Part 3 out of 4
The sheriff shook his head. "I can't do that, sir. But one thing I do ask,
that you'll give me warning before you set fire to the jail."
"If that'll make you give up, we'll set fire now."
"I didn't say it'd make me surrender, but only that I'd like to throw a few
things out--like Doty Buxton, for instance," smiling a little.
"All right; when we stop trying to break in, we'll be making ready to smoke
you out. The jail's empty but for this negro, I hear."
"Yes, the jail's empty; but don't you think you oughter give me a little
time to weigh matters?"
"Is there any chance of your surrendering?"
"To be perfectly honest," the sheriff answered, "there isn't." Then, seeing
the crowd approaching, he slipped inside the heavy gate, and Doty Buxton
chained it. "Now, Doty," he said, "we'll peep through these auger-holes and
watch 'em; and when you see' em coming near, you must shoot through these
lower holes. Shoot into the ground just in front of 'em. It's nasty to have
the dirt jumpin' up right where you've got to walk. I know how it feels. I
always wanted to hold up both feet at once. I reckon they've gone to get a
log to batter down the gate. They can do it, but I'll make 'em take as long
as I can. We musn't hurt anybody, Doty, but we must protect the State
property as far as we're able. Here they come! Keep the dirt dancin', Doty.
See that? They don't like it. I told you they'd want to take up both feet
at once. When bullets are flying round your head, you can't help yourself,
but it's hard to put your feet down right where the nasty little things are
peckin' about. Here they come again! Keep it up, Doty. See that? They've
stopped again. They ain't real mad with me, yet, the boys ain't; only Mr.
Morris and his friends are mad. The boys think I'm just pretending to do my
duty for the looks of it; but I ain't. Gosh! Now they've fixed it! With Mr.
Morris at the front end of that log, there's no hope of scare. He'd walk
over dynamite to get that nigger. Poor feller! Here they come at a run!
Don't hurt anybody, Doty. Bang! Wait; I'll call a halt by knocking on the
gate; it'll gain us a little more time."
"What do you want?" came in answer to the sheriff's taps.
"I'll arrest every man of you for destroying State property," the sheriff
"All right; come do it quick," was the response. "We're waitin', but we
won't wait long."
"I reckon we'll have to go inside, Doty," the sheriff said; then to the
attacking party, "If you'll wait till Judge More comes, I promise you the
For answer there was another blow on the gate.
"Remember, I've warned you!" the sheriff called.
"Hush that rot," was the answer, followed by a third blow.
The sheriff and Doty retreated to the jail, and the attack went on. It was
a two-story building of wood, but very strongly built, and unless they
tried fire the sheriff hoped to keep the besiegers at bay for a little
while yet. He stationed Doty at one window, and himself took position at
another, each with loaded pistols, which were only to be used as before--to
make "the dirt jump."
"To tell you the truth, Doty," the sheriff said, "if you boys had had any
sense, you'd have overpowered me last night, and we'd not have had all this
"We wanted to," Doty answered, "but you're new at the business, an' you
talked so big we didn't like to make you feel little."
"Here they come!" the sheriff went on, as the stout gate swayed inwards.
"One more good lick an' it's down. That's it. Now keep the dirt dancin',
Doty, but don't hurt anybody."
Mr. Morris was in the lead, and apparently did not see the "dancin' dirt,"
for he approached the jail at a run.
"It's no use, Doty," the sheriff said; "all we can do is to wait till they
get in, for I'm not going to shoot anybody. It may be wrong to lynch, but
in a case like this it's the rightest wrong that ever was." So the sheriff
sat there thinking, while Doty watched the attack from the window.
According to his calculations of time and distance, the sheriff thought
that the prisoner was now so far on his way as to be almost out of danger
by pursuit, and his mind was busy with the other question as to what would
happen when the jail was found to be empty. He had not heard from Judge
More, but the answer could not have reached him after the attack began. He
felt sure that the judge would come, and come by the earliest train, which
was now nearly due.
"The old man'll come if he can," he said to himself, "and he'll help me if
he comes; and I wish the train would hurry."
He felt glad when he remembered that he had given the keys of the cells to
his brother, for though he would try to save further destruction of
property by telling the mob that the jail was empty, he felt quite sure
that they would not believe him, and in default of keys, would break open
every door in the building; which obstinacy would grant him more time in
which to hope for Judge More and arbitration. That it was possible for him
to slip out once the besiegers had broken in never occurred to him; his
only thought was to stay where he was until the end came, whatever that
might be. They were taking longer than he had expected, and every moment
was a gain.
Doty Buxton came in from the hall, where he had gone to watch operations.
"The do' is givin'," he said; "what'll you do?"
"Nothin'," the sheriff answered, slowly.
"Won't you give 'em the keys?"
"I haven't got 'em."
"Gosh!" and Doty's eyes got big as saucers.
Very soon the outer door was down, and the crowd came trooping in, all save
John Morris, who stopped in the hallway. He seemed to be unable even to
look at the sheriff, and the sheriff felt the averted face more than he
would have felt a blow. "We want the keys," Mitchell said.
The sheriff, who had risen, stood with his hands in his pockets, and his
eyes, filled with sympathy, fastened on Mr. Morris, standing looking
blankly down the empty hall.
"I haven't got the keys, Mr. Mitchell," he answered.
"Oh, come off!" cried one of the townsmen. "Rocky!" cried another. "Yo'
granny's hat!" came from a third; while Doty Buxton said, gravely, "Give
up, Partin; we've humored this duty business long enough."
"Do I understand you to say that you won't give up the keys?" Mitchell
"No," the sheriff retorted, a little hotly, "you don't understand anything
of the kind. I said that I didn't have the keys; and further," he added,
after a moment's pause, "I say that this jail is empty."
There was silence for a moment, while the men looked at one another
incredulously; then the jeering began again.
"There is nothing to do but to break open the cells," Morris said, sharply,
but without turning his head. "We trusted the sheriff last night, and he
outwitted us; we must not trust him again."
The sheriff's eyes flashed, and the blood sprang to his face. The crowd
stood eagerly silent; but after a second the sheriff answered, quietly,
"You may say what you please to me, Mr. Morris, and I'll not resent it
under these circumstances, but I'll swear the jail's empty."
For answer Morris drove an axe furiously against the nearest cell door, and
the crowd followed suit. There were not many cells, and as he looked from a
window the sheriff counted the doors as they fell in, and listened for the
whistle of the train that he hoped would bring Judge More. The doors were
going down rapidly, and as each yielded the sheriff could hear cries and
demonstrations. What would they do when the last one fell?
Presently Doty Buxton, who had been making observations, came in, pale and
excited. "You'd better git yo' pistols," he said, "an' I'll git mine, for
they're gittin' madder an' madder every time he ain't there."
"Well," the sheriff answered, "I want you to witness that I ain't armed. My
pistols are over there on the table, unloaded. Thank the good Lord!" he
exclaimed, suddenly; "there's the train, an' Judge More! I hope he'll come
"An' there goes the last do'!" said Doty, as, after a crash and a momentary
silence, oaths and ejaculations filled the air. He drew near the sheriff,
but the sheriff moved away.
"Stand back," he said; "you've got little children."
In an instant the crowd rushed in, headed by Morris, whose burning eyes
seemed to be starting from his drawn white face. Like a flash Doty sprang
forward and wrenched an axe from the infuriated man, crying out, "Partin
For answer a blow from Morris's fist dropped the sheriff like a dead man. A
sudden silence fell, and Morris, standing over his fallen foe, looked about
him as if dazed. For an instant he stood so, then with a violent movement
he pushed back the crowding men, and lifting the sheriff, dragged him
toward the open window.
"Give him air," he ordered, "and go for the doctor, and for cold water!" He
laid Partin flat and dragged open his collar. "He's not dead--see there; I
struck him on the temple; under the ear would have killed him, but not
this, not this! Give me that water, and plenty of it, and move back. He's
not dead, no; and I didn't mean to kill him; but he has worked against me
all night, and I didn't think a white man would do it."
"He's comin' round, Mr. Morris," said Doty, who knelt on the other side of
the sheriff; "an' he didn't bear no malice against you--don't fret; but
it's a good thing I jerked that axe outer yo' hand! See, he's ketchin' his
breath; it's all right," as Partin opened his eyes slowly and looked about
A sound like a sigh came from the crowd, then a voice said, "Here comes
Morris was still holding his wet handkerchief on the sheriff's head when
the old judge came in.
"My dear boy!" he said, laying his hand on John Morris's shoulder. But
Morris shook his head.
"Let's talk business, Judge More," he said, "and let's get Partin into a
chair where he can rest; I've just knocked him over."
Then Morris left the room, and Mitchell with him, going to the far side of
the jail-yard, where they walked up and down in silence. It was not long
before Judge More and the sheriff joined them.
"The evidence was too slight for lynching," the judge said, looking
straight into John Morris's eyes.
"Great God!" Morris cried, and struck his hands together.
"What more do you want?" Mitchell demanded, angrily. "His wife has
disappeared, and the negro ran away."
"True, and I'll see to the case myself; but I'm glad that you did not hang
A boy came up with a telegram.
"From Jim, I reckon," the sheriff said, taking it. "No; it's for you, Mr.
It was torn open hastily; then Morris looked from one to the other with a
blank, scared face, while the paper fluttered from his hold.
Mitchell caught it, and read aloud slowly, as if he did not believe his
"'Am safe. Will be out on the ten o'clock train. ELEANOR.'"
Morris stood there, shaking, and sobbing hard, dry sobs.
"It'll kill him!" the sheriff said. "Quick, some whiskey!"
A flask was forced between the blue, trembling lips.
"Drink, old fellow," and Mitchell put his arm about Morris's shoulders.
"It's all right now, thank God!"
Morris was leaning against his friend, sobbing like a woman. The sheriff
drew his coat-sleeve across his eyes, and shook his head.
"What made the nigger run away?" he said, slowly--adding, as if to himself,
"God help us!"
A vehicle was borrowed, and the judge and the sheriff drove with John
Morris over to the station to meet the ten-o'clock train. The sheriff and
the judge remained in the little carriage, and the station agent did his
best to leave the whole platform to John Morris. As the moments went by the
look of anxious agony grew deeper on the face of the waiting man. The
sheriff's ominous words, falling like a pall over the first flash of his
happiness, had filled his mind with wordless terrors. He could scarcely
breathe or move, and could not speak when his wife stepped off and put her
hands in his. She looked up, and without a query, without a word of
explanation, answered the anguished questioning of his eyes, whispering,
"He did not touch me."
Morris staggered a little, then drawing her hand through his arm, he led
her to the carriage. She shrank back when she saw the judge and the sheriff
on the front seat; but Morris saying, "They must hear your story, dear,"
she stepped in.
"We are very thankful to see you, Mrs. Morris," the judge said, without
turning his head, when the sheriff had touched up the horse and they moved
away; "and if you feel able to tell us how it all happened, it'll save time
and ease your mind. This is Mr. Partin, the sheriff."
Mrs. Morris looked at the backs of the men in front of her; at their heads
that were so studiously held in position that they could not even have
glanced at each other; then up at her husband, appealingly.
"Tell it," he said, quietly, and laid his hand on hers that were wrung
together in her lap. "You sent Aggie to catch the chickens, and the dog
went with her?"
"Yes," fixing her eyes on his; "and I sent"--she stopped with a shiver, and
her husband said, "Abram"--"to cut some bushes to make a broom," she went
on. "I had been for a walk to the old house, and as I came back I laid my
gloves and a bit of vine on the steps, intending to return at once; but I
wished to see if the boat was safe, for the water was rising so rapidly."
She paused, as if to catch her breath, then, with her eyes still fixed on
her husband, she went on, "I did not think that it was safe, and I untied
the rope and picked up the paddle that was lying on the dam, intending to
drag the boat farther up and tie it to a tree." She stopped again. Her
husband put his arm about her.
"And then?" he said.
"And then--something, I don't know what; not a sound, but
something--something made me turn, and I saw him--saw him coming--saw him
stealing up behind me--with the hatchet in his hand, and a look--a
look"--closing her eyes as if in horror--"such an awful, awful look! And
everybody gone. Oh, John!" she gasped, and clinging to her husband, she
broke into hysterical sobs, while the judge gripped his walking-stick and
cleared his throat, and the sheriff swore fiercely under his breath.
"I was paralyzed," she went on, recovering herself, "and when he saw me
looking he stopped. The next moment he threw the hatchet at me, and began
to run toward me. The hatchet struck my foot, and the blow roused me, and I
sprang into the boat. There were no trees just there, and jumping in, I
pushed the boat off into the deep water. He picked up the hatchet and shook
it at me, but the water was too deep for him to reach me, and he ran back
along the dam and turned toward the railroad embankment. I was so terrified
I could scarcely breathe; I pushed frantically in and out between the
trees, farther and farther into the swamp. I was afraid that he would go
round to the bridge and come down the bank to where the outlet from the
swamp is and catch me there, but in a little while I saw where the rising
water had broken the dam, and the current was rushing through and out to
the river. The current caught the boat and swept it through the break. Oh,
I was so glad! I'm so afraid of water, but not then. I used the paddle as a
rudder, and to push floating timber away. My foot was hurting me, and I
looked at last and saw that it was cut."
A groan came from the judge, and the sheriff's head drooped.
"All day I drifted, and all night. I was so thirsty, and I grew so weak. At
daylight this morning I found myself in a wide sheet of water, with marshes
all round, and I saw a steamboat coining. I tied my handkerchief to the
paddle and waved it, and they picked me up. And, John, I did not tell them
anything except that the freshet had swept me away. They were kind to me,
and a friendly woman bound up my foot. We got to town this morning early,
and the captain lent me five dollars, John--Captain Meakin--so I
telegraphed you, and took a carriage to the station and came out.
Have--have you caught him? And, oh--but I am afraid--afraid!" And again she
broke into hysterical sobs.
She asked no explanation. The negro's guilt was so burned in on her mind,
that she was sure that all knew it as well as she.
"You need have no further fears," her husband comforted. And the judge
shook his head, and the sheriff swore again.
* * * * *
A white-haired woman in rusty black stood talking to a negro convict. It
was in a stockade prison camp in the hill country. She had been a
slave-owner once, long ago, and now for her mission-work taught on Sundays
in the stockade, trying to better the negroes penned there.
This was a new prisoner, and she was asking him of himself.
"How long are you in for?" she asked.
"Fuhrebber, ma'm; fuh des es long es I lib," the negro answered, looking
down to where he was making marks on the ground with his toes.
"And how did you get such a dreadful sentence?"
"I ent do much, ma'm; I des scare a white lady."
A wave of revulsion swept over the teacher, and involuntarily she stepped
back. The negro looked up and grinned.
"De hatchet des cut 'e foot a little bit; but I trow de hatchet. I ent tech
um; no, ma'm. Den atterwards 'e baby daid; den dey say I muss stay yer
fuhrebber. I ent sorry, 'kase I know say I hab to wuck anywheys I is; if I
stay yer, if I go 'way, I hab to wuck. En I know say if I git outer dis
place Mr. Morris'll kill me sho--des sho. So I like fuh stay yer berry
And the teacher went away, wondering if her work--if _any_ work--would
avail; and what answer the future would have for this awful problem.
A Story of Jim-Ned Creek
BY M. E. M. DAVIS
"I ain't sayin' nothin' ag'inst the women o' Jim--Ned Creek _ez women_,"
said Mr. Pinson; "an' what's more, I'll spit on my hands an' lay out any
man ez'll dassen to sass 'em. But _ez wives_ the women o' Jim-Ned air the
outbeatenes' critters in creation!"
These remarks, uttered in an oracular tone, were received with grave
approbation by the half a dozen idlers gathered about the mesquite fire in
Bishop's store. Old Bishop himself, sorting over some trace-chains behind
the counter, nodded grimly, and then smiled, his wintry face grown suddenly
"You've shore struck it, Newt," assented Joe Trimble. "You never kin tell
how ary one of 'em 'll ack under any succumstances."
Jack Carter and Sid Northcutt, the only bachelors present, grinned and
winked slyly at each other.
"You boys neenter to be so brash," drawled Mr. Pinson's son-in-law, Sam
Leggett, from his perch on a barrel of pecans; "jest you wait ontell Minty
Cullum an' Loo Slater gits a tight holt! Them gals is ez meek ez
lambs--now. But so was Mis' Pinson an' Mis' Trimble in their day an' time,
I reckon. I know Becky Leggett was."
"The studdies'-goin' woman on Jim-Ned," continued Mr. Pinson, ignoring
these interruptions, "is Mis' Cullum. An' yit, Tobe Cullum ain't no safeter
than anybody else--considerin' of Sissy Cullum ez a wife!"
Mr. Trimble opened his lips to speak, but shut them again hastily, looking
a little scared, and an awkward silence fell on the group.
For the shadow of Mrs. Cullum herself had advanced through the wide
door-way, and lay athwart the puncheon floor; and that lady, a large,
comfortable-looking, middle-aged person, with a motherly face and a kindly
smile, after a momentary survey of the scene before her, walked briskly in.
She shook hands across the counter with the storekeeper, and passed the
time of day all around.
But Hines, the new clerk, shuffled forward eagerly to wait on her. Bud was
a sallow-faced, thin-chested, gawky youth from the States, who had wandered
into these parts in search of health and employment. He was not yet used to
the somewhat drastic ways of Jim-Ned, and there was a homesick look in his
watery blue eyes; he smiled bashfully at her while he measured off calico
and weighed sugar, and he followed her out to the horse-block when she had
concluded her lengthy spell of shopping.
"You better put on a thicker coat, Bud," she said, pushing back her
sunbonnet and looking down at him from the saddle before she moved off.
"You've got a rackety cough. I reckon I'll have to make you some mullein
"Oh, Mis' Cullum, don't trouble yourself about me," Mr. Hines cried,
gratefully, a lump rising in his throat as he watched her ride away.
The loungers in the store had strolled out on the porch. "Mis' Cullum
cert'n'y is a sister in Zion," remarked Mr. Trimble, gazing admiringly at
her retreating figure.
"M-m-m--y-e-e-s," admitted Mr. Pinson. "But," he added, darkly, after a
meditative pause, "Sissy Cullum is a wife, an' the women o' Jim-Nez, _ez
wives_, air liable to conniptions."
Mrs. Cullum jogged slowly along the brown, wheel-rifted road which followed
the windings of the creek. It was late in November. A brisk little norther
was blowing, and the nuts dropping from the pecan-trees in the hollows
filled the dusky stillness with a continuous rattling sound. There was a
sprinkling of belated cotton-bolls on the stubbly fields to the right of
the road; a few ragged sunflowers were still abloom in the fence corners,
where the pokeberries were red-ripe on their tall stalks.
"I must lay in some poke-root for Tobe's knee-j'ints," mused Mrs. Cullum,
as she turned into the lane which led to her own door-yard. "Pore Tobe!
them j'ints o' his'n is mighty uncertain. Why, Tobe!" she exclaimed, aloud,
as her nag stopped and neighed a friendly greeting to the object of her own
solicitude, "where air you bound for?"
Mr. Cullum laid an arm across the horse's neck. He was a big, loose-jointed
man, with iron-gray hair, square jaws, and keen, steady, dark eyes. "Well,
ma," he said, with a touch of reluctance in his dragging tones, "there's a
lodge meetin' at Ebenezer Church to-night, an' I got Mintry to give me my
supper early, so's I could go. I--"
"All right, Tobe," interrupted his wife, cheerfully; "a passel of men
prancin' around with a goat oncet a month ain't much harm, I reckon. You go
'long, honey; I'll set up for you."
"Sissy is that soft an' innercent an' mild," muttered Mr. Cullum, striding
away in the gathering twilight, "that a suckin' baby could wrop her aroun'
its finger--much lessen me!"
About ten o'clock the same night Granny Carnes, peeping through a chink in
the wall beside her bed, saw a squad of men hurrying afoot down the road
from the direction of Ebenezer Church. "Them boys is up to some
devil_mint_, Uncle Dick," she remarked, placidly, to her rheumatic old
Uncle Dick laughed, a soft, toothless laugh. "I ain't begrudgin' 'em the
fun," he sighed, turning on his pillow, "but I wisht to the Lord I was
The "boys" crossed the creek below Bishop's and entered the shinn-oak
prairie on the farther side.
"Nance ast mighty particular about the lodge meetin'," observed Newt Pinson
to Mr. Cullum, who headed the nocturnal expedition; "she know'd it wa'n't
the regular night, an' she suspicioned sompn, Nance did."
"Sissy didn't," laughed Tobe, complacently. "Sissy is that soft an'
innercent an' mild that a suckin' baby could wrop her aroun' its
finger--much lessen me!"
Bud Hines, in the rear with the others, was in a quiver of excitement. He
stumbled along, shifting Sid Northcutt's rifle from one shoulder to the
other, and listening open-mouthed to Jack Carter's directions. "You know,
Bud," said that young gentleman, gravely, "it ain't every man that gets a
chance to go on a snipe-hunt. And if you've got any grit--"
"I've got plenty of it," interrupted Mr. Hines, vaingloriously. He was,
indeed, inwardly--and outwardly--bursting with pride. "I thought they tuk
me for a plumb fool," he kept saying over and over to himself. "They ain't
never noticed me before 'cepn to make fun of me; an' all at oncet Mr. Tobe
Cullum an' Mr. Newt Pinson ups an' asts me to go on a snipe-hunt, an' even
p'oposes to give me the best place in it. An' I've got Mr. Sid's rifle, an'
Mr. Jack is tellin' of me how! Lord, I wouldn't of believed it of I wa'n't
right here! Won't ma be proud when I write her about it!"
"You've got to whistle all the time," Jack continued, breaking in upon
these blissful reflections; "if you don't, they won't come."
"Oh, I'll whistle," declared Bud, jauntily.
Sam Leggett's snigger was dexterously turned into a cough by a punch in his
ribs from Mr. Trimble's elbow, and they trudged on in silence until they
reached Buck Snort Gully, a deep ravine running from the prairie into a
stretch of heavy timber beyond, known as The Rough.
Here they stopped, and Sid Northcutt produced a coarse bag, whose mouth was
held open by a barrel hoop, and a tallow candle, which he lighted and
handed to the elate hunter. "Now, Bud," Mr. Cullum said, when the bag was
set on the edge of the gully, with its mouth towards the prairie, "you jest
scrooch down behind this here sack an' hold the candle. You kin lay the
rifle back of you, in case a wild-cat or a cougar prowls up. An' you
whistle jest as hard an' as continual as you can, whilse the balance of us
beats aroun' an' drives in the snipe. They'll run fer the candle ever'
time. An' the minit that sack is full of snipe, all you've got to do is to
pull out the prop, an' they're yourn."
"All right, Mr. Tobe," responded Bud, squatting down and clutching the
candle, his face radiant with expectation.
The crowd scattered, and for a few moments made a noisy pretence of beating
the shinn-oak thickets for imaginary snipe.
"Keep a-whisslin', Bud!" Mr. Cullum shouted, from the far edge of the
prairie. A prolonged whistle, with trills and flourishes, was the response;
and the conspirators, bursting with restrained laughter, plunged into the
ford and separated, making each for his own fireside.
Mrs. Cullum was nodding over the hearth-stone when her husband came in. The
six girls, from Minty--Jack Carter's buxom sweetheart--to Little Sis, the
baby, were long abed. The hands of the wooden clock on the high
mantel-shelf pointed to half-past twelve. "Well, pa," Sissy said,
good-humoredly, reaching out for the shovel and beginning to cover up the
fire, "you've cavorted pretty late this time! What's the matter?" she
added, suspiciously; "you ack like you've been drinkin'!"
For Tobe was rolling about the room in an ecstasy of uproarious mirth.
"I 'ain't teched nary drop, Sissy," Mr. Cullum returned, "but ever' time I
think about that fool Bud Mines a-settin' out yander at Buck Snort, holdin'
of a candle, and whisslin' fer snipe to run into that coffee-sack, I--oh
He stopped to slap his thighs and roar again. Finally, wiping the tears of
enjoyment from his eyes, he related the story of the night's adventure.
"Air you tellin' me, Tobe Cullum," his wife said, when she had heard him to
the end--"air you p'intedly tellin' me that you've took Bud Hines
_snipin'_? An' that you've left that sickly, consumpted young man a-settin'
out there by hisse'f to catch his death of cold; or maybe git his blood
sucked out by a catamount!"
"Shucks, Sissy!" replied Tobe; "nothin' ain't goin' to hurt him. He's sech
a derned fool that a catamount wouldn't tech him with a ten-foot pole! An'
him a-whisslin' fer them snipe--oh Lord!"
"Tobe Cullum," said Mrs. Cullum, sternly, "you go saddle Buster this minit
and ride out to Buck Snort after Bud Hines."
"Why, honey--" remonstrated Tobe.
"Don't you honey me," she interrupted, wrathfully. "You saddle that horse
this minit an' fetch that consumpted boy home."
Tobe ceased to laugh. His big jaws set themselves suddenly square. "I'll do
no such fool thing," he declared, doggedly, "an' have the len'th an'
brea'th o' Jim-Ned makin' fun o' me."
"Very well," said his wife, with equal determination, "ef you don't go, I
will. But I give you fair warnin', Tobe Cullum, that ef you don't go, I'll
never speak to you again whilse my head is hot."
Tobe snorted incredulously; but he sneaked out to the stable after her, and
when she had saddled and mounted Buster, he followed her on foot, running
noiselessly some distance behind her, keeping her well in sight, and
dodging into the deeper shadows when she chanced to look around.
"I didn't know Sissy had so much spunk," he muttered, panting in her wake
at last across the shinn-oak prairie. "Lord, how blazin' mad she is! But
shucks! she'll git over it by mornin'."
Mr. Hines was shivering with cold. He still whistled mechanically, but the
hand that held the sputtering candle shook to the trip-hammer thumping of
his heart. "The balance of 'em must of got lost," he thought, listening to
the lonesome howl of the wind across the prairie. "It's too c-cold for
snipe, I reckon. I wisht I'd staid at home. I c-can't w-whistle any
longer," he whimpered aloud, dropping the candle-end, the last spark of
courage oozing out of his nerveless fingers. He stood up, straining his
eyes down the black gully and across the dreary waste around him. "Mr.
T-o-o-be!" he called, feebly, and the wavering echoes of his voice came
back to him mingled with an ominous sound. "Oh, Lordy! what is that?" he
stammered. He sank to the ground, grabbing wildly for his gun. "It's a
cougar! I hear him trompin' up from the creek! It's a c-cougar! He's
c-comin' closter! Oh, Lordy!"
"Hello, Bud," called Mrs. Cullum, cheerily. She slipped from the saddle as
she spoke and caught the half-fainting snipe-hunter in her motherly arms.
"Ain't you 'shamed of yourse'f to let a passel o' no-'count men fool you
this-a-way?" she demanded, sternly, when he had somewhat recovered himself.
"Get up behind me. I'm goin' to take you to Mis' Bishop's, where you
belong. No, don't you dassen to tech any o' that trash!"
Mr. Hines, feeling very humble and abashed, climbed up behind her, and they
rode away, leaving the snipe--hunting gear, including Sid Northcutt's
valuable rifle, on the edge of the gully.
She left him at Bishop's, charging him to swallow before going to bed a
"dost" of the home-brewed chill medicine from a squat bottle she handed
"He cert'n'y is weaker'n stump-water," she murmured, as she turned her
horse's head; "but he's sickly an' consumpted, an' he's jest about the age
my Bud would of been if he'd lived."
And thinking of her first-born and only son, who died in babyhood, she rode
homeward in the dim chill starlight. Tobe, spent and foot-sore, followed
warily, carrying the abandoned rifle.
Consternation reigned the "len'th an' brea'th" of Jim-Ned. Mrs.
Cullum--placid and easy-going Mrs. Tobe--under the same roof with him,
actually had not spoken to her lawful and wedded husband since the
snipe-hunt ten days ago come Monday!
"It's plumb scan'lous!" Mrs. Pinson exclaimed, at her daughter's quilting.
"I never would of thought sech a thing of Sissy--never!"
"As of the boys of Jim-Ned couldn't have a little innercent fun without
Mis' Cullum settin' in jedgment on 'em!" sniffed Mrs. Leggett.
"Shot up, Becky Leggett," said her mother, severely. "By time you've put up
with a man's capers for twenty-five years, like Sissy Cullum have, you'll
have the right to talk, an' not before."
"They say Tobe is wellnigh out'n his mind," remarked Mrs. Trimble. "Ez for
that soft-headed Bud Mines, he have fair fattened on that snipe-hunt. He's
gittin' ez sassy an' mischeevous ez Jack Carter hisse'f."
This last statement was literally true. The victim of Tobe Cullum's
disastrous practical joke had become on a sudden case-hardened, as it were.
The consumptive pallor had miraculously disappeared from his cheeks and the
homesick look from his eyes. He bore the merciless chaffing at Bishop's
with devil-may-care good-nature, and he besought Mrs. Cullum, almost with
tears in his eyes, to "let up on Mr. Tobe."
"I was sech a dern fool, Mis' Cullum," he candidly confessed, "that I don't
blame Mr. Tobe for puttin' up a job on me. Besides," he added, his eyes
twinkling shrewdly, "I'm goin' to git even. I'm layin' off to take Jim
Belcher, that biggetty drummer from Waco, a-snipin' out Buck Snort next
Sat'day night. He's a bigger idjit than I ever was."
"You ten' to your own business, Bud, an' I'll ten' to mine," Mrs. Cullum
returned, not unkindly. Which business on her part apparently was to make
Mr. Cullum miserable by taking no notice of him whatever. The house under
her supervision was, as it had always been, a model of neatness; the meals
were cooked by her own hands and served with an especial eye to Tobe's
comfort; his clothes were washed and ironed, and his white shirt laid out
on Sunday mornings, with the accustomed care and regularity. But with these
details Mrs. Cullum's wifely attentions ended. She remained absolutely deaf
to any remark addressed to her by her husband, looking through and beyond
him when he was present with a steady, unseeing gaze, which was, to say the
least, exasperating. All necessary communication with him was carried on by
means of the children. "Minty," she would say at the breakfast-table, "ask
your pa if he wants another cup of coffee"; or at night, "Temp'unce, tell
your pa that Buster has shed a shoe"; or, "Sue, does your pa know where
them well-grabs is?" et caetera, et caetera.
The demoralized household huddled, so to speak, between the opposing camps,
frightened and unhappy, and things were altogether in a bad way.
To make matters worse, Miss Minty Cullum, following her mother's example,
took high and mighty ground with Jack Carter, dismissing that gentleman
with a promptness and coolness which left him wellnigh dumb with amazement.
"Lord, Minty!" he gasped. "Why, I was taken snipe-hunting myself not more'n
five years ago. I--"
"I didn't know you were such a fool, Jack Carter," interrupted his
sweetheart, with a toss of her pretty head; "that settles it!" and she
slammed the door in his face.
Matters were at such a pass finally that Mr. Skaggs, the circuit-rider,
when he came to preach, the third Sunday in the month, at Ebenezer Church,
deemed it his duty to remonstrate and pray with Sister Cullum at her own
house. She listened to his exhortations in grim silence, and knelt without
a word when he summoned her to wrestle before the Throne of Grace. "Lord,"
he concluded, after a long and powerful summing up of the erring sister's
misdeeds, "Thou knowest that she is travelling the broad and flowery road
to destruction. Show her the evil of her ways, and warn her to flee from
the wrath to come."
He arose from his knees with a look of satisfaction on his face, which
changed to one of chagrin when he saw Sister Cullum's chair empty, and
Sister Cullum herself out in the backyard tranquilly and silently feeding
"She shore did flee from the wrath to come, Sissy did," chuckled Granny
Carnes, when this episode reached her ears.
As for Tobe, he bore himself in the early days of his affliction in a
jaunty debonair fashion, affecting a sprightliness which did not deceive
his cronies at Bishop's. In time, however, finding all his attempts at
reconciliation with Sissy vain, he became uneasy, and almost as silent as
herself, then morose and irritable, and finally black and thunderous.
"He's that wore upon that nobody dassent to go anigh him," said Mrs.
Pinson, solemnly. "An' no wonder! Fer of all the conniptions that ever
struck the women o' Jim-Ned, _ez wives_, Sissy Cullum's conniptions air the
But human endurance has its limits. Mr. Cullum's reached his at the
supper-table one night about three weeks after the beginning of his
discipline. He had been ploughing all day, and brooding, presumably, over
his tribulations, and there was a techy look in his dark eyes as he seated
himself at the foot of the well-spread table, presided over by Mrs. Cullum,
impassive and dumb as usual. The six girls were ranged on either side.
"Well, ma," began Tobe, with assumed gayety, turning up his plate, "what
for a day have you had?"
Sissy looked through and beyond him with fixed, unresponsive gaze, and said
never a word.
Then, as Mr. Cullum afterward said, "Ole Satan swep' an' garnish_eed_ him
an' tuk possession of him." He seized the heavy teacup in front of him and
hurled it at his unsuspecting spouse; she gasped, paling slightly, and
dodged. The missile, striking the brick chimney-jamb behind her, crashed
and fell shivering into fragments on the hearth. The saucer followed. Then,
Tobe's spirits rising, plate after plate hurtled across the table; the air
fairly bristled with flying crockery. Mrs. Cullum, after the first shock of
surprise, continued calmly to eat her supper, moving her head from right to
left or ducking to avoid an unusually well-aimed projectile.
Little Sis scrambled down from her high chair at the first hint of
hostilities, and dived, screaming, under the table; the others remained in
their places, half paralyzed with terror.
In less time than it takes to tell it, Mr. Cullum, reaching out his long
arms, had cleared half the board of its stone and glass ware. Finally he
laid a savage hand upon a small, old-fashioned blue pitcher left standing
alone in a wide waste of table-cloth.
At this Sissy surrendered unconditionally. "Oh, Tobe, fer Gawd's sake!" she
cried, throwing out her hands and quivering from head to foot. "I give in!
I give in! _Don't_ break the little blue-chiny pitcher! You fetched it to
me the day little Bud was born! An' he drunk out'n it jest afore he died!
Fer Gawd's sake, Tobe, honey! I give in!"
Tobe set down the pitcher as gingerly as if it had been a soap-bubble.
Then, with a whoop which fairly lifted the roof from the cabin, he cleared
the intervening space between them and caught his wife in his arms.
Minty, with ready tact, dragged Little Sis from under the table, and
driving the rest of the flock before her, fled the room and shut the door
behind her. On the dark porch she ran plump upon Jack Carter.
"Why, Jack!" she cried, with her tear-wet face tucked before she knew it
against his breast, "what are you doing here?"
"Oh, just hanging around," grinned Mr. Carter.
"Gawd be praised!" roared Tobe, inside the house.
"Amen!" responded Jack, outside.
"An' Tobe Cullum," announced Joe Trimble at Bishop's the next day, "have
ordered up the fines' set o' shiny in Waco fer Sissy."
"It beats _me_," said Newt Pinson; "but I allers did say that the women o'
Jim-Ned, _ez wives_, air the outbeatenes' critters in creation!"
The Courtship of Colonel Bill
BY J. J. EAKINS
It was early morning in the Bluegrass. The triumphant sun was driving the
white mist before it from wood and rolling meadow-land, rousing the drowsy
cattle from their tranquil dreams and quickening into fuller life all the
inhabitants of that favored region, from the warlike woodpecker with his
head of flame high up in the naked tree-top to the timid ground-squirrel
flitting along the graystone fences. It glorified with splendid
impartiality the apple blossoms in the orchards and the vagabond blackberry
bushes blooming by the roadside; and then, with many a mile of smiling
pastures in its victorious wake, it burst over the low rampart of stable
roofs encircling the old Lexington race-course, and, after a hasty glimpse
at the horses speeding around the track and the black boys singing and
slouching from stall to stall with buckets of water on their heads, it
rushed impetuously into an old-fashioned, deep-waisted family barouche
beside one of the stables, and shone full upon a slender, girlish figure
within. It wasted no time upon a purple-faced old gentleman beside her, nor
upon two young gentlemen on the seat opposite, but rested with bold and
ardent admiration upon the young girl's face, touching her cheeks with a
color as delicate as the apple blossoms in the orchards, and weaving into
her rich brown hair the red gold of its own beams.
The picture was so dazzling and altogether so unprecedented that Colonel
Bill Jarvis, the young owner of the stable, who had come swinging around
the corner, whistling a lively tune, his hat thrown back on his head, and
who had almost run plump into the carriage, stopped abruptly and stood
staring. He was roused to a realizing sense of his position by Major Cicero
Johnson, editor of the Lexington _Chronicle_ and president of the
association, who was standing beside the barouche, saying, with that
courtliness of manner and amplitude of rhetoric which made him a fixture in
the legislative halls at Frankfort: "Colonel Bill, I want to present you to
General Thomas Anderson Braxton, the hero of two wars, of whom as a
Kentuckian you must be proud, and his sons Matt and Jack, and his daughter,
Miss Sue, the Flower of the Blue-grass. Ladies and gentlemen," he
continued, with an oratorical wave of his hand towards the Colonel, who had
bowed gravely to each person in turn to whom he was introduced, "this is my
friend Colonel Bill Jarvis, the finest horseman and the most gallant young
turfman between the Ohio River and the Gulf of Mexico."
While the Major was speaking, Colonel Bill's eyes wandered from the two
young gentlemen on the front seat to the purple-faced old General on the
rear seat, and then rested on Miss Braxton. Her eyes met his, and she
smiled. It was such a pleasant, gracious, encouraging smile, and there was
so much kindliness in the depths of the soft brown eyes, that the Colonel
was reassured at once.
"We have come to disturb you at this unearthly hour," said Miss Braxton,
apologetically, "because I wanted to see the horses at their work, and
father and my brothers were good enough to come with me."
Colonel Bill explained that his horses had finished their morning exercise,
but that it would afford him great pleasure to show them in their stalls.
Miss Braxton was sure that they were putting him to a great deal of
trouble, and she was also convinced that to see horses in their stalls must
be delightful; so presently the party was marching along under the shed,
looking at the calm-eyed thoroughbreds in their narrow little homes, the
Colonel and Miss Braxton leading the way.
With the wisdom of her sex, Miss Braxton concealed her lack of special
knowledge by a generous general enthusiasm which captivated her
"And that is really Beau Brummel!" she cried, with sparkling eyes, pointing
to a splendid deep-chested animal, who was regarding them with mild
curiosity. "And that is Queen of Sheba next to him! What lovely heads they
have, and how very proud you must be to own them!" One would have thought
her days and nights had been given to a study of these two thoroughbreds.
"They are the best long-distance horses in the country," said the Colonel,
flushing with pleasure. And then, in reply to her eager questioning, he
gave their pedigrees and performances, all their battles and victories, in
detail--a list as long and glorious as the triumphs of Napoleon, and
perhaps as useful. At each stall she had fresh questions to ask. Her
brothers, with an eye to the coming meeting, listened eagerly to the
Colonel's answers, while the Major and the General, lagging behind,
discussed affairs of state. At last the horses were all seen; everybody
shook hands with the Colonel and thanked him, the General with great
pompousness, and Miss Braxton with a smile, and a hope that she might see
him during the meeting; and the old barouche went lumbering away down the
road, until it presently buried itself, like a monstrous cuttlefish, in a
cloud of its own making.
Colonel Bill looked after it with a pleased expression on his face, and
pulling his tawny mustache reflectively, muttered to himself with true
masculine acuteness, "She knew as much about my horses as I did myself."
* * * * *
The great Lexington meeting was in the full tide of its success.
Peach-cheeked, bright-eyed Blue-grass girls, and their big-boned,
deep-chested admirers, riding and driving in couples and parties, filled
all the white, dusty tumpikes leading to the race-course, and made gay the
quaint old Lexington streets. The grand-stand echoed with their merriment,
and they cheered home the horses with an enthusiasm seen nowhere else in
The centre of the liveliest of all these merry groups, noticeable for her
grace and beauty even there, where so many lovely girls were gathered, was
Miss Braxton. She was continuously surrounded by a devoted body-guard of
young men, many of whom had ridden miles to catch a glimpse of her
bewitching face, and who felt more than recompensed for their efforts by a
glance from her bright eyes.
On the first day of the meeting Colonel Bill, arrayed with unusual care,
had eagerly scanned the occupants of the grand-stand. His eyes ran
heedlessly over scores of pretty faces, until finally they rested upon the
group around Miss Braxton. Then carefully buttoning up his coat and
straightening out his tall figure, as a brave man might who was about to
lead a forlorn hope or receive his opponent's fire, he bore down upon them.
Miss Braxton welcomed him cordially, and introduced him to the gentlemen
about her. She straightway became so gracious to him that he aroused an
amazing amount of suspicion and dislike in the little circle, to all of
which, however, he was happily oblivious. He was a capital mimic, and under
the inspiration of her applause he told innumerable negro stories with such
lifelike fidelity to nature that even the hostile circle was convulsed, and
Miss Braxton laughed until the tears ran down her cheeks.
Time sped so swiftly that the last race was run before the Colonel was
aware that the programme was half over, and he found himself saying
good-bye to Miss Braxton, and wishing with all his heart he were one of the
half-dozen lucky young men who were waiting on their horses outside to
escort her carriage back to Lexington.
It was that same evening old Elias, Colonel Bill's body-servant and general
assistant, noticed a most surprising development in his young employer. One
of the Colonel's most prized possessions was a fiddle. It bad never been
known, in all the years he owned it, to utter aught except the most joyful
sounds. Whenever he picked it up, as he frequently did on winter nights,
when everybody gathered around the big wood fire in his room, the
stable-boys at once made ready to beat time to "Money Musk," "Old Dan
Tucker," and other cheerful airs.
On this particular night the Colonel seized the fiddle and strode gloomily
to the end of the stable. Presently there came forth upon the night air
such melancholy and dismal notes as made every stable-boy, from little Pete
to big Mose, shiver. As the lugubrious sounds continued, the boys fled to
their loft, leaving Elias, who had watched over the Colonel from his
infancy, to keep vigil, with a troubled look on his withered face. Many
nights thereafter was this singular proceeding repeated, to the
ever-increasing wonderment of Elias.
Every day during the meeting when Miss Braxton was at the track Colonel
Bill sought her out. Sometimes he had a chance for a long talk, but oftener
he was forced to content himself with shorter interviews. More than once he
noticed General Braxton join his daughter when he approached, and he found
that old warrior's manner growing more and more cold.
"He's a loser," thought the Colonel, to whom it never for a moment occurred
that his own presence might be disagreeable to any one. "A man oughtn't to
bet when he can't stand a-losing," he concluded, philosophically, and then
he dismissed the matter from his mind.
On the last day of the races, after waiting for an hour or more to speak
alone to Miss Braxton, and finding her constantly guarded by her father,
who looked fiercer than usual, Colonel Bill was finally compelled to join
her as she and the General were leaving the grand-stand. She saw him
coming, and stopped, a pleased look on her face. The General, with a frigid
nod, moved on a few paces and left them together.
"I have come to ask if I might call on you this evening, Miss Braxton,"
said the Colonel, timidly, "if you have no other engagement."
"I shall be very glad indeed to have you call," she replied, cordially,
adding, with a smile, "You know, Lexington is not so wildly gay that we
haven't ample time to see our friends."
As he walked away the Colonel thought he heard his name mentioned by
General Braxton, and although the words were inaudible, the tone was sharp
and commanding. He turned and glanced back. The girl's face was flushed,
and she looked excited, something unusual to her self-contained, reposeful
manner. As they moved out of hearing, the General was still talking with
great earnestness, and a feeling of uneasiness began to oppress him. This
feeling had not altogether departed when he galloped into Lexington that
night, his long-tailed, white linen duster buttoned up to his chin, the
brim of his soft black hat pulled down over his eyes.
The Elms, a roomy old-fashioned house encircled by wide verandas, the home
of the Braxtons for generations, was one of the landmarks of Lexington. A
long stretch of lawn filled with shrubbery and clumps of trees protected
its inmates from the city's dust and turmoil and almost concealed the house
itself from view. The Colonel, to whom the Elms was perfectly well known,
never drew rein till he was before it, and then, checking his horse so
suddenly that a less intelligent animal would have turned a somersault,
swung himself out of the saddle with the ease of one who had spent the
greater part of his life there, fastened the bridle to a ring in a great
oak-tree by the curbing, and opening the big iron gate, strode up the
gravelled walk which wound through the shrubbery.
Miss Braxton had been sitting at the piano in the drawing-room playing
softly. The long windows looking out on the veranda were opened to admit
the balmy air, and before her visitor arrived she heard his approaching
"I am very glad you have come," she said, walking out to meet him; "I was
afraid that in the excitement of the race-track you might have forgotten
our engagement. I felt a little depressed this evening, and that is another
reason why I am glad to see you." She led the way back into the
drawing-room as she talked, and invited the Colonel to sit beside her on
one of the sofas. In the soft glow of the dimly lighted lamps he thought
she had never appeared so beautiful; and the rich fragrance of the
dew-laden roses and honeysuckle wafted in through the open windows seemed
to him to be an atmosphere peculiar to her alone, like the exceeding
sweetness of her soft, low voice and the easy grace of her movements.
In reply to her questions he told her of his adventures on far Southern
tracks, and of the careless, reckless life he had led. He had seen many
strange and stirring sights during his wanderings; and to her, whose young
life lead hitherto flown along as peacefully as a meadow-brook, it seemed
like a new and thrilling romance, with a living being in place of the
printed page. Once he mentioned a woman's name, and she started.
"In all that time," she inquired, softly, her eyes lowered, "did no woman
ever come into your life?"
"No," he answered, simply; "I never thought of a woman then."
She raised her eyes to his, and lowered them instantly, her face flushing.
During a moment's lull in the conversation the hour was struck from a
neighboring steeple. They both started, half-guiltily. It was midnight. He
at once arose to go, apologizing for the lateness of his visit.
"I would like to see you again, Miss Braxton, before I go North," he said,
as he prepared to leave.
She had risen with him, and they were both standing beside the mantel. Her
face paled. Then she turned her head aside, and said, in a tone that was
almost inaudible, "Father objects."
He became rigid instantly, and his lips grew white. "I suppose your father
don't know who I am," he said, proudly. "My family is as good as any in the
State. I loved horses and the life and color of the race-track, and refused
to go to college when I could. Until I met you I never thought of anything
except horses. But that pedigree of my people is straight. There isn't a
cold cross on either side. I know I amount to nothing myself," he
continued, bitterly, his eyes resting gloomily on the floor; "I'm only a
no-account old selling-plater, and I'll just go back to the stable, where I
belong." Here an unusual sound interrupted him, and he looked up. The girl,
with her head on her arm, was leaning against the mantel, sobbing quietly.
In a moment he forgot all about himself and snatched up her disengaged
"Do you really care?" he cried, pressing the fluttering little hand in both
She lifted up her face, the soft brown eyes swimming in tears. "I wouldn't
mind," she replied, half laughing and half sobbing--"I wouldn't mind at all
about the pedigree, and I know you're not an old selling-plater; but if you
were, I am very sure that I would care for you."
The Lexington meeting was over, and the horsemen were scattered far and
wide, from Chicago to Sheepshead Bay. Colonel Bill alone remained behind.
As the days passed and he made no preparation to depart, old Elias's
irritation grew apace, and the lives of the stable-boys under the
increasing rigor of his rule became almost unendurable. The Colonel,
however, saw very little of Elias or the stable-boys. Even his beloved
horses no longer interested him. He passed the days walking the streets of
Lexington, hoping by some chance to meet Miss Braxton, and it was not until
late at night that he returned to the race-track, foot-sore and
disappointed. He had been too deeply wounded and was too proud to make any
further effort to visit the Elms, and he thought it would be unmanly and
ungenerous to ask Miss Braxton to meet him away from her father's house.
In the mean time the old General's wrath increased as the days passed. He
was unused to any kind of opposition, and the Colonel's persistence
irritated him beyond measure. The dream of his life was a brilliant
marriage for his daughter, and no amount of argument could alter his
opinion that Colonel Bill was a rude, unlettered stable-man.
"Why, sir," he would exclaim, over a mint-julep, to his friend Major
Johnson, who always defended the Colonel vigorously, "the idea of such
attentions to my daughter is preposterous--ludicrous! I will not permit it,
sir--not for one moment. If he persists in annoying my family, sir," and
the purple hue of the General's face deepened, "I would no more hesitate to
shoot him--no more, by gad!--than I would a rattlesnake." After the fourth
or fifth julep he did not always confine his conversation to his friend,
and so his threats often found their way back to the object of his wrath,
losing nothing by the journey. Although the Colonel's disposition was the
sunniest, the strain to which he was being subjected was telling on his
nerves, and once or twice he replied sharply to the tale-bearers. The
little city was soon excited over the quarrel, and every movement of the
principals was eagerly noted.
"My money goes on Bill," said Jule Chinn, the proprietor of the Blue-grass
Club, when the matter came up for discussion there between deals. "I saw
him plug that creole down in Orleans. First he throws him down the steps of
the St. Charles for insultin' a lady. When Frenchy insists on a duel an'
Bill gets up in front of him, he says, in that free-an'-easy way of his,
'We mark puppies up in my country by cutting their ears, and that's what
I'm going to do to you, for you ain't fit to die,' an' blame me if he don't
just pop bullets through that fellow's ears like you'd punch holes in a
piece of cheese!" After that the Colonel ruled a strong favorite in the
When this condition of affairs had existed for two weeks, the Colonel arose
one morning from a sleepless bed with a fixed idea in his mind. He sat down
to a table in his room, pulled out some writing-paper, and set to work.
After many sheets had been covered and destroyed, he finally decided upon
"DEAR MISS BRAXTON,--I am going away from Lexington to-morrow, probably
never to return. Will you be at your father's gate at three o'clock this
afternoon, as I would like to say good-bye to you before I go?
"Your sincere friend,
After he had finished this epistle it seemed to him entirely too cold; but
the others, which he had written in a more sentimental vein, had appeared
unduly presumptuous. He finally sealed it and gave it to Pete, with
terrific threats of personal violence in case of anything preventing its
prompt delivery. While Pete was galloping off to Lexington at breakneck
speed, the Colonel was wondering what the answer would be.
"I'll just say good-bye to her," he muttered, moodily, "and then I'll never
see her again. I suppose I belong with the horses, anyhow, and that old
bottle-nosed General has me classed all right!"
When Pete returned he handed the Colonel a dainty little three-cornered
note. It was addressed to "My dear friend," and the writer was _so sorry_
he was going away so _very soon_, and had hoped he would stay _ever_ so
much longer, and then signed herself cordially his, Susan Burleigh Braxton.
At the bottom was a postscript--"I will expect you at three o'clock."
An hour before the appointed time the Colonel was striding impatiently up
and down before the Elms, incessantly consulting his watch or wistfully
gazing up the gravelled walk. It still lacked several minutes of three,
when his heart gave a great jump as he saw Miss Braxton's graceful figure
flitting in and out through the shrubbery. She stopped to pluck some roses
from a bush that hung over the walk, bending down the richly laden bough so
that the flowers made a complete circle about her bright young face, and as
she raised her eyes she caught the Colonel gazing at her with such a look
of abject idolatry that she laughed and blushed. "You see I am on time,"
she cried, gayly, hastening down to the gate and handing him one of her
roses. "I am going to the post-office, and you may walk with me if you care
to." If he cared to! Her mere presence beside him, the feeling that he
could reach out his hand and touch her, the music of her voice, filled him
with a joy of which he had never before dreamed.
After they had left the post-office, by mutual direction their footsteps
turned from the more crowded thoroughfares, and they walked down a quiet
and deserted street where the stones were covered with moss, and where
solemn gnarled old trees lined the way on either side and met above their
heads, the fresh green leaves murmuring softly together like living things.
They reached the end of the old street, and were almost in the country. A
wide-spreading chestnut-tree stood before them, around whose giant bole a
rustic seat had been built. They walked towards it in silence and sat down
side by side.
They were entirely alone. A gay young red-bird, his head knowingly cocked
on one side, perched in the branches just above them. A belated bumblebee,
already heavy laden, hung over a cluster of wild flowers at their feet. A
long-legged garrulous grasshopper, undismayed by their presence, uttered
his clarion notes on the seat beside them.
The inquisitive young red-bird looking down could only see a soft black hat
and a white straw hat with flowers about its broad brim. He heard the black
hat wondering if any one ever thought of him, to which the straw hat
replied softly that it was sure some one did think of him very often. Then
the black hat wondered if some one, when it was away, would continue to
think of it, and the flowered straw, still more softly, was very, very sure
some one would.
Then the red-bird saw such a remarkable thing happen that his bright eyes
almost popped out of his little head. He saw a hand and a powerful arm
suddenly steal out from below the black hat and move in the direction of
the flowered straw--not hurriedly, but stealthily and surely. Having
reached it, the hand and the arm drew the unresisting flowered straw in the
direction of the black hat, until presently the hats came together. And
then the red-bird, himself desperately in love, knew what it all meant, and
burst into jubilant song. And the hard-working bumblebee, who also had a
sweetheart, took a moment's rest in honor of the event and buzzed his
delight; and even the long-legged grasshopper, an admirer of the sex, but a
confirmed bachelor, shouted his approbation until he was fairly hoarse.
It was some time before the adventurous hand could be put back where it
properly belonged, and the face beneath the straw, when it came into view,
was a very flushed face, but the brown eyes shone like stars. As they
walked through the old street, the setting sun filling the air with a
golden glory, they passed a sweet-faced old lady cutting flowers in her
garden, and she smiled an indulgent smile, and they nodded and smiled back
"I want you to promise me something," Miss Braxton said, suddenly stopping
and looking up at him. "I want you to promise me," she continued, not
waiting for his reply, "that you will not quarrel with my father. He is the
best father in the world. My mother died when I was a child, and since then
he has been father and mother and the whole world to me. I could never
forgive myself if you exchanged a harsh word with him."
"If all the stories I hear are true," replied the Colonel, with a
good-humored laugh, "your father is the one for you to see."
"My father says a great deal which he frequently regrets the moment
afterwards," she responded, earnestly. "He is a warm-hearted and an
impulsive man, and the dearest and best father in the world." The Colonel
gave the desired promise, and they walked on in silence. When they reached
the Elms, and her hand was on the big iron gate, she turned to him, an
appealing look in her eyes. "Must you really go to-morrow?" she asked.
"I am compelled to go," he replied, sadly. "I have already remained here
too long. I must start to-morrow night."
"I cannot tell you how sorry I am that you are going away," she said,
softly, extending her hand. He caught it up passionately.
"I must see you again!" he cried. "I can't go away until I do. It is hard
enough to leave even then. I won't ask you to come away from your father's
house to meet me, but you could be here, couldn't you?"
"When shall I come?" she asked, simply.
"The train leaves to-morrow night at twelve. Could you be here at eleven?"
"I will be here at eleven," she said; and then, with a brave attempt to
smile, she turned away. Just at that moment General Braxton rounded the
neighboring corner and came straight towards them.
In the hotel across the way the loungers leaning back in their
cane-bottomed chairs straightened up with keenest interest and delight.
Jule Chinn in the Blue-grass Club up-stairs, happening to glance out of the
window, turned his box over, and remarked that if any gentleman cared to
bet, he would lay any part of $5000 on Bill. When the General was directly
opposite him Colonel Bill gravely and courteously lifted his hat. For an
instant the old man hesitated, and then, with a glance at his daughter, he
lifted his own hat and passed through the gate.
"Well, I'll be----!" cried Jule, with a whistle of infinite amazement.
"Things is changed in Kentucky!"
"That," said Major Cicero Johnson, who had exchanged several hundred
subscriptions to his paper for an ever-decreasing pile of Jule's blue
chips--"that is the tribute which valor pays to beauty. Their pleasure has
only been postponed. Colonel Chinn, you have overlooked that small wager on
the ace. Thanks."
Ten minutes later Colonel Bill was galloping out to the race-track, gayly
singing a popular love-song. Suddenly something occurred to him and he
stopped, reached back into his hip-pocket, and drew out a long pistol. He
threw it as far as he could into a neighboring brier-patch, and once more
giving rein to his horse, began to sing with renewed enthusiasm.
When he reached the track he called old Elias into his room, and they
remained together for a long time in whispered conference. That night any
one who happened to have been belated on the Versailles 'pike might have
passed Elias jogging along on his horse, looking very important, and an air
of mystery enveloping him like a garment.
It was far into the night when he returned. As he started to creep up the
ladder to the loft above his young master's room, his shoes in his hand so
as not to awaken him, the Colonel, who had been tossing on a sleepless bed
for hours, called out. Elias, who evidently regarded himself as a
conspirator, waited until he had reached the loft, and then whispered back,
"Hit's all right, Marse Bill," and was instantly swallowed up in the
It was one of those perfect June nights so often seen in Kentucky. The full
moon hung in a cloudless sky, filling the air with a soft white radiance.
There was not a movement in the still, warm atmosphere, and to Colonel
Bill, waiting beneath the shadows of the big oak-tree near the General's
gate, it seemed that all nature was waiting with him. The leaves above his
head, the gray old church steeple beyond the house, the long stretch of
deserted streets--they all wore a hushed, expectant look.
It was several minutes past the appointed hour, and Miss Braxton had not
come. He had begun to fear that perhaps her father, suspecting something,
had detained her, when he saw her figure, a white outline among the
rose-bushes, far up the walk. As she drew near he stepped out from the
shadows, and she gave a little cry of delight.
"I know I am late, but I was talking with father," she said,
apologetically, and the brown eyes became troubled. "He was very restless
and nervous to-night and when he is in that condition he says I soothe
him." They had slowly walked towards the tree as she was speaking, and when
she had finished they were completely hidden from any chance passer. She
glanced up, and even in the gloom she noticed how white and tense was his
"Do you know," he cried, abruptly, "if I go away from Lexington to-night it
will only be to return in a day, or two days? For weeks I have been able to
think of nothing, to dream of nothing, except you. I haven't come here
to-night to say good-bye to you," he continued, passionately, "because I
cannot say good-bye to you, but to implore you to come with me--to marry
me--to-night--now." She shrank back. "I have made all my arrangements," he
continued, feverishly. "I have a cousin, a minister, living in Versailles.
Once a month he preaches in a little church on the 'pike near there. I sent
word by Elias last night for him to meet us there to-night, and he said he
would. Elias has the horses under the trees yonder; they will be here in a
moment, and in an hour we will be married. Come!" His arms were around her,
and while he spoke she was carried away by the rush of his passion, and
yielded to it with a feeling of languorous delight. Then there came the
thought of the lonely old man who would be left behind. She slipped gently
from her lover's arms and looked back at the house which had been her home
for so many years. She saw the light, in her father's room, and recalled
how she went there when she was a little girl to say her prayers at his
knee and kiss him good-night. He had always been so kind to her, so willing
to sacrifice himself for her pleasure, and he was so old. What would he do
when she had gone out of his life? No; she could not desert him. She
covered her face with her hands. "I cannot leave father," she sobbed. "I
cannot; I must not." They had moved out from the shadow of the tree into
the moonlight. He had taken her hand, and had begun to renew his appeals,
when they were both startled by the sound of footsteps on the gravelled
walk and the General's voice crying, "Sue! Sue, where are you?" At the same
moment Elias came up, leading two horses. The Colonel and Miss Braxton
stood just as they were, too surprised to move. They could not escape in
any event, for almost as soon as the words reached them the General came
into view. He saw them at once, and it required only a glance at the
approaching horses to tell him everything. With an inarticulate cry of
rage, his gray hair streaming behind him, he rushed wildly back to the
house. The Colonel looked after him, and then turned to Miss Braxton.
"He has gone to arm himself," he said, quietly. "He will be back with your
The girl looked up in his face and shivered. Then she glanced towards the
house, where lights were flashing from room to room, and the doors were
being opened and shut, and she wrung her hands. In the stillness every
sound could be heard--the rush of footsteps down the stairs, the fierce
commands, the creaking of the great stable door in the rear of the house.
"They are getting out the horses," she whispered.
"Yes," he replied, calmly. "He thought we were running away." There was not
a tremor in his voice. She was reared in a society where physical bravery
is the first of virtues, and even in that terrible moment she could not
help feeling a thrill of pride as she looked at him.
She never thought of asking him to fly. She could hear the horses as they
were led out of their stalls one by one, their hoofs echoing sharply on the
stone flagging. Her excited imagination supplied all the details. Now they
were putting on the bridles; now they were fastening the saddles; they were
mounted; the gate was being opened; in another moment they would sweep down
on them. Then she looked at her lover standing there so motionless,
waiting--for what? The thought of it was maddening.
"Quick! quick!" she cried, wildly, catching his arm; "I will go with you."
Without a word he lifted her up in his arms and seated her on one of the
horses. He carefully tested the saddle, although the hoofs of their
pursuers' horses were already ringing on the street behind the house. Then
he swung himself easily into the saddle, and was hardly there before the
General and his two sons swept around the neighboring corner, not fifty
"Good-bye, Elias," called the Colonel, cheerfully, as they shot out into
the moonlit street; and Elias's "God bless you bofe, Marse Bill!" came to
them above the rush of the horses.
As they went clattering through the quiet streets and past the rows of
darkened houses, the horses, with their sinewy necks straightened out
speeding so swiftly that the balmy air blew a soft wind in their riders'
faces, Colonel Bill, with a slight shade of disappointment in his voice,
"I guess you didn't get a good look at the horses, or you would have
recognized them. That's old Beau Brummel you're on, and this is Queen of
Sheba. They're both fit, although they haven't been particularly trained
for these free-for-all scrambles, owners' handicap, ten miles straightaway.
But I don't believe there's a horse in Kentucky can catch us to-night," he
concluded, proudly patting the neck of his thoroughbred. He glanced over
his shoulder as he spoke, and noted that the distance between them and
their pursuers was constantly widening, until, turning a corner, they could
neither see nor hear them.
And now the Colonel's spirits fairly bubbled over. He was a superb rider,
and swinging carelessly in his saddle, his hands hardly touching the reins,
he kept up a running stream of jocular comment.
"It looks to me like the old gentleman's going to be distanced," he cried,
with a chuckle, "He can't say a word, though, for he made the conditions of
this race. The start was a trifle straggling, as Jack Calloway told me once
when he left seven horses at the post in a field of ten, and perhaps the
Beau and the Queen didn't have the worst of it."
In every possible way he sought to divert his companion's mind. Once or
twice she delighted him by faintly smiling a response to his speeches. They
had passed the last of the straggling houses, and the turnpike stretched
before them, a white ribbon winding through the green meadow-land. They had
to wait while a sleepy tollgate-keeper lifted his wooden bar, and straining
their ears, they could just catch the faint, far-away sound of galloping
"In another hour," he cried, pressing her hand, and once more they were
off. A mile farther on they stopped again. Before them was a narrow lane
debauching from the turnpike.
"That lane," he said, reflectively, "would save us a good two miles, for
the 'pike makes a big bend here. Elias told me that he heard it was closed
up, and we might get in there and not be able to get out. We can't afford
to take the chance," he concluded, thoughtfully, and they continued on
their journey. For some time neither spoke. As they were about to enter the
wood through which the road passed they stopped to breathe their horses.
"I don't hear them," said the girl. Then she added, joyfully, "Perhaps they
have turned back."
He listened attentively. "Perhaps they have," he said, at last.
As they rode forward more than once an anxious expression passed over his
face, although his conversation was as cheerful as ever. Miss Braxton, from
whose mind a great weight had been lifted, laughed and chatted as she had
not done since the journey began.
They had passed through the wood and were out in the open country again. As
they galloped on, only the distant barking of a watch-dog guarding some
lonely farm-house, or the premature crowing of a barn fowl, deceived by the
brilliancy of the moonlight into thinking that day had come, broke the
absolute silence. They might have been the one woman and the one man in a
new world, so profound was their isolation.
"Do you see that group of trees on the hill there just ahead of us," he
asked, carelessly, as the horses slowed to a canter. "Well, just the other
side of those trees the lane we passed joins the 'pike again. Now it is
possible that instead of your amiable relatives going home, they may have
taken to the lane. If it hasn't been closed, they may be waiting there to
welcome us." For a moment the girl was deceived by the lightness of his
manner; and then, as she realized what such a situation meant, she grew
white to the lips. "The chances are," he continued, cheerfully, "that they
won't be there, but we had just as well be prepared. If they are there we
must approach them just as if we were going to talk to them, slowing up
almost to a walk. They will be on my side, and I will keep in the middle of
the 'pike. You remain as close to the fence as you can. When we get
opposite them I'll yell, 'Now!' You can give your horse his head, and
before they know what's happened we will be a hundred yards away. All my
horses have been trained to get away from the post, and these two are the
quickest breakers on the Western Circuit. Now let's go over the plan
again." And the Colonel carefully repeated what he had said, illustrating
it as he went along. Yes, she understood him. It was very simple. How could
she forget it? As she told him this her frightened eyes never left his
face, and she followed his movements with such a look of pain that he swore
at her father, under his breath, with a vigor which did full justice to the
A few minutes' ride brought them to the top of the hill, and they both
looked eagerly before them. A furlong away, standing perfectly still in the
middle of the lane, their horses' heads facing the turnpike, were three
mounted men. It required no second glance to identify the watchers. Colonel
Bill's eyes blazed, and his right hand went back instinctively to his empty
pistol-pocket. He regained his composure in a moment. "Go very slow," he
whispered, "and don't make a move till I shout. Keep as far over to your
side as you can." They approached the three grim watchers, their horses
almost eased to a walk. Not a word was spoken on either side. When they had
reached a point almost directly opposite their pursuers, Colonel Bill made
a pretence of pulling up his horse, only to catch the reins in a firmer
grip, and then, with a sudden dig of the spurs, he yelled, "Now!" and his
horse sprang forward like a frightened deer. At the same instant Miss
Braxton deliberately swung her horse across the road and behind his. Then
there came the sharp report of a pistol, followed by the rush of the
pursuing horses. But high above all other sounds rose General Braxton's
agonized voice: "My God, don't shoot! Don't shoot!" Before the Colonel
could turn in his saddle Miss Braxton was beside him.
"Why didn't you stay where you were?" he cried, sharply, the sense of her
peril setting his nerves on edge. As he realized that it was for his sake
she had come between him and danger, his eyes grew moist. "Suppose you had
been hurt?" he added, reproachfully. She did not reply, and they rode on at
full speed. They had once more left their pursuers behind; but as the
church was now only a few miles away, and they needed every spare moment
there, they urged their horses to renewed effort.
"There is the church now, and it's lighted up," cried the Colonel,
joyfully, as they dashed around a bend in the road, pointing to a little
one-story building tucked away amid trees and under-brush beside the
turnpike. In the doorway the minister stood waiting for them--a tall young
man whose ruddy face, broad shoulders, and humorous blue eyes suggested the
relationship the Colonel had mentioned. As they pulled up, the young
minister came forward and was introduced by the Colonel as "My cousin, Jim
Bradley." While they were both assisting Miss Braxton to dismount and
fastening the horses, the Colonel, in a few words, told of the pursuit and
of the necessity of haste. Mr. Bradley led the way into the church, the
lovers following arm in arm. It was a plain whitewashed little room, with
wooden benches for the worshippers, and a narrow aisle leading up to the
platform, where stood the preacher's pulpit. Half a dozen lamps with bright
tin reflectors behind them, like halos, were fastened to brackets high up
on the walls. The young couple stopped when they reached the platform, and
at Mr. Bradley's request joined their hands. He had opened the prayer-book
at the marriage service, and was beginning to read it, when he gave a
start. Far away down the turnpike, faint but unmistakable--now dying away
into a mere murmur, now rising clear and bold--came the sound of galloping
horses. The Colonel felt the girl's hand cold in his, and he whispered a
word of encouragement. Mr. Bradley hurried on with the ceremony. The
centuries-old questions, so often asked beneath splendid domes before
fashionable assemblages to the accompaniment of triumphant music, were
never answered with more truth and fervor than in that little roadside
church, with no one to hear them but the listening trees and the heart of
the night wind.
"Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife? Wilt thou love her, comfort
her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all
others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?"
How he pressed the trembling little hand in his, and how devotedly he
answered, "I will."
"Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband? Wilt thou obey him and
serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, and
forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall
The downcast eyes were covered with the drooping lids, and the voice was
faint and low, but what a world of love was in the simple, "I will."
As the young minister, very solemn and dignified now, paused for each
reply, there came ever nearer and ever louder the ringing of the
hoof-beats. Once he stole a hurried glance through the window which gave on
the turnpike. Not half a mile away, their figures black against the
sky-line, fiercely lashing their tired horses to fresh effort, were three
desperate riders. The couple before him did not raise their eyes.
And now the concluding words of the service had been reached, and the
minister had begun, "Those whom God hath joined together--" when the rest
of the sentence was lost in the old General's angry shout, as he flung
himself from his horse, and, with his sons at his heels, rushed into the
church. At the threshold they stopped with blanched faces, for, as they
entered, the girl, uttering a faint cry, her face whiter than her gown,
down which a little stream of blood was trickling, reeled and tottered, and
fell senseless into her husband's arms.
A few days later Major Johnson's Lexington _Chronicle_, under the heading
"Jarvis--Braxton," contained the following:
"Colonel William Jarvis, the distinguisbed and genial young turfman, and
Miss Susan Braxton, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of General
Thomas Anderson Braxton, the hero of two wars, whose name is a household
word wherever valor is honored and eloquence is admired, were united in
marriage Monday night. With the romance of youth, the young couple
determined to avoid the conventionalities of society, and only the bride's
father and two brothers were present. Immediately preceding the ceremony
the lovely bride was accidentally injured by the premature explosion of a
fire-arm, but her hosts of friends will be delighted to learn that the
mishap was not of a serious character. The young couple are now the guests
of General Braxton at the historic Elms. We are informed, however, that
Colonel Jarvis contemplates retiring from the turf and purchasing a
stock-farm near Lexington. As a souvenir of his marriage he has promised
his distinguished father-in-law the first three good horses he raises."
The Balance of Power
BY MAURICE THOMPSON
"I don't hesitate to say to you that I regard him as but a small remove in
nature from absolute trash, Phyllis--absolute trash! His character may be
good--doubtless it is; but he is not of good family, and he shows it. What
is he but a mountain cracker? There is no middle ground; trash is trash!"
Colonel Mobley Sommerton spoke in a rich bass voice, slowly rolling his
words. The bagging of his trousers at the knees made his straight legs
appear bent, as if for a jump at something, while his daughter Phyllis
looked at him searchingly, but not in the least impatiently, her fine gray
eyes wide open, and her face, with its delicately blooming cheeks, its
peach-petal lips, and its saucy little nose, all attention and
"Of course," the Colonel went on, with a conciliatory touch in his words,
when he had waited some time for his daughter to speak and she spoke
not--"of course you do not care a straw for him, Phyllis; I know that. The
daughter of a Sommerton couldn't care for such a--"
"I don't mind saying to you that I do care for him, and that I love him,
and want to marry him," broke in Phyllis, with tremulous vehemence, tears
gushing from her eyes at the same time; and a depth of touching pathos
seemed to open behind her words, albeit they rang like so many notes of
rank boldness in the old man's ears.
"Phyllis!" he exclaimed; then he stooped a little, his trousers bagging
still more, and he stood in an attitude almost stagy, a flare of choleric
surprise leaping into his face. "Phyllis Sommerton. what _do_ you mean? Are
you crazy? You say that to me?"
The girl--she was just eighteen--faced her father with a look at once
tearfully saucy and lovingly firm. The sauciness, however, was superficial
and physical, not in any degree a part of her mental mood. She could not,
had she tried, have been the least bit wilful or impertinent with her
father, who had always been a model of tenderness. Besides, a girl never
lived who loved a parent more unreservedly than Phyllis loved Colonel
"Go to your room, miss! go to your room! Step lively at that, and let me
have no more of this nonsense. Go! I command you!"
The stamp with which the Colonel's rather substantial boot just then shook
the floor seemed to generate some current of force sufficient to whirl
Phyllis about and send her up-stairs in an old-fashioned fit of hysteria.
She was crying and talking and running all at the same time, her voice made
liquid like a bird's, and yet jangling with its mixed emotions. Down fell
her wavy, long, brown hair almost to her feet, one rich strand trailing
over the rail as she mounted the steps, while the rustling of her muslin
dress told off the springy motion of her limbs till she disappeared in the
gilt-papered gloom aloft, where the windowless hall turned at right angles
with the stairway.
Colonel Sommerton was smiling grimly by this time, and his iron-gray
mustache quivered humorously.
"She's a little brick," he muttered; "a chip off the old log--by zounds,
she is! She means business. Got the bit in her teeth, and fairly splitting
the air!" He chuckled raucously. "Let her go; she'll soon tire out."
Sommerton Place, a picturesque old mansion, as mansions have always gone in
north Georgia, stood in a grove of oaks on a hill-top overlooking a little
mountain town, beyond which uprose a crescent of blue peaks against a
dreamy summer sky. Behind the house a broad plantation rolled its
billow-like ridges of corn and cotton.
The Colonel went out on the veranda and lit a cigar, after breaking two or
three matches that he nervously scratched on a column.
This was the first quarrel that he had ever had with Phyllis.
Mrs. Sommerton had died when Phyllis was twelve years old, leaving the
little girl to be brought up in a boarding-school in Atlanta. The widowed
man did not marry again, and when his daughter came home, six months before
the opening of our story, it was natural that he should see nothing but
loveliness in the fair, bright, only child of his happy wedded life, now
The reader must have taken for granted that the person under discussion in
the conversation touched upon at the outset of this writing was a young
man; but Tom Bannister stood for more than the sum of the average young
man's values. He was what in our republic is recognized as a promising
fellow, bright, magnetic, shifty, well forward in the neologies of society,
business, and politics, a born leader in a small way, and as ambitious as
poverty and a brimming self-esteem could make him. From his humble
law-office window he had seen Phyllis pass along the street in the old
Sommerton carriage, and had fallen in love as promptly as possible with her
plump, lissome form and pretty face.
He sought her acquaintance, avoided with cleverness a number of annoying
barriers, assaulted her heart, and won it, all of which stood as mere play
when compared with climbing over the pride and prejudice of Colonel
Sommerton. For Bannister was nobody in a social way, as viewed from the
lofty top of the hill at Sommerton Place; indeed, all of his kinspeople
were mountaineers, honest, it is true, but decidedly woodsy, who tilled
stony acres in a pocket beyond the first blue ridge yonder. His education
seemed good, but it had been snatched from the books by force, with the
savage certainty of grip which belongs to genius.
Colonel Sommerton, having unbounded confidence in Phyllis's aristocratic
breeding, would not open his eyes to the attitude of the young people until
suddenly it came into his head that possibly the almost briefless plebeian
lawyer had ulterior designs while climbing the hill, as he was doing
noticeably often, from town to Sommerton Place. But when this thought
arrived the Colonel was prompt to act. He called up the subject at once,
and we have seen the close of his interview with Phyllis.
Now he stood on the veranda and puffed his cigar with quick, short
draughts, as a man does who falters between two horns of a dilemma. He
turned his head to one side as if listening to his own thoughts, his tall,
pointed collar meantime fitting snugly in a crease of his furrowed jaw.
At this moment the shambling, yet in a way facile, footsteps of Barnaby,
the sporadic freedman of the household, were soothing. Colonel Sommerton
turned his eyes on the comer inquiringly, almost eagerly.
"Well, Barn, you're back," he said.
"Yah, sah; I'se had er confab wid 'em," remarked the negro, seating himself
on the top step of the veranda, and mopping his coal-black face with a red
cotton handkerchief; "an' hit do beat all. Niggahs is mos'ly eejits,
spacially w'en yo' wants 'em to hab some sense."
He was a huge, ill-shapen, muscular fellow, old but still vigorous, and in
his small black eyes twinkled an unsounded depth of shrewdness. He had been
the Colonel's slave from his young manhood to the close of the war; since
then he had hung around Ellijay what time he was not sponging a livelihood
from Sommerton Place under color of doing various light turns in the
vegetable garden, and of attending to his quondam master's horses.
Barnaby was a great banjoist, a charming song-singer, and a leader of the
negroes around about. Lately he was gaining some reputation as a political
There was but one political party in the county (for the colored people
were so few that they could not be called a party), and the only struggle
for office came in the pursuit of a nomination, which was always equivalent
to election. Candidates were chosen at a convention or mass-meeting of the
whites and the only figure that the blacks were able to cut in the matter
was by reason of a pretended, rather than a real, prejudice against them
which was used by the candidates (who are always white men) to further
their electioneering schemes, as will presently appear.
"Hit do beat all," Barnaby repeated, shaking his heavy head reflectively,
and making a grimace both comical and hideous. "Dat young man desput sma't
and cunnin', sho's yo' bo'n he is. He done been foolin' wid dem niggahs
The reader may as well be told at once that if a candidate could by any
means make the negroes support his opponent for the nomination it was the
best card he could possibly play; or, if he could not quite do this, but
make it appear that the other fellow was not unpopular in colored circles,
it served nearly the same turn.
Phyllis, when she ran crying up-stairs after the conversation with her
father, went to her room, and fell into a chair by the window. So it
chanced that she overheard the conference between Colonel Sommerton and
Barnaby, and long after it was ended she still sat there leaning on the
window-sill. Her eyes showed a trifle of irritation, but the tears were all
"Why didn't Tom tell me that he was going to run against my father?" she
inquired of herself over and over. "I think he might have trusted me, so I
do. It's mean of him. And if he should beat papa! Papa could bear that."
She sprang to her feet and walked across the room, stopping on the way to
rub her apple-bloom cheeks before a looking-glass. Vaguely enough, but
insistently, the outline of a political plot glimmered in her consciousness
and troubled her understanding. Plainly her father and Tom Bannister were
rival candidates, and just as plainly each was scheming to make it appear
that the negroes were supporting his opponent; but the girl's little head
could not gather up and comprehend all that such a condition of things
meant. She supposed that a sort of disgrace would attach to defeat, and she
clasped her hands and poised her winsome body melodramatically when she
asked herself which she would rather the defeat would fall upon, her father
or Tom. She leaned out of the window and saw Colonel Sommerton walking down
the road towards town, with his cigar elevated at an acute angle with his
nose, his hat pulled well down in front, by which she knew that he was
still excited. Days went by, as days will in any state of affairs, with
just such faultless weather as August engenders amid the cool hills of the
old Cherokee country; and Phyllis noted, by an indirect attention to what
she had never before been interested in, that Colonel Sommerton was growing
strangely confidential and familiar with Barnaby. She had a distinct but
remote impression that her father had hitherto never, at least never
openly, shown such irenic solicitude in that direction, and she knew that
his sudden peace-making with the old negro meant ill to her lover. She
pondered the matter with such discrimination and logic as her clever little
brain could compass; and at last she one evening called Barnaby to come
into the garden with his banjo.
The sun was down, and the half-grown moon swung yellow and clear against
the violet arch of mid-heaven. Through the sheen a softened outline of the
town wavered fantastically.
Phyllis sat on a great fragment of limestone, which, embossed with curious
fossils, formed the immovable centre-piece of the garden.
Barnaby, at a respectful distance, crumpled herself satyr-like on the
ground, with his banjo across his knee, and gazed expectantly aslant at the
girl's sweet face.
"Now play me my father's favorite song," she said.
They heard Mrs. Wren, the housekeeper, opening the windows in the upper
rooms of the mansion to let in the night air, which was stirring over the
valley with a delicious mountain chill on its wings. All around in the
trees and shrubbery the katydids were rasping away in immelodious statement
and denial of the ancient accusation.
Barnaby demurred. He did not imagine, so at least he said, that Miss
Phyllis would be pleased with the ballad that recently had been the
Colonel's chief musical delight; but he must obey the young lady, and so,
after some throat--clearing and string--tuning, he proceeded:
"I'd rudder be er niggah
Dan ter be er whi' man,
Dough the whi' man considdah
He se'f biggah;
But of yo' mus' be white, w'y be hones' of
An ac' es much es poss'ble like er niggah!
"De colah ob yo' skin
Hit don't constertoot no sin,
An' yo' fambly ain't er--
Cuttin' any figgah;
Min' w'at yo's er-doin', an' do de bes' yo' kin,
An' ac' es much es poss'ble like er niggah!"
The tune of this song was melody itself, brimming with that unkempt,
sarcastic humor which always strikes as if obliquely, and with a flurry of
tipsy fun, into one's ears.
When the performance was ended, and the final tinkle of the rollicking
banjo accompaniment died away down the slope of Sommerton Hill, Phyllis put
her plump chin in her hands and, with her elbows on her knees, looked
steadily at Barnaby for a while.
"Barn," she said, "is my father going to get the colored people to indorse
Mr. Tom Bannister?"
"Yes, ma'm," replied the old negro; and then he caught his breath and
checked himself in confusion. "Da-da-dat is, er--I spec' so--er--I dun'no',
ma'm," he stammered. "Fo' de Lor' I's--"
Phyllis interrupted him with an impatient laugh, but said no more. In due
time Barnaby sang her some other ditties, and then she went into the house.
She gave the negro a large coin and on the veranda steps she called back to
him, "Good-night, Uncle Barn," in a voice that made him shake his head and
"De bressed chile! De bressed chile!" And yet he was aware that she had
outwitted him and gained his secret. He knew how matters stood between the
young lady and Tom Bannister, and there arose in his mind a vivid sense of
the danger that might result to his own and Colonel Sommerton's plans from
a disclosure of this one vital detail. Would Phyllis tell her lover?
Barnaby shook his head in a dubious way.
"Gals is pow'ful onsartin so dey is," he muttered. "Dey tells der
sweethearts mos'ly all what dey knows, spacially secrets. Spec' de ole boss
an' he plan done gone up de chimbly er-kally-hootin' fo' good."
Then the old scamp began to turn over in his brain a scheme which seemed to
offer him a fair way of approaching Mr. Tom Bannister's pocket and the
portemonnaie of Phyllis as well. He chuckled atrociously as a pretty
comprehensive view of "practical politics" opened itself to him.
Tom Bannister had not been to see Phyllis since her father had delivered
his opinion to her touching the intrinsic merits of that young man, and she
Colonel Sommerton, though notably eccentric, could be depended upon for
outright dealing in general; still Phyllis had a pretty substantial belief
that in politics success lay largely on the side of the trickster. For many
years the Colonel had been in the Legislature. No man had been able to beat
him for the nomination. She had often heard him tell how he laid out his
antagonists by taking excellent and popular short turns on them, and it was
plain to her mind now that he was weaving a snare for Tom Bannister.
She thought of Tom's running for office against her father as something
prodigiously strange. Certainly it was a bold and daring piece of youthful
audacity for him to be guilty of. He, a young sprig of the law, with his
brown mustache not yet grown, setting himself up to beat Colonel Mobley
Sommerton! Phyllis blushed whenever she thought of it; but the Colonel had
never once mentioned Tom's candidacy to her.
The convention was approaching, and day by day signs of popular interest in
it increased as the time shortened. Colonel Sommerton was preparing a
speech for the occasion. The manuscript of it lay on the desk in his
About this time--it was near September 1st and the watermelons and
cantaloupes were in their glory--the Colonel was called away to a distant
town for a few days. In his absence Tom Bannister chanced to visit
Sommerton Place. Of course Phyllis was not expecting him; indeed, she told
him that he ought not to have come; but Tom thought differently in a very
persuasive way. The melons were good, the library delightfully cool, and
conversation caught the fragrance of innocent albeit stolen pleasure.
Tom Bannister was unquestionably a handsome young fellow, carrying a
hearty, whole-souled expression in his open, almost rosy face. His large
brown eyes, curly brown hair, silken young mustache, and firmly set mouth
and chin well matched his stalwart, symmetrical form. He was not only
handsome, he was brilliant in a way, and his memory was something
prodigious. Unquestionably he would rise rapidly.
"I am going to beat your father for the nomination," he remarked, midmost
the discussion of their melons, speaking in a tone of the most absolute
"Tom," she exclaimed, "you mustn't do it!"
"Why, I'd like to know?"
She looked at him as if she felt a sudden fright. His eyes fell before her
intense, searching gaze.
"It would be dreadful," she presently managed to say. "Papa couldn't bear
"It will ruin me forever if I let him beat me. I shall have to go away from
here." It was now his turn to become intense.
"I don't see what makes men think so much of office," she complained,
evasively. "I've heard papa say that there was absolutely no profit in
going to the Legislature." Then, becoming insistent, she exclaimed,
"Withdraw, Tom; please do, for my sake!"
She made a rudimentary movement as if to throw her arms around him, but it
came to nothing. Her voice, however, carried a mighty appeal to Tom's
heart. He looked at her, and thought how commonplace other young women were
when compared with her.
"You will withdraw, won't you, Tom?" she prayed. One of her hands touched
his arm. "Say yes, Tom."
For a moment his political ambition and his standing with men appeared to
dissolve into a mere mist, a finely comminuted sentiment of love; but he
kept a good hold upon himself.
"I cannot do it, Phyllis," he said, in a firm voice, which disclosed by
some indescribable inflection how much it pained him to refuse. "My whole
future depends upon success in this race. I am sorry it is your father I
must beat, but, Phyllis, I must be nominated. I can't afford to sit down in
your father's shadow. As sure as you live, I am going to beat him."
In her heart she was proud of him, and proud of this resolution that not
even she could break. From that moment she was between the millstones. She
loved her father, it seemed to her, more than ever, and she could not bear
the thought of his defeat. Indeed, with that generosity characteristic of
the sex which can be truly humorous only when absolutely unconscious of it,
she wanted both Tom and the Colonel nominated, and both elected. She was
the partisan on Tom's side, the adherent on her father's.
Colonel Sommerton returned on the day before the convention, and found his
friends enthusiastic, all his "fences" in good condition, and his
nomination evidently certain. It followed that he was in high good-humor.
He hugged Phyllis, and in a casual way brought up the thought of how
pleasantly they could spend the winter in Atlanta when the Legislature met.
"But Tom--I mean Mr. Bannister--is going to beat you, and get the
nomination," she archly remarked.
"If he does, I'll deed you Sommerton Place!" As he spoke he glared at her
as a lion might glare at thought of being defeated by a cub.
"To him and me?" she inquired, with sudden eagerness of tone. "If he---"
"Phyllis!" he interrupted, savagely, "no joking on that subject. I
"No; I'm serious," she sweetly said. "If he can't beat you, I don't want
"Zounds! Is that a bargain?" He put his hand on her shoulder, and bent down
so that his eyes were on a level with hers.
"Yes," she replied; "and I'll hold you to it."
"You promise me?" he insisted.
"A man must go ahead of my papa," she said, putting her arms about the old
gentleman's neck, "or I'll stay by papa."
He kissed her with atrocious violence. Even the knee-sag of his trousers
suggested more than ordinary vigor of feeling.
"Well, it's good-bye, Tom," he said, pushing her away from him, and letting
go a profound bass laugh. "I'll settle him to-morrow."
"You'll see," she rejoined. "He may not be so easy to settle."
He gave her a savage but friendly cuff as they parted.
That evening old Barnaby brought his banjo around to the veranda. Colonel
Sommerton was down in town mixing with the "boys," and doing up his final
political chores so that there might be no slip on the morrow. It was near
eleven o'clock when he came up the hill and stopped at the gate to hear the
song that Barnaby was singing. He supposed that the old negro was all
alone. Certainly the captivating voice, with its unkempt melody, and its
throbbing, skipping, harum-scarum banjo accompaniment, was all that broke
the silence of the place.
His song was:
"DE SASSAFRAS BLOOM
"Dey's sugah in de win' when de sassafras bloom,
When de little co'n fluttah in de row,
When de robin in de tree, like er young gal in de loom,
Sing sweet, sing sof', sing low.
"Oh, de sassafras blossom hab de keen smell o' de root,
An' it hab rich er tender yaller green!
De co'n hit kinder twinkle when hit firs' begin ter shoot,
While de bum'le-bee hit bum'le in between.
"Oh, de sassafras tassel, an' de young shoot o' de co'n,
An' de young gal er-singing in de loom,
Dey's somefin' 'licious in 'em f'om de day 'at dey is bo'n,
An' dis darky's sort o' took er likin' to 'm.
"Hit's kind o' sort o' glor'us when yo' feels so quare an' cur'us,
An' yo' don' know what it is yo' wants ter do;
But I takes de chances on it 'at hit jes can't be injur'us
When de whole endurin' natur tells yo' to!
"Den wake up, niggah, see de sassafras in bloom!
Lis'n how de sleepy wedder blow!
An' de robin in de haw--bush an' de young gal in de loom
Is er-singin' so sof' an' low."
"Thank you, Barn; here's your dollar," said the voice of Tom Bannister when
the song was ended. "You may go now."
And while Colonel Sommerton stood amazed, the young man came clown the
veranda steps with Phyllis on his arm. They stopped when they reached the
"Good--night, dear. I'll win you to-morrow or my name is not Tom Bannister.
I'll win you, and Sommerton Place too." And when they parted he came right
down the walk between the trees, to run almost against Colonel Sommerton.
"Why, good-evening, Colonel," he said, with a cordial, liberal spirit in
his voice. "I have been waiting in hopes of seeing you."
"You'll get enough of me to-morrow to last you a lifetime, sah," promptly
responded the old man, marching straight on into the house. Nothing could
express more concentrated and yet comprehensive contempt than Colonel
"The impudent young scamp," he growled. "I'll show
Phyllis sprang from ambush behind a vine, and covered her father's face
with warm kisses, then broke away before he could say a word, and ran up to
In the distant kitchen Barnaby was singing:
"Kick so high I broke my neck,
An' fling my right foot off'm my leg
Went to work mos' awful quick,