Part 4 out of 6
as to right-of-way. But the letters he wished to write were not the
sort he cared to have read to the girl by the evangelist-doctor or the
district-school teacher, and alone she could have made nothing of them.
However, "I love you" are easy words--and those he always included.
The Widow Miller had been ailing for months, and, though the local
physician diagnosed the condition as being "right porely," he knew that
the specter of tuberculosis which stalks through these badly lighted
and ventilated houses was stretching out its fingers to touch her
shrunken chest. This had meant that Sally had to forego the evening
hours of study, because of the weariness that followed the day of
nursing and household drudgery. Autumn seemed to bring to her mother a
slight improvement, and Sally could again sometimes steal away with her
slate and book, to sit alone on the big bowlder, and study. But,
oftentimes, the print on the page, or the scrawl on the slate, became
blurred. Nowadays, the tears came weakly to her eyes, and, instead of
hating herself for them and dashing them fiercely away, as she would
have done a year ago, she sat listlessly, and gazed across the flaring
Even the tuneful glory of the burgundy and scarlet mountains hurt her
into wincing--for was it not the clarion of Beauty that Samson had
heard--and in answer to which he had left her? So, she would sit, and
let her eyes wander, and try to imagine the sort of picture those same
very hungry eyes would see, could she rip away the curtain of purple
distance, and look in on him--wherever he was. And, in imagining such a
picture, she was hampered by no actual knowledge of the world in which
he lived--it was all a fairy-tale world, one which her imagination
shaped and colored fantastically. Then, she would take out one of his
occasional letters, and her face would grow somewhat rapt, as she
spelled out the familiar, "I love you," which was to her the soul of
the message. The rest was unimportant. She would not be able to write
that Christmas. letter. There had been too many interruptions in the
self-imparted education, but some day she would write. There would
probably be time enough. It would take even Samson a long while to
become an artist. He had said so, and the morbid mountain pride forbade
that she should write at all until she could do it well enough to give
him a complete surprise. It must be a finished article, that letter--or
nothing at all!
One day, as she was walking homeward from her lonely trysting place,
she met the battered-looking man who carried medicines in his
saddlebags and the Scriptures in his pocket, and who practised both
forms of healing through the hills. The old man drew down his nag, and
threw one leg over the pommel.
"Evenin', Sally," he greeted.
"Evenin', Brother Spencer. How air ye?"
"Tol'able, thank ye, Sally." The body-and-soul mender studied the girl
awhile in silence, and then said bluntly:
"Ye've done broke right smart, in the last year. Anything the matter
She shook her head, and laughed. It was an effort to laugh merrily,
but only the ghost of the old instinctive blitheness rippled into it.
"I've jest come from old Spicer South's," volunteered the doctor.
"He's ailin' pretty consid'able, these days."
"What's the matter with Unc' Spicer?" demanded the girl, in genuine
anxiety. Every one along Misery called the old man Unc' Spicer.
"I can't jest make out." Her informer spoke slowly, and his brow
corrugated into something like sullenness. "He hain't jest to say sick.
Thet is, his organs seems all right, but he don't 'pear to have no
heart fer nothin', and his victuals don't tempt him none. He's jest
puny, thet's all."
"I'll go over thar, an' see him," announced the girl. "I'll cook a
chicken thet'll tempt him."
The physician's mind was working along some line which did not seem to
partake of cheerfulness. Again, he studied the girl, still upright and
high-chinned, but, somehow, no longer effervescent with wild, resilient
"Hit sometimes 'pears to me," he said, gruffly, "thet this here thing
of eddication costs a sight more than hit comes to."
"What d'ye mean, Brother Spencer?"
"I reckon if Samson South hadn't a-took this hyar hankerin' atter
larnin', an' had stayed home 'stid of rainbow chasin', the old man would
still be able-bodied, 'stid of dyin' of a broken heart--an' you----"
The girl's cheeks flushed. Her violet eyes became deep with a loyal
and defensive glow.
"Ye mustn't say things like them, Brother Spencer." Her voice was very
firm and soft. "Unc' Spicer's jest gettin' old, an' es fer me, I wasn't
never better ner happier in my life." It was a lie, but a splendid lie,
and she told herself as well as Brother Spencer that she believed it.
"Samson would come back in a minit ef we sent fer him. He's smart, an'
he's got a right ter l'arnin'! He hain't like us folks; he's a--" She
paused, and groped for the word that Lescott had added to her
vocabulary, which she had half-forgotten. "He's a genius!"
There rose to the lips of the itinerant preacher a sentiment as to how
much more loyalty availeth a man than genius, but, as he looked at the
slender and valiant figure standing in the deep dust of the road, he
left it unuttered.
The girl spent much time after that at the house of old Spicer South,
and her coming seemed to waken him into a fitful return of spirits. His
strength, which had been like the strength of an ox, had gone from him,
and he spent his hours sitting listlessly in a split-bottomed rocker,
which was moved from place to place, following the sunshine.
"I reckon, Unc' Spicer," suggested the girl, on one of her first
visits, "I'd better send fer Samson. Mebby hit mout do ye good ter see
The old man was weakly leaning back in his chair, and his eyes were
vacantly listless; but, at the suggestion, he straightened, and the
ancient fire came again to his face.
"Don't ye do hit," he exclaimed, almost fiercely. "I knows ye means
hit kindly, Sally, but don't ye meddle in my business."
"I--I didn't 'low ter meddle," faltered the girl.
"No, little gal." His voice softened at once into gentleness. "I knows
ye didn't. I didn't mean ter be short-answered with ye neither, but
thar's jest one thing I won't 'low nobody ter do--an' thet's ter send
fer Samson. He knows the road home, an', when he wants ter come, he'll
find the door open, but we hain't a-goin' ter send atter him."
The girl said nothing, and, after awhile, the old man wait on:
"I wants ye ter understand me, Sally. Hit hain't that I'm mad with
Samson. God knows, I loves the boy.... I hain't a-blamin' him,
He was silent for awhile, and his words came with the weariness of dead
hopes when he began again. "Mebby, I oughtn't ter talk about sech things
with a young gal, but I'm an old man, an' thar hain't no harm in hit....
From the time when I used ter watch you two children go a-trapsin' off
in the woods together atter hickory nuts, thar's been jest one thing
thet I've looked forward to and dreamed about: I wanted ter see ye
married. I 'lowed--" A mistiness quenched the sternness of his gray
eyes. "I 'lowed thet, ef I could see yore children playin' round this
here yard, everything thet's ever gone wrong would be paid fer."
Sally stood silently at his side, and her cheeks flushed as the tears
crept into her eyes; but her hand stole through the thick mane of hair,
fast turning from iron-gray to snow-white.
Spicer South watched the fattening hog that rubbed its bristling side
against the rails stacked outside the fence, and then said, with an
imperious tone that did not admit of misconstruction:
"But, Sally, the boy's done started out on his own row. He's got ter
hoe hit. Mebby he'll come back--mebby not! Thet's as the Lord wills.
Hit wouldn't do us no good fer him to come withouten he come willin'ly.
The meanest thing ye could do ter me--an' him--would be ter send fer
him. Ye mustn't do hit. Ye mustn't!"
"All right, Unc' Spicer. I hain't a-goin' ter do hit--leastways, not
yit. But I'm a-goin' ter come over hyar every day ter see ye."
"Ye can't come too often, Sally, gal," declared the old clansman,
* * * * *
Wilfred Horton found himself that fall in the position of a man whose
course lies through rapids, and for the first time in his life his
pleasures were giving precedence to business. He knew that his
efficiency would depend on maintaining the physical balance of perfect
health and fitness, and early each morning he went for his gallop in
the park. At so early an hour, he had the bridle path for the most part
to himself. This had its compensations, for, though Wilfred Horton
continued to smile with his old-time good humor, he acknowledged to
himself that it was not pleasant to have men who had previously sought
him out with flatteries avert their faces, and pretend that they had
not seen him.
Horton was the most-hated and most-admired man in New York, but the
men who hated and snubbed him were his own sort, and the men who
admired him were those whom he would never meet, and who knew him only
through the columns of penny papers. Their sympathy was too remote to
bring him explicit pleasure. He was merely attempting, from within,
reforms which the public and the courts had attempted from without.
But, since he operated from within the walls, he was denounced as a
Judas. Powerful enemies had ceased to laugh, and begun to conspire. He
must be silenced! How, was a mooted question. But, in some fashion, he
must be silenced. Society had not cast him out, but Society had shown
him in many subtle ways that he was no longer her favorite. He had
taken a plebeian stand with the masses. Meanwhile, from various
sources, Horton had received warnings of actual personal danger. But at
these he had laughed, and no hint of them had reached Adrienne's ears.
One evening, when business had forced the postponement of a dinner
engagement with Miss Lescott, he begged her over the telephone to ride
with him the following morning.
"I know you are usually asleep when I'm out and galloping," he
laughed, "but you pitched me neck and crop into this hurly-burly, and I
shouldn't have to lose everything. Don't have your horse brought. I
want you to try out a new one of mine."
"I think," she answered, "that early morning is the best time to ride.
I'll meet you at seven at the Plaza entrance."
They had turned the upper end of the reservoir before Horton drew his
mount to a walk, and allowed the reins to hang. They had been galloping
hard, and conversation had been impracticable.
"I suppose experience should have taught me," began Horton, slowly,
"that the most asinine thing in the world is to try to lecture you,
Drennie. But there are times when one must even risk your delight at
"I'm not going to tease you this morning," she answered, docilely. "I
like the horse too well--and, to be frank, I like you too well!"
"Thank you," smiled Horton. "As usual, you disarm me on the verge of
combat. I had nerved myself for ridicule."
"What have I done now?" inquired the girl, with an innocence which
further disarmed him.
"The Queen can do no wrong. But even the Queen, perhaps more
particularly the Queen, must give thought to what people are saying."
"What are people saying?"
"The usual unjust things that are said about women in society. You are
being constantly seen with an uncouth freak who is scarcely a
gentleman, however much he may be a man. And malicious tongues are
The girl stiffened.
"I won't spar with you. I know that you are alluding to Samson South,
though the description is a slander. I never thought it would be
necessary to say such a thing to you, Wilfred, but you are talking like
The young man flushed.
"I laid myself open to that," he said, slowly, "and I suppose I should
have expected it."
He knew her well enough to dread the calmness of her more serious
anger, and just now the tilt of her chin, the ominous light of her deep
eyes and the quality of her voice told him that he had incurred it.
"May I ask," Adrienne inquired, "what you fancy constitutes your right
to assume this censorship of my conduct?"
"I have no censorship, of course. I have only the interest of loving
you, and meaning to marry you."
"And I may remark in passing, that you are making no progress to that
end by slandering my friends."
"Adrienne, I'm not slandering. God knows I hate cads and snobs. Mr.
South is simply, as yet, uncivilized. Otherwise, he would hardly take
you, unchaperoned, to--well, let us say to ultra-bohemian resorts,
where you are seen by such gossip-mongers as William Farbish."
"So, that's the specific charge, is it?"
"Yes, that's the specific charge. Mr. South may be a man of unusual
talent and strength. But--he has done what no other man has done--with
you. He has caused club gossip, which may easily be twisted and
"Do you fancy that Samson South could have taken me to the Wigwam Road-
house if I had not cared to go with him?"
The man shook his head.
"Certainly not! But the fact that you did care to go with him
indicates an influence over you which is new. You have not sought the
bohemian and unconventional phases of life with your other friends."
Adrienne glanced at the athletic figure riding at her side, just now
rather rigid with restraint and indignation, as though his vertebrae
were threaded on a ramrod, and her eyes darkened a little.
"Now, let it be thoroughly understood between us, Wilfred," she said
very quietly, "that if you see any danger in my unconventionalities, I
don't care to discuss this, or any other matter, with you now or at any
time." She paused, then added in a more friendly voice: "It would be
rather a pity for us to quarrel about a thing like this."
The young man was still looking into her eyes, and he read there an
"God knows I was not questioning you," he replied, slowly. "There is
no price under heaven I would not pay for your regard. None the less, I
repeat that, at the present moment, I can see only two definitions for
this mountaineer. Either he is a bounder, or else he is so densely
ignorant and churlish that he is unfit to associate with you."
"I make no apologies for Mr. South," she said, "because none are
needed. He is a stranger in New York, who knows nothing, and cares
nothing about the conventionalities. If I chose to waive them, I think
it was my right and my responsibility."
Horton said nothing, and, in a moment, Adrienne Lescott's manner
changed. She spoke more gently:
"Wilfred, I'm sorry you choose to take this prejudice against the boy.
You could have done a great deal to help him. I wanted you to be
"Thank you!" His manner was stiff. "I hardly think we'd hit it off
"I don't think you quite understand," she argued. "Samson South is
running a clean, creditable race, weighted down with a burdensome
handicap. As a straight-thinking sportsman, if for no better reason, I
should fancy you'd be glad to help him. He has the stamina and
"Those," said Horton, who at heart was the fairest and most generous
of men, "are very admirable qualities. Perhaps, I should be more
enthusiastic, Drennie, if you were a little less so."
For the first time since the talk had so narrowly skirted a quarrel,
her eyes twinkled.
"I believe you are jealous!" she announced.
"Of course, I'm jealous," he replied, without evasion. "Possibly, I
might have saved time in the first place by avowing my jealousy. I
hasten now to make amends. I'm green-eyed."
She laid her gloved fingers lightly on his bridle hand.
"Don't be," she advised; "I'm not in love with him. If I were, it
wouldn't matter. He has,
"'A neater, sweeter maiden,
"'In a greener, cleaner land.'
"He's told me all about her."
Horton shook his head, dubiously.
"I wish to the good Lord, he'd go back to her," he said. "This
Platonic proposition is the doormat over-which two persons walk to
other things. They end by wiping their feet on the Platonic doormat."
"We'll cross that--that imaginary doormat, when we get to it," laughed
the girl. "Meantime, you ought to help me with Samson."
"Thank you, no! I won't help educate my successor. And I won't
abdicate"--his manner of speech grew suddenly tense--"while I can fight
for my foothold."
"I haven't asked you to abdicate. This boy has been here less than a
year. He came absolutely raw--"
"And lit all spraddled out in the police court!" Wilfred prompted.
"And, in less than a year, he has made wonderful advancement; such
advancement as he could not have made but for one thing."
"Which was--that you took him in hand."
"No--which is, that he springs from stock that, despite its hundred
years of lapse into illiteracy, is good stock. Samson South was a
gentleman, Wilfred, two hundred years before he was born."
"That," observed her companion, curtly, "was some time ago."
She tossed her head, impatiently.
"Come," she said, "let's gallop."
"No," protested Wilfred, his face becoming penitent. "Just a moment! I
retract. It is I who am the cad. Please, tell Mr. South just what we
have both said, and make my apologies if he'll accept them. Of course,
if you insist, I'll meet him. I suppose I'll have to meet him some day,
anyhow. But, frankly, Drennie, I hate the man. It will take a Herculean
effort to be decent to him. Still, if you say so--"
"No, Wilfred," she declined, "if you can't do it willingly, I don't
want you to do it at all. It doesn't matter in the least. Let's drop
One afternoon, swinging along Fifth Avenue in his down-town walk,
Samson met Mr. Farbish, who fell into step with him, and began to make
"By the way, South," he suggested after the commonplaces had been
disposed of, "you'll pardon my little prevarication the other evening
about having met you at the Manhattan Club?"
"Why was it necessary?" inquired Samson, with a glance of disquieting
"Possibly, it was not necessary, merely politic. Of course," he
laughed, "every man knows two kinds of women. It's just as well not to
discuss the nectarines with the orchids, or the orchids with the
Samson made no response. But Farbish, meeting his eyes, felt as though
he had been contemptuously rebuked. His own eyes clouded with an
impulse of resentment. But it passed, as he remembered that his plans
involved the necessity of winning this boy's confidence. An assumption
of superior virtue, he thought, came rather illogically from Samson,
who had brought to the inn a young woman whom he should not have
exposed to comment. He, himself, could afford to be diplomatic.
Accordingly, he laughed.
"You mustn't take me too literally, South," he explained. "The life
here has a tendency to make us cynical in our speech, even though we
may be quite the reverse in our practices. In point of fact, I fancy we
were both rather out of our element at Collasso's studio."
At the steps of a Fifth Avenue club, Farbish halted.
"Won't you turn in here," he suggested, "and assuage your thirst?"
Samson declined, and walked on. But when, a day or two later, he
dropped into the same club with George Lescott, Farbish joined them in
the grill--without invitation.
"By the way, Lescott," said the interloper, with an easy assurance
upon which the coolness of his reception had no seeming effect, "it
won't be long now until ducks are flying south. Will you get off for
your customary shooting?"
"I'm afraid not." Lescott's voice became more cordial, as a man's will
whose hobby has been touched. "There are several canvases to be
finished for approaching exhibitions. I wish I could go. When the first
cold winds begin to sweep down, I get the fever. The prospects are
good, too, I understand."
"The best in years! Protection in the Canadian breeding fields is
bearing fruit. Do you shoot ducks, Mr. South?" The speaker included
Samson as though merely out of deference to his physical presence.
Samson shook his head. But he was listening eagerly. He, too, knew
that note of the migratory "honk" from high overhead.
"Samson," said Lescott slowly, as he caught the gleam in his friend's
eyes, "you've been working too hard. You'll have to take a week off,
and try your hand. After you've changed your method from rifle to
shotgun, you'll bag your share, and you'll come back fitter for work. I
must arrange it."
"As to that," suggested Farbish, in the manner of one regarding the
civilities, "Mr. South can run down to the Kenmore. I'll have a card
made out for him."
"Don't trouble," demurred Lescott, coolly, "I can fix that up."
"It would be a pleasure," smiled the other. "I sincerely wish I could
be there at the same time, but I'm afraid that, like you, Lescott, I
shall have to give business the right of way. However, when I hear that
the flights are beginning, I'll call Mr. South up, and pass the news to
Samson had thought it rather singular that he had never met Horton at
the Lescott house, though Adrienne spoke of him almost as of a member
of the family. However, Samson's visits were usually in his intervals
between relays of work and Horton was probably at such times in Wall
Street. It did not occur to the mountaineer that the other was
intentionally avoiding him. He knew of Wilfred only through Adrienne's
eulogistic descriptions, and, from hearsay, liked him.
The months of close application to easel and books had begun to tell
on the outdoor man in a softening of muscles and a slight, though
noticeable, pallor. The enthusiasm with which he attacked his daily
schedule carried him far, and made his progress phenomenal, but he was
spending capital of nerve and health, and George Lescott began to fear
a break-down for his protege. Lescott did not want to advise a visit to
the mountains, because he had secured from the boy a promise that,
unless he was called home, he would give the experiment an unbroken
trial of eighteen months.
If Samson went back, he feared his return would reawaken the sleeping
volcano of the feud--and he could not easily come away again. He
discussed the matter with Adrienne, and the girl began to promote in
the boy an interest in the duck-shooting trip--an interest which had
already awakened, despite the rifleman's inherent contempt for shotguns.
"You will be in your blind," she enthusiastically told him, "before
daybreak, and after a while the wedges will come flying into view,
cutting the fog in hundreds and dropping into the decoys. You'll love
it! I wish I were going myself."
"Do you shoot?" he asked, in some surprise.
She nodded, and added modestly;
"But I don't kill many ducks."
"Is there anything you can't do?" he questioned in admiration, then
demanded, with the touch of homesickness in his voice, "Are there any
mountains down there?"
"I'm afraid we can't provide any mountains," laughed Adrienne. "Just
salt marshes--and beyond them, the sea. But there's moonshine--of the
natural variety--and a tonic in the wind that buffets you."
"I reckon I'd like it, all right," he said, "and I'll bring you back
some ducks, if I'm lucky."
So, Lescott arranged the outfit, and Samson awaited the news of the
That same evening, Farbish dropped into the studio, explaining that he
had been buying a picture at Collasso's, and had taken the opportunity
to stop by and hand Samson a visitor's card to the Kenmore Club.
He found the ground of interest fallow, and artfully sowed it with
well-chosen anecdotes calculated to stimulate enthusiasm.
On leaving the studio, he paused to say:
"I'll let you know when conditions are just right." Then, he added, as
though in afterthought: "And I'll arrange so that you won't run up on
"What's the matter with Wilfred Horton?" demanded Samson, a shade
"Nothing at all," replied Farbish, with entire gravity. "Personally, I
like Horton immensely. I simply thought you might find things more
congenial when he wasn't among those present."
Samson was puzzled, but he did not fancy hearing from this man's lips
criticisms upon friends of his friends.
"Well, I reckon," he said, coolly, "I'd like him, too."
"I beg your pardon," said the other. "I supposed you knew, or I
shouldn't have broached the topic."
"You must excuse me," demurred the visitor with dignity. "I shouldn't
have mentioned the subject. I seem to have said too much."
"See here, Mr. Farbish," Samson spoke quietly, but imperatively; "if
you know any reason why I shouldn't meet Mr. Wilfred Horton, I want you
to tell me what it is. He is a friend of my friends. You say you've
said too much. I reckon you've either said too much, or too little."
Then, very insidiously and artistically, seeming all the while
reluctant and apologetic, the visitor proceeded to plant in Samson's
mind an exaggerated and untrue picture of Horton's contempt for him and
of Horton's resentment at the favor shown him by the Lescotts.
Samson heard him out with a face enigmatically set, and his voice was
soft, as he said simply at the end:
"I'm obliged to you."
Farbish had hoped for more stress of feeling, but, as he walked home,
he told himself that the sphinx-like features had been a mask, and
that, when these two met, their coming together held potentially for a
clash. He was judge enough of character to know that Samson's morbid
pride would seal his lips as to the interview--until he met Horton.
In point of fact, Samson was at first only deeply wounded. That
through her kindness to him Adrienne was having to fight his battles
with a close friend he had never suspected. Then, slowly, a bitterness
began to rankle, quite distinct from the hurt to his sensitiveness. His
birthright of suspicion and tendency to foster hatreds had gradually
been falling asleep under the disarming kindness of these persons. Now,
they began to stir in him again vaguely, but forcibly, and to trouble
Samson did not appear at the Lescott house for two weeks after that.
He had begun to think that, if his going there gave embarrassment to
the girl who had been kind to him, it were better to remain away.
"I don't belong here," he told himself, bitterly. "I reckon everybody
that knows me in New York, except the Lescotts, is laughing at me
behind my back."
He worked fiercely, and threw into his work such fire and energy that
it came out again converted into a boldness of stroke and an almost
savage vigor of drawing. The instructor nodded his head over the easel,
and passed on to the next student without having left the defacing mark
of his relentless crayon. To the next pupil, he said:
"Watch the way that man South draws. He's not clever. He's elementally
sincere, and, if he goes on, the first thing you know he will be a
portrait painter. He won't merely draw eyes and lips and noses, but
character and virtues and vices showing out through them."
And Samson met every gaze with smoldering savagery, searching for some
one who might be laughing at him openly, or even covertly; instead of
behind his back. The long-suffering fighting lust in him craved
opportunity to break out and relieve the pressure on his soul. But no
One afternoon late in November, a hint of blizzards swept snarling
down the Atlantic seaboard from the polar floes, with wet flurries of
snow and rain. Off on the marshes where the Kenmore Club had its lodge,
the live decoys stretched their clipped wings, and raised their green
necks restively into the salt wind, and listened. With dawn, they had
heard, faint and far away, the first notes of that wild chorus with
which the skies would ring until the southerly migrations ended--the
horizon-distant honking of high-flying water fowl.
Then it was that Farbish dropped in with marching orders, and Samson,
yearning to be away where there were open skies, packed George
Lescott's borrowed paraphernalia, and prepared to leave that same night.
While he was packing, the telephone rang, and Samson heard Adrienne's
voice at the other end of the wire.
"Where have you been hiding?" she demanded. "I'll have to send a
truant officer after you."
"I've been very busy," said the man, "and I reckon, after all, you
can't civilize a wolf. I'm afraid I've been wasting your time."
Possibly, the miserable tone of the voice told the girl more than the
"You are having a season with the blue devils," she announced. "You've
been cooped up too much. This wind ought to bring the ducks, and----"
"I'm leaving to-night," Samson told her.
"It would have been very nice of you to have run up to say good-bye,"
she reproved. "But I'll forgive you, if you call me up by long
distance. You will get there early in the morning. To-morrow, I'm going
to Philadelphia over night. The next night, I shall be at the theater.
Call me up after the theater, and tell me how you like it."
It was the same old frankness and friendliness of voice, and the same
old note like the music of a reed instrument. Samson felt so comforted
and reassured that he laughed through the telephone.
"I've been keeping away from you," he volunteered, "because I've had a
relapse into savagery, and haven't been fit to talk to you. When I get
back, I'm coming up to explain. And, in the meantime, I'll telephone."
On the train Samson was surprised to discover that, after all, he had
Mr. William Farbish for a traveling companion. That gentleman explained
that he had found an opportunity to play truant from business for a day
or two, and wished to see Samson comfortably ensconced and introduced.
The first day Farbish and Samson had the place to themselves, but the
next morning would bring others. Samson's ideas of a millionaires'
shooting-box had been vague, but he had looked forward to getting into
the wilds. The marshes were certainly desolate enough, and the pine
woods through which the buckboard brought them. But, inside the club
itself, the Kentuckian found himself in such luxurious comfort as he
could not, in his own mind, reconcile with the idea of "going hunting."
He would be glad when the cushioned chairs of the raftered lounging-
room and the tinkle of high-ball ice and gossip were exchanged for the
salt air and the blinds.
But, when he went out for his initiation, in the raw blackness before
daybreak, and lay in the blind, with only his guide for a companion, he
felt far away from artificial luxuries. The first pale streamers of
dawn soon streaked the east, and the wind charged cuttingly like drawn
sabers of galloping cavalry. The wooden decoys had been anchored with
the live ducks swimming among them, and the world began to awake. He
drew a long breath of contentment, and waited. Then came the trailing
of gray and blue and green mists, and, following the finger of the
silent boatman, he made out in the northern sky a slender wedge of
black dots, against the spreading rosiness of the horizon. Soon after,
he heard the clear clangor of throats high in the sky, answered by the
nearer honking of the live decoys, and he felt a throbbing of his
pulses as he huddled low against the damp bottom of the blind and waited.
The lines and wedges grew until the sky was stippled with them, and
their strong-throated cries were a strident music. For a time, they
passed in seeming thousands, growing from scarcely visible dots into
speeding shapes with slender outstretched necks and bills, pointed like
reversed compass needles to the south. As yet, they were all flying
high, ignoring with lordly indifference the clamor of their renegade
brothers, who shrieked to them through the morning mists to drop down,
and feed on death.
But, as the day grew older, Samson heard the popping of guns off to
the side, where other gunners lay in other blinds, and presently a
drake veered from his line of flight, far off to the right, harkened to
the voice of temptation, and led his flock circling toward the blind.
Then, with a whir and drumming of dark-tipped wings, they came down,
and struck the water, and the boy from Misery rose up, shooting as he
came. He heard the popping of his guide's gun at his side, and saw the
dead and crippled birds falling about him, amid the noisy clamor of
their started flight.
That day, while the mountaineer was out on the flats, the party of men
at the club had been swelled to a total of six, for in pursuance of the
carefully arranged plans of Mr. Farbish, Mr. Bradburn had succeeded in
inducing Wilfred Horton to run down for a day or two of the sport he
loved. To outward seeming, the trip which the two men had made together
had been quite casual, and the outgrowth of coincidence; yet, in point
of fact, not only the drive from Baltimore in Horton's car, but the
conversation by the way had been in pursuance of a plan, and the result
was that, when Horton arrived that afternoon, he found his usually even
temper ruffled by bits of maliciously broached gossip, until his
resentment against Samson South had been fanned into danger heat. He
did not know that South also was at the club, and he did not that
afternoon go out to the blinds, but so far departed from his usual
custom as to permit himself to sit for hours in the club grill.
And yet, as is often the case in carefully designed affairs, the one
element that made most powerfully for the success of Farbish's scheme
was pure accident. The carefully arranged meeting between the two men,
the adroitly incited passions of each, would still have brought no
clash, had not Wilfred Horton been affected by the flushing effect of
alcohol. Since his college days, he had been invariably abstemious.
To-night marked an exception.
He was rather surprised at the cordiality of the welcome accorded him,
for, as chance would have it, except for Samson South, whom he had not
yet seen, all the other sportsmen were men closely allied to the
political and financial elements upon which he had been making war.
Still, since they seemed willing to forget for the time that there had
been a breach, he was equally so. Just now, he was feeling such
bitterness for the Kentuckian that the foes of a less-personal sort
In point of fact, Wilfred Horton had spent a very bad day. The final
straw had broken the back of his usually unruffled temper, when he had
found in his room on reaching the Kenmore a copy of a certain New York
weekly paper, and had read a page, which chanced to be lying face up (a
chance carefully prearranged). It was an item of which Farbish had
known, in advance of publication, but Wilfred would never have seen
that sheet, had it not been so carefully brought to his attention.
There were hints of the strange infatuation which a certain young woman
seemed to entertain for a partially civilized stranger who had made his
entree to New York _via_ the Police Court, and who wore his hair
long in imitation of a Biblical character of the same name. The supper
at the Wigwam Inn was mentioned, and the character of the place
intimated. Horton felt this objectionable innuendo was directly
traceable to Adrienne's ill-judged friendship for the mountaineer, and
he bitterly blamed the mountaineer. And, while he had been brooding on
these matters, a man acting as Farbish's ambassador had dropped into
his room, since Farbish himself knew that Horton would not listen to
his confidences. The delegated spokesman warned Wilfred that Samson
South had spoken pointedly of him, and advised cautious conduct, in a
fashion calculated to inflame.
Samson, it was falsely alleged, had accused him of saying derogatory
things in his absence, which he would hardly venture to repeat in his
presence. In short, it was put up to Horton to announce his opinion
openly, or eat the crow of cowardice.
That evening, when Samson went to his room, Farbish joined him.
"I've been greatly annoyed to find," he said, seating himself on
Samson's bed, "that Horton arrived to-day."
"I reckon that's all right," said Samson. "He's a member, isn't he?"
Farbish appeared dubious.
"I don't want to appear in the guise of a prophet of trouble," he
said, "but you are my guest here, and I must warn you. Horton thinks of
you as a 'gun-fighter' and a dangerous man. He won't take chances with
you. If there is a clash, it will be serious. He doesn't often drink,
but to-day he's doing it, and may be ugly. Avoid an altercation if you
can, but if it comes--" He broke off and added seriously: "You will
have to get him, or he will get you. Are you armed?"
The Kentuckian laughed.
"I reckon I don't need to be armed amongst gentlemen."
Farbish drew from his pocket a magazine pistol.
"It won't hurt you to slip that into your clothes," he insisted.
For an instant, the mountaineer stood looking at his host and with
eyes that bored deep, but whatever was in his mind as he made that
scrutiny he kept to himself. At last, he took the magazine pistol,
turned it over in his hand, and put it into his pocket.
"Mr. Farbish," he said, "I've been in places before now where men were
drinking who had made threats against me. I think you are excited about
this thing. If anything starts, he will start it."
At the dinner table, Samson South and Wilfred Horton were introduced,
and acknowledged their introductions with the briefest and most formal
of nods. During the course of the meal, though seated side by side,
each ignored the presence of the other. Samson was, perhaps, no more
silent than usual. Always, he was the listener except when a question
was put to him direct, but the silence which sat upon Wilfred Horton
was a departure from his ordinary custom.
He had discovered in his college days that liquor, instead of
exhilarating him, was an influence under which he grew morose and
sullen, and that discovery had made him almost a total abstainer.
To-night, his glass was constantly filled and emptied, and, as he ate,
he gazed ahead, and thought resentfully of the man at his side.
When the coffee had been brought, and the cigars lighted, and the
servants had withdrawn, Horton, with the manner of one who had been
awaiting an opportunity, turned slightly in his chair, and gazed
insolently at the Kentuckian.
Samson South still seemed entirely unconscious of the other's
existence, though in reality no detail of the brewing storm had escaped
him. He was studying the other faces around the table, and what he saw
in them appeared to occupy him. Wilfred Horton's cheeks were burning
with a dull flush, and his eyes were narrowing with an unveiled
dislike. Suddenly, a silence fell on the party, and, as the men sat
puffing their cigars, Horton turned toward the Kentuckian. For a
moment, he glared in silence, then with an impetuous exclamation of
disgust he announced:
"See here, South, I want you to know that if I'd understood you were
to be here, I wouldn't have come. It has pleased me to express my
opinion of you to a number of people, and now I mean to express it to
you in person."
Samson looked around, and his features indicated neither surprise nor
interest. He caught Farbish's eye at the same instant, and, though the
plotter said nothing, the glance was subtle and expressive. It seemed
to prompt and goad him on, as though the man had said:
"You mustn't stand that. Go after him."
"I reckon"--Samson's voice was a pleasant drawl--"it doesn't make any
particular difference, Mr. Horton."
"Even if what I said didn't happen to be particularly commendatory?"
inquired Horton, his eyes narrowing.
"So long," replied the Kentuckian, "as what you said was your own
opinion, I don't reckon it would interest me much."
"In point of fact"---Horton was gazing with steady hostility into
Samson's eyes--"I prefer to tell you. I have rather generally expressed
the belief that you are a damned savage, unfit for decent society."
Samson's face grew rigid and a trifle pale. His mouth set itself in a
straight line, but, as Wilfred Horton came to his feet with the last
words, the mountaineer remained seated.
"And," went on the New Yorker, flushing with suddenly augmenting
passion, "what I said I still believe to be true, and repeat in your
presence. At another time and place, I shall be even more explicit. I
shall ask you to explain--certain things."
"Mr. Horton," suggested Samson in an ominously quiet voice, "I reckon
you're a little drunk. If I were you, I'd sit down."
Wilfred's face went from red to white, and his shoulders stiffened. He
leaned forward, and for the instant no one moved. The tick of a hall
clock was plainly audible.
"South," he said, his breath coming in labored excitement, "defend
Samson still sat motionless.
"Against what?" he inquired.
"Against that!" Horton struck the mountain man across the face with
his open hand. Instantly, there was a commotion of scraping chairs and
shuffling feet, mingled with a chorus of inarticulate protest. Samson
had risen, and, for a second, his face had become a thing of
unspeakable passion. His hand instinctively swept toward his pocket--
and stopped half-way. He stood by his overturned chair, gazing into the
eyes of his assailant, with an effort at self-mastery which gave his
chest and arms the appearance of a man writhing and stiffening under
electrocution. Then, he forced both hands to his back and gripped them
there. For a moment, the tableau was held, then the man from the
mountains began speaking, slowly and in a tone of dead-level monotony.
Each syllable was portentously distinct and clear clipped.
"Maybe you know why I don't kill you.... Maybe you don't.... I don't
give a damn whether you do or not.... That's the first blow I've ever
passed.... I ain't going to hit back.... You need a friend pretty bad
just now.... For certain reasons, I'm going to be that friend.... Don't
you see that this thing is a damned frame-up? ... Don't you see that I
was brought here to murder you?" He turned suddenly to Farbish.
"Why did you insist on my putting that in my pocket"--Samson took out
the pistol, and threw it down on the table-cloth in front of Wilfred,
where it struck and shivered a half-filled wine-glass--"and why did you
warn me that this man meant to kill me, unless I killed him first? I
was meant to be your catspaw to put Wilfred Horton out of your way. I
may be a barbarian and a savage, but I can smell a rat--if it's dead
For an instant, there was absolute and hushed calm. Wilfred Horton
picked up the discarded weapon and looked at it in bewildered
stupefaction, then slowly his face flamed with distressing mortification.
"Any time you want to fight me"--Samson had turned again to face him,
and was still talking in his deadly quiet voice--"except to-night, you
can find me. I've never been hit before without hitting back. That blow
has got to be paid for--but the man that's really responsible has got
to pay first. When I fight you, I'll fight for myself, not for a bunch
of damned murderers.... Just now, I've got other business. That man
framed this up!" He pointed a lean finger across the table into the
startled countenance of Mr. Farbish. "He knew! He has been working on
this job for a month. I'm going to attend to his case now."
As Samson started toward Farbish, the conspirator rose, and, with an
excellent counterfeit of insulted virtue, pushed back his chair.
"By God," he indignantly exclaimed, "you mustn't try to embroil me in
your quarrels. You must apologize. You are talking wildly, South."
"Am I?" questioned the Kentuckian, quietly; "I'm going to act wildly
in a minute."
He halted a short distance from Farbish, and drew from his pocket a
crumpled scrap of the offending magazine page: the item that had
"I may not have good manners, Mister Farbish, but where I come from we
know how to handle varmints." He dropped his voice and added for the
plotter's ear only: "Here's a little matter on the side that concerns
only us. It wouldn't interest these other gentlemen." He opened his
hand, and added: "Here, _eat_ that!"
Farbish, with a frightened glance at the set face of the man who was
advancing upon him, leaped back, and drew from his pocket a pistol--it
was an exact counterpart of the one with which he had supplied Samson.
With a panther-like swiftness, the Kentuckian leaped forward, and
struck up the weapon, which spat one ineffective bullet into the
rafters. There was a momentary scuffle of swaying bodies and a crash
under which the table groaned amid the shattering of glass and china.
Then, slowly, the conspirator's body bent back at the waist, until its
shoulders were stretched on the disarranged cloth, and the white face,
with purple veins swelling on the forehead, stared up between two brown
hands that gripped its throat.
"Swallow that!" ordered the mountaineer.
For just an instant, the company stood dumfounded, then a strained,
unnatural voice broke the silence.
"Stop him, he's going to kill the man!"
The odds were four to two, and with a sudden rally to the support of
their chief plotter, the other conspirators rushed the figure that
stood throttling his victim. But Samson South was in his element. The
dammed-up wrath that had been smoldering during these last days was
having a tempestuous outlet. He had found men who, in a gentlemen's
club to which he had come as a guest, sought to use him as a catspaw
They had planned to utilize the characteristics upon which they relied
in himself. They had thought that, if once angered, he would relapse
into the feudist, and forget that his surroundings were those of
gentility and civilization. Very well, he would oblige them, but not as
a blind dupe. He would be as elementally primitive as they had pictured
him, but the victims of his savagery should be of his own choosing.
Before his eyes swam a red mist of wrath. Once before, as a boy, he had
seen things as through a fog of blood. It was the day when the factions
met at Hixon, and he had carried the gun of his father for the first
time into action. The only way his eyes could be cleared of that fiery
haze was that they should first see men falling.
As they assaulted him, _en masse_, he seized a chair, and swung
it flail-like about his head. For a few moments, there was a crashing
of glass and china, and a clatter of furniture and a chaos of struggle.
At its center, he stood wielding his impromptu weapon, and, when two of
his assailants had fallen under its sweeping blows, and Farbish stood
weakly supporting himself against the table and gasping for the breath
which had been choked out of him, the mountaineer hurled aside his
chair, and plunged for the sole remaining man. They closed in a clinch.
The last antagonist was a boxer, and when he saw the Kentuckian advance
toward him empty-handed, he smiled and accepted the gauge of battle. In
weight and reach and practice, he knew that he had the advantage, and,
now that it was man to man, he realized that there was no danger of
interference from Horton. But Samson knew nothing of boxing. He had
learned his fighting tactics in the rough-and-tumble school of the
mountains; the school of "fist and skull," of fighting with hands and
head and teeth, and as the Easterner squared off he found himself
caught in a flying tackle and went to the floor locked in an embrace
that carried down with it chairs and furniture. As he struggled and
rolled, pitting his gymnasium training against the unaccustomed assault
of cyclonic fury, he felt the strong fingers of two hands close about
his throat and lost consciousness.
Samson South rose, and stood for a moment panting in a scene of
wreckage and disorder. The table was littered with shivered glasses and
decanters and chinaware. The furniture was scattered and overturned.
Farbish was weakly leaning to one side in the seat to which he had made
his way. The men who had gone down under the heavy blows of the chair
lay quietly where they had fallen.
Wilfred Horton stood waiting. The whole affair had transpired with
such celerity and speed that he had hardly understood it, and had taken
no part. But, as he met the gaze of the disordered figure across the
wreckage of a dinner-table, he realized that now, with the
preliminaries settled, he who had struck Samson in the face must give
satisfaction for the blow. Horton was sober, as cold sober as though he
had jumped into ice-water, and though he was not in the least afraid,
he was mortified, and, had apology at such a time been possible, would
have made it. He knew that he had misjudged his man; he saw the
outlines of the plot as plainly as Samson had seen them, though more
Samson's toe touched the pistol which had dropped from Farbish's hand
and he contemptuously kicked it to one side. He came back to his place.
"Now, Mr. Horton," he said to the man who stood looking about with a
dazed expression, "if you're still of the same mind, I can accommodate
you. You lied when you said I was a savage--though just now it sort of
looks like I was, and"--he paused, then added--"and I'm ready either to
fight or shake hands. Either way suits me."
For the moment, Horton did not speak, and Samson slowly went on:
"But, whether we fight or not, you've got to shake hands with me when
we're finished. You and me ain't going to start a feud. This is the
first time I've ever refused to let a man be my enemy if he wanted to.
I've got my own reasons. I'm going to make you shake hands with me
whether you like it or not, but if you want to fight first it's
satisfactory. You said awhile ago you would be glad to be more explicit
with me when we were alone--" He paused and looked about the room.
"Shall I throw these damned murderers out of here, or will you go into
another room and talk?"
"Leave them where they are," said Horton, quietly. "We'll go into the
reading-room. Have you killed any of them?"
"I don't know," said the other, curtly, "and I don't care."
When they were alone, Samson went on:
"I know what you want to ask me about, and I don't mean to answer you.
You want to question me about Miss Lescott. Whatever she and I have
done doesn't concern you, I will say this much: if I've been ignorant
of New York ways, and my ignorance has embarrassed her, I'm sorry.
"I suppose you know that she's too damned good for you--just like she's
too good for me. But she thinks more of you than she does of me--and
she's yours. As for me, I have nothing to apologize to you for. Maybe, I
have something to ask her pardon about, but she hasn't asked it.
"George Lescott brought me up here, and befriended me. Until a year
ago, I had never known any life except that of the Cumberland
Mountains. Until I met Miss Lescott, I had never known a woman of your
world. She was good to me. She saw that in spite of my roughness and
ignorance I wanted to learn, and she taught me. You chose to
misunderstand, and dislike me. These men saw that, and believed that,
if they could make you insult me, they could make me kill you. As to
your part, they succeeded. I didn't see fit to oblige them, but, now
that I've settled with them, I'm willing to give you satisfaction. Do
we fight now, and shake hands afterward, or do we shake hands without
Horton stood silently studying the mountaineer.
"Good God!" he exclaimed at last. "And you are the man I undertook to
"You ain't answered my question," suggested Samson South.
"South, if you are willing to shake hands with me, I shall be
grateful. I may as well admit that, if you had thrashed me before that
crowd, you could hardly have succeeded in making me feel smaller. I
have played into their hands. I have been a damned fool. I have riddled
my own self-respect--and, if you can afford to accept my apologies and
my hand, I am offering you both."
"I'm right glad to hear that," said the mountain boy, gravely. "I told
you I'd just as lief shake hand as fight.... But just now I've got to
go to the telephone."
The booth was in the same room, and, as Horton waited, he recognized
the number for which Samson was calling. Wilfred's face once more
flushed with the old prejudice. Could it be that Samson meant to tell
Adrienne Lescott what had transpired? Was he, after all, the braggart
who boasted of his fights? And, if not, was it Samson's custom to call
her up every evening for a good-night message? He turned and went into
the hall, but, after a few minutes, returned.
"I'm glad you liked the show...." the mountaineer was saying. "No,
nothing special is happening here--except that the ducks are
plentiful.... Yes, I like it fine.... Mr. Horton's here. Wait a minute
--I guess maybe he'd like to talk to you."
The Kentuckian beckoned to Horton, and, as he surrendered the
receiver, left the room. He was thinking with a smile of the
unconscious humor with which the girl's voice had just come across the
"I knew that, if you two met each other, you would become friends."
"I reckon," said Samson, ruefully, when Horton joined him, "we'd
better look around, and see how bad those fellows are hurt in there.
They may need a doctor." And the two went back to find several startled
servants assisting to their beds the disabled combatants, and the next
morning their inquiries elicited the information that the gentlemen
were all "able to be about, but were breakfasting in their rooms."
Such as looked from their windows that morning saw an unexpected
climax, when the car of Mr. Wilfred Horton drove away from the club
carrying the man whom they had hoped to see killed, and the man they
had hoped to see kill him. The two appeared to be in excellent spirits
and thoroughly congenial, as the car rolled out of sight, and the
gentlemen who were left behind decided that, in view of the
circumstances, the "extraordinary spree" of last night had best go
unadvertised into ancient history.
The second year of a new order brings fewer radical changes than the
first. Samson's work began to forge out of the ranks of the ordinary,
and to show symptoms of a quality which would some day give it
distinction. Heretofore, his instructors had held him rigidly to the
limitations of black and white, but now they took off the bonds, and
permitted him the colorful delight of attempting to express himself
from the palette. It was like permitting a natural poet to leave prose,
and play with prosody.
Sometimes, when his thoughts went back to the life he had left, it
seemed immensely far away, as though it were really the life of another
incarnation, and old ideas that had seemed axiomatic to his boyhood
stood before him in the guise of strangers: strangers tattered and
vagabond. He wondered if, after all, the new gods were sapping his
loyalty. At such times, he would for days keep morosely to himself,
picturing the death-bed of his father, and seeming to hear a small
boy's voice making a promise. Sometimes, that promise seemed monstrous,
in the light of his later experience. But it was a promise--and no man
can rise in his own esteem by treading on his vows. In these somber
moods, there would appear at the edges of his drawing-paper terrible,
vividly graphic little heads, not drawn from any present model. They
were sketched in a few ferociously powerful strokes, and always showed
the same malevolent visage--a face black with murder and hate-endowed,
the countenance of Jim Asberry. Sometimes would come a wild, heart-
tearing longing for the old places. He wanted to hear the frogs boom,
and to see the moon spill a shower of silver over the ragged shoulder
of the mountain. He wanted to cross a certain stile, and set out for a
certain cabin where a certain girl would be. He told himself that he
was still loyal, that above all else he loved his people. When he saw
these women, whose youth and beauty lasted long into life, whose
manners and clothes spoke of ease and wealth and refinement, he saw
Sally again as he had left her, hugging his "rifle-gun" to her breast,
and he felt that the only thing he wanted utterly was to take her in
his arms. Yes, he would return to Sally, and to his people--some day.
The some day he did not fix. He told himself that the hills were only
thirty hours away, and therefore he could go any time--which is the
other name for no time. He had promised Lescott to remain here for
eighteen months, and, when that interval ended, he seemed just on the
verge of grasping his work properly. He assured himself often and
solemnly that his creed was unchanged; his loyalty untainted; and the
fact that it was necessary to tell himself proved that he was being
weaned from his traditions. And so, though he often longed for home, he
did not return. And then reason would rise up and confound him. Could
he paint pictures in the mountains? If he did, what would he do with
them? If he went back to that hermit life, would he not vindicate his
uncle's prophecy that he had merely unplaced himself? And, if he went
back and discharged his promise, and then returned again to the new
fascination, could he bring Sally with him into this life--Sally, whom
he had scornfully told that a "gal didn't need no l'arnin'?" And the
answer to all these questions was only that there was no answer.
One day, Adrienne looked up from a sheaf of his very creditable
landscape studies to inquire suddenly:
"Samson, are you a rich man, or a poor one?"
He laughed. "So rich," he told her, "that unless I can turn some of
this stuff into money within a year or two, I shall have to go back to
She nodded gravely.
"Hasn't it occurred to you," she demanded, "that in a way you are
wasting your gifts? They were talking about you the other evening
--several painters. They all said that you should be doing portraits."
The Kentuckian smiled. His masters had been telling him the same
thing. He had fallen in love with art through the appeal of the skies
and hills. He had followed its call at the proselyting of George
Lescott, who painted only landscape. Portraiture seemed a less-artistic
form of expression. He said so.
"That may all be very true," she conceded, "but you can go on with
your landscapes, and let your portraits pay the way. With your entree,
you could soon have a very enviable _clientele_."
"'So she showed me the way, to promotion and pay,
And I learned about women from her,'"
quoted Samson with a laugh.
"And," she added, "since I am very vain and moderately rich, I hereby
commission you to paint me, just as soon as you learn how."
Farbish had simply dropped out. Bit by bit, the truth of the
conspiracy had leaked, and he knew that his usefulness was ended, and
that well-lined pocketbooks would no longer open to his profligate
demands. The bravo and plotter whose measure has been taken is a broken
reed. Farbish made no farewells. He had come from nowhere and his going
was like his coming.
* * * * *
Sally had started to school. She had not announced that she meant to
do so, but each day the people of Misery saw her old sorrel mare making
its way to and from the general direction of Stagbone College, and they
smiled. No one knew how Sally's cheeks flamed as she sat alone on
Saturdays and Sundays on the rock at the backbone's rift. She was
taking her place, morbidly sensitive and a woman of eighteen, among
little spindle-shanked girls in short skirts, and the little girls were
more advanced than she. But she, too, meant to have "l'arnin'"--as much
of it as was necessary to satisfy the lover who might never come. It
must be admitted that learning for its own sake did not make a clarion-
tongued appeal to the girl's soul. Had Samson been satisfied with her
untutored, she would have been content to remain untutored. He had said
that these things were of no importance in her, but that was before he
had gone forth into the world. If, she naively told herself, he should
come back of that same opinion, she would never "let on" that she had
learned things. She would toss overboard her acquirements as ruthlessly
as useless ballast from an over-encumbered boat. But, if Samson came
demanding these attainments, he must find her possessed of them. So
far, her idea of "l'arnin'" embraced the three R's only. And, yet, the
"fotched-on" teachers at the "college" thought her the most voraciously
ambitious pupil they had ever had, so unflaggingly did she toil, and
the most remarkably acquisitive, so fast did she learn. But her studies
had again been interrupted, and Miss Grover, her teacher, riding over
one day to find out why her prize scholar had deserted, met in the road
an empty "jolt-wagon," followed by a ragged cortege of mounted men and
women, whose faces were still lugubrious with the effort of recent
mourning. Her questions elicited the information that they were
returning from the "buryin'" of the Widow Miller.
Sally was not in the procession, and the teacher, riding on, found her
lying face down among the briars of the desolate meeting-house yard,
her small body convulsively heaving with her weeping, and her slim
fingers grasping the thorny briar shoots as though she would still hold
to the earth that lay in freshly broken clods over her mother's grave.
Miss Grover lifted her gently, and at first the girl only stared at
her out of wide, unseeing eyes.
"You've nothing to keep you here now," said the older woman, gently.
"You can come to us, and live at the college." She had learned from
Sally's lips that she lived alone with her mother and younger brother.
"You can't go on living there now."
But the girl drew away, and shook her head with a wild torrent of
"No, I kain't, neither!" she declared, violently. "I kain't!"
"Why, dear?" The teacher took the palpitating little figure in her
arms and kissed the wet face. She had learned something of this sweet
wood-thrush girl, and had seen both sides of life's coin enough to be
able to close her eyes and ears, and visualize the woman that this
"'Cause I kain't!" was the obstinate reply.
Being wise, Miss Grover desisted from urging, and went with Sally to
the desolated cabin, which she straightway began to overhaul and put to
rights. The widow had been dying for a week. It was when she lifted
Samson's gun with the purpose of sweeping the corner that the girl
swooped down on her, and rescued the weapon from her grasp.
"Nobody but me mustn't tech thet rifle-gun," she exclaimed, and then,
little by little, it came out that the reason Sally could not leave
this cabin, was because some time there might be a whippoorwill call
out by the stile, and, when it came, she must be there to answer. And,
when at the next vacation Miss Grover rode over, and announced that she
meant to visit Sally for a month or two, and when under her deft hands
the cabin began to transform itself, and the girl to transform herself,
she discovered that Sally found in the graveyard another magnet. There,
she seemed to share something with Samson where their dead lay buried.
While the "fotched-on" lady taught the girl, the girl taught the
"fotched-on" lady, for the birds were her brothers, and the flowers her
cousins, and in the poetry that existed before forms of meter came into
being she was deeply versed.
Toward the end of that year, Samson undertook his portrait of Adrienne
Lescott. The work was nearing completion, but it had been agreed that
the girl herself was not to have a peep at the canvas until the painter
was ready to unveil it in a finished condition. Often as she posed,
Wilfred Horton idled in the studio with them, and often George Lescott
came to criticize, and left without criticizing. The girl was impatient
for the day when she, too, was to see the picture, concerning which the
three men maintained so profound a secrecy. She knew that Samson was a
painter who analyzed with his brush, and that his picture would show
her not only features and expression, but the man's estimate of herself.
"Do you know," he said one day, coming out from behind his easel and
studying her, through half-closed eyes, "I never really began to know
you until now? Analyzing you--studying you in this fashion, not by your
words, but by your expression, your pose, the very unconscious essence
of your personality--these things are illuminating."
"Can I smile," she queried obediently, "or do I have to keep my face
"You may smile for two minutes," he generously conceded, "and I'm
going to come over and sit on the floor at your feet, and watch you do
"And under the X-ray scrutiny of this profound analysis," she laughed,
"do you like me?"
"Wait and see," was his non-committal rejoinder.
For a few moments, neither of them spoke. He sat there gazing up, and
she gazing down. Though neither of them said it, both were thinking of
the changes that had taken place since, in this same room, they had
first met. The man knew that many of the changes in himself were due to
her, and she began to wonder vaguely if he had not also been
responsible for certain differences in her.
He felt for her, besides a deep friendship--such a deep friendship
that it might perhaps be even more--a measureless gratitude. She had
been loyal, and had turned and shaped with her deft hand and brain the
rough clay of his crude personality into something that was beginning
to show finish and design. Perhaps, she liked him the better because of
certain obstinate qualities which, even to her persuasive influence,
remained unaltered. But, if she liked him the better for these things,
she yet felt that her dominion over him was not complete.
Now, as they sat there alone in the studio, a shaft of sunlight from
the skylight fell on his squarely blocked chin, and he tossed his head,
throwing back the long lock from his forehead. It was as though he was
emphasizing with that characteristic gesture one of the things in which
he had not yielded to her modeling. The long hair still fell low around
his head. Just now, he was roughly dressed and paint-stained, but
usually he presented the inconspicuous appearance of the well-groomed
man--except for that long hair. It was not so much as a matter of
personal appearance but as a reminder of the old roughness that she
resented this. She had often suggested a visit to the barber, but to no
"Although I am not painting you," she said with a smile, "I have been
studying you, too. As you stand there before your canvas, your own
personality is revealed--and I have not been entirely unobservant
"'And under the X-ray scrutiny of this profound analysis,'" he quoted
with a laugh, "do you like me?"
"Wait and see," she retorted.
"At all events"--he spoke gravely--"you must try to like me a little,
because I am not what I was. The person that I am is largely the
creature of your own fashioning. Of course, you had very raw material
to work with, and you can't make a silk purse of"--he broke off and
smiled--"well, of me, but in time you may at least get me mercerized a
For no visible reason, she flushed, and her next question came a
"Do you mean that I have influenced you?"
"Influenced me, Drennie?" he repeated. "You have done more than that.
You have painted me out, and painted me over."
She shook her head, and in her eyes danced a light of subtle coquetry.
"There are things I have tried to do, and failed," she told him.
His eyes showed surprise.
"Perhaps," he apologized, "I am dense, and you may have to tell me
bluntly what I am to do. But you know that you have only to tell me."
For a moment, she said nothing, then she shook her head again.
"Issue your orders," he insisted. "I am waiting to obey."
She hesitated again, then said, slowly:
"Have your hair cut. It's the one uncivilized thing about you."
For an instant, Samson's face hardened.
"No," he said; "I don't care to do that."
"Oh, very well!" she laughed, lightly. "In that event, of course, you
shouldn't do it." But her smile faded, and after a moment he explained:
"You see, it wouldn't do."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I've got to keep something as it was to remind me of a
prior claim on my life."
For an instant the girl's face clouded, and grew deeply troubled.
"You don't mean," she asked, with an outburst of interest more vehement
than she had meant to show, or realized that she was showing--"you don't
mean that you still adhere to ideas of the vendetta?" Then she broke off
with a laugh, a rather nervous laugh. "Of course not," she answered
herself. "That would be too absurd!"
"Would it?" asked Samson, simply. He glanced at his watch. "Two
minutes up," he announced. "The model will please resume the pose. By
the way, may I drive with you to-morrow afternoon?"
* * * * *
The next afternoon, Samson ran up the street steps of the Lescott
house, and rang the bell, and a few moments later Adrienne appeared.
The car was waiting outside, and, as the girl came down the stairs in
motor coat and veil, she paused and her fingers on the bannisters
tightened in surprise as she looked at the man who stood below holding
his hat in his hand, with his face upturned. The well-shaped head was
no longer marred by the mane which it had formerly worn, but was close
cropped, and under the transforming influence of the change the
forehead seemed bolder and higher, and to her thinking the strength of
the purposeful features was enhanced, and yet, had she known it, the
man felt that he had for the first time surrendered a point which meant
an abandonment of something akin to principle.
She said nothing, but as she took his hand in greeting, her fingers
pressed his own in handclasp more lingering than usual.
Late that evening, when Samson returned to the studio, he found a
missive in his letter-box, and, as he took it out, his eyes fell on the
postmark. It was dated from Hixon, Kentucky, and, as the man slowly
climbed the stairs, he turned the envelope over in his hand with a
strange sense of misgiving and premonition.
The letter was written in the cramped hand of Brother Spencer. Through
its faulty diction ran a plainly discernible undernote of disapproval
for Samson, though there was no word of reproof or criticism. It was
plain that it was sent as a matter of courtesy to one who, having
proven an apostate, scarcely merited such consideration. It informed
him that old Spicer South had been "mighty porely," but was now better,
barring the breaking of age. Every one was "tolerable." Then came the
announcement which the letter had been written to convey.
The term of the South-Hollman truce had ended, and it had been renewed
for an indefinite period.
"Some of your folks thought they ought to let you know because they
promised to give you a say," wrote the informant. "But they decided
that it couldn't hardly make no difference to you, since you have left
the mountains, and if you cared anything about it, you knew the time,
and could of been here. Hoping this finds you well."
Samson's face clouded. He threw the soiled and scribbled missive down
on the table and sat with unseeing eyes fixed on the studio wall. So,
they had cast him out of their councils! They already thought of him as
one who had been.
In that passionate rush of feeling, everything that had happened since
he had left Misery seemed artificial and dream-like. He longed for the
realities that were forfeited. He wanted to press himself close to the
great, gray shoulders of rock that broke through the greenery like
giants tearing off soft raiment. Those were his people back there. He
should be running with the wolf-pack, not coursing with beagles.
He had been telling himself that he was loyal, and now he realized
that he was drifting like the lotus-eaters. Things that had gripped his
soul were becoming myths. Nothing in his life was honest--he had become
as they had prophesied, a derelict. In that thorn-choked graveyard lay
the crude man whose knotted hand had rested on his head just before
death stiffened it bestowing a mission.
"I hain't fergot ye, Pap." The words rang in his ears with the agony
of a repudiated vow.
He rose and paced the floor, with teeth and hands clenched, and the
sweat standing out on his forehead. His advisers had of late been
urging him to go to Paris He had refused, and his unconfessed reason
had been that in Paris he could not answer a sudden call. He would go
back to them now, and compel them to admit his leadership.
Then, his eyes fell on the unfinished portrait of Adrienne. The face
gazed at him with its grave sweetness; its fragrant subtlety and its
fine-grained delicacy. Her pictured lips were silently arguing for the
life he had found among strangers, and her victory would have been an
easy one, but for the fact that just now his conscience seemed to be on
the other side. Samson's civilization was two years old--a thin veneer
over a century of feudalism--and now the century was thundering its
call of blood bondage. But, as the man struggled over the dilemma, the
pendulum swung back. The hundred years had left, also, a heritage of
quickness and bitterness to resent injury and injustice. His own people
had cast him out. They had branded him as the deserter; they felt no
need of him or his counsel. Very well, let them have it so. His problem
had been settled for him. His Gordian knot was cut.
Sally and his uncle alone had his address. This letter, casting him
out, must have been authorized by them, Brother Spencer acting merely
as amanuensis. They, too, had repudiated him--and, if that were true,
except for the graves of his parents the hills had no tie to hold him.
"Sally, Sally!" he groaned, dropping his face on his crossed arms,
while his shoulders heaved in an agony of heart-break, and his words
came in the old crude syllables: "I 'lowed you'd believe in me ef hell
froze!" He rose after that, and made a fierce gesture with his clenched
fists. "All right," he said, bitterly, "I'm shet of the lot of ye. I'm
But it was easier to say the words of repudiation than to cut the ties
that were knotted about his heart. Again, he saw Sally standing by the
old stile in the starlight with sweet, loyal eyes lifted to his own,
and again he heard her vow that, if he came back, she would be waiting.
Now, that picture lay beyond a sea which he could not recross. Sally
and his uncle had authorized his excommunication. There was, after all,
in the entire world no faith which could stand unalterable, and in all
the world no reward that could be a better thing than Dead-Sea fruit,
without the love of that barefooted girl back there in the log cabin,
whose sweet tongue could not fashion phrases except in illiteracy. He
would have gambled his soul on her steadfastness without fear--and he
bitterly told himself he would have lost. And yet--some voice sounded
to him as he stood there alone in the studio with the arteries knotted
on his temples and the blood running cold and bitter in his veins--and
yet what right had he, the deserter, to demand faith? One hand went up
and clasped his forehead--and the hand fell on the head that had been
shorn because a foreign woman had asked it. What tradition had he kept
inviolate? And, in his mood, that small matter of shortened hair meant
as great and bitter surrender as it had meant to the Samson before him,
whose mighty strength had gone out under the snipping of shears. What
course was open to him now, except that of following the precedent of
the other Samson, of pulling down the whole temple of his past? He was
disowned, and could not return. He would go ahead with the other life,
though at the moment he hated it.
With a rankling soul, the mountaineer left New York. He wrote Sally a
brief note, telling her that he was going to cross the ocean, but his
hurt pride forbade his pleading for her confidence, or adding, "I love
you." He plunged into the art life of the "other side of the Seine,"
and worked voraciously. He was trying to learn much--and to forget much.
One sunny afternoon, when Samson had been in the _Quartier Latin_
for eight or nine months, the _concierge_ of his lodgings handed
him, as he passed through the cour, an envelope addressed in the hand
of Adrienne Lescott. He thrust it into his pocket for a later reading
and hurried on to the _atelier_ where he was to have a criticism
that day. When the day's work was over, he was leaning on the
embankment wall at the _Quai de Grand St. Augustin_, gazing idly
at the fruit and flower stands that patched the pavement with color and
at the gray walls of the Louvre across the Seine, His hand went into
his pocket, and came out with the note. As he read it, he felt a glow
of pleasurable surprise, and, wheeling, he retraced his steps briskly
to his lodgings, where he began to pack. Adrienne had written that she
and her mother and Wilfred Horton were sailing for Naples, and
commanded him, unless he were too busy, to meet their steamer. Within
two hours, he was bound for Lucerne to cross the Italian frontier by
the slate-blue waters of Lake Maggiore.
A few weeks later Samson and Adrienne were standing together by
moonlight in the ruins of the Coliseum. The junketing about Italy had
been charming, and now, in that circle of sepia softness and broken
columns, he looked at her, and suddenly asked himself:
"Just what does she mean to you?"
If he had never asked himself that question before, he knew now that
it must some day be answered. Friendship had been a good and seemingly
a sufficient definition. Now, he was not so sure that it could remain so.
Then, his thoughts went back to a cabin in the hills and a girl in
calico. He heard a voice like the voice of a song-bird saying through
"I couldn't live without ye, Samson.... I jest couldn't do hit!"
For a moment, he was sick of his life. It seemed that there stood
before him, in that place of historic wraiths and memories, a girl, her
eyes sad, but loyal and without reproof. For an instant, he could see a
scene of centuries ago. A barbarian and captive girl stood in the
arena, looking up with ignorant, but unflinching, eyes; and a man sat
in the marble tiers looking down. The benches were draped with
embroidered rugs and gold and scarlet hangings; the air was heavy with
incense--and blood. About him sat men and women of Rome's culture,
freshly perfumed from the baths. The slender figure in the dust of the
circus alone was a creature without artifice. And, as she looked up,
she recognized the man in the box, the man who had once been a
barbarian, too, and she turned her eyes to the iron gates of the cages
whence came the roar of the beasts, and waited the ordeal. And the face
was the face of Sally.
"You look," said Adrienne, studying his countenance in the pallor of
the moonlight, "as though you were seeing ghosts."
"I am," said Samson. "Let's go."
Adrienne had not yet seen her portrait. Samson had needed a few hours
of finishing when he left New York, though it was work which could be
done away from the model. So, it was natural that, when the party
reached Paris, Adrienne should soon insist on crossing the _Pont d'
Alexandre III_. to his studio near the "_Boule Mich'_" for an
inspection of her commissioned canvas. For a while, she wandered about
the business-like place, littered with the gear of the painter's craft.
It was, in a way, a form of mind-reading, for Samson's brush was the
tongue of his soul.
The girl's eyes grew thoughtful, as she saw that he still drew the
leering, saturnine face of Jim Asberry. He had not outgrown hate, then?
But she said nothing, until he brought out and set on an easel her own
portrait. For a moment, she gasped with sheer delight for the colorful
mastery of the technique, and she would have been hard to please had she
not been delighted with the conception of herself mirrored in the
canvas. It was a face through which the soul showed, and the soul was
strong and flawless. The girl's personality radiated from the canvas
--and yet--A disappointed little look crossed and clouded her eyes. She
was conscious of an indefinable catch of pain at her heart.
Samson stepped forward, and his waiting eyes, too, were disappointed.
"You don't like it, Drennie?" he anxiously questioned. But she smiled
in answer, and declared:
"I love it."
He went out a few minutes later to telephone for her to Mrs. Lescott,
and gave Adrienne _carte blanche_ to browse among his portfolios
and stacked canvases until his return. In a few minutes, she discovered
one of those efforts which she called his "rebellious pictures."
These were such things as he painted, using no model except memory
perhaps, not for the making of finished pictures, but merely to give
outlet to his feelings; an outlet which some men might have found in
This particular canvas was roughly blocked in, and it was elementally
simple, but each brush stroke had been thrown against the surface with
the concentrated fire and energy of a blow, except the strokes that had
painted the face, and there the brush had seemed to kiss the canvas.
The picture showed a barefooted girl, standing, in barbaric simplicity
of dress, in the glare of the arena, while a gaunt lion crouched eying
her. Her head was lifted as though she were listening to faraway music.
In the eyes was indomitable courage. That canvas was at once a
declaration of love, and a _miserere_. Adrienne set it up beside
her own portrait, and, as she studied the two with her chin resting on
her gloved hand, her eyes cleared of questioning. Now, she knew what
she missed in her own more beautiful likeness. It had been painted with
all the admiration of the mind. This other had been dashed off straight
from the heart--and this other was Sally! She replaced the sketch where
she had found it, and Samson, returning, found her busy with little
sketches of the Seine.
* * * * *
"Drennie," pleaded Wilfred Horton, as the two leaned on the deck rail
of the _Mauretania_, returning from Europe, "are you going to hold
me off indefinitely? I've served my seven years for Rachel, and thrown
in some extra time. Am I no nearer the goal?"
The girl looked at the oily heave of the leaden and cheerless
Atlantic, and its somber tones found reflection in her eyes. She shook
"I wish I knew," she said, wearily. Then, she added, vehemently: "I'm
not worth it, Wilfred. Let me go. Chuck me out of your life as a little
pig who can't read her own heart; who is too utterly selfish to decide
upon her own life."
"Is it"--he put the question with foreboding--"that, after all, I was
a prophet? Have you--and South--wiped your feet on the doormat marked
'Platonic friendship'? Have you done that, Drennie?"
She looked up into his eyes. Her own were wide and honest and very
full of pain.
"No," she said; "we haven't done that, yet. I guess we won't.... I
think he'd rather stay outside, Wilfred. If I was sure I loved him, and
that he loved me, I'd feel like a cheat--there is the other girl to
think of.... And, besides, I'm not sure what I want myself.... But I'm
horribly afraid I'm going to end by losing you both."
Horton stood silent. It was tea-time, and from below came the strains
of the ship's orchestra. A few ulster-muffled passengers gloomily paced
"You won't lose us both, Drennie," he said, steadily. "You may lose
your choice--but, if you find yourself able to fall back on
substitutes, I'll still be there, waiting."
For once, he did not meet her scrutiny, or know of it. His own eyes
were fixed on the slow swing of heavy, gray-green waters. He was
smiling, but it is as a man smiles when he confronts despair, and
pretends that everything is quite all right. The girl looked at him
with a choke in her throat.
"Wilfred," she said, laying her hand on his arm, "I'm not worth
worrying over. Really, I'm not. If Samson South proposed to me to-day,
I know that I should refuse him. I am not at all sure that I am the
least little bit in love with him. Only, don't you see I can't be quite
sure I'm not? It would be horrible if we all made a mistake. May I have
till Christmas to make up my mind for all time? I'll tell you then,
dear, if you care to wait."
* * * * *
Tamarack Spicer sat on the top of a box car, swinging his legs over
the side. He was clad in overalls, and in the pockets of his breeches
reposed a bulging flask of red liquor, and an unbulging pay envelope.
Tamarack had been "railroading" for several months this time. He had
made a new record for sustained effort and industry, but now June was
beckoning him to the mountains with vagabond yearnings for freedom and
leisure. Many things invited his soul. Almost four years had passed
since Samson had left the mountains, and in four years a woman can
change her mind. Sally might, when they met on the road, greet him once
more as a kinsman, and agree to forget his faulty method of courtship.
This time, he would be more diplomatic. Yesterday, he had gone to the
boss, and "called for his time." To-day, he was paid off, and a free
As he reflected on these matters, a fellow trainman came along the top
of the car, and sat down at Tamarack's side. This brakeman had also
been recruited from the mountains, though from another section--over
toward the Virginia line.
"So yer quittin'?" observed the new-comer.
"Goin' back thar on Misery?"
Again, Tamarack answered with a jerk of his head.
"I've been layin' off ter tell ye somethin', Tam'rack."
"Cut her loose."
"I laid over in Hixon last week, an' some fellers that used ter know
my mother's folks took me down in the cellar of Hollman's store, an'
give me some licker."
"What of hit?"
"They was talkin' 'bout you."
"What did they say?"
"I seen that they was enemies of yours, an' they wasn't in no good
humor, so, when they axed me ef I knowed ye, I 'lowed I didn't know
nothin' good about ye. I had ter cuss ye out, or git in trouble myself."
Tamarack cursed the whole Hollman tribe, and his companion went on:
"Jim Asberry was thar. He 'lowed they'd found out thet you'd done shot
Purvy thet time, an' he said"--the brakeman paused to add emphasis to
his conclusion--"thet the next time ye come home, he 'lowed ter git ye
"Much obleeged," he replied.
At Hixon, Tamarack Spicer strolled along the street toward the court-
house. He wished to be seen. So long as it was broad daylight, and he
displayed no hostility, he knew he was safe--and he had plans.
Standing before the Hollman store were Jim Asberry and several
companions. They greeted Tamarack affably, and he paused to talk.
"Ridin' over ter Misery?" inquired Asberry.
"'Lowed I mout as well."
"Mind ef I rides with ye es fur es Jesse's place?"
"Plumb glad ter have company," drawled Tamarack,
They chatted of many things, and traveled slowly, but, when they came
to those narrows where they could not ride stirrup to stirrup, each
jockeyed for the rear position, and the man who found himself forced
into the lead turned in his saddle and talked back over his shoulder,
with wary, though seemingly careless, eyes. Each knew the other was
bent on his murder.
At Purvy's gate, Asberry waved farewell, and turned in. Tamarack rode
on, but shortly he hitched his horse in the concealment of a hollow,
walled with huge rocks, and disappeared into the laurel.
He began climbing, in a crouched position, bringing each foot down
noiselessly, and pausing often to listen. Jim Asberry had not been
outwardly armed when he left Spicer. But, soon, the brakeman's
delicately attuned ears caught a sound that made him lie flat in the
lee of a great log, where he was masked in clumps of flowering
rhododendron. Presently, Asberry passed him, also walking cautiously,
but hurriedly, and cradling a Winchester rifle in the hollow of his
arm. Then, Tamarack knew that Asberry was taking this cut to head him
off, and waylay him in the gorge a mile away by road but a short
distance only over the hill. Spicer held his heavy revolver cocked in
his hand, but it was too near the Purvy house to risk a shot. He waited
a moment, and then, rising, went on noiselessly with a snarling grin,
stalking the man who was stalking him.
Asberry found a place at the foot of a huge pine where the undergrowth
would cloak him. Twenty yards below ran the creek-bed road, returning
from its long horseshoe deviation. When he had taken his position, his
faded butternut clothing matched the earth as inconspicuously as a
quail matches dead leaves, and he settled himself to wait. Slowly and
with infinite caution, his intended victim stole down, guarding each
step, until he was in short and certain range, but, instead of being at
the front, he came from the back. He, also, lay flat on his stomach,
and raised the already cocked pistol. He steadied it in a two-handed
grip against a tree trunk, and trained it with deliberate care on a
point to the left of the other man's spine just below the shoulder
Then, he pulled the trigger! He did not go down to inspect his work.
It was not necessary. The instantaneous fashion with which the head of
the ambuscader settled forward on its face told him all he wanted to
know. He slipped back to his horse, mounted and rode fast to the house
of Spicer South, demanding asylum.
The next day came word that, if Tamarack Spicer would surrender and
stand trial, in a court dominated by the Hollmans, the truce would
continue. Otherwise, the "war was on."
The Souths flung back this message:
"Come and git him."
But Hollman and Purvy, hypocritically clamoring for the sanctity of
the law, made no effort to come and "git him." They knew that Spicer
South's house was now a fortress, prepared for siege. They knew that
every trail thither was picketed. Also, they knew a better way. This
time, they had the color of the law on their side. The Circuit Judge,
through the Sheriff, asked for troops, and troops came. Their tents
dotted the river bank below the Hixon Bridge. A detail under a white
flag went out after Tamarack Spicer. The militia Captain in command,
who feared neither feudist nor death, was courteously received. He had
brains, and he assured them that he acted under orders which could not
be disobeyed. Unless they surrendered the prisoner, gatling guns would
follow. If necessary they would be dragged behind ox-teams. Many
militiamen might be killed, but for each of them the State had another.
If Spicer would surrender, the officer would guarantee him personal
protection, and, if it seemed necessary, a change of venue would secure
him trial in another circuit. For hours, the clan deliberated. For the
soldiers they felt no enmity. For the young Captain they felt an
instinctive liking. He was a man.
Old Spicer South, restored to an echo of his former robustness by the
call of action, gave the clan's verdict.
"Hit hain't the co'te we're skeered of. Ef this boy goes ter town, he
won't never git inter no co'te. He'll be murdered."
The officer held out his hand.
"As man to man," he said, "I pledge you my word that no one shall take
him except by process of law. I'm not working for the Hollmans, or the
Purvys. I know their breed,"
For a space, old South looked into the soldier's eyes, and the soldier
"I'll take yore handshake on thet bargain," said the mountaineer,
gravely. "Tam'rack," he added, in a voice of finality, "ye've got ter
The officer had meant what he said. He marched his prisoner into Hixon
at the center of a hollow square, with muskets at the ready. And yet,
as the boy passed into the court-house yard, with a soldier rubbing
elbows on each side, a cleanly aimed shot sounded from somewhere. The
smokeless powder told no tale and with blue shirts and army hats
circling him, Tamarack fell and died.
That afternoon, one of Hollman's henchmen was found lying in the road
with his lifeless face in the water of the creek. The next day, as old
Spicer South stood at the door of his cabin, a rifle barked from the
hillside, and he fell, shot through the left shoulder by a bullet
intended for his heart. All this while, the troops were helplessly
camped at Hixon. They had power and inclination to go out and get men,
but there was no man to get.
The Hollmans had used the soldiers as far as they wished; they had
made them pull the chestnuts out of the fire and Tamarack Spicer out of
his stronghold. They now refused to swear out additional warrants.
A detail had rushed into Hollman's store an instant after the shot
which killed Tamarack was fired. Except for a woman buying a card of
buttons, and a fair-haired clerk waiting on her, they found the
Back beyond, the hills were impenetrable, and answered no questions.
Old Spicer South would ten years ago have put a bandage on his wound
and gone about his business, but now he tossed under his patchwork
quilt, and Brother Spencer expressed grave doubts for his recovery.
With his counsel unavailable Wile McCager, by common consent, assumed
something like the powers of a regent and took upon himself the duties
to which Samson should have succeeded.
That a Hollman should have been able to elude the pickets and
penetrate the heart of South territory to Spicer South's cabin, was
both astounding and alarming. The war was on without question now, and
there must be council. Wile McCager had sent out a summons for the
family heads to meet that afternoon at his mill. It was Saturday--"mill
day"--and in accordance with ancient custom the lanes would be more
traveled than usual.
Those men who came by the wagon road afforded no unusual spectacle,
for behind each saddle sagged a sack of grain. Their faces bore no
stamp of unwonted excitement, but every man balanced a rifle across his
pommel. None the less, their purpose was grim, and their talk when they
had gathered was to the point.
Old McCager, himself sorely perplexed, voiced the sentiment that the
others had been too courteous to express. With Spicer South bed-ridden
and Samson a renegade, they had no adequate leader. McCager was a solid
man of intrepid courage and honesty, but grinding grist was his
avocation, not strategy and tactics. The enemy had such masters of
intrigue as Purvy and Judge Hollman.
Then, a lean sorrel mare came jogging into view, switching her fly-
bitten tail, and on the mare's back, urging him with a long, leafy
switch, sat a woman. Behind her sagged the two loaded ends of a corn-
sack. She rode like the mountain women, facing much to the side, yet
unlike them. Her arms did not flap. She did not bump gawkily up and
down in her saddle. Her blue calico dress caught the sun at a distance,
but her blue sunbonnet shaded and masked her face. She was lithe and
slim, and her violet eyes were profoundly serious, and her lips were as
resolutely set as Joan of Arc's might have been, for Sally Miller had
come only ostensibly to have her corn ground to meal. She had really
come to speak for the absent chief, and she knew that she would be met
with derision. The years had sobered the girl, but her beauty had
increased, though it was now of a chastened type, which gave her a
strange and rather exalted refinement of expression.
Wile McCager came to the mill door, as she rode up, and lifted the
sack from her horse.
"Howdy, Sally?" he greeted.
"Tol'able, thank ye," said Sally. "I'm goin' ter get off."
As she entered the great half-lighted room, where the mill stones
creaked on their cumbersome shafts, the hum of discussion sank to
silence. The place was brown with age and dirt, and powdered with a
coarse dusting of meal. The girl nodded to the mountaineers gathered in
conclave, then, turning to the miller she announced:
"I'm going to send for Samson."
The statement was at first met with dead silence, then came a rumble
of indignant dissent, but for that the girl was prepared, as she was
prepared for the contemptuous laughter which followed.
"I reckon if Samson was here," she said, dryly, "you all wouldn't
think it was quite so funny."
Old Caleb Wiley spat through his bristling beard, and his voice was a
"What we wants is a man. We hain't got no use fer no traitors thet's
too almighty damn busy doin' fancy work ter stand by their kith an' kin."
"That's a lie!" said the girl, scornfully. "There's just one man
living that's smart enough to match Jesse Purvy--an' that one man is
Samson. Samson's got the right to lead the Souths, and he's going to do
it--ef he wants to."
"Sally," Wile McCager spoke, soothingly, "don't go gittin' mad. Caleb
talks hasty. We knows ye used ter be Samson's gal, an' we hain't aimin'
ter hurt yore feelin's. But Samson's done left the mountings. I reckon
ef he wanted ter come back, he'd a-come afore now. Let him stay whar
"Whar is he at?" demanded old Caleb Wiley, in a truculent voice.
"That's his business," Sally flashed back, "but I know. All I want to
tell you is this. Don't you make a move till I have time to get word to
him. I tell you, he's got to have his say."
"I reckon we hain't a-goin' ter wait," sneered Caleb, "fer a feller
thet won't let hit be known whar he's a-sojournin' at. Ef ye air so
shore of him, why won't ye tell us whar he is now?"
"That's my business, too." Sally's voice was resolute. "I've got a