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A Knight of the Cumberland by John Fox Jr.

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tell her no more than she knew, however,
and then she said she was sure she had seen
the Wild Dog herself that afternoon,
sitting on his horse in the bushes near a
station in Wildcat Valley. She was sure
that he saw her, and his face had
frightened her. I knew her fright was for
Marston and not for herself, so I laughed
at her fears. She was mistaken--Wild
Dog was an outlaw now and he would not
dare appear at the Gap, and there was no
chance that he could harm her or Marston.
And yet I was uneasy.

It must have been a happy ten days for
those two young people. Every afternoon
Marston would come in from the mines
and they would go off horseback together,
over ground that I well knew--for I had
been all over it myself--up through the
gray-peaked rhododendron-bordered Gap
with the swirling water below them and the
gray rock high above where another such
foolish lover lost his life, climbing to get
a flower for his sweetheart, or down the
winding dirt road into Lee, or up through
the beech woods behind Imboden Hill, or
climbing the spur of Morris's Farm to
watch the sunset over the majestic Big
Black Mountains, where the Wild Dog
lived, and back through the fragrant, cool,
moonlit woods. He was doing his best,
Marston was, and he was having trouble
--as every man should. And that trouble
I knew even better than he, for I had once
known a Southern girl who was so tender
of heart that she could refuse no man who
really loved her she accepted him and
sent him to her father, who did all of her
refusing for her. And I knew no man
would know that he had won the Blight
until he had her at the altar and the priestly
hand of benediction was above her head.

Of such kind was the Blight. Every
night when they came in I could read the
story of the day, always in his face and
sometimes in hers; and it was a series of
ups and downs that must have wrung the
boy's heart bloodless. Still I was in good
hope for him, until the crisis came on the
night before the Fourth. The quarrel was
as plain as though typewritten on the face
of each. Marston would not come in that
night and the Blight went dinnerless to bed
and cried herself to sleep. She told the
little sister that she had seen the Wild Dog
again peering through the bushes, and that
she was frightened. That was her
explanation--but I guessed a better one.

VI

THE GREAT DAY

It was a day to make glad the heart of
slave or freeman. The earth was cool
from a night-long rain, and a gentle breeze
fanned coolness from the north all day
long. The clouds were snow-white, tumbling,
ever-moving, and between them the
sky showed blue and deep. Grass, leaf,
weed and flower were in the richness that
comes to the green things of the earth just
before that full tide of summer whose
foam is drifting thistle down. The air was
clear and the mountains seemed to have
brushed the haze from their faces and
drawn nearer that they, too, might better
see the doings of that day.

From the four winds of heaven, that
morning, came the brave and the free. Up
from Lee, down from Little Stone Gap,
and from over in Scott, came the valley-
farmers--horseback, in buggies, hacks,
two-horse wagons, with wives, mothers,
sisters, sweethearts, in white dresses,
flowered hats, and many ribbons, and
with dinner-baskets stuffed with good
things to eat--old ham, young chicken,
angel-cake and blackberry wine--to be
spread in the sunless shade of great
poplar and oak. From Bum Hollow
and Wildcat Valley and from up the
slopes that lead to Cracker's Neck came
smaller tillers of the soil--as yet but
faintly marked by the gewgaw trappings
of the outer world; while from beyond
High Knob, whose crown is in cloud-land,
and through the Gap, came the mountaineer
in the primitive simplicity of home
spun and cowhide, wide-brimmed hat and
poke-bonnet, quaint speech, and slouching
gait. Through the Gap he came in two
streams--the Virginians from Crab Orchard
and Wise and Dickinson, the Kentuckians
from Letcher and feudal Harlan,
beyond the Big Black--and not a man
carried a weapon in sight, for the stern
spirit of that Police Guard at the Gap
was respected wide and far. Into the
town, which sits on a plateau some twenty
feet above the level of the two rivers that
all but encircle it, they poured, hitching
their horses in the strip of woods that runs
through the heart of the place, and broad
ens into a primeval park that, fan-like,
opens on the oval level field where all
things happen on the Fourth of July.
About the street they loitered--lovers hand
in hand--eating fruit and candy and drinking
soda-water, or sat on the curb-stone,
mothers with babies at their breasts and
toddling children clinging close--all
waiting for the celebration to begin.

It was a great day for the Hon. Samuel
Budd. With a cheery smile and beaming
goggles, he moved among his constituents,
joking with yokels, saying nice things to
mothers, paying gallantries to girls, and
chucking babies under the chin. He felt
popular and he was--so popular that he
had begun to see himself with prophetic eye
in a congressional seat at no distant day;
and yet, withal, he was not wholly happy.

``Do you know,'' he said, ``them fellers
I made bets with in the tournament got together
this morning and decided, all of 'em,
that they wouldn't let me off? Jerusalem,
it's most five hundred dollars!'' And,
looking the picture of dismay, he told me
his dilemma.
It seems that his ``dark horse'' was
none other than the Wild Dog, who had
been practising at home for this tournament
for nearly a year; and now that the
Wild Dog was an outlaw, he, of course,
wouldn't and couldn't come to the Gap.
And said the Hon. Sam Budd:

``Them fellers says I bet I'd BRING IN a
dark horse who would win this tournament,
and if I don't BRING him in, I lose just the
same as though I had brought him in and
he hadn't won. An' I reckon they've got
me.''

``I guess they have.''

``It would have been like pickin' money
off a blackberry-bush, for I was goin' to let
the Wild Dog have that black horse o'
mine--the steadiest and fastest runner in
this country--and my, how that fellow can
pick off the rings! He's been a-practising
for a year, and I believe he could run the
point o' that spear of his through a lady's
finger-ring.''

``You'd better get somebody else.''

``Ah--that's it. The Wild Dog sent
word he'd send over another feller, named
Dave Branham, who has been practising
with him, who's just as good, he says, as he
is. I'm looking for him at twelve o'clock,
an' I'm goin' to take him down an' see
what he can do on that black horse o' mine.
But if he's no good, I lose five hundred,
all right,'' and he sloped away to his duties.
For it was the Hon. Sam who was master
of ceremonies that day. He was due now
to read the Declaration of Independence in
a poplar grove to all who would listen; he
was to act as umpire at the championship
base-ball game in the afternoon, and he
was to give the ``Charge'' to the assembled
knights before the tournament.

At ten o'clock the games began--and I
took the Blight and the little sister down
to the ``grandstand''--several tiers of
backless benches with leaves for a canopy
and the river singing through rhododendrons
behind. There was jumping broad
and high, and a 100-yard dash and hurdling
and throwing the hammer, which the
Blight said were not interesting--they
were too much like college sports--and she
wanted to see the base-ball game and the
tournament. And yet Marston was in
them all--dogged and resistless--his teeth
set and his eyes anywhere but lifted toward
the Blight, who secretly proud, as I believed,
but openly defiant, mentioned not
his name even when he lost, which was
twice only.

``Pretty good, isn't he?'' I said.

``Who?'' she said indifferently.

``Oh, nobody,'' I said, turning to smile,
but not turning quickly enough.

``What's the matter with you?'' asked
the Blight sharply.

``Nothing, nothing at all,'' I said, and
straightway the Blight thought she wanted
to go home. The thunder of the Declaration
was still rumbling in the poplar grove.

``That's the Hon. Sam Budd,'' I said.

``Don't you want to hear him?''

``I don't care who it is and I don't
want to hear him and I think you are
hateful.''

Ah, dear me, it was more serious than I
thought. There were tears in her eyes, and
I led the Blight and the little sister home--
conscience-stricken and humbled. Still I
would find that young jackanapes of an
engineer and let him know that anybody who
made the Blight unhappy must deal with
me. I would take him by the neck and
pound some sense into him. I found him
lofty, uncommunicative, perfectly alien to
any consciousness that I could have any
knowledge of what was going or any right
to poke my nose into anybody's business--
and I did nothing except go back to lunch
--to find the Blight upstairs and the little
sister indignant with me.

``You just let them alone,'' she said severely.

``Let who alone?'' I said, lapsing into
the speech of childhood.

``You--just--let--them--alone,'' she
repeated.

``I've already made up my mind to
that.''

``Well, then!'' she said, with an air of
satisfaction, but why I don't know.

I went back to the poplar grove. The
Declaration was over and the crowd was
gone, but there was the Hon. Samuel
Budd, mopping his brow with one hand,
slapping his thigh with the other, and all
but executing a pigeon-wing on the turf.
He turned goggles on me that literally
shone triumph.

``He's come--Dave Branham's come!''
he said. ``He's better than the Wild Dog.
I've been trying him on the black horse
and, Lord, how he can take them rings off!
Ha, won't I get into them fellows who
wouldn't let me off this morning! Oh, yes,
I agreed to bring in a dark horse, and I'll
bring him in all right. That five hundred
is in my clothes now. You see that point
yonder? Well, there's a hollow there and
bushes all around. That's where I'm going
to dress him. I've got his clothes all
right and a name for him. This thing
is a-goin' to come off accordin' to Hoyle,
Ivanhoe, Four-Quarters-of-Beef, and all
them mediaeval fellows. Just watch me!''

I began to get newly interested, for that
knight's name I suddenly recalled. Little
Buck, the Wild Dog's brother, had
mentioned him, when we were over in the
Kentucky hills, as practising with the Wild
Dog--as being ``mighty good, but nowhar
'longside o' Mart.'' So the Hon. Sam
might have a good substitute, after all, and
being a devoted disciple of Sir Walter, I
knew his knight would rival, in splendor,
at least, any that rode with King Arthur
in days of old.

The Blight was very quiet at lunch, as
was the little sister, and my effort to be
jocose was a lamentable failure. So I gave
news.

``The Hon. Sam has a substitute.'' No
curiosity and no question.

``Who--did you say? Why, Dave
Branham, a friend of the Wild Dog.
Don't you remember Buck telling us about
him?'' No answer. ``Well, I do--and,
by the way, I saw Buck and one of the big
sisters just a while ago. Her name is
Mollie. Dave Branham, you will recall, is
her sweetheart. The other big sister had
to stay at home with her mother and little
Cindy, who's sick. Of course, I didn't ask
them about Mart--the Wild Dog. They
knew I knew and they wouldn't have liked
it. The Wild Dog's around, I understand,
but he won't dare show his face. Every
policeman in town is on the lookout for
him.'' I thought the Blight's face showed
a signal of relief.

``I'm going to play short-stop,'' I added.

``Oh!'' said the Blight, with a smile,
but the little sister said with some scorn:

``You!''

``I'll show you,'' I said, and I told the
Blight about base-ball at the Gap. We
had introduced base-ball into the region
and the valley boys and mountain boys,
being swift runners, throwing like a rifle
shot from constant practice with stones,
and being hard as nails, caught the game
quickly and with great ease. We beat them
all the time at first, but now they were
beginning to beat us. We had a league
now, and this was the championship game
for the pennant.

``It was right funny the first time we
beat a native team. Of course, we got
together and cheered 'em. They thought we
were cheering ourselves, so they got red in
the face, rushed together and whooped it
up for themselves for about half an hour.''

The Blight almost laughed.

``We used to have to carry our guns
around with us at first when we went to
other places, and we came near having
several fights.''

``Oh!'' said the Blight excitedly. ``Do
you think there might be a fight this afternoon?''

``Don't know,'' I said, shaking my head.
``It's pretty hard for eighteen people to
fight when nine of them are policemen and
there are forty more around. Still the
crowd might take a hand.''

This, I saw, quite thrilled the Blight and
she was in good spirits when we started out.

``Marston doesn't pitch this afternoon,''
I said to the little sister. ``He plays first
base. He's saving himself for the
tournament. He's done too much already.''
The Blight merely turned her head while I
was speaking. ``And the Hon. Sam will
not act as umpire. He wants to save his
voice--and his head.''

The seats in the ``grandstand'' were in
the sun now, so I left the girls in a
deserted band-stand that stood on stilts under
trees on the southern side of the field, and
on a line midway between third base and
the position of short-stop. Now there is
no enthusiasm in any sport that equals the
excitement aroused by a rural base-ball
game and I never saw the enthusiasm of
that game outdone except by the excitement
of the tournament that followed that afternoon.
The game was close and Marston
and I assuredly were stars--Marston one
of the first magnitude. ``Goose-egg'' on
one side matched ``goose-egg'' on the
other until the end of the fifth inning, when
the engineer knocked a home-run. Spectators
threw their hats into the trees, yelled
themselves hoarse, and I saw several old
mountaineers who understood no more of
base-ball than of the lost _digamma_ in Greek
going wild with the general contagion.
During these innings I had ``assisted'' in
two doubles and had fired in three ``daisy
cutters'' to first myself in spite of the
guying I got from the opposing rooters.

``Four-eyes'' they called me on account of
my spectacles until a new nickname came
at the last half of the ninth inning,
when we were in the field with the score
four to three in our favor. It was then
that a small, fat boy with a paper megaphone
longer than he was waddled out
almost to first base and levelling his
trumpet at me, thundered out in a sudden
silence:

``Hello, Foxy Grandpa!'' That was
too much. I got rattled, and when there
were three men on bases and two out, a
swift grounder came to me, I fell--catching
it--and threw wildly to first from my
knees. I heard shouts of horror, anger,
and distress from everywhere and my own
heart stopped beating--I had lost the
game--and then Marston leaped in the
air--surely it must have been four feet--
caught the ball with his left hand and
dropped back on the bag. The sound of
his foot on it and the runner's was almost
simultaneous, but the umpire said Marston's
was there first. Then bedlam! One
of my brothers was umpire and the captain
of the other team walked threateningly
out toward him, followed by two of
his men with base-ball bats. As I started
off myself towards them I saw, with the
corner of my eye, another brother of mine
start in a run from the left field, and I
wondered why a third, who was scoring,
sat perfectly still in his chair, particularly
as a well-known, red-headed tough from
one of the mines who had been officiously
antagonistic ran toward the pitcher's box
directly in front of him. Instantly a dozen
of the guard sprang toward it, some man
pulled his pistol, a billy cracked straightway
on his head, and in a few minutes
order was restored. And still the brother
scoring hadn't moved from his chair, and
I spoke to him hotly.

``Keep your shirt on,'' he said easily,
lifting his score-card with his left hand and
showing his right clinched about his pistol
under it.

``I was just waiting for that red-head to
make a move. I guess I'd have got him
first.''

I walked back to the Blight and the
little sister and both of them looked very
serious and frightened.

``I don't think I want to see a real fight,
after all,'' said the Blight. ``Not this
afternoon.''

It was a little singular and prophetic,
but just as the words left her lips one of
the Police Guard handed me a piece of
paper.

``Somebody in the crowd must have
dropped it in my pocket,'' he said. On the
paper were scrawled these words:

``_Look out for the Wild Dog!_''

I sent the paper to Marston.

VII

AT LAST--THE TOURNAMENT

At last--the tournament!
Ever afterward the Hon. Samuel
Budd called it ``The Gentle and
Joyous Passage of Arms--not of Ashby--
but of the Gap, by-suh!'' The Hon.
Samuel had arranged it as nearly after Sir
Walter as possible. And a sudden leap it
was from the most modern of games to a
game most ancient.

No knights of old ever jousted on a
lovelier field than the green little valley toward
which the Hon. Sam waved one big hand.
It was level, shorn of weeds, elliptical
in shape, and bound in by trees that ran
in a semicircle around the bank of the river,
shut in the southern border, and ran back
to the northern extremity in a primeval
little forest that wood-thrushes, even then,
were making musical--all of it shut in by
a wall of living green, save for one narrow
space through which the knights were to
enter. In front waved Wallens' leafy
ridge and behind rose the Cumberland
Range shouldering itself spur by spur, into
the coming sunset and crashing eastward
into the mighty bulk of Powell's Mountain,
which loomed southward from the
head of the valley--all nodding sunny
plumes of chestnut.

The Hon. Sam had seen us coming from
afar apparently, had come forward to meet
us, and he was in high spirits.

``I am Prince John and Waldemar and
all the rest of 'em this day,'' he said, ``and
`it is thus,' '' quoting Sir Walter, ``that
we set the dutiful example of loyalty to the
Queen of Love and Beauty, and are ourselves
her guide to the throne which she
must this day occupy.'' And so saying,
the Hon. Sam marshalled the Blight to a
seat of honor next his own.

``And how do you know she is going to
be the Queen of Love and Beauty?'' asked
the little sister. The Hon. Sam winked at
me.

``Well, this tournament lies between
two gallant knights. One will make her
the Queen of his own accord, if he wins,
and if the other wins, he's got to, or I'll
break his head. I've given orders.'' And
the Hon. Sam looked about right and left
on the people who were his that day.

``Observe the nobles and ladies,'' he
said, still following Sir Walter, and waving
at the towns-people and visitors in the
rude grandstand. ``Observe the yeomanry
and spectators of a better degree
than the mere vulgar''--waving at the
crowd on either side of the stand--``and
the promiscuous multitude down the river
banks and over the woods and clinging to
the tree-tops and to yon telegraph-pole.
And there is my herald''--pointing to the
cornetist of the local band--``and wait--
by my halidom--please just wait until you
see my knight on that black charger o'
mine.''

The Blight and the little sister were
convulsed and the Hon. Sam went on:

``Look at my men-at-arms''--the
volunteer policemen with bulging hip-pockets,
dangling billies and gleaming shields of
office--``and at my refreshment tents behind''
--where peanuts and pink lemonade
were keeping the multitude busy--``and
my attendants''--colored gentlemen with
sponges and water-buckets--``the armorers
and farriers haven't come yet. But my
knight--I got his clothes in New York--
just wait--Love of Ladies and Glory to
the Brave!'' Just then there was a
commotion on the free seats on one side of
the grandstand. A darky starting, in all
ignorance, to mount them was stopped and
jostled none too good-naturedly back to the
ground.

``And see,'' mused the Hon. Sam, ``in
lieu of the dog of an unbeliever we have a
dark analogy in that son of Ham.''

The little sister plucked me by the sleeve
and pointed toward the entrance. Outside
and leaning on the fence were Mollie, the
big sister, and little Buck. Straightway I
got up and started for them. They hung
back, but I persuaded them to come, and
I led them to seats two tiers below the
Blight--who, with my little sister, rose
smiling to greet them and shake hands--
much to the wonder of the nobles and
ladies close about, for Mollie was in brave
and dazzling array, blushing fiercely, and
little Buck looked as though he would die
of such conspicuousness. No embarrassing
questions were asked about Mart or
Dave Branham, but I noticed that Mollie
had purple and crimson ribbons clinched
in one brown hand. The purpose of
them was plain, and I whispered to the
Blight:

``She's going to pin them on Dave's
lance.'' The Hon. Sam heard me.

``Not on your life,'' he said
emphatically. ``I ain't takin' chances,'' and he
nodded toward the Blight. ``She's got to
win, no matter who loses.'' He rose to his
feet suddenly.

``Glory to the Brave--they're comin'!
Toot that horn, son,'' he said; ``they're
comin','' and the band burst into
discordant sounds that would have made the
``wild barbaric music'' on the field of
Ashby sound like a lullaby. The Blight
stifled her laughter over that amazing
music with her handkerchief, and even the
Hon. Sam scowled.

``Gee!'' he said; ``it is pretty bad, isn't
it?''

``Here they come!''

The nobles and ladies on the
grandstand, the yeomanry and spectators of
better degree, and the promiscuous multitude
began to sway expectantly and over the hill
came the knights, single file, gorgeous in
velvets and in caps, with waving plumes
and with polished spears, vertical, resting
on the right stirrup foot and gleaming in
the sun.

``A goodly array!'' murmured the
Hon. Sam.

A crowd of small boys gathered at the
fence below, and I observed the Hon.
Sam's pockets bulging with peanuts.

``Largesse!'' I suggested.

``Good!'' he said, and rising he
shouted:

``Largessy! largessy!'' scattering
peanuts by the handful among the scrambling
urchins.

Down wound the knights behind the
back stand of the base-ball field, and then,
single file, in front of the nobles and ladies,
before whom they drew up and faced,
saluting with inverted spears.

The Hon. Sam arose--his truncheon a
hickory stick--and in a stentorian voice
asked the names of the doughty knights
who were there to win glory for themselves
and the favor of fair women.

Not all will be mentioned, but among
them was the Knight of the Holston--
Athelstanic in build--in black stockings,
white negligee shirt, with Byronic collar,
and a broad crimson sash tied with a
bow at his right side. There was the
Knight of the Green Valley, in green
and gold, a green hat with a long white
plume, lace ruffles at his sleeves, and
buckles on dancing-pumps; a bonny fat
knight of Maxwelton Braes, in Highland
kilts and a plaid; and the Knight at
Large.

``He ought to be caged,'' murmured the
Hon. Sam; for the Knight at Large wore
plum-colored velvet, red base-ball stockings,
held in place with safety-pins, white
tennis shoes, and a very small hat with a
very long plume, and the dye was already
streaking his face. Marston was the last
--sitting easily on his iron gray.

``And your name, Sir Knight?''

``The Discarded,'' said Marston, with
steady eyes. I felt the Blight start at my
side and sidewise I saw that her face was
crimson.

The Hon. Sam sat down, muttering, for
he did not like Marston:

``Wenchless springal!''

Just then my attention was riveted on
Mollie and little Buck. Both had been
staring silently at the knights as though
they were apparitions, but when Marston
faced them I saw Buck clutch his sister's
arm suddenly and say something excitedly
in her ear. Then the mouths of both tightened
fiercely and their eyes seemed to be
darting lightning at the unconscious knight,
who suddenly saw them, recognized them,
and smiled past them at me. Again Buck
whispered, and from his lips I could make
out what he said:

``I wonder whar's Dave?'' but Mollie
did not answer.

``Which is yours, Mr. Budd?'' asked
the little sister. The Hon. Sam had
leaned back with his thumbs in the arm-
holes of his white waistcoat.

``He ain't come yet. I told him to come
last.''

The crowd waited and the knights
waited--so long that the Mayor rose in his
seat some twenty feet away and called out:

``Go ahead, Budd.''

``You jus' wait a minute--my man
ain't come yet,'' he said easily, but from
various places in the crowd came jeering
shouts from the men with whom he had
wagered and the Hon. Sam began to look
anxious.

``I wonder what is the matter?'' he
added in a lower tone. ``I dressed him
myself more than an hour ago and I told
him to come last, but I didn't mean for
him to wait till Christmas--ah!''

The Hon. Sam sank back in his seat
again. From somewhere had come suddenly
the blare of a solitary trumpet that
rang in echoes around the amphitheatre of
the hills and, a moment later, a dazzling
something shot into sight above the mound
that looked like a ball of fire, coming in
mid-air. The new knight wore a shining
helmet and the Hon. Sam chuckled at the
murmur that rose and then he sat up
suddenly. There was no face under
that helmet--the Hon. Sam's knight was
MASKED and the Hon. Sam slapped his
thigh with delight.

``Bully--bully! I never thought of it
--I never thought of it--bully!''

This was thrilling, indeed--but there
was more; the strange knight's body was
cased in a flexible suit of glistening mail,
his spear point, when he raised it on high,
shone like silver, and he came on like a
radiant star--on the Hon. Sam's charger,
white-bridled, with long mane and tail and
black from tip of nose to tip of that tail
as midnight. The Hon. Sam was certainly
doing it well. At a slow walk the stranger
drew alongside of Marston and turned his
spear point downward.

``Gawd!'' said an old darky. ``Ku-
klux done come again.'' And, indeed, it
looked like a Ku-klux mask, white,
dropping below the chin, and with eye-
holes through which gleamed two bright
fires.

The eyes of Buck and Mollie were
turned from Marston at last, and open-
mouthed they stared.

``Hit's the same hoss--hit's Dave!''
said Buck aloud.

``Well, my Lord!'' said Mollie simply.

The Hon. Sam rose again.

``And who is Sir Tardy Knight that
hither comes with masked face?'' he asked
courteously. He got no answer.

``What's your name, son?''

The white mask puffed at the wearer's
lips.

``The Knight of the Cumberland,'' was
the low, muffled reply.

``Make him take that thing off!''
shouted some one.

``What's he got it on fer?'' shouted
another.

``I don't know, friend,'' said the Hon.
Sam; ``but it is not my business nor prithee
thine; since by the laws of the tournament
a knight may ride masked for a specified
time or until a particular purpose is
achieved, that purpose being, I wot, victory
for himself and for me a handful of
byzants from thee.''

``Now, go ahead, Budd,'' called the
Mayor again. ``Are you going crazy?''

The Hon. Sam stretched out his arms
once to loosen them for gesture, thrust
his chest out, and uplifted his chin: ``Fair
ladies, nobles of the realm, and good
knights,'' he said sonorously, and he raised
one hand to his mouth and behind it spoke
aside to me:

``How's my voice--how's my voice?''

``Great!''
His question was genuine, for the mask
of humor had dropped and the man was
transformed. I knew his inner seriousness,
his oratorical command of good English,
and I knew the habit, not uncommon
among stump-speakers in the South, of
falling, through humor, carelessness, or for
the effect of flattering comradeship, into
all the lingual sins of rural speech; but I
was hardly prepared for the soaring flight
the Hon. Sam took now. He started with
one finger pointed heavenward:

``The knights are dust
And their good swords are rast;
Their souls are with the saints, we trust.

``Scepticism is but a harmless phantom
in these mighty hills. We BELIEVE that with
the saints is the GOOD knight's soul, and if,
in the radiant unknown, the eyes of those
who have gone before can pierce the little
shadow that lies between, we know that the
good knights of old look gladly down on
these good knights of to-day. For it is
good to be remembered. The tireless
struggle for name and fame since the sunrise
of history attests it; and the ancestry
worship in the East and the world-wide
hope of immortality show the fierce hunger
in the human soul that the memory of it
not only shall not perish from this earth,
but that, across the Great Divide, it shall
live on--neither forgetting nor forgotten.
You are here in memory of those good
knights to prove that the age of chivalry
is not gone; that though their good swords
are rust, the stainless soul of them still
illumines every harmless spear point before
me and makes it a torch that shall reveal,
in your own hearts still aflame, their
courage, their chivalry, their sense of
protection for the weak, and the honor in
which they held pure women, brave men,
and almighty God.

``The tournament, some say, goes back
to the walls of Troy. The form of it
passed with the windmills that Don
Quixote charged. It is with you to keep
the high spirit of it an ever-burning vestal
fire. It was a deadly play of old--it is a
harmless play to you this day. But the
prowess of the game is unchanged; for the
skill to strike those pendent rings is no less
than was the skill to strike armor-joint,
visor, or plumed crest. It was of old an
exercise for deadly combat on the field of
battle; it is no less an exercise now to you
for the field of life--for the quick eye, the
steady nerve, and the deft hand which shall
help you strike the mark at which, outside
these lists, you aim. And the crowning
triumph is still just what it was of old--
that to the victor the Rose of his world--
made by him the Queen of Love and
Beauty for us all--shall give her smile and
with her own hands place on his brow a
thornless crown.''

Perfect silence honored the Hon. Samuel
Budd. The Mayor was nodding vigorous
approval, the jeering ones kept still,
and when after the last deep-toned word
passed like music from his lips the silence
held sway for a little while before the
burst of applause came. Every knight had
straightened in his saddle and was looking
very grave. Marston's eyes never left the
speaker's face, except once, when they
turned with an unconscious appeal, I
thought, to the downcast face of Blight--
whereat the sympathetic little sister seemed
close to tears. The Knight of the
Cumberland shifted in his saddle as though he
did not quite understand what was going
on, and once Mollie, seeing the eyes
through the mask-holes fixed on her,
blushed furiously, and little Buck grinned
back a delighted recognition. The Hon.
Sam sat down, visibly affected by his own
eloquence; slowly he wiped his face and
then he rose again.

``Your colors, Sir Knights,'' he said,
with a commanding wave of his truncheon,
and one by one the knights spurred forward
and each held his lance into the
grandstand that some fair one might tie
thereon the colors he was to wear. Marston,
without looking at the Blight, held his
up to the little sister and the Blight
carelessly turned her face while the demure
sister was busy with her ribbons, but I noticed
that the little ear next to me was tingling
red for all her brave look of unconcern.
Only the Knight of the Cumberland sat
still.

``What!'' said the Hon. Sam, rising to
his feet, his eyes twinkling and his mask
of humor on again; ``sees this masked
springal''--the Hon. Sam seemed much
enamored of that ancient word--``no maid
so fair that he will not beg from her the
boon of colors gay that he may carry them
to victory and receive from her hands a
wreath therefor?'' Again the Knight of
the Cumberland seemed not to know that
the Hon. Sam's winged words were meant
for him, so the statesman translated them
into a mutual vernacular.

``Remember what I told you, son,'' he
said. ``Hold up yo' spear here to some
one of these gals jes' like the other fellows
are doin','' and as he sat down he tried
surreptitiously to indicate the Blight with
his index finger, but the knight failed to see
and the Blight's face was so indignant
and she rebuked him with such a knife-like
whisper that, humbled, the Hon. Sam collapsed
in his seat, muttering:

``The fool don't know you--he don't
know you.''

For the Knight of the Cumberland had
turned the black horse's head and was riding,
like Ivanhoe, in front of the nobles
and ladies, his eyes burning up at them
through the holes in his white mask.
Again he turned, his mask still uplifted, and
the behavior of the beauties there, as on
the field of Ashby, was no whit changed:
``Some blushed, some assumed an air of
pride and dignity, some looked straight
forward and essayed to seem utterly
unconscious of what was going on, some drew
back in alarm which was perhaps affected,
some endeavored to forbear smiling and
there were two or three who laughed
outright.'' Only none ``dropped a veil over
her charms'' and thus none incurred the
suspicion, as on that field of Ashby, that
she was ``a beauty of ten years' standing''
whose motive, gallant Sir Walter supposes
in defence, however, was doubtless ``a
surfeit of such vanities and a willingness
to give a fair chance to the rising beauties
of the age.'' But the most conscious of the
fair was Mollie below, whose face was
flushed and whose brown fingers were
nervously twisting the ribbons in her lap,
and I saw Buck nudge her and heard him
whisper:

``Dave ain't going to pick YOU out, I
tell ye. I heered Mr. Budd thar myself
tell him he HAD to pick out some other
gal.''

``You hush!'' said Mollie indignantly.

It looked as though the Knight of the
Cumberland had grown rebellious and
meant to choose whom he pleased, but on
his way back the Hon. Sam must have
given more surreptitious signs, for the
Knight of the Cumberland reined in before
the Blight and held up his lance to her.
Straightway the colors that were meant for
Marston fluttered from the Knight of the
Cumberland's spear. I saw Marston bite
his lips and I saw Mollie's face aflame with
fury and her eyes darting lightning--no
longer at Marston now, but at the Blight.
The mountain girl held nothing against the
city girl because of the Wild Dog's infatuation,
but that her own lover, no matter
what the Hon. Sam said, should give his
homage also to the Blight, in her own
presence, was too much. Mollie looked
around no more. Again the Hon. Sam
rose.

``Love of ladies,'' he shouted,
``splintering of lances! Stand forth, gallant
knights. Fair eyes look upon your deeds!
Toot again, son!''

Now just opposite the grandstand was a
post some ten feet high, with a small beam
projecting from the top toward the spectators.
From the end of this hung a wire,
the end of which was slightly upturned in
line with the course, and on the tip of this
wire a steel ring about an inch in diameter
hung lightly. Nearly forty yards below
this was a similar ring similarly arranged;
and at a similar distance below that was
still another, and at the blast from the
Hon. Sam's herald, the gallant knights
rode slowly, two by two, down the lists to
the western extremity--the Discarded
Knight and the Knight of the Cumberland,
stirrup to stirrup, riding last--where they
all drew up in line, some fifty yards beyond
the westernmost post. This distance
they took that full speed might be attained
before jousting at the first ring, since the
course--much over one hundred yards long
--must be covered in seven seconds or less,
which was no slow rate of speed. The
Hon. Sam arose again:

``The Knight of the Holston!''

Farther down the lists a herald took up
the same cry and the good knight of
Athelstanic build backed his steed from the line
and took his place at the head of the
course.

With his hickory truncheon the Hon.
Sam signed to his trumpeter to sound the
onset.

``Now, son!'' he said.

With the blare of the trumpet Athelstane
sprang from his place and came up
the course, his lance at rest; a tinkling
sound and the first ring slipped down the
knight's spear and when he swept past the
last post there was a clapping of hands, for
he held three rings triumphantly aloft.
And thus they came, one by one, until each
had run the course three times, the Discarded
jousting next to the last and the
Knight of the Cumberland, riding with a
reckless Cave, Adsum air, the very last. At
the second joust it was quite evident that
the victory lay between these two, as they
only had not lost a single ring, and when
the black horse thundered by, the Hon. Sam
shouted ``Brave lance!'' and jollied his
betting enemies, while Buck hugged himself
triumphantly and Mollie seemed temporarily
to lose her chagrin and anger in
pride of her lover, Dave. On the third
running the Knight of the Cumberland
excited a sensation by sitting upright,
waving his lance up and down between the
posts and lowering it only when the ring
was within a few feet of its point. His
recklessness cost him one ring, but as the
Discarded had lost one, they were still
tied, with eight rings to the credit of each,
for the first prize. Only four others were
left--the Knight of the Holston and the
Knight of the Green Valley tying with
seven rings for second prize, and the fat
Maxwelton Braes and the Knight at Large
tying with six rings for the third. The
crowd was eager now and the Hon. Sam
confident. On came the Knight at Large,
his face a rainbow, his plume wilted and
one red base-ball stocking slipped from its
moorings--two rings! On followed the fat
Maxwelton, his plaid streaming and his kilts
flapping about his fat legs--also two rings!

``Egad!'' quoth the Hon. Sam. ``Did
yon lusty trencherman of Annie Laurie's
but put a few more layers of goodly flesh
about his ribs, thereby projecting more his
frontal Falstaffian proportions, by my halidom,
he would have to joust tandem!''

On came Athelstane and the Knight of
the Green Valley, both with but two rings
to their credit, and on followed the
Discarded, riding easily, and the Knight of the
Cumberland again waving his lance between
the posts, each with three rings on
his spear. At the end the Knight at Large
stood third, Athelstane second, and the
Discarded and the Knight of the Cumberland
stood side by side at the head of the
course, still even, and now ready to end the
joust, for neither on the second trial had
missed a ring.

The excitement was intense now. Many
people seemed to know who the Knight of
the Cumberland was, for there were shouts
of ``Go it, Dave!'' from everywhere; the
rivalry of class had entered the contest and
now it was a conflict between native and
``furriner.'' The Hon. Sam was almost
beside himself with excitement; now and
then some man with whom he had made
a bet would shout jeeringly at him and the
Hon. Sam would shout back defiance. But
when the trumpet sounded he sat leaning
forward with his brow wrinkled and his
big hands clinched tight. Marston sped
up the course first--three rings--and there
was a chorus of applauding yells.

``His horse is gittin' tired,'' said the
Hon. Sam jubilantly, and the Blight's face,
I noticed, showed for the first time faint
traces of indignation. The Knight of the
Cumberland was taking no theatrical
chances now and he came through the
course with level spear and, with three
rings on it, he shot by like a thunderbolt.

``Hooray!'' shouted the Hon. Sam.
``Lord, what a horse!'' For the first time
the Blight, I observed, failed to applaud,
while Mollie was clapping her hands and
Buck was giving out shrill yells of
encouragement. At the next tilt the Hon.
Sam had his watch in his hand and when
he saw the Discarded digging in his spurs
he began to smile and he was looking at
his watch when the little tinkle in front told
him that the course was run.

``Did he get 'em all?''

``Yes, he got 'em all,'' mimicked the
Blight.

``Yes, an' he just did make it,'' chuckled
the Hon. Sam. The Discarded had
wheeled his horse aside from the course to
watch his antagonist. He looked pale and
tired--almost as tired as his foam-covered
steed--but his teeth were set and his face
was unmoved as the Knight of the
Cumberland came on like a demon, sweeping
off the last ring with a low, rasping oath
of satisfaction.

``I never seed Dave ride that-a-way
afore,'' said Mollie.

``Me, neither,'' chimed in Buck.

The nobles and ladies were waving
handkerchiefs, clapping hands, and shouting.
The spectators of better degree were
throwing up their hats and from every part
of the multitude the same hoarse shout of
encouragement rose:

``Go it, Dave! Hooray for Dave!''
while the boy on the telegraph-pole was
seen to clutch wildly at the crossbar on
which he sat--he had come near tumbling
from his perch.

The two knights rode slowly back to the
head of the lists, where the Discarded
was seen to dismount and tighten his
girth.

``He's tryin' to git time to rest,'' said
the Hon. Sam. ``Toot, son!''

``Shame!'' said the little sister and the
Blight both at once so severely that the
Hon. Sam quickly raised his hand.

``Hold on,'' he said, and with hand still
uplifted he waited till Marston was
mounted again. ``Now!''

The Discarded came on, using his spurs
with every jump, the red of his horse's
nostrils showing that far away, and he swept
on, spearing off the rings with deadly
accuracy and holding the three aloft, but
having no need to pull in his panting steed,
who stopped of his own accord. Up went
a roar, but the Hon. Sam, covertly glancing
at his watch, still smiled. That watch he
pulled out when the Knight of the Cumberland
started and he smiled still when
he heard the black horse's swift, rhythmic
beat and he looked up only when that
knight, shouting to his horse, moved his
lance up and down before coming to the
last ring and, with a dare-devil yell, swept
it from the wire.

``Tied--tied!'' was the shout; ``they've
got to try it again! they've got to try it
again!''

The Hon. Sam rose, with his watch in
one hand and stilling the tumult with the
other. Dead silence came at once.

``I fear me,'' he said, ``that the good
knight, the Discarded, has failed to make
the course in the time required by the laws
of the tournament.'' Bedlam broke loose
again and the Hon. Sam waited, still
gesturing for silence.

``Summon the time-keeper!'' he said.

The time-keeper appeared from the
middle of the field and nodded.

``Eight seconds!''
``The Knight of the Cumberland wins,''
said the Hon. Sam.

The little sister, unconscious of her own
sad face, nudged me to look at the Blight
--there were tears in her eyes.

Before the grandstand the knights
slowly drew up again. Marston's horse
was so lame and tired that he dismounted
and let a darky boy lead him under the
shade of the trees. But he stood on foot
among the other knights, his arms folded,
worn out and vanquished, but taking his
bitter medicine like a man. I thought
the Blight's eyes looked pityingly upon
him.

The Hon. Sam arose with a crown of
laurel leaves in his hand:

``You have fairly and gallantly won,
Sir Knight of the Cumberland, and it is
now your right to claim and receive from
the hands of the Queen of Love and
Beauty the chaplet of honor which your
skill has justly deserved. Advance, Sir
Knight of the Cumberland, and dismount!''

The Knight of the Cumberland made no
move nor sound.

``Get off yo' hoss, son,'' said the Hon.
Sam kindly, ``and get down on yo' knees
at the feet of them steps. This fair young
Queen is a-goin' to put this chaplet on your
shinin' brow. That horse'll stand.''

The Knight of the Cumberland, after a
moment's hesitation, threw his leg over the
saddle and came to the steps with a slouching
gait and looking about him right and
left. The Blight, blushing prettily, took
the chaplet and went down the steps to
meet him.

``Unmask!'' I shouted.

``Yes, son,'' said the Hon. Sam, ``take
that rag off.''

Then Mollie's voice, clear and loud,
startled the crowd. ``You better not,
Dave Branham, fer if you do and this
other gal puts that thing on you, you'll
never--'' What penalty she was going to
inflict, I don't know, for the Knight of the
Cumberland, half kneeling, sprang suddenly
to his feet and interrupted her.
``Wait a minute, will ye?'' he said almost
fiercely, and at the sound of his voice
Mollie rose to her feet and her face
blanched.

``Lord God!'' she said almost in
anguish, and then she dropped quickly to her
seat again.

The Knight of the Cumberland had
gone back to his horse as though to get
something from his saddle. Like lightning
he vaulted into the saddle, and as the black
horse sprang toward the opening tore his
mask from his face, turned in his stirrups,
and brandished his spear with a yell of
defiance, while a dozen voices shouted:

``The Wild Dog!'' Then was there
an uproar.

``Goddle mighty!'' shouted the Hon.
Sam. ``I didn't do it, I swear I didn't
know it. He's tricked me--he's tricked
me! Don't shoot--you might hit that
hoss!''

There was no doubt about the Hon.
Sam's innocence. Instead of turning over
an outlaw to the police, he had brought
him into the inner shrine of law and order
and he knew what a political asset for his
enemies that insult would be. And there
was no doubt of the innocence of Mollie
and Buck as they stood, Mollie wringing
her hands and Buck with open mouth and
startled face. There was no doubt about
the innocence of anybody other than Dave
Branham and the dare-devil Knight of the
Cumberland.

Marston had clutched at the Wild Dog's
bridle and missed and the outlaw struck
savagely at him with his spear. Nobody
dared to shoot because of the scattering
crowd, but every knight and every mounted
policeman took out after the outlaw and
the beating of hoofs pounded over the
little mound and toward Poplar Hill.
Marston ran to his horse at the upper end,
threw his saddle on, and hesitated--there
were enough after the Wild Dog and his
horse was blown. He listened to the yells
and sounds of the chase encircling Poplar
Hill. The outlaw was making for Lee.
All at once the yells and hoof-beats seemed
to sound nearer and Marston listened,
astonished. The Wild Dog had wheeled
and was coming back; he was going to
make for the Gap, where sure safety lay.
Marston buckled his girth and as he sprang
on his horse, unconsciously taking his spear
with him, the Wild Dog dashed from the
trees at the far end of the field. As
Marston started the Wild Dog saw him, pulled
something that flashed from under his coat
of mail, thrust it back again, and brandishing
his spear, he came, full speed and
yelling, up the middle of the field. It was
a strange thing to happen in these modern
days, but Marston was an officer of the
law and was between the Wild Dog and
the Ford and liberty through the Gap, into
the hills. The Wild Dog was an outlaw.
It was Marston's duty to take him.

The law does not prescribe with what
weapon the lawless shall be subdued, and
Marston's spear was the only weapon he
had. Moreover, the Wild Dog's yell was
a challenge that set his blood afire and
the girl both loved was looking on. The
crowd gathered the meaning of the joust--
the knights were crashing toward each
other with spears at rest. There were a
few surprised oaths from men, a few low
cries from women, and then dead silence
in which the sound of hoofs on the hard
turf was like thunder. The Blight's face
was white and the little sister was gripping
my arm with both hands. A third horseman
shot into view out of the woods at
tight angles, to stop them, and it seemed
that the three horses must crash together
in a heap. With a moan the Blight buried
her face on my shoulder. She shivered
when the muffled thud of body against
body and the splintering of wood rent the
air; a chorus of shrieks arose about her,
and when she lifted her frightened face
Marston, the Discarded, was limp on the
ground, his horse was staggering to his
feet, and the Wild Dog was galloping past
her, his helmet gleaming, his eyes ablaze,
his teeth set, the handle of his broken
spear clinched in his right hand, and blood
streaming down the shoulder of the black
horse. She heard the shots that were sent
after him, she heard him plunge into the
river, and then she saw and heard no
more.

VIII

THE KNIGHT PASSES

A telegram summoned the Blight
a home next day. Marston was in
bed with a ragged wound in the shoulder,
and I took her to tell him good-by. I left
the room for a few minutes, and when I
came back their hands were unclasping, and
for a Discarded Knight the engineer surely
wore a happy though pallid face.

That afternoon the train on which we
left the Gap was brought to a sudden halt
in Wildcat Valley by a piece of red flannel
tied to the end of a stick that was
planted midway the track. Across the
track, farther on, lay a heavy piece of
timber, and it was plain that somebody
meant that, just at that place, the train
must stop. The Blight and I were seated
on the rear platform and the Blight was
taking a last look at her beloved hills.
When the train started again, there was
a cracking of twigs overhead and a
shower of rhododendron leaves and
flowers dropped from the air at the feet
of the Blight. And when we pulled away
from the high-walled cut we saw, motionless
on a little mound, a black horse,
and on him, motionless, the Knight of the
Cumberland, the helmet on his head (that
the Blight might know who he was, no
doubt), and both hands clasping the
broken handle of his spear, which rested
across the pommel of his saddle. Impulsively
the Blight waved her hand to him
and I could not help waving my hat; but
he sat like a statue and, like a statue, sat
on, simply looking after us as we were
hurried along, until horse, broken shaft,
and shoulders sank out of sight. And thus
passed the Knight of the Cumberland with
the last gleam that struck his helmet,
spear-like, from the slanting sun.

THE END

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