Christmas Eve On Lonesome And Other Stories
By John Fox, Jr.
Illustrated By F. C. Yohn, A.I. Keller, W.A. Rogers, and H. C. Ransom
Christmas Eve On Lonesome
The Army Of The Callahan
The Pardon Of Becky Day
A Crisis For The Guard
Christmas Night With Satan
Captain Wells descended with no little majesty and "biffed" him
"Speak up, nigger!"
Satan would drop the coin and get a ball for himself
TO THOMAS NELSON PAGE
CHRISTMAS EVE ON LONESOME
It was Christmas Eve on Lonesome. But nobody on Lonesome knew that it
was Christmas Eve, although a child of the outer world could have
guessed it, even out in those wilds where Lonesome slipped from one lone
log cabin high up the steeps, down through a stretch of jungled darkness
to another lone cabin at the mouth of the stream.
There was the holy hush in the gray twilight that comes only on
Christmas Eve. There were the big flakes of snow that fell as they never
fall except on Christmas Eve. There was a snowy man on horseback in a
big coat, and with saddle-pockets that might have been bursting with
toys for children in the little cabin at the head of the stream.
But not even he knew that it was Christmas Eve. He was thinking of
Christmas Eve, but it was of the Christmas Eve of the year before, when
he sat in prison with a hundred other men in stripes, and listened to
the chaplain talk of peace and good will to all men upon earth, when he
had forgotten all men upon earth but one, and had only hatred in his
heart for him.
"Vengeance is mine! saith the Lord."
That was what the chaplain had thundered at him. And then, as now, he
thought of the enemy who had betrayed him to the law, and had sworn away
his liberty, and had robbed him of everything in life except a fierce
longing for the day when he could strike back and strike to kill. And
then, while he looked back hard into the chaplain's eyes, and now, while
he splashed through the yellow mud thinking of that Christmas Eve, Buck
shook his head; and then, as now, his sullen heart answered:
The big flakes drifted to crotch and twig and limb. They gathered on the
brim of Buck's slouch hat, filled out the wrinkles in his big coat,
whitened his hair and his long mustache, and sifted into the yellow,
twisting path that guided his horse's feet.
High above he could see through the whirling snow now and then the gleam
of a red star. He knew it was the light from his enemy's window; but
somehow the chaplain's voice kept ringing in his ears, and every time he
saw the light he couldn't help thinking of the story of the Star that
the chaplain told that Christmas Eve, and he dropped his eyes by and by,
so as not to see it again, and rode on until the light shone in his
Then he led his horse up a little ravine and hitched it among the snowy
holly and rhododendrons, and slipped toward the light. There was a dog
somewhere, of course; and like a thief he climbed over the low
rail-fence and stole through the tall snow-wet grass until he leaned
against an apple-tree with the sill of the window two feet above the
level of his eyes.
Reaching above him, he caught a stout limb and dragged himself up to a
crotch of the tree. A mass of snow slipped softly to the earth. The
branch creaked above the light wind; around the corner of the house a
dog growled and he sat still.
He had waited three long years and he had ridden two hard nights and
lain out two cold days in the woods for this.
And presently he reached out very carefully, and noiselessly broke leaf
and branch and twig until a passage was cleared for his eye and for the
point of the pistol that was gripped in his right hand.
A woman was just disappearing through the kitchen door, and he peered
cautiously and saw nothing but darting shadows. From one corner a shadow
loomed suddenly out in human shape. Buck saw the shadowed gesture of an
arm, and he cocked his pistol. That shadow was his man, and in a moment
he would be in a chair in the chimney corner to smoke his pipe,
maybe--his last pipe.
Buck smiled--pure hatred made him smile--but it was mean, a mean and
sorry thing to shoot this man in the back, dog though he was; and now
that the moment had come a wave of sickening shame ran through Buck. No
one of his name had ever done that before; but this man and his people
had, and with their own lips they had framed palliation for him. What
was fair for one was fair for the other they always said. A poor man
couldn't fight money in the courts; and so they had shot from the brush,
and that was why they were rich now and Buck was poor--why his enemy was
safe at home, and he was out here, homeless, in the apple-tree.
Buck thought of all this, but it was no use. The shadow slouched
suddenly and disappeared; and Buck was glad. With a gritting oath
between his chattering teeth he pulled his pistol in and thrust one leg
down to swing from the tree--he would meet him face to face next day and
kill him like a man--and there he hung as rigid as though the cold had
suddenly turned him, blood, bones, and marrow, into ice.
The door had opened, and full in the firelight stood the girl who he had
heard was dead. He knew now how and why that word was sent him. And now
she who had been his sweetheart stood before him--the wife of the man he
meant to kill.
Her lips moved--he thought he could tell what she said: "Git up, Jim,
git up!" Then she went back.
A flame flared up within him now that must have come straight from the
devil's forge. Again the shadows played over the ceiling. His teeth
grated as he cocked his pistol, and pointed it down the beam of light
that shot into the heart of the apple-tree, and waited.
The shadow of a head shot along the rafters and over the fireplace. It
was a madman clutching the butt of the pistol now, and as his eye caught
the glinting sight and his heart thumped, there stepped into the square
light of the window--a child!
It was a boy with yellow tumbled hair, and he had a puppy in his arms.
In front of the fire the little fellow dropped the dog, and they began
"Yap! yap! yap!"
Buck could hear the shrill barking of the fat little dog, and the joyous
shrieks of the child as he made his playfellow chase his tail round and
round or tumbled him head over heels on the floor. It was the first
child Buck had seen for three years; it was _his_ child and _hers_;
and, in the apple-tree, Buck watched fixedly.
They were down on the floor now, rolling over and over together; and he
watched them until the child grew tired and turned his face to the fire
and lay still--looking into it. Buck could see his eyes close presently,
and then the puppy crept closer, put his head on his playmate's chest,
and the two lay thus asleep.
And still Buck looked--his clasp loosening on his pistol and his lips
loosening under his stiff mustache--and kept looking until the door
opened again and the woman crossed the floor. A flood of light flashed
suddenly on the snow, barely touching the snow-hung tips of the
apple-tree, and he saw her in the doorway--saw her look anxiously into
the darkness--look and listen a long while.
Buck dropped noiselessly to the snow when she closed the door. He
wondered what they would think when they saw his tracks in the snow next
morning; and then he realized that they would be covered before morning.
As he started up the ravine where his horse was he heard the clink of
metal down the road and the splash of a horse's hoofs in the soft mud,
and he sank down behind a holly-bush.
Again the light from the cabin flashed out on the snow.
"That you, Jim?"
And then the child's voice: "Has oo dot thum tandy?"
The cheery answer rang out almost at Buck's ear, and Jim passed death
waiting for him behind the bush which his left foot brushed, shaking the
snow from the red berries down on the crouching figure beneath.
Once only, far down the dark jungled way, with the underlying streak of
yellow that was leading him whither, God only knew--once only Buck
looked back. There was the red light gleaming faintly through the
moonlit flakes of snow. Once more he thought of the Star, and once more
the chaplain's voice came back to him.
"Mine!" saith the Lord.
Just how, Buck could not see with himself in the snow and _him_ back
there for life with her and the child, but some strange impulse made him
bare his head.
"Yourn," said Buck grimly.
But nobody on Lonesome--not even Buck--knew that it was Christmas Eve.
THE ARMY OF THE CALLAHAN
The dreaded message had come. The lank messenger, who had brought it
from over Black Mountain, dropped into a chair by the stove and sank his
teeth into a great hunk of yellow cheese. "Flitter Bill" Richmond
waddled from behind his counter, and out on the little platform in front
of his cross-roads store. Out there was a group of earth-stained
countrymen, lounging against the rickety fence or swinging on it, their
heels clear of the ground, all whittling, chewing, and talking the
matter over. All looked up at Bill, and he looked down at them, running
his eye keenly from one to another until he came to one powerful young
fellow loosely bent over a wagon-tongue. Even on him, Bill's eyes stayed
but a moment, and then were lifted higher in anxious thought.
The message had come at last, and the man who brought it had heard it
fall from Black Tom's own lips. The "wild Jay-Hawkers of Kaintuck" were
coming over into Virginia to get Flitter Bill's store, for they were
mountain Unionists and Bill was a valley rebel and lawful prey. It was
past belief. So long had he prospered, and so well, that Bill had come
to feel that he sat safe in the hollow of God's hand. But he now must
have protection--and at once--from the hand of man.
Roaring Fork sang lustily through the rhododendrons. To the north yawned
"the Gap" through the Cumberland Mountains. "Callahan's Nose," a huge
gray rock, showed plain in the clear air, high above the young foliage,
and under it, and on up the rocky chasm, flashed Flitter Bill's keen
mind, reaching out for help.
Now, from Virginia to Alabama the Southern mountaineer was a Yankee,
because the national spirit of 1776, getting fresh impetus in 1812 and
new life from the Mexican War, had never died out in the hills. Most
likely it would never have died out, anyway; for, the world over, any
seed of character, individual or national, that is once dropped between
lofty summits brings forth its kind, with deathless tenacity, year after
year. Only, in the Kentucky mountains, there were more slaveholders than
elsewhere in the mountains in the South. These, naturally, fought for
their slaves, and the division thus made the war personal and terrible
between the slaveholders who dared to stay at home, and the Union,
"Home Guards" who organized to drive them away. In Bill's little
Virginia valley, of course, most of the sturdy farmers had shouldered
Confederate muskets and gone to the war. Those who had stayed at home
were, like Bill, Confederate in sympathy, but they lived in safety down
the valley, while Bill traded and fattened just opposite the Gap,
through which a wild road ran over into the wild Kentucky hills. Therein
Bill's danger lay; for, just at this time, the Harlan Home Guard under
Black Tom, having cleared those hills, were making ready, like the Pict
and Scot of olden days, to descend on the Virginia valley and smite the
lowland rebels at the mouth of the Gap. Of the "stay-at-homes," and the
deserters roundabout, there were many, very many, who would "stand in"
with any man who would keep their bellies full, but they were well-nigh
worthless even with a leader, and, without a leader, of no good at all.
Flitter Bill must find a leader for them, and anywhere than in his own
fat self, for a leader of men Bill was not born to be, nor could he see
a leader among the men before him. And so, standing there one early
morning in the spring of 1865, with uplifted gaze, it was no surprise to
him--the coincidence, indeed, became at once one of the articles of
perfect faith in his own star--that he should see afar off, a black
slouch hat and a jogging gray horse rise above a little knoll that was
in line with the mouth of the Gap. At once he crossed his hands over his
chubby stomach with a pious sigh, and at once a plan of action began to
whirl in his little round head. Before man and beast were in full view
the work was done, the hands were unclasped, and Flitter Bill, with a
chuckle, had slowly risen, and was waddling back to his desk in the
It was a pompous old buck who was bearing down on the old gray horse,
and under the slouch hat with its flapping brim--one Mayhall Wells, by
name. There were but few strands of gray in his thick blue-black hair,
though his years were rounding half a century, and he sat the old nag
with erect dignity and perfect ease. His bearded mouth showed vanity
immeasurable, and suggested a strength of will that his eyes--the real
seat of power--denied, for, while shrewd and keen, they were unsteady.
In reality, he was a great coward, though strong as an ox, and whipping
with ease every man who could force him into a fight. So that, in the
whole man, a sensitive observer would have felt a peculiar pathos, as
though nature had given him a desire to be, and no power to become, and
had then sent him on his zigzag way, never to dream wherein his trouble
All nodded and spoke except Hence Sturgill on the wagon-tongue, who
stopped whittling, and merely looked at the big man with narrowing eyes.
Tallow Dick, a yellow slave, appeared at the corner of the store, and
the old buck beckoned him to come and hitch his horse. Flitter Bill had
reappeared on the stoop with a piece of white paper in his hand. The
lank messenger sagged in the doorway behind him, ready to start for
"Mornin' _Captain_ Wells," said Bill, with great respect. Every man
heard the title, stopped his tongue and his knife-blade, and raised his
eyes; a few smiled--Hence Sturgill grinned. Mayhall stared, and Bill's
left eye closed and opened with lightning quickness in a most portentous
wink. Mayhall straightened his shoulders--seeing the game, as did the
crowd at once: Flitter Bill was impressing that messenger in case he had
some dangerous card up his sleeve.
"_Captain_ Wells," Bill repeated significantly, "I'm sorry to say yo'
new uniform has not arrived yet. I am expecting it to-morrow." Mayhall
toed the line with soldierly promptness.
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that, suh--sorry to hear it, suh," he said,
with slow, measured speech. "My men are comin' in fast, and you can
hardly realize er--er what it means to an old soldier er--er not to
have--er--" And Mayhall's answering wink was portentous.
"My friend here is from over in Kaintucky, and the Harlan Home Gyard
over there, he says, is a-making some threats."
"So I have heerd--so I have heerd." He turned to the messenger. "We
shall be ready fer 'em, suh, ready fer 'em with a thousand men--one
thousand men, suh, right hyeh in the Gap--right hyeh in the Gap. Let 'em
come on--let 'em come on!" Mayhall began to rub his hands together as
though the conflict were close at hand, and the mountaineer slapped one
thigh heartily. "Good for you! Give 'em hell!" He was about to slap
Mayhall on the shoulder and call him "pardner," when Flitter Bill
coughed, and Mayhall lifted his chin.
"Captain Wells?" said Bill.
"Captain Wells," repeated Mayhall with a stiff salutation, and the
messenger from over Black Mountain fell back with an apologetic laugh. A
few minutes later both Mayhall and Flitter Bill saw him shaking his
head, as he started homeward toward the Gap. Bill laughed silently, but
Mayhall had grown grave. The fun was over and he beckoned Bill inside
"Misto Richmond," he said, with hesitancy and an entire change of tone
and manner, "I am afeerd I ain't goin' to be able to pay you that little
amount I owe you, but if you can give me a little mo' time--"
"Captain Wells," interrupted Bill slowly, and again Mayhall stared hard
at him, "as betwixt friends, as have been pussonal friends fer nigh onto
twenty year, I hope you won't mention that little matter to me
ag'in--until I mentions it to you."
"But, Misto Richmond, Hence Sturgill out thar says as how he heerd you
say that if I didn't pay--"
"_Captain_ Wells," interrupted Bill again and again Mayhall stared
hard--it was strange that Bill could have formed the habit of calling
him "Captain" in so short a time--"yestiddy is not to-day, is it? And
to-day is not to-morrow? I axe you--have I said one word about that
little matter _to-day?_ Well, borrow not from yestiddy nor to-morrow, to
make trouble fer to-day. There is other things fer to-day, Captain
Mayhall turned here.
"Misto Richmond," he said, with great earnestness, "you may not know it,
but three times since thet long-legged jay-hawker's been gone you hev
plainly--and if my ears do not deceive me, an' they never hev--you have
plainly called me '_Captain_ Wells.' I knowed yo' little trick whilst he
was hyeh, fer I knowed whut the feller had come to tell ye; but since
he's been gone, three times, Misto Richmond--"
"Yes," drawled Bill, with an unction that was strangely sweet to
Mayhall's wondering ears, "an' I do it ag'in, _Captain_ Wells."
"An' may I axe you," said Mayhall, ruffling a little, "may I axe
"Certainly," said Bill, and he handed over the paper that he held in his
Mayhall took the paper and looked it up and down helplessly--Flitter
Bill slyly watching him.
Mayhall handed it back. "If you please, Misto Richmond--I left my specs
at home." Without a smile, Bill began. It was an order from the
commandant at Cumberland Gap, sixty miles farther down Powell's Valley,
authorizing Mayhall Wells to form a company to guard the Gap and to
protect the property of Confederate citizens in the valley; and a
commission of captaincy in the said company for the said Mayhall Wells.
Mayhall's mouth widened to the full stretch of his lean jaws, and, when
Bill was through reading, he silently reached for the paper and looked
it up and down and over and over, muttering:
"Well--well--well!" And then he pointed silently to the name that was at
the bottom of the paper.
Bill spelled out the name:
"_Jefferson Davis_" and Mayhall's big fingers trembled as he pulled them
away, as though to avoid further desecration of that sacred name.
Then he rose, and a magical transformation began that can be likened--I
speak with reverence--to the turning of water into wine. Captain Mayhall
Wells raised his head, set his chin well in, and kept it there. He
straightened his shoulders, and kept them straight. He paced the floor
with a tread that was martial, and once he stopped before the door with
his right hand thrust under his breast-pocket, and with wrinkling brow
studied the hills. It was a new man--with the water in his blood changed
to wine--who turned suddenly on Flitter Bill Richmond:
"I can collect a vehy large force in a vehy few days." Flitter Bill knew
that--that he could get together every loafer between the county-seat of
Wise and the county-seat of Lee--but he only said encouragingly:
"An' we air to pertect the property--_I_ am to pertect the property of
the Confederate citizens of the valley--that means _you_, Misto
Richmond, and _this store_."
Mayhall coughed slightly. "There is one thing in the way, I opine.
Whar--I axe you--air we to git somethin' to eat fer my command?" Bill
had anticipated this.
"I'll take keer o' that."
Captain Wells rubbed his hands.
"Of co'se, of co'se--you are a soldier and a patriot--you can afford to
feed 'em as a slight return fer the pertection I shall give you and
"Certainly," agreed Bill dryly, and with a prophetic stir of uneasiness.
"Vehy--vehy well. I shall begin _now_, Misto Richmond." And, to Flitter
Bill's wonder, the captain stalked out to the stoop, announced his
purpose with the voice of an auctioneer, and called for volunteers then
and there. There was dead silence for a moment. Then there was a smile
here, a chuckle there, an incredulous laugh, and Hence Sturgill, "bully
of the Pocket," rose from the wagon-tongue, closed his knife, came
slowly forward, and cackled his scorn straight up into the teeth of
Captain Mayhall Wells. The captain looked down and began to shed his
"I take it, Hence Sturgill, that you air laughin' at me?"
"I am a-laughin' at _you_, Mayhall Wells," he said, contemptuously, but
he was surprised at the look on the good-natured giant's face.
"_Captain_ Mayhall Wells, ef you please."
"Plain ole Mayhall Wells," said Hence, and Captain Wells descended with
no little majesty and "biffed" him.
The delighted crowd rose to its feet and gathered around. Tallow Dick
came running from the barn. It was biff--biff, and biff again, but not
nip and tuck for long. Captain Mayhall closed in. Hence Sturgill struck
the earth like a Homeric pine, and the captain's mighty arm played above
him and fell, resounding. In three minutes Hence, to the amazement of
the crowd, roared:
But Mayhall breathed hard and said quietly:
Hence shouted, "Plain ole--" But the captain's huge fist was poised in
the air over his face.
"Captain Wells," he growled, and the captain rose and calmly put on his
coat, while the crowd looked respectful, and Hence Sturgill staggered to
one side, as though beaten in spirit, strength, and wits as well. The
captain beckoned Flitter Bill inside the store. His manner had a
distinct savor of patronage.
[Illustration: Captain Wells descended with no little majesty and
"Misto Richmond," he said, "I make you--I appoint you, by the authority
of Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States of Ameriky, as
commissary-gineral of the Army of the Callahan."
"As _what_?" Bill's eyes blinked at the astounding dignity of his
"Gineral Richmond, I shall not repeat them words." And he didn't, but
rose and made his way toward his old gray mare. Tallow Dick held his
"Dick," he said jocosely, "goin' to run away ag'in?" The negro almost
paled, and then, with a look at a blacksnake whip that hung on the barn
"No, suh--no, suh--'deed I ain't, suh--no mo'."
Mounted, the captain dropped a three-cent silver piece in the startled
negro's hand. Then he vouchsafed the wondering Flitter Bill and the
gaping crowd a military salute and started for the yawning mouth of the
Gap--riding with shoulders squared and chin well in--riding as should
ride the commander of the Army of the Callahan.
Flitter Bill dropped his blinking eyes to the paper in his hand that
bore the commission of Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States of
America to Mayhall Wells of Callahan, and went back into his store. He
looked at it a long time and then he laughed, but without much mirth.
Grass had little chance to grow for three weeks thereafter under the
cowhide boots of Captain Mayhall Wells. When the twentieth morning came
over the hills, the mist parted over the Stars and Bars floating from
the top of a tall poplar up through the Gap and flaunting brave defiance
to Black Tom, his Harlan Home Guard, and all other jay-hawking Unionists
of the Kentucky hills. It parted over the Army of the Callahan asleep on
its arms in the mouth of the chasm, over Flitter Bill sitting, sullen
and dejected, on the stoop of his store; and over Tallow Dick stealing
corn bread from the kitchen to make ready for flight that night through
the Gap, the mountains, and to the yellow river that was the Mecca of
the runaway slave.
At the mouth of the Gap a ragged private stood before a ragged tent,
raised a long dinner horn to his lips, and a mighty blast rang through
the hills, reveille! And out poured the Army of the Callahan from shack,
rock-cave, and coverts of sticks and leaves, with squirrel rifles,
Revolutionary muskets, shotguns, clasp-knives, and horse pistols for
the duties of the day under Lieutenant Skaggs, tactician, and Lieutenant
Boggs, quondam terror of Roaring Fork.
That blast rang down the valley into Flitter Bill's ears and startled
him into action. It brought Tallow Dick's head out of the barn door and
made him grin.
"Dick!" Flitter Bill's call was sharp and angry.
"Go tell ole Mayhall Wells that I ain't goin' to send him nary another
pound o' bacon an' nary another tin cup o' meal--no, by ----, I ain't."
Half an hour later the negro stood before the ragged tent of the
commander of the Army of the Callahan.
"Marse Bill say he ain't gwine to sen' you no mo' rations--no mo'."
Tallow Dick repeated his message and the captain scowled--mutiny!
"Fetch my hoss!" he thundered.
Very naturally and very swiftly had the trouble come, for straight after
the captain's fight with Hence Sturgill there had been a mighty rally to
the standard of Mayhall Wells. From Pigeon's Creek the loafers
came--from Roaring Fork, Cracker's Neck, from the Pocket down the
valley, and from Turkey Cove. Recruits came so fast, and to such
proportions grew the Army of the Callahan, that Flitter Bill shrewdly
suggested at once that Captain Wells divide it into three companies and
put one up Pigeon's Creek under Lieutenant Jim Skaggs and one on
Callahan under Lieutenant Tom Boggs, while the captain, with a third,
should guard the mouth of the Gap. Bill's idea was to share with those
districts the honor of his commissary-generalship; but Captain Wells
crushed the plan like a dried puffball.
"Yes," he said, with fine sarcasm. "What will them Kanetuckians do then?
Don't you know, Gineral Richmond? Why, I'll tell you what they'll do.
They'll jest swoop down on Lieutenant Boggs and gobble him up. Then
they'll swoop down on Lieutenant Skaggs on Pigeon and gobble him up.
Then they'll swoop down on me and gobble me up. No, they won't gobble
_me_ up, but they'll come damn nigh it. An' what kind of a report will I
make to Jeff Davis, Gineral Richmond? _Captured In detail_, suh? No,
suh. I'll jest keep Lieutenant Boggs and Lieutenant Skaggs close by me,
and we'll pitch our camp right here in the Gap whar we can pertect the
property of Confederate citizens and be close to our base o' supplies,
suh. That's what I'll do!"
"Gineral Richmond" groaned, and when in the next breath the mighty
captain casually inquired if _that uniform of his_ had come yet, Flitter
Bill's fat body nearly rolled off his chair.
"You will please have it here next Monday," said the captain, with great
firmness. "It is necessary to the proper discipline of my troops." And
it was there the following Monday--a regimental coat, gray jeans
trousers, and a forage cap that Bill purchased from a passing Morgan
raider. Daily orders would come from Captain Wells to General Flitter
Bill Richmond to send up more rations, and Bill groaned afresh when a
man from Callahan told how the captain's family was sprucing up on meal
and flour and bacon from the captain's camp. Humiliation followed. It
had never occurred to Captain Wells that being a captain made it
incongruous for him to have a "general" under him, until Lieutenant
Skaggs, who had picked up a manual of tactics somewhere, cautiously
communicated his discovery. Captain Wells saw the point at once. There
was but one thing to do--to reduce General Richmond to the ranks--and it
was done. Technically, thereafter, the general was purveyor for the Army
of the Callahan, but to the captain himself he was--gallingly to the
purveyor--simple Flitter Bill.
The strange thing was that, contrary to his usual shrewdness, it should
have taken Flitter Bill so long to see that the difference between
having his store robbed by the Kentucky jay-hawkers and looted by
Captain Wells was the difference between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee,
but, when he did see, he forged a plan of relief at once. When the
captain sent down Lieutenant Boggs for a supply of rations, Bill sent
the saltiest, rankest bacon he could find, with a message that he wanted
to see the great man. As before, when Captain Wells rode down to the
store, Bill handed out a piece of paper, and, as before, the captain had
left his "specs" at home. The paper was an order that, whereas the
distinguished services of Captain Wells to the Confederacy were
appreciated by Jefferson Davis, the said Captain Wells was, and is,
hereby empowered to duly, and in accordance with the tactics of war,
impress what live-stock he shall see fit and determine fit for the good
of his command. The news was joy to the Army of the Callahan. Before it
had gone the rounds of the camp Lieutenant Boggs had spied a fat heifer
browsing on the edge of the woods and ordered her surrounded and driven
down. Without another word, when she was close enough, he raised his
gun and would have shot her dead in her tracks had he not been arrested
by a yell of command and horror from his superior.
"Air you a-goin' to have me cashiered and shot, Lieutenant Boggs, fer
violatin' the ticktacks of war?" roared the captain, indignantly. "Don't
you know that I've got to _impress_ that heifer accordin' to the rules
an' regulations? Git roun' that heifer." The men surrounded her. "Take
her by the horns. Now! In the name of Jefferson Davis and the
Confederate States of Ameriky, I hereby and hereon do duly impress this
heifer for the purposes and use of the Army of the Callahan, so help me
God! Shoot her down, Bill Boggs, shoot her down!"
Now, naturally, the soldiers preferred fresh meat, and they got
it--impressing cattle, sheep, and hogs, geese, chickens, and ducks,
vegetables--nothing escaped the capacious maw of the Army of the
Callahan. It was a beautiful idea, and the success of it pleased Flitter
Bill mightily, but the relief did not last long. An indignant murmur
rose up and down valley and creek bottom against the outrages, and one
angry old farmer took a pot-shot at Captain Wells with a squirrel rifle,
clipping the visor of his forage cap; and from that day the captain
began to call with immutable regularity again on Flitter Bill for bacon
and meal. That morning the last straw fell in a demand for a wagon-load
of rations to be delivered before noon, and, worn to the edge of his
patience, Bill had sent a reckless refusal. And now he was waiting on
the stoop of his store, looking at the mouth of the Gap and waiting for
it to give out into the valley Captain Wells and his old gray mare. And
at last, late in the afternoon, there was the captain coming--coming at
a swift gallop--and Bill steeled himself for the onslaught like a knight
in a joust against a charging antagonist. The captain saluted
stiffly--pulling up sharply and making no move to dismount.
"Purveyor," he said, "Black Tom has just sent word that he's a-comin'
over hyeh this week--have you heerd that, purveyor?" Bill was silent.
"Black Tom says you _air_ responsible for the Army of the Callahan. Have
you heerd that, purveyor?" Still was there silence.
"He says he's a-goin' to hang me to that poplar whar floats them Stars
and Bars"--Captain Mayhall Wells chuckled--"an' he says he's a-goin' to
hang _you_ thar fust, though; have you heerd _that_, purveyor?"
The captain dropped the titular address now, and threw one leg over the
pommel of his saddle.
"Flitter Bill Richmond," he said, with great nonchalance, "I axe you--do
you prefer that I should disband the Army of the Callahan, or do you
The captain was silent a full minute, and his face grew stern. "Flitter
Bill Richmond, I had no idee o' disbandin' the Army of the Callahan, but
do you know what I did aim to do?" Again Bill was silent.
"Well, suh, I'll tell you whut I aim to do. If you don't send them
rations I'll have you cashiered for mutiny, an' if Black Tom don't hang
you to that air poplar, I'll hang you thar myself, suh; yes, by ----! I
will. Dick!" he called sharply to the slave. "Hitch up that air wagon,
fill hit full o' bacon and meal, and drive it up thar to my tent. An' be
mighty damn quick about it, or I'll hang you, too."
The negro gave a swift glance to his master, and Flitter Bill feebly
"Purveyor, I wish you good-day."
Bill gazed after the great captain in dazed wonder (was this the man who
had come cringing to him only a few short weeks ago?) and groaned aloud.
But for lucky or unlucky coincidence, how could the prophet ever have
gained name and fame on earth?
Captain Wells rode back to camp chuckling--chuckling with satisfaction
and pride; but the chuckle passed when he caught sight of his tent. In
front of it were his lieutenants and some half a dozen privates, all
plainly in great agitation, and in the midst of them stood the lank
messenger who had brought the first message from Black Tom, delivering
another from the same source. Black Tom _was_ coming, coming surer and
unless that flag, that "Rebel rag," were hauled down under twenty-four
hours, Black Tom would come over and pull it down, and to that same
poplar hang "Captain Mayhall an' his whole damn army." Black Tom might
do it anyhow--just for fun.
While the privates listened the captain strutted and swore; then he
rested his hand on his hip and smiled with silent sarcasm, and then
swore again--while the respectful lieutenants and the awed soldiery of
the Callahan looked on. Finally he spoke.
"Ah--when did Black Tom say that?" he inquired casually.
"Yestiddy mornin'. He said he was goin' to start over hyeh early this
mornin'." The captain whirled.
"What? Then why didn't you git over hyeh _this_ mornin'?"
"Couldn't git across the river last night."
"Then he's a-comin' to-day?"
"I reckon Black Tom'll be hyeh in about two hours--mebbe he ain't fer
away now." The captain was startled.
"Lieutenant Skaggs," he called, sharply, "git yo' men out thar an' draw
'em up in two rows!"
The face of the student of military tactics looked horrified. The
captain in his excitement had relaxed into language that was distinctly
agricultural, and, catching the look on his subordinate's face, and at
the same time the reason for it, he roared, indignantly:
"Air you afeer'd, sir? Git yo' men out, I said, an' march 'em up thar in
front of the Gap. Lieutenant Boggs, take ten men and march at double
quick through the Gap, an' defend that poplar with yo' life's blood. If
you air overwhelmed by superior numbers, fall back, suh, step by step,
until you air re-enforced by Lieutenant Skaggs. If you two air not able
to hold the enemy in check, you may count on me an' the Army of the
Callahan to grind _him_--" (How the captain, now thoroughly aroused to
all the fine terms of war, did roll that technical "him" under his
tongue)--"to grind him to pieces ag'in them towerin' rocks, and plunge
him in the foilin' waters of Roarin' Fawk. Forward, suh--double quick."
Lieutenant Skaggs touched his cap. Lieutenant Boggs looked embarrassed
and strode nearer.
"Captain, whar am I goin' to git ten men to face them Kanetuckians?"
"Whar air they goin' to git a off'cer to lead 'em, you'd better say,"
said the captain, severely, fearing that some of the soldiers had heard
the question. "If you air afeer'd, suh"--and then he saw that no one had
heard, and he winked--winked with most unmilitary familiarity.
"Air you a good climber, Lieutenant Boggs?" Lieutenant Boggs looked
mystified, but he said he was.
"Lieutenant Boggs, I now give you the opportunity to show yo' profound
knowledge of the ticktacks of war. You may now be guilty of disobedience
of ordahs, and I will not have you court-martialled for the same. In
other words, if, after a survey of the situation, you think best--why,"
the captain's voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, "pull that flag down,
lieutenant Boggs, pull her down."
It was an hour by sun now. Lieutenant Boggs and his devoted band of ten
were making their way slowly and watchfully up the mighty chasm--the
lieutenant with his hand on his sword and his head bare, and bowed in
thought. The Kentuckians were on their way--at that moment they might be
riding full speed toward the mouth of Pigeon, where floated the flag.
They might gobble him and his command up when they emerged from the Gap.
Suppose they caught him up that tree. His command might escape, but _he_
would be up there, saving them the trouble of stringing him up. All they
would have to do would be to send up after him a man with a rope, and
let him drop. That was enough. Lieutenant Boggs called a halt and
explained the real purpose of the expedition.
"We will wait here till dark," he said, "so them Kanetuckians can't
ketch us, whilst we are climbing that tree."
And so they waited opposite Bee Rock, which was making ready to blossom
with purple rhododendrons. And the reserve back in the Gap, under
Lieutenant Skaggs, waited. Waited, too, the Army of the Callahan at the
mouth of the Gap, and waited restlessly Captain Wells at the door of his
tent, and Flitter Bill on the stoop of his store--waited everybody but
Tallow Dick, who, in the general confusion, was slipping through the
rhododendrons along the bank of Roaring Fork, until he could climb the
mountain-side and slip through the Gap high over the army's head.
What could have happened?
When dusk was falling, Captain Wells dispatched a messenger to
Lieutenant Skaggs and his reserve, and got an answer; Lieutenant Skaggs
feared that Boggs had been captured without the firing of a single
shot--but the flag was floating still. An hour later, Lieutenant Skaggs
sent another message--he could not see the flag. Captain Wells answered,
"Hold yo' own."
And so, as darkness fell, the Army of the Callahan waited in the strain
of mortal expectancy as one man; and Flitter Bill waited, with his horse
standing saddled in the barn, ready for swift flight. And, as darkness
fell, Tallow Dick was cautiously picking his way alongside the steep
wall of the Gap toward freedom, and picking it with stealthy caution,
foot by foot; for up there, to this day, big loose rocks mount halfway
to the jagged points of the black cliffs, and a careless step would have
detached one and sent an avalanche of rumbling stones down to betray
him. A single shot rang suddenly out far up through the Gap, and the
startled negro sprang forward, slipped, and, with a low, frightened
oath, lay still. Another shot followed, and another. Then a hoarse
murmur rose, loudened into thunder, and ended in a frightful--boom! One
yell rang from the army's throat:
"The Kentuckians! The Kentuckians! The wild, long-haired, terrible
Captain Wells sprang into the air.
"My God, they've got a cannon!"
Then there was a martial chorus--the crack of rifle, the hoarse cough of
horse-pistol, the roar of old muskets.
"Bing! Bang! Boom! Bing--bing! Bang--bang! Boom--boom!
Lieutenant Skaggs and his reserves heard the beat of running feet down
"They've gobbled Boggs," he said, and the reserve rushed after him as he
fled. The army heard the beat of their coming feet.
"They've gobbled Skaggs," the army said.
Then was there bedlam as the army fled--a crashing through bushes--a
splashing into the river, the rumble of mule wagons, yells of terror,
swift flying shapes through the pale moonlight. Flitter Bill heard the
din as he stood by his barn door.
"They've gobbled the army," said Flitter Bill, and he, too, fled like a
shadow down the valley.
Nature never explodes such wild and senseless energy as when she lets
loose a mob in a panic. With the army, it was each man for himself and
devil take the hindmost; and the flight of the army was like a flight
from the very devil himself. Lieutenant Boggs, whose feet were the
swiftest in the hills, outstripped his devoted band. Lieutenant Skaggs,
being fat and slow, fell far behind his reserve, and dropped exhausted
on a rock for a moment to get his breath. As he rose, panting, to resume
flight, a figure bounded out of the darkness behind him, and he gathered
it in silently and went with it to the ground, where both fought
silently in the dust until they rolled into the moonlight and each
looked the other in the face.
"That you, Jim Skaggs?"
"That you, Tom Boggs?"
Then the two lieutenants rose swiftly, but a third shape bounded into
the road--a gigantic figure--Black Tom! With a startled yell they
gathered him in--one by the waist, the other about the neck, and, for a
moment, the terrible Kentuckian--it could be none other--swung the two
clear of the ground, but the doughty lieutenants hung to him. Boggs
trying to get his knife and Skaggs his pistol, and all went down in a
"I surrender--I surrender!" It was the giant who spoke, and at the sound
of his voice both men ceased to struggle, and, strange to say, no one of
the three laughed.
"Lieutenant Boggs," said Captain Wells, thickly, "take yo' thumb out o'
my mouth. Lieutenant Skaggs, leggo my leg an' stop bitin' me."
"Sh--sh--sh--" said all three.
The faint swish of bushes as Lieutenant Boggs's ten men scuttled into
the brush behind them--the distant beat of the army's feet getting
fainter ahead of them, and then silence--dead, dead silence.
With the red streaks of dawn Captain Mayhall Wells was pacing up and
down in front of Flitter Bill's store, a gaping crowd about him, and the
shattered remnants of the army drawn up along Roaring Fork in the rear.
An hour later Flitter Bill rode calmly in.
"I stayed all night down the valley," said Flitter Bill. "Uncle Jim
Richmond was sick. I hear you had some trouble last night, Captain
Wells." The captain expanded his chest.
"Trouble!" he repeated, sarcastically. And then he told how a charging
horde of daredevils had driven him from camp with overwhelming numbers
and one piece of artillery; how he had rallied the army and fought them
back, foot by foot, and put them to fearful rout; how the army had
fallen back again just when the Kentuckians were running like sheep, and
how he himself had stayed in the rear with Lieutenant Boggs and
Lieutenant Skaggs, "to cover their retreat, suh," and how the purveyor,
if he would just go up through the Gap, would doubtless find the cannon
that the enemy had left behind in their flight. It was just while he was
thus telling the tale for the twentieth time that two figures appeared
over the brow of the hill and drew near--Hence Sturgill on horseback and
Tallow Dick on foot.
"I ketched this nigger in my corn-fiel' this mornin'," said Hence,
simply, and Flitter Bill glared, and without a word went for the
blacksnake ox-whip that hung by the barn door.
For the twenty-first time Captain Wells started his tale again, and with
every pause that he made for breath Hence cackled scorn.
"An', Hence Sturgill, ef you will jus' go up in the Gap you'll find a
cannon, captured, suh, by me an' the Army of the Callahan, an'--"
"Cannon!" Hence broke in. "Speak up, nigger!" And Tallow Dick spoke
"I done it!"
"What!" shouted Flitter Bill.
"I kicked a rock loose climbin' over Callahan's Nose."
Bill dropped his whip with a chuckle of pure ecstasy. Mayhall paled and
stared. The crowd roared, the Army of the Callahan grinned, and Hence
climbed back on his horse.
"Mayhall Wells," he said, "plain ole Mayhall Wells, I'll see you on
Couht Day. I ain't got time now."
And he rode away.
[Illustration: "Speak up, nigger."]
That day Captain Mayhall Wells and the Army of the Callahan were in
disrepute. Next day the awful news of Lee's surrender came. Captain
Wells refused to believe it, and still made heroic effort to keep his
shattered command together. Looking for recruits on Court Day, he was
twitted about the rout of the army by Hence Sturgill, whose long-coveted
chance to redeem himself had come. Again, as several times before, the
captain declined to fight--his health was essential to the general
well-being--but Hence laughed in his face, and the captain had to face
the music, though the heart of him was gone.
He fought well, for he was fighting for his all, and he knew it. He
could have whipped with ease, and he did whip, but the spirit of the
thoroughbred was not in Captain Mayhall Wells. He had Sturgill down, but
Hence sank his teeth into Mayhall's thigh while Mayhall's hands grasped
his opponent's throat. The captain had only to squeeze, as every
rough-and-tumble fighter knew, and endure his pain until Hence would
have to give in. But Mayhall was not built to endure. He roared like a
bull as soon as the teeth met in his flesh, his fingers relaxed, and to
the disgusted surprise of everybody he began to roar with great
distinctness and agony:
The end was come, and nobody knew it better than Mayhall Wells. He rode
home that night with hands folded on the pommel of his saddle and his
beard crushed by his chin against his breast. For the last time, next
morning he rode down to Flitter Bill's store. On the way he met Parson
Kilburn and for the last time Mayhall Wells straightened his shoulders
and for one moment more resumed his part: perhaps the parson had not
heard of his fall.
"Good-mornin', parsing," he said, pleasantly. "Ah--where have you been?"
The parson was returning from Cumberland Gap, whither he had gone to
take the oath of allegiance.
"By the way, I have something here for you which Flitter Bill asked me
to give you. He said it was from the commandant at Cumberland Gap."
"Fer me?" asked the captain--hope springing anew in his heart. The
parson handed him a letter. Mayhall looked at it upside down.
"If you please, parsing," he said, handing it back, "I hev left my
specs at home."
The parson read that, whereas Captain Wells had been guilty of grave
misdemeanors while in command of the Army of the Callahan, he should be
arrested and court-martialled for the same, or be given the privilege of
leaving the county in twenty-four hours. Mayhall's face paled a little
and he stroked his beard.
"Ah--does anybody but you know about this ordah, parsing?"
"Well, if you will do me the great favor, parsing, of not mentioning it
to nary a living soul--as fer me and my ole gray hoss and my household
furniture--we'll be in Kanetuck afore daybreak to-morrow mornin'!" And
But he rode on just then and presented himself for the last time at the
store of Flitter Bill. Bill was sitting on the stoop in his favorite
posture. And in a moment there stood before him plain Mayhall
Wells--holding out the order Bill had given the parson that day.
"Misto Richmond," he said, "I have come to tell you good-by."
Now just above the selfish layers of fat under Flitter Bill's chubby
hands was a very kind heart. When he saw Mayhall's old manner and heard
the old respectful way of address, and felt the dazed helplessness of
the big, beaten man, the heart thumped.
"I am sorry about that little amount I owe you; I think I'll be able
shortly--" But Bill cut him short. Mayhall Wells, beaten, disgraced,
driven from home on charge of petty crimes, of which he was undoubtedly
guilty, but for which Bill knew he himself was responsible--Mayhall on
his way into exile and still persuading himself and, at that moment,
almost persuading him that he meant to pay that little debt of long
ago--was too much for Flitter Bill, and he proceeded to lie--lying with
deliberation and pleasure.
"Captain Wells," he said--and the emphasis on the title was balm to
Mayhall's soul--"you have protected me in time of war, an' you air
welcome to yo' uniform an' you air welcome to that little debt. Yes," he
went on, reaching down into his pocket and pulling out a roll of bills,
"I tender you in payment for that same protection the regular pay of a
officer in the Confederate service"--and he handed out the army pay for
three months in Confederate greenbacks--"an' five dollars in money of
the United States, of which I an', doubtless, you, suh, air true and
loyal citizens. Captain Wells, I bid you good-by an' I wish ye well--I
wish ye well."
From the stoop of his store Bill watched the captain ride away,
drooping at the shoulders, and with his hands folded on the pommel of
his saddle--his dim blue eyes misty, the jaunty forage cap a mockery of
his iron-gray hair, and the flaps of his coat fanning either side like
And Flitter Bill muttered to himself:
"Atter he's gone long enough fer these things to blow over, I'm going to
bring him back and give him another chance--yes, damme if I don't git
And Bill dropped his remorseful eye to the order in his hand. Like the
handwriting of the order that lifted Mayhall like magic into power, the
handwriting of this order, that dropped him like a stone--was Flitter
THE PARDON OF BECKY DAY
The missionary was young and she was from the North. Her brows were
straight, her nose was rather high, and her eyes were clear and gray.
The upper lip of her little mouth was so short that the teeth just under
it were never quite concealed. It was the mouth of a child and it gave
the face, with all its strength and high purpose, a peculiar pathos that
no soul in that little mountain town had the power to see or feel. A
yellow mule was hitched to the rickety fence in front of her and she
stood on the stoop of a little white frame-house with an elm switch
between her teeth and gloves on her hands, which were white and looked
strong. The mule wore a man's saddle, but no matter--the streets were
full of yellow pools, the mud was ankle-deep, and she was on her way to
the sick-bed of Becky Day.
There was a flood that morning. All the preceding day the rains had
drenched the high slopes unceasingly. That night, the rain-clear forks
of the Kentucky got yellow and rose high, and now they crashed together
around the town and, after a heaving conflict, started the river on one
quivering, majestic sweep to the sea.
Nobody gave heed that the girl rode a mule or that the saddle was not
her own, and both facts she herself quickly forgot. This half log, half
frame house on a corner had stood a siege once. She could yet see bullet
holes about the door. Through this window, a revenue officer from the
Blue Grass had got a bullet in the shoulder from a garden in the rear.
Standing in the post-office door only just one month before, she herself
had seen children scurrying like rabbits through the back-yard fences,
men running silently here and there, men dodging into doorways, fire
flashing in the street and from every house--and not a sound but the
crack of pistol and Winchester; for the mountain men deal death in all
the terrible silence of death. And now a preacher with a long scar
across his forehead had come to the one little church in the place and
the fervor of religion was struggling with feudal hate for possession of
the town. To the girl, who saw a symbol in every mood of the earth, the
passions of these primitive people were like the treacherous streams of
the uplands--now quiet as sunny skies and now clashing together with but
little less fury and with much more noise. And the roar of the flood
above the wind that late afternoon was the wrath of the Father, that
with the peace of the Son so long on earth, such things still could be.
Once more trouble was threatening and that day even she knew that
trouble might come, but she rode without fear, for she went when and
where she pleased as any woman can, throughout the Cumberland, without
insult or harm.
At the end of the street were two houses that seemed to front each other
with unmistakable enmity. In them were two men who had wounded each
other only the day before, and who that day would lead the factions, if
the old feud broke loose again. One house was close to the frothing hem
of the flood--a log-hut with a shed of rough boards for a kitchen--the
home of Becky Day.
The other was across the way and was framed and smartly painted. On the
steps sat a woman with her head bare and her hands under her
apron--widow of the Marcum whose death from a bullet one month before
had broken the long truce of the feud. A groaning curse was growled from
the window as the girl drew near, and she knew it came from a wounded
Marcum who had lately come back from the West to avenge his brother's
"Why don't you go over to see your neighbor?" The girl's clear eyes gave
no hint that she knew--as she well did--the trouble between the houses,
and the widow stared in sheer amazement, for mountaineers do not talk
with strangers of the quarrels between them.
"I have nothin' to do with such as her," she said, sullenly; "she ain't
"Don't!" said the girl, with a flush, "she's dying."
"Yes." With the word the girl sprang from the mule and threw the reins
over the pale of the fence in front of the log-hut across the way. In
the doorway she turned as though she would speak to the woman on the
steps again, but a tall man with a black beard appeared in the low door
of the kitchen-shed.
"How is your--how is Mrs. Day?"
"Mighty puny this mornin'--Becky is."
The girl slipped into the dark room. On a disordered, pillowless bed lay
a white face with eyes closed and mouth slightly open. Near the bed was
a low wood fire. On the hearth were several thick cups filled with herbs
and heavy fluids and covered with tarpaulin, for Becky's "man" was a
teamster. With a few touches of the girl's quick hands, the covers of
the bed were smooth, and the woman's eyes rested on the girl's own
cloak. With her own handkerchief she brushed the death-damp from the
forehead that already seemed growing cold. At her first touch, the
woman's eyelids opened and dropped together again. Her lips moved, but
no sound came from them.
In a moment the ashes disappeared, the hearth was clean and the fire was
blazing. Every time the girl passed the window she saw the widow across
the way staring hard at the hut. When she took the ashes into the
street, the woman spoke to her.
"I can't go to see Becky--she hates me."
"With good reason."
The answer came with a clear sharpness that made the widow start and
redden angrily; but the girl walked straight to the gate, her eyes
ablaze with all the courage that the mountain woman knew and yet with
another courage to which the primitive creature was a stranger--a
courage that made the widow lower her own eyes and twist her hands under
"I want you to come and ask Becky to forgive you."
The woman stared and laughed.
"Forgive me? Becky forgive me? She wouldn't--an' I don't want her--" She
could not look up into the girl's eyes; but she pulled a pipe from under
the apron, laid it down with a trembling hand and began to rock
The girl leaned across the gate.
"Look at me!" she said, sharply. The woman raised her eyes, swerved
them once, and then in spite of herself, held them steady.
"Listen! Do you want a dying woman's curse?"
It was a straight thrust to the core of a superstitious heart and a
spasm of terror crossed the woman's face. She began to wring her hands.
"Come on!" said the girl, sternly, and turned, without looking back,
until she reached the door of the hut, where she beckoned and stood
waiting, while the woman started slowly and helplessly from the steps,
still wringing her hands. Inside, behind her, the wounded Marcum, who
had been listening, raised himself on one elbow and looked after her
through the window.
"She can't come in--not while I'm in here."
The girl turned quickly. It was Dave Day, the teamster, in the kitchen
door, and his face looked blacker than his beard.
"Oh!" she said, simply, as though hurt, and then with a dignity that
surprised her, the teamster turned and strode towards the back door.
"But I can git out, I reckon," he said, and he never looked at the widow
who had stopped, frightened, at the gate.
"Oh, I can't--I _can't!_" she said, and her voice broke; but the girl
gently pushed her to the door, where she stopped again, leaning against
the lintel. Across the way, the wounded Marcum, with a scowl of wonder,
crawled out of his bed and started painfully to the door. The girl saw
him and her heart beat fast.
Inside, Becky lay with closed eyes. She stirred uneasily, as though she
felt some hated presence, but her eyes stayed fast, for the presence of
Death in the room was stronger still.
"Becky!" At the broken cry, Becky's eyes flashed wide and fire broke
through the haze that had gathered in them.
"I want ye ter fergive me, Becky."
The eyes burned steadily for a long time. For two days she had not
spoken, but her voice came now, as though from the grave.
"You!" she said, and, again, with torturing scorn, "You!" And then she
smiled, for she knew why her enemy was there, and her hour of triumph
was come. The girl moved swiftly to the window--she could see the
wounded Marcum slowly crossing the street, pistol in hand.
"What'd I ever do to you?"
"Nothin', Becky, nothin'."
Becky laughed harshly. "You can tell the truth--can't ye--to a dyin'
"Fergive me, Becky!"
A scowling face, tortured with pain, was thrust into the window.
"Sh-h!" whispered the girl, imperiously, and the man lifted his heavy
eyes, dropped one elbow on the window-sill and waited.
"You tuk Jim from me!"
The widow covered her face with her hands, and the Marcum at the
window--brother to Jim, who was dead--lowered at her, listening keenly.
"An' you got him by lyin' 'bout me. You tuk him by lyin' 'bout
me--didn't ye? Didn't ye?" she repeated, fiercely, and her voice would
have wrung the truth from a stone.
"You hear?" cried Becky, turning her eyes to the girl.
"You made him believe an' made ever'body, you could, believe that I
was--was _bad_" Her breath got short, but the terrible arraignment went
"You started this war. My brother wouldn't 'a' shot Jim Marcum if it
hadn't been fer you. You killed Jim--your own husband--an' you killed
_me_. An' now you want me to fergive you--you!" She raised her right
hand as though with it she would hurl the curse behind her lips, and the
widow, with a cry, sprang for the bony fingers, catching them in her own
hand and falling over on her knees at the bedside.
"Don't, Becky, don't--don't--_don't!_"
There was a slight rustle at the back window. At the other, a pistol
flashed into sight and dropped again below the sill. Turning, the girl
saw Dave's bushy black head--he, too, with one elbow on the sill and the
other hand out of sight.
"Shame!" she said, looking from one to the other of the two men, who had
learned, at last, the bottom truth of the feud; and then she caught the
sick woman's other hand and spoke quickly.
"Hush, Becky," she said; and at the touch of her hand and the sound of
her voice, Becky looked confusedly at her and let her upraised hand sink
back to the bed. The widow stared swiftly from Jim's brother, at one
window, to Dave Day at the other, and hid her face on her arms.
"Remember, Becky--how can you expect forgiveness in another world,
unless you forgive in this?"
The woman's brow knitted and she lay quiet. Like the widow who held her
hand, the dying woman believed, with never the shadow of a doubt, that
somewhere above the stars, a living God reigned in a heaven of
never-ending happiness; that somewhere beneath the earth a personal
devil gloated over souls in eternal torture; that whether she went
above, or below, hung solely on her last hour of contrition; and that
in heaven or hell she would know those whom she might meet as surely as
she had known them on earth. By and by her face softened and she drew a
"Jim was a good man," she said. And then after a moment:
"An' I was a good woman"--she turned her eyes towards the girl--"until
Jim married _her_. I didn't keer after that." Then she got calm, and
while she spoke to the widow, she looked at the girl.
"Will you git up in church an' say before everybody that you knew I was
_good_ when you said I was bad--that you lied about me?"
"Yes--yes." Still Becky looked at the girl, who stooped again.
"She will, Becky, I know she will. Won't you forgive her and leave peace
behind you? Dave and Jim's brother are here--make them shake hands.
Won't you--won't you?" she asked, turning from one to the other.
Both men were silent.
"Won't you?" she repeated, looking at Jim's brother.
"I've got nothin' agin Dave. I always thought that she"--he did not call
his brother's wife by name--"caused all this trouble. I've nothin' agin
The girl turned. "Won't you, Dave?"
"I'm waitin' to hear whut Becky says."
Becky was listening, though her eyes were closed. Her brows knitted
painfully. It was a hard compromise that she was asked to make i between
mortal hate and a love that was more than mortal, but the Plea that has
stood between them for nearly twenty centuries prevailed, and the girl
knew that the end of the feud was nigh.
"Yes, I fergive her, an' I want 'em to shake hands."
But not once did she turn her eyes to the woman whom she forgave, and
the hand that the widow held gave back no answering pressure. The faces
at the windows disappeared, and she motioned for the girl to take her
weeping enemy away.
She did not open her eyes when the girl came back, but her lips moved
and the girl bent above her.
"I know whar Jim is."
From somewhere outside came Dave's cough, and the dying woman turned her
head as though she were reminded of something she had quite forgotten.
Then, straightway, she forgot again.
The voice of the flood had deepened. A smile came to Becky's lips--a
faint, terrible smile of triumph. The girl bent low and, with a
startled face, shrank back.
With that whisper went Becky's last breath, but the smile was there,
even when her lips were cold.
A CRISIS FOR THE GUARD
The tutor was from New England, and he was precisely what passes, with
Southerners, as typical. He was thin, he wore spectacles, he talked
dreamy abstractions, and he looked clerical. Indeed, his ancestors had
been clergymen for generations, and, by nature and principle, he was an
apostle of peace and a non-combatant. He had just come to the Gap--a
cleft in the Cumberland Mountains--to prepare two young Blue Grass
Kentuckians for Harvard. The railroad was still thirty miles away, and
he had travelled mule-back through mudholes, on which, as the joke ran,
a traveller was supposed to leave his card before he entered and
disappeared--that his successor might not unknowingly press him too
hard. I do know that, in those mudholes, mules were sometimes drowned.
The tutor's gray mule fell over a bank with him, and he would have gone
back had he not feared what was behind more than anything that was
possible ahead. He was mud-bespattered, sore, tired and dispirited when
he reached the Gap, but still plucky and full of business. He wanted to
see his pupils at once and arrange his schedule. They came in after
supper, and I had to laugh when I saw his mild eyes open. The boys were
only fifteen and seventeen, but each had around him a huge revolver and
a belt of cartridges, which he unbuckled and laid on the table after
shaking hands. The tutor's shining glasses were raised to me for light.
I gave it: my brothers had just come in from a little police duty, I
explained. Everybody was a policeman at the Gap, I added; and,
naturally, he still looked puzzled; but he began at once to question the
boys about their studies, and, in an hour, he had his daily schedule
mapped out and submitted to me. I had to cover my mouth with my hand
when I came to one item--"Exercise: a walk of half an hour every
Wednesday afternoon between five and six"--for the younger, known since
at Harvard as the colonel, and known then at the Gap as the Infant of
the Guard, winked most irreverently. As he had just come back from a
ten-mile chase down the valley on horseback after a bad butcher, and as
either was apt to have a like experience any and every day, I was not
afraid they would fail to get exercise enough; so I let that item of the
The tutor slept in my room that night, and my four brothers, the eldest
of whom was a lieutenant on the police guard, in a room across the
hallway. I explained to the tutor that there was much lawlessness in
the region; that we "foreigners" were trying to build a town, and that,
to ensure law and order, we had all become volunteer policemen. He
seemed to think it was most interesting.
About three o'clock in the morning a shrill whistle blew, and, from
habit, I sprang out of bed. I had hardly struck the floor when four
pairs of heavy boots thundered down the stairs just outside the door,
and I heard a gasp from the startled tutor. He was bolt upright in bed,
and his face in the moonlight was white with fear.
I told him it was a police whistle and that the boys were answering it.
Everybody jumped when he heard a whistle, I explained; for nobody in
town was permitted to blow one except a policeman. I guessed there would
be enough men answering that whistle without me, however, and I slipped
back into bed.
"Well," he said; and when the boys lumbered upstairs again and one
shouted through the door, "All right!" the tutor said again with
Next day there was to be a political gathering at the Gap. A Senator was
trying to lift himself by his own boot-straps into the Governor's
chair. He was going to make a speech, there would be a big and unruly
crowd, and it would be a crucial day for the Guard. So, next morning, I
suggested to the tutor that it would be unwise for him to begin work
with his pupils that day, for the reason that he was likely to be
greatly interrupted and often. He thought, however, he would like to
begin. He did begin, and within half an hour Gordon, the town sergeant,
thrust his head inside the door and called the colonel by name.
"Come on," he said; "they're going to try that d--n butcher." And seeing
from the tutor's face that he had done something dreadful, he slammed
the door in apologetic confusion. The tutor was law-abiding, and it was
the law that called the colonel, and so the tutor let him go--nay, went
with him and heard the case. The butcher had gone off on another man's
horse--the man owed him money, he said, and the only way he could get
his money was to take the horse as security. But the sergeant did not
know this, and he and the colonel rode after him, and the colonel,
having the swifter horse, but not having had time to get his own pistol,
took the sergeant's and went ahead. He fired quite close to the running
butcher twice, and the butcher thought it wise to halt. When he saw the
child who had captured him he was speechless, and he got off his horse
and cut a big switch to give the colonel a whipping, but the doughty
Infant drew down on him again and made him ride, foaming with rage, back
to town. The butcher was good-natured at the trial, however, and the
tutor heard him say, with a great guffaw:
"An' I _do_ believe the d--n little fool would 'a' shot me."
Once more the tutor looked at the pupil whom he was to lead into the
classic halls of Harvard, and once more he said:
People were streaming into town now, and I persuaded the tutor that
there was no use for him to begin his studies again. He said he would go
fishing down the river and take a swim. He would get back in time to
hear the speaking in the afternoon. So I got him a horse, and he came
out with a long cane fishing-pole and a pair of saddle-bags. I told him
that he must watch the old nag or she would run away with him,
particularly when he started homeward. The tutor was not much of a
centaur. The horse started as he was throwing the wrong leg over his
saddle, and the tutor clamped his rod under one arm, clutching for the
reins with both hands and kicking for his stirrups with both feet. The
tip of the limber pole beat the horse's flank gently as she struck a
trot, and smartly as she struck into a lope, and so with arms, feet,
saddle-pockets, and fishing-rod flapping towards different points of the
compass, the tutor passed out of sight over Poplar Hill on a dead run.
As soon as he could get over a fit of laughter and catch his breath, the
"Do you know what he had in those saddle-pockets?"
"A bathing suit," he shouted; and he went off again.
Not even in a primeval forest, it seemed, would the modest Puritan bare
his body to the mirror of limpid water and the caress of mountain air.
* * * * *
The trouble had begun early that morning, when Gordon, the town
sergeant, stepped from his door and started down the street with no
little self-satisfaction. He had been arraying himself for a full hour,
and after a tub-bath and a shave he stepped, spic and span, into the
street with his head steadily held high, except when he bent it to look
at the shine of his boots, which was the work of his own hands, and of
which he was proud. As a matter of fact, the sergeant felt that he
looked just as he particularly wanted to look on that day--his best.
Gordon was a native of Wise, but that day a girl was coming from Lee,
and he was ready for her.
Opposite the Intermont, a pistol-shot cracked from Cherokee Avenue, and
from habit he started that way. Logan, the captain of the Guard--the
leading lawyer in that part of the State--was ahead of him however, and
he called to Gordon to follow. Gordon ran in the grass along the road to
keep those boots out of the dust. Somebody had fired off his pistol for
fun and was making tracks for the river. As they pushed the miscreant
close, he dashed into the river to wade across. It was a very cold
morning, and Gordon prayed that the captain was not going to be such a
fool as to follow the fellow across the river. He should have known
"In with you," said the captain quietly, and the mirror of the shining
boots was dimmed, and the icy water chilled the sergeant to the knees
and made him so mad that he flashed his pistol and told the runaway to
halt, which he did in the middle of the stream. It was Richards, the
tough from "the Pocket," and, as he paid his fine promptly, they had to
let him go. Gordon went back, put on his everyday clothes and got his
billy and his whistle and prepared to see the maid from Lee when his
duty should let him. As a matter of fact, he saw her but once, and then
he was not made happy.
The people had come in rapidly--giants from the Crab Orchard,
mountaineers from through the Gap, and from Cracker's Neck and
Thunderstruck Knob; Valley people from Little Stone-Gap, from the
furnace site and Bum Hollow and Wildcat, and people from Lee, from
Turkey Cove, and from the Pocket--the much-dreaded Pocket--far down in
the river hills.
They came on foot and on horseback, and left their horses in the bushes
and crowded the streets and filled the saloon of one Jack Woods--who had
the cackling laugh of Satan and did not like the Guard, for good
reasons, and whose particular pleasure was to persuade some customer to
stir up a hornet's nest of trouble. From the saloon the crowd moved up
towards the big spring at the foot of Imboden Hill, where, under
beautiful trunk-mottled beeches, was built the speakers' platform.
Precisely at three o'clock the local orator much flurried, rose, ran his
hand through his long hair and looked in silence over the crowd.
"Fellow citizens! There's beauty in the stars, of night and in the
glowin' orb of day. There's beauty in the rollin' meadow and in the
quiet stream. There's beauty in the smilin' valley and in the
everlastin' hills. Therefore, fellow citizens--THEREFORE, fellow
citizens, allow me to introduce to you the future Governor of these
United States--Senator William Bayhone." And he sat down with such a
beatific smile of self-satisfaction that a fiend would not have had the
heart to say he had not won.
Now, there are wandering minstrels yet in the Cumberland Hills. They
play fiddles and go about making up "ballets" that involve local
history. Sometimes they make a pretty good verse--this, for instance,
about a feud:
The death of these two men
Caused great trouble in our land.
Caused men to leave their families
And take the parting hand.
Retaliation, still at war,
May never, never cease.
I would that I could only see
Our land once more at peace.
There was a minstrel out in the crowd, and pretty soon he struck up his
fiddle and his lay, and he did not exactly sing the virtues of Billy
Bayhone. Evidently some partisan thought he ought, for he smote him on
the thigh with the toe of his boot and raised such a stir as a rude
stranger might had he smitten a troubadour in Arthur's Court. The crowd
thickened and surged, and four of the Guard emerged with the fiddler and
his assailant under arrest. It was as though the Valley were a sheet of
water straightway and the fiddler the dropping of a stone, for the
ripple of mischief started in every direction. It caught two
mountaineers on the edge of the crowd, who for no particular reason
thumped each other with their huge fists, and were swiftly led away by
that silent Guard. The operation of a mysterious force was in the air
and it puzzled the crowd. Somewhere a whistle would blow, and, from this
point and that, a quiet, well-dressed young man would start swiftly
toward it. The crowd got restless and uneasy, and, by and by,
experimental and defiant. For in that crowd was the spirit of Bunker
Hill and King's Mountain. It couldn't fiddle and sing; it couldn't
settle its little troubles after the good old fashion of fist and skull;
it couldn't charge up and down the streets on horseback if it pleased;
it couldn't ride over those puncheon sidewalks; it couldn't drink openly
and without shame; and, Shades of the American Eagle and the Stars and
Stripes, it couldn't even yell. No wonder, like the heathen, it raged.
What did these blanked "furriners" have against them anyhow? They
couldn't run _their_ country--not much.
Pretty soon there came a shrill whistle far down-town--then another and
another. It sounded ominous, indeed, and it was, being a signal of
distress from the Infant of the Guard, who stood before the door of Jack
Woods's saloon with his pistol levelled on Richards, the tough from the
Pocket, the Infant, standing there with blazing eyes, alone and in the
heart of a gathering storm.
Now the chain of lawlessness that had tightened was curious and
significant. There was the tough and his kind--lawless, irresponsible
and possible in any community. There was the farm-hand who had come to
town with the wild son of his employer--an honest, law-abiding farmer.
Came, too, a friend of the farmer who had not yet reaped the crop of
wild oats sown in his youth. Whiskey ran all into one mould. The
farm-hand drank with the tough, the wild son with the farm-hand, and the
three drank together, and got the farmer's unregenerate friend to drink
with them; and he and the law-abiding farmer himself, by and by, took a
drink for old time's sake. Now the cardinal command of rural and
municipal districts all through the South is, "Forsake not your friend":
and it does not take whiskey long to make friends. Jack Woods had given
the tough from the Pocket a whistle.
"You dassen't blow it," said he.
Richards asked why, and Jack told him. Straightway the tough blew the
whistle, and when the little colonel ran down to arrest him he laughed
and resisted, and the wild son and the farm-hand and Jack Woods showed
an inclination to take his part. So, holding his "drop" on the tough
with one hand, the Infant blew vigorously for help with the other.
Logan, the captain, arrived first--he usually arrived first--and Gordon,
the sergeant, was by his side--Gordon was always by his side. He would
have stormed a battery if the captain had led him, and the captain would
have led him--alone--if he thought it was his duty. Logan was as calm as
a stage hero at the crisis of a play. The crowd had pressed close.
"Take that man," he said sharply, pointing to the tough whom the colonel
held covered, and two men seized him from behind.
The farm-hand drew his gun.
"No, you don't!" he shouted.
"Take _him_," said the captain quietly; and he was seized by two more and
It was then that Sturgeon, the wild son, ran up.
"You can't take that man to jail," he shouted with an oath, pointing at
The captain waved his hand. "And _him_!"
As two of the Guard approached, Sturgeon started for his gun. Now,
Sturgeon was Gordon's blood cousin, but Gordon levelled his own pistol.
Sturgeon's weapon caught in his pocket, and he tried to pull it loose.
The moment he succeeded Gordon stood ready to fire. Twice the hammer of
the sergeant's pistol went back almost to the turning-point, and then,
as he pulled the trigger again, Macfarlan, first lieutenant, who once
played lacrosse at Yale, rushed, parting the crowd right and left, and
dropped his billy lightly three times--right, left and right--on
Sturgeon's head. The blood spurted, the head fell back between the
bully's shoulders, his grasp on his pistol loosened, and he sank to his
knees. For a moment the crowd was stunned by the lightning quickness of
it all. It was the first blow ever struck in that country with a piece
of wood in the name of the law.
"Take 'em on, boys," called the captain, whose face had paled a little,
though he seemed as cool as ever.
And the boys started, dragging the three struggling prisoners, and the
crowd, growing angrier and angrier, pressed close behind, a hundred of
them, led by the farmer himself, a giant in size, and beside himself
with rage and humiliation. Once he broke through the guard line and was
pushed back. Knives and pistols began to flash now everywhere, and loud
threats and curses rose on all sides--the men should not be taken to
jail. The sergeant, dragging Sturgeon, looked up into the blazing eyes
of a girl on the sidewalk, Sturgeon's sister--the maid from Lee. The
sergeant groaned. Logan gave some order just then to the Infant, who
ran ahead, and by the time the Guard with the prisoners had backed to a
corner there were two lines of Guards drawn across the street. The first
line let the prisoners and their captors through, closed up behind, and
backed slowly towards the corner, where it meant to stand.
It was very exciting there. Winchesters and shotguns protruded from the
line threateningly, but the mob came on as though it were going to press
through, and determined faces blenched with excitement, but not with
fear. A moment later, the little colonel and the Guards on either side
of him were jabbing at men with cocked Winchesters. At that moment it
would have needed but one shot to ring out to have started an awful
carnage; but not yet was there a man in the mob--and that is the trouble
with mobs--who seemed willing to make a sacrifice of himself that the
others might gain their end. For one moment they halted, cursing and
waving; their pistols, preparing for a charge; and in that crucial
moment the tutor from New England came like a thunderbolt to the rescue.
Shrieks of terror from children, shrieks of outraged modesty from women,
rent the air down the street where the huddled crowd was rushing right
and left in wild confusion, and, through the parting crowd, the tutor
flew into sight on horseback, bareheaded, barefooted, clad in a gaudily
striped bathing suit, with his saddle-pockets flapping behind him like
wings. Some mischievous mountaineers, seeing him in his bathing suit on
the point of a rock up the river, had joyously taken a pot-shot or two
at him, and the tutor had mounted his horse and fled. But he came as
welcome and as effective as an emissary straight from the God of
Battles, though he came against his will, for his old nag was frantic
and was running away. Men, women and children parted before him, and
gaping mouths widened as he passed. The impulse of the crowd ran faster
than his horse, and even the enraged mountaineers in amazed wonder
sprang out of his way, and, far in the rear, a few privileged ones saw
the frantic horse plunge towards his stable, stop suddenly, and pitch
his mottled rider through the door and mercifully out of sight. Human
purpose must give way when a pure miracle comes to earth to baffle it.
It gave way now long enough to let the oaken doors of the calaboose
close behind tough, farm-hand, and the farmer's wild son. The line of
Winchesters at the corner quietly gave way. The power of the Guard was
established, the backbone of the opposition broken; henceforth, the work
for law and order was to be easy compared with what it had been. Up at
the big spring under the beeches sat the disgusted orator of the day
and the disgusted Senator, who, seriously, was quite sure that the
Guard, being composed of Democrats, had taken this way to shatter his
* * * * *
Next morning, in court, the members of the Guard acted as witnesses
against the culprits. Macfarlan stated that he had struck Sturgeon over
the head to save his life, and Sturgeon, after he had paid his fine,
said he would prefer being shot to being clubbed to death, and he bore
dangerous malice for a long time, until he learned what everybody else
knew, that Macfarlan always did what he thought he ought, and never
spoke anything but the literal truth, whether it hurt friend, foe or
After court, Richards, the tough, met Gordon, the sergeant, in the road.
"Gordon," he said, "you swore to a ---- lie about me a while ago."
"How do you want to fight?" asked Gordon.
"Come on"; and Gordon started for the town limits across the river,
Richards following on horseback. At a store, Gordon unbuckled his belt
and tossed his pistol and his police badge inside. Jack Woods, seeing
this, followed, and the Infant, seeing Woods, followed too. The law was
law, but this affair was personal, and would be settled without the
limits of law and local obligation. Richards tried to talk to Gordon,
but the sergeant walked with his head down, as though he could not
hear--he was too enraged to talk.
While Richards was hitching his horse in the bushes the sergeant stood
on the bank of the river with his arms folded and his chin swinging from
side to side. When he saw Richards in the open he rushed for him like a
young bull that feels the first swelling of his horns. It was not a
fair, stand-up, knock-down English fight, but a Scotch tussle, in which
either could strike, kick, bite or gouge. After a few blows they
clinched and whirled and fell, Gordon on top--with which advantage he
began to pound the tough from the Pocket savagely. Woods made as if to
pull him off, but the Infant drew his pistol. "Keep off!"
"He's killing him!" shouted Woods, halting.
"Let him holler 'Enough,' then," said the Infant.
"He's killing him!" shouted Woods.
"Let Gordon's friends take him off, then," said the Infant. "Don't _you_
And it was done. Richards was senseless and speechless--he really
couldn't shout "Enough." But he was content, and the day left a very
satisfactory impression on him and on his friends.
If they misbehaved in town they would be arrested: that was plain. But
it was also plain that if anybody had a personal grievance against one
of the Guard he could call him out of the town limits and get
satisfaction, after the way of his fathers. There was nothing personal
at all in the attitude of the Guard towards the outsiders; which
recognition was a great stride toward mutual understanding and final
All that day I saw that something was troubling the tutor from New
England. It was the Moral Sense of the Puritan at work, I supposed, and,
that night, when I came in with a new supply of "billies" and gave one
to each of my brothers, the tutor looked up over his glasses and cleared
"Now," said I to myself, "we shall catch it hot on the savagery of the
South and the barbarous Method of keeping it down"; but before he had
said three words the colonel looked as though he were going to get up
and slap the little dignitary on the back--which would have created a
"Have you an extra one of those--those--"
"Billies?" I said, wonderingly.
"Yes. I--I believe I shall join the Guard myself," said the tutor from
CHRISTMAS NIGHT WITH SATAN
No night was this in Hades with solemn-eyed Dante, for Satan was only a
woolly little black dog, and surely no dog was ever more absurdly
misnamed. When Uncle Carey first heard that name, he asked gravely:
"Why, Dinnie, where in h----," Uncle Carey gulped slightly, "did you get
him?" And Dinnie laughed merrily, for she saw the fun of the question,
and shook her black curls.
"He didn't come f'um _that place_."
Distinctly Satan had not come from that place. On the contrary, he might
by a miracle have dropped straight from some Happy Hunting-ground, for
all the signs he gave of having touched pitch in this or another sphere.
Nothing human was ever born that was gentler, merrier, more trusting or
more lovable than Satan. That was why Uncle Carey said again gravelyt
hat he could hardly tell Satan and his little mistress apart. He rarely
saw them apart, and as both had black tangled hair and bright black
eyes; as one awoke every morning with a happy smile and the other with a
jolly bark; as they played all day like wind-shaken shadows and each
won every heart at first sight--the likeness was really rather curious.
I have always believed that Satan made the spirit of Dinnie's house,
orthodox and severe though it was, almost kindly toward his great
namesake. I know I have never been able, since I knew little Satan, to
think old Satan as bad as I once painted him, though I am sure the
little dog had many pretty tricks that the "old boy" doubtless has never
used in order to amuse his friends.
"Shut the door, Saty, please." Dinnie would say, precisely as she would
say it to Uncle Billy, the butler, and straightway Satan would launch
himself at it--bang! He never would learn to close it softly, for Satan
If you kept tossing a coin or marble in the air, Satan would keep
catching it and putting it back in your hand for another throw, till you
got tired. Then he would drop it on a piece of rag carpet, snatch the
carpet with his teeth, throw the coin across the room and rush for it
like mad, until he got tired. If you put a penny on his nose, he would
wait until you counted, one--two--_three_! Then he would toss it up
himself and catch it. Thus, perhaps, Satan grew to love Mammon right
well, but for another and better reason than that he liked simply to
throw it around--as shall now be made plain.
A rubber ball with a hole in it was his favorite plaything, and he
would take it in his mouth and rush around the house like a child,
squeezing it to make it whistle. When he got a new ball, he would hide
his old one away until the new one was the worse worn of the two, and
then he would bring out the old one again. If Dinnie gave him a nickel
or a dime, when they went down-town, Satan would rush into a store, rear
up on the counter where the rubber balls were kept, drop the coin, and
get a ball for himself. Thus, Satan learned finance. He began to hoard,
his pennies, and one day Uncle Carey found a pile of seventeen under a
corner of the carpet. Usually he carried to Dinnie all coins that he
found in the street, but he showed one day that he was going into the
ball-business for himself. Uncle Carey had given Dinnie a nickel for
some candy, and, as usual, Satan trotted down the street behind her. As
usual, Satan stopped before the knick-knack shop.
"Tum on, Saty," said Dinnie. Satan reared against the door as he always
did, and Dinnie said again:
"Tum on, Saty." As usual, Satan dropped to his haunches, but what was
unusual, he failed to bark. Now Dinnie had got a new ball for Satan only
that morning, so Dinnie stamped her foot.
[Illustration: Satan would drop the coin and get a ball for himself.]
"I tell you to turn on, Saty." Satan never moved. He looked at Dinnie
as much as to say:
"I have never disobeyed you before, little mistress, but this time I
have an excellent reason for what must seem to you very bad manners--"
and being a gentleman withal, Satan rose on his haunches and begged.
"You're des a pig, Saty," said Dinnie, but with a sigh for the candy
that was not to be, Dinnie opened the door, and Satan, to her wonder,
rushed to the counter, put his forepaws on it, and dropped from his
mouth a dime. Satan had found that coin on the street. He didn't bark
for change, nor beg for two balls, but he had got it in his woolly
little head, somehow, that in that store a coin meant a ball, though
never before nor afterward did he try to get a ball for a penny.
Satan slept in Uncle Carey's room, for of all people, after Dinnie,
Satan loved Uncle Carey best. Every day at noon he would go to an
upstairs window and watch the cars come around the corner, until a very
tall, square-shouldered young man swung to the ground, and down Satan
would scamper--yelping--to meet him at the gate. If Uncle Carey, after
supper and when Dinnie was in bed, started out of the house, still in
his business clothes, Satan would leap out before him, knowing that he
too might be allowed to go; but if Uncle Carey had put on black clothes
that showed a big, dazzling shirt-front, and picked up his high hat,
Satan would sit perfectly still and look disconsolate; for as there were
no parties or theatres for Dinnie, so there were none for him. But no
matter how late it was when Uncle Carey came home, he always saw Satan's
little black nose against the window-pane and heard his bark of welcome.
After intelligence, Satan's chief trait was lovableness--nobody ever
knew him to fight, to snap at anything, or to get angry; after
lovableness, it was politeness. If he wanted something to eat, if he
wanted Dinnie to go to bed, if he wanted to get out of the door, he
would beg--beg prettily on his haunches, his little red tongue out and
his funny little paws hanging loosely. Indeed, it was just because Satan
was so little less than human, I suppose, that old Satan began to be
afraid he might have a soul. So the wicked old namesake with the Hoofs
and Horns laid a trap for little Satan, and, as he is apt to do, he
began laying it early--long, indeed, before Christmas.
When Dinnie started to kindergarten that autumn, Satan found that there
was one place where he could never go. Like the lamb, he could not go to
school; so while Dinnie was away, Satan began to make friends. He would
bark, "Howdy-do?" to every dog that passed his gate. Many stopped to rub
noses with him through the fence--even Hugo the mastiff, and nearly all,
indeed, except one strange-looking dog that appeared every morning at
precisely nine o'clock and took his stand on the corner. There he would
lie patiently until a funeral came along, and then Satan would see him
take his place at the head of the procession; and then he would march
out to the cemetery and back again. Nobody knew where he came from nor
where he went, and Uncle Carey called him the "funeral dog" and said he
was doubtless looking for his dead master. Satan even made friends with
a scrawny little yellow dog that followed an old drunkard around--a dog
that, when his master fell in the gutter, would go and catch a policeman
by the coat-tail, lead the officer to his helpless master, and spend the
night with him in jail.
By and by Satan began to slip out of the house at night, and Uncle Billy
said he reckoned Satan had "jined de club"; and late one night, when he
had not come in, Uncle Billy told Uncle Carey that it was "powerful
slippery and he reckoned they'd better send de kerridge after him"--an
innocent remark that made Uncle Carey send a boot after the old butler,
who fled chuckling down the stairs, and left Uncle Carey chuckling in
Satan had "jined de club"--the big club--and no dog was too lowly in
Satan's eyes for admission; for no priest ever preached the brotherhood
of man better than Satan lived it--both with man and dog. And thus he
lived it that Christmas night--to his sorrow.
Christmas Eve had been gloomy--the gloomiest of Satan's life. Uncle
Carey had gone to a neighboring town at noon. Satan had followed him
down to the station, and when the train departed, Uncle Carey had
ordered him to go home. Satan took his time about going home, not
knowing it was Christmas Eve. He found strange things happening to dogs
that day. The truth was, that policemen were shooting all dogs found
that were without a collar and a license, and every now and then a bang
and a howl somewhere would stop Satan in his tracks. At a little yellow
house on the edge of town he saw half a dozen strange dogs in a kennel,
and every now and then a negro would lead a new one up to the house and
deliver him to a big man at the door, who, in return, would drop
something into the negro's hand. While Satan waited, the old drunkard
came along with his little dog at his heels, paused before the door,
looked a moment at his faithful follower, and went slowly on. Satan
little knew the old drunkard's temptation, for in that yellow house
kind-hearted people had offered fifteen cents for each dog brought to
them, without a license, that they might mercifully put it to death, and
fifteen cents was the precise price for a drink of good whiskey. Just
then there was another bang and another howl somewhere, and Satan
trotted home to meet a calamity. Dinnie was gone. Her mother had taken
her out in the country to Grandmother Dean's to spend Christmas, as was
the family custom, and Mrs. Dean would not wait any longer for Satan; so
she told Uncle Billy to bring him out after supper.
"Ain't you 'shamed o' yo'self--suh--?" said the old butler, "keepin' me
from ketchin' Christmas gifts dis day?"
Uncle Billy was indignant, for the negroes begin at four o'clock in the
afternoon of Christmas Eve to slip around corners and jump from hiding
places to shout "Christmas Gif--Christmas Gif'"; and the one who shouts
first gets a gift. No wonder it was gloomy for Satan--Uncle Carey,
Dinnie, and all gone, and not a soul but Uncle Billy in the big house.
Every few minutes he would trot on his little black legs upstairs and
downstairs, looking for his mistress. As dusk came on, he would every
now and then howl plaintively. After begging his supper, and while
Uncle Billy was hitching up a horse in the stable, Satan went out in the
yard and lay with his nose between the close panels of the fence--quite
heart-broken. When he saw his old friend, Hugo, the mastiff, trotting
into the gaslight, he began to bark his delight frantically. The big
mastiff stopped and nosed his sympathy through the fence for a moment
and walked slowly on, Satan frisking and barking along inside. At the
gate Hugo stopped, and raising one huge paw, playfully struck it. The
gate flew open, and with a happy yelp Satan leaped into the street. The
noble mastiff hesitated as though this were not quite regular. He did
not belong to the club, and he didn't know that Satan had ever been away
from home after dark in his life. For a moment he seemed to wait for
Dinnie to call him back as she always did, but this time there was no
sound, and Hugo walked majestically on, with absurd little Satan running
in a circle about him. On the way they met the "funeral dog," who
glanced inquiringly at Satan, shied from the mastiff, and trotted on. On
the next block the old drunkard's yellow cur ran across the street, and
after interchanging the compliments of the season, ran back after his
staggering master. As they approached the railroad track a strange dog
joined them, to whom Hugo paid no attention. At the crossing another
new acquaintance bounded toward them. This one--a half-breed
shepherd--was quite friendly, and he received Satan's advances with
affable condescension. Then another came and another, and little Satan's
head got quite confused. They were a queer-looking lot of curs and
half-breeds from the negro settlement at the edge of the woods, and
though Satan had little experience, his instincts told him that all was
not as it should be, and had he been human he would have wondered very
much how they had escaped the carnage that day. Uneasy, he looked around
for Hugo; but Hugo had disappeared. Once or twice Hugo had looked around
for Satan, and Satan paying no attention, the mastiff trotted on home in
disgust. Just then a powerful yellow cur sprang out of the darkness over
the railroad track, and Satan sprang to meet him, and so nearly had the
life scared out of him by the snarl and flashing fangs of the new-comer
that he hardly had the strength to shrink back behind his new friend,
the half-breed shepherd.
A strange thing then happened. The other dogs became suddenly quiet, and
every eye was on the yellow cur. He sniffed the air once or twice, gave
two or three peculiar low growls, and all those dogs except Satan lost
the civilization of centuries and went back suddenly to the time when
they were wolves and were looking for a leader. The cur was Lobo for
that little pack, and after a short parley, he lifted his nose high and
started away without looking back, while the other dogs silently trotted
after him. With a mystified yelp, Satan ran after them. The cur did not
take the turnpike, but jumped the fence into a field, making his way by
the rear of houses, from which now and then another dog would slink out
and silently join the band. Every one of them Satan nosed most
friendlily, and to his great joy the funeral dog, on the edge of the
town, leaped into their midst. Ten minutes later the cur stopped in the
midst of some woods, as though he would inspect his followers. Plainly,
he disapproved of Satan, and Satan kept out of his way. Then he sprang
into the turnpike and the band trotted down it, under flying black
clouds and shifting bands of brilliant moonlight. Once, a buggy swept
past them. A familiar odor struck Satan's nose, and he stopped for a
moment to smell the horse's tracks; and right he was, too, for out at
her grandmother's Dinnie refused to be comforted, and in that buggy was
Uncle Billy going back to town after him.
Snow was falling. It was a great lark for Satan. Once or twice, as he
trotted along, he had to bark his joy aloud, and each time the big cur
gave him such a fierce growl that he feared thereafter to open his
jaws. But he was happy for all that, to be running out into the night
with such a lot of funny friends and not to know or care where he was
going. He got pretty tired presently, for over hill and down hill they
went, at that unceasing trot, trot, trot! Satan's tongue began to hang
out. Once he stopped to rest, but the loneliness frightened him and he
ran on after them with his heart almost bursting. He was about to lie
right down and die, when the cur stopped, sniffed the air once or twice,
and with those same low growls, led the marauders through a rail fence
into the woods, and lay quietly down. How Satan loved that soft, thick
grass, all snowy that it was! It was almost as good as his own bed at
home. And there they lay--how long, Satan never knew, for he went to
sleep and dreamed that he was after a rat in the barn at home; and he
yelped in his sleep, which made the cur lift his big yellow head and
show his fangs. The moving of the half-breed shepherd and the funeral
dog waked him at last, and Satan got up. Half crouching, the cur was
leading the way toward the dark, still woods on top of the hill, over
which the Star of Bethlehem was lowly sinking, and under which lay a
flock of the gentle creatures that seemed to have been almost sacred to
the Lord of that Star. They were in sore need of a watchful shepherd
now. Satan was stiff and chilled, but he was rested and had had his
sleep, and he was just as ready for fun as he always was. He didn't
understand that sneaking. Why they didn't all jump and race and bark as
he wanted to, he couldn't see; but he was too polite to do otherwise
than as they did, and so he sneaked after them; and one would have
thought he knew, as well as the rest, the hellish mission on which they
Out of the woods they went, across a little branch, and there the big
cur lay flat again in the grass. A faint bleat came from the hill-side
beyond, where Satan could see another woods--and then another bleat, and
another. And the cur began to creep again, like a snake in the grass;
and the others crept too, and little Satan crept, though it was all a
sad mystery to him. Again the cur lay still, but only long enough for
Satan to see curious, fat, white shapes above him--and then, with a
blood-curdling growl, the big brute dashed forward. Oh, there was fun in
them after all! Satan barked joyfully. Those were some new
playmates--those fat, white, hairy things up there; and Satan was amazed
when, with frightened snorts, they fled in every direction. But this was
a new game, perhaps, of which he knew nothing, and as did the rest, so
did Satan. He picked out one of the white things and fled barking after
it. It was a little fellow that he was after, but little as he was,
Satan might never have caught up, had not the sheep got tangled in some
brush. Satan danced about him in mad glee, giving him a playful nip at
his wool and springing back to give him another nip, and then away
again. Plainly, he was not going to bite back, and when the sheep
struggled itself tired and sank down in a heap, Satan came close and
licked him, and as he was very warm and woolly, he lay down and snuggled
up against him for awhile, listening to the turmoil that was going on
around him. And as he listened, he got frightened.
If this was a new game it was certainly a very peculiar one--the wild
rush, the bleats of terror, gasps of agony, and the fiendish growls of
attack and the sounds of ravenous gluttony. With every hair bristling,
Satan rose and sprang from the woods--and stopped with a fierce tingling
of the nerves that brought him horror and fascination. One of the white
shapes lay still before him. There was a great steaming red splotch on
the snow, and a strange odor in the air that made him dizzy; but only
for a moment. Another white shape rushed by. A tawny streak followed,
and then, in a patch of moonlight, Satan saw the yellow cur with his
teeth fastened in the throat of his moaning playmate. Like lightning
Satan sprang at the cur, who tossed him ten feet away and went back to
his awful work. Again Satan leaped, but just then a shout rose behind
him, and the cur leaped too as though a bolt of lightning had crashed
over him, and, no longer noticing Satan or sheep, began to quiver with
fright and slink away. Another shout rose from another direction--another
"Drive 'em into the barn-yard!" was the cry.
Now and then there was a fearful bang and a howl of death-agony, as some
dog tried to break through the encircling men, who yelled and cursed as
they closed in on the trembling brutes that slunk together and crept on;
for it is said, every sheep-killing dog knows his fate if caught, and
will make little effort to escape. With them went Satan, through the
barn-yard gate, where they huddled in a corner--a shamed and terrified
group. A tall overseer stood at the gate.
"Ten of 'em!" he said grimly.
He had been on the lookout for just such a tragedy, for there had
recently been a sheep-killing raid on several farms in that
neighborhood, and for several nights he had had a lantern hung out on
the edge of the woods to scare the dogs away; but a drunken farm-hand
had neglected his duty that Christmas Eve.
"Yassuh, an' dey's jus' sebenteen dead sheep out dar," said a negro.
"Look at the little one," said a tall boy who looked like the overseer;
and Satan knew that he spoke of him.
"Go back to the house, son," said the overseer, "and tell your mother to
give you a Christmas present I got for you yesterday." With a glad whoop
the boy dashed away, and in a moment dashed back with a brand-new .32
Winchester in his hand.
The dark hour before dawn was just breaking on Christmas Day. It was the
hour when Satan usually rushed upstairs to see if his little mistress
was asleep. If he were only at home now, and if he only had known how
his little mistress was weeping for him amid her playthings and his--two
new balls and a brass-studded collar with a silver plate on which was
his name, Satan Dean; and if Dinnie could have seen him now, her heart
would have broken; for the tall boy raised his gun. There was a jet of
smoke, a sharp, clean crack, and the funeral dog started on the right
way at last toward his dead master. Another crack, and the yellow cur
leaped from the ground and fell kicking. Another crack and another, and
with each crack a dog tumbled, until little Satan sat on his haunches
amid the writhing pack, alone. His time was now come. As the rifle was
raised, he heard up at the big house the cries of children; the popping
of fire-crackers; tooting of horns and whistles and loud shouts of
"Christmas Gif', Christmas Gif'!" His little heart beat furiously.
Perhaps he knew just what he was doing; perhaps it was the accident of
habit; most likely Satan simply wanted to go home--but when that gun
rose, Satan rose too, on his haunches, his tongue out, his black eyes
steady and his funny little paws hanging loosely--and begged! The boy
lowered the gun.
"Down, sir!" Satan dropped obediently, but when the gun was lifted
again, Satan rose again, and again he begged.
"Down, I tell you!" This time Satan would not down, but sat begging for
his life. The boy turned.
"Papa, I can't shoot that dog." Perhaps Satan had reached the stern old
overseer's heart. Perhaps he remembered suddenly that it was Christmas.
At any rate, he said gruffly:
"Well, let him go."
"Come here, sir!" Satan bounded toward the tall boy, frisking and
trustful and begged again.
"Go home, sir!"
Satan needed no second command. Without a sound he fled out the
barn-yard, and, as he swept under the front gate, a little girl ran out
of the front door of the big house and dashed down the steps, shrieking:
"Saty! Saty! Oh, Saty!" But Satan never heard. On he fled, across the
crisp fields, leaped the fence and struck the road, lickety-split! for
home, while Dinnie dropped sobbing in the snow.
"Hitch up a horse, quick," said Uncle Carey, rushing after Dinnie and
taking her up in his arms. Ten minutes later, Uncle Carey and Dinnie,
both warmly bundled up, were after flying Satan. They never caught him
until they reached the hill on the outskirts of town, where was the
kennel of the kind-hearted people who were giving painless death to
Satan's four-footed kind, and where they saw him stop and turn from the
road. There was divine providence in Satan's flight for one little dog
that Christmas morning; for Uncle Carey saw the old drunkard staggering
down the road without his little companion, and a moment later, both he
and Dinnie saw Satan nosing a little yellow cur between the palings.
Uncle Carey knew the little cur, and while Dinnie was shrieking for
Satan, he was saying under his breath:
"Well, I swear!--I swear!--I swear!" And while the big man who came to
the door was putting Satan into Dinnie's arms, he said, sharply:
"Who brought that yellow dog here?" The man pointed to the old
drunkard's figure turning a corner at the foot of the hill.
"I thought so; I thought so. He sold him to you for--for a drink of
The man whistled.
"Bring him out. I'll pay his license."
So back went Satan and the little cur to Grandmother Dean's--and Dinnie
cried when Uncle Carey told her why he was taking the little cur along.
With her own hands she put Satan's old collar on the little brute, took
him to the kitchen, and fed him first of all. Then she went into the
"Uncle Billy," she said severely, "didn't I tell you not to let Saty
"Yes, Miss Dinnie," said the old butler.
"Didn't I tell you I was goin' to whoop you if you let Saty out?"
"Yes, Miss Dinnie."
Miss Dinnie pulled forth from her Christmas treasures a toy riding-whip
and the old darky's eyes began to roll in mock terror.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Billy, but I des got to whoop you a little."
"Let Uncle Billy off, Dinnie," said Uncle Carey, "this is Christmas."
"All wite," said Dinnie, and she turned to Satan.
In his shining new collar and innocent as a cherub, Satan sat on the
hearth begging for his breakfast.