leaned forward suddenly, and
clutched Pete by the throat, and the old man
and Solomon were fain to interfere actively to
prevent that doughty member of the family
from being throttled on the spot. Pending the
interchange of these amenities, Rick Tyler lay
motionless on the ground; Ab calmly continued
his task of replenishing the fire; and Ben asked,
in a slow monotone, the favor of leaving the
furnace door open for a "spell, whilst I unkiver
the kag in the corner, an' fill the jug, an' kiver
the kag agin, keerful, 'kase I don't want no rat
When Pete, with a scarlet face and starting
eyes and a throat full of complicated coughs and
gurgles, was torn out of the young miller's strong
hands, old Groundhog Cayce remonstrated: -
"Lord A'mighty, boys! Can't ye set an'
drink yer liquor sociable, 'thout clinchin' that
a-way? What did Pete do ter ye, Amos?"
"Nuthin'; he dassent," said the panting
"Did he hurt yer feelin's?" asked the old
man, with respectful sympathy.
"Yes, he did," said Amos, admitting
vulnerability in that tender æsthetic organ.
"Never none - now - koo - koo!" coughed
Pete. "He hev got no f-f-f-feelin's, koo - koo!
I hev hearn his own m-mam say so a-many a
"He 'lowed," said Amos, his black eyes flashing
indignantly, his face scarlet, the perspiration
thick in his black hair, "ez I 'd tell the
dep'ty - kase he war toler'ble lively hyar, an'
I got sorter friendly with him when I hed ter
sarve on the posse - ez I seen Rick Tyler hyar.
Mebbe ye think I want two hunderd dollars -
hey!" He made a gesture as if to seize again
his late antagonist.
"A-koo, koo, koo!" coughed Pete, moving
cautiously out of reach.
All the echoes clamored mockingly with the
convulsive sound, and thus multiplied they gave
a ludicrous suggestion of the whooping cough.
"I dunno, Mr. Cayce," said Amos, with some
dignity, addressing the old man, "what call ye
hev got ter consort with them under indictment
for murder, an' offenders agin the law. But
hevin' seen Rick Tyler hyar in a friendly way
along o' you-uns, he air ez safe from me ez ef he
war under my own roof."
Rick Tyler drew himself up on his elbow,
and turned upon the speaker a face inflamed by
"Go tell the dep'ty!" he screamed. "I 'll
take no faviors from ye, Amos Jeemes. Kem
on! Arrest me yerse'f!" He rose to his feet,
and held out his bruised and scarred hands,
smiting them together as if he were again
handcuffed. The light fell full on his clothes,
tattered by his briery flight, the long dishevelment
of his yellow hair, his burning face, and the
blazing fury in his brown eyes. "Kem on! Arrest
me yerse'f, - ye air ekal ter it. I kin better
bide the law than ter take faviors from you-uns.
Kem on! Arrest me!"
Once more he held his free hands as if for
Their angry eyes met. Then, as Amos James
still sat silent and motionless on the barrel, Rick
Tyler turned, and with a gesture of desperation
again flung himself on the ground.
There was a pause. Two of the moonshiners
were arranging to decant some liquor into a
keg, and were lighting a tallow dip for the
purpose. In the dense darkness of the recess where
they stood it took on a large and lunar aspect.
A rayonnant circle hovered attendant upon it;
the shadows about it were densely black, and in
the sharp and colorless contrasts the two bending
figures of the men handling the keg stood out in
peculiar distinctness of pose and gesture. The
glare of the fire in the foreground deepened to
a dull orange, to a tawny red, even to a dusky
brown, in comparison with the pearly, luminous
effect of the candle. The tallow dip was
extinguished when the task was complete.
Presently the furnace door clashed, the group of
distillers disappeared as with a bound, and that
long, livid line of pulsating light emitted by the
ill-fitting door cleft the gloom like a glittering
"I s'pose ye don't mean ter be sassy in 'special,
Amos, faultin' yer elders, talkin' 'bout
consortin' with them under indictment," said
old Groundhog Cayce's voice. "But I dunno ez
ye hev enny call ter sot yerse'f up in jedgmint
on my actions."
"Waal," said Amos, apologetic, "I never
went ter say nuthin' like faultin' nohow. Sech
ez yer actions I leaves ter you-uns."
"Ye mought ez well," said the elder,
unconsciously satiric. "The Bible 'lows ez every
man air a law unto hisself. An' I hev fund I gits
peace mos'ly in abidin' by the law ez kems from
within. An' I kin see no jestice in my denyin'
a ride an' a lot o' lead an' powder ter a half-starvin
critter ter save his life. Rick war
bound ter starve, hid out, ef he hed nuthin' ter
shoot deer an' wild varmints with, bein' ez his
rifle war tuk by the sher'ff. I knows no law ez
lays on me the starvin' o' a human. An' when
that boy kem a-cropin' hyar ter the still this
evenin', he got ez fair-spoke a welcome, an' ez
much liquor ez he' d swaller, same ez enny comer
on the mounting. I dunno ez he air a offender
agin the law, an' 't ain't my say-so. I ain't a
jedge, an' thar ain't enough o' me fur a jury."
This lucid discourse, its emphasis doubled by
the iterative echoes, had much slow, impersonal
effect as it issued from the darkness. It
was to Amos James, accustomed to rural logic,
as if reason, pure and simple, had spoken. His
heart had its own passionate protest. Not that
he disapproved the loan of the rifle, but he
distrusted the impulse which prompted it. To
find the hunted fugitive here among the
distillers added the force of conviction to his
suspicions of a rescue and its instigation.
The personal interest which he had in all
this annulled for a moment his sense of the
becoming, and defied the constraints of etiquette.
"How 'd Rick Tyler say he got away from
the sher'ff, ennyhow?" he demanded, bluntly.
"He war n't axed," said old Groundhog
A silence ensued, charged with all the rigors
"An' I dunno ez ye hev enny call ter know,
Amos Jeemes," cried out Rick, still prone upon
the ground. "That won't holp the sher'ff none
now. Ye 'd better be studyin' 'bout settin' him
on the trail ter ketch me agin."
The line of light from the rift in the furnace
door showed a yellow gleam in the blackness
where his head lay. Amos James fixed a
burning eye upon it.
"I 'll kem thar d'rec'ly an' tromp the life out'n
ye, Rick Tyler. I'll grind yer skull ter pieces
with my boot-heel, like ez ef ye war a
"Laws-a-massy, boys, sech a quar'lin', fightin'
batch ez ye be! I fairly gits gagged with my
liquor a-listenin' ter ye, - furgits how ter swaller,"
said Groundhog Cayce, suddenly fretful.
"Leave Rick be, Amos Jeemes," he added,
in an authoritative tone. And then, with a slant
of his head toward Rick Tyler, lying on the
ground, "Hold yer jaw down thar!"
And the two young men lapsed into silence.
The spring, rising among the barren rocks,
chanted aloud its prescient sylvan song of the
woodland ways, and the glancing beam, and the
springing trout, and the dream of the drifting
leaf, as true of tone and as delicately keyed to
the dryadic chorus in the forest without as if
the waters that knew but darkness and the
cavernous sterilities were already in the
liberated joys of the gorge yonder, reflecting the
sky, wantoning with the wind, and swirling down
the mountain side. The spirits dripped from
the worm, the furnace roared, the men's feet
grated upon the rocks as they now and then
shifted their position.
"Waal," said Amos at last, rising, "I'd better
be a-goin'. 'Pears like ez I hev wore out my
He stood looking at the line of light,
remembering desolately Dorinda's buoyant,
triumphant mood. Its embellishment of her beauty
had smitten him with an afflicted sense of her
withdrawal from all the prospects of his future.
He had thought that he had given up hope, but
he began to appreciate, when he found Rick
Tyler in intimate refuge with her kindred, how
sturdy an organism was that heart of his, and
to realize that to reduce it to despair must needs
cost many a throe.
"I hev wore out my welcome, I reckon," he
"I dunno what ails ye ter say that. Ye hev
jes' got tired o'comin' hyar, I reckon," said old
man Cayce. "Wore out yer welcome, -
"Mighty nigh wore me out," said Pete,
remembering to cough.
"Waal," said Amos, slightly salved by the
protestations of his host, "I reckon it air time
I war a-puttin' out, ennyhow. Jes' set that
than furnace door on the jar, Pete, so I kin see
ter lay a-holt o' the beastis."
The door opened, the red glow flared out, the
figures of the moonshiners all reappeared in a
semicircle about the still, and as Amos James
took the horse's bridle and led him away from
the wall the mastodon vanished, with noiseless
tread, into the dim distance of the unmeasured
The horse's hoofs reverberated down the
cavernous depths, echoed, reëchoed, multiplied
indefinitely. Even after the animal had been led
through the tortuous windings of the passage
his tramp resounded through the gloom.
THE displeasure of his fellows is a slight and
ephemeral matter to a man whose mind is fixed
on a great essential question, charged with moral
gravity and imperishable consequence; whose physical
courage is the instinct of his nature, conserved by
its active exercise in a life of physical hardship.
Kelsey had forgotten the gander-pulling, the
impending election, the excitement of the escape,
before he had ridden five miles from the Settlement.
He jogged along the valley road, the reins on the
horse's neck, his eyes lifted to the heights. The
fullness of day was on their unpeopled summits.
Infinity was expressed before the eye. On and on the
chain of mountains stretched, with every illusion of
mist and color, with every differing grace of
distance, with inconceivable measures of vastness.
The grave delight in which their presence steeped the
senses stirred his heart. They breathed solemnities.
They lent wings to the thoughts. They lifted the soul.
Could he look at them and doubt that one day he should
see God? He had been near, - oh, surely, He had been
Kelsey was comforted as he rode on. Somehow,
the mountains had for his ignorant mind some
coercive internal evidence of the great truths. In their
exalted suggestiveness were congruities: so far from
the world were they, - so high above it; so
interlinked with the history of all that makes the
races of men more than the beasts that perish, that
conserves the values of that noble idea, - an
immortal soul. On a mountain the ark rested; on a
mountain the cross was planted; the steeps beheld
the glories of the transfiguration; the lofty solitudes
heard the prayers of the Christ; and from the heights
issued the great sermon instinct with all the
moralities of every creed. How often He went up into
The thought uplifted Kelsey. The flush of strong
feeling touched his cheek. His eyes were fired with
that sudden gleam of enthusiasm as remote from
earthly impulses as the lightnings of Sinai.
"An' I will preach his name!" the parson
exclaimed, in a tense and thrilling voice. He checked
his horse, drew out of his pocket a thumbed old
Bible, clumsily turner the leaves and sought for his
No other book had he ever read: only that sublime
epic, with its deep tendernesses and its mighty
portents; with its subtleties of prophecy
in wide and splendid phrase, and their
fulfillment in the barren record of the simplest life;
with all the throbbing presentment of martyrdom
and doom and death, dominated by the
miracle of resurrection and the potency of
divinity. Every detail was as clearly pictured
to his mind as if, instead of the vast, unstoried
stretches of the Great Smoky Mountains, he
looked upon the sanctities of the hills of Judæa.
He read as he rode along, - slowly, slowly.
A bird's shadow would flit across the holy page,
and then away to the mountain; the winds of
heaven caressed it. Sometimes the pollen of
flowering weeds fell upon it; for in the midst of
the unfrequented road they often stood in tall
rank rows, with a narrow path on either side,
trodden by the oxen of the occasional team,
while the growth bent elastically under the
passing bed of the wagon.
He was almost happy. The clamors of his
insistent heart were still. His conscience, his
memory, his self-reproach, had loosed their hold.
His keen and subtile native intellect stretched
its unconscious powers, and discriminated the
workings of character, and reviewed the
deploying of events, and measured results. He
was far away, walking with the disciples.
Suddenly, like an aerolite, he was whirled
from high ethereal spaces by the attraction of
the earth. A man was peering from between
the rails of a fence by the wayside.
"Kin ye read yer book, pa'son, an' ride yer
beastis all ter wunst?" he cried out, with the
fervor of admiration.
That tree of knowledge, - ah, the wily
serpent! Galilee, - it was thousands of miles
away across the deep salt seas.
The parson closed his book with a smile of
"The beast don't hender me none. I kin read
ennywhar," he said, proud of the attainment.
"Waal, sir!" exclaimed the other, one of that
class, too numerous in Tennessee, who can
neither read nor write. "Air it the Good
Book?" he demanded, with a sudden thought.
"It air the Holy Bible," said the parson,
handing him the book.
The man eyed it with reverence. Then,
with a gingerly gesture, he gave it back. The
parson was looking down at him, all softened
and humanized by this unconscious flattery.
"Waal, pa'son," said the illiterate admirer of
knowledge, with a respectful and subordinate
air, "I hearn ez ye war a-goin' ter hold fo'th
up yander at the meet'n-house at the Notch
nex' Sunday. Air that a true word?"
"I 'lows ter preach thar on the nex' Lord's
day," replied the parson.
"Then," with the promptness of a sudden
resolution, "I 'm a-goin' ter take the old woman
an' the chiller an' wagon up the Big Smoky ter
hear the sermon. I 'low ez a man what kin ride
a beastis an' read a book all ter wunst mus' be
a powerful exhorter, an' mebbe ye 'll lead us all
The parson said he would be glad to see the
family at the meeting-house, and presently
jogged off down the road.
One might regard the satisfaction of this
simple scene as the due meed of his labors; one
might account his pride in his attainments as a
harmless human weakness. There have been
those of his calling, proud, too, of a finite
knowledge, and fain to conserve fame, whose
conscience makes no moan, - who care naught for
humility, and hardly hope to be genuine.
The flush of pleasure passed in a moment.
His face hardened. That fire of a sublimated
anger or frenzy touched his eyes. He
remembered Peter, the impetuous, and Thomas,
the doubter, and the warm generosities of the heart
of him whom Jesus loved, and he "reckoned"
that they would not have left Him standing in
the road for the joy of hearing their learning
praised. He rebuked himself as caring less for
the Holy Book than that his craft could read
it. His terrible insight into motives was not
dulled by a personal application. Introverted
upon his own heart, it was keen, unsparing,
insidiously subtle. He saw his pride as if it had
been another man's, except that it had no lenient
mediator; for he was just to other men, even
gentle. He took pitiless heed of the pettiness
of his vanity; he detected pleasure that the
man by the wayside should come, not for
salvation, but to hear the powerful exhorter speak.
He saw the instability of his high mood, of the
gracious reawaking of faith; he realized the
lapse from the heights of an ecstasy at the
lightest touch of temptation.
"The Lord lifts me up," he said, "ter dash
me on the groun'!"
No more in Judæa, in the holy mountains;
no more among the disciples. Drearily along
the valley road, glaring and yellow in the sun,
the book closed, the inspiration fled, journeyed
the ignorant man, who would fain lay hold on a
true and perfected sanctity.
He dispatched his errand in the valley, - a
secular matter, relating to the exchange of a
cow and a calf. The afternoon was waning
when he was again upon the slopes of the Big
Smoky; for the roads were rough, and he had
traveled slowly, always prone to "favor the
beastis." He stopped in front of Cayce's house,
where he saw Dorinda spinning on the porch,
and preferred a request for a gourd of water.
The old woman heard his voice, and came
hastily out with hospitable insistence that he should
dismount and "rest his bones, sence he hed rid
fur, an' tell the news from the Settlemint."
There was a cordial contrast between this warm
esteem and his own unkind thoughts, and he
suffered himself to be persuaded. He sat under
the hop-vines, and replied in monosyllables to
the old woman's animated questions, and gave
little news of the excitements at the Settlement
which they had not already heard. Dorinda,
her wheel awhirl, one hand lifted holding the
thread, the other poised in the air to control
the motion, her figure thrown back in a fine,
alert pose, looked at him with a freshened pity
for his downcast spirit, and with intuitive
sympathy. He sorrowed not because of the things
of this world, she felt. It was some high and
spiritual grief, such as might pierce a prophet's
heart. Her eyes, full of the ideality of the
sentiment, dwelt upon him reverently.
He marked the look. With his overwhelming
sense of his sins, he was abased under it, and
he scourged himself as a hypocrite.
"Thar air goin' ter be preachin' at the
meetin'-house Sunday, I hearn," she observed
presently, thinking this topic more meet for his
discussion than the "gaynder-pullin'" and the
escape, and such mundane matters. The
tempered green light fell upon her fair face, adding
a delicacy to its creamy tint, her black hairy
caught a shifting golden flake of sunshine as
she moved back and forth; her red lips were
slightly parted. The grasshoppers droned in
the leaves an accompaniment to the whir of her
wheel. The "prince's feathers" bloomed in
great clumsy crimson tufts close by the step.
Mirandy Jane, seated on an inverted noggin,
listened tamely to the conversation, her wild,
uncertain eyes fixed upon the parson's face; she
dropped them, and turned her head with a shying
gesture, if by chance his glance fell upon
From this shadowed, leafy recess the world
seen through the green hop-vines was all in a
great yellow glare.
"Be you-uns a-goin' ter hold fo'th,"
demanded the old woman, "or Brother Jake
"It air me ez air a-goin' ter preach," he
"Then I 'm a-comin'," she declared, promptly.
"It do me good ter hear you-uns fairly make
the sinners spin. Sech a gift o' speech ye hev
got! I fairly see hell when ye talk o' thar doom.
I see wrath an' I smell brimstone. Lord be
thanked, I hev fund peace! An' I 'm jes'
a-waitin' fur the good day ter come when the
Lord 'll rescue me from yearth!" She threw
herself back in her chair, closing her eyes in a
sort of ecstasy, and beating her hands on her
knees, her feet tapping in rhythm.
"Though ef ye 'll b'lieve me," she added, sitting
up straight with an appalling suddenness,
and opening her eyes, "D'rindy thar ain't
convicted yit. Oh, child," in an enthused tone of
reproof, "time is short, - time is short!"
"Waal," said Dorinda, speaking more quickly
than usual, and holding up her hand to stop
the wheel, "I hev hed no chance sca'cely ter
think on salvation, bein' ez the weavin' war
hendered some - an'" - She paused in
"That air a awful word ter say, - puttin'
the Lord ter wait! Why n't ye speak the
truth ter her, pa'son? Fix her sins on her."
"Sometimes," said the parson, abruptly, looking
at her as if he saw more or less than was
before him, "I dunno ef I hev enny call ter say
a word. I hev preached ter others, an' I 'm like
ter be a castaway myself."
The old woman stared at him in dumb
astonishment. But he was rising to take leave,
- a simple ceremony. He unhitched the horse
at the gate, mounted, and, with a silent nod to
the group on the porch, rode slowly away.
Old Mrs. Cayce followed him with curious
eyes, peering out in the gaps of the hop-vines.
"D'rindy," she said, "that thar Pa'son Kelsey, -
we-uns useter call him nuthin' but Hi,
- he's got suthin' heavy on his mind. It always
'peared ter me ez he war a mighty cur'ous
man ter take up with religion an' sech. A
mighty suddint boy he war, - ez good a fighter
ez a catamount, an' always 'mongst the evil, bold
men. Them he consorted with till he gin his
child morphine by mistake, an' its mammy
quine-iron; an' she los' her senses arterward, an'
flunged herse'f off'n the bluff. 'Pears like ter
me ez them war jedgments on him, - though
Em'ly war n't much loss; ez triflin' a ch'ice fur
a wife ez a man could make. An' now he hev
got suthin' on his mind."
The girl said nothing. She stayed her wheel
with one hand, holding the thread with the
other, and looked over her shoulder at the
receding figure riding slowly along the vista of
the forest-shadowed road. Then she turned,
and fixed her lucent, speculative eyes on her
grandmother, who continued: "Calls hisself
a castaway! Waal, he knows bes', bein' a
prophet an' sech. But it air toler'ble comical
talk fur a preacher. Brother Jake Tobin kin
hardly hold hisself together, a-waitin' fur his
sheer o' the joys o' the golden shore."
"Waal, 'pears like ter me," said Mirandy
Jane, whose mind seemed never far from the
culinary achievements to which she had been
dedicated, "ez Brother Jake Tobin sets mo'
store on chicken fixin's than on grace, an' he
fattens ev'y year."
"I hopes," proceeded the grandmother,
disregarding the interruption, and peering out
again at the road where the horseman had
disappeared, "ez Hi Kelsey won't sot hisself ter
prophesyin' evil at the meetin'; 'pears ter me
he ought ter be hendered, ef mought be, 'kase
the wrath he foresees mos'ly kems ter pass, an'
I 'm always lookin' ter see him prophesy the
raiders, - though he hev hed the grace ter hold
his hand 'bout'n the still. An' I hopes he won't
hev nuthin' ter say 'bout it at the meetin' Sunday."
The little log meeting-house at the Notch
stood high on a rugged spur of the Great Smoky.
Dense forests encompassed it on every hand,
obscuring that familiar picture of mountain and
cloud and cove. From its rude, glassless
windows one could look out on no distant vista,
save perhaps in the visionary glories of heaven
or the climatic discomforts of hell, according to
the state of the conscience, or perchance the
liver. The sky was aloof and limited. The
laurel tangled the aisles of the woods. Sometimes
from the hard benches a weary tow-headed
brat might rejoice to mark in the monotony the
frisking of a squirrel on a bough hard by, or a
woodpecker solemnly tapping. The acorns
would rattle on the roof, if the wind stirred, as
if in punctuation of the discourse. The pines,
mustering strong among the oaks, joined their
mystic threnody to the sad-voiced quiring
within. The firs stretched down long, pendulous,
darkling boughs, and filled the air with
their balsamic fragrance. Within the house
the dull light fell over a few rude benches and
a platform with a chair and table, which was
used as pulpit. Shadows of many deep, rich
tones of brown lurked among the rafters. Here
and there a cobweb, woven to the consistence
of a fabric, swung in the air. The drone of a
blue-bottle, fluttering in and out of the window
in a slant of sunshine, might invade the reverent
silence, as Brother Jake Tobin turned the
leaves to read the chapter. Sometimes there
would sound, too, a commotion among the horses
without, unharnessed from the wagons and
hitched to the trees; then in more than one of
the solemn faces might be descried an anxious
perturbation, - not fear because of equine
perversities, but because of the idiosyncrasies of
callow human nature in the urchins left in
charge of the teams. No one ventured to
investigate, however, and, with that worldly
discomfort contending with the spiritual
exaltations they sought to foster, the rows of
religionists swayed backward and forward in
rhythm to the reader's voice, rising and falling in
long, billowy sweeps of sound, like the ground
swell of ocean waves.
It was strange, looking upon their faces, and
with a knowledge of the limited phases of their
existence, their similarity of experience here,
where a century might come and go, working
no change save that, like the leaves, they
fluttered awhile in the outer air with the spurious
animation called life, and fell in death, and
made way for new bourgeonings like unto
themselves, - strange to mark how they differed.
Here was a man of a stern, darkly religious
conviction, who might either have writhed at
the stake or stooped to kindle the flames; and
here was an accountant soul that knew only
those keen mercantile motives, - the hope of
reward and the fear of hell; and here was an
enthusiast's eye, touched by the love of God;
and here was an unfinished, hardly humanized
face, that it seemed as presumptuous to claim as
the exponent of a soul as the faces of the
stupid oxen out-of-doors. All were earnest; many
wore an expression of excited interest, as the
details of the chapter waxed to a climax, like
the tense stillness of a metropolitan audience
before an unimagined coup de théâtre. The
men all sat on one side, chewing their quids;
the women on the other, almost masked by their
limp sun-bonnets. The ubiquitous baby -
several of him - was there, and more than once
babbled aloud and cried out peevishly. Only
one, becoming uproarious, was made a public
example; being quietly borne out and deposited
in the ox-wagon, at the mercy of the urchins
who presided over the teams, while his mother
creaked in again on the tips of deprecating,
anxious toes, to hear the Word.
Brother Jake Tobin might be accounted in
some sort a dramatic reader. He was a tall,
burly man, inclining to fatness, with grizzled
hair roached back from his face. He cast his
light gray eyes upward at the end of every
phrase, with a long, resonant "Ah!" He smote
the table with his hands at emphatic passages;
he rolled out denunciatory clauses with a
freshened relish which intimated that he considered
one of the choicest pleasures of the saved might
be to gloat over the unhappy predicament of
the damned. He chose for his reading paragraphs
that, applied to aught but spiritual enemies
and personified sins, might make a
civilized man quake for his dearest foe. He
paused often and interpolated his own
observations, standing a little to the side of the table,
and speaking in a conversational tone. "Ain't
that so, my brethren an' sisters! But we air
saved in the covenant - ah!" Then, clapping
his hands with an ecstatic upward look, - "I 'm
so happy, I 'm so happy!" - he would go on to
read with the unction of immediate intention,
"Let death seize them! Let them go down
quick into hell!"
He wore a brown jeans suit, the vest much
creased in the regions of his enhanced portliness,
its maker's philosophy not having taken into
due account his susceptibility to "chicken fixin's."
After concluding the reading he wiped
the perspiration from his brow with his red
bandana handkerchief, and placed it around
the collar of his unbleached cotton shirt, as he
proceeded to the further exertion of "lining out"
The voices broke forth in those long, lingering
cadences that have a melancholy, spiritual,
yearning effect, in which the more tutored
church music utterly fails. The hymn rose
with a solemn jubilance, filling the little house,
and surging out into the woods, sounding far
across unseen chasms and gorges, and rousing in
the unsentient crags an echo with a testimony
so sweet, charged with so devout a sentiment,
that it seemed as if with this voice the very
stones would have cried out, had there been
dearth of human homage when Christ rode into
Then the sudden pause, the failing echo, the
sylvan stillness, and the chanting voice lined out
another couplet. It was well, perhaps, that
this part of the service was so long; the soul
might rest on its solemnity, might rise on its
It came to an end at last. Another long
pause ensued. Kelsey, sitting on the opposite
side of the table, his elbow on the back of his
chair, his hand shading his eyes, made no
movement. Brother Jake Tobin looked hard at him,
with an expression which in a worldly man we
should pronounce exasperation. He hesitated
for a moment in perplexity. There was a faint
commotion, implying suppressed excitement in
the congregation. Parson Kelsey's idiosyncrasies
were known by more than one to be a thorn
in the side of the frankly confiding Brother
"Whenst I hev got him in the pulpit alongside
o' me," he would say to his cronies, "I feel ez
onlucky an' weighted ez ef I war a-lookin'
over my lef' shoulder at the new moon on a
November Friday. I feel ez oncommon ez ef he
war a deer, or suthin', ez hev got no salvation
in him. An' ef he don't feel the sperit ter pray,
he won't pray, an' I hev got ter surroun' the
throne o' grace by myself. He kin, pray ef he
hev a mind ter, an' he do seem ter hev hed a
outpourin' o' the sperit o' prophecy; but he hev
made me 'pear mighty comical 'fore the Lord
a-many a time, when I hev axed him ter open
his mouth an' he hev kep' it shut."
Brother Jake did not venture to address
him now. An alternative was open to him.
"Brother Reuben Bates, will ye lead us in
prayer?" he said to one of the congregation.
They all knelt down, huddled like sheep in
the narrow spaces between the benches, and
from among them went up the voice of
supplication, that anywhere and anyhow has the
commanding dignity of spiritual communion, the
fervor of exaltation, and all the moving humility
of the finite leaning upon the infinite.
Ignorance was annihilated, so far as Brother
Reuben Bates's prayer was concerned. It
grasped the fact of immortality, - all worth
knowing! - and humble humanity was
presented as possessing the intimate inherent
principle of the splendid fruitions of eternity
He had few words, Brother Reuben, and the
aspirated "Ah!" was long drawn often, while
he swiftly thought of something else to say.
Brother Jake Tobin, after the manner in vogue
among them, broke out from time to time with
a fervor of assent. "Yes, my Master!" he
would exclaim in a wild, ecstatic tone. "Bless
the Lord!" "That 's a true word!" "I'm so
Always these interpolations came opportunely
when Brother Reuben seemed entangled in his
primitive rhetoric, and gave him a moment for
improvisation. It was doubtless Hi Kelsey's
miserable misfortune that his acute intuition
should detect in the reverend tones a vainglorious
self-satisfaction, known to no one else, not
even to the speaker; that he should accurately
gauge how Brother Jake Tobin secretly piqued
himself upon his own gift in prayer, never having
experienced these stuttering halts, never having
needed these pious boosts; that he should
be aware, ignorant as he was, of that duality of
cerebration by which Brother Jake's mind was
divided between the effect on God, bending
down a gracious ear, and the impression of these
ecstatic outbursts on the congregation; that the
petty contemptibleness of it should depress him;
that its dissimulations angered him. With the
rigor of an upright man, he upbraided himself.
He was on his knees: was he praying? Were
these the sincerities of faith. Was this lukewarm
inattention the guerdon of the sacrifice of
the cross? His ideal and himself, himself and
what he sought to be, - oh, the gulf! the deep
He gave his intentions no grace. He conceded
naught to human nature. His conscience
revolted at a sham. And he was a living,
breathing sham - upon his knees.
Ah, let us have a little mercy on ourselves!
Most of us do. For there was Brother Jake
Tobin, with a conscience free of offense, happily
unobservant of his own complicated mental
processes and of the motives of his own human
heart, becoming more and more actively assistant
as Brother Reuben Bates grew panicky,
hesitant, and involved, and kept convulsively on
through sheer inability to stop, suggesting
epilepsy rather than piety.
It was over at last; exhausted nature prevailed,
and Brother Bates resumed his seat,
wiping the perspiration from his brow and
raucously clearing his rasped throat.
There was a great scraping of the rough shoes
and boots on the floor as the congregation rose,
and one or two of the benches were moved
backward with a harsh, grating sound. A small
boy had gone to sleep during the petition, and
remained in his prayerful attitude. Brother
Jake Tobin settled himself in his chair as
comfortably as might be, tilted it back on its
hind-legs against the wall, and wore the air of
having fairly exploited his share of the services
and cast off responsibility. The congregation
composed itself to listen to the sermon.
There was an expectant pause. Kelsey
remembered ever after the tumult of emotion
with which he stepped forward to the table and
opened the book. He turned to the New
Testament for his text, - turned the leaves with a
familiar hand. Some ennobling phase of that
wonderful story which would touch the tender,
true affinity of human nature for the higher
things, - from this he would preach to-day.
And yet, at the same moment, with a contrariety
of feeling from which he shrank aghast,
there was skulking into his mind all that grew
some company of doubts. In double file they
came: fate and free agency, free will and
foreordination, infinite mercy and infinite justice,
God's loving kindness and man's intolerable
misery, redemption and damnation. He had
evolved them all from his own unconscious
logical faculty, and they pursued him as if he had,
in some spiritual necromancy, conjured up a
devil, - nay, legions of devils. Perhaps if he
had known how they have assaulted the hearts
of men in times gone past; how they have been
combated and baffled, and yet have risen and
pursued again; how, in the scrutiny of science
and research, men have paused before their
awful presence, analyzed them, philosophized
about them, and found them interesting; how
others, in the levity of the world, having heard
of them, grudge the time to think upon them,
- if he had known all this, he might have felt
some courage in numbers.
As it was, there was no fight left in him.
He closed the book with a sudden impulse. "My
frien's," he said, "I stan' not hyar ter preach
ter-day, but fur confession."
There was a galvanic start among the
congregation, then intense silence.
"I hev los' my faith!" he cried out, with a
poignant despair. "God ez gin it - ef thar is
a God - hev tuk it away. You-uns kin go
on. You-uns kin b'lieve. Yer paster believes,
an' he 'll lead ye ter grace, - leastwise ter a
better life. But fur me thar 's the nethermost
depths of hell, ef" - how his faith and his
unfaith tried him! - "ef thar be enny hell.
Leastwise - Stop, brother," - he held up
his hand in deprecation, for Parson Tobin
had risen at last, with a white, scared face;
nothing like this had ever been heard in all
the length and breadth of the Great Smoky
Mountains, - "bear with me a little; ye 'll see
me hyar no more. Fur me that is shame, ah!
an' trial, ah! an' doubt, ah! an' despair, ah!
The good things o' life hev not fallen ter me.
The good things o' heaven air denied. My
name is ter be a by-word an' a reproach 'mongst
ye. Ye 'll grieve ez ye hev ever hearn the
Word from me, ah! Ye'll be held in derision!
An' I hev hed trials, - none like them ez air
comin', comin', down the wind. I hev been a
man marked fur sorrow, an' now fur shame."
He stood erect; he looked bold, youthful.
The weight of his secret, lifted now, had been
heavier than he knew. In his eyes shone that
strange light which was frenzy, or prophecy, or
inspiration; in his voice rang a vibration they
had never before heard.
"I will go forth from 'mongst ye, - I that am
not of ye. Another shall gird me an' carry me
where I would not. Hell an' the devil hev
prevailed agin me. Pray fur me, brethren, ez I
cannot pray fur myself. Pray that God may
yet speak ter me, - speak from out o' the
There was a sound upon the air. Was it the
rising of the wind? A thrill ran through the
congregation. The wild emotion, evoked and
suspended in this abrupt pause, showed in pallid
excitement on every face. Several of the men
rose aimlessly, then turned and sat down again.
Brought from the calm monotony of their inner
life into this supreme crisis of his, they were
struck aghast by the hardly comprehended
situations of his spiritual drama enacted before
them. And what was that sound on the air?
In the plenitude of their ignorant faith, were
they listening for the invoked voice of God?
Kelsey, too, was listening, in anguished
It was not the voice of God, that man was
wont to hear when the earth was young; not
the rising of the wind. The peace of the golden
sunshine was supreme. Even a tiny cloudlet,
anchored in the limited sky, would not sail to-day.
On and on it came. It was the galloping of
horse, - the beat of hoofs, individualized
presently to the ear, - with that thunderous, swift,
impetuous advance that so domineers over the
imagination, quickens the pulse, shakes the
It might seem that all the ingenuity of
malignity could not have compassed so
complete a revenge. The fulfillment of his
prophecy entered at the door. All its spiritual
significance was annihilated; it was merged into
a prosaic material degradation when the sheriff
of the county strode, with jingling spurs, up
the aisle, and laid his hand upon the preacher's
shoulder. He wore his impassive official aspect.
But his deputy, following hard at his heels, had
a grin of facetious triumph upon his thin lips.
He had been caught by the nape of the neck,
and in a helpless, rodent-like attitude had been
slung out of the door by the stalwart man of
God, when he and Amos James had ventured
to the meeting-house in liquor; and neither he
nor the congregation had forgotten the
sensation. It was improbable that such high-handed
proceedings could be instituted to-day, but the
sheriff had taken the precaution to summon the
aid of five or six burly fellows, all armed to
the teeth. They too came tramping heavily up
the aisle. Several wore the reflection of the
deputy's grin; they were the "bold, bad men,"
the prophet's early associates before "he got
religion, an' sot hisself ter consortin' with the
saints." The others were sheepish and doubtful,
serving on the posse with a protest under
the constraining penalties of the law.
The congregation was still with a stunned
astonishment. The preacher stood as one
petrified, his eyes fixed upon the sheriff's face.
The officer, with a slow, magisterial gesture, took
a paper from his breast-pocket, and laid it upon
"Ye kin read, pa'son," he said. "Ye kin
read the warrant fur yer arrest."
The deputy laughed, a trifle insolently. He
turned, swinging his hat, - he had done the
sacred edifice the reverence of removing it, -
and surveyed the wide-eyed, wide-mouthed
people, leaning forward, standing up, huddled
together, as if he had some speculation as to
the effect upon them of these unprecedented
Kelsey could read nothing. His strong head
was in a whirl; he caught at the table, or he
might have fallen. The amazement of it, - the
shame of it!
"Who does this? " he exclaimed, in sudden
realization of the situation. Already
self-convicted of the blasphemy of infidelity,
he stood in his pulpit in the infinitely ignoble
guise of a culprit before the law.
Those fine immaterial issues of faith and
unfaith, - where were they? The torturing fear
of futurity, and of a personal devil and a
material hell, - how impotent! His honest
name, - never a man had borne it that had
suffered this shame; the precious dignity of
freedom was riven from him; the calm securities
of his self-respect were shaken forever. He
could never forget the degradation of the
sheriff's touch, from which he shrank with so
abrupt a gesture that the officer grasped his pistol
and every nerve was on the alert. Kelsey was
animated at this moment by a pulse as
essentially mundane as if he had seen no visions
and dreamed no dreams. He had not known how
he held himself, - how he cherished those
values, so familiar that he had forgotten to be
thankful till their possession was a retrospection.
He sought to regain his self-control. He
caught up the paper; it quivered in his trembling
hands; he strove to read it. "Rescue!"
he cried out in a tense voice. "Rick Tyler!
I never rescued Rick Tyler!"
The words broke the long constraint. They
were an elucidation, a flash of light. The
congregation looked at him with changed eyes,
and then looked at each other. Why did he deny?
Were not the words of his prophecy still on the
air? Had he not confessed himself an evildoer,
forsaken of God and bereft of grace? His
prophecy was matched by the details of his
experience. Had he done no wrong he could have
foreseen no vengeance.
"Rick Tyler ain't wuth it," said one old man
to another, as he spat on the floor.
The widow of Joel Byers, the murdered man,
fell into hysterical screaming at Rick Tyler's
name, and was presently borne out by her
friends and lifted into one of the wagons.
"It air jes' ez well that the sher'ff takes
Pa'son Kelsey, arter that thar confession o'
his'n," said one of the dark-browed men, helping
to yoke the oxen. "We could n't hev kep'
him in the church arter sech words ez his'n, an'
church discipline ain't a-goin' ter cast out no
sech devil ez he air possessed by."
Brother Jake Tobin, too, appreciated that
the arrest of the preacher in his pulpit was a
solution of a difficult question. It was
manifestly easier for the majesty of the State
of Tennessee to deal with him than for the little
church on the Big Smoky.
"Yer sins hev surely fund ye out, Brother
Kelsey," he began, with the air of having
washed his hands of all responsibility. "God
would never hev fursook ye, ef ye hed n't
fursook the good cause fust. Ye air ter be cast
down, - ye who hev stood high."
There was a momentary silence.
"Will ye come?" said the sheriff, smiling
fixedly, "or had ye ruther be fetched?"
The deputy had a pair of handcuffs dangling
officiously. They rattled in rude contrast with
the accustomed sounds of the place.
Kelsey hesitated. Then, after a fierce internal
struggle, he submitted meekly, and was
led out from among them.
IT is seldom, in this world at least, that a
man who absents himself from church repents
it with the fervor of regret which Amos James
experienced when he heard of the unexpected
proceedings at the Notch.
"Sech a rumpus - dad-burn my luck - I
mought never git the chance ter see agin!" he
declared, with a pious sense of deprivation.
And he thought it had been a poor substitute
to sit on the doorstep all the forenoon Sunday,
"ez lonesome ez a b'ar in a hollow tree,"
because his heart was yet so sore and sensitive
that he could not see Dorinda's pink sun-bonnet
without a rush of painful emotion, or her face
without remembering how she looked when he
talked of the rescue of Rick Tyler.
The "gang o' men" - actively described by
his mother as "lopin' roun' the mill" -
lingered long in conclave this morning. Perhaps
their views had a more confident and sturdy
effect from being propounded at the top of the
voice, since the insistent whir of the busy old
mill drowned all efforts in a lower tone; but it
was very generally the opinion that Micajah
Green had transcended all the license of his
official character in making the arrest at the
place and time he had selected.
"I knows," commented one of the disaffected,
"ez it air the law o' Tennessee ez a arrest kin
be made of a Sunday, ef so be it must. But
'pears like ter me 't war nuthin' in this worl'
but malice an' meanness ez tuk ch'ice o' the
minute the man hed stood up ter preach the
Word ter arrest him. 'Cajah Green mus' hev
tuk keerful heed o' time, - jes' got thar spang
on the minute."
"He w-war n't p-p-preachin' the Word,"
stuttered Pete Cayce, antagonistically. "He
hed jes' 'lowed he w-w-war n't fit ter preach it.
No more war he."
He had come down from the still to treat for
meal for the mash. He was willing to wait, -
nay, anxious, that he might bear his share in
He tilted his chair back against the wall, and
nodded his long, drab-tinted locks convincingly.
The water whirled around the wheel; the
race foamed with prismatic bubbles, flashing
opal-like in the sun; the vague lapsing of the
calm depths in the pond was like some deep
sigh, as of the fullness of happiness or
reflective content, - not pain. The water falling
over the dam babbled in a meditative undertone.
All sounds were dominated by the whir
of the mill in its busy, industrial monody, and
within naught else could be heard, save the
strident voices pitched on the miller's key and
roaring the gossip. Through the window could
be seen the rocky banks opposite, their summits
tufted with huckleberry and sassafras bushes
and many a tangle of weeds; the dark shadow
in the water below; the slope of the mountain
rising above. A branch, too, of the low-spreading
chestnut-oak, that hung above the roof of
the mill, was visible, swaying close without;
it cast a tempered shade over the long cobwebs
depending from the rafters, whitened by the
dust of the flour. The rough, undressed timbers
within were of that mellow, rich tint,
intermediate between yellow and brown, so
restful to the eye. The floor was littered with
bags of corn, on which some of the men
lounged; others sat in the few chairs, and
Amos James leaned against the hopper.
"Waal," retorted the first speaker, "'ez fur ez
'Cajah Green could know, he'd hev been
a-preachin' then, an' argyfyin' his own
righteousness; an' 'Cajah laid off ter kem
a-steppin' in with his warrant ter prove him a liar
an' convict him o' sinnin' agin the law 'fore his
"'Pears like ter me ez pa'son war sorter
forehanded," said Pete, captiously. "He hed
proved hisself a liar 'fore the sheriff got thar;
saved 'Cajah the trouble."
"I hearn," said another man, "ez pa'son up-ed
an' 'lowed ez he did n't b'lieve in the Lord, an'
prophesied his own downfall an' his trial 'fore
the sher'ff got thar."
"He d-d-did!" shouted Pete. "We never
knowed much more arter 'Cajah an' the dep'ty
kem 'n we did afore. Pa'son said they 'd gird
him an' t-t-take him whar he did n't want ter
g-go, - an' so they d-d-d-did."
"D-d-did what?" mockingly demanded
Amos James, with unnecessary rancor, it might
Pete's infirmity became more pronounced
under this cavalier treatment. "T-t-take him
w-w-w-whar he didn't w-w-w-want" -
explosively - "ter go, ye fool!"
"D' ye reckon he wanted ter go ter jail in
Shaftesville?" demanded Pete, with scathing
scorn. His sneering lip exposed his long,
protruding teeth, and his hard-featured face was
"Hev they tuk him ter jail, - the pa'son? -
Pa'son Kelsey?" exclaimed Amos James, in a
deeply serious tone. He looked fixedly at Pete,
as if he might thus express more than he said
in words. There was indignation in his black
eyes, even reproach. He still leaned on the
hopper, but there was nothing between the
stones, for he had forgotten to pour in more
corn, and the industrious flurry of the
unsentient old mill was like the bustle of many clever
people, - a great stir about nothing. He wore his
broad-brimmed white hat far back on his head.
His black hair was sprinkled with flour and meal,
and along the curves of his features the snowy
flakes had congregated in thin lines, bringing out
the olive tint of his complexion, and intensifying
the sombre depths of his eyes.
Pete returned the allusion to his defective
speech by a comment on the intentness of the
"Ye look percisely like a ow-el, Amos, -
percisely like a old horned ho-ho-hooter,"
he declared, with a laugh. "Ya-as," he
continued, "they did take pa'son ter jail, bein' ez
the jestice that the sher'ff tuk him afore - old
Squair Prine, ye know - h-he could n't decide
ez ter his g-guilt. The Squair air so onsartain in
his mind, an' wavers so ez ter his knowledge,
that I hev hearn ez ev'y day he counts his toes
ter make sure he's got ten. So the old Squair
h-hummed and h-h-hawed over the evidence, an'
he 'l-lowed ter Pa'son K-Kelsey ez he could n't
b'lieve nuthin' agin him right handy
ez he hed sot under his p preachin' many a time
an' profited by it; but thar war his curious
performin' 'bout'n the gaynder whilst Rick got off,
an' he hed hearn ez pa'son turned his back on
the Lord in a s'prisin' way. Then the Squair
axed how he kem ter prophesy his own arrest
ef he hed done nuthin' ter bring it on. The
Squair 'lowed 't war a serious matter, a
pen'tiary offense; an' he war n't cl'ar in his own
mind; an' he up-ed an' down-ed, an' twisted an'
turned, an' he didn't know what ter do: so the
e-end war he jes' committed Pa'son Kelsey ter
jail, ter await the action o' the g-g-g-gran'
Pete gave this detail with some humor,
wagging his head back and forth to imitate the
magisterial treatment of the quandary, and
putting up first one hand, then the other,
stretching out first one rough boot, then the
other, to signify the various points of the
Amos James did not laugh. He still gravely
gazed at the narrator.
"Why n't he git bail?" he demanded, gruffly.
"Waal, he did n't - 'kase he could n't. The
old man, he fixed the bail without so much
dilly-dallyin' an' jouncin' 'roun' in his mind ez ye
rnought expec'. He jes' put on his specs, an'
polished his old bald noodle with his red
h-h-handkercher, an' tuk a fraish chew o'
terbacco, an' put his nose in his book, an' tuk it
out ter brag ez them crazy bugs in N-N-Nashvul
sent him a book ev'y time they made a
batch o' new laws, - pore, prideful old critter
mus' hev been lyin'! - an' then he put his nose
in his book agin' like he smelt the law an'
trailed it by scent. 'T war n't more 'n haffen
hour 'fore he tuk it out, an' say the least bail
he could take war a thousand d-d-dollars fur the
defendant, an' five hunderd fur each of his
sureties, - like it hev been in ev'y sech case 'fore
a jestice s-sence the Big Smoky Mountings war
Pete laughed, his great fore-teeth, his flexible
lip, his long, bony face and tangled mane,
giving him something of an equine aspect. His
mood was unusually jocular; and indeed a man
might experience some elation of spirit to be
the only one of the "lopers round" at the mill
who had been present at a trial of such
significance. The close attention accorded his
every word demonstrated the interest in the subject,
and the guffaws which greeted his sketch of the
familiar character of the old "Squair" was a
flattering tribute to his skill as a raconteur.
The peculiar antagonism of his disposition was
manifested only in the delay and digressions by
which he thwarted Amos James's eagerness to
know why Parson Kelsey had not been
admitted to bail. He could not accurately
interpret the indignation in the miller's look, and
he cared less for the threat it expressed.
Cowardice was not predicable of one of the Cayce
tribe. Perhaps it might have been agreeable
for the community if the discordant Pete could
have been more readily intimidated.
"Why n't pa'son gin the bail, then?" demanded
"He did gin it," returned Pete, perversely.
"Waal, then, how 'd the sher'ff take him ter
"Right down the county road, ez ye an' me
an' the rest of us hyar in the Big Smoky hev
worked on till sech c-c-cattle ez 'Cajah Green
an' his buzzardy dep'ty hain't got no sort'n
c-chance o' breakin' thar necks over the rocks
"Look-a-hyar, Pete Cayce, I'll fling ye
bodaciously over that thar bluff!" exclaimed
Amos James, darkly frowning.
A rat that had boldly run across the floor a
number of times, its whiskers powdered white,
its tail white also, and gayly frisking behind it,
had ventured so close to the miller's motionless
foot that when he stepped hastily forward it
sprang into the air with a wonderfully human
expression of fright; then, in a sprawling fashion
it swiftly sped away to some dark corner,
where it might meditate on the escaped danger
and take heed of foolhardiness.
"W-w-what would I be a-doin' of, Amos
Jeemes, whilst ye war a-flingin' m-me over the
b-b-bluff?" demanded Pete, pertinently.
"What ails ye, ter git tuk so suddint in yer
temper, Amos?" asked another of the baffled
listeners, who desired to promote peace and
further the account of Parson Kelsey's
examination before the magistrate. "Amos jes'
axed ye, Pete, why pa'son war n't admitted ter
"H-h-he never none, now," said Pete. "He
axed w-w-why Pa'son Kelsey did n't g-gin bail.
He did gin it, but 't-t warn't accepted."
"What fur?" demanded Amos, relapsing
into interest in the subject, and leaning back
against the hopper.
"Waal," said Pete, preferring, on the whole,
the distinction of relating the proceedings
before the magistrate to the more familiar
diversion of bickering, "pa'son he 'lowed he 'd gin
his gran'dad an' his uncle ter go on his bond;
an' the Squair, arter he hed stuck his nose into
his book a couple o' times, an' did n't see nuthin'
abolishin' gran'dads an' uncles, he tuk it out an
refraished it with a pinch o' snuff, an' 'lowed
he 'd take gran'dad an' uncle on the bond. An
then up jumped Gid Fletcher, the blacksmith
over yander ter the Settlemint, - him it war ez
swore out the warrant, - an' demanded the
Squair would hear his testimony agin it. That
thar 'Cajah Green, he sick-ed him on, all the
time. I seen Gid Fletcher storp suddint wunst,
an' wall his eye 'round onsartin' at 'Cajah
Green, ez ef ter make sure he war a-sayin' all
right. An' 'Cajah Green, he batted his eye
ez much ez ter say, 'Go it, old hoss!' Sure
ez ye air born them two fixed it up aforehand."
"I do de-spise that thar critter, 'Cajah
Green!" exclaimed one of the men, who was
sitting on a sack of corn in the middle of the
floor "He fairly makes the trigger o' my
rifle itch! I hope he won't kem out ahead at
the August election. The Big Smoky 'll hev
ter git him beat somehows; we can't hev him
aggervatin' 'roun' hyar another two year."
The fore-legs of Pete Cayce's tilted chair
came down with a thump. He leaned forward,
and with a marked gesture offered his
big horny paw to the man who sat on the bag
of corn; they solemnly shook hands as on a
Amos James still leaned against the empty
hopper, listening with a face of angry gloom as
Pete recommenced: -
"Waal, the Squair, he put his nose inter
his book agin, an' then he 'lowed he 'd hear Gid
Fletcher's say-so. An' Gid, - waal, he 'll be
mighty good metal fur the devil's anvil; I feel
it in my bones how Satan will rej'ice ter draw
Gid Fletcher down small, - he got up an'
'lowed ez pa'son an' his uncle an' his gran'dad
did n't wuth two thousand dollars. They hed
what they hed all tergether, an' 't war n't
enough, - 't war n't wuth more 'n a thousan',
ef that. An' so the Squair, - waal, he looked
toler'ble comical, a-nosin' in his book an'
a-polishin' off the torp o' his head with his red
handkercher, an' he war ez oneasy an' onsartain in
his actions ez a man consortin' accidentally
with a bumbly bee. He tried 'em all powerful
in thar temper, bein' so gin over ter backin'
an' fo'thin'; but ez he war the jestice they hed
ter sot 'round an' look solemn an' respectful.
An' at las' he said he could n't accept the bail,
ez 't war insufficient. The dep'ty looked like
he 'd jump up an' down, an' crack his heels
together; 'peared like he war glad fur true. An'
the Squair, he 'lowed ez the rescue war a crime
ez mought make a jestice keerful how he tuk
insufficient bail. Ennybody ez would holp a
man ter escape from cust'dy would jump his
bond hisself, though he war tol'erble keerful ter
explain ter pa'son ez he never undertook ter
charge nuthin' on him, nuther. An' he hed ter
bear in mind ez he oc'pied a m-m-mighty
important place in the l-law, - though I can't see
ez it air so mighty important ter h-h-hev ter
say, 'I dunno; let the court decide.' "
Amos James remembered the hopper at last.
He turned, and, as he lifted a bag and poured
in the corn, he asked, his eyes on the golden
stream of grain, -
"An' what did pa'son say when he fund it
Pete Cayce laughed, his big teeth making
the facetious demonstration peculiarly
pronounced. He was looking out of the window,
through the leafy bough of the overspreading
chestnut-oak, at the deep, transparent water in
the pond. The dark, lustrous reflection of the
sassafras and huckleberry bushes on the
summit of the vertical rocky bank was like some
mezzotinted landscape under glass. A frog on
one of the ledges at the waterside was a picture
of amphibious content; sometimes his mouth
opened and shut quickly, with an expression, if
not beautiful, implying satisfaction. Pete lazily
caught up a stick which he had been whittling.
The slight missile flew through the air,
catching the light as it went. Its aim was
accurate, and the next moment the monotony of
the placid surface was broken by the elastically
widening circles above the spot where the frog
"The pa'son," he said languidly, having
satisfactorily concluded this exploit, - "at fust it
looked like the c-critter could n't make it out, -
he 'peared toler'ble peaked an' white-faced,
but the way he behaved ter the sher'ff 'minds
me o' the tales the old men tell 'bout'n Hangin'
Maw an' Bloody Feller, an' them t'other wild
Injuns that useter aggervate the white folks in
the Big Smoky, - proud an' straight, an' lookin'
at 'Cajah Green ez ef he war jes' the dirt
under his feet. Waal, pa'son 'lowed, calm an'
quiet, ez I 'd be skinnin' a deer or suthin,' ez
he'd ruther be obligated ter his own f-folks fur
that holp, but ez that could n't be he'd git bail
from others. 'T war n't m-much matter jes'
till he could 'pear 'fore the court, fur nuthin'
could be easier'n ter prove ez he hed n't rescued
Rick Tyler, nor never gin offense agin the
law. An' he turned round ez s-s-sure an' quiet
ter Pa'son Tobin, who hed kem along ter see
what mought be a-doin', an' sez he, 'B-Brother
Jake Tobin, you-uns an' some o' the c-church
folks, I know, will be 'sponsible fur the bail.'
An' ef ye 'll b'lieve me, Brother Jake Tobin, he
got up slanch-wise, an' in sech a hurry the
cheer fell over ahint him; an' sez he, 'Naw,
brother, - I will call ye brother,' - like that
war powerful 'commodatin', - 'I kin not sot
my p-people ter do sech, arter yer words
yestiddy. We kin lose no money by ye, - the
church air pore an' the cause air n-needy. I
kin only pray fur the devil ter l-loose his holt
on ye, f-fur I perceive the devil in ye.' Waal,
sir," continued Pete, drawing a plug of tobacco
from his pocket, and gnawing on it with tugging
persistence, "Christian perfesser ez I be, I felt
sorter 'shamed o' Brother J-Jake Tobin, - he
looked s-s-sech a skerry h-half-liver, 'feard o'
losin' money! Shucks! I could sca'cely keep
my hands off'n him. He looked so - so cur'ous,
I wanted ter - ter" - he remembered the
reverence due to the cloth - "ter trip him up," he
concluded, temperately. "An' then, ez he war
a-whurlin' his fat sides around ter pick up the
cheer, Pa'son K-Kelsey, - he hed t-turned
plumb bleached, like a corpse, - he stood up
an' sez, 'The Lord hev forsaken me!' An'
Brother Jake Tobin humps around, with the
cheer in his hand, an' sez, 'Naw, brother, naw,
ye hev fursook the Lord!' "
"Waal," said the man on the bag of corn,
gazing meditatively at the dusty floor and at a
great yellow cur who had ventured within, as a
shelter from the midday heat, and lay at
ungainly length asleep near the door, "I dunno ez
I kin blame Brother Jake Tobin. 'T would hev
made a mighty scandal ter keep Pa'son Kelsey
in the church, arter what he said agin the
faith. We 'll hev ter turn him out; an' ez he
air ter be turned out, I dunno ez the church
members hev enny call ter go on his bond. He
air none o' we-uns, nowadays."
"Leastwise none o' 'em war a-goin' t-ter do
it," said Pete, quietly. "They air all mindful
o' Brother Jake Tobin's longest ear, ez kin hear
a call from the church yander in Cade's Cove
ev'y time he g-gits mad at 'em. But I tell ye,"
added Pete, restoring his plug of tobacco to his
pocket, and chewing hard on the bit which his
strong teeth had wrenched off, "it did 'pear ter
me ez they mought hev stretched a p'int when
I see the pa'son ridin' off with them two sneakin'
off'cers. He hed so nigh los' his senses with
the notion he war a-goin' ter be jailed ez they
hed ter hold him up in the saddle, else he'd hev
been under the beastis's huffs in a minute."
"Why n't you-uns go on his bond?" asked
Amos James, suddenly.
"Who?" shouted Pete, in stentorian amaze
above the clamor of the old mill.
"You-uns, - the whole Cayce lay-out,"
reiterated Amos James.
His blood had risen to his face. All the
instincts of justice within him revolted at the
picture Pete had drawn, coarsely and crudely
outlined, but touched with the vivid realities of
nature. It was as a scene present before him:
the falsely accused man borne away, crushed
with shame, while the true criminal looked on
with a lax conscience and an impersonal
interest, and thriftily saved his observations to
recount to his cronies at the mill. Amos James
cared naught for the outraged majesty of the
law. The rescue of the prisoner from its fierce
talons seemed to him, instead, humane and
beneficent. His sense of justice was touched only
by the manifest cruelty when one man was
forced to bear the consequences of another's act.
"You-uns mought hev done ez much," he
"I reckon they would hev 'lowed ez we
war n't wuth it," said Pete, quietly ruminant;
"the still can't show up."
"Ye never tried it," said Amos.
"Waal, d-dad, he war n't thar, an' I could n't
ondertake ter speak fur the rest. An' I ain't
beholden no ways ter Pa'son Kelsey. I hev no
call ter b-b-bail him ez I knows on. I hev no
hand in his bein' arrested an' sech."
"Hev no hand in his bein' arrested!" retorted
Pete was staring stolidly at him, and the
other men assumed an intent, inquiring attitude.
Amos James felt suddenly that he had gone too
far. He had no wish to fasten this stigma
upon the Cayces; he had every reason to avoid
it. He did not know how far he had been
accounted a confidant in the intimacies of the cave
when Rick Tyler had found a refuge there.
He could not disregard the trust reposed in him.
And yet he could not recall his words.
Pete's blank gaze changed to an amazed
comprehension. He spoke out bluntly the thought
in the other's mind.
"Ye air a-thinkin', Amos Jeemes, ez 't war
we-uns ez cut Rick Tyler a-loose o' the sher'ff!"
Amos, confronted with his own suspicion,
listened with a guilty air.
"Ye air surely the b-b-b-biggest f-f-f-fool" -
the words seemed very large with these
additional consonants - "in the shadder o' the
B-b-b-Big S-s-s-sm-Smoky M-m-Mountings!"
Pete spread them out with all the magnifying
facilities of his infirmity.
"Waal, then," said Amos, crestfallen, "who
"Why, P-Pa'son Kelsey, I reckon."
THAT memorable arrest in the Big Smoky
was the last official act of the sheriff, except the
surrender of his books and papers and taking
his successor's receipt for the prisoners in the
county jail. The defeat had its odious aspects.
The race had been amazingly unequal. Had
the ground tottered beneath him, as he stood in
the grass-fringed streets of Shaftesville, and
heard the rumors of the returns from the civil
districts, he could hardly have experienced a
sensation of insecurity commensurate with this,
for all his moral supports were threatened. His
self-confidence, his arrogant affinity for authority,
his pride, and his ambition keenly barbed
the prescience of this abnormal flatness of failure.
He was pierced by every careless glance;
every casual word wounded him. He had a
strange disturbing sense of a loss of identity.
This anxious, brow-beaten, humiliated creature,
- was this Micajah Green? He did not
recognize himself, every throb within him had
an alien impulse; he repudiated every cringing
mental process. It was his first experience of
the rigors of adversity; it did not quell him; he
He feebly sought to goad himself to answer
the rough chaff of spurious sympathizers with
his old bluff spirit; his retort was like the
lisp of a child in defiance of the challenge of a
bugle. He saw with faltering bewilderment
how the interesting spectacle increased his
audience; it resembled in some sort an experiment
in vivisection, and where the writhings most
suggested an appreciated anguish, each curious
scientist most longed to thrust the scalpel.
The coroner held the election, as the sheriff
himself was a candidate, and when the result
became known the details excited increased
comment. In the district of the county town
he had a majority, but the unanimity against
him in the outlying districts, especially in the
Big Smoky and its widespread spurs and coves,
was unprecedented in the annals of the county.
He had hoped that the election of judge and
attorney-general, taking place at the same time,
might divert attention from the disastrous
completeness of his failure. But their race involved
no peculiar phase of popular interest, and the
more important results were subordinated, so
far as the county was concerned, to the spec-
tacle of 'Cajah Green, "flabbergasted an'
flustrated like never war seen." New elements of
gossip were added now and then, vivaciously
canvassed among the knots of men perched on
barrels in the stores, or congregated in the post
office, or sitting on the steps of the court-house,
and were ruthlessly detailed to the ex-sheriff,
whose starts of rage, unthinking relapses into
official speech, jerks of convulsive surprise,
prolonged the amusement beyond its natural span.
It ceased suddenly. The adjustment to a new
line of thought and to a future under altered
conditions was facilitated by the inception of an
immediate definite intention and a sentiment
coequal with the passion of despair. The idlers
of the town might not have been able to
accurately define the moment when the drama of
defeat, with which he had prodigally entertained
them, lost its interest. But there was a moment
that differed from all the others of the lazy
August hours; the minimum of time
charged with disproportionate importance. It
might be likened to a symbol of chemistry,
which, though the simplest alphabetical
character, is significant of an essential element
involving life, - perhaps death.
That moment the wind came freshly down
frown the mountains; the glare of the morning
sun rested on the empty, sandy street of the
village; the weeds and grass that obscured the
curbing of the pavement were still overhung
by a glittering gossamer net of dew. A yellow
butterfly flitted over it, followed by another so
like that it could not be distinguished from its
aerial counterpart. The fragrance of new-mown
hay somewhere in the rural metropolis was sweet
on the air. A blue-bottle, inside the window
of the store hard by, droned against the glass,
and seemed in some sort an echo to the
monotonous drawl of a man who had lately been
up in the Big Smoky, and who had gleaned
fresh points concerning the recent election.
"What did ye ever do ter the Cayces, 'Cajah,
or what did Bluff Peake ever do fur 'em?" he
asked, as preliminary to detailing that the
Cayces had turned out and pervaded the Great
Smoky Mountains, electioneering against the
incumbent. "They rid hyar an' they rid thar,
- up in the mountings an' down in the coves;
an' some do say thar war one o' 'em in ev'y
votin'-place in all the mounting deestric's the
day the 'lection kem off, jes' a-stiffenin' up the
Peake men, an' a-beggin', an' a-prayin', an'
a-wraslin' in argymint with them ez hed gin
out they war a-goin' ter vote fur you-uns. Bluff
Peake say they fairly 'lected him, though he
'lowed 't war n't fur love o' him. I wonder ye
done ez well ez ye did, 'Cajah, though ye
could n't hev done much wuss, sure enough.
All o' 'em war out, from old Groundhog down
ter Sol, when they war 'lectioneerin', an' the
whiskey ez war drunk round the Settlemint an'
sech war 'sprisin'. Some say old Groundhog
furnished it free."
The ex-sheriff made no reply. There was a
look in his eye that gave his long, lean head,
deeply sunken at the temples, less the aspect of
that of a whipped hound than it had worn of
late. One might have augured that he was a
dangerous brute. And after that, the
conversation with the recent election as a theme
flagged, and died out gradually.
It was only a few days before he had occasion
to go up into the Great Smoky Mountains, on
matters, he averred, connected with closing
unsettled business of the office which he had held.
As he jogged along, he moodily watched the
distant mountains, growing ever nearer, and
engirdled here and there with belts of white
mists, above whose shining silver densities
sometimes would tower a gigantic "bald," with a
suspended, isolated effect, like some wonderful
aerial regions unknown to geography, foreign
to humanity. The supreme dignity of their
presence was familiar to him. Their awful
silence, like the unspeakable impressiveness of
some overpowering thought, affected him not.
The vastness of the earth which they suggested,
beneath the immensities of the sky, which
leaned upon them, found no responsive largeness
in his emotions. Those barren domes of
an intense blue, tinged with purple where the
bold rocks jutted out, flushed where the yellow
sunshine languished to a blush; those heavily
wooded slopes below the bards, sombre and rich
in green and bronze and all darkling shades, -
touched, too, here and there with a vivid crimson
where the first fickle sumach flared; those
coves in which shadows lurked and vague
sentiments of color were abroad in visionary guise,
in unexplained softness of grays and hardly
realized blues, in dun browns and sedate yellows,
vanishing before the plain prose of an
approach, - he had reduced all this to a scale
of miles, and the splendors of the landscape
were not more seemly or suggestive than the
colors of a map on the wall. It was a mental
scale of miles, for the law decreeing a
sufficiency of mile-posts seemed to weaken in the
ruggedness of the advance, and when he was
fairly among the coves and ravines they
disappeared. He pushed his horse rather hard, as
the time wore on, but sunset was on the
mountains before he came upon the great silent
company of dead trees towering above the
Settlement in the reddening light, and tracing
their undeciphered hieroglyphics across the
valley beneath and upon the heights beyond. The
ringing vibrations of the anvil were on the air;
the measured alternations of the hand-hammer
and the sledge resounded in a clear, metallic
fugue; the flare from the forge fire streamed
through the great door of the blacksmith's shop,
giving fluctuating glimpses of the interior, but
fainting and fading into impotent artificiality
before the gold and scarlet fires ablaze in the
A wagon, broken down and upheld by a pole
in lieu of one of the wheels, stood in front of
the blacksmith's shop, and was evidently the
reason of Gid Fletcher's industry at this late
hour. Its owner loitered aimlessly about; now
looking, with the gloat of acquisition, at his
purchases stowed away in the wagon, and now
nervously at a little barefoot girl whom he had
brought with him to behold the metropolitan
glories of the Settlement. He occasionally
asked her anxious questions. "Ain't you-uns
'most tired out, Euraliny?" he would say; or,
"Don't ye feel wore in yer backbone, hevin'
ter wait so long?" or, "Hed n't ye better lay
down on the blanket in the wagin an' rest yer
bones, bein' ez we-uns started 'fore daybreak?"
But the sturdy Euralina shook her sun-bonnet,
with her head in it, in emphatic negation at
every suggestion, and sat upright on the board
laid across the rough, springless wagon, looking
about her gravely, with a stalwart determination
to see all there was in the famed Settlemint;
thinking, perhaps, that her backbone
would have leisure to humor its ails in the
retirement of home. What an ideal traveler
Euralina would be under a wider propitiousness
of circumstance! And so the anxious parent
could only stroll about as before, and
contemplate his purchases, and pause at the door
of the blacksmith's shop to say, "Ain't you-uns
'most done, Gid?" in a tone of harrowing
insistence, for the fortieth time since the
blacksmith's services were invoked.
Gid Fletcher looked up with a lowering brow
as Micajah Green entered. The shadows of
evening were dense in the ill-lighted place; the
fluctuations of the forge fire, now flaring, now
fading, intensified the idea of gloom. The red-hot
iron that the blacksmith held on the anvil
threw its lurid reflection into his swarthy face
and his eyes; his throat was bare; his athletic
figure, girded with his leather apron,
demonstrated in its poses the picturesqueness of
the simple craft; his sleeve was rolled tightly
from his huge, corded hammer-arm. His
hand-hammer seemed endowed with some nice
discriminating sense as it tapped here and there
with an inoperative clink, and the great sledge
in the striker's hands came crashing down to
execute its sharp behests. while the flakes flew
from the metal in jets of golden sparks.
A man is never so plastic to virtuous impulses
as when he is doing well his chosen work. Labor
was ordained to humanity as a curse; surely
God repented him of the evil. What blessing
has proved so beneficent!
The suggestions entering with the new-comer
were at variance with this wholesome industrial
mood. They recalled to the blacksmith his baffled
avarice, his revenge, and the malice that
had influenced his testimony at the committing
trial. More than once, of late, while the anvil
sang responsive to the hammer's sonorous
clangor, and the sparks flew, emblazoning the
twilight of the shop with arabesques of golden
flakes, and the iron fielded like wax to fire and
force, he had a sudden fear that he had not
done well. True, he had sworn to nothing
which he did not believe, either in the affidavit
for the warrant or at the committing trial; but
the widely chartered credulity of an angry man!
He said to himself in extenuation that he would
not have gone so far but for the sheriff.
He was not glad, with these recollections
paramount, to see Micajah Green again. Some
concession he made, however, to the dictates of
"Hy're, 'Cajah," he said, albeit gruffly, and
the monotonous clinking of the hand-hammer
and the clanking of the sledge went on as
Micajah Green's knowledge of life had not
been wide, but there was space to evolve a
cynical reflection that, being down in the world
now, he must bite the dust, and he attributed
this cavalier treatment to the perverse result of
He had acquired something of the manner of
bravado, from his recent experience as a
defeated candidate, and he swaggered a little as
he strolled about the dirt floor of the shop; glancing
at the forge fire, slumberously glowing, at the
smoky hood above it, at the window opening
upon the purpling mountains and the fading
west. He even paused, and turned with his
foot the clods of the cavity still yawning below
the lowest log, where the escaped man had
There was an altercation at this moment
between the smith and his assistant; for the work
was not so satisfactory as when Gid Fletcher's
mind was exclusively bent upon it, and his
striker officiated also as scapegoat, although
that function was not specified as his duty in
their agreement. Gid Fletcher had marked
with furtive surprise and doubt every movement
of the intruder, and this show of interest in the
only trace of the escape by which was lost his
rich reward roused his ire.
"Even the dogs hev quit that, 'Cajah," he
said, enigmatically, as he caught up the iron for
the new skene and thrust it into the fire, while
the striker fell to at the bellows. The long
sighing burst forth; the fire flared to redness,
to a white heat, every vivid coal edged by a
fan of yellow shimmer. The blacksmith's fine
stalwart figure was thrown backward; his face
was lined with sharp white lights; he was looking
over his shoulder, and laughing silently, but
with a sneer.
"The dogs?" said Micajah Green, amazed.
He did not sneer.
"The dogs tuk ter cropin' in an' out'n that
thar hole fur five or six days arter Rick Tyler
got away," Gid Fletcher explained. "'Peared
ter be nosin' round fur him, too. I dunno what
notion tuk 'em, but I never would abide 'em in
the shop, an' so I jes' kep' that fur 'em," - he
nodded at a leather strap hanging on the rod,
- "an' larnt 'em ter stay out o' hyar. But
even they hev gin it up now."
"I hain't gin it up, though," said Micajah
Green, still turning the clods with his foot.
"I 'll be held responsible by the court fur the
escape, I reckon, ef the gran' jury remembers
ter indict me fur it, ez negligence. An' ef I kin
lay my hands on Rick Tyler yit I'll be mighty
glad ter feel of him."
The blacksmith, without changing his attitude,
looked hard at his visitor for a moment.
Something rang false in the speech. He could
not have said what it was, but his moral sense
detected it, as his practiced ear might have
discovered by the sound a flaw in the metal
under his hammer.
"Ye ain't kem up the Big Smoky a-huntin'
fur Rick Tyler," he said at length.
"Naw," admitted Micajah Green; "it 's jes'
'bout some onsettled business o' the county.
But ef I war ter meet up with Rick in the road
I would n't pass him by."
He said this with a satirical half laugh, still
turning the clods with his foot, the vivid white
light illuminating his figure and his face
beneath his straw hat. The next moment the
sighing bellows was silent, and Gid Fletcher
and his striker had the red-hot metal between
them on the anvil, and were once more forging
that intricate metallic melody, with its singing
echoes, that seemed to endow the little log cabin
with a pulsing heart, that flowed from its
surcharged chamber out into the gray night, to
the deeply purple mountains, to the crescent
golden moon, to the first few stars pulsating as
if in rhythm to the clinking of the hand-hammer
and the clanking of the sledge, - forging
this, and as its incident the durable skene which
should enable Euralina and her parent to leave
the Settlement shortly.
"I hopes ter git home 'fore daybreak, Gid,"
he said, desperately, standing in the door, and
looking wistfully at the iron in process of
transformation upon the anvil. He turned out again
presently, and Micajah Green paused, leaning
against the window, and looking doubtfully
from time to time at the striker. This was an
ungainly, heavy young mountaineer, with a
shock of red hair, a thick neck, and unfinished
features which seemed not to have been
accounted worthy of more careful moulding.
There was a look of humble pain in his face
when the blacksmith angrily upbraided him.
His perceptions were inefficient to accurately
distribute blame; he was only receptive, poor
fellow! and we all know that in every sense
those who can only take, and cannot return,
have little to hope from the world. He was
evidently not worth fearing; and Micajah Green
disregarded him as completely as the presence
of the anvil.
"Talkin' 'bout Rick Tyler, did you-uns go
sarchin' that night - the dep'ty's party - ter
the still they say old man Cayce runs?"
"Naw," - Gid Fletcher paused, his hammer
uplifted, the red glow of the iron on his
meditative face and eyes; the striker, both hands
upholding the poised sledge, waited in the dusky
background, - "naw. We met up with Pete
Cayce, an' he 'lowed ez he hed n't seen nor
hearn o' Rick Tyler."
"Ef I hed been along I 'd hev sarched the
The blacksmith stared in astonishment.
"Pete Cayce's say-so war all I wanted," he
declared; "an' I hed the two hunderd dollars
ez I hed yearned, an' ye hed flunged away,
a-hangin' on ter it," he added.
"I hev a mind ter go thar now, whilst I be
on the Big Smoky, an' talk ter the old man
'bout'n it," Green said, reflectively. He had
drawn out his clasp knife, and was whittling a
piece of white oak which he had picked up
from the ground. With the energy of his
intention the slivers flew.
The blacksmith glanced in furtive surprise at
his downcast face, but for a moment said
Then, "Hain't you-uns hearn how the Cayces
turned out agin ye at the 'lection? Ef they
did n't defeat ye, they made it an all-fired sight
wuss. Ez fur ez I could hear, me and Tobe
Grimes war the only men in the Big Smoky ez
voted fur ye. I war plumb 'shamed o' it arterward.
I hates ter be beat. I'm thinkin' they ain't a-hankerin
ter see ye down yander at the still."
The defeated candidate's face turned deeply
scarlet pending this recital. But he said with
an off-hand air, "I ain't a-keerin' fur that now;
that's 'count o' an old grudge the Cayces hold
agin me. All I want now is ter kem up with
Rick Tyler, ef so be I kin, afore the gran' jury
sits again; an' I hev talked with ev'ybody on
the mountings, mighty nigh, 'ceptin' it be the
Cayces. Which fork o' the road is it ye take
fur the still, - I furgit, - the lef' or the
Gid Fletcher burst into a sudden laugh, almost
as metallic, as inexpressive of any human
emotion, as if it had issued from the anvil. His
face flushed, not the reflection from the iron,
which had cooled, but with his own angry red
blood; his figure, visible in the sullen illumination
of the dull forge fire, was tense and motionless.
"Ye never knew, 'Cajah Green!" he cried.
"Ye don't take nare one o' the forks o' the road.
Ye ain't a-goin' ter know, nuther, from me. I
ain't a-hankerin' ter be fund dead in the road
some mornin', with a big bullet in my skullbone,
an' nobody ter know how sech happened.
Ef ye hev a mind ter spy out the Cayces fur
the raiders, ye air on a powerful cold scent;
thar ain't nobody on this mounting ez loves lead
well enough ter tell whar old Groundhog holds
forth. Them ez he wants ter know - knows
'thout bein' told. Ye ain't smart enough, 'Cajah
Green, ter match yer meanness!"
It is difficult for a man, without the hope of
deceiving, to maintain a deception, and it was
with scant verisimilitude that Micajah Green
denied the detection of his clumsy ruse, and
swore that he only wanted to come up with
Rick Tyler. He went through the motions,
however, while the blacksmith looked at him
with uncovered teeth, and a demonstration that
in a man might be described as a smile, but in
a wildcat would be called a snarl. The fierce,
surprised glare of the eyes added the complement
of expression. Now and then he growled
indignant interpolations: "Naw; ye 'lowed ez
I 'd tell ye, an' ye 'd tell the raiders, an' then
somehow ye 'd hev shifted the blame on me,
an' them Cayces - five of 'em an' all thar kin
- would hev riddled me with thar bullets till
folks would n't hev knowed which war metal
an which war man."
Still Micajah Green maintained his feint of
denial, and the blacksmith presently ceased to
It was Fletcher's privilege to entertain this
visitor at the Settlement, and the behests of
hospitality could hardly be served without
ignoring the disagreement that had arisen
between them. Little, however, was said while
the wagon axle and skene were in process of
completion, and then adjusted to the vehicle by the
light of a lantern. Jer'miah came over from the store,
and presided after the manner of small boys, regarding
each phase of the operation with an interest for which
a questioner would have found no corresponding
fullness of information, - a sort of spurious curiosity,
satisfying the eye, but having no connection with the
brain. Euralina, who was small for her sun-bonnet, a
grotesque and top-heavy little figure stood in the
door of the forge, - also a wide-eyed and impressed
spectator. The blacksmith was a very good illustration
of a rural Hercules, as he riveted his bolts, and lifted
the body of the ponderous vehicle, and went lightly in
and out of the forge. He did his work well and quickly
too, for a mountaineer, and he had the artisan's
satisfaction in his handicraft, as with his hammer still
in his hand, he watched the slow vehicle creak along
the road between the cornfield and the woods, and
disappear gradually from view. The wheels still
sounded assertively on the air; the katydids' iteration
rose in vibrant insistence; the long, vague, pervasive
sighing of the woods added to the night its deep
melancholy. The golden burnished blade of the new
moon was half sheathed in invisibility behind a dark
mountain's summit. The
blacksmith's house was on the elevated slope
beyond the forge, and as he turned on his porch and
looked back he noted the one salient change in the
landscape as seen from the higher level, - above the
distant mountain summit the moon showed its
glittering length, as if withdrawn from the scabbard.
He glanced at it and shut the door.
Micajah Green had the best that the humble log
cabin could afford, and no dearth of fair words as a
relish to the primitive feast. It was only the next
morning, when his foot was in the stirrup, that his
host recurred to the theme of the evening before.
"Look-a-hyar, 'Cajah Green, you-uns jes' let old
Groundhog Cayce be. Ye ain't a-goin' ter find out
whar his still air a-workin', an' ef he war ter hear ez ye
hed been 'quirin' 'round 'bout'n it't would be ez
much ez yer life air wuth."
Micajah Green renewed his hollow protestations,
discredited as before, and the blacksmith, shading
his eyes from the sun with his broad blackened right
hand, watched him ride away. Even when he was out
of sight Gid Fletcher stood for a time silently looking
at the spot where horse and man had disappeared.
Then he shook his head, and went into the forge.
"Zeke," he said to his humble striker, "ye
air a fool, an' ye know it. But ye air a smart
man ter that loon, fur the hell of it air he dunno
he air a loon."
His warnings, nevertheless, had more effect
than he realized. They served as a check on
Micajah Green's speech with the few men that
he met, - all surly enough, however, to repel
confidence, were there no other motive to
withhold it. He saw in this another confirmation
of the Cayces' enmity, and their activity in
weakening his hold on the people. He began
to think it hard that he should be thus at
their mercy; that his office should be wrested
from him; that they should impose unexampled
indignities of defeat; that he should not
dare to raise his hand against them, - nay, his
voice, for even the reckless Gid Fletcher had
cautions for so much as a word.
Some trifling errand which he had used as a
pretext for his journey brought him several
miles along the range, and when he was
actually starting down the mountain, his vengeance
still muzzled, his ingenuity at fault, his courage
faltering, all the intention of his journey merged
in its subterfuge, he found himself upon the
road which led past the Cayces' house, and in
many serpentine windings down the long,
jagged slopes to the base. Noontide was near.
The shadows were short. He heard the bees
droning. The far-away mountains were of an
exquisite ethereal azure, discrediting the opaque
turquoise blue of the sky. The dark wooded
coves had a clear distinctness of tone and
definiteness of detail, despite the distance. The
harmonies of color that filled the landscape
culminated in a crimson sumach growing hard by
in a corner of a rail fence. The little house
was still. The muffled tread of his horse's
hoofs in the deep, dry sand did not rouse the
sleeping hounds under the porch. The vines
clambering to its roof were full of tiny yellow
gourds; he could see through the gaps Dorinda's
spinning-wheel against the wall. A hazy
curl of smoke wreathed upward from the chimney
with a deliberate grace in the sunshine.
He smelled the warm fragrance of the apples in
the orchard at the rear, stretching along the
mountain side. The corn that Dorinda had
ploughed on the steep slope was high, and
waved above the staked and ridered fence.
There were wild blue morning-glories among
it, the blossoms still open here and there under
a sheltering canopy of blades; and there were
trumpet flowers too, boldly facing the blazing
sun with a beauty as ardent. He looked up at
this still picture more than once, as he paused
for his horse to drink at the wayside trough,
and then he rode on down the mountain,
speculating on his baffled mission.
He hardly knew how far he had gone when
he heard voices in loud altercation. He could
not give immediate attention, for he was in a
rocky section of the road, so full of bowlders and
outcropping ledges that it was easy to divine
that the overseer had a lenient interpretation of
the idea of repair. Once his horse fell, and after
pulling the animal up, with an oath of irritation,
he came, suddenly, turning sharply around
a jutting crag, upon another rider and a recalcitrant
steed. This rider was a child, carried on
the shoulders of a girl of twelve or so, who had
a peculiarly wiry and alert appearance, with
long legs, a precipitate and bounding action, a
tousled mane, the forelock flanging in her wild,
excited eyes. He recognized at once the filly-like
Miranda Jane, before either caught a
glimpse of him, and he heard enough of her
remonstrance to acquaint him with Jacob's tyranny
in insisting that his unshod steed should
keep straight up the rocky "big road," as he
ambitiously called it, in lieu of turning aside in
the sandy by-ways of a cow-path.
The expedient flashed through Micajah
Green's mind in an instant. He drew up his
horse. "I 'll give ye a lift, bubby," he said;
then, with a mighty effort at recollection,
"Howdy, Mirandy Jane!" he cried, jubilantly.
His success in recalling the name affected him
like an inspiration.
The girl had shied off, according to her custom,
with a visible tremor, looking at him with
big eyes and a quivering nostril, instantly
accounting him a raider. As he called her name
she stopped, and stared dubiously at him.
"How 's granny," he asked familiarly, "an'
"She 's well," Miranda Jane returned, lumping
them in the singular number.
Had he inquired for the men folks, she would
have been alarmed. As it was, she began to
be at ease. She could not at once remember
him, it was true, but he was evidently a
familiar of the family.
"Come, bubby," he said to Jacob, who had
been peering over Miranda Jane's head, sharing
her doubts, but sturdily repudiating her fears,
"I'll gin ye a ride ter the trough."
Jacob held up his arms, he was swung to the
pommel, and the cortége started, Miranda Jane
nimbly following in the rear.
Such simple things Jacob said, elicited by
questions the craft of which he could not divine.
Where had he been? He and Mirandy Jane
had gone with the apples in the wagon, but the
wagon had afterward been driven to the mill,
and Mirandy Jane had been charged by D'rindy
to "tote" him on the way home if he got tired,
and Mirandy Jane wanted to tote him in the
cow-path, 'mongst the briers. And where did
he say he went with the apples? To the cave.
"To the cave!" exclaimed the querist,
"Over yander on the backbone," returned
the guileless Jacob, reinforcing the information
with a stubby forefinger, pointing toward the
base of the mountain.
And here was the trough. And Miranda
Jane and Jacob stood by the roadside to regretfully
watch the big gray horse trot slowly away.
THERE came a change in the weather. A
vagueness fell upon the landscape. The
farthest mountains receded into invisibility, and
the horizon was marked by an outline of
summits hitherto familiar in the middle distance.
The sunshine was languid, slumberous. A haze
clothed the air in a splendid garb of translucent,
gold-tinted folds, and trailing across the
dim blue of the ranges invested them with
many a dreamy illusion. Athwart the sky were
long sweeps of fibrous white clouds presaging
rain. Since dawn they were thickening; silent
in the intense stillness of the noontide, they
gathered and overspread the heavens and quenched
the sun, and bereaved the vapors hanging in the
ravines of all the poetic glamours of reflection.
A rain-crow was huskily cawing on the trough
by the roadside where he had perched. Dorinda
heard the guttural note, and went out to
gather up the fruit spread to dry on boards that
were stretched from stone to stone. Dark
clouds were rolling up from the west. She
paused to see them submerge Chilhowee, its
outline stark and hard beneath their turbulent
whirl; toward the south their heavy folds broke
into sudden commotion, and they were torn into
fringes as the rain began to fall. The mist
followed and isolated the Great Smoky from all
the rest of the world.
And now the little house was as lonely as the
ark on Ararat. The mists possessed the
universe. They filled the forests and lay upon the
corn and hid the "gyarden-spot," and came
skulking about the porch, peering through the
vines in a ghostly fashion. Presently they
sifted through, and whenever the door was
opened it showed them lurking there as if
wistfully waiting or with some half humanized
curiosity. Night stole on, and the ruddy flare of
the fire had heightened suggestions of good
cheer and comfort, because of these waifs of
the rain and the air shivering in chilly guise
about the door. The men came to supper and
all went again, except Pete. He was ailing, he
declared, and betook himself to bed betimes.
The house grew quiet. The grandmother nodded
over her knitting, with a limp falling of the
lower jaw, occasional spasmodic gestures, and
an absorbed, unfamiliar expression of
countenance. Dorinda in her low chair sat in the
glow of the fire. As it rose and fell it cast a
warm light or a dreamy shadow on her delicately
rounded cheek and her shining eyes. One
disheveled tress of her dense black hair fell over
the red kerchief twisted around her neck. Her
blue homespun dress lay in lustreless folds about
her. The shadowy and rude interior of the
room - the dark brown of the logs of the wall
and the intervening yellow clay daubing; the
great clumsy warping-bars; the pendent peltry
and pop-corn and strings of red pepper swaying
from the rafters; the puncheon floor gilded by
the firelight; the deep yawning chimney with
its heaps of ashes and its pulsating coals -
all formed in the rich colors and soft blending
of detail an harmonious setting for her
vivid, definite face, as she settled herself to
work at her evening "stent." Her reel was
before her; the spokes, worn smooth and dark
and glossy by age and use, reflected with
polished lustre the glimmer of the fire. She had
a broche in her hand, just taken from the spindle.
For the lack of the more modern broche-holder
she thrust a stick through the tunnel of
the shuck on which the yarn was wound, placing
the end of it, to hold it steady, in her low shoe;
catching the thread between her deft fingers she
threw it with a fine free gesture over the
periphery of the reel. And then the whirling
spokes were only a rayonnant suggestion, so
swiftly they sped round and round in the light
of the fire, and a musical low whir broke forth.
Now and then the reel ticked and told off
another cut, and she would bend forward to tie
the thread with a practiced, dextrous hand.
The downpour of the rain had a dreary,
melancholy persistence, beating upon the roof and
splashing from the eaves into the puddles
beneath. At intervals a drop fell down the wide
chimney and hissed upon the coals.
Suddenly there was another splash, differing
in its abrupt energy; a foot had slipped outside
and groping hands were laid upon the wall.
Dorinda sprang up with a white face and tense
muscles. The old woman was suddenly bolt
upright in her corner, although not recognizing
"Hurry 'long, D'rindy," she said, peremptorily,
"you-uns ain't goin' ter reel a hank ef
ye don't mosey. What ails the gal?" she
broke off, her attention attracted to her
granddaughter's changed expression.
"Thar's suthin' out o' doors," said Dorinda,
in a tremulous whisper. "I hearn 'em step
whenst ye war asleep."
"I ain't batted my eye this night," said her
grandmother, with the force of conviction. "I
ain t slep' a wink. An' ye never hearn nuthin'."
There was a bolder demonstration outside;
a foot-fall sounded on the porch and a hand
tried the latch.
"Massy on us! Raiders!" shrieked the old
woman, rising precipitately, her knitting falling
from her lap, the ball of yarn rolling away and
the kitten springing after it.
Dorinda ran to the door - perhaps to put up
the bar. But with sudden courage she lifted
the latch. Outside were the ghostly vapors,
white and visible in the light from within. She
peered out doubtfully for a moment. A sudden
rush of color surged into her face; she made a
feint of closing the door and ran back to her
work, looking over her shoulder with radiant
eyes; she caught up the broche, sticking it
deftly in her shoe, seated herself in her low
chair, and with her light free gesture led the
thread over the reel.
"Massy on us!" shrilled the old woman
aghast. "D'rindy, shet the door! Be ye a-lettin'
the lawless ones in on us! raiders an' sech,
scoutin' 'roun' in the fog - an' nobody hyar
but Pete, ez could n't be waked up right handy
with nuthin' more wholesome 'n a bullet -
There was a man's figure in the doorway - a
slow, hesitating figure, and Rick Tyler, his face
grave arid dubious, embarrassed by the
complicated effort to look at Dorinda and yet seem to
ignore her, trod heavily in, and with a soft and
circumspect manner closed the door.
"I kem over hyar, Mis' Cayce," he remarked,
"ez I 'lowed mebbe the boys war at the still
an 'ye felt lonesome, bein' ez it air rainin' right
smart, an'" - he hesitated.
"Howdy, Rick - howdy!" she exclaimed,
cordially. He had the benefit of her relief in
finding the visitor not a raider. "Jes' sot yer
bones down hyar by the fire. Airish out o'
doors, ain't it? I 'm powerful glad ter see ye.
D'rindy ain't much company when she air busy,
an' the weavin' ain't done yit."
"I 'lowed ez I mought resk comin' up hyar
wunst in a while now," he said, with a covert
glance at Dorinda. "I ain't keerin' much fur
the new sher'ff, 'kase he air a town man, an'
don't know me; an' the new constable, he
'lowed over yander ter the store ez he war a
off'cer o' the law, an' not a shootin' mark fur
folks ez war minded ter hide out; an' Gid
Fletcher hev been told ez he 'd hev others ter
deal with ef he ondertook ter fool along
arrestin' me agin. So I hev got no call ter stay
ez close in the bresh ez I hev been, though I
ain't a-goin' ter furgit these hyar consarns,
He glanced down at the glimmer of steel in
his belt, where Dorinda recognized her father's
"Bes' be on the safe side," said the old
woman approvingly, her nimble needles
quivering in the light. "But law! I useter know a
man over yander on Chilhowee Mounting, whar
I lived afore I war married, an' he hed killed
fower men, - though I b'lieve one o' 'em war a
Injun, - an' he hed no call ter aggervate hisself
with sher'ffs' nor shootin'-irons, nuther. He
walked 'round ez favored an' free ez my old
tur-r-key gobbler. Though some said he hed
bad dreams. But ez he war a hearty feeder
they mought hev kem from the stummick
stiddier the heart."
The young man listened with a doubtful
mien. He was thrown back at his ease in the
splint-bottomed chair. One stalwart leg, the
boot reaching over his trousers to the knee,
was stretched out to the fire; from the damp
sole the steam was starting in the warm air.
On his other knee one of the shooting irons in
question rested; he held it lightly with one
hand. The other hand was thrust into the belt
that girded his brown jeans coat. His tawny
yellow hair, the ends of a deeper tint, being
wet, hung to his coat collar. His hat, from the
broad brim of which rain-drops were still
trickling, was deposited beneath the chair, and the
kitten was investigating it with a dainty, scornful
white mitten. He bore the marks of his
trials in his sharpened features; his face took
on readily a lowering expression, and a touch
of anger kindled the smouldering fire in his
"But I hev killed no man," he said, with
emphasis. "I hev hurt nobody. Ef I hed,
't would n't be no more 'n I oughter do ter
g'long with the sher'ff an' leave it ter men.
But I ain't done no harm. An' I don't want
ter stay in jail, an' be tried, an' kem ter jedgmint,
an' sech, an' mebbe hev them buzzardy
lawyers fix suthin' on me ennyways."
All through this speech the old woman tried
"Laws-a-massy, Rick," she said at length,
"ye hev got mighty tetchy sence ye hev been
hid out. I ain't sayin' nuthin' agin you-uns, ez
I knows on - nor agin that man that lived on
Chilhowee Mounting, nuther. I can't sot
myself ter jedge o' him. He war a perfessin'
member, an' he hed a powerful gift in 'quirin'; useter
raise the chune reg'lar at all the meetin's ez fur
back ez I kin remember."
Her interest in the visit was impaired to some
degree by this collision; she would have rejoiced
to express her mental estimate of Rick as the
"headin'-est critter in the kentry," but her
hospitable instincts constrained her, and she
nobly swallowed her vexation. His presence,
however, "hectored" her, and she seized an
excuse to absent herself presently, saying that she
had to get her clean plaid coat to mend, "bein'
ez when it last hung on the clothes-line that
thar fresky young hound named Bose stood on
his hind legs ter gnaw it, an' actially chewed a
piece out'n it, an' I hev ter put a wedge in it
afore I kin wear it."
She creaked away into the next room, and as
the door shut he turned his eyes for the first
time on Dorinda. The fire-light played on the
reel, whirling in a lustrous circle before her, on
the broche stuck in the rough little shoe, on her
arm, uplifted in a graceful curve as she held the
thread. Her brilliant eyes were grave and
intent; her dense black hair and her dark blue
dress heightened the fairness of her face, and
the crimson kerchief about her throat was
hardly more vivid than the flush on her cheeks.
The knowledge that her embarrassment was
greater than his own made him bolder. They
sat, however, some time in silence. Then, his
heart waxing soft in the coveted domestic
atmosphere and the contemplation of the
picture before him, he said, gently, -
"They air all agin me, D'rindy."
She forgot herself instantly. She looked full
at him with soft melancholy deprecation.
"They don't hender ye none," she said.
"Ye don't sot no store by me nuther, these
days, D'rindy," he went on, with a thrill of
elation in his heart belying the doubt and
despair in his speech.
The reel ticked and told off another cut. She
leaned forward to tie the thread. She could
not lift her eyelids now; still he saw the vivid
sapphire iris, half eclipsed by the long black
He patted the pistol on his knee.
"Would ye be afeard, D'rindy, ter marry a
man ez would hev ter keep his life, and yourn,
mebbe, with this pistol? Would ye be afeard
ter live in his house along o' him, a hunted
critter, - an' set an' sing in his door, when the
muzzle of a rifle or the sher'ff's revolver mought
peek through the rails of the fence? Would ye
He put the weapon slowly into his belt.
"Would ye be afeard?" he reiterated.
The reel stopped. She turned her eyes,
dilated with a splendid boldness, full upon him.
How they flouted fear!
Such audacity of courage seemed to him
gallant in a man; in a woman, expressing faith
in his valiance, it was enchanting. He lost his
slow decorum. He caught the hand that held
the thread. She could not withdraw it from
that strong ecstatic clutch, and as she started,
protesting, to her feet, he rose too, overturning
the reel; and the kitten made merry confusion
in the methodical cuts.
"D'rindy," he exclaimed, catching her in his
arms, "thar ain't no need ter be afeard! Word
kem up the mounting - I got it from Steve
Byers - ez when Abednego Tynes war tried
he plead guilty, an' axed ter go on the stand
an' make a statement. An' he told the truth
at last - at last! An' he war sentenced, an'
the case war nolle prosequied agin me! An' ye
war n't afeard! Ye would hev married me an'
resked it. Ye war n't afeard!"
She was tall, and her agitated upturned face
was close to his shoulder. He knew it was
simply unpardonable, according to the rigid
decorums of their code of manners, but the
impetuosity of his joy overbore him, and he bent
down and kissed her lips.
Dorinda's courage! - it was gone. She
looked so frightened and amazed that he
relaxed his clasp. "Ye know, D'rindy," he said,
apologetically, "I'm fairly out'n my head with
She stood trembling, her hand pressed to her
beating heart, her head whirling. And then,
he never forgot it, of her own accord she laid
her other hand on his breast. "I always believed
ye war good, good, good!"
And the wild winds whirled around the Great
Smoky, and the world was given over to the
clouds and the night, and the rain fell, and the
drops splashed with a dreary sound down from
the eaves of the house.
They did not hear. How little they heeded.
Within, all the atmosphere was suffused by
that wonderful irradiation of love, and
happiness, and hope that was confidence. The
fire might flare if it listed. The shadows might
flicker if they would. It seemed to them at the
moment each would never see aught, care for
aught, save what was expressed in the other's
The kitten had waxed riotous in the
unprecedented opportunities of the reel, still lying
with all its tangled yellow yarn upon the floor.
As it sprang tigerishly in the air and fell, fixing
its predatory claws in another cut, Dorinda
looked down with a startled air.
"Granny 'll be axin' mighty p'inted how
that thar spun-truck kem ter be twisted so,"
she said, crestfallen and prescient. "It looks
like a hurrah's nest."
"Tell her ez how 't war the cat," said Rick.
Dorinda shook her head dubiously.
"The cat could n't hev got it ef the reel
hed n't been flunged on the floor."
"Let 's wind it inter balls, then," suggested
Rick, quick at expedients. "She'll never know
it war tangled. I 'll hold it fur ye."
It was no great hardship for Rick. She
lightly slipped the skeins over the wrists that
had known sterner shackles. The task required
her to sit near him; her face and head were
bent toward him as she absorbed herself in the
effort to find the end of the thread; sometimes
she lifted her eyes and looked radiantly at him.
He had not known how beautiful she was, -
because he saw her face more closely, he thought,
not averted, nor coy, as always before, - or
was it embellished by that ineffable joy that
filled her heart? Well for them both, perhaps,
that those few moments were so happy, - or
is it well to remember a supreme felicity, for
this is fleeting. Yellow yarn! she was winding
threads of gold. How his pulses thrilled at
the lightest flying touch of her fleet hands!
He looked at her, - into her eyes if he might,
- at her round crimson cheek, at her clearly
cut chin, at the long lashes, at the black hair
drawn back from her brow, where a curling
tendril drooped over the temple. And he held
the yarn all awry.
It was no first-class job, for this reason and
"What ails ye ter hustle 'long so, D'rindy?"
he asked at last. "Ye ain't so mighty afeard
o' yer granny."
"Naw," Dorinda admitted,"but brother
Pete, he be at home ter-night, an' he air toler'ble
fractious ef he sees his chance, an' I don't
want him a-laffin' at we-uns; kase I hev hearn
him say ez when young folks gits ter windin'
yarn tergether 't ain't fur love o' the
spun-truck, but jes' fur one another."
Rick laughed a little, slowly. Then growing
grave, "Ef ye 'll b'lieve me, Pete told the word
yander ter the still ez Amos Jeemes - a mis'able
addled aig he be! - 'lowed ter the men at
the mill ez he b'lieved ez't war the Cayces ez
rescued me, the day o' the gaynder-pullin', from
She paused, the bright thread in her motionless
hand, her fire-lit face bent upon him.
"Amos Jeemes hed better be keerful how he
tries ter fix it on we-uns!" she cried, with the
tense vibration of anger, "tellin' the mill an'
sech! I hev hearn the boys 'low ez 't war ten
year in the pen'tiary fur rescuing a man from
the sher'ff, ef it got fund out."
"Pete say ez how he jes' laffed at him an'
named him a fool."
"Pete air ekal ter that," she returned, with
She was deftly winding the yarn once more
the fire showing a deeper thoughtfulness upon
her face. Its flicker gave the room a sense of
motion; the festoons of scarlet pepper-pods, the
long yellow and red strings of pop-corn, the
peltry hanging from the rafters, apparently
swayed as the light rose and fell; and the
warping-bars, with their rainbow of spun-truck
stretched from peg to peg, seemed to be
dancing a clumsy measure in the corner. The
rocking-chair where granny was wont to sit was
occupied now by a shadow, and now was visibly
She looked up into his face with an absorbed
unnoting eye. He was pierced by the knowledge
that though she saw him, she was thinking
of something else.
"Won't the Court let the pa'son go free now,
sence they know ye done no crime?" she asked.
"Naw. The pa'son air accused of a rescue,
an' whether the man he rescued air convicted
or no it air jes' the same ter the law ez agin
him. The rescue air the thing he hev got ter
She dropped her hands in her lap and threw
herself back in her chair.
"Ten year in prison!" she exclaimed. Her
face was all the tenderest pity; her voice was
full of yearning sympathy; she cast her eyes
upward with a look that was reverence itself.
"How good he war! I s'pose he knowed ye
never done no harm, an' he war willin' ter
suffer stiddier you-uns. I never hearn o' sech
a man! 'Pears ter me them old prophets don't
tech him! I never hearn o' them showin' sech
love o' God an' thar feller-man. He rescued ye
jes' fur that!"
Rick Tyler looked at her for a moment with
a kindling eye. He sprang to his feet, throwing
the golden skein - it was only yarn after
all, a coarse yellow yarn - upon the floor. He
strode across the rude hearth and leaned against
the mantel-piece, which was as high as his head.
The light fell upon his changed face, the weapons
in his belt, his long tawny hair, the flashing
fire in his eye. He raised his right hand with
an importunate gesture.
"D'rindy Cayce, ye air in love with that
man!" he said, in a low passionate voice and
between his set teeth. "I hev seen it afore -
long ago; but sence ye hev promised ter marry
me, ef ye say his name agin, I'll kill him - I 'll
shoot him through the heart - dead - dead -
do ye hear me - dead!"
She was shaken by the spectacle of his sudden
anger, and she was angered in turn by his
jealous rage. There was a dull aching in her
heart in the voids left by the ebbing of her
ecstatic happiness. This was too precious to
lightly let go. She walked over to him and took
hold of his right arm, although his hand was
toying nervously with his pistol.
"Ye don't b'lieve no sech word, Rick," she
said, "deep down in yer heart, ye don't b'lieve
it. An' how kin ye grudge me from thinkin'
well o' the man, an' feelin' frien'ly, - oh, mighty
frien'ly, - when he will hev ter take ten year
in the pen'tiary fur givin' ye yer freedom? He
rescued ye! An' I'll thank him an' praise
him fur it ev'y day I live. My love, ef ye call
it love, will foller him fur that all through the
prison, an' the bolts an' bars, an' gyards. An'
yer pistols can't holp it."
He put her from him with a mechanical
gesture and a perplexed brow. He sat down in
the chair he had occupied at first; his hat was
still under it, one leg was stretched out to the
fire, on the other knee his hand rested; he
looked exactly as when he first came into the
room, but she had a vague idea, as she stood
opposite on the hearth, that it was long ago,
so much had happened since.
"D'rindy," he said, "he never done it. The
pa'son never rescued me."
She stood staring at him in wide-eyed amaze.
He was silent for a moment, and then he
broke into a bitter laugh. "I do declar," he
said, "it fairly tickles me ter hear o' one man
bein' arrested fur rescuin' me, an' another set
bein' s'pected o' the same thing, when not one
of 'em in all the Big Smoky, not one, lifted a
hand ter holp me. Whether the gallus or a
life sentence, 't war all the same ter them.
Accusin' yer dad an' the boys at the still -
shucks! Old Groundhog loant me a rifle, an'
ter hear him talk saaft sawder 'bout'n it ter
Amos Jeemes ye'd hev thunk he war the author
o' my salvation! An' arrest the pa'son! he
war a likely one ter rescue a-body! - too 'feard
o' Satan! An' ef all they say air true 'bout'n
the word he spoke yander at the meetin' 'fore
they tuk him off, he hev got cornsider'ble call
ter be afeard o' Satan. Naw, sir! he never
rescued nuthin' but the gaynder! Nobody
helped me! Nobody on the Big Smoky held
out a hand! I ain't goin' ter furgit it, nuther!"
She stood looking intently at his face, with
its caustic laugh upon it and his eyes full of
bitterness. She knew that he secretly upbraided
her as well as her people that they had made
no move to save him from the clutches of the
sheriff. She involuntarily turned her eyes to
the gun-rack where the barrel of "Old Betsy"
gleamed, and she remembered the mark it bore
to commemorate the foregone conclusion of
Micajah Green's death. For this she had held
her hand. She felt humble and guilty, since
she had acted in the interests of peace. And
yet that shrewd sense, that true conscience,
which coexisted with the idealistic tendencies
of her nature, demanded how could she justify
herself in asking the sacrifice of ten years of
other men's liberty that her lover might escape
the consequences of his own act; how could
she dare to precipitate a collision with the
sheriff, while their grievance was still fresh in
their minds? Fortunately she did not lay this
train of thought bare before Rick Tyler.
Natures like his foster craft in the most pellucid
"How'd ye git away, Rick?" she said instead.
"I won't tell ye," he replied, rudely; "it
don't consarn ye ter know." Then suddenly
softening, "I take that back, D'rindy. I ain't
goin' ter furgit ez ye owned up ye war willin'
ter marry me an' live all yer life along with a
hunted man in a house that mought be fired
over yer head enny time, or a rifle ball whiz in
at the winder. I ain't goin' ter furgit that."
Alas! he could not divine how he should
He fixed his eyes on the fire, as if moodily
recalling the scene. She noted that desperate
hunted look in his face which it had not worn
"I war a-settin' thar," he began abruptly,
"my feet tied with ropes, and with handcuffs
on," - he held his hands together as if manacled;
she shuddered a little, - "an' I hearn the
hurrahin' an' fuss outside whilst they was all
a-rowin' over the gaynder. An' then I hearn
a powerful commotion 'mongst the dogs, ez ef
they hed started some sorter game or suthin'.
An' the fust I knowed thar war a powerful
scuttlin' 'round the back o' the blacksmith's
shop, an' a rabbit squez in a hole 'twixt the
lowes' log an' the groun', - 't warn't bigger 'n
a gopher's hole. An' I never thunk nuthin'
'ceptin' them boys outside would be mighty
mad ef they knowed thar hounds hed run a
rabbit same ez a deer."
Dorinda had sunk into her chair; her hands
trembled, her face was pale.
"An' the cur'ous part of it," he continued,
now in the full swing of narrative, "war that
the hounds would n't gin it up. They jes' kep'
a-nosin' an' yappin' roun' that thar little hole.
Thar sot the rabbit - she 'minded me o' myself,
got in an' could n't git out. Thar war nowhar
else fur her ter sneak through. She sot thar
ez upright an' trembly ez me; jes' ez skeered,
an' jes' about ez little chance. The only
diff'ence 'twixt us war I hed a soul, an' that did n't
do me enny good, an' the lack o' it did n't do
her enny harm; both o' we-uns war more
pertic'lar 'bout keepin' a skin full o' whole bones
'n ennything else. An' then them nosin' hounds
began ter scratch an' claw up dirt. Bless yer
soul, D'rindy, they hed a hole ez big ez that
thar piggin, afore I thunk ennything 'bout'n it.
It makes me feel the cold shakes when I
'members ez I mought not hev thunk 'bout'n it till
't war too late. Lord! how slow them hounds
seemed! though the rabbit she fund 'em fast
enough, I reckon. Ev'y now an' then she'd hop
along this way an' that, an' the hounds would
git her scent agin - an' the way they'd yap!
The critter would hop along an' look up at me,
- I never will furgit the look in the critter's
eyes ez she sot thar an' waited fur the dogs.
They war in a hurry an' toler'ble lively, I
reckon, but they 'peared ter me ez slow ez ef
ev'y one war weighted with a block an' chain.
Waal, the hole got bigger an' they yapped
louder, an' I got so weak waitin', an' fearin'
somebody would hear 'em, an' kem ter see 'bout
what they hed got up fur game, an' find that
hole, I did n't know how I could bide it. The
hole got big enough fur the hounds ter squeeze
through, an' hyar they kem bouncin' in. They
lept round the shop, an' flopped up agin the
door, so that ef thar hed n't been all that fuss
outside 'bout takin' the gaynder down,
somebody would hev been boun' ter notice it. I
hed ter wait fur the dogs ter ketch the rabbit an'
shake the life out'n her 'fore I darst move a
paig, they kep' up sech a commotion. An' when
they hed dragged the critter's little carcass outside
an' begun fightin' over it, I got up. I jes'
could sheffle along a leetle bit; that eternally
cussed scoundrel, Gid Fletcher" - he paused.
It was beyond the power of language to express
the deep damnation he desired for the blacksmith.
His face grew scarlet, the tears started
to his angry eyes. How he pitied himself,
remembering his hard straits and his cruel
indignities! And how she pitied him!
He caught his breath, and went on.
"That black-hearted devil hed tied my feet
so close I could sca'cely hobble, an' my hands
an' wrists hed all puffed an' swelled up, whar
the cords hed been - 't war the sher'ff ez gin
me the handcuffs. Waal, I tuk steps 'bout two
inches long till I got 'crost the shop ter the
hole. Then I jes' flopped down an' croped
through. I did n't stan' up outside, though
't war at the back o' the shop an' nobody could
see me. Ye know the aidge o' the bluff ain't
five feet from the shop; the cliff's ez sheer ez
a wall, but thar's a ledge 'bout twenty feet
down. It looked mighty narrer, an' thar war n't
no vines ter swing by; but I jes' hed ter think
o' them devils on t'other side the shop ter make
me willin' ter resk it. Waal, thar war a clump
o' sass'fras, - ye know the bark's tough, -
near the aidge. I jes' bruk one o' the shoots
ter the root an' turned it down over the aidge
o' the bluff an' swung on ter the e-end o' it.
Waal, it tore off in my hands, but I did n't fall
more 'n a few feet, an' lighted on the ledge.
An' I tossed the saplin' away, an' then I walked,
- steps 'bout'n two inches long, ef that - ez
fur ez the ledge went, cornsider'ble way from the
Settlemint, an' 't war two or three hunderd feet
ter the bottom, whar I stopped. An' thar war
a niche thar whar I could sit an' lay down,
sorter. Thar I bided all night. I hearn 'em
huntin', an' it made me laff. I knowed they
war n't a-goin' ter find me, but I did n't know
how I war a-goin' ter git away from thar with
them handcuffs on, an' ropes 'roun' my legs;
they war knotted so ez I could n't reach 'em fur
the irons. I waited all nex' day, though I never
hed nuthin' ter eat but some jaw-berries ez
growed 'mongst the rocks thar. An' the nex'
morn'n'," - his eye dilated with triumph,
"the swellin' o' my wrists hed gone down, an'
I could draw my hands out'n the handcuffs ez
easy ez lyin'."
He held up his hands; they were small for
his size, and bore little token of hard work;
the wrists were supple.
"An' then," he said, with brisk conclusiveness,
"I jes' ontied the ropes 'roun' my feet an'
clumb up ter the top o' the mounting by vines
an' sech, an' struck inter the laurel, an' never
stopped a-travelin' till I got ter Cayce's still."
He drew a long sigh, not unmixed with pleasure.
He had a sense of achievement. It gave,
perhaps, a certain value to his harsh experience
to recount his triumphs to so fair an audience.
He was looking at her with a dawning smile in
his eyes, and she was silently looking at him.
Suddenly she burst into sobs.
"Shucks, D'rindy, it 's all over an' done now,"
he said, appropriating the soft sympathy of her
"An' I 'm so glad, Rick; so glad fur that. I 'd
hev bartered my hope o' heaven fur it," she
sobbed. "But I war thinkin' that minit o' the
pa'son. They 'rested him in his pulpit, an' they
would n't gin him bail, an' they kerried him
'way from the mountings, an' jailed him, an' he'll
go ter the pen'tiary, ten year mebbe, fur a crime
ez he never done. Ye would n't let him do that ef ye
could holp it, would ye, Rick?"
She looked up tearfully at him. His eyes
gleamed; his nostrils were quivering; every fibre
in him responded to his anger.
"Ef I could, D'rindy Cayce, I 'd hev that
man chained in the lowest pits o' hell fur all
time, so ye mought never see his face agin.
An' ef I could, I 'd wipe his memory off'n the
face o' the yearth, so ye mought never speak
"Law, Rick, don't!" protested the girl,
aghast. "I 've seen ye ez jealous o' Amos
"I don't keer that fur Amos Jeemes," he
exclaimed, snapping his fingers. "I hev n't seen
ye sit an' cry over Amos Jeemes, an' sech
cattle, an' say he war like a prophet. I thought
ye war thinkin' 'bout me, an' - an' " - he paused
"D'rindy," he said, suddenly calm, though
his eye was excited and quickly glancing, "did
ye ax him ef he would do ennything fur me
when I war in cust'dy?"
"Naw," said Dorinda, "nobody could do
nuthin' fur you-uns, 'kase they'd hev ter resk
tharselfs an' run agin the law. But what I want
ye ter do fur pa'son air fur jestice. He never
done what he war accused of. An' ye war
along o' Abednego Tynes, though innercent.
Law, Rick, ef the murderer would say the
word ter set ye free, can't ye do ez much fur
the pa'son, ez hev seen so much trouble
"In the name o' Gawd, D'rindy, what air
you-uns a-wantin' me ter do?" he asked, in
She mistook the question for relenting. She
caressed his coat sleeve as she stood beside him.
All her beauty was overcast; her face was
stained with weeping; tears dimmed her eyes,
and her pathetic gesture of insistence seemed
forlorn. He looked down dubiously at her.
"What I want ye ter do, Rick, fur him,
air right, an' law, an' jestice. Nobody could
hev done that fur ye, 'cept Abednego Tynes.
I want ye ter go ter pa'son's trial fur the
rescue, an' gin yer testimony, an' tell the jedge
an' jury the tale ye hev tole me - the truth -
an' they 'll be obleeged ter acquit."
He flung away in a tumult of rage. It was
exhausting to witness how his frequent gusts
of passion shook him.
"D'rindy," he thundered, "ye want me ter
gin myself up fur the pa'son; ye don't keer
nuthin' fur me, so he gits back ter the Big
Smoky an' you-uns. I mought be arrested yit
on the same indictment; the nolle prosequi
don't hender, - it jes' don't set no day fur me
ter be tried. An' mebbe Steve Byers hev been
foolin' me some. Ye jes' want ter trade me off
ter the State fur the pa'son."
"Ye shan't go!" cried the girl. "I did n't
know that about the nolle prosequi. Ye shan't
He was mollified for a moment. He noticed
again how pale she was. "Law, D'rindy," he
said, "ye fairly wear yerself out with yer
tantrums. Why n't ye do like other folks; the
pa'son never holped me none, an' I ain't got no
call ter holp him."
"Ef ye war ter go afore the squair an swear
'bout'n the rescue an' sech, an git him ter write
it ter the Court fur the pa'son" -
"The constable o' the deestric' ez hangs 'roun'
thar at the jestice's house mought be thar an'
arrest me," he said, speciously. "The gov'nor
hain't withdrawn that reward yit, ez I knows
"Naw," she said, quickly, "I'll make the
boys toll the constable down ter the still till
ye git through. The jestice air lame, an' ain't
able ter arrest ye, an' I 'd be thar an' gin ye the
wink, ef thar war ennything oncommon
ennywhar, or enny men aroun'."
He could hardly refuse. He could not affect
fear. He hesitated.
"Ez long ez I thunk he hed rescued ye, I
did n't hev no call ter move. But now I know
how 't war, I 'd fairly die ef he war lef' ter
suffer in jail, knowin' he hev done nuthin' agin the
Her lip quivered. The tears started to her
eyes. The sight of them, shed for another
man's sake, excited again the vigilant jealousy
in his breast.
"I 'll do nuthin' fur Hi Kelsey," he declared,
"Ef ye ain't in love with him, ye would be ef
he war ter git back ter the Big Smoky. He
done nuthin' fur me, an' I hev no call ter do
nuthin' fur him."
He looked furiously at her, holding her at
arm's length. "Ye hev tole me ye love me, an'
I expec' ye ter live up ter it. Ye hev promised
ter marry me, an' I claim ye fur my wife. Say
that man's name another time, an' I 'll kill him
ef ever he gits in rifle range agin. I'll kill
him! I 'll kill him!" his right hand was once
more mechanically toying with the pistol, while
he held her arm with the other, "an' I 'll kill
He had gone too far; he had touched the
dominant impulse of her nature. Her cheeks
were flaring. Her courage blazed in her eyes.
"An' I tell ye, Rick Tyler, that I am not
afeard o' ye! An' ef ye let a man suffer fur
a word ez ye kin say in safety, an' an act ez
ye kin do in ease, ye ain't the Rick Tyler I
knowed, - ye air suthin' else. I 'lowed ye war
good, but mebbe I hev been cheated in ye, an'
ef I hev, I 'll gin ye up. I ain't a-goin' ter
marry no man ez I can't look up ter, an' say
'he air good!' An' ef ye 'll meet me a hour
'fore sundown, at the squair's house, ter-morrow
evenin', I 'll b'lieve in ye, an' I 'll marry ye.
An' ef ye don't, I won't."
She caught up his hat and gave it to him.
Then she opened the door. The white mists
stood shivering in the little porch. He turned
and looked in angry dismay at her resolute face.
But he did not say a word, though he knew her
heart yearned for it beneath her inflexible
mask. He walked slowly out, and the door
closed upon him, and upon the shivering white
mists. He paused for a moment, hesitating.
He heard nothing within - not even her retreating
step. He knew as well as if he had seen her
that she was leaning against the door, silently
sobbing her heart out.
"D'rindy needs a lesson," he said, sternly.
And so he went out into the night.
THE rain ceased the next day, but the clouds
did not vanish. Their folds, dense, opaque,
impalpable, filled the vastness. The landscape
was lost in their midst. The horizon had
vanished. Distance was annihilated. Only a yard
or so of the path was seen by Dorinda, as she
plodded along through the white vagueness that
had absorbed the familiar world. And yet for
all essentials she saw quite enough; in her
ignorant fashion she deduced the moral, that if
the few immediate steps before the eye are
taken aright, the long lengths of the future will
bring you at last where you would wish to be.
The reflection sustained her in some sort as she
went. She was reluctant to acknowledge it even
to herself; but she had a terrible fear that she
had imposed a test that Rick would not endure.
"Ef he air so powerful jealous ez that, ter not
holp another man a leetle bit, when he knows
it can't hurt him none, he air jes' selfish, an'
She paused, looking about her mechanically.
The few blackberry bushes, almost leafless,
stretching out on either hand, were indistinct
in the mist, and against the dense vapor they
had the meagre effect of a hasty sketch on
a white paper. The trees overhung her, she
knew, in the invisible heights above; she heard
the moisture dripping monotonously from their
leaves. It was a dreary sound as it invaded
the solemn stillness of the air.
"An' I'm boun' ter try ter holp him, ef I kin.
I know too much, sence Rick spoke las' night,
ter let me set an' fold my hands in peace.
'Pears like ter me ez that thar air all the
diff'ence 'twixt humans an' the beastis, ter holp
one another some. An' ef a human won't, 'pears
like ter me ez the Lord hev wasted a soul on
Despite her logic she stood still; her blue
eyes were surcharged with shadows as they
wistfully turned upward to the sad and sheeted
day; her lips were grave and pathetic; her
blue dress had gleams of moisture here and
there, and a plaid woolen shawl, faded to the
faintest hues, was drawn over her dense black
hair. She stood and hesitated. She thought
of the man she loved, and she thought of the
word he denied the man in prison. Poor
Dorinda! to hold the scales of Justice unblinded.
"I dunno what ails me ter be 'feard he won't
kem!" she said, striving to reassure herself;
"an' ennyhow" - she remembered the few
immediate steps before her taken aright, and
went along down the clouded curtained path
that was itself an allegory of the future.
The justice's gate loomed up like fate, - the
poor little palings to be the journey's end of
hope or despair! A pig, without any appreciation
of its subtler significance, had in his
frequent wallowings at its base impaired in a
measure its stability. He grunted at the sound
of a footfall, as if to warn the new-comer that
she might step on him. Dorinda took heed of
the imperative caution, opened the gate
gingerly, and it only grazed his back. He grunted
again, whether in meagre surly approval, or
reproof that she had come at all, was hardly to
be discriminated in his gruff, disaffected tone.
She noticed that the locust leaves, first of all
to show the changing season, were yellow on
the ground; a half denuded limb was visible in
the haze. There were late red roses, widely
a-bloom, by the doorstep of the justice's house,
- a large double cabin of hewn logs, with a
frame-inclosed passage between the two rooms.
There was glass in the windows, for the justice
was a man of some means for these parts; and
she saw behind one of the tiny panes his bald
polished head and his silver rimmed spectacles
gleaming in animated curiosity. He came limping,
with the assistance of a heavy cane, to the
"Howdy, D'rindy," he exclaimed,
cheerfully, "come in, child. What sort o' weather
is this!" In abrupt digression, he looked over
her head into the blank vagueness of the world.
But for the dim light, it might have suggested
the empty inexpressiveness of the periods
before the creation, when "the earth was without
form and void."
"It air tol'erble airish in the fog," said
Dorinda, finding her voice with difficulty.
The room into which she was ushered seemed
to her limited experience a handsome apartment.
But somehow the passion of covetousness
is an untouched spring in the nature of
these mountaineers. The idea of ownership
did not enter into Dorinda's mind as she gazed
at the green plaster parrot that perched in state
on the high mantel-piece. She was sensible of
its merits as a feature of the domestic landscape
at the "jestice's house," precisely as the sight
of the distant Chilhowee was company in her
lonely errands about the mountain. To be
deprived of either would be dike a revulsion of
nature. She did not grudge the justice his
possession, nor did she desire it for herself. She
entertained a simple admiration for the image,
and always looked to see it on its lofty perch
when she first entered the room. There were
several books piled beside it, which the justice
valued more. There was, too, a little square
looking-glass, in which one might behold a
distortion of physiognomy. Above all hung a
framed picture of General Washington crossing
the Delaware. The mantel-piece was to the girl
a museum of curiosities. A rag carpet covered
the floor; there was a spinning-wheel in the
corner; a bed, too, draped with a gay quilt, -
a mad disportment of red and yellow patchwork,
which was supposed to represent the rising
sun, and was considered a triumph of handicraft.
The justice's seat was a splint-bottomed chair,
which stood near a pine table where ink was
always displayed - of a pale green variety -
writing-paper, and a pile of books. The table
had a drawer which it was difficult to open
or shut, and now and then "the squair"
engaged in muscular wrestling with it.
He sat down, with a sigh, and drew forth his
red bandana handkerchief from the pocket of
his brown jeans coat, and polished the top of
his head, and stared at Dorinda, much
marveling as to her mission. She had not, in her
primitive experience, attained to the duplicity
of a subterfuge; she declined the invitation to
go into the opposite room, where his wife was
busy cooking supper, by saying she was waiting
for a man whom she expected to meet here to
explain something to the justice.
"Is it a weddin', D'rindy?" exclaimed the
old fellow, waggishly.
"'T ain't a weddin'," said Dorinda, curtly.
"Ye air foolin' me!" he declared, with a jocose
affectation of inspecting his attire. "I hev
got another coat I always wears ter marry a
couple, an' ye don't want ter gimme a chance
ter spruce up, fur fear I 'll take the shine off'n
the groom. It's a weddin'! Who is the happy
This jesting, as appropriate, according to rural
etiquette, to a young and pretty woman as
the compliments of the season, seemed a dreary
sort of fun to Dorinda, so heavy had her
presaging heart become. There was a trifle of
sensibility in the old squire, perhaps induced by
much meditation in his inactive indoor life, and
he recognized something appealing in the girl's
face and attitude, as she sat in a low chair
before the dull fire that served rather to annul
the chilliness of the day than to diffuse a
perceptible warmth. The shawl had dropped from
her head and loosely encircled her throat; her
hand twisted its coarse fringes; she was always
turning her face toward the window where only
the pallid mists might be seen - the pallid mists
and a great glowing crimson rose, that, motionless,
touched the pane with its velvet petals.
The old justice forbore his jokes, his dignities
might serve him better. He entertained
Dorinda by telling her how many times he had
been elected to office. And he said he would n't
count how many times he expected to be, for it
was his firm persuasion that "when Gabriel
blew that thar old horn o' his'n, he'd find the
squair still a-settin' in jedgment on the Big
Smoky." He showed her his books, and told
her how the folks at Nashville were constrained
by the law of the State to send him one every
time they made new laws. And she understood
this as a special and personal compliment, and
was duly impressed.
Out-doors the still day was dying silently,
like the gradual sinking from a comatose state,
that is hardly life, to the death it simulates.
How did the gathering darkness express itself
in that void whiteness of the mists, still visibly
white as ever! Night was sifting through them;
the room was shadowy; yet still in the glow of
the fire she beheld their pallid presence close
against the window. And the red rose was
shedding its petals! - down dropping, with the
richness of summer spent in their fleeting beauty,
their fragrance a memory, the place they had
embellished, bereft. She did not reflect; she
only felt. She saw the rose fade, the sad night
steal on apace; the hour had passed, and she
knew he would not come. She burst into
The old man, whether it was in curiosity or
sympathy, had his questions justified by her
self-betrayal, and his craft easily drew the story
from her simplicity. He got up suddenly, with
an expression of keen interest. She followed
his motions dubiously, as he took from the
mantel-piece a tallow dip in an old pewter
candlestick, and with slow circumspection lighted
the sputtering wick. "I want ter look up a p'int
o' law, D'rindy," he said, impressively. "Ye
jes' set thar an' I 'll let ye know d'rec'ly how
the law stands."
It seemed to Dorinda a long time that he sat
with his book before him on the table, his
spectacles gleaming in the light of the tallow dip,
close at hand, his lips moving as he slowly read
beneath his breath, now and then clutching his
big red handkerchief, and polishing off the top
of his round head and his wrinkled brow. Twice
he was about to close the book. Twice he
renewed his search.
And now at last it was small comfort to
Dorinda to know that the affidavit would not,
in the justice's opinion, have been competent
testimony. He called it an ex parte statement,
and said that unless Rick Tyler's deposition
were taken in the regular way, giving due
notice to the attorney-general, it could not be
admitted, and that in almost all criminal cases
witnesses were compelled to testify viva voce.
Small comfort to Dorinda to know that the effort
was worthless from the beginning, and that on
it she had staked and lost the dearest values of
her life. As he read aloud the prosy, prolix
sentences, they were annotated by her sobs.
"Dell-law! D'rindy, 't warn't no good,
no-how!" he exclaimed, presently, breaking off
with an effort frown his reading, for he relished
the rotund verbiage, - the large freedom of
legal diction impressed him as a privilege,
accustomed as he was only to the simple
phrasings of his simple neighbors. He could not
understand her disappointment. Surely Rick
Tyler's defection could not matter, he argued,
since the affidavit would have been worthless.
She did not tell him more. All the world
was changed to her. Nothing - not her lover
himself - could ever make her see it as once it
was. She declined the invitation to stay and
eat supper, and soon was once more out in the
pallid mist and the contending dusk. The scene
that she had left was still vivid in her mind,
and she looked back once at the lucent yellow
square of the lighted window gleaming through
the white vapors. The rose-bush showed across
the lower panes, and she remembered the
melancholy fall of the flower.
Alas, the roses all were dead!
IT was not so dreary in the dark depths of
the cavern as in the still white world without;
and the constable of the district, one Ephraim
Todd, found the flare of the open furnace and
the far-reaching lights, red among the glooms,
and a perch on an empty barrel, and the warm
generosities of the jug, a genial transition.
Nevertheless he protested.
"You-uns oughter be plumb 'shamed, Pete,"
he said, "ter toll me hyar, an' me a off'cer o'
"Ye hev been hyar often afore, the Lord
above knows," asseverated Pete, "an' ye needed
mighty little tollin'."
"But I warn 't a off'cer o' the law, then,"
said the constable, wrestling with his official
conscience. "An' I hev tuk a oath an' am
under bonds. An' hyar I be a-consortin' with
law-breakers, an' 't ain't becomin' in a off'cer
o' the law."
"Ye ain't tuk no oath, nor entered into no
bonds ter keep yer throat ez dry ez a lime-kiln,"
retorted Pete. "Jes' take a swig at that thar
jug an' hand it over hyar, will ye, an' hold yer
Thus readily the official conscience, never
rampant, was pacified. The constable had
formerly been, as Pete said, an habitué of the place,
but since his elevation to office he had made
himself scarce, in deference to the promptings
of that newly acquired sense of dignity and
propriety. Should some chemical process
obliterate for a time a leopard's spots, consider the
satisfaction of the creature to find himself once
more restored to his natural polka-dots; and
such was the complacence of the constable, with
his artificial conscience evaporated and his heart
mottled with its native instincts of good and
evil. He was glad to be back in the enjoyment
of the affluent hospitalities of the moonshiner's
He was a big, portly fellow, hardly more
symmetrical than the barrel upon which he was
seated. He had an inexhaustible fund of good
humor, and was not even angry when Pete, in
sheer contrariety, told him the reason for his
enticement to the still. He said he would be
glad enough if Rick Tyler could swear out
anything that would benefit the parson, and
declared that he believed only Micajah Green's
malice could have compassed his incarceration.
"'Cajah inquired o' me whar this place war,
Pete," he said, "a-purtendin' like he hed been
hyar wunst. But I jes' tole him 't war ez safe
ez a unhatched deedie in a aig - an' I batted
my eye, jes' so, an' he shot up purty quick."
The gleam from the furnace door showed
Pete's own light gray eyes intently starting at
the visitor, but he said nothing and the matter
When the constable's heart was warmed by
the brush whiskey he understood the sensation
as happiness, and he translated happiness as a
religious excitement. He seemed maudlin as
he talked about the parson, who, he declared,
had led him to grace, and he recited some
wonderful stories of religious experience, tending
to illustrate his present righteousness and the
depths of iniquity from which he had been
redeemed. Pete's perversity operated to curtail
these. "That's a fac'!" he would heartily
assent; "ye useter be one o' the meanes' men
on these hyar mountings!" Or "Grace hed a
mighty wrastle with Satan in yer soul. I dunno
whether he air cast out yit!"
The constable - his big owlish head askew
- was embarrassed by these manoeuvres, and
presently the talk drifted to the subject of the
parson's spiritual defection. This he considered
a mental aberration.
"Hi Kelsey," he said, "war always more or
less teched in the head. I hev noticed - an' ye
may sot it down ez a true word - ez ev'y man
ez air much smarter 'n other men in some ways,
in other ways air foolisher. He mought prophesy
one day, an' the nex' ye would n't trest
him ter lead a blind goose ter water. He air
smarter 'n enny man I ever see - Pa'son Kelsey
air. Thar's Brother Jake Tobin ain't got
haffen his sense; an' yit nobody can't say ez
Brother Jake ain't sensible."
The philosopher upon the barrel, as he made
this nice distinction, gazed meditatively into the
bed of live coals that flung its red glare on his
broad flushed countenance and wide blinking
eyes. It revealed the others, too: the old man's
hard, lined, wrinkled visage and his stalwart
supple frame; Pete, with his long tangled hair,
his pipe between his great exposed teeth; Ab,
filling the furnace with wood, his ragged beard
moved by the hot breath of the fire; the big-boned,
callow Sol, with his petulant important face;
and Ben, in the dim background tossing
the sticks over to Ab from the gigantic wood-pile.
They fell with a sharp sound, and the
cave was full of their multiplied echoes. The
men as they talked elevated their voices so as
to be heard.
Ab was rising from his kneeling posture.
He closed the furnace door, and as it clashed
he thought for an instant he was dreaming. In
that instant he saw Pete start up suddenly with
wild, distended eyes, and with a leveled pistol
in his hand. The next moment Ab knew what
it meant. A sharp report - and a jet of red
light, projected from the muzzle of the weapon,
revealed a group of skulking, unfamiliar figures
stealthily advancing upon them. The return
fire was almost instantaneous, and was followed
by multitudinous echoes and a thunderous crash
that thrilled every nerve. The darkness was
filled with the clamors of pandemonium, for the
concussion had dislodged from the roof a huge
fragment of rock, weighing doubtless many
tons. The revenue raiders lagged for a
moment, confused by the overwhelming sound,
the clouds of stifling dust, and the eerie aspect
of the place. They distinguished a sharp voice
presently, crying out some imperative command,
and after that there was no more resistance
from the moonshiners. They had disappeared
as if the earth had swallowed them.
The intruders were at a loss. They could
not pursue and capture the men in the dark.
If the furnace door were opened they would be
targets in the glare for the lurking moonshiners
in the glooms beyond. It did not occur to them
that the cave had another outlet, until, as the
echoes of the fallen fragment grew faint, they
heard far away a voice crying out, "Don't leave
me!" and the mocking rocks repeating it with
their tireless mimicry.
It was the constable. He never forgot that
agonized retreat down those unknown black
depths. He was hardly able to keep pace with
his swifter fellows, falling sometimes, and
being clutched to his feet rudely enough, as they
pressed on in a close squad; feeling now and
then the sudden wing of a bat against his face
and interpreting it as the touch of a human
pursuer; sometimes despairing, as they
scrambled through a long, low, narrow passage,
scarcely wide enough for the constable's
comfortable fatness. Then it was that fear
descended upon him with redoubled force, and
he would exclaim in pity of his plight, "An' me a
off'cer o' the law!" He impeded their flight
incalculably, but to their credit be it said the
lighter weights had never a thought of
deserting their unfortunate guest despite the danger
of capture and the distress of mind induced by
the loss of their little "all." The poor constable
fitted some of the tube-like passages like the
pith in the bark, and as he was at last drawn,
pallid, struggling, his garments in shreds, from
an aperture of the cave in a dense untrodden
jungle of the laurel, he again piteously exclaimed,
"An' me a off'cer o' the law!"
There was little leisure, however, to meditate
upon his degraded dignity. He followed the
example of the moonshiners, and ran off through
the laurel as fleetly as a fat man well could.
The raiders showed excellent judgment. They
offered no pursuit down those dark and devious
underground corridors. Acquiring a sense of
security from the echoes growing ever fainter
and indicative of lengthening distances, they
presently opened the furnace door, and by the
aid of the flare cut the tubs and still to pieces,
destroyed the worm, demolished the furnace,
and captured in triumph sundry kegs and jugs
of the illicit whiskey. There was a perfunctory
search for the distillers at the log-cabin on the
mountain slope. But the officers made haste
to be off, for the possibility of rally and
recapture is not without parallel facts in the
annals of moonshining.
Perhaps the mountain wilds had never
sheltered a fiercer spirit than old Groundhog Cayce
when he ventured back into his den and stood
over the ruins of his scanty fortunes, - the
remnants of the still; the furnace, a pile of
smoking stones and ashes and embers; the
worm in spiral sections; the tubs half burnt,
riven in pieces, lying about the ground. The
smoke was still dense overhead and the hot
stones were sending up clouds of steam. It was
as well, perhaps, since the place would never
again be free from inspection, that it could not
be used as it once was. The great fragment of
rock, fallen from the roof, lay in the course of
the subterranean stream, and the water, thus
dammed, was overflowing its channel and widely
spreading a shallow flood all along the familiar
ground. It was rising. He made haste to secure
the few articles overlooked by the raiders:
a rifle, a powder-horn on one of the ledges that
served as shelf, a bag of corn, the jovial jug.
And for the last time he crept through the
narrow portal and left the cavern to the dense
darkness, to the floating smoke, to the hissing
embers, and the slow rising of the subterranean
For days he nursed his wrath as he sat upon
the cabin porch beneath the yellow gourds and
the purple blooms of the Jack-bean, and gazed
with unseeing eyes at the wide landscape before
him. The sky was blue in unparalleled intensity.
The great "balds" towered against it in sharp
outlines, in definite symmetry, in awful height.
The forests were aflame with scarlet boughs.
The balsams shed upon the air their perfumes,
so pervasive, so tonic, that the lungs breathed
health and all the benignities of nature. The
horizon seemed to expand, and the exquisite
lucidity of the atmosphere revealed vague lines
of far away mountains unknown to the
limitations of less favored days. In the woods the
acorns were dropping, dropping, all the long
hours. The yellow sunshine was like a genial
enthusiasm, quickening the pulses and firing
the blood. The hickory trees seemed dyed in
its golden suffusions, and were a lustrous
contrast to the sombre pine, or the dappled
maple, or the vivid crimson of the black-gum.
But the future of the year was a narrowing space;
the prospects it had brought were dwarfed in
the fulfillment, or were like an empty clutch at
the empty air. And winter was afoot; ah, yes,
the tenderest things were already dead, - the
flowers and the hopes, - and the splendid season
cherished in its crimson heart a woeful premonition.
And thus the winds, blowing where they listed,
sounded with a melancholy cadence; and
the burnished yellow sheen was an evanescent
light; and the purple haze, vaguely dropping
down, had its conclusive intimations in despite
that it loitered.
Dorinda, with her hands folded too, sat much
of the time in dreary abstraction on the step
of the porch, looking down at the yellowed
cornfield which she and Rick ploughed on
that ecstatic June morning. How long ago
it seemed! Sometimes above it, among the
brown tassels, there hovered in the air a cluster
of quivering points of light against the blue
mountain opposite, as some colony of
gossamer-winged insects disported themselves
in the sunshine. And the crickets were shrilling yet
in the grass. She saw nothing, and it would be
hard to say what she thought. In the brilliancy
of her youthful beauty - a matter of linear
accuracy and delicate chiseling and harmonious
coloring, for nature had been generous to her
- it might seem difficult to descry a likeness
to the wrinkled and weather-beaten features of
her father's lowering face, as he sat in his chair
helplessly brooding upon his destroyed
opportunities. But there was a suggestion of
inflexibility in both: she had firm lines about her
mouth that were hard in his; the unflinching
clearness of her eyes was a reflection of the
unflinching boldness of his. Her expression in
these days was so set, so stern, so hopeless that
one might have said she looked like him. He
beheld his ruined fortunes; she, her bereft heart.
Amos James, one day, as he stood on the
porch, saw this look on her face. She was leaning
on her folded arms in the window hard by.
She had spoken to him as absently and with as
mechanical courtesy as the old moonshiner at
the other end of the porch. He came up close
to her. It was a wonderful contrast to the face
she had worn when they talked, that day at the
spring, of Rick Tyler's escape. With the
quickened intuition of a lover's heart he divined
"Ye hain't kep' yer promise, D'rindy," he
said, in a low tone.
"What promise?" she demanded, rousing
herself and knitting her brows as she looked at
"Ye 'lowed ye 'd let me know ef ever ye kem
ter think less o' Rick Tyler."
Her eyes, definitely angry, flashed upon him.
"Ye shan't profit by it," she declared.
And so he left her, still leaning in the
vine-framed window, the lilac blossoms of the
Jack-bean drooping until they touched her black
Rick Tyler was dismayed by the result of his
jealousy and the strange "lesson" that Dorinda
had learned. He found her inflexible. She
reminded him sternly of the conditions of her
promise and that he had failed. And when he
protested that he was jealous because he loved
her so, she said she valued no love that for her
sake grudged a word, not in generosity, but in
simple justice, to liberate an innocent man in
the rigors of a terrible doom. And when at
this man's very name he was seized with his
accustomed impetuous anger, she looked at him
with a cool aloof scrutiny that might have
expressed a sheer curiosity. It bewildered and
tamed him. He had never heard of a Spartan.
He only thought of her as immovable, and as
infinitely remote from his plane, as the great
dome of the mountain. He remembered that
she had always softened to his misfortunes, and
he talked of how he had suffered. But she
said that was all over now, and he had been
"mighty lucky." He sought to appeal to her
in her own behalf, and reminded her how she
had loved him through it all, how she would
have married him, despite the fierce pursuit of
the law. She had loved him; he would not
"No," she said, drearily. "I never loved ye.
I loved what I thunk ye war. But ye war n't
That - nuthin' like it! Ye war suthin' else. I
war jes' in love with my own foolishness."
Poor Dorinda! Alas, for the fair ideals!
these things are transient.
He went away at last, indignant and amazed.
Once he thought of offering to make the
affidavit, not cognizant of its fatal defect, and
then the conviction took hold upon him that this
melancholy was her deep disappointment
because she loved the man she sought to aid. And
sometimes he could not believe he had lost her
heart. And yet when he would go back, her
dull indifference to his presence would convince
him alike that he was naught to her now and
that he had been supplanted.
His contradictions of feeling began to crystallize
into a persistent perversity. He took pleasure in
denying the story she had told of his
escape, and many people hardly knew which
version to believe. He congratulated Brother
Jake Tobin one evening at the cabin on having
turned Hi Kelsey out of the church, and called
him a wolf in sheep's clothing. And then for
his pains he was obliged to listen to her defense
of the absent man; she declared the parson was
like one of the prophets, like some man in the
Bible. As to that confession he had made in
the church, "'t war plain he war out'n his
head." Meantime Brother Jake Tobin
discreetly bent his attention upon the honey and
fried chicken on the supper table, and Rick
Tyler fumed in silence.
After the news of the nolle prosequi Rick
went about the mountain with his former large
liberty. His step-brothers were desirous of
obliterating his recollection of their avoidance,
and made him a present of several head of cattle
and some hogs. He lived at home among
them, and began to have prospects for the
future. He was planning with the younger
Cayces to start a new still, for a region is
particularly safe for that enterprise immediately
after a visit from the revenue officers, their early
return being improbable. And he talked about
a house-raising while the weather held fine and
before snow. "I 'm a-thinkin' 'bout gittin'
married, Pete, ter a gal over yander ter the
Settlemint," he said, looking for the effect on
Dorinda. She was as silent, as stern, as listless
as ever. And but for the sheer futility of it he
might have fallen to upbraiding her and
protesting and complaining as of yore, and
repudiated the mythical "gal at the Settlemint."
All the leaves were falling. Crisp and sere,
they carpeted the earth and fled before the
wind. They seemed in some wise to illumine
the slopes as they lay in long yellow vistas
under the overhanging black boughs. Many a
nest was revealed, - empty, swinging on the
bare limb. The mountains near at hand were
sad and sombre, the stark denuded forests
showing the brown ground among the trees, and
great jutting crags, and sterile stretches of
outcropping rocks, and fearful abysmal depths of
chasms - and streams, too, madly plunging.
All the scene was stripped of the garb of foliage,
and the illusion of color, and the poetry of
the song birds and the flowers. More distant
ranges were of a neutral vagueness, and farther
still they seemed a nebulous gray under a gray
sky. When the sun shone they were blue - a
faint, unreal blue, a summer souvenir clinging
to the wintry landscape like some youthful trait
continued in a joyless age.
For it was November, and the days were
About this time an excited rumor suddenly
prevailed that Parson Kelsey had returned to
the Great Smoky Mountains. It was widely
discredited at first, but proved to be authorized
by Gid Fletcher, who was himself just back
from Shaftesville, where he had been to testify
in the trial for the rescue of Rick Tyler. A
story of discomfiture he retailed, and he seemed
ill at ease and prone to lay much blame on Rick,
whose perverse circulation of diverse accounts
of the escape had greatly unnerved him before
his journey, and prevented the prosecution from
summoning Rick as a witness, if indeed he
would have permitted himself to be served with
the subpoena. The judge was testy during the
trial and charged the jury in favor of the
prisoner; after the verdict of acquittal he stated
indignantly that there had been practically
no evidence against the defendant, and that it
was a marked instance of the indifference or
ignorance of the committing magistrate and the
grand jury that such a case of flagrant malice
could get beyond them and into the jurisdiction
of the court. Gid Fletcher solaced himself by
telling how Green played the fool on the stand when
the judge snarled at him, and contradicted himself
and cut a "mighty pore figger." "Though ez ter that,
the pa'son riz up an' reviled both me an' 'Cajah in
open court," said Fletcher. "'Pears like he hed read
the Bible so constant jes' ter l'arn ev'y creepy
soundin' curse ez could be called down on the heads
o' men. An' somebody said ter the jedge arterward ez
he oughter fine pa'son fur contempt o' court. An' the
jedge 'lowed he warn 't a statute; he hed some human
natur in him, an' he wanted me an' 'Cajah ter hear the
truth spoke one time."
The blacksmith declared, too, that he was "fairly
afeard o' pa'son" and his fierce threats of revenge,
and was glad enough that they were not obliged to
make the journey together, for he, having a horse,
had ridden, while the parson had been constrained to
walk. "I reckon he 's hyar by this time," Fletcher said
to Nathan Hoodendin, "but I ain't a-hankerin' ter
meet up with him agin. He 's more like a wild beastis 'n
a man; ter see him cut his blazin' eye aroun' at ye, ye 'd
'low ez he 'd never beam o' grace!"
The snow came with Kelsey. One day, when the
dull dawn broke, the white flakes were softly
falling - silent, mysterious, ghostly invasion
of the wild wintry air and the woods. All adown
chasms and ravines, unexplored and unknown, the
weird palpitating motion animated the wide and
desert spaces. The ground was deeply covered; the
drifts filled the hollows; they burdened the crests of
the jutting crags and found a lodgment in all the
fissures of their dark and rugged faces. The white
lines on the bare black boughs served to discriminate
their sylvan symmetry. Vague solemnities pervaded
the silent marshaling of these forces of Nature. The
wind held its breath. An austere hush lay upon the
chilled world. The perspective had its close
limitations and the liberties of vision were annulled.
Only the wild things were abroad; but the foot-prints
of the rabbit or the deer were freshly filled, and the
falling snow seemed to possess the world. When it
ceased at last it lay long on the ground, for the cold
continued. And the wilderness was sheeted and still.
There were presently visible occasional ruts
winding in and out among the trees, marking the
course of the road and the progress of some
adventurous wagon and ox-team, - sometimes, too,
the hoof-prints of a saddle-horse. One might easily
judge how few of the mountaineers had ventured out
since the beginning of the "cold snap." There marks
were most numerous
in front of the log-house where Hiram Kelsey
and his uncle and the two old men sat
around the fire. There was a prevalent curiosity
as to how the parson had endured the
double humiliation of imprisonment and being
cast out of the church. They were hardly
prepared for the tempestuous fury which animated
him upon the mention of the prosecution and
the witnesses' names. But when hesitating
inquiries were propounded by those of his visitors
disposed to controversy, - seeking to handle
his heresies and gauge his infidelity, - he would
fall from the ecstasies of rage to a dull despondency.
"I dunno," he would say, looking into the
heart of the red fire. "I can't sati'fy my mind.
Some things in the Bible air surely set
contrariwise. I can't argyfy on 'em. But thar 's one
thing I kin feel - Christ the Lord liveth. An'
sometimes that seems doctrine enough. An'
mebbe some day I 'll find Him."
A thaw came on, checked by a sudden freeze.
He thought it as cold as ever one afternoon
about sunset as he trudged along the road. He
saw a tiny owl, perched in a cedar tree hard by
the rail fence. The creature's feathers were
ruffled and it looked chill. The atmosphere
was of a crystalline clearness. The mountains
in the east had dropped the snow from the darkling
pines, but above, the towering balds rose
in unbroken whiteness, imposed in onyx-like
distinctness upon the azure sky. There were
vague suggestions of blue and violet and rose
on the undulations of the steep snow-covered
slopes close at hand. The crags were begirt
with icicles, reaching down many feet and
brilliant with elusive prismatic glimmers. He
heard a sudden crash; a huge scintillating
pendant had fallen by its own weight. Chilhowee
stood massive and richly purple beyond the
snowy valley; above was a long stretch of
saffron sky, and in its midst the red sun was going
down. He stood to watch its fiery disc slip behind
the mountains, and then he turned and
pursued his way through the neutral-tinted
twilight of the wintry evening.
Old Cayce's log-cabin rose up presently, dark
and drear against the high and snowy slopes
behind it. The drifts still lay thatch-like on
the roof; the eaves were fringed with icicles.
The overhanging trees were cased in glittering
icy mail. The blackened cornstalks, left standing
in the field as is the habit until next spring's
ploughing should begin, were writhen and bent,
and bore gaunt witness to the devastation of
the winter wind. The smoke was curling briskly
from the chimney, and as the door opened to
his knock, the great fire of hickory and ash,
sending up yellow and blue flames all tipped
with vivid scarlet, cast a genial flare upon the
snowy landscape, slowly darkening without.
He experienced a sudden surprise as his eye fell
upon old man Cayce, the central figure of the
group, having heard stories of the moonshiner's
deep depression, consequent upon the disastrous
raid, and of the apathy into which he had
fallen. They hardly seemed true. He sat erect
in his chair, his supple frame alert, his eye
intent, every fibre charged with energy, his face
deeply flushed. He looked expectant, eager.
His stalwart sons sat with him in a semi-circle
about the wide warm hearth. All their pipes
were freshly alight, for the evening meal was
just concluded. They too wore an aspect of
Kelsey detected it in their abstraction during
the formal greetings, and when he was seated
among them, ever and anon they shifted uneasily
in their chairs, which grated harshly on the
puncheon floor. Sometimes there sounded a
faint jingling of spurs when they moved their
feet on the ill-adjusted stones of the hearth.
They had their pistols in their belts and
perchance their lives in their hands. His
admission was in some sort a confidence, but
although he marveled, he said nothing.
The bare and humble furnishing of the room
was very distinct in the rich glow, - the few
chairs, the shelves with the cooking utensils,
the churn, a chest, the warping-bars, the
spinning-wheel; and their simple domestic
significance seemed at variance with the stern
and silent armed men grouped about the fire.
A vibrant sound - one of the timbers had
sprung in the cold. Solomon rose precipitately.
"Nuthin', Sol, nuthin'," said the old man,
testily. "'T ain't nigh time yit."
Nevertheless Sol opened the door. The chill
air rushed in. The yellow flames bowed and
bent fantastically before it. Outside the gibbous
moon hung in the sky, and the light, solemn,
ghostly, pervaded with pallid mysteries
the snowy vistas of the dense, still woods. The
shadow of the black boughs lay in distinct
tracery upon the white surface; there was a
vague multiplication of effect, and the casual
glance could ill distinguish the tree from its
semblance. Vacant of illusions was the winding
road - silent, and empty, and white, its
curve visible from the fire-place through the
black rails of the zigzag fence. Hiram Kelsey
caught a glimpse, too, of the frosty dilations of
a splendid star; then the door closed and Sol
came back with jingling spurs to his seat by the
"Be you-uns satisfied?" demanded Pete,
with a sneer.
Sol, abashed, said nothing, and once more the
ominous silence descended, all moodily
watching the broad and leaping flames and the
pulsating coals beneath.
Somehow the geniality of the fire suggested
another bright and dominant presence that was
wont in some sort to illumine the room.
"Whar be D'rindy?" asked Kelsey, suddenly.
"Waal - D'rindy," said Ab, the eldest of
the sons, evidently withdrawing his mind with
an effort, "she hev gone ter Tuckaleechee Cove,
ter holp nuss Aunt Jerushy's baby. It's ailin',
an' bein' ez it air named arter D'rindy, she sets
store by it, an' war powerful tormented ter hear
how the critter war tuk in its stummick. She
kerried Jacob along, too, 'kase she 'lows she
hankers arter him when she's away, an' she
makes out ez we-uns cross him in his temper,
'thout she air by ter pertect him. I war willin'
'kase it air peacefuller hyar without Jacob 'n
with him - though he air my own son, sech ez
he be. An' D'rindy hev pompered him till he
air ez prideful ez a tur-r-key gobbler, an' jes'
about ez cornsiderate."
"She lef' Mirandy Jane an' me," said Pete,
facetiously showing his great teeth.
"Waal," said the old man, speaking with his
grave excited eyes still on the fire. "I be toler'ble
glad ez D'rindy tuk this time ter leave
home fur a few days 'kase she hev been
toler'ble ailin' an' droopy. An' t' other day some
o' the boys got ter talkin' 'bout'n how sure they
be ez 't war 'Cajah Green - dad-burn the critter!
- ez gin the revenue hounds the word
whar our still war hid. An' D'rindy, she jes'
tuk a screamin' fit, an' performed an' kerried
on like she war bereft o' reason. An' she got
down old Betsy thar" - pointing to a rifle on
the rack - "ez Pete hed made her draw a mark
on it ter remember 'Cajah Green by, an' his
word ez he 'd jail her some day, an' she wanted
me an' the boys ter swear on it ez we-uns
would never shoot him."
"An' did you-uns swear sech?" asked Hiram
Kelsey, in fierce reprobation. Beneath the
broad brim of his hat his eyes were blazing;
their large dilated pupils canceled the iris and
the idea of color; they were coals of fire. His
shadowed face was set and hard; it bore a
presage of disappointment - and yet he was
Pete turned and looked keenly at him.
"Waal," said the old man, embarrassed, and
in some sort mortified, "D'rindy, ye see, war
ailin', an', an' - I never hed but that one
darter an' sech a pack o' sons, an it 'pears like
oughter be humored - an' " -
"Ye w-wants him shot, hey, pa'son?" Pete
interrupted his critical study of the unconscious
Kelsey's eyes flashed.
"I pray that the Lord may cut him off," he
"Waal, the Lord ain't obleeged ter use a
rifle," said Pete, pertinently. "Even we-uns
kin find more ways than that."
"The pa'son mought ez well go along an'
holp," said Groundhog Cayce.
Kelsey turned his eyes in blank inquiry from
the old man to Pete by his side.
"We air a-layin' fur him now," Pete explained.
"He hain't been so delivered over by the
Lord ez ter kem agin, arter informin' the
raiders, inter the Big Smoky?" Kelsey asked,
forgetting himself for the moment, and aghast at
the doomed man's peril.
Pete tapped his head triumphantly.
"'T ain't stuffed with cotton wool," he
declared. "We let on ter the mounting ez we
never knowed who done it. An' we jes' laid
low, an' held our tongues betwixt our teeth,
when we hearn 'bout'n his 'quirin' round 'bout'n
the still, from this'n an' that'n, d'rectly arter
the 'lection. We got him beat fur that, jes'
'count o' what he said ter D'rindy, 'kase she
would n't g-g-gin her cornsent ter shootin' him,
an' got dad set so catawampus, he obeyed her
like Jacob would n't fur nuthin'. An'" - with
rising emphasis, "th-th-the blamed critter 'lows
he let' no tracks an' ain't been fund out yit!
An' hyar he be on the Big Smoky agin, a-finishin'
up some onsettled business with his old
office. I seen him yander ter the Settlemint,
an' talked with him frien'ly an' familiar, along
o' Gid Fletcher, an' fund out when he war ter
start down ter Eskaqua Cove, ter bide all night
at Tobe Grimes's house."
"But - but - ef they never tole him, -
surely none o' 'em told him" - argued Kelsey,
Pete showed his long teeth. "Somebody tole
him," he said, with a fierce smile. "H-h-he
could n't git the mounting ter t-t-turn agin
we-uns; they war afeard!" cynically
discriminating the motive. "So he kem nosin'
roun' 'mongst our c-c-chillen - the little chillen, ez
did n't know what they war a-tellin', an' Jacob
tole him whar the cave war, an' 'bout haulin'
the apples fur pomace. Jacob war the man,
fur Mirandy Jane hearn him say it. She hed
seen 'Cajah Green afore, when he war sher'ff."
It was a palpable instance of bad faith and
imposition, and it tallied well with Hiram
Kelsey's own wrongs. He sat brooding upon them,
and looking at the fire with dulled meditative
eyes. One of the logs, burnt in twain, broke
with a crash under the burden of the others,
and the fire, quickening about them, sent up
myriads of sparks attendant upon the freshening
flames; among the pulsating red coals there
were dazzling straw-tinted gleams, and a vista
of white heat that repelled the eye. Outside
the wind was rising - its voice hollow, keen,
and shrill as it swept over the icy chasms; the
trees were crashing their bare boughs together.
It was a dreary sound. From far away came
the piercing howl of some prowling hungry
wolf, familiar enough to the ears that heard it,
but its ravening intimations curdled the blood.
A cock's crow presently smote the air, clear
and resonant as a bugle, and with a curse on
tardiness the impatient Sol once more rose and
opened the door to look out.
A change was impending. Clouds had come
with the wind, from the west to meet the moon.
Though tipped with the glint of silver, the
black portent was not disguised. Rain or
snow, it mattered not which. The young
mountaineer held the door open to show the
darkening sky find the glittering earth, and
looked over his shoulder with a triumphant
"That will settle the footprints," he said.
There was something so cruel in his face, so
deadly in his eye, a ferocious satisfaction in the
promised security so like the savage joy of a
skulking beast, that it roused a normal impulse
in the breast of the man who read the thoughts
of his fellow-men like an open book. Kelsey
was himself again.
He raised his hand suddenly, with an
"Listen ter me!" he said, with that enthusiasm
kindling in his eyes which they honored
sometimes as the light of religion, and
sometimes reviled as frenzy. "Ye 'll repent o'
yer deeds this night! An' the jedgmint o' the
Lord will foller ye! Yer father's gray hairs
will go down in sorrow ter the grave, but his
mind will die before his body. An' some o'
you-uns will languish in jail, an' know the
despair o' the bars. An' he that is bravest
'mongst ye will mark how his shadder dogs
him. An' ye will strike yer hands tergether,
an' say, 'That the day hed never dawned, that
the night hed never kem fur we-uns!' An'
ye 'll wisht ye hed died afore! An' but for
the coward in the blood, ye would take yer
own life then! An' ye'll look at the grave
before ye, an' hope ez it all ends thar!"
His eye blazed. He had risen to his feet in
the intensity of his fervor. And whether it
was religion or whether it was lunacy, it
They had all quailed before him, half overborne
by the strength of his emotion, and half
in deprecation, because of their faith in his
mysterious foreknowledge. But as he turned,
pushed back his chair, and hastily started toward
the door, they lost the impression. Pete first
"Wh-wh-whar be you-uns a-goin'?" he
The parson turned fiercely. He thrust out
his hand with a gesture of repudiation, and
once more he lifted the latch.
"Naw, ye ain't g-g-goin'," said Pete, with
cool decision, throwing himself against the
door. "Ye hev sot 'mongst we-uns an' h-hearn
our plans. Ye 'peared ter gin yer cornsent
w-when dad said ye could go 'long. Dad thought
ye 'd like ter hev a s-sheer in payin' yer own
grudge. We hev tole ye what we hev tole no
other livin' man. An' now ye hev got ter hev
our reason ter h-h-hold yer jaw. I don't like
ter s-shoot a man down under our own roof ez
kem hyar frien'ly, but ef ye fools with that
thar latch agile, I reckon I'll be obleeged ter
If Pete Cayce had possessed an acute
discrimination in the reading of faces, he might
have interpreted Kelsey's look as a pondering
dismay; the choice offered him was to do murder
or to die! As it was, Pete only noted the
relinquishment of the parson's design when he
sat down silent and abstracted before the fire.
But for his deep grudge, it might have
seemed that Kelsey had intended to forewarn
Micajah Green of the danger in the path, and
to turn him back. Pete did not feel entirely
reassured until after he had said, -
"I 'lowed ez ye s-s-swore ye fairly de-spise
'Cajah G-G-Green, an' r-raged ter git even
"I furgits it sometimes," rejoined Kelsey.
And Pete did not apprehend the full
meaning of the words.
"An' don't do no more o' yer prophesyin'
ternight, Hiram," said the old man, irritably.
"It fairly gins me the ager ter hear sech talk."
The night wore on. The fire roared; the
men, intently listening sat around the hearth.
Now and then a furtive glance was cast at
Hiram Kelsey. He seemed lost in thought, but
his eye glittered with that uninterpreted,
inscrutable light, and they were vaguely sorry
that he had come among them. They took
scant heed of his reproach. It has been so
long the unwritten law of moonshiners that
the informer shall perish as the consequence of
his malice and his rashness, that whatever normal
moral sense they possess is in subjection
to their arbitrary code of justice and the
savage custom of the region. The mysterious
disappearance of a horse-thief or a revenue spy,
dramatically chronicled, with a wink and a
significant grin, as "never hearn on no more,"
or, "fund dead in the road one mornin'," affects
the mountaineers much as the hangman's
summary in the Friday evening papers impresses
more law-abiding communities - shocking, but
The great fire was burnt to a mass of coals.
The wind filled the ravines with a tumult of
sound. The bare woods were in wild
commotion. The gusts dashed upon the roof snow
perhaps, or sleet, or vague drizzling rain; now
discontinued, now coming again with redoubled
force. Suddenly, a growl from the dogs under
the house; then the sound of a crunching hoof
in the snow.
The men sallied forth, swift and silent as
shadows. There was a frantic struggle in the
road; a wild cry for help; a pistol fired wide
of the mark, the report echoing in the silence
from crag to crag, from chasm to chasm with
clamorous iteration, as if it would alarm the
world. The horses were ready. The men
hastily threw themselves into the saddle.
It had been arranged that Kelsey, who had
no horse, should ride before the prisoner. He
mounted, drew about his own waist the girth
which bound the doomed man, buckling it
securely, and the great gray horse was in the
centre of the squad.
Micajah Green begged as they went - begged
as only a man can for his life. He denied, he
explained, he promised.
"Ye cotton ter puttin' folks in jail, 'Cajah!
Yer turn now! We 'll put ye whar the dogs
won't bite ye," said the old man, savagely.
And the rest said never a word.
The skies were dark, the mountain wilds
awful in their immensity, in their deep
obscurities, in the multitudinous sounds of
creaking boughs and shrilling winds.
They were in the dense laurel at last. The
branches, barbed with ice, and the evergreen
leaves, burdened with snow, struck sharply in
their faces as they forced their way through.
The swift motion had chilled them; icicles
clung to their hair and beard; each could hardly
see the dark figures of the others in the dense
unbrageous undergrowth as they recognized
the spot they sought and called a halt. It was
the mouth of the cave; they could hear the
sound of the dark cold water as it rippled in
the vaulted place where the dammed current
rose now half-way to the roof. Their wretched
prisoner, understanding this fact and the savage
substitute for the rifle, made a despairing
"Lemme git a holt of him, Hi," said Pete,
his teeth chattering, his numbed arms stretched
up in the darkness to lay hold on his victim.
"Hyar he be," gasped the parson.
There was another frantic struggle as they
tore the doomed man from the horse; a splash,
a muffled cry - he was cast headlong into the
black water. A push upon a great bowlder
hard by - it fell upon the cavity with a crash,
and all hope of egress was barred. Then,
terrorized themselves, the men mounted their
horses; each, fleeing as if from pursuit, found
his way as best he might out of the dark
One might not know what they felt that night
when the rain came down on the roof. One
might not dare to think what they dreamed.
The morning broke, drear, and clouded, and
full of rain, and hardly less gloomy than the
night. The snow, tarnished, and honeycombed
with dark cellular perforations, was melting and
slipping down and down the ravines. The
gigantic icicles encircling the crags fell now and
then with a resounding crash. The drops from
the eaves dripped monotonously into the
puddles below. The roof leaked. Sol's bridle-hand
had been frozen the night before in the long
But the sun came out again; the far mountains
smiled in a blue vagueness that was almost
a summer garb. The relics of the snow exhaled
a silvery haze that hung airily about the landscape.
Only the immaculate whiteness of those
lofty regions of the balds withstood the thaw,
and coldly glittered in wintry guise.
A strange sensation thrilled through the fireside
group one of these mornings when Amos James
came up from the mill, and as he smoked
with them asked suddenly, all unaware of the
tragedy, "What ailed 'Cajah Green ter leave
the Big Smoky in sech a hurry?"
"Wh-wh-at d 'ye mean?" growled Pete, in
And then Amos James, still unconscious of
the significance of the recital, proceeded to tell
that shortly after daybreak on last Wednesday
morning he heard a "powerful jouncin' of
huffs," and looking out of the window he saw
Micajah Green on his big gray horse, flying
along the valley road at a tremendous rate of
speed. Before he could open the window to
hail him, man and horse were out of sight.
It was a silent group that Amos left, all
meditating upon that swift equestrian figure,
pictured against the dreariness of the rainy
dawn, and the gray mist, and the shadowing
"Amos seen a ghost," said Pete, presently.
He looked dubiously over his shoulder, though
the morning sunshine came flickering through
the door, widely ajar.
"That ain't nuthin' oncommon," said the old
man, sturdily. Then he told a ghastly story of
a legal execution, - that the criminal was seen
afterward sitting in the moonlight under the
gallows on his coffin-lid; and other fearful
fantasies of the rural mind, which, morbidly
excited, will not accept the end of the rope as a
It was only when Obediah Scruggs came to
their house searching for his nephew, saying that
Hiram had not been seen nor heard of since he
had set out one evening to visit them, that
a terrible premonition fell upon Groundhog
Cayce. His iron will guarded it for a time,
till some one journeying from Shaftesville
reported having seen there Micajah Green, who
was full of a terrible story of a midnight attack
upon him by the Cayce tribe, from whom he
had miraculously escaped in the midst of the
struggle and darkness, he declared, and more
dead than alive. Then mysteriously and with
heavy presage Pete and his father made a
pilgrimage to the cave. They pried up the
bowlder over the cavity. They heard the deep
water held in the subterranean reservoir still
sighing and echoing with the bubbling of the
mountain spring. On the surface there floated
a hat - Hi Kelsey's limp and worn old hat.
They never told their secret. They replaced
the bowlder, and sealed their lips. The old
man began to age rapidly. His conscience was
heavier than his years. But it was a backwoods
conscience, and had the distortions of his
primitive philosophy. One day he said piteously,
"It air a dreadful thing, Pete, ter kill a man
And Pete replied meditatively, "I dunno
but what it air."
By degrees, as they reflected upon the incredible
idea that a mistake could have been made
between the two men, the truth percolated
through their minds. It was a voluntary
sacrifice. "He war always preachin' agin killin',"
said the old man, "an' callin' folks," his voice
fell to a whisper - "Cain!"
It was well for him, perhaps, when he
presently fell into mental decrepitude, and in
vacancy was spared the anguish of remorse.
And Pete fearfully noted the fulfillment of
No one could account for the change in Pete
Cayce. He patched up old feuds, and forgave
old debts, and forgot his contentious moods, and
was meek and very melancholy. And although
the parson preached no more, who shall say his
sermons were ended? As to him, surely his
doubts were solved in knowing all, and perhaps
in the exaltations of that sacrificial moment
he found Christ.
The mystery of his fate remained
unexplained. The search for him flagged after a
time, and failed. There were many conjectures,
all wide of the truth. Dorinda believed
that, like the prophet of old, he had not been
suffered to taste death, but was caught up into
the clouds. And with a chastened solemnity
she cherishes the last of her illusions.